Vatican City, Dec 15, 2013 / 10:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).
The third Sunday of Advent is often referred to by its Latin name, Gaudete Sunday, which indicates that it is a day of ‘rejoicing.’
“In the liturgy, the invitation to rejoice, to arise, resounds repeatedly, because the Lord is near, Christmas is near. Like a mother, the Church encourages us to follow faithfully the spiritual path in order to celebrate the feast of Christmas with renewed exaltation” [said Pope Francis.]
The enthusiasm of the crowd was apparent. Despite the rain, large numbers of people flocked to the Vatican square to celebrate an old Italian tradition: the blessing of the baby Jesus statues for manger scenes.
…“Bambinelli” Sunday [is] when children bring their statues of the infant Jesus from their nativity sets at home to be blessed by the Pope. “Dear children, when you pray in front of your manger scene, also remember me as I remember you,” asked Pope Francis.
“May the Virgin Mary help us to hasten our steps toward Bethlehem to meet the Child that is born for us, for the salvation and joy of all men,” he encouraged.
“The joy of the gospel is not just any joy,” the pontiff explained. “It is the joy that comes from knowing you are welcomed and loved by God.”
Because of its divine origin, “this joy truly remains even in suffering, because it is not superficial, but goes down to the depths of the person who commits himself to God and trusts in Him.”
Is this not just such a beautiful, simple, pious and profoundly Catholic custom? And surely it lies so close to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. It can not be comprehended by the secular, worldly crowd, who would see this custom as childish*. For many in the West “Christmas” is no more than an excuse to drink and party, to buy, buy, buy (would you just look at how busy our shops are at this time of year) without a thought given to what we are really celebrating, the true meaning of this ‘holiday’ (holy day). But even for Christians who want to live this precious time in a fitting way for the coming of Our Saviour but get caught up in all the bustle, if we carry Jesus in our heart, trying to set a little time aside for prayer and reflection on the beautiful liturgical readings, the business of Advent can be spiritually fruitful.
*”Unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, Second Person of the Holy Trinity, True God and True Man, is born in the little town of Bethlehem. What Love and Trust the Son of God has shown Mankind by becoming Flesh for our redemption!
And He started His life on Earth, as a a tiny Babe, totally vulnerable and utterly dependent on the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph for His protection.
No amount of contemplation on this amazing truth could ever fully fathom the spiritual depths of this profound mystery.
When I first went to work in Spain I noticed that many homes had a lovely figurine of the Holy Babe lying in a manger placed in prominent places. It was there all the year round (not just at Christmas time) to remind the family members of this great Mystery: God became Man. I was enchanted by this pious custom, and later took a figurine of the Baby Jesus back home with me.
Then we have the history of the Miraculous Infant Jesus of Prague that dates back more than four hundred years. The statue, in the guise of a king, was brought to Prague, Czechoslovakia, as a precious souvenir of her native country, Spain, by Maria Manriquez de Lara, who in 1556, married Vratislav Pernstyn, a Czech nobleman. According to an old legend, the statue was modeled by a pious friar, to whom its likeness had been revealed in a vision to him by The Holy Infant. The statue is eighteen inches tall and crafted of wax-coated wood. The left hand holds a miniature globe, surmounted by a Cross, signifying the world-wide Kingship of the Christ Child. The right hand is extended in blessing. The first two fingers are upraised to symbolise the two natures of Christ.
“The more you honour Me, the more I will bless you.”
This sentence apparently spoken to Father Cyril in 1637 (a Carmelite monk with great devotion to the Holy Infant) has become the centrepiece of world-wide devotion to The Holy Infant of Prague. This devotion, which is of course none other than the veneration of Our Blessed Lord’s Sacred Infancy, has continued to spread throughout the world to this day.
Commencing at Bethlehem with the visit of the shepherds and the Magi, and later, with the Christmas crib of St. Francis of Assisi, many saints have had a very strong devotion to the ‘Bambellini’, the Divine Infant, notably St. Therese of the Child Jesus, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua and St. Teresa of Avila.
May we too have a great love and devotion for the Divine Infant Jesus, now as we celebrate the day of His Birth, and forever.