St. Padre Pio had a deep love for Christmas and the Baby Jesus. Eye-witnesses have written about seeing the Baby Jesus in the saint’s arms. When people were seeking his prayers at Christmas, Padre Pio sometimes handed them a picture of the Infant Jesus of Prague and blessed it. He told them that Christmas was very suitable for asking for graces and to entrust everything to the Child Jesus.
“It is useless to try to explain with how much passion Padre Pio celebrated Christmas. He was always thinking of Christmas, and he counted the days until the next Christmas, beginning with the day after Christmas. The Baby Jesus had a most special attraction for him. It was enough for him to hear a child’s song, a lullaby, and his spirit was lifted up…so much so that when you looked at him he seemed to be in ecstasy”, said Father Ignazio da Ielsi (Father Guardian of the convent of San Giovanni Rotondo from 1922-1925).
Despite the humility of Padre Pio that rendered him completely incapable of asking for anything for himself, he loved to celebrate the Midnight Mass of Christmas although this was really the right of the house superior to decide. But his desire to preside over that special Eucharistic sacrifice was so great, and he prepared himself with so much passion, that none of his superiors ever dared to contradict him.
As Christmas drew near, Padre Pio was completely transformed. In fact, those who knew him and knew of the terrible physical sufferings and violent diabolical assaults that he was continually undergoing, immediately noticed the mysterious change that took place in him. But it is the Saint himself who explains why this happened, in a letter of December 17, 1914, sent to one of his spiritual daughters, the noblewoman Raffaelina Cerase: “At the beginning of the sacred novena in honour of the Child Jesus,” Padre Pio writes, “my spirit feels like it is reborn to new life: my heart feels that it has enough room to contain all of the treasures of heaven; my soul feels itself completely emptied out in the presence of this our God who has become flesh for us. How can we resist loving him always with new ardour?”
Behold the depth with which the Saint of Gargano penetrated into the mystery of the Love of God and behold thus the ultimate reason of such a transformation in body and spirit: he was all enraptured by the “humanised God,” as he often loved to call him, in harmony with the Apostle Paul (cf. Philippians 2:6-8).
And where did he see himself incarnate, this God of Love, if not in the very instant in which Padre Pio celebrated Holy Mass? The eyes of Padre Pio shone with tears and his cheeks grew flushed when, at the end of the Traditional Latin Mass (the only Mass Padre Pio ever celebrated), he proclaimed in a loud voice the Prologue of Saint John: “And the Word became flesh / and dwelt among us.” Such was the theological foundation, which concluded the Liturgy in the Tridentine Mass, on which all of the special love of the Capuchin Saint for the Feast of the Incarnation was based. Here is the justification for the profound emotion and the mystical stupor which culminated in the perennial ecstasy of Padre Pio during the whole of this Holy Night.
The Midnight Mass of Padre Pio, on the night of Christmas, was truly extraordinary. Hordes of believers overcame all sorts of obstacles in order to have the grace of participating: in order to have a vague idea, it is enough to know that, in order to be present at the solemn functions, it was necessary to venture out, in the dead of night, along the stony mule trail covered with snow and ice that led to the convent.
And yet neither the intemperate weather, nor the bitter cold, nor the long celebration that lasted until five in the morning, could dissuade those who sought Paradise in the eyes of the Saint during the night that was the most special of all nights. “At the end,” one of his brothers recounts, “Padre Pio put on the white veil woven with gold, incensed the statue of the Baby Jesus, and preceded by the altar boys and some of his brothers who held lighted torches in their hands, he carried it in procession from the choir to the altar and from the altar to the Crib, clutching the little cradle closely to himself…. Then, he offered the beloved statuette to the faithful to kiss. His face was radiant, luminous. His lips were full of joyful smiles as everyone kissed the knees or the little feet of the Baby Jesus. Then “with an open heart and a clear voice,” he united himself to the choir of his brothers and the faithful in singing Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle, the sweet Christmas carol composed by Saint Alphonsus Maria de’Liguori.
As you and your loved ones come to Holy Mass on Christmas Eve, kneel before the Christ Child. Follow Padre Pio’s advice. Give Him your heart, while His little outstretched hand of mercy will fill you with heavenly love and many blessings.
Pingback: Padre Pio Brings Us Into the Mystery of the Baby Jesus at Midnight Mass – William Hemsworth-The Bible Catholic