Pastor’s Desk – December 2022

Dec 25, 2022 | Pastors Desk

A Message from Father Peter

– December 25: Christmas Day, the Nativity of the Lord

Christmas Pageant

There’s no doubt about it – if your child or grandchild was in the St. Francis Christmas Pageant, there’s little else this season as enjoyable and faith building as this annual event! Everyone young or old seems to open their hearts to one another on this day. Special thanks to Anita Modelewski and Ellen Levanti for their wise and encouraging involvement with our committee of volunteers. We owe our heartfelt thanks to Lena and Brian Smith for creating and coordinating this amazing gift that celebrates the birthday of our Savior. With just a few rehearsals, they instructed our talented children in music and acting, readied their costumes, and most importantly, reminded them every step of the way about the miraculous story of the Nativity. Thanks also go to Karen Pugni and Michelle Giannotti for their assistance. We are already looking forward to next year which marks the 800th anniversary of St. Francis’ introducing the First Christmas Pageant to the world.

Some just skim the surface of this season and repeat, “Christmas is for kids – Lets keep it that way!” What about an “Adult Christ for Christmas!” Nothing shallow here – so where is the true spirit of this great Holy day? It must be more than one day out of 365; can’t every Sunday be a mini-Christmas and Easter too? Then we access Christmas in his complete human way. Is it too optimistic to say “See you in church next Sunday?” If you’re reading this you know I’m “preaching to the choir,” but you can give the bulletin to an “inactive” relative or friend. Once we catch the depth of the message of Christmas even the busiest schedule cannot keep us away! Please check our website at www.stfrancisgreenlawn.org for a Christmas Letter from Bishop John O. Barres of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

– December 18th – The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Time to Set Up the Christmas Creche!

The Christmas Creche, also called the Nativity Scene, is a long-standing tradition enjoyed by millions around the world each year to commemorate the birth of Christ. But where did it originate? The story of the first Creche goes all the way back to the year 1223 in Greccio, Italy. St. Francis of Assisi was visiting the city for the celebration of Christmas. St. Francis asked permission from Pope Honorius to set up a creche in the cave where he was living outside the city. His desire was to help the people of the city to truly enter into contemplation of the mystery and glory of Christ’s birth. He knew that beholding something tangible is a very human way to aid contemplation. To that end, the cave was set up as a cattle stall; there were live actors to play Joseph and Mary, as well as a live donkey and cow, and a little baby (either real or perhaps a figure) to make up the scene. While some historians believe that the creche predated St. Francis, there can be no doubt that he at the very least helped popularize it to the extent that it is still with us today.

St. Bonaventure in his biography of St. Francis described the first creche thus: “[St. Francis] stood before the manger, full of devotion and piety, bathed in tears and radiant with joy; the Holy Gospel was chanted by Francis, the Levite of Christ. Then he preached to the people around the nativity of the poor King; and being unable to utter His name for the tenderness of His love, He called Him the Babe of Bethlehem.”

Much like other forms of religious devotional art, the idea behind the creche is to draw us into the contemplation of the truth being conveyed. When we see the Babe of Bethlehem in the manger may we too be moved to a “tenderness of love” for the Savior who loves us so infinitely much that he chose to begin his mission of redemption in our world as a baby!

– December 11th – The Third Sunday of Advent

Gaudete Sunday

The church is a good student of human psychology especially the psychology of waiting. How hard it is for children to wait for Christmas, especially Santa Claus! Some grade school boys and girls are already “bursting at the seams”! The younger ones have a hundred questions about Santa!

The older ones begin to wonder if he really exists – but they keep their doubts to themselves. Be careful not to blow up their hopes and dreams! We have “Gaudete Sunday” because we need to temper our Advent seriousness with anticipated Joy! Christmas is right around the corner. Let our hearts dare to believe, hope, and rejoice!

– December 4th – The Second Sunday of Advent

Advent

Can we get it right? Advent is not simply a mini-Lent! Not simply a time of repentance and self-sacrifice paralleling Lent, the preeminent time for fasting and good works! A while back there was a work of spirituality popular among priests and seminarians entitled Holy Longing. The phrase quickly caught on and became a part of contemporary American Spirituality just in time! As the years have gone by, we see less and less of Christ in His own “Greatest Day” that is Christmas! More Rudolph, more snow men, etc., less Jesus! Just look for a manger scene in a store – you won’t find one.

Yet we long for Jesus to come among us once more and fill us, his creatures, with peace, joy, and freedom. Jesus’ “Advents” for us come three times; first, as a baby that first Christmas almost 2,000 years ago in Israel. Second, his birth coming into our hearts right in the here and now, and third, his coming as King at the end of our age, the End of Time. Since it is easier to reflect on Jesus coming to Bethlehem of Judea, we start there. That’s fine, just so our longing extends to his two other comings as well! “Come, Lord Jesus.” The battle for souls is fierce, but victory is assured in the birth of our Savior and King. Come, Let us Adore Him!

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