From the Desk of your Pastor, residing at present in a room at Lourdes Hospital, Ernakulam, to his beloved members of Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, Fort Cochin, on the 8th day of December 2011, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The celebration of Christmas, as we look at it with our eyes of faith, is also a celebration of poverty. The way God, who created the whole universe and sustains it every moment of truth and who opted his Son to be born in a pitiable condition of shepherds’ manger, proves God’s preferential love for the poor. As Paul, in his letter to the Philippians 2 : 6-9, explains that God took upon himself the absolute ‘kenosis’, emptying himself to be born in this world as a man. That is what I said in the beginning that the celebration of Christmas is also a celebration of abject poverty God opted for his Son Jesus. Why God opted this way? It remains a mystery, unintelligible for man to understand.
Apart from the fact that the celebration of Christmas is a celebration of joy, happiness and peace, in relation to our salvation, which Jesus Christ brought to us all, let us also make it a truthful sharing of our poverty and our plenty with the poor, who are around us. What I am proposing to every member of the parish is to contribute whatever possible for the sake of the poor on Christmas night/day. The parents may ask their children to keep apart a portion of whatever they get for their daily pocket money to put in the collection taken on the midnight mass or on the morning masses. The parents, and other members of the family also may do the same, thus creating in them and in their children a sense of preferential love for the poor. Because Jesus was born poor, though often we make it a commercial event during Christmas season, and thus the poverty of Christ become lost in the extravagance of the Christmas festivities, hopefully I believe that what we do in the midnight mass this year 2011, the contribution we make in the name of the poor, may become the solemn inauguration of what I have in my mind a programme to be implemented later in the Basilica parish.
There was a man who is known in the history as ‘second’ Christ - St Francis of Assisi. Though the Christ Child in the manger and other pictures of the story of Bethlehem have been used in church services from the first centuries, the ‘crib’ in its present form and its use outside the church originated with St. Francis of Assisi. Through his famous celebration at Greccio, Italy, on Christmas Eve in the year 1223, with a Bethlehem scene including live animals, he made the crib popular. Since then it has been a familiar sight in Christian homes all over the world. The story of how St. Francis of Assisi “invented” the crib is so delightful and inspiring that it might be told or read to the children every year. The following is an account in the very words of Brother Thomas de Celano, who was there when it happened and who wrote it down:
“ Blessed Francis called a friend about two weeks before Christmas and said to him: ‘If you desire that we should celebrate this year’s Christmas together at Greccio, go quickly and prepare what I tell you; for I want to enact the memory of the Infant Who was born at Bethlehem, and how He was deprived of all the comforts babies enjoy; how He was bedded in a manger on hay, between an ass and an ox. For once I want to see all this with my own eyes.’ When the good and faithful man had heard this, he departed quickly and prepared in the above-mentioned place everything that the Saint had told him. The joyful day approached. The Franciscans were called from many communities. The men and women of the neighborhood, as best they could, prepared candles and torches to brighten the night. Finally the Saint of God arrived, found everything prepared, saw it and rejoiced. The crib was made ready, hay was brought, the ox and ass were led to the spot and Greccio became a new Bethlehem. The night was radiant with joy. The crowds drew near and rejoiced in the novelty of the celebration. Their voices resounded from the woods, and the rocky cliff echoed the jubilant outburst. As they sang in the praise of God, the whole night rang with exultation. The Saint of God stood before the crib, overcome with devotion and wondrous joy. A solemn Mass was sung at the crib.“
I WISH YOU ALL, MY BELOVED MEMBERS OF BASILICA PARISH,
A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR 2012.
May God Almighty bless us all.
Your Parish Priest and Rector