Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The First Belen and Its Franciscan Origin

Did you know the origin of the Belen? Do you know what's a Belen?

Here in the Philippines, most Catholic homes would never be complete with this famour rendition of the Nativity Set or the Belen.   This favorite decoration is not just something that we add as part of the Christmas festivities but it symbolizes the Birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  It is a symbol of faith that knowing that Christmas is all about Christ, while the rest takes a major back seat.

A Belen is usually composed of the Holy Family - the adorable Baby Jesus Christ in the manger, Mother Mary and St. Joseph, a shining star that guided them, usually Angels with the "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" sign, the Shepherd and the three Magis - Melchor, Gaspar and Balthasar.

This famous Christmas decoration has its Franciscan origin.

Infused by an Unquenchable Love

After His visit from the Holy Land and seeing Bethlehem with his own eyes, St. Francis was so engrossed in assembling the birth of Christ. With special permission from Pope Honorius, the Seraphic Father asked John (Giovanni) Velita, the Lord of Greccio, to prepare a special place where they can react the Nativity scene. 

St. Francis wanted to see for himself all the discomforts that the young babe in the manger experienced because for him that's how much God loved us, He gave His Son to us. Christ was born helpless like a babe trusting all of us with His vulnerable body.

The Blessed Night

December 1223. It was in the mountainside of Greccio where everything was prepared. There was a manger and a makeshift altar. People from all over places, came as long lines of lit torches could be seen going to the special spot.  St. Francis of Assisi acted as a deacon.

The people who attended sang joyous Christmas song to add to the solemnity.

St. Francis said the Gospel and expressed the joy to see for His eyes the doll-baby like representation of Christ in the makeshift manger, where there were even Ox and the Ass to complete in reminiscing the said event. Everytime St. Francis mentioned the word Babe, or Baby or anything that refer to the Infant Christ he wet his lips to savor the sweet tasting word that refered to the Blessed Child.

The Babe in the Creche

After his very moving homily, the Seraphic Father took the baby-doll that represented Christ and wished that he too wanted to feel the love he felt for Christ for us when he was born.

Immediately, and miraculously the baby-statue/doll came to life. A lot of people witnessed it and how lucky the people present were as they were able to hold helpless Babe in their arms. Even the sickly animals, after being fed by the straw from the manger got well.

Remembering Christ

This Christmas, hopefully we would remember the blessed night when Christ came into this world and not other worldly things that would often hinder us. Just like St. Francis of Assisi, may we also recall that the most important thing to remember this Christmas is first and foremost, the Birthday Celebrant Himself.

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