In the heart of Manila’s Tondo district, the Archdiocesan Shrine and Parish of Santo Niño has sent a heartfelt message to families, inviting them to join the Filipino practice of putting up the Nativity scene or “Belen,” in their homes as Advent approaches.
According to CBCP News post, Msgr. Geronimo Reyes, rector and parish priest of the archdiocesan shrine said that he loved the “Belen” custom and thought it was “beautiful” and a powerful reminder that “God is with us.” In a message sent out on October 4, he said, “And we open our hearts to Him who always lives within us.”
In 2023, the 800th anniversary of the first drawing of the Nativity scene will be celebrated, making the year very important. The famous picture was made by St. Francis of Assisi, who put it in the cave of Greccio on December 24, 1223.
Msgr. Reyes said that the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday, would be a good place for families to start setting up the “Belen.” Along with the Nativity scene, the priest told Filipinos to add the “parol,” which are traditional Filipino Christmas lanterns, and other traditional Christmas displays.
He said, “I am encouraging all our families and barangay communities to put up the Nativity scene (Belen) in our homes and to put up and hang lanterns or parols.”
He also talked about how important the traditional “Via Gaudosa” (Way of Joy) and the “Daan ng Tuwa” prayer book are. These are meant to make the Christmas celebrations more fun for everyone while encouraging people to think about the deep secrets of Christ’s salvation.
Parishes in the archdiocese will hand out prayer booklets for the Blessing of Christmas Cribs and the Veneration of the Infant Jesus at Home to help with this beloved practise. You can get these from the Manila Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission.
The Apostolic letter called “Admirabile Signum,” written by Pope Francis in 2019, talked about the meaning and importance of the Nativity scene. He pushed the family practise of setting up the Nativity scene in the days before Christmas, not just at home but also at work, in schools, hospitals, prisons, and town squares.
“The Christmas crèche is part of the precious yet demanding process of passing on the faith,” he said. “Beginning in childhood, and at every stage of our lives, it teaches us to contemplate Jesus, to experience God’s love for us, to feel and believe that God is with us, and that we are with Him, His children, brothers, and sisters all, thanks to that Child who is the Son of God and the Son of the Virgin Mary.”
The faithful were deeply moved by this call to embrace the Nativity scene for it reminds them of the spiritual heart of Christmas and the joy of celebrating the birth of Christ. (Luis Angelo Sta. Maria/Volunteer Writer-San Felipe Neri Parish | File Photo of RCAM-AOC)