By Father Timothy Gollob
Special to The Texas Catholic
From the first Sunday in Advent, we have heard the warning over and over again to prepare the Way of the Lord. In the Gospel reading of that day, we were told to awaken from our slumber and to prepare the way for our Creator to come to save us and all the Earth.
This is a tall order. We like to sleep, to dream and to hide from reality. There are viruses around bringing confusion and sickness and chaos to our personal world. Asleep, we can ignore them.
Our pontiff, Pope Francis, has written an essay recently where he points out that the worst of all viruses is that of indifference and complacency. We like things the way they were in 2019. We fear the present pandemics of wars and of refugees and of changing climate and of mounting deaths due to COVID-19. We could call them fake news, but the pictures of boat loads of our brothers and sisters fleeing oppression and of towering flames lighting up the forests and of human beings locked up in the cages of prisons and detention centers make us take notice, if we are truly awake to these realities.
Back in 1223, there was a crisis infecting the society of that time. It was a Christian society, but things had gone very sour. Rather than adoring and praising God, many homes and towns were concentrated on making the Feast of Christmas into a re-enactment of the old Roman holiday in memory of the rebirth of the sun.
It was around Dec. 25 that the slowly declining days first began to give the empire a longer dose of sunshine — and warmth.
Another Francis, the one from Assisi, noticed the neglect many people were showing to the great event where the Creator had “rent the Heavens” and come to save us from our sins. He proposed to one of his followers in Greccio, Italy that the people needed a concrete image to bring them back to the genuine love of God being one of us in the Incarnate Word.
They arranged to have a stone manger carved in a cave. They brought in an ox and an ass to be present to represent all of the creatures of God. An image of a bambino was in the crib. Francis came in and took the Baby in his arms with great loving tenacity. A custom was born.
Many towns in Italy and throughout the world adopted the idea. Nativity scenes were in every church with embellishments proper to each culture.
Think back on the olden days when a creche was in your home. Tell your children about what it meant to you. Share a story, like the time when a banty hen got into a crib full of straw and brought wonder and laughter to all who were awake and had eyes to see.
Father Timothy Gollob is a retired priest of the Diocese of Dallas, who served Holy Cross Catholic Church for more than 50 years.