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Meeting the Pope: The Grotto teaches simplicity and joy

Meeting the Pope: The Grotto teaches simplicity and joy

In his general speech, Pope Francis spoke about the first Nativity scene, which was created by Saint Francis 800 years ago in the Italian city of Greccio.

Charlotta Smedes – Vatican City

In his last public audience before Christmas, Pope Francis returned to the image of the nativity scene, and more specifically, the first nativity scene consecrated by St. Francis of Assisi 800 years ago.

What was the saint’s intention in depicting the birth of Jesus in the small town of Greccio in Umbrenia? asked the Pope. He explained that Saint Francis was not trying “to create a beautiful work of art, but rather, through the nativity scene, to arouse astonishment at the extreme humility of the Lord, and at the hardships that he suffered, for the sake of our love, in the simple cave of Bethlehem.”

The Pope focused on the word “amazement” and said that before the mystery of the incarnation of the Word, that is, the birth of Jesus, we need this religious attitude of wonder.

Simplicity and joy

The Pope went on to identify two basic features of the nativity scene: simplicity and joy.

The first characteristic contrasts with the hustle and bustle of Christmas, and the consumerism that often characterizes Christmas. Instead, “the Grotto was created to bring us back to what really matters: to God who comes to dwell among us.”

The Pope went on to reflect on the true joy inspired by the nativity scene.

He said that the joy of Christmas does not come from lavish gifts or lavish celebrations, but rather is “the joy that overflows from the heart when it is concretely experienced” of the closeness of Jesus, and the tenderness of God who does not abandon us. But it is close to those who are alone.”

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A source of hope and joy

Pope Francis likened the nativity scene to a source from which we can draw God’s presence, “a source of hope and joy.”

He said that the nativity scene is “like a living Bible.” Like the biblical source, the nativity scene is “a meeting place where we give Jesus the expectations and concerns of life, just as the shepherds of Bethlehem and the people of Greccio did.”

If we stand before the nativity scene, “and Jesus has given us all that we hold dear,” we will also experience “great joy.”

Pope Francis concluded his speech by saying: “Let us pray at the manger,” encouraging everyone to contemplate the scene of the manger and feel it within themselves.