This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:15 am in Paul VI Hall, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.
In his address in Italian, the Pope focused his meditation on the theme of the Crib, domestic Gospel (Biblical passage: from the Gospel according to Luke 2:15-16.)
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present.
The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
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The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
In a week it will be Christmas. During these days, while we hasten to make preparations for the feast, we can ask ourselves: “How am I preparing myself for the birth of the One who is being celebrated?” A simple but effective way to prepare oneself is to set up the Crib. This year I have also followed this way: I went to Greccio, where Saint Francis made the first Nativity Scene with the people of the place. And I wrote a Letter to recall the meaning of this tradition, what the Nativity Scene means in the Christmas Season.
The Nativity Scene, in fact, is like a living Gospel” (Apostolic Letter Admirabile Signum, 1). It takes the Gospel to places where we live: in homes, in schools, in workplaces, in meeting places, in hospitals and nursing homes, in prisons and in Squares. And there, where we live, it reminds us of an essential thing: that God hasn’t stayed invisible in Heaven, but He came on earth <and> was made man, a baby. To set up the Crib is to celebrate God’s’ closeness. God has always been close to His people, but when He was incarnate and born, he was very close, extremely close. To set up the Crib is to celebrate God’s closeness; it’s to rediscover that God is real, concrete, alive and palpitating. He is not a distant lord or a detached judge, but He is humble Love, who has descended to us. The Child in the Crib transmits to us His tenderness. Some figurines represent the Infant Jesus with His arms open, to say to us that God came to embrace our humanity. So, it’s beautiful to be before the Crib, and to entrust our life to the Lord there, to speak to Him of the persons and situations we have at heart, evaluate with Him the year that is ending, sharing our expectations and concerns.
Next to Jesus we see Our Lady and Saint Joseph. We can imagine the thoughts and sentiments they had while the Babe was born in poverty: joy, but also dismay. And we can also invite the Holy Family to our home, where there are joys and worries, where we wake up every day, take food and are close to our dearest persons. The Crib is a domestic Gospel. The word Crib means literally “Manger,” whereas the city of the Crib, Bethlehem, means “house of bread.” Manger and house of bread: the Crib we set up at home, where we share food and affections, reminds us that Jesus is the essential food, the bread of life (Cf. John 6:34). It is He who nourishes our love; it is He who gives our families the strength to go forward and to forgive one another.
The Crib gives us another life teaching. In the rhythms at times frenetic of today, it is an invitation to contemplation. It reminds us of the importance to pause, because only when we are able to recollect ourselves can we receive what matters in life. Only if we leave outside our home the din of the world can we open ourselves to listen to God, who speaks in silence. The Crib is relevant; it is the actuality of every family. Yesterday I was given a little image of a special, small Crib, which was called: “Let Mommy rest.” Our Lady was there asleep, and Joseph was there with the infant Jesus, making Him fall asleep. How many of you must divide the night, between husband and wife, for the baby boy or the baby girl crying, crying, crying. “Let Mommy rest” is the tenderness of a family, the tenderness of a marriage.
The Crib is more than ever relevant, while every day so many arms are produced in the world and so many violent images, which enter the eyes and the heart. The Crib, instead, is a crafted image of peace. Therefore, it is a living Gospel.
Dear brothers and sisters from the Crib, in fine, we can draw a lesson on the meaning of life itself. We see daily scenes: the shepherds with the sheep, the blacksmiths beating the iron, the millers that make the bread; sometimes landscapes and situations of our territories are inserted. It’s right, because the Crib reminds us that Jesus comes into our concrete life. And, this is important. Always set up a small Crib at home, because it reminds us that God came to us, was born of us, accompanies us in life, is a man like us, who made Himself man like us.
We are no longer alone in our everyday life. He dwells with us. He doesn’t change things magically but, if we receive Him, everything can change. So, I hope that, setting up the Crib, is an occasion for you to invite Jesus into your life. When we set up the Crib at home, it’s like opening the door and saying: “Jesus, come in!” it’s to make this closeness, this invitation to Jesus concrete, so that He will come into our life, because if He dwells in our life, our life is reborn. And if our life is reborn, it’s truly Christmas. Happy Christmas to all![Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
A warm greeting goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet the Chinese Priests and Seminarians of the Pontifical Urban College of Propaganda Fide” of Rome; and the parish groups, especially that of Alvito. Moreover, I greet the health care company of Teramo with the Bishop, Monsignor Lorenzo Leuzzi; the National Association of Pastry Bakers; and the Damascene Oratory Institute of Rome. The oratorians make themselves heard; they know how to make noise. Good, good!
Finally, I greet young people, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds. There are only a few days left to the Holy Birth of the Lord Jesus. On the example of the Holy Family, let us prepare ourselves to receive Him in joy, letting our hearts be invaded by His love for each one of us.
I wish you all a Happy Christmas.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation]