St. Francis' Living Christmas Crib

All Creation Rejoices in the Birth of Jesus the Saviour!

 Nativity stained glass window in the Greccio Chapel, Franciscan church, Galway city

Nativity window in the Greccio Chapel at our church in Galway

 

About 1223 A.D., something marvelous happened. St. Francis made a living crib, an enactment of the birth of Christ near the town of Greccio on Christmas Day, and so popularized the making of a crib scene in our homes, workplaces, churches, hospitals, schools and shops at Christmas.

Christmas Crib with beautiful Central American figures in a family home, Bray, Co. Wicklow

A crib in front of the main altar at the Abbey, Galway, Christmas 2010

Desiring to represent as faithfully as possible the lowly poverty of the infancy of the Saviour born at Bethlehem, when the Feast of the Nativity was at hand, Francis sent word to a religious nobleman in the town of Greccio named John who provided an ox and an ass, with a stable, in anticipation of the joys of the coming celebration.

Donkey grazing near Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow

Finally the holy night arrived, and Francis was there with many of his brothers gathered around him.

The baby Jesus resting on hay between an ass and and ox and with his parents looking on.  

The hay in the manger is prepared, the ox and the ass are arranged around the manger, and the vigil celebration begins with joy. A great multitude of people stream together from various places with candles and torches as requested by Francis to light up the night just like that first Christmas night lit by a star. He ensured that everybody including flora (represented by hay) and fauna (represented by the ox and ass) had a part to play in the Nativity scene since he knew that the Saviour was born for all. 

Cows grazing near Muckross Abbey in Killarney National Park

Epiphany at the crib with beautiful Central American figures in a family home, Bray, Co. Wicklow

And so, out of Greccio was made a new Bethlehem! Francis stood before the manger overcome with joy, and Mass was celebrated over the crib. After the celebration, Francis insisted that care be taken of the hay and the animals, reminding us to take care of every created thing even after we no longer need it!

A friendly donkey in Doolin, Co. Clare

 

 

St. Francis' initiative at Greccio popularized the making of a Christmas crib in our homes, churches, hospitals, schools and other places where we wish to remember the Christmas event.

 

 

A Christmas crib at a shopping centre in Galway city 

 

Praised be You

my Lord

with all

Your creatures

- St. Francis