A Centuries-old Christmas Present from Saint Francis of Assisi to the World

Chapel of the first live nativity in Greccio, Italy (Photo courtesty of Wikicommons Images , Fiat500e, CC BY 4.0 DEED)

by Theresa Cavicchio, OFS

For the many Franciscans around the world of the First, Second, and Third Orders – clerical, religious, and lay – the year 2023 inaugurated a series of important 8th-centenaries which will culminate in 2026. For our purposes, the timeliest of these has a deep spiritual significance as we approach Christmas this year.

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Pope Francis and Greccio Revisited

The connection between Saint Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) and the first recorded Nativity re-enactment has been well documented by sources close to him. The year was 1223, and Francis enlisted the help of a friend to stage a reverent live rendering of the scene which had taken place in the stable at Bethlehem. The setting was Greccio, a small Italian town located about 55 miles north of Rome.

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Francis of Assisi: The Christmas Crèche Comes to Life

St. Francis adoring the Christ Child (Fabrizio Santafede 1560-1623)

A well-researched biography of Saint Francis of Assisi must of necessity resound with the same two overriding themes: his deep, intense love for and devotion to his Savior, Jesus Christ; and his commitment to a radical living out of his Master’s example of poverty.

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