Dear Angelic Blog Buddies:
Angelic blessings of peace to everyone.
I'm writing this blog as one year ends and a new year is just about to begin.
As we look forward together to 2011, I'd like to share an Assisi Assignment with you.
In Assisi, Italy, many of the homes have a lovely decorated ceramic tile at the doorway of their homes. The words printed on the tile are either
PAX ET BONUM (Latin)
PACE E BENE (Italian)
The translation for both is: Peace and well-being; peace and goodness.
I'm encouraging you to have somewhere near the entrance of your home the Italian, Latin or even English words which mean: Peace and well-being.
May this new year be a year of peace and well-being for all of us.
This blessing carries the energy, essence and goodness of St. Francis who was born in Assisi and is known as St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis was a messenger of peace and the way he walked his talk throughout his life was the embodiment of living the prayer of peace and well-being for all; a prayer for all of God's creatures - human and animals alike.
The Dali Lama is a St. Francis of our times. I want to share a statement of the Dali Lama that equally expresses the blessing of peace and well-being for all. His words are: Calm abiding.
May 2011 be a year in which all of us experience calm abiding in our lives. May calm come into our lives and abide with us throughout the year.
During the Christmas season, I find great solace and calmness in meditating upon the nativity scene. My parents were humble farmers and so we didn't have a lot of Christmas decorations. One decoration that I absolutely adored in my childhood (and now is at Angel Heights) was the cardboard nativity and plastic figures of the Christmas story's cast that were placed in my family's livingroom. I think my folks purchased it at Ben Franklin's Five and Dime Store.
After learning about sweet baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, angels, the shepherds and Wise Men in Sunday School, I loved seeing the Bible's words come to life as figurines each Christmas. The little plastic figures were retrieved annually from a box in the attic and graced our lives during the holiday season.
The love of the nativity scene has stayed with me my entire life; so much so that whenever I travel to another country I purchase a creche from that country. I have my own collection of creches that comes out as part of our Christmas decorations. I want to share that The National Cathedral in Washington, DC shares an awesome exhibit of international creches every holiday season.
I've shared with friends that I have embellished somewhat on the original nativity scene. I love animals. I was delighted one year to find Walmart had plastic chickens available for nativities. One of my girlfriends gave me a Native American nativity which includes horses, buffalo and bear,
Because of my love for the nativity, I researched the origin of our having nativity sets in our homes and live nativities at our churches. I found that it originated with none other than St. Francis.
It is known as The Greccio Experience. St. Francis was of course devoted to Christ and loved the Christmas story. He especially loved that Jesus' birth experience occured in a humble manger with animals surrounding Jesus.
Greccio is a very little town nestled in the Umbria region of Italy. It was a place that St. Francis loved to go to pray. St. Francis, in fact, had a cave in the mountains of Greccio where he went for prayer and meditation. Many of his friars frequented caves in the areas as well. Eventually one of the caves would become a chapel.
St. Francis was known and loved by so many people and some of them were quite wealthy. St. Francis made a request of one of those very rich individuals to help him in building a stable on the side of the mountain of Greccio. The stable was to be located near to the chapel cave. Then St. Francis asked his wealthy friend's assistance in building a manger and obtaing for him an ox and donkey and lots and lots of hay and straw. St. Francis wanted the ox and donkey because an ox and donkey were there at Christ's birth.
This was the year of 1223. There were no televisions to watch, or computers to sit in front of. No I-Pads or I-Phones. So as a stable and manger are being built, news is spreading that something special is happening on the mountain. People were very, very curious about what St. Francis was up to.
On Christmas Eve in December, 1223, St. Francis told all of his friars to meet him after dark at the base of the mountain. I need to share that the Christmas Eve of December, 1223 was actually Christmas Day to the Franciscans. For us, a new day begins at 12:01 am. However, in 1223 a new day began when the sun set. So after the sunset on December 24th, 1223 it was officially Christmas Day, December 25th.
The friars gathered at the foot of the mountain with torches lite and the people of the surrounding communities joined with them in anticipation. Some biographers say there were hundreds of people in attendance; some say thousands.
The friars passed the fire and light of their torches to the villagers' torches. In an essence, a candlelight procession was created up the mountainside.
There were numerous paths up the mountainside and the paths were filled with people carrying lighted torches shining in the darkness. Biographers reported that there was so much light on the mountain it appeared to be daylight; others wrote that it appeared that the mountain was on fire.
St. Francis took his torch and walked very slowly and deliberately up the path to the nativity scene. He had arranged for two people to play the roles of Mary and Joseph and had a handsewn cloth doll as baby Jesus in the manger.
As St. Francis made his pilgrimage to the manger, he sang mass hymns. In addition, since Francis had been known for his troubadour abilities as a young man, Francis also sang words praising Jesus that he sang to the music of secular songs known by the local residents.
Many of you are familiar with the lyrics of the hymn sung in churches: "We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing." The tune is actually a tavern song with the original words, "I once had a girl and her name was Matilda."
I love sharing with people that God knows how to work a room; and in this case, how to work the mountain. It just so happened that there were actual shepherds on the mountainside that very evening with a flock of sheep. They saw the torches of light coming up the pathways and were intrigued. So they moved themselves and their sheep closer to the manger scene so they, too, could see what was happening. I have a sense there were a multitude of angels in attendance, too.
The people walked, sang, prayed, and experienced the magic of the first live nativity. Just imagine yourself being part of the procession up the mountainside.
They felt the spirit of God within them as they literally moved themselves closer to the Christ child. Each of them was experiencing a personal pilgrimage to a sacred spiritual experience.
Francis was not a priest. He could not offer mass. He did, however, have a priest who did offer mass for everyone. By the time they arrived at the manger scene it was midnight. It was the first midnight mass. Francis was a deacon. He could read Scripture and offer the homily as well. That evening Francis sang the Scripture. He was known for his beautiful voice. He sang with his heart, soul and love of Christ.
His homily shared his enthusiasm for the celebration of Jesus' birth. His dream of creating the actual nativity experience had been fulfilled. He wanted people to be able to see with their very own eyes the birth of Christ and he had done that for the friars and hundreds (thousands) of people in attendance.
At that point in the service, St. Francis picked up the handsewn doll and held the baby Jesus close to his heart. Biographers have written that people in attendance who were close to the manger saw the doll's eyes become real. Many witnessed St. Francis actually holding baby Jesus in his arms.
In addition to the ox and donkey. Francis had had the manger filled with lots of hay and straw. Straw is used for bedding for animals; hay is used as food for animals.
After the service, people wanted something to remember the event by and so people grabbed up the hay and the straw as a memento of the special evening (some things never change, right?). There are legends that people fed the hay to sick animals they owned and the animals were healed. The hay was also placed on top of the bodies sick people, especially women who were especially challenging pregnancies, and these people, too, were healed.
In sharing this story, someone told me that a part of their Italian heritage is to place a little hay in their wallet - hay from the nativity scene - so that during the year ahead their finances are blessed by Christ and the hay also reminds them, whenever they open their wallet, what true riches really are; where all good gifts come from.
Additionally, someone shared that it was her family tradition during the month of December that whenever a child in the family did a good deed, it was rewarded by the individual being given hay to place in the family nativity manger. The children witnessed their good deeds making baby Jesus' bed softer. She indicated that on Christmas morning, the manger which had been empty throughout the month was now placed underneath the Christmas tree with baby Jesus in the manger. Jesus was there to remind the children what the ultimate Christmas present really is.
Here we are in December, 2010 and we are still keeping the traditions that St. Francis originated: midnight mass; candelight processions; singing Christmas carols; live nativity scenes. St. Francis is also credited with being the first to stage a Renaissance drama. It all started on the mountainside of Greccio. It all started with love in the heart of St. Francis.
I'd like to close my blog by sharing a prayer that St. Francis prayed. It is called "Prayer for Enlightenment".
enlighten the darkness of my heart
and give me, Lord,
a correct faith,
a certain hope
a perfect charity,
sense and knowledge
so that I may carry out Your holy
and true command.*
Angelic Blessings of peace and well-being to you.
*The words of the Great commandment teach us to love God with your heart, soul, body, mind, strength.
Addendum to PAX ET BONUM Blog
Here's blessing of PAX ET BONUM in a number of translations:
Vrede en alles wat goed is! (Afrikaans)
Paqes dhe të gjithë të mirë (Albanian)
السلام و كل خير (Arabic)
Xanti aru sob Bhaal (Axomiya)
Peoc'h ha madelezh! (Breton)
Мир и всичко добро! (Bulgarian)
Pau i Be! (Catalonian)
平安幸福! (Chinese tr.)
Mir i dobro! (Croatian)
Pokoj a dobro! (Czech)
Fred og alt godt! (Danish)
Vrede en alle goeds! (Dutch)
Vrede en al het goede (Dutch, alternative)
Peace and all good! (English, USA/UK)
Peace and all goodness! (English, USA, alternative)
Pacon kaj ĉiu bonon (Esperanto)
Bakea eta ongia! (Euskera-Basque)
Rauhaa ja kaikkea hyvää! (Finnish)
Paix et bonheur! (French)
Paz e ben! (Galician)
Friede und alles Gute! (German)
Freden un all Good! (German, Plattdeutsch)
Eirini kai Kalo! (Greek)
Eirene kai agatha! (old Greek)
Ka maluhia a me ka maika'i wale nō! (Hawaiian)
Shalom v'kol tuv! (Hebrew)
Shanti aur shubh kaamnaa (Hindi)
Frere un hääl (Hinner-pälzisch)
Áldás, békesseg! (Hungarian)
Damai Dan Segala Yang Baik (Indonesia / Bahasa Indonesian)
Siochan agus maitheas! (Irish)
Pace e bene! (Italian)
Shanti matthu Summanisina Hosathana (Kannada, India)
Samaadan aani Boremponn (Konkanni, India)
평화와 선 (Pyeonghwa wa Suhn) (Korean)
ئاشتى و هه موو باشية ك (Kurdish)
Pax et bonum! (Latin)
Paċi u risq! (Maltese)
Fred og alt godt! (Norwegian)
Pokój i dobro! (Polish)
Paz e Bem ! (Portuguese)
Pacea si Binele! (Romanian)
Мира и добра! (Russian)
Мир і добрo! (Serbian)
Runyararo ne Kunaka! (Shona)
Paci e bonu (Sicilian)
Pokoj a dobro! (Slovak)
Mir in dobro! (Slovenian)
¡Paz y bien! (Spanish)
Amani na mema yote! (Swahili)
Fred och allt gott ! (Swedish)
Kapayapaan at kabutihan! (Tagalog, Philippines)
அமைதியும் அனைத்து நன்மையும் (Tamil, Tamilnadu)
Samathanamum nallathum (Tamil, Sri Lanka)
Shanti mariyu shubhamu (Telugu, India)
Dame Dohot Sude Na Denggan (Toba-batak, Sumatra, Indonesia)
Huzur ve iyilik üstüne olsun! (Turkish)
Мир і всього добра! (Ukrainian)
Kaane Wöön und ollas Guade! (Viennese)
Bình An và Thiện Hảo (Vietnamese)
Jamm ak lu bax rek (Wolof)