Vatican Corner 12-23-18

At the Vatican on the morning of Friday December 7, 2018, preparations for the celebration of the birth of Christ started off with an exhibition of over 100 different nativity scenes. This was the 43rd edition of the exhibit and it featured a wide variety of artistic representations of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Then just atter sunset in St. Peter’s Square with hundreds of people gathered, a choir sang “Silent Night” and the large sand nativity in the Square was unveiled and the lights of the Vatican’s towering Christmas tree were lit in the annual ceremony. This year’s tree is a 65-foot-tall red spruce donated from the Diocese of Concordia-Pordenone in the northern Italian region of Veneto. Earlier, Pope Francis had met with the delegations responsible for the tree and the sand nativity and thanked them. He said those items are visible signs that “help us to contemplate the mystery of God, who made man in order to be close to us.” Francis explained how “the Christmas tree with its lights, reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world; the light of the soul that drives out the darkness of enmity (ill will) and makes room for forgiveness.” The Pope went on to say that the height of the tree symbolized God “who with the birth of his Son Jesus came down to man in order to raise him to himself and raise him from the mists of selfishness and sin.” He said “contemplating the God child, who emanates light in the humility of the Nativity scene, we can also become witnesses of humility, tenderness and goodness.” Pope Francis encouraged families and communities come together to reflect upon the meaning of these Christmas traditions: “The nativity and the tree, fascinating symbols of Christmas, can bring families and meeting places a reflection of the light and tenderness of God to help everyone to live the feast of the birth of Jesus.” One of the symbols of Christmas is the candy cane. Did you ever wonder about the origin and symbolism behind it? As the legend goes, the candy cane began as an existing form of candy, a straight white stick of sugar candy which was already being used as a Christmas decoration. A bent version was created to represent a shepherd’s crook and was handed out to children at church to ensure their good behavior. It is said that the white of the candy symbolizes the purity of Christ and the added red stripes remind us of the blood shed by Christ on the cross for us so that we may have eternal life. Also the candy cane forms the letter “J” to represent the precious name of Jesus, and its hard consistency represents the Solid Rock, the foundation of the church and the firmness of the promises of Christ.