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Christmas, the historical center of man’s salvation

All over the Christian world, nativity plays are taking place in the schools during the early weeks of December. The principal roles of Joseph and Blessed Mary are sought after by many children. Majority of them, though, play the part of the shepherds, angels and the caravans of kings. This childhood experience is lovingly photographed by the young parents and treasured in the family picture albums.

Michael Quoist states in his book “Christ is Alive!” that: “The mystery of Jesus Christ is unique. It is the eternal plan of the Father’s love, which was lived historically by Christ in ancient Palestine… The Mystery as a whole – reflects successively on the Creation, the Incarnation, the Redemption and his Resurrection.”

Those are all different aspects of the same love as lived by Christ on earth 2,000 years ago, and lived now with Him and in Him by the whole Church by each individual Christian – by all men.

Simbang Gabi

Dec. 16 is the first day of the novena of Simbang Gabi (nine-day dawn masses) before Christmas Eve. What holds true as we meditate on the mystery of Jesus becomes even more true as we succeed in living the mystery of God becoming Man to be one of us.

As early as the kindergarten years of the child, one can already explain the story of God’s love in a simple manner. The Simbang Gabi is most memorable. Bringing him to the belen at home or in the church. Contemplate the holiest moment in the history of Christianity when God stepped down to earth through Mary, “blessed among women.” This happened in a humble manger in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Joseph, the chosen spouse of Mary and foster father of the Messiah. From my high school and college days in St. Scholastica’s College, the Benedictine German nuns succeeded in making me aware of the motto: Ora et Labora (to pray and work). I tried hard to reflect on the real meaning of Christmas, for the gaiety of yuletide lights, music and people filling up many stores easily distract us from its divine message.

The Christmas stage production in school

When I started to organize several O.B. Montessori preschool and elementary schools, I thought of producing and directing a magnificent nativity tableau specially inspired by Sofia Cavaletti’s Montessori Spiritual lessons from “I Am The Good Shepherd.” In her fourth and fifth grade religion book, she presented graphically the story of man’s salvation: From Creation, Redemption to Parousia.

The stage backdrops

Our stage backdrops, in bright blue had a diagonal line crossing from the bottom left to the top right corners. The symbol of the Water of Creation is pasted on the beginning of the line, the Baby Jesus sleeping on golden hay (Redemption) is on the center and the Parousia (Last Judgment) marked by a Cross is on the end of the line. The Annunciation requires a Middle East patio of mountain range showing Mary’s house in Nazareth. The Trip to Bethlehem is against a starlit blue sky. The Nativity is against a golden burst of rays in a manger emanating from a host of angels dressed in white and gold.

The choral singers and readers used the simple but profound and poetic narration from the Good Shepherd books. Details of the various events were provided by the Life of Mary, a collection of mystical revelations of Our Lady to four women saints in the 14th to the 17th century by Raphael Brown.

Part I, Creation (Music: ‘Let There Be Light…!’)

This is the Apocalypse, “a vision of heavenly secrets that can make sense of earthly realities.” A long aquamarine and brown fabric, wider than the stage is waved by grade schoolers to represent the creation of water and land. Other children follow, carrying high the Golden Sun, moon, stars and clouds. Then, Life begins to fill land, water and air of the earth: children in animal and insect costumes prance up and down the stage.

The second scene. God creates Adam and Eve (high school students in flesh color stocking costumes) made of earth. Assigned our first parents. Gifted omniscient, omnipresent, immortality in Paradise they are forbidden to touch the Tree of Knowledge. The Serpent tempts them. God sends them out of Paradise. Archangel brings them to the gate.

Part II, The prophets foretell the coming of the holy child, the virgin, the little town (Music: ‘Our Father’ by the London Symphony Orchestra)

The Annunciation (music: ‘Ave Maria’) Mary in a white gown with a blue veil, seeps her home in Nazareth, fetches water and embroiders. After work, she does her prayers. An archangel appears, “Salve Maria. Don’t fear, Mary, blessed among women. Our Lord sends you good tidings…” Archangel then crowns her and adorns her with many pieces of jewelry to symbolize her virtues.

Bethlehem (choral song: O Little Town of Bethlehem). Joseph, the betrothed, accompanies Mary to his birthplace Bethlehem for the census. “Thousands of angels” only seen by Mary accompany them. There is no more room in the inns but a kind innkeeper settles them down in a manger. By midnight Joseph falls asleep. While a magnificent choir of angels envelopes the manger with its heavenly songs (music: Hark the Herald Angel Sing) Jesus is born mystically, appearing as a naked babe shivering in Mary’s arms (music: Silent Night). She wraps Him lovingly in swaddling cloth she had prepared. Mary wakes up Joseph and handed him the Holy Babe to hold close and embrace (music: Away in a Manger).

The Shepherds and the Kings. Told by the angels about the Savior’s birth, the peasants in the Shepherd’s Field pay a visit and bring gifts to the Manger  (music: Noel, Noel). After a caravan journey of several months the Wise Men from the East come to Jerusalem to inquire the birthplace of the King of Kings (music: Jerusalem, Jerusalem). King Herod’s chief priest confirmed the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem. After leaving the city the star appears to guide them.

The Savior’s wish, the United Brotherhood of Nations

The historical Incarnation is complete. But the mystical Incarnation, Jesus’ oneness with each man, into man’s life and the life of the world, must still be realized in time by means of man’s inner transformation.

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