By Myrna S. Bermudo
In a letter sent to the Caceres clergy, Archbishop Rolando J. Tria Tirona enjoined the priests to encourage parishioners to set up Nativity scene or Belen in their homes and remind them of its significance.
This year, the Universal Church celebrates the 800th anniversary of the first Nativity scene.
“On the eve of Christmas in 1223, Saint Francis of Assisi staged a live nativity scene in a cave near Greccio, Italy. It was the beginning of the tradition of putting up a nativity scene or a Belen inside or outside churches and public and private places, “Tirona said in a letter issued December 14. “It reminds people of the Incarnation of our Lord to save us all. The Belen has been a powerful catechetical instrument for all these eight centuries,” the Bishop added.
As the Misa de Aguinaldo starts, parols, Nativity scenes with empty crib are displayed inside parish churches, oratories and shrine. Some, which are inside the patio or church yard, are made of local materials prepared by various barangays and church organizations.
The Caceres bishop further said that “The image of the Baby Jesus in the manger touches not only the hearts of children but also the hearts of adults. It brings joy and peace. I urge you and our faithful to pray for peace in the Holy Land and the whole world.”
The image of the Infant Jesus is placed on the empty crib of the Nativity scene during the vigil mass of Christmas.
Pope Francis, in an Apostolic letter called “Admirabile Signum,” explained the meaning and importance of the Nativity scene. He encouraged the family practice of setting up the Nativity scene days before Christmas. He said that work places, schools, hospitals, prisons and town plazas are venues where the Nativity scene can be displayed.