The art work above is obviously not something of mine but work from a church in Italy -- possibly the work of Giotto. It depicts St. Francis and the now-famous night when he set up the first living Christmas creche. I have always loved the story reported by one of the saint's contemporaries. It goes as follows:
"In the year 1223, St. Francis, a deacon, was visiting the town of Grecio to celebrate Christmas. Grecio was a small town built on a mountainside overlooking a beautiful valley. The people had cultivated the fertile area with vineyards. St. Francis realized that the chapel of the Franciscan hermitage would be too small to hold the congregation for Midnight Mass. So he found a niche in the rock near the town square and set up the altar. However, this Midnight Mass would be very special, unlike any other Midnight Mass.
St. Bonaventure (d. 1274) tells the story the best:
It happened in the third year before his death, that in order to excite the inhabitants of Grecio to commemorate the nativity of the Infant Jesus with great devotion, [St. Francis] determined to keep it with all possible solemnity; and lest he should be accused of lightness or novelty, he asked and obtained the permission of the sovereign Pontiff. Then he prepared a manger, and brought hay, and an ox and an ass to the place appointed.
The brethren were summoned, the people ran together, the forest resounded with their voices, and that venerable night was made glorious by many and brilliant lights and sonorous psalms of praise. The man of God [St. Francis] stood before the manger, full of devotion and piety, bathed in tears and radiant with joy; the Holy Gospel was chanted by Francis. Then he preached to the people around the nativity of the poor King Jesus; and being unable to utter His name for the tenderness of His love, He called Him the Babe of Bethlehem."
I love the way that St. Francis gets so overwhelmed with love at the sight of the "living creche" -- almost like being there at the very first Christmas.
Here is an example of a lovely creche apparently sitting in a Christmas tree. The work is quite artistic and the faces are lovely and detailed. I would be delighted to have something as beautiful as this to put out at Christmas.
As a matter of fact, thanks to a dear friend, I now have something almost as lovely. For a Christmas gift she presented me with a beautiful Italian "statue" of the Holy Family on that holy night. I have posted a photo of it below.
Although my photo does not do it justice, I think you can see well enough that it is a beautiful piece of Christmas art. You can also see, of course, my poor little nativity set with the empty crib waiting for the Baby Jesus to arrive on Christmas Eve at midnight. This picture was taken a few days prior to the 24th. The gold-coloured box in the back with the cutouts of the three wise men was given to me by a dear friend who is now deceased. I treasure it, of course.
Now for some cat pictures:
Here we have a photograph of a cat you know. Yes, this is the famous Suki. She was just starting to try to sample the leaves on my birthday roses when I saw her. The camera was close at hand so I took this photo before I shouted at her to leave my flowers alone. Doesn't seem quite fair, does it? Eventually I simply moved the flowers to an inaccessible spot so the whole matter was peacefully resolved.
Later that same day, I was trying to take another picture of Miss Suki but could not find her in any of her regular sleeping places. Finally, I gave up and begin to prepare to take a shower. As I was doing so, I heard the faintest of noises coming from behind the shower curtains. Suspecting I might have finally found the cat, I grabbed my camera and with it at the ready, I pulled back the shower curtains, aimed and clicked. There she was, caught in the act, sitting on my bath mat on my shower stool! You can see the look of surprise on her face that I had finally tracked her down. What a kitty.
After all that excitement, she had to go and have a little "lie down" in her chair. This used to be my favourite chair, but now I have to sit elsewhere. If I am fortunate enough to grab the chair when she isn't looking, I then have to try to ignore Suki as she sits at my feet and stares at me piercingly! You know, it is very difficult to ignore a cat who is staring at you. Finally, I give in and move elsewhere while she, triumphantly, reclaims her property. Ah, what a life.
I have had a lovely Christmas day. I went to early Mass and then met a good friend for coffee. I came home and worked on my latest icon for a number of hours while getting the occasional phone call from friends and family. Then, mid-afternoon, I began to prepare my special Christmas dinner which turned out to be delicious. It included my yummy homemade cranberry sauce and homemade chocolate-chip cookies with frozen vanilla yogurt for desert. It may be difficult to overeat when you are just cooking for one, but somehow I managed to do it. Suki also had a special meal and is still sleeping it off!
Well, tomorrow is Sunday even though today felt like Sunday. I can tell already that I am going to be very confused this coming week about what day it is. Anyway, I need to get myself organized for another Wheeltrans ride early in the morning. And so I say:
"A merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!"