At the last villa (this is the name of our day off, when we leave the novitiate together) before Christmas, preparing for the feast, we visited the Nativity scene and the exhibition of the museum of the Capuchin friars. As usual, even now I was amazed at how rich Genova is in its cultural heritage. Also in this museum we could meet wonderful paintings and cultural preciousness.
Looking at the different paintings and works of art I was thinking of how the artist’s work took shape contemplating the mystery of Christmas. Did they experience the process as a prayer, as an encounter with the sacred, or were they just paying attention to the details of construction? I don’t know, which is the truth, but for me to watch these works turned into a prayer.
In the second room of the museum is perhaps the most famous nativity scene in the city, which is Carmagnola Franco Curt’s masterpiece from the 1930s. The craftsman, in 40 m2, with the help of 150 moving characters, tells the prophecies of Isaiah, Malachi and Micah, and the story of Jesus’ birth and childhood.
Looking at the work I gave thank for the beauty of the tradition of creating nativity scenes, because we received a brilliant and simple instrument, in which we can also physically be in the mystery of Christmas. Even if we prepare it for our family, community or ourselves. Even if we prepare one, or even if we just admire it.
At this time of Christmas I encourage everyone to visit one at least once. To make the visit a living encounter with Jesus, I propose the following exercise.
First step – preparation of the meeting
In what spirit do I start my journey?
Like a shepherd? Like a wizard? Like a…?
What things or who is it that I carry with me as a gift?
Adoration? Joy? Gratitude? Sadness? Someone?
Second step – during the journey
What, who am I following?
Who am I meeting on this trip?
Step three – the meeting
I look and contemplate the nativity scene.
I greet Jesus and all the others.
I give what I brought with me.
Now is the time for conversation. I can say everything that is in my heart.
Do they want to give me something too?
I greet them.
Step four – the return
What happened on this trip, meeting.
What did I see, hear, hear?
What was the conversation with Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the others like?
Is there anything to give thanks for? Was anything given to me?
In what spirit did I leave?
Is there any concrete action that calls me back?