Jesuit Novitiate
Novitiate of the Euro-Mediterranean Province of the Society of Jesus


Three steps towards Christmas in the novitiate

28 Dec 2017

The first Christmas in the novitiate. It’s my first Christmas away from familiar surroundings, far from the traditions of my hometown, Caserta. It’s a time of novelty. The other first-year novices and I were entrusted with three tasks that marked the gradual entry into this significant new reality: preparing the Nativity crib and the Christmas tree, as well as guiding prayer during the Novena. They were important steps which helped me live this time of waiting in the novitiate. The activities gave life to two movements: the journey to a new Christmas, and exploring with greater intimacy the spaces of the house in which I have lived and breathed for the past three months.

The Nativity crib mirrors the dynamics of this journey. It’s structured in a particular way: the skeleton on which we built it is in the shape of a staircase, with each step having a biblical quote indicating a moment or a character in the history of salvation. I believe this is also the meaning of the crib in general: a story of steps, of ascent, of fatigue and consolation, moved by the tenderness of God the Savior and child, lover and eager for my love. The crib essentially is this: a courageous God who came for me, just for me.

On the top of the structure dominate Mary, Joseph, Jesus.

The second step – in chronological order – was the preparation of the tree. What comedy! At one point I was on the floor bent double with laughter. I enjoyed myself! It was a moment of joy and colour.

The tree, like the previous sign, tells me something about Christmas. It’s a symbol of life. And it also mirrors an aspect of my life as a novice: on the tree some points have coloured balls and shiny ribbons, while others are emptier and less luminous. This is my life, the life of a young boy in his early twenties. It’s a swing that oscillates, like everyone’s life, between joyful moments and moments of sweating.

The novena. The last task of Advent entrusted to the first-year novices. It started on December 16th. In turns, every novice, after a brief reading, shared a short reflection. We tried to present the sweetness, the greatness, the fidelity of God, the path to holiness, the invitation to employ our talents with courage. A kaleidoscope of themes. It was an opportunity to deepen our experience of an aspect of Christmas, to look at a small facet of the smile of a God close to us. The novena ended on Christmas Eve, the day before the big feast. He accompanied us until the last moment of Advent.

On the 25th we celebrated Eucharist in community within the novitiate. All these steps prepared us for the meeting of that day. But they taught me even more. They taught me that there is another Christmas, which does not coincide with December 25th. It is the Christmas of every day, more hidden than my personal journey. It is an unpredictable Christmas, which surprises and sometimes renders speechless. It’s the Christmas of the 25th of my heart, and not the calendar. This Christmas happens every time I experience a God who is always nearby, a God who is my companion or friend.

He came to live among us

by Gianluca Severin

The night looms dark and silent over the world. Men, living in darkness and in the shadow of death, ask themselves: who am I? Why was I born at this time? Why do I love? Why do I suffer? Why will I die? While a profound silence enveloped all things, and the night was halfway through its course, God responds, becoming man. The star shines: darkness remains, but the light pierces it, does not allow itself to be buried and shows the way. It is a single celebration, on earth as it is in heaven: the peace promised to all men has arrived because He loves them.

Scattered everywhere are the shepherds; there are those who waited, those who feared what would happen, those who didn’t care: all of these, first, receive the news, suddenly in the tiring boredom of a cold and lonely night. Some come running, amazed and hopeful, the first witnesses of God-with-us; others remain at their occupations; some don’t listen, others fear deception and danger, others don’t believe it’s worth it. There are all of them in the nativity.

The Magi come from afar. Wise and thirsty for the infinite, they faced, following the star, a journey of desires and doubts, hopes and fears, they arrive in Bethlehem. In that stable they kneel, in front of that naked child on the bare rock the joy is immense, they open their treasure chests, offer gold, incense and myrrh: God, whom the greatest cannot contain, now inhabits the smallest.

In the background here is Jerusalem, majestic and crumbling, which rejects those in need and kills the prophets who are sent to it. What do you fear, O Herod, at the announcement that the King has been born? You make your choice: a God who is not reflection or prop of your glory must be destroyed; power reasserts itself by shedding innocent blood. You want to kill the Life that, lying in a manger, makes your throne totter. He did not come to be served but to serve! You decree, to eliminate that one, the extermination of many children: heartbroken mothers don’t make you hesitate, the lament of fathers doesn’t move you, the moan of newborns doesn’t stop you.

To the announcement of the angel asking her to become the Mother of God, Mary responded with confidence.

Joseph, a righteous man, had entrusted himself to the will of God, had taken charge of the mystery surrounding that child and his wife.

Now they flee, alone in a foreign land, His promise of a new life is followed by dangers of death. They leave everything, keeping everything in their hearts, with a child in their arms who, when the time has come, will leave them in order to take care of the Father’s affairs, to fulfill His will and travel the path that, from that cave, leads to the tomb and…

The nativity scene narrates the love of God who emptied himself by choosing the condition of every human being, in whatever condition. He came into our truth because He loves us, He exposes Himself to our rejection but He is always here, a gift without conditions. Put everyone in your nativity scene, your whole life, all your traditions and tastes, and in a corner, even if it is poor and hidden, put baby Jesus.



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