Admirabile Signum: The Meaning and Importance of the Nativity Scene Pope Francis (Veritas/Liberia Editrice Vaticana, €5.99)
Here we are just back at school and college, and the first book about Christmas is already in the shops. What can this mean? Just as surprising is the name of the author of this little pamphlet. It is Pope Francis.
The text, moreover, is not new. It consists of an Apostolic Letter issued at the Shrine of the Nativity in Greccio, Italy on December 1, 2019. It was in the sanctuary here that St Francis himself created the first European crib, to replicate one he had seen on his visit to Bethlehem.
This simple act of piety was the beginning of a tradition for the Feast of the Nativity that continues to this day, with variations according to local inclination. The Pope’s words are an invocation of this moment and of the true meaning of Christmas not just for Christians, but for the entire world bound together in a charitable union of love.
The early publication is clearly an effort to impress people early, before the whole apparatus of commerce comes to bear upon us all, but especially on our children, whose feast this ought to be. Those who object to the “commercialisation” of Christmas are reminded thereby that it is simply up to themselves to refuse to take part in the upcoming carnival of capitalism. If you only buy one thing for this Christmas perhaps it ought to be this brief and salutary booklet on the essential meaning of the season for families.