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�When we look upon these figures, the Christmas gospel comes alive
and we are moved to rejoice in the mystery
of the incarnation of the Son of God.�
The Book of Blessings

The manger scene as we know it was invented by none other than St. Francis of Assisi on Christmas Eve, 1223, in the village of Greccio. Francis said, �I wish to do something that will recall to memory the little Child who was born in Bethlehem, and set before our bodily eyes in some way the inconveniences of his infant needs, how he lay in a manger, how, with an ox and an ass standing by, he lay upon the hay where he had been placed.�

And so, at Francis� instructions, a real manger was prepared and filled with straw, and the image of the infant Christ placed upon it. A live ox and ass were led in to take their places in the scene.

�Simplicity was honored, poverty was exalted, and Greccio was made, as it were, a new Bethlehem�. The people came and were filled with new joy over the new mystery.� Mass was said over the manger, and the people gathered around to listen to Francis� Christmas homily. 

"He spoke charming words concerning the nativity of the poor King and the little town of Bethlehem�. At length the solemn night celebration was brought to a close, and each one returned to his home with holy joy.� (Thomas of Celano, Life of St. Francis).


God of every nation and people,
from the very beginning of creation
you have made manifest your love:
when our need for a Savior was great
you sent your Son to be born of the Virgin Mary.
To our lives he brings joy and peace,
justice, mercy, and love.

Lord, bless all who look upon this manger;
may it remind us of the humble birth of Jesus,
and raise up our thoughts to him,
who is God-with-us and Savior of all,
and who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Blessing of the Christmas Manger
prayed by Father Ryan at the Vigil Mass of Christmas,
24 December 2006

View photos of the Christmas liturgies at St. James


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804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303