Merry Christmas

Since St. Francis of Assisi introduced the idea 800 years ago, Italy has been the land of Nativity scenes. And there is no more prominent location for a Nativity scene in the world than St. Peter’s Square. The scene is different every year and–along with the Christmas tree in Piazza Venezia–is usually subject to intense comment and critique from Romans and visitors alike. There’ve been a few doozies in my years here, but this year’s scene from Friuli Venezia Giulia does not seem to have aroused great protests.

Here’s a peak at the scene, still waiting for the child who makes all things complete.

Christmas blessings to one and all!

“In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its creator.” (Pope St. Leo the Great)

Advent lights

One of the reasons I find the season of Advent so compelling is its central symbol of light growing in the darkness, as simple as it is powerful. The fifth of the O antiphons always strikes me as particularly poignant:

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Mid-December also coincides with a slight lull in the crush of tourists here; between the Immaculate Conception and Christmas the streets are a tad calmer and one can get out and enjoy the decorations. In the northern hemisphere it is one of the darkest times of the year, but that only makes the lights all the more delightful.

Here are a few shots of Rome’s lights…

Advent in Italy

In Italy the pre-Christmas countdown begins in earnest after the Immaculate Conception on December 8. One of the country’s less-known charms is that Holy Days of Obligation are national holidays, so the Immaculate Conception means a day off, and if, like this year, it falls on a Thursday, this means a long-weekend for many, rather like Thanksgiving.

Advent is one of my favorite seasons, and, as the lights go up and manger scenes come out, I find it one of Italy’s most charming as well. (Christmas lights, fireworks, and outdoor summer operas are among the ways Italians take delight in being delightful.) Unfortunately, this year I was not among those to get last Friday off and the end of the semester is keeping me at my desk–so for this Gaudete Sunday , I rummaged through pictures of Advent trips past. Here’s a handful from Orvieto and Viterbo, the sort of small towns that are charming any time, but especially decked out for the season.

Happy Gaudete Sunday!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.