One thing that I have found irritating this year is when other Christians, once Christmas day has passed, wish me a ‘Happy New Year omitting the ‘Happy Christmas’. The child in me wants Christmas to last for ever; the christian in me knows it is a season packed with liturgical delight, from the Vigil mass right through to the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. That is why the RCIA process is so invigorating, because time and time again we are privileged to witness others experiencing the same liturgical delights.
I would like to share some ideas for using the nativity scene.
The story of the wise men is one of gentiles coming to pay homage to the infant king of the Jews; of hope: being driven to make a journey, following a great light in darkness; of trust: in the signs, of following a the night stars; of love: for a tiny baby whom they worshipped as the Christ child.
It is about gifts, eye-opening gifts of great wealth, a time for the catechumens to examine the gifts they are given, the gifts they offer to others, for part of the catechumenate is to ‘learn how to work actively with others to spread the Gospel, and build up the Church by the witness of their lives and by professing their faith.'( # 75.4). This is also a time for catechists to reflect on their gifts.
- The Feast of the Holy Family (28th December) reminds us that holiness is found in the ordinariness of our everyday life, at home, in the family, in our parish community. Whether single, widowed, elderly, with or without children, the hope is that all experience the support of others in the community. Have a few of the faithful invite the catechumens with their family or friends, to see the nativity scene and to experience the hospitality from the RCIA group. At a time when people have long Christmas breaks, a late afternoon visit followed by mulled wine and a mince pie go a long way to breaking down barriers and the tensions, that can exist when a family member is taking the step in considering becoming a catholic.
- For the Epiphany, have a procession to add the Magi to the crib. Some (it doesn’t have to be three) catechumens could carry a figure through the church to add to the crib. Or stress the manifestation of Our Lord to the whole world by inviting those from other cultures to process a figure.
- Focus on the crib as a catechetical activity. Explain it’s origins, how St Francis of Assisi brought the idea of a live Nativity scene to his local church, and how it stresses the poor and lowly beginnings, the humility of Jesus being born as a child.
- Spend some time around the nativity scene and let people share their stories. With the secular world outside the church doors it can be quite soothing to get away from the bustle of planning social gatherings, and to think a little deeper about Christmastime in the catholic church. Reflect on the scene, the stories behind the figures, Joseph the Husband, Mary the mother, the baby Jesus.
- If you practice Dismissal, here is one time when you might like to issue an open invitation to the assembly to join the session at the end of Mass, and perhaps move it to the location of the crib, and give the catechumens opportunity to meet families and other groups of Christians (# 38)
The above can apply to those engaged in any period of the RCIA, from inquirers through to mystagogy. I particularly thought of the following sections: #4, #9. #38, #78, #244-6 (RCIA, 1988, USA study edition)