Tondo priest urges families to bring back ‘Belen’ tradition as Advent nears

Image by Walter Chávez via Unsplash

The Archdiocesan Shrine and Parish of Santo Niño in Manila’s Tondo district has called on families to embrace the Filipino tradition of setting up the Nativity scene in their homes this coming Advent season.

Its Rector, Msgr. Geronimo Reyes, described the ‘Belen’ as a ‘beautiful tradition’ and a reminder that ‘God is with us.’

“And we open our hearts to Him who always dwells within us,” Reyes said in a circular released on Oct. 4.

This year marks the 800th anniversary of the first representation of the Nativity scene, crafted by St. Francis of Assisi, in the grotto of Greccio on December 24, 1223.

Reyes suggested that families could start setting up the Belen by the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday.

The priest also encouraged Filipinos to incorporate the parol, along with other customary Christmas decorations.

“I am encouraging all our families and barangay communities to put up the nativity scene (Belen) in our homes, and to put up and hang lanterns or parols,” he said.

Reyes then emphasized the importance of the traditional “Via Gaudosa” (Way of Joy) and the “Daan ng Tuwa” prayer guide, designed to enhance the communal celebration of Christmas while meditating on the mysteries of Christ’s salvation.

Parishes in the archdiocese will distribute prayer booklets for the Blessing of Christmas Cribs and the Veneration of the Infant Jesus at Home, sourced from the Manila Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission.

In 2019, Pope Francis released “Admirabile Signum,” an apostolic letter in which he reflected on the significance and meaning of the Nativity scene.

He encouraged the family tradition of preparing the Nativity scene in the days before Christmas, not only in homes but also in the workplace, schools, hospitals, prisons, and town squares.

“The Christmas crèche is part of the precious yet demanding process of passing on the faith,” the pope added.

“Beginning in childhood, and at every stage of our lives, it teaches us to contemplate Jesus, to experience God’s love for us, to feel and believe that God is with us and that we are with him, his children, brothers and sisters all, thanks to that Child who is the Son of God and the Son of the Virgin Mary,” he also said.

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