SPIRITUAL PATH

It often happens to complain because it seems that God does not intervene in moments of greatest need or suffering. It seems, in cases like these, that God is distant and uninterested in the problems of the world. But the reality is very different. The apparent absence of God in everyday life is motivated by the fact that we do not pray to Him with sincerity and humility. Thus we read the story of Nineveh, a city so immersed in sin that God intends to destroy it. But the inhabitants of the city decide to listen to the prophet Jonah and what do they do? Are they helpless waiting for their fate? Do they get angry with God, accusing him of being bad and unfair? Are they angry (as almost always happens) with the prophet who tries to warn them? No. None of this. The inhabitants of Nineveh begin to do penance and fasting, to pray to God out of remorse and repentance. God saw their works. Concrete works of sacrifice. He did not see their words in the wind or their trivial promises. He saw the concrete desire to change, to convert. And then God changed His mind and didn’t send the punishment He had in store upon them. One wonders, what if the inhabitants of Nineveh had not repented? Sodom and Gomorrah are the answer. When we demand something from God, do we ever wonder if our conduct is fueled by these good intentions, by contrition for sins, by a willingness to improve, or if we are hoping for a cheap miracle, promising things we will not do?

NATIVITY

The nativity scene in my family was a ritual. My grandparents had handmade wax figurines, which are nowhere to be found. They were very ancient, delicate, fragile. It was beautiful to make the crib. My father went around looking for real moss and brought it home still damp. Then everything else, stones, branches, leaves, everything was gathered around in the countryside. There was a different magic when my father was alive. He took care of the lights, he had a lot of patience to illuminate the right spots. Now, on the other hand, everything is done quickly, in a hurry, with tiredness and stress. The best time of Christmas for me was when I was a child and my grandparents were all alive. Now I don't feel that magic anymore and I would love to feel it but I know it's impossible.
Etymologically, the word itself means "manger" which is actually the place where the baby Jesus is placed at his birth, with Joseph and Mary who look after him with the help of the ox's breath and the donkey that allowed him to give some warmth in the cold cave they were in.
And this is precisely what the nativity scene that many of us have at home at Christmas depicts: the reproduction of the sacred grotto with the baby Jesus and his family.

There are few and confused elements that foreshadow a precise origin and before 1200 it was depicted by unknown artists (The Virgin with Jesus at the Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome) or even by Giotto.

The first real exhibition of a nativity scene in Italy is obtained in 1220 in Greccio, thanks to Saint Francis of Assisi who, on a trip to Bethlehem, where he saw the nativity scene recalled, wanted to reproduce it in Italy.

So he celebrated a mass in a wood, in the presence of an ox and a donkey and the saint sang some verses of the Gospel over the manger.

Thus there was the first representation of a living nativity scene in Italy. From here on, the crib had a slow and inexorable diffusion and from a purely artistic element, it began to be popular.
From the fifteenth century it spread to central Italy, arrived in the Kingdom of Naples, began to spread in homes and be part of the popular sentiment.

In Naples, in the houses of the nobles, they even began to make sumptuous, large, refined versions, with precious materials and each house pursued its own spectacular version of it, as in a competition.

The Neapolitan nativity scene is still a great classic today, one of its characteristics is that of uniting the cave of Jesus with various other shepherds, intent on their daily life, each in its own occupation.

Via San Gregorio Armeno is very famous, where even today master craftsmen compose cribs, build shepherds also depicting current figures that can be politicians, cinema characters and various others.

An art that every year, during the Christmas holidays, attracts many people to visit and attend the birth of the shepherds in the Neapolitan city.

Obviously there are also other types of cribs in other areas of Italy, among these we remember the Genoese, the Bolognese (among the oldest), the Sicilian and others, each with its own differences in materials used, characters, among the many.

A type of craftsmanship that besides our country has also conquered other nations in Europe and in the world where everyone creates a version with their own characteristics.

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