CATHOLIC FAMILY LIFE – LAS POSADAS
Hello Catholic Family Podcast listeners (and readers)! Blessings of Advent and the Christmas season before us. Last night, my wife and I attended the Saturday evening vigil Mass for the First Sunday in Advent. Our pastor, Fr. Bill prayed over the Advent wreath, Deacon Ed blessed it with holy water and a young acolyte lit the first purple candle. Shortly, we sang ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’ and these first traditions ignited the beginning of the season of waiting and hope in my heart. Later, as my wife and I were about to sit down for dinner – Dee lit the Advent candle in our own wreath and I led us in a prayer asking the Lord to help usher in a new birth of Jesus in our hearts, our family and in our parish.
I love this time of year – I hope you do as well. I pray that you are not too stressed by all of the commercial and social things you have to accomplish. May you find time to start or repeat some of your own spiritual and holiday traditions. I’d like to share an experience that Dee & I had some years ago when we visited a Madonna House in Winslow, Arizona. Let me explain about Las Posadas and you’ll get a glimpse of what we did there.
There is a tradition in Mexico called Las Posadas. There can be variations on how it is done – but the most common begins nine days before Christmas. These nine days symbolize the time it took for Mary and Joseph to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
For each of the nine days, the experience of Joseph and Mary looking for lodging at the inns of Bethlehem is reenacted. Participants are divided into two groups who are the ‘pilgrims’ and the ‘innkeepers.’ Pilgrims go from ‘house to house’ (or room to room in your home) carrying light candles and singing requests for a room. (This can be done with your own musical ‘creation’ or I’m sure you can find words of a song that begs to be let in and given a room for shelter.) At every ‘inn’ or house the innkeepers refuse the pilgrims. “No – no go away, into the night for we have no room for you at this inn!” This can be done dramatically or it can be done in song…. On Christmas Eve, the pilgrims are welcomed in at last. They enter and everyone joins in singing a joyful carol. Children (and many adults) love this festive teaching idea. Children are great at enacting what is part of our Biblical understanding of Christ being shut out. And it often forms a tradition that will endure for years and years – perhaps into generations in families. Dad can be in one room and gruffly says ‘go away for there is no room.’ Mom can be in another room and she sweetly sings ‘go away because it is too late and I can’t open the door.’ You can ‘write your own songs or script as you wish.
At this time of year, we hear so much: just listen to the cacophony when we enter a mall or mega store. We have so many things that keep us busy and distracted. Yet, during Advent – there is recognition for many that we have places in the heart where Christ is shut out… where he is refused a ‘room.’ And yet, He is the Reason for the Season as the saying goes.
If you are creative – you may wish to script all of this yourself. Of you can find resources (library, Christian booksellers, the Internet). Traditional ways this has been done include a child dressed as an angel who leads, followed by children carrying figures of Mary and Joseph. Boys and girls dressed in silver and gold robes constitute the procession, followed by the adults. I’ve sort of set up the early part of this column as a private family tradition. But you can see that you could involve a whole neighborhood or parish community.
When Dee and I visited the Winslow community – they had a real donkey and a young woman was selected to ride on it while accompanied by a young man with a beard – Joseph of course. This ‘poor’ community celebrated this tradition with great joy and spirit. At the end of Las Posadas – they gathered in a small chapel – prayed and sung for a bit and then they had a potluck dinner. It was wonderful.
Perhaps you could discuss with your pastor some aspect of Las Posadas in your parish. Children ‘get it.’ And parents enjoy the family aspect of preparing for Christ’s coming once again. Whatever you do – I ask you to consider touching the roots of our faith and preparing your family to experience Christ once again as the Child who changed the entire world.
Finally – as a continuation of a gift idea that I discussed in November – I have a small number of books called LIVING THE CATHOLIC FAITH by Archbishop Charles Chaput.
It’s a small, easy to read book that would make for wonderful Christmas and New Year reading. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and give your name and address. The first ones to do so will receive a Christmas gift from David and Allyson and Deacon Tom.
Blessings. A holy Advent and a merry Christmas.