“Oh, how Master loved St. Francis!” ~ St. Francis Reawakens the Spirit of Christmas

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Saint Francis Tree, SRF Encinitas Gardens

“St. Francis Reawakens the Spirit of Christmas” ~ SRF magazine, November 1951

It was in the year 1223 that Saint Francis was at Greccio where one of his most devoted followers, Messer Giovanni Vellita, had made him a grant of a rocky and woody piece of hilly land, situated on the outskirts of the town.   The land was to serve as a hermitage for Saint Francis and his followers.

One day of that year Saint Francis sent for Messer Vellita and said to him: “I want to celebrate Christmas Eve with you.  Listen to the idea that has come to me!   In the wood near our hermitage there is a grotto among the rocks;.there you will set up a stable filled with hay and see to it that there is present a donkey and an ox.  I want at least once solemnly to celebrate the Coming of the Lord and to see with my own eyes how poor and humble He wished to be when He was born for love of us.”

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Messer Vellita prepared everything according to the wishes of the Saint Francis.  Towards Christmas Eve many brothers began to assemble at the grotto and along with them came large groups of peasants from the neighboring countryside.  Above the Manger an altar was set up and in this most unusual setting a Mass was celebrated.

The story is told that while witnessing the beautiful ceremony Messer Giovanni Vellita gazed steadily upon the little lifeless model of the Infant in the Manger, but that as soon as Saint Francis approached to take it tenderly in his arms, Vellita saw the Infant awaken and smilingly caress with His tiny hands the bearded cheeks of the Saint.  The revelation, according to Messer Vellita, was easy to explain, for Jesus had been dead—or at least asleep—for a long rime in the hearts of many Christians, and it was only through the works and examples of Saint Francis that the Lord was again coming into the lives of the people.

The tradition of the manger is kept to this day in many parts of the world.  There is always a small creche in the chapel at the SRF headquarters during the Christmas season.

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Christmas Creche, SRF Encinitas Temple

It is interesting to note that Paramhansa Yogananda received the beautiful poem, “God! God! God!”* through a vision of Saint Francis.  (See poem below…)

NOVEMBER, 1951 Self-Realization Magazine

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Bro. Paramananda’s Story of Daya Mata and St. Francis Appearing (devotee note)

I believe it was at Mother Center (but it may in fact have been at another resident…possibly India…sorry again for my memory). It was very very cold and Ma was wrapped warmly in her usual robe with a scarf around her head.  She called him…”Brucey, come I want you to see something.”  Just outside of her room was a balcony overlooking a garden and on her balcony was a bird bath.  She said “I want to tell you something…I love coming out here and just sitting in silence, watching the birds and the visiting creatures.”  She would sit quietly and very still and they would come.  One time as she was watching the birds on a misty morning, just behind the bird bath appeared St. Francis.  The birds sat on his shoulders, and head, and the little squirrels climbed on him.  Then he looked at her with a smile and lifted his hand (like when one gives a blessings or greeting).  Then he disappeared.  Bro. P. said, if you could have seen her describe it…with the sweetness and purity of a little child…with such humility.  She said: “Oh how Master loved St. Francis!”

See more stories of Daya Mataji by Bro. Paramananada here

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God! God! God! by Paramahansa Yogananda

From the depths of slumber,
As I ascend the spiral stairways of wakefulness,
I will whisper:
God! God! God!

Thou art the food, and when I break my fast
Of nightly separation from Thee,
I will taste Thee, and mentally say,

God! God! God!

No matter where I go, the spotlight of my mind
Will ever keep turning on Thee;
And in the battle din of activity, my silent war-cry will be:
God! God! God!

When boisterous storms of trials shriek,
And when worries howl at me,
I will drown their noises by loudly chanting
God! God! God!

When my mind weaves dreams
With threads of memories,
On that magic cloth will I emboss:
God! God! God!

Every night, in time of deepest sleep,
My peace dreams and calls, Joy! Joy! Joy!
And my joy comes singing evermore:
God! God! God!

In waking, eating, working, dreaming, sleeping,
Serving, meditating, chanting, divinely loving,
My soul will constantly hum, unheard by any:
God! God! God!

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