In December, children in France learn about “La Pastorale,” the French account of Christmas. While the story and the characters of La Pastorale originated in Provence, homes, convents, rectories and churches in every province are decorated with a clay Nativity set adorned by little statues called “Santons de Provence” or “Little Saints from Provence.” These figures are the all-inclusiveness of Christmas. There are “Santons” created for every profession found in society: for example, the baker, beekeeper, the shoemaker, the lady who sells flowers on the corner, the fisherman, the woman who sells flowers, the stone mason, just to name a few. There is an old couple sitting together on an old wooden bench, a woman who just sold salted fish on the street, a young coupleholding hands. The “Pastorale” holds that all of these “Little Saints” were witnesses to the birth of Christ — and because they had the privilege of watching this, they turned to stone,preserved forever in their clothing to communicate how all of society wastransformed by the birth
of Jesus. La Pastorale teaches that every year, on December 25 at Midnight, the “Santons” come back to life in the Nativity set and are privileged to gaze upon the Holy Family as they did that first Christmas.
Unlike the “Santons” who are frozen year-round but come to life on Christmas at midnight, most of us are in constant motion throughout the year but take a meditative posture on Christmas Eve as we sit, kneel, gaze and, often, pray before our Nativity sets. There, we contemplate the baby in the Crèche who was born more than 2,000 years ago — perfectly still before the baby in whom we see our God made visible. Yes, we have this special time to be perfectly still as we, through this infant, allow ourselves to get caught up in the love of the God we cannot see. This yuletide phenomenon is no legend. It’s a miracle! And we, unlike the “Santons” are not actors in this drama of salvation, we are the beneficiaries. Merry Christmas!
Father Comandini is managing editor of The Catholic Spirit