On the 22nd of November 2021, The Custody of Malaysia-Singapore held its very first Franciscan Experience — Greccio Experience at St. Pio’s Spirituality Center, Ulu Tiram, Johor. It forms part of the Post-Novitiate Program led by and intended for the initial formation of the Temporary Professed friars.
The Experience centered around that blissful event which took place at the little town of Greccio, Italy in 1223. It was when Saint Francis, seeing the similarities in landscape of the site with that of Palestine chose it to commemorate the first ever re-enactment of the Nativity scene of our Lord so that common people may come to understand the teachings of the Church concerning the birth of Jesus. Giovanni Velita, his close friend had it arranged as he asked and the whole populace gathered that night for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, with the manger and farm animals and hay brought to the fore for the people to witness what it was like for Jesus to lay in the humble manger that night in Bethlehem.
Today, the friars in their turn attempt to relive that experience of Saint Francis and the people of Greccio. This Experience sets up an opportunity for them to prepare and to grow in their appreciation and understanding of the great mystery of the Incarnation, and does so with a particularly Franciscan approach.
The Experience had the duration of a week; the topics covered were ‘The Spirit of Advent’, ‘The Humanity of Jesus in the Franciscan Spirituality’, ‘The Love of God and the Song of Peace for Man of Good Will’, ‘The Virgin Mary in the Mystery of the Incarnation’, and ‘The Eucharist and the Mystery of the Incarnation’. The celebration of the Greccio Mass was the summit of the whole Experience. The friars were joined by friends and several parishioners from the locale, and had a simple fellowship meal after.
“Love is the reason” for that magnificent event of Christ’s coming and dwelling among us. A humble love that embraces all of humanity, and ‘from His fulness we have all received grace upon grace’ (Jn. 1: 16).
Thanks be to God, Who ‘so loved the world that He gave us His only Son, that whoever believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life’ (Jn 3: 16), and for the heritage that He produced and sustained through the Little Poverello of Assisi, down through the ages, from the little town of Greccio.