The Life of Saint Francis by Julian of Speyer - 406 

ox and an ass, with a stable, in anticipation of the joys of the coming celebration.a

54Finally the holy night arrived. Blessed Francis was there with many of his brothers gathered around him.

The hay in the manger is prepared, the ox and the ass are arranged around the manger, and the vigil celebration begins with joy. A great multitude of people stream together from various places, the night is filled with an unaccustomed joy and made luminous by candles and torches. And so, with a new ritual, the festival of a new Bethlehem is celebrated.b

The brothers also paid their debt of praise to the Lord, and all present acclaimed him with new songs of praise. Blessed Francis, however, was standing before the manger full of sighs of joy and suffused by an indescribable sweetness. Finally, when Solemn Mass was celebrated above the manger, the holy Levite of God, dressed in festive vestments proclaimed the gospel with a sonorous voice and then with a voice flowing with honey he preached to the people about the poor King born in Bethlehem. Truly, he was so overcome by sweet devotion toward the infancy of that King, that whenever he had to speak the name of Jesus Christ, he would, as if stuttering, call him “the babe of Bethlehem,” out of an excess of loving tenderness.

55Lest it be thought that these things happened without divine approval, a miraculous vision was shown to a certain virtuous man, who saw Blessed Francis go up to the manger and waken, as if from a deep sleep, a child who seemed to be lying there lifeless. It is therefore believed, and not without reason, that the Lord Jesus aptly revealed his infancy in this vision to the one who reflected upon it.c He who was asleep or dead in the hearts of many, owing to forgetfulness, was awakened and recalled to memory by the teaching and example of Blessed Francis. The solemnities were completed with great exultation, and everyone happily returned to their homes.

Later, hay from the manger saved both men and women from various perils and also proved health-giving when applied to stricken brute beasts. Moreover, the place of the manger is consecrated as a temple of the Lord, 1 Kgs 8:63 and an altar, constructed above that same manger, is dedicated

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Iuliani de Spira Officium Sancti Francisci, Fontes Franciscani, p.


5qui ad hoc bovem sibi et asinum cum praesaepio contra venturae festivitatis gaudia praeparavit.

54 1Advenit denique nox solemnis, aderatque beatus Franciscus, pluribus illic secum fratribus adunatis.

2Praeparato itaque praesaepio foenum imponitur, adducti bos et asinus ad praesaepium collocantur, et sic cum gaudio vigiliae celebres inchoantur. 3Confluente igitur e diversis locis multitudine populi, facta.est nox illa iucunditatis insolitae plena, facta est cereis et facibus luminosa, novoque ritu celebrantur Bethlehem novae solemnia.

4Fratres quoque laudes Domino debitas exsolvebant; sed et cuncti qui aderant novis laetitiae canticis applaudebant. 5Stabat autem coram praesaepio beatus Franciscus; stabat, inquam, suspiriis prae gaudio plenus; stabat indicibili suavitate perfusus. 6Tandem super ipsum praesaepe saera missarum aguntur solemnia, cum et ipse sanctus Dei levita, solemnibus ornamentis indutus, Evangelium voce sonora pronuntiat, ac deinde populo de nato in Bethlehem Rege paupere melliflua praedicat. 7Tanta vero pietatis dulcedine circa iam dicti Regis afficiebatur infantiam, ut, si quando Iesum Christum nominare deberet, ipsum veluti balbutiens « puerum de Bethlehem » prae nimia amoris teneritudine nuncuparet.

55 1Sed et ne facta putentur haec omnia sine nutu divino, miranda talis ibidem cuidam viro virtutis ostensa est visio. 2Vidit namque ad saepedictum praesaepe beatum Franciscum accedere et quemdam, qui in illo iacere videbatur exanimis, velut a somni sopore puerulum excitare. 3Creditur itaque non immerito suam Dominus Iesus Christus infantiam recolenti in huiusmodi formula non absurde monstratus; 4quippe qui in multorum cordibus per oblivionem quasi sopitus et mortuus, veluti per beati Francisci doctrinam et exemplum evigilans ad memoriam est reductus. 5Finitis igitur tantis cum exsultatione solemniis, unusquisque laetus ad propria remeavit.

6At vero de foeno praesaepii conservato plura diversimode postmodum ab utriusque sexus hominibus sunt remota pericula, necnon et brutis animalibus morbidis sanitatis collata remedia. 7Porro locus praesaepii templum Domino consecratur, et altare super ipsum praesaepe constructum ad sancti patris honorem et facti memoriam dedicatur.

Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, p. 406

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