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Topic |  

mercado-thumb*We dusted  off the  Christmas “parols” or star lanterns.*

Yes, yes , it’s only  mid November. But we put them   up anyway.  And lighted  the parols. So two  did our two gandaughters, in another part of this old  town,

That sets off reminiscing.

Some recall the 1937 poem by  then Jesuit scholastic Horacio de la Costa: “The Star of the King”


“Melchor  was king of  Tondo; Gaspar ruled Sampaloc and Baltazar Binondo.

They sailed out of Manila to follow the star. When, they came home from Bethlehem, afar, they lost their camels in the sea, and they lost their Christmas tree..  But  they brought home to you and me the “Secret of the Star..   That is why even today, simple folk think   Christmas is incomplete, “unless that can make a star of paper the newborn King to greet…

There are other views, of course. “We saw His star rise in the East and come to honor Him,” travel-weary men of regal bearing told the paranoid Herod, the ancient accounts recall. Herod  asked to be kept in the loop. Bring me word, so I too may worship  him,”

“(Then) the star… went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the Child was… with Mary His mother”….Then, warned in a dream, they set off another way to  their home country.

Even today, the Christmas star puzzles scientists. “Was it a supernova or a comet?” asked Dr. Peter Andrews of University of Cambridge and Robert Massey of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. A “stationary point of Jupiter,” perhaps?

In 5 B.C., the year many scholars believe Jesus was born, a combination of a bright nova and a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, in the constellation of Pisces, was seen, some accounts say.


“AncientChinese astronomers recorded this as an unusually bright star that appeared in the eastern sky for 70 days. It was a rare sight.”


“None of the possible astronomical explanations have overwhelming evidence that it should be preferred to others,” Andrews and Massey conclude.

But the nova, comet or variable star explanation “appears more likely.”

The astronomers’ debate continues  today . So does the puzzle over a vulnerable child who lighted a world, though born in a manger that clones our 2015  slums  of penury. Over 93 million children in 53 countries are malnourished..


Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth mentions the manger thrice.

Mary laid her infant in the manger. Angels told the shepherds: “And this shall be a sign for you. You will find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. And when they did stumble into the decrepit stable, they recognized the Messiah“ as described.


As we today know it, the Christmas manager  dates back to St. Francis of Assisi. In 1293, the first crèche was celebrated in the woods of Greccio near Assisi, on Christmas Eve.

St. Francis’ idea of bringing Bethlehem into one’s own town spread quickly all over the Christian world,. After Francis’ death in 1226, the custom of having the crib at Christmas spread .The Nativity belen came here via Ferdinand Magellan’s vessels.

“The Filipino Belen” is the title of a homily that the late historian Horacio de la Costa, S.J. delivered during a Nativity midnight mass in the US  Excerpts:

“In many offices today, a Filipino ‘belen’ graces the entrance. Nipa  make up the stable’s roof. Coconut  trees flank the entrance to the manager, and a suspended star parol blinks beside the angel figurines. In some cribs, Joseph and Our Lady are in tropical clothes heedless of the Palestinian winter.

“Often, its just a sandlot or an ordinary table  at Christmas time, In the center, we place a Christ Child. And around it we arrange Our Lady and Saint Joseph, the way Catholics everywhere, and in every age,  pictured them.

“But the rest bears  little resemblance to the real Bethlehem. The shepherds are dressed as farmers and fishermen, because we had no sheep and no winters.

“In one corner, the Three Kings do not ride camels. Rather, one of them leads our town’s carabao. And they look up to the  star—made of paper pasted on a bamboo frame and hung from the ceiling.

“You will smile, perhaps. Christ was not born in a palm leaf shack, and the Wise Men never brought  gifts on a carabao.

“(Yet) in our ignorance…is  a great truth.’

Although Christ was born 2,000 years ago in Palestine, …. He was born for all time and all peoples…. He was born for you and for me. He willed to become a man in order to save all men. And He chose to be born homeless because he wanted everyone to be at home.

This little Son of Mary is also ‘God of God’ — as we say in the Credo of the Mass. There are for him no distances. And He lives in an eternal now.

“And it is right, profoundly right, that we should surround his cradle with all that is familiar and dear to us—our houses, our tools, our toys, everything that is part of ourselves and our daily lives. Because it was to bless and sanctify these, and ourselves with them, that Christ was born….

“There is room for all the world… in a Baby’s arms.” We look deep in this Infant’s eyes, as our fathers did before us, and “be filled with the peace that the world cannot give.”*###### (By Juan  L.  Mercado)

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