Advent traditions like las posadas help "put a contemporary face on an action that happened 2,000 years ago," said Father Mark Kusmirek of Jacksonville.
"It helps Scripture to come alive," he said, allowing pilgrims an opportunity to reenact the Holy Couple's search for shelter through a centuries-old Hispanic tradition that incorporates prayer, singing and festivities during a nine-night event.
Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church has hosted the tradition for about 20 years now, the priest said.
"Children and adults love (the posadas -- literally "the inns") because it keeps alive a process and tradition that is many centuries old," he said.
The event is held Dec. 16-24 in homes and churches throughout the United States and Mexico, rooted in a 16th-century Mexican tradition developed by Spanish missionaries to communicate the Christmas story to indigenous peoples.
Through song and prayer, pilgrims journey with Mary and Joseph as they are continually rejected, then finally embraced, by "inn-keepers" portrayed by homeowners hosting the posada. Hospitality is a recurring theme of the posadas. "Welcoming the stranger that comes to our door is always important in so many cultures -- (it shows) that hospitality is more than just being kind," Father Mark said. "It's often in our society today when we hear people say that we just don't seem to be as friendly as when many of us were younger. The posadas are a good way to keep to the forefront of our minds that it's not just 'me and Jesus,' it's 'us and Jesus.'"
The tradition "also pulls a community together," the priest added. "All Christians celebrate the history of the birth of Jesus ... we get people both at the Christmas liturgies and the posadas. I think they're amazed to see living expressions of faith, (because) in contemporary culture, seeing those types of activities is most uncommon."
The season of Advent "calls in our preparation," he said. "If Christmas day rolls around and we're already sick of Christmas, we probably didn't have a good (observation of) Advent -- the perspective (it provides) is important to Christmas, because it helps us to situate God's presence in time and in place for us as Christians, that the time and place is here and now."
On the final night of the posada, during the gran posada, the re-enactment becomes part of the Christmas Eve ser vice, when at the end, an image of the Holy Infant ( usually life- sized) is rocked to sleep by his padrinos, or godparents, as parishioners sing a lullaby.
After wards, people approach the altar to kiss the figure as they pay homage their newborn Savior.
"Christmas has always brought our attention to God's presence among us," the priest said.
The posadas are held 7 p.m. nightly at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Jacksonville through Dec. 23. On Christmas Eve, un gran posada will be incorporated into a 7 p.m. vigil service.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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