" How good God is ... ... with those who trust in Him and leave all for His sake. "
Blessed Peter Donders C.Ss.R
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Amazing find in Luxembourg...

 

UPDATE! See the newspaper report and video clip...

 

 click here for more photos and newspaper report 

 

In common with churches throughout the world, and in a special way in churches with a Redemptorist tradition, Advent is a time for dusting down the crib figures from last year and arranging them for devotion in the church. In the church of St Alphonse in Luxembourg this year, things started normally and took a dramatic and unexpected turn. With a couple of parishioners, Marc and Silvia, I began to unwrap the crib figures that were usually used each year. At the very back of the dusty, much-neglected cupboard, there were what appeared to be several bundles of old newspaper. On closer inspection, there were clearly substantial contents within. What emerged were statues of the Holy Family, along with a couple of angels. In spite of the layers of dust, these wooden carvings were quite clearly old, and beautifully decorated. The angels seemed to date from the 1920s or 1930s, in the art deco style. But the figures of Jesus, Mary and Joseph were older, and beautifully painted. Two days of careful cleaning followed, and the results were amazing, as you can see from the pictures. However, something else emerged that adds a new angle to the story.
On close examination, the yellowing, fragile newsprint in which the statues were wrapped were dated 20 December 1939, just months after the outbreak of the Second World War. The newspapers contained accounts of the ‘serious actions of the English' [sic] and were clearly early propaganda.
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According to accounts here in Luxembourg, the people realised that invasion of the Grand Duchy would be inevitable, and in December 1939 began to hide away anything precious they feared would be looted by the Nazi occupying forces they were expecting. And so the crib was stashed away. The monastery of St Alphonse was occupied in May 1940, and the occupying military forces used St Alphonse as their church. The sacristy corridor became their latrine, and part of the choir-loft their washing-area. There are still relics of this era in the monastery, though most evidence of occupation has been destroyed.
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What was, and is, truly amazing is that this crib set remained hidden for 74 years, and has only now seen the light of day. Already people are flocking to see part of their (or their parents’ or grandparents’) heritage. The last time these figures were seen was in a time of great fear and foreboding. The feet of St Joseph are damaged, possibly accidentally, and the hands of Jesus are missing. Incidentally, the ‘new-born’ infant is standing up and looks 3 years old! This has prompted the community to propose for devotion the prayer of St Theresa of Avila:

Christ Has No Body

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
 
If the Lord, as it were, lacks hands, then he can use ours to do his work and fulfil his mission.
 
So Christmas will continue as usual here this year — but with added interest.
 
Fr. Ed Hone CSsR