“Fifteen days before Christmas, Francis asked a local man named John to help him realize his desire: to bring to life the memory of that babe born in Bethlehem, to see as much as possible with my own bodily eyes the discomfort of his infant needs, how he lay in a manger, and how, with an ox and an ass standing by, he was laid upon a bed of hay”. This is how the first nativity scene came about, on the Christmas night of 1223, Pope Francis explained in the Apostolic Letter he signed on his visit to Greccio yesterday. When seeing the nativity scene – that had not statues but “was enacted and experienced by all who were present”, which gave rise to the tradition of the living nativity scene – “all those present experienced a new and indescribable joy in the presence of the Christmas scene. The priest then solemnly celebrated the Eucharist over the manger, showing the bond between the Incarnation of the Son of God and the Eucharist”. “This is how our tradition began: with everyone gathered in joy around the cave, with no distance between the original event and those sharing in its mystery”, Pope Francis wrote, citing Thomas of Celano, the first biographer of Saint Francis, who noted that, that very night, the “simple and moving scene was accompanied by the gift of a marvellous vision: one of those present saw the Baby Jesus himself lying in the manger”. “With the simplicity of that sign, Saint Francis carried out a great work of evangelization”, Pope Francis said: “His teaching touched the hearts of Christians and continues today to offer a simple yet authentic means of portraying the beauty of our faith. Greccio has become a refuge for the soul, a mountain fastness wrapped in silence”.