Christmas celebrations at Phirangipuram

Christmas celebrations at Phirangipuram

Christmas, the Celebration of the birth of Christ Jesus, is essentially a feast of Love - God\'s love for humanity. God is love. It\'s a feast of intense, immense joy.

Christmas, the Celebration of the birth of Christ Jesus, is essentially a feast of Love - God's love for humanity. God is love. It's a feast of intense, immense joy. In his infinite, eternal, fabulous, luminous love, God has come down to save humanity from all evil with its final catastrophe of endless damnation.

Jesus is also called Emmanuel - 'God with us'. Being Love itself Jesus exhorts us to love Love and to live Love. Love of God and love of neighbour, including one's enemies is the Constitution he has drafted with His own blood for the Commonwealth of humanity. It is the briefest and yet the most profound constitution. In one word, it is Love. With such teaching of Christ practiced and presented with His salvific sacrifice Christmas has come to be in a very special way a time, in fact a season, of sharing and caring. Starting with giving of Christmas gifts, this spirit of love ascends into acts of concern for those in trouble and charity for those in need. Christmas is in short Love for a better world.

We have big celebration of Christmas in Andhra Pradesh. It is the 'Big Feast' (Pedda Panduga) at the Infant Jesus Cathedral in Phirangipuram in Guntur district.

Built in 1891 AD by Fr. Theodore Dieckmann, this massive, majestic, and magnificent Cathedral is a piece of architectural excellence. With a tall tower above the front entrance and a huge semi-circular dome with stained glass windows above the main altar of the church, the Cathedral dominates the skyline in the area for miles around.

Against the backdrop of a black rock bow-shaped high hill crested with a chapel dedicated to Mother Mary, Infant Jesus Cathedral is in an idyllic setting. It shimmers like a dream of ecstasy set in imperturbable serenity. The hill chapel of Mother Mary was built by Fr. Ferman. Both the priests came from London Millhill Missionaries. Infant Jesus's Cathedral in recent years has become a beehive of Shrines, of Infant Jesus and of St. Anthony. At the western entrance to the Cathedral, Fr. Bellamgunda Jayaraj, the Parish Priest, has built an exquisite chapel in honour of Mother Mary of Mount Carmel, besides erecting a tall tower at the top of which is enshrined the statue of Mother Mary seen for miles around. He has also built a huge guest house with a hall that accommodates about 5000 people. Infant Jesus Cathedral today has become a year-long pilgrim centre especially on Sundays when healing service and charismatic prayer worship are conducted with people of different faiths participating.

The death of Fr. Ferman from a huge rock in the neighbouring Kondavidu hill range remains a sad memory in the chequered history of Infant Jesus Cathedral Parish. He was leading the local Catholics for a picnic on the Monday after Easter.

The Christmas Holy Mass at midnight draws a crowd of over 2 lakh people from all over the state.

From 11 pm on 24th Dec, people will throng the sprawling arena for the open air Holy Mass, cheerfully, singing Christmas Carols like the 'Silent Night, Holy Night' and 'Jingle Bells' in a crescendo of jubilation. The midnight moment chimes, the Bishop blesses the statue of Child Jesus and keeps it in the crib in the right wing of the Church. Christmas has stormed in.

The choir burst into full throated singing of 'Gloria' -- the song sung by angels at Jesus's birth: 'Glory to God in the Highest and Peace to people of goodwill'. An erudite and eloquent speaker Bishop Gali Bali in his sermon makes Christmas a real God experience to people. It is interesting to note that at the first dramatic presentation of the birth of Jesus, St. Francis of Assisi carried the wooden statue of Baby Jesus to the crib when the little statue became live child Jesus in the hands of the Saint. Incidentally, St. Francis became the Father of the Miracle Play in world literature.

An entire wing of the Church is turned into huge crib, an angel hovering over it along with the new star which had risen in the sky. The Child Jesus statue is kept in a manger for Jesus was born in a stable on the hills of Bethlehem. At his very birth Jesus has identified himself with the poor and the downtrodden.

The best Christmas crib is found in the St. Peter's Basilica Square in Rome, where Pope Francis celebrates Christmas Holy Mass. The uniqueness of this crib is that the statues of Jesus, Mother Mary and St. Joseph, the shepherds and the three wise men as well as sheep and camels are all of life size. People make it a point to attend the Holy Mass on Christmas Day.

Masses are also celebrated at the chapel of Mother Mary on the hill. People get the additional thrill of climbing up the hill which has steps all the way up to the top. People throng the church with their offerings which most people offer crawling on their knees up to the main altar where they kiss the statue of Child Jesus.

People thoroughly enjoy shopping at the little shops of all kinds, games, merry-go round rides and sweetmeat stalls are at a special place a little away from the church.

All the festival arrangements are well-planned by the Parish Committee with Pedakotla Arulappa as President and Bandanatham Joseph Satishbabu in charge of Finance Committee. For three days before Christmas Fr. Dickman Kala Parishad troupe enacts little social dramas with moral themes under the direction of Mr. P. Raja Rao.

By: Dr B F Showrayya

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