Friday, December 7, 2012
Las Posadas is a New Mexican holiday tradition that arrived with the Spanish in the 17th century. Posada is Spanish for “lodging” or “accommodation” and is said in the plural, “Las Posadas” because Joseph and Mary visit many places before finding lodgings which will accept them.
The tradition of re-enacting their journey is carried out to allow each of the participants to experience the rejection Mary and Joseph felt as they traveled from place-to-place. In the dark the participants go from home to home knocking on doors, beginning the traditional song, only to have those inside shout, “No hay espacio en la posada!” “There’s no room at the inn.” The participants feel the indignation of having the door slammed in their faces and having to walk away and knock elsewhere. Customarily the participants are rejected at eight homes before they are finally accepted in. This helps to remind us all that most times we fail to recognize Christ when we see him.
At the last home the visitors are finally recognized as Mary and Joseph and are welcomed inside. There they enjoy the warmth of the home, share prayer, and enjoy some refreshment.
Las Posadas is a novena, that is a nine-day prayer, which begins December 16th and ends the evening of December 24th at the Church where the participants are welcomed inside and lay the infant Jesus in the crèche at the beginning of Mass.
The word “Novena” is from the Latin word “novum” which means nine and the practice of praying for nine days predates the early Church; both the Romans and the Greeks to pray for nine days following the death of a loved one. Novenas have always been associated with a sense of longing or urgency, and Las Posadas is no exception.
We anxiously await not only Mary and Joseph finding room in the stable, but also the Second Coming of Jesus when he will come in glory and majesty. As we prepare our homes and hearts to accept Jesus, we are all encouraged to enter into Las Posadas, either by joining in the tradition one or more evenings or by praying a private novena of prayers. Either way, we are praying, Come, Lord Jesus, Come!