On Christmas night, numerous faithful from the neighbourhood, as well as from distant parts of the world, join with the parishioners of Medjugorje in celebrating Christmas. This year, there were pilgrims from various European countries, as well as groups from Hong Kong, Macao and Korea.
The Novena in preparation for Christmas took place on Apparition Hill. Every day at 2.00pm, the parishioners and the pilgrims prayed the Rosary on Apparition Hill, and from 5.00pm onwards the priests heard confessions. Many of the faithful prefer to make their Christmas confession in Medjugorje itself. For this very reason, numerous priests of the Herzegovinian Franciscan Province came to help in the parish. Many pilgrim priests also heard confessions. There was the early morning Mass every day at 6.00am, and each morning the church was full.
On Christmas Eve, between the evening Mass and the Christmas Vigil, the Cenacolo Community presented “The Living Manger”, a half-hour musical and theatrical performance given by the boys and girls who either used to live, or are currently living in the Community, where they strive to learn how to live in a new way, after the hell they have experienced through drug abuse. About one hundred members of this Community present three performances each year in Medjugorje: one on Christmas Eve, another on the feast of the Holy Innocents and the third on the 31st of December, New Year’s Eve. The first Christmas Manger was made by Saint Francis of Assisi in a grotto in Greccio, Italy, in 1223. This quickly became a custom in the Franciscan Order, and by the 16th century, it had become a custom throughout the entire Church.
Many pilgrims visit Medjugorje at this time in order to experience Christmas in recollection and simplicity, far from the city noise and the secular way of celebrating the feast. To achieve this, The Living Manger can help them a lot, because a scenic performance such as this can help the imagination to realize how it must have been 2000 years ago… At the conclusion of the performance, the faithful, especially the children, are allowed access to the stage, like shepherds hurrying to the manger…
The Vigil itself began at 10.00pm with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which was jointly led by Fr. Danko Perutina and Fr. Vjekoslav Milićević. The music was provided by a choir of young parishioners. The midnight Mass that followed was presided over by Fr. Miljenko Šteko, and sung by the parish choir of the Queen of Peace. The events in the church were transmitted on a large screen in the yellow Hall to facilitate those who could not find a place in the church. Radio MIR Medjugorje transmitted the prayer programme of the night live on air. On Christmas Day, Holy Masses were celebrated in about 10 different languages.