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Showing posts with label Christmas 2021. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas 2021. Show all posts

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Christmastide: The Celebration Has Just Begun!

From The Catholic Company

What does December 26th mean to you?

For most people it means that Christmas is over. But for the Catholic Church, it means the celebration has just begun.

Many of us Catholics, however, are not aware of this. Our rhythm of celebrating Christmas is very much along the lines of the secular celebration. We put a massive amount of effort into preparing for December 25th...then, the very next day, we feel a bit blue.

“It’s over,” we think. We take down our Christmas lights, drag the tree out onto the curb, and return to our everyday lives.

Don’t! Stop right there.

The carols, the feasting, the lights, the joy, have only just commenced. We are about to rejoice in a long celebration of the birth of Christ, the Messiah.

There is a reason why Christmas is called a season. It does not last for a single day. We have been preparing for it for four weeks, and the Church couldn't possibly start and end its celebration of Christ's birth in one day. After Easter, Christmas is the most important liturgical feast in the Church calendar. Why? Because Christmas is what made Easter possible. Without Our Lord’s incarnation and birth, our redemption would not have been brought to completion, and there would be no hope for us in our fallen state.

So first, we celebrate the octave of Christmas. (The word “octave” refers to the number 8.) This means that there are eight official solemn days of rejoicing. In the language of the Church, the word “solemn” does not mean being grim, serious, or morose.

According to a simple definition: “In the Catholic Church year, a solemnity is the highest-ranking holy day possible in the Church calendar…” These are days that are emphasized by particular joy, lavishness, pomp, and glory.

This might be harder to recognize in the life of lay people, but it’s unspeakably obvious in the religious life, where the Divine Office (the prayer known as the Liturgy of the Hours) practically shouts out Hallelujah! During the octave of Christmas, the office that is prayed each day—for eight straight days—is more or less the same office: the one for Christmas day.

Think about what that means: it means that we are celebrating each day, for eight days, as though each of them were Christmas day itself.

The Church is so happy that she simply revels in the joy!

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come / Let earth receive her King!”

While the reality of the Christmas octave may be a new concept for many of us, who isn't familiar with the "12 Days of Christmas"? These 12 days refer to the Christmas octave as well as the four subsequent days which take us to the feast of Epiphany.

But there’s more. On the traditional liturgical calendar, the Christmas season (also known as Christmastide) lasts 40 days. It begins with the vigil Mass said on Christmas Eve, and ends on February 2nd, Candlemas, which is the day on which we celebrate the feast of Jesus' presentation in the temple.

Christmas at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Hanceville, AL

The Christmas season is also full of incredible feast days. There are many ways to celebrate it as a Catholic should. Here’s a calendar of what you can look forward to, followed by some ideas on how to celebrate it with your family:

The Season of Christmas

Tell us, shepherds, what have you seen? Who has appeared on earth?
We have seen a newborn infant and a choir of angels praising the Lord, alleluia.
— Antiphon for Christmas Morning

Christmas Octave

December 26th –  Feast of St. Stephen, Deacon and First Martyr

December 27th – Feast of the St. John the Evangelist

December 28th – Feast of the Holy Innocents

December 29th –  Feast of St. Thomas Becket, Archbishop and Martyr

December 30th – Feast of the Holy Family

December 31st – Feast of St. Sylvester I, Pope

January 1st – Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (Holy Day of Obligation)

January 2nd – Feast of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church

January 3rd – Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus

January 4th – Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

January 5th – Feast of St. John Neumann

January 6th – Solemnity of the Epiphany (12th Day of Christmas)

Christmas Season

January 7th – Feast of St. Raymond of Penafort

January 8th to 12th  – Christmas Weekdays

January 9th – Feast of the Baptism of the Lord – End of Christmas season on the new calendar

February 2nd – Candlemas (Presentation of the Child Jesus) – End of Christmas season on the old calendar

Ideas for Celebrating Christmastide

Monks, priests, and nuns have the privilege of being able to attend daily Mass. This means that they experience the Christmas season in a very special way, partaking in all the beauty of the liturgy.

But most of us have the responsibilities of life in the world. We have jobs to return to; kids to care for and bring back to school. We have family members in need.

However, there are some things you can do to keep the reality of Christ’s birth present for your family during Christmastide. Keep in mind: many of us are overwhelmed just trying to accomplish daily responsibilities, so don’t try to do all of the suggestions below. Perhaps choose one or two things to do, and no more.


Keep your nativity scenes on display. Don't take down your tree. Keep your Christmas lights on each day as the day ends and the sky darkens. Light candles near your manger scene, perhaps while the family eats dinner.


Pray the Litany to the Child Jesus during the Octave, or even throughout the entire season. If it's difficult to gather family members together for this, you could pray the litany privately before retiring for the night, or when you get up in the morning. This keeps fresh in our minds and hearts the joy of the Christ Child.


Take note of the various saints' feast days that are celebrated during the Christmas season. If you don't have a book that contains brief biographies on various saints, you can become familiar with their stories through the Morning Offering daily devotional email. Ask them for their intercession. The saints are eager to offer petitions on our behalf!


Consider hosting Christmas parties AFTER Christmas day. Much of the rush and anxiety is over, people are no longer attending office/family/friends' parties, and there is more down time. This opens spots on people's calendars (and reminds us that Christmas is not over!)


Host an Epiphany Party. My own mother has begun this tradition. The Feast of Epiphany celebrates the visit of the Magi and their gifts to the Christ Child. This party can feature candlelight, wonderful food, singing Christmas carols and hymns together, and quality time with people who are a blessing in our lives. According to my family's personal delights, my mom liked to invite guests who would enjoy a literary bent: each of us might read a poem, a fictional excerpt,  or a portion of Sacred Scripture, each of these readings having a Christmas theme. When possible, she also invites friends and family who play instruments, so that there can be accompaniment with the caroling. One year it was actually very cold in Jacksonville, Florida, and we had our fireplace lit for the guests to enjoy. There are so many things you can do that will fit your hosting preferences and personal tastes!


If you have some days off from work, you could go to daily Mass or to Adoration. If you have the chance to do something active, social, or busy, you might consider graciously declining once or twice, and take time to rest in the peace of Christ instead. In our world of constant distractions, this might take some will power: we might have to force ourselves to sit and be still. And yet keeping company with the Christ Child in our hearts is the gift that He desires from us.

If you want to live a Catholic life that is richer and more deeply liturgical, you'll want to sign up for this series: Catholic at Home. Don't miss it!

Do you have any other ideas? If so, please share them in the comments below! We love hearing from you.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Queen Elizabeth's Christmas Day Broadcast 2021

The broadcast begins at the 1:35 mark.

Homily of Pope Benedict XVI for Christmas Midnight Mass


Saint Peter's Basilica

Sunday, 24 December 2006


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have just heard in the Gospel the message given by the angels to the shepherds during that Holy Night, a message which the Church now proclaims to us: "To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger" (Lk 2:11-12). Nothing miraculous, nothing extraordinary, nothing magnificent is given to the shepherds as a sign. All they will see is a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, one who, like all children, needs a mother’s care; a child born in a stable, who therefore lies not in a cradle but in a manger. God ’s sign is the baby in need of help and in poverty. Only in their hearts will the shepherds be able to see that this baby fulfills the promise of the prophet Isaiah, which we heard in the first reading: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder" (Is 9:5). Exactly the same sign has been given to us. We too are invited by the angel of God, through the message of the Gospel, to set out in our hearts to see the child lying in the manger.

God’s sign is simplicity. God’s sign is the baby. God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us. This is how he reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendour. He comes as a baby – defenceless and in need of our help. He does not want to overwhelm us with his strength. He takes away our fear of his greatness. He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child. He wants nothing other from us than our love, through which we spontaneously learn to enter into his feelings, his thoughts and his will – we learn to live with him and to practise with him that humility of renunciation that belongs to the very essence of love. God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him. The Fathers of the Church, in their Greek translation of the Old Testament, found a passage from the prophet Isaiah that Paul also quotes in order to show how God’s new ways had already been foretold in the Old Testament. There we read: "God made his Word short, he abbreviated it" (Is 10:23; Rom 9:28). The Fathers interpreted this in two ways. The Son himself is the Word, the Logos; the eternal Word became small – small enough to fit into a manger. He became a child, so that the Word could be grasped by us. In this way, God teaches us to love the little ones. In this way he teaches us to love the weak. In this way, he teaches us respect for children. The child of Bethlehem directs our gaze towards all children who suffer and are abused in the world, the born and the unborn. Towards children who are placed as soldiers in a violent world; towards children who have to beg; towards children who suffer deprivation and hunger; towards children who are unloved. In all of these it is the Child of Bethlehem who is crying out to us; it is the God who has become small who appeals to us. Let us pray this night that the brightness of God’s love may enfold all these children. Let us ask God to help us do our part so that the dignity of children may be respected. May they all experience the light of love, which mankind needs so much more than the material necessities of life.

And so we come to the second meaning that the Fathers saw in the phrase: "God made his Word short". The Word which God speaks to us in Sacred Scripture had become long in the course of the centuries. It became long and complex, not just for the simple and unlettered, but even more so for those versed in Sacred Scripture, for the experts who evidently became entangled in details and in particular problems, almost to the extent of losing an overall perspective. Jesus "abbreviated" the Word – he showed us once more its deeper simplicity and unity. Everything taught by the Law and the Prophets is summed up – he says – in the command: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind… You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Mt 22:37-40). This is everything – the whole faith is contained in this one act of love that embraces God and humanity. Yet now further questions arise: how are we to love God with all our mind when our intellect can barely reach him? How are we to love him with all our heart and soul, when our heart can only catch a glimpse of him from afar when there are so many contradictions in the world that would hide his face from us? This is where the two ways in which God has "abbreviated" his Word come together. He is no longer distant. He is no longer unknown. He is no longer beyond the reach of our heart. He has become a child for us, and in so doing he has dispelled all doubt. He has become our neighbour, restoring in this way the image of man, whom we often find so hard to love. For us, God has become a gift. He has given himself. He has entered time for us. He who is the Eternal One, above time, he has assumed our time and raised it to himself on high. Christmas has become the Feast of gifts in imitation of God who has given himself to us. Let us allow our heart, our soul and our mind to be touched by this fact! Among the many gifts that we buy and receive, let us not forget the true gift: to give each other something of ourselves, to give each other something of our time, to open our time to God. In this way anxiety disappears, joy is born, and the feast is created. During the festive meals of these days let us remember the Lord’s words: "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite those who will invite you in return, but invite those whom no one invites and who are not able to invite you" (cf. Lk 14:12-14). This also means: when you give gifts for Christmas, do not give only to those who will give to you in return, but give to those who receive from no one and who cannot give you anything back. This is what God has done: he invites us to his wedding feast, something which we cannot reciprocate, but can only receive with joy. Let us imitate him! Let us love God and, starting from him, let us also love man, so that, starting from man, we can then rediscover God in a new way!

And so, finally, we find yet a third meaning in the saying that the Word became "brief" and "small". The shepherds were told that they would find the child in a manger for animals, who were the rightful occupants of the stable. Reading Isaiah (1:3), the Fathers concluded that beside the manger of Bethlehem there stood an ox and an ass. At the same time they interpreted the text as symbolizing the Jews and the pagans – and thus all humanity – who each in their own way have need of a Saviour: the God who became a child. Man, in order to live, needs bread, the fruit of the earth and of his labour. But he does not live by bread alone. He needs nourishment for his soul: he needs meaning that can fill his life. Thus, for the Fathers, the manger of the animals became the symbol of the altar, on which lies the Bread which is Christ himself: the true food for our hearts. Once again we see how he became small: in the humble appearance of the host, in a small piece of bread, he gives us himself.

All this is conveyed by the sign that was given to the shepherds and is given also to us: the child born for us, the child in whom God became small for us. Let us ask the Lord to grant us the grace of looking upon the crib this night with the simplicity of the shepherds, so as to receive the joy with which they returned home (cf. Lk 2:20). Let us ask him to give us the humility and the faith with which Saint Joseph looked upon the child that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit. Let us ask the Lord to let us look upon him with that same love with which Mary saw him. And let us pray that in this way the light that the shepherds saw will shine upon us too, and that what the angels sang that night will be accomplished throughout the world: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased." 


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Holiday Ride | Chevrolet

A beautiful Christmas ad from Chevrolet this year, and it is based on a true story.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

A Christmas Message from the One, True, and Holy Pope

 At Christmas we do not limit ourselves to commemorating the birth of a great figure: we do not simply and abstractly celebrate the birth of the man or in general the mystery of life; even less do we celebrate only the beginning of the new season. At Christmas, we commemorate something very tangible and important for mankind, something essential for the Christian faith, a truth that St John sums up in these few words: "The Word became flesh". This was a historical event that the Evangelist Luke was concerned to situate in a well-defined context: in the days when the decree was issued for the first census of Caesar Augustus, when Quirinius was Governor of Syria (cf. Lk 2: 1-7). Therefore, it was on a historically dated night that the event of salvation occurred for which Israel had been waiting for centuries. In the darkness of the night of Bethlehem a great light really was lit: the Creator of the universe became flesh, uniting himself indissolubly with human nature so as truly to be "God from God, Light from Light" yet at the same time a man, true man. What John calls in Greek "ho logos" translated into Latin as "Verbum" and Italian as "il Verbo" also means "the Meaning". Thus we can understand John's words as: the "eternal Meaning" of the world made himself tangible to our senses and our minds: we may now touch him and contemplate him (cf. 1 Jn 1: 1). The "Meaning" that became flesh is not merely a general idea inherent in the world; it is a "Word" addressed to us. The Logos knows us, calls us, guides us. The Word is not a universal law within which we play some role, but rather a Person who is concerned with every individual person: he is the Son of the living God who became man in Bethlehem."

- Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 17 December 2008.
May be an image of 1 person

2021's Admiralty Carol Service