Category Archives: Christmas

The Epiphany

They are coming to worship him and offer him gifts. Let us do likewise.

Damsel of the Faith & Knight of Tradition

The 12 days of Christmas culminates with the Feast of the Epiphany, the visit of the three wise men.  The gifts of the wise men manifests the divinity and royalty of Christ, even pointing to his death, as well. Christ is truly the newborn King, who is indeed God. Here is a meditation on the Feast of the Epiphany from Fr. Prosper Gueranger:

The Feast of the Epiphany is the continuation of the mystery of Christmas; but it appears on the Calendar of the Church with its own special character. Its very name, which signifies Manifestation, implies that it celebrates the apparition of God to His creatures.

For several centuries, the Nativity of our Lord was kept on this day; and when, in the year 376, the decree of the Holy See obliged all Churches to keep the Nativity on the 25th December, as Rome did–the Sixth of January was…

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A Saviour has been born, Christ the Lord

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Tonight is born in the city of David, Christ the Lord, the King of Heaven and the Prince of Peace. He who the world cannot contain because he is God, the Creator of the Universe, was placed in a lowly manager, dependent on the love of two parents.  This is the great humility of our God. He who has the power to vanquish death allowed himself to be born into this world as one of us, making him subject to death, which He endured for our sake. He was born to die. This little Baby had always before his mind, from the first moment of his conception, His mission – to save mankind from the fires of hell. For this was He born and this should be the prime subject of our meditation this Christmas season.

A beautiful sermon from St. Bonaventure:

Our Savior, dearly beloved, is born today; let us rejoice. It is not right to be sad today, the natal day of Life–He Who has dispelled the fear of mortality and brought us to the joy of promised eternity. Let no man be cut off from a share in this rejoicing. The cause of our joy is common to every man, because our Lord, the destoryer of sin and death, Who finds none guiltless, comes to free all. Let the holy exult, he draws near his palm; let the sinner rejoice, he is invited to pardon; let the Gentile be quickened, he is called to life. For the Son of God, in the fulness of that time which the unsearchable height of Divine Wisdom decreed, assumed human nature to reconcile it with its Author, and conquer the devil, the inventor of death, through that flesh which he had conquered.

In this conflict, which He joined for our sake, Our Lord entered the field of battle with a great and wonderful fairness. Although He was the almighty Lord, He met our bitter enemy not with the strength of His majesty, but with the weakness of our flesh. He brought against him the self-same form as ours; the self-same nature as our nature–but in him, without sin. Not of this Nativity were written the words applied to all other men: Not one is free from defilement, no, not the child whose life on earth is but one day. Into this singular birth passed none of the concupiscences of the flesh, nor followed any consequences of the law of sin. A Virgin of the royal stem of David is chosen, and when she was to become pregnant with the Sacred Child, Who was both God and Man, she conceived Him in her soul before she conceived Him in her body. Lest the stupendous mystery might make her afraid, since she had no knowledge of the Divine plan, she learned by the message of an Angel what was to be done in her by the Holy Ghost. She believed she would be the Mother of God, yet remain a virgin inviolate.

Therefore, dearly beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through His Son in the Holy Ghost, Who for His exceeding charity, wherewith he loved us, hath had mercy on us, and even when we were dead in sins hath quickened us together in Christ, that in Him we might be a new creature and a new handiwork. Therefore, let us put off the old man with his works, and having become sharers in the Sonship of Christ, renounce the deeds of the flesh. Learn, O Christian, how great is your dignity! You have been made a partaker in the divine nature. Scorn to return to your former vileness through an evil way of life. Remember of Whose body you are a member, and Who is its head. Remember that you have been snatched from the power of darkness, and transported into light and the kingdom of God.

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Christmas Eve Prayer
from the Liturgical Year, 1910

O Divine Infant! we, too, must needs join our voices with those of the Angels, and sing with them: Glory be to God! and Peace to men! We cannot restrain our tears at hearing this history of Thy Birth. We have followed Thee in Thy journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem; we have kept close to Mary and Joseph on the whole journey; we have kept sleepless watch during this holy Night, waiting Thy coming. Praise be to Thee, sweetest Jesus, for Thy mercy! and love from all hearts, for Thy tender love of us! Our eyes are riveted on that dear Crib, for our Salvation is there; and there we recognise Thee as the Messias foretold in those sublime Prophecies, which Thy Spouse the Church has been repeating to us, in her solemn prayers of this Night. Thou art the Mighty God — the Prince of Peace — the Spouse of our souls — our Peace — our Saviour — our Bread of Life. And now, what shall we offer thee? A good Will?

Ah! dear Lord! Thou must form it within us; Thou must increase it, if Thou hast already given it; that thus, we may become Thy Brethren by grace, as we already are by the human nature Thou hast assumed. But, O Incarnate Word! this Mystery of Thy becoming Man, works within us a still higher grace: — it makes us, as Thy Apostle tells us, partakers of that divine nature, which is inseparable with Thee in the midst of all Thy humiliations. Thou hast made us less than the Angels, in the scale of creation; but, in Thy Incarnation, Thou hast made us Heirs of God, and Joint-Heirs with Thine own divine Self! Never permit us, through our own weaknesses and sins, to degenerate from this wonderful gift, whereby Thy Incarnation exalted us, and oh! dear Jesus, to what a height! Amen.

From Steven & I here at Damsel of the Faith, we wish all of our readers a blessed, holy amd joyous Christmas and Christmas season! Emmanuel has been born! Let us fall down and worship Him, offering Him the gift of our holiness.

-Damsel of the Faith & Knight of Tradition

 

December 25th – the most accurate date to celebrate Our Lord’s birth

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Good Christians know full well of the annual reminders popping up before the Christmas Season concerning the date of Our Lord’s Birth.  According to “historians” and other supposedly distinguished “experts”, the day of Our Lord’s Birth was almost certainly not December 25 and to determine an exact date is impossible.  Sometimes this statement can be made with a great anti-Catholic malice; other times it may seem to sound like a light-hearted, passing remark.  No matter the tone, all of these remarks do a great disservice to the Church.  For at the root of this matter is the fact that this position is used to undermine the Church and the Birth of Our Lord.  Many anti-Catholic persons started circulating this rumor while claiming that this date had origins in a pagan holiday.  Thus, the Catholic Church simply wished to substitute this holiday for the commemoration of Our Lord’s Birth and perhaps even paganized “early” Christianity.  Also, even a lighter tone would seem to hint at a certain stupidity of the Church for choosing December 25 as a fixed date, as if they were proclaiming that that was the exact day!  Although Catholics might not be necessarily required to accept an exact date for our Savior’s Birth, Dr. Marian Horvat does an excellent job in explaining how, based on Scripture, December 25 is indeed the most precise date that can be assigned to the Birth of our Savior.  Even in more trivial arguments, it would seem that the anti-Catholics have again no basis for their dishonest claims!

http://www.traditioninaction.org/religious/e031rp_PaganOrigins.html     

Christmas Was Never a Pagan Holiday

Marian T. Horvat, Ph.D..

Around this time of year we are bombarded with anti-Catholic propaganda questioning the blessed day of Christ’s birth as December 25. This date, we arrogantly are told, was originally a pagan holiday. The Early Church “chose” it to “Christianize” a Roman feast of the Sun. According to this theory, the Christmas date was only established in the 4th century, when we have the first evidence of the Nativity being celebrated in Rome in 336. The conclusion: The origins of Christmas are pagan, and we do not really know the date the Savior of mankind was born.

Let us not be too quickly impressed with these lies whose aim is solely to diminish the homage we pay Our Lord Jesus Christ and to denigrate the Catholic Church. In fact, the opposite is true. It is the thesis of the pagan origins of Christmas that is a myth without historical substance.

No ancient Roman festivals on December 25

The notion that Christmas had pagan origins began to spread in the 17th century with the English Puritans and Scottish Presbyterians, who hated all Catholic things. The Puritans hated Catholicism so much that they revolted against the so-called Anglican church because, even with their heresies, they considered it still too similar to the Catholic Church.

Puritans against Christmas
A colonial Puritan governor stops the merrymaking of Christmas festivities (1883)

They abhorred the feast days and in particular, they detested the Christmas feast with its joyous ceremonies, celebrations and customs. Since the Bible gave no specific date of Christ’s birth, the Puritans argued that it was a sinful contrivance of the Roman Catholic Church that should be abolished.

Later, Protestant preachers like the German Paul Ernst Jablonski tried to demonstrate in pseudo-scholarly works that December 25was actually a pagan Roman feast, and that Christmas was yet another instance of how the medieval Catholic Church ‘paganized’ and corrupted ‘pure’ early Christianity. (1)

Around the same time, the Jesuit Jean Hardouin with his eccentric theory of universal forgery that put in doubt every historical source known, backed the Puritans on their theory of Christmas having pagan origins. But his research was largely discredited given his absurd affirmations. For example, he maintained all the Church Councils that took place before Trent were fictitious and almost all the classical texts of ancient Greece and Rome were false, made by monks in the 13th century. Such assertions are blatantly absurd, given the countless source documents demonstrating the opposite.

The two principal claims for Christmas having pagan origins pretend that the early Church chose December 25 in order to divert Catholics from Roman pagan festival days. The first claim pretends that it replaced the ancient Roman holiday of Saturnalia, a time of feasting and raucous merry-making held in December in honor of the pagan god Saturn.

Now, the Saturnalia festival always ended on December 23 at the latest. Why would the Catholic Church, to diverge the attention of her faithful from a pagan celebration, choose a date two days after that party had already ended and whoever wanted had already overindulged? It makes no sense. No serious scholar believes this claim.

Christmas established before the pagan Sun festival

The second claim is that the Catholic Church established Christmas on December 25 to replace a solar feast invented by Emperor Aurelian in 274 AD, the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Birth of the Unconquered Sun).

The fact that Christmas entered the world calendar (the accepted Roman calendar) in 354 – which was after the establishment of the pagan feast – does not necessarily mean the Church chose that day to replace the pagan holiday. Two principal reasons concur with this conclusion:

Pagan Sun God Roman festival
Aurelian instituted the sun festival to bolster a dying Roman Empire

First, one must not simply assume that the early Christians only began to celebrate Christmas in the 4th century. Until the Edict of Milan was published in 313, Catholics were persecuted and met in catacombs. Hence, there was no public festivity. But they celebrated Christmas among themselves before that Edict, as hymns and prayers of the first Christians confirm (2).

Second, this claim is based on unsound assumptions. As scholar Thomas Talley points out in his book The Origins of the Liturgical Year, Emperor Aurelian inaugurated the festival of the Birth of the Unconquered Sun trying to give new life – a rebirth – to a dying Roman Empire. It is much more likely, he argues, that the Emperor’s action was a response to the growing popularity and strength of the Catholic religion, which was celebrating Christ’s birth on December 25, rather than the other way around. (3)

There is no evidence that Aurelian’s celebration preceded the feast of Christmas, and more reason to believe that establishing this festival day – which never won popular support and soon died out – was an effort to give a pagan significance to a date already of importance to Roman Catholics.

Dates based on the Scriptures

But let us leave the realm of conjecture and return to historical records. There is ample evidence to demonstrate that, even though the Christmas date was not made official until 354, clearly it was established long before Aurelian instituted his pagan feastday.

The conception of St. John the Baptist is the historical anchor to know the date of Christmas, based on the detailed and careful calculations on dates made by first Fathers of the Church.

Visitation
The date of St. Elizabeth’s conception sets the base for knowing Christ’s birth

The early tractatus De solstitiia records the tradition of the Archangel Gabriel appearing to Zachariah in the High Temple when he was serving as high priest on the Day of Atonement (Lk 1:8). This placed the conception of St. John the Baptist during the feast of Tabernacles in late September, as the Archangel Gabriel said (Lk 1:28) and his birth nine months later at the time of the summer solstice. (4)

Since the Gospel of Luke states that the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary in the sixth month after John’s conception (Lk 1:26), this placed the conception of Christ at about the time of the spring equinox, that is, at the time of the Jewish Passover, in late March. His birth would thus be in late December at the time of the winter solstice.

That these dates, based on Tradition and Scripture, are trustworthy is confirmed by recent evidence taken from the Dead Sea Scrolls, whose authors were very concerned about calendar dates, essential for establishing when the Torah feasts should be celebrated. The data found in the Scrolls make it possible to know the Temple’s rotating assignment of priests during Old Testament times and show definitely that Zachariah served as a Temple priest in September, thus confirming the tradition of the Early Church. (5)

The Catholic Church determined March 25 as the date of Our Lord’s Conception long before Aurelian decided to make his solar feast. For example, around 221 AD, Sexto Julio Africano wrote the Chronographiai in which he affirmed that the Annunciation was March 25. (6) Once the date of the Incarnation was established, it was a simple matter of adding nine months to arrive at the date of Our Lord’s birth – December 25. This date would not be made official until the late fourth century, but it was established long before Aurelian and Constantine. It had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

We can be certain that the first Catholic apologists and Fathers of the Church, who lived very close to the time of the Apostles, were fully aware of the dates associated with the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. They had all the calendar sources at hand and they would not allow any untruth to be introduced in the Catholic liturgy. The date of Christ’s birth was transmitted by them as being December 25, a Sunday.

Addressing the verse of Luke 2:7, Fr Cornelius a Lapide comments on the architecture of this choice: “Christ was born Sunday, because this was the first day of the world. … Christ was born on Sunday night, in keeping with the order of His marvels, so that the day on which He said Let there be light, and there was light, was the same day on which, at night, the light shone in darkness for the upright of heart, that is, the sun of justice, Christ the Lord.” (7)

1. Thomas Talley, The Origins of the Liturgical Year, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991), p. 88.
2 Daniel-Rops, Prières des Premiers Chrétiens, Paris: Fayard, 1952, pp. 125-127, 228-229
3. Talley, The Origins of the Liturgical Year, pp. 88-91.
4. The tract is entitled ‘De solstitiia et aequinoctia conceptionis et nativitatis domini nostri iesu Christi et iohannis baptista,’ in Ibid., p. 93-94. Talley also provides other historical documents of early Church writers showing that the dates of the Conception and Death of Our Lord had been established very early.
5. Shemaryahu Talmon, Professor Emeritus at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a top Scroll scholar, published an in-depth study of the Temple’s rotating assignment of priests in 1958 and the Qumran scrolls to see the assignment during New Testament times. Martin K Barrack, “It Comes from Pagans,” Second Exodus online
6. Ibid.
7. Cornelius a Lapide, Commentaria in Scripturam Sanctam, Paris: Vives 1877, Luke 2:7, vol 16, p. 57.

~Steven C., “Knight of Tradition”

Our Infant King cometh

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As Christmas draws nearer, let us continue to meditate on the birth of our Infant King, who humbled himself to take on our nature and be put to death so that we might have life and have it more abundantly, in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Mankind, rejoice at the greatest act in history, this mystery of the great love of God for man!  The God we serve proved His love for us by rescuing us when we were helpless and lost, by coming into our world to take on our debt so that we might love Him and serve Him.  Remember that the price of our salvation was the death of an innocent God-man.  May we all continue to prepare for His coming by rejecting our sins and thanking the Baby Jesus for His humble birth.

“Therefore, when the time came, dearly beloved, which had been fore-ordained for men’s redemption, there enters these lower parts of the world, the Son of God, descending from His heavenly throne and yet not quitting His Father’s glory, begotten in a new order, by a new nativity. In a new order, because being invisible in His own nature He became visible in ours, and He whom nothing could contain, was content to be contained: abiding before all time He began to be in time: the Lord of all things, He obscured His immeasurable majesty and took on Him the form of a servant: being God, that cannot suffer, He did not disdain to be man that can, and immortal as He is, to subject Himself to the laws of death. And by a new nativity He was begotten, conceived by a Virgin, born of a Virgin, without paternal desire, without injury to the mother’s chastity: because such a birth as knew no taint of human flesh, became One who was to be the Savior of men, while it possessed in itself the nature of human substance. For when God was born in the flesh, God Himself was the Father, as the archangel witnessed to the Blessed Virgin Mary: ‘because the Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee: and therefore, that which shall be born of thee shall be called holy, the Son of God.’ The origin is different but the nature like: not by [relations] with man but by the power of God was it brought about: for a Virgin conceived, a Virgin bore, and a Virgin she remained. Consider here not the condition of her that bore but the will of Him that was born; for He was born Man as He willed and was able. If you inquire into the truth of His nature, you must acknowledge the matter to be human: if you search for the mode of His birth, you must confess the power to be of God.”  ~Pope St. Leo the Great

“The Child that is born of Mary and is couched in the Crib at Bethlehem, raises his feeble voice to the Eternal Father, and calls him, My Father! He turns towards us and calls us My Brethren! We, consequently, when we speak to his Father, may call him Our Father! This is the mystery of adoption, revealed to us by the great event [of Christmas]. All things are changed, both heaven and on earth: God has not only one Son, he has many sons; henceforth we stand before this our God, not merely creatures drawn out of nothing by his power, but children that he fondly loves. Heaven is now not only the throne of his sovereign Majesty; it has become our inheritance in which we are joint-heirs with our brother Jesus, the Son of Mary, Son of Eve, Son of Adam, according to his Human Nature, and (in the unity of Person) Son of God according to his Divine Nature. Let us turn our wondering and loving thoughts first to this sweet Babe, that has brought us all these blessings, and then to the blessings themselves, to the dear inheritance made ours by him. Let your mind be seized with astonishment at creatures having such a destiny! And then let our heart pour out its thanks for the incomprehensible gift!”   ~Dom Gueranger

O come, O come, Emmanuel!  The God-Man, Prince of Peace and Wonder-Counselor cometh!

~Damsel of the Faith

G.K. Chesterton on the true meaning of Christmas

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“The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why.”

“Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.”

“Any one thinking of the Holy Child as born in December would mean by it exactly what we mean by it; that Christ is not merely a summer sun of the prosperous but a winter fire for the unfortunate.”- Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton, as a devout Catholic writer, took great pains to explain in the most beautiful of ways the true message of Christmas. Some of them are featured for our readers today.  Chesterton, writing in the early 20th century, would be greatly disturbed at rapidly growing materialism and atheism in the West, which in turn would do its cunning best at muting the message of the Christ Child. May more Catholics today appreciate the true goodness of Chesterton’s works as oppose to the inane nonsense of much of today’s “literature”!

The House of Christmas, arguably Chesterton’s most beloved Christmas poem:    

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost – how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.

This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

The following article was originally posted on SSPX Canada:

The True Message of Christmas

What is the true meaning of Christmas? G.K. Chesterton sheds some poetic light in explanation.

It is perfectly reasonable at this season of the year to ask whether people in general have lost the true meaning of Christmas. It would seem to many thoughtful observers that the significance attached to the birth of Christ has been buried deep beneath the rubble of gaudy tinsel, secular Christmas cards invoking every spirit but that of the Christ child, useless and unwanted presents one can’t wait to take back to the store, eminently forgettable tasteless carols endlessly played everywhere including bathrooms, greasy turkey dinners served up at the boring round of staff parties one feels bound to attend in a frame of mind that has nothing to do with the joy of welcoming Christ into the world.

Can anything fresh or striking be said about the great religious feast, so deeply embedded are we in the familiar themes and platitudes? What is a little more disconcerting is the ever more prevailing sense of increasing loss of the meaning of what we are precisely celebrating. This is to be expected in a largely secular environment, in a highly sophisticated materialistic society. Religious notions for many are a far distant or at best blurred memory of what used to be the norm in our childhood or early adolescence.

Crass ignorance on the part of many

There is such callous indifference and crass ignorance on the part of many others to the greatest event in the history of mankind, the coming of God Himself in human flesh taken from the womb of the spotless Virgin beautifully described by Coventry Patmore in the splendid words “our tainted nature’s solitary boast”.

God sends his only begotten Son into the world to restore mankind to Himself. The incarnation is the great healing of a lost and suffering humanity trapped in the snares of wickedness and sin, incapable of redeeming itself or finding the true path to God,  unable to discover that necessary return to sanity and sanctity, the only hope of mankind. The incarnation, is the greatest act of God’s mercy extended to all men of good will.

It is, however, only the humble, such as the shepherds and wise men, who will find Him where he is most unlikely to be found — in a animal’s trough not in the warmth and comfort of a kingly palace but in a outhouse, a borrowed home where in the future all men will turn at the last. In the delightful poem of the English writer G.K. Chersterton we have the essence of the Christmas spirit,

To an open house in the evening Home shall all men come,
To an older place than Eden And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and are
To the place where God was homeless And all men are at home.”

Heart of the Christmas message

It is equally true when we consider the the heart of the Christmas message that if we pay homage to the child on our visit to Bethlehem we must also visit and reverence the mother.

As the same Chesterton observed:

In common life you cannot approach the child except through the mother, if we are to think of Christ in this aspect at all, the other idea follows as it is followed in history. We must either leave Christ out of Christmas or Christmas out of Christ or we must admit, if only as we admit it in an old picture that those holy heads are too near together for the haloes not to mingle and to cross.”

Just as Christmas is the manifestation of the divine condescension so it is only in imitation of the humility of the simple, uncomplicated, honest, hardworking shepherds that we approach the Saviour of the world wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying on the wood which is a cruel premonition of his final end.

We are like those shepherds. In contrast to the Magi we come bearing no gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. There is really one thing only that we offer the child of Bethlehem on Christmas morn, ourselves purified, cleansed from the mire of sin. We come to receive not haggle or bargain, buy or sell like most of our fellow citizens. We come to wonder and adore not to rationalize and understand. We come in haste, joyful in spirit, ready to fall upon our knees. We are at our best, we poor humans are at our greatest when we acknowledge in prayer and gratitude the “the kindness and benignity of God our Saviour” who has appeared to us in mercy and saved us by the layer of regeneration and renovation of the Holy Ghost, through Jesus Christ.

~ Steven C., “The Knight of Tradition”

The Epiphany

The 12 days of Christmas culminates with the Feast of the Epiphany, the visit of the three wise men.  The gifts of the wise men manifests the divinity and royalty of Christ, even pointing to his death, as well. Christ is truly the newborn King, who is indeed God. Here is a meditation on the Feast of the Epiphany from Fr. Prosper Gueranger:

The Feast of the Epiphany is the continuation of the mystery of Christmas; but it appears on the Calendar of the Church with its own special character. Its very name, which signifies Manifestation, implies that it celebrates the apparition of God to His creatures.

For several centuries, the Nativity of our Lord was kept on this day; and when, in the year 376, the decree of the Holy See obliged all Churches to keep the Nativity on the 25th December, as Rome did–the Sixth of January was not robbed of all its ancient glory. It was still to be called the Epiphany, and the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ was also commemorated on this same Feast, which Tradition had marked as the day on which that Baptism took place. Lastly, this Feast is called, in many countries, King’s Feast: it is, of course, an allusion to the Magi, whose journey to Bethlehem is so continually mentioned in today’s Office.

The Epiphany shares with the Feasts of Christmas, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost, the honor of being called, in the Canon of the Mass, a Day most holy. It is also one of the cardinal Feasts, that is, one of those on which the arrangement of the Christian Year is based; for, as we have Sundays after Easter, and Sundays after Pentecost, so also we count six Sundays after the Epiphany.

The Epiphany is indeed a great Feast, and the joy caused us by the Birth of our Jesus must be renewed on it, for, as though it were a second Christmas Day, it shows us our Incarnate God in a new light. It leaves us all the sweetness of the dear Babe of Bethlehem, who hath appeared to us already in love; but to this it adds its own grand manifestation of the divinity of our Jesus. At Christmas, it was a few Shepherds that were invited by the Angels to go and recognize The Word Made Flesh; but now, at the Epiphany, the voice of God Himself calls the whole world to adore this Jesus, and hear Him.

The mystery of the Epiphany brings upon us three magnificent rays of the Sun of Justice, our Savior. In the calendar of pagan Rome, this sixth day of January was devoted to the celebration of a triple triumph of Augustus, the founder of the Roman Empire: but when Jesus, our Prince of peace, whose empire knows no limits, had secured victory to His Church by the blood of the Martyrs–then did this His Church decree, that a triple triumph of the Immortal King should be substituted, in the Christian Calendar, for those other three triumphs which had been won by the adopted son of Caesar.

The Sixth of January, therefore, restored the celebration of our Lord’s Birth to the Twenty-Fifth of December; but, in return, there were united in the one same Epiphany, three manifestations of Jesus’ glory: the mystery of the Magi coming from the East, under the guidance of a star, and adoring the Infant of Bethlehem as the divine King; the mystery of the Baptism of Christ, who, whilst standing in the waters of the Jordan, was proclaimed by the Eternal Father as Son of God; and thirdly, the mystery of the divine power of this same Jesus, when He changed the water into wine at the marriage-feast of Cana.

We propose to treat of the three mysteries, united in this great Solemnity, in the following order. Today, we will unite with the Church in honoring all three; during the Octave, we will contemplate the Mystery of the Magi coming to Bethlehem; we will celebrate the Baptism of our Savior on the Octave Day; and we will venerate the Mystery of the Marriage of Cana on the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, which is the day appropriately chosen by the Church for the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.

Let us, then, open our hearts to the joy of this grand Day; and on this Feast of the Theophany, of the Holy Lights, of the Three Kings, let us look with love at the dazzling beauty of our Divine Sun, who, as the Psalmist expresses it, runs his course as a Giant, and pours out upon us floods of a welcome and yet most vivid light. The Shepherds, who were called by the Angels to be the first worshippers, have been joined by the Prince of Martyrs, the Beloved Disciple, the dear troop of Innocents, our glorious Thomas of Canterbury, and Sylvester the patriarch of Peace; and now, today, these Saints open their ranks to let the Kings of the East come to the Babe in His crib, bearing with them the prayers and adorations of the whole human race. The humble stable is too little for such a gathering as this, and Bethlehem seems to be worth all the world besides. Mary, the Throne of the divine Wisdom, welcomes all the members of this court with her gracious smile of Mother and Queen; she offers her Son to man, for His adoration, and to God, that He may be well pleased. God manifests Himself to men, because He is great; but He manifests Himself by Mary, because He is full of mercy.

But let us return to the triumph of our sweet Savior and King. His magnificence is manifested to us so brightly on this Feast! Our mother, the Church, is going to initiate us into the mysteries we are to celebrate. Let us imitate the faith and obedience of the Magi: let us adore, with the holy Baptist, the divine Lamb, over whom the heavens open: let us take our place at the mystic feast of Cana, where our dear King is present, thrice manifested, thrice glorified. In the last two mysteries, let us not lose sight of the Babe of Bethlehem; and in the Babe of Bethlehem let us cease not to recognize the Great God, (in whom the Father was well-pleased,) and the supreme Ruler and Creator of all things.

Psalm 116

O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people. For His mercy is confirmed upon us: and the truth of the Lord remaineth forever.

 

The holy Church–after having thus celebrated the power given to the Divine Babe over kings, whom He shall break, in the day of His wrath; His covenant with the Gentiles, whom He will give as an inheritance to His Church; the light that is risen up in darkness; His Name blessed from the rising to the setting of the sun; and after having, on this the day of the Vocation of the Gentiles, invited all nations, and all people, to praise the eternal mercy and truth of God;–addresses herself to Jerusalem, the figure of the Church, and conjures her, by the Prophet Isaias, to take advantage of the Light, which has this day risen upon the whole human race.

Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord

The following is a meditation on the Circumcision by Fr. Prosper Gueranger.  A very blessed, happy and prosperous New Year 2016 to all of my readers and followers.

Our new-born King and Saviour is eight days old today; the Star, that guides the Magi, is advancing towards Bethlehem, and, five days hence, will be standing over the Stable where our Jesus is being nursed by his Mother. Today, the Son of Man is to be circumcised; this first sacrifice of his innocent Flesh must honour the eighth day of his mortal life. Today, also, a Name is to be given him–the Name will be Jesus, and it means Saviour. So that, Mysteries abound on this day: let us not pass one of them over, but honour them with all possible devotion and love.

But this Day is not exclusively devoted to the Circumcision of Jesus. The mystery of this Circumcision forms part of that other great mystery, the Incarnation and Infancy of our Saviour–a mystery on which the Church fixes her heart, not only during this Octave, but during the whole forty days of Christmas-Tide. Then, as regards our Lord’s receiving the Name of Jesus, a special Feast, which we shall soon be keeping, is set apart in honour of it. There is another object, that shares the love and devotion of the Faithful, on this great Solemnity. This object is Mary, the Mother of God. The Church celebrates, today, the august prerogative of this divine Maternity, which was conferred on a mere creature, and which made her the co-operatrix with Jesus in the great work of man’s salvation.

The holy Church of Rome used formerly to say two Masses on the first of January; one was for the Octave of Christmas Day, the other was in honour of Mary. She now unites the two intentions in one Sacrifice, in the same manner as, in the rest of this Day’s Office, she unites together the acts of her adoration of the Son, and the expressions of her admiration for, and confidence in, the Mother.

But it is today, that we, the children of the Roman Church, must pour forth all the love of our hearts for the Virgin-Mother, and rejoice with her in the exceeding happiness she feels at having given birth to her and our Lord. During Advent, we contemplated her as pregnant with the world’s salvation; we proclaimed the glory of that Ark of the New Covenant, whose chaste womb was the earthly paradise, chosen by the King of Ages for his dwelling-place. Now, she has brought him forth, the Infant-God; she adores him, Him who is her Son. She has the right to call him, her Child; and He, God as He is, calls her in strictest truth, His Mother.

Let us not be surprised, therefore, at the enthusiasm and profound respect, wherewith the Church extols the Blessed Virgin, and her prerogatives. Let us, on the contrary, be convinced, that all the praise the Church can give her, and all the devotion she can ever bear towards her, are far below what is due to her as Mother of the Incarnate God. No mortal will ever be able to describe, or even comprehend, how great a glory accrues to her from this sublime dignity. For, as the glory of Mary comes from her being the Mother of God, one would have first to comprehend God Himself, in order to measure the greatness of her dignity. It is to God, that Mary gave our human nature; it is God, whom she had as her Child; it is God, who gloried in rendering Himself, inasmuch as He is Man, subject to her: hence, the true value of such a dignity, possessed by a mere creature, can only be appreciated, in proportion to our knowledge of the sovereign perfections of the great God, who thus deigns to make Himself dependent upon that favoured creature. Let us, therefore, bow down in deepest adoration before the Majesty of our God; let us, therefore, acknowledge that we cannot respect, as it deserves, the extraordinary dignity of Her, whom He chose for His Mother.

The same sublime Mystery overpowers the mind from another point of view–what were the feelings of such a Mother towards such a Son? The Child she holds in her arms, and presses to her heart, is the Fruit of her virginal womb, and she loves Him as her own; she loves Him because she is His Mother, and a Mother loves her child as herself, nay, more than herself:–but, when she thinks upon the infinite majesty of Him, who has thus given Himself to her to be the object of her love and her fond caresses–she trembles in her humility, and her soul has to turn, in order to bear up against the overwhelming truth, to the other thought of the nine months she held this Babe in her womb, and of the filial smile he gave her when her eyes first met His. These two deep-rooted feelings–of a creature that adores, and of a Mother that loves–are in Mary’s heart. The being Mother of God implies all this:–and may we not well say, that no pure creature could be exalted more than she? and that in order to comprehend her dignity, we should first have to comprehend God Himself? and that only God’s infinite wisdom could plan such a work, and only His infinite power accomplish it?

A Mother of God!–It is the mystery, whose fulfilment the world, without knowing it, was awaiting for four thousand years. It is the work, which, in God’s eyes, was incomparably greater than that of the creation of a million new worlds, for such a creation would cost Him nothing; he has but to speak, and all whatsoever he wills is made. But, that a creature should become Mother of God, He has had, not only to suspend the laws of nature by making a Virgin Mother, but also to put Himself in a state of dependence upon the happy creature He chose for His Mother. He had to give her rights over himself, and contract the obligation of certain duties towards her. He had to make Her His Mother, and Himself her Son.

It follows from all this, that the blessings of the Incarnation, for which we are indebted to the love wherewith the Divine Word loved us, may and ought to be referred, though in an inferior degree, to Mary herself. If she be the Mother of God, it is because she consented to it, for God vouchsafed, not only to ask her consent, but, moreover, to make the coming of His Son into this world depend upon her giving it. As this His Son, the Eternal Word, spoke His Fiat over chaos, and the answer to His word was creation; so did Mary use the same word Fiat:–let it be done unto me (St. Luke, i. 38), she said. God heard her word, and, immediately, the Son of God descended into her virginal womb. After God, then, it is to Mary, His ever Blessed Mother, that we are indebted for our Emmanuel.

The divine plan for the world’s salvation included there being a Mother of God: and as heresy sought to deny the mystery of the Incarnation, it equally sought to deny the glorious prerogative of Mary. Nestorius asserted, that Jesus was only man; Mary, consequently was not Mother of God, but merely Mother of a Man, called Jesus. This impious doctrine roused the indignation of the Catholic world. The East and West united in proclaiming, that Jesus was God and Man, in unity of Person; and that Mary, being His Mother, was, in strict truth, “Mother of God.” This victory over Nestorianism was won at the Council of Ephesus. It was hailed by the Christians of those times with an enthusiasm of faith, which not only proved the tender love they had for the Mother of Jesus, but was sure to result in the setting up of some solemn trophy, that would perpetuate the memory of the victory. It was then that began, in both the Greek and Latin Churches, the pious custom of uniting, during Christmas, the veneration due to the Mother with the supreme worship given to the Son. The day assigned for the united commemoration varied in the several countries, but the sentiment of religion, which suggested the Feast, was one and the same throughout the entire Church.

At that time : After eight days were accomplished, that the Child should be circumcised, His name was called Jesus, which was called by the Angel, before He was conceived in the womb.

The Child is circumcised: He is, now, not only a member of the human race; He is made, today, a member of God’s chosen People. He subjects Himself to this painful ceremony, to this symbol of one devoted to the Divine service, in order that He may fulfil all justice. He receives, at the same time, His Name:–the Name is Jesus, and it means a Saviour. A Saviour! Then, He is to save us? Yes; and He is to save us by His Blood. Such is the divine appointment, and he has bowed down his will to it. The Incarnate Word is upon the earth in order to offer a Sacrifice, and the Sacrifice is begun today. This first shedding of the Blood of the Man-God was sufficient to the fulness and perfection of a Sacrifice; but He is come to win the heart of the sinner, and that heart is so hard, that all the streams of that Precious Blood, which flow from the Cross on Calvary, will scarcely make it yield. The drops that were shed today would have been enough to satisfy the justice of the Eternal Father, but not to cure man’s miseries, and the Babe’s Heart would not be satisfied to leave us uncured. He came for man’s sake, and His love for man will go to what looks like excess–He will carry out the whole meaning of His dear name–He will be our “Jesus,” our Saviour.

On this the Eighth Day since the Birth of our Emmanuel, let us consider the great mystery which the Gospel tells us was accomplished in his divine Flesh–the Circumcision. On this day, the earth sees the first-fruits of that Blood-shedding, which is to be its Redemption, and the first sufferings of that Divine Lamb, who is to atone for our sins. Let us compassionate our sweet Jesus, who meekly submits to the knife which is to put upon Him the sign of a Servant of God.

Mary, who has watched over Him with the most affectionate solicitude, has felt her heart sink within her, as each day brought her nearer to this hour of her Child’s first suffering. She knows, that the justice of God does not necessarily require this first sacrifice, or might accept it, on account of its infinite value, for the world’s salvation: and yet, the innocent Flesh of her Son must, even so early as this, be torn, and his Blood flow down his infant limbs.

What must be her affliction at seeing the preparations for this painful ceremony! She cannot leave her Jesus–and yet, how shall she bear to see Him writhe under this His first experience of suffering! She must stay, then, and hear His sobs and heartrending cries; she must bear the sight of the tears of her Divine Babe, forced from Him by the violence of the pain. We need St. Bonaventure to describe this wonderful mystery. “And if He weeps, thinkest thou his Mother could keep in her tears? No–she, too, wept, and when the Babe, who was standing on her lap, perceived her tears, He raised His little hand to her mouth and face, as though he would beckon to her not to weep, for it grieved Him to see Her weeping, whom He so tenderly loved. The Mother, on her side, was touched to the quick at the suffering and tears of the Babe, and she consoled Him by caresses and fond words; and as she was quick to see His thoughts, as though He had expressed them in words, she said to Him: If thou wishest me to cease weeping, weep not Thou, my Child! If Thou weepest, I must weep too. Then the Babe, from compassion for the Mother, repressed his sobs, and Mary wiped His eyes and her own, and put His Face to her own, and gave Him her Breast, and consoled him in every way she could (Meditations on the Life of Christ, by St. Bonaventure).”

And now, what shall we give in return to this Saviour of our souls for the Circumcision, which he has deigned to suffer, in order to show us how much He loved us? We must, according to the teaching of the Apostle, circumcise our heart from all its evil affections, its sins, and its wicked inclinations; we must begin, at once, to live that new life, of which the Infant Jesus is the sublime model. Let us thus show Him our compassion for this His earliest suffering for us, and be more attentive, than we have hitherto been, to the example He sets us.