Posts Tagged christmas

Countdown to #Christmas – The #Annunciation Heralds the Beginning

25 March 2017

FraAngelico

Feast of the Annunciation

Sermon by Fr. Francis X. Weninger, S.J. (1805-1888)

And the angel Gabriel was sent by God into a city of Galilee called Nazareth,
and the name of the virgin was Mary.”–Luke 1.

Athwart the somber season of Lent, the deepening shadows of which grow darker still until the bright dawn of the resurrection morn dispels their gloom, there flashes the glory of a divine fact which gives to this festival of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary a rank equal to that of the greatest feast of the Church. This divine fact may well inspire our hearts with the most tender, the most exquisite, the most joyful, affections of thanksgiving, for to its existence we are indebted for the inestimable grace of Redemption.

It was upon this day, beloved in Christ, that the angel Gabriel–to whom God had given in charge the precious soul of her whom He had from all eternity chosen to be the Mother of the Word Incarnate–bore to the tender Virgin, whose purity had never been tarnished by the slighest breath of evil, the joyful tidings that she was, while preserving the pearl of virginity, to become the Mother of God.

It was upon this day, then, that the Son of God assumed our human nature for the redemption and salvation of fallen man; and yet there is, in general, but too little attention devoted to the consideration of the mystery we commemorate thereon; for, by the greater number of Christians, it is regarded and celebrated simply as a feast in honor of Mary. But, in fact, it is the very corner-stone upon which rest all the other feasts,–commemorating, as it does, an event which can not fail to fill the human heart with adoration, gratitude, and the most intense consolation.

Every thing depended upon the decree of God whether, in His infinite mercy, He would be pleased to stretch forth His arm and rescue the human race from the abyss of a wretchedness too profound almost to be conceived. But, since “the angel of the Lord declared unto Mary” the message of salvation, and the Son of God assumed on that very day her flesh, everything was changed; and from the Feast of the Annunciation came forth Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and the eternal triumph of the Church.

Let us consider today the message of the angel to Mary in its divine sublimity, as well as in the importance with which it is invested for the children of men. O Mary, who was already full of grace when the angel saluted thee, and elected thee not only to become the Mother of God, but also Mother of all the children of God, accept us today as thy children! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God!

If, my beloved Christians, the words of the holy gospels–whenever we open the pages of the inspired volume, but especially when we hear them from the lips of the priest on the occasion of the celebration of the feasts of the Church–tend ever to inspire us with joy, and to elevate our hearts to God, this is especially true of the gospel which is set apart for this joyous day.

“At that time the angel Gabriel was sent to a town named Nazareth, to a Virgin called Mary.” Blessed words! for, as often as we hear them, the happy event which we commemorate today arises immediately before our eyes, clear and distinct, as if we had been present when the glory of the angel irradiated the humble little room at Nazareth. In spirit, we behold the Immaculate Virgin, united with her God in fervent prayer, oblivious of all but Him, when, lo! an angel of the Lord appeared before her. We can almost hear his voice, in the tones of which still linger the sweetness of that celestial music to which it were bliss to list.

We have every reason to learn and to ponder deeply upon the signification of this angelic message, which was a most holy, a most solemn, a most momentous, a most consoling, and joyful message, both for the Blessed Virgin and for her devoted children.

In every message the importance is increased or lessened according to the dignity of the sender. A message is brought to us by a relative, acquaintance, or inferior, and produces but little effect upon us; we may not even delay the messenger long enough to hear what he has to say.

But suppose a person of high rank has something to say to us,–a Prince, a King, an Emperor, the President, the Pope! With what consideration we treat the messenger! How very attentively we listen, that we may know precisely what he has to impart! Imagine, then, how important, and, at the same time, how holy, was the message of the angel! It came from the Most Holy Trinity–God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! It was the message of the Infinite Majesty, the most merciful sanctity of God to Mary, and, through her, to the entire human race!

It was a most solemn message. What invests a message with significance, is the form and manner in which it is transmitted. Here we behold an archangel–one of the seven princes of heaven–declaring the will of the Most High; and who can conceive what myriads of angels attended Gabriel when he presented himself before Mary, Queen of angels! Who can picture the profound respect with which he saluted her, in whom he already beheld the Mother of the Son of God made man! With what deep veneration he addressed her, the chosen one of all the daughters of Eve,–destined from all eternity to be exalted as mistress above the whole celestial choir!

It was a most momentous message, for the subject of a message is what constitutes its importance. It made known to the world, to the human race, that the possessions lost through Adam would be restored; it heralded a great victory gained over the enemy of souls; it announced that the foe, from whom death and destruction would surely come, was shorn of his terrible strength. Let us suppose that, being under sentence of death, we had been granted a reprieve, or rather that the sentence had been entirely revoked, and that we had come into the possession of a great fortune, by which our happiness is forever secured: would we not consider the message which brought us the news glad tidings of great joy?

Apply not one but all of these circumstances to the message conveyed to Mary by the angel, and we shall realize in some degree its stupendous character. Adam listened to the voice of the seducer, and his fall deprived his hapless posterity of their promised happiness,–that of being one day permitted to behold God face to face, in the possession and enjoyment of His beatitude and all the exquisite joys of heaven.

All this was lost. However, amid the gloom which, for four thousand years, hung over a world groveling in darkness and in sin, there glimmered one ray of light in the promise of a coming Redeemer; but the time set apart for the expected and desired event was yet unknown.

Then, when the fullness of time was accomplished, Gabriel appeared and announced unto Mary that she had been appointed or chosen to become the Mother of the Messiah,–of that child whose birth was heralded to the watching shepherds by strains of angelic music, as the celestial choir adored the Infant God. Humanly speaking, mankind had indeed reason to be alarmed; for, although the promise of a Redeemer had already been made in paradise to our first parents, yet the wickedness which prevailed over the whole earth was so terrible, that man might well tremble lest the Lord should declare it to be forfeited entirely. He might well apprehend that it was a conditional promise; the more so since four thousand years had already rolled down the stream of time, and the Redeemer did not appear, while man, through his own fault, sank deeper and deeper into the abyss of sin! The word of the angel to Mary relieved the faithful few from this harrowing anxiety.

“The Saviour cometh!” We are rescued from sin and hell! From this day the heart of the Redeemer will throb beneath the loving heart of the Virgin Mother, who will present His first petition for the salvation of mankind to the eternal Father.

Joyful message, which brought such happy tidings to us! To regain, through Christ, the precious gift of heavenly grace; to become again, through Him, children of God; to behold the gates of heaven open for us, and to have it in our power to enjoy the delights of that celestial paradise for an eternity which will never, never end,–Mary for our Mother, and the Lord for our portion forever!

It is true that our individual sins had opened still wider the infernal gates, and made deeper far the yawning pit of hell; but, through the merits of Christ, the hope of a blessed pardon was held out to all “men of good will.”

The terrestrial paradise was lost, it is true; but in its place the kingdom of God on earth–the Church– would henceforth become for man a garden of delights. The sorrow, the pain, the anguish of earthly trouble must still encompass us, no longer, however, as punishments for sin, but to serve as occasions of merit for the increase of our eternal joy and happiness. The concupiscence of the flesh, indeed, should still remain a constant cause of warfare; but, as a compensation, the measure of grace would be so multiplied as to enable the Christian to valiantly combat and bear away the victor’s crown, and exalt his glory in heaven.The penalty of death had been pronounced upon man; but, through that dread decree, he can attain to the possession of a glory and delight which would never have been his had not Adam sinned in paradise.

In a word, infinitely more was conferred upon man through Christ, the Son of Mary, the heavenly Adam, than he lost through Adam, our first parent. We not only became again children of God, and gained once more the right to call Him Father; but we were permitted to call His Incarnate Son our Brother. For, since the Son of God assumed our flesh and blood from Mary, He is, therefore, true Man, even as from all eternity, in His own divine Person, He was and is God. Oh, what an important, what a welcome and consoling message!

All that can bring to the human heart the sweetest joy and solace is comprised in this message of the angel to Mary, as we will see if we take to heart all that has been said,–not merely hearing and believing it with a dead or dying faith, but also considering, and applying it to ourselves. In this, unfortunately, we are often wanting. Too many Christians are prone to celebrate the mysteries commemorated by the festivals of the Church only in their general relation, and not by reflecting what influence those articles of faith and divine truths should individually effect for us.

Yes, beloved in Christ, be ye who ye may, the message of salvation directed by Gabriel to Mary bears an individual relation to every one of you, even as if there had been but the one soul on earth for whose salvation the Saviour came. You were sunk deep in the abyss of woe, not only through the disobedience of Adam, but through innumerable personal sins, which threatened you with destruction for time and eternity. But the Saviour was conceived in the chaste womb of the Virgin Mary, and the lovely dawn of a blessed hope brightened the darkened world. This hope has a more secure foundation for you, since, without any merit of your own, you have been called to be members of the true Church.

Try, therefore, before you leave this holy place, to excite in your hearts all those affections which animated the heart of Mary on receiving the message of the angel. First, adore and thank God for having created you to His own image and likeness, and for having spared you when you were yet in a state of sin; but, above all, for having sent His only-begotten Son to redeem and save you. Renew your resolution to live as true children of God, as if Christ had been received into your hearts also as the pledge of a better life.

Thus you will become strong; and, although you may not have the happiness enjoyed by the Immaculate Virgin and Mother–of walking by the side of the Incarnate Son of God–you may, while living as her faithful children, enter one day into the communication of her glory and beatitude as children of God, also rescued through the incarnation of His eternal Son.–Amen!

Source: Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals


Happy Candlemas! The Fortieth Day of Christmas

2 February 2017

2 February 2017

Posted on 2 February 2013 Anno Domini by Fr.John Zuhlsdorf at his blog,
What Does the Prayer Really Say?

Today is the final “peak” arising from the liturgical cycle of Advent/Christmas/Epiphany. Today, called in the traditional way and according to the older Roman calendar the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Holy Church would cease to sing the Marian antiphon associated with Christmas,

It is forty days since Christmas.

In the physical world, we in the Northern hemisphere are beginning to notice more and more the growing of the light of day. The seemingly endless darkness of the short days has finally in a noticeable way been attenuated. I have noticed in the last couple days that the birds have broken their silence and are beginning to sing in a different way, even though winter here as far from over. Today’s feast is also about light, in the broader symbolic sense.

This feast has its name from the Blessed Virgin, because the Law in Leviticus required her to go to the temple for purification after giving birth. The Lord did not need to be baptized by John in the river, for He had nothing to repent. Mary did not need purification, for she was spotless. But they desired to fulfill the Law. This feast also reminds us of the beautiful tradition of the “Churching” of women after childbirth, a special blessing given by the Church, which has alas fallen into desuetude. “Churching” was done in honor also of this moment in the life Christ’s Mother.

This is, however, really a feast in honor of the Lord: He is being offered to the Father in a foreshadowing of His greater Sacrifice for our salvation. The theme of offering, of sacrifice draws our eyes away from looking back at Christmas and Epiphany forward to the Passion and Easter.

You remember the story from the Gospel, in Luke 2. Mary and Joseph come to the temple in Jerusalem to fulfill the Law. Firstborn males had to be dedicated to the Lord. The old woman Anna and the old man Simeon had the special grace from the Lord to have their dearest desires fulfilled before they died: to see the Messiah. It is in this moment that Simeon makes the prophecy about the sacrificial sufferings Mary will endure and he speaks his great Nunc dimittis, which Holy Church sings in the darkness at the end of the day for Compline.

In the traditional Roman liturgy today in larger churches there would be a special blessing of candles and a procession before Mass would begin. The chants sung for the rite contain many references to light. Also, a lighted candle is to be held during the reading of the Gospel and during the Roman Canon. The candle brings to mind also our baptism.

In a way, the faithful really ought to have candles at all Masses. But now, in High Masses, the “touchbearers” fulfill this role for the congregation. Remember that the next time you see the candles come in: that’s you up there.

Remember: Holy Church gives us candles so that we will use them.

For the rest of the post, click HERE

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From the blog, Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals

Candlemas

Luke ii. 29: “No Thou dost dismiss Thy servant, O Lord, according to Thy Word, in peace. Because my eyes have seen thy salvation, . . . a Light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people, Israel.”

The angel-lights of Christmas morn,
Which shot across the sky,
Away they pass at Candlemas,
They sparkle and they die.

We wait along the penance-tide
Of solemn fast and prayer,
Whilst song is hushed, and lights grow dim
In the sin-laden air.

Comfort of earth is brief at best,
Although it be divine;
Like funeral lights for Christmas gone,
Old Simeon’s tapers shine.

And while the sword in Mary’s soul
Is driven home, we hide
In our own hearts, and count the wounds
Of passion and of pride.

And then for eight long weeks and more,
We wait in twilight grey,
Till the High Candle sheds a beam
On Holy Saturday.

And still, though Candlemas be spent,
And alleluias o’er,
Mary is music in our need,
And Jesus light in store.

The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This great solemnity, which closes the holy season of Christmas, has been established in commemoration of the two last mysteries of our Saviour’s Birth and Infancy.

The most pure and beautiful Virgin, in obedience to the law, presented the child Jesus in the temple, offering a couple of turtle-doves for her purification, and five sicles as a ransom for her first-born, Jesus. On this day is fulfilled the prophecy of Aggeus concerning the Messiah, Agg. ii. 8: “Yet one little while . . . and I will move all nations: and the Desired of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory.” This day St. Simeon and holy Anna, full of the Holy Ghost, recognise our Lord and welcome Him into the temple, as the Salvation, the Light, and the Peace of the world.

Wax candles are solemnly blessed on this day, in commemoration of our Lord, whom they represent as the Light of the world: “Three things,” says St. Anselm of Canterbury, “may be considered in the blest candle: the wax, which is the production of the virginal bee, is the Flesh of our Lord; the wick, which is within, is His Soul; the flame, which burns on the top, is His Divinity.” These blest candles are to be carried in procession, in remembrance of that wondrous procession made in the temple by our Lady, St. Joseph, St. Simeon, and holy Anna. They should also be kept, to be used by the faithful either on land or sea, and especially to be lit near the bed of a dying Christian, as a symbol of the immortality merited for us by Christ, and as a pledge of the protection of our Lady.

 

 

A Prayer for Candlemas Day

images-29
Lord Jesus Christ,
You are the true Light
enlightening every soul born into this world.
Today we celebrate the feast of Candlemas.
Before Holy Mass,
the priest blesses the candles,
whose wax is the humming summer’s work of countless bees.
The flames of these candles
will shed their light upon the altar at the Holy Sacrifice.
Help us to realize,
this day and every day,
that our own humdrum daily work,
if it is done for love of You,
and in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,
will be a supernatural work,
and will shine brightly before You for all eternity.
Help us realize, too,
each time we see the blessed candles at Holy Mass,
or at the bedside of the sick,
that they are a symbol of Yourself,
the Light shining in the darkness of this world.
Help us to live in that Light,
to make it our own,
and to kindle it in the souls of others,
increasing the area Of light
and lessening the darkness in the World This,
dear Lord, help us do,
through the merits of Your own dear mother, Mary,
who did everything for love of
You, from the moment she brought You into this world
till the day she joined You in the realms of light at her death.
Then we, too, working for You,
shall be light-bearers who will help to spread Your kingdom on earth,
and increase the number of those who dwell in heaven,
the city of eternal light.

Amen.

Source: Catholic.org


h/t: @RoomDesign3 on Twitter. Thanks.


History of the Forty Days of Christmas

2 February 2017

Adapted from The Liturgical Year
by Abbot Gueranger

nativityWe apply the name of Christmas to the 40 days which begin with the Nativity of Our Lord, December 25, and end with the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, February 2. It is a period which forms a distinct portion of the Liturgical Year; as distinct, by its own special spirit, from every other, as are Advent, Lent, Easter or Pentecost. One same Mystery is celebrated and kept in view the whole 40 days. Neither the Feasts of the Saints, which so abound during this Season; nor the time of Septuagesima, with its mournful Purple, which often begins before Christmastide is over, seem able to distract our Holy Mother the Church from the immense joy of which She received the glad tidings from the Angels (Luke 2:10) on that glorious Night for which the world had been longing 4000 years. The custom of celebrating the Solemnity of Our Savior’s Nativity by a Feast or commemoration of 40 days’ duration is founded on the Holy Gospel itself; for it tells us that the Blessed Virgin Mary, after spending 40 days in the contemplation of the Divine Fruit of Her glorious Maternity, went to the Temple, there to fulfill, in most perfect humility, the ceremonies which the Law demanded of the daughters of Israel, when they became mothers.

Purification_BVMThe Feast of Mary’s Purification is, therefore, part of that of Jesus’ Birth; and the custom of keeping this holy and glorious period of 40 days as one continued Festival has every appearance of being a very ancient one, at least in the Roman Church. And firstly, with regard to Our Savior’s Birth on December 25, we have St. John Chrysostom telling us, in his Homily for this Feast, that the Western Churches had, from the very commencement of Christianity, kept it on this day. He is not satisfied with merely mentioning the tradition; he undertakes to show that it is well founded, inasmuch as the Church of Rome had every means of knowing the true day of Our Savior’s Birth; since the acts of the Enrollment, taken in Judea by command of Augustus, were kept in the public archives of Rome. The holy Doctor adduces a second argument, which he founds on the Gospel of St. Luke, and he reasons thus: we know from the sacred Scriptures that it must have been in the fast of the seventh month (Lev. 23, 24 et seq.) that the Priest Zachary had the vision in the Temple; after which Elizabeth, his wife, conceived St. John the Baptist (the ‘seventh month’ corresponded to the end of our September and beginning of our October). Hence it follows that the Blessed Virgin Mary having, as the Evangelist St. Luke relates, received the Archangel Gabriel’s visit, and conceived the Savior of the world in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, that is to say, in March, the Birth of Jesus must have taken place in the month of December.

But it was not till the fourth century that the Churches of the East began to keep the Feast of Our Savior’s Birth in the month of December. Up to that period they had kept it at one time on the 6th of January, thus uniting it, under the generic term of Epiphany, with the Manifestation of Our Savior to the Magi, and in them to the Gentiles; at another time, as Clement of Alexandria tells us, they kept it on the 25th of the month Pachon (May 15), or on the 25th of the month Pharmuth (April 20). St. John Chrysostom, in the Homily we have just cited, which he gave in 386, tells us that the Roman custom of celebrating the Birth of Our Savior on December 25 had then only been observed ten years in the Church of Antioch. It is probable that this change had been introduced in obedience to the wishes of the Apostolic See, wishes which received additional weight by the edict of the Emperors Theodosius and Valentinian, which appeared towards the close of the fourth century, and decreed that the Nativity and Epiphany of Our Lord should be made two distinct Festivals. The only Church that has maintained the custom of celebrating the two mysteries on January 6 is that of Armenia; owing, no doubt, to the circumstance of that country not being under the authority of the Emperors; as also because it was withdrawn at an early period from the influence of Rome by schism and heresy.

The Feast of Our Lady’s Purification, with which the 40 days of Christmas close, is in the Latin Church of very great antiquity; so ancient, indeed, as to preclude the possibility of our fixing the date of its institution. According to the unanimous opinion of Liturgists, it is the most ancient of all the Feasts of the Holy Mother of God; and as Her Purification is related in the Gospel itself, they rightly infer that its anniversary was solemnized at the very commencement of Christianity. Of course, this is only to be understood of the Roman Church; for as regards the Oriental Church, we find that this Feast was not definitely fixed to February 2 until the reign of the Emperor Justinian, in the sixth century. It is true that the Eastern Churches had previously to that time a sort of commemoration of this Mystery, but it was far from being a universal custom, and it was kept a few days after the Feast of Our Lord’s Nativity, and not on the day itself of Mary’s going up to the Temple.

But what is the characteristic of Christmas in the Latin Liturgy? It is twofold: it is joy, which the whole Church feels at the coming of the divine Word in the Flesh; and it is admiration of that glorious Virgin, Who was made the True Mother of God. There is scarcely a prayer, or a rite, in the Liturgy of this glad Season, which does not imply these two grand Mysteries: an Infant-God, and a Virgin-Mother. For example, the magnificent Anthem, Alma Redemptoris, composed by the Monk Herman Contractus, continues up to the very day of the Purification to be the termination of the Divine Office. It is by such manifestations of Her love and veneration that the Church, honoring the Son in the Mother, testifies Her holy joy during this season of the Liturgical Year, which we call Christmas.

Our readers are aware that, when Easter Sunday falls at its latest—that is, in April—the Ecclesiastical Calendar counts as many as six Sundays after the Epiphany. Christmastide (that is, the 40 days between Christmas day and the Purification) includes sometimes four out of these six Sundays; frequently only two; and sometimes only one, as in the case when Easter comes so early as to necessitate keeping Septuagesima, and even Sexagesima Sunday, in January. Still, nothing is changed, as we have already said, in the ritual observance of this joyous season, excepting only that on those two Sundays, the fore-runners of Lent, the vestments are violet, and the Gloria is omitted.

Although our Holy Mother the Church honors with special devotion the Mystery of the Divine Infancy during the whole season of Christmas; yet She is obliged to introduce into the Liturgy of this same season passages from the holy Gospels which seem premature, inasmuch as they relate to the active life of Jesus. This is owing to there being less than six months allotted by the Calendar for the celebration of the entire work of our Redemption: in other words, Christmas and Easter are so near each other, even when Easter is as late as it can be, that Mysteries must of necessity be crowded into the interval; and this entails anticipation. And yet the Liturgy never loses sight of the Divine Babe and His incomparable Mother, and never tires in Their praises, during the whole period from the Nativity to the day when Mary comes to the Temple to present Her Jesus.

candlemas

Source: SalveMariaRegina.info


Christmas is REALLY Forty Days!

9 January 2017

The History of Christmas
by Fr. Prosper Gueranger, 1868

We apply the name of Christmas to the forty days, which begin with the Nativity of our Lord, December 25th, and end with the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, February 2nd. It is a period, which forms a distinct portion of the Liturgical Year, as distinct, by its own special spirit, from every other, as are Advent, Lent, Easter, or Pentecost. One same Mystery is celebrated and kept in view during the whole forty days. Neither the Feasts of the Saints, which so abound during this Season; nor the Time of Septuagesima, with its mournful Purple, which often begins before Christmastide is over; seem able to distract our Holy Mother the Church, from the immense joy, of which she received the good tidings from the Angels, on that glorious Night, for which the world had been longing four thousand years. The Faithful will remember, that the Liturgy commemorates this long expectation, by the four penitential weeks of Advent. The custom of celebrating the Solemnity of our Saviour’s Nativity by a feast or commemoration of forty-days’ duration, is founded on the holy Gospel itself; for it tells us, that the Blessed Virgin Mary, after spending forty days in the contemplation of the Divine Fruit of her glorious Maternity, went to the Temple, there to fulfill, in most perfect humility, the ceremonies which the Law demanded of the daughters of Israel, when they became Mothers.

The Feast of Mary’s Purification is, therefore, part of that of Jesus’ Birth; and the custom of keeping this holy and glorious period of forty-days as one continued Festival, has every appearance of being a very ancient one, at least in the Roman Church. And firstly, with regard to our Savior’s Birth on the 25th of December, we have St. John Chrysostom telling us, in his Homily for this Feast, that the Western Churches had, from the very commencement of Christianity, kept it on this day. He is not satisfied with merely mentioning the tradition; he undertakes to show, that it is well-founded, inasmuch as the Church of Rome had every means of knowing the true day of our Savior’s Birth, since the acts of the Enrollment, taken in Judea by command of Augustus, were kept in the public archives of Rome. The holy Doctor adduces a second argument, which he founds upon the Gospel of St. Luke, and he reasons thus: we know from the sacred scriptures, that it must have been in the fast of the seventh month that the Priest Zachary had the vision in the Temple; after which Elizabeth, his wife, conceived St. John the Baptist: hence it follows, that the Blessed Virgin Mary, having, as the Evangelist St. Luke relates, received the Angel Gabriel’s visit, and conceived the Savior of the world in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, that is to say, in March,–the Birth of Jesus must have taken place in the month of December.

But, it was not till the fourth century that the Churches of the East began to keep the Feast of our Savior’s Birth in the month of December. Up to that period, they had kept it, at one time, on the sixth of January, thus uniting it, under the generic term of Epiphany, with the Manifestation, of our Savior made to the Magi, and, in them, to the Gentiles; at another time, as Clement of Alexandria tells us, they kept it on the 25th of the month Pachon, (May 15,) or on the 25th of the month Pharmuth, (April 20). St. John Chrysostom, in the Homily we have just cited, which he gave in 386, tells us that the Roman custom of celebrating the Birth of our Saviour on the 25th December, had then only been observed ten years in the Church of Antioch. It is probable that this change had been introduced in obedience to the wishes of the Apostolic See, wishes which received additional weight by the edict of the Emperors Theodosius and Valentinian, which appeared towards the close of the fourth century, and decreed that the Nativity and Epiphany of our Lord should be made two distinct Festivals. The only Church, that has maintained the custom of celebrating the two mysteries on January 6th, is that of Armenia; owing, no doubt, to the circumstance of that country’s not being under the authority of the Emperors; as, also, because it was withdrawn, at an early period, from the influence of Rome, by schism and heresy.

The Feast of our Lady’s Purification, with which the forty days of Christmas close, is, in the Latin Church, of very great antiquity; so ancient, indeed, as to preclude the possibility of our fixing the date of its institution. According to the unanimous opinion of Liturgists, it is the most ancient of all the Feasts of the Holy Mother of God; and as her Purification is related m the Gospel itself, they rightly infer, that its anniversary was solemnized at the very commencement of Christianity. Of course, this is only to be understood of the Roman Church; for, as regards the Oriental Church, we find that this Feast was not definitively fixed to the 2nd of February, until the reign of the Emperor Justinian, in the sixth century. It is true that the Eastern Christians had previously to that time, a sort of commemoration of this Mystery; but it was far from being a universal custom, and it was kept a few days after the Feast of our Lord’s Nativity, and not on the day itself of Mary’s going up to the Temple.

But, what is the characteristic of Christmas in the Latin Liturgy? It is twofold: it is joy, which the whole Church feels at the coming of the divine Word in the Flesh; and it is admiration of that glorious Virgin, who was made the Mother of God. There is scarcely a prayer, or a rite, in the Liturgy of this glad Season, which does not imply these two grand Mysteries:–an Infant-God, and a Virgin Mother. For example, on all Sundays and Feasts, which are not Doubles, the Church, throughout these forty days, makes a commemoration of the fruitful virginity of the Mother of God, by three special Prayers in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. On those same days, at Lauds and Vespers, she begs the suffrage, of Mary, by proclaiming her quality of Mother of God and her inviolate purity, which remained in her even after she had given birth to her Son. And again the magnificent Anthem, Alma Redemptoris, composed by the Monk Herman Contractus, continues up to the very day of the Purification, to be the termination of each Canonical Hour. It is by such manifestations of her love and veneration, that the Church honoring the Son in the Mother, testifies her holy joy during this season of the Liturgical Year, which we call Christmas.

Our readers are aware that, when Easter Sunday falls at its latest–that is, in April–the Ecclesiastical Calendar counts as many as six Sundays after the Epiphany. Christmastide, (that is, the forty days between Christmas Day and the Purification) includes sometimes four out of these six Sundays; frequently only two; and sometimes, only one, as is the case when Easter comes so early, as to necessitate the keeping Septuagesima, and even Sexagesima, Sunday, in January. Still, nothing is changed, as we have already said, in the ritual observances of this joyous season, excepting only, that on those two Sundays,–the fore-runners of Lent–the Vestments are purple, and the Gloria in excelsis is omitted.

Although our holy Mother the Church honors, with especial devotion, the Mystery of the Divine Infancy during the whole season of Christmas; yet, she is obliged to introduce, into the Liturgy of this same season, passages from the holy Gospels, which seem premature, inasmuch as they relate to the active life of Jesus. This is owing to there being less than six months allotted by the Calendar for the celebration of the entire work of our Redemption: in other words, Christmas and Easter are so near each other, (even when Easter is as late as it can be,) that Mysteries must of necessity be crowded into the interval; and this entails anticipation. And yet, the Liturgy never loses sight of the Divine Babe and his incomparable Mother, and never tires in their praises, during the whole period, from the Nativity, to the day when Mary comes to the Temple to present her Jesus. The Greeks, too, make frequent commemorations of the Maternity of Mary, in their Offices of this Season: but, they have a special veneration for the twelve days between Christmas Day and the Epiphany, which, in their Liturgy, are called the Dodecameron. During this time, they observe no days of Abstinence from flesh-meat; and the Emperors of the East had, out of respect for the great Mystery, decreed that no servile work should be done, and that the Courts of Law should be closed, until after the 6th of January.

From this outline of the History of the holy Season, we can understand what is the characteristic of this second portion of the Liturgical Year, which we call Christmas, and which has ever been a Season most dear to the christian world.

http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/


The Christmas Birds via @AncientSoul

24 December 2016

THE
CHRISTMAS BIRDS



It
was a particularly cold and blustery Christmas Eve this year ….. Carol
bundled up the children for Midnight Mass, and tried one last time to
encourage Jim to join them. Now, Jim was a kindly man; a good father a
loving husband … in fact, there was nothing anyone could say at all
against this upstanding civic leader!

Jim’s only
‘deficit’ (if you could call it that), was that
he chose not to go to Church ……………………….. ever.
It wasn’t that he didn’t believe in God.. it was simply that he felt ‘uncomfortable’
with structured religious activities of any sort, hence he avoided
them as much as possible.
At any rate, Carol and the children had left and Jim settled down in front
of a nice roaring fire with his slippers, the newspaper and a cup of his
favorite raspberry hot chocolate. This was HIS time to relax, with most
of the hustle bustle of the season behind him now, he relished the thought
to be alone and kick back!


He placed
his “reading” glasses auspiciously at the end of his nose and began to
peruse the newspaper. “THUMP”… “THUMP” he heard against the front of
the house. “hmmmmm, must be some kids having one last snowball battle
before Mass” he thought to himself with a grin, remembering his own
youth!


Again he
heard: “THUMP”…”THUMP”…. “THUMP”, but this time against the glass
of the new bow window just installed this past fall! He figured he’d better
stick his head out the door and have a chat with the kids before things
got out of hand. When he turned on the front light and looked out the
door there was noone in sight at all. Convinced that he needed MORE
rest and relaxation than he thought, he returned to his paper, his fire
and his (now) luke-warm raspberry hot chocolate.


No sooner
did he sit down, then once again, the “THUMPING” started; but this time
it was harder and more frequent. Determined to confront whoever was playing
games with him and robbing him of his solitude, he bundled himself up,
went out the back door and around the house to ‘catch ’em in the act’!!


As he made
his way around the house in the blustering wind, and snow storm, he marveled
as he recalled how, in his youth, he was impervious to such trivialities!

He rounded
the west corner of the house and could see plainly the front landing and
the bow window that he was attempting to protect. His plan of attack worked!
There were the villains right there in plain sight!! Much to his surprise
however, it was not a snowball fight at all … it was a group of cold,
frantic birds.


The “THUMPING”
he heard, was their feeble attempt to find some shelter from the biting
storm that raged wildly. Jim’s heart melted at this pitiful sight!! He
ran to the barn, and put on the light, hoping that they would notice and
take shelter in there for the night ….. but HOW to get them IN
there? He ran in the house, grabbed a loaf of bread and made a trail of
crumbs from the front door to the barn, but – to no avail. He turned off
the front door light and paraded back and forth from there to the barn
with a flashlight, hoping the birds would follow him, but his strange
presence only served to frighten them and add to their misfortune.


Finally,
in his frustration, and knowing that if he didn’t do SOMETHING to save
them
, they would surely DIE … he got a broom and attempted to SHOO
them into the barn. Unfortunately, this caused more havoc than the other
attempts, and left Jim standing there feeling completely helpless.


As he was
mulling over his feeble attempts and trying to find a way to make the
birds UNDERSTAND that he was trying to help them and bring them
to safety, he realized that whatever he did only served to frighten them.
He thought: “If I could only just become ONE OF THEM, then they
wouldn’t be afraid of me
, and I could make them understand that
I was only trying to ……… trying to ………. “


At that
very moment the Church bells rang, Jim realized that this was exactly
what Jesus had done for humankind. He became ONE OF US so
He could SHOW US THE WAY to salvation (“safety”). Jim fell to knees
in adoration of that Little Babe in the Manger and thanked God for the
Precious Gift of His SON on the first Christmas, so very
long ago!!

(He also started going to Church with the family
on a regular basis! )


not the
end …. it’s just ……….. the BEGINNING :-)

May the New Year be especially kind to US ALL!

“Eternal
Father, may Your Will be done on earth as it is in heaven! Please
bless and protect our land, those we hold dear, those persecuted,
especially those suffering for You in the Middle East and other non
Christian nations. Comfort the afflicted and those that feel unloved
and neglected, particularly the lonely and abandoned young and old
ones. Abba, please give to the dying this day, a contrite heart and
the grace to at least beg Your Mercy with their last conscious thought
or dying breath. May all those who can’t speak for themselves, particularly
the unborn, have caregivers that love You and keep Your commandments,
that Your Perfect Will be done in all things. May jobs and homes be
found for those that are needy. May families grow in unity and love
rather than distance and hatred. More than anything, please give us
a heart and the grace to detach from the things that keep us from
closer union with You so that we may strive to focus on You and heaven
as we wait in joyful hope for You to return to make all things right.

Sweetest and most Glorious
Triune God, read our hearts and know that we adore you. Increase our
Faith, show us how to love You more perfectly, know You better and
trust and serve You always in all things. Keep us always in Your Perfect
Will and protect us from the evil ones that seek to lead us to perdition.
All good things come from You oh God Most High. We give You thanks
for everything we have ever received since the moment of our conception;
particularly our parents, family members, friends and those we hold
dear along with all placed in our path along the way, for our precious
Faith, life, love, hope and all that we can become for each other
by Your grace.

We
need to beg the Holy Spirit to engulf the minds and hearts of all
mankind to be open to the Truth, Love,
Mercy and Goodness of Christ our Lord, Savior and Triune God!
When you pray … do not forget your friends and loved ones; both
here on earth and those that have passed on.
May the Good Lord shower His most Choice Blessings on those that love
Him and
open the hearts and minds of those that are

selectively

blind and deaf.
May He have mercy on us all!
Amen.

Keep the wicks
trimmed and the oil lamps full!

Shop BATTLEBEADS
for Christmas or anytime!!


31 Meditations for Advent and Christmas Day 22

20 December 2016

livonian_knights

The King Who is to come; O come let us adore Him
22nd Day: THE OFFICERS OF OUR KING

Our King, in dealing with His subjects, does not issue all His commands Himself. He follows the method of all human government, and has officers who give their orders in His name and with His authority. Who are these officers?

They are the Bishops and Priests of the Church that He has founded who remain faithful to Him and His teachings. To these He expressly says, “He who hears you, hears Me.” They bear His Divine authority. They are one and all, in their several degrees, the successors of His Apostles.

But there are other officers of my King who hold their commission from Him. Every lawful government in the civil order is a power appointed by Him, and every kind of natural authority, whether of parents, teachers, or other superiors, marks those who hold it as delegates of our King. Do I remember this when I am tempted to show disobedience or disrespect to my superiors, or to speak slightingly of them?

But if we are thus most strictly bound to obey the King’s officers, we must also remember that there are very few of us who are not in some way officers in our turn, and that the influence we have with others, and the right we have to command others, makes our position a very responsible one. We shall be more severely judged for our own words and actions if, through our fault, our subordinates fall away.

Source: CatholicHarborofFaithandMorals.com


31 Meditations for Advent and Christmas Day Twenty One

19 December 2016

angels

“The King Who is to come; O come let us adore Him.”

21st Day:   THE KING’S MESSENGERS

Our King has a countless number of messengers, angels, whom He employs to carry His messages to His soldiers on earth, to execute His orders, and to bring back to Him a report of their welfare and their doings. What are the tidings that they have to carry to and fro?

Sometimes they carry words of comfort and encouragement to the servants of God, consoling them in distress and in anguish, as the Angel of the Passion consoled our King Himself. Sometimes, too, they exhort and reprove, speaking in the name of our King Himself. “Do not think him one to be condemned,” says Holy Scripture, “for My name is in him; and if thou wilt hear his voice, I will be an enemy to thy enemies, and will afflict them, who afflict thee.” Am I obedient to the message of my King, when it is whispered in my ears?

Sometimes these holy messengers are sent to do works of mercy or of vengeance. How often has one of them turned aside from bodily or spiritual harm some servant of our King! How often through their means have the servants of our King triumphed over their foes! I think far too little of these invisible messengers and of all that they have done for me. If I realized how much they have done for me I should be more constant in honoring them.

These messengers also carry before the throne of our King the story of the struggle between His soldiers and their foes. Sometimes they carry the glad report of some victory won by a servant of God over his passions; sometimes they cry for vengeance on those who have given scandal; sometimes they offer to God our prayers. What sort of reports do they carry about me to my King?


31 Meditations for Advent and Christmas: Day Twenty

18 December 2016

“The King Who is to come; O come let us adore Him.”

20th Day: THE MOTHER OF OUR KING

IMM CONCEPT LitaniesThere are very few great and illustrious men whose greatness is not in some way derived from, or connected with, the great and noble qualities of their mothers. Let us see how far this is the case with Jesus Christ our King.

The Mother of our King was the only human being who never once swerved by one hair’s breadth from the will of God. Of all the millions who have trod the earth, she alone was entirely exempt from sin; she only earned to the full the blessing pronounced by her Son–“Whoever will do the will of God, the same is My father and sister and mother.” This was the reason why our King chose her as His abode when He came down to dwell on earth. Oh, that I were sinless, like Mary! but as this cannot be, I will ask her, in honor of her Divine Son, that all my sins may be washed away, and also, that I may henceforward always carry out what I know to be the will of God.

Ihe Mother of our King was the only woman who bore a son and yet remained a pure virgin, her childbearing consecrating, not impairing her virginity. This, miracle as it was, was but the natural result of her being the Mother of God. O unspotted and immaculate Mother, obtain for me that thy Son may pour into my heart a greater purity, that my heart may be less unworthy of the presence of Him who loved to dwell in thy spotless womb!

Jesus derived from Mary His Sacred Body; His flesh was formed of Mary’s flesh. And in return she derived from Him that splendor of grace and holiness that raised her body and soul to the height of Heaven.


31 Meditations for Advent and Christmas: Day Eighteen

16 December 2016

“The King Who is to come; O come let us adore Him.”

18th Day: THE EXAMPLE OF OUR KING

letusadorehimnativity1How can we poor, weak and sinful men ever hope to conform ourselves to the example of our King and God, the Spotless Lamb of God? Is not the task an impossible one? No, it is possible, and within our reach, for–

The prevailing feature of His life was unselfishness, and we all can be unselfish if we choose, and love unselfishness, and wish to be ourselves unselfish. To call anyone selfish, is to brand him at once as one whom we cannot love, or even esteem; as a despicable character, and as one whom we shall do well to avoid. On the other hand, a thoroughly unselfish man cannot fail to be loved; there is something very attractive about him; we rejoice in his society; we wish to be like him. And unselfishness is, besides, within everyone’s reach. Hence our King, in giving us a pattern of unselfishness, gives us a pattern of the most attractive of all qualities, and one within everyone’s reach.

Our King in proposing Himself for our example, puts forward another virtue, which we all can imitate, and which in us is but common sense. “Learn of Me,” He says “for I am meek and humble of heart.” Now humility in us is but the esteeming ourselves at our true value; in recognizing that we have nothing good of our own; and that we are therefore to be placed below others, not above them. This we can all practice, and must practice, if we are to be like to our King, who humbled Himself.

The third point in which we can easily imitate our King is obedience. He was obedient in every detail of His life to the will of His eternal Father. If we try in all the particulars of our life to do what God wills, not what we will, we cannot fail to become dear to our King.


31 Meditations for Advent and Christmas Day Sixteen

14 December 2016

“The King Who is to come; O come let us adore Him.”

16th Day: OUR KING’S TRIBUNAL

bvm 16One day all the servants of the King will appear before Him to receive the sentence of reward or punishment that they have deserved. None can escape the summons before that tribunal. There we shall stand with a perfectly vivid recollection of all our deeds, whether good or bad, and each will receive from the hands of our King his just recompense. Then there will be no hiding of any of our faults, no making of excuses, no petitioning for mercy. Our King, who is now our merciful and indulgent Friend, will then be our just and severe Judge. What reason I have to dread the day, which must come sooner or later, and how soon, I do not know.

This day may come upon me very suddenly. I may go to sleep in peace some night, and ere day breaks, find myself standing before the King’s tribunal. Even if I have some forewarning, how unlikely it is that I shall then have the same opportunities of preparing for it that I have now! Then I shall be feeble, and perhaps in severe pain, scarce able to reflect on anything. How foolish to put off until then my preparation for that dread account.

The sentence passed will be a final one. I must not forget that. No further opportunity of making amends, or expressing sorrow for the past, or of humbling ourselves for our manifold offenses and sins. We shall then see in our King, either one who will look upon us with looks of love, and with whom we shall dwell in happiness unspeakable through eternity; or else we shall shrink away in an agony of terror from our Judge.

Source: Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals


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