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A very merry and blessed Christmas to one and all!

What a marvelous, joyous, and wonderful season begins today on this feast of the Nativity of the Lord.  How fortunate we are if we know anything of the meaning and power of this holy day.

The name Christmas–assuming it is used at all and not displaced by the vague and generic “holidays”–has largely been stripped of that meaning and power.  What our society commonly refers to as “Christmas” has become a season which now begins even before Halloween and mostly involves spending money and decorating things.  Many people in our society will be giving one last Christmas hurrah tomorrow with bargain-hunting in the stores; many others will be eagerly taking down the decorations, having begun to grow tired of them after a couple of months.  At best, Christmas is a sentimental time, a holiday for children and family and feasting.

But today is the Nativity of the Lord.  Think on that name for a moment: the Nativity of the Lord!

Today is when God was born into human history, human nature, human experience.  He who created us and the entire universe from nothing, He who exists beyond all time and space in what we call Eternity, He who is revered by all the choirs of holy angels–it is His nativity on earth that we celebrate!  He did not come down in all His great glory, attended by legions of the Heavenly Host.  He did not appear as a mighty super-man.  If He had, we certainly would not refer to this day as His nativity.  No, He was born as creatures are born: as an infant.  Small, helpless, thoroughly dependent on others for survival.

Never had such a thing ever happened or even been dreamed of before.  Nor shall such a thing ever happen again in time and space.  It was a singular event, the Nativity of the Lord.  That alone should earn our respect and our amazement.  But like a drop of water impacting a still body of water, His Nativity changed everything–changes everything–and forever will change everything!  The mingling of the material and the divine, of history and eternity, of the finite and the infinite could not fail to change everything.  The birth of God in the world gave new birth to everything.  It elevated humanity and all creation to a previously unimagined dignity, while revealing in the almighty God a profound and previously unimagined humility.

Modern man may imagine that after more than two millennia, he is no longer affected by nor subject to that event.  He rationalizes away the holy season of Christmas as nothing more than a modern-day Saturnalia or Yuletide.  And so it has become!  While that is not entirely a bad thing, that isn’t the depth or breadth or truth of it.  While many modern men will be content to leave it at that and rush off toward the next big festival, the Christian can never be content with such a thing.

Instead, let us allow ourselves to dive deeply into the tremendous wonder of this holy season and be carried, transported, and transformed by it.  Let us appreciate and give thanks for the incredible thing our Lord did for us in His Nativity.  And let us not do so only today, but for the entire Christmas season: the Twelve Days of Christmas, the Epiphany, and up until the Baptism of the Lord–to my knowledge, this is what Catholics observe as the Christmas season.  While the rest of the world gets back to business as usual, let us persevere in the joy and wonder of Christ’s birth.

Happy new year to all, merry 8th day of Christmas, and a blessed Solemnity of Mary Mother of God! I am starting the new year with a blog post, so that hopefully I will make a habit of blogging more regularly. Yes, I know you’ve heard that before, but I really mean it! Really really!

I have very good feelings about 2012. I feel a special energy and joy and hope for this year. Never mind all the doom-sayers who are sure the world is ending this year!

I hope everybody is having a good Christmas. I spent it with my family in Savannah, Georgia. I attended Mass at the glorious Cathedral of St. John the Baptist; that was a highlight of the trip for me, but even moreso, I enjoyed spending the time with my mother and sister and brother-in-law.

I’m guessing many of you were surprised that I didn’t post a great big article extolling the greatness of the new, corrected English translation of the Roman Missal, given how often I’ve expressed excitement about it. Well, to put it briefly and mildly, I have not been disappointed! :D I think it is beautiful, majestic, elegant, elevated, and uplifting. I think it allows the English language to shine most radiantly. It reminds me of how beautiful our language can be.

I was shocked–shocked, I tell you–that I noticed absolutely no adverse effects among the congregations I have been part of. Nobody running from the church screaming and pulling their hair out because the new words were so confoundedly alien and difficult. I mean, given the furor I heard/read during the lead up to this fateful first Sunday of Advent, I thought surely there would be at least a few people snapping and breaking down. Maybe a few ears bleeding. Maybe even a head or two exploding. But no, not one. Could it be, dare I say, that the complainers, the protesters, the rebels, and the scoffers who permeated the liberal secular and “catholic” media didn’t actually represent the vast majority of Catholics in the pew? Or have I merely been fortunate to be in congregations dominated by sane people, or at least people polite enough to keep their complaints to themselves? What has your experience been in the wake of Translation Apocalypse? Has your corner of the world ended or . . . not so much?

One thing I’ve noticed is that the music has improved dramatically in some parishes I have visited, since we’ve had to come up with new settings for the new translation. Again, no awful adverse effects that I’ve seen.

With that, dear readers, I pray that you enjoy a wonderful and richly blessed new year! May God and Mary and the hosts of Heaven be with you always!

I hope everybody is having a wonderful Christmastide, and wish you a very happy and blessed new year!

I had a lovely visit with my beloved family in Jacksonville, Florida.  I attended Christmas Day Mass at Immaculate Conception Church in downtown Jacksonville.  It’s an old church, and probably the most beautiful church in which I have attended Mass–the stained glass windows were stunning, and they had large, very beautiful Stations of the Cross.  Here is a photo that shows some of the windows around the altar:

(photo by Flickr user stephg67)

After Mass, I helped my mom and sister prepare our Christmas dinner, we exchanged gifts, and then ate.  It was a beautiful day, perfectly befitting the birthday of our Savior.

Now the new year has begun, beginning with the beautiful Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God!  It is comforting to begin the year knowing that we are secure in the love of God and Mary, and that they will see us through, come what may.

Here at home, I’ve been busy doing my new year’s cleaning and de-cluttering.  I’m always amazed by how many things I have around that are just taking up space and gathering dust.  It’s always liberating to get rid of stuff, keeping only things that are meaningful, important, and/or useful… to clean things and make them bright… to do some re-arranging of spaces.  It gives me a feeling of peace and pride in my home, simple (almost spartan) though it is.  I hope I can buy some more furniture this year!  I did just make my last car payment (YAY!!!) so maybe I can put some of that money aside for furniture.

I received my Patron Saint for 2010 from The Pious Sodality of Church Ladies.  This year’s Patron Saint is:

St John Neumann

Pray for the Church in America

And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. [Gal 6, 9]

I think this is a perfect Patron Saint for me–and for the Church in this country!  He did so much to nurture, grow, and lead the Church in the U.S., and was the first American man to be canonized.  A Catholic immigrant himself (having been born and grown up in Bohemia), he was ordained in this country, and lived and worked here for the rest of his life, building churches and schools for his fellow Catholic immigrants.  I think I shall try to visit his national shrine in Philadelphia this year!

I have not forgotten my previous Patron Saints of the Year, St. Martha and St. Jason.  They are still a positive influence on my life… especially my home life and relationships with family and friends.  I’m sure that will always be true, and thank God for it!  And now, this year, I will perhaps gain a better outlook on my larger home, America.

I look forward to seeing what this new year has in store.  I hope it contains lots of happiness, blessings, and growth for you and for me!

For now, I must get back to my cleaning!

I just want to wish everybody a happy and blessed Christmas!

I am spending it with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law.  Being with family is the greatest gift of all… next to the gift of our Lord Jesus Christ!

May the face of the Christ Child shed light upon your homes and loved ones, and your upcoming new year!

Blog Pictures | acobox.com I always think it’s such a shame that after preparing for Christmas for weeks and even months in advance (some folks scarcely wait for Halloween to pass!), people seem eager to dispense with it as soon as the presents are open and the dinner is digested.  As if 25 December were the 12th day of Christmas and not the 1st.  I just don’t get it.

I still have my Christmas tree and creche proudly displayed, and am cheerfully embracing Christmas at least until the Epiphany.  Last year, I think I left everything up until the Presentation of the Lord on 2 February.  I think I will do the same again. 

That may sound a bit like going overboard, but I just love the Christ Child so much… I guess that, by my maternal instinct, I just want to “hold on” to His childhood for as long as I can.  I mean, by the time February is over, Lent will have begun, and Christmas will seem quite far away.  I always find that a bit jarring, but it does effectively hammer home the point that Christ came to us as a little babe solely for the purpose of eventually suffering and dying for us. 

The red poinsettia, while vibrant and festive in its hue also reminds me of this truth: the tiny little cluster at the center of the poinsettia, surrounded by the huge bright red leaves, reminds me of the little baby in the manger, Whose birth is just the beginning of a life that will end blood-red… at least for a time.  I do love poinsettias, and maybe I’m just odd, but I never see a red poinsettia without feeling a little twinge of sorrow.  Just as I can’t see the Christ Child without also seeing Christ Crucified. 

Also, in late January–sort of going along with this theme–we observe the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  This January will mark the 36th anniversary.  I think it is appropriate to hold the Christ Child in our hearts at that time, along with His mother’s great “Yes” to His life.

In any case, I see no need to put this beautiful and wondrous season to rest so quickly, or to turn the infant Jesus out of mind and heart as if He were anything but the tremendous joy and wonder that He is.

Julie has posted some gorgeous photos her husband took of our parish church all dressed up for Christmas!  As she says, it looks the same year after year, giving it a timeless quality.  I love it and hope it never changes!

Here is one of the photos, taken from the choir loft:

St. Thomas Aquinas Church at Christmas, from choir loft

See the others here, at Happy Catholic!

I hope that this holy feast of the Nativity of the Lord finds all my friends and visitors well!

Fra Angelico Nativity

I’ve been blessed to spend much of this week with my parents.  It’s been a busy but lovely week.  We attended a glorious Mass last evening at my parish, and shared lots of yummy meals!

I received some lovely gifts, including a new wallet, a new skirt and blouse, a “care package” with all kinds of useful and delightful things, and a couple of new books:  My Life with the Saints by Fr. James Martin, which has been strongly recommended by Julie, and The Vatican: Secrets and Treasures of the Holy City by Fr. Michael Collins, which is a truly glorious pictorial work!

But being with my parents and going to Mass were the greatest gifts and blessings of all, of course!

And having next week off from work is pretty cool too!  :)

I’ll try to post again soon… til then, be well and enjoy the Christmas season–it’s just beginning, remember!

Elsewhere this evening, I was casually writing about Christmas parties and how much I love them.  I don’t even mind if they’re called “holiday parties,” and I’ve never met a non-Christian who was offended when, in practice, they really were Christmas parties.  There’s just something about the festivity, food, fellowship, music, etc. that just makes everybody enjoy being human and alive!

Nor do such earthly festivities diminish the religious meaning of Christmas: the birth of Christ, true God and true man, the Savior, the King, the Messiah, God Incarnate.  One of the most mind-blowing events in human history!

Sure, it’s possible to get wound up in unimportant, mundane, material things.  Unfortunately, such things have largely pervaded and possessed our society.  And it happens even to the most devout of us.  But when it happens to you, you have the option to pick yourself up and get on the right road again.  You have the option to pursue the meaning and mystery behind it all.  As I said before, it tends to take me the first 2 weeks of Advent to get to that point… but I’m learning and growing, and it’s never too late, right?  Just let us not get discouraged or despair.

God rest ye merry, gentlemen;
let nothing ye dismay!
Remember Christ our Savior
was born on Christmas Day!

I think that verse can apply to Advent.

As with so many things, the term “both-and” applies to celebrating Christmas.  You can eat, drink, and be merry and revere the Savior’s birth.  They are not mutually exclusive.  They are both part of reality.  Catholics are neither puritans nor hedonists.  We are a sacramental people: we often find truth and spiritual significance in earthly things, and certainly in meals and fellowship–things always at the heart of a good party!

For us, the good things in earthly life often evoke greater realities and things to come in the next world.  And we ought to thank, praise, and bless God every day for that, as the great Hilaire Belloc says:

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
there is always laughter and good red wine.
At least I have always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!

In any case, I am praying and pondering during this last week of Advent, looking forward to celebrating the Nativity of the Lord, and also enjoying some fun festivities!  Life is overflowing… life is good!

And it shall be especially good if I can get through the rest of this month without somebody trying to bore me to death (or at least to tears) by lecturing me on how Christmas symbols are really pagan, or how Christ wasn’t really born on 25 December, or any other inconsequential drivel that doesn’t even come close to getting the point of Christmas, whether for a devout religious observer or for a more secular merry-maker.

To think… I was once one of those somebodies! If I could, I’d willingly and gleefully give my former self a sound thwacking for being such a smug, self-interested “intellectual” addicted to congratulating myself on my cleverness and superiority to all the Christmas-loving sheeple.  Ha.

Related post:

Eat, Drink, and Be Grateful!

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