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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

The shepherds hurried away to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told.

When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception. (2:16-21)

The Gospel of St Luke

Feast of the Circumcision

Giovanni Bellini, “The Circumcision” (c. 1500)

Today is New Year’s Day on the secular calendar, a day when you take down the Christmas decorations, put the tree by the roadside, and clean the house of any leftovers — wrapping paper and shirt boxes, a place for all the different soaps and shampoos you received, through out the candies you received in your stocking — because after all, it is the new year: a time for turning over new leaves, making grand resolution about weight-loss, diet, and exercise.

Most folks have today off from work, as they did Christmas day, and will spend more time with family and friends eating pork, black-eyed peas in their Hoppin’ John, and a healthy dose of collared greens.

The Christian calendar, however, reads slightly different. Today is the eighth day of the eight-day Christmas octave. The Christmas feast began the 25th of December, as it does every year, and rushes through the New Year’s celebration, and concludes on the first of January, formerly the Feast of the Circumcision (see Holy Scripture above), now the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. Octaves include and follow the major feasts on the Christian year (Easter, Pentecost).

Of course, Christmastide, or the Twelve Days of Christmas, is still moving towards its own conclusion, the celebration of Twelfth Night, the night before Epiphany, when the Magi (or Three Kings, if you prefer) visit the Christ-Child and his divinity shown to the world. Twelfth Night, since it anticipates the gifts of the Magi, is the day when many Catholic families in Italy, Spain, and the Hispanic word give out their presents to children.

Bottom-line: you’ve still got more celebratin’ to do. Remember that Lent is only seven weeks away.

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Lo! The First-born has opened unto us His feast as a treasure-house. This one day in the whole year alone opens that treasure-house: come, let us make gain, let us grow rich from it, ere they shut it up.

Blessed be the watchful, that have taken by force from it the spoil of Life. It is a great disgrace, when a man sees his neighbor take and carry out treasure, and himself sits in the treasure-house slumbering, so as to come forth empty.

In this feast, let each one of us crown the gates of his heart. The Holy Spirit longs for the gates thereof, that He may enter in and dwell there, and sanctify it, and He goes round about to all the gates to see where He may enter.

In this feast, the gates are glad before the gates, and the Holy One rejoices in the holy temple, and the voice resounds in the mouth of children, and Christ rejoices in His own feast as a mighty man.(Hymn 4)

St. Ephraim the Syrian, Hymns of the Nativity


Deacon Paul Drozdowski, St. Ephrem the Syrian

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Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.

Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of the Virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.

Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.

Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: for Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory. He does not say: “of our glory,” but of God’s glory: for justice has not come out of us but has looked down from heaven. Therefore he who glories, let him glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.

For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to men of good will.

For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.

Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head. For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become son of God?

Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.

St Augustine of Hippo, bishop

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