Monthly Archives: December 2010

It *IS* Christmas every day!

Merry Christmas, everyone!!

A common expression, often related to the joy of getting, is “Why can’t it be Christmas every day?”

For those who judge things by feelings, Christmas gives good feelings and therefore should be every day.

Fair enough. Yes, it would be nice if everyone lived in a spirit of giving and peace and love and all that.

But the one way to make that happen is to realize the TRUE meaning of Christmas.

Isn’t it funny how many television shows and movies set out to tell us the “true meaning of Christmas is giving” or “the true meaning of Christmas is family” or “the true meaning Christmas is children,” or all these things that *aren’t* the “true” meaning of Christmas? Overtly, they’re telling us to think of Christmas as being “about” those things, as opposed to gifts and parties and decorations. However, subtly, they’re also telling us that the “true meaning of Christmas” is giving or charity or love or family or children instead of Christ’s birth.

Christmas is the day we celebrate the day God became man. Most Americans, like Joan Osborne, seem to have missed the memo while opening their presents from “Santa Claus”: God *is* one of us. Jesus Christ Emmanual (the Anointed Savior, God-with-us), the Word of God, became flesh and dwelled among us, and we have seen his glory.

Yet He did not just become flesh and go away. The hope of Christmas is that God came to love us and save us. The hope of Easter is that Jesus rose from the dead so we could, too.

Most people don’t seem to realize that most Catholic/Fundamentalist issues boil down to one principle. I forget the exact verse or quotation, but it is, I think, from Hebrews, that Jesus rose to the Father’s right hand and will stay there to the end or something. Catholics most certainly believe that–indeed, we use it as one of the “proof text” arguments against the Rapture, since Scripture is clear Christ will not return in full bodily form until the end.

However, evangelicals take this passage as an indication that Jesus is no longer man. This is why they deny Mary is Theotokos: Jesus was God-Man on earth, but, they say, now that He has risen, He is no longer man any more, even though He ate food in almost every post-Resurrection appearance.

Jesus promised to leave us orphans, and He didn’t. He who was born in the House of Bread (Bethlehem) proclaimed Himself to be the Bread of Life and proclaimed bread and wine to be now His Body and Blood.

“Christmas” means “Christ’s Mass.” Christ’s Mass takes place every day. It is amazing how many people show up for Christmas Mass. The priest at the Mass I attended said they had 12 masses at his parish for Christmas. Many of these people are “CAPE Catholics” (Christmas, Ashes, Palms and Easter) who “fly away” the rest of the year. Many are Protestants who come, either because their churches don’t have services for Christmas or they recognize the greater solemnity of Catholic worship for the occasion.

One Christmas, when one of our patrons, St. Louis IX of France, was meditating on the Nativity in his private chambers. A courtier burst in. “Your majesty! There has been a great miracle at Midnight Mass in the palace chapel! While the priest uttered the words of consecration, the face of Christ appeared in the Host!”
The king, perturbed, turned and asked, “Why have you interrupted my meditation on the birth of Our Lord and Savior to tell me of a miracle which occurs at every Mass?”

The Christmas Miracle happens every day. God becomes flesh at every Mass. If everyone took advantage of that gift, every day *would* be Christmas.

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Shepherds and Car salesmen

Originally Published 12/24/2006

I recall reading a Christmas meditation somewhere that speculated about who *else* might have heard the message that First Christmas–and ignored it.

Were the shepherds the only ones who saw the angels in the sky and heard the first Gloria in excelsis deo? How many people figured it was just a dream or hallucination? How many people just heard the commotion and hid in fear? How many simply slept through it?

How many astrologers saw the star and ignored its meaning or misinterpreted it?

Did God call the shepherds and Persian Magi only, or were the just the only ones who bothered to respond?

Throughout the Gospels, from Bethlehem to Calvary to Emmaus, it’s the shepherds, the fisherman, the prostitutes and the tax collectors who “get it”. With a few exceptions, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, the theologians are out of the loop.

Today, I had my car in for a service, and, as I was waiting, I wandered around the dealership. I had brought my Christian Prayer with me to say Lauds. But first, I thought I’d wander around and look at the cars. A salesman came up to me and struck up a conversation. First, he noticed my “Good Book.” It’s often a moment of gentle evangelization when a Protestant asks about my “Bible” and then I say, “Actually, it’s a breviary,” which leads into an explanation of the Divine Office (Apologetics note: one of the many advantages of saying the Office vis the Rosary, besides that it’s actually liturgy, is that it’s a lot easier to explain the Office to a Protestant than it is to explain the Rosary).

As it turned out, he said, “Oh, I used to say the Office a bit in college, but fell away. . . .” As he proceeded, I was pegging him for some kind of Episcopalian. Of course, we were both “beating around the bush” a bit and speaking in non-denominatoinalese.

Then he started talking about his theological debates with some of the other car salesmen in town, and that got to my mentioning pursuing my MA in theology.
He said, “Catholic theology, I assume?” I replied in the affirmative, and that got us off the “beating around the bush”and into some pretty serious sharing.

He explained that he’s an orthodox Catholic, FUS graduate, but works with many Protestant ministries, as well, including the 700 Club. I talked about Flannery O’Connor’s theory of the convergence of Evangelicalism & Catholicism.

He warned me against the dangers of arrogance when one becomes a “theologian,” and I wholeheartedly agreed. Earlier on, he had mentioned how his theological debates (he specifically mentioned Calvinism & Purgatory) usually focus on the concept of relationship: God created us to relate to Him, and everything else stems from that. I agreed, and talked about my own work, how I’m working on a book on that topic, and my work with bioethics and the pro-life movement. I noted how I’ve been seeing the same problems popping up with “conservative” and “Loyal to the Magisterium” theologians that we see in “liberal” theologians now that “our side” is more mainstream, and he agreed: the fundamentalist treatment of the Catechism, for example, such that the absence of statement on some moral question (e.g., vaccines) makes it licit, especially if a stated principle (protection of health) can be exaggerated.

He said, “Yeah, like it’s OK to eat the baby if you’re starving.”

And I said, “We shouldn’t be thinking about what we can get away with or how much we can justify. My question is: if Jesus were standing next to me, what would He think of me partaking in this?”

That was about the time when the service guy came up and said my car was ready.

This Could Be the Night . . . When Children Rule the World

Veni, Veni Emmanuel

For the last day of the “O” Antiphons, here is “O Come O Come Emmanuel” from our very own St. Peter’s in Columbia:

When a Child Is Born

I recently did a “Pick Five” on Facebook, using one of the generic “current favorite songs” categories, to pick my five favorite “contemporary” Christmas songs. Top eight:

1. The Christmas Wish (Muppets and John Denver)
2. While You Were Sleeping
3. Incredible Phat (The Coldest Night of the Year)–originally Art Garfunkel, covered by Elaine Paige and otherwise obscure
4. When the River Meets the Sea (Muppets with or without Denver)
5. Was He a Boy Like Me (VeggieTales)
6. Alfie/It’s In Every One of Us
7. When Children Rule the World (Andrew Lloyd Webber & Jim Steinman)
8. When a Child Is Born
9. Because It’s Christmas (Barry Manilow)
10. Strange Way to Save the World

What Child Is This?

It’s so hard to find a recording that does this song right. People seem afraid to do the second verse and chorus verbatim:

“Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear!
For sinners here, the Silent Word is Pleading!
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The Cross be born for me, for you.
Hail, Hail the Word made flesh,
the Babe, the Son of Mary!”

“A Winter’s Tale”

I know this song from the fantastic Christmas album that Elaine Paige posted in the mid-80s, at the peak of her pop career.

Little Lew’s short life lasted from December 2002 – March 2003. I honestly don’t remember if it snowed in March 2003, and I was listening to this song among “snow songs”, or else the lyrics just hit me the following December, but this is one of the songs I always associate with Little Lew, and it still makes me cry.

“The nights are colder now
Maybe I should close the door
And anyway the snow has covered all your footsteps
And I can follow you no more
The fire still burns at night
The memories are warm and clear
But everybody knows
It’s hard to be alone this time of year
It was only a winter’s tale
Just another winter’s tale
And why should the world take notice
Of one more love that’s failed?
A love that can never be
Though it meant a lot to you and me
On a world-wide scale
We’re just another winter’s tale
While I stand alone
A bell is ringing far away
I wonder if you’re here
I wonder if you’re listening
I wonder where you are today
Good luck, I wish you well
For all that wishes may be worth
I hope that love and strength
Are with you for the length
Of your time on earth
It was only a winter’s tale
Just another winter’s tale
And why should the world take notice
Of one more love that’s failed?
It’s a love that can never be
Though it meant a lot to you and me
On a world-wide scale
We’re just another winter’s tale
It was only a winter’s tale
Just another winter’s tale
And why should the world take notice
Of one more love that’s failed?
It’s a love that can never be
Though it meant a lot to you and me
On a world-wide scale
We’re just another winter’s tale
We’re just another winter’s tale”