Keeping Christ in Advent AND Christmas
Dear St. Louis Parishioners, Our Nativity Set is almost complete! In promotion of gradual decoration as my practical recommendation for Keeping Christ in Advent, we have been “filling our nativity set” one piece at a time with our bulletin features. First, we featured St. Joseph, followed by the Blessed Virgin Mary in the second week and finally an angel in the third week of Advent. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t have the Christ Child in the manger yet, but since this bulletin represents both the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Day, we are featuring the (mostly) complete Nativity Set in our Sanctuary (front cover). I say that it is mostly complete because it is customary to wait until the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6 or the nearest Sunday) to place the Magi in the scene, since that is the day we celebrate their arrival to adore the Newborn King. This can be an exciting experience for children, or the young at heart, as they gradually move the Magi throughout the house, a bit closer to the nativity each day. These kinds of customs are great ways to form our children, and adults as well, in the reality of the Christmas Season, which is just beginning on Christmas Day. So, let us rejoice in the birth of our Newborn King and honor Him by making ready to keep celebrating the mystery of His Incarnation throughout the whole season, which doesn't actually end until the Baptism of the Lord (the second epiphany). I often think it’s helpful to think of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. The conversion of heart that happens in Ebenezer Scrooge is not just expressed by a resolve to “not be so cranky and rude on December 25th from now on.” Rather, Scrooge resolves to keep Christmas in his heart all year round. All year round, the mystery of the Incarnation, the incredible gift of Emmanuel, God with us, is meant to inspire a deep abiding joy in our hearts, that overflows in the form of generosity and kindness toward others. If we are to keep this in our hearts all year round - and yes, I think Dickens was on to something there! - then the first step has to be to resolve that we won’t let the world redefine Christmas in the image of materialism by pretending that Christmas ends at midnight 11:59 PM on
December 25th (when most stations stop playing Christmas music). So, as your annual reminder: please don’t take down all of your decorations, stop saying Merry Christmas, or put away all the Christmas music before the Epiphany! Let’s reclaim the Christmas Season. We are just finishing up our focus on Keeping Christ in Advent, so it's time for our next slogan: Keep Christmas into January!
Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
SPECIAL SCHEDULES IN THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS: As we move into the final few days of Advent and the beginning of the Christmas Season, it is important to note that our schedule is different than usual at times. The parish office will be closed beginning on Tuesday, December 24th, until it reopens on Monday, January 6th. Some of the staff and I will be coming in on a few occasions in that time to check on messages and attend to a few other pressing tasks. But, we will not be opening the office to walk-in business. I hope that you enjoy this time with your loved ones. I will certainly be watching my messages (and remember that you can contact me at the emergency number for funeral arrangements and medical emergencies) while I am in town. I will be out of town most of the week of December 30th. Also, remember the special Mass times for both holy days (Christmas Day and Mary, Mother of God), which can be found printed in this bulletin. In order to focus on the holy days, the Tuesday morning Mass will be canceled on both Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. We will resume our regular Mass schedule on the week of January 6th.
READING RECOMMENDATIONS: For the past six weeks, I have been sharing a number of great religious works with you (so much so that I poked fun at my own homilies by comparing them to an adult version of “Reading Rainbow”). In case any of you are interested in following up and reading more, here are the books I have been reading from. I concluded the previous series on the Our Father by reading fairly extensively from St. Teresa of Avila’s Way of Perfection. Then, on Christ the King, I read from Venerable Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ. Next, I began the series on Our Lady by reading about freedom from Venerable Fulton Sheen’s World’s First Love. In the second week of this series, I read reflections on Mary’s virginal emptiness from Caryll Houselander’s The Reed of God. Week three focused more on the hope of Israel in light of Mary, which enabled us to see her role in the Scriptures, including all of the allusions to her found in the Old Testament. The insights on this came from Dr. Scott Hahn’s Hail, Holy Queen and Dr. Brandt Pitre’s Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary (and I also mentioned that the importance of Mary is mentioned quite a bit in the book series The Mystery of Israel and the Church, by the same Dr. Lawrence Feingold who led our parish Day of Recollection in October). Drs. Hahn and Pitre’s books each have a video study series, which you can watch on Formed.org, based on them (they are “The Bible and the Virgin Mary” and “Lectio: Mary,” respectively). Finally, this Fourth Week of Advent introduced the concept of Marian Consecration, by drawing from St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary and Fr. Michael Gaitely’s 33 Days to Morning Glory (Fr. Gaitely’s book also has a video “retreat” series on Formed.org, under the same title). If you choose to follow up with any of these readings or viewings, I hope you find it enriching to your faith and your personal observance of the Christmas Season and beyond.
In Christ through Mary,
St. Louis, pray for us!
Blessed Mary, Queen Mother of the King of Kings, pray for us!