Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Advent
At that time there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus the governor of Syria: And all went to be enrolled, everyone into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born Son, and wrapped Him up in swaddling-clothes, and laid Him in a manger: because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night-watches over their flock. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them, and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them : Fear not: for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people; for this day is born to you a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you: You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and laid in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying: Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men of good will.
Luke, Chapter 1, verse 65-75
65 Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. 67 Then Zechariah his father, filled with the holy Spirit, prophesied, saying: 68 “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people.69 He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, 70 even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old:71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, 72 to show mercy to our fathers and to be mindful of his holy covenant 73 and of the oath he swore to Abraham our father, and to grant us that,74 rescued from the hand of enemies, without fear we might worship him75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
In today’s secular America we also need to have freedom, so we may worship Him without fear.
The heroes of our faith are the warrior saints who have gone before us. God worked mightily and miraculously through them. Therefore, we must study their ways. In humility, obedience, and trust (H.O.T.), we ask: How did they remain so well connected, in such strong friendship with God, so that his river of supernatural grace could flow so freely through them? What do these "SEALS for Christ" teach us about the ideal spiritual disciplines, the ultimate daily regimen of prayer?
Prayer is our outstanding supernatural resource for fighting the wiles of the enemy. St. Alphonsus said, "Prayer is, beyond doubt, the most powerful weapon the Lord gives us to conquer evil ... but we must really put ourselves into the prayer, it is not enough just to say the words, it must come from the heart. And also, prayer needs to be continuous, we must pray no matter what kind of situation we find ourselves in: the warfare we are engaged in is ongoing, so our prayer must be on-going also."
We are being asked to allow God's grace to surge through us to a waiting world, but nemo dat quod non habet (no one gives what he does not have). Fr. John McCloskey in his Seven Daily Habits of Holy Apostolic People correctly points out that the following seven exceptional habits of prayer are the way of storing up spiritual energy to be used to bring Christ to others. St. Bernadette said: "Do not just be a channel for grace, but a reservoir, an overflowing reservoir. No sooner has a channel received grace than it pours it out. A reservoir waits to be filled up and then offers grace to those who come to draw from its superabundance."
Fr. John McCloskey's Seven Daily Habits of Holy Apostolic People include:
1. The Morning Offering
2. Mental Prayer (at least 15 minutes)
3. Spiritual Reading (at least 15 minutes)
4. Holy Mass and Communion
5. The Angelus (at 6 AM, noon, 6 PM)
6. The Holy Rosary
7. Brief Examination of Conscience (at night)
(Excerpt from Church Militant Field Manual).
Read: The liturgical season of Christmas begins with the vigil Mass on Christmas Eve and concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. During this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with him . . . including the fact that he was born to die for us.
Reflect: Take time to reflect on today's readings by practicing the ancient art of Lectio Divina.
Pray: Offer up these words to the Heavenly Father for a renewed spirit of evangelization, so you might live as a missionary disciple this liturgical year.
Act: Take some extra time with this passage today and remember the true spirit of Christmas. "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus . . . and of his kingdom there will be no end." (Lk 1:31-33)
Love compels us to “Be Not Afraid”
1. "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy.... For to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2: 10-11). On this Holy Night, the liturgy invites us to celebrate with joy the great event of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. As we have just heard in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is born into a family poor by material standards, but rich in joy. He is born in a stable, for there is no place for him in the inn (cf. Lk 2: 7); he is placed in a manger, for there is no cradle for him; he comes into the world completely helpless, without anyone's knowledge, and yet he is welcomed and recognized first by the shepherds, who hear from the angel the news of his birth. The event conceals a mystery. It is revealed by the choirs of heavenly messengers who sing of Jesus' birth and proclaim glory "to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased" (Lk 2: 14). Through the ages their praise becomes a prayer which rises from the hearts of the throngs who on Christmas Night continue to welcome the Son of God.
2. Mysterium: event and mystery. A man is born, who is the Eternal Son of the Almighty Father, the Creator of heaven and earth: in this extraordinary event the mystery of God is revealed. In the Word who becomes man the miracle of the Incarnate God is made manifest. The mystery sheds light on the event of the birth: a baby is adored by the shepherds in the lowly stable, at Bethlehem. He is "the Saviour of the world", "Christ the Lord" (cf. Lk 2: 11). Their eyes see a newborn child, wrapped in swaddling cloths and placed in a manger and in that "sign", thanks to the inner light of faith, they recognize the Messiah proclaimed by the prophets.
3. This is Emmanuel, God-with-us, who comes to fill the earth with grace. He comes into the world in order to transform creation. He becomes a man among men, so that in him and through him every human being can be profoundly renewed. By his birth he draws us all into the sphere of the divine, granting to those who in faith open themselves to receiving his gift the possibility of sharing in his own divine life. This is the meaning of the salvation which the shepherds hear proclaimed that night in Bethlehem: "To you is born a Saviour" (Lk 2: 11). The coming of Christ among us is the centre of history, which thereafter takes on a new dimension. In a way, it is God himself who writes history by entering into it. The event of the Incarnation thus broadens to embrace the whole of human history, from creation until the Second Coming. This is why in the liturgy all creation sings, voicing its own joy: the floods clap their hands, all the trees of the wood sing for joy, and the many coastlands are glad (cf. Ps 98: 8; 96: 12; 97: 1). Every creature on the face of the earth receives the proclamation. In the astonished silence of the universe, the words which the liturgy puts on the lips of the Church take on a cosmic resonance: Christus natus est nobis. Venite, adoremus!
4. Christ is born for us; come, let us adore him...God became man in order to give man a share in his own divinity. This is the good news of salvation; this is the message of Christmas! The Church proclaims it tonight, by means of my words too, for the peoples and nations of the whole earth to hear: Christus natus est nobis Christ is born for us. Venite, adoremus! Come, let us adore him!
Christmas Eve Customs
The Christmas Tree
Much confusion surrounds what is arguably the season's most famous symbol. Christmas trees start appearing in shops, homes, and even some churches soon after Thanksgiving. Traditionally, however, the Christmas tree was not put up until Christmas Eve and was not taken down until the Vigil of the Epiphany. (Thus, it was only around for the Twelve Days of Christmas.) The reason for this will be explained in the section on Christmas customs; for now it suffices to point out that the Christmas tree is not meant to be a part of the Advent landscape. However, because finding a tree on December 24 can be difficult, one practical measure is to buy the tree early and leave it in the home undecorated until the 24th. An undecorated evergreen brought indoors is not a Christmas tree but a "Yule" tree, a harmless, pre-Christian reminder of life to help dispel the gloom of winter. When the tree is decorated, it will then be transformed from a natural token to a Christian statement rich with supernatural symbols for the season.
Making Room for Sacred Leisure
According to an ancient (and practical) tradition, by Christmas Eve the house is to be thoroughly cleaned, all tasks finished or removed from sight, all borrowed items returned, and no task allowed to be begun that cannot be finished by nightfall.
Christmas Eve Dinner and Celebration
Most people associate Christmas feasting with the dinner on Christmas Day, and rightfully so, for as a Vigil Christmas Eve was traditionally a day of abstinence and fasting. Yet there were also delicious Christmas Eve dinners that conformed to this restraint (see Foods). Afterwards, the family would gather around the newly decorated Christmas tree, reciting Vespers or praying and singing hymns to the infant Jesus now in the crib (the figurine had been conspicuously absent during Advent). In some countries, it was at this time that gifts were exchanged.
The Christmas Candle
One of the most symbolically rich customs of Christmas Eve was the Christmas candle, a large white candle representing Christ. In Ireland, a Christmas candle was bedecked with holly and lit. It would burn through the night and be relit on each of the twelve nights of Christmas. The entire family would pray before the candle for their living and departed loved ones. In England and Ireland, the Christmas candle often consisted of three individual candles molded together in honor of the Trinity, while in Germany a highly decorated pyramid of smaller candles called a Weihnachtspyramide was used.
Lights in the Window
Another Irish custom during Christmastide was putting lights in the window. This practice originated during the times of persecution, when Mass had to be held in secret. Faithful Irish believers would place a candle in the window on Christmas Eve as a sign to any priest who happened by that this home was a safe haven in which Mass could be offered. When interrogated by the British about the meaning of this practice, the Irish replied that the lights were an invitation for Joseph and Mary to stay the night. Unthreatened by this supposed superstition, the British left them alone.
Midnight Mass-Vigil of the Nativity or Christmas Eve
CHRISTIAN, for the love of Christ, and for thine own salvation, occupy thy mind, during this holy night, with holy thoughts and aspirations, in order to make thyself worthy of all the graces which Christ will grant thee on His coming. Consider how St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary, in obedience to the edict of Cesar, and in perfect submission to the will of God, went to Bethlehem, and, finding no room there, at last entered an open stable, where they were content to stay. Does not the Son of God deserve all our love when He thus humbled Himself for us?
Christmas Eve was my father’s time to celebrate and open the presents and later we would go to midnight mass. Mom and Dad always put the presents under the tree as they got them; wrapped of course and I think this was done to create a sense of anticipation for Christmas. It was remarkable we didn’t break the gifts from all the shaking we gave them to try to figure out what the gift was. Mom and Dad never had much money, but Mom would start going to the garage sales in October and get tons of stuff on the cheap. We never knew what Mom would find but she never gave us anything that would take away from our dignity or disappoint us with an awful Christmas sweater. After all Christmas is celebrating the greatness of a God that took it upon Himself to raise the dignity of man.
Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, no witch has power to charm,
So hallow'd and gracious is the time. --Hamlet I.i
Since ancient times, popular folklore has attached a wondrous goodness to the night before Christmas. Like Shakespeare's Hamlet, many Catholics believed that there was not only a special charm about this night, but a holiness. Nature awoke with unbounded joy in the middle of the night to greet its Maker: bees hummed sweet symphonic hymns, cattle fell on their knees in adoration, and trees and plants bowed in the direction of Bethlehem. No wicked spirits roamed the earth on this night, no evil forces prevailed, for on this night God had blessed the earth with His Son. Consequently, one hour before midnight, some churches in the British Isles would toll their bells mournfully as if for a Requiem and then peal joyfully at the stroke of twelve. The funereal ringing was called the "Devil's funeral" to indicate Satan's demise at the birth of Christ.
A special devotion that can be performed during Advent to prepare for the coming of the Infant Savior. It can be adapted for adults and/or children and applied as is appropriate to your state in life.
· 14th day, December 24th: THE SWADDLING CLOTHES—Inward Recollection All your thoughts today, all your wishes, your aspirations, your love and your joy, must be for the dear Infant Jesus, who in a few hours condescends to be born in your heart.
Vigil of the Nativity or Christmas Eve
CHRISTIAN, for the love of Christ, and for thine own salvation, occupy thy mind, during this holy night, with holy thoughts and aspirations, in order to make thyself worthy of all the graces which Christ will grant thee on His coming. Consider how St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary, in obedience to the edict of Caesar, and in perfect submission to the will of God, went to Bethlehem, and, finding no room there, at last entered an open stable, where they were content to stay. Does not the Son of God deserve all our love when He thus humbled Himself for us? Tender Him your heart as an abode, in the following
Prayer of the Church.
O God, Who givest us joy by the annual expectation of our redemption, grant that we may securely see Him coming as our Judge Whom we joyfully receive as our Redeemer, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who livest and reignest with Thee forever. Amen.
Nativity of our Lord, or Christmas
CHRISTMAS brings before us the happy day on which, in the fulness of time, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, was born of the ever blessed and immaculate Virgin Mary, in the stable at Bethlehem.
Why does every priest say three Masses on this day?
1. To give thanks to the ever-blessed Trinity, Who cooperated in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
2. To honor the three-fold birth of Jesus Christ: His eternal birth in the bosom of His heavenly Father; His temporal birth of His virgin Mother; and His spiritual birth in our hearts, which He occupies by His grace.
Why is the first Mass celebrated at midnight?
The first Mass is said at midnight to remind us that before Jesus Christ was born the world was without the true light, and lay in darkness and the shadow of death. Again, it was in the night that He was born; and both His temporal and eternal births are mysterious truths, incomprehensible to our understanding.
Why is the second Mass celebrated at daybreak?
The second Mass is celebrated at daybreak because the birth of Christ brought light to the gentiles, whose salvation was then nigh, and because, according to tradition, it was about that hour that the shepherds came to see and adore the new-born Savior.
Why is the third Mass celebrated at daylight?
The third Mass is said at daylight because Christ dispersed the darkness of ignorance, and appeared as the Light of the world (John i. 9; Is. Ix. 8).
OF THE FIRST MASS.
The Introit of the first Mass reminds us of the eternal birth of Jesus Christ: “The Lord hath said to Me, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee” (Ps. ii. 7); “Why have the gentiles raged, and the people devised vain things?” (Ps. ii. 1.)
O God, Who hast made this holy night shine forth with the brightness of the true Light, grant, we beseech Thee, that we may enjoy His happiness in heaven, the mystery of Whose light we have known upon earth. Amen.
EPISTLE. Titus ii. 11-15.
Dearly Beloved: The grace of God our Savior hath appeared to all men, instructing us that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly, and justly, and godly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and Our Savior Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and might cleanse to Himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works. These things speak, and exhort, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
How did the grace of God appear to all men?
Through the incarnation of His Son, Whom, in His infinite love, He made like unto us, to be our brother and teacher, that we might become children and heirs of God, and co-heirs with Jesus Christ.
What does Christ teach us by His incarnation?
That we should abandon impiety, infidelity, injustice, and worldly desires, and love God, and our neighbor, though he be our enemy, for God’s sake. The incarnation also shows the dignity and greatness of man, for as God gave His only Son for our redemption, we thereby perceive the worth of man in the sight of God.
What does the Apostle mean by worldly desires?
He means by them carnal and sensual desires and lusts, such as impurity, drunkenness, avarice, and such like. Christ teaches us to renounce these by the poverty, patience, fasting, and innumerable privations of His life.
How do we live soberly, justly, and piously?
We live soberly when we use temporal goods according to the intention and will of God, and to supply our necessary wants; we live justly when we desire for, and render to, our neighbor what, by the example of Christ, we are bound to; we live piously when we give God His due honor, love Him above all things, and love all men, in Christ, for His sake.
GOSPEL. Luke ii. 1-14.
Why did Caesar Augustus publish a decree that all the Roman subjects should be enrolled?
The immediate reasons of Caesar are not known to us, but the result shows that it was done by the special providence of God, for Joseph and Mary were thus obliged to go to Bethlehem, and so the prophecy of Micheas, that the Messias should be born there, was fulfilled.
Why is Christ called the first-born Son of Mary?
Because she had no child before Him; and, moreover, having no other after Him, He is also the only begotten of His blessed Mother, as He was the first-born and only begotten of His heavenly Father (Heb. i. 6).
Why was the Savior of the world born in a stable? To show, from His very birth, that He had not come to establish a splendid worldly kingdom, but a kingdom of grace, justice, and peace, and to lead us to imitate His example of poverty, humility, and contempt of the world.
Why was the birth of Christ first announced to the poor shepherds, and not to the high priests?
To show that God does not distribute His graces through respect for persons: He exalts the humble, and humbles those who exalt themselves. The angels for joy praised God, and sang, “Glory to God in the highest,” that is, “Praise and thanks to our heavenly Father for sending His only-begotten Son for the salvation of men, “and on earth peace” that is, prosperity, happiness, salvation, and blessing “to men of good will.” Learn from the angels to be thankful for all the benefits which God bestows upon thy neighbor, and then you also will partake of them. In particular, thank God to-day for the inexpressible benefit of the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896.
 Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896.
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