3 For they, who supposed their secret sins
were hid under the dark veil of oblivion, were scattered in fearful trembling,
terrified by apparitions. 4 For not even their
inner chambers kept them UNAFRAID,
for crashing sounds on all sides terrified them, and mute phantoms with somber
afflicts the Egyptians, while the israelites have light. This description of
the darkness of the ninth plague is a development of the ideal that true light
comes from a pure conscience. For the first and only time in the Septuagint the
Greek word for “conscience” occurs. There is no Hebrew word that is equivalent;
the idea is expressed indirectly. The horrendous darkness is not extinguished
with the lightings of fire that only contributed to the terror.
These three days of complete darkness stretched over the
lands of Egypt—not those of the Hebrews, who enjoyed light by day—in the ninth
plague. It was so dark that the Egyptians could not see each other. After this
plague, the Pharoah attempted to negotiate the freedom of the Hebrews. His
bargain that they could leave if their flocks were left behind was not
Darkness of the Soul
is essential for the
life of faith. A solid grasp of Catholic teaching about conscience makes it
possible to live a moral life. And sadly……a defective understanding can destroy your moral life. This
is true darkness! For the beginning Catholic, this is an essential
issue to understand properly. And conscience may be the single most misunderstood issue among
Catholics today! This topic is important so carefully study the Catechism’s section on conscience.
natural facility to judge
Conscience is a natural
facility of our reason that does three things:
Reminds us always to do good and avoid evil.
Makes a judgment
about the good and evil of particular choices in a specific situation.
Bears witness after the fact to the good or evil that
we have done. (I.e., having a guilty conscience.)
Conscience is a powerful
and remarkable facility that is distinctly human. Understand that conscience is a judgment of reason.
It uses the objective principles of the moral law to judge the morality of acts
in specific circumstances. Conscience is not itself the source of the moral law.
This is a common point of misunderstanding. Many
who reject Church teaching will say, “I’m just following my conscience.” What
they usually mean is that they’re looking to their conscience as the source of moral principles,
which is a serious error.
It’s likely that some other Catholics will
challenge you on this point, and you’ll have to defend it. Use the Catechism
to defend this point. This article will help you read the Catechism’s
section on conscience accurately. Also see the excellent article on conscience
on the Catholics United for the Faith (CUF) Web site. Beyond that, Pope John
Paul II’s Veritatis Splendor contains a definitive discussion about
conscience in sections 54-64; number 64 particularly speaks to this point.
Everyone has a duty to form their conscience.
Formation of conscience simply means educating and training it. We do this by
learning and taking to heart the objective moral law, as found in Scripture and
the authoritative teachings of the Catholic Church. This forms conscience in
objective moral truth as taught by Christ and his Church. Practicing the virtues
is another aspect of forming the conscience. This not only lets us do good
acts, but it trains the will to desire to do good. In particular, the virtue of
prudence affects the ability of conscience to judge rightly.
must follow your conscience
A fundamental principle of
Catholic morality is that you must
follow your conscience. But be careful: there’s a strong tendency for all of us
to distort the full meaning of that principle! We tend to use it as a giant
loophole for doing any old thing that we’d like. A well-formed conscience will
never contradict the objective moral law, as taught by Christ and his Church. (Catechism, 1783-5, 1792, 2039) A safe way to
read this principle is: if your conscience is well-formed, and you are
being careful to reason clearly and objectively from true moral principles,
then you must follow the reasoned judgment of your conscience about the
morality of a specific act. Otherwise, seek reliable guidance in forming your conscience. The
principle that we must follow our conscience derives from…
dignity of conscience
The authority of
conscience, and our need to follow it, come from its dignity. Pope John Paul II
tells us that conscience is an “interior dialog of man with himself” about
right and wrong. It “is also a dialog of man with God”: it is “the witness of
God himself” calling him to obey the moral law and is a person’s “witness of
his own faithfulness or unfaithfulness.” This is the basis of the great dignity
of the conscience: it derives from its witness to objective moral truth. (Veritatis Splendor, 57-58, 60)
Conscience is the means God has given us to make moral decisions. Our freedom
demands that we use it: “When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can
hear God speaking.” (Catechism,
1777) But we compromise this dignity of conscience if we haven’t formed our
conscience well, or when we do not take care to reason clearly and objectively.
Again, Pope John Paul II teaches: Jesus alludes to the danger of the conscience
being deformed when he warns: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye
is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound,
your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness,
how great is the darkness!” (Mt 6:22-23). (Veritatis Splendor, 63)
Conscience does not always judge properly. Out
of ignorance or bad reasoning, it can judge wrongly. Erroneous judgment is
often our own fault, and can have many causes (from Catechism, 1791-2):
Lack of care in forming our conscience or our
powers of reason
Damage caused by repeated and habitual sin
Following the bad example of others
Rejection of Church teaching
Ignorance of Christ and the Gospels
Neglecting the work of our conversion to Christ
Neglect of charity
If our conscience errs and
we’re responsible for the error, then we are guilty of the evil committed. We are not guilty for the evil if
we’re not responsible for the error. But even if the guilt is not imputable to
us, it’s still an evil act. This greatly hinders our ability to advance in the
moral life and live in union with God. As Pope John Paul II puts it:
…[T]he performance of good acts… constitutes the
indispensable condition of and path to eternal blessedness…. Only the act in
conformity with the good can be a path that leads to life…. If [an act is
not good]…, the choice of that action makes our will and ourselves morally
evil, thus putting us in conflict with our ultimate end, the supreme good, God
himself. (Veritatis Splendor, 72, emphasis in the original)
key to the moral life
The good or evil of
specific acts shapes our whole life. We choose God or reject him specifically
in the morality of our actions.
We must choose to do good in order to choose God, grow in freedom, sanctify
ourselves, and let God’s grace work in us to make us “children of God, adoptive
sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.” (Catechism, 1996) Moral conscience
is the key that
makes this moral life possible: it is exactly how we know what the good is in
specific cases, and it beckons us to always choose the good. And even when we
choose wrongly, conscience calls us to seek God’s merciful forgiveness so that
we can begin again.
Wolff of the Ardennes
Men are frequently blinded by fear
and as a result often harmed themselves. The grace of God gives confidence to
see the right and to stand when called. Father Paul was called to stand and
became General Patton’s guide during the “Battle of the Bulge” while he was
still a teen. Father Paul Wolff was 15 years old when he first joined the
Belgium resistance during the years of the Nazi occupation of World War II. He
was the youngest member of the Belgium resistance. Unfortunately, he and other
members of his group were captured and at 17 he was tortured, condemned to
death and imprison in the Nazi Prison in Liege, Belgium. There he languished
yet his faith would not allow him to lose all hope and the resistance still
worked to get him and the others (256) out. Part of the plan was to get a radio
to the prisoners. To do this the resistance secreted small parts of a crystal
radio inside bars of soap. Interestingly these were “Lever” brother bars of
soap and were large about the size of a brick. Father Paul related that during
the Nazi occupation not all Jews were in German prisons if they were of use to
the Nazi’s. In this case the soap bars were made by the Lever Jews and the
radio parts were easily hidden inside the soap bars. Father Paul stated that
when they received the soap they then washed their hands raw in wearing away
the soap to get to the radio part. Then after several bars they constructed the
radio which was the Morse code type. Father Paul typed in code in English which
he spoke along with German and French the words over and over “SOS SOS 256
prisoners in Liege prison condemned to death SOS SOS.” They hoped someone would
get the message and somehow, they would be rescued. All they had was hope.
Father also related that it drove
the Nazi’s crazy because they intercepted the message but never suspected it
was coming from the prison. Father Paul said that in the cell they were in
there was only one barred window, but it was so high that to look out it
required a person to stand on the shoulders of a fellow prisoner. He further
relayed that they when they would see women that were friendly with the guards
coming and going they would call them the nastiest things they could think of
calling them. Yet one day during an air raid while the guards were hiding as
deep as they could go; one of these young women (secret agent) came and taking
the heel of her shoe wrote on the pavement that during the air raid they are
going to be rescued by commandoes and they were. Father Paul stated neither he
nor the others ever lost hope.
After his escape he went underground. He was a friend of
King Leopold III. He served as General Patton's Belgian guide during the battle
of the bulge.
Father Paul communicated to me the tale about the battle of
the bulge that has not been recorded in history. During WWII the US Army was
segregated and black men were not mixed with white men. Black men mostly served
in support roles such as transportation and as cooks, etc. During the course of
the Battle of the Bulge’ Hitler sent in a special operations team to confuse
and destroy the American Army. It was composed of American NAZI’s and German’s,
who spoke perfect American slang, knew the culture, baseball stuff, etc. These
Spec Ops were equipped with American Uniforms and equipment that was captured
by Gen. Rommel from North Africa. Father Wolff was at a meeting with Gen.
Patton, Bradley, Eisenhower and the English Gen. Montgomery in Luxembourg City
on the evening of Dec. 24th 1944. The Generals were very excited and afraid
because of the effect these NAZI spec ops were having in the warzone and due to
the fact that they had murdered many men. They did not know what to do. Patton
who was a visionary, suddenly stood up and said, I know exactly what to do.
From this time forward nothing in the American Army will move without a black
American in the group. Patton knew there were no black NAZI’s. As a result,
black units were moved forward and integrated and as far as I know this was the
first time in American History since the Civil War. As a result, the NAZI spec
ops team was neutralized.
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 Savior,
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 Savior of the
world", "Christ the Lord" (cf. Lk 2: 11). Their eyes see a
newborn child, wrapped in swaddling clothes 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 Savior" (Lk 2: 11). The coming of Christ among
us is the center 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.
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?
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
The nights are wholesome; then no planets
No fairy takes, no witch has power to charm,
So hallow'd and gracious is the time. --Hamlet
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
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
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?
give thanks to the ever-blessed Trinity, Who cooperated in the incarnation of
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.
the first Mass celebrated at midnight?
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.
the second Mass celebrated at daybreak?
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
the third Mass celebrated at daylight?
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.
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.
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.
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.
the grace of God appear to all men?
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.
Christ teach us by His incarnation?
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.
the Apostle mean by worldly desires?
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
This Polish custom of the breaking and passing of the thin wafery Oplatek bread at the Christmas Eve meal reminds us of our daily bread and the Bread of Life who came into the world.
We have adopted a custom from the Polish for Christmas Eve. At their Christmas Eve meal, after spreading hay under the cloth and (in times past) on the floor of the room, the Polish family stands together and the father breaks off a piece of the Oplatek (pronounced opwatek), the blessed Christmas wafer, and passes it on. This is a thin bread pressed in oblong irons in the convents, and on it in relief is the Nativity scene. Made like the host, it is a reminder of our daily bread and the Bread of Life who was born a man tonight. The father passes it to the next member of the family, who breaks a piece and passes it, until all the family has shared it. It is to remind them what this night is, who comes to us, why, and what it makes us, one to another. An extra place at table tells the little Christ and His Mother that they would be welcome in this "inn" should they knock at our door.
In the past the Oplatek was given us by our Polish friends. Now we use this holy symbolism with bread we bake ourselves — and mixing it is a beautiful meditation for a mother. It is baked as rolls in a round tin, round like the circle of eternity and like the everlastingness of God. After the Blessing of Bread, the father or an older member of the family sprinkles the bread with holy water, breaks off a roll and passes it to the person on his right, who breaks a roll from it for himself and passes it. It is our own custom, in terms significant to us. The father or ranking member of the family reads the Blessing of Bread.
A story was told us by a woman whose family is still in Poland. Every Christmas their family had Oplatek. When some migrated to America, those in Poland sent Oplatek to America and those in America sent Oplatek to Poland. Came the Russians with their persecution and espionage, and the family in Poland learned to conform, withdraw, carry their religion in their hearts and write between the lines of their letters.
When it was time to send the Oplatek, they determined to find a way. That year the family in America received a conventional card on which was pasted a red paper-like disk with a conventional greeting. The censor never suspected it was Oplatek, properly blessed, cut in a circle like a host, painted red for Divine Love not for Communism, and sent as a salute from one part of the Mystical Body to another half a world away. They were reminding each other that they share the same Body, eat the same Flesh.
TREE: Jesus is Light of the World: John 1:1-14 Symbols: candle, flame, sun
Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896.
 Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896.