Friday In the Octave of Christmas
ST SYLVESTER-NEW YEARS EVE
Sirach, Chapter 2, Verse 15-17
15 Those who FEAR the Lord do not disobey his words; those who love him keep his ways. 16 Those who fear the Lord seek to please him; those who love him are filled with his law. 17 Those who fear the Lord prepare their hearts and humble themselves before him.
love casts out all fear.” Many of us
are conscious of our sins and failures. The older we get, the more we become
aware that we have not measured up to what God had in mind for us from all
eternity. We begin to worry about Judgment Day. Fear. Even when we are younger, if we have a good conscience, we
worry over our sins. Remember that God loved us so much that he sent his Son to
save us. Remember that Jesus gave his life for each of us personally. Remember
that God is not like us: He loves us with an everlasting love. We need to
realize this love of God so that it will cast out all fear from our hearts. We must
not be presumptive, but we must be
appreciative. Remember the musical “Fiddler on the Roof?” When they thought a
ghost appeared, they shouted and screamed to drive the ghost away. This is what
happens in the gospel: The disciples thought that Jesus was a ghost. They were
terrified and cried out: This means that the screamed and shouted in order to
drive the ghost away. But Jesus says, “Do not be afraid; it is I!” Jesus is always with us. We may not see him or
feel him, but he is always present to help us through the storms of life. Do
not be afraid. Perfect love casts out
Read: The Christmas season carries on into the New Year and ends with the Baptism of the Lord. Take time to read about how you can carry the joy of Christmas with you into the New Year.
Reflect: "For me, the important thing is to open my heart in each moment, to remember that my own inadequacy is where God will meet me, always beginning again." Reflect on a Catholic News Service columnist's ideas for her New Year's resolutions as you begin to plan your own.
Pray: It's New Year's Eve! Say this Prayer for the New Year today.
Act: Make a list of faith-based New Year's resolutions
for 2022 and pray about them at Mass tomorrow.
Seventh Day of Christmas Seven Swans a-Swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
- fear of the Lord
Also, the seven sacraments of the Catholic faith [Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony]
Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas - Day Seven
The last day of the year is also the feast of St. Sylvester — bishop of Rome in 314. Constantine gave him the Lateran Palace, which became the cathedral church of Rome. Many legends exist about Sylvester. He supposedly cured Constantine from leprosy and later baptized him on his deathbed. New Year's Eve, along with its innocent gaiety, is really a day for serious reflection. On the eve of the civil New Year the children may join their parents in a holy hour, in prayer and thanksgiving for the gifts and benefits which God has given them in the past year, and to pray for necessary graces in the forthcoming civil year.
Saint Sylvester/New Year’s Eve
The night of the Holy Saint Sylvester, the last night of the year, has always been the night of fun. Every year Berlin hosts one of the largest New Year's Eve celebrations in all of Europe, attended by over a million people. The focal point is the Brandenburg Gate, where midnight fireworks are centered. Germans toast the New Year with a glass of Sekt (German sparkling wine) or champagne.
Sylvester I and Constantine
Sylvester was a Roman, the son of Rufinus. He was ordained a priest by Marcellinus. Chosen Pope in 314, he continued the work of organizing the peacetime Church so well begun by St. Miltiades. Sylvester saw the building of famous churches, notably the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. John Lateran, built near the former imperial palace of that name. It is quite probable too that the first martyrology or list of Roman martyrs was drawn up in his reign. St. Sylvester died in 335. He was buried in a church which he himself had built over the Catacomb of Priscilla on the Via Salaria. His feast is kept on December 31.
Bleigiessen ("Lead pouring") an old German New Year tradition
In many of the German-speaking areas the change of the year is celebrated noisily and merrily. Guests are invited, and groups attend a "Sylvester Ball." There is eating, drinking, dancing and singing. It may be accompanied by the popular "Sylvester" custom of Bleigiessen. A small piece of lead will be melted over a flame in an old spoon and dropped into a bowl of cold water. From the shape you can supposedly tell your fortune for the coming year. For instance, if the lead forms a ball (der Ball), that means luck will roll your way. The shape of an anchor (der Anker) means help in need. But a cross (das Kreuz) signifies death. At midnight, when the old year is almost gone, and the New Year is about to start, glasses are filled with champagne or wine, and toasts and hugs go with wishing each other "ein gutes neues Jahr". Some go out into the streets and listen to the bells ringing throughout the land. Others participate in shooting in the New Year or put on their private fireworks.
St. Sylvester's Day Celebrations
The day that celebrates the first pope to enjoy civic peace is
appropriately marked by family customs petitioning peace for the New Year. On
New Year's Eve it was traditional in France and other countries for the father to bless all members
of the family, and for the children
to thank their parents for all of their love and care. In Spain, it
was considered good luck to eat twelve
grapes at the twelve strokes of midnight. Services thanking God for the blessings of the year and
seeking blessings for the new one were not uncommon, and neither were special Sylvester treats.
New Year's Eve: An Hour of Watching
For centuries the beginning of a new year has been the source of many customs and ceremonies in every land. We find the Druids with their boughs of mistletoe, the wassail bowl, the rauchnacht or incense night in Austria, the search for the elbetritch, the Roman celebrations in honor of the two-faced Janus, the etrennes of the Jour de l'An. When the Roman emperors were Christianized, they did not prohibit all the customs which came from pagan times, but an attempt was made to "baptize" them, or at least to avoid any superstitious practices among Christians.
The Church celebrates the octave of the Nativity and the Solemnity of the Mother of God on the first day of the year. As a loving mother, she recognizes that the first day of the civil year is a holiday in every land, and as a consequence has made this day a holyday of obligation, desiring that we bring our first thanksgiving and homage to God. May the New Year cause all men to remember that the precious gift of time which God has given us is to be used according to His divine providence in the attainment of eternity.
New Year's Eve, along with its innocent gaiety, is really a day for serious reflection. It is true that for the Christian the real beginning of the year takes place with the First Sunday in Advent, and the children should be taught to make their annual day of recollection before that Sunday, which celebrates the New Year of grace. However, on the eve of the civil New Year as well the children may join their parents in a holy hour, in prayer and thanksgiving for the gifts and benefits which God has given them in the past year, and pray for necessary graces in the forthcoming civil year.
Hospitality is a hallmark of the evening. Christmas spirit should embrace the aged, the stranger, the poor and the lonely. None should be excluded from the family festivities on New Year's Eve. The Chinese, who are particularly devoted to elderly members of the family, could be imitated in their respect and deference to the aged. Family spirit during this season shows love and kindness to the patriarchs and matriarchs of the family.
A serious note is added to the evening by an "Hour of Watching." The prayer hour should be carefully timed so that it reaches a climax at midnight. There is no better way to conclude the closing of the civil year and the opening of the New Year than by family prayer followed by midnight Mass. There should be contrition and thanksgiving for the past, and a prayer of peace and holiness during the oncoming year. The New Year hour of prayer should contain practically the same themes, concluding with the ringing of the bells and assistance at midnight Mass.
Many parishes offer a midnight Mass and sometimes serve a champagne breakfast afterwards. If no local parish offers an organized holy hour or midnight Mass, the family could assemble a half-hour or hour before midnight and pray together, perhaps a rosary, some meditations read out loud, and conclusion with the Act of Consecration of the Human Race. We are praying for peace and unity in our world, and for our church and civil authorities, and trying to make reparation for all the sins that are especially committed on this night of revelry.
End the Holy Hour and begin the new phase of our life by renewing the act of consecration of the human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This was first made by the great Pope Leo the XIII in 1899 and was intended to be a new "Covenant of Love" between the Heart of the Redeemer and the hearts of men. Let us offer it especially that there may be indeed "One flock and one Shepherd."
Adapted from True Christmas Spirit by Rev. Edward
J. Sutfin, ©1955 and Twenty Holy Hours by Fr. Mateo Crawley-Boevey, SS.CC., ©
Last 10 Things
Today would be a good day to review the 10 Last things in preparation for the New Year. The Four Last Things refer to death, judgment, heaven and hell. The 10 Last Things as a phrase does not exist, but all are found in Scripture and Tradition.
So, when is Jesus coming back to earth? The answer: At the end of the world. When is the end of the world? Jesus said, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”—Mt 25:13. A theologian of Scripture here in the USA said he believes one reason why so many men have left the Catholic faith for Protestantism is because the Catholic pulpit is silent on the apocalypse. It’s sad, especially since we have the clearest and richest tradition. Although we’ll be discussing no specific dates, the Sacred Scriptures and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) both name the ten things that must come at the end of the world:
1. The Gospel must first be preached to the whole world. The extent of the level of the orthodoxy of the proclaimer is not clear, nor is it clear if every person or simply every nation will have heard the truth of Christ and His Church before the end of the world. At least every land will have heard the basics by the second coming of Christ.
The Jews will
return to the Holy Land and ultimately enter the Catholic Faith. Obviously, the first of these has happened (1948) and the
second has not yet happened. I had thought that the first was only a vestige
of Protestant dispensationalism, but I recently discovered in Yves Dupont’s Catholic Prophesy that Saints like Alphonsus Liguori had taught that the
Jews must return to Israel before Christ’s second return.
Tribulation and Apostasy. Before the end
of the world, CCC 675 speaks of “the Church’s ultimate trial” which will be
both “apostasy from the truth” and “persecution.” Perhaps this one has been
fulfilled. Indeed, many Catholics have apostatized, formally or informally.
However, many Catholics and other Christians are being persecuted for following
Christ. Since Christ’s birth, there have been 70 million Christian martyrs. Of
these, the past hundred years have witnessed the majority— 45,500,000 of all
70,000,000 martyrdoms! Granted, most of these were Orthodox at the hands of
communists; it’s still persecution of Christians. Jesus said this tribulation
would also be accompanied by an increase in earthquakes (Mt 24:7.) Even CNN
admits a marked increase in earthquakes the past 100 years.
The Anti-Christ or
the man of lawlessness. Although there
have been many anti-Christs (1 John 2:18) we’re going to have to experience the
big one, “the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every
so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of
God, proclaiming himself to be God.”—2 Thess 2:3-4. See CCC 676–680.
The Restrainer. Mercy is defined as the divine limit to evil. The
anti-Christ will deceive so many people that God will send someone to limit
evil. His name in the Bible is “The Restrainer.” (I know “the Restrainer”
sounds like the coolest Marvel Comic book hero. But he’s right in the Bible,
which might explain why our Protestant brothers and sisters speculate about him
more than Catholics.) Anyway, this mysterious good guy will come along at the
end of the world as an agent of Divine Mercy so that the man of lawlessness
doesn’t win. “Only he who now restrains it will do so until [the man of
lawlessness] is out of the way.”—2 Thess 2:7. Some Catholic theologians
speculate the Restrainer will be St. John the Baptist or St. Michael the
Archangel. But he is unknown at this point.
disturbances in nature. “Immediately after
the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give
its light; the stars will fall from the sky and the heavenly bodies will be
shaken. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all
the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the
clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.”—Mt 24:29-30
7. Second Coming of Jesus Christ. There’s an actual “day and hour” (Mt 24:36) to Christ’s return to earth. This day has definitely not yet come. “As the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”—Mt 24:27. Once, at a lunch, a priest with several impressive degrees snickered at me for taking these words literally. Then, I have to wonder: If Jesus doesn’t return with power, maybe he’ll return on a My Little Pony Cutie Mark Magic Princess Twilight Sparkle Charm Carriage Playset? (That’s an actual toy at Target! I have to wonder who named that…An 8-year-old girl in love with a cutie named Mark who was allowed to combine her eleven favorite words randomly?) Anyway, my point isn’t to rally tough-guy fundamentalism. I just can’t imagine a fitting middle ground between Christ coming as a baby and then coming in glory. Unless…Jesus comes strolling into Seattle with corduroy pants and a Dockers short sleeve at His awful second coming. For my part, I’ll believe the Apostle’s description of the last day: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.”—1 Thess 4:16. See CCC 681 and the 13th century hymn Dies Irae, “Day of wrath and doom impending…heaven and earth in ashes ending.” Google it. The rest of it gets even more terrible, in the ancient Latin sense of the word.
8. Final Judgment. The Church teaches that every one of us on earth will be judged by Christ at the end of life, be it our particular judgment or the general judgment. The particular judgment is what you will experience if you die before Jesus returns in glory. It’s simply your judgment when you come before God a bit after cardiac arrest. A great Spanish priest described that moment as a 2-dimensional instantaneous download of your entire life, replete with Christ’s judgment of you (heaven or hell). The general judgment, or the Last Judgment, however, is what everyone will experience when Christ returns to earth. This will also affect those who have already died. For everyone, it will be like a 3-dimensional instantaneous download of every good and evil action committed by every person on the planet (Luke 8:17) and how it affected you and vice-versa. In short, during your death and/or Christ’s return, your chance for mercy will be done. That’s what the confessional is for. On judgment day, you will answer for any unconfessed sins, and you will see how every one of your actions affected the whole world, for better or for worse. I’m not trying to scare you. This is Our Faith: You matter. See CCC 1021 and CCC 1038–1041.
9. Resurrection of the Body. Simultaneous to #5, everyone will get their body back. It will be physical, spiritual and hopefully glorified. I write “hopefully” because even those even in hell will get a body back for eternal torture (John 5:29.) Happily, 100% of those in purgatory will go to heaven and also get their glorified body back. But most adult Catholics think of heaven as an amorphous reality for the soul…kind of like a nursing home hot tub where billions of doped-up soul’s stare in a smiley bliss. Rather, let’s consider Jesus’ resurrection: He could eat fish but walk through walls; He shined with glory, but He had wounds. In fact, the four Catholic doctrinal points of the resurrection is that your new body will be: 1) Glorified (like Jesus at the Transfiguration), 2) Agile (not subject to gravity. I promise I’m not making this up.), 3) Subtle (from the Latin, meaning the body will obey the soul as the essential form of the body…meaning you won’t accidentally burp in your new body.) and 4) Impassible (unable to suffer.) Does this all sound just a little fantastic? CCC 996 says: “From the beginning, Christian faith in the resurrection has met with incomprehension and opposition. On no point does the Christian faith encounter more opposition than on the resurrection of the body.” Wait. No other point met with more opposition. What about contraception and same-sex marriage? You see, the resurrection of the body is the foundation of all other Catholic morality since “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”—2 Cor 5:10. Apparently, man’s notion of once-saved always-saved doesn’t fool God. See CCC 988–1019.
10. New Heavens and a New Earth. First, this earth will burn (2 Pt 3:10.) Then God will make a New Heavens and a New Earth (Is 65:17.) Where else did you expect to use your new body? Notice that the physical reality of eternity is already found in the Old Testament. For the Jews, the “age to come” will not be any more nebulous than this age. But it will be an era of peace. That era of the Messiah’s peace will permeate so deeply into creation that even the lion will lie down with the calf. (Show off that Bible trick at parties since 99% of you thought I should have written “lamb.” You’re wrong! See Isaiah 11:6.) There’s a solid section on the New Heavens and the New Earth in CCC 1042–1060. Finally, since I made fun of a goofy notion of heaven in #5, I really should highlight all of Christian history’s most beautiful description of heaven. It’s composed by the Holy Spirit through the Apostle John. This description of heaven spans from Revelation 21 to 22 (the last two chapters of the Bible) but here’s my favorite, the beginning of the end, literally and eschatologically: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more. —Rev 21:1-4a
Creeks, rivers, and other forms of moving water, including ice, manifest the flow of life itself. A gurgling stream or rushing river, even in midwinter's rest, is the sign that new life is coming forth, even when it is not yet perceptible in a snow-covered landscape. Our life in Christ begins through the saving water of Baptism; since this is so, we have an obligation to protect and save the water. Water pollution is widespread, denying safe drinking water to millions of people.
Overview of January
The first nine days of January fall during the liturgical season known as Christmas which is represented by the liturgical color white — the color of light, a symbol of joy, purity and innocence (absolute or restored). The remaining days of January are the beginning of liturgical season known as Tempus per Annum or Ordinary Time (formerly Time After Epiphany), which is represented by the liturgical color green. Green is a symbol of hope, as it is the color of the sprouting seed and arouses in the faithful the hope of reaping the eternal harvest of heaven, especially the hope of a glorious resurrection. The liturgical color green is worn during prayer of Offices and Masses of Ordinary Time.
In the first part of January, we continue to rejoice and celebrate Christ's coming at Bethlehem and in our hearts. We have the wonderful feasts of Mary, Mother of God, where we honor Mary's highest title, and then we follow the Magi to the crib as they bring their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh on Epiphany. Finally, we reach the culmination of this season with the Baptism of Our Lord by St. John the Baptist. With a touch of sadness, we take down our decorations and enter into the liturgical period known as Ordinary Time where we will devote ourselves to the mystery of Christ in its entirety.
The Winter Season
The opening days of January may be cold and nature bleak, but the domestic church still glows warm with the peace and joy of Christmas. We dedicate the New Year to Mary on the January 1st Solemnity honoring her as Mother of God; and on January 7, the Solemnity of Epiphany, we rejoice with her, as her Son is adored by the three Wise Men.
Herald John, who ushered in the Advent season, is present once again to close Christmastide on the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord (The First Luminous Mystery), and to open the Season of Ordinary Time. He points to Jesus, the Lamb of God who unites time and eternity in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and even January’s diminishing darkness seems to echo St. John’s prayer: “He must increase, and I must decrease.”
In this liturgical season the Church eagerly follows Our Lord as he gathers his apostles and announces his mission. At Cana’s wedding feast (The Second Luminous Mystery) he performs his first public miracle at the request of his Mother, and his disciples saw his glory and believed in him.
We, his present-day disciples pray for a like faith as we contemplate the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb and the unique role of the Blessed Mother in the plan of salvation. May we wholeheartedly obey her words of counsel: “Do whatever he tells you.”