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Sunday, December 24, 2023




Introduction to Psalms[1]


 

The Bible for some is stuffy, overblown, and boring. So and so, son of so and so did such and such a thing to this ruler and then X, Y, and Z happened. (Snore.) Well, that may be a Dull Fest, but Psalms will set the record straight. Think fire and brimstone, giant sea monsters, cannibals, and even drunks. Yeah, ancient poetry is juicy. Psalms is one of the longest books of the Bible, but that's because it's actually a collection of 150 poems about life back in the day. We're talking Real Housewives of the Negev. The Bible mostly comprises stories, prophecies, and laws, but Psalms brings the poetic punch. Most of the Psalms are attributed to David, the Israelites' greatest and most famous king. Turns out King David was a poet too—yeah, he did know it. The Psalms are all written in Hebrew, and have been jazzed up, classed up, and mistranslated ever since they were written starting 3,000 years ago. Part of Psalms' appeal is its poetry. If Leviticus looks as stale as a tax code, then Psalms is a chance for the authors of the Bible to show off their skills and impress their audience, all while getting to the heart of current events. They worry about idol worship, God's wrath, local weather patterns, and even trash talk their most hated enemies. What does this mean for us? Just that Psalms is a goldmine of historical goodies as much as it's a precursor to almost every good piece of poetry written since. Not too shabby.

 

Why Should I Care?

King David and his courtly assistants were putting pen to paper around the 10th century BCE. Since then, Psalms have been popping up in operas, reggae songs, and your brain. Yep, your brain. Remember, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want"? How about "By the rivers of Babylon"? Or "Out of the mouth of babes"? Yeah, those are all psalms: numbers 23, 137, and 8, to be exact. What we're trying to tell you is that Psalms have staying power. Yeah, it's part of the bestselling book of all time, but it stands on its own, too. Why? The poems address subjects that we all face every day: uncertainty about our position in the universe, doubt that we can succeed, emotion over a loss, and a desire to destroy the Amalekites with fire and water…oh wait, is that us? We may not know much about interstate ethnic rivalries in the 12th century BCE, but we sure can relate to the rest of those feelings. Talk about universal.

 

DECEMBER 24 Fourth Sunday of Advent

Christmas eve 

Psalm 2, verse 11

Serve the LORD with FEAR; exult with trembling, accept correction lest he become angry and you perish along the way when his anger suddenly blazes up. Blessed are all who take refuge in him!

To fully understand this verse, we must know who the writer is referring to. In verse 10 the writer states “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear.  Our God is a just God and to those who have been given much; much is required. Kings (and the 1 percent’ers) to be wise must humble themselves. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle then for a rich man to get into heaven. The "Eye of the Needle" has been claimed to be a gate in Jerusalem, which opened after the main gate was closed at night. A camel could only pass through this smaller gate if it was stooped and had its baggage removed.[2] 

I also with this verse picture Mary Magdalene. Mary who by many accounts was a very rich woman financed our Lord’s ministry. We see in this verse the shadowing of her kissing of His feet and at the same time the hardening of Judas’ heart: who on seeing her act of love and wanting riches refused to humble himself and died in his pride.

Does Christ desire us to serve with Fear and trembling?

I noticed the other day that my two dogs when I come in are so excited about seeing me that they tremble with excitement. I think our God wants our hearts and our desires. I think we should have the humble fear that a loved child has for his or her parents, full of love and respect and that we should be excited too. So, let us approach each day with the kind of excitement that makes us tremble ready to do the will of God?



This year (2023) Advent is very short with Sunday being the only day in the fourth week. In the General Roman Calendar, today is the last day of Advent, Christmas Eve, and also (beginning with the vigil Mass) is the first day of Christmas time. The liturgical texts express wholehearted confidence in the imminent coming of the Redeemer. There is much joyous expectation. Most families have their own observances, customs that should be preserved from generation to generation. Today is the last day of our Christmas Novena.[3]


ON KEEPING THE LORD'S DAY HOLY[4]

CHAPTER I

DIES DOMINI

The Celebration of the Creator's Work

"God blessed the seventh day and made it holy" (Gn 2:3)

15. All human life, and therefore all human time, must become praise of the Creator and thanksgiving to him. But man's relationship with God also demands times of explicit prayer, in which the relationship becomes an intense dialogue, involving every dimension of the person. "The Lord's Day" is the day of this relationship par excellence when men and women raise their song to God and become the voice of all creation.

This is precisely why it is also the day of rest. Speaking vividly as it does of "renewal" and "detachment", the interruption of the often-oppressive rhythm of work expresses the dependence of man and the cosmos upon God. Everything belongs to God! The Lord's Day returns again and again to declare this principle within the weekly reckoning of time. The "Sabbath" has therefore been interpreted evocatively as a determining element in the kind of "sacred architecture" of time which marks biblical revelation. It recalls that the universe and history belong to God; and without a constant awareness of that truth, man cannot serve in the world as co-worker of the Creator.

Fourth Sunday of Advent 

THE nearer we approach to the coming of Christ the more the Church sighs in her prayers for the Savior of mankind. She sings, therefore, at the Introit, drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just (Is. xlv. 8); “The heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of His hands” (Ps. xviii. 2). 

Prayer. 

Stir up Thy might, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and come and succor us with great power, that, by the help of Thy grace, the indulgence of Thy mercy may accelerate what our sins impede. 

EPISTLE, i. Cor. iv. 1-5. 

Brethren: Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God. Here now it is required among the dispensers, that a man be found faithful. But to me it is a very small thing to be judged by you, or by man s day, but neither do I judge my own self. For I am not conscious to myself of anything: yet I am not hereby justified: but lie that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore, judge not before the time, until the Lord come: Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise from God. 

How should priests be regarded by the faithful? 

The Church wishes to inspire us with respect and veneration towards priests, who are ministers of Christ, dispensers of the mysteries of God, and advocates of religion. The Scripture says, “Let the priests that rule well be esteemed worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine” (i. Tim. v. 17). “He that heareth you, heareth Me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me”; (St. Luke x. 16). 

Why is this epistle read today? 

The Church wishes, by pointing to the second advent of Christ, to remind the faithful to avoid judging their neighbors, but to judge themselves, and to cleanse their hearts for the reception of Jesus as our Savior, that they may not have to shrink from Him when He comes as Judge. 

Can priests administer the holy sacraments as they please? 

No, for, as the stewards of Jesus Christ, they must observe His will, which is that they should administer the sacraments for the glory of God and the salvation of the faithful. They are not permitted to “give that which is holy unto dogs” (Matt. viii. 6), and cannot, therefore, give absolution, or any sacrament, to those who are unfit, lest they thereby condemn themselves. 

Why should they esteem it a small matter to be judged by men? 

Because men generally judge by appearances, and not by reality. St. Paul says: “If I pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ (Gal. i. 10). But not only priests, the faithful also, must seek to please God more than men. Foolish are they who follow all silly and scandalous fashions in dress, gesture, and manners; who neglect the holy exercises of religion, and ask constantly, “What will the world say?” but never, “What will my God and Savior say?” if I do this or that”. 

Why does St. Paul say, “But neither do I judge my own self”? 

Because he could not know how God would judge him, “For man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred (Eccles. ix. 1); therefore, he adds, “I am not conscious to myself of anything, yet am I not hereby justified, but He that judgeth me is the Lord.” We should, therefore, examine ourselves thoroughly whether we are in sin; but if we find nothing in us which displeases God we are not on that account at liberty to think ourselves better than others, for before the mirror of our self-esteem we look quite different to what we are in truth before God, Who cannot be bribed. Oh, how many, who now think themselves innocent and holy, shall appear at the day of judgment stripped of their disguises, and the most secret workings of their hearts revealed by God to their eternal disgrace! This should determine us not to judge before the time, either ourselves or anyone else, of whose hearts we must know even less than of our own. “Let us therefore work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. ii. 12). 

Aspiration. 

O Lord enter not into judgment with Thy servant, for in Thy sight no man living shall be justified (Ps. cxlii. 2). 

GOSPEL. Luke iii. 1-6. 

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip his brother tetrarch of Iturea and the country of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilina, under the high priests Annas and Caiaphas: the word of the Lord was made unto John the son of Zachary, in the desert. And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins, as it was written in the book of the sayings of Isaias the prophet: A voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight His paths. Every valley shall be filled: and every mountain and hill shall be brought low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways plain. And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. 

Why is the time at which St. John began to preach so minutely described? 

Because in that happy year the prophecy of Jacob was fulfilled, and the scepter being taken from Juda, the long-expected Messiahs showed Himself to the world, was baptized by John, and declared by His heavenly Father to be His beloved Son, Whom men should hear. Accordingly, that this time should never be forgotten, the evangelist, contrary to his usual custom, describes it particularly, mentioning the names both of the spiritual and temporal rulers. 

Aspiration. 

Oh, that Thy way, Jesus, may be well prepared in my heart! Alas! assist me, O my Savior, to do what I cannot do by myself. Fill up the valley of my heart with Thy grace, and straighten my crooked and perverted will, till it shall conform to Thine own. Soften my rough and unruly mind; bring low, destroy, and remove whatever in me impedes Thy way, that Thou mayest come to me without hindrance, and possess and govern me forever. Amen 

Christmas Eve-Church or Home?[5]

Christmas Eve at Church


The entire liturgy of Christmas Eve is consecrated to the anticipation of the certain and sure arrival of the Savior: "Today you shall know that the Lord shall come and tomorrow you shall see His glory" (Invitatory of Matins for the Vigil of the Nativity). Throughout Advent we have seen how the preparation for Jesus' coming became more and more precise. Isaiah, John the Baptist and the Virgin Mother appeared throughout the season announcing and foretelling the coming of the King. We learn today that Christ according to His human nature is born at Bethlehem of the House of David of the Virgin Mary, and that according to His divine nature He is conceived of the Spirit of holiness, the Son of God and the Second Person of the Trinity.

The certitude of His coming is made clear in two images. The first is that of the closed gate of paradise. Since our first parents were cast forth from the earthly paradise the gate has been closed and a cherubim stands guard with flaming sword. The Redeemer alone is able to open this door and enter in. On Christmas Eve we stand before the gate of paradise, and it is for this reason that Psalm 23 is the theme of the vigil:

Lift up your gates, O princes,
Open wide, eternal gates,
That the King of Glory may enter in. . . .

Christmas Eve at Home


It must be so that the grown-ups may devote themselves with a quiet mind, unhindered by any commotion, to these great mysteries of the Holy Night, that in most Catholic countries the giving of gifts has been advanced to Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve is an appropriate time for the exchange of gifts, after the Christ-Child has been placed in the manger, and the special prayers before the crib — and a round of Christmas carols — are over. If the gifts are given out before the Midnight Mass, the children can concentrate more easily on the great mystery which is celebrated, when the Greatest Gift is given to all alike, even those who have received no material expression of Christmas love. And then, too, Christmas Day with its two additional Masses can be devoted more to the contemplation of the Christmas mystery and the demands of Christmas hospitality.

The opening of the eternal gates through which the King of Glory may enter is indicated by the wreath on the door of our homes at Christmastide. The Advent wreath, which accompanied the family throughout the season of preparation may be taken down. The violet ribbons are removed, and it is gloriously decorated with white and gold. It is then placed upon the door as a symbol of the welcome of Christ into our city, our home and our hearts. On Christmas Eve the whole house should be strewn with garlands and made ready for the Light of the World. The crib is set in a special place of honor, for tonight the central figure of the Nativity scene is to arrive.

Christmas Eve[6]

 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[7]

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[8] 

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[9] 

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? 

Iceman’s Childhood Christmas 

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.

Holy Night[10]

Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes

Wherein our Savior’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.

Vigil of the Nativity or Christmas Eve[11]

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.)

Prayer.

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.

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.

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. 

Oplatek[12] 

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. 

DIRECTIONS 

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. 

Spiritual Crib[13] 

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.

 

Catechism of the Catholic Church

PART THREE: LIFE IN CHRIST

SECTION ONE-MAN'S VOCATION LIFE IN THE SPIRIT

                        CHAPTER ONE-THE DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

Article 6-MORAL CONSCIENCE

I. The Judgment of Conscience

1777 Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil. It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.

1778 Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law:

Conscience is a law of the mind; yet [Christians] would not grant that it is nothing more; I mean that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise.... [Conscience] is a messenger of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.

1779 It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience. This requirement of interiority is all the more necessary as life often distracts us from any reflection, self-examination or introspection:

Return to your conscience, question it.... Turn inward, brethren, and in everything you do, see God as your witness.

1780 The dignity of the human person implies and requires uprightness of moral conscience. Conscience includes the perception of the principles of morality (synderesis); their application in the given circumstances by practical discernment of reasons and goods; and finally, judgment about concrete acts yet to be performed or already performed. The truth about the moral good, stated in the law of reason, is recognized practically and concretely by the prudent judgment of conscience. We call that man prudent who chooses in conformity with this judgment.

1781 Conscience enables one to assume responsibility for the acts performed. If man commits evil, the just judgment of conscience can remain within him as the witness to the universal truth of the good, at the same time as the evil of his particular choice. The verdict of the judgment of conscience remains a pledge of hope and mercy. In attesting to the fault committed, it calls to mind the forgiveness that must be asked, the good that must still be practiced, and the virtue that must be constantly cultivated with the grace of God:

We shall . . . reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

1782 Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. "He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters."

Daily Devotions

·         Unite in the work of the Porters of St. Joseph by joining them in fasting: Today's Fast: An end to the use of contraceptives.

·         JESSE TREE: Jesus is Light of the World: John 1:1-14 Symbols: candle, flame, sun

·         Offering to the sacred heart of Jesus

·         National Egg Nogg Day

·         Drops of Christ’s Blood

·         Universal Man Plan

·         Christmas Novena

·         Rosary



[9]Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896.

[11] Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896.

[12]https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=283












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