Welcome back to The Practical Catholic. I don’t exactly know why I’ve taken to welcoming you that way at every post, but I have, so enjoy. if it annoys you, leave a comment/complaint. Anyways, let’s get to it. Today’s post is a highlight, and also, just some really cool readings from the office of readings. I found them at Divinum Officinum, which offers bother Latin and English parallel versions of the breviary.
This is a readings for the upcoming Christmas celebrations to be read on Christmas day which I found particularly moving. Also, I just wanted to showcase a really awesome online breviary to help other Practical Catholics pray the liturgy of the hours and participate in the divine office.
From the Sermons of Pope St Leo (the Great)
1st for Christmas.
Dearly beloved brethren, Unto us is born this day a Saviour, Luke ii. 11. Let us rejoice. It would be unlawful to be sad today, for today is Life’s Birthday the Birthday of that Life, Which, for us dying creatures, taketh away the sting of death, and bringeth the bright promise of the eternal gladness hereafter. It would be unlawful for any man to refuse to partake in our rejoicing. All men have an equal share in the great cause of our joy, for, since our Lord, Who is the destroyer of sin and of death, findeth that all are bound under the condemnation, He is come to make all free. Rejoice, O thou that art holy, thou drawest nearer to thy crown! Rejoice, O thou that art sinful, thy Saviour offereth thee pardon! Rejoice also, O thou Gentile, God calleth thee to life! For the Son of God, when the fulness of the time was come, which had been fixed by the unsearchable counsel of God, took upon Him the nature of man, that He might reconcile that nature to Him Who made it, and so the devil, the inventor of death, is met and beaten in that very flesh which hath been the field of his victory.
I just want to say, if Christmas sermons sounded like this instead of upholding nationalist atrocities like the All American Christmas Tree in which as Stephen Colbert says, “appears as if Jesus, and George Washington teamed up and declared an independence from taste,” then people might not try so determinedly to get rid of “merry Christmas” from common vocabulary. If Christmas sermons were directed at spiritual formation and not just more nativity scenes, things might be different. I think the best thing we can remember about Christmas is that commodification and commercialization is not limited to people saying “happy holidays,” and it’s idiotic to assume that only people who want to be PC about things are the ones “spoiling Christmas.” My point is this: People who are as emphatic about it being CHRIST-mas to the point of crucifying a Christmas tree as a marketing gimmick are just as bad as those they vilify. Christmas is about Jesus.
I’m just not a gung-ho enthusiast about keeping Christmas throughout the society we live in. This post will show you my struggles to understand why people are so emphatically for, or against Christmas. Sometimes I wonder what people would do if like Latin, some of these Christian phrases that became common in society suddenly dropped out all at once, would they leave because Christmas was simply uncool and/or unheard of?
Think about it.
We’ve already lost the “mass” part of the Christ-mass, since most of the people fighting Christmas wars are Protestants anyways. If someone wishes me a merry Christmas or is obviously Christian, I wish them one, if not, I don’t say happy holidays, I just say “have a nice day” or might still say “Merry Christmas”. What’s wrong with “Have a nice day?” or “Merry Christmas;” are we really in a society that thrives on the survival of the whiniest? Most people don’t care what you say, they just say it back. The point of all that was, seriously people, liberate yourselves from all the stupid ideas of what Christmas might mean to you, and come back to the gospel. A friend of mine wrote about the Annoying Ghosts of Christmas Present and I thought it was worth sharing.
I’m not ashamed to wish someone merry Christmas, but it doesn’t offend me if someone says “happy holidays” unless they’re at Church, where the only holiday is really Christmas. But Christians need to get over the retailers and other major businesses opting to make Christ irrelevant to their sales. Does it really serve the gospel if I make it known that I am a Christian and I celebrate Christmas and will tell you so as a closing greeting on my way out of your store?
The dropping of “merry Christmas” only makes one thing clear, we can see a it more clearly where Christ is being opposed because society is opening up about it. We should remember our position as pilgrims, aliens and foreigners, except in the Church. Stop trying to whitewash society with paint from the Kingdom.
Yes you have ridiculous atrocities of Christmas marketing that only further aggravate the insanity. No, making sure you can wish everyone a merry christmas or call it a Christmas parade will not solve the real issue. The real issue is a breakdown of the idea of tolerance and respect in free-society. But that’s my opinion. Moving along.
The Christmas Wars
Seriously; isn’t it ironic to anyone but me that we have “Christmas wars” and counterpunches? You know being that it’s the one time per year we celebrate the birth of the one we claim is the “Prince of Peace” and all?
Isn’t a “war” even a “culture war” in the name of peace or society almost always a moronic idea? I mean, seriously. Sometimes, society is going down the tubes and you need to make reparations and fight a culture war I guess, but I don’t think that “merry Christmas” is my kind of war. Abortion, sure. Charity for the homeless, for the abused and the overlooked? Always. Care for widows and orphans? That’s true religion. Those are wars worth fighting.
Fighting so that some distressed, disheveled wal-mart greeter wishes you a merry Christmas is absurd. Trying to get selfish corporations to ally with”JEEZUS” or “family values” so we can all feel better about massive amounts of shopping is ridiculous. Fortunately, we’re gettng the rude wake up call that all is not right in society and the gospel is not concurrent with any world culture except its own. Fighting a christmas war so we can call it Christmas is not illogical, because other religions are gaining currency to get equal footing, I just wonder if it’s the best approach to turn this into a war.
The Other Side of the Christmas Wars
I’m not trying to be a grinch, I love Christmas, despite my ba-humbugging. I love Jesus, I adore Our Infant Lord, and all that He has brought to us. I dislike that people want to prevent my celebration of my faith, I find it troubling, insensitive and wrong that my faith has to be stifled in favor of eastern religions, patriotism or a general cultural agnosticism.
Let’s look at the other side of this Christmas war thing. Some atheists have decided that this could be fun. To be fair, some people have thought that Christmas parades nation-wide need to be rebranded “holiday parades.” Some have thought it best to exclude either santa and nativity scenes or just nativity scenes in schools, or parades, or musicals. It’s absude and I offer a simple piece of advice: Stop it. Stop being snot-nosed brats. It’s a holiday. It has religious tones, but seriously, religion is part of what it means to live in the public square in free-society. Why should it be otherwise?
To be fair, no one wants Christmas admitted as a justification for gifting, as much as a sense of “Hey, other religions are allowed to celebrate openly, we even tolerate “pride parade” as a society, so why not Christmas?” Think about it. We can support a guy in butt-less chaps or shirtless in skimpy underwear for freedom, or liberty or self expression, (insert american liberty jargon here) but want to cover up any mention of a virgin, her child and a star. That simply makes no sense. From a purely objective standpoint, there’s no danger of a baby and his mommy in the public square in December, stop freaking out.
The Breakdown of Tolerance
It is absurd that some people respect the integrity of Ramadan, or Kwanzaa, but piss on Christmas. Is it right? No.
Stop it. Stop being such whiny litigious brats, and grow up. Are we seriously stuck in a society where tolerance means no one can be happy because a single person might become unhappy that someone had a good time?
What happened to the idea of tolerance being “Well, everyone does more or less what they want, and we respect the differences”? Tolerance in the American spirit is broken. It is ow used as a synonym for acceptance rather than what it should mean, which is allowed, but not necessarily supported. What happened to the days when America was about melting pots and a conglomeration of cultures? Nowadays our biggest export in this country is homogenization, the ability to turn everything into the same dull grey-matter that we surround ourselves with as a culture. Worldwide we’re selling secularization, MTV and Kentucky fried chicken, but it all lends itself to a synonymous breakdown of values, of worldview, and of culture. America’s tolerance machine is a bust, and we’re not gonna learn the easy way, it seems.
There are people looking to keep especially Christian religious acts out of pubic discourse, to which I say “Stop it.” We live in a pluralistic society that regards many faiths, so let them all have their claims, and if someone wants to call it a Christmas musical, so be it. If they don’t want to, whatever. Christmas is for the Church first, and secondly for the world. If we uphold it rightly as Christians, will we need a strong cultural Christmas in society? Probably not. But that’s going to hinge on Christian attitudes towards saving Christmas from Christians and giving it a robust dogmatic and traditional feel from within the cultural history of Christian thought and action.
Christmas in Perspective
I look at the above reading from Pope Leo, and then I look at the Christmas wars, and it tells me, “So what?” Someone wants to rename it a holiday parade? So what? Is this a Christian nation? No. Let people have their stupid “holiday parades,” and if you want a proper Christmas parade, go through the channels, and make one. So long as cities won’t prevent the expression of religion in parade form, we should all be fine.
The Savior offers pardon, and more importantly, redemption. Christmas is about the birth of an all new sense of time that does not hinge on making the world more Christian on the surface, but of making Christians and letting them infiltrate and leaven the world piercing through the deepest depths to cause the entire thing to ascend to God. Christmas is about Jesus, not “Christmas,” in the general sense. It’s about this little infant who is God’s gift to us, who has been gifted flesh, so that He can finally inherit us.
He comes bearing gifts, in that, He is God Himself as gift to us. He offers us Himself, his flesh, his sufferings, his entire life, he offers us tears shed and moments staring at stars, he offers us birth and being held against a mother’s breast. He offers all this, to conquer death and the works of the devil, who sought to destroy us through fleshly physicality which was prone to death but has been made alive to God in Christ.
The Spirit of Christmas
This is the Spirit of Christmas, humility, hope, and faith. Good will and benevolence and charity are all essential to the season also. I don’t fight Christmas wars because honestly, I find them pointless. I love Christmas, I expect the Church to, and to uphold Christmas, for the Church.
Behold, unto us a Child is born, to us a Son is given. Just as God gifted Him creation, through His flesh, He gifts us back to the Father until the consummation when we are God’s gift to God, and our very existence is a full manifestation of that reality. God has entrusted us with far more than a parade, though by no means less than that. I am no detractor of Christmas pageants, parades, or floats, or caroling. God has given us a precious gift, and we would do well to learn to cherish Him in our midst, even when society makes it difficult.
What society does, or major retailers is the least of my concerns. I know I will hit some chords with some people, and not make some Christians very happy with this. Christmas is about Jesus. Parties and pageants express this, and they are well and good, but the Christmas wars are about so much more than merry Christmas. These wars are about the soul of a Church, not the soul of a nation.
Merry Christmas becoming a problem is a symptom, not the root of the problem. If you disagree, I would love to hear your thoughts.
But seriously, Merry Christmas. Now, get over it.