ChristMass Origins and an Advent Devotion for Young and Old

+First Sunday in Advent+

“Of all the feasts throughout the year the celebration of Christmas Day and Christmas Eve are the most popular of all, both for children and for adults. There are more traditions and customs associated with Christmas in all Christian countries than with any other feast. It is true, of course, that the logical culmination of Advent is attained with the Epiphany; the season of preparation, however, truly ends with the Nativity. The celebration of these two feasts may be explained only upon an historical basis. Christmas is the Occidental celebration of the Nativity of the Lord, and the Epiphany is the Christmas of the Orient. There is a very important difference to be noted between the two great Paschal feasts and the two great Christmas feasts. In the Easter cycle, Pentecost, with the mission of the Paraclete, represents an organic development in the work of our salvation; in the Christmas cycle, Christmas and the Epiphany center about an identical theme: the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Saviour and King of Kings. The East adopted Christmas from the West; the Occident received the feast of the Epiphany from the Orient. These two Christmas feasts are a venerable spiritual monument of the union of the Church in East and West. In the Roman rite, the third, or Day-Mass, of Christmas is really a Mass of Manifestation or Epiphany. The Station at St. Peter’s is the same station as that of the Epiphany and the Mass is intended to be truly one manifestation of the new-born Saviour to the City and to the World.

“To Christians of the Western world, Christmas always seems to be more important than the Epiphany, despite the fact that the latter feast is of higher rank. It is very true that Advent, and the period of waiting and preparation are concluded with the feast of Christmas. The texts of the liturgy indicate this by saying that “Tomorrow original sin shall be destroyed,” and “Open, ye Eternal Gates, that the King of Glory may enter in.” The realization of the glorious visit of the great King which dominates the whole of Advent is not accomplished, however until the feast of the Epiphany. The East has enlarged our perspective of the spiritual meaning of the Incarnation. We are elevated above the historical fact related by the Gospels to a perspective of the kingship of Christ, which dominates all time and space. At Christmas, we may be said to be reborn with Christ as the Sun of the Nativity rises over the town of Bethlehem; at the Epiphany, we celebrate the mystical wedding of the King with His Spouse, the Church: the glory of the Lord shines forth in noontide splendor over Jerusalem. On the feast of Christmas, Christ is born to us in the intimacy of the family represented by Mary and the shepherds; at the Epiphany, He manifests to the entire world His glory and His kingship, which are represented by the adoration of the Magi, the baptism in the Jordan, and the marriage feast of Cana.

“It is necessary, furthermore, before offering suggestions for the celebration of Christmas in our cities and homes, to note some of the historical developments of a truly Christian conception of the holiday season. A readily available source of information for families concerning the history of Christmas and its tradition is to be found in The Christmas Book by Francis X. Weiser, S.J. There is no historical record nor even a well-founded tradition which gives the date of the birth of Christ. The date of December 25 was established about the year 320, and the Popes seem to have chosen the twenty-fifth day of December principally to divert the attention of the people from the celebration of a pagan feast of the Mithras cult which was called the “Birthday of the Unconquered Sun” (Natalis Solis Invicti). This does not in any manner indicate that Christmas is merely a “christianized” pagan feast, for Christians of that time realized with St. John Chrysostom: “The pagans call December 25 the Birthday of the Unconquered. Who is indeed so unconquered as Our Lord? . . . or, if they say that it is the birthday of the Sun, He is the Sun of Justice.”

“Throughout the Middle Ages, Christmas came to be celebrated more and more. Especially during the period from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries all the arts and crafts of the Christian nations were made serviceable to the festivities associated with the Nativity of the Saviour. Plays and songs, carols and dances, spices and flowers, images and statues — all creation was made to serve the celebration of the feast. The foundation of all these customs and traditions was always Holy Mass — the Christ-Mass — the Divine Office and the sacramentals. In many countries of Europe a sharp change in the Christmas solemnities came with the Reformation during the sixteenth century. The spiritual and scriptural foundation of the liturgy, including the Mass itself, was ridiculed and forbidden. The Calvinists and Puritans in particular condemned all religious celebration of the feast, and when the “new” method of celebrating Christmas was revived it tended to become only a more or less pagan feast of good-natured and humanitarian reveling. The attempt was particularly successful in England, and post-Reformation English attitudes concerning Christmas have affected most of our own notions concerning the celebration of the holidays.

“When the Puritans came to political power in England, they immediately proceeded to outlaw Christmas. It was their contention that no feast of human institution should ever outrank the Sabbath (Sunday). Since Christmas was the most important of the non-Sunday festivals, it was abolished altogether. The first ordinances issued forbidding church services and civic festivities on Christmas came in 1642, finally, on June 3, 1647, Parliament enacted a ruling that the feast should no longer be observed under pain of punishment. Riots and strife broke out among the people, but the government stood firm and even broke up celebrations by force of arms, though the punishments were not too severely inflicted. With the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the observance of the “old” Christmas returned with a “new” attitude. The religious observance of Christmas was almost entirely replaced by amusement and reveling over plum pudding, goose, capon, minced pie and roast beef, with decorations of mistletoe, holly and ivy, and the yule log. Two of the best exemplifications of this “new Christmas without Christ” are to be found in the Christmas Stories of Charles Dickens, and the Sketch Book of Washington Irving. We must admit that our present-day celebration of Christmas is greatly affected by these works. The only thing that may be said in favor of these well-written books is that they do contain interesting stories upholding a spirit of good will to men and of generosity to the poor. Christ the Saviour and the King of Kings is indeed very remote in the background.

“The unfortunate zeal of the Puritans has certainly influenced the American celebration of Christmas. It is very difficult in our day to realize that Christmas was outlawed in New England until the second half of the last century. As late as 1870, classes were held in the public schools of Boston on Christmas day, and any truant pupil was gravely punished or even publicly dismissed from school. Through the influx of German, Irish and French immigrants, together with the multiple immigrations from all the European nations, Christmas has been more fully restored within the last seventy years in this country. Two currents are now manifest: the pagan, good-natured humanitarian sort of celebration represented upon Christmas cards by sleigh bells, Santa Claus, peppermint sticks and the like; and the Christian spiritual and traditional customs originating from medieval Christian Europe. In view of the objective principles found in the liturgy of Holy Mass, the Divine Office and the sacramentals, we shall try to outline certain ancient and modern customs which are truly Christian in foundation and based upon Christian Doctrine and practice.”

Source: True Christmas Spirit by Rev. Edward J. Sutfin, Grail Publications, St. Meinrad, Indiana, 1955

A Do-it-Yourself Kit for the Christmas Crib

The following directions show you how to build a spiritual crib in your heart for Christ. Use it to put Christ into your Christmas in a real, living way.

Start on December 1. Read the thought indicated about Christ’s first crib. Practice it during the day. Do this daily during December and make your heart a worthy crib for Christ on Christmas Day.

December 1

The stable — Frequently during the day, offer your heart to the little Infant Jesus. Ask Him to make it His home. Sweet Jesus, take my heart and make it meek and pure.

December 2

The roof — See that the roof of the stable is in good condition so that the Infant Jesus is protected from rain and snow. This you will do by carefully avoiding every uncharitable remark. Jesus, teach me to love my neighbor as myself.

December 3

Crevices — Carefully stop every crevice in the walls of the stable so that the wind and cold may not enter there. Guard your senses against temptations. Guard especially your ears against sinful conversations. Jesus, help me to keep temptations out of my heart.

December 4

Cobwebs — Clean the cobwebs from your spiritual crib. Diligently remove from your heart every inordinate desire of being praised. Renew this intention at least three times today. My Jesus, I want to please Thee in all I do today.

December 5

Fence — Build a fence about the crib of your heart by keeping a strict watch over your eyes especially at prayer. Sweet Jesus, I long to see Thee.

December 6

Manger — Fix the best and warmest corner of your heart for the manger of Jesus. You will do so by abstaining from what you like most in the line of food, comfort and amusement. Dear Mary, use these sacrifices to prepare my heart for Jesus in Holy Communion.

December 7  

Hay — Supply the manger of your heart with hay by overcoming all feelings of pride, anger or envy. Jesus, teach me to know and correct my greatest sins.

December 8

Soft straw — Also provide your manger with soft straw for performing little acts of mortification. For instance, bear the cold without complaint or sit and stand erect. Dear Jesus, who suffered so much for me, let me suffer for love of Thee.

December 9

Swaddling clothes — Prepare these for the Divine Infant by folding your hands when you pray and by praying slowly and thoughtfully. Jesus, let me love Thee more and more.

December 10

Blankets — Provide the manger of your heart with soft, warm blankets. Avoid harsh and angry words; be kind and gentle to all. Jesus, help me to be meek and humble like Thee.

December 11

Fuel — Bring fuel to the crib of Jesus. Give up your own will; obey your superiors cheerfully and promptly. Jesus, let me do Thy will in all things.

 December 12

Water — Bring fresh, clean water to the crib. Avoid every untruthful word and every deceitful act. Dearest Mary, obtain for me true contrition for my sins.

December 13

Provisions — Bring a supply of food to the crib. Deprive yourself of some food at mealtime or a cigarette or candy, especially when you feel like smoking or eating. Jesus, be my strength and nourishment.

December 14

Light — See that the crib has sufficient light. Be neat and orderly about your person; keep everything in its place in your room (or your home). Jesus, be the life and light of my soul.

December 15

Fire — Take care to have the crib of your heart warmed by a cozy fire. Be grateful to God for the love He has shown us in becoming man. Behave with grateful respect towards your parents, relatives and lawful superiors. Jesus, how can I return Thy love, how can I show my gratitude to Thee?

December 16

The Ox — Lend the ox to the crib. Obey cheerfully without making excuses and without asking why. I will obey for love of Thee, my Jesus.

December 17

The donkey — Bring the donkey to the crib. Offer to the Divine Infant your bodily strength; use it in the service of others. Jesus, accept my service of love; I offer it for those who do not love Thee.

December 18

Gifts — Gather some presents for the Divine Infant and His Blessed Mother. Give alms for the poor and say an extra decade of the Rosary. Come, Jesus, to accept my gifts and to take possession of all my heart.

December 19

Lambs — Strive to bring some little lambs to the manger, meek and patient. Do not murmur or complain. Jesus meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine.

December 20

Shepherds — Invite the shepherds to pay homage to our newborn King. In imitation of their watchfulness, stress in your speech and thoughts the idea that Christmas is important because Jesus will be born again in you. My Jesus, teach me to love Thee above all things.

December 21

The Key — Provide the stable with a key to keep out thieves. Exclude from your heart every sinful thought, every rash judgment. Dear Jesus, close my heart to all that hurts Thee.

December 22

Angels — Invite the angels to adore God with you. Cheerfully obey the inspirations of your Guardian Angel and of your conscience. Holy Guardian Angel, never let me forget that you are with me always.

December 23

St. Joseph — Accompany St. Joseph from door to door. Learn from him how to silently and patiently bear refusals and disappointments. Open wide your heart and beg him to enter with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Saint Joseph, help me to prepare for a worthy Christmas Communion.

December 24

The Blessed Virgin — Go meet your Blessed Mother. Lead her to the manger of your heart and beg her to lay the Divine Infant in it. Shorten your chats and telephone conversations and spend more time today thinking of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Come dear Jesus, come; my heart longs for Thee.

(This devotion was found as a reprint available from Maryfaithful, a publication printed in the 1970s-1980s in Powers Lake, ND.)

Traditionalists and the victim stance

+St. Gertrude the Great+

Many years ago, I made a comment to a (then) fellow Catholic that it did not seem right that we must pay today for the failures of our Catholic ancestors to successfully fight and overcome the evils in the Church when they could do so. I received a withering look from him, and so rethought the statement.

Over the years, I have come to understand why we are left here to wage this final battle against Satan and all his cohorts. As I have pointed out many times, in this protracted and agonizing passion of Christ’s Mystical Body on earth we are to drink down to the bitter dregs the chalice our Lord accepted and endured as the price for our redemption. In His suffering in the Garden of Gesthemane; in begging his Father to be delivered from His Passion and death if this was possible; in the bloody sweat He experienced in the realization that He must obey His Father’s will to procure our redemption and, finally, in His heartrending Passion and death, He suffered without complaint. And so we too must accept our plight on this earth without murmuring or lashing out. We must not blame others for our predicament or seek comfort from the world by engaging in the many available distractions and pharmaceutical potions that assuage our pain.

Christ wished us to suffer as he suffered not to punish us or unnecessarily afflict us, but to purify us and to draw us closer to him. Yes, He begged His Father to relieve Him of this suffering and on the Cross he cried out for His assistance, owing to His human nature; but in the end He meekly bowed his head and was entirely resigned to His sacrifice. It is true that we today are reaping the whirlwind as result of our parents’ and grandparents’ misdeeds. Yet this is only fulfillment of a just sentence long ago pronounced by God when he presented the two tablets to Moses containing the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:5, 34:7; 1 Deuteronomy 5-9). For in these passages, God proclaims from His own mouth: “I am the Lord Thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation…” The Catholic Encyclopedia says this time period corresponds to anywhere from 30-100 years. So on an average this takes us at least to the late 1700s, ancestor wise. And that is precisely when the Church began to decline.

We may be victims in the sense that we had no control, as children in the 1940s-1960s, over what happened to our Church. But we must not behave as victims, a fatal flaw that could apply to all of us and probably does in certain ways. Victims suffer from guilt, and in our case that amounts to the many regrets we have for accepting the lies of the Novus Ordo and Traditionalists. This results in self-blame, which cannot be something unresolved but must be purged by confessing our sins to Christ and making reparation for them. Victims want to be rescued, which is why so many of us wound up seeking out Traditionalists in the first place. But when we realized that what the Novus Ordo and Traditionalists were doing was not Catholic, we ceased being victims and became true to Christ, choosing Him over what we felt we needed and deserved. We accepted our role as victims with Christ in His Passion.

But hard-core Traditionalists in true Modernist fashion continue to choose feelings and wants over faith. They still rely on the unCatholic and illogical explanations provided by their keepers. Having readily played into the pre-planned rescue by the new Old Catholics calling themselves Traditionalists, they refuse to face the fact they were wrong because this shames them. They resent anyone who tries to free them from these hirelings and angrily denounce them. They don’t take responsibility for researching and documenting the situation or saving their own souls. They blame the Jews and government corruption for their plight. They constantly agitate for and ruminate about a return to the Church of the 1950s which they believe would solve their dilemma and feel deprived of their right to live a fully Catholic life. They shun even the mention of praying at home as a way to keep the faith whole and entire, because they fear any prospect of isolation or possible abandonment by family and friends. All these are signs of victimization, often attributed to those abused by their partners and unable to break free. They cannot see that they are enslaved by the sects they are involved in, and truly believe they are doing all they can to lead a Catholic life. And yet the Catholic life they long for and believe they live as Traditionalists is far from being Catholic.

The world long ago lost its true understanding and appreciation of the Catholic faith beginning with the Protestant Reformation and even before that time-period, in pre-Reformation times. The papacy was the primary driving force of the Church, the one voice in the world that truly mattered. Think about it — no other leaders then enjoyed the supremacy of the papacy or were accorded such honor and respect. The Roman Pontiffs alone were then the rulers of this world. Today all rulers are bowed to as worthy of this respect and are hailed as equally prominent in world affairs. The world has overcome Christ and the voice of his Vicars. Traditionalists today think of the papacy only as a thing of the past; to them it is not a living, breathing entity yet demanding their obedience and respect. They believe the Church exists mainly for their benefit as a sort of emotional and spiritual filling station, as one author put it, where they stop by on Sundays and through the week occasionally to “air up,” or as some opine, to get their spiritual fix. I say “air up” because all Traditionalist clergy have to offer is an abundance of hot air, not true fuel for the soul.

If Traditionalists hear anything at all from the pulpit in way of papal teaching it is generally something quoted to back up Traditionalist clerics in some particular situation (such as Quo Primum to justify celebration of the Latin Mass) and is not presented in an integral or cohesive fashion. In general, little is said about the popes, and it is no wonder. One cannot pretend to be loyal to the papacy in its absence, while operating in total defiance of papal directives. Following them too closely would require removing their collars. It is this very refusal by followers of these so-called clerics to base their existence and teaching on true authority that perpetuates the victim cycle. This is true because that cycle is dependent not on intellectual union with God and a true understanding of the faith but co-dependency on men claiming to speak for God; men who have not even been vetted (and Canon Law requires this in Can. 200) to assure their listeners they are truly speaking in His name.

In other words, this free-floating rescue existence is precisely what contributes to the dereliction of responsibility in determining the true status of these men and what they are doing and teaching. Agitation and rumination in Traditionalist sects have been legion since they were first established; the drama helps perpetuate the cycle. If victims leave one sect, they blame the “priest” or certain cliques within the sect, righty or wrongly, for their exit, and head into the ether to find yet another more suitable Traditionalist sect. The prospect of figuring things out for themselves in isolation is unbearable. Without realizing it their vulnerability as victims and failure to address and correct this stance sets them up for the very thing they dread the most: being used, abused, discarded and branded as a waste of time. Those who are most likely to become involved in destructive religious sects (cults) are already victims by definition. Various sites list these predispositions as:

  • great dependence on others
  • lack of assertiveness
  • uncritical trust of other people and groups
  • wants simple “right” or “wrong” answers to complex questions
  • unfulfilled desire for spiritual meaning
  • cultural and religious disillusionment.

In other words, these religious organizations are looking for victims to fill their own personal needs and their respective coffers. It is a racket, not a religion. And those seeking Catholic truth are willingly obliging them by being and remaining victims, not to mention cooperating in sin.

Christ was a willing victim; He died a horrendous death for our sins as an act of perfect love. He was Truth itself nailed to a Cross. Those not wishing to discover truth because they fear what it might cost them do not wish to know Christ or suffer with Him in His Passion. In their minds they believe that as victims they have already suffered enough and that Our Lord would never be so cruel as to ask any more of them, and this comprises the majority. But there are some Catholics who are truly incapable of sorting things out and need to be guided by others. Sadly, there are few able to properly recognize their plight and help them make at least some simple sense out of the destruction that has obscured the Church from plain view. Our Lord will enclose these simple souls in His merciful Heart, but He expects far more of those able to rightly use their intellect to sort things out. These Catholics will not be so fortunate if they fail to take the measures needed to correct their course and save their souls.

There are cures for victimhood. They involve spiritual honesty and courage and a willingness to be a true victim by engaging in self-sacrifice. It requires focusing on the love, obedience and gratitude we owe our Creator rather than sentiments of self-entitlement, self-indulgence and wants and needs that contradict God’s will in these times. The first step in this process is to make some attempt to step back from whatever Traditionalist group or groups they may be involved in that offer the Latin Mass and administer the Sacraments. It may interest those who find themselves troubled and depressed that mental health professionals with a Christian background trace anxiety and depression to mistaken beliefs lodged in the subconscious. They encourage their patients to take charge of their lives and become fully aware of their beliefs, thoughts and actions. Because at some level, deep in the core of their being, certain Catholics know that something is not right — that either they are fooling themselves or at least are avoiding facing difficult decisions.

Counselors urge victims to take responsibility and face their thoughts and fears, for not all their thoughts and beliefs are true and many of their fears may be justified. Honesty and a willingness to resolve doubts are key and should be a powerful motivator. For being dishonest with oneself is lying; only by facing things head on can adverse situations be avoided, and self-confidence restored. Self-pity is nothing more than a lack of confidence in God, who is the Comforter, the Great Restorer, our Hope and our Refuge in times of sorrow and trial. He alone can offer the balm our souls need to face any tragedy, misery or general inability to cope with life. Rather than wallowing in self-pity, we have an obligation, especially in times such as these, to do all that we can to know the truth, because He is that truth! Then we must defend it — not our version of it, not what we THINK is the truth, not what others tell us is the truth — but what we ourselves have found and determined to BE that truth.

This website was constructed to help those seeking the truth. It is a lifelong journey that requires constant vigilance and dedication to possess truth at all costs. Those undertaking this journey must refuse to allow others to convince them that they are crazy, a heretic and worse; prideful, disobedient a worthless human being and more. Accepting the challenge of rising from victimization to self-realization and reformation will not only resolve self-pity issues, but it will also firmly place our Lord in His rightful position as the Director of your soul and the only one to whom you owe complete obedience, heartfelt allegiance and undying gratitude.