The Nativity of the Redeemer Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of God's promise to man. It is a feast celebrated throughout the Christian world with various customs but the same purpose: honor and glory to the Son of God born in a place fit only for animals. Yet God chose such a setting to emphasize humility for as hearts were full of joy at His birth, our hearts should be full of joy not only on the feast of His birth, but every second of our lives for the greatest gift He could have given us: life and the true Faith. Yes, for many it was by the 'accident' of birth that we were born into a Catholic family; others converted through the grace of God and through the goodness of those God places in their lives to effect a conversion of heart. His birth should also be a strong reminder that while we celebrate the Child nestled in the wood of the manger it is only by being willing to nail ourselves on the wood of the Cross in order to reap the rewards of eternal life for He is the Life, the Light and the Word...the Word made flesh Who dwells among us always in our hearts, souls and in the Holy Eucharist when the bread and wine are confected in the pre-Vatican II Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Yes, it may be going against the grain according to worldly values, but if one is concerned about that, then one totally misses the point of Christmas.
Editor's Note: This series is an effort to return to basics since too often we all make the holy Faith complicated, whereas in reality the truths and traditions of the Catholic Faith are quite simple. God doesn't complicate things, man does. Realizing the fact that, for many generations indoctrinated by conciliar ambiguities, it all seems so confusing, we are introducing this series which is an adaptation of an earlier series titled "Appreciating the Precious Gift of the Faith" in utilizing a combination of the excellent compendium of the late Bishop Morrow's pre-Vatican II Manual of Religion My Catholic Faith and Dom Prosper Gueranger's incomparable The Liturgical Year as well as the out-of-print masterpieces The Catholic Church Alone The One True Church(1902) and the Cabinet of Catholic Information (1903). Through prayer and discussions, we've decided to employ this revised series to simplify the tenets of the Faith for those who continue to wallow in what they think is the 'Catholic Church' out of obedience to a man and his hierarchy who long ago betrayed Christ and His flocks. This then, is an affirmation of the basic truths the Spotless Bride of Christ has always taught and cannot change or evolve as "living documents" for truth is truth. As we say every day in the Act of Faith, "We believe these and all the truths which the holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed them, Who canst neither deceive nor be deceived." If you have been deceived, and the vast majority have been, then realize what you've been indoctrinated with over the past 50 years cannot be from God but from His adversary. Our advice: flee the conciliar confines as well as other man-made religions which do not teach these truths without compromise. Seek out a traditional chapel nearest to you. There is a list of churches you can absolutely trust at Traditional Latin Masses
The Blessed Virgin Mary, as noted in Step 22, is the "Second Eve" for God promised to send into the world a Savior to free man from his sins caused by the first parents and by sending this Messiah God would reopen the gates of Heaven. The promise was first made to Adam in Genesis 3: 15 when the Lord chastised the serpent, "I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy head." In this passage the woman spoken of is, of course, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her seed is Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior. He was the Redeemer promised by God. The complete enmity God was speaking of was the enmity between Our Lord with his Mother Mary on one side, and the devil with his followers on the other.
To prepare the perfect Tabernacle to bear the Son of God, the Father created Mary immaculate in the womb of Saint Anne so that Anne's daughter would be free of original sin and therefore provide the holiest of holies to house the Lord of Lords. This is called, of course, the Immaculate Conception a Dogma of the Church declared in 1854 by Pope Pius IX.
God also gave all mankind a free will and so it was left to the young Mary to exercise that free will. She could have said 'no' to the Archangel Gabriel when he appeared to her in Nazareth at the Annunciation. She was certainly startled, but she realized the gravity of the question and what stood in the balance. Her fiat was "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Thy Will" (Luke 1: 38). At these words by Our Lady, the Holy Spirit mystically conceived in Mary's womb the Son of God; thus the Incarnation as He became a human fetus growing through the nine-month gestation period until the joyful Nativity of the Man-God Savior on Christmas in a cold, damp stable in Bethlehem. The mystery of the Incarnation is commemorated daily in the Angelus prayer said three times a day - morning, at noon and again at night.
Jesus Christ was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Christmas Day, in Bethlehem, two thousand and ten years ago this year.
When Jesus Christ was born, the Jews were no longer independent. In 64 B.C. Pompey reduced their kingdom and subjected it to Rome. Because the Jews were always plotting rebellion against Rome, the Jewish king was replaced by Herod, a Gentile, the first non-Jew to become king. Thus the scepter was "taken away from Juda", and the time predicted for the Messias had arrived.
Today we reckon dates from the birth of Christ. This has been the continuous custom since the time of Charlemagne, although many rulers from the 5th century had adopted the practice. However, there is an error of some four to six years. Generally, it is supposed, as a matter of historical fact, that Christ was born 7-5 B.C. An error in the calculation dates in later centuries produced this anomaly, though today, going by the Gregorian calendar established by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, the year 0 connotates the Year of Our Lord Anno Domini. Ergo, anything before the year 0 was considered "Before Christ" or B.C. and anything after, was A.D. Therefore, this year we celebrate the 2010th anniversary of Our Lord's birth.
Bethlehem is a little town in Judea, near the city of Jerusalem. Joseph and Mary went there in obedience to the Emperor at Rome, who had commanded all his subjects to register in the towns of their ancestors. Joseph and Mary were both descended from King David, whose city was Bethlehem; this is why they went to register there. They tried to find a place to stay in even for only a night, but could find refuge nowhere. And so they sought shelter in a poor stable; there Jesus was born. Jesus was born in a stable, a poor place. He preferred poverty and humiliation in order to suffer more for us.
The Church celebrates the Nativity on December 25. The feast is called Christmas. On this day every true priest is granted the privilege of saying three Holy Sacrifices of the Mass; one in commemoration of Christ's eternal birth from God the Father - often the Midnight Mass; another in remembrance of His temporal birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary - the Mass for Dawn on Christmas Day; and a third to recall His spiritual birth in the hearts of the faithful - considered the Christmas Day Mass. There is also the Vigil of Christmas celebrated on Christmas Eve with an entirely different set of readings. The word "Christmas" comes from Christ and Mass. The feast is so called because on that day the Mass commemorating the birth of Christ is said. How sad this holy word is so misused today in the secular world with its pagan practices where now they want to erase all assimilation to Christ and call it "Holiday" when, in truth, it is one of the holiest of "Holydays".
The angel appeared to shepherds and told them of the Nativity. A star led three Magi (Wise Men) to Bethlehem. The shepherds represented the poor. The Magi represented the rich. All offered their gifts to the Infant Jesus. Our Lord does not look at the price of our gifts, but at the purity of our hearts. The Church commemorates the adoration of the Magi on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6. "Epiphany" means manifestation. In the persons of the Magi, who were not Jews, Our Lord was manifest to all nations of the earth, who were at the time lost in paganism. With the Magi we are called to the Truth; the Old Testament was ended, and the world had entered upon a new Covenant with God. And if, like the Magi, we offer Jesus Christ the gold of our love, the myrrh of self-sacrifice, and the incense of our prayers, we too shall be united with God.
Many churches and homes set up a crib at Christmas. This custom, athough of very ancient origin, was popularized by Saint Francis of Assisi. In the year 1223, he visited Pope Honorius III and sought approval of his plans to make a scenic representatio nof the Nativity. Having obtained the Pope's consent, Francis left Rome, and arrived at Greccio on Christmas Eve. There in the church he constructed a crib, grouping around it images of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, of the shepherds, the ox, and the ass. At the midnight Mass St. Francis acted as deacon. After singing the words of the Gospel, "And they laid Him in a manger", he knelt down to meditate on the great gift of the Incarnation. And people around saw in his arms a Child, surrounded by a most brilliant light.
Since then the devotion to the crib has spread far and wide. The crib remains in church until the octave day of the Epiphany. At the proper time the images of the Three Kings and their retinue are added, making a daily advance towards the crib.
Most homes also set up a decorated Christmas tree. It is a reminder of the tree of the cross. The boxes of Christmas gifts remind us of the great Gift that God sent us. Santa Claus, the jolly and beloved distributor of Christmas gifts, is an American adoption of Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, of the fourth century. This Saint is popular in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, where he is made the secret purveyor of gifts to children on December 6, his feast day. The custom was brought to New York by the Dutch, quickly spread throughout the United States and became absorbed into the Christmas celebration. Again, pagan and secular interests have greatly obliterated the meaning of gift-giving and the traditions of "jolly St. Nick."
The following incidents in Our Lord's life were closely connected with the Nativity: the Circumcision, the Presentation, and the flight to Egypt. The Child received the name Jesus when He was eight days old. He was circumcised, according to the custom of the Jews. At the Circumcision Jesus began His role of Mediator between God and man, shedding His blood for the first time for us. "Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins" (St. Matthew 1:21). "Therefore God has bestowed upon Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth" (Philippians 2:9,10). "If you ask the Father anything in My name, He will give it to you" (St. John 16:23). The feast of the Circumcision is celebrated on New Year's Day as the Octave of Christmas and a Holy Day of Obligation and fitting considering that no circumcision could have taken place, no redemption by the shedding of the Savior's blood, no resurrection without the cooperation of Mary as His Mother through her fiat at the Annunciation. In everyway Mary directs all attention to her Divine Son and thus the Church teaches us to begin everything in the name of Jesus.
When Jesus was forty days old, His Mother presented Him in the Temple at Jerusalem. The feast of the Presentation is celebrated on February 2. It is also called the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, or Candlemas Day. On this day candles are blessed and carried in procession, in memory of the words of holy Simeon, when Jesus was presented in the Temple. He said Our Lord was "a Light of revelation to the Gentiles". Thus this day of the Presentation and Purification mark the end of Christmastide, the forty days between the Nativity and the Presentation. That is the time mankind should celebrate Christmas, not from Thanksgiving to Christmas as the secular world has done with greed holding serve over the fact that Christmas is not for giving gifts to others but for giving gifts to the Christ Child, beginning with our own fiat to Him in amending our lives.
As for gift-giving, we should emulate the three Wise Men and exchange gifts on the feast of the Epiphany after enjoying the Twelve Days of Christmas. After the Presentation, the time becomes more somber in approaching Septuagesima and the Season of Lent mirrored by Mary and Joseph fleeing in the night with the Child Jesus to Egypt to save Him from King Herod, who wanted to kill Him. Saved by an angel who appeared to Joseph and told him to take the Child Jesus and His mother away to Egypt. They stayed in Egypt until the death of King Herod. Then an angel appeared to Joseph and bade him return to the land of the Jews. Ah, yes, the angels. We all have them. Are we using them as God desires? They were there at His birth singing from on high and they are at every true Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in mass, adoring Christ. Should we not call on them always and emulate them in our worship of our Lord and Savior?
Previously: Step Twenty-two: The Prophecy Fulfilled
Catholicism Made Simple