FRI-SAT-SUN
April 7-9, 2000
volume 11, no. 70

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APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH Series         INTRODUCTION

    Every day we present a short point that helps bring into focus the treasures of the Roman Catholic Church that comprise the great Deposit of Faith.

    It is no secret that over the past thirty years fewer and fewer know their Faith and it shows with the declining number of vocations, parish participation and attendance at Holy Mass. We have the new Catechism of the Catholic Church but for the common man, the one brought up on sound bites and instant gratification, it is more of a text book and that in itself prompts them to shy away from such a tome. So what's a loyal Catholic to do in evangelizing to fellow Catholics and understand their Faith? Our answer: go back to basics - to the great Deposit of Faith. We have the Baltimore Catechism which, for unknown and ridiculous reasons, was shelved after Vatican II. We have the Holy Bible but there are so many newer versions that the Douay-Rheims and Confraternity Latin Vulgate in English versions, the ones used for so long as the official Scriptural text authorized by the Church, seem lost in a maze of new interpretations that water down the Word. This is further complicated by the fact there are so few Douay-Rheims editions in circulation though it is available on the net at DOUAY-RHEIMS BIBLE. We have so many Vatican documents available at the Vatican web site and other excellent Catholic resource sites that detail Doctrine, Dogma and Canon Law. We have the traditions, and the means of grace but how do we consolidate all these sources into one where it is succinct and easy to understand? We have the perfect vehicle. It is called "My Catholic Faith", now out of print, that was compiled by Bishop Louis Laravoire Morrow and published by My Mission House. This work ties in Scriptural references, the Sacraments, Dogmas, Doctrines, Traditions, Church documents, Encyclical and Papal decrees to clearly illustrate the Faith in simple, solid and concise terms that all can understand and put into practice. We will quote from this work while adding in more recent events and persons when applicable since the book was written in the late forties during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. We also quote from the Catholic Almanac published by Our Sunday Visitor for the Roman Curial offices and from Old Testament Confraternity Edition and New Testament Confraternity Edition of the Saint Joseph New Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible.

    Nothing in Holy Mother Church's teaching has changed and therefore we feel confident that these daily "points of enlightenment" will help more Catholics better understand their faith, especially those who were not blessed with early formation of the faith in the home and their parish school. Regardless of where any Catholic is in his or her journey toward salvation, he or she has to recognize that the Faith they were initiated into at the Sacrament of Baptism is the most precious gift they have been given in life. For points covered thus far, click on APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH


installment 148:
The Nativity part two

        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 or, since Vatican II, the First Sunday of the New Year. "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" (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" (John 16:23). The feast of the Circumcision used to be celebrated on New Year's Day, but has since been supplanted by the Solemnmity of Mary, Mother of God 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".

        Mary and Joseph took the Child Jesus to Egypt to save Him from King Herod, who wanted to kill Him. An angel 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.

    Monday: The Hidden Life of Jesus Christ part one

          

April 7-9, 2000
volume 11, no. 70
APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH

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