Christmas-New Year's Issue
December 29, 2002 - January 4, 2003
volume 13, no. 148
Father Louis Campbell's Sermon
for the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas
"Good Tidings of Great Joy!"
The celebration continues for those who realize the reason for the season - all the more reason to extend the celebration from twelve to forty days.
Editor's Note: In Father Louis Campbell's sermon for the Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity of Our Lord he points out that for many Christmas is over, but for faithful Catholics the celebration of the birth of the God-man continues for at least twelve days up to the Feast of the Epiphany. Father also shows how men like the esteemed Benedictine Abbot Dom Gueranger showed evidence that Christmas is actually a 40-day celebration liturgically from Christmas to Candlemas on February 2nd, the Traditional Feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple and the Purification of the Blessed Mother when Simeon, as today's Gospel points out, foretold that her Divine Son would be "a sign which shall be contradicted." Indeed, the Son of God continues to be contradicted and despised today by the neo-pagan influence which endeavors to totally obliterate the reason for the season. In an interesting note, Father also provides historical references that give credence that it is this year of 2002 when we actually observe the 2000th anniversary of the birth of the Savior.
Just a few days ago we celebrated the holy feast of the Nativity of Our Lord. For those without faith, Christmas is over when they have opened the last Christmas present, or swallowed the last mouthful of turkey or pumpkin pie. After that there's nothing to do but take down the Christmas decorations and wait for the excitement of New Year's Eve.
Father Louis J. Campbell
For those who have a more spiritual outlook, there are twelve days of Christmas, ending with the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. Yet in the monumental work, The Liturgical Year, by Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., we read:
"We apply the name of Christmas to the forty days which begin with the Nativity of our Lord, December 25, and end with the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, February 2. It is a period which forms a distinct portion of the Liturgical Year..." He adds that nothing is "able to distract our Holy Mother the Church from the immense joy of which she received the good tidings from the Angels on that glorious Night for which the world had been longing four thousand years."
Unfortunately, each year at this time the Church must struggle to uphold the purity and integrity of this feast, not only against the excesses of feasting and drinking, but against the attacks of those who have no love for the Christ Child, and would like to see the very memory of Him destroyed. Because the word "Christmas" contains the name of "Christ" Christmas trees must become "Holiday trees," "Merry Christmas" must be replaced with "Happy Holidays," while Christmas carols and Christmas Mangers are outlawed in schools and public places.
Some of the arguments against Christmas are downright ridiculous. The well known preacher, Garner Ted Armstrong says, for instance, "The words Christmas, holly wreath, mistletoe, Rudolph, Santa Claus and Christmas tree do not appear anywhere in the Bible." On the other hand, the Rev. Jerry Falwell says, "I believe the celebration of Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to honor Christ and share the gospel." (See Joe Kovacs, Christmas in America…, www.worldnetdaily.com, Dec. 14, 2002).
The neo-pagans say that the real reason for the celebration is winter solstice, and that Christmas is merely a veneer over the pagan celebration of the Natalis invicti solis (birthday of the unconquered sun), which was observed in ancient Rome. They even offer a list of ways to "re-paganize" Christmastime. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has posted its annual atheistic message in the rotunda of the state seat of government in Madison, Wisconsin:
"At this season of the winter solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."
Even some Traditional Catholics have the idea that we should abandon Christmas to the pagans, because they think Christ was really born in the fall of the year, perhaps October. Imagine what that would do to the Liturgical Year. And we thought there was chaos in the Novus Ordo. But Dom Gueranger thinks otherwise:
"…[W]ith regard to our Savior's Birth on December 25, we have St. John Chrysostom (d.407A.D.) telling us, in his Homily for this Feast, that the Western Churches had, from the very commencement of Christianity, kept it on this day. He is not satisfied with merely mentioning the tradition; he undertakes to show that it is well founded, inasmuch as the Church of Rome had every means of knowing the true day of our Savior's Birth, since the acts of the Enrolment, taken in Judea by command of Augustus, were kept in the public archives of Rome. The holy Doctor adduces a second argument, which he founds upon the Gospel of St. Luke, and he reasons thus: we know from the sacred Scriptures that it must have been in the fast of the seventh month that the priest Zachary had the vision in the Temple; after which Elizabeth, his wife, conceived St. John the Baptist: hence it follows that the Blessed Virgin Mary having, as the Evangelist St. Luke relates, received the Angel Gabriel's visit, and conceived the Savior of the world in the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, that is to say, in March, the Birth of Jesus must have taken place in the month of December."
The Church, however, does not insist upon December 25 as the actual date of the birth of Christ. We know, for one thing, that those who established what we call the Gregorian Calendar, made a mistake of two or three years, so that it is believed that Christ was actually born around 3 B.C. On the day that I was preparing this sermon I happened to tune in, as though by accident, to a program dealing with these very matters. Astronomers, it was said, have found that there was a constellation, or conjunction of planets on September 11, in the year 3 B.C. Fifteen months later, on December 25 of the year 2 B.C., the planet Jupiter hovered for a brief time directly over the city of Bethlehem, as seen from Jerusalem. This would be the perfect setting for the visit of the Magi, as recorded in the Gospel of St. Matthew, who visited the Child Jesus bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. In fact, the Child Jesus would have been about the age of fifteen months at the time of their visit. According to this scenario, the actual date of Jesus' birth would be September 11, 3 B.C., and the date of the Epiphany, or what was once called Old Christmas, would be December 25, 2 B.C.
In any case, we are not about to abandon the celebration of Christmas to the neo-pagans. We will defend the rights of Jesus Christ, our newborn King, and observe the ancient rites of the Church in the traditional manner all the more deliberately. Our religion is not rooted in time but in eternity, and the focus of our celebration is not man but "God made Man," Who comes to us today as a helpless Babe in the arms of the Holy Virgin Mary, His Mother. The Angels announced good news of great joy to the shepherds who were watching their flocks in the fields by night. This same Good News we preach to all men of good will: "Jesus Christ, your King, is born; Come, let us adore Him."