DAILY CATHOLIC    CHRISTMAS ISSUE     December 23-27, 1998     vol. 9, no. 248

DAILY LITURGY

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Wednesday, December 23, 1998

    Wednesday December 23:
    Final Wednesday of Late Advent and
    Optional Memorial of Saint John Kanti, priest

    Violet vestments

      First Reading: Malachi 3: 1-4, 23-24
      Psalms: Psalm 25: 4-5, 8-10, 14 and Luke 21: 28
      Gospel Reading: Luke 1: 57-66

Feast of Saint John Kanti

      This Polish-born priest, also known as John of Cantiusstudied at the University of Cracow before his ordination, then returned to teach Sacred Scripture. Because of his fame as a preacher and great teacher a coup was formed to oust him from his tenure at the University. Nevertheless, his chief interest was souls and therefore he forgave his accusers and tended to the spiritual care of the poor in Cracow until he died on this date in 1473. Pope Clement XII proclaimed him Patron of Poland and Lithuania in 1737 and Pope Clement XIII canonized John in 1767.

Thursday, December 24, 1998

      First Reading: 2 Samuel 7: 1-5, 8-12, 14, 16
      Psalms: Psalm 89: 2-5, 27, 29
      Gospel Reading: Luke 1: 67-79

VIGIL OF THE BIRTH OF THE LORD

      First Reading: Isaiah 62: 1-5
      Psalms: Psalm 89: 2, 4-5, 16-17, 27, 29
      Second Reading: Acts 13: 16-17, 22-25
      Gospel Reading: Matthew 1: 1-25

FRIDAY, December 25, 1998

CHRISTMAS MIDNIGHT MASS:

      First Reading: Isaiah 9: 1-6
      Psalms: Psalm 96: 1-3, 11-12, 13 and Luke 2: 1
      Second Reading: Titus 2: 11-14
      Gospel Reading: Luke 2: 1-14

CHRISTMAS DAWN MASS:

      First Reading: Isaiah 62: 11-12
      Psalms: Psalm 97: 1-6, 11-12 and Isaiah 9: 1, 5
      Second Reading: Titus 3: 4-7
      Gospel Reading: Luke 2: 15-20

CHRISTMAS DAY MASS:

      First Reading: Isaiah 52: 7-10
      Psalms: Psalm 98: 1-6
      Second Reading: Hebrews 1: 1-6
      Gospel Reading: John 1: 1-18

SOLEMNITY OF THE BIRTH OF THE SAVIOR

      With the Vigil of Christmas begins the Christmas Season in the Liturgical calendar. It officially ends with the Feast of the Epiphany. The Feast of the Nativity, or the Incarnation, or Christmas is a holy day of obligation and one of the most joyous in the Church. In celebrating this glorious event we commemorate the birth of the Christ-child as related in Luke 2: 1-20. It was the culmination of the long-awaited coming of the Messiah foretold throughout Scripture. Such as Isaiah 7:14 where the prophet foretold the Coming of Emmanuel; from Abraham to the Root of Jesse, father of David who continued the line as the Key of David - the Savior's lineage which came all the way down to Jacob, father of Joseph as transcribed in Matthew 1: 1-16. The story of a child born of a virgin in a poor, run-down stable on the outskirts of Bethlehem while lowly shepherds tended their flocks because there was no room at the inn is well-known by all detailed in Matthew 1:24-25, Luke 2: 1-20, and John 1: 14 wherein the beloved Apostle says it so eloquently: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." The feast, originally celebrated on the Feast of Epiphany in the East, was transfered to December 25 in 354 by Pope Liberius for the universal Church in the West where it was called "Christmas." Many believe this date was set to observe this wondrous feast to offset the observance of pagan ceremonies held simultaneously. These pagan feasts celebrated the winter solstice. There is credence for this supposition because at the time Liberius instituted Christmas on December 25 he was embroiled in debate with Julian the Apostate who, as Emperor, was trying to establish a universal pagan church. A special privilege of allowing the priests to say three Masses on Christmas day reverts back to around the 4th Century when the Holy Father celebrated Midnight Mass in the Basilica where the original Bethlehem manger was preserved. He then said a second in the church of St. Anastasia at dawn for her feast day was on December 25th as well, and followed that up with a day Mass at the Basilica in the Vatican. Today there are three different texts/readings for the three Masses on Christmas. The etimology of "Christmas" is derived from the Anglo-Saxon Cristes Maesse which means "Christ's Mass." In fact, most of the present customs in many countries evolved over the centuries as a result of Holy Mother Church's "Christianizing" of pagan celebrations during that time of year.

Saturday, December 26, 1998

      First Reading: Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-59
      Psalms: Psalm 31: 3-4, 6-8, 17, 21
      Gospel Reading: Matthew 10: 17-22

Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr

      The first deacon of the Church, Saint Stephen was hand-picked by the Apostles to help the original twelve to minister to the poor. He was of Jewish descent who spoke Greek fluently from his education in Alexandria. Returning to Jerusalem he was converted to Christianity, many feel by Jesus Christ Himself during Our Lord's public ministry. After the descent of the Holy Spirit the Apostles ordained the seven deacons by laying their hands upon them while they prayed with Stephen being the first ordained. The deacons main ministry was to the Hellenic Jewish Christians in Jerusalem and Stephen, with his expertise in Greek and oratory, led the deacons in converting numerous Jews which caused great consternation among the Sanhedrin who accused Stephen of blasphemy because their best could not debate the brilliant Stephen who was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Chapter 6 and 7 of the Acts of the Apostle relate the events that took place leading up to Stephen's martyrdom. When brought before the Sanhedrin as a prisoner, the assembled body thought that if they threatened punishment, he would recant and cease his activities. Were they in for a surprise when Stephen defended Christ and His teachings. When the Sanhedrin denounced the Holy Spirit as a lot of hogwash and ordered him to stop preaching, Stephen smiled and described the instantaneous beautiful vision he had of Jesus standing at the right hand of God the Father, continuing about Jesus that he did not die but rose from the dead and ascended bodily into Heaven. In short, he not only refused to abandon his Savior, but also pinged the consciences of the Sanhedrin by reminding them of what God had intended with His chosen race of Israel, but which they had abandoned. This infuriated the pompous rulers; so much so that they siezed him in a fit of anger and dragged him outside the city where they stoned him to death, as Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit...Lord, do not lay this sin against them" (Acts 7:59-60). As Scripture accounts, there was a young soldier standing by who approved of the zealots violence. His name was Saul who would go on to become the great Paul, but for now he was still mired in the darkness as the lifeless Stephen laid in his own spilled blood, crushed to death. It was the first martyrdom of the Church after Christ's death on the Cross and it set a precedent and pattern that would be the seeds of Christianity for all time. His relics were discovered near the north gate of Jerusalem and the bishop of Jerusalem transferred them to Saint Sion. In 439 a new basilica was built in his honor, but was destroyed in 614 by the Persians. However the relics were preserved and the ruins became an oratory only to be destroyed again in 1187. His relics were preserved and separated, some going to northern Africa, others to Prague, some to Constantinople and the rest to Rome where they were preserved in the church of St. Stephen in Rome. It wasn't until 1882 that the original church in Jerusalem was rebuilt near the Dominican Biblical School, where it was consecrated at the turn of the century. His feast has been celebrated in the universal Church since the 5th Century.

SUNDAY, December 27, 1998

      First Reading: Sirach 3: 2-6, 12-14
      Psalms: Psalm 128: 1-5
      Second Reading: Colossians 3: 12-21
      Gospel Reading: Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23

FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY

      This feast is always celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas and commemorates the holy bond of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The Holy Family is the model for all homes, especiallly in this day and age when family concept is no longer held sacred and the sacred is profaned when same-sex unions call themselves family. In the Holy Family we have the ideal role models God intended for all His children: Jesus as the obedient child, observing all He can in bringing love to His Mother and foster father, contributing to the family unit; Joseph as the humble, loving, patient patriarch of the family, guiding Jesus gently but firmly, and lovingly protecting his spouse whom he respects so much he will not defile in word or action, defending her honor in all chasteness; and finally Mary, the loving Virgin Mother who never complains despite the rugged travel while with child, the harsh elements and the meager food. She tenderly cares for her Divine Son, spending sleepless hours in meditative union with God, always in joy, caring for her loving spouse Joseph by preparing the meals, washing his garments, etc. Yes, this is the ideal family and no one can perceive of such a family today - but it is the ideal to strive for and because of that, this feast is very special within the Church - a family member of the Communion of Saints. The Feast of the Holy Family first gained observance status in the 17th Century and garnered greater stature in the 18th Century when Pope Leo XIII consecrated families to the Holy Family. Pope Benedict XV extended the Divine Office and the Mass of this feast to the universal Church in 1921.
    This year, because the 27th falls on Sunday the Feast of the Holy Family takes precedence, but normally December 27th is reserved for the Feast of Saint John the Evangelist, the beloved Apostle.

Feast of SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, Beloved Apostle

      Known as the "beloved Apostle," Saint John, along with his brother Saint James were personally called by Jesus to become fishers of men. This had been his avocation before Our Lord touched his life on the shores of Galilee where he had been born, the son of Zebedee and Salome as chapter 4 of Matthew and 1 of Mark relate. John was the youngest of all the Apostles and dubbed "Sons of Thunder" by Our Lord mainly because of their volatile temperaments which, in John's case, was greatly calmed once he began to follow the Messiah. It is no secret, as Sacred Scripture attests to, that John was a personal favorite of Jesus. The Apostle was handpicked by Our Lord to accompany Him to the place of the Transfiguration, the healing of Peter's mother-in-law, the rasing of Jairus' daughter from the dead, and the agony in the garden. John rewarded his Master by being the only Apostle to follow Jesus to the foot of the Cross. He in turn was rewarded by Our Lord when He entrusted His most prized possession into the beloved Apostle's care - His very Own Blessed Mother Mary as the Apostle relates in his own gospel account, chapter 19: 25-27. John was the first to reach the empty tomb on Easter morning. After Pentecost, John accompanied Peter to Samaria to spread the Word to the people there and was present at the Council of Jerusalem in 49. After that he traveled to Asia Minor. Some believe Our Lady accompanied him there and lived in Ephesus, where she died and was assumed bodily into Heaven. Saint Paul affirms in Galatians 2: 9 that John, along with Peter and James, were "these pillars" of the Church. Church historian Tertullian holds that John traveled to Rome where he miraculously evaded martyrdom under the vile Roman emperor Domitian, emerging fresh and cool after being submerged in a boiling cauldron of oil. The Romans subsequently exiled him to the Isle of Patmos where the Apostle received the visions he recorded in the Apocalypse/Revelation - the last book of the Bible. In 96, upon Domitian's death, John returned to Ephesus where he wrote his gospel along with his three epistles. He has always been depicted with an eagle to signify the soaring majesticness of his writings which were indeed so brilliant theologically that some came to call him "John the Divine." John was totally human, however, as we know and he died in Ephesus around 104. Some historians refute this, claiming John returned to Patmos where he died just before the turn of the century. Regardless of accounts, it is fact that John lived a long life and contributed much to furthering the faith and completing Public Revelation.

Monday, December 28, 1998

      First Reading: 1 John 2: 3-11
      Psalms: Psalm 96: 1-3, 5-6
      Gospel Reading: Luke 2: 22-35

Feast of the martyred Holy Innocents

      This feast commemorates the slaughter of the holy innocent male babies who were killed in King Herod's lust to find and destroy the Child Jesus as related in Matthew 2: 13-18. Ever since the 5th Century this feast has been observed as stated by Saint Peter Chrysologus. It became a solemn feast in 1568, declared so by Pope Saint Pius V. Though legend has it that thousands were slaughtered, the actual figure was closer to only 20 infants; yet even one is too many. Though Saint Stephen is considered the first martyr of the Church, in truth these innocents were really the first martyrs for unwillingly or not, they were the first victims to die for Christ. They are the original martyrs who St. John writes about in Apocalypse/Revelation 7: 14 and 17 when one of the elders says, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb...and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." The holy innocents today are the innocent babies of the 20th Century who have been aborted by their own mothers. Like the first holy innocents who were a figment of a threat to Herod, these modern day innocents also are slaughtered because they are a threat to the worldly ways of those who seek the culture of death over the Culture of Life.

December 23-27, 1998       volume 9, no. 248
LITURGY

DAILY CATHOLIC

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