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CHRISTMAS-NEW YEAR'S ISSUE
December 24, 1999 - January 2, 2000
SECTION THREE vol 10, no. 245
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE JOHN PAUL II FOR THE CELEBRATION OF WORLD DAY OF PEACE 2000
"PEACE ON EARTH TO THOSE WHOM GOD LOVES!"
Jesus, Gift of Peace
19. "Peace on earth to those whom God loves!" Looking to the Great Jubilee, Christians throughout the world are committed to the solemn commemoration of the Incarnation. Listening again to the proclamation of the Angels in the heavens above
Bethlehem (cf. Lk 2:14), they commemorate the Incarnation in the knowledge that Jesus "is our peace" (Eph 2:14), the gift of
peace for all people. His first words to the disciples after the Resurrection were: "Peace be with you"(Jn 20:19, 21, 26).
Christ came to unite what was divided, to destroy sin and hatred, and to reawaken in humanity the vocation to unity and
brotherhood. Therefore, he is "the source and model of that renewed humanity, imbued with brotherly love, sincerity, and a
peaceful spirit, to which all aspire." (7. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church Ad Gentes, 8.)
20. During this Jubilee Year, the Church vividly remembers her Lord and intends to confirm her vocation and mission to be in
Christ a "sacrament" or sign and instrument of peace in the world and for the world. For the Church, to carry out her
evangelizing mission means to work for peace. "The Church, then, God's only flock, like a standard lifted high for the nations
to see, ministers the Gospel of peace to all mankind as she makes her pilgrim way in hope towards her goal, the fatherland
above." (8. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, 2.)
For the Catholic faithful, the commitment to build peace and justice is not secondary but essential. It is to be undertaken in
openness towards their brothers and sisters of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, towards the followers of other
religions, and towards all men and women of good will, with whom they share the same concern for peace and brotherhood.
Working generously for peace
21. It is a sign of hope that, despite many serious obstacles, initiatives for peace continue to spring up day by day, with the
generous cooperation of many people. Peace is a building constantly under construction. The building up of peace involves:
- parents who are examples and witnesses of peace in their families, and who educate their children for peace;
- teachers who are able to pass on the genuine values present in every field of knowledge and in the historical and cultural
heritage of humanity;
- working men and women, who are committed to extending their age-old struggle for the dignity of work to those present-day
situations which, at the international level, cry out for justice and solidarity;
- political leaders who put at the heart of their own political activity and of that of their countries a firm and unwavering
determination to promote peace and justice;
- those in International Organizations who, often with scarce resources, work in the front line where being "peace-makers"
can involve risking their own personal safety;
- the members of Non-Governmental Organizations who, in different parts of the world and in the most varied situations, are
dedicated to preventing and resolving conflicts through research and activity;
- believers who, convinced that authentic faith is never a source of war or violence, spread convictions of peace and love
through ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.
22. I am thinking particularly of you, dear young people, who experience in a special way the blessing of life and have a duty
not to waste it. In your schools and universities, in the work-place, in leisure and sports, in all that you do, let yourselves be
guided by this constant thought: peace within you and peace around you, peace always, peace with everyone, peace for
To the young people who, unfortunately, have known the tragic experience of war and who harbour sentiments of hatred
and resentment I address this plea: make every effort to rediscover the path of reconciliation and forgiveness. It is a difficult
path, but it is the only one which will enable you to look to the future with hope for yourselves, your children, your countries
and all humanity.
I will have an opportunity to return to this dialogue with you, dear young people, when we meet in Rome next August for the
Jubilee celebration of World Youth Day.
Pope John XXIII in one of his last public addresses spoke once more to "men of good will", asking them to commit themselves
to a programme of peace based on "the Gospel of obedience to God, mercy and forgiveness". He went on to say: "without a
doubt the bright torch of peace will run its course, igniting joy and pouring light and grace into the hearts of people throughout
the world, helping them to discover beyond all frontiers the faces of brothers and sisters, the faces of friends." (9. Address on the occasion of the award of the Balzan Prize (10 May 1963): AAS 55 (1963), 455.) May you,
young people of the Year 2000, see in others, and help them to see, the faces of brothers and sisters, the faces of friends!
In this Jubilee Year, when the Church will commit herself to prayer for peace through solemn intercessions, we turn with filial
devotion to the Mother of Jesus. Invoking her as the Queen of Peace, we ask that she generously bestow on us the gifts of
her maternal goodness and help the human race to become one family, in solidarity and peace.
From the Vatican, 8 December 1999
Appreciation of the last books of the Old Testament
In this year-end issue we continue our search to uncover the wonderful treasures of the Church contained in the great Deposit of Faith with our series on the Bible and Sacred Scripture, presenting an overview of each of the Old Testament books, completing the Old Covenant by covering the final six Books of Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and 1 and 2 Machabees. For the seventy-eighth installment, click on APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH
THE BIBLE: THE BOOKS OF HAGGAI THROUGH MACHABEES
AGGAI or HAGGAI
ZACHARIA or ZECHARIAH
Zacharia's initial prophecy is dated to 520 B.C., the same year as that in which Aggai received the prophetic call. The first eight chapters of the Book of Zacharia contain oracles which certainly belong to him while the last six (sometimes called "Deutero-Zacharia") represent the work of one or more unknown authors. In the prophecies proper to Zacharia, eight symbolic visions are recorded, all meant to promote the work of rebuilding the Temple and to encourage the returned exiles, especially their leaders Joshua and Zorobabel. In the final chapter of this first division Zacharia portrays the Messianic future under the figure of a prosperous land to which the nations come in pilgrimage, eager to follow the God of Israel.
The second part of Zacharia is divided into two sections, each with its own introductory title. The first (9-11) consists of oracles whose historical background, date and authorship are extremely difficult to determine. With 9: 9 begins the Messianic vision of the coming of the Prince of Peace. The verses describing the triumphant appearance of the humble king are taken up by the four Evangelists to describe the entry of Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Chapter 12 is introduced by an oracle proclaiming the victory of God's people over the heathen. The prophecy closes by describing, in apocalyptic imagery, the final assault of the enemy on Jerusalem, after which the Messianic age begins.
MALACHIA or MALACHI
This work was composed by an anonymous writer shortly before Nehemiah's arrival in Jerusalem (445 B.C.). Because of the sharp reproaches he was leveling against the priests and rulers of the people, the author probably wished to conceal his identity. To do this he made a proper name out of the Hebrew expression for "My Messenger" (Malachi), which occurs in 1: 1 and 3: 1. The historical value of the prophecy is considerable in that it gives us a picture of life in the Jewish community returned from Babylon, between the period of Aggai and the reform measures of Ezra and Nehemiah. It is likely that the author's trenchant criticism of abuses and religious indifference in the community prepared the way fosr these necessary reforms.
The chosen people had made a sorry return for Divine Love. The priests, who should have been leaders, had dishonored God by their blemished sacrifices. In his first chapter, the writer foresees the time when all nations will offer a pure oblation (1: 11) - a prophecy whose fulfillment the Church sees in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The author then turns from priests to people, denouncing their marriages with pagans and their callous repudiation of Israelite wives. Imbued with the rationalist and critical spirit of the times, many had wearied God with the questions, "Where is the God of justice?" To this question the prophet replies that the Day of the Lord is coming. But first the forerunner must come, who will prepare the soil for repentance and true worship. The Gospel writers point to John the Baptist as the forerunner ushering in the Messianic age, the true Day of the Lord. When the ground is prepared God will appear, measuring out rewards and punishments and purifying the nation in the furnace of judgment. He will create a new order in which the ultimate triumph of good is inevitable.
1 and 2 MACHABEES
The Books of Machabees are so called because they contain the history of the people of God under the command of Judas Machabeus and his brethren. The title Macabeus, from the Hebrew word meaning "Hammer," was given to Judas because of his daring and bravery in battle against the oppressors of the Jews. The two Books of Machabees treat of the persecution of the Jews beginning with the reign of Antiochus IV of Syria (175 B.C.) to the death of the High Priest Simon in 125 B.C. The First Book of Machabees embraces the period between 175 and 135 B.C. The original Hebrew text of the First Book of Machabees has been lost. The book has come down to us in the Greek Septuagint Version, the Bible of the primitive Christian Church. Although both the Jews and Protestants do not regard these books as Sacred Scripture, they have always been so regarded by the Church who has authoritatively and infallibly declared that they belong to the canon of inspired and sacred writings.
The Second Book of Machabees is not a continuation of the history contained in the first Book. It relates many of the same facts more at large, and adds other remarkable particulars, omitted in the first Book, concerning the state of the Jews both before and during the persecution of Antiochus. The author, who is not the same as that of the first Book, has given (as we learn from Chapter 2: 20, etc.) a short abstract of what Jason of Cyrene had written in in the five volumes concerning Judas and his brethren. He wrote in Greek, and begins with two letters sent by the Jews of Jerusalem to their brethren in Egypt.
With the Second Book of Machabees ends the Old Covenant for little did the people realize they were just over a century away from the promised Messiah though they had been waiting 4,000 years for His coming. Little did most realize the manner of His coming as we celebrate the 2000th anniversary of His Birth this weekend, a Child born in a lonely manger Who would change the world forever!
Monday, January 3, 2000: The Bible: The New Testament - Matthew and Mark
LITURGY FROM CHRISTMAS EVE TO THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY
We present the liturgy through January 3rd in this issue. This includes the Christmas vigil, Christmas liturgy, Feast of the Holy Family, the Feast of Saint John the Evangelist, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the Feast of Saint Thomas Becket, the Feast of Pope Saint Sylvester I, The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. For the liturgies, readings, meditations and vignettes on all these feasts, click on LITURGY THROUGH JANUARY 3rd
Friday, December 24, 1999
Friday December 24:
Friday in Late Advent and
Violet vestments and White vestments
First Reading: 2 Samuel 7: 1-5, 8-12, 14
Psalms: Psalm 89: 2-5, 27, 29
Gospel Reading: Luke 1: 67-79
O Thou that sittest upon the cherubim, God of hosts, come, show Thy face,
and we shall be saved.
(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be)
CHRISTMAS VIGIL OF THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD
First Reading: Isaiah 62: 1-5
Psalms: Psalm 89:4-5, 16-17, 27, 29
Second Reading: Acts 13: 16-17, 22-25
Gospel Reading: Matthew 1: 1-25
SATURDAY, December 25, 1999
First Reading: Isaiah 62: 1-5
Psalms: Psalm 96: 1-3, 11-13
Second Reading: Titus 2: 11-14
Gospel Reading: Luke 2: 1-14
First Reading: Isaiah 62: 11-12
Psalms: Psalm 97:1, 6, 11-12
Second Reading: Titus 3: 4-7
Gospel Reading: Luke 2: 15-20
CHRISTMAS MASS DURING THE DAY:
First Reading: Isaiah 52: 7-10
Psalms: Psalm 98:1-6
Second Reading: Hebrews 1: 1-6
Gospel Reading: Luke 2: 15-20
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.
SUNDAY, December 26, 1999
SUNDAY December 26:
THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY and
Traditional Feast of Saint Stephen, First Martyr
First Reading: Genesis 15:1-6; 21:1-3 or Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
Psalms: Psalm 105:1-4, 6-9 or Psalm 128:1-5
Second Reading: Colossians 3: 12-21 or Hebrews 11: 8, 11-12, 17-19
Gospel Reading: Luke 2: 22-40
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.
December 26 is traditionally the Feast of Saint Stephen, the first martyr but is superseded today by the Feast of the Holy Family:
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.
For Monday, December 27, 1999 through January 3, 2000, see SECTION FOUR
December 24, 1999 - January 2, 2000 volume 10, no. 245 DAILY CATHOLIC