Mount St. Mary
Vol. 2 / Issue 3
BE YOUR BEST ALWAYS
“At the Christ Child’s birth, only two groups of people heard the cry: the Shepherds, who know they know nothing, and the Wise Men, those who know they do not know everything. The very simple, the very learned ...Never the man who thinks that he knows everything.””
Bishop Fulton Sheen
MSM Chritsmas Music
Who is santa claus?
The True Meaning of Christmas
From: The True Meaning of Christmas.
mindszenty report/Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation.
(Used with permission)
Just behind The Night before Christmas in popularity is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Its seasonal message of charity and good will towards all people still strikes a powerful chord, not only in England but also in the United States. Dickens’ morality tale significantly contributed to an evolving Christmas celebration that eclectically emerged from America’s many ethnic and religious traditions. In the 20th century, a secular motif gradually enveloped these traditions, obscuring the true meaning.
Most American families have adopted the evolving Christmas traditions without question. What they have failed to understand over the years is that America’s cultural custodians have virtually reinvented a religious holiday. While the decline of Christmas’ spiritual nature started to change in the early 19th century subtly, its demise had rapidly accelerated by the late 20th century. As a religious commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas has become buried under an avalanche of shiny gifts, sumptuous meals, festive music, decorative displays, including Christmas trees, lights, garlands, mistletoe, and holly.
Many Catholics have divided their celebration with a Christmas evening Mass, and perhaps a nativity arrangement, just before assuming the same material characteristics and festivities as their secular counterparts. Christmas’ spiritual and religious features have become so separated from the real meaning that millions of non-believers, what author Shannon Bell called Christmas atheists, enthusiastically celebrate Christmas to receive presents and good cheer.
The Christmas buying season has become vitally important to retailers over the past several decades. Because gift-giving and the other aspects of Christmas involve greater economic activity for both Christians and non-Christians, the holiday has become a significant event and a critical sales period for retailers and businesses. This flurry of spending has also contributed to the dissipation of the spiritual and religious traditions of Christmas. Christmas’ main reason for existing seems to be for the satisfaction of the materialistic needs of believers and unbelievers alike to the near exclusion of Christ.
The word Christmas is an old English word that means Christ’s Mass or, as it came to be when shortened, Christ-Mass. It refers to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper that is the Mass. The earliest mention of the word dates back to 1038 A.D. Christians at that time considered the Lord’s Supper to be the essential part of the celebration of Christ’s birth. Hence it came to be called Christmas.
During the 20th century, some people found that all references to Christmas, even the most benign, were offensive. Despite its overt secular aspects, America’s celebration of Christmas has inadvertently become a battleground in the culture war. "Over the last several years, there has been a war on Christmas, and fairly overwhelming attempts to strip Christ from Christmas and strip the religious foundation from the holiday," said Wendy Wright, president of the organization Concerned Women for America.
While the true meaning of Christmas may not have a cultural, moral, and emotional impact, it does strike at the very fiber of man’s rejection of God, which is central to the cultural battle. Some believe it’s all part of a secular progressive agenda to get Christianity out of the public square. They correctly believe that, using the example of Western Europe and Canada as a guide, it is clear that, if they can remove the obstacle of religion from the public marketplace, it would ease the advancement of the modernist agenda, which includes the legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, the death culture, blocking religious freedom and destruction of the sanctity of marriage.
John Gibson, the author of “The War on Christmas: How the Liberals Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought,” realizes the conundrum most retailers face concerning their seasonal advertising. Many large retailers are under severe pressure from boycotts and threats. He is trying to educate the public about which retailers were not afraid to declare Merry Christmas in their advertising. Gibson also points out that the war on Christmas gravitated toward the public school systems all over America. Many school districts have changed their annual celebrations from Christmas to the winter break, or winter solstice, a reversion to a pre-Christian past.
For God to complete the purpose of Christmas, man must die to his lower instincts. Just the same as plants and lower animals die to their former existence to become something higher. By dying to his willful pride, man can be raised to eternal life. To become a Christian does not mean reading the Bible, singing religious hymns, or just being kind to one’s neighbor. Just as the modern world is bathed in radio and TV waves, only those who are tuned in to His station or the Logos, receive the knowledge and enjoyment of His promise of eternal life. It means sharing the Divinity that came to man in Bethlehem.
Christmas is not an isolated historical event like the Battle of Waterloo or the assassination of a president. It is a veritable historical watershed that has separated humanity from its pagan ways. From that point, it would be impossible for man to divinize himself and ignore God’s sacrificial love without serious human consequences.
This process is not easy because God came not to make humans nice people but to radically change them into new creatures. God’s abundant grace is there to inspire humans to put on the new man if they are willing to pay the price of having their moral worthlessness burned in the flames of love. When the life of Christ gets in human beings, they can never be the same. Their human intellect becomes powerless as their wills overflow with grace for pursuing good and avoiding evil.
God’s salvation is open to everyone. No one is too unworthy. His love can make even the lowliest of humans blaze with an iridescence that serves as a mirror of His never-ending love for His creation. His salvific love for the least of His brethren was the reason that Jesus was born in a stable on His first night on earth and was surrounded by animals.
The only two classes of people who heard the cry that night were the simple shepherds, who knew they knew nothing and the wise men, who knew they do not know everything. Only the very simple and the very learned discovered God that night in the austere confines of a cave. It is not surprising then that most sophisticated people since then have missed or forgotten the salvific nature of Christmas.
If human life is ever to be incorporated into the Divine, God must in some way come down to humans. Christ’s birth is that human nature was taken up and elevated into a unity with the Person of God. But Jesus had not made Himself a God, nor was he an ethicist like Confucius, a teacher like Socrates, nor a prophet like Ezekiel, but instead He was True God and true man for He did not cease being God when he assumed a human nature. God will not consume men without their permission. When humans agree to die to the world, the flesh, and the devil, they are open to God’s cleansing love.
Most of the world does not fully recognize or understand Mary’s vital role in the birth of Jesus. At the inauguration of human salvation, the divine plan involves the Virgin Mary. God’s plan for human partnership began when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and asked her to serve as a human vessel for the Son of God. Since God would not violate man’s free will, the plan of salvation may very well have been stifled without her human consent. Mary’s simple fiat in surrendering herself to the Divine scheme of things initiated the greatest story ever told. The Incarnation would not have happened without a human participation. God would not redeem man by taking away his free will.
In one of his talks on the Holy Mother, Pope John Paul II clarified Mary’s role in the Christmas message: The fiat of the Annunciation inaugurated the New Covenant between God and the creature. Thanks to Mary, the bond between God and humankind broken by sin is now happily restored. Because of her simple assent, Mary became a flesh and blood ciborium for the Son of God.
The name Jesus means Savior. And for humankind, His name meant everything. The real meaning of Christmas then concerns an all-loving God, who so loved His creatures that He sent His only Son to free them from the bondage of their sins through His death and Resurrection so that humankind would have life through Him. For without this first coming of Christ, men could never see the face of God. This truly is the real meaning of Christmas.
William A. Borst, Ph.D.
Christmas sing along
by james wildes
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