Meditations for Christmas from the Canons Regular

Dec. 13, 2013

Enjoy these two Christmas meditations by Fr. Anthony Rice, SJC and Fr. Scott Haynes, SJC. A medition on St. Joseph and Christmas and Lessons for Catholic at Christmas time.





When Christ comes to enter your heart he will knock. Will you hear his gentle cries? Will you embrace his holy Mother? Will you unbar the door of your heart and welcome him? Will you make him your sacred guest in Holy Communion? Or will you say to him, “No room in the inn!”

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St. Joseph and Christmas

Fr. Anthony Rice, SJC

St. Joseph plays a prominent role in the first few chapters of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke. The seasons of Advent and Christmas are an excellent time to meditate on St. Joseph. The Church wants us to know more about St. Joseph and his role in the great plan of Redemption. Of all men, Joseph was chosen to be the husband of Mary, the Foster Father of Christ, the Guardian of the Redeemer, and the Head of the Holy Family. Therefore, we can rightly say that he is blessed among all men.

The Gospel of St. Matthew emphasizes the effect of the Incarnation on Joseph, the just man. It is a grave error to think that at the time of the Annunciation, Mary and Joseph were not yet married and that Mary would have been a young unwed mother. This is simply not true and this is not the teaching of the Church. Mary was betrothed or espoused to Joseph. In the Jewish custom when a man and woman were betrothed, they were legally married and recognized as such by society, law, and religion. But during the betrothal the couple did not live together. So, Mary and Joseph were truly married, they were husband and wife. God created marriage and the family as a good and He gave them sanctity. He would not permit His Son to be conceived out of marriage or to be denied the opportunity to be part of a family with a mother and an earthly father. In the eyes of others, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were a typical, ordinary family in Nazareth.

St. Matthew tells us that Joseph is perplexed and confused about Mary’s pregnancy; he does not understand. There are some who think that Joseph felt unworthy to be married to the woman who was soon to become the mother of the Messiah, for he knew of the great sanctity of his spouse and he realized that she could nothing sinful. So there was never any thought in Joseph’s mind of Mary having been unfaithful.

The Gospel of Matthew tells us of another Annunciation: the Annunciation to St. Joseph. While Joseph is pondering over what he should do, the angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream and explains how Mary conceived and who the Child is: He is Christ the Redeemer. Scripture does not tell us the name of the angel who appeared to Joseph in his dream, but some Church Fathers and Doctors believe that this was the angel Gabriel who also announced to Mary that she would be the Mother of God. How fitting and appropriate this would be for Gabriel to be sent to Mary and Joseph to announce the coming of Christ and to announce God’s plan for them: Mary to be the mother and Joseph to be the earthly father of the Son of God. These two people would have the most important role of any people on earth because they would be the ones responsible to nurture, teach, and raise Christ, the Son of God.

One similarity between the two Annunciations is that both Mary and Joseph are deeply troubled and the angel tells both of them: “Do not be afraid”. Both have found favor with God because He chose them from among all people in the world for this moment and for their mission. Joseph, like Mary, submitted his will to God and he responded with his own fiat. He, too, said “Be it done unto me according to Thy word” for when he awoke he did as God had commanded him which was made known through the message of the angel. With the explanation from the angel, all the doubts and fears of St. Joseph are alleviated. Joseph was made more aware of his spouse’s great sanctity and that she was chosen to be the Mother of the Redeemer. This confirmed that he would have an important role in God’s plan of salvation. Joseph truly is that most faithful helper in the great plan of Redemption.

Joseph, the just man, obeys God. He asks no questions. He simply believes and trusts in God. Because of his belief he was obedient and humble. Joseph accepted his role as husband and father. He provided a home for Jesus and Mary, he supported and protected them. What joy and humility must have filled the pure and loving heart of St. Joseph. It is difficult to fathom the sanctity of Joseph. Everyday he looked into the face of Jesus who is both God and man. He held Jesus in his arms; he taught Him how to speak, how to pray, and how to be a carpenter; he listened to Him and spoke with Him everyday. Venerable Louis of Granada, a Dominican priest from the 1500’s, writes the following:

  “Joseph realized how great was the blessing which God had bestowed upon him, a poor carpenter, in decreeing that from his house and family should come the hope and salvation and remedy of all generations and that he should be guardian and putative father of the Savior and the spouse of His blessed Mother. When a heart so pure and holy sees itself enclosed and inundated by such mysteries, what must it feel? How astonished and enraptured it must be amidst such marvels and blessings, especially since the Holy Spirit usually gives to the just an experience or taste proportionate to the knowledge which He gives them. What must have been the state of Joseph’s will when his intellect was enlightened concerning the great marvels and mysteries?”

During Advent and Christmas we have the opportunity to increase our love and devotion to St. Joseph by meditating on his 7 Sorrows and Joys. The first sorrow and joy: The doubt of St. Joseph/The message of the angel. The second sorrow and joy: The poverty of Jesus’ birth/The birth of the Savior. The third sorrow and joy: The Circumcision/The Holy Name of Jesus. The fourth sorrow and joy: The prophecy of Simeon/The effects of the Redemption. The fifth sorrow and joy: The flight into Egypt/The overthrow of the idols of Egypt. The sixth sorrow and joy: The return from Egypt/Life with Jesus and Mary at Nazareth. The seventh sorrow and joy: The loss of the Child Jesus/The finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. Reading the Gospel accounts from St. Matthew and St. Luke will show the important and essential role of St. Joseph in the events of the early life of Christ. As the Head of the Holy Family, Joseph fulfilled his duties and was present at all of these events. What kind of father would he have been if he were not present and if he would not have done what a father is supposed to do? God would not have chosen a man to be the Head of the Holy Family who would neglect or evade his responsibilities and duties.

In these days of Advent, let us be more like Joseph by imitating his humility and by our submission to and acceptance of God’s most holy will. In doing so we will have true peace and joy. As the Nativity of Our Lord approaches, St. Joseph asks us to be simple and humble in our contemplation of Mary and Christ. And if we stay close to St. Joseph he will help us to contemplate this tremendous, marvelous mystery of which he was a silent witness and to gaze lovingly at Mary as she holds in her arms the Son of God made man. In whatever need we have, the Holy Patriarch Joseph, will hear our prayers. Let us ask him to make us simple and pure of heart so that we will know how to show our love for Christ as he did.

Chicago Christmas

Lessons for Catholics at Christmastime

Fr. Scott Haynes, SJC
Published in Challenge Magazine, December, 2008

If we enjoy the civil liberty to practice our Catholic faith we should exercise that freedom with liberality, and teach the Catholic faith to all men. But we tend to abuse this freedom daily by keeping silent. When Christians are lukewarm toward Christ and His Church, then civil society only continues its degradation, sinking ever more deeply into the culture of death.

Modern nations have established such a division between Church and state that God has been kicked out of the public school – even a “moment of silence” is considered too religious for our secularized school system. Where should the blame be placed? Why has our society disintegrated? To what moment in human history can we trace this change – the Protestant Revolt, the French Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution? The problem goes back to the Garden of Eden where, because of the sin of pride, man thought himself wiser than God. And this sin of pride feeds every other sin; for example, the sin of discrimination.

Politicians love to talk about racial discrimination. But what about discrimination against God? God has been kicked out of the office today. Catholic workers may not display a small crucifix or holy card on their desk lest it offend another employee. As if this is not bad enough, some people even have kicked God out of the home. Even Catholic families today rarely practice devotions in their homes. They have lost the practice of the family Rosary. Oftentimes mom, dad and the kids do not share a family meal, and if they do, they frequently forget to pray. And in place of the enthronement of Jesus and Mary in the home, the television occupies the central place of the home for all to bow down and worship as some idol. And what does this idol bring? Secular TV today pollutes Catholic morality with gratuitous violence and licentiousness, accompanied by the lie that all of this is totally harmless.

As our society grows ever more hostile toward our Catholic faith, we should recall past periods of persecution, so that we see how the faith of our fathers withstood the onslaught of manipulation, torture and martyrdom. Already at the birth of Christ all the baby boys in Bethlehem would be murdered because the birth of the King Jesus threatened Herod’s ego. But today, will our secular society persecute us in this way? Will we die for Christ? Ask the innocent child in the womb for that answer.

In the not-so-tolerant past, Catholics often used music and poetry to express Church teachings that were not tolerated by human governments. Remember the Mother Goose rhymes you heard as a child? These are not just simply children’s stories; rather, these were written as political or satirical commentaries on the evil of the day.

As we prepare for the Feast of Christmas this December, we can consider one of the classic Christmas carols composed during the period of religious revolt incited in England by Henry VIII’s decision to set up an anti-Church. As we see so clearly today, Henry’s Church is dying a slow and agonizing death, while the Catholic population of England is rapidly rising. Truly “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” [1]

Well before the time of Henry VIII’s reign, Englishmen were writing down their carols for Christmas. Puritans, during the 16th century, thought Henry VIII’s Church of England had not gone far enough in the ‘reformation,’ and later, when these Puritans gained some political power, they would altogether suppress the Christmas carols of the Catholics. The Puritans even managed to ban Christmas. Thanks to the Puritans, Christmas was cancelled.


During this time of persecution under the Puritans, Catholics in England could not openly practice their faith. Armed with a determined mind, Catholics began writing songs in a sort of “code” to be sung in their homes. And thus was born “The Twelve Days of Christmas” – a popular Catechism song for young Catholics.

Given the lack of catechetical training over the past two generations nowadays, Catholics of all ages today can learn much from this seemingly childlike song. The Twelve Days of Christmas are, of course, not the last twelve shopping days before Christmas, but rather, the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany, from December 25th to January 6th.

Verse one begins, “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree.” Christ, by analogy, is the partridge bird protecting the helpless and weak nestlings from the attack of predators. This recalls the expression of Christ’s sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” [2]

Verse two begins, “On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two turtle doves.” The two turtledoves actually allude to the Old and New Testaments, which together bear witness to salvation history and to the creation of a chosen people.

Verse three begins, “On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me three French hens.” What are the hens? These are the three theological virtues: 1) Faith, 2) Hope, and 3) Love. [3]

Verse four begins, “On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me four calling birds.” These refer to the Gospels: 1) Matthew, 2) Mark, 3) Luke, and 4) John, which proclaim the Good News that the Emmanuel [4] “has come to save His people from their sins.” [5]

The fifth verse starts, “On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me five gold rings.” These are the first five Old Testament Books, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch: 1) Genesis, 2) Exodus, 3) Leviticus, 4) Numbers, and 5) Deuteronomy. The Torah shows clearly how man has sinned and how God forms Israel as the light of the nations.

Verse six begins, “On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me six geese a-laying.” These six geese are in actuality the six days of creation that confess God as Creator and Sustainer of the world. [6]

The next verse begins, “On the 7th day of Christmas my true love gave to me seven swans a-swimming.” This verse calls to mind the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: [7] 1) Wisdom, 2) Understanding, 3) Counsel, 4) Fortitude, 5) Knowledge, 6) Piety, 7) Fear of the Lord.

In verse eight we hear, “On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me eight maids a-milking.” These refer to the eight Beatitudes: [8] 1) Blessed are the poor in spirit, 2) those who mourn, 3) the meek, 4) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 5) the merciful, 6) the pure in heart, 7) the peacemakers, 8) those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

Verse nine begins, “On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me nine ladies dancing.” This verse refers to the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: [9] 1) love, 2) joy, 3) peace, 4) patience, 5) kindness, 6) generosity, 7) faithfulness, 8) gentleness, and 9) self-control.

Verse ten begins, “On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me ten lords a-leaping.” This verse calls to mind the Decalogue: [10] 1) I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me. 2) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. 3) Remember thou keep the Sabbath Day. 4) Honor thy Father and thy Mother. 5) Thou shalt not kill. 6) Thou shalt not commit adultery. 7) Thou shalt not steal. 8) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. 9) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife. 10) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods.

Verse eleven begins, “On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me eleven pipers piping.” This calls to mind the eleven Faithful Apostles: [11] 1) Simon Peter, 2) Andrew, 3) James, 4) John, 5) Philip, 6) Bartholomew, 7) Matthew, 8) Thomas, 9) James son of Alphaeus, 10) Simon the Zealot, 11) Jude, the son of James. Notice that the list excludes Judas Iscariot the betrayer.

And twelfth and last verse begins, “On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me twelve drummers drumming.” The twelve drummers are, by analogy, the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed: 1) I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth, 2) and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, 3) who was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary. 4) He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. 5) On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 6) He will come again to judge the living and the dead. 7) I believe in the Holy Ghost, 8) the holy Catholic Church, 9) the communion of saints, 10) the forgiveness of sins, 11) the resurrection of the body, 12) and life everlasting.

Our Catholic forefathers had great insight in catechizing their children in the faith. Also, Catholics living during the Protestant Revolution, contrary to public opinion, knew much of the Sacred Scripture, as this song clearly demonstrates. Is it not amazing how much Catholic doctrine was compactly, cleverly and carefully incorporated into this carol? But notice that this carol was not written for use at Holy Mass. This is not liturgical music. Thus, it should not be sung as the Offertory Hymn at Midnight Mass. Rather, it is catechetical music, and useful for teaching the Catholic Faith to children at home and in the classroom.

Catholics today need to make a genuine resolution this Christmas to integrate the Catholic faith into every area of life. If we were to invite this Newborn King into every room of our inn, what would that mean for us? It necessitates that we invite the Christ child into our home environment, so that the Lord may sanctify the family. This invitation signifies that we must receive this Blessed Babe into our work environment, so that Jesus may bless and sanctify our labour. And especially for our youth, this invitation means bringing that Holy Child of Bethlehem into the intellectual life, so that all learning will be filled with the wisdom of God.

Many people today shut Christ out of the inn of their soul and they refuse to have the life of God in them. Still others will invite the Christ Child into the inn of their souls, but they will not grant him full access to every room. Afraid to show the Lord their venial sins or bad habits, they hide these in a closet. But if we will open the inn of our soul to Christ completely and without reserve, he will cleanse our hearts of every sinful inclination. The light of Christ will dispel all darkness and we will be filled with the Spirit of Christ.

As Christmas comes, follow our Lady to Bethlehem and beg her to prepare your hearts to adore. When Christ came to Bethlehem he was shut out of the inn and made to lodge in a cave. Many today have no room in the inner sanctum of their hearts for the Christ Child. What blessings they miss when they cast Christ into the darkness of the night! How we should pray for them.

When Christ comes to enter your heart he will knock. Will you hear his gentle cries? Will you embrace his holy Mother? Will you unbar the door of your heart and welcome him? Will you make him your sacred guest in Holy Communion? Or will you say to him, “No room in the inn!” [12]

Footnotes

[1] Matthew 16:18
[2] Luke 13:34
[3] 1 Corinthians 13:13
[4] Matthew 1:23 – ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’
[5] Matthew 1:21
[6] Genesis 1
[7] Isaiah 11:2-3; CCC 1831
[8] Matthew 5:3-10
[9] Galatians 5:22-23
[10] Exodus 20:1-17
[11] Luke 6:14-16
[12] Luke 2:7 – “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”