“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shown. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing.” (Isaiah 9:1-2)
Each year, we hear these Scripture verses proclaimed as we complete our Advent preparations and celebrate the profound mysteries of God’s presence among us. Each year, we emerge from the darkness of sin – reconciled to our God and each other – and celebrate the Light shattering our darkness. Christ, our Light, has come! Even the world of nature has responded to the Lord’s coming as the days since the winter solstice last Wednesday are now getting longer. We live in the Light of Christ.
One of the more popular Christmas carols heard over the airways these past few weeks has been “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Even though a number of local retailers have proclaimed the twelve days of Christmas as those leading up to December 25, Christians have always kept Christmas as a season of twelve days from December 25 through January 6, the traditional date of the Epiphany. The church calendar today even extends the Christmas celebration until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, this year on the Monday following Epiphany.
In order to continue our celebration, the church has placed a number of notable feast days on the calendar immediately following Christmas. On Monday, we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen, one of the original deacons and the first martyr. Tuesday gives us the feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, and Wednesday is the feast of the Holy Innocents, the martyred infants of Bethlehem. Since both Christmas and the feast of Mary, the Mother of God, fall on Sundays this year, we will celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph on Friday. This feast normally falls on the Sunday between Christmas and the feast of Mary the Mother of God.
Friday’s feast of the Holy Family is a relatively new feast on our calendar. Following World War I, the chaos of daily life in Europe made its impact felt on the family structure. The feast of the Holy Family was introduced in 1921 to offer Christians an image of hope and holiness in family life and to promote the welfare of children. In 1969, the feast was fixed to the Sunday between Christmas and the feast of Mary, the Mother of God (or in years like this, it is on December 30). It is a great way for us to continue our celebration of the wonderful feast of Christmas.
Please note that our weekday Masses during Christmas week will be celebrated at 7:00 am only. Next Sunday, as we celebrate the feast of Mary, the Mother of God, our schedule of Masses will be the same as our regular Sunday schedule, beginning with the anticipation Masses on Saturday evening. Also, please note that our Parish Offices will be closed during this week and will reopen on Monday, January 2.
Thank you to all who sent Christmas greetings and gifts to us at the Rectory. We deeply appreciate your good wishes and your generosity. We are blessed in being able to serve you at our parish.
It is hard to believe that another year will soon pass into history. Whatever ups or downs the past year may have held for each of us, God continued to dwell among us through it all and continued to bless us and love us. As the calendar turns over Saturday night to the year 2023, we will begin another new year in God’s faithful history of salvation. Know that you and the concerns of your hearts are remembered in our prayers during this holy season. May our ever faithful and present God continue to bless us with everything that we need, and more. And a “Merry Christmas” to one and all!
Father Jim Murphy