The primary focus, reason, and essence of Christmas is the Incarnation and birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Born of the Virgin Mary in the damp, cold, humid, dark, and hard stable of Bethlehem, Jesus came primarily to save us. Venerable Fulton Sheen asserts that the most important name that we can give to Jesus is that of SAVIOR. Jesus is the universal Savior. Indeed, Jesus came to save us of all that is evil: sin, the devil, sadness, depression, despair, and the possibility of the loss of our soul forever in the torments of hell!
ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE. Cognizant of the reality of our salvation through the coming, life, death and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our hearts should be a reservoir overflowing with gratitude for the infinite graces that Jesus has acquired for us, but most especially, for the eternal salvation of our immortal soul. Jesus died to give us life and life to the full, and to open once and for all the gates of Heaven, our eternal destiny and residence!
OTHER GRACES AND BLESSINGS IN THE CHRISTMAS SEASON. Of course the very heart and center is the Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem—House of Bread. However, Jesus and His Mystical Body, the Church, constantly floods us with so many graces and blessings. This being the case, let us highlight other blessings and gifts that are ours for the taking in the entire arc of the Christmas Season.
THE OCTAVE OF CHRISTMAS—SAINTS AND GREAT BLESSINGS! In the week that follows Christmas, traditionally called the “Octave of Christmas”, the Church Calendar presents a series of extraordinary saints for our admiration and imitation, and for their power of intercession. Therefore, among these ten beautiful Christmas gifts are super-saints, our brothers and sisters and intercessors in Christ. May they pave our way to Jesus and Mary in this life and in eternal life.
1. DECEMBER 26TH—SAINT STEPHEN. A man full of faith and love for the Word of God, zealous to preach and denounce evil and hypocrisy, imbued totally with the Holy Spirit and possessing an indomitable and courageous spirit, Saint Stephen is called the Protomartyr. The reason for this title is that he was the first in the early Church to shed his blood for Christ and the truth. One saint can motivate others to be saints. While dying, in imitation of the Master, Jesus the Lord, Saint Stephen forgave his persecutors, living out the Gospel of mercy so dear to the Heart of Jesus. Who was there condoning the martyrdom of Saint Stephen? None other than the fiery, future Apostle, Saint Paul. Some have commented that the prayers and mercy of Stephen were the catalyst for the conversion of Saul to Saint Paul. Let us beg as a Christmas gift to be imbued and permeated with the spirit of Saint Stephen, whose physical death was his birthday into heaven!
2. DECEMBER 27TH—SAINT JOHN, THE EVANGELIST. Fisherman from Galilee transformed into a fisher of men, intimate Friend and Lover of the Lord Jesus, the Eagle (as depicted in paintings) due to his profound mystical thoughts and teachings, named spiritual son of the Virgin Mary from the cross, profound writer of the last of the Gospels as well as three short letters, Saint John the Evangelist is without doubt one of the key figures in the Gospel, as well as in the Primitive Church. In the inspired writing In Sinu Jesu—When Heart Speaks to Heart, the Journal of a Priest at Prayer, Saint John the Evangelist is depicted on the book’s front cover, resting on the side of Jesus at the Last Supper when the Lord is giving to the world the Eucharist, as well as the priesthood. Therefore, as we beg for Christmas gifts for ourselves as well as for others, let us beg, through the intercession of Saint John the Evangelist, three graces: a dynamic, deep, and abiding Friendship with Jesus; an appreciation and love for the Priesthood; and a deeper faith and devotion for the Sacrament of the Lord’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the most Holy Eucharist.
3. DECEMBER 28TH—FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS. After Herod recognized that he had been tricked by the Magi, he went into a furious rampage, sending out his soldiers to find and kill all the innocent baby boys two years and younger in and near the vicinity of Bethlehem. Joseph, following a dream, rose in the middle of the night and taking Mary and the Infant Jesus fled to safety in Egypt. Meanwhile, Herod’s soldiers brutally massacred these innocent babies. These are the Holy Innocents, who though not even aware of it, shed their blood for the Infant Jesus. Herod symbolizes and represents the macabre, morbid, mass-murder of innocent children through the sad reality of abortion. This should move us to offer up prayers, Rosaries, Masses and Holy Communions of reparation for this abominable crime and sin. “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” (Divine Mercy Chaplet)
4. DECEMBER 29TH—FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY. Also, in the overall context of the Christmas Season, the Church celebrates the Feast Day of the Holy Family—Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph. We lift up our eyes, minds, and hearts to the Model and the Best of all earthly families—Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph. Jesus was the perfect Son; Mary, the perfect Mother and spouse; and Saint Joseph was the perfect spouse and Father. The Holy Family teaches us countless lessons, but we will offer two: 1) The necessity of Silence and Prayer. The Holy Family spent time every day in silence and prayer where they had a deep encounter with God. May we cherish silence that leads us to deep, mystical prayer and union with God. 2) The Law of Work. Mary worked hard in the home of Nazareth, thereby loving God and her family. Saint Joseph and Jesus worked long and arduous hours at the Carpenter shop, thereby providing for the sustenance of the family. May we learn the importance of hard, methodical, orderly, and systematic work in our daily lives, following in the footsteps of Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph!
5. JANUARY 1ST—MARY, MOTHER OF GOD & WORLD DAY OF PEACE. What an excellent way to start off the New Year by celebrating the greatest of all of the titles and privileges bestowed on the Blessed Virgin Mary—Mary, the Mother of God. Indeed, Mary is the Mother of God, but she is also the Mother of the Church, and our Heavenly Mother. May we entrust our lives totally and unreservedly to her maternal care and protection. “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
6. JANUARY 6TH—THE EPIPHANY: THE STAR AND THE WISE-MEN. Another key Feast in the context of the Christmas Season is that of the Epiphany, meaning “The manifestation of Jesus to the whole world.” The Wise Men followed the star that led to Jesus. I once saw a catchy and appealing bumper sticker with these words: “Wise men still find Jesus in the arms of Mary.” Mary and Jesus are inseparable. At Cana, Mary’s last recorded words were: “Do whatever He tells you!” This is the best advice in the world; take it as your New Year’s motto and action-item! The Wise Men brought three gifts; let us give the symbolic and practical meaning and interpretation of these gifts for us.
7) GOLD: SYMBOLIC OF THE ROYALTY OF JESUS WHO IS KING!!! May Jesus as King reign in our families, our Church, and our personal lives. “Long live Christ the King!” “Que viva Cristo Rey!!!” Our response to the Gold could be the alms-giving that we practice. Alms-giving can be giving money to the poor, abandoned, needy, homeless. But it can also mean on a more daily and practical basis to be kind, joyful, and willing to serve the members in our own family!
8) INCENSE: SYMBOLIC OF THE DIVINITY OF JESUS. As the white, aromatic smoke of the Incense ascends on high in the Solemn Masses, so also do the fervent prayers of the saints ascend on high. In concrete, in our daily lives let us beg fervently for the grace to overcome our innate laziness when it comes to prayer and dedicate more time, effort, good will, and fervor in our personal, our family, and our Liturgical prayer experiences. It is only by striving to become saints, imbued with a fervent and dynamic prayer life, that conversions become a reality! Our fervent, white incense of prayer also serves as a most efficacious means to alleviate the souls in Purgatory and give them access to Heaven!
9) MYRRH: SYMBOLIC OF THE HUMANITY OF JESUS DESTINED TO SUFFER AND DIE ON CALVARY. Myrrh would be the ointment that was applied to the Body of Jesus after He suffered, died, and was taken off the cross and wrapped in the linen. Saint Ignatius of Loyola points out the fact that Jesus was born for us in Bethlehem with the purpose of dying for us on Calvary so that we might have life and life in abundance. How true: the death of Jesus brought life to the world and that includes to you and to me! How can we apply this last of the three gifts of the Magi to our lives—the gift of Myrrh? Quite simply this: a ready willingness on our part to offer ourselves in sacrifice to the Lord for the salvation of souls. Saint Padre Pio was a Victim Soul; Saint Jacinta Marto was called by Saint Pope John Paul II “a little Victim Soul.” So also, at least to a limited degree, we are called to offer our own small but fervent and constant sacrifices to Jesus for the salvation of so many souls who are slaves to their passions, oblivious of God’s love, and immersed in a materialistic, pagan, and secular world! Small sacrifices offered with great love opens the treasure-house of God’s graces and the gates of Heaven to poor sinners!
10. JANUARY 12TH—THE BAPTISM OF JESUS AND OUR BAPTISM. Every year the Christmas Season concludes with the Baptism of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Jordan River. Jesus’ Baptism should be a time in which we examine our own life, examine our own conscience, to see if we are truly living out our own baptismal commitment. This entails our renouncing Satan and all his pomps, the allurements of the world, and all that is within us and outside us that leads us on the pathway of sin. In other words, the Sacrament of Baptism challenges us all to honestly pursue a life holiness, to desire to become a great saint. As Jesus challenges and commands unequivocally with these words: “Be holy as your heavenly Father is holy.” (Mt 5:48) Consider our transformation at our Baptism: Son or Daughter of God, Brother or Sister to Jesus Christ, Intimate Friend of the Holy Spirit, recipient of the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, the moral virtues, and the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, sanctifying grace, and the right to inherit eternal life—all of these Gifts and many more are poured into our soul in the very moment of our Baptism. From then on it is incumbent upon us, with the help of our parents and godparents, to live out the sublime Gift of the Sacrament of Holy Baptism!
In conclusion, we hope and pray that all will cultivate an authentic attitude of gratitude and humbly recognize and receive the abundant Gifts that our loving Heavenly Father has showered upon us in the Gift of Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph, as well as the countless blessings that continue to rain down upon us in a torrent through the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church! “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His mercy endures forever.” (Ps 136:1)