Yes, folks you are reading the title of this reflection correctly, Christmas is not only a day in the Church year, but a season in the Church year as well! In fact, it is the second most joyous season in the liturgical year. What is the most joyous season you may be asking yourselves? The answer is (drum roll, please)…..EASTER!!
What does the term Christmas mean, where does it come from?
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary our word Christmas derives from the Middle English word, Christemasse, which come down to us from the Old English words, Cristes mæsse, literally, Christ’s mass. The first known use: before 12th century.
What does the Church celebrate on this day and during this season?
Christmas Day celebrates the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ, the birth of Jesus Christ.
The season of Christmas, in addition to celebrating the birth of Jesus, is a fuller celebration of the Incarnation. As the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops states, “The word incarnation is from the Latin in carne means enfleshment”. (USCCB)
The Incarnation is one of the core, essential and elemental beliefs of the Church: God became human; God became one of us. This great news cannot be overstated: God became human so that we might partake in the divine! This is what Athanasius of Alexandria meant when he wrote in his treatise, On the Incarnation, “Christ was made man that we might be made God.” (54:3, PG 25:192B).
During the Christmas season, the Church celebrates and reflects upon, as the U.S Catholic Bishops state further: “the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts, and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with him…” (USCCB).
How long is the Christmas season?
The Christmas season begins on Dec.25th, technically at the vigil Mass on Christmas Eve, and ends on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
What is St. Mary Major?
Here’s a link to the Patriarchal Basilica of St. Mary Major: http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/sm_maggiore/index_en.html The history of the present basilica dates to the 5th Century. It also possesses relics of of the manger in which Jesus was placed. It is under the altar.
Here’s a link to a virtual tour of the basilica: http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/sm_maggiore/vr_tour/index-en.html
What are some traditions and practices that Catholics can perform during the Christmas season?
Most of us put up and decorate a Christmas tree; many of us put a wreath on our front doors; some of us put (electric) candles on our windowsills. What else can we do to commemorate the season or celebrate it appropriately?
Here are some activities that families and/or individuals can perform and use, perhaps, to create new traditions to pass on:
- Blessing of a Christmas tree: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/sacramentals-blessings/objects/blessing-of-a-christmas-tree.cfm
- Blessing of the Christmas manger or Nativity scene: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/sacramentals-blessings/objects/blessing-of-a-christmas-manger-or-nativity-scene.cfm.;
- Attend Mass on Christmas Day (or Christmas Eve) as a family or with friends;
- Reflect/Meditate on the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, what does this event mean or say to me;
- Read from the infancy narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke;
- Gather with family or friends as a sign of friendship, community and fellowship – have brunch or have a potluck dinner;
- Take a few moments, after the “pre-season” rush, to contemplate the real importance of the day.
Athanasius of Alexandria. On the Incarnation. http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/659669-de-incarnatione-verbi-dei. n.d. Web. Nov. 23, 2014.
Merriam Webster http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Christmas. 2014. Web. Nov. 23, 2014.
The New American Bible. The Vatican, 06 Nov. 2002. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/christmas/index.cfm2014. Web. Dec. 23, 2018.