After an unusually short Advent, Christmas is here. Another year, another Christmas. I wish each one of you a very blessed, joyful, and peace-filled Christmas.
One of the most common phrases we might hear around Christmas time is that Christ is born in our hearts. I have preached that myself in one homily or another. However, I must admit that I have been ambiguous about what I meant by that. What does it really mean that Christ must be born in our hearts?
This year, I have had a new realization. The phrase, “Christ must be born in our hearts,” is another way of saying that each Christmas, in at least one area of our lives, each one of us must become a little more like Christ. I am fifty-one years old. I am not sure how much longer I have on this earth. You may want to think about your own age and where you are in life. What is the chance that when we stand face-to-face with God, God will not see us, but a person transformed into the image of Christ? Christmas is not merely about Christ being born into our hearts. Christmas is about little by little being transformed into the image and likeness of Christ. In this way, the day of our death is really the day of our birth into Christ in a radically, radical way. Then, it is Christmas.
At Christmas time, we celebrate the fact that God became human. His name was Jesus! Jesus became human so that we can become more divine. The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way: “The Word became flesh to make us ‘partakers of the divine nature.’” Then in the same paragraph, the Catechism quotes St, Irenaeus, St. Athenasius, and St. Thomas Aquinas who express the same thought in different words: “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God." "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God." "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods” (CCC 460).
When I say that Christmas is about little by little being transformed into the image and likeness of Christ, I mean exactly what the Catechism says about the divine becoming human so that humans could become divine. Yes, Christ became like us and we might become like him.
This Christmas may there be one area in our life where we have become a little more like Christ. May this be our Christmas.
It is easy to celebrate Christmas from Thanksgiving to the 25th. But what about after the wrapping paper is picked up from the floor, our Santa bellies from Christmas dinners are burnt off, and the Christmas music fades from the malls and radio waves? We as Catholics believe Christmas last longer than the first 25 days of December! The liturgical Christmas season is over on January 8th with the Baptism of our Lord!
Here are 5 ways you and your family can continue the Christmas celebrations!
1) Keep all your Christmas decorations, lights, and tree up. You put all the effort into putting them up, enjoy another week of it!
2) Try saving one gift to open January 6th on the feast of the Epiphany. This feast day was when Jesus received the gifts from the magi.
3) Speaking of Epiphany a great idea is to slowly move the magi from one place in your house towards your nativity set! Start on December 25th and everyday when your family prays move the magi closer towards the manger. This is a great way for your children to count when they can open that last gift.
4) Keep playing the Christmas tunes! If you're like my brother you've been listening to it since July anyways. Why not another couple weeks? You can keep eating those Christmas cookies too!
5) Try doing a some act of service during the season!
Here a couple ways to live the Christmas season out. Merry Christmas!
There are many titles for Mary. But today as U.S Catholics we celebrate a particularly special title because it is the principal patroness of our country; the Immaculate Conception! This special feast day commemorates that Mary was conceived without Original Sin. The U.S. Catholic bishops chose Mary under the title of Immaculate Conception as our patroness in 1846, which was 8 years before the dogmatic bull on the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX was declared! Pope Pius IX approved the Immaculate Conception as our patroness on Feb. 7, 1847.
This is why the U.S. Catholic Church's principal basilica is called the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C., which is often called America's Catholic Church.
Here are five fun facts about our principal Romanesque-Byzantine styled basilica!
(Photo Credit: Flickr, Wikipedia, Wikimedia).
1. The construction of this 459 foot long, 240 feet wide basilica was done entirely of stone, brick, tile and mortar. No steel beams, frames, or columns were used! It is the largest basilica in North America and is one the top ten biggest in the world! After almost 100 years, the Basilica is almost finished with the completion of the Trinity Dome!
2. The first mass celebrated in the basilica was Easter of 1924, which was four years after the cornerstone was placed and eleven when Pope Pius X approved the building of the national basilica.
3. There are 80 Chapels and Oratories inside the Basilica, not including the Great Upper Church and the Crypt.
4. Saint John Paul II was the first pope to visit the Basilica. Pope Benedict XVI and Francis have also visited as well as Saint Mother Teresa!
5. The mosaic "Christ in Majesty" behind the main sanctuary in the Great Upper Church on the north apse contains over 4,000 shades and colors, which makes it one of the biggest mosaics of Christ in the world!
Next time you are in D.C. stop by the Basilica to pray to our Blessed Mother!
QUIZ! How many other countries have the Immaculate Conception as their patroness?
"Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed December 6th, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_of_the_National_Shrine_of_the_Immaculate_Conception.
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Accessed December 6th, 2017.
Friday Five: Happy New Liturgical Year!
Advent begins this Sunday!
Here are five things to look for at Mass this weekend:
1. Purple! The liturgical color for Advent is purple. Similar to Lent, Advent is a time of preparation and expectation. Just as we prepare our homes for Christmas, we are to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus, both at Christmas and at the end of time. (Cleaning for Christmas? Clean up your heart at the regional Advent Reconciliation Service on Thursday, December 14 at Immaculate Conception)
2. The wreath. The Advent wreath is full of symbolism. In addition to counting the weeks of Advent, each candle represents approximately 1,000 years. Collectively, the four candles symbolize the 4,000 years that humanity waited for the Messiah, from Adam and Eve to Jesus. As we light the candles each week, the growing light represents the Light of Christ dispelling the darkness. Find out more about the symbolism here: LINK
3. The Gospel of Mark: As we move in “year B” of the lectionary cycle, most of the Gospel readings for the next year will come from the Gospel of Mark. Some unique features of this Gospel:
4. New hymnals! This is the first week we will be using the new hymnals at St. Helen. Mass Companion Cards are available at the doors of the church at all Masses. These cards include the page numbers for the hymns and sung responses, as well as some suggestions to engage more fully in the celebration of the Mass.
5. Advent resources galore! Little Blue Books and The Word Among Us Advent Reflections are available at every door. In the vestibule, daily Advent calendars for children, teens, and adults are available. There are more suggestions on the parish website: www.sthelenparish.org/Advent
These resources are free and intended to assist you in preparing your heart and mind for Christmas.
If you’re feeling like my friend, Anne Marie, though, by all means -- just snuggle with Jesus.
St. Helen Parish
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