The Celebration of Christmas

by on December 25th, 2006

In this season, so completely suffused by the Word of God, we are obliged to closely examine the message of Christ and how His supreme sacrifice has manifested itself in our lives.

Each age exerts profound influences on the people who inhabit it and ours is by no means immune from that phenomenon. Because of that we are naturally inclined to feel that our age and generation are unique, that our challenges are remote and distinct from those of prior ages. That sentiment, while powerful and convincing is, of course, one shared by our forebears with as much or more conviction.

The timeless nature of Christ’s message is why it achieves the potency and relevancy that it does. The civic and intellectual heresy that our age exhibits is only explicable when one realizes that it’s predicated on an ignorance that is itself symptomatic of a cultural narcissism so fervent as to approach sycophancy.

Therefore, by immersing ourselves in the chronology of history in the context of Christmas we can eschew the common habit of convincing ourselves of the uniqueness of our circumstance.

To that end, the Roman Martyrology for Christmas contains a formal announcement of the birth of Christ in the style of a proclamation. It begins with creation and relates the birth of the Lord to the major events and personages of sacred and secular history.

Today, the twenty-fifth day of December, unknown ages from the time when God created the heavens and earth and then formed man and woman in his own image.

Several thousand years after the flood, when God made the rainbow shine forth as a sign of the covenant.

Twenty-one centuries from the time of Abraham and Sarah; thirteen centuries after Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt.

Eleven hundred years after the time of Ruth and the Judges; one thousand years from the anointing of David as king; in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel.

In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad; the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome.

The forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus; the whole world being at peace, Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, and nine months having passed since his conception, was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary.

Today is the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

Next, we turn to an exegesis of Pope Benedict XVI’s 2006 encyclical Deus Caritas Est by Avery Cardinal Dulles (First Things, January 2007):

Pope Benedict notes that as love grows it becomes less covetous and more concerned with the good of the other. The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our might. Our love of God must be continually purified. In order to love God with a pure, unselfish love surpassing our affection for any creature, we need the help of divine grace…Twice in his encyclical, the pope refers to the statement in John’s first letter, “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.”

At the end of The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis makes an important statement that he does not develop at the length it deserves: Grace can arouse in us a higher kind of love than either eros or agape as he understands them. God, ac-coring to Lewis, “can awake in man, towards Himself, a supernatural appreciative love. this is of all gifts the most to be desired. Here, not in our natural loves, nor even in ethics, lies the true center of all human and angelic life.”

May the blessings of Christ and his message of love and hope be yours this holy season, and may it inform the quality and character of the New Year.

Philip Mella