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The Octave of Christmas: December 25 -- January 1 [Ecumenical] ^ | 2004 | Father Brian Doerr

Posted on 12/26/2010 12:58:57 PM PST by Salvation

The Octave of Christmas

By Father Brian Doerr


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* First Day * Second Day * Third Day * Fourth Day * Fifth Day * Sixth Day * Seventh Day * Eighth Day *

From the Latin word, Octava, comes the ancient practice of celebrating Christmas for eight wonderful days.  We would like to invite you to join our parish in allowing Christmas its proper observance – by continuing the celebration for eight days. We are celebrating the Word made Flesh!  Can we properly celebrate this unfathomable mystery in just one morning?  By observing the Octave, we hope to “re-order” our Christmas observance, quite frankly, away from the modern American practice of celebrating Christmas during December (when the Church observes Advent) while disregarding the Christmas Season. By December 26, the candles are snuffed, the weight has been gained, and we cast a forlorn look toward spring as so many are burned-out on reindeer, elves and candy canes. 

We would like to assist your family in their return to the ancient practices of this worthwhile observance and root them more firmly in the Christian tradition.  Respect is due to the practices you and your family have developed at home.  The traditions you have developed are not, in some way, incorrect.  Yet, adopting some of these practices suggested below will unite your family to the traditions and customs observed for centuries by our Catholic ancestors.

Why celebrate for eight days?  The practice actually is as ancient as the Old Testament.  The Hebrew people observed many of their feasts for a period of eight days.  The “Feast of Tabernacles” and the “Dedication of the Temple” are two of the more notable.  Later, the Roman Emperor Constantine continued the tradition by celebrating the dedication of basilicas in the Christian World for the same period of eight days.  Prior to the Second Vatican Council, which closed in 1965, the Church granted certain feasts the dignity of an octave.  In addition to the more prominent liturgical observations of Easter, Pentecost, Epiphany, the feasts of Sts. Peter and St. Paul, St. Lawrence, and St. Agnes were observed.  Today we celebrate two feasts with Octaves:  Easter (being the more prominent) and Christmas.

Again, so why celebrate for eight days?  Life in the ancient world was so hectic and filled with pressure and families had grown apart and were being swept up in the older pagan traditions, the Church granted a period of eight days in order to contemplate the mysteries experienced in the Church’s liturgy.  Comparatively speaking, we obviously need the Octave even more than the Christians of the ancient world!  The ancient world did not have television, shopping malls, computers, telephones, fast food, automobiles, magazines and newspapers… if the Ancients were busily distracted, what has become of us!? We need to enjoy this time!  If you need, take off work, visit family, feast, attend Mass, praise God, visit the poor, celebrate charity, and most of all be humbled before the Mystery:  The Word of God has become man!


December 25; the First Day of the Christmas Octave, the Nativity of the Lord

Opening Prayer from the Liturgy:  “Father, we are filled with the new light by the coming of your Word among us. May the light of faith shine in our words and actions. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

In your Bible:  Luke 2:1-14; the Story of the Nativity

Catechesis: Recently, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged his flock to overcome the “commercial contamination” of Christmas by rediscovering the Child Jesus, the Son of God made man out of love. There is nothing like a bit of guilt for Christmas morning!  Yet, everyone mumbles to him or herself that “next year, we are going to cut back.”  And every year, the commercial aspect of Christmas reigns out of control. The Holy Father wants us to experience the fullness of the Church’s celebration: “The authentic spirit of Christmas is, “he said recently, “characterized by recollection, sobriety, a joy that is not exterior but profound.”

Activity: To regain the true meaning of our observance, the Holy Father suggested we focus on the tradition of placing a Nativity crib in our homes as a way of teaching the Christian faith, especially to children. Pope Benedict XVI encourages us to continue the custom of placing the crib in the home, as it “can be a simple but effective way of presenting the faith and transmitting it to one's children. The manger helps us to contemplate the mystery of God's love who revealed himself in the poverty and simplicity of the Bethlehem cave.” If you do not have a crib, take some time today to make one or use a Christmas greeting card.  Otherwise, sometime today, gather around the crib to sing, to pray and to adore the Christ child.

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; prayer
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December 31; the Seventh Day of the Christmas Octave, Sylvester I, Pope

Opening Prayer from the Liturgy:  “Lord, help and sustain your people by the prayers of Pope Sylvester. Guide us always in this present life and bring us to the joy that never ends.  We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

In your Bible: Matthew 16:13-19; The Keys of the Kingdom

Catechesis: On this, the seventh day in the octave of Christmas, Holy Mother Church remembers St. Sylvester I, pope and confessor. Pope Sylvester reigned as Pontiff for 21 years, was a friend of the Emperor Constantine and endorsed the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325.  Some refer to Sylvester as the “peace Pope” as he became pope shortly after the end of  centuries of bloody persecution.  Like many of our early saints, legends have arisen around his memory:  he is said to have freed Emperor Constantine from leprosy by baptism and killed a “ferocious dragon” that was contaminating the air with his “poisonous breath.”

Activity: Have you ever stopped to think about where we would be without our Church?  What if we lacked the opportunity for reconciliation, Confirmation or Holy Communion.  What if we lacked the gift of our faith - the faith that has been passed down to us from the time of the Apostles?  What if we lacked a Supreme Pontiff and the world was ruled by the tyranny of evil, selfishness and hatred? Today, pray fervently for the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and for his collaborator, William Leo, our Bishop, and pray especially today for the person - parent, grandparent, priest, religious brother or sister, catechist or friend - who first taught you your faith.

21 posted on 12/30/2010 8:24:22 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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January 1; The Eighth Day of the Christmas Octave, The Mother of God

Opening Prayer from the Liturgy:  “God our Father, may we always profit by the prayers of the Virgin Mother Mary, for you bring us life and salvation through Jesus Christ her Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Sprit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

In your Bible: Luke 2:16-21; Mary Kept All Things in Her Heart

Catechesis: “Mary, the all-holy ever-virgin Mother of God, is the masterwork of the mission of the Son and the Spirit in the fullness of time. For the first time in the plan of salvation and because his Spirit had prepared her, the Father found the dwelling place where his Son and his Spirit could dwell among men. In this sense the Church's Tradition has often read the most beautiful texts on wisdom in relation to Mary. Mary is acclaimed and represented in the liturgy as the ‘Seat of Wisdom’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 721).  Today’s feast, Mary the Mother of God, was first celebrated on January 1st in the seventh century.  But in 1967, Rome also inaugurated this day as a world day of prayer for peace.  After all, we have celebrated the birth of the Prince of Peace for the past eight days, it is proper to reserve this day for “intense prayer for peace, education towards peace and those values inextricably linked with it, such as liberty, fraternal solidarity, the dignity of the human person, respect for nature, the right to work, the sacredness of human life, and the denunciation of injustices which trouble the conscience of man and threaten peace.”

Activity: Due to our fast-paced lives and how accustomed we have become to the electronic age, praying the rosary can be bothersome, even “painful” to some.  Surprising is the number of Catholics who do not even know how to pray the rosary.  Today, gather to pray the family rosary that, through Our Lady, Queen of Peace, we may have peace in our hearts, our homes and our community, nation and world.  For further encouragement, consider this list of benefits for praying the rosary:

1. It gradually gives us a perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ.
2. It purifies our souls, washing away sin.
3. It gives us victory over all our enemies.
4. It makes it easy for us to practice virtue.
5. It sets us on fire with love of Our Lord.
6. It enriches us with graces and merits.
7. It supplies us with what is needed to pay all our debts to God and to our fellow men;
   and finally, it obtains all kinds of graces for us from Almighty God.

22 posted on 12/31/2010 10:55:01 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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I attended a vigil Mass tonight. A wonderful way to close out 2010.

Attending Mass tomorrow would be a wonderful way to open the New Year of 2011!

Happy New Year, everyone!

23 posted on 12/31/2010 10:56:23 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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The old man sat in his gas station on a cold Christmas Eve. He hadn’t been anywhere in years since his wife had passed away. It was just another day to him. He didn’t hate Christmas, just couldn’t find a reason to celebrate. He was sitting there looking at the snow that had been falling for the last hour and wondering what it was all about when the door opened and a homeless man stepped through. 

Instead of throwing the man out, Old George as he was known by his customers, told the man to come and sit by the heater and warm up. “Thank you, but I don’t mean to intrude,” said the stranger.” I see you’re busy, I’ll just go.”   

“Not without something hot in your belly.” George said. 

He turned and opened a wide mouth Thermos and handed it to the stranger. “It ain’t much, but it’s hot and tasty. Stew … Made it myself. When you’re done, there’s coffee and it’s fresh.” 

Just at that moment he heard the “ding” of the driveway bell. “Excuse me, be right back,” George said. There in the driveway was an old ’53 Chevy. Steam was rolling out of the front. The driver was panicked. “Mister can you help me!” said the driver, with a deep Spanish accent. “My wife is with child and my car is broken.” George opened the hood. It was bad. The block looked cracked from the cold, the car was dead. 

“You ain’t going in this thing,” George said as he turned away. 

“But Mister, please help …” The door of the office closed behind George as he went inside. He went to the office wall and got the keys to his old truck, and went back outside. He walked around the building, opened the garage, started the truck and drove it around to where the couple was waiting. “Here, take my truck,” he said. “She ain’t the best thing you ever looked at, but she runs real good.” 

George helped put the woman in the truck and watched as it sped off into the night. He turned and walked back inside the office. “Glad I gave ‘em the truck, their tires were shot too. That ‘old truck has brand new .” George thought he was talking to the stranger, but the man had gone. The Thermos was on the desk, empty, with a used coffee cup beside it. “Well, at least he got something in his belly,” George thought. 

George went back outside to see if the old Chevy would start. It cranked slowly, but it started. He pulled it into the garage where the truck had been. He thought he would tinker with it for something to do. Christmas Eve meant no customers. He discovered the block hadn’t cracked, it was just the bottom hose on the radiator. “Well, shoot, I can fix this,” he said to himself. So he put a new one on. 

“Those tires ain’t gonna get ‘em through the winter either.” He took the snow treads off of his wife’s old Lincoln. They were like new and he wasn’t going to drive the car anyway. 

As he was working, he heard shots being fired. He ran outside and beside a police car an officer lay on the cold ground. Bleeding from the left shoulder, the officer moaned, “Please help me.” 

George helped the officer inside as he remembered the training he had received in the Army as a medic. He knew the wound needed attention. “Pressure to stop the bleeding,” he thought. The uniform company had been there that morning and had left clean shop towels. He used those and duct tape to bind the wound. “Hey, they say duct tape can fix anythin’,” he said, trying to make the policeman feel at ease.

“Something for pain,” George thought. All he had was the pills he used for his back. “These ought to work.” He put some water in a cup and gave the policeman the pills. “You hang in there, I’m going to get you an ambulance.” 

The phone was dead. “Maybe I can get one of your buddies on that there talk box out in your car.” He went out only to find that a bullet had gone into the dashboard destroying the two way radio. 

He went back in to find the policeman sitting up. “Thanks,” said the officer. “You could have left me there. The guy that shot me is still in the area.” 

George sat down beside him, “I would never leave an injured man in the Army and I ain’t gonna leave you.” George pulled back the bandage to check for bleeding. “Looks worse than what it is. Bullet passed right through ‘ya. Good thing it missed the important stuff though. I think with time your gonna be right as rain.” 

George got up and poured a cup of coffee. “How do you take it?” he asked. 

“None for me,” said the officer. 

“Oh, yer gonna drink this.  Best in the city. Too bad I ain’t got no donuts.” The officer laughed and winced at the same time. 

The front door of the office flew open. In burst a young man with a gun. “Give me all your cash! Do it now!” the young man yelled. His hand was shaking and George could tell that he had never done anything like this before. 

“That’s the guy that shot me!” exclaimed the officer. 

“Son, why are you doing this?” asked George, “You need to put the cannon away. Somebody else might get hurt.” 

The young man was confused. “Shut up old man, or I’ll shoot you, too. Now give me the cash!” 

The cop was reaching for his gun. “Put that thing away,” George said to the cop, “we got one too many in here now.” 

He turned his attention to the young man. “Son, it’s Christmas Eve. If you need money, well then, here. It ain’t much but it’s all I got. Now put that pea shooter away.” 

George pulled $150 out of his pocket and handed it to the young man, reaching for the barrel of the gun at the same time. The young man released his grip on the gun, fell to his knees and began to cry. “I’m not very good at this am I? All I wanted was to buy something for my wife and son,” he went on. “I’ve lost my job, my rent is due, my car got repossessed last week.” 

George handed the gun to the cop. “Son, we all get in a bit of squeeze now and then. The road gets hard sometimes, but we make it through the best we can.” 

He got the young man to his feet, and sat him down on a chair across from the cop. “Sometimes we do stupid things.” George handed the young man a cup of coffee. “Bein’ stupid is one of the things that makes us human. Comin’ in here with a gun ain’t the answer. Now sit there and get warm and we’ll sort this thing out.” 

The young man had stopped crying. He looked over to the cop. “Sorry I shot you. It just went off. I’m sorry officer.” 

“Shut up and drink your coffee ” the cop said. 

George could hear the sounds of sirens outside. A police car and an ambulance skidded to a halt. Two cops came through the door, guns drawn. “Chuck! You ok?” one of the cops asked the wounded officer. 

“Not bad for a guy who took a bullet. How did you find me?” 

“GPS locator in the car. Best thing since sliced bread. Who did this?” the other cop asked as he approached the young man. 

Chuck answered him, “I don’t know. The guy ran off into the dark. Just dropped his gun and ran.” 

George and the young man both looked puzzled at each other. 

“That guy work here?” the wounded cop continued. 

“Yep,”  George said, “just hired him this morning. Boy lost his job.” 

The paramedics came in and loaded Chuck onto the stretcher. The young man leaned over the wounded cop and whispered, “Why?” 

Chuck just said, “Merry Christmas boy … and you too, George, and thanks for everything.” 

“Well, looks like you got one doozy of a break there. That ought to solve some of your problems.” 

George went into the back room and came out with a box. He pulled out a ring box. “Here you go, something for the little woman. I don’t think Martha would mind. She said it would come in handy some day.” 

The young man looked inside to see the biggest diamond ring he ever saw. “I can’t take this,” said the young man. “It means something to you.” 

“And now it means something to you,” replied George. “I got my memories. That’s all I need.” 

George reached into the box again. An airplane, a car and a truck appeared next. They were toys that the oil company had left for him to sell. “Here’s something for that little man of yours.” 

The young man began to cry again as he handed back the $150 that the old man had handed him earlier. 

“And what are you supposed to buy Christmas dinner with? You keep that too,” George said. “Now get home to your family.” 

The young man turned with tears streaming down his face. “I’ll be here in the morning for work, if that job offer is still good.” 

“Nope. I’m closed Christmas day,” George said. “See ya the day after.” 

George turned around to find that the stranger had returned. “Where’d you come from? I thought you left?” 

“I have been here. I have always been here,” said the stranger. “You say you don’t celebrate Christmas. Why?” 

“Well, after my wife passed away, I just couldn’t see what all the bother was. Puttin’ up a tree and all seemed a waste of a good pine tree. Bakin’ cookies like I used to with Martha just wasn’t the same by myself and besides I was gettin’ a little chubby.” 

The stranger put his hand on George’s shoulder. “But you do celebrate the holiday, George. You gave me food and drink and warmed me when I was cold and hungry. The woman with child will bear a son and he will become a great doctor. 

The policeman you helped will go on to save 19 people from being killed by terrorists. The young man who tried to rob you will make you a rich man and not take any for himself. “That is the spirit of the season and you keep it as good as any man.” 

George was taken aback by all this stranger had said. “And how do you know all this?” asked the old man. 

“Trust me, George. I have the inside track on this sort of thing. And when your days are done you will be with Martha again.” 

The stranger moved toward the door. “If you will excuse me, George, I have to go now. I have to go home where there is a big celebration planned.” 

George watched as the old leather jacket and the torn pants that the stranger was wearing turned into a white robe. A golden light began to fill the room. 

“You see, George … it’s My birthday. Merry Christmas.” 

George fell to his knees and replied, “Happy Birthday, Lord Jesus” 

Merry Christmas!!

Source: Unknown. I received this story a few hours ago from a good friend of mine. So, might as well I share this very touching Christmas story to you all. Keep the Christmas spirit alive!

24 posted on 12/31/2010 11:41:49 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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