Skip to comments.Catholic Caucus: Daily Mass Readings, 12-25-12, Solemnity, Nativity of the Lord [Mass/Day]
Posted on 12/24/2012 3:49:40 PM PST by Salvation
From: Isaiah 52:7-10
The Messenger of Peace
 Depart, depart, go out thence,
touch no unclean thing;
go out from the midst of her, purify yourselves,
you who bear the vessels of the Lord.
 For you shall not go out in haste,
and you shall not go in flight,
for the Lord will go before you,
and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
52:7-12. Salvation is approaching; it has reached the gates of Zion, and its herald
is the messenger “who publishes salvation” (v. 7), proclaiming that the Lord is re-
turning to his holy city, like a victorious king coming back with his men, having re-
deemed them from their captors (vv. 7-8). This victory parade includes songs of
joy extolling the salvation brought about by the Lord, and also a pressing call to
purification, to ensure that those who welcome the Lord are worthy to form part
of his holy company (vv. 11-12). These verses form the famous poem of the “mes-
senger of peace” who “brings good tidings”. The ideas of the first oracle of this
second part of the book (40:1-11) are repeated here very beautifully. The messen-
ger’s feet are praised — a symbol of his speed and surefootedness when crossing
the mountains, which is where important news comes from (cf. 40:9). His mes-
sage (v. 7) is described very significantly as involving “peace”, which in Isaiah
means safety in Israel after the hardships of exile; “good tidings” or, more literal-
ly, “news of goodness and well-being”, that is, genuine material and spiritual
prosperity; and “salvation”, which is permanent renewal on all levels. The three
words read together mean the highest degree of happiness imaginable. The core
of this message is the enthronement of God: “Your God reigns,” similar to 40:9:
“Behold your God.” What is new about this poem is that it depicts God as the
king of Zion (cf. 24:23). The kingdom of God is sublime; and only analogically is
it comparable to earthly kingdoms, as can be seen in the psalms of divine king-
ship (Ps 47:8; 93:1; 96:10; 97:1), and, much more fully; in the New Testament,
which records Jesus’ preaching centered on the Kingdom of God.
As in a stage play, the arrival of the messenger, which is really the same thing
as the arrival of God as king on Zion, causes the watchmen to raise shouts of
joy that resound across the city (v. 8). Those whose job it was to give warning
of any threat now provoke unconfined joy because of the “return of the Lord to
Zion” (v. 8; Ezek 43:1-5).
In a beautiful personification, the “waste places of Jerusalem” are called to join
in the watchmen’s song (v. 9). The restoration has come, and the credit must go
to the Lord, for he has bared his holy arm a symbol of vigorous action, as in the
time of the exodus (v. 10; cf. 40:10, 5 1:9; Ps 98:1).
The short hymn at the end (vv. 11-12) is an exhortation to be cleansed from every
trace of Babylonian idolatry and to follow the Lord’s path, who, in the early trek
through the wilderness (cf. Ex 13:21-22), travels at the head of the company and
is also its rearguard.
St Paul quotes the words of v. 7 in Romans 10:15 when he is making the point
that preaching is necessary if the Gospel is to be spread. So, they are an abi-
ding call to apostolate.
The words of this oracle (especially v. 11) have also been applied by Christian
tradition to those who have pastoral responsibilities: “A pastor should be a man
whose thoughts are pure and purified. No stain should mar the character of the
man who holds the office of pastor; thus shall he be able to cleanse the impurity
of those in his care. The one whose work it is to purify stains must have clean
hands, to ensure that, when he seeks to cleanse, he does not soil his charges
more. The prophet says: purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the Lord.
Those who are entrusted with leading souls along the path of faith to their eternal
home bear the vessels of the Lord. Consider carefully, then, how pure they must
be who have devoted themselves to the task of bearing living vessels to the
eternal Temple” (St Gregory the Great, “Regula Pastoralis”, 2, 2).
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.
Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.
From: Hebrews 1:1-6
The Greatness of the Incarnate Son of God
Proof from Sacred Scripture
1-4. The first four verses are a kind of prologue to the letter, which does not carry
the greetings and words of thanksgiving to God normally found in letters of St
Paul. Like the prologue of St John’s Gospel, the letter moves immediately into its
main subject — the divinity of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. It speaks of Christ as
a Son whose sonship is eternal, prior to the creation of the world and to his Incar-
nation; it speaks also of Christ’s mission to save all men, a mission appropriate
to the Word who created all things. This exposition culminates in the affirmation
of Christ’s absolute superiority over angels, a theme dealt with, in different ways,
up to the end of the second chapter.
The entire epistle in fact develops the subject entered on in the prologue — the
sublimity of Christ, the natural and eternal Son of God, the universal Mediator,
the eternal Priest. This is why St Thomas Aquinas says that the subject matter
of this epistle is the “excellence” of Christ. In this respect the Letter to the Heb-
rews is different from the other letters in the Pauline corpus: in some letters (the
“Great Epistles” and the Captivity Letters) the Apostle deals with the grace which
imbues the entire mystical body of the Church; others (the Pastoral Letters) deal
with the grace bestowed on certain members of the Church (such as Timothy
and Titus); whereas the Letter to the Hebrews looks at grace as it is found in the
Head of the mystical body, Christ. This “excellence” of Christ the Angelic Doctor
adds, is examined by St Paul from four points of view: the first is that of Christ’s
origin, which the sacred writer identifies by calling him the true (natural, metaphy-
sical) Son of God, when he says that God has spoken to us by a Son; the se-
cond is that of his power, for he depicts him as being made the heir of all things;
the third is that of his activity, when he affirms that he created the world; the
fourth, his sublime dignity, when he says that Christ reflects the glory of God (cf.
“Commentary on Heb.”, Prologue and 1:1).
Christ is thus presented as the pinnacle and fullness of salvific Revelation, as the
Second Vatican Council reminds us: “After God had spoken many times and in
various ways through the prophets ‘in these last days he has spoken to us by a
Son’ (Heb 1:1-2). For he sent his Son, the eternal Word who enlightens all men
to dwell among men and to tell them about the inner life of God [...]. He did this
by the total fact of his presence and self-manifestation — by words and works,
signs and miracles, but above all by his death and glorious resurrection from the
dead, and finally by sending the Spirit of truth. He revealed that God was with us,
to deliver us from the darkness of sin and death, and to raise us up to eternal life”
(”Dei Verbum”, 4).
1. Divine Revelation, which is rightly called “the Word of God”, develops in sta-
ges in the course of the Old and New Testaments. “By this Revelation,” Vatican
II teaches,”’the invisible God (cf. Col 1:15; 1 Tim 1:17), from the fullness of his love,
addresses men as his friends (cf. Ex 33:11; Jn 15:14-15), and moves among men
(cf. Bar 3:38), in order to invite and receive them into his own company. This eco-
nomy of Revelation is realized by deeds and words, which are intrinsically bound
up with each other. As a result, the works performed by God in the history of sal-
vation show forth and bear out the doctrine and realities signified by the words;
the words, for their part, proclaim the works, and bring to light the mystery they
contain” (”Dei Verbum”, 3). Revelation is, then, a gradual opening up of God’s my-
steries whereby little by little, like a wise teacher, it makes known who he is and
what his plans are concerning the salvation of all mankind. For, although there is
only one God and one way of salvation, man needs to be educated by means of
many precepts and to progress by stages on his way to God and so advance in
faith towards complete salvation in Christ. God in his mercy reveals his myste-
ries to man in this way in order that the whole world experiencing “this saving pro-
clamation, on hearing it should believe, on believing it hope, on hoping in it love”
(St Augustine, “De Catechizandis Rudibus”, 4, 8).
When speaking of Revelation, the First Vatican Council recalled that although
“God, the origin and end of all things, can be known with certainty by the natural
light of human reason from the things that he created, [...] it was, nevertheless,
the good pleasure of his wisdom and goodness to reveal himself and the eternal
decrees of his will to the human race in another and supernatural way” (”Dei Fi-
lius”, Chap. 2). This supernatural revelation, as it says (reaffirming the teaching
of the Council of Trent), is contained in books and in oral traditions which the
Apostles received from Christ or from the Holy Spirit and passed on to us.
Christ’s Gospel had earlier been promised by the prophets and, more generally,
by the entire Old Testament. The epistle refers to this when it says that God
spoke in the past through the mouth of the prophets “in many ways”, that is, at
various stages in the history of the chosen people, and “in various ways”, that is,
by means of visions, words, actions and historical events.
2. “The most intimate truth which this revelation gives us about God and the sal-
vation of man shines forth in Christ, who is himself both the mediator and the
sum total of Revelation” (”Dei Verbum”, 2).
St John of the Cross comments on this passage in a very beautiful and profound
way: “And this is as if he had said: That which God spoke of old in the prophets
to our fathers in sundry ways and divers manners, he has now, at last, in these
days, spoken to us once and for all in the Son. Herein the Apostle declares that
God has become, as it were, dumb, and has no more to say, since that which
he spoke before, in part, to the prophets, he has now spoken altogether in him,
giving us the All, which is his Son.
“And so he who would now enquire of God, or seek any vision or revelation would
not only be acting foolishly, but would be committing an offense against God, by
not setting his eyes altogether upon Christ, and seeking no new thing or aught
beside. And God might answer him after this manner, saying: ‘If I have spoken
all things to you in my Word, which is my Son, and I have no other word, what
answer can I now make to you, or what can I reveal to you which is greater than
this? Set your eyes on him alone, for in him I have spoken and revealed to you
all things”’ (”Ascent of Mount Carmel”, Book 2, Chap. 22).
The “last days” refer to the period of time between the first coming of Christ and
the second coming, or Parousia. These days have begun because the definitive
“Word” of God, Jesus Christ, can be seen and heard. Mankind already finds it-
self in the “last age”, in the “end of the ages” (cf. 1 Cor 10:11; Gal 4:4; Eph 1:10).
By speaking to us through his Son, God reveals to us his saving will from the mo-
ment of the Incarnation onwards, for the second person of the Blessed Trinity has
come into the world to redeem us by dying for us and to open for us the way to
heaven by his glorification. Therefore, Jesus Christ is the “prophet” par excellence
(cf. note on Jn 7:40-43), for he perfects and completes God’s merciful revelation.
The Incarnation and the subsequent events of our Lord’s life are, like his teaching,
a source of salvation.
It was appropriate that the Son who perfectly revealed God the Father should also
be the divine Word, the Creator of the world (cf. Jn 1:3). The creative action of the
divine “Logos” or Word is not contradicted by the statement that Creation is the
work of God the Father, for everything done by God outside himself (”ad extra”)
is an action common to the three divine persons; nor is it correct to see the Word
as merely an instrument used by the Father, for he is one in substance with him.
“It is the good Father’s own, unique Word who has ordered this universe. Being
the good Word he has arranged the order of all things [...]. He was with God as
Wisdom; as Word he contemplated the Father and created the universe, giving
it substance, order and beauty” (St Athanasius, “Oratio Contra Gentes”, 40 and
46). Not only did the Word make the Father manifest by creation; he, together
with the Father and the Holy Spirit, acted in the revelation of the Old Testament:
in fact, many patristic writers attributed to the Son — as “angel” or “messenger of
Yahweh” — the divine epiphanies witnessed by Moses and the prophets. St Ire-
naeus writes, for example, that Christ prefigured and proclaimed future events
through his “Patriarchs and prophets”, thereby acting in his role as Teacher, pro-
mulgating the divine commandments and rules and training his people to obey
God the Father (cf. “Against Heresies”, XIV, 21). A profound harmony links God’s
revelation in Creation, in the Old Testament and in the New Testament: in each
case it is the same God who is manifesting himself and the Word is ever actively
involved. This activity of the Word is hidden and happens through the prophets in
the Old Testament; whereas in the New the Word becomes flesh and acts direct-
ly. This passage in Hebrews combines the revelation of Jesus Christ as Mediator
and maker of the universe (cf. Col 1:15-18; 1 Cor 8:6) with the idea that God has
at last spoken to us in his Son, who “is in the bosom of the Father”, and has
made known to us the invisible mysteries of the Godhead (cf. Jn 1:18).
3a. These words, which describe Christ’s divinity and eternity, recall the passage
in the Book of Wisdom which reads, “For she is a reflection of eternal light, a
spotless mirror of the working of God” (Wis 7:26). What the Old Testament de-
scribed as an attribute of God is now revealed as a personal being the second
person of the Trinity, the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.
Using three images, the text teaches that Jesus Christ is perfect God, identical
to the Father. By saying that he “reflects” the glory of the Father it means that
he and the Father share the same nature — which is what we profess in the
Creed when we say that Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, is “light
from light, true God from true God” (Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed). “The au-
thor means”, St John Chrysostom writes, “that Christ has this glory in his own
right; it can suffer no eclipse nor can it either increase or diminish” (”Hom. on
The Son is also “stamped” with the nature of the Father; “stamp” is a translation
of the Greek word “character”, which means the mark left by a tool used to en-
grave or seal (for example, the impression of a seal on wax, or the seal affixed
to a document, or the brand used to identify livestock). This word indicates two
things — first, the perfect equality between the mark and the seal which makes
it, and second, the permanence of the mark.
“Upholding the universe by his word of power”: the Son, through whom all things
have been created, is also maintaining them in existence. God the Father not
only creates but, through the Son, maintains a continual, direct influence on his
creation; if he did not do so, as St Thomas Aquinas explains, the world would re-
vert into non-being: “If the divine power ceased to operate, existence would cease,
the being and subsistence of every created thing would end: (the Word) therefore
upholds all things in respect of their existence, and he sustains them also by vir-
tue of being the first cause of everything he has created” (”Commentary on Heb.”,
1, 2). It makes sense that God the Father should wish to keep the world in exis-
tence by means of the same Word by whom he created it.
3b. This is the central message of the Epistle to the Hebrews: Christ, the consub-
stantial Son of the Father, the perfect reflection of his substance, who created all
things and maintains them in existence, by becoming man brought about purifica-
tion for sins and by his sacrifice was glorified and put at the right hand of the Fa-
ther, receiving “the name which is above every name” (cf. Phil 2: 6-11; Jn 1:1, 3,
14). The actions of Jesus Christ are a continuum of mercy and salvation which
extends from the creation of the world and mankind to the point where he is sea-
ted in heaven at the right hand of the Father. Creation and Redemption are mys-
teries intimately linked to each other. The Son, the divine Word, is both Creator
and Redeemer. “It is appropriate to speak in the first instance”, St Athanasius
writes, “of the creation of the universe and of God its Creator, in order correctly to
appreciate the fact that the new creation of this universe has been brought about
by the Word who originally created it. For there is no contradiction in the Father’s
effecting the salvation of creatures by him through whom they were created” (”De
Incarnatione Contra Arianos”, 1). This is why the tradition of the Church, echoing
certain references in the New Testament (cf. Gal 6:15; 2 Cor 5:17; Eph 4:24; Col
3:10), describes the Redemption as a “new creation”.
To “sit down at the right hand of the Majesty” is equivalent to saying “has the sta-
tus of God”: “Majesty” is a term of reverence used to refer to God without naming
him; thus, Jewish rabbis would refer to God as “Lord”, “the most High”, “the Po-
wer”, “Glory”, etc. Sitting in the presence of God was a prerogative of the Davidic
kings (cf. 2 Sam 7:18; Ezek 44:3), and the person at the right hand was seen as
occupying the place of honor (cf. Ps 45:10). Psalm 110 proclaims that God will
have the Messiah sit at his right hand, and at various times Christ referred to that
prophecy to assert that he was the Messiah and God (cf. Mt 22: 44; 26:63-65; Jn
5:17-18; 10:30-33). The exaltation of the Son to the right hand of the Father was
a constant theme of apostolic preaching (cf. Acts 2:33; Rom 8:34; 1 Pet 3:22;
Rev 3:21; Eph 1:20). As St John Chrysostom comments, when St Paul says that
the Son sat down at the right hand of the Majesty he means principally to refer to
the status of the Son as equal to that of the Father. And when he says that he is
on high, in heaven, far from meaning to confine God within spatial limits, he wants
us to see God the Son, as Lord of the universe, raised up to the very throne of his
Father (cf. “Hom. on Heb.”, 2).
4. The prologue ends with a very important statement, which introduces the theme
of the rest of the first chapter: Christ is superior to the angels. To understand this
comparison of Christ with the angels, one needs to bear in mind the outlook of the
Jews at the time. The period immediately prior to the New Testament had seen a
considerable development of devotion to angels among the ordinary religious Jews;
with the result that this was the danger of Jesus, because he was a man, in some
way being seen as on a lower level than angels, who, created beings though they
are, are pure spirits. In the Acts of the Apostles (cf. Acts 23:9), we find the Pha-
risees in the Sanhedrin surmising that St Paul’s preaching may result from revela-
tion given him by an angel; and belief in the existence of angels was a point of
contention between Pharisees and Sadducees (cf. Acts 23:7). For this reason
the author of Hebrews wants to make it quite clear to Christians of Jewish origin
that Jesus is much more than an angelic being.
Christ is superior to angels, the inspired writer says, because he has the title of
Son, which is his by natural right. This name demonstrates his divine nature, a
nature superior to that of any visible or invisible created being, whether material
or spiritual, whether earthly or angelic: something’s name describes its essence
and, particularly in Sacred Scripture, name and essence are at times one and
the same. Thus, for example, the phrase “in the name of” (cf. Mt 28:19; Acts
3:6; 4:7; 4:12; etc.) refers not just to the authority or power of the person named,
but to the person himself. Jesus Christ, because he is the very Son of God, is
superior to angels by virtue of the glory due to his eternal oneness with the
Father. As eternal Son of God, to him belonged, by right of inheritance, the title
of Son and Lord. Moreover, after his passion and resurrection he has “become”
superior to angels by a new title through his exaltation on high (cf. 1 Cor 15: 24-
27; Phil 2:9-11). This passage refers primarily to Jesus’ glorification as man; for
the words “having become as much superior to angels...” cannot refer, St John
Chrysostom points out, to his divine essence: by virtue of his divinity the Son is
equal to the Father and cannot be subject to change, cannot “become” anything:
he is eternally what he is by generation from the Father: “Eternal Word by nature,
he did not receive his divine essence by way of inheritance. These words, which
manifest his superiority over the angels, can only refer to the human nature with
which he has been clothed: for it is that nature that is a created one” (”Hom. on
On the essence of angels and what they are, see the note on Lk 1:11.
5. Ancient Hebrew exegesis of this verse of Psalm 2 took it in a messianic sense:
the Messiah or Anointed would be king of Israel and would enjoy God’s special
protection. Therefore he merited being called “Son of God”, in the same kind of
way, though more eminently, as other kings and just men of Israel deserved the
title. But in Hebrews 1:5 the verse is given a much more profound interpretation:
the Messiah, Jesus Christ, is the eternal Son of God, begotten “today”, that is,
in the continuous present of the eternal Godhead. It is affirming the generation
of the Son by the Father in the bosom of the Trinity, whereby the Son proceeds
eternally from the Father and is his mirror image. This form of generation is radi-
cally different from physical generation, whereby one living being physically be-
gets another like unto himself; and it is also quite different from Creation, where-
by God makes everything out of nothing. It is different from physical generation
because, in the Holy Trinity, Father and Son co-exist eternally and are one and
the same and only God, not two gods. It is different from Creation because the
Son has not been made from nothing but proceeds eternally from the Father.
God created angels in the context of time, as the Fourth Lateran Council says
in its profession of faith: “We firmly believe and profess without qualification that
there is only one true God [...], Creator of all things visible and invisible, spiritual
and corporeal, who, by his almighty power, from the very beginning of time, has
created both orders of creatures in the same way out of nothing, the spiritual or
angelic world and the corporeal or visible universe. And afterwards he formed the
creature man, who in a way belongs to both orders, as he is composed of spirit
and matter” (”De Fide Catholica”, Chap. 1).
The Son, on the other hand, proceeds from the Father eternally as light rays
come constantly from the sun or as water forms one single thing with the spring
from which it flows.
“These words have never been addressed to an angel,” St Thomas Aquinas com-
ments, “but to Christ alone. In them three things may be observed. First, the
mode of origin, expressed in the word ‘say’. It refers to a type of generation which
is not of the flesh but rather of a spiritual and intellectual kind. Second, this gene-
ration has an altogether singular character, for he says, ‘Thou art my Son’, as if
saying that although many others are called sons, being [God’s] natural son is
proper to Him alone; others are called sons of God because they partake of the
Word of God. Third, this is not a temporal but an eternal generation” (”Commen-
tary on Heb.”, 1, 3).
The quotation from Psalm 2 is completed by Nathan’s prophecy to David (2 Sam
7:14: “I will be his father, and he shall be my son”), which announces that a des-
cendant of David will be the Messiah and will ever enjoy God’s favor. But the He-
brews text also makes it much clearer that the Messiah is the Son of God in the
proper sense of the word — a son by nature, and not by adoption (cf. Lk 1:32-33).
In Christ, therefore, two things combine: he is the Son of God and he is the Mes-
6. Here the words of Deuteronomy 32:43, identical with those of Psalm 97:7 as
given in the Septuagint, are used to convey, as a divine commandment addressed
to spiritual beings, a directive to adore the Son. This is a further proof of Christ’s
superiority: the angels are to worship him. “This adoration shows his absolute su-
periority over angels: it is the superiority of the master over his servants and his
slaves. When Jesus Christ left the bosom of his Father to enter this world, God
required his angels to worship him. This is what a monarch does when he brings
some great personage into his palace and wishes to have him honored: he orders
his dignitaries to bow in his presence “Hom. on Heb.”, 3).
This reference to “bringing the first-born into the world” is consistently interpreted
by the Fathers of the Church and by ancient writers as a reference to the Incarna-
tion. Some authors also see this verse as referring to the second coming of Christ,
when the world to come, unlike the present world, will be totally subject to the Re-
deemer. This interpretation connected with the end of time may explain why the
text of Deuteronomy 32:43 is used: that passage is followed by reference to the
last judgment by God.
Christ’s human nature should be worshipped now and always by angels and men
alike, for by doing so they adore Jesus, who is one person — which is divine —
with two natures, one divine and one human; he is worshipped as one: his divinity
and his humanity are worshipped at one and the same time.
This worship due to Christ over every created being is reminiscent of what St Paul
says in Philippians 2:10: “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven
and on earth and under the earth”, referring to the glorified human nature of Christ.
“It is fitting that the sacred humanity of Christ should receive the homage, praise
and adoration of all the hierarchies of the angels and of all the legions of the bles-
sed in heaven” (St. J. Escriva, “Holy Rosary”, Second Glorious Mystery).
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.
Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.
From: John 1:1-18
 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came for
testimony to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him.  He
was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.
 The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world.  He
was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him
not.  He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. 
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become
children of God;  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor
of the will of man, but of God.
 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we
have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the father.  (John bore
witness to him, and cried, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me
ranks before me, for he was before me.’”)  And from his fullness have we all
received, grace upon grace.  For the law was given through Moses; grace
and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God; the only
Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.
1-18. These verses form the prologue or introduction to the Fourth Gospel; they
are a poem prefacing the account of Jesus Christ’s life on earth, proclaiming
and praising his divinity and eternity. Jesus is the uncreated Word, God the
Only-begotten, who takes on our human condition and offers us the opportunity
to become sons and daughters of God, that is, to share in God’s own life in a
real and supernatural way.
Right through his Gospel St John the Apostle lays special emphasis on our
Lord’s divinity; his existence did not begin when he became man in Mary’s virgi-
nal womb: before that he existed in divine eternity as Word, one in substance
with the Father and the Holy Spirit. This luminous truth helps us understand
everything that Jesus says and does as reported in the Fourth Gospel.
St John’s personal experience of Jesus’ public ministry and his appearances
after the Resurrection were the material on which he drew to contemplate
God’s divinity and express it as “the Word of God”. By placing this poem as
a prologue to his Gospel, the Apostle is giving us a key to understand the
whole account which follows, in the same sort of way as the first chapters of
the Gospels of St Matthew and St Luke initiate us into the contemplation of
the life of Christ by telling us about the virgin birth and other episodes to do
with his infancy; in structure and content, however, they are more akin to the
opening passages of other NT books, such as Col 1:15-20, Eph 1:13-14 and
1 Jn 1-4.
The prologue is a magnificent hymn in praise of Christ. We do not know whe-
ther St John composed it when writing his Gospel, or whether he based it on
some existing liturgical hymn; but there is no trace of any such text in other
early Christian documents.
The prologue is very reminiscent of the first chapter of Genesis, on a number
of scores: 1) the opening words are the same: “In the beginning...”; in the Gos-
pel they refer to absolute beginning, that is, eternity, whereas in Genesis they
mean the beginning of Creation and time; 2) there is a parallelism in the role of
the Word: in Genesis, God creates things by his word (”And God said ...”); in
the Gospel we are told that they were made through the Word of God; 3) in Ge-
nesis, God’s work of creation reaches its peak when he creates man in his own
image and likeness; in the Gospel, the work of the Incarnate Word culminates
when man is raised — by a new creation, as it were — to the dignity of being a
son of God.
The main teachings in the prologue are: 1) the divinity and eternity of the Word;
2) the Incarnation of the Word and his manifestation as man; 3) the part played
by the Word in creation and in the salvation of mankind; 4) the different ways
in which people react to the coming of the Lord — some accepting him with
faith, others rejecting him; 5) finally, John the Baptist bears witness to the
presence of the Word in the world.
The Church has always given special importance to this prologue; many Fa-
thers and ancient Christian writers wrote commentaries on it, and for centuries
it was always read at the end of Mass for instruction and meditation.
The prologue is poetic in style. Its teaching is given in verses, which combine
to make up stanzas (vv. 1-5; 6-8; 9-13; 14-18). Just as a stone dropped in a
pool produces ever widening ripples, so the idea expressed in each stanza
tends to be expanded in later verses while still developing the original theme.
This kind of exposition was much favored in olden times because it makes it
easier to get the meaning across — and God used it to help us go deeper into
the central mysteries of our faith.
1. The sacred text calls the Son of God “the Word.” The following comparison
may help us understand the notion of “Word”: just as a person becoming con-
scious of himself forms an image of himself in his mind, in the same way God
the Father on knowing himself begets the eternal Word. This Word of God is
singular, unique; no other can exist because in him is expressed the entire
essence of God. Therefore, the Gospel does not call him simply “Word”, but
“the Word.” Three truths are affirmed regarding the Word — that he is eternal,
that he is distinct from the Father, and that he is God. ‘’Affirming that he exis-
ted in the beginning is equivalent to saying that he existed before all things”
(St Augustine, “De Trinitate”, 6, 2). Also, the text says that he was with God,
that is, with the Father, which means that the person of the Word is distinct
from that of the Father and yet the Word is so intimately related to the Father
that he even shares his divine nature: he is one in substance with the Father
(cf. “Nicean Creed”).
To mark the Year of Faith (1967-1968) Pope Paul VI summed up this truth con-
cerning the most Holy Trinity in what is called the “Creed of the People of God”
(n. 11) in these words: “We believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Son
of God. He is the eternal Word, born of the Father before time began, and one
in substance with the Father, “homoousios to Patri”, and through him all things
were made. He was incarnate of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit,
and was made man: equal therefore to the Father according to his divinity, and
inferior to the Father according to his humanity and himself one, not by some
impossible confusion of his natures, but by the unity of his person.”
“In the beginning”: “what this means is that he always was, and that he is eter-
nal. [...] For if he is God, as indeed he is, there is nothing prior to him; if he is
creator of all things, then he is the First; if he is Lord of all, then everything
comes after him — created things and time” (St John Chrysostom, “Hom. on
St John”, 2, 4).
3. After showing that the Word is in the bosom of the Father, the prologue goes
on to deal with his relationship to created things. Already in the Old Testament
the Word of God is shown as a creative power (cf. Is 55:10-11), as Wisdom pre-
sent at the creation of the world (cf. Prov 8:22-26). Now Revelation is extended:
we are shown that creation was caused by the Word; this does not mean that
the Word is an instrument subordinate and inferior to the Father: he is an active
principle along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The work of creation is an
activity common to the three divine Persons of the Blessed Trinity: “the Father
generating, the Son being born, the Holy Spirit proceeding; consubstantial, co-
equal, co-omnipotent and co-eternal; one origin of all things: the creator of all
things visible and invisible, spiritual and corporal.” (Fourth Lateran Council, “De
Fide Catholica”, Dz-Sch, 800). From this can be deduced, among other things,
the hand of the Trinity in the work of creation and, therefore, the fact that all
created things are basically good.
4. The prologue now goes on to expound two basic truths about the Word —
that he is Life and that he is Light. The Life referred to here is divine life, the pri-
mary source of all life, natural and supernatural. And that Life is the light of men,
for from God we receive the light of reason, the light of truth and the light of glo-
ry, which are a participation in God’s mind. Only a rational creature is capable
of having knowledge of God in this world and of later contemplating him joyfully
in heaven for all eternity. Also the Life (the Word) is the light of men because he
brings them out of the darkness of sin and error (cf. Is 8:23; 9:1-2; Mt 4:15-16;
Lk 1:74). Later on Jesus will say: “I am the light of the world; he who follows
me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12; cf. 12:46).
Vv. 3 and 4 can be read with another punctuation, now generally abandoned
but which had its supporters in ancient times: “All things were made through
him, and without him nothing was made; in so far as anything was made in him,
he was the life and the life was the light of men.” This reading would suggest
that everything that has been created is life in the Word, that is, that all things
receive their being and activity, their life, through the Word: without him they
cannot possibly exist.
5. “And the darkness has not overcome it”: the original Greek verb, given in
Latin as “comprehenderunt”, means to embrace or contain as if putting one’s
arms around it — an action which can be done with good dispositions (a friendly
embrace) or with hostility (the action of smothering or crushing someone). So
there are two possible translations: the former is that given in the Navarre Spa-
nish, the latter that in the RSV. The RSV option would indicate that Christ and
the Gospel continue to shine among men despite the world’s opposition, indeed
overcoming “it”, as Jesus later says: “Be of good cheer: I have overcome the
world” (Jn 16:33; cf. 12:31; 1 Jn 5:4). Either way, the verse expresses the dark-
ness’ resistance to, repugnance for, the light. As his Gospel proceeds, St John
explains further about the light and darkness: soon, in vv. 9-11, he refers to the
struggle between them; later he will describe evil and the po- wers of the evil
one, as a darkness enveloping man’s mind and preventing him from knowing
God (cf. Jn 12:15-46; 1 Jn 5:6).
St Augustine (”In Ioann. Evang.”, 1, 19) comments on this passage as follows:
“But, it may be, the dull hearts of some cannot yet receive this light. Their sins
weigh them down, and they cannot discern it. Let them not think, however, that,
because they cannot discern it, therefore it is not present with them. For they
themselves, because of their sins, are darkness. Just as if you place a blind
person in the sunshine, although the sun is present to him, yet he is absent
from the sun; in the same way, every foolish man, every unrighteous man, every
ungodly man, is blind in heart. [...] What course then ought such a one to take?
Let him cleanse the eyes of his heart, that he may be able to see God. He will
see Wisdom, for God is Wisdom itself, and it is written: ‘Blessed are the clean
of heart, for they shall see God.’” There is no doubt that sin obscures man’s
spiritual vision, rendering him unable to see and enjoy the things of God.
6-8. After considering the divinity of the Lord, the text moves on to deal with his
incarnation, and begins by speaking of John the Baptist, who makes his appea-
rance at a precise point in history to bear direct witness before man to Jesus
Christ (Jn 1:15, 19-36; 3:22ff). As St Augustine comments: “For as much as he
[the Word Incarnate] was man and his Godhead was concealed, there was sent
before him a great man, through whose testimony He might be found to be more
than man” (”In Ioann. Evang.”, 2, 5).
All of the Old Testament was a preparation for the coming of Christ. Thus, the
patriarchs and prophets announced, in different ways, the salvation the Messi-
ah would bring. But John the Baptist, the greatest of those born of woman (cf.
Mt 11:11), was actually able to point out the Messiah himself; his testimony
marked the culmination of all the previous prophecies.
So important is John the Baptist’s mission to bear witness to Jesus Christ that
the Synoptic Gospels stage their account of the public ministry with John’s tes-
timony. The discourses of St Peter and St Paul recorded in the Acts of the Apo-
stles also refer to this testimony (Acts 1:22; 10:37; 12:24). The Fourth Gospel
mentions it as many as seven times (1:6, 15, 19, 29, 35; 3:27; 5:33). We know,
of course, that St John the Apostle was a disciple of the Baptist before beco-
ming a disciple of Jesus, and that it was precisely the Baptist who showed him
the way to Christ (cf. 1 :37ff).
The New Testament, then, shows us the importance of the Baptist’s mission,
as also his own awareness that he is merely the immediate Precursor of the
Messiah, whose sandals he is unworthy to untie (cf. Mk 1:7): the Baptist stres-
ses his role as witness to Christ and his mission as preparer of the way for the
Messiah (cf. Lk 1:15-17; Mt 3: 3-12). John the Baptist’s testimony is undimi-
nished by time: he invites people in every generation to have faith in Jesus, the
9. “The true light...” [The Spanish translation of this verse is along these lines:
“It was the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world.”] The
Fathers, early translations and most modern commentators see “the Word” as
being the subject of this sentence, which could therefore be translated as “the
Word was the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world...”.
Another interpretation favored by many modern scholars makes “the light” the
subject, in which case it would read “the true light existed, which enlightens...”.
Either way, the meaning is much the same.
“Coming into the world”: it is not clear in the Greek whether these words refer
to “the light”, or to “every man”. In the first case it is the Light (the Word) that
is coming into this world to enlighten all men; in the second it is the men who,
on coming into this world, on being born, are enlightened by the Word; the
RSV and the new Vulgate opt for the first interpretation.
The Word is called “the true light” because he is the original light from which
every other light or revelation of God derives. By the Word’s coming, the world
is fully lit up by the authentic Light. The prophets and all the other messengers
of God, including John the Baptist, were not the true light but his reflection,
attesting to the Light of the Word.
Apropos the fullness of light which the Word is, St John Chrysostom asks: “If
he enlightens every man who comes into the world, how is it that so many have
remained unenlightened? For not all, to be sure, have recognized the high digni-
ty of Christ. How, then, does he enlighten every man? As much as he is permit-
ted to do so. But if some, deliberately closing the eyes of their minds, do not
wish to receive the beams of this light, darkness is theirs. This is not because
of the nature of the light, but is a result of the wickedness of men who delibera-
tely deprive themselves of the gift of grace (Hom. on St. John, 8, 1).
10. The Word is in this world as the maker who controls what he has made (cf.
St Augustine, “In Ioann. Evang.”, 2, 10). In St John’s Gospel the term “world”
means “all creation, all created things (including all mankind)”: thus, Christ
came to save all mankind: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only
Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For
God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world
might be saved through him” (Jn 3:16-17). But insofar as many people have
rejected the Light, that is, rejected Christ, “world” also means everything op-
posed to God (cf. Jn 17:14-15). Blinded by their sins, men do not recognize
in the world the hand of the Creator (cf. Rom 1:18-20; Wis 13:1-15): “they be-
come attached to the world and relish only the things that are of the world”
(St John Chrysostom, “Hom. on St John”, 7). But the Word, “the true light”,
comes to show us the truth about the world (cf. Jn 1:3; 18:37) and to save us.
11. “His own home, his own people”: this means, in the first place, the Jewish
people, who were chosen by God as his own personal “property”, to be the
people from whom Christ would be born. It can also mean all mankind, for man-
kind is also his: he created it and his work of redemption extends to everyone.
So the reproach that they did not receive the Word made man should be under-
stood as addressed not only to the Jews but to all those who rejected God de-
spite his calling them to be his friends: “Christ came; but by a mysterious and
terrible misfortune, not everyone accepted him. [...] It is the picture of humanity
before us today, after twenty centuries of Christianity. How did this happen?
What shall we say? We do not claim to fathom a reality immersed in myste-
ries that transcend us — the mystery of good and evil. But we can recall that
the economy of Christ, for its light to spread, requires a subordinate but neces-
sary cooperation on the part of man — the cooperation of evangelization, of the
apostolic and missionary Church. If there is still work to be done, it is all the
more necessary for everyone to help her” (Paul VI, General Audience, 4 De-
12. Receiving the Word means accepting him through faith, for it is through
faith that Christ dwells in our hearts (cf. Eph 3:17). Believing in his name means
believing in his Person, in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. In other words,
“those who believe in his name are those who fully hold the name of Christ, not
in any way lessening his divinity or his humanity” (St Thomas Aquinas, “Com-
mentary on St John, in loc.”).
“He gave power [to them]” is the same as saying “he gave them a free gift” —
sanctifying grace — “because it is not in our power to make ourselves sons of
God” (”ibid.”). This gift is extended through Baptism to everyone, whatever his
race, age, education etc. (cf. Acts 10:45; Gal 3:28). The only condition is that
we have faith.
“The Son of God became man”, St Athanasius explains, “in order that the sons
of men, the sons of Adam, might become sons of God. [...] He is the Son of
God by nature; we, by grace” (”De Incarnatione Contra Arrianos”). What is re-
ferred to here is birth to supernatural life: in which “Whether they be slaves or
freemen, whether Greeks or barbarians or Scythians, foolish or wise, female or
male, children or old men, honorable or without honor, rich or poor, rulers or
private citizens, all, he meant, would merit the same honor. [...] Such is the
power of faith in him; such the greatness of his grace” (St John Chrysostom,
“Hom. on St John”, 10, 2).
“Christ’s union with man is power and the source of power, as St John stated
so incisively in the prologue of his Gospel: ‘(The Word) gave power to become
children of God.’ Man is transformed inwardly by this power as the source of a
new life that does not disappear and pass away but lasts to eternal life (cf. Jn
4:14)” (Bl. John Paul II, “Redemptor Hominis”, 18).
13. The birth spoken about here is a real, spiritual type of generation which is
effected in Baptism (cf. 3:6ff). Instead of the plural adopted here, referring to the
supernatural birth of men, some Fathers and early translations read it in the sin-
gular: “who was born, not of blood...but of God”, in which case the text would
refer to the eternal generation of the Word and to Jesus’ generation through the
Holy Spirit in the pure womb of the Virgin Mary. Although the second reading is
very attractive, the documents (Greek manuscripts, early translations, referen-
ces in the works of ecclesiastical writers, etc.) show the plural text to be the
more usual, and the one that prevailed from the fourth century forward. Besides,
in St John’s writings we frequently find reference to believers as being born of
God (cf. Jn 3:3-6; 1 Jn 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18).
The contrast between man’s natural birth (by blood and the will of man) and his
supernatural birth (which comes from God) shows that those who believe in Je-
sus Christ are made children of God not only by their creation but above all by
the free gift of faith and grace.
14. This is a text central to the mystery of Christ. It expresses in a very con-
densed form the unfathomable fact of the incarnation of the Son of God.
“When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman”
The word “flesh” means man in his totality (cf. Jn 3:6; 17:2; Gen 6:3; Ps 56:5);
so the sentence “the Word became flesh” means the same as “the Word be-
came man.” The theological term “incarnation” arose mainly out of this text.
The noun “flesh” carries a great deal of force against heresies which deny that
Christ is truly man. The word also accentuates that our Savior, who dwelt
among us and shared our nature, was capable of suffering and dying, and it
evokes the “Book of the Consolation of Israel” (Is 40:1-11), where the fragility
of the flesh is contrasted with the permanence of the Word of God: “The grass
withers, the flower fades; but the Word of our God will stand for ever” (Is 40:8).
This does not mean that the Word’s taking on human nature is something pre-
carious and temporary.
“And dwelt among us”: the Greek verb which St John uses originally means “to
pitch one’s tent”, hence, to live in a place. The careful reader of Scripture will
immediately think of the tabernacle, or tent, in the period of the exodus from
Egypt, where God showed his presence before all the people of Israel through
certain sights of his glory such as the cloud covering the tent (cf., for example,
Ex 25:8; 40:34-35). In many passages of the Old Testament it is announced
that God “will dwell in the midst of the people” (cf., for example, Jer 7:3; Ezek
43:9; Sir 24:8). These signs of God’s presence, first in the pilgrim tent of the
Ark in the desert and then in the temple of Jerusalem, are followed by the most
wonderful form of God’s presence among us — Jesus Christ, perfect God and
perfect Man, in whom the ancient promise is fulfilled in a way that far exceeded
men’s greatest expectations. Also the promise made through Isaiah about the
“Immanuel” or “God-with-us” (Is 7:14; cf. Mt 1:23) is completely fulfilled through
this dwelling of the Incarnate Son of God among us. Therefore, when we devout-
ly read these words of the Gospel “and dwelt among us” or pray them during
the Angelus, we have a good opportunity to make an act of deep faith and gra-
titude and to adore our Lord’s most holy human nature.
“Remembering that ‘the Word became flesh’, that is, that the Son of God be-
came man, we must become conscious of how great each man has become
through this mystery, through the Incarnation of the Son of God! Christ, in fact,
was conceived in the womb of Mary and became man to reveal the eternal love
of the Creator and Father and to make known the dignity of each one of us”
(Bl. John Paul II, “Angelus Address” at Jasna Gora Shrine, 5 June 1979).
Although the Word’s self-emptying by assuming a human nature concealed in
some way his divine nature, of which he never divested himself, the Apostles
did see the glory of his divinity through his human nature: it was revealed in the
transfiguration (Lk 9:32-35), in his miracles (Jn 2:11; 11:40), and especially in
his resurrection (cf. Jn 3:11; 1 Jn 1:1) The glory of God, which shone out in the
early tabernacle in the desert and in the temple at Jerusalem, was nothing but
an imperfect anticipation of the reality of God’s glory revealed through the holy
human nature of the Only-begotten of the Father. St John the Apostle speaks
in a very formal way in the first person plural: “we have beheld his glory”, be-
cause he counts himself among the witnesses who lived with Christ and, in
particular, were present at his transfiguration and saw the glory of his resur-
The words “only Son” (”Only-begotten”) convey very well the eternal and unique
generation of the Word by the Father. The first three Gospels stressed Christ’s
birth in time; St John complements this by emphasizing his eternal generation.
The words “grace and truth” are synonyms of “goodness and fidelity”, two attri-
butes which, in the Old Testament, are constantly applied to Yahweh (cf., e.g.,
Ex 34:6; Ps 117; Ps 136; Osee 2:16-22): so, grace is the expression of God’s
love for men, the way he expresses his goodness and mercy. Truth implies per-
manence, loyalty, constancy, fidelity. Jesus, who is the Word of God made
man, that is, God himself, is therefore “the only Son of the Father, full of grace
and truth”; he is the “merciful and faithful high priest” (Heb 2:17). These two
qualities, being good and faithful, are a kind of compendium or summary of
Christ’s greatness. And they also parallel, though on an infinitely lower level,
the quality essential to every Christian, as stated expressly by our Lord when
he praised the “good and faithful servant” (Mt 25:21).
As Chrysostom explains: “Having declared that they who received him were
‘born of God’ and ‘become sons of God,’ he then set forth the cause and rea-
son for this ineffable honor. It is that ‘the Word became flesh’ and the Master
took on the form of a slave. He became the Son of Man, though he was the
true Son of God, in order that he might make the sons of men children of God
(”Hom. on St John”, 11,1).
The profound mystery of Christ was solemnly defined by the Church’s Magi-
sterium in the famous text of the ecumenical council of Chalcedon (in the year
451): “Following the holy Fathers, therefore, we all with one accord teach the
profession of faith in the one identical Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We declare
that he is perfect both in his divinity and in his humanity, truly God and truly
man, composed of body and rational soul; that he is consubstantial with the
Father in his divinity, consubstantial with us in his humanity, like us in every
respect except for sin (cf. Heb 4:15). We declare that in his divinity he was be-
gotten in this last age of Mary the Virgin, the Mother of God, for us and for our
salvation” (Dz-Sch, n. 301).
15. Further on (On Jn 1:19-36) the Gospel tells us more about John the Bap-
tist’s mission as a witness to the messiahship and divinity of Jesus. Just as
God planned that the Apostles should bear witness to Jesus after the resur-
rection, so he planned that the Baptist would be the witness chosen to pro-
claim Jesus at the very outset of his public ministry (cf. note on Jn 1:6-8).
16 “Grace upon grace”: this can be understood, as it was by Chrysostom and
other Fathers, as “grace for grace”, the Old Testament economy of salvation
giving way to the new economy of grace brought by Christ. It can also mean
(as the RSV suggests) that Jesus brings a superabundance of gifts, adding
on, to existing graces, others — all of which pour out of the one inexhaustible
source, Christ, who is for ever full of grace. “Not by sharing with us, says the
Evangelist, does Christ possess the gift, but he himself is both fountain and
root of all virtues. He himself is life, and light, and truth, not keeping within him-
self the wealth of these blessings, but pouring it forth upon all others, and even
after the outpouring still remaining full. He suffers loss in no way by giving his
wealth to others, but, while always pouring out and sharing these virtues with
all men, he remains in the same state of perfection” (St John Chrysostom,
“Hom. on St John”, 14, 1).
17. Here, for the first time in St John’s Gospel, the name of Jesus Christ ap-
pears, identified with the Word of whom John has been speaking.
Whereas the Law given by Moses went no further than indicate the way man
ought follow (cf. Rom 8:7-10), the grace brought by Jesus has the power to
save those who receive it (cf. Rom 7:25). Through grace “we have become
dear to God, no longer merely as servants, but as sons and friends” (Chry-
sostom, “Hom. on St John”, 14, 2).
On “grace and truth” see note on Jn 1:14.
18. “No one has ever seen God”: in this world men have never seen God other
than indirectly: all that they could contemplate was God’s “glory”, that is the
aura of his greatness: for example, Moses saw the burning bush (Ex 3:6); Eli-
jah felt the breeze on Mount Horeb — the “still small voice” (RSV) — (1 Kings 19:
11-13). But in the fullness of time God comes much closer to man and reveals
himself almost directly, for Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God
(cf. Col 1:15), the maximum revelation of God in this world, to such an extent
that he assures us that “he who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).
“The most intimate truth which this revelation gives us about God and the sal-
vation of man shines forth in Christ, who is himself both the mediator and the
sum total of Revelation” (Vatican II, “Dei Verbum”, 2).
There is no greater revelation God could make of himself than the incarnation
of his eternal Word. As St John of the Cross puts it so well: “In giving to us, as
he has done, his Son, who is his only Word, he has spoken to us once and for
all by his own and only Word, and has nothing further to reveal” (”Ascent of
Mount Carmel”, Book II, chap. 22).
“The only Son”: the RSV note says that “other ancient authorities read “God”
(for Son); the Navarre Spanish has “the Only-begotten God” and comments as
follows: some Greek manuscripts and some translations give “the Only-begot-
ten Son” or “the Only-begotten”. “The Only-begotten God” is preferable be-
cause it finds best support in the codices. Besides, although the meaning
does not change substantially, this translation has a richer content because
it again explicitly reveals Christ’s divinity.
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.
Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.
Readings for the daytime Mass on Christmas Day:
|First reading||Isaiah 52:7-10 ©|
|Psalm||Psalm 97:1-6 ©|
|Second reading||Hebrews 1:1-6 ©|
|Gospel||John 1:1-18 ©|
|Gospel||John 1:1-5,9-14 ©|
On the Faith of Mary, the Virgin Mother of Christ
Father Cantalamessa's 1st Advent Sermon (Catholic Caucus)
On The Unfolding of God's Self-Revelation
On the Beauty of God's Plan of Salvation
On Bearing Witness to the Christian Faith
On the Splendor of God's Truth
On the Knowledge of God
Archbishop Chaput says Year of Faith holds solution to relativism
Following the Truth: The Year Of Faith 10 Things You Should Know [Catholic Caucus]
Papal Encyclical on Faith Announced
On the Desire for God
On the Ecclesial Nature of Faith
On the Nature of Faith
Catechism's benefits explained for Year of Faith (Catholic Caucus)
A Life of Faith: Papal Theologian Speaks on the Grace of Faith
ASIA/LAOS - "Year of Faith" amid the persecutions of Christians forced to become "animists"
From no faith to a mountain-top of meaning: Father John Nepil (Catholic Caucus)
Living the Year of Faith: How Pope Benedict Wants You to Begin [Catholic Caucus]
Share Your Faith in This Year of Faith: Two keys to help you do it.
On A New Series of Audiences for The Year of Faith
Pope will deliver year-long teaching series on restoring faith
Pope Benedict XVI Grants Plenary Indulgence to Faithful [Catholic Caucus]
Pope, at Marian shrine, entrusts Year of Faith, synod to Mary (Catholic Caucus)
Catholic Church Calls for Public Prayers in Offices on Fridays
Highlights in the Plan for Year of Faith: Traditional Events Will Take on Special Perspective
Catholic Church calls for public prayers in offices on Fridays
Vatican Unveils Logo for Year of Faith [Catholic Caucus]
Miami Prelate Recalls Pope's Visit to Cuba, Looks to Year of Faith [Catholic Caucus]
The World-Changing Year of Faith [Catholic Caucus]
Vatican to Issue Recommendations for Celebrating Year of Faith
Christmas, Pagan Romans and Frodo Baggins
Midnight Masses Canceled in Iraq Because of Growing Security Concerns
Christmas Overview for All
The Tradition of Midnight Mass: History
Which Christmas Mass are you attending? [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
Christmas, Christians, and Christ
The Many Meanings of Christmas
Vocations Under the Christmas Tree? [Catholic Caucus]
A Meditation On the Bloody Octave of Christmas [Catholic Caucus]
"It (Theosis) can be a somewhat startling theme for western Christian ears..."
Archbishop Wenski brightens Christmas for Krome detainees
The Octave of Christmas: December 25 -- January 1 [Ecumenical]
Pope's Christmas Warning: 'The Future Of The World Is At Stake'
Father Corapi: What Really Matters [at Christmas]?
Papal Midnight Mass With No Communion in The Hand
Christmas Requiem for Iraq's Christian Community
Christmas story shows seasons beauty [nice surprise from the Chicago Sun Times]
Text Of Pope's Homily For Christmas Eve Mass
Merry Christmas: Love is born on Christmas Morn and the Whole World Begins Again
'Christmas is Evil': Group Launches Poster Campaign Against Festive Period [UK]
The Origin of Nativity Scenes
St. Francis and the Christmas Creche
Holy Day Vs. Holiday: Making Christmas Less Commercial
25 Ways We're Different this Christmas
On Christmas: Where Everything Began
Saved by Christmas
Christmas Midnight Mass Canceled in Iraq
Some Christmas History: The Aztec Christmas Flower
Top 10 Christmas Carols (What is your favorite Christmas Carol?)
Wheres the Human in Humanism? Humanist Ads Violate...Own Humanist Standards (Attacking Christmas]
Fr. Corapi: In Reality, Sadness Has No Place At Christmas Time Or Any Time
Pope's battle to save Christmas: Don't let atheists crush your traditions, Benedict tells Britain
A CHRISTMAS TRADITION IN ROME: THE STREET CLEANERS NATIVITY SCENE
The Days of Christmastide -- more than twelve!
Saint Padre Pio's Christmas Meditation
"Transform Me. Renew Me. Change Me, Change Us All" (Pope's Midnight Mass Homily)
Christmas in Rome. The Pope's Tale of the Crèche
On the Feast of Christ's Birth [Benedict XVI]
The Meaning of Christmas: Look Deeper
St. Francis and the Christmas crib.
Away in a Manger [St. Francis of Assisi and the first Nativity scene]
Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace [Family]
Christmastide and Epiphany
SOLEMNITY OF THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD: HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI [Catholic Caucus]
A Christmas Message >From Fr. Corapi
Christmas and the Eucharist(Catholic/Orthodox Caucus)
Preface: Memories of Christmas
The Manger -- Nativity Scene -- Crêche
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
Christmas Quiz; How Much Do You Really Know?
Christmas Prayers: Prayers and Collects for the Feast of the Nativity
[Christmas] Customs from Various Countries and Cultures
The 12 Days of Christmas and Christmastide: A Rich Catholic Tradition
The 12 Days of Christmas -- Activities, Customs, Prayers, Blessings, Hymns -- For the Family
Iraqis Crowd Churches for Christmas Mass
Pope Wishes the World a Merry Christmas
On this night, a comforting message(Merry Christmas!)
Advent through Christmas -- 2007
Bethlehem beyond the Christmas calm
The Origin of Nativity Scenes
Various Orthodox Texts for the Feast of the Nativity
The Five Best Christmas Stories
What Are We Celebrating When We Celebrate Christmas?
Secular Christmas Celebration Pointless, Pope Says
The Wonder of Christmas - 1959
The Real Meaning of Christmas Lights
Top ten Carols and things you didn't know about them
The Nativity of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
Christmas gifts are a reminder of Jesus, the greatest gift given to mankind, Pope tells youth
The Senses of Christmas
Pope celebrates Christmas mass
Christmas: The Turning Point of History
The Original Christmas Story
Bringing Christmas to Life Again
Christmas: the beginning of our redemption
Christmas and the Eucharist
Catholic Caucus: The 16 Days of Christmas (Christmas to the Baptism of the Lord)
Origin of the Twelve Days of Christmas [An Underground Catechism]
Origin of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" [Underground Catechism]
The following is the longer version of the vital prayer composed by Pope Leo XIII in 1888 after his startling vision as to the future of the Church. This prayer was dedicated for the Feast of St. Michael 1448 years from the date of the election of the first Leo - Pope Saint Leo the Great. Everyone is familiar with the first prayer below which was mandated by His Holiness as part of the Leonine Prayers after Low Mass. Below are both the short and longer versions of this poignant prayer which should never be forgotten.
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray, and do thou, O heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.
O glorious Archangel Saint Michael, Prince of the heavenly host, be our defense in the terrible warfare which we carry on against principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, spirits of evil. Come to the aid of man, whom God created immortal, made in His own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of the devil. Fight this day the battle of our Lord, together with the holy angels, as already thou hast fought the leader of the proud angels, Lucifer, and his apostate host, who were powerless to resist thee, nor was there place for them any longer in heaven. That cruel, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with his angels. Behold this primeval enemy and slayer of men has taken courage. Transformed into an angel of light, he wanders about with all the multitude of wicked spirits, invading the earth in order to blot out the Name of God and of His Christ, to seize upon, slay, and cast into eternal perdition, souls destined for the crown of eternal glory. That wicked dragon pours out. as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men of depraved mind and corrupt heart, the spirit of lying, of impiety, of blasphemy, and the pestilent breath of impurity, and of every vice and iniquity. These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the Immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on Her most sacred possessions. In the Holy Place itself, where has been set up the See of the most holy Peter and the Chair of Truth for the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck the sheep may be scattered. Arise then, O invincible Prince, bring help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of God, and give them the victory. They venerate thee as their protector and patron; in thee holy Church glories as her defense against the malicious powers of hell; to thee has God entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude. Oh, pray to the God of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly conciliate the mercies of the Lord; and beating down the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, do thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations. Amen.
R: The Lion of the Tribe of Juda has conquered the root of David.
V: Let Thy mercies be upon us, O Lord.
R: As we have hoped in Thee.
V: O Lord hear my prayer.
R: And let my cry come unto Thee.
V: Let us pray. O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we call upon Thy holy Name, and as suppliants, we implore Thy clemency, that by the intercession of Mary, ever Virgin, immaculate and our Mother, and of the glorious Archangel Saint Michael, Thou wouldst deign to help us against Satan and all other unclean spirits, who wander about the world for the injury of the human race and the ruin of our souls. Amen.
Look down upon me, O good and gentle Jesus, while before Thy face I humbly kneel, and with burning soul pray and beseech Thee to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope and charity, true contrition for my sins, and a firm purpose of amendment; the while I contemplate with great love and tender pity Thy five most precious wounds, pondering over them within me, calling to mind the words which David Thy prophet said of Thee, my good Jesus: "They have pierced My hands and My feet; they have numbered all My bones."
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
We thank you, God our Father, for those who have responded to your call to priestly ministry.
Accept this prayer we offer on their behalf: Fill your priests with the sure knowledge of your love.
Open their hearts to the power and consolation of the Holy Spirit.
Lead them to new depths of union with your Son.
Increase in them profound faith in the Sacraments they celebrate as they nourish, strengthen and heal us.
Lord Jesus Christ, grant that these, your priests, may inspire us to strive for holiness by the power of their example, as men of prayer who ponder your word and follow your will.
O Mary, Mother of Christ and our mother, guard with your maternal care these chosen ones, so dear to the Heart of your Son.
Intercede for our priests, that offering the Sacrifice of your Son, they may be conformed more each day to the image of your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Saint John Vianney, universal patron of priests, pray for us and our priestsThis icon shows Jesus Christ, our eternal high priest.
The gold pelican over His heart represents self-sacrifice.
The border contains an altar and grapevines, representing the Mass, and icons of Melchizedek and St. Jean-Baptiste Vianney.
Melchizedek: king of righteousness (left icon) was priest and king of Jerusalem. He blessed Abraham and has been considered an ideal priest-king.
St. Jean-Baptiste Vianney is the patron saint of parish priests.
1. Sign of the Cross: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
2. The Apostles Creed: II BELIEVE in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
3. The Lord's Prayer: OUR Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
4. (3) Hail Mary: HAIL Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and in the hour of our death. Amen. (Three times)
5. Glory Be: GLORY be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Fatima Prayer: Oh, my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy.
Announce each mystery, then say 1 Our Father, 10 Hail Marys, 1 Glory Be and 1 Fatima prayer. Repeat the process with each mystery.
End with the Hail Holy Queen:
Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve! To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears! Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us; and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus!
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Final step -- The Sign of the Cross
St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle
Be our protection against the wickedness
and snares of the devil;
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
Cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls.
From an Obama bumper sticker on a car:
"Pray for Obama. Psalm 109:8"
PLEASE JOIN US -
Since the 16th century Catholic piety has assigned entire months to special devotions. The month of December is traditionally dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. The Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first moment of her conception, by a singular privilege of Almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, our Savior and hers, was preserved from all stain of original sin. This age-old belief of the Church was defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854 as an article of revealed truth.
Mary was in need of redemption and she was indeed redeemed by the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. The manner of Mary's redemption, however, was unique. Instead of being freed from original sin after having contracted it, she was preserved from contracting it. This was a most fitting favor for the Mother of the Redeemer.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
The Immaculate Conception from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
To become the mother of the Savior, Mary was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role. The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as full of grace. In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by Gods grace.
Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, full of grace through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:
The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.
The splendor of an entirely unique holiness by which Mary is enriched from the first instant of her conception comes wholly from Christ: she is redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son. The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places and chose her in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love.
The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God the All-Holy (Panagia), and celebrate her as free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature. By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.
PRAYER OF POPE PIUS XII
This prayer, dedicated to Mary Immaculate, was composed by the Pope for the Marian Year (December 8, 1953-December 8, 1954), which was proclaimed to mark the centenary of the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
Enraptured by the splendor of your heavenly beauty, and impelled by the anxieties of the world, we cast ourselves into your arms, 0 Immacuate Mother of Jesus and our Mother, Mary, confident of finding in your most loving heart appeasement of our ardent desires, and a safe harbor from the tempests which beset us on every side.
Though degraded by our faults and overwhelmed by infinite misery, we admire and praise the peerless richness of sublime gifts with which God has filled you, above every other mere creature, from the first moment of your conception until the day on which, after your assumption into heaven, He crowned you Queen of the Universe.
O crystal fountain of faith, bathe our minds with the eternal truths! O fragrant Lily of all holiness, captivate our hearts with your heavenly perfume! 0 Conqueress of evil and death, inspire in us a deep horror of sin, which makes the soul detestable to God and a slave of hell!
O well-beloved of God, hear the ardent cry which rises up from every heart. Bend tenderly over our aching wounds. Convert the wicked, dry the tears of the afflicted and oppressed, comfort the poor and humble, quench hatreds, sweeten harshness, safeguard the flower of purity in youth, protect the holy Church, make all men feel the attraction of Christian goodness. In your name, resounding harmoniously in heaven, may they recognize that they are brothers, and that the nations are members of one family, upon which may there shine forth the sun of a universal and sincere peace.
Receive, O most sweet Mother, our humble supplications, and above all obtain for us that, one day, happy with you, we may repeat before your throne that hymn which today is sung on earth around your altars: You are all-beautiful, O Mary! You are the glory, you are the joy, you are the honor of our people! Amen.
Prayer Source: Prayer Book, The by Reverend John P. O'Connell, M.A., S.T.D. and Jex Martin, M.A., The Catholic Press, Inc., Chicago, Illinois, 1954
Litany of the Blessed Virgin
Lord, have mercy on us
Christ, have mercy on us
Lord, have mercy on us
Christ, hear us
Christ, graciously hear us
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us God the Son, Redeemer of the World, have mercy on us God the Holy Spirit, ...
Holy Trinity, one God, ...
Holy Mary, pray for us
Holy Mother of God, pray for us
Holy Virgin of virgins, ...
Mother of Christ, ...
Mother of Divine Grace, ...
Mother most pure, ...
Mother most chaste, ...
Mother inviolate, ...
Mother undefiled, ...
Mother most amiable, ...
Mother most admirable, ...
Mother of good counsel, ...
Mother of our Creator, ...
Mother of our Saviour, ...
Virgin most prudent, ...
Virgin most venerable, ...
Virgin most renowned, ...
Virgin most powerful, ...
Virgin most merciful, ...
Virgin most faithful, ...
Mirror of justice, ...
Seat of wisdom, ...
Cause of our joy, ...
Spiritual vessel, ...
Vessel of honour, ...
Singular vessel of devotion, ...
Mystical rose, ...
Tower of David, ...
Tower of ivory, ...
House of gold, ...
Ark of the covenant, ...
Gate of heaven, ...
Morning star, ...
Health of the sick, ...
Refuge of sinners, ...
Comforter of the afflicted, ...
Help of Christians, ...
Queen of Angels, ...
Queen of Patriarchs, ...
Queen of Prophets, ...
Queen of Apostles, ...
Queen of Martyrs, ...
Queen of Confessors, ...
Queen of Virgins, ...
Queen of all Saints, ...
Queen conceived without original sin, ...
Queen assumed into heaven, ...
Queen of the most holy Rosary, ...
Queen of Peace, ...
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Grant we beseech Thee, O Lord God,
that we, Thy servants, may enjoy perpetual health of mind and body: and, by the glorious intercession of the blessed Mary, ever Virgin, be delivered from present sorrow and enjoy eternal gladness.
Through Christ, our Lord.
IMMACULATE CONCEPTION NOVENA [Prayer]
Essays for Lent: The Immaculate Conception
"I Am The Immaculate Conception"
The Corona of the Immaculate Conception [Catholic Caucus]
Catholic Caucus: Immaculate Conception Novena Prayer Thread
New chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Lebanon at National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Feast of the The Conception by St. Anna of the Most Holy Theotokos December 9th
On the Immaculate Conception
Immaculate Mary: "Trust Jesus, he will save you" (Catholic Caucus)
I Love that Woman! My Unworthy Reflections on The Immaculate Conception
LAND OF MARY IMMACULATE [Ecumenical]
Mary as the New Eve - St. Irenaeus
Mary - the Immaculate Ark of the New Covenant [Catholic Caucus]
THE LIFE OF BLESSED JOHN DUNS SCOTUS, Defender of the Immaculate Conception [Catholic Caucus]
An Unfathomable Marian Richness [Catholic Caucus]
Catholic Biblical Apologetics: The Immaculate Conception of Mary
History of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception - December 8 [Catholic Caucus]
Preserved Sinless from the Moment of Humanity (Dogma of the Immaculate Conception) [Catholic Caucus]
I Love that Woman! My Unworthy Reflections on The Immaculate Conception [Catholic Caucus]
Father Marquette's Devotion to the Immaculate Conception (Catholic Caucus)
St. John Neumann and the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (Catholic Caucus)
Our Jewish Roots: The Immaculate Conception [Ecumenical]
And It Was Night. The Real Story of Original Sin [Ecumenical]
I Love that Woman! My Unworthy Reflections on The Immaculate Conception
Mary Immaculate: Patroness of the United States [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
Catholic/Orthodox Caucus: The Immaculate Conception: A Marvelous Theme - Novena Starts Nov. 30
THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION - Satan's Mighty Foe(Catholic Caucus)
Ark of the new covenant
Historian reveals how Pius IX decided to proclaim dogma of Immaculate Conception (Catholic Caucus)
The Immaculate Vs. the Proud
Immaculate Conception Novena -- starts November 30th [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
Blessed John Duns Scotus Champion Of Mary's Immaculate Conception (CATHOLIC CAUCUS)
The Crusade of Mary Immaculate - St. Maximilian Kolbe (Catholic Caucus)
The Early Church Fathers on the Immaculate Conception - Catholic/Orthodox Caucus
Three Reasons the Churchs Enemies Hate The Immaculate Conception
Her saving grace - the origins of the Immaculate Conception
Mary Is a Model Who Works With Us and in Us
U.S. Catholic bishops to renew consecration of nation to Immaculate Conception
Catholic Meditation: To the Immaculate Conception on this Election Day
Saint Bernadette of Lourdes (Sermon from 1934)
My visit to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
On Solemnity of Immaculate Conception - "In Mary Shines the Eternal Goodness of the Creator"
The Belief of Catholics concerning the Blessed Virgin: the Second Eve
Pope makes pilgrimage to Mary statue in Rome, marking the feast of the Immaculate Conception
Pope: Mary the Immaculate Conception... (text of BXVI speech)
"Tota pulchra es, Maria, et macula originalis non est in te" (The Immaculate Conception)
The Immaculate Conception Essential to the Faith
"Who Are You, Immaculate Conception?"
TURKEY Ephesus: The Feast of the Immaculate Conception at Marys House
Coming Dec 8th. Feast of the "Immaculate Conception"
Why the Immaculate Conception?
Catholic Encyclopedia: Immaculate Conception (The Doctrine and Its Roots)
The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady December 8
Mary's Immaculate Conception: A Memorable Anniversary
Ineffabilis Deus: 8 December 1854 (Dogma of the Immaculate Conception)
Why do we believe in the Immaculate Conception?
John Paul II goes to Lourdes; reflections on the Immaculate Conception
Your Praises We Sing--on the Dogma of the Proclamation of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8th
Eastern Christianity and the Immaculate Conception (Q&A From EWTN)
Memorandum on the Immaculate Conception [Newman]
General Intention: That migrants throughout the world may be welcomed with generosity and authentic love, especially by Christian communities.
Missionary Intention: Christ, light for all humanity. That Christ may reveal himself to all humanity with the light that shines forth from Bethlehem and is reflected in the face of his Church.
O Holy night! Yes, a silent night! and, it came upon a midnight clear. Christmas, it would seem, is a festival of the mid night. Jesus is born when it is dark, dark midnight. We are sure of it. And why not?
Even though we are not told the exact hour of his birth we are sure it must have been night. Scripture does say that the Shepherds who heard the glad tidings were keeping watch over their flock by night (cf Luke 2:9). Further the Magi sought him by the light of a star, and stars are seen at night, deep midnight. None of this is evidence that Jesus was born at 11:59 PM, but it sets our clocks for night, deep midnight.
Add to this the fact that Christmas is celebrated at the Winter solstice, the very darkest time of the year in the northern hemisphere. More specifically Christmas breaks in on the very days that the light begins its subtle return. The darkest and shortest days of the year make their impression on December 21 and 22. But by December 23 and 24 we notice a definite, but subtle trend, the days are getting longer, the light is returning! Time to celebrate the return of the light, it is going to be alright!
How fitting now, to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the true Light of the World, in a deep and dark December. Jesus our light, kindles a light and a fire that never dies away. Indeed, in the dark hours of December, we have noticed a trend. The light is returning, the darkness is abating, the days are growing longer from here on out. It is subtle now! But it will grow. And with the return of light, we celebrate our True Light: Jesus.
But light is best appreciated in contrast. We think most, and appreciate most, the glory of light when the darkness assails. Theres just something about Christmas Eve. As the time approaches through December, and the darkness grows, we light lights. Yes, all through December as the darkness grows, we light Advent candles, more as it grows darkest! Even the secular among us string lights in dark December, in malls, on their houses, as if to say, the darkness cannot win, the light conquers!
And lights have their true glory in contrast the darkness. Who sees the stars in mid day? And who appreciates the beauty of light until they have experienced the darkness? Yes, Christmas is a feast of the light. We confront the darkness of December and declare to it: Your deepest days are over, the light is returning. And for us of faith, we say to a world in ever deeper darkness, Your darkness cannot remain. It wil be overcome and replaced. For though darkness has its season, it is always conquered by the light.
An atheist recently scoffed at me on the com box of this blog that our day is over, the world has rejected faith Sorry dear Atheist friend, the light always wins. On December 22, the darkness recedes, the light returns and all darkness is scattered. It seems subtle at first, but the light always returns, the darkness cannot last.
Light has a way of simply replacing the darkness. In three months the equinox (equal night and day) occurs, and in six months the summer solstice (the longest day) comes. And the darkness will once again seek to conquer. BUT IT ALWAYS LOSES. The light will return. Jesus is always born at the hour of darkness greatest moment. Just when the darkness is celebrating most, its hour is over, the light dawns again.
Yes we celebrate after sundown on December 24. Even at midnight. Christmas morning is almost an afterthought. Most pastors know, the majority of their people have come the night before. The darkness cannot win. Light scatters darkness, it overwhelms and replaces it. In a deep and dark December, a light comes forth, a star, shines in the heavens.
We gather, in and on a dark night. We smile. We are moved by the cry of a small infant, by whose voice the heavens were made. His little cry lights up the night. The darkness must go, the light has come, day is at hand.
Yes, we celebrate at night to bid farewell to the darkness. It cannot prevail. It is destined to be scattered by the Light far more powerful than it, a Light it must obey, a Light that overwhelms and replaces it. Farewell to darkness, the Light of the World has come.
Jesus the light of the world.
The video below is a celebration of light. As a Christmas gift to myself on December 22nd, the darkest day of the year, I took an afternoon off and went to photograph the triumph of light over darkness. I went to a Mausoleum, Yes, to a place where thousands are buried in the walls. But also in those walls are windows, glorious windows where light breaks through, and Christ shines forth. Some of the most beautiful stained glass in the city of Washington resides in that place of death and darkness. The light breaks through and it speaks of Christ.
This video is a testimony to just some of those windows (I am putting together another video of other windows to be shown later). In this place, a place of death, a light breaks through, the light of faith, the Light of Christ. The text of the music in this video is from Taize, and it says, Christe lux mundi, qui sequitur te, habebit lumen vitae, lumen vitae (Christ, Light of the World! Who follows you has the light of life, the light of life).
As you view this video of the Life of Christ, ponder that stained glass begins as opaque sand. But when subject to, and purified by the fire, it radiates the glory of light which can now shine through it. So it is for us. Born in darkness, but purified by Christ and the Fire of the Spirit, we begin to radiate his many splendored Light shining through us, to a dark world.
The Light wins, He always wins.
There is a Scripture reading proclaimed at the Christmas Liturgy that usually gets overlooked. And yet it should elicit considerable reflection since it is proclaimed at the Christmas Midnight Mass, one of the Churchs most prominent Liturgies. It is from the Letter to Titus in the Second Chapter. I would like to reproduce it in full and then give some commentary following.
The grace of God has appeared, saving all
and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires
and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age,
as we await the blessed hope,
the appearance of the glory of our great God
and savior Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness
and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good. Titus 2:11-14
So, Here are gifts by which our savior saves us. There are many gifts he offers us but the fundamental gift he offers us is the gift of a new life, a reformed and restored heart and mind, eager to do what is right. This is his gift to us this Christmas and every day.