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Saturday, January 7, 2017

On the Twelth Day

  The popular Christmas carol celebrating the 12 days of Christmas was originally a coded catachetical song in England in the days when Catholicism was banned there. Perhaps in another article I will spell out the meaning of the turtle doves, etc.  For now I would like to emphasize the fact that there are 12 days of Christmas, not just one, and for good reason.

  In Luke 2:19, after the shepherds visit the manger revealing what had been told to them, we are told that "Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart."  An older translation, which I prefer, tells us that Mary "pondered" these things in her heart. This experience of Mary makes us aware that the great mystery of the Incarnation is not something that can be celebrated quickly.  It has a richness of meaning that must be pondered by all of us.  And so, while the stores have put away the trees and other decorations and are already hanging up the hearts for Valentine's day we must ponder the great mystery that is being celebrated.

    I remember as a child that while our tree usually came down on New Year's Day because it was a real tree and therefore a fire hazard if it stayed up too long, the creche always stayed out until the Feast of the Epiphany was over on January 6.  Of course there was no deep theological reflection done at home but the various "shades" of Christmas, as I like to think of it, were acknowledged.  Everyone knew that the feast of Stephen that sent good king Wenceslaus out, was December 26, the day after Christmas.   On December 28 we heard the story of the Holy Innocents, and on January 6, even though it generally fell during the week and not on Sunday as is now the case, we heard the story of the Magi.

    We can add to the 12 days of Christmas the 4 weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas.  As we "ponder" during this time we look at a world that yearned and still does for the coming of the Lord.  We celebrate that the Lord deeply enters into humanity and most especially into the poverty, sinfulness and brokenness of the human condition, though without sin himself, and finally we see that His coming is for all as He is revealed to the Magi and adored by them.

   This only touches the surface of what we need to ponder.  Our world today likes so many things to be "one and done".  Christmas deserves more than that. 


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