Seeking the True Joy of Christmas

The manger was all Saint Joseph and Our Lady had to offer the Child Jesus. Thus, the evening was filled with unfathomable joys, but also had its sufferings.

The state of world events is so uncertain that it is impossible to know the conditions in which we will celebrate Christmas or what the New Year will bring. This is a Christmas in which Americans are filled with uncertainty, trials and insecurity.

One could rightly ask: “Is it proper to have these concerns during Christmastime? Shouldn’t we have only consolations, joys and satisfactions during this season?”

To answer this question, we should consider the first Christmas night. Saint Joseph and, above all, Our Lady were filled with inexpressible joy in the grotto in Bethlehem.

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However, before the Child Jesus was born, they suffered affliction. They had spent the night seeking a dignified place for Our Lord’s birth. Saint Joseph was humiliated seeing that his spouse would have to deliver the Christ Child in a stable where animals ate. While there could not have been a more stupendous event that evening, neither could there have been humbler surroundings.

The manger was all Saint Joseph and Our Lady had to offer the Child Jesus. Thus, the evening was filled with unfathomable joys, but also had its sufferings.

Although the Christ Child knew that Providence had dictated the conditions of His birth, it is possible that Our Lady and Saint Joseph did not know. They could have been filled with doubts concerning the reasons for their poor surroundings, perhaps even attributing them to a wrongdoing of their own. Though faultless, Saint Joseph, who was most responsible for providing for the Holy Family, probably asked Our Lord’s pardon for the lowly accommodations he had furnished for His delivery.

Nevertheless, the evening’s joys overcame all its sadnesses to such an extent, that the latter were completely forgotten.

We should celebrate Christmas in the same manner, though we be concerned with the crisis in the Church and breakdown of society and aware of our insufficiency to face these calamities.

Realizing that we are chosen to follow Our Lady throughout these troubling times should fill us with joy and overcome the sadness we endure for our personal failings and the godlessness that surrounds us.

At the feet of the newborn Christ Child, we should thank Him for having called us to this struggle and these times. We should realize that we are only capable of resisting through His Redemption for which His birth was a necessary condition. We ought to express this gratitude through the intercession of Our Lady, the Universal Mediatrix, and Saint Joseph.

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We should ask Saint Joseph, Our Lady and the Christ Child for a soul continually mindful of Our Lady’s words at Fatima: “Finally, my Immaculate Heart will triumph!” Thus, we will be able to overcome all sadness and advance joyfully in the fight, seeking heroism and even sacrifice.

Thus, the TFP prays that Our Lady grant you this indomitable joy for Christmas and bring you ever closer to her and her Divine Son!
_________________________________________________________________________

The preceding article is taken from a Christmas greeting of Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira to The American TFP in 1980. It has been translated and adapted for publication without his revision. — Ed.

The Parol: A Filipino Catholic Tradition and Vocation

Decorations, lights and fanfare typify the festive celebration of Christmas in the Philippines, even as early as September. On the streets, one can see groups of children and adults alike going from house to house singing Filipino (and even English) Christmas Carols.

At each successive stop, it is not uncommon for carolers to receive gifts. Sometimes it is money or food; other times, wholesome advice to be a good example:

“Obey and honor your parents… and live the spirit of Christmas all 365 days of the year!”

Photo Credits: Maurice Joseph M. Almadrones

Christmas lights covering houses serve as more than decoration: they also illuminate the way in the dark, cold Philippine nights, guiding the pious churchgoers to the Simbang Gabi (“Night Mass” in Tagalog) or the “Misa de Aguinaldo.”

This is a set of nine day Novena Masses at dawn. The faithful resolutely wake up in the wee hours of the night to present small sacrifices and prayers to Our Lord. Usually celebrated before dawn, it is a Spanish tradition, originally honoring the Blessed Virgin’s Expectation of the Messiah. Food was customarily offered to the needy after the Masses; hence the word aguinaldo meaning “gift” in Spanish. i.

Perhaps the most memorable scene of all is the long procession of the parol, which floods the streets with bright colors, and reminds those present of the coming of the Savior to earth.

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A distinctly Filipino tradition

Star shaped Parol made of Capiz shells © Eugene Alvin Villar, 2007

The parol has a rich history that spans centuries of development and perfection.

Prior to the concept of the Christmas tree in the Philippines, the parol (“lantern” in
Spanish) announced the arrival of Our Lord’s Nativity.

Filipino Christmas would not be the same without this humble yet radiant display outside of houses and in the streets, presented from people from all walks of society.

Its roots come from the concept of the Mexican piñata which came to the Philippines when Spain gave the Catholic Faith to the country in the 16th century.ii.

The parol had a two-fold purpose.

It first served the practical purpose of giving light so that the faithful could make their way to the Simbang Gabi.

More importantly, it was a devotional offering to the Child Jesus, the Light of the world. After the Novena Mass, the parol was proudly hung outside the window of the faithful.iii.

Over time, the construction of the parols began to undergo a change. The first lanterns had a humble beginning, created from the local material available to the Filipinos: bamboo sticks, crepe or Japanese rice paper; these were lighted with simple candles or coconut oil lamps.

New variations started to appear with the incentive of the Spanish priests. Refined material, like transparent shells, slowly took the place of paper. This brought with it many advantages. The shells could be dyed into a variety of colors, and the shape of the lamp could be tailored to resemble the Star of the East. With each successive year, the size of the stars started to increase. Soon, friendly competitions were encouraged on a local basis to create the most beautiful parol to the Divine Child.

The result: churches began an annual display of new designs and better craftsmanship, distinct to the various localities. This can still be seen in regions like Pampanga, where the Lubenas Festival is held every year.iv The festival was originally created to showcase the parols in procession from different barrios, or neighborhoods, and were brought to the parish church on the Night of Christmas Eve led by the barrio patrons.

As the lanterns grew bigger and became more intricate, the local people contributed to the creation of the parols of their specific barrios.v.

Thus the harmonious cooperation between the local people and the patrons of the barrios can be seen in the humble parol, initiating a Catholic tradition that spans centuries in the Philippines.

Each parol was characteristic of its respective barrio. Each was unique. Yet all were united under the hearth of Christmas, whose traditions blossomed from the rich and vibrant garden of the Catholic Church.

The Parol: A living tradition

A Filipino parol  vendor’s stall © Keith Bacongco, 2007

A Christian tradition is of incomparable value; it sets a guideline for us to navigate through the present. Indeed, in the words of Prof. Plinîo Correa de Oliveira, the renowned Brazilian Catholic activist,vi true tradition should not be the denial of yesterday, but rather its harmonious continuation. For true progress is not to break, but rather continuity, reaching out to the heights of the past and present.vii

The parol is not some archaic, irrelevant artifact dug out from the coffers of time, offered as a remote antique. On the contrary, it continues as an animating and living custom to the Filipino, effectively preserving the spirit of the first Christmas.

It is at once a perfect gift to the Lord of lords and an innocent and tender reflection of the Wisdom of the Incarnate Word amid the corrosive moral decadence of the modern world. Being an authentic tradition, the parol links each new generation to the Catholic heritage of the Philippines.

The Star in The East: A Prophet Rejoiced


The Christmas parol is not merely a beautiful aspect of the holiday, but reflects the very important role the Philippines have as a Christian nation.

The Philippines is like the Star of the East that beckoned the Wise Men to the King of kings. The country shines as a guide to bring those in darkness out of the chains of the pagan world to the radiant light of the Faith brought by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

This was certainly the sentiment of Pope Pius XII, who praised the island as “the herald of the Gospel between two oceans.”viii.

This praise is not without merit, even in our own days. The inhabitants continue to oppose abortion, homosexual unions and euthanasia, and defend the rights of the Catholic Church in civil society. Most notably, the Philippines remain the only country to this day where divorce has not yet been legalized.ix

After more than 400 years of Roman Catholic tradition, the Filipinos unite to form the 3rd largest Roman Catholic nation in the world, and largest Roman Catholic Nation in Asia, effectively serving as a paladin of light and truth to the corrupt world surrounding them.

A Prophet Rejected…

However, we should not put down our guard.

Like all the prophets of old, the Star of the East was also neglected. Impious men unscrupulously rejected and pushed aside the sign as if it never existed. This is not unlike the modern “learned” men in our times, whose goal is to discredit the existence of God.

Not that the light of the Eastern Star was lacking in brilliance. Rather, the stubborn eyes of men refused to discern its importance. Thus was the condition of mankind at that time, and so is contemporary man.

And yet, such blindness need not only apply to outside nations. Could those in the Philippines be unaware of the influence they posses and the duties attached to it?

I turn now to my fellow inhabitants.

We Filipinos must ask ourselves: are we loyal to our vocation to guide the gentiles?

I cannot simply point to those neo-pagan atheists who swamp the earth with their indifference.

Regrettably, I must refer also to those of us who knew Christ, but have descended down to a depth much lower than that in which we found ourselves before the faith; those who have implicitly rejected Him and His Church by going about life as if He does not exist.

How could those that are the light be so immune to the brilliance they posses?

The surge of immorality cannot be ignored. We need only to look at the unthinkable promulgation of the Reproductive Health Bill a few years ago, and promoting “women’s rights.”

It is true that the ground we stand on is comparatively firm when we look at other countries. Nevertheless, there continues to be a greater diluting of family values and of Catholic doctrine in society.

This comes from an increase of impure and immoral practices, some of which have received “legal” sanction. With this, Filipinos must be reminded of the authentic spirit that should animate our traditions and our families.

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Implore Mary: The Star of the Sea

We should certainly not despair, nor hide our light under a bushel (Matt. 5 : 15) out of shame; at the same time, we need to correct our conduct if we are to steer others to the right harbor.

Like the rest of the world, we are surrounded on all sides by raging tempests and uncertainties. These impede our sight and landing on that safe destination, Our Lord Jesus Christ. In the midst of all of this, there is serious danger that we will lose sight of the light of the day that guided us.

It is in such dark circumstances that we must turn to the guiding Star of the Sea: the Blessed Virgin.

“As the splendor of the Sun exceeds that of all the stars united,” says St Basil Selecuia , so the Mother of God “eclipses all the stars in heaven, that is all the blessed, men and angels united.”

We should pray to our Mother to intercede for us. We should have confidence in her maternal concern for us.

Above all, we should honor her by imitating her life and virtues. In this way, we will remove the blinding log from our eyes, and be able to see and communicate the salutatory light to those around us.

Then, led by the Star of the Sea, we will continue to shine as the Star of the East. Like the parol, our light will beam brightly between the two oceans, bringing men to the fold of the unfathomable mystery of the Divine Infant’s Majesty. May the glory of His triumph over the enemies of Holy Mother Church hasten the arrival of His kingdom on Earth.

_____________________________________________________________

i. Where did Simbang Gabi come from?

ii. The History of Parol Christmas Lanterns

iii. IBID

iv. Giant Lantern Festival

v.IBID

vi.Plinîo Correa de Oliveira- His Early Years

vii.TFP- Tradition

viii.Radio Message  of His Holiness Pius XII to the Marian Congress of the Philippines, December 5, 1954

ix. The Last Country in the world where Divorce is Illegal

The First Christmas Crib

The beautiful custom of setting up mangers to commemorate the birth of the Infant Jesus was started by St. Francis of Assisi.

It was the year 1223. St. Francis went to Rome to obtain from Pope Honorius III authorisation to celebrate Christmas in a totally new way. St. Francis chose a forest in the vicinity of the village of Grecio, in the region of Umbria, not too far from Rome, where a good friend of his lived, the noble Giovanni Velita.

About 15 days before Christmas, St. Francis said to him: ‘If you want to celebrate the feast of the Divine birth in Grecio make haste to prepare what I indicate to you.

‘So that we can properly remember the circumstances in which the Divine Child was born and all the inconveniences he endured as he lay in the manger on straw between an ox and a ass, I would like to re-create this in a palpable way, as if I had seen it with my own eyes.’

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Many religious and the residents of Grecio and the surrounding area were all invited for this special commemoration. Just before midnight, the Franciscan friars went in procession to the spot chanting the antiphons of Advent. They were accompanied by the villagers who carried flaming torches.

The wind blew strongly and the light of the torches projected their flickering shadows on the dense forest. However, in the clearance where the crib had been setup, there reigned an ambience of sacrality and peace; Only the cold was a nuisance.

When the village bell of Grecio began to toll midnight, a priest began to celebrate Mass. The altar had been placed in front of the crib with the ox and ass on either side. A beautiful full-size statue of the Child Jesus rested on the straw.

As is well known, St. Francis never wanted to be ordained a priest out of humility. Because of this, as deacon, it was his duty to solemnly sing the Gospel of that Christmas mass.

After the reading of the Gospel, all waited attentively to hear the sermon that St. Francis himself gave on the grandeurs and mercies of the Saviour of the human race, who that night was made flesh and dwelt among us.

St. Francis spoke words with a supernatural sweetness about the poverty in which the God-man was born and about the insignificant city of Bethlehem. It is difficult to imagine the fiery love that the sweet, clear, and sonorous voice of St. Francis produced in the hearts of those privileged to hear him.

At the end of his sermon, St. Francis bent over to kiss the statue of the Divine Child. At this moment a miracle took place that only he and Giovanni Velita saw. The statue became alive. It was as if it had been woken from a profound sleep with St. Francis’s kiss, and then the Child Jesus smiled at St. Francis.

At the consecration, when the bread and wine truly become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, St. Francis was able to contemplate the Messiah in two ways: in the form of the Holy Eucharist and laying in the manger.

At the end of the solemn midnight mass, and after having incensed the manger, the friars returned to Grecio and the villagers to their homes. Everyone was full of supernatural joy.

The veracity of this event can be certified by the sanctity of the one who experienced it, as well as by the miracles that happened afterwards. The straw from the manger was carefully kept by the people and was an efficacious remedy to miraculously cure sick animals and an antidote against many other diseases.

This devout and hitherto unknown institution of the manger was enthusiastically received by the faithful. St. Clare of Assisi, disciple of the saint, established it in her convents. Every year she setup the manger herself.

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The Franciscan friars also spread this custom far and wide. Whether composed of figurines artistically carved from clay, porcelain, or wood, the crib became the very symbol of Christmas.

From the majestic cathedral to the simplest rural chapel, from the palace or mansion to the humblest abode, the Catholics of the whole world, since that time, have had the pious custom of setting up a manger. In this way they repeat the custom that Providence inspired from the seraphic St. Francis of Assisi in the remote year of 1223.

END

A Lesson In Innocence

One September morning in the year 1897, the editor of a New York daily newspaper called The Sun found a letter from an eight-year-old girl on his desk. The letter read:

Dear Editor:

I am eight-years-old. Some of my friends always tell me that Father Christmas does not exist. However, my father says that if The Sun says Father Christmas exists then he really does exist. Please tell me the truth: does Father Christmas really exist?

Signed,

Virginia O’Hanlon

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Francis Church, the editor of The Sun, reluctantly and with much hesitation took upon himself the task of answering little Virginia’s letter. However, once he had begun, the words came readily to mind. Here is his letter:

 

“Virginia, your friends are wrong. They have a terrible disease which later on will bring them even greater pain. Be careful not to catch this disease. This is a disease of the soul. We adults called it incredulity, cynicism, lack of innocence. Your friends and the other people who tried to persuade you think they are wise and smart because they only admit as real that which they can see with their eyes and touch with their hands. But, they do not realise how much they are limiting themselves!

 

Little Virginia, imagine the whole of this immense globe with its lakes and mountains, with its rivers and seas, and, hovering over our heads, the infinite heavens with its thousands of stars. Imagine how many species of animals exist in the sea, in the air and on the land. Man is only one among thousands of beings, and how small we are! In face of the immense universe, man is but a fly or an ant. How then can man see everything that exists or with his limited understanding try to explain everything?

 

Yes, Virginia, Father Christmas exists! He exists just as much as tenderness and joy exist, or as love and goodness exist, even though we cannot see these things with our eyes and touch them with our hands. You yourself have felt these things. And don’t they bring beauty and joy into your life?

 

Oh, how sad the world would be without Father Christmas! It would be as sad as a world without Virginias, without fairy tales, the angels, songs, children’s stories written by the poets. Or, on the contrary, imagine a world where no one ever became enchanted with anything or never smiled! We then would all be lost. And that eternal light, that never extinguishes, with which children light up the world and accompanies every child that is born, would be extinguished forever.

 

Not to believe in Father Christmas?! Then no one would need to believe in fairies and angels. You could convince your father to put watchmen by every chimney on Christmas Eve so he could grab Father Christmas. What would be proven if they did not see him coming down the chimney? Nobody sees Father Christmas! But this does not prove that he does not exist. The things in this world that are really for real neither children nor adults can see. Have you ever seen a fairy dance in the flowery meadows? Just because you have not seen them does not prove that they don’t dance in the flowery meadow. No one can understand all the invisible marvels of the universe.

 

You can disassemble a rattle in order to see how the sound of the little stones is produced. But there is a veil hiding the invisible world that nobody, not even the strongest man or the strength of the whole world, can push aside. Only faith and charity can raise this veil a little bit and thus be able to contemplate the beauty and splendour hidden behind.

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Is this reality? Oh, Virginia, on earth there is nothing more real or truer than this! Thanks be to God, Father Christmas lives and will live forever! For the next thousand years—oh! little Virginia—for the next ten thousand years multiplied by a thousand years, Father Christmas will continue to live in the pure hearts of children that are filled with joy and that beat with increased excitement on Christmas Day!”

 

END

A Christmas Reflection

We gather to celebrate the beautiful feast of Christmas, a lovable tradition, established and handed down to us through the centuries. As the year comes to a close, we look back to find that last year ended in similar circumstances: generalized chaos and confusion as risks increase. Presently our situation is similar to last year’s with an even greater potential for confusion and even greater risk, while a general atmosphere of apprehension spreads over the whole country.

 

Peace in Truth is found in the Holy Roman Catholic Church

Yet, at this Yuletide, we recall the angelic chant to the shepherds on that rustic and poetic first Christmas Eve as the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to men of good will”.

Yes, peace is tranquility, but not just any tranquility.

St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that “peace is the tranquility of order”. Where there is order there is real peace. Where there is an absence of order there is no peace. What exists is a veiled disorder, an artificial order, but no real peace.

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Peace exists, rather, in churches where Catholic doctrine is professed in its integrity; where people all love, understand and feel the same way because they are imbued with the Divine Holy Ghost, who is eminently a Spirit of Peace.

In temporal society we find this peace in a very few places, namely at such gatherings as these, where men live who indeed strive to give glory to God in the highest and, therefore, peace on earth reigns among these men of good will.

But you who are a supporter of Return to Order are also an agent of peace. You savor this peace, you appreciate this peace, you take it to your families, and thus bring them the law of Christ, the Faith of Christ, the order of Christ and the Reign of Christ. As you take into your families the doctrine of His Holy Catholic Church and live by its sweet rule and yoke, you have true peace.

This is the peace that our Lord Jesus Christ wanted to bring to the world and which He expressed in these magnificent words: Pacem relinquo vobis, pacem meam do vobis, “I give you My peace, I leave you My peace.” Which means, He gave them His peace, which is the tranquility of order, leaving this gift to men, to the world, at the time that He was about to leave earth to ascend to heaven.

Great and small gather around the manger

So, let us approach that heavenly crib of Jesus Christ, the King of Peace, the descendant of a regal dynasty from which also descended Mary Most Holy and Saint Joseph, who, nevertheless, now kneels in the capacity of a humble carpenter before the Savior just born of his wife, the Virgin Mother.

And before great potentates draw near the crib with precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, God wished for humble shepherds to approach and be received with tender love. Even the ox and the donkey were invited to warm Baby Jesus with their breath.

We must be soldiers of peace and soldiers of order

All this is peace; all this is order. We should be soldiers of peace and soldiers of order, fighting in an orderly manner as true soldiers of Christ in the Reign of Christ.

But aren’t these terms, peace and fight, contradictory? Isn’t peace concomitant with non-aggression? So how can we be “soldiers of peace”? Likewise, how can we call ourselves “soldiers of order” in case of war, when war is such a huge mess?

Nevertheless, peace is present when one fights against disorder through order. This must be well understood. Peace, the peace of Christ in the Reign of Christ exists when men are in order. But this peace does not exist only in non-combat. There is peace also when one fights for order against disorder.
There was also a great battle in heaven between Saint Michael the Archangel and the angels of fidelity and obedience against the angels of infidelity and disobedience. It was so great a battle that Scriptures describes it for us as a great battle was fought in heaven.

So, even at this moment peace did not cease to reign in heaven, because the good were on the side of God fighting to expel from the heavenly mansion the devils who, as agents of disorder, had become unworthy of it.

If there was a war in heaven, it was a war of health against disease, a war of life against death, a war of good against rebellious evil. This battle, by the very fact that it was a battle between what should exist against what should not exist, in itself is order.

In the contemporary world we are precious agents of peace in the measure that we fight against evil angels and those who are dedicated to spreading evil, the agents of war.

So also in the contemporary world we are precious agents of peace in the measure that we fight the evil angels and their minions in their multifaceted attack on faith, morality and good customs.

In the contemporary world we are precious agents of peace in the measure that we fight the evil angels and their minions in their multifaceted attack on faith, morality and good customs

The peace that we desire for the coming year is the peace of order against the agents of disorder. Only then will we have the peace of order in the tranquility of order. So, let us be agents of order in the coming year, not only because we refuse to engage in useless battles, but also because we do choose to engage in the good fight of which Saint Paul speaks when he said of himself as he lay dying: “Lord, I fought the good fight, now give me the reward of Thy glory.” If we do this in the coming year as we have done this year, we can end the year with peace and hope.

In this generation of thieves and adulterers let us be souls on fire, souls burning with love and strong warriors engendered by Faith. We were not born only to rejoice, or mainly to be happy. We were born, above all, to fight; we were born, above all, to serve the Holy Catholic Church.

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Then whatever the furor of evil throughout the world, whatever their threats, we are agents of peace, we are children of Mary, and we are fighters of good order. Thus, by the grace of Mary we may say like Saint Paul and the end of next year: Lord, throughout this year we fought the good fight. Give us now during this year the reward of Thy glory.

________________________________________
Adapted from a message of Prof. Plinio Correa de Oliveira to TFP Supporters on Dec. 18, 1992 at a Christmas gathering- Plinio Correa de Oliveira :Thomas Aquinas on Christmas

A Christmas meditation

The Emperor Augustus then reigned over the East and the West. The nations that had been so proud of their independence, such as Italy, Spain, Africa, Greece, Egypt, Gaul (what is today France), Great Britain and Asia Minor, now transformed into mere provinces of the Roman empire, were subject to the laws of their conqueror.

Now at that time the great emperor took a fancy to find out the exact extent of his dominions and the number of his subjects. Consequently, he issued an imperial edict prescribing the taking of a general census of all the peoples.

Judea was included in that edict, for Herod’s kingdom, being only a simple fief revocable at the will of the emperor, was dependent on the governor of Syria.

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Orders were issued to the heads of families, to the women and children, to inscribe on the public registers their names, age, family, tribe, their goods and possessions and whatever else was required to make out the list of the taxes to be levied. Moreover, each one was to be inscribed, not at his place of residence, but at the place where his family originally came from, because in such places were preserved the genealogical documents legalising, in hereditary order, the right to property and inheritance.

This latter prescription obliged Joseph and Mary, who were both of the tribe of Juda and of the family of David, to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the birthplace of David, their ancestor.

Whilst on the way to the mountains of Judah, Mary, who was about to become a mother, admired how God Himself led her to the place where the Messiah was to be born, and how an imperial edict set in motion all the nations in the world, in order that a prophecy, made seven centuries previously, by a seer of Israel, should now be fulfilled.

The two travellers arrived at Bethlehem exhausted with fatigue after their journey of sixty-six miles. The evening sun was then shedding its last rays on the city of David, which was seated as a queen on the summit of a hill amid smiling hillocks planted with vines and olive trees.

It was really Bethlehem, the house of bread, the town of abundant harvests; Ephrata, the fertile, the country of fat pastures. It was in those solitary valleys that young David pastured his flock, when the prophet Samuel sent for him in order to anoint him king of Israel.

When treading on that blessed soil, the holy travellers conjured up the pious souvenirs of their nation, or rather of their ancestry. From the houses of the town, from the surrounding mountains and valleys, they seemed to hear voices speaking of their ancestors, and especially of the great king whose descendants they were.

But at that time who was acquainted with the Virgin of Nazareth, with Joseph, the carpenter?

On entering Bethlehem, they felt as if lost among the great number of strangers that had come there from every part of the kingdom, to be inscribed in the census. In vain did they knock at every door to find shelter for the night. No one would receive them.

The Bethlehemites, having already to lodge their many friends and kinsmen, refused to admit those strangers who seemed so poor and wretched. Joseph and Mary then directed their steps to the public inn, where the caravans usually had their quarters, but they found it so full of travellers and beasts of burden that there was no more room for them.

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Being repulsed everywhere, these two holy persons left the town by the Hebron gate. They had scarcely gone a few steps, when they beheld near them a dark cave hewn out of a hillside. The Spirit of God inspired them to enter it. Having gone in, they found that it was a stable, which served as a shelter for the shepherds and their flocks. It contained a manger and a little straw. The daughter of David, after her long and wearisome journey, sat down in it on a block of stone to take a little rest.

Soon the noise in the city ceased altogether, and a solemn silence watched over its sleeping inhabitants. Mary was alone watching in the abandoned grotto, and pouring out her heart to the Almighty, when, at about midnight, the Incarnate Word miraculously left the womb of His Mother, and like a dazzling ray of the sun, He appeared to her astonished and enraptured gaze.

A Christmas meditation by the holy crib.

She adored Him, took Him up in her arms, wrapped Him up in poor swaddling bands and pressed Him to her heart. Then seeing the crib or manger, from which the cattle were wont to feed, she laid Him in it on a little straw.

And from that stable which sheltered Him, from that crib which served Him as a cradle, from that straw on which He lay, and which pained His tender body, the Infant Redeemer offered to the divine Majesty His very first sufferings and humiliations. Kneeling near Him, their eyes bathed in tears, Mary and Joseph united themselves to His sacrifice.

END

In Search of Christmas

in_search_of_christmas-1

One Christmas night, Our Lord, denying Himself the comfort of visiting those households where He knows He is loved, came down into the midst of a modern city to see what sinners were doing.

Christmas!… Christmas!… Joy was universal.

Everyone was celebrating. Christ encountered a policeman completely engrossed in directing traffic in a busy plaza.

Christ stepped up to him and asked, “What does this holiday of Christmas mean?”

The policeman eyed Him: “Where do you come from?”

“From Bethlehem.”

“Where?”

“Bethlehem.”

“Oh? Wherever that is. Anyway, don’t you know that Christmas is a holiday for kids? It’s a holiday for everybody. On Christmas, everybody is somebody’s kid!”

“What is the origin of this holiday?”

“Look, you ask too many questions. Can’t you see I’m very busy? If you want to know more, go ask the chief.”

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Christmas!… Christmas!…

Every store glittered with worldly displays. Really, what was behind it?

Christ paused by a restaurant advertising “Christmas Party — $50.00.” Ladies and gentlemen in elegant evening attire were entering the place.

He stepped inside.

Tables, covered with white linen and lighted with red and green candles, were arranged in rows. Bottles of champagne, with gilded foil about their necks, nestled in ice-filled silver pails.

A woman, turning around and seeing Our Lord, gestured indignantly at one of the waiters: “What is this? You let panhandlers in here?”

The waiter, a young man of twenty or so, rushed over to Him. “What are you doing in here?” he demanded. “Begging is permitted only out on the sidewalk!”

in_search_of_christmas-2Christ studied the young man. “If only you knew what it is that I am ‘begging’ for…”

But He was already being shoved out into the street — as the woman playing the piano sang, “Peace on earth and mercy mild.” Not even the Roman soldiers had been so hasty.

Outside, Christ allowed Himself to be swept along by the throng that flowed like a river between the stores and markets. He saw toys, and more toys, everywhere, and a few Santa Clauses, but rarely a manger scene.

Our Lord then caught sight of a married couple carrying a few small, precious bundles. They seemed to be good, middle-class, peace-loving souls, hurrying somewhere to celebrate Christmas.

Christ followed them, invisible to their eyes. They entered their home and climbed the staircase to their apartment, where others had already gathered. He watched as they opened bottles, served pastries, and then as they ate and drank.

“Imagine,” said one, “just for a change of pace, I went to Midnight Mass!”

“Oh?” said another,” barely considering the remark, “And how was it?”

“Well, it wasn’t as pleasant as a good concert, but quite amusing nevertheless. Saw a number of friends there…”

The apartment had neither a crucifix nor a manger scene. Christ could not long endure the senseless conversation, so He turned away and slowly descended the staircase.

A short distance down the road, Our Lord found Himself near the playground of a large school. Above the gate a prominent sign proclaimed, “Christmas Party for the Children of District 10.”

Ah, children, little children! Our Lord went in. There were hundreds of children inside, receiving toys, candy, and books. As they noisily ran and tumbled about, important looking women hurried under the gaze of a headmistress. Again, neither a manger scene nor a crucifix could be seen, and nobody mentioned the name of the Child Jesus.

As Christ stood there, a feeling of isolation grew in His heart. He was a trespasser. Finally, He approached a young boy whose arms overflowed with toys. The boy reminded Him of His little friends of bygone days in Bethlehem.

“Do you love the Child Jesus who has given you so many nice toys?”

The boy stared at Him with a puzzled air: “Child Jesus?”

“Don’t you know Him?”

“No…”

The headmistress, as if sensing some danger afoot, rushed over. “What did this Man say to you?” she frantically asked the boy. Upon learning what Our Lord had asked and what Name He had dared mention, her eyes glared with annoyance. “Be so kind as to leave… At once!”

Christ again walked through the streets, no longer entering any of the places He passed. He wandered as His mother had in Bethlehem, on a night like this and on the same date so long ago. He roamed through the endless streets, passing innumerable places where His creatures celebrated Christmas without knowing its true meaning. He hesitated to return to Heaven with such observations, for they would sadden the saints.

Weary, He came to the edge of a neglected suburb. A white building ablaze with tiny lights caught His eye. Approaching and looking through one of the windows, He saw His own image prominently displayed on the wall. His eyes brightened, as if reflecting the hundreds of lights outside, when He noticed that in one corner of the room was a simple, but attractively arranged, manger scene.

Just then the door opened and a boy came out, a boy like those who not infrequently come under the care of a parish. The boy stopped abruptly at the sight of the golden-haired man shivering in the darkness. Icy gusts blew around them.

“Sir, you could freeze out here! You need to get out of the cold.”

“I am quite cold,” answered Our Lord.

“Come in, then. We have a good fire going.”

And so Our Lord entered. Near the fireplace, a group of children were closely gathered around a young priest. As the fire crackled and filled the room with its warmth and light, the priest told the children about the infinite grandeur hidden within the little figure of the Child Jesus in the manger. He stopped his tale the moment Our Lord entered the room.

“Come in! Oh, you look cold! Warm yourself here.”

The children promptly offered the newcomer a place close to the fire.in_search_of_christmas-3

“Have you had anything to eat? Joseph, go ask your mother to prepare something hot for this gentleman.”

Christ’s gaze slowly passed over all of them, one by one, as if He were memorizing every little face. Above all, He gazed at the young priest.

“Are you alone, my friend?” asked the priest kindly.

“Yes.”

Seized by soul-stirring curiosity, all eyes turned inquisitively upon the stranger, waiting.

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Christ did not speak. Very slowly, regally, Jesus’ hand moved. He extended it over their heads, reaching beyond the humble cottages of that neighborhood and encompassing that immense city whose miseries He had witnessed close up. In a tone of voice that none of those present would ever forget, He exclaimed: “Misereor super turbas” – I have pity upon these people!

Then, slowly, before their astonished eyes He disappeared.

“It was Jesus!” cried one of the boys.

The young priest nodded solemnly. “Yes… it must have been…”
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Illustrations by A.F.Phillips

The Little Drummer Boy

The Little Drummer Boy
Once upon a time there lived, in the faraway deserts of Arabia, a very poor boy. His mother had died when he was still very young, and his father was the guardian of a well where the caravans of travellers stopped to slake their thirst on their way across the desert.

Then great crowds of men would arrive with many camels, and everyone was busy getting water from the well.

This was how the poor man earned his living. But it was not well paid, and so he never had enough money to buy any toys for his little boy.

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The guardian of the well loved his little son, and he sighed on seeing him without toys. He wanted his boy to be able to entertain himself like any other child. So one day he made him a drum from a sheep’s skin stretched over a small barrel that had lost its bottom.

From that day onwards, the little boy was never seen without his drum. During the day, while his father sat next to the well, he played on the drum alone in the tent that was their home. He also played it to greet the caravans that came to the well for water.

The_Little_Drummer_Boy-2

At night, when the desert was totally silent, the boy made up the songs he would sing the following day as he played his drum. And some of them were quite beautiful!

All over the desert the little boy became known as ‘the drummer boy’.

One night, a big, mysterious star appeared in the desert sky. The star was much brighter than any other, and it seemed to move in the direction of a nearby village called Bethlehem. Most of those that saw it were frightened by it. But the little drummer boy was not afraid.

This star that shone so high in the heavens was too beautiful to be a bad sign. It seemed to announce something good was happening on the earth. So, taking up his drum, he played a song in honour of the star, just as he did when greeting arriving caravans.

The star was still shining when a long line of shadows appeared out in the desert night. It was a caravan the likes of which had never been seen before!
The_Little_Drummer_Boy-5

The animals were adorned with gold and precious stones and walked more majestically than other animals. They were carrying heavy loads, full of marvels. Three kings preceded them.

As soon as the cortege stopped in front of the tents and the animals had finished drinking, the kings explained to the people, who pressed around them, that they had been travelling for many days.

They had seen the star in their far away lands and had understood—because they were Magi—that it shone in order to guide them to the stable where the Child Jesus had been born.

The small boy was not a wise man like the Magi. He did not know that this Child Jesus was the Messiah announced by the prophets, but he listened very attentively to everything being said.

He was moved by the idea that this Child Jesus was so poor that they had to lay Him in a manger where the ox and ass eat. Fortunately, the Kings were taking Him gold, incense, and myrrh as presents.

The little drummer boy wanted to go to see this Child Jesus himself. He wanted to take Him something. But…he was poor and had nothing to offer.

Suddenly, the little boy remembered his drum. Why not go and play for the Child in the manger? Why not go and offer Him, in the name of all poor boys, the most beautiful of his songs?

The little boy left with the Kings to Bethlehem.

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The_Little_Drummer_Boy-4

As soon as they arrived at the stable, he started to sing to the Child, Who smiled as He lay in between the ox and the ass. And then, oh marvel, the angels started singing along with him!

END