Recently we have been presented, through the advertising media, with what an increasingly materialistic world regards as the 'essentials' for the 'perfect' celebration of Christmas: decorations, presents, lights, food and, of course, alcohol! As we begin Advent, we are clearly reminded of the true purpose of Christ-Mas, the Feast of Christ's Birth, as well as of the infinitely higher purpose for which God first created us then redeemed us, namely eternal possession of Him in Heaven; indeed a far higher purpose ever imaginable than that of collecting mere earthly possessions.
We are brought face to face with something which material success can blind us to, as it did the man who rejoiced in earthly riches, only to die suddenly, appearing unprepared, before his Heavenly Judge. The Gospel (Mark 13:33-37) compels us to take a long hard look at ourselves, warning us of the unpredictability of death which could take us completely by surprise; our priorities in this finite world will determine our Eternity and, because God loves us and knows our Fallen Nature, He continually warns of the danger of the 'Eat, drink and be merry!' philosophy of life.
We must certainly not develop a gloomy, Scrooge-like attitude towards the celebration of this momentous Birth but, rather, we are directed towards true Joy; our eventual celebration of Christmas is intended to lift our Souls upwards, towards God; to look beyond the here-and-now, joining in the Glorias of the Angels and the down-to-earth wonder of the Shepherds and Kings. Christmas Cheer, to be genuine, must be rooted in the Joy of knowing that the Babe in the manger, having grown to adulthood, established the Church, Died, and Risen, having defeated death, has Ascended to His Father, going ahead of us to help us on towards the Ultimate Celebration of Heaven!
Next Friday, 8th December, we celebrate a pivotal moment in the history of Salvation, The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. This Dogma, defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854, proclaims the Truth that, of all humans created, Mary, alone, was kept free from Original Sin, preventing it from touching, soiling and weakening her Soul. She alone was (and ever remained) in the State of Grace from that first instant of her life in the womb of her Mother, Saint Anne. From then and, indeed, throughout her life on Earth, Mary co-operated willingly and perfectly with God’s Grace. A measure of the humility required to accept with Faith this, perhaps challenging Truth, lies in its having been revealed in 1858 to Saint Bernadette Soubirous, then an illiterate, poverty-stricken French peasant girl, by Our Blessed Lady herself, who declared, when asked to reveal her identity “Que soy era Immaculada Conceptiou”, which of course in Bernadette’s language of Bigourdane means “I am the Immaculate Conception.”. Read more about this fundamental Catholic Teaching here .
‘O come, O come Emmanuel!’
Thoughts on the traditional teachings, devotions, seasons and matters of the Catholic Church