Pastor's Corner 122312

posted Dec 27, 2012, 12:24 PM by Music Director

For the past few weeks we’ve been looking at the symbols of Advent.  As the season of waiting gives way to the season of fulfillment, let’s explore some of the more familiar symbols of Christmas, especially since many of them have become so secularized that you may not realize they have their roots in Christian faith.

        The evergreen wreath we hang on our front doors or over a mantle, for example, is simply an Advent Wreath without the candles.  As it is a circle, a line without a beginning or end, it reminds us of the eternity of God and His everlasting love.  The evergreen branches remind us of the everlasting life Jesus came to bring into the world.

The Christmas tree is an extension of this symbol.  Like the Advent Wreath, it is an evergreen covered with lights to symbolize Jesus, the light of the world, the light that leads to everlasting life; a light we are called to live in, follow and reflect to others, as the bright, beautiful ornaments we hang on our trees reflect the light that shines upon them.  In many cultures, trees symbolize life itself.  The Christmas tree, therefore, reminds us of the everlasting life and light of faith, hope and love Jesus was born to reveal and we are called to reflect.

               Holly, another evergreen abundant in England and America, also symbolizes eternal life; but the needlelike leaves that pierce the skin and the blood-red berries remind us of the suffering Jesus was born to endure to bring that life to us.

               Children figure prominently in our celebration of Christmas.  After all, the Son of God entered the world not in glory, but as we all do:  in the simplicity and innocence of an infant.  Gifts and treats for children thus became an integral part of the celebration.  The spirit of St. Nicholas, the 4th century bishop of Myra in Asia Minor (Turkey), who devoted his life to caring for the poor, especially children, continues to visit the little ones to shower them with gifts, signs of God’s love for all His children in the gift He gave us on that first Christmas.  In our country, he is known as “Santa Claus” from the way colonial Dutch settlers’ pronounced “Sint Niklas,” which sounded to English settlers like “santa claus.”

               Our Christmas gift-giving is an imitation and continuation of that love.  It also imitates the generosity of the Magi, the givers of the first Christmas gifts, reminding us that charity is the hallmark of true followers of Jesus.  

               One of the most popular traditional treats is the candy cane, which originated as a rather delightful method of instruction for the young.  Its shape is reminiscent of a shepherd’s crook, the long staff with a hooked end for retrieving sheep that had fallen into wells or ravines (upon which the bishop’s staff or “crozier” is modeled).  The candy “cane” reminds us of Jesus the Good Shepherd, who watches over us, rescues us from evil and leads us to “eternal pasture.”  The colors remind us of His purity (white), which we are called to emulate, and the blood (red) He would shed to deliver us from evil.  Hold it upside down, and it even forms the letter “J!” 

               While the colors green and red are most associated with Christmas (and now you know why!) white is the official liturgical color.  Gold, a symbol of royalty, can also be used during the Masses of the Christmas season, as we proclaim Jesus our “newborn King.”   

I hope these columns on the symbols of Advent and Christmas have helped to enrich these holy seasons for you and your families.  On behalf of Fr. Vincent, Fr. John and our entire parish staff, a very Merry Christmas to you and all you love! 

In His Love,

Fr. Mike