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Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

During every Advent, we like to watch the 1951 movie “A Christmas Carol” with Alastair Sim. It’s our favorite rendition of Dickens’ wonderful story about the conversion of a miser after the visitation of four ghosts on Christmas.

The character Jacob Marley always makes me think of the real poor souls in Purgatory. We should try to remember to pray for them often. As good Catholics, we know the Holy Mass is the greatest thing we can offer for the poor souls.

On the third Sunday of Advent this year, I read several stories from “Purgatory” by Fr. F.X. Shouppe, S.J., which is my favorite book of all time. No other book has affected my life more than this one book. One particular story comes during Christmas. Fr. Shouppe relates:

We know that in the Catholic liturgy there is a special Mass for the dead; it is celebrated in black vestments, and is called Mass of Requiem. It may be asked whether this Mass is more profitable to the souls than any other? The Sacrifice of the Mass, notwithstanding the variety of its ceremonies, is always the same infinitely holy Sacrifice of the Body and

Blood of Jesus Christ; but as the Mass for the Dead contains special prayers for the holy souls, it also obtains special assistance for them, at least at those times when the liturgical laws permit the priest to celebrate in black. This opinion, based on the institution and practice of the Church, is confirmed by a fact which we read in the Life of Venerable Father Joseph Anchieta.

This holy Religious, justly surnamed the Wonder-worker of Brazil, had, like all the saints, great charity towards the holy souls in Purgatory. One day during the Octave of Christmas, when the Church forbids the celebration of Requiem Masses, on the 27th of December, Feast of Saint John the Evangelist, this man of God, to the great astonishment of all, ascended the altar in black vestments, and offered the Holy Sacrifice for the Dead.

His superior, Father Nobrega, knowing the sanctity of Anchieta, doubted not that he had received a Divine inspiration; nevertheless, to remove from such conduct the character of irregularity which it appeared to have, he reprimanded the holy man in presence of all the brethren. “What, Father,” said he to him, “do you not know that the Church forbids the celebration of Mass in black today? Have you forgotten the Rubrics?”

The good Father, quite humble and obedient, replied with respectful simplicity that God had revealed to him the death of a Father of the Society. This Father, his fellow student at the University of Coimbra, and who at that time resided in Italy, in the College of the holy House of Loreto, had died that same night. “God,” he continued, “made this known to me, and gave me to understand that I should offer the Holy Sacrifice for him immediately, and do all in my power for the repose of his soul.” “But,” said the Superior, “do you know that the Mass celebrated as you have done will be of any benefit to him?” “Yes,” modestly replied Anchieta, “immediately after the memento for the dead, when I said these words: To Thee, God the Father Almighty, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honor and glory! God showed me the soul of that dear friend, freed from all its sufferings and ascending to Heaven, where his crown awaited him.”

The following true story is much like Dickens’ fictional Scrooge where the sinner is warned and given a chance to repent and change his life. Fr. Shouppe tells us:

In the year 1615, when the Fathers in Rome celebrated this monthly Communion in the church of Our Lady in Trastevere, a crowd of persons was present. Amongst the fervent

Christians there was one great sinner, who, although taking part in the pious ceremonies of religion, had for a long time led a very wicked life. This man, before entering the church, saw coming out and advancing towards him a man of humble appearance, who asked of him alms for the love of God. He at first refused, but the poor man, as is customary with beggars, persisted, asking for the third time in a most pitiful tone of supplication. Finally, yielding to a good inspiration, our sinner recalled the mendicant and gave him a piece of money.

Then the poor man changed his entreaties into other language. “Keep your money,” said he; “I stand in no need of your liberality; but you yourself greatly need to make a change in your life. Know that it was to give you this salutary warning that I came from Mount Gargano to the ceremony which was to take place in this church today. It is now twenty years since you have been leading this deplorable life, provoking the anger of God instead of appeasing it by a sincere Confession. Hasten to do penance if you would escape the stroke of Divine Justice ready to fall upon your head.”

The sinner was struck by these words: a secret fear took possession of him when he heard the secrets of conscience revealed, which he thought were known to God alone. His emotion increased when he saw the poor man vanish like smoke before his eyes. Opening his heart to grace, he entered the church, cast himself upon his knees and shed a torrent of tears. Then sincerely repenting, he sought a confessor, made an avowal of his crimes and asked pardon. After Confession, he related to the priest what had happened to him, begging him to make it known in order that devotion towards the holy souls might be increased; for he had no doubt that it was a soul just delivered that had obtained for him the grace of conversion.

It may here be asked who was that mysterious mendicant that appeared to this sinner in order to convert him? Some have believed that it was none other than the Archangel Michael, because he said that he came from Mount Gargano. We know that this mountain is celebrated throughout Italy for an apparition of Saint Michael, in whose honor a magnificent shrine has been erected. However this may be, the conversion of this sinner by such a miracle, and at the same moment when prayers and Holy Communion were being offered for the faithful departed, shows plainly the excellence of this devotion and how pleasing it must be in the sight of God.

Let us therefore conclude in the words of Saint Bernard, “May charity lead you to communicate, for there is nothing more efficacious for the eternal repose of the dead.”

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Some of my favorite Christmas music…

(2) Lovely Far Off City – YouTube

(2) The Holly Tree – YouTube

(2) Christmas In Carrick – YouTube

(2) Celtic Thunder – ‘Christmas 1915’ – YouTube

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Once upon a cold and quiet night

Clear skies were filled with heavenly light

 

Came across a desert from afar

A woman with child under this star

 

On a donkey’s back did she abide

With her husband walking by her side

 

They came to a town called House of Bread

And were told, go somewhere else instead

 

But one native there said, “You come here,

You may stay in my stable that’s near.”

 

This holy night was born our Savior

Behold, our God and only Savior

 

Mary had laid Him in a manger

But to this world He was a stranger

 

Not in splendor did he come to save

But in this humble and little cave

 

From the fields, shepherds had come to see

Little Lord Jesus, all glory be

 

Then came the wise men with all their gifts

Along with hugs, kisses, and lifts

 

That’s why at every Christmas time we should all care

To take the time for sharing and meaningful prayer

 

But his cannot be the end of the story

For Christ shall come again in all His glory

 

Christmas 1995

Steven Speray

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WHAT’S MISSING ON CHRISTMAS IN A NUTSHELL
By Steven Speray Christmas 1999

Year after year, we see many people scrambling to buy gifts as the hustle and bustle of Christmas takes place. As each year passes, so-called Christians talk about how Christ is once again taken out of Christmas. As secularism creeps in, we are reminded over and over to remember the real reason for the season.

For many so-called Christians, the highlight of the season is the gathering of family and friends, eating, singing carols and going to church to praise God and calling to mind the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.

On Christmas day in nearly every church service across America, indeed the world, the most important part of the service will be missing.

It will not be that Christ is forgotten, or taken out of Christmas, for it is in His Holy Name that these so-called Christians namely Evangelicals, Protestants, and Fundamentalists, and even neo-Catholics will come together. Rather, it is the Holy Mass that will be missing from Christmas. Hence the name ‘Christ Mass’ or the ‘Mass of Christ’.

The Holy Mass is the supreme act of Christian worship. It is infinitely greater than any other form of Christian worship. It is the very life, death and Resurrection of Jesus being presented in a liturgical form so that the faithful can participate in Christ’s own prayers and offering His sacrifice to the Father. It is called the Mass (Missa in Latin), because this liturgy concludes with the sending forth (missio) of the faithful.

The Mass was the code name for the worship service of the ancient Christians to keep pagan Rome from finding out and keep the heart of Christianity a secret.

At Holy Mass, not only is there prayer, singing, praising and hearing the Word of God, but also, Christ’s supreme once-and-for-all sacrifice on the cross (Heb. 10:10), and His Resurrection is made present throughout time for all generations to enjoy the benefits of what Christ did and is doing for our sins.

The Mass is not a re-sacrifice, but the same sacrifice represented in an unbloody manner. Above all else, the Mass is the earthly participation in that sacrificial offering going on in Heaven where Jesus prays, and offers Himself up to the Father on our behalf.

Since the mission of Christ began at His birth, the worship service celebrating that day came to be known as Christ Mass or simply Christmas. We see this reality in Scripture with the practice of all faithful Christians throughout history.

In Hebrews 9:23, the sacrifice of the Mass is explained: “Therefore, it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified by these rites, but the heavenly things themselves by better sacrifices than these.” Notice the plural sacrifices as a copy of the heavenly things.

Hebrews 13:10 mentions, “We have an altar.” An altar without a sacrifice would be meaningless. We also see the Mass explained in the First Letter to the Corinthians 11:17-34 clarifying the true nature of the Lord’s Supper which clearly shows that it is not a mere symbol as the Evangelicals, Protestants, and Fundamentalists would have us to believe. Although, without a valid priesthood, they all can only have merely a symbolic Lord’s Supper.

Speaking of the Lord, Psalm 110 reads, “Like Melchizedek, you shall be a priest forever.” As Melchizedek offered bread and wine, so too, Christ would offer up His body and blood in the form of bread and wine (Matt. 26:26-29.)

Christ commands us to do likewise (Luke 22:19.) This new sacrifice would be offered as Holy Writ has it, “For from the Rising of the sun, even to its setting, my name is great among the nations; And everywhere they bring sacrifice to my name, and a pure offering.” (Malachi 1:11)

Only the Holy Mass can, and does fulfill this final prophecy of the Old Testament.

The Holy Mass (Lord’s Supper) is a memorial, but not merely as a psychological remembrance as in non-Catholic services. It is a supernatural copy on Earth of the Heavenly things, viz, Christ continually offering His sacrifice to the Father as He sits at His right hand. Christians are invited to this sacrifice to receive Christ mysteriously on earth by literally eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood as we read in Matt. 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:14-21, John 6:53-57, and I Cor. 11:23-26.

As many of the disciples thought it was a hard saying, (John 6:60) so too, did the Protestant Reformers of the 16th and continual centuries. The difference between the Jews of that time and the Reformers was the Jews recognized that Christ was not speaking symbolically.

To symbolically eat flesh and drink blood, meant to revile and hate the enemy by the ancient Jews, thereby rendering Christ’s words ridiculous and silly since one would have to revile and hate Christ to have eternal life. Had Christ only meant it figuratively, the Jews would have not left Him. They knew well enough that Christ meant literally that His Flesh was real food and His Blood was real drink (John 6:56). Incidentally, it was here that Judas Iscariot left and stopped believing in Jesus (John 6:71).

Christ had warned them not to think of it as cannibalism for the flesh is no avail, but the spirit that gives life (John 6:63). In other words, it is a matter of faith, and will not happen in the bloody way that you are thinking. It is not only the Flesh but also the Soul and Divinity, and this is what gives life.

Christ had told them in John 6:53-54, “unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you do not have life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”

The Reformers, however, didn’t want to leave Christ as those particular Jews before them. So they changed the theology and created a whole new interpretation of Scripture to fit their understanding of salvation even though it would contradict 1500 years of Christian belief and practice.

Once the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Mass was denied, the Holy Mass ceased with those who separated with the true Church.

Only the Traditional Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches continue to have Jesus Christ substantially present while all the rest of Christianity (if you call them that) can only have Jesus in spirit, though, I would say not even in spirit would Christ be present if His Holy Mass was denied.

If we take another look at the story of Christmas, we see that Jesus was born in a town called Bethlehem, which means House of Bread. (Matt 2:1) Mary had laid Him in a manger, which is a feeding tough for animals. (Luke 2:7) Jesus says that He is the Bread that comes down from Heaven. (John 6:58) Who is the Lamb of God who is to be eaten (John 1:29, Matt. 26:26-28, Exodus 12:3-4, 8-9, 11, 14-16.)

These three prophetic readings in Holy Scripture shows what Christmas is really all about, viz, that Christ came into the world, for the purpose of dying, giving Himself to us in a mystery, and redeeming mankind by saving us from absolute death.

Christ and the Mass are a reality so joined together, that They cannot be truly separated. To deny the Mass would be to deny the mystery of Christ’s salvific work for mankind.

When those Jews left, Jesus then asks, “Will you also go away?”(John 6:67) The Lord’s question is answered by Peter, “You have the words of eternal life.”

To receive in faith the gift of Christ’s Body and Blood at Mass is to fulfill what Jesus intended for those who truly love and follow Him.

Taking the Mass out of Christmas is a rejection of the real reason for the season, which is ultimately that we remember Christ’s birth as we receive Him in Holy Communion at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and be reminded, and prepared for His coming again in glory.

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