While for most people Christmas is now over for myself and many Catholics the story is just beginning. The Church celebrates the Christmas season as the 12 days from the beautiful celebration of the Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord to the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. During this time we continue to celebrate the birth of our Lord, the Word made flesh. There are also great feasts of holy men & women that are celebrated during this time including; St. Stephen, St. John Apostle & Evangelist, Feast of the Holy Innocents, Feast of the Holy Family, on the Octave of Christmas the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God. Also not specifically feasts but great saints on the calendar are St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nazianzen, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. John Neumann (different from St. John Newman) and also the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
Now that I have just listed that massive mouthful, what does this mean for us? This is a beautiful time of grace, one that is filled with great examples of what it means to be Catholic, to witness (starting with the first martyr, St. Stephen) to the Catholic faith, to evangelize. As the secular new year approaches there is the look forward to new years resolutions and things to be accomplished in the new year. But before we rush back into the hustle of worldly things, let us take these twelve days and examine where we are in our relationship with God. This is a period of special grace, please take advantage of it. Start a new devotion or resolve to try to attend mass more often, open yourself to more avenues of grace.
We are in the middle of a Year of Faith, a time to grow in our own faith and begin to seek avenues to evangelize others. The humbling example, the self-emptying of Jesus to come to us as a baby, vulnerable to the world, is our example and our template. What do you need to empty from yourself to allow Jesus to reign in your heart. Take some time in silence over these twelve days and reflect on what Jesus wants you to leave behind, to let go of, to release to His love so that you can move forward in faith. Then you will be able to answer the call of Christ and the Church to evangelize those around you, to be a witness to love, to life, to Christ.
"It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present-day society make all the more urgent. Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ's sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection." (Evangelii Nuntiandi 14 (Evangelization in the Modern World) Pope Paul VI)
Open yourself to grace this Christmas season so that Jesus can enter into your heart, your life and live forever. And so that you carry forth the Word of God to all those who need to hear it or see it. Always remembering what is most important:
Bringing forth Christ:
"The Lord can find a dwelling place in our own souls and lives. Not only must we carry Him in our hearts, but we must bring Him to the world, so that we too can bring forth Christ for our Epoch." Pope Benedict XVI