Christmas—25 December A.D.
Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Please allow me to wish everyone a holy and happy Christmas, and to thank
everyone who contributed in any way to our celebration of this most joyous day
of the year.
In the middle of the eighth century B.C., the Prophet Isaias predicted the
downfall and exile of the Southern Kingdom of Juda—a prophetic warning that if
the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the south did not return to the ways of God
they would be conquered and taken into exile, just as the inhabitants of the
Northern Kingdom of Israel had been taken away by the Assyrians. In Jewish
history, the Babylonian Exile is a trauma on par with the captivity of the
People in Egypt under the Pharoes, and their return from the Exile is on par
with the Exodus. Isaias' prophecy is an interesting mixture of caution and
hope, for with the prediction of the Babylonian Exile, came a number of
predictions about the joining of the Gentiles to the People of God, and a number
of predictions about the Messias who was to come:
the end He has glorified the seaward road, the district of the Gentiles.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.... A child
is born to us, a son is given us.... They name him Wonder-Counselor,
God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear
a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.
The peace of Christ is a twofold thing. Most importantly, it is the peace
of man with God—the adoption of men and women, the descendants of Adam and
Eve, as the foster sons and daughters of God the Father. But we are
reminded of this Christmas peace of man with God whenever there is peace of men
with men. Our history gives us a number of examples.
The Kingdom of Juda was restored after the exile, but was overrun by the
successor kingdoms of Alexander the Great. You can read about
the victorious struggle of the Jews in the two books of Machabees.
In 164 BC, on the twenty-fifth day of the lunar month that corresponds to our
month of December, the Machabees would celebrate the re‑dedication of the
Temple in Jerusalem with an eight day festival of lights.
Chanukah doesn't always match up with Christmas because we use a solar calendar,
but you can see the establishment of God's peace with man.
The exact day of our Lord's birth is uncertain, but it is said that the Church
chose the twenty-fifth of December, the day of the pagan feast of the
Sun‑god, Sol invictus, so that the worship of the true God would
eventually displace the false worship of pagan Rome.
In 496, Clovis the King of the Franks was baptized on Christmas day by Saint
Remigius, making the Franks the first of the Germanic tribes to be united with
Rome and the Empire, making France the “eldest daughter of the Church.”
A century later, also on Christmas day, (596) Saint Augustine of Canterbury
baptized the English King Ethelbert, together with thousands of the King's men,
and their women and children, inaugurating a nearly thousand year reign of
Catholicism in England.
On Christmas day 800, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne as head of a new
Empire that would be known as the Holy Roman Empire. Charlemagne would
provide for Catholic education throughout his domain, and would lead many who
clung to the Arian heresy to the Faith.
George Washington would cross the Delaware River on Christmas day 1776,
defeating the mercenary soldiers at Trenton, New Jersey, and then on the Octave
day prepare to defeat troops under Lord Cornwallis at Princeton. “These
are the times that try men's souls,” wrote Thomas Paine, just before these
victories—but the victories signaled the possibility of American independence.
In World War I, after a fierce battle in December of 1914, German and
English troops emerged from the trenches to bury their wounded. Curiously,
no one fired at the other side, and by Christmas day 1914—strictly against
orders—the front line soldiers had organized a truce and were even shaking
hands and exchanging the few luxuries they carried into battle, coffee,
chocolate, tobacco, and tea. Sixteen years later, Major Sir H. Kingsley
Wood testified before Commons that:
if we had been left to ourselves there would never have been another shot
fired. For a fortnight the truce went on. We were on the most
friendly terms, and it was only the fact that we were being controlled by
others that made it necessary for us to start trying to shoot one another
Our own good friend, the Late Monsignor Paul Marceau, a World War II US Army
chaplain, often spoke of Christmas in Germany right after the German surrender.
The Latin Mass, of course, was universal, so there was no difficulty in
celebrating Solemn High Mass with the German
priests and their men. He said that he felt no danger from the Catholic
German soldiers. The German Christmas carols were completely
familiar by their melodies if not by their words. The Monsignor, a
Lieutenant Colonel, arranged to have each man issued a beeswax candle for the
Mass, and ordered the men to leave the candles in the pews when they left—a
veritable treasure to the German priests who could obtain no such things in
their war ravaged country.
Now, as I said before, the peace of Christ is a twofold thing. Most
importantly, it is the peace of man with God. But, indeed, we might say
that a condition of the Christmas peace of man with God is the peace of men with
men. I have mentioned a few military victories, but these were regrettably
necessary for the preservation of peace or the propagation of the Faith.
Yet, all too often, such struggles are the product of political pride, or the
work of the banksters and the arms merchants—often they are based on lies.
The word “peace” occurs over a hundred times in the New Testament; five
hundred times in the whole of the Bible. But the “peace of Christ” can
be found only “in the reign of Christ,” if I may quote words of the saintly
Pope Pius XI written in preparation for Christmas 1922.
The Pope went on to quote our Prophet Isaias: “They that have forsaken the Lord, shall be consumed.”
(Isaias i, 28) And the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Without me you can do
nothing” (John xv, 5) and again, “He that gathereth not with me, scattereth.”
(Luke xi, 23)
If we are to have peace, we must have the Prince of Peace—we must have the
reign of Christ the King. Pius XI foresaw the de‑Christianization
of education and marriage in civil society after World War I. He
Socialism, and Communism.
Yet, I am not sure that even he could have predicted all of the outrages against
morality, life, and property that such evils would bring to fruition.
It is incumbent upon all Christians—indeed, all people of good will—to be
vocal in condemning everything contrary to the reign of Christ the King, the
Prince of Peace. Today is a day for rejoicing because the Prince of Peace
was born today—let us all strive, in our prayers, in our actions, and in our
good example, to be at peace with God and at peace with man, every day of the
year. As we hear in the Gospel of today's third Mass (and most every day
of the year):
The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.... and his own received him
not. But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons
of God, to them that believe in his name. Who are born, not of blood, nor of the
will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.