Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Twelfth Day of Christmas

Titus 2:11-15 / Luke 2:21

Christmastide has reached its end. In some places in the world, the decorations will hold on for one last day, to be set aside definitively at the end of the Epiphany. In other places, they have been packed away since the turning of the New Year, if not even some time before that. Many people, perhaps even most, have returned or are even now returning to work, to school, to the daily course of life which had been suspended over the past dozen days. While no doubt somethings remains of our gingerbread cookies, our Christmas cakes, or our panettoni and pandoro, even that special diet that has marked the festive celebration of our Lord's birth has likely given way to a more ordinary, no doubt healthier, but certainly less celebratory fare.

Our gifts as well, now safely put away as we prepare to take down the tree, if we have not done so already, have lost something of the luster of that first moment of unwrapping. They may well remain unused, but odds are even for those gifts which are still to be enjoyed, the experience of receiving the gift is at risk of being lost to forgetfulness, even of one most highly appreciated and prized.

This is why the Church prays one more time, as it has prayed now for days: O God, who by the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary hast bestowed upon mankind the rewards of everlasting sanctification: grant, we beseech Thee, that we may experience her intercession for us, through whom we have been made worthy to receive the Author of Life, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord: Who with Thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. We know, even if the words now seem cliché for their repetition, that in the joyful mysteries of Mary's Fiat and her giving the world the Son, a giving which was itself a grace given to her by that same Son she bore, we have received the greatest of all gifts, the rewards of everlasting sanctification, a share in God's eternal life. This thought has been, at least as long as we have, like the Blessed Virgin, kept these words and pondered them in our hearts, quite clear in our minds, and we have been, by God's grace, both gladdened and grateful. Yet, thinking with the mind of the Church, we know all too well that, outside this holy season, we can all too easily become enmeshed in the cares of the world, even in ungodliness and worldly desires.

So, we call upon the aid of her who so generously came to our aid at the beginning of this last age of the world. We call upon the intercession of the Mother of God not only that she may come to our aid, but even more that we experience, indeed that we feel, her intercession (ut ipsam pro nobis intercedere sentiamus). While we often rightly warn against making our faith a matter of feeling, we also know that rightly-ordered feeling is the proper soil in which our knowledge and love can grow and flourish. Apart from those felt experiences, and their being sustained, what we know to be good and true can become clouded, and our appetite to pursue it dull and sluggish.

So, before we leave Christmastide, we ask the Virgin for one last gift to top off the many happy ones already received. We ask her to keep alive in the days, the weeks, the years to come, the warm grace of her maternal gift in Bethlehem, which is of course nothing other than the Paternal gift to us of his Son, our Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ, by the bond of Love, the Holy Spirit. May we, who can so quickly forget the gladness of these days, continue to experience from day to day, by the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the glad tidings of Bethlehem: A Child is born to us, and a Son is given to us!

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