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HomeArticle‘So Brilliant a Constellation’: Celebrating Christmas Saint Days

‘So Brilliant a Constellation’: Celebrating Christmas Saint Days

‘So Brilliant a Constellation’: Celebrating Christmas Saint Days

Mary is the mother of God-made-man, who is the only one who could make reparation for our sins. (photo: jannoon028 / Shutterstock)

 

Advice and tips on ways we can keep these feast days from Christmas to Epiphany, which offer great honor to our Newborn King.

As I was contemplating my family’s small figurines of the expectant Blessed Mother on the donkey being led by St. Joseph on their way to Bethlehem  and turning my gaze to the then-empty manger with the traditional crucifix placed behind it, it dawned on me that the Holy Family’s journey to Bethlehem is a symbol of the spiritual life, that is, of our journey to heaven, for his birth on that first Christmas made way for our birth into heaven at the end of our earthly lives.

This is why it is so fitting that the Church celebrates the feast days of many great saints so close to the celebration of the Lord’s birth, what Dom Prosper Guéranger would call “so brilliant a constellation.”

Dom Guéranger, in The Liturgical Year: Christmas Book I, Vol. 2, explains how these saints’ feast days do “homage to the master feast of Bethlehem, and clustering in adoring love round the Crib of the Infant-God.”

There are several ways that we can keep these feast days from Christmas to Epiphany, which offer great honor to our Newborn King. The first is to simply mark the days in the home by asking the saints of the day to pray for you and continue the Christmas celebration, complete with cookies and your favorite holiday beverages. Additionally, one might add the Collect (the prayer at Mass or in the Liturgy of the Hours) for each feast day to our prayer routine, such as at the before-meal prayer at dinner, for family bedtime prayers or at a family gathering. Another way would be to make a special attempt during this festive time to go to daily Mass or choose a select few feasts that are especially important to you.

Let’s take a look with Dom Guéranger at each of these feasts. Dom Guéranger writes for St. Stephen’s Day, Dec. 26, “Yesterday the holy Angels exultingly sang, Glory be to God in the highest; today they joyously received Stephen into their company.” St. Stephen in his martyrdom shows us his great love of God but also his great love of neighbor by forgiving those who cast the stones upon him as he felt the blows hit his dying body.

It is appropriate that as St. John the Evangelist, nearest of the apostles, stood by the wood of Christ’s cross that his feast day, Dec. 27, is so close to the advent of Christ in the wood of his manger. Dom Guéranger explains that St. John’s “sacrifice of Virginity” in living a chaste and celibate life is next to the sacrifice of martyrdom. St. John outlived all the other apostles, giving us the gift of his Gospel and the image of the “Word made flesh.”

We can imagine the Holy Innocents on Dec. 28 standing around the manger “clad in snow-white robes, and holding green branches in their hands” as thet “bid[s] us tarry there” with them. So, on this feast day, we can meditate on the riches of the mercy of God, who brought these innocent babes to his bosom as they died in place of the One who would die to free them from their original sin.

In St. Thomas Becket, Dom Guéranger explains that we see an example of a Christian laying down “his life rather than deny[ing] any of the articles of our holy Faith.” We can pray for his intercession on Dec. 29, seeking the same courage to be willing to sacrifice ourselves out of love for the faith. And, further, we can pray for our bishops to have the same courage of St. Thomas.

On Dec. 30, we come to the feast of the Holy Family, a day on which we should especially pray for our families — those souls in our immediate family and also those in our extended family. We have journeyed with Mary, Joseph and Jesus to Bethlehem, and we must ask them to be with us on this journey of our entire life so that we can have a heavenly birth with Christ.

St. Sylvester was an early pope and confessor, known for his peaceful time as pontiff, ending the time of martyr popes, a friend of Constantine and the one who confirmed the Council of Nicaea. Dom Guéranger says that in having a feast within the octave on Dec. 31, “Sylvester represents Jesus in His triumph” and shows us that Christ is truly “the Prince of Peace, the Father of the world to come.”

When we come to the Octave Day of Christmas, on which we honor the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Holy Mother of God and remember the circumcision of Our Lord, we see so clearly the reality of the two natures of Christ. Mary is the mother of God-made-man, who is the only one who could make reparation for our sins. On Jan. 1, we remember how Christ shed his first blood for us in submitting himself to circumcision, entering the covenant of the Old Law to fulfill it and bring a New Covenant to all the nations. This feast is followed closely, on Jan. 3, by the Most Holy Name of Jesus, which means “Savior,” to which every knee ought to bend in honor. As Dom Guéranger writes, “No name is so amiable, none so powerful.” He is indeed a light in darkness.

Thus, we make our way to the Epiphany of Our Lord, when God-made-man revealed himself to the Gentiles for the first time, as the Wise Men followed the light of the star to Bethlehem.

But Christmas does not end there. May we continue to contemplate the birth of Christ and its meaning for the world a little bit longer this Christmas season, looking ahead to the Baptism of the Lord and Candlemas.

 

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