For three consecutive Sundays this Liturgical Year we celebrate the richness of God’s infinite love in the Solemnities of: the Nativity of the Lord; Mary, the Holy Mother of God; and the Epiphany of the Lord. The radiant light of a star guides shepherds and wise men away from their ordinary tasks and into the mystery of God’s love incarnate. The scene is simple and serene, a clear reflection of what is possible when God’s initiative is responded to with the fidelity, selflessness and openness that Mary and Joseph model. The feasts assure us that we, too, are being guided into the mystery of God’s love. They beckon us to deeper trust, fidelity and openness to God’s initiative in our lives.
December 25: The Nativity of the Lord
“Now there were shepherds in that region, living in the fields, and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid.’” (Luke 2: 8-10a)
January 1: Mary, the Holy Mother of God
“The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph and the infant lying in the manger.” (Luke 2: 16)
“Mary kept all these things reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
January 8: The Epiphany of the Lord
“When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem saying, ‘Where is the king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” (Matthew 2: 1-3)
“And behold, the star they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.” (Matthew 2 8-11)
The Magi Journeying, James Tissot
Look at the painting, The Magi Journeying, and imagine some of the possible conditions the magi experienced on their journey.
How would you respond to the various conditions of the journey?
Which conditions would be challenging for you?
Adoration of the Shepherds, Rembrandt
How would finding the child and His mother at the end of the journey make a difference in you?
The Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus, serve as a model for all families. Although we may sometimes idealize them we know them as people grounded in the traditions, prayers and rituals of the Jewish faith. Individually and as a family they were dedicated to seeking and responding to what God asked of them. They trusted God would sustain them in hope and peace in the midst of the unknown, in difficult circumstances and in the routines and joys of daily life.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we contemplate
the splendor of true love, to you we turn with trust.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic Churches.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again experience violence, rejection and division:
may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer.
Mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles in chapters 6 and 7, Stephen is described as “a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit.” He was chosen to “serve at table” so that the apostles would be free to dedicate themselves to prayer and preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. Stephen was among the first group of deacons in the early Christian Community. He is also considered the first Christian martyr. Like Jesus he was falsely accused and condemned for preaching the truth without fear of the consequences.
Loving God, Saint Stephen was one of the first deacons in the Church.
The Apostles ordained him with six others because they needed ministers who would oversee the needs of the poor and the widowed. His holiness was so evident that when he preached to his enemies, his face glowed brightly like an angel’s. I ask you, St. Stephen to pray for those who have been called to a life of service as ordained deacons. Help them to be a sign of Christ’s love in their parishes and in the world where they live and work. Bless them with a vision of their ministry that stirs them to passion and tireless effort. Saint Stephen, pray for us. Amen.
The Holy Innocents are the children slaughtered as a result of King Herod’s decree to kill all male children under two years old in Bethlehem. Herod ordered this as a result of being asked by the Magi where the newborn King of Jews was to be found. Although these children are fewer than those killed in subsequent acts of genocide or abortion their dignity as human beings remains paramount.
This is an appropriate day for parents to commit themselves to blessing (or to start blessing) their children each night. Simply make the sign of the cross on your child’s forehead, with or without holy water and say, “May God bless you, and may He be the Guardian of your heart and mind — the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.”
We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish you rule of justice, love and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in unity of the Holy Spirit, on God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Mary, the Holy Mother of God, is honored on the Octave of Christmas. She is blessed among us and holy because of the very fact that she is the Mother of God. This title was a source of great debate in the Church and was officially settled by the bishops at the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. To learn more about why Mary was given the title, “Mother of God” in the Western Church and Theotokos in the Eastern Church, go to http://www.catholic.org/mary/theo.php
Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.