The celebrations occurring in the Octave of Christmas are powerful; with the Birth of Christ, Holy Mother Church celebrates God revealing Himself to mankind as He came to live among us. We celebrate the joy of this gift; knowing that our salvation was brought to us, offered to us, and this celebration is magnified by the peace and joy of knowing that our Lord has experienced our plight, He knows us for who we are and what we encounter.
How we live our lives is our response to this gift
The Holy Father in his September 12th general audience reflection on prayer and the Book of Revelation points out that there are two ways of living: “We might define the first as the ‘system of Christ’, to which the assembly is happy to belong, and the second, as the ‘earthly system of anti-Kingdom and anti-Covenant, brought into being by the Evil One’, who, by deceiving men and women, wishes to create a world that is the opposite of the one willed by Christ and by God.” It would seem to those of faith that the choice is obvious, but as we see, even within Holy Mother Church, our fallen nature affects how we live. With our free-will our decisions and choices are tainted by the desire to be accepted; to be popular. Left to ourselves, we tend to walk the path of least resistance. We look longingly at the ‘system of Christ’ while dipping our toes into the ‘earthly system’.
And, of course, our ability to live this loving response to God, this ‘system of Christ’, in light of mankind’s fallen nature and the manipulations of the Prince of the World, Satan, is not easy – as the feasts during this Octave of Christmas highlight. The feasts of St. Stephen and the Holy Innocents and the memorial of St Thomas Becket point out that the world, in general, doesn’t accept this gift. These feasts remind the faithful of the struggles that we can expect.
But Holy Mother Church, in her Christmas celebrations also points to the importance of a relationship with God. She celebrates that God’s gift of coming among us is still as fresh and strong now as then – that with this relationship with our living God we are strengthened in our ability to live the ‘system of Christ’.
We honor St. Stephen because of his heroic witness to God; but we also reflect on the strength he had to endure this because of his relationship with God.
We celebrate the Holy Family, who lived a life the same as others – with the same needs, fears, struggles that accompany any family’s joys and successes – but who based their family on their relationship with God.
Yesterday, we celebrated the memorial of St. Thomas Beckett, who in spite of his successes chose the ‘system of Christ’ over the whims of temporal leaders. Knowing what the outcome would be; his relationship with God strengthened him for his martyrdom.
And of course we will end this Octave with the celebration of Mary as Mother of God and meditate on her constant reflection and communication with her Lord and God. She is the exemplar of relationship with God.
In these uncertain times, where those who try to live the ‘system of Christ’ are being buffeted by the Satan’s ‘earthly system’ let us look to the Octave of Christmas to see how we are not alone; God-with-us, Emmanuel, is still beside us and take heart. Let us follow the examples of those we celebrate and keep our relationship with God strong through our prayer life and by doing so help to strengthen others who desire this ‘system of Christ’