Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Church on Christmas

Several bloggers last week were discussing the decision by various mega-churches to close on Christmas Day to give their staffers a chance to spend the day with their families. There were several reasons put forward as to why it's worth celebrating on Christmas Day, but I liked the take of Neil from Catholic Sensibility:
Of course, while Catholics are obliged to attend Mass on Christmas, closing on December 25 isn’t exactly a historical novelty. This Sunday, commenting in the New York Times on the so-called “Christmas wars,” Adam Cohen pointed out, “As late as 1855, New York newspapers reported that Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist churches were closed on Dec. 25 because ‘they do not accept the day as a Holy One.’" But this closing does pose a question for us, I think. Why is Christmas so theologically important that we should gather as a Christian community, despite the probable inconvenience? I will assume that we all believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God made flesh, but why should we leave family and friends and drive through the wind and snow to contemplate his birth?
I’ll try to offer an answer, based on a recent essay by Fr Brian Daley, SJ. Fr Daley writes, “It is in the incarnation of the Word, seen as an event which includes the whole life of Jesus, rather than simply in his crucifixion or his resurrection, that the ‘event’ of redemption is to be found; the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ are of course seen as inseparable stages in his incarnate history, revealing in fullness what the incarnation means, but they are not considered saving events in isolation from his whole life as Word made flesh.” That is, we are to be really included in the whole story of Jesus. If Jesus saved us only through a particular action, he would be nothing more than a mere agent and salvation would be a “work,” inevitably abstract and impersonal. But if salvation is instead a process of transformation, Christ would have to be both human and divine, so that, through the Spirit, he might bring our humanity to real participation in God’s life as “sharers in the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4). Because salvation is indeed transformation – “incorruptibility, glory, honor, and power, which are agreed to be characteristic of the divine nature” are to be ours, says St Gregory of Nyssa – we do have to meditate on who Christ is, not simply what he does.
I personally have always enjoyed attending midnight mass (when it's actually held at midnight), but I've also gone to Mass on Christmas morning and found it a marvelous way to keep the day holy. Christmas is not actually a celebration of the family! It's the memorial of Christ's birth -- the same Christ who spoke of forsaking family for His sake.

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