[The ceramic Christmas scene above is to be found in the chapel of the Pontifical Bibilical Institute in Rome... at least when I was last there...]
I know a gentleman who has campaigned against advent “Christmas” parties for decades. Finally, as the new corrected translation is coming in so as to help create some Catholic identity, the parish priest listened to his pleas, and insisted against all odds, against all the power groups in the parish, against threats of “We won’t put any money in the collection!”, that there will be no Christmas parties in the parish hall during Advent. Not even one. Not for the parish staff, not for the little kids, not for the K of C, not for the Altar Society, not for the rich pillars of the parish. None. This was an extremely unpopular politically incorrect decision that promises, however, to bear great results in an increase in Catholic identity. It was finally noticed that people are apologetic, ashamed almost, to prepare for and celebrate Christmas as if it was all about rejoicing with the angelic choirs over the humble Incarnation of our Lord. But when people start to grab on to their true Catholic identity, they will be on fire to bring people in humble thanksgiving before our Lord in the manger, especially from Christmas to Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas. How about you? Are you afraid of your Catholic identity? Are you enthused to do something about it? The new Evangelization has to do with first of all regaining our Catholic identity, which has first of all to do with falling in love with our Catholic liturgical cycle. Here’s a poll:
UPDATE: As you can see from the results (at least as of this writing), that the overwhelming majority hold that respecting the liturgical cycle provides our Catholic identity, and that this would involve avoiding specifically Christmas parties during advent. O.K. Maybe that reflects the readership of the blog. Maybe there is a shift to the better in the understanding of our Catholic identity. Maybe some are coming to understand more intensely the overwhelming weight of the glory that was coming upon Israel back in the day, when it was — for the faithful — the Suffering Servant who was to come into the world as the Messiah and Redeemer, who would be born to die, who would surely be hunted from His birth to His death. And He was, so that all the boys two years and under died in Bethlehem in an effort to kill Him. He had to go into exile for all of His early childhood. The weight of the glory of His love for us!
In Hebrew, “weight” and “glory” are the same word, for, by wonderful insight, the Jews understood that the glory of God among men is a crushing weight, so wonderful is it, grinding those who are willing, to be the wheat of the Lord, the bread of encouragement for others, but smashing down those who would otherwise try to hold themselves aloof. The weight of the glory, shoving us to our knees. I think our guardian angels help us with this mightily.
If one follows the readings of either lectionary — ordinary or extraordinary — one discovers that Advent is about learning to appreciate the weight of the glory of the Lord about to appear among us, the Word being made flesh. Advent prepares us for the celebration of the Lord’s goodness and kindness in a unique way, providing us with our Catholic identity.