So bright is the radiance of the Light which has come at Christmas, so awesome is the mystery we celebrate, that a single day's observance barely initiates us into the meaning of the feast. Nor does the Church consider stopping with one day's rejoicing as she celebrates the birth of the Savior. Although the commercial world is taking down its trees and tinsel on December 26 to make way for the January white sales, the Church is only beginning a full twelve days of "high feasting" which will reach their climax and zenith on January 6. Then, in the regal splendor of Epiphany, we see another facet of the Incarnation, a facet which completes the Christmas mystery: the tiny Baby born on Christmas night is in reality the King of the whole world. All the expressions of our Advent longing, our pleas for the King and Ruler, "God, the Mighty, Wonderful, the Prince of Peace," may seem extravagant if we keep only December 25 as a feast day and forget the Epiphany, the real fulfillment of Advent expectation for a royal and kingly Savior.
Each year, then, Christians are given two great feast days plus the full season of Christmastide during which the Church would have us savor the mystery of the Incarnation in all its implications. She wants us to absorb it through study and meditation, to re-live it through her liturgy, and finally to begin to make it a part of our everyday lives--so that the Light of Christ which has been given to us may shine out to all those around us--to our family, our neighborhood, our associates in school or office, and out into the larger communities of national and international life.
Today Catholics are becoming increasingly interested in celebrating the Christmas season more fully--not only as completely as possible at the altar--but in their homes and communities, and in the apostolic and parish groups to which they may belong. They feel that through carrying out customs and observances centered in the liturgy, they will be able to penetrate more deeply into the meaning of the Incarnation.
Those who have begun to observe the Advent season as a time of spiritual preparation for Christmas will be especially interested in a plan for celebrating The Twelve Days. To prolong the celebration of a feast in a fitting way is almost as much of an art as to prepare for it. Mother Church takes our human nature into account when she gives us an Advent season followed not only by twelve days of high feasting but a whole season extending to February 2, the Feast of Candlemas.
It is in answer to the need for concrete suggestions for the celebration of Christmastide that "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is presented. This book tries to capture something of the fullness of the Christmas season as it is observed at Grailville and in an increasing number of young families with whom we are in contact. Some of the sources for these ideas and customs are original--life lived with the Church is dynamic, and forms of recreation and festivity begin to develop spontaneously with the liturgy as their source and inspiration. We have also built on many national traditions in our Christmas celebration--but most of them could truly be called "international," for the same customs keep recurring with slight variations in many different cultures. Many of the observances have already been assimilated to American family and community life in some sections of the country. All are capable of being adapted to the American scene.
Because this is meant to be something other than a "Christmas in many lands" book, there are few lengthy histories of those customs which originate in other countries. Instead the booklet tries to describe the vital, concrete, practical observances which have grown up naturally in the life of the large Grailville family, and are being used successfully in the smaller families of former students now married, and in parish and apostolic groups throughout the country.
"The Twelve Days of Christmas Book and Kit" are intended to give you ideas for your own fuller, more meaningful celebration of the Christmas season. May you be inspired to translate and adapt some of these suggestions to your own circumstances. May whatever you choose to do spring from a firm, enlightened inner conviction and the fire of love without which even the most meaningful Christmas customs can degenerate into mere "show." And may the observances lead you and yours to a greater understanding and a deeper penetration of the great Christian mysteries which the customs represent in word and symbol and song.
COME REJOICING FAITHFUL MEN, WITH GLADNESS SINGING ALLELUIA! MONARCHS' MONARCH FROM A HOLY MAIDEN SPRINGING MIGHTY WONDER!
--St. Bernard's Nativity Sequence
Christmas is the intimate family feast. As families re-unite to observe the birth of Christ, celebrations and activities are naturally centered in the home. The customs and religious practices given here for the first days of Christmas are, therefore, intended mainly for the home and family.
But with Epiphany, the feast of Christ's manifestation and showing-forth, we will go out from the circle of the family to show forth the light we have received to all those around us. Suggestions will be given for the observance of the feast of Epiphany in the parish and community, the school and the apostolic group, as well as in the home.
The word Advent derives from the Latin word meaning coming. The Lord is coming. We may reflect that every year at this time we celebrate his coming , so that in a sense we can lose the feeling of expectancy and joyful anticipation, because at the end of the season, everything seems to return to pretty much the same routine. If that is the case, then our preparation may have been lacking ... continue reading
To become the mother of the Savior, Mary "was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role."132 The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace". In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace... continue reading
A surprised Mary is afraid
A perplexed Mary is confused
An astonished Mary is faithful
Making a difficult Journey
Facing difficult circumstances
The Fruit of Thy Womb...
The Angel's Visit
The conversation with Joseph
The Visit to Elizabeth
God speaks to Adam
Isaiah speaks to Israel
An Angel Speaks to Joseph
Watched from Heaven
Watched from Darkness
Watched by Man
Not just any child
Not just any destiny
Not just any result
The weeks of Advent remind us to set aside some of the hectic business of the holiday season, and to quietly reflect on the promise of the baby born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. The Bible readings listed below relate to the Advent themes of waiting, preparation, light in the darkness, and the coming of the promised Messiah. continue reading
Establish a Tradition
Involve Everyone, all ages
Open your door to others
The message of Christmas is that
the visible material world is bound to the
invisible spiritual world.
Great cultures Celebrate Christ
Gift Giving is Universal
Great Stories and Quotes