Christmas: Multiculturalism and Christian Truth

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I read this essay,“Reflections of a Jewish Childhood during Christmas,” hoping to gain a better understanding of Judaism during the Christmas season, unfortunately what I read was a modernists device of post-modernism to rebuke the Truth of Christianity as one of “the many truths” to be celebrated in the world. Geoffrey RS Sales wrote a post by the title, “In the Public Square,” over at the great blog: All Along the Watchtower  that reminded me of this analytical essay that I had written. Of course, Geoffrey tackles the issue of multiculturalism being spread through England, which is also the subject of Gerry Bloustien’s essay. Bloustien takes a positive stance of multiculturalism–mainly she asserts is because of her elite academic intellectualism.  However, let all Christians understand that Bloustien’s beliefs are merely her metaphysical understanding and ideology.

Thesis:

Gerry Bloustien, Professor of Antropology at University of South Australia,  in the final essay in Christmas, Ideology and Popular Culture creates a thesis to underscore her overall ideology of how the holiday season should be celebrated as she envisions with an overall winter holiday season that incorporates inclusiveness of all cultures within the spectrum of the diversity philosophy. Bloustien admits that her account is subjective even though she has “heightened insights as a professional anthropologist” of her own subjective thoughts.[1] The method that Bolustien uses to explain her thesis is a simple but methodical remembering of her own past events as a Jewish immigrant in England. She explains, “ I would argue that accounts of home and family always need to be understood and interpreted within the context of broader cultural and political experiences in which they are embedded.”[2] By explaining her ‘outsider’ experience with Christmas and its grandeur as it at times, in the author’s opinion, fosters an oppression on ‘outsiders’ that should be met with a “call to resist dominant culture.”[3] However, it’s important to understand that what she means by resistance is merely creating pockets within society that allow other cultures’ celebrations to flourish.

 

Cause and Effect:

 

A return of English Christmas came to Bloustien through a Christmas card given to her by an old neighbor.[4] She explains that “I received a card that jolted me back to my child in a way that has not happened for at least forty years! I received a card from Helen one of my oldest friends… Every Christmas time, I was regularly invited to her home to share her family’s rituals.”[5] A striking silence throughout Bloustien’s essay is the absence of any sort of explanation on what type of family rituals and festivities are celebrated. Although she explains that her parents had issues with the overload of Christmas entering into their home, there’s no issue that she mentions about a conflict of Christian celebrations and Jewish celebrations, such as the Festival of lights. Bloustien’s viewpoint of Christmas is very secular as she admits being a “Jewish child of European ancestry, all of my childhood memories of Christmas…are primarily sensual and visceral.” In many ways, this is why fundamentally her vision for a diverse holiday season, so long as there is Christmas, is unrealistic. The idea of Christmas is celebrating the birth of the savior of the world. Many sects of Christianity practice Evangelism, which requires followers of the religion to go and teach and convert others to the Gospel, which is believed to be the true word of God. Bloustien’s thesis is not compatible with many, if not most, who celebrate Christmas for religious purposes.

 

Evidence:

Bloustien presents her childhood experience as a Jew as evidence for the need of society to allow diversity for all cultures to be equal in the respects of their celebrated practices. Again, stressing a thesis that is not compatible with any religion that teaches Divine truth. However, as Bloustien can only focus on the material world within her concept of Christmas, she misses this point completely. She explains how “Exciting and exotic” but Mesmerising but Alien” Christmas was to her by visiting her neighbor and seeing a “huge verdant Christmas tree in the corner of my friend’s living room.”[6]

Another issue that Bloustien has with the mass celebrating of Christmas is the exclusiveness of Christmas within England public schools—although Mark Connelly who wrote Christmas: A History would explain it to be a celebration of “Englishness” rather than a religious holiday since the holiday in his view is primarily an English export.[7][8] The author, residing in England at the time, seems to be little aware of the importance of English tradition with the Christmas holiday.  She seems taken back with the card that represented, “A Victorian winter street scene.”[9] Nonetheless, Bloustein explains that in school, “Hymn practices are daily and compulsory…These Christian narratives and themes metaphorically and materially saturated the school curriculum regardless of any non-Christian children in its constituency.”[10] Although this is framed to be an issue, Bloustien previously in her essay mentioned that children had other options, “ many children went to privately funded ethnic or religious schools, and neighbours spoke across each other in their own language springing from their original heritage.”

 

Bias:

Bloustien’s bias is obvious from her profession, an anthropologist. Bloustein wishes to create a ‘safe environment’ where children can learn other “religious customs that were occurring around them in non-Christian homes.”[11] However, what she deems inappropriate for multi-cultural Australia is her opinion. A Christian parent, or any religion, has every right to reject and deem inappropriate any ideologies, like multi-culturalism or diversity, of other customs that are being taught to their children. Religion expresses divine truth, and many who practice any number of religions cannot separate their faith from their day to day lives. If a parent seeks to preserve their culture they should have the freedom to search others of like mind, which was available to the parents of the author. If any parent deems any curriculum of a school inappropriate, even the new curriculum established by the author in her local Australian school, they should have the freedom and the choice to select a more appropriate establishment. The author is an adherent to the metaphysical belief system of diversity, which by declaring what is appropriate, thus judging, becomes a self-contradicting philosophy. Diversity, in effect, is not diverse, but a natural evolution of the ideology of liberalism, which seeks to convert just like any other belief system.

[1] Gerry Bloustine, “Reflections of a Jewish Childhood during Christmas,” ed. Sheila Whiteley, Christmas, Ideology and Popular Culture (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press) 2008, 188.

[2] Ibid, 189.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 188.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid, 190.

[7] Ibid, 191.

[8] Mark Connelly, Christmas: A History (London: I.B. Tauris, 2012,) ix.

[9] Ibid, 189.

[10] Bloustien, 191.

[11] Ibid.

The Coventry Carol: The Holy Innocents

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I would say that the Coventry Carol is in my top three Christmas Carols. It’s melody and lyrics intertwine a near perfect theme of solemn remembrance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get a lot of exposure due to the subject of the song and where it is placed in the Christmas season—some say it’s not a Christmas carol at all. I disagree as the feast falls during the Christmas season and is part of the Christ child’s story. The Coventry Carol is about the Holy Innocents that were killed by the orders of King Herod attempting to also claim the life of the Christ child.

The Carol was written to be placed during a play production called “Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors.” During the production, some interpret the Carol to have been Mary expressing concern for her son in the wake of those Innocents who had lost their lives by King Herod’s orders. There are still conflicting sources about the origins of the carol, although the play mentioned above was known to be performed in the 15th century and the song bears the name of the town where many claim its first performance Coventry, England.

Many Scholars believe the popularity of the song was due to the harshness of the times during the 15th century. The parents during the period could relate to the death of the Innocents and the Carol due to the infant mortality of their time.

Time for Reflection: Christ Has No Body

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Hello Everyone,

The next week or two will be used for prayer, reading, and reflection. The time will hopefully generate some good posts in response. However, this blog will be getting hopefully a new writer during that time; writing and exploring his faith as a Catholic. I am looking forward to reading his post.

We have celebrated the Festival of Incarnation, but I ask the faithful to keep in mind that although Christ has come for our salvation, as followers of Christ he asks us to bring the Word to the world. As I reminder I will leave you with a poem attributed to St. Teresa of Avila:

Christ Has No Body

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Pope St. John Paul II’s Last Christmas Mass 2004

I would presume that the Christmas season is a season that causes a lot of adults to reminisce on past seasonal experiences. It’s one of the few times in our modern society where time doesn’t seem to move entirely linear, but instead, it corkscrews forward while circling past events. I was born during the Papacy of Pope John Paul II. Naturally, when I think of Christmas, I think of going to Christmas Eve mass in the early evening, having dinner with the family, opening presents and playing games. However, there’s another piece which ended the night. I remember we’d stay up, at least long enough, to see the Pope on television at midnight before we’d go to bed. For the majority of my life, the man I stayed up to see was Pope John Paul II. Whenever I think of the Christmas of my childhood, it wouldn’t be complete without Pope John Paul II. This is his last Christmas mass. Enjoy.

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Scenes from the mass.

 

The entire mass:

God’s Creation, The Festival of Incarnation, the New Ark of the Covenant.

Christ-Child

 

I wanted to write a few more essays on the Christmas season, but atlas, the Festival of Incarnation is upon us. I created a mini-essay stressing some themes I wanted to share with everyone. I’ve cited all of the documents so I would certainly encourage anyone to go to those sources and explore these thoughts more thoroughly than this brief message.


 

God is revealed to man by the Bible, the Bible being a collection of information given to man by God. Many folks attempt to undermine God’s message by criticizing the manner in which God reveals himself with ‘intellectual’ conclusions of God reached by the human intellect.[1]

If one were to consider God’s revelation as a collection of information alone, they would certainly fail to understand the depth of the God’s revelation. The Bible, God’s revelation, is not a scientific monograph, which is the manner that atheist ask Christians to explain their beliefs.[2] Monographs do not reveal anything about the source (or author) individually; however, as described by Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si, God describes that his intentions are out of love and understanding. God’s revelation through this lens approaches God in the correct philosophical depth of understanding, “ that human life was intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor, and with the earth itself. (But) According to the Bible, these three vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us. The rupture is sin.”[3]

Pope St. John Paul II writes that God, “says that he is love and tells us how he is love…he tells us what he wants from us, but first and foremost he tells us what he wants for us…He says that he wants to draw each and every one of us into this love and involve us it.”[4]

St. Augustine informs the faithful in his Sermo 190, on the subject of Christmas, how God revealed his love to the world:

“Therefore, my dear Christians, this is the day we should celebrate! Not the divine nativity, but the human nativity! The day on which the Son of God contemporized Himself with us!…So that He could make the invisible visible! So that we could pass through from the visible to the invisible.”[5]

In Sermo 191, St. Augustine reminds us that God through his Son came to “save those who really weren’t worth the saving. Needless to say…ridding us of the Taint.”[6]

Christ redeems us from our sins by choosing Mary for his mother, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”[7] The Gospel of Luke as Edward Sri asserts, “highlights Jesus’ exalted status most profoundly by portraying his mother in ways that would recall the most sacred vessel in all of Israel: the ark of the covenant.”[8] The Ark of the Covenant was lost but through Mary, the mother of God, it has been renewed.

[1] Karol Wojtyla, The Way to Christ: Spiritual Exercises (New York: Harper One, 1994), 15.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Pope Francis, Praise Be To You: Laudato Si (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2015), 50.

[4] Wojtyla, 16.

[5] Augustine of Hippo and William Griffin, Sermons of the People: Advent, Christmas, New Year’s, Epiphany (New York: Image Books Double Day), 92.

[6] Ibid, 98.

[7] Lk 1:38

[8] Edward Sri, Dawn of the Messiah: The Coming of Christ in Scripture (Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2005), 44.

Luke’s Typology: Zechariah and Elizabeth

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The beginning of the infancy Gospel of Luke is different than many stories. Instead of focusing on main characters of the story that Luke is telling, he begins with two characters of small importance to the overall theme Christ’s great sacrifice. Edward Sri explains, in his book Dawn of the Messiah: The Coming of Christ in Scripture, “Luke begins his Gospel like a good Shakespearean play: with a pair of minor characters who prepare the way for the lead roles to take the stage.”[1]

Of course, the two people are of some importance being the parents of John the Baptist—Zechariah and Elizabeth. Although the couple are not the main focus for Luke’s Gospel, Zechariah and Elizabeth play a vital role in laying the foundation of the importance of Christ’s birth to both the Jewish community and also humanity. Sri explains, “Zechariah and Elizabeth are standout couple with high credentials in first-century Judaism.”[2] The couple both come from a priestly background, Zechariah being a priest and Elizabeth being a descendant of Aaron.[3]

Luke’s most impressive use of Old Testament typology within the narrative of Zechariah and Elizabeth is the annunciation of Zechariah. The imagery used by Luke is filled with references to Old Testament scripture that would express the importance of these events to their audience using as Sri explains “the last prophetic words of the Old Testament.”[4]

The typology in the beginning of Luke hinges on dialogue between the Angel of the Lord and Zechariah by the Holy of Holies. The Angels speaks to Zechariah and says:

And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God,

17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Eli′jah,
to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,
and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”[5]

The typology used by Luke is to reference the audience back to the book of Malachi and frame John the Baptist as the new Elijah to “prepare the way before me” for Christ’s birth.[6] Luke according to tradition being a fairly educated man and skilled writer used his knowledge and skill to highlight the importance of John the Baptist’s birth with Christ’s birth to connect it to Old Testament scripture to prove of prophecy being fulfilled. By examining Mal. 4: 5-6, one can see that Luke uses nearly identical language:

“Behold, I will send you Eli′jah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lordcomes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.”[7]

After the Angel of the Lord makes his announcement to Zechariah before the Holy of Holies, in which it fell to Zechariah to offer incense in the temple:

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty,according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.[8]

It’s important to note the honor of Zechariah for being selected for this opportunity, “Most priests were honored to burn incense only once in their lifetime, this was the crowning moment of Zechariah’s ministry.”[9]

He doesn’t believe the Angel of the Lord saying:
““How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechari′ah, and they wondered at his delay in the temple.22 And when he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he made signs to them and remained dumb. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.”[10]

Sri explains that “revealing his name was significant because the only time Gabriel is mentioned in the Old Testament (Dn 9:21)[11] is in the important visions given to the prophet Daniel.[12] Sri continues to explain that the typology between Zechariah’s visit with Gabriel and Daniel’s is abundant. For instance in Lk. 1:9, Zechariah mirrors the actions of Daniel in Dn. 9:20 by offering up incense. Gabriel also appears to both men in the evening, referenced in Dn. 9:21 and Lk. 1:10. Notwithstanding, the most significant typology of Luke during this part of his Gospel is Gabriel’s message of salvation for Israel:

Dn. 9: 23-24 RSV

23 At the beginning of your supplications a word went forth, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the word and understand the vision.

24 “Seventy weeks of years are decreed concerning your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. [13]

 

Lk. 1: 13-17 RSV

13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechari′ah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.

14 And you will have joy and gladness,
and many will rejoice at his birth;
15 for he will be great before the Lord,
and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink,
and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit,
even from his mother’s womb.
16 And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God,
17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Eli′jah,
to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,
and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”[14]

[1] Edward Sri, Dawn of the Messiah: The Coming of Christ in Scripture (Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2005), 7.

[2] Ibid, 8.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 12.

[5] Lk. 1: 16-17 RSV

[6] Mal. 3:1 RSV

[7] Mal. 4: 5-6 RSV

[8] Lk. 1:8-11 RSV

[9] Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, The Gospel of Luke: Commentary, Notes & Study Questions (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012), 18.

[10] LK 1: 18-23 RSV

[11] 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. Dn. 9:21 RSV

[12] Sri, 14.

[13] Dn. 9: 23-24 RSV

 

[14] Lk. 1: 13-17 RSV

 

The Santa Claus Trial

The Santa Claus Trial is a short story that I had written for a prior class. It’s a work of fiction that I attempted to incorporate the theology of two of the more philosophical and pastoral Catholic theologians in my opinion. I would say it’s still a work in progress, but maybe it’ll spark your own thoughts on the Festival of Incarnation. Enjoy.

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At nine p.m. on Christmas Eve, snow had begun to accumulate on the road while Karl and his wife Margret were driving to his Father’s house approximately an hour away from Baltimore. “Why do your parents still insist on living in Baltimore?” asked Margret.

“I suppose because of its roots with the old Catholic communities in the 1960s when Thomas grew up,” Karl explained. “You know where ole’ Thomas grew up they didn’t even say from what neighborhood they came from when they met someone new. Instead, they would say what Church they attended. Complete silliness.”[1]

Margret sighed, “You really should call him Dad or Grandpa in front of your son, Karl.”

Karl then looked at his son through the rearview mirror and with a smirk said, “He’s asleep, you have nothing to worry about dear.”

It was Christmas Eve and naturally Karl’s mind begin to ponder on past Christmases as he watched the snow melt as it hit the windshield. “Christmas and the Church is really a waste of time. It’s a myth. It’s nothing more than a celebration for a patriarchal structure to continue to inflict its influence on those who are too simple minded. A structure that uses the falsehood of charity to keep the social structures in order.” as Karl explained.

“It does appear that way, those people don’t even believe in science,” laughed Margret. “The religious also continue to enslave women by preventing them from controlling their own bodies. We should have access to whatever services we desire!”

“The funny part of all of it is that you know what I believe led me to reject the Church? It was Santa Claus, as soon as I found out from kids at school that the whole concept was made up, I knew the whole idea of religion was built on sand.”

At that moment, when Karl spoke those words, a man with gray eyes, fairly thin with gray hair and traces of a beard settling in on his face found himself held in a dimly lit room. The man of average height looked around to see the place he was being held, he saw the walls were constructed of stone with moisture visible to the eye that created a dampness in the air. “Thomas,” he thought to himself, “Thomas is my name, my birthday is September 25th, 1946.”

As he realized who he was and still attempting to figure out where the place he was being held at during the present, a hooded stranger approached as if materializing out of the shadows. The stranger then spoke, “I am the Inquisitor, who are you?”

“I am Thomas.”

The Inquisitor, dressed in a new flowing linen robe that was the color of cream with a border pattern of sparkling gold asked, “Do you know why you are here?[2][3]

“I haven’t the slightest clue, my last memory was celebrating Christmas eve dinner with my family, well except for my son Karl and his wife Margaret and their child. They had missed Christmas eve mass and also dinner. I didn’t want to stay up all night having to get up early for presents the next morning. So I went to sleep and now I am sitting here before you.”

The Inquisitor at this point started to light candles at a table with such precision that it was as if he was preparing for a ceremony. When he lit both end candles of the table, the dim light revealed two other figures sitting there. “You have been accused of Paganism, do you deny it?” asked the Inquisitor with a smirk appearing from below his shadowy hood.

“Of course, I deny it, I was baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church and have gone to mass every Sunday,” answered Thomas.

“Did you celebrate the feast of Christmas?” asked the Inquisitor with force.

“Yes, absolutely I did!” replied Thomas very firmly.

“Including the tradition of giving presents from Santa Claus with your children?”

“Yes…” Thomas answered hesitantly.

The Inquisitor responded, “Then you admit to practicing paganism. The practice of Santa Claus is nothing more than a pagan ritual of initiation from childhood to adulthood. It creates doubt in the faith of a child leading them to renounce Christ and leading them to sin. It had created doubt in your son, Karl, who now has convinced his wife Margret of the values of materialism. Karl now wishes to teach his children the foolishness of the myth of religion using the tradition of Santa Claus that you practiced with him as an example. As Christ had warned us of leading the little ones away from faith, you have tied a milestone around your neck.”[4][5]

“Santa Claus is a re-imagination of St. Nicholas, how can practicing it be paganism? No, I reject your charge, I am not guilty!” Thomas pleaded while stomping the floor.

The Inquisitor laughed amused to what he perceived as Thomas’ lack of fundamental understanding. “Very well, the council sitting here will examine your case and determine if you are indeed innocent as you claim.”

Thomas beginning to tremble with fear from the accusations looked up to see a man with a kind face approach him, the man spoke, “I am a but a simple Polish priest and I say to you Thomas as the angel said to Mary giving the good news that she would be the mother of God, “Be not afraid!” Her son, Christ our Lord and Saviour, gave the same words to Peter when he told Christ to depart from him, “Do not be afraid from now on you will be catching men.”[6][7][8]

The Inquisitor replied with a rebuttal, “He most certainly should be afraid for promoting the pagan idol of Santa Claus, who brings forth superstition from the country of Idolatry. An idol that has led to the disbelief of God that has manifested in his own son. He now substitutes faith in God with debauchery and the drunkenness of Bacchus or Saturnalia.”[9][10]

The Polish priest responded while walking behind Thomas, who was still sitting in the chair before the council, “So says you, The Gospel upholds moral order of the universe, not you. During the Christmas season, the profound wonder of faith of our redeemer is expressed. I would say through the practice of Santa Claus with his children, a father simply gave forth his love, God’s love, into the world. What does your faith, Inquisitor, profit from if your faith produces no love in the world?[11][12] Did God not deliver us his love by giving the world his only son?”[13]

“Spare me your sermon on the philosophy of love Polish priest!” retorted the Inquisitor slamming his fist on the table.

The Polish priest walking towards the table of the two sitting men, “Why should we spare such a discussion of philosophy, isn’t Christmas, the festival of Incarnation, a philosophy of God’s love to the world? You claim that Thomas has sinned for giving presents in the image of Santa Claus, but hasn’t Thomas given presents in the name of love? And isn’t being just, by love, to a person the best representation of the image of God?”[14]

“The Man is a pagan sinner!” replied the Inquisitor.

At this point, the other man sitting at the table stood up and spoke, “Sin, you say? I may have learned a few things about Sin during my days in Thagaste, Africa before I was called to Christ’s priesthood.”

The Inquisitor laughed and snarled, “Oh the sinning priest from Africa wants to explain to us what sin is and who is a sinner, I suppose he would be the expert. Tell me African priest just how many pears did you steal from that man’s tree?[15]

“Enough to understand the truth of sin,” replied the African priest. “One must be open to the truth, given to us by God through his Grace. For God is true light, who enlightens men who open their hearts to his truth in this world and there is no change or shadow from this truth. Did I break God’s commandment? Did I commit theft? Yes. It is true that a thief, even a wealthy one, will not pardon one who steals from him. I took many pieces of fruit and for no reason, I did not need the fruit and I did not enjoy the taste. I did the evil without any need to do it, I was evil without any purpose. I desired a sinful nature because my flesh desired to be sinful by concupiscence and original sin.”[16][17]

At this moment, the Inquisitor stood up and walked slowly toward Thomas’ side. He bent over looking at Thomas’ face, which Thomas dared not to turn his head to look into the hood. The Inquisitor then said, “Perhaps, African priest, we may yet place you on trial as he roared laughing,” nearly face to face with Thomas. “This man celebrates a pagan idol named Santa Claus and passed the tradition to his child, which caused him to reject Christ. Santa Claus is no different from the traditions of the south-west native people in America.[18] A practice of dressing in costumes and masks of Gods and the dead.[19] You often speak of truth. Do you deny the truth in all of this African priest?”

“The Polish priest makes an observation that God is the philosophy of love. Too late have I loved him, but yet he still chose to touch me. I ask God to give what he commands and command what he wills.[20] By God’s command, he spreads in our soul works of mercy according to its kind. He tells us to love those in the world despite our necessities.”[21]

Did Thomas not love his son? Did Thomas lead his son astray from God’s gospel? It appears that Thomas did nothing more than love his son by God’s commands. Thomas’ son is guilty of his own sin, which is present on any infants face jealous of another child eating from his Mother’s breast.”[22] The example of the infant allows us to understand that all are deprived of some good, but evil and sin do not have a created substance.[23] Therefore, they do not come from God, for our God has made all things very good.[24] Thomas’ son’s sin is a manifestation of his own arrogance.

Thomas’ actions with celebrating the tradition of Santa Claus was built on the foundations of love for his son based on God’s eternal commands not the temporal world’s idolatry of materialism. Thomas, through the Grace of God,  has always taught his son the commands of the God, whether he chooses God’s Grace is determined by his own will.”[25]
The Inquisitor shook his head, “I presume African priest, you will make no recommendation for condemnation of Thomas’ soul?”

“I was never the judge of it, but no, I would not,” replied the African priest.

“What about you Polish priest? Notwithstanding your philosophy of love, haven’t you been critical of the modern world?” asked the Inquisitor.

“It is true, I  have been critical of secularization and secularism that promotes an insensitivity to the eternal and leads to a consumer mentality.[26] Do I believe this be the result of Thomas giving presents using the Santa Claus tradition? No. It’s certainly absurd to believe that the tradition of Santa Claus can be solely attributed to consumerism and the modern world and its evils of materialism. The modern world has constantly created power structures to oppress the will of humanity and eliminate Christianity. These are the intentions of such systems like Marxist collectivism to destroy the faithful. Thomas’ giving presents to his children employing the tradition of Santa Claus was not created with these intentions.

To understand why Christ sacrifice continues to save Thomas, we must understand what it means to me saved. To save means to liberate from radical evil and Thomas giving from his heart to his son that he loves certainly does not endanger his salvation if he does it based from the commands of God.”[27]

The Inquisitor screamed in a fury as the walls made from stone started to shake and suddenly it was over and the hooded stranger was gone.

Thomas looked up and saw only the African and Polish priests standing by him. Thomas asked, “Am I guilty?”

The African priest answered, “We all are, but we are redeemed by accepting the Grace of God through Christ’s sacrifice and following his commands. It was the reason he was born.”

Suddenly Thomas was awake in his bed. It was Christmas morning and Thomas had been woken up by his grandson. “It’s great to see you, Merry Christmas. Where are Karl and Margret?

“Mom and Dad are drinking coffee with Grandma, can we open the presents from Santa Grandpa?”
Thomas replied, “Sure we can, Nicholas, but first we must celebrate this day with Christ.”

[1] George Weigel, Letters to a Young Catholic, (New York: Basic Books, 2015,), 5.

 

[2] Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger and Other Stories (New York: Dover Publications, 1992,) 59. The Inquisitor was influenced from Mark Twain’s questioning stranger. In the publication was this stranger who described himself as an angel to children. As he continues to discuss the world with the children that it appears he is a fallen angel.

 

[3] Job 1:6-12 RSV Another influence of the Inquisitor, and the story itself, was built from the exchange between God and Satan in the book of Job.

[4] Claude Levi-Strauss, “Father Christmas Executed,” ed. Daniel Miller in Unwrapping Christmas (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 46.

 

[5] Mark 9:42 RSV 42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

 

[6] Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), 5.

[7] Luke 1:30 RSV

[8] Luke 5:10 RSV

[9] Josiah King, The Examination and Tryal of Old Father Christmas (United States: Proquest, 2011) 7.

[10] Levi-Strauss, 46.

[11] Pope John Paul !!, 197.

[12] James 2:14 RSV

[13] John 3:16 RSV

[14] Pope John Paul II, 201.

[15] Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, trans. John K. Ryan (New York: Image Books, 2014,) 28.

[16] Ibid, 69.

[17] Ibid, 28-29.

[18] Levi-Strauss, 44.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Augustine of Hippo, 220-21.

[21] Ibid, 315.

[22] Ibid, 8.

[23] Ibid, 134.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid, 136.

[26] John Paul II, 183.

[27] Ibid, 70.

Part 2: Calculating the Christmas Date

Christmas-Day-Coloring-Pages-of-December-25

The second part examining the origins of the Christmas date. If you want to catch up to speed click here, which is an overview of those who support the pagan History of Religions Theory and Calculation Theory objections.

If you’re already caught up, let’s begin.

Susan Roll explains that March 25 early in the history of Christianity was established as the date of the crucifixion, as well as evidence were both the death and conception occurred on the same day.[1] One of the primary documents that examine early Christians belief is Sermo 190 of Augustine of Hippo, “ So they win some, they lose some, but, I’m quick to point out, the one day they can’t choose is their own birthday. There’s only one person who can do that, and He’s the Son of God. He can choose, with no fear of error, the very best days for everything, including His own birthday.”[2] Susan Roll highlights another document, Quaestionum in Heptateuchum II, of Augustine’s that connects both the death and conception of Christ being on the same day citing a passage that speaks about a law in Exodus “that prohibits cooking a lamb in its mother’s milk.”[3] Most of the textual evidence from Augustine is cited as textual proof by Thomas J. Talley.[4]

Roll’s thesis is connected to intra-doctrinal dispute with Arians as she attempts to place the date as a result of the Council of Nicaea.[5] However, the reason why the council has been convened is far later than the dates of the two sources that are supported by Nothaft and still doesn’t settle the matter of the differing dates between January 6th and December 25th.

Framing a proper date based on CT theory, a proper examination of primary documents would be the best starting point. The best document on the topic would be the Gospel of Luke. The Gospel of Luke frames the Nativity story with a timeline of events. By opening the story with Zechariah in the temple as the high priest outside the Holy of Holies it places Zechariah in the temple during the Day of Atonement.[6]The Gospel readers, “Once when he was serving as priest in his division’s turn before God, according to the practice of the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense. 10 Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering, 11 the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. 12 Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.”[7] Many scholars have rejected the idea of Zechariah being the High Priest during the Day of Atonement, but John Chrysostom reaffirms this notation, “But Whence will this fact be known to us? From the Divine Scriptures—just as the Holy Gospel says that the angel announced the glad tidings to Zachariah who was inside the Holy of Holies,”[8] Although some scholars dismiss Zechariah’s role within the nativity story, Nothaft asserts that it should be taken seriously due to supporting evidence “in the Gospel commentary of St. Ambrose, in the works of Ephrem and his disciple Aba, in a commentary on Luke ascribed to Epiphanius, and –most importantly—in the Protoevangelium of James. In this mid-second century infancy Gospel, Zechariah appears as the High Priest.”[9]

The Infancy Gospel of James indicates two things about the birth of Christ, the first, being that there was interest in the birth of Christ during the second century A.D. and also further evidence that Zechariah was seen to be the high priest by Christians during the period, “And the priest went in taking the vestment with twelve bells into the holy of holies and prayed about her. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord stood before him, saying, “Zachariah, Zachariah, depart from here and gather the widowers of the people and let each one carry a staff.”[10] It’s important to reiterate a proper perception of early Christians, as Nothaft explains, “Chrysostom’s chronological embellishment of Luke’s story thus has roots that precede the fourth century.[11] By placing Zechariah in the temple on the Day of Atonement it would place John’s conception in late September around the fall equinox, which following the continuation of the Gospel of Luke 1:24-16: “ After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, 25 “So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.”26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,”[12] By following the dates given in the Gospel, Christians would be to establish the date of the feast Christmas from the fall equinox to the winter equinox, around December 25th.

Establishing the date of Christ based on the Gospel of Luke may indicate that primary evidence that supports CT theory indicates a Bishop-led establishment of the date. However, the best indication by the debate between the day of January 6th or December 25th indicates a lack of uniformity within Christians and would rule out a top-down approach from a hierarchal church. Christmas was most likely founded by popular consensus and overtime established as December 25th by a consolidation of doctrine at a later date.

[1] Roll, 95.

[2] Augustine of Hippo and William Griffin, Sermons of the People: Advent, Christmas, New Year’s, Epiphany (New York: Image Books Double Day), 91.

[3] Roll, 101.

[4] Ibid, 95.

[5] Ibid, 177.

[6] Edward Sri, Dawn of the Messiah: The Coming of Christ in Scripture (Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2005), 10.

[7] Lk: 1:8-13

[8] John Chrysostom, On the Day of the Birth of Our Savior Jesus Christ.

[9] Nothaft, 261.

[10][10] Anonymous, The Infancy Gospel of James.

[11] Nothaft, 261.

[12] Lk 1:24-26

Calculating the Date of Christmas: Pt. 1

Christmas-Day-Coloring-Pages-of-December-25

Supporting Evidence for Calculation Theory

The dismissal of Calculation Theory for determining the date of the Christmas feast since its conception has been a pastime of the popular consensus.  History of Religions Theory proponents have convinced many people that the feast of Christmas is directly related to pagan traditions or intra-doctrinal disputes within the frameworks of Christianity. The proponents of HRT, such as Susan Roll in her book Toward the Origins of Christmas, assert that because of the CT proponents supported evidence  “that more questions have perhaps been raised than have been answered by the hypothesis.”[1] HRT proponents often conclude that CT theorist evidence lacks any hard evidence; notwithstanding, CT theorists continue to produce more evidence from primary sources to produce a positive position. C.Philipp E. Nothaft explains in his defense of CT theory that “HRT is nowadays used as the default explanation for the choice of 25 December as Christ’s birthday, few advocates of this theory seem to be aware of how paltry the available evidence actually is.”[2]

The History of Religion theory on the date and causation of the Christmas feast has several popular sub-theories. The first theory is the idea that Christmas was created as a “deliberate distraction for Roman Christians from the feast of Saturnalia.”[3] Roll acknowledges that this cannot be true as the Saturnalia feast was celebrated from the seventeenth of December to the twenty-third.[4]

Another concept is the idea of Sun worship and its connection to the birth of Christ. Herman Usener, in his work Das Weihnachtsfest, created a thesis that Christians attempting to keep interest in their new religion adapted their customs to pagan traditions in regards to Natalis Solis Invicti.[5] Usener argues that Christmas did substitute for the feast of Natalis Solis Invicti by providing evidence that a notation made in the 354 Chronograph, the De Solstitiis.[6]  Louis Duchesne, Calculations Theorist, would refute Usener’s argument on the basis that it didn’t account for the fact that the celebration of Christmas was celebrated in the Eastern Roman Empire on January 6th, the Epiphany date.[7] Furthermore, as Roll notes, Joseph “Blotzer suggests that a pure substitution of Christmas for Nalalis Solis Invicti was unlikely since the sun festival has lost much of its importance by mid-fourth century.”[8] Nothaft examining the subject indicates that HRT theorists lack evidence to support that fourth century Christians would adopt pagan traditions due to their “patristic disdain for paganism.”[9]

Bernard Botte would attempt to counter Duchesne’s refutation point of the January 6th date from Usener’s thesis by admitting the evidence of the 354 Chronograph that listed Christmas and not Epiphany as the liturgical year started at Christmas by 336.[10] In Botte’s view, the Christmas feast was in competition to the Pagan feasts as it “was introduced to draw away the faithful from the pagan solemnities.”[11] However, Botte’s assertion would also not hold up to the Nothaft critique.

Nothaft answers the most challenging question posed by HRT theorist explained by a question raised by Roll and whether “ordinary Christians in the and fourth centuries much interested in calculations with symbolic numbers in fantasy-combinations?”[12] As Nothaft explains, “Thanks to the meticulous research of Venance Grumel, August Strobel and others, it has become increasingly clear that chronological and computistical speculation played a central role in Christian thought from an early stage onwards.”[13] The two early sources that provide evidence for Nothaft’s assertion are the paschal table of Hippolytus, which dates around 222 A.D. and De pascha computus written in 243.[14] Both sources indicate Christian interest in calculating dates around the theme of the life of Jesus Christ.[15]

By establishing the precedent for early Christians conducting calculations, it must be expressed that as historians and theologians look to establish a thesis on why and when the Christmas feast was established, they must appeal to the desires of early Christians instead of their own bias.

To be continued….

[1] Susan Roll, Toward the Origins of Christmas (Netherlands: Kok Pharos Publishing House. 1995), 105.

[2] C. Philipp E. Nothaft, “Early Christian Chronology and the Origins of the Christmas Date,” Questions Liturgiques: Studies in Liturgy Vol. 94 (2013): 248.

[3] Roll, 88.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, 131.

[6] Ibid, 133.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid, 134.

[9] Nothaft, 248.

[10] Roll, 139-40.

[11] Ibid, 143.

[12] Ibib, 105.

[13] Nothaft, 252.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.