O come, thou dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
~ O Antiphons
Tuesday of the fourth week of Advent
There sometimes can be a lot of depression swirling around at Christmastime especially at the end of these loooong years when most of us have had to spend long days and nights pent up in our homes. I’ve talked to several friends who spoke to me about their loneliness in during the holidays
Some of us can feel lonelier because we’re expected to be cheerful and we may just not feel much Christmas joy, but instead may feel plain down in the dumps or like diving into the bottom of a bottle.
This blog is meant for us to notice and reach out to our friends and pray for them.
Let’s be with those who have lost a loved one and still miss them.
Let’s also remember kids who are shuffled back from one parent to another to “celebrate” the holidays; that’s got to be a terrible thing to do to children.
And what about service men and women away from their families and others who have to work long hours and come home to an empty house.
And so, may we pray:
There are sometimes dark clouds in our lives, Jesus.
Pierce the gloominess of our lives with Your very own Light.
May we allow You to dawn in us this day.
May we be ready for Your dawning in a new way in our lives this Christmas.
May this celebration of Your birth bring meaning and joy in the midst of our worries and concerns.
And may we BE the dawning of your light and love and justice
in our homes, our neighborhoods, our jobs, our world.
And there are dark and ominous clouds over our world too, Lord.
Pierce our greed and hate, fear and complacency and violence with hope, Lord.
May we pray earnestly for a new dawn for our beloved country and our world.
May we BE the dawning of your light, your love and your justice in our land.
Lord Jesus, come!
We need Your Light and Your Love now more than ever.
And earthy religions celebrate the Winter Solstice, the beginning of the ascendancy of the sun in the northern hemisphere on Tuesday, December 22 at 10:59 am.
(Christianity subsumed pagan celebrations into its own. Christmas trees came to us from Germanic pagan customs. And actually, it’s because of the winter solstice that we celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th at the time of the solstice. Remember St. John the Baptist saying, ” I must decrease; he must increase?” Thus, our Christmas celebration comes when the sun is on the ascendancy again, and we shared it with our ~ um ~ pagan sisters and brothers who celebrated it long before we did!)
And before you go, here’s Handel’s “His Yoke is Easy” Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
Advent Day 18 ~ Saturday of the third week of Advent
Advent themes are all about waiting for light to shine in our darkness.
For we who are Christians we await, Jesus, Yeshua, who is for us the Light of the World.
We prepare a place for him to shine in our own hearts this day.
We invite you to search out your own inner meaning whatever that might be.
During Hanukkah earlier this month we honored our Jewish brothers and sisters with these words
that appear in the Catholic liturgy just before Christmas, one of the magnificent O Antiphons:
O Adonai and Ruler of the House of Israel,
you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and on Mount Sinai gave him your law.
Come, and with outstretched arm redeem us.
And my prayer . . .
O Adonai*, we need you in our world more than ever!
You appeared in the burning bush long ago.
I remember this awesome sunrise over the ocean when I lived some years ago on St. Augustine Beach, Florida.
I’m reminded of the old sailor’s maxim: “Red at night, a sailor’s delight; red in the morning, sailors take warning.”
Come with your refiner’s fire and burn your way into our hearts.
so we can prepare the way for the Messiah to come into our lives,
into our homes,
our workplace and marketplace,
and, most especially into our beloved country that so badly needs You right now,
and our waiting world!
Come Lord Jesus!
What are the “O” Antiphons?”
They are one of the most cherished collections of our ancient liturgical chants called the seven “O Antiphons” that are sung each of the seven nights before Christmas at Evening Prayer. They have beautiful chant melodies. I am using some of them interspersed this week before Christmas, like the one above.
If you’re interested in learning more about them, here’s a website that has information and recordings of the chant melodies of all seven. (Skip the first half and scroll ALL the way down to the bottom for the O Antiphons themselves. You will notice little speaker signs next to each one. If you click on those little music notes, it will play for you the actual chant melody for each O Antiphon.
But don’t miss this slide show of O come, O come Emmanuel for your reflection.
And here are today’s Mass Readings. Click Here.
* Adonai is one of the names the Jewish people use for God, meaning “Lord God Almighty.”
Wednesday of the third week of Advent
I’ve decided to take a deeper turn in this Advent blog.
As I get closer to Christmas, my prayer is opening up to two things in the last few days.
(1) a deeper realization of my sinfulness and frail human nature.
and (2) an ongoing surrender to the process of transformation that is occurring in me as I turn my life and my will over to God.
That, ongoing dual process ~ “a kind of coincidence of opposites,” dear friends, is what gives meaning and joy to my life.
The Church invites us to enter into that process of ongoing repentance and conversion each year during Advent.
To step out of the rat race. To take a look at our maneuvering / scheming / elbowing for status or power or success or prestige. Or any of the things American society tells us we’re supposed to have to make us happy.
The wise person realizes they won’t!
Let’s reflect a little more on what we can learn from John the Baptist what it’s all about . . .
He was a pretty successful preacher. People were streaming out into the desert to listen to him; he was persuasive. People were willing to change their lives after listening to him.
But he didn’t let it go to his head. He realized what his role was. He was just the “advance man.” And was content with that.
He knew who he was. He didn’t let success go to his head. He didn’t want to be the star. Even though many thought he was “The Man.”
The saying of John that I love and pray often myself is:“He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
My spiritual directors remind me to stay focused on Jesus. To make all my plans provisional.
“To seek through prayer and meditation knowledge of God’s will and the power to carry it out,” as the Eleventh Step of Alcoholics Anonymous puts it.
I was a young, cool, creative priest. I was a rising star. I thought I was pretty hot stuff.
A bishop once told my father, “He’ll be a bishop someday.”
But God had other plans.
Today, I’m just a little guy, content with a tiny flock to care for and writing a little blog few know about.
Arrogance was my greatest character defect and it has taken till recently to whittle that away.
And so today I pray inspired by the one who was content to live in the wilderness . . .
Jesus, You are the light of my life.
Without You I would be nowhere. Nada. Nothing.
And that’s fine with me.
(And to tell ya the truth, I’m amazed at that! That’s quite a transformation for me!)
I want You to be in all my relationships,
in all of my writing,
You help me to be humble, Lord. You cast me down and raised me up again.
You chastise me; You heal me.
With St. Paul, You have helped me realize that in the midst of my brokenness,
it was ~ and is ~ You who make me strong.
Not in the ways of this world, with ambition or striving for power or success or influence,
but in knowing You are right here: You are enough for me, Lord.
Whatever flows from my relationship with You will be good
as I allow You more and more to increase
and allow my false self, my little (Big) ego to fall away.
To be humble is to be close to the “humus” — “muck”.
So, I’m content with the muckiness of my life.
And yet, You have surprised me / delighted me / ravished me with Your love
And you know what?
There, I found You!
You raised me up! You drew me to Yourself!
You bound up my wounds! You clothed me with LOVE!
What a joy!
And now I’m eager to share Your Love.
To help others realize that You love each and everyone ~ no matter what.
But You want us to love You in return.
Yes, Lord Jesus, You must increase; I must decrease.
Let me never ever forget that. No matter what.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
In the coming days I will try to have you take a deeper look at the mystery of the Incarnation — God’s love affair with our messy /mucky / crazy human race as it is appears in Luke’s story that God came into our world as a vulnerable, homeless baby who cooed and pooped in his pants like the rest of us. That story ~even if you just accept as a story ~ has much to teach us. Let’s take a fresh look at it and go down to a deeper level. We’ll do that in the next week.
Here is an inspiring YouTube orchestral and voice arrangement of J. S. Bach’s lovely Advent piece Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
The symbol for St. John is the eagle because he soars to the heights of mystical love
Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent
Isaiah is so amazing. He offers hope. He sees imminent possibilities for the human race.
At times, he also warns and sometimes chastises.
I’ve always loved this scripture that appear in the Advent Mass texts:
God gives strength to the fainting;
for the weak he makes vigor abound.
Though young men faint and grow weary,
and youths stagger and fall,
They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.
– Isaiah 40:30-31.
So many of us become discouraged by life, especially after months and months of sheltering in place because of this pandemic. Many of us may lose our job or have been told that we no longer have the health benefits we once had for our family.
We grow older and have more aches and pains and worry more. Some of us are couch potatoes and don’t exercise enough and get more depressed.
In these latter days of Advent, think about the ways you can restore your vigor ~ or better ~ ask the Lord to renew your strength! He will! As he has done for me again and again and again! I’ve been down many times; but he never ceases to raise me up again.
And you might note that the symbol for John the evangelist is the eagle, because he soars to the heights of mystical glory in his writings.
The Advent season provides many texts to comfort us and offer us hope. God knows we need hope in our land today! and throughout the world.
I praise you, Lord, because you’ve restored my vigor in marvelous ways.
You have renewed my strength again and again.
Please allow our young people to soar as if on eagle’s wings,
and our older folk to be borne up on the wings of Your love, Lord.
Yes, as I grow older, I’m ready to renew my priestly service to You, Lord,
as long as you grant me the grace, the vigor and the strength.
Whatever You will, Lord. Whatever you will – for all of us! Amen.
Now, before you go, here is one of our great Catholic liturgical songs ~ “On Eagles’ Wings” Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Click here.
Here are today’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them. It’s the lovely feast of St. John of the Cross. Click here.
(Below, I’ll provide you a link if you’d like to know some more about this lovely poet and co-founder of the reformed Carmelite Order alongside St. Teresa of Avila in the sixteenth century.)
St.John of the Cross is known especially for his writings. He was mentored by and corresponded with the older Carmelite, Teresa of Avila. Both his poetry and his studies on the development of the soul are considered the summit of all Spanish literature. Read more.
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe – December 12 , 2021
Today, we honor our sister and brothers in Mexico as they celebrate the appearance of the Mother of Jesus to a poor peasant native Mexican.
Today, may we unite ourselves in solidarity with all the peoples of North and South and Central America who rejoice in this feast day; indeed may we unite ourselves in solidarity with all the world’s poor.
Here is the charming story:
An elderly Indian man named Chuauhtlatoczin (“Juan Diego” in Spanish) had a vision of Mary, the mother of Jesus, at Tepeyac, a squalid Indian village outside of Mexico City, 471 years ago. Mary directed Juan Diego to tell the bishop to build the church in Tepeyac. The Spanish bishop, however, dismissed the Indian’s tale as mere superstition. He asked that he bring some sort of proof, if he wanted to be taken seriously. Three days later, the Virgin Mary appeared again and told Juan Diego to pick the exquisitely beautiful roses that had miraculously bloomed amidst December snows, and take them as a sign to the bishop. When the Indian opened his poncho to present the roses to the bishop, the flowers poured out from his poncho to reveal an image of the Virgin Mary painted on the inside of the poncho. That image hangs today in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City and is venerated by thousands of pilgrims from all over the world.
Significantly, Mary appeared not as a white-skinned, blue-eyed, blond-haired European Madonna but as a dark-skinned, brown-eyed, black-haired “Tonantzin,” the revered Indian Mother, and she spoke to Juan Diego not in cultured Castillian but in his own Nahuatal language. She spoke in the language of the powerless, disenfranchised, and despised Indians. She was then and is today, “La Morenita” – the Brown One. Her message to the bishop was that God’s church should be built out on the fringes of society, amidst the poor and the downtrodden. The vision challenged the powerful conquerors, the Spaniards of Mexico City, to change their way of thinking and acting. It challenged them to move out from their position of power and influence to the periphery; to leave their magnificent cathedral and build God’s house in Tepeyac – among the poor and the despised, away from the center of power and culture and education and the arts.
Guadalupe is a “vision” story and, like all such stories, tells us something about God and something about ourselves. More precisely, it tells us how God wants to be among us. St. Juan Diego’s vision of where God wants to be or whom we should listen to should come as no surprise to us. Throughout history, God has consistently chosen to be with poor people. In that respect, the Blessed Virgin Mary’s message to St. Juan Diego at Guadalupe is a restatement of Jesus’ mission: That God is in those who are hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, naked, sick, stranger, and suffering. The challenge for us is to heed the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the message of Christ’s Gospel, and reach out to those who belong to the margins of our society.
~ Source: The Manila Bulletin online.
God of power and mercy,
you blessed the Americas at Tepeyac
with the presence of the Virgin Mary at Guadalupe.
May her prayers help all men and women
to accept each other as brothers and sisters
Through your justice present in our hearts
may your peace reign in our world.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
. . . a prayer from today’s Mass
The Image of Our Lady is actually an Aztec Pictograph
which was read and understood quickly by the Aztec Indians.
1. THE LADY STOOD IN FRONT OF THE SUN
She was greater than the dreaded Huitzilopochtli, their sun-god of war.
2. HER FOOT RESTED ON THE CRESCENT
She had clearly crushed Quetzalcoatl,
the feathered serpent moon-god.
3. THE STARS STREWN ACROSS THE MANTLE
She was greater than the stars of heaven which they worshiped.
She was a virgin and the Queen of the heavens for Virgo rests over her womb and the northern crown upon her head.
She appeared on December 12, 1531 and the stars that she wore are the constellations of the stars that appeared in the sky that day!
4. THE BLUE‑GREEN HUE OF HER MANTLE
She was a Queen because she wears the color of royalty.
5. THE BLACK CROSS ON THE BROOCH AT HER NECK
Her God was that of the Spanish Missionaries, Jesus Christ her son who died
on the cross for all mankind.
6. THE BLACK BELT
She was with child because she wore the Aztec Maternity Belt.
7. THE FOUR PETAL FLOWER OVER THE WOMB
She was the Mother of God because the flower was a special symbol of
life, movement and deity-the center of the universe.
8. HER HANDS ARE JOINED IN PRAYER
She was not God but clearly there was one greater than Her and she
pointed her finger to the cross on her brooch.
9. THE DESIGN ON HER ROSE COLORED GARMENT
She is the Queen of the Earth because she is wearing a contour map of
Mexico telling the Indians exactly where the apparition took place.
The Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Science
1. The image to this date, cannot be explained by science.
2. The image shows no sign of deterioration after 450 years!
The tilma or cloak of Saint Juan Diego on which the image of Our Lady has
been imprinted, is a coarse fabric made from the threads of the maguey
cactus. This fiber disintegrates within 20-60 years!
3. There is no under sketch, no sizing and no protective over-varnish on the
4. Microscopic examination revealed that there were no brush strokes.
5. The image seems to increase in size and change colors due to an unknown
property of the surface and substance of which it is made.
6. According to Kodak of Mexico, the image is smooth and feels like a
modern day photograph. (Produced 300 years before the invention of
7. The image has consistently defied exact reproduction, whether by brush or
8. Several images can be seen reflected in the eyes of the Virgin. It is
believed to be the images of Juan Diego, Bishop Juan de Zummaraga, Juan
Gonzales, the interpreter and others.
9. The distortion and place of the images are identical to what is produced in
the normal eye which is impossible to obtain on a flat surface.
10. The stars on Our Lady’s Mantle coincide with the constellations in the sky on
December 12, 1531. All who have scientifically examined the image of Our
Lady over the centuries confess that its properties are absolutely unique
and so inexplicable in human terms that the image can only be supernatural!
IN SEARCH OF A SONG TO HELP CELEBRATE THE FEAST THE ONE I GOOGLED WAS “MANANITAS GUADALUPE,” WHICH MEANS.”BREAK OF DAY”. YOU’LL FIND THEM, STILL AT NIGHT, WATCHING AND WAITING. BE PATIENT. THE VIDEOGRAPHER WILL EVENTUALLY TAKE YOU INSIDE THE CHURCH TO WITNESS SOMETHING AMAZING TO US GRINGOS. ENJOY.
BE SURE TO TURN UP YOUR SPEAKERS AND ENTER FULL SCREEN. CLICK HERE.
Here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.
(Actually, the Feast this year was suppressed because it fell on a Sunday.)
Sunday December 12. 2021
In our Catholic liturgical calendar this is “Gaudete Sunday — the Sunday of Joy. We’re more than half way through Advent and the vestment color is Rose, rather than purple, the color of penitence. So, we see the celebrant in rose vestments.
This is supposed to be a joyful time of year but . . . some us don’t see things clearly, or can’t speak up for ourselves or are disabled. some of us are afraid ~ disillusioned ~ confused ~ depressed ~ lonely ~ weak-kneed and in need of a good old-fashioned infusion of hope and joy, and so . . .
Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4: 4-7)
In our Gospel today we hear again about John the Baptist. The Jews were sure that God favored their nation; that God would judge other nations by one standard but the Jews by another. They felt they were safe from judgment simply because they were Jewish. John told them otherwise: that life, not their heritage was God’s standard of judgment, according to Scripture scholar William Barclay.
Barclay tells us that there are three outstanding things about John the Baptist’s message.
(1) He demanded that people should share with one another. It was a social gospel that declared that God would not be pleased if someone had too much while others had too little.
(2) He told people not to leave their jobs, but to work out their salvation by doing those jobs as they should be done. Let the tax collector be a good tax collector and a soldier be a good soldier.
The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.” (Lk 3:10-15)
In other words, when people came to the Baptist and asked, “What should we do?” he gave them the most reasonable, commonsense reply. He says, in effect, “ Live reality. God is asking you to be faithful to the ordinary circumstances of your life. He will make himself evident there.
And with that advice, “ the people were filled with expectation, asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.” All because John made them attentive to their own hearts in a way that neglected nothing of their humanity. They can exult with their own heart because they can now trust that the desires of their heart are not illusions. They have no anxiety for the Lord is near as the next moment and whatever it brings. (Magnificat liturgical magazine, December, 2018, ed.)
Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people.
(3) (Barclay) John was quite sure that he himself was only the forerunner. The King was still to come and with him would come judgment. The winnowing fan was a great flat wooden shovel; with it the grain was tossed into the air, the heavy grain would fall to the ground, but the chaff would be blown away. And just as the chaff was separated from the wheat so the King would separate the good and the bad.
Thus, John painted a picture of judgment and it could be faced with confidence by those who had looked after their neighbor’s needs and faithfully done their day’s work. (Barclay / Luke pp.44.2)
John was simply the sign-post, pointing the way toward Christ. He was faithful even unto imprisonment and death and content to simply be the messenger.
My spiritual director some time ago suggested I pray to John the Baptist, and so I do so now . . .
O John, how lovingly you served your Lord.
I am dumbfounded at my own lack of humility,
my refusal to serve, the meager way I have served him.
You inspire me, even in my later years to wait upon my God to act in my life,
to wait for him to do new things.
Thank you, John, for your service-unto-death;
I ask for the grace, the strength and the courage to also serve my Lord unto the end of my days.
Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. Amen.
And before you go, here is a 1970-ish John the Baptist and company from Godspell singing a spirited Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord! Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here
Here’s the true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, and was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicea in AD 325. He died on December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th (December 19 on the old Julian Calendar).
Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas’ life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.
One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman’s father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man’s daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry.
This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.
One of the oldest stories showing St. Nicholas as a protector of children takes place long after his death. The townspeople of Myra were celebrating the good saint on the eve of his feast day when a band of Arab pirates from Crete came into the district. They stole treasures from the Church of Saint Nicholas to take away as booty. As they were leaving town, they snatched a young boy, Basilios, to make into a slave. The emir, or ruler, selected Basilios to be his personal cupbearer. Not knowing the language, Basilios would not understand what the king said to those around him. So, for the next year Basilios waited on the king, bringing his wine in a beautiful golden cup. For Basilios’ parents, devastated at the loss of their only child, the year passed slowly, filled with grief. As the next St. Nicholas’ feast day approached, Basilios’ mother would not join in the festivity, as it was now a day of tragedy. However, she was persuaded to have a simple observance at home—with quiet prayers for Basilios’ safekeeping. Meanwhile, as Basilios was fulfilling his tasks serving the emir, he was suddenly whisked up and away. St. Nicholas appeared to the terrified boy, blessed him, and set him down at his home back in Myra. Imagine the joy and wonderment when Basilios amazingly appeared before his parents, still holding the king’s golden cup. This is the first story told of St. Nicholas protecting children—which became his primary role in the West.
Nicholas’ tomb in Myra became a popular place of pilgrimage. Because of the many wars and attacks in the region, some Christians were concerned that access to the tomb might become difficult. For both the religious and commercial advantages of a major pilgrimage site, the Italian cities of Venice and Bari vied to get the Nicholas relics. In the spring of 1087, sailors from Bari succeeded in spiriting away the bones, bringing them to Bari, a seaport on the southeast coast of Italy. An impressive church was built over St. Nicholas’ crypt and many faithful journeyed to honor the saint who had rescued children, prisoners, sailors, famine victims, and many others through his compassion, generosity, and the countless miracles attributed to his intercession. The Nicholas shrine in Bari was one of medieval Europe’s great pilgrimage centers and Nicholas became known as the “Saint in Bari.”
To this day pilgrims and tourists visit Bari’s great Basilica di San Nicola.
Through the centuries St. Nicholas has continued to be venerated by Catholics and Orthodox and honored by Protestants. By his example of generosity to those in need, especially children, St. Nicholas continues to be a model for the compassionate life.
Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas’ feast day, December 6th, kept alive the stories of his goodness and generosity. In Germany and Poland, boys dressed as bishops begged alms for the poor—and sometimes for themselves! In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas arrived on a steamship from Spain to ride a white horse on his gift-giving rounds. December 6th is still the main day for gift giving and merrymaking in much of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands St. Nicholas is celebrated on the 5th, the eve of the day, by sharing candies (thrown in the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles. Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint’s horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. Simple gift-giving in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the Christ Child.
Despite various variations of these customs handed down over the centuries, Dutch settlers brought the legend of Saint Nicholas, known to them as Sinter Klaas, to America towards the end of the 18th century. As their tradition goes, Sinter Klaas rode a white horse and left gifts in wooden shoes. This story merged with the character Father Christmas, who dates back at least as far as the 17th century. Sinter Klaas was eventually Americanized to “Santa Claus.”
The rituals and fantasy surrounding Santa Claus became fixed in the modern American imagination with the publication of the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Moore in 1823. better known as “The Night Before Christmas,” the poem established Santa’s physical appearance (plump and jolly), his mode of transportation (a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer), and his method of toy delivery (down the chimney) for generations to come.
Now before you go, here’s a delightful Polish Christmas carol for you. Click here.
But a couple of corrections; this should have been posted earlier in the week. Secondly, yesterday’s feast was labeled incorrectly; it should have been Advent Day 10. I was confused with the date of the Feast which was December 8th.
Wait for the Lord to lead,
then follow his way.
(Liturgy of the Hours.)