Sunday, December 29, 2013

Instead of saying this, say this

Now that the Christmas season has passed (although not yet for the more than 200,000 Orthodox Christians who will not worship the Nativity of the Christ until January 7), let's take a look back at a saying which I have heard repeated ad nauseam on commercials, the blogosphere, facebook, twitter, et al.,  since Thanksgiving came and went.  No, it's not "Merry Christmas" nor is it "Happy Holidays" nor is it "Happy Hannukah."  It is "Put Christ back into Christmas."

Ugh.  I really hate that saying.  I really do, not because it stems from wrong motives necessarily, but because of the wrong emphasis.  Yes, Christmas is celebrated now as a holiday for everyone and there are many, mainly, but not limited to atheists, who insist that saying "Merry Christmas"  or anything with the word "Christmas" in it is the same as trying to force your religion.  I have a different issue. with putting "Christ back into Christmas."  Christ never left even if many have left Christ.  What left was the mass.

Christmas is the modern English for the original Christ's Mass which was celebrated four times over the a 24 hour period in Western Christianity.  There was the Mass of Christmas Eve Morning, the Mass of Christmas Evening, the Midnight Mass of Christmas and the Christmas Day Mass.  The festival and ritual that accompanied each of these masses could last for hours even in humble small parish churches.  Such was the capstone of the long expectation of Nativity.  Family was gathered together in service of the Lord.

Today, those who go to church for Nativity may only go for maybe an hour and sing or (expect to sing only) Christmas Carols.  What happened to the mass?  In Catholic churches, the mass has become stripped down.  In other confessions which adhere to some liturgy (e.g. Anglican and Lutheran), the mass or the Divine Service or whatever it is now called has been removed and festivals of carols have been substituted.  Now there is nothing wrong with such carols.  As I have stated before, Western Christmas Carols are not theologically unsound, but the Mass gives something which the carols cannot, i.e. the very body of Christ.

The celebration of the Nativity is also a celebration of the Incarnation.  The entire theology of small-o orthodox Christianity hinges upon the Incarnation.  If Christ had not taken flesh, then we could not partake of His very self, we could not share in His Crucifixion, let alone His Bodily Resurrection.  To cut out the mass, the Eucharist, in favor of carols and songs, theologically permissible as they are, is to obfuscate what Christ had done by His birth.  God and sinners reconciled, yes, but how?  By Christ becoming consubstantial with His own Creation!  That fact is made omnipresent by the celebration of the Mass. 

The complaints are numerous:  Masses are too long and I don't have time; it's not in a language I can understand; the music isn't good; there is too much clericalism; I want to pray what I want, etc.  The selfishness inherent in each of these betrays how Western Christianity's accommodations to individual wants has helped its own destruction.

The disintegration of Western Christianity will be accompanied by its (continued) rejection of the sacraments and the rejection of the Divine Liturgy in favor of what is hip, relevant and what you feel like.  So, rather than making "Put Christ back into Christmas" your rallying cry, I urge you to "Put the Mass back into Christmas."  Man is not saved by ceremonies, but the Mass is not just something we do, it is something that Christ does for us and we for Him. He is the offerer and the offered.  That cannot be more manifest than in the Mass itself which is rooted in our Lord's Coming in the Flesh.

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