God's Calendar

FATHER GEORGE RUTLER

Christmas celebrates the birth of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, which is what Christmas is, though that may be beyond the grasp of many nice people gazing into the windows of Macy's and Lord & Taylor.

Those who keep Advent in penitential preparation for Christmas will not be too exhausted to keep the full twelve days of the real Christmas.

The Feast of the Mother of God thanks the Lady whom Our Lord allowed us to adopt as our mother as he was dying on the Cross. Christ our brother wanted us to have His mother as ours. She was His by divine predilection. She is ours as a gift.

As we must admit in our humbler moments, God knows more than we do, and so He prepared the world for the entrance of Christ into it as a man, born of a woman. He seems even to have set up the pagans for it by intuition. Saint Boniface cut down the tree that the pagan German tribes worshiped as a god, but then he lit it with candles as a sign of the Light that is Christ. That, some say, is how we got the Christmas tree. Various dates were observed as New Year's Day until the papal revision of the calendar in 1582 restored Julius Caesar's configuration of January 1. Some Protestant countries did not catch up until 1752. But the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25 was kept as the moment of Christ's conception, as it was the traditional Hebrew date Nisan 15 for the creation of the world. Many court calendars and fiscal years still begin then.

St. Thomas Aquinas says (Summa Theologiae, I, art. 8) that grace does not destroy nature but builds upon it. Pagan celebrations of the New Year only need God's loving power to transform raucous revels into graceful dancing for the beautiful Lady who bore Our Saviour.

Some extreme heretics would not celebrate Christmas because they thought it was just an update of the pagan Roman feast of Saturnalia, along with Druid Yule logs and mistletoe and such. But God has taken these and changed them by His grace into something closer to lovely sacramental reminders of Christian truth. The dating of Christmas may have had nothing to do with the pagan Roman orgies of Saturnalia beginning on December 17. After all, December 25 was a week later. There was a pagan feast of the birth of the Invincible Sun (Dies Natalis Solis Invicti), started in 278, but this became widespread only in 360 as a reaction against the spread of Christianity. So the pagans may in fact have been reacting against the Christian feast of Our Lord's birth.

What matters is that we are pagans if we do not adore Our Lord, born to save us, and do not venerate his mother, who now is our mother.

 

 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Father George William Rutler. "God's Calendar." From the Pastor (January 1, 2012).

Reprinted with permission of Father George W. Rutler.

THE AUTHOR

Father Rutler received priestly ordination in 1981. Born in 1945 and reared in the Episcopal tradition, Father Rutler was an Episcopal priest for nine years. He was received into the Catholic Church in 1979 and was sent to the North American College in Rome for seminary studies. Father Rutler graduated from Dartmouth, where he was a Rufus Choate Scholar, and took advanced degrees at the Johns Hopkins University and the General Theological Seminary. He holds several degrees from the Gregorian and Angelicum Universities in Rome, including the Pontifical Doctorate in Sacred Theology, and studied at the Institut Catholique in Paris. In England, in 1988, the University of Oxford awarded him the degree Master of Studies. From 1987 to 1989 he was regular preacher to the students, faculty, and townspeople of Oxford. Cardinal Egan appointed him Pastor of the Church of Our Saviour, effective September 17, 2001.

Since 1988 his weekly television program has been broadcast worldwide on EWTN. Father Rutler has published 17 books, including: Cloud of Witnesses - Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.

Copyright © 2012 Father George W. Rutler




Subscribe to CERC's Weekly E-Letter

 

 

Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.