Christmas

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Who Are the Real Defenders of Humanity?

The latest advances in science and biotechnology (three-parenting, surrogate motherhood, human enhancement, hybridizing of humans and animals…) have now and again encountered opposition from Christians (and, in varying degrees, from other religious believers), as well as from secular critics for moral, ethical, and legal reasons (the last-mentioned rather half-heartedly in a number of countries recently). [...]

The Christmas Story in an Era of Irrational Skepticism

Tis the season to attack traditional Christianity by pedaling, through social networks and the mass media, speculative theories that contradict orthodox Christian beliefs. On Christmas Eve (predictably), the Washington Post revived a 2014 article promoting the discredited theory that the "historical Jesus" never even existed. Yet even the agnostic New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman, famously [...]

The Splendor of the World Redeemed

The aroma was transporting: the familiar smell brought me back to childhood, to being in the kitchen with my mom, as her banana cake baked in the oven, promising sweet and banana-ish goodness. To this day, the aroma of a well-made banana cake (and, you’ll allow me to aver, my mother’s was the best) brings [...]

The Christmas Triad: Christ, Church, Eucharist

As a cradle Catholic long accustomed to the rituals and feasts of faith, the earliest memories I have coincide, most happily, with membership in what the comedian Lenny Bruce used to call the only the Church. And so there was never a time when Christmas was not an occasion for sheer wonderment and joy, an [...]

The Christian Subtext to “Secular” Christmas Film Classics

That there is some sense in which Christmas can be said to have become “secularized” over the years is undoubtedly true. Nevertheless, this judgment may be overwrought. Perhaps Christ is more present in “secularized” expressions of Christmas than either Christian or non-Christian is willing to acknowledge. This is borne out by close examination of such [...]

Catholics Agree: It’s a Wonderful Life

This year marks the 70th anniversary of Frank Capra’s beloved Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. It debuted December 20, 1946, just a year after World War II ended. (Remember, the film begins and ends with the expected return of war hero Harry Bailey.) The film offers several Catholic perspectives. How many movies today would [...]

Religious Joy: A Christmas Sermon

"And the angels said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke ii. 10, 11.) There are two principal lessons which we are [...]

The Effrontery of Hope

It seems to me that we take “hope” for granted. Of course, as good Catholics we know that we are not to presume the mercy of God, or his blessings. So we might protest that we do no such thing; we know that God is in no way obliged to give us anything, that everything—including [...]

Art and the Embodiment of the Incarnate Word

Our celebration of the great feast days should instantiate in our lives the realities they communicate. For Christmas, the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, our actions, such as gift giving, caroling, the symbols of green life in winter, should make present the gift of the new life of Christ coming into the world. [...]

Dr. Seuss & How the Secular Humanist Stole Christmas

It is telling when the deficiencies of the adult world are told in the pages of children’s books. An instance of this has been immortalized in Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel’s cherished story, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The tale of the Grinch is beloved, and for good reason, too. It is a wicked, wacky little [...]

Mystery and History Collide on Christmas

When we consider the Christmas Miracle, it is worth recalling the fact that Joseph does not at once repudiate his betrothed, despite his discovery that she is pregnant with another’s child. It is an astonishing development. How painfully bewildering it must have been for him, however, to try and account for a conception for which [...]

Holidays are Holy Days

There are two things to get right from the start about the mystery of Christmas.  The first is that it was not peaceful.  The angels sang of peace to men of goodwill but that was precisely what stirred things up.  They were angels from eternity and we are humans in time.  Even the holy lady Mary had to be [...]

Loneliness and Christmas Enchantment

Shepherd and king are two of the loneliest professions. Shepherds are heirs of Abel whose offering was favored by God and whose blood still cries from the ground. Kings possess what we strive for, but pay the price of distance and objectification. But it was shepherds and kings who were invited guests at the first [...]

A Romantic Yearning for Our Eucharistic Lord

The thing which keeps life romantic and full of fiery possibilities is the existence of these great plain limitations. ~ G.K. Chesterton Two of my former students are on the road to becoming Catholic, and both recently confided in me their frustration regarding Holy Communion—but it's not the reason you'd expect. You'd think they'd be struggling with [...]

Gravediggers, Goblins, and How Dickens Discovered Christmas

Christmas has become a humbug. Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge was a sour soothsayer for our times. By and large, Christmas is a humbug these days. It preaches peace, but breeds pressure. The ritual of the mall stands in for the ritual of the Mass. Santa Claus is not really Saint Nicholas. The holidays are not really [...]

Christ: Our Shield Against Evil

About a month ago, up at 2am with a sick baby, I found myself watching a documentary about the modern-day descendants of prominent officials of the Third Reich. Entitled Hitler’s Children, it examined the lives of modern-day descendants of high-ranking Nazi officials such as Hermann Goring, Heinrich Himmler and Rudolf Höss. None of them Nazi [...]

That Other Capra Christmas Movie

Every one has seen it. At least, it seems so at this time of year. You can't avoid seeing that 1946 classic appearing on television. Everyone at the office loves it, of course, even those who haven’t seen it. Everyone has their favorite scene, the bits they like to quote. Unexpectedly, some become quite poetic, [...]

The Last Days of December

 Great Little One!  Whose all-embracing birth  Lifts Earth to Heaven, stoops Heaven to Earth. — Richard Crashaw These last days of December have suddenly come upon us, leaving in their wake the wonder of a God who without loss of divinity dared to assume the burden of a broken and fallen humanity.  Moved by an incomprehensible [...]

The Angels bring Good News to the Shepherds

The shepherds, imitators of the holy patriarchs, and the most innocent and guileless men in the world, were “keeping watch over their flock by night.” (Lk 2:8) Holy angels, accustomed to conversing with those shepherds of old—with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—brought these country folk the news that the great shepherd had arrived and that the [...]

“A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement C. Moore: The Doctrine of Santa Claus

Twas only a matter of time. And it came—as it comes to all. ’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, a small creature was stirring—my seven-year-old daughter. “Dad,” (I knew the time was come,) “does St. Nicholas bring us presents at Christmas, or is it just you and Mom?” “Daughter,” (I knew [...]

Dickens’ Forgotten Christmas Tale: The Haunted Man

Everyone knows Charles Dickens’ classic holiday story A Christmas Carol. It is, arguably, one of the Victorian author’s most permanent masterpieces, adorning Christmas celebrations in every corner of the English-speaking world, and making the likes of Ebenezer Scrooge and the Cratchit family household names. Modern audiences have seen it adapted for television and film in [...]

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