Christmas

What Father Martin Gets Wrong About ‘White Jesus’

Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) is among many largely forgotten Renaissance artists. While Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello, and Raphael are household names (if mostly thanks to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Botticelli remains largely forgotten, his works bombarded quickly snapped teenage selfies by largely oblivious teenagers visiting Florence’s Uffizi Gallery. Nonetheless, Botticelli’s paintings are among the most exquisite [...]

Christmas, Freedom, and Obedience

On December 17, the day the first “O Antiphon” signaled the intensification of preparations for Christmas, the Church read the genealogy of Jesus from Matthew’s gospel: writing for a predominantly Jewish-Christian audience, the evangelist stresses that the blessings promised to and through Abraham, and the dynastic promises made to King David, are about to be [...]

The Nativity of Our Lord

Editor’s note: the Rev. James V. Schall, SJ,  joined Crisis Magazine as a columnist in January of 1983. He passed away in April. On this second day of Christmas, we honor him by republishing this timely and timelss column, which originally appeared in the December 1995 print edition of Crisis. Requiescat in Pace, Father Schall. [...]

Have Yourself a Simple Little Christmas

After years of literary success and popular acclaim, Leo Tolstoy became dissatisfied with the complacency of the intelligentsia in what it had accepted as life’s meaning (or lack thereof)—in a word, he was suicidal. He had become convinced that no answer to his existential questions could be found in the “chemical compositions of the stars” [...]

Christmas in a Cage

I had heard that this store went “all out” at Christmas, but I was still taken aback. Ten-foot-tall nutcrackers, sprawling miniature villages, plush snow unicorns, plastic pine trees encrusted with glitter and glass, jingle bell muzak at high volume, seasonally garish sweaters, gigantic drummer boys para-pum-pum-pumming, a marshmallow army of leering lawn inflatables, and a [...]

The Well-Fought Fight

The incorporation of Anglican hymnody into English-language Catholic worship is one of the great blessings of the past 50 years. And within that noble musical patrimony, Ralph Vaughan Williams surely holds pride of place among modern composers. Well do I remember the summer day in 1965 when I heard a massed chorus of men and [...]

The Materialism of Christmas

Pope Francis gave us an early Christmas gift with Admirabile Signum (“Enchanting Image”), his little letter on the ancient custom of setting up Nativity scenes as a way to prepare for the birth of Jesus. Christians began worshipping at the site of our Lord’s birth in Bethlehem almost immediately. So many were coming that Emperor [...]

This Christmas, Give the Gift of Life

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel...” This is perhaps the most well-known Advent hymn—one that floods us with the feelings of the coming Christmas season. But the hymn also raises a question. Matthew's Gospel tells us that “Emmanuel” means “God is with us” (Mt. 1:23). In the song, then, we pray, “O [...]

The Incarnation: What It Reveals about God and Us

The season of Advent prompts us to ponder anew the question Jesus put to his disciples two thousand years ago: “Who do you say that I am?” It is a haunting question because the possible answers are few. During Jesus’s life, he was accused of being a deluded babbler, knowing fraud, or demon-possessed lackey; acknowledged [...]

Waiting in Hope

I hope I get a Nintendo Switch for Christmas... I hope I get a hoverboard... I hope I get an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle... When I was a boy, about nine or 10 years old, my sister and I longed for and hoped to get a horse. Our family had [...]

Why The Worst Christmas Story is Worth Reading

There are few Christmas stories that begin with a scene so ragged and rich as a threadbare, moth-gnawed Santa Claus who, returning to his flat after hearing the desires of adoring urchins, pulls bottles of chianti from his boots for himself and an old friend on Christmas afternoon. Christmas stories are all about the shabby [...]

Modern Science Offers Evidence for Christmas Story

I was privileged recently to go on a pilgrimage with Fr. Dwight Longenecker and forty-eight other pilgrims to the Holy Land. We were retracing the steps of the Magi from Jordan into Israel. The pilgrimage was based on the historical detective work that Fr. Longenecker produced in his book Mystery of the Magi: The Quest [...]

The Truth (of Christ) Will Set You Free

We mark anniversaries of events so as not to forget. We do this as a country all the time—we mark, for instance, the anniversary of our independence on July 4th every year. We do it because we consider the Fourth of July to be the birth of our freedom. Naturally, then, we turn to the founding [...]

Why Is There an Ugly Christmas Sweater Day?

So much that passes for culture these days is just entertainment. What people consider “culture” is an excuse to have fun. Everything must be full of novelty and excitement. It must be Facebookable and Instagram-friendly. While these fun activities may be popular, they do not constitute culture. They have no depth. For many, even Christmas need [...]

Counting Christmas: Celebrating the Twelfth Night

Eight octave days, culminating in a New Year. Twelve days before Epiphany. Forty days until the Presentation. This is how we count the days of Christmas. The octave and forty days are biblical, prescribed by the Mosaic Law for Circumcision and the dedication in the Temple of a male who opens his mother’s womb. Through [...]

Advent a Casualty in the “War on Christmas”

Just in time for Christmas 2017, the Pew Research Center released the results of a survey that found that 56 percent of Americans believe that the "religious parts of Christmas" are emphasized less in the United States today than they were in the past. It's hard to argue otherwise: Even many of those who have [...]

Christmas: Reality Incarnate

On March 25, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Annunciation, commemorating the moment when Gabriel brought Mary the divine invitation to bear the Savior. Mary's fiat allowed the Holy Spirit to overshadow her, and bring about the conception of Jesus. Now, at Christmas, nine months later, the work begun in Mary comes to its [...]

Christmas and Nietzsche’s Abyss

Nietzsche portentously remarked in Beyond Good and Evil, “when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes back.” The German nihilist fully appreciated where a world without God was gamboling. For him, no airbrushing the Brave New World. If only his scions were as brutally frank. Bereft of his Teutonic steel, they soak secularism in [...]

Life Lessons from Christmas Carols

One of the perpetual complaints against Christianity is that it is a life-denying, puritanical system. In the Victorian era, poet Algernon Swinburne referred to Christ as the “pale Galilean” from whose breath “the world has grown grey.” In our own time, films such as The Handmaid’s Tale portray Christians as robotic control freaks. Meanwhile, elite [...]

In Defense of Santa Claus

When I was attending Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas—the precise year and semester, I have forgotten—I met the first opposition to Santa Claus. I had known that there were people who did not believe in the “Christmas Man”; my parents had explained to me that such people did exist in the world. But the opposition [...]

The Wisdom in Wonder: Children at Christmas Time

And they came with haste; and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child. And all that heard, wondered: and at those things that were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these [...]

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