On the 12th day of Christmas… Yes the 12th!

Liturgy Matters by Michael McKenna, Archbishop’s Master of Ceremonies

As Christmas approaches, this year we might be forgiven for reflecting on the events of these past months in words similar to J.R.R. Tolkien’s young hobbit Frodo Baggins: “I wish it need not have happened in my time.”

As Christians we understand time differently from most. The Liturgical Year serves to remind that time was transformed through the mystery of incarnate Word. Those of faith are drawn into a common human consciousness of God’s action in the world, the past, present and future. “Christ yesterday and today… Alpha and Omega, all time belongs to him.”

In his article ‘Restoring Sacred Time’, Bishop Peter Elliott observes that our heavily secularised society has abandoned the Christian way of looking at the passing year. He says that as an instrument for catechesis and evangelisation, we must make the most of the powerful cycle of Christian feasts, fasts and seasons that mark our sacred times.

Notable among them is Christmas. Without God becoming incarnate there is no Redemption of a fallen humanity, nor the victory of Easter for all time. Yet within hours of Church services celebrating the birth of Christ the saviour, supermarkets will once again pack away Christmas displays in favour of the Hot Cross buns of a still distant Easter, as our “what’s next” culture hurtles off down the road to the next saleable Christian holyday (holiday).

Let’s be clear… Boxing Day is not so named for the packing away of Christmas decorations!

In modern liturgical practice Christmas lasts 12 days up to the feast of the Epiphany on January 6. While in tradition, the Christmas season lasts 40 days, ending on February 2nd, the feast of the presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple or Candlemas as it is so called.

Looking for a richer and more deeply liturgical Catholic life? Then keep celebrating Christmas for all 12 days. Leave the Christmas tree up and the nativity on display. Feast, be merry, be brave! Be counter-cultural! Be joyful! … Just keep it going!

Yes Frodo, I wish 2020 need not have happened in my time. But as the wizard Gandalf points out, “That is not ours to decide. All we must decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Well friends, I have 12 days of Christmas and I am decided to make every last one of them count. How about you? 

Merry Christmas!

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