Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Feast of St. Nicholas

From Advent Customs by Sr. Mary Laetitia, R.S.M.
Nihil Obstat: J. Gerald Kealy, D.D.
Imprimatur: Samuel Cardinal Stritch
Chicago, November 22, 1955

If we want to "Put Christ Back Into Christmas" we must return to the traditional ideas of the Church. Christmas, if it is to be primarily a holy day, and not a commercial holiday, must be essentially a religious feast. All the festivities of the season accent it spiritually and our Advent celebration must not smother its spiritual flavor.

Early in Advent on December 6th, the Church rejoices on the feast of St. Nicholas. This day is always a favorite with children. Gifts are in place, and their giving offers parents an opportunity to tell the little ones about the charity of the saint. Such small gifts as candy, nuts, or a bright toy, will remind them of the Gift Christ gives us each Christmas.

So, now....
I can't disagree with what she said, but awwww, geeeee...

I think it's an automatic reaction for some to see those words "must be essentially a religious feast" and start to feel like they're being smothered. Don't those words "religious feast" mean we must be serious and formal and prim? We feel deprived. Like a kid who's only allowed to use the online encyclopedia and isn't allowed to play games.

Everyone else gets to play! It's not fair! Not letting us have any fun...

But, is Christmas time -- is life -- really not supposed to be fun?

Of course we're allowed to have fun!  There's a time for being serious, of course, and things that must be taken seriously, but  don't let the devil and the saecular world muddy up truth. The wisdom of the Church always provides.  And God knows we're a bunch of kids at heart! Didn't He tell us He wanted us to become as little children? Now, of course that doesn't mean we're supposed to be brats. But, we should have a spirit of joy, and be carefree in His love and care for us! Isn't that what hope is? What faith is? What charity is?

And of course the Church doesn't expect us to behave in Advent as if it's Lent. I like to explain it to my children this way:

When you are pregnant with a child (and, boy, do I know about this!), you are filled with anticipation of the joy of bringing a new child into the world. Anticipation of the joy. Which is a very, very close relative to the joy itself.

But, mostly, you are just getting ready. These last four weeks before the birth of The Baby, our dearest Blessed Mother was preparing the best she could. She was anticipating. She was so looking forward to meeting her very, very special little Son. But, she was not opening the champaigne yet (so to speak).
When the baby is here safely, THEN you party.

I don't know if you know this, but in the Jewish culture, it was the custom (to this day in orthodox Jewish families) to not speak the child's name, or even really speak of the child, until after it is born! I wonder if it was so with the Mother of God? She knew His name, but may never have spoken it until it was officially given to Him on the Circumcision! (Oh, what a blessed day in the universe, the day His Name was first spoken!)

So, we're not sad during Advent. We're spending our time preparing our homes and hearts and holding on to our best JOY for the big day. The day of His birth.

When a great feast comes along, like the Feast of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, of course we celebrate! But, we celebrate with an understanding of who St. Nicholas was, and how his example can help us find our way to Heaven, too! We put candy and presents in the children's shoes, have special cakes and cookies, sing songs, and decorate for the day, all while keeping in mind that it is "essentially a religious feast."
Tomorrow morning the kids 'll have their goodies in their shoes to commemorate the generosity of St. Nicholas, but I will personally be having some rum of Christian generosity in my eggnog tomorrow night. How about you?

(For everything in the world about St. Nicholas, from history to recipes and coloring pages, go here.)

* Repost, 2007


Lilder said...

I love this explination you gave! My kids will be getting candy in their shoes in the morning. I'll be studying for finals... ok, so that's not very fun.

I hope you don't mind, I've tagged you for a meme.

GrandmaK said...

I always thought of a feast as a day of celebration...Party time!!! And yes a party celebrating God's handiwork is the reason for the celebration!!! Amen!!! Have a grand Celebration in your neck-of-the-woods! Wonderful post!!! My best wishes!!! Cathy