There is a second aspect [of Christmas] that I would like to touch upon briefly. The event of
should be considered in the light of the Paschal Mystery: The one and the other are part of the one redemptive work of Christ. Jesus' incarnation and birth invite us to direct our gaze to His death and resurrection: Christmas and Easter are both feasts of the Redemption. Easter celebrates it as the victory over sin and death: It signals the final moment, when the glory of the Man-God shines forth as the light of day; Christmas celebrates it as God's entrance into history, His becoming man in order to restore man to God: It marks, so to speak, the initial moment when we begin to see the first light of dawn. Bethlehem
But just as dawn precedes and already heralds the day's light, so Christmas already announces the cross and the glory of the resurrection. Even the two times of year when we mark the two great feasts -- at least in some parts of the world -- can help us to understand this aspect. In fact, while Easter falls at the beginning of spring, when the sun breaks through the thick, chilly mists and renews the face of the earth, Christmas falls right at the beginning of winter, when the sun's light and warmth seek in vain to awaken nature enwrapped by the cold. Under this blanket, however, life throbs and the victory of the sun and warmth begins again.
General Audience,Reflection – Ah yes, a reminder here that the Pope is not, in fact, Canadian! December 25 as the ‘beginning’ of winter? Hah!
December 21, 2011
That said, we do have this beautiful opportunity in this part of this talk to reflect on how the seasons of the earth reflect the liturgical calendar. People often get this wrong, of course. Oh, Christians just put Christmas near the winter solstice so as to take over the pagan feast of Sol Invictus… and it’s all just paganism redux, taking over the cycles of earth and sun and giving them a superficial Christian gloss. We’ve all heard that kind of thing.
It’s entirely wrong. It turns out that the Roman pagans invented or located their big feast at the end of December precisely to counter the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ, which dates to centuries before the Roman feast is ever mentioned. Christmas is where it is because the Annunciation is where it is, and that is because of the ancient tradition that the Incarnation and Jesus’ life began the same day as he died, which was March 25 according to the primitive Church’s calculations.
But even beyond the historical facts, which are indisputable, there is a deeper point. We Christians do not look at the birth of Christ and say, ‘oh yeah, that’s like winter and the way life and light are present in the midst of death and darkness.’ We look at the winter and we say, ‘oh yeah, this is just like what God did in Christ.’ Jesus is not a symbol of nature; nature—the earth and what fills it, the sun, the stars, the heavens—is a symbol of Jesus.
He is the center; all of reality points towards him. The sun rises every morning as proclamation of the Resurrection of Christ. Flowers receive light and give forth perfume and beauty as a proclamation of the fruits of redemption. The modern world says that the real things are the immediate visible things, the measurable, the prosaic, and that we humans just dress them up with a glossy religious sheen, in which case who cares if it’s Jesus, Mithras, Baldur, or Pan? Christians say that the reality is Christ, and all the visible objects surrounding us are his heralds, signs telling us of his goodness and beauty.
There is a blanket of snow on the earth right now where I am: all creation is wearing its baptismal robes. The sun is shining where I am right now: the light of Christ makes all things radiant. The birch tree outside my window is slender and elegant, a thing of beauty even though it is bare of its leafy raiment: so are our souls naked before God beautiful in their simplicity. On and on and on: this is not pious fiction or sentimentality. The reality is God in Christ, and every atom of creation proclaims that reality to us. Come, let us adore Him.