LET US continue with our catechesis that is relevant to the coming Christmas season. Whenever the month ends with a “ber” the air and the scenery begin to showcase the coming of Christmas. In fact, decorations and sales heralding Christmas are now aplenty in business establishments.
There is a timeless saying, “lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi” (“as we worship, so we believe, so we live”). In every place and time in human history the way people worship is an indication of their belief and an understanding of the way they live. These are stuffs for archeology that tries to understand the past. Pagans worshiped nature because they see only the occurrences of things around them and try to search for something to explain the mysteries of their environment and therefore live in consonance of those mysteries.
If we observe close enough the preparations for Christmas, do they reflect the real reason for its celebration? Christmas we know is dedicated to the commemoration of the birth of Christ but how come the preparations, the decorations and the wherewithal of Christmas do not have Christ at its center?
Of course, the decorations immediately evoke images of Christmas but there is no representation of the Christ Child. There are the trees, real and imitation plastics, the frills, the multicolored and multiple designed lights, the Santa Claus and his reindeers, the faked snow and balls and lanterns.
But where is the Christ Child, the reason for all these, where’s the celebrant? Imagine a birthday party where the celebrant is absent or missing. Can the guests find it proper to sing to the gift packages and the decorations and consume the food while the celebrant is not there? What kind of party is that but a sham?
But this is exactly how the modern world, Catholics, non-Catholics, atheists, apostates, Arians and agnostics celebrate Christmas. Go around the malls, offices and all sorts of establishments, including schools and parks and look for a Nativity scene where the Child and His mother bring the memory back to the story of Christmas and the beginning of our salvation. There is none or if there are, they are a rarity.
One reason why non-Catholics do not have the Nativity scene is that they abjure the image of Christ, the Blessed Mother and even the saints. They think that is idolatry. And so they substitute Christ with an elaborately decorated tree and star.
Filipinos didn’t have these trees, Santa Claus, willows, and so forth until the Protestant Americans came and introduced their practice of celebrating Christmas. We had the Aguinaldo Masses, the caroling, Nativity scene in churches and plazas and simple midnight snacks after the Midnight Mass. The focus was Jesus, after all it’s His birthday.
The 9-day Aguinaldo Mass is uniquely Filipino. We were granted an indult for these very early Masses because people, especially those in the farms, had to be back at work during the day. Despite their daily backbreaking work, they take time to go to Mass before dawn to prepare for the coming Christmas Day. And then they attend the Midnight Mass, the vigil of Christ’s birth.
This truly Filipino tradition of flocking to Mass is competed only by the Good Friday when people, some attending Mass only twice in a year, would flock to the Church. At least they are consistent.
Lex orandi indeed, so modern man immersed in the secular, the mundane and the material; lex vivendi, excluding and replacing Christ in most of the preparations. Sure, there are songs relating to Christmas, but note that in most lyrics Jesus is missing. It is more of the music than the Celebrant.
In March 1991, I was in Shanghai and during lunch the restaurant played “Adeste fideles” and I asked how come they are playing it when it’s not Christmas. Our guide replied, “No Christmas. Music good.”
And so like that guide, a lot of people celebrate because it is good, for business and the bonuses but Jesus’ birth becomes merely an excuse.
It is ironic that the secular consciously leave Jesus out in the celebration of His birthday and yet they rake in more money from it. But let us live what we believe by the right practices. Let us focus on Jesus despite the frills.
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