In the Tomb

Happy Easter! Yes, it’s still technically Easter in the Catholic Church. It’s going to be Easter until June 4, the feast of Pentecost. But anyway… I was musing about a homily I heard from our parish priest a few weeks ago. I’m sure it’s nothing new, but every now and then, people need to hear the same thing they’ve heard before as a reminder.

The message was deceptively simple: Put it in the tomb. All your worries, fears, anxieties, grudges, grievances, anger… anything icky inside your soul. Make a good confession. Take all that mess in your soul, put in the tomb and roll the stone over it. Then forget about it. It’s in the tomb, and it’s gone.

Sounds easy, but the reality of the task is more difficult than you’d initially think. I imagine sins as clinging, heavy wisteria vines draped around a person’s soul (just without the beauty and lovely scent). You have to work to pry them off. You may even have to cut them, and it may be painful. Rolling the stone over the tomb is not easy either. After all, it’s a heavy burden, and keeping your past sins and grievances out of your head is hard, especially when you are faced with daily struggles and memories that threaten to bring them all back.

One day, when the stone is rolled away from the tomb, we will find that our sins have been defeated and our weakness has been made perfect. Until that day… we struggle to remain close to God and keep our Baptismal promises to Him.

Angels Singing

Advent was here and gone in less time than it took to blink. Before I knew it, we were lighting the last candle on the wreath, and the Mass schedule for Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s was printed in the parish bulletin. It didn’t feel like there was a lot of time to build up Christmas spirit, especially with it being 75 degrees and pouring rain this entire week.

But this Advent, I’ve restricted myself to listening to only Christmas music because there’s nothing worse than waking up three days before one of the most sacred holidays of the year with the latest piece of Top 40 awfulness stuck in your head. Much better to constantly be humming along to “O Come All Ye Faithful” or “The First Noël.”

So I was looking at the lyrics of “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” which was written in 1849, and realized that the world hasn’t much changed. With human nature being the way it is, you can’t expect it to. Every year, it’s the same thing: human beings are too caught up in all the noise to focus on the angels singing, and it seems like every year, the holidays get more frantic and hurried. The commercials get more insistent, Christmas decorations appear in stores earlier and earlier, pop stars keep destroying traditional Christmas hymns, and in all the rush, we don’t actually hear anything.

I think peace and quiet would make an excellent Christmas gift, but there is not normally a way to achieve that unless someone gives you an all-expenses-paid trip to a deserted island or offers to babysit your kids for a week. Almost always, nobody will, so we have to carve out our own small slice of time (maybe a half hour, maybe even a whole hour, if you’re lucky) away from all the stress and craziness so we can get some perspective on our lives and the world.

Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

Who Took Christ out of Christmas?

In my local newspaper, someone had written an opinion piece about how, around this time of the year, Christians are calling to “keep Christ in Christmas” or “put Christ back in Christmas,”* which begs the question: Who took Christ out of Christmas in the first place? In other words, at whom can we point the finger? The author of the opinion piece believes that Christians themselves are responsible for the secularization and extreme materialism of the holiday. Christians are still a majority in this country, so they most likely make up a majority of the consumers as well. They probably also make up a majority of the people who line up for Black Friday deals, pushing and shoving to get the latest iWhatever before it’s gone. So, yeah, might as well blame them.

I suppose you could also blame the stores that sell all the latest gadgets and relentlessly bombard you with advertising. After all, they do start setting up their Christmas displays in September. You could blame the liberal media, which is supposedly so anti-Christian. You could even blame Starbucks and that stupid red cup or that creepy Elf on the Shelf.

Basically, you can blame whoever or whatever you want and be correct in your accusation. I think the removal of Christ from Christmas has been caused by society as a whole. No one group or person or institution shoulders all the blame. The purpose of Advent, those four weeks before Christmas, is to reevaluate your spiritual life and get it back on the right track. It doesn’t mean rush around in a crazy attempt to make your holiday perfect enough to post on Pinterest or Instagram. And it definitely doesn’t mean blame everyone and everything for dropping Christ from Christmas. Blame, like candy canes, is a fun indulgence sometimes, but it’ll make you sick if you have too much of it.

*Interestingly enough, removing “Christ” from “Christmas” leaves you with just “mas,” which is really “Mass.” That is not a bad thing. I suppose what I really mean to say is “put the spirit of Christ back in Christmas,” but that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. 🙂