The Three Days
Quick defines the pulse of this month. Minds and efforts are focused on the myriad tasks of getting ready for the "big day." The weekly lighting of an additional candle on the Advent Wreath marks the rapidity of the passing weeks. Underscoring all the worldly activity and the liturgical season of Advent itself are the dual and treasured presences of memory and hope. Spiritual and emotional memories and hopes are intertwined, moving us backward and forward at the same time, and touching places uniquely owned. Pope Benedict XVI once said, "Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to men. Advent's intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of a God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church's year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the hearts memory so that it can discern the star of hope … It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope." The memories and hopes of the individual and of all creation come to fruition in that one, great day – Christmas. Like the spiritual journey of Advent, the celebration of that one day is the blossoming of the efforts of many days that were historically and divinely momentous.
Reaching its zenith in Christmas, celebration connotes preparation. Readying all of the individual and family traditions as well other personal touches is left to us, but the truly divine preparations were left to God. There are three days in particular that have to go perfectly.
The first falls on the 8th of December – the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It seems that every year many need to be reminded that this feast day recalls the conception of Mary – free from original sin – in her mother's womb and not Jesus' conception in Mary's womb. On December 8, 1854 in his decree, Ineffabilis Deus, Pope Pius IX defined, "… in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in the view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin." Under the title of Mary Immaculate, the Blessed Virgin is designated as the Patroness of the United States. As an illumination of the significance of this feast, the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen asked us to imagine that we had the opportunity to create our own mother. He opined that no one would choose to create a mother who was lacking in motherly instincts or was morally deficient, but one that is beautiful and perfect in every way. Would not God do the same?
The second occurs on the 25th day of March – the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord. Mary was prepared for her role as the mother of Jesus from the very beginning of her life. Yet, it was she who, in her free will, had to accept that role. The appropriateness of the Church celebrating the conception of Jesus within the womb of Mary on a date that is exactly nine months before Christmas is obvious. Nearly lost in the miraculous circumstances surrounding this event is the all too human reality of this betrothed young woman becoming pregnant and presenting this fact to family, to friends, and…to her fiancée. It is a tribute to the holy and virtuous characters of all involved that they "made straight the way of the Lord." Mary, however, would have many future crosses to bear and how it was endured by her unflappable faith and her perdurable trust in God's plan. Indeed, the psalmist's words that she uttered in her Magnificat have come to pass, "All generations will call me blessed." What an incredible human being and model of faith is that girl from Nazareth. Hail Mary!
The third, of course, happens on the 25th of December – The Feast of the Nativity of the Lord. Christmas is the culmination of the hopes and dreams of a Chosen People throughout the centuries and the fulfillment of the hopes and dreams of a waiting world. The Word of God took on our human nature and walked and taught and died and rose to save a sinful world.
And now, it is up to us to ponder our memories, our hopes, and all that is contained in those three days. As with all Christmases, there are many gifts to wonder at, to unwrap, and to use. Contained within the mystery of those three days are lessons to guide, inspire, and assure us in the daily tasks of life. The calendar of any lifetime would be bereft of hope and void of meaning without those three days. My Christmas wish is that you might take to heart the message of a God who loves us totally and counts on us completely to make that love operative in our world.
I pray that the wisdom and power of those three days will have a continuously profound effect upon all of our days.
We at Clemons Productions wish a very merry and a very blessed Christmas to you and your loved ones.