We are still celebrating Christmas.
. . . I was baptized.
Little did my parents know when they took me to church on Dec 26 for my baptism that four years later my little sister would be born on the same day. Nor that they would name their youngest son Stephen, giving him a name day on my baptism day and my sister’s birthday.
As if the second day of Christmas wasn’t enough reason to have a party. Well, truth be told, by the next day we’re often a bit overwhelmed by the sweets and presents, aren’t we. It’s nice to have a few nudges to remind us that the liturgical season of Christmas is just beginning. The secular world may be taking down the trees and the trimmings and going back to the daily grind, but we’re still rejoicing over our dear Savior’s birth.
St Stephen’s Day
A sermon of St Fulgentius of Ruspe
Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of his soldier.
Yesterday our king, clothed in his robe of flesh, left his place in the virgin’s womb and graciously visited the world. Today his soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.
Our king, despite his exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet he did not come empty-handed. He brought his soldiers a great gift that not only enriched them but also made them unconquerable in battle, for it was the gift of love, which was to bring men to share in his divinity. He gave of his bounty, yet without any loss to himself. In a marvellous way he changed into wealth the poverty of his faithful followers while remaining in full possession of his own inexhaustible riches.
And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the king, it later shone forth in his soldier. Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by his name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbour made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.
Now at last, Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he delights in the glory of Christ, with Stephen he exalts, with Stephen he reigns. Stephen went first, slain by the stones thrown by Paul, but Paul followed after, helped by the prayer of Stephen. This, surely, is the true life, my brothers, a life in which Paul feels no shame because of Stephen’s death, and Stephen delights in Paul’s companionship, for love fills them both with joy. It was Stephen’s love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul’s love that covered the multitude of his sins; it was love that won for both of them the kingdom of heaven.
Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defence,- and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey’s end.
My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.
from today’s office of readings
This morning my friend Erika, the Philosopher Mom, shared the following entirely appropriate quote about baptism on Facebook:
The structure of baptism, its form as a rebirth in which we receive a new name and a new life, helps us to appreciate the meaning and importance of infant baptism. Children are not capable of accepting the faith by a free act, nor are they yet able to profess that faith on their own; therefore the faith is professed by their parents and godparents in their name. Since faith is a reality lived within the community of the Church, part of a common “We”, children can be supported by others, their parents and godparents, and welcomed into their faith, which is the faith of the Church; this is symbolized by the candle which the child’s father lights from the paschal candle. The structure of baptism, then, demonstrates the critical importance of cooperation between Church and family in passing on the faith. ~pope Francis, Lumen Fideii
More Bettinelli Christmas Photos
I thought I’d share more pictures from earlier this week. Dom is taking his vacation so has had time to hang out with us, help in the decorating and preparing and cooking, read to the kids, etc.
Dom reads about St Francis and the first living Nativity scene.
and Brambley Hedge too
Finally, Simcha Fisher writes Why Busy Parents Should Always Go to Midnight Mass. It sums up our experience nicely. While I’m not sure I’d brave Midnight Mass if our parish were like my parents’ parish–packed with people standing in the aisles and vestibule and an hour of lessons and carols before Mass begins, I do think that parents should seriously consider Midnight Mass. We almost didn’t go this year, but as we looked at the other Mass options, and we thought about how disappointed the kids would be if we didn’t go, we finally decided to give it a shot, ready to bail if things started to look like they were going to explode. At our parish Midnight Mass is sparsely attended and is no longer than a regular Sunday Mass. It’s beautiful and reverent but we got there at 11:45 and were home by 1:30; it was not a marathon.
So your mileage may vary; but perhaps it isn’t as crazy as you might have thought. If you ask my kids about Christmas, Bella and Sophie at least will probably tell you about Midnight Mass before they tell you about presents and Santa. And yeah maybe it helps that we talk it up; but as Strega Nona says, Christmas has a magic all its own. Midnight Mass speaks for itself. (And if you want help talking it up, reading about Strega Nona’s Christmas is a good way to start.)
Anthony’s St Anthony ornament has traveled all over the tree. He can’t keep his hands off of it. “That’s my Saint Anthony!”
My sister left her St Francis here with us. It’s nice to remember her by.
Last year my sister gave Bella and Sophie Nutcracker ornaments and a Nutcracker book.
Dom gets all Pinterest-y with the lights in a mason jar.
Anthony can’t keep his hands off the tree.
Sophie eats pomegranates and salmon cakes in her Christmas shirt.