Christ the Carpenter: A Reflection

Today, in the Roman Catholic Church, we celebrate the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker. Many churches would not celebrate his feast day, because it is a Sunday, but the Mass I attended today celebrated his day alongside the Sixth Sunday of Easter. During the homily, our priest discussed St. Joseph and his role as a carpenter, mentioning that his Son, Jesus, would have also been a carpenter, learning the trade from Joseph himself. The following is a reflection based on the thoughts of Christ as a carpenter, looking toward his ultimate calling. This is a work of fiction, and I do not claim for it to be historically accurate.

Father & Son (St. Joe & Jesus)

Today is my 13th birthday! My father has let me join him for a trip into Tiberias for the day, and I am really excited! This is all a part of my apprenticeship, so that I can be a carpenter just like him. He is so diligent in his work, and so selfless! Just last week he gave our neighbors half off, because they could not afford the original price. I would love to be able to be a carpenter like him.
When we got on the road, I could hardly contain my excitement, but my father – the calm, mild-mannered man that he is – asked me to calm down a little bit. Though I did calm down outwardly, I was still very excited, and had a huge grin on my face. A little bit into the journey, something took away my excitement. After we turned a corner on the road, there they were, hanging on the side of the road as far as the eye could see: numerous naked men, hanging from crosses, crucified for who knows what. Sadly, it was not an uncommon sight to see in Israel, while under Roman rule. My father placed his hand on my shoulder.
“It will be okay, Y’shua,” he said to me. “Let us keep moving. We can take a different road.”
“No, father,” I said sheepishly. “We can keep taking this road.” My father hesitantly agreed. While I had deep concern for the lives of each of these men, and while I did commend each of them to my heavenly Father, I could not help but be transported 20 years into the future. A tear rolled down my cheek. 
Abba. I prayed to my Father. Why must this be? But I know. Not my will…
I wish that I could explain to my father why it is I am crying, but I know that he will not be able to be there for my mother. I could not dare tell him of this now. He sees my tears as a sadness for those crucified men, and indeed they are. But I have many pains more on my mind. Those nails in my hand. That crown on my head. Those nails in my feet. My father knowing that he will not be able to be there. My dear mother’s heart… Oh, my mother’s heart! I cannot bear to think of the pain she will go through. But I know that I have her to help as my Co-redemptrix. I need not battle this task alone, and Father would not make me.
As we walk this street, I anticipate my death, the pain of my mother, and even the pain of my father. Once we passed the last of the men, though the mood became very somber, I thought of each and every person whom I will be saving. I thought of my mother, and my father. I thought of the grace that will come from my side. While tears still streamed from my eyes, I was still able to smile, because, though I am going to suffer, and my mother is going to suffer, there is no reason to be sad, because Abba has us.

Jesus

Today is my 23rd birthday. It has been great to be working with my father. He constantly affirms me in my ability to build just like him, in addition to my positive business dealings with our fellow Nazarenes. I know that I was born for so much more than to just serve as a carpenter, but I also know that it is no accident that Joseph is my foster father. Working with wood is truly where I am meant to be for these next years.
Because I am getting older and more responsible for our carpentry work, my father has decided to send me to Tiberias this year on my own. We need to travel there to have our annual dealings with the Romans. He thought that it would be good for me to get used to these long-distance travels, because he knows what my future holds for me.
I turned that same corner again, and it seemed to hurt even more than when I walked here ten years ago. Working with wood and building things has been my passion for more than ten years, now. Not only is it so terrible to think of these tortured naked men being fixed to these crosses, but something constructive is being used for such a destructive and heinous purpose. I can think of no worse way to show irreverence to creation than to use it as a means to kill.
These men suffer much, and for what? So the Romans can meet their quota? I can think of no act that would warrant such an earthly punishment. 
The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Who is man to think that he can decide otherwise? Woodworking is such a pure and constructive vocation, and yet it is used for such heinous evil.
I continue to walk by these men, and their faces elicit compassion in my heart. 
Mercy. Mercy is the word that sticks out in my mind. Humanity is so fallen. They think that they are right to do things such as this. That is why I am here: to help them, to save them from that. I do not want humanity to continue like this, but man can change. I have seen that around me my whole life. I truly believe that man can change, and so I must embrace my cross, in order that they may choose to be with me.

Christ and the Cross

Today is my 33rd birthday. My Day is coming. It will definitely be the hardest thing I will have ever done. In my travels throughout Israel, it was definitely not uncommon for me to see crucified men alongside the road. In fact, the Empire has been getting more and more strict recently, for there have seemed to be more crucifixions in the last years.
I see those crosses, and so many thoughts go flooding through my mind. I think of those poor souls who were probably crucified unjustly. I think of my the crime against creation in using the wood to murder. I also think of my mother, and the fate that she and I will share on that Day.
I think of my father… My father, who taught me all of my carpentry skills. I miss him; I truly do. I know that I will see him soon. My work in carpentry, though it has been a few years, was my passion for years. It makes sense that the Father placed me in a home of carpentry, for the passion of my youth will be intimately connected to my true Passion. On that Day, when I embrace my cross, I embrace it as accepting my calling, to die for the sins of all people. But I will also embrace it, knowing that my lifelong passion will be the last encounter before I die. I know that my death will not be the end, but I embrace my Passion and my passion.
How appropriate that what has been my passion throughout my life, and what will be the instrument of my Passion, shall be the object of the passion of many, until the end of the age. Wood has been my method of construction, of making, of creating – of sorts.. Through the wood of the Cross, I will take part in a New Creation, allowing for that which has been my passion to be the passion of all. When my time on earth has ended, I know that I will be remembered, and the wood that has been my passion shall be the way by which I am remembered. When you remember me, I ask that you embrace the wood of the cross, just as I have embraced the wood of my work all my life, and then embraced the wood of the cross on that Day.

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Gate of Heaven, Star of the Sea

“Loving Mother of the Redeemer,
gate of heaven, star of the sea,
assist your people who have fallen
yet strive to rise again.
To the wonderment of nature
you bore your Creator,
yet remained a virgin after as before.
You, who received Gabriel’s joyful greeting,
have pity on us poor sinners.”

-Alma Redemptoris Mater

The Church, since her origins in the 1st century, has honored and venerated Mary, the Mother of God. On this Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I want to reflect on two titles given to Mary. The first is ‘Gate of Heaven,’ and the second is ‘Star of the Sea.’ Firstly, it would be good to discuss the idea behind Marian titles. Someone might say “Mary’s not a gate or a star; she’s a human person.’ Mother of GodWell I have a response to such a snarky remark. Marian titles can have different purposes. Some Marian titles express doctrinal truths. Marian doctrine is so essential (in a philosophical sense) to Mary herself, that these titles express truths at the core of her being. The Church holds 5 doctrines (4 dogmatically defined) of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She believes that Mary was conceived without original sin. Mary is believed to have remained a Perpetual Virgin. She is believed to be the Mother of God. Mary is believed to have been assumed body and soul into Heaven. She is believed to have participated in the redemption, to mediate grace to mankind, and to advocate for mankind. Mary has been given many titles, some of which specifically refer to these doctrines: the Immaculate Conception, the Aeiparthenos, the Theotokos, Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate. By dogmatically defining Marian doctrines, the Church has received much grace from increased knowledge of the work and significance of Mary, which is why many people seek the dogmatic definition of Mary as Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate.

There are also Marian titles based on apparitions, like Our Lady of Fatima or Our Lady of Lourdes (or Our Lady of Guadalupe). These titles seek to commemorate Our Lady’s apparitions and the messages of those apparitions. Because there are so many supposed apparitions, the Church investigates and discerns the validity of each one. It is important, therefore, to stress and seek the intercession of approved Marian apparitions. The Church also says that the Faithful can spread the message of apparitions that have not been formally approved or condemned. It is important in those instances, however, to accept the Church’s ruling on that apparition, whatever it may be. It is important to remember that apparitions are private revelation, and, because the messages do not belong to the Deposit of Faith, belief is not necessitated by the Church.

Other titles of Mary express the roles that she plays, either with relatively direct language or Our Lady, Rosaryutilizing images. Mary is Our Lady of the Rosary, for the power of the rosary is so immense, and we as Mary’s children can always seek her intercession through the rosary. She is also the Queen of All Saints. While the saints are indeed in paradise with the Lord in Heaven, Mary was the sole human person (since Christ is a Divine person) to neither sin nor experience the stain of sin throughout all her life. Therefore, she is lifted above all the other saints (also as the Theotokos) as Queen of All Saints.

As I said, there are also more figurative titles of Our Lady that express the roles she takes. Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant. Like the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament, Mary bore the present of God. Just as the Spirit overshadowed the Ark, so too did the Spirit overshadow Our Lady. The Ark of the Covenant held a sample of manna, the rod of Aaron, and samples of the 10 commandments. The manna is a type of the Eucharist, while the rod and commandments symbolize priesthood and the Law, respectively. Mary thus bears these three things within her in the Person of Jesus Christ. So, while she is not literally an ark, Mary does fulfill the same role as the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament, but in a fulfilled manner.

Like I said, I wanted to discuss two Marian images that we find in the Alma Redemptoris Mater, which is the Marian antiphon during this time of Advent: Gate of Heaven, and Star of the Sea. They might be my favorite Marian images. Firstly, Gate of Heaven. Mary is the Gate of Heaven, for it is through her that Christ came from Heaven to earth. And it is through her that we attain paradise, that we can get to Heaven. Mary is the Mediatrix of All Graces, so it is through Mary that we are equipped with that which we need to get into Heaven, whether we do it intentionally or not. St. Alphonsus Maria de Ligouri said that “Mary having co-operated in our redemption with so much glory to God and so much love for us, Our Lord ordained that no one shall obtain salvation except through her intercession.” So Mary is the Gate through which all of mankind must go in order to get to Heaven. Either Mary grants us the grace because we seek her Son, or she grants us the grace because we seek her Son through her. The former is out of mercy, while the latter is right and just. It is only right that we seek to go to Christ through Mary, for Christ came to us through her.

Secondly, Mary is Star of the Sea. This is indeed a rich image. We are all out at sea, seeking our home. Some people are concerned Star of the Seaabout getting home, so they are just milling about, having a joyride at sea. Others are consulting maps and constellations. Others are looking out at sea for different landmasses to indicate where they are. In reality, as long as we look up at Our Lady, the Star of the Sea, we will never get lost. She always leads us in the right direction. If we follow her, we cannot get lost. That is a relieving thought, for, when we entrust ourselves to Mary, she will not fail to transform us into the Beloved Children of God, in order that she may present us to her Son, Jesus Christ. Sometimes, the seas get stormy, and we get lost, for we lose sight of the star. But if we keep our eyes fixed on Our Lady, we can battle through any storm that this life can give us.

Therefore, I encourage you to seek Our Lady, to seek her help, her guidance. Our Lady is the Gate of Heaven, through which we may attain eternal paradise with the Lord. She is the Star of the Sea, who leads us on our journey at sea to arrive safely home in paradise with the Lord. We can arrive there without acknowledging her. However, it is easier to get there by way of her. It is also more just, for Christ has desired for it to be that way. I encourage you to honor Our Lady, and hold her within your heart, so that the Holy Spirit can come place Jesus Christ within you.

“When the Holy Spirit, her spouse, finds Mary in a soul,
he hastens there and enters fully into it.
He gives himself generously to that soul
according to the place it has given to his spouse.
One of the main reasons why the Holy Spirit does not work
striking wonders in souls is that he fails to find in them
a sufficiently close union with his faithful and inseparable spouse.”

-St. Louis de Montfort

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Domine, Non Sum Dignus

“Lord, I am not worthy
that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word,
and my soul shall be healed.”

-Roman Missal

For Roman Catholics, these words should sound very familiar. Except for a few altered words, we have said these words at every Mass for our whole lives. The Church calls for a “full and active participation by all the people [as] the aim to be considered before all else” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 14). Full and active participation means saying the words, doing the actions, praying the prayers, and meaning what we say, do, and pray. No, that’s not always easy, but we are called to constantly make that effort for full and active participation. What’s the point if we are not going to devote every fiber of our being to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? The Eucharist is called the “fount and apex of the whole Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, 11). [The normal language we hear is ‘source and summit,’ but, in the original document, ‘fount and apex’ was used, and I like the sound of that better.] The Eucharist is that from which the Christian life flows and that which it seeks. Does it not deserve our entire selves?

So once again I say: we have heard and said basically these words for most of our lives. HortonHow often have we actually stepped back to actually think about what we are saying? We are standing before the Lord, the God of the Universe, celebrating the earthly liturgy that reflects that heavenly liturgy. Maybe it’s just me, but maybe we should mean what we say. God knows the very depths of our souls. He knows when we tell the truth and when we lie. He knows how much we invest of ourselves into what we do. So should we not give a little thought to what we say and do? Even more so, should we not give a little (or a lot) more thought to what we say and do to God? It seems to me that the obvious answer would indeed be ‘YES!’

How much do you give thought to the words we say at Mass, or the words you say in prayer? I don’t intend to make any sort of judgment about you, but think about it: you can be your own judge, for only you (and God) know what you think in your prayer. Sometimes we can seem to lie to ourselves when we make our prayers to God. We convince ourselves that we can lie to God. Like I said above, He knows man’s heart – ‘the innermost or central part of anything.’ There’s nothing about us that God does not know. He created us, for crying out loud! We can lie to ourselves as much as we want, but that won’t have any effect on the Creator of Heaven and Earth. With that in mind, it seems like one should have a desire to reject any tendency to lie to oneself. In the grand scheme of things, we’re doing nothing but harming ourselves and our relationship with the One for which we were created.

That is something that we should indeed desire to keep in mind as we go forward to celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi tomorrow. We celebrate the Body of Christ. That term does indeed refer to several things, including the Church and the Blessed Sacrament. On tomorrow’s Solemnity, the Church seeks to specifically call to mind the importance of the Eucharist in her life and mission. Now, the Mass is indeed important. I repeat, it is IMPORTANT! I still don’t think that adequately states the importance of the Mass. Christians through the centuries have spoken on the centrality and importance of the Mass, coming up with far better words than I ever could:

St. John Chrysostom: “When the Eucharist is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim immolated on the altar.”

St. John Vianney: “If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy.”

St. Thomas Aquinas: “The celebration of Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross.”

So many more saints have spoken on the greatness of the Mass and the immensity of the implications of this prayer of the Church. With that in mind, shouldn’t it strike us even more necessary to believe every word we speak within the context of the Mass???

The above were all thoughts that everyone should keep in mind. The following is a matter of my own personal preference that I would like to present for consideration.

When I say the words ‘Lord I am not worthy,’ I can’t help but take those to heart. We are about to receive the God of the Universe into our bodies. An intimate connection that is merely a foretaste of the heavenly communion we look forward to experiencing. We are sinful human beings. We could not deserve Christ’s gift of His Body,St. Pio Receiving Communion but He desires to give it to us anyway. Christ’s gracious gift calls for a humble reaction. What are my hands that they should be able to place the Eucharist upon my tongue? The priest is said to be In persona Christi. By allowing the priest himself to place the host on our tongue, we are allowing Christ to feed us Himself with Himself. I don’t want to claim to have the ability to grant myself that Gift. Why do we kneel in prayer? It’s a sign of humility, a sign of our smallness, a sign of our recognition of the One greater than us. That is why I kneel to receive the Eucharist on my tongue. I don’t have any desire to be noticed or to give off the holier-than-thou impression. (I actually hate when I get attention, especially for receiving communion.) I desire to be as humble in my reception of Christ’s Body as I know how. It was the tradition for centuries to receive on the tongue whilst kneeling. I don’t expect everyone to revert back to that, but I do desire for everyone to consciously think about that which they are receiving in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

‘O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.’

On this Solemnity of Corpus Christi, I encourage you to step back and reflect on how you approach the Blessed Sacrament. The Lord humbled Himself to die on a Cross and grant the Church His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity to receive. I call you on to think about your reception of that Gift. Maybe you think you should receive on the knees. Maybe you think you should begin receiving on the tongue. Or maybe you think you should just be more conscious about how you receive the Lord into your body. Whatever it is, I encourage you to seek to receive the Eucharist more humbly, more thankfully, and more consciously.

““Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated,
I put before you the one great thing to love on earth:
the Blessed Sacrament. . . .
There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity,
and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death.”

-J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Epiphany of the Lord

“[The magi] were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

-Matthew 2:10-11

Today, the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. adoration-of-the-magiWe remember the day when the three magi followed the star to the baby Jesus, presenting gifts to the Word-made-flesh. Celebration of this solemnity can be dated back to the mid-4th century. This is truly a day to celebrate the ways in which Christ appeared to us 2000 years ago. This cannot be seen as just some other lazy Sunday, on which we sit back and do nothing. We need to remember Christ’s Incarnation, and the visit of the magi to this God-man. A good way to remember is by reflecting on the various characteristics of Christ and His coming revealed by this solemn feast.

Firstly, I just want to point out something widely misunderstood. The above excerpt from the Gospel of Matthew points out that the magi entered a house. For someone even slightly familiar with the story of the Nativity, it is known that Mary and Joseph were unable to find a house or inn in which to stay when she gave birth. They had to stay in a stable, where they placed baby Jesus into a manger. Therefore, from this, we understand that this is not the same night as the birth of Christ and the visit of the shepherds. Maybe this took place after Christ was presented in the Temple. What is known is that the Holy Family still remained in the Bethlehem, for the Star that led the magi was said to lead them to Bethlehem. (It is referred to as the ‘Star of Bethlehem.’) Following Christ’s presentation, the visit of the magi, then, would reveal a certain ordinariness of the Person of Christ. He is a human, living in a house and following the Jewish prescriptions.

Next, let’s look at those men who came to the Christ-child: the three magi from the East. In Scripture, it says nothing about there being only three magi. Through Tradition, it is widely accepted that there would be three magi, due to the fact that Christ receives the three gifts from the magi. Tradition and legends also provide us with the names of these three magi: Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar. [These traditions are those accepted by theThree Magi Western church, chiefly. The Eastern churches accept traditions of different numbers and different names for the magi.] The magi have been believed to belong to the priestly caste of the Eastern religion of Zoroastrianism. They were foreigners from ‘the East.’ (Where in the East does not seem to matter. Therefore, these magi were considered representatives of the Gentile (non-Jewish) world. Much of the Old Testament outlines the reality of Israel as the Chosen People. Occasionally, they would bring Gentiles into their nation, but God’s plan for relationship was mostly for the nation of Israel, for the Jewish people. From the beginning of His life, Christ revealed this universal reality of His ministry. God became man in order to bring all people to Himself. That is why Christ established the Church: in order to bring all people to Himself in His Body. The fact that these priests visited Christ also reveals His priestly nature.

Next, we can reflect on the gifts presented by these three magi: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. If you’ve heard these gifts grouped together since your childhood, it can be easy to discount their significance. gold-frankincense-and-myrrhHowever, these gifts all reveal something different about the Person of Christ. Gold is not just an ordinary thing that just anybody will have. Gold is kingly (just think of Midas). Therefore, the gift of gold reveals the kingly mission of Christ. Next comes frankincense. Frankincense is a perfume, often considered a symbol of deity. Therefore, the gift of frankincense reveals Christ’s nature and identity as the Godhead. Lastly comes myrrh. Myrrh is an oil used for anointing and embalming the body. Therefore, myrrh has been a symbol for the death and morality of man. For Christ in particular, the gift of myrrh reveals the nature and identity as fully human. Those three characteristics of Christ – king, God, and human – are commonly understood by an examination of the visit of the magi.

Another characteristic of Christ can be unearthed through deeper reflection. There are only two places in the whole of Scriptures where frankincense and myrrh are listed together: Matthew and Song of Songs. The verse from Matthew was quoted above. The other place is Song of Songs. (4:6 – “Until the day grows cool and the shadows flee, I shall go to the mountain of myrrh, to the hill of frankincense.”) (4:14 – “spikenard and saffron, Sweet cane and cinnamon, with all kinds of frankincense; Myrrh and aloes, with all the finest spices.”) This presence in the Song of Songs implies a nuptial reality of ‘frankincense and myrrh.’ Therefore, the presentation of frankincense and myrrh reveals the certain nuptial reality of the recipient. Because He receives frankincense and myrrh, Christ is revealed as the Bridegroom (of whom the Church is the Bride).

Lastly, we can reflect on the Star of Bethlehem. The Star of Bethlehem was said to lead the Star-of-Bethlehemmagi to the child Jesus, for the Messiah was to be born there in Bethlehem. Some often see the Star as a problem in confirming the Biblical accounts of the Nativity and following. However, people have researched the astronomy and the science revolving the idea of the Star. Much has been found to confirm its reality. More has been found than I could say here. A movie was made that discussed the research made. Ultimately, the reality of the Star reveals Christ as the fulfillment of the prophets, being the Prophet. Micah foretold:

But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah least among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne, Then the rest of his kindred shall return to the children of Israel. (Micah 5:1-2)

Not only was Christ’s birth foretold to be in Bethlehem. It was also foretold that His birth would mark when all people would begin to be brought back to Himself. Therefore, the visit of the magi is only appropriate, symbolizing that beginning foretold by the Prophet Micah.

In celebrating the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, the Church recognizes Christ’s humanity, divinity, kingship, priesthood, as Bridegroom, and as Prophet. We celebrate the many different ways Christ interacts with humanity as a whole and with us as individuals. Christ came for all of humanity. That is seen, recognized, and appreciated on this holy day! Praise the Lord for this Solemnity, on which we can remember all of these different aspects of His reality as Priest, Prophet, King, Bridegroom, Human, and God.

 “Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.”

-Matthew 7:7

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I’ve Got a Problem with You, Mr. Claus

“He who has not Christmas in his heart
will never find it under a tree.”

-Roy L. Smith

Christmas is that time of year when we seek ‘peace on earth’ and ‘good will towards men.’ It is a holiday for gift-giving. We forget about ourselves so that we can keep our minds on others. We celebrate the self-emptying of the God-man who was born on Christmas Day. The season of Advent is even given to help prepare us for that coming. And we celebrate the coming of a jolly, old fat man from whom we expect a plethora of gifts, giving him in return our nice behavior and a plate of cookies… Wait… What?!?

There seems to be an immense disconnect between Santa Claus and the true meaning of Christmas. People tell me that we need to understand what Santa reveals to the world. First of all, we learn of Santa from St. Nicholas, wSt. Nicholasho supposedly gave selflessly. Who knows if that is actually true? But he was a saint, so we can assume he was a reasonably good person. Also, Santa flies across the entire world, giving gifts to all the good boys and girls. All that he wants in return is cookies with milk. That is all! He gives selflessly. He spends the whole year preparing for that one night when he travels the world to give gifts to people of all lands, not expecting gifts in return. He is supposed to set an example for all people, to give of themselves selflessly to those around them. When we give gifts at Christmas time, we should not do it in order to receive gifts back; we should do it out of a desire to give to others.

No matter how much we push this idea of selfless giving, children end up seeing Santa as this man who gives out a bunch of free stuff in exchange for our good behavior. I’m not going to try to make the claim that every single child has been coaxed in by this materialistic ideology of today. However, I will say that Santa makes it difficult to not be absorbed by that. Growing up in a good Catholic home, I knew that Christmas was the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. While I knew we celebrated it on that day, that was merely secondary. All I looked forward to on Christmas was gifts. I would always compile these elaborate Christmas lists, becoming consumed by these many things I would use for a day and then get bored. There wasn’t much that would convince me to forget this attitude. Only when I remembered Jesus and forgot Santa was I able to abandon this rampant materialism for the true meaning of Christmas.

Another issue I have with Santa is his promise of presents in exchange for good behavior. If children are ‘naughty,’ they’ll get coal in their stockings. All that this does is scare children into acting ‘nice.’ Children develop this tendency to expect good things when they are nice. Be NiceWhen they find out in the real world that niceness is not always repaid with good things, it can become easy to abandon that good behavior for doing whatever they want. While I would not place the blame completely upon him, it seems as though the over-emphasis of receiving gifts from Santa Claus has served as a contributing factor to the moral deterioration of society. We should seek to “be good for goodness sake.” Goodness should be a means to the end of our own benefits. We should be seeking goodness because it is good. When we are taught growing up that our goodness is ultimately repaid with gifts, and our badness is punished with coal, we implicitly and inaccurately learn to seek goodness only for its benefits and to avoid punishment.

I’m not necessarily saying that we should completely avoid this idea of Santa Claus (a discussion for a different time and place). It just seems as though everyone has screwed up their own understanding of the importance of Christmas. It is such an important day to celebrate, for we remember the birth of Christ. What’s the point of Advent if we don’t utilize it to prepare ourselves for the coming of the God-man? Santa Claus reveals the idea of selfless giving, expecting nothing in return. But Christ reveals this so much more. Christ completely emptied Himself, humbling Himself to humanity so that man could be in relationship with God. If Santa leads us to a fuller understanding of Who God is and Who Christ is, then, by all means, continue on your celebration of Christmas. But I think that everyone needs to be able to step back and take a look at their approach to Christmas. We cannot truly celebrate Christmas if we forget Christ (or His Mass). As with every holiday celebration, it is important for us to take stock of our approach to this most blessed of holidays: this celebration of the Incarnation of our Lord.

“To the American People:
Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind.
To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy,
is to have the real spirit of Christmas.
If we think on these things, there will be born in us a Savior
and over us will shine a star sending its gleam of hope to the world.”

-Calvin Coolidge

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