Posted by: Peadar Ban | December 28, 2014

Today, December 28, 2014: The Feast of The Holy Family

One of the things I really like about being lucky enough to have been born a Catholic, one of the most comfortable things for me about my faith, is what we call the Liturgical Year; the observation of the passage of time in quite a different way that the rest of the world does it.  Of course, as a subset of the Liturgical Year, with its Feast Days and Seasons quite different from civil holidays and the four seasons (and in the case of the former, quite a bit more) there is the division of each and every day of the year into the Hours, times of prayer at set periods throughout the day which call the mind and heart and body away from tasks and troubles to the another space, another place, to live and work in.  This I like.

We left early this morning, a bit before 6:00am, to cross the river to the church where we provide the music for Mass every Sunday.  It was warm for late December, the jacket I was wearing just a little more than I’d thought I needed only a few seconds ago getting ready to leave.  It was still quite dark.  A light rain fell, softly, gently, its droplets falling from the bare branches of the weeping cherry just outside the door.  One or two early rising birds were just beginning their first soft songs in the dark stillness under the clouds.

As we walked to the car I noticed how thick the night seemed outside the ring of light from the lamp, timed to stay until dawn, shining on our little Nativity out front. No other house but one at the top of our little hill was lit any longer.  We had come home on Christmas Eve after Mass to a blaze of light, so many kinds and colors of light, strung on trees and hedges, across doors, around bushes, outlining garages and mailboxes; steady lights, spot lights, blinking lights, red, green and blue lights, white lights all over on figures, animals, great glowing balloons and tiny little Santas; even the occasional lit Nativity at the front lawn or near the front door.

But, now, they were gone as if they had never been, and windows once more were dark and blind, shrubs stripped of winding cascading lights, Christmas trees invisible if, in fact, they were still there.  No delighted children scampered about from gift to gift in the early morning while bleary eyed Moms and Dads held coffee cups or cameras and watched.  Christmas unfold.  The secular variety which begins just a little before Thanksgiving day now, was over, and had been since sundown on Christmas day.

As we drove down the hill toward Manchester Street on the way to St. John’s I saw the faint blush low in the east, just under a break in the cloud blanket covering the rest of the sky; day’s first light.  A dull sort of pink, yet hopeful as are all daybreak moments I thought.  And yes, I saw there were still some homes where light brightened, braved, night’s deep loneliness.  On a hill two blocks away another nativity, perhaps the last but ours, lit the dark front of a little house.  And down the street we turned before going out on Manchester there were two more houses  holding the Christmas line.

We passed others on the way.  The trip is about ten minutes long, and there may have been twice that many homes still “keeping Christmas” if the lights about them were any sign.  Twenty homes out of how many?  I’d say easily two hundred.  Five percent.

Well, attendance at Mass this morning was quite in keeping with the experience of Christmas lights on homes and grounds along the way there.  I was happy though for the company kept.  Most of the people who were there I see every week,  The others?  They’ll be back at Easter, God willing.

They live in a different time than I do.  Is trua mor!

Pope Francis began his Christmas homily like this: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Is 9:1). “An angel of the Lord appeared to (the shepherds) and the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Lk 2:9). This is how the liturgy of this holy Christmas night presents to us the birth of the Saviour: as the light which pierces and dispels the deepest darkness. The presence of the Lord in the midst of his people cancels the sorrow of defeat and the misery of slavery, and ushers in joy and happiness.”

One of the other things I like about being a Catholic is the Church’s emphasis on the metaphor of light for oh, so many things, including heaven, our destination.  It’s occurred to me quite a bit during the past few days as I’ve watched the lights go out…all over the world?…this light “meme”.  And, here, right in front of me, all around me, so many folks seem to be choosing to “dwell in darkness”.

It’s not a happy thought to think on the Feast of the Holy Family.

“Lighten up!” I can hear some guys I know saying, as they switch to the ball game.

No matter.  Light has come.

The Holy Family!  This is light!


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