Monday, June 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

It may be a day or so late, but I thought I'd take the opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

No, I've not lost my mind--at least over this particular subject. You see, there are two Christmases on the liturgical calendar, and the "Summer Christmas" was this past Sunday, the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

There are many theological connections between the births of St. John and of Our Lord, and one of the more interesting ones was pointed out at last week's sacred music colloquium by Dr. William Mahrt. The birth of St. John marks the beginning of the shortening of days, and Christ's birth signals the beginning of the lengthening of days. This relates quite profoundly to what John said about Christ the Light, "He must increase and I must decrease."

But there's more. Last Advent, I was watching a show on EWTN, the title of which I can neither remember nor find on their website. In any case, it was all about Catholic customs as they relate to the liturgical calendar. As it turns out, in Medieval England June 24 was known as the Summer Christmas, and on this day--not December 25--the Christmas plays were held. This is because these plays would have been performed outside, and never inside the church. December was, of course, too cold a month in which to hold these plays outdoors, so they were transferred to the nearest relevant feast in agreeable weather. That would be June 24, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

As a child, I used to watch a certain network's series called "Christmas in July." It featured Christmas movies right in the middle of the summer. This struck me as a really neat idea (of course!) and I remember thinking, "Wouldn't it be nice to have two Christmases every year."

Little did I know then that the Church's calendar, in combination with the lively faith of the laity of centuries past, already provided the second one. Perhaps the Summer Christmas is worth bringing back, especially in these days when Christ's Mass has been all too commercialized. To me, this seems like the perfect use of inculturation.

Here's hoping your Summer Christmas was a blessed one.

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