This is the last day of our Feast of the Incarnation, the twelfth day of Christmas.
To the world around us, Christmas was over eleven days ago. So why do we Catholic Christians observe a long feast that most other Christians ignore?
One of the reasons is that the 12 days are framed by Christmas Day and the Epiphany, which is always celebrated on January 6. On Christmas Day, the Light came into the world. On Epiphany, the Light was revealed to the world outside of the temple of God, which was a manger, a feeding trough.
The season of Christmastide has several important days included in the days. December 26 we honor St. Stephen, the first martyr. On December 27, it was the feast day of our patron, St. John, which also happened to be the 28th anniversary of my ordination to the Diaconate. Then there is the feast of the Holy Innocents, being the infants boys slain by King Herod who was so afraid of this new born king that would overrule him.
January 1st was the feast of the Circumcision of Christ. This was in accordance with Jewish law, and show that he came not to abolish the Law of Moses, but to fulfill it. That day is also known as the Holy Name Of Jesus. The epistle for that mass is from Philippians, 2:9:
GOD also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
You have heard me speak of St. John Chrysostom, who was a Doctor of the Church, and the Bishop of Constantinople for a period of time. There are many of his writings available to us today online, and he covers a vast array of topics. This particular piece comes from his sermon on the Nativity of Christ, and I offer it here in humility.
Come, then, let us observe the Feast. Come, and we shall commemorate the solemn festival. Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused, and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been implanted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men now hold speech with angels.
Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle. Though being the impassible Word, He became flesh; that he might dwell amongst us. He became Flesh. He did not become God. He was God. Wherefore He became flesh, so that He Whom heaven did not contain, a manger would this day receive. He was placed in a manger, so that He, by whom all things are nourished, may receive an infant’s food from His Virgin Mother. So, the Father of all ages, as an infant at the breast, nestles in the virginal arms, that the Magi may more easily see Him. Since this day the Magi too have come, and made a beginning of withstanding tyranny; and the heavens give glory, as the Lord is revealed by a star.