Merry Christmas

Posted in Christmas, Giussani, Jesus by martalorenza on December 25, 2012


«What is important is Jesus.

And Jesus is neither the Creator nor a creature: He is both!

He is also a creature and nevertheless He remains the essence of all thing, because He is God, He is the essence of trees, flowers, the Heavens, mountains, lakes.»

Luigi Giussani

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Waiting for Christmas 4

Posted in Christmas, crib, Jesus by martalorenza on December 24, 2011

Some critics have remarked that in winter it was impossible for the angels to meet any flocks and their shepherds in open country at night. Actually, in the Jewish tradition everything is subject to the rule of purity and the Jews distinguish three kinds of flocks. The first, consisting of sheep with white fleece: since they are considered pure, after grazing they are allowed to go back to their stable in the village. A second group, instead, is made up of sheep with partly white and partly black fleece: these flocks are allowed to go back to the stable at nightfall, but their shelter has to be located outside the inhabited area. In the end, a third group consists of sheep whose wool is black: those animals, considered impure, are not allowed to seek refuge either in the village or a stable, not even after nightfall. Therefore, they have to stay out in the open with their shepherds all the time, day and night, both in the winter and the summer.

That means that the sheep given to Jesus as a gift were all black. Besides, the image Jesus uses in the story of the second coming of the Son of man “he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25) refers to the evening division of mixed flocks, too, when goats, poor in fat, were divided from the sheep to be taken to their shelter.

Also Luke’s reference to the “shepherds’ watches” implies that it was a long cold wintry night (Bethlehem is located 800 meters above sea level).

Marco Tosatti, The colour of the sheep in Bethlehem

see also: Michele Loconsole, La storia conferma la nascita di Gesù il 25 dicembre

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Waiting for Christmas 3

Posted in Christmas, Jesus by martalorenza on December 22, 2011

When I was a child and studied catechism, I knew there aren’t any elements either in the Gospel or in the apostolic tradition about the date of the birth of Jesus (even though today we can’t say so any longer, since Luke points out the month at least), that the Fathers had suggested a variety of dates and, besides all that, it was said that the celebration of Christmas on December 25 has a Roman origin dating back to the middle of the IV century and overlapping the Deus Sol Invictus festival, observed by various peoples the same day as the winter solstice and introduced in Rome by Aurelian in 274, year when he also consecrated the Temple dedicated to the cult of Sol Invictus.

Let’s correct a few elements.

Dionysius Exiguus (+556), who in 753 would establish Christmas on the December 25, is always mentioned, while Ippolytus of Rome (martyr in 235) is forgotten. In 203 he wrote in his Commentary on the Prophet Daniel:

“For the first advent of our Lord in the flesh, when he was born in Bethlehem, was December 25th,Wednesday, while Augustus was in his forty-second year, but from Adam, five thousand and five hundred years”.

So December 25 in mentioned in Rome 70 years before the celebration introduced by Aurelian.

Not only, it is the festival of the Sol Invictus that was put on December 25, or even better put off to this date, since the winter solstice – the day when the pagan fetsival of the Sol Invictus used to be observed – is on December 21, rather than on the 25. We can’t dismiss the possibility that it was Aurelian himself, who was a hard persecutor of Christians, who tried and hide the date of the birth of Jesus by overlapping it with a pagan celebration dedicated to the light…which seems to be the same thing they are arranging today (thank God, evil imagination is limited!).

As for the “Wednesday” Ippolito mentioned, it is thought it was chosen because it is the fourth day of the Creation. It is the day when the sun was created (gen 1, 16) and Christ is “the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1, 78). And, who knows?, I won’t be too surprised if they discover that Jesus was really born on Wednesday. Wednesday is the day the tradition devotes to St. Joseph, who must have been very busy that day to give a suitable place to little Jesus and His mother.

P.S. On Hippolytus’ date, a part from the year of the world Creation (computed according to the patriarchs’ lists of the Genesis), we can find the 42 years of Augustus’s “reign”: it can be a precious date, but we don’t know where Ippolytus starts to count from; if it were from Augustus’s arrival in Rome, after Caesar’s death, to claim his rights as the “son” (44 b.C.), the birth of Jesus would correspond to 2 b.C., with a better approximation than Dionysius’s. (from Notes about Christology by Sarefino Zardoni)

Marzo Tosatti, The colour of the sheep in Bethlehem

Shemarjahu Talmon, The Calendar Reckoning of the sect from the Judean Desert. Aspects of the Dead Sea Scrolls, in Scripta Hierosolymitana, vol IV, Jerusalem 1958, pp 164-201

Waiting for Christmas 1

Posted in Christmas, Jesus by martalorenza on December 18, 2011

Today it is extremely common among Christians, both lay people and priests, the belief that December 25 is a conventional date, chosen for various reasons.

 But in 2001 cardinal Ratzinger wrote: “The claim used to be made that December 25 developed in opposition to the Mithras myth, or as a Christian response to the cult of the unconquered sun promoted by Roman emperors in the third century in their efforts to establish a new imperial religion. However, these old theories can no longer be sustained.”

 In the next few days I’m going to put together on the web the elements undermining these old hypothesis that, deliberately spread around, have made our relationship with our fathers’ faith weaker and weaker in a century.

 J.Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, Ignatius, p 108. Quoted by Mi-CHA-EL (see also Roma Locuta Est)

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Posted in new by martalorenza on December 24, 2009

Lord Jesus,

if only you would take away our acorns

and give us bread, instead,

since you are the food-giver in the Lord’s house!

Oh, if only you took us on too

out of your grace

as wage-earners

even though we are late!

St. Ambrose The Commentary on Luke

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