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Catholic Online. Recent years have witnessed a growth in religious fundamentalism throughout the world. As Christians we are particularly disturbed by this rise. You should be especially familiar, though, with the Gospels—if you aren't at ease with the details of Christ's life, you're in trouble. Frank Sheed, the street-corner. Some scholars describe certain Catholics as fundamentalists. Such Catholics believe in a literal interpretation of both.
The Fundamentalist attack on Christmas is centered around the date of December 25, and actually has a rather ancient origin. In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day.
The only problem here is that the good bishop, as wise as he may have been on many other issues, was just plain wrong about this one.
We have to remember that the Eastern Christians celebrate the birth of Christ on January 7. This has always been their custom, which is fine of course, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.
The quote from Bishop Bar-Salibi above appears to be an attempt to explain why Western Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25, as opposed to January 7. It appears to be directed toward the Eastern Orthodox faithful, and it appears the bishop has some cursory knowledge of Western history on this matter.
It is important to note, however, that Bishop Bar-Salibi nowhere intended for his comment to be misconstrued as a blanket condemnation of the Christmas celebration, or even the Western date upon which it is celebrated.
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It was simply intended to be an explanation of why Eastern and Western Christians celebrate Christmas on different dates. Using it as proof text for how the Christmas celebration was started, and an indictment against the Catholic Church and Western Christianity in general.
Tragically, the propaganda has even worked its way into the Catholic Church. I cannot tell you how many Catholics I have heard repeat it, telling others that Christmas is really just a Christianized version of a Pagan celebration. All of this goes back to the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. Remember, the first Christians were all Jewish converts.
Naturally they took many of their Jewish customs into Christianity with them. Contrary to popular opinion, the celebration of Jewish things in the context of Christian interpretation is not Judaizing.
Rather, Judaizing is when you impose elements of the Mosaic Law on non-Jews Gentiles as if it were part of the Christian faith. So the Catholic Church, from its very apostolic beginning, adopted the principle of inculturationwhich I explored in a previous essay. It is a celebration that developed much later in Jewish history.
Hanukkah is always celebrated on Kislev Sometimes the overlap is so close that Hanukkah is celebrated at the same time Christians are celebrating Christmas. Early Jewish Christians would have associated Hanukkah with Jesus Christ in some way, as they did with everything else.
They most certainly would have associated his incarnation with the re-dedication of the covenant God made with his people during the Maccabean Revolt. They would have associated his incarnation with the light entering the Jewish Temple.
They most certainly would have remembered the account of Jesus entering the Temple in Jerusalem during Hanukkah, and referring to himself as the Son of God and thus revealing his full glory, or light, in the Temple John Since the synagogue was the source of Jewish life, the dates of the Jewish calendar were calculated from there based on rabbinical interpretation of Mosaic Law.
It is theorized that to simplify matters, many Jewish Christians of the ancient world simply used the Julian calendar along with their Gentile Christian brethren. Since Hanukkah is not a Biblical mandated feast, the date it falls upon would not have been as important to Jewish Christians as other feast dates. Building on the theme of dedication, this happens exactly eight days before the Julian new year January 1.
Thus Christmas, understood as a Christianized version of Hanukkah, would be an eight-day celebration, beginning on December 25, marking the Light of God coming into the world, and ending on January 1, marking the re-dedication of time with the new year. All of this would have happened within the first few centuries of the early Church. However, this eight-day octave of Christmas, paralleling the eight-day celebration of Hanukkah would later be overshadowed by the longer twelve-day celebration of Christmastide, from December 25 to January 6, with Epiphany on January 6.
December 25 would mark the beginning of Christmastide as the Feast of the Nativity when the shepherds came to worship the Christ-Child, while January 6 would mark the end of Christmastide with the Feast of the Epiphany when the magi came to worship the Christ-Child. There is more to this. The answer again comes to us from very early Jewish Christians who believed that the world was created on Nissan 14, according to the Jewish calendar, which came to be associated with March 25 on the Julian calendar.
These Jewish Christians not only associated the beginning of the world on that date, but also the beginning of the new world, meaning the conception of Jesus Christ. Thus the Annunciation by the Angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary, came to be celebrated on March 25, and is still celebrated on that date today.
Now count exactly 9 months from March 25, and you arrive at December 25, which is the associated date for the birth of Jesus Christ. According to ancient Jewish Christians, he was miraculously conceived on March 25 and born on December 25, by the reckoning of the Julian calendar. Kelly, The Origins of Christmas, p.
Saint Irenaeus, who lived between AD —in his work Adversus Haereses Against Heresiesspecifically identified the conception of Jesus Christ as occurring on March 25, according to ancient Church tradition, and linked it to the birth of Christ exactly nine months later, on December 25, at the time of the winter solstice. So we have two explanations for the marking of December 25 as the celebration of the birth of Christ. The first comes from a time period of the early Church, close to the event itself, during a time when Jewish and Gentile Christians were intermingling and sharing traditions.Jordan Peterson - Thoughts On Orthodox Christianity
The date is associated with the early Jewish Christian reinterpretation of Hanukkah, as well as marking 9 months following the conception of Jesus Christ on March 25 according to early Jewish Christian custom. The second comes from a time period nearly 10 centuries later, in which an Eastern Christian, living far away from the West, who celebrates Christmas on an entirely different day January 7is trying to explain to his contemporaries why Western Christians celebrate Christmas earlier than they do.
Which one do we want to believe?
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Does this mean there is no association at all between Christmas and ancient Pagan observances? At the core of it, there is no association. Superficially however, there is some. By adopting a more fundamental stand, the Church tends to isolate this group of followers who are looking for ways to bring Christ active into their daily challenges in life and not restrict Him to just the rituals.
To an overburdened and over-stressed person, religious rituals may provide some temporary solace but unfortunately many use them as escapism from the challenges in daily living. Christ's teachings should act as inspiration and give us the strength to face all adversaries,not run away from them. We are here to bring Christ's love to those around us,and that we must do. We know that Christ has the solutions to all our woes and He is very relevant in our lives.
The Church, instead of moving towards fundamentalism, must go all out to bring Christ into the ups and downs of our daily lives. Only then will He be seen to be relevant in our lives. He is not in the rituals that we observe but alive in our midst.
Rising fundamentalism driving away many from Church
All we have to do is seek him with confidence. Mother Teresa succeeded in bringing Christ into her life and the lives of millions of others around her. We may not be able to rise up to her magnitude but definitely we can be a "Mother Teresa" in our own little ways, in our own lives.
The Church must use its publications as effective tools to bring Christ into our daily challenges. They must be open to suggestions and criticisms however controversial they may be. They should encourage open intellectual debate on all issues facing us as Christians in today's sophisticated society and not suppress liberal views by its members who are also are genuinely working to bring the living Christ into their hearts and the hearts of fellow men.