THE END OF THE BEGINNING
Brothers and Sisters,
In late 1942 during the darkest days for England in the Second World War, the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, reported to the House of Commons in Parliament that the tide was finally turning with an expected victory in Egypt, among other places. During this speech, he acknowledged that, while this is good news, the war is far from over. Famously, he quipped that “this is not the end [of the war]. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” His words of warning to the public were received, bitterly for the most part.
Happily, the “end of the beginning” news I have is much gladder: it is still Christmas! This splendid season has only just stared. Christmas Eve and the Solemnity of Christmas Day mark the beginning of the term.
Beginning with Christmas Day, the season ends with the Solemnity of the Epiphany – usually around two weeks after Christmas. However, even the current Christmas is shortened; until recently, the Christmas season lasted until 02 February – the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. There are still several places around the world that keep this longer season; even in Rome, the trees, Nativity scenes, and other decorations are not taken down until 03 February.
Advent builds up a crescendo that blooms with the celebration of the Nativity. That anticipation is intended to build-up energy that will help us celebrate the whole Christmas season.
So, keep the festive spirit, keep wishing and saying to others “merry Christmas” while speaking on the phone, in e-mails, in text messages, and of course in personal conversation. Please tell everyone you know that Christmas is not over – it will last into the new calendar year (and always does).
Finally, you’ll notice that the priest wears the color while (or gold) on the Sundays of the Christmas season. Remember that the Church uses the color white to hint at the clouds (representing Heaven). Using this symbolism, the liturgical color white intimates at the splendorous festivity that the saints and angels enjoy as they celebrate Christ, the Son of God Who took on human nature. This was done so that He would “shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the pathways of peace” (Saint Luke 1:79).
God be near, and happy Christmas.