Living in the Octave of Christmas

Week of December 25, 2016

Our holy, Catholic Church invites us to live the mystery of Christmas.  It celebrates an active eight days in which we are to celebrate the holiness of God’s love making its way to earth.  Similar to the song The 12 Days of Christmas, we are to gift the mystery with our attention.  We are to unravel its wisdom placed there by God the Father.  It is a celebration that goes past just the day of Christmas.  For many, long past the wrapping paper and long past the festive meals, Christmas being over and done signals the opportunity to return things that did not quite live up to expectations, to go looking for outrageous bargains, to gather with friends we could not see on the festive and holy day.  While all of this is happening, the mystery longs to be revealing itself to us.  The question remains, how do we live in the octave of Christmas?

My sister, my favorite and only sister, recently embraced some big changes in her life.  Not only will she be facing retirement soon, but she and her husband built a house in Arizona and upon selling their house here in record time, they moved and downsized into an apartment.  This move was met with complications.  What do we save and what do we keep?  What will fit, what will not?  All of us in the Ouper Family are collectors of stuff.  We were raised by parents who had a two car garage packed with collections and no car.  Some things are inherited.  With estate sales happening, and the realization that her children did not want to be saddled with the same collections, it was a cleansing and an unburdening for my sister.  She is still convincing herself it is the right move, which will take time.

In the octave of Christmas we are to enter the mystery in the same way.  The mystery of the Nativity begins with Jesus leaving heaven to become a child on earth.  As John’s Gospel so appropriately says, “And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14) Jesus was always with God and was God.  As we hear in the preface, He had to leave the angels, the thrones and dominions. He emptied Himself not only on the cross, but in this experience of Incarnation where He left the perfect union of the Holy Trinity in heaven to dwell with us.  He took on our flesh, He took on our emotions, He took on life in all things, but sin.  He left everything He had known since the beginning of even time itself.  His arrival was met with complications; there was no room at the inn.  He was born into simplicity.  From the multitude of the heavens and the eternal presence of angels, He downsized to earth.  He entered a world in the Middle East and willingly began as an infant, wrapped in swaddling clothes.  This move from heaven to earth is like no other.  We cannot even come close to the self-emptying that took place at the Incarnation.  He said yes to the will of the Father and left the comforts of eternal heaven to be born in time. He was in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit when time was created.  His sacrifice on the cross would open the gates so that we, the creatures of the Creator, might enter into total union with God.

In this octave we are to turn our hearts and minds to contemplate the vastness of this divinely inspired self-emptying.  It will find its high point in the final death when once again, for our sake, our Savior offers His very flesh which God invited Him to take on. Jesus is very consistent.  Everything He has He offers.  May these eight days find us pondering long past the emotion of today, upon the holiness that comes with the mystery of God’s love.  There is no greater love than this.

Reverend John J. Ouper