One of the most beautiful things about the liturgical year is the lovely way the Church ties all the mysteries of faith together. This is especially poignant with the feasts that point to the Nativity. For all kinds of interesting reasons that may have their roots in the earliest Christian understanding of time, the celebration of the birth of Jesus was placed right smack at the Winter Solstice. Why? Perhaps to counter the pagan festival of Sol Invictus (the Invincible Sun), which worshiped the sun as it dimmed to the shortest day and longest night. The Roman Emperor (who, by the way, liked to be addressed as Son of God) purposely celebrated his birthday at the exact same time.
So he thinks he’s the Invincible Sun? Let’s place the feast of the Nativity at the Winter Solstice too, to celebrate the birth of the true Son of God.
Also, the ancient date of the Annunciation to Mary (and the conception of Jesus) –which may have even preceded the date for Christmas−−was set around the vernal equinox (March 25th), which of course was a perfect nine months before December 25th.
But it’s the date chosen for the birth of John the Baptist that I think is the most beautiful of all. If Jesus was born at the Winter Solstice, when the sun gradually begins to increase, then John would be born at the Summer Solstice, when the sun’s power gradually decreases.
That I may decrease, and He may increase. The Baptist’s prayer whispers to us still, in the dark Advent night.
What do you like best about Advent?
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I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).
Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015