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Monday, first week of Advent

December 3, 2007

Blessed St. Francis Xavier’s Day! (look for his story in the “saints of Advent” category)

In our spiritual treasure hunt today, let’s look for Jesus in the greeting “Merry Xmas”.

As cold as it sounds, this actually is an abbreviation of “Merry Christmas”. “X” is our English version of the Greek “Chi”, which is the first letter of the title “Christ”. This abbreviation takes us back to our roots in the Early Church when most people spoke Greek. The abbreviation is even clearer if you 1) write the “X” through the stem of the letter “P” and 2) draw a line over the top. The “P” is the Greek letter “rho”, which is the second letter of “Christ” in this ancient language, and the line drawn over the letters indicates that they’re an abbreviation.

Looking at the word “Christmas” in this way can actually make us stop and look at what it means (it’s so familiar–we tend to take it for granted…). We’ve just focused on “Christ”. What about “mas”? Yes, the “mas” of Christmas is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Christmas is Christ’s Mass. Every Mass is Christ’s Mass.

So the next time you see “Xmas”, remember that even when people try to take Christ out of Christmas He’s still there, both in the “X” and in the Mass. Remember too our deep roots in the Early Church, when the common language of the world was Greek, and when many gave their lives for the privilege of participating in Christ’s Mass on any day of the year.

Isaiah 4:2-6 (once God purifies Jerusalem, He will be her shelter and protection)
Psalm 122:1-9 “I rejoiced when I heard them say: let us go to the house of the Lord”
+Matthew 8:5-11 (“I am not worthy to have You under my roof”)

These readings are chock-full of Sacraments! And rightly so. As we anticipate the celebration of God taking on flesh so that we might touch and hear and see Him, He draws our attention to the fact that He still comes to us through our senses.

“The Lord washes away the filth of the daughters of Zion” (Is 4:4) through the cleansing waters of Baptism, the purifying words of absolution, and the soothing oil of the Anointing of the Sick, that we who are “marked down for life in Jerusalem” may be holy (Is 4:3). In both Baptism and Confirmation we receive an indelible mark, a sacramental seal that can never be removed from our souls. Reference to Confirmation can also be seen in the “light of flaming fire” the Lord creates over Mount Zion (Is 4:5). And the Centurion’s words should sound very familiar. We pray them before we receive Jesus in Holy Communion: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and I shall be healed”.

Advent forcibly brings home the fact that we are living in the “now and the not yet”. We await Christ’s coming at Christmas, yet we may see, touch and even taste His Presence in the Sacraments every day during this period of waiting. We await His coming again at the end of time, but He is right here with us at this very moment. Now we see Him as through a glass darkly; but then face to face. Now we know in part; but then we shall know even as we are known (see I Corinthians 13:12).

May we greet Christ as joyfully and as reverently in the Sacraments now as we hope to greet Him one day in the splendor of Heaven.

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