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Who doesn’t love a Christmas Tree? 

What Christmas would be complete without the glittering fir, filling the house with color and warmth?

But whence the custom of the Christmas Tree? The pine fir certainly wasn’t present in Oriental Bethlehem, when Jesus was born. Rather, palm trees grow in the East, and are often depicted around the Crèche.

So, why don’t we decorate a palm tree, rather than a fir tree? Is the custom even Christian, we may ask?

Indeed, that Christmas tree standing in our living room has an ancient, wonderful history. And though the custom began pagan, it was “baptized” and adopted by the wisdom of a great saint.

St. Boniface was an English man who lived in the ninth century and who felt called to evangelize the German nation.

One of the pagan German gods was a great oak tree called “Thunder Oak” in honor of the god Thor. Every winter, the locals offered a sacrifice to Thor, usually a child, under the mighty oak.

One year, fired by holy anger, Boniface decided to do away with the barbaric custom and bravely showed up with an ax just in time to prevent the killing. Before the astounded revelers, he proceeded to hack away at the massive trunk.

Legend has it that a miraculous gust of wind pushed down the tree at the first blows. Impressed that the “god” did not strike down the daring priest, the pagans accepted Christianity.

As the giant oak collapsed, standing there was a small fir tree that, somehow, escaped destruction.

 

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Pointing to it, the holy man said:

“This little tree, a young child of the forest, shall be your holy tree tonight. It is the wood of peace… It is the sign of an endless life, for its leaves are ever green. See how it points upward to heaven. Let this be called the tree of the Christ-child; gather about it, not in the wild wood, but in your own homes; there it will shelter no deeds of blood, but loving gifts and rites of kindness.”

Thus using strength, St. Boniface did away with an idol.

Yet, also showing amazing tact, he wisely filled the vacuum left by a cancelled custom with another tree, now used merely as a symbol or as a type of “sacramental” directing the new Christians to the true God.

So was the evergreen taken into homes at Christmas, from that time on becoming a loving sentinel to the birth of Christ, a symbol of hope, peace and good-will.

With time, small and large decorated evergreens were used as an actual backdrop to the holy Crèche, another custom begun by another great saint, Francis of Assisi.

So as you gather around the Christmas Tree this year, share its holy origins with your children, so they may not only love it’s lights and colors, but also the rich Catholic heritage that is theirs.

 


 

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By Andrea F. Phillips

References: EWTN Online, Catholic Answers, Wikipedia
Photos:
Christmas Tree: Dreamstime.

St. Boniface and Thunder Oak: Wiki Commons; attribution: Jdsteakley

 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for January 23, 2020

God does not wish to see us in affliction, but it is we who...

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January 23

 

God does not wish to see us in affliction, but
it is we who draw down sufferings upon ourselves, and
by our sins enkindle the flames in which we are to burn.
God punishes us,
because we oblige Him to do so.

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Vincent of Zaragoza

In despair, the governor wept but, strangely enough, ordered...

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St. Vincent of Zaragoza

St. Vincent was a native of Huesca, Spain, but lived in Zaragoza.

He was ordained a deacon by his friend, Saint Valerius of Zaragoza.

In 303 the Roman emperor published edicts against the clergy and in 304 against the laity. Vincent and his bishop were imprisoned in Valencia, and though they were subjected to hunger and torture, they thrived.

Speaking for Valerius who had a speech impediment, Vincent angered Dacian, the governor, by his outspoken and fearless manner. Dacian exiled Valerius but subjected Vincent to the gridiron. Seeing the deacon unmoved, the governor had the torturers beaten.

Finally Dacian suggested a compromise. He suggested that Vincent at least give up the Sacred Scriptures to be burned according to the emperor’s edict. On the saint’s refusal, Dacian lost control and had him thrown in jail where the holy deacon converted the jailer.

In despair, the governor wept but, strangely enough, ordered the martyr to be given some rest. But Vincent had earned his eternal rest. As soon as he was laid on a bed, he gave up his faithful soul to God.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him h...

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Mary and the Muslim

Don Octavio del Monaco was a wealthy citizen of 17th century Naples. Like many of his class, Don Octavius had several Muslim slaves in his household. These children of Islam were amazed at the kindness of their “master.” He fed and clothed them better than they received in their native land. In return, his slaves attended to their tasks with diligence, as Don Octavius did not over work them, but assigned them duties in keeping with their dignity as children of God.

If these Muslim slaves had any reason for complaint, it was the gentle persistence with which their master and his wife exhorted them to give up their false religion and become Catholics. Don Octavius even went so far as to invite the slaves to join his family in the chapel to worship the one true God with them!

Our story today is about one young slave in particular. His name was Abel, like the slain son of Adam and Eve. He felt drawn in a peculiar way to a lamp that burned in front of a shrine to Holy Mary. Abel would purchase the oil needed to keep the lamp lit from his own meager stipend. As he continued to practice this humble devotion, he would say, “I hope that this Lady will grant me some great favor.”

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him he must become a Christian. At first the Turk resisted. But she placed her hand upon his shoulder, and said to him: “Now no longer resist, Abel, but be baptized and called Joseph,” conferring on him a name that was very dear to her Immaculate Heart indeed.

On August the 10th, 1648, there was much rejoicing in Heaven, for on that day “Joseph” and eleven other Muslims converted to the Christian faith and were baptized. Their conversion was brought about by the kindness shown by Don Octavius and the special intercession of the Mother of God.

Our story does not end here. Even once this son of hers was safely baptized, Mother Mary delighted in visiting him. Once, after having appeared to him, she was about to depart. But the Moor seized her mantle, saying, “Oh, Lady, when I find myself afflicted, I pray you to let me see you.” In fact, she one day promised him this and when Joseph found himself afflicted he invoked her, and Mary appeared to him again saying, “Have patience", and he was consoled.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him he must become a Christian.

Let’s keep in touch!