Wow, right off the bat, we have to be confronted with the martyrdom of a young brave man from the early Church. We have to wipe that smile of joy and celebration amidst the gifts, food, and fellowship off our faces, we have to be confronted with sadness and unbridled meanness contained in human nature.
Does it make sense right at the beginning of our celebration season that we should be sobered by the fact that this celebration came with a price? St Stephen, by the way, the name in Greek Stephanos, means crown, was a deacon...and a well respected one at that. The apostles, after Christ's death and resurrection, after walking the road to Emmaus and being rejuvenated by Christ himself, took to the ministry with renewed zeal and all seriousness. They realized that they needed help with the service of the ministry, the feeding and raising money for the poor and widows. So, they appointed seven followers they knew to be of respected spirituality and knowledge to help in these capacities. Stephen was one they specifically pointed out as being, "a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 6:5)
How can one celebrate something without really understanding the beginning, or the why, a celebration is in the first place? I recently watched one of my favorite programs concerning cooking and a chef and a farmer, called "A Chef's life". It was the Christmas special containing many traditions of her family concerning food and customs. During the program, they had a "hog-killing" which was quite emotional for all of them. Life is life, right? Well afterwards the chef was cutting up the hog at a table and talking with a fellow chef, she said after experiencing this, I don't want to waste any part of this hog, I want to use it all. Her husband noted, that if you don't know this part, you have no right to be in the grocery store buying pork chops. I get what he means, sounds harsh, but I understand now after watching the hog alive, then hearing the rifle go off and seeing the chef's face before and afterwards. It's part of life, God's provisions for us, but it is painful and life is lost...a hog's life, but its where a pork chop begins. yes, yes, we can be carnivores without knowing or witnessing the killing of the animal, but there comes an appreciation that seems to make the bacon taste all the better.
Back to St. Stephen and his martyrdom and why the Church calendar has us acknowledging his being killed for the sake of the Church right after the nativity. To understand what price was paid to be where we are today, gives us the appreciation necessary to celebrate. Without learning what brave souls we have to thank, to aspire to, to be in awe of , how can one see the present and into the future with hope and a fervor to save, celebrate and carry on the mission Christ was born to?
It is my prayer that this Christmas season brings those Catholic Christians that are lukewarm, disenchanted, lost, or just plain lazy about their faith into the path of an on-fire Catholic Christian and receive the necessary tools with which to wake up and join in the fight to save, celebrate and carry one the mission!
Merry Christmas from the Pillar household to all!