Christ’s Mass and the 12 Days of Christmas

Vatican Christmas Decoration

So where does the word Christmas come from anyway?

Well, it’s simply the words “Christ” and “Mass” put together. Christ – referring to Jesus Christ – means “Anointed.” And the “Mass” in Christianity is the celebration of the Eucharist – Jesus’ body and blood made present (also known as the Lord’s Supper…instituted by Christ at the “Last Supper”).

Every Mass is a celebration of thanksgiving (Eucharist) for Jesus Christ. And Jesus is made truly present at each celebration. In this sense – every mass is “Christ’s Mass.”

But Christmas is that special feast we celebrate once a year; in remembrance of Christ’s birth (God entering the world), in thanksgiving that Christ has already come and in anticipation of Christ coming again.

So if we are celebrating Christmas…it seems we should attend Christ’s Mass. And not only should we attend, but it should be the high point of our celebration. It’s the main event!

It’s sad how the vast majority of people celebrating Christmas seem to have forgotten that.

We have many people who forget the “Christ” part entirely. Then we have many Christians who remember the “Christ” part but forget the “Mass” part entirely (indeed they forgot it long ago). And even those of us who do try to remember both the “Christ” and the “Mass” part often don’t treat it as the main event that it is. Christ’s Mass ends up being some formality that we just want to “get over with.” We squeeze it in somewhere between the stuffing of the faces and the grabbing of the gifts.

And, yes, all of the time spent loving family and giving to those in need are beautiful parts of the tradition. But the love must be an overflow of the love of Christ. And the giving must flow from the greatest gift – Christ on the cross (the Mass). Otherwise, it is not truly Christmas.

And please don’t take your Christmas decorations down the day after Christmas. The celebration has only just begun! We spend all that time and effort decorating everything – why not get the most out of it?

Believe it or not we are not actually even in the Christmas season yet (so if you aren’t finished decorating, or haven’t started yet – no worries). We are in Advent. We are not celebrating Christ’s birth yet – we are anticipating it and preparing for it. The actual Christmas feasting lasts for 12 days (and sometimes more) and the proper season goes for 40 days – to Candlemas. So Mass on Christmas Day is only the beginning.

Keep that party going for the full 12 days (that’s better than 8 crazy nights, right!?) all the way to the Feast of the Epiphany (Jan 6th). Then you can go ahead and take those lights down – please.

But no matter what, definitely don’t forget the main event – Christ’s Mass. Happy Advent, everyone!

2 comments Add comment

Jeffrey L Miller December 16, 2008 at 6:51 am


Shelly December 16, 2008 at 2:15 pm

Thank you for the beautiful reminder. Growing up we were Catholics who attend regular weekly Mass, but not Christmas Eve or Day. (too crowded, out of town, too much to do). I’m going to try to get my family to Christmas Eve this year. Maybe it will become part of our annual tradition.

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