Holy Reminders

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Advent is upon us and we’re anticipating the joy of the Christmas season. Many have already put up their trees and decorated their homes and yards with garlands and lights. You may have hung stockings on the mantle or put a Nativity scene on the hearth. This is a season full of the beautiful images of our faith. They are reminders of what we love about this time time of year: the birth of our Savior, the warmth and love of our family and friends, and the hope of peace on earth. It just wouldn’t seem like Christmas, as we’ve come to know it, without the decorations and the lights, the trees and the presents.

We Catholics love these holy reminders of Christmas, and all the other seasons of the Church year, too. Our churches are filled with sacred art, like paintings and statues. Many of them have windows of stained glass that show the life of Jesus and the saints. You’ll see crosses made of wood or bronze and marble floor tiles. You’ll see the suffering face of Jesus on a crucifix. Everywhere you look, you’ll be reminded of the God Who made us and loves us and died to save us. And yet there was a time in the history of our faith when it was illegal to display a crucifix or to hang a painting of Jesus or the Holy Family. There was a time when the government sent soldiers to churches to burn them to the ground—after they’d looted them of anything of value and smashed the statues and the stained glass windows. Irreplaceable libraries of rare books were set ablaze and lost forever. When the soldiers were done, not a stone was left on another stone in many places. Families who had worshipped in the same church for dozens of generations were left without a parish, without the schools for the children and without the help that the church had provided for the sick, the needy, and the aged. They were left without their priests, who were killed in some cases or imprisoned, or forced to live as beggars on the street.

There is a darkness in the world that sometimes takes root in the hearts of men. It seeks to destroy the good and the beautiful because it hates anything that reminds the world of the Light. The darkness often masquerades as reform, or as a kind of justice. It carries itself with a prideful self-righteous attitude of assurance and zeal. Many are drawn to this darkness because it is attractive and popular. It is intriguing in the way that it offers and easy fix for complex problems. We weren’t created for the darkness, but because it lives in our world, it knows us; it knows our weaknesses. It weaves itself into our culture and government, shifting with the changing times and popular opinions.

We’re seeing a surge of this darkness in the Middle East, as thousands are murdered for their faith in Christ. Their homes and churches are being destroyed. This is happening today, in our time. But we’ve seen it before. In England, during the 16th century, the Catholic Church was “suppressed.” This is a kind word that historians use to describe looting and murder. In the space of a few decades, hundreds of churches and monasteries were destroyed and their properties seized, like I described earlier. Mass was made illegal. It has taken centuries for the Catholic Church in England to recover from this period of their history. Some may argue that it never has. Certainly the art and architecture lost during that horrible time can never be replaced. But the light of faith, though dimmed for a time, is bright there once again.

This week we lit the second candle of the Advent wreath. On each of the next two Sundays, we’ll light another candle, til all glow brightly. The candles remind us of the Light of Christ, which overcomes the darkness of a broken world—whether that darkness lives in medieval England or modern-day Iraq, or in our own heart. We remember all those faithful Christians who have gone before us, bearing the light of faith and we beg their prayers for a world in need of every possible holy reminder of God’s love and mercy.

“And the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness [does] not comprehend it.”
—–John 1:5

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Hugh Hubble
    Dec 07, 2014 @ 21:36:18

    Such a timely and thought provoking article. God bless you. Merry Christmas

    Reply

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