Tag Archives: New Year’s

A toast to friendship

December 31, 2014

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Friends make our lives richer, even when the friendship ends.

Friends make our lives richer, even when the friendship ends.

At a time when we gather to toast and reminisce, I’m remembering New Years’ past and the friends who celebrated with me.

I tend to rewind a lot of holiday memories at this time of year and think about the people who’ve been part of my life. Some are still my friends, which makes the memories that much sweeter. Sadly, others have either passed away, or otherwise passed from my life.

It’s hard to imagine who or where I’d be without friends. Through the years, they have supported me, challenged me, laughed and cried with me, and just been there with me.

Friendship not necessary?

C.S. Lewis calls friendship the most spiritual of the loves he describes in his book, “The Four Loves.” Of all those loves, which include affection and romantic love, friendship is the least natural, instinctive, biological or necessary.

Without Eros (romantic love) none of us would have been begotten and without Affection none of us would have been reared; but we can live and breed without Friendship. The species, biologically considered, has no need of it.

I think the assertion that we don’t need friends for survival is debatable. Mine have bailed me out in many ways and I them. At least it’s hard to imagine life without them. In losing friends I have most fully realized this.

We see in our friends qualities and virtues that we can’t see in ourselves. And true friendship takes us beyond ourselves.

Aristotle presents three marks of friendship.

  1. Benevolence: We actively pursue our friend’s wellbeing.
  2. Reciprocity: Friendship has to be mutual and not done only for the sake of our own desire.
  3. A sense of mutual indwelling: Friends are a single soul existing in two bodies.

Friends with Christ

I think this is the kind of friendship Jesus wants to have with us. He mentions it three times in John 15:13-15:

Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends…

It has been through losing friends that I have most able to accept and appreciate the Lord’s friendship—and to learn more of what it means to be a friend.

Friendship may be unnecessary, like philosophy and art, and it may have no survival value, as Lewis states. But instead, he writes, it gives value to survival.

As midnight rolls around, I drink a toast to friends who have enhanced my survival by loving me and showing me how to love the Lord!

Happy New Year!

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The Grinch and the Christmas Octave

December 28, 2011

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Photo/Maryanne Ventrice Licensed under Creative Commons

It feels a little like the Grinch comes on Christmas Night for real. The same way that troubled green creature hauled out every trace of Christmas from Whoville, our culture removes all the signs that the Holy Day ever happened.

Trees wrapped in plastic are cast onto the curb, Christmas items are deep-discounted for quick sale on the Dec. 26 shopping holiday and Christmas music all but disappears from the airwaves.

When it comes to Christmas, the world could learn something about partying from Catholics.

The 36 hours from Christmas Eve through Christmas Night are just the beginning–our festivities go on for eight days. This liturgical octave of Christmas starts on Christmas Day and continues until the Solemnity of the Mother of God (New Year’s Day).

Besides offering seven more days for feasting and merriment, the Church has a serious reason for designating an octave celebration of Christ’s birth, along with octaves for Easter and Pentecost. It’s to help us contemplate the mysteries of these feasts experienced in the Church’s liturgies.

Old Testament roots

The octave commemoration has its origins in the Old Testament. On the eighth day, circumcision occurs in the Jewish faith, representing God’s covenant with Abraham and the Jewish people. The Feast of Tabernacles and other feasts were celebrated for seven days but the eighth day also carried special significance.

In the fourth century, the Church gave Easter and Pentecost octaves possibly because it allowed for an extended retreat for the newly-baptized. Also, since both of those feasts always fall on Sunday, the octave day of the following Sunday seems like a natural closing for a week of festivities.

The Church introduced the octave of Christmas in the eighth century. Other octaves were added for Epiphany, Corpus Christi and saints. Until the middle of the 20th century, octaves were ranked in importance. For the most “privileged” octaves, no work was done nor other feasts celebrated.

In 1955, Pope Pius XII simplified the calendar so that the Church recognizes only the octaves of Easter, Pentecost and Christmas.

Feasts within the Feast

As she celebrates Christ’s Nativity, the Church also commemorates these feasts during the octave of Christmas:

  • Dec. 26: Feast of St. Stephen
  • Dec. 27: Feast of St. John the Evangelist
  • Dec. 28: Feast of the Holy Innocents
  • Dec. 30: Feast of the Holy Family
  • Jan. 1:     Octave day of the Nativity, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

One of the ways to commemorate the octave of Christmas is by attending daily Mass:

The octave’s primary observation is by celebrating daily Mass in thanksgiving for Christ, with the gospel readings centered around the Incarnation and early years of Jesus’ life. The wisdom of the Church begins the octave with the birth of Jesus and ends it on the eighth day with the veneration of Mary’s role in the Incarnation.

Feasting and merriment are both in order for the octave of Christmas, as well as visiting family, visiting the sick and elderly, and helping the poor. Also, here are prayers and activities for each of the octave days.

In the end, the Grinch was converted and embraced Christmas. Maybe as we give this Holy feast its proper place on the calendar, our culture won’t unplug the Christmas lights so fast and will let the Nativity celebration continue.

Merry Christmas!

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