Letter from Fr. David
Dear Friends in Christ,
Happy Fourth Sunday of Advent, and Merry Christmas! (They fall back to back this year so I have to offer both greetings in the same sentence!)
Do you know the history and symbolism of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”? If not, it’s a fascinating story, and if so, it is an interesting tale worth recalling. In England, Roman Catholics were prohibited from practicing their faith openly from 1558 through 1829. They would do so under threat of imprisonment, torture, and horrific deaths. (For a gruesome example of such a death read about being hung, drawn, and quartered). Because Catholics faced such real and present dangers with their faith, and because they wanted to continue to catechize their youth, a sort of “code” was developed to teach the basics of Catholicism. This code was then adapted as a song format and tied to Christmas, a season which traditionally lasted twelve days. Thus was born “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
The items in the song – turtle doves, golden rings, ladies dancing, lords a-leaping, drummers drumming, etc. – were all things that could be associated with youth and young love in particular. On the surface, then, the song may simply seem as an ode to a young lover’s true love and what gifts the beloved brings at Christmastime. Very clever, indeed! Dig a little deeper, however, and another meaning of lover and beloved emerges. Jesus is our “True Love” who comes to meet us at Christmas. He is the bringer of all good gifts, most especially the gifts of faith and salvation. With that, let’s now look at the symbolism of the song.
- 1st Day, Partridge in a Pear Tree: In order to protect its young, a partridge will if necessary fake being injured in order to draw away would be predators. Jesus, Our One Lord, willingly suffered countless injuries and ultimately death to defeat humanity’s greatest enemies – sin, the devil, and death. He did this on a tree, thus the connection to a tree in the song.
- 2nd Day, Turtle Doves: 2 Testaments of Scripture – Old and New; also, 2 Natures of Christ – Divine and Human. A dove couple is often seen together. This can represent the “marriage” of the testaments of Scripture, and the commingling of the natures of Christ in one Person.
- 3rd Day, French Hens: 3 Persons of the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Spirit; also, 3 Theological Virtues – Faith, Hope, and Charity.
- 4th Day, Calling Birds: 4 Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Throughout the ages the Gospels “call out” to the world with the message of salvation in Christ.
- 5th Day, Golden Rings: 1st 5 Books of the Bible (the Torah, Pentateuch) – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These five books tell of God’s creation, our fall into sin, and God’s covenants established with his people. A gold ring is a sign of a covenant.
- 6th Day, Geese A-Laying: 6 Days of God’s Creation. Eggs represent new life.
- 7th Day, Swans A-Swimming: 7 Charisms of the Holy Spirit – Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy; also, 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Fortitude, Counsel, Piety, and Fear of the Lord; also, 7 Sacraments; also, 7 Corporal Works of Mercy and 7 Spiritual Works of Mercy. These are all things in which we as Christians find ourselves “swimming” every day.
- 8th Day, Maids A-Milking: 8 Beatitudes (9th repeats number 8) – Poor in Spirit, Mourn, Meek, Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness, Merciful, Clean of Heart, Peacemakers, and Persecuted. As milk builds strong bones, the Beatitudes help to build a strong spiritual life.
- 9th Day, Ladies Dancing: 9 Fruits of the Holy Spirit – Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, Generosity, and Self Control. These spiritual fruits are how God “dances” in our midst.
- 10th Day, Lords A-Leaping: 10 Commandments. Given directly by THE LORD, the Commandments would help the nascent nation of Israel, as with the Church today, to “leap” to new spiritual heights.
- 11th Day, Pipers Piping: 11 Faithful Apostles (a new 12th would be chosen to replace Judas after Pentecost). The Apostles were like pipers joyfully spreading the message of Christ everywhere they went, always teaching, baptizing, and forming new disciples.
- 12th Day, Drummers Drumming: 12 Statements of Faith in the Apostles’ Creed. Also, 12 Apostles (after Pentecost); also, 12 Tribes of Israel. The Creed is the constant “drumbeat” of the Church.
Merry Christmas, and enjoy the “12 Days” (or 2 weeks this year) of the glorious season!
P.S. A word of advice. If you’re ever doing an action-packed version of the “12 Days,” make sure you are NOT standing underneath a weak and low-lying ceiling. Just sayin’!
Christmas and New Year’s Mass Schedule
Christmas Eve – 4:00pm Mass
11:30pm Choir Concert
Christmas Day – Midnight Mass
New Year’s – No vigil Mass on Sunday Evening
New Year’s Day – 10:00am
This year the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God is observed on New Year’s Day but is not a holy day of obligation.
Check this out!
Bryan Lean, son of Marilyn Lean former St. Mary’s Parish Business Manager, who graduated from our elementary school (St. Mary’s School), reviews one of our parish’s classic stained glass windows on our Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity website. How wonderful to have such beautiful depictions of our faith for reflection!
Click here to go to this site: https://fscc-calledtobe.org/2017/12/future-humanity-passes-way-family-catholic-vocations/
Don’t forget to sign up for St. Mary’s MyParish App today!
Just text App to phone number 88202 or visit myparishapp.com to download. St. Mary’s will not automatically beone of your choices because we are a national parish which means we have no boundaries. Just type in St. Mary 1407 and the site will be available for you to click on and join. Keep yourself up to date on parish events, daily readings, messages, Pope Francis messages, and programs to enhance your faith journey.