Saint of the day:
Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Spain)
Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
December 18 was a special day in the Church's calendar to contemplate this profound mystery.
Historically the Church, specifically the local church in Spain, celebrated a fascinating feast on December 18 called “The Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” It can be traced back to the 7th century and was originally the feast of the Annunciation.
At that time special feast days during Lent were not allowed and so instead of transferring the feast of the Annunciation from March 25 to a random day during Easter, the Church decided to transfer it to the Advent season. The date of December 18 was picked and the feast remained focused on the mysteries surrounding the Annunciation for several centuries.
By the 17th century the regulations during Lent were relaxed and the Church saw it more fitting to celebrate the Annunciation in March than in December.
They transferred the feast back to its original date, but in Spain they kept December 18 as a special day dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Its celebration was even given an octave, making each day before Christmas a special day in honor of the Blessed Mother.
Where did she go?
Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem
2 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all the people were on their way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 Now Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was betrothed to him, and was pregnant. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
בֵּ֥ית לָֽחֶם (Bethlehem) is made up of two Hebrew words: Bet בֵּ֥ית (meaning house) and lechem לָֽחֶם (meaning bread).
Mary's womb holds the bread of life. Mary goes to the house of bread to deliver the bread (Jesus). After delivering him she places him in a manger.
What is a manger? A manger is a structure or feeder used to hold food for sheep or animals. The word comes from the Old French mangier (meaning "to eat"), from Latin mandere (meaning "to chew").
Mary's actions showed that Jesus is the "bread of life" and Catholics are reminded about the importance of the Eucharist and transubstantiation even at Christmas.
Many countries give Christmas bread out as gifts of love like Panettone & Pandoro in Italy, Julekake in Norway, Stollen in Germany, Cozonac cu Nuca or walnut bread in Romania, Krendel Bread in Russia, Bobalky in Slovakia, Cougnou or bread of Jesus in Belgium, Christopsomo or Christ’s Bread in Greece, and Vánočka a braided fruit filled bread that is meant to resemble the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes in the Czech Republic. Sometimes Christmas wafers, Oplatek, are available from Churches which have been blessed for the families to eat before dinner. These charming Christmas wafers resemble a large Eucharist. The breaking of the Christmas wafer is a custom that began in Poland and it is now practiced by many people around the world. The Christmas wafer symbolizes the unity of the family, which should exist between all family members.
Peace on Earth
The Ritual of the Christmas Wafer: Gathered around the dining room table before the Christmas Eve dinner but right after grace the eldest male member takes the wafer and expresses his hopes for the new year. He also states that it is time to openly tell each other, I love you and I care about you. While holding the wafer he breaks off a piece to start the ritual. The remaining wafer is passed on to the next person at the table. All guests are welcomed to partake in this amazing family event, even pets. Each person is encouraged to give a blessing, a wish or to make amends. This continues until everyone at the table has a piece of the wafer. Finally, after each person has given the gift of unconditional love and forgiveness, while consuming a piece of the shared wafer, the father then leads the family in prayer, uniting the family. The wafer also symbolizes forgiveness, reconciliation, and above all love.
Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among people…
John 15:12 This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.