In the season of Christmas we celebrate many feast days but what do they mean? The feasts often focus on biblical events, such as the Holy Innocents and also on the family and the importance of family for all of us.
Wednesday 26th December – St Stephen the first martyr – click here for more information.
Thursday 27th December – St John, Apostle Evangelist – click here for more information.
Friday 28th December – The Holy Innocents – The Holy Innocents are the children who were slaughtered at the orders of King Herod, in the hope that by killing every boy born in Bethlehem at the same time as Jesus, he would succeed in killing the new-born King of the Jews. There was nothing about those baby boys that made them deserve death. Look at any one of them, and you can see that he had no chance to do anything, or be anyone, or become anyone. He had done nothing. He had done nothing bad, he had done nothing good. He was born, and then he died, and that was all there was to him. So passive are these babies that some people find it hard to understand how they can share the title of “martyr” with people like St Stephen (the day before yesterday), who insisted on preaching the truth until his hearers stoned him for it, or St Thomas Becket (tomorrow), who insisted on living the truth until his king had him killed because of it. These children did not insist on anything except their mothers’ milk; and unlike Stephen and Thomas, there was no voluntary act of theirs that we can see as making the difference between being martyred and not being martyred. So in our rational human
Saturday 29th December – St Thomas Beckett, Bishop – He was born in London and became a close friend of King Henry II. He was only a deacon when he was appointed chancellor of England. When he was ordained as archbishop of Canterbury, he underwent an abrupt conversion of life and began to defend the Church’s rights against the king. He had to take refuge in a French monastery for six years, and when he returned to his diocese four knights, inspired by careless words from the king, assassinated him in his cathedral on 29 December 1170. He was immediately acknowledged as a martyr and the king later did penance and endowed his shrine. He is remembered for his courage in defence of the rights of the Church.
Sunday 30th December – The Holy Family – click here for more information.
Tuesday 1st January – Mary Mother of God – click here for more information.
Wednesday 2nd January – St Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops – Basil was born in 330 at Caesarea in Cappadocia, of a Christian family. A brilliant scholar and a virtuous man, he started by becoming a hermit but was made
Thursday 3rd January – The Most Holy Name of Jesus – The feast of the Holy Name of Jesus has been celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church, at least at local levels, since the end of the fifteenth century. The celebration has been held on different dates, usually in January, because 1 January, eight days after Christmas, commemorates the naming of the child Jesus; as recounted in the Gospel read on that day, “at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”[ Medieval Catholicism, and many other Christian churches to the present day, therefore celebrated both events
Sunday 6th January – The Epiphany of the Lord – click here for more information.