Vol 12 Issue 48 ~ Editor: Rev. Fr. Courtney Edward Krier
November 30, 2019 ~ Saint Andrew, opn!
1. What is the Holy Eucharist
2. First Sunday in Advent
3. Saint Ansanus
4. Family and Marriage
5. Articles and notices
As we move into a new liturgical year, as was mentioned last week, we again prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus Christ in the mystery of the Incarnation. Dom Prosper Gueranger writes:
If, now that we have described the characteristic features of Advent which distinguish it from the rest of the year, we would penetrate into the profound mystery which occupies the mind of the Church during this season, we find that this mystery of the coming, or Advent, of Jesus is at once simple and threefold. It is simple, for it is the one same Son of God that is coming; it is threefold, because He comes at three different times and in three different ways.
‘In the first coming,’ says St. Bernard, ‘He comes in the flesh and in weakness; in the second, He comes in spirit and in power; in the third, He comes in glory and in majesty; and the second coming is the means whereby we pass from the first to the third.’
This, then, is the mystery of Advent. Let us now listen to the explanation of this threefold visit of Christ, given to us by Peter of Blois, in his third Sermon de Adventu: ‘ There are three comings of our Lord ; the first in the flesh, the second in the soul, the third at the judgement. The first was at midnight, according to those words of the Gospel: At midnight there was a cry made, Lo the Bridegroom cometh! But this first coming is long since past, for Christ has been seen on the earth and has conversed among men. We are now in the second coming, provided only we are such as that He may thus come to us; for He has said that if we love Him, He will come unto us and will take up His abode with us. So that this second coming is full of uncertainty to us; for who, save the Spirit of God, knows them that are of God? They that are raised out of themselves by the desire of heavenly things, know indeed when He comes; but whence He cometh, or whither He goeth, they know not. As for the third coming, it is most certain that it will be, most uncertain when it will be; for nothing is more sure than death, and nothing less sure then the hour of death. When they shall say, peace and security, says the apostle, then shall sudden destruction come upon them, as the pains upon her that is with child, and they shall not escape. So that the first coming was humble and hidden, the second is mysterious and full of love, the third will be majestic and terrible. In His first coming, Christ was judged by men unjustly; in His second, He renders us just by His grace; in His third, He will judge all things with justice. In His first, a lamb; in His last, a lion; in the one between the two, the tenderest of friends.’
As always, enjoy the readings and commentaries provided for your benefit.—The Editor
WHAT IS THE HOLY EUCHARIST
By Rev. Courtney Edward Krier
These Liturgical ceremonies [during Holy Week] were not sacraments, but found in the changing parts of the Mass—the Propers of the Liturgical Cycle—where one can find such recent changes such as the Sacred Heart of Jesus (1929) and Christ the King (1925) with new Prefaces. Confronting the neo-Modernists and anti-Liturgists on one side who claim everything can be changed, on the other side there are those today who say nothing can be changed despite the continual changes noted. Neither are correct in their procedure. It is a question of what can be changed and what cannot be changed. This was seen in the proceedings of the Council of Trent and is also to be found in the proceedings of the Second Vatican Council. Unfortunately, those Cardinals and bishops who pointed out what could and what could not change were silenced and even the document that finally was approved at the Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Councilium (December 4, 1963), the product which was short lived, was the 1964 Missale, that retained the Offertory, Canon and Communion in Latin in its entirety (with an exception already introduced in the 1962 Missale)—as no true Catholic Bishop could conceive the possibility of changes in the Mass of the Faithful as it stood in the Ordinary (besides the Prefaces which were always in flux). Angelo Roncalli added Saint Joseph to the Canon in what today would be to termed “politically correct” or moved by the masses. Even after petitions of hundreds of thousands of signatures, including bishops and religious superiors to have Saint Joseph added in the Canon, in 1815, to the Congregation of the Sacred Rites and later to Pius IX, the only accession was to honor him with a Mass and later proclaim him universal patron of the Church by the decree Quemadmodum Deus of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, published on December 8, 1870. And even if, as the Pius X Society founded by Marcel Lebfevre published in their article St. Joseph: Protector of Universal Church, of March 18, 2015, it is true that Popes Leo XIII and Pius X signed such petitions as bishops, these Popes knew, as Popes, they could not add Saint Joseph. When, as the story is repeated, the bishop of Mostar, Peter Čule, asked the Council to add the name of Saint Joseph and Cardinal Ruffini rebuffed him, Roncalli and the anti-Liturgists saw their moment and on November 13, 1962 came to the Council to announce he would add Saint Joseph—opening the door to changing what was unchangeable. Here one should remember the dogmatic decision of the Council of Trent: Canon 6: If anyone says that the canon of the Mass contains errors, and should therefore be abrogated: let him be anathema (cf. n. 942; DB 953). Benedict XIV says: Canon is the same word as rule, the Church uses this name to mean that the Canon of the Mass is the firm rule according to which the Sacrifice of the New Testament is to be celebrated (De SS. Missæ Sacr., Lib. II, xii).
Despite the act of Angelo Roncalli, the neo-Modernists and anti-Liturgists were not able to advance their changes, but they were able to prevent true Catholic doctrine from being advanced. The stalemate would change under Giovanni Battista Montini, one of their own. Some claim that Angelo Roncalli stopped the neo-Modernists and anti-Liturgists, even claiming that he removed Anibale Bugnini from the Commission on the Liturgy. Rather, it was the “Cardinal” in charge, Arcadio Larraona, who saw Bugnini as a progressivist or an anti-Liturgist, and replaced him. This is found in the following footnote of Anibale Bugnini’s book, The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975:
Of all the secretaries of the preparatory commissions, Father Bugnini was the only one not appointed secretary of the corresponding conciliar commission. This was the first sign that the new president of the liturgical commission, Cardinal Arcadio Larraona, was following a different course from that of the commission that had drawn up the schema; this last, meanwhile, was continuing the normal course leading to presentation at the Council. To achieve his purpose, Cardinal Larraona began by dismissing the secretary, who was the pivotal figure in the entire preparatory work. This was Father Bugnini’s first exile.
At the same time that Father Bugnini was dismissed from the secretariat of the conciliar commission, he was also discharged from his post as teacher of liturgy in the Pontifical Pastoral Institute of the Lateran University, and an attempt was made to take from him the chair of liturgy at the Pontifical Urban University. This repressive activity emanated directly from Cardinal Larraona and was very kindly seconded by some fellow workers who wanted to better serve the Church and the liturgy. The basis for the dismissals was the charge of being a “progressivist,” “pushy,” and an “iconoclast” (innuendos whispered half-aloud), accusations then echoed in turn by the Congregation of Rites, the Congregation of Seminaries, and the Holy Office. But no proof was offered, no clear justification for such serious measures.
Some friends—Cardinals Lercaro and Bea, for example—who knew Father Bugnini well were the good angels who blazed a direct path, first to Pope John, who made a few gestures but accomplished nothing in face of the strict intransigence of Cardinal Larraona, and then to Cardinal Montini, one of whose first acts as Pope was to make reparation by appointing Father Bugnini secretary of Consilium (January 3, 1964). (30)
Bugnini, in the book quoted, does not even express disappointment—for it is still he who is guiding the destruction of the Mass—in a better position, unseen. The title itself if deceptive except if one understand the date 1948 to be when he got his foot in the door, for only a mere 8 pages of 910 cover the first third of the years he writes about—for he could do nothing under Pius XII but plant the cockle. The first sprouts are seen in the decree Sacrosanctum Concilium of the II Vatican Council concerning the Liturgy.
The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers
M. F. Toal
THE GOSPEL OF THE SUNDAY
LUKE xxi. 25-33
At that time, Jesus said to His Disciples: There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves; men withering away for fear, and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of heaven shall be moved; and then they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with great power and majesty. But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand. And He spoke to them a similitude. See the fig tree, and all the trees: when they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is nigh; so you also, when you shall sec these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand. Amen, I say to you, this generation shall not pass away, till all things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
EXPOSITION FROM THE CATENA AUREA
There will be signs in the sun, and in the moon . . . . BEDE, in Luke Ch. 88: Our Lord here foretells, and in their order, those things that will come to pass when the days of the nations shall have been fulfilled, saying: there will be signs . . .
GREGORY, Hom. I in Evang.: Whom does He call the Powers of heaven unless the Angels, Dominations, Principalities and Powers, who at the coming of the dread Judge will then be visible to our eyes, as they sternly exact that which He, the Invisible Creator, now patiently requires of us.
THEOPHYLACTUS: Not alone shall men tremble when the world is being dissolved, but even the angels will be fearful in the presence of such terrifying destruction of the universe. Hence there follows: For the powers of heaven shall be moved.
EUSEBIUS: When the Son of God is about to appear in glory, to cast down the now ended tyranny of the son of sin, the gates of heaven, closed from all ages, will now by the hands of ministering angels be thrown wide open, so that the heavens shall stand revealed.
CHRYSOSTOM, Ad Olympiam Ep. 2: Whence in Job is it said (Job xxvi. II): The pillars of heaven tremble and dread at his bec. What shall the little columns do when the pillars of the firmament tremble? What shall the reed in the desert endure when the cedar of paradise is stricken? Eusebius: Or, again; the Powers of the heavens are they who rule over the visible parts of the universe, who shall now be changed that they may go on to a more perfect state. For in the new creation they will be freed from the tasks in which they now serve God in things which follow the course of change and decay.
AUGUSTINE, Ad Hesych. as above, par 39 (in which letter Bishop Hesychius wrote Augustine concerning the prophecies foretelling the end of the world and the signs preceding. Ed.): I consider that these things should be better understood in the Church, lest the Lord Jesus may appear to be foretelling, as extraordinary events which shall foretell His Coming, things which have happened in this world even before His First Coming, so that we may not be laughed at by those who have read of even more extraordinary events in the story of mankind. For the Church is the sun and the moon and the stars, to whom it was said: Fair as the moon, bright as the sun (Cant. vi. 9), and she then shall not be seen, as her persecutors rage against her without measure.
AMBROSE, 10 in Luke: Many apostatizing from Christianity, the brightness of the faith will be dimmed by this cloud of apostasy: since the heavenly Sun grows dim or shines in splendour according to my faith. And as in its monthly eclipse the moon, by reason of the earth coming between it and the sun, disappears from view, so likewise the holy Church, when the vices of the flesh stand in the way of the celestial light, can no longer borrow the splendour of His divine light from the Sun of Christ. And in the persecutions it was invariably the love of this life that stood in the path of the Divine Sun. Also the stars, that is, men surrounded by the praise of their fellow Christians, shall fall, as the bitterness of persecution mounts up; which must however come to pass, until the number of the faithful is made up; for so the good are proved and the weak made known.
AUGUSTINE, as above, par. 40: What is here said, and upon the earth distress of nations, is not to be understood as meaning the seed of Abraham, in whom all peoples shall be blessed (Gen. xxii. 18), but those who will stand upon the left hand side when all men are gathered together before the Judge of the living and the dead.
AMBROSE: So oppressive therefore will be the unrest of souls, that, unhappily conscious of the multitude of our offences, and fearful of the judgment to come, the very dew of baptism shall dry upon our brow. For the powers of heaven shall be moved; and then they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud.
Again, His coming is also longed for, so that His Presence may work in the whole universe of angels as of men that which is wrought in single souls when with fitting dispositions we receive Christ. So the Powers of heaven at the Coming of the Lord of salvation will attain to an increase of grace, for He is the Lord of the Powers also, and they will tremble at this close manifestation of the fulness of His Divinity. Then too the powers who proclaim the glory of God (Ps. xviii) shall also be moved by this full revelation of the glory of Christ. AUGUSTINE, as above: Or, the powers of heaven shall be moved since, because of the persecutions of the godless, some even of the most steadfast among the faithful shall be filled with fear.
THEOPHYLACTUS: And then they shall see the Son of man coming, that is, faithful and unbelieving alike shall see Him. For both Cross and Redeemer shall shine more splendidly than the sun; hence they will be seen by all. AUGUSTINE, as above, par. 41: The saying: coming in a cloud, may be understood in either of two ways: either as coming in the Church, as in a cloud, as even now He ceases not to come, but then it will be in great power and majesty, because more of His power and majesty will appear to the saints, to whom He will give strength, so that they shall not be overcome by such great tribulation; or, He will come in His own Body, in which He sits at the Right Hand of the Father. So, rightly must we believe that He will come, and not alone in His own Body, but also in a cloud, since as He departed from us so shall He come again; for He was raised up: and a cloud received Him out of their sight (Acts i. 9). And this because of what was then said by the angel: He shall so come as you have seen Him going into heaven.
CHRYSOSTOM, in Catena G.F.: For God always appears in a cloud, as according to Psalm 92, verse 2: Clouds and darkness are round about him. Hence also the Son of man will come in the clouds as both God and Lord, not humbly, but in the glory befitting the Godhead; accordingly he adds: With great power and majesty. CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA, in Catena G.F.: Great events are to be understood in relation to each other. Just as His First Coming was in lowliness and humility, so His Second shall be in fitting majesty. GREGORY, Hom. I in Evang.: In power and majesty shall they behold Him, to whom when He came in lowliness they turned a deaf ear; so the more sharply will they now feel His power, the more they refused to humble their hard hearts to His clemency.
GREGORY, Hom. I in Evang.: Since that which He had just said had been directed against the reprobate, He turns now to speak words of comfort to the Elect. For He adds: When these things come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads; as if to say: when the miseries of the world abound, lift up your heads, that is, rejoice in your hearts; for while the world to which you have not given your hearts is ending, the redemption you have eagerly sought is now at hand. In Sacred Scripture the head is often used to signify the mind, because as the members of the body are governed by the head, so are our thoughts governed by the mind. Therefore, to lift up the head is to raise the mind to the joys of the heavenly fatherland.
EUSEBIUS: Or, alternatively: Corporal things having passed away, there remain now only the intellectual and the heavenly, namely: the kingdom of a world that will never pass away, and the promised rewards that shall be given to the just. But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand. Since we have received the promises of God, in which we place all our hope, we who before were bowed down shall now raise our heads, for the redemption we have longed for will then be at hand, that namely for which every creature is waiting.
THEOPHYLACTUS, on Your Redemption is at hand: That is, perfect freedom of body and soul. For as the Lord’s First Coming was for the redemption of our souls, so the Second will bring about the redemption of our bodies. Eusebius: He said this to His Disciples, not as if they were to continue on in this life till the end of the world, but He so spoke as to one continuing Body, to them, to us, and to posterity, which will continue in belief in Christ until the end of the world.
GREGORY, as above: That the world is to be trodden on and despised He makes clear by a timely comparison when He goes on to say: See the fig tree and all the trees: When they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is nigh; so you also, when you shall see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand; as if He said: as we know from the coming of the fruit on the trees that the summer is at hand, so from the ruin of the world it can be known that the kingdom of God is approaching. From this we may gather that the fruit of the world is ruin. To this end it germinates, that whatsoever blooms upon it, will be consumed in disaster. Happily however the kingdom of God is compared to summer, for when the clouds of winter pass, the days of our life will be resplendent in the glory of the eternal sun.
AMBROSE, in Luke xxi: 2: Matthew speaks of but a single tree, Luke of all the trees (Mt. xxiv. 31; Lk. xxi. 29). The fig tree has a twofold meaning; either as when the hard grows tender, or when sin abounds. Either therefore when the fruit is green on all the trees, and the fig tree branch blooms also; that is, when every tongue doth confess the Lord, confessing also the people of Israel, we must hope for the coming of the Lord, in which, as in the summer time, the fruits of the Resurrection shall be gathered in; or, when the son of iniquity shall have put on as a garland, vain and empty boast, the leaves of the synagogic branch, we must then see that the judgment approaches: for the Lord is hastening to reward faith, and to make an end of wrong doing.
AUGUSTINE, Ad Hesych. as above, 44 ,45: When He says, when you shall see these things come to pass, what must we understand unless the things already mentioned? Among these He said, and then they shall see the Son of man coming. So, when this is seen, the kingdom of heaven is not to come, it is close at hand. But are we to say that not all the things mentioned are implied in the words, when you shall see these things come to pass, but only some; this in particular being excluded, and then they shall see the Son of man. But Matthew clearly shows there is to be no exception, saying, so you also, when you see all these things, among which is that the Son of man will be seen coming, understood of the coming in which He now comes in His own members, as in clouds, or in the Church, as in a great cloud.
TITUS: Or, differently, He says the Kingdom of God is at hand, because when these things come to pass, the end of things has not yet come, but they now move towards their end; for the actual coming of the Lord, putting an end to the power of all other rulers, prepares the way for the kingdom of God. EUSEBIVS:Just as in this life, with winter going, and the spring time following, the sun pours out its warm rays and wakens to life seeds long buried in the earth, which then shedding their first covering come forth in new and varied forms, so the glorious coming of the Only Begotten of God, pouring forth His life-giving rays upon a new world, brings to the light, seeds long buried throughout the whole earth, that is, those now sleeping in the dust of earth (Dan. xii. 2), and with bodies more perfect than before, and death being now overthrown the life of this new world will henceforth reign for ever.
GREGORY, as above: All that was foretold was confirmed with a great pledge, when He added: Amen, I say to you. BEDE: He confirms strongly what He thus foretells, and, if it is lawful to say so, His oath is, that He says: Amen, I say to you, amen meaning, that which is true. Therefore He who is Truth Itself, says to us: I tell you the truth. And even had He not confirmed His words in this manner, He still could not have spoken falsely. But generation may mean, either the whole human race, or the Jews of that day.
EUSEBIUS: Or, generation may mean, the new generation of His holy Church, thus showing that there would be an enduring body of believers until that time when it would witness all these things; and they would perceive with their own eyes the events which Our Lord here foretells.
THEOPHYLACTUS: For since He had foretold that there would be commotions, and wars, and changes in the elements, as well as in other things, lest some should fear that Christianity itself would be destroyed, He goes on to say: Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away, as though saying: should all else be brought to nothing, my Faith shall not fail. In this He shows that He places the Church above every other creature; though all other creatures shall suffer change, the church of the faithful, and the promises of the Gospel, shall remain.
GREGORY, as above: or, alternatively: Heaven and earth shall pass away, etc., as though He were to say: everything that seems to you enduring, shall not endure for eternity; and everything that with Me seems to pass away, will remain immovable and without change. For my speech, which passes away, utters that which shall abide without change. BEDE: The heaven that will pass away is not the ethereal, or sidereal, heaven, but the aerial, after which the birds of heaven are named. If, however, the earth shall pass away, how does Ecclesiastes say, the earth standeth for ever (Eccles. i. 4). But it is plain that He means, that the heavens and the earth shall pass away in their present form, but that in their essence they will endure for ever.
December 1: ST ANSANUS, MARTYR (A.D. 304?)
ST ANSANUS, a Roman by birth, is venerated as the first apostle of Siena, where he made so many converts that he was named “the Baptizer”. During the persecution under Diocletian he was imprisoned, and after torture his head was cut off at a place outside the walls still marked by a church. In the year 1170 his relics were translated to the cathedral; miracles marked the occasion, and these were written down, together with a life of the martyr. This states that Ansanus was a youth who was denounced as a Christian by his own father. He confessed the faith, but managed to escape from Rome and fled towards Tuscany. On the way he preached at Bagnorea and was imprisoned where the church of our Lady delle Carceri now stands. In Siena the memory of the boy saint is still devoutly cherished: “In the vaults under the Spedale are the meeting-places of several devout confraternities, which are said to trace back their origin from the first Sienese Christians, the converts of St Ansanus, who met in secret on this spot in the days of the Roman persecutions.”
ST AGERICUS, OR AIRY, BISHOP OF VERDUN (A.D. 588)
ST AGERICUS was born at or near Verdun, perhaps at Harville, about the year 521. He became one of the clergy of the church of SS. Peter and Paul at Verdun, and when he was thirty-three was appointed bishop of that city in succession to St Desiderius. He was visited there by St Gregory of Tours and St Venantius Fortunatus, both of whom write in his praise: “The poor receive relief, the despairing hope, the naked clothing; whatever you have, all have”, says Fortunatus. St Agericus enjoyed the favour also of King Sigebert I, whose son, Childebert, he baptized, and counselled after he came to the throne. But he was not able to obtain mercy for Bertefroi and other revolting nobles who came to him for sanctuary and protection. Bertefroi was murdered in the bishop’s own chapel by the royal officers. A more pleasing association between Agericus and Childebert was when the whole of the court was billeted on the bishop; there were so many of them and they were so thirsty that the supply of drink was stretched to its limit. St Agericus had the last cask of wine set in the hall, blessed it, and it proved to have a miraculous and never-ending flow. Another miracle attributed to him was the delivery of a condemned malefactor at Laon, for whom he obtained pardon. St Agericus died in 588, it is said of a broken heart because he had failed to save Bertefroi. He was buried in the church of SS. Andrew and Martin which he had built at Verdun. Here an abbey was established early in the eleventh century and dedicated in his honour.
(Butler’s Lives of the Saints)
AND OUR CHILDREN
Planning the Family Activities for Christian Feasts and Seasons
By Mary Reed Newland (1956)
Saints of Advent
THE PUPPET SHOW
Our puppets are made from socks—a white one for St. Nicholas and a navy blue for Black Peter (we didn’t have brown or black clean that day). St. Nicholas is the toe of a white sock stuffed with cotton batting until there is a firm egg-shaped head. A rubber band is wound several times at the base of this to make the neck. Two slits are cut on each side of the sock under this, close to the neck. The index finger goes up through the rubber band into the head to wag the head; the thumb and third fingers go through the two slits to make arms. The anatomy of the puppet is done.
His face can be drawn on with heavy pencil, paint, even a ball-point pen; St. Nicholas has pink cheeks and bright blue eyes ( although it occurs to us that most Turks have black). White yarn sewed across his mouth from ear to ear makes his full beard; sewed on around a baldpate, it makes his hair, which hangs to his shoulders.
His alb is a white flounce sewed together like a cuff, gathered at the neck and tacked under the chin, and trimmed with odds and ends of lace. His cope is a piece of red velveteen with green braid trim, and his mitre is cut from stiff white paper and trimmed with a green braid cross stitched or glued or painted on. A piece of white braid stitched across the bottom of the mitre ties snugly under his hair at the back, holding it in place. Blind sleeves may be put in his garments, but even without them the two fingers can be managed to give the illusion of arms.
Black Peter has a garment of red lame cut from an old blouse and worn under a navy blue cape tied with green and red wool tassels. He has sleeves that come through slits in his cape so that he can maneuver his hands better in the play. On his head is a tam-o’shanter of red lame with a long pheasant feather in it. His gay face is made with white paint for the whites of his eyes and his bright white teeth, and red for a wide-open, laughing mouth. Black Peter may be dressed to suit any fancy, but St. Nicholas always appears in his white alb and mitre and red cope.
The puppet stage is made from a three-panel screen. We unhinged the panels and cut a large square window in the top half of the center panel to make the stage. Slip covers of bright muslin went over the panels; and with an old curtain of flounces and ball fringe we made a curtain for the top and sides of our stage. We rehinged the panels so that the sides would fold back and—presto!—a puppet show.
Friends of ours sewed two deep flounces like half-curtains to be tacked across the top and middle of a doorway with the space between for the stage. We have also had successful hand-puppet shows staged from behind a chair, and from behind a couch. There is no place where a hand-puppet show cannot be staged. No stage is no excuse. The year we made our stage from the screen it was the children’s big Christmas gift. Prior to that we had staged impromptu shows anywhere and everywhere.
THE VIGIL AND THE FEAST
One of the traps into which most parents of good will eventually fall before Christmas has arrived is to shout in the heat of some shortness of tempers: “How do you expect to get presents on Christmas if you aren’t good now!” No sooner are the words out of your mouth than you could bite off your tongue. But it has been said. The ugly implication is there: you might not get presents for Christmas. St. Nicholas’ feast is an ideal time for straightening out this problem of being good and not being good before Christmas. It is true that the issue should have something to do with the end result, but when we threaten this way we forget that the reason God the Father sent the Christ Child wasn’t because everyone had been good, but because they hadn’t been good.
To transfer the burden of the “be good or else” problem to St. Nicholas is infinitely more comfortable. Here the threat involves no more than a stockingful of cookies, but it is a prospect sufficiently dreadful to give them pause. It also involves a happy solution to the naughtiness. No good behavior—no cookies. It usually works (I speak from experience). The shock of seeing that you meant what you said, of hearing St. Nicholas en poupee warn you the night before and discovering he meant what he said, is most salutary. Most enfants terribles will stand dolefully watching the more virtuous munching their cookies and make a superb effort to mend their ways, and yet the event is not of such magnitude that it leaves any permanent scars.
People always ask how we handle the delicate business of sharing should this occasion produce one or two malcontents without cookies. We are all of course very sad to see they have no cookies, but if it is a warning and a punishment, then it is a warning and a punishment. Character training is involved, and also your own authority. No cookies—shared or otherwise.
Everyone assembles after dinner on December 5, the vigil of the feast, and the puppet show begins. First St. Nicholas appears, bowing with dignity and murmuring: “Thank you, thank you,” to the shouts and clapping. He has a Dutch accent (just for merriment), and if your accent isn’t all it might be, frequent interpolations of “Jah, jah” convince all present that it is superb.
“Good evening, little children,” he says. “I am St. Nicholas. Jah—a real saint I am, in Heaven now, and my feast is celebrated tomorrow. You are going to celebrate my feast? Jah? Good!
“I am not, you know, the reason for Christmas. Even though I am sometimes called Santa Claus, I am not the reason for Christmas. Oh no. Baby Jesus is the reason for Christmas. It is His birthday, Christmas, the day His Father in Heaven gave Him to all of us.
“I am waiting in Heaven, now, like you on earth, for His birthday on Christmas Day. And do you want to know something? That is why I gave gifts to little children when I was on earth! Because I was so grateful to God the Father for giving Jesus to me. That is why we give each other presents on Christmas Day, because we are full of joy and gladness that Jesus came down to be one of us and to die to pay for our sins.
“Now, here is something you may do for my feast, and it pleases me very much. You hang your stockings tonight, and if you are very good children—you will get cookies in them! But if you are bad—! Ahhh—if you are bad, you will get—not cookies—but straw! Black Peter will put straw in them.”
Up pops Black Peter, giggling and snickering and wagging his hands at the audience, which promptly rolls on the floor and shrieks.
The Bishop is grave. “Peter! Peter! Behave yourself or I will have to use a switch on you! Peter, you are going to put straw in some stockings? Jah?”
Peter looks coy, cocks his head, and makes odd noises that say neither Aye nor Nay.
“Ah—he will not tell. Peter, be fair now. No straw for the good children, you know. But be honest as well—straw for the naughty ones!”
Peter snickers again, wags at the children, then turns and throws himself on the Bishop, arms around his neck, mewing noisily. As the Bishop nods his head paternally, Peter slyly turns to the children, waves a free arm and giggles. Then he quickly buries his head in the Bishop’s shoulder again.
After this you can have Peter sing a song or two and the Bishop can end the play with a hymn and lead the children in a little prayer or two, asking for the grace to be good and to love little Jesus with all their hearts.
Then it is all over. All go rushing about looking for stockings, full of high hopes for cookies—which of course they have spent the afternoon helping to make (or seen Mother buy).
The following morning tells the tale and it is sometimes a mixture of fun and bittersweet. We have a little friend named Teddy who was unable to bear the suspense; so he bade his sister look in his stocking for him. When she reported, “Cookies!” he was so amazed (what with the weight of his past sins pressing so hard upon him) that he gasped: “Are you sure?”
(To be continued)
Father Krier will be in Pahrump December 19 and in Eureka December 26.
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