December 2013 - Overview for the Month
The month of December is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, which is celebrated on December 8 (the feast has been transferred to December 9 this year). The first 24 days of December fall during the liturgical season known as Advent and are represented by the liturgical color purple. The remaining days of December mark the beginning of the Christmas season. The liturgical color changes to white or gold — a symbol of joy, purity and innocence.
The Holy Father's Intentions for the Month of December 2013
General: That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary: That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
(See also www.apostleshipofprayer.net)
Feasts for December
The feasts on the General Roman Calendar celebrated during the month of December are:
Focus of the Liturgy
The Gospels for the Sundays in December are taken from St. Matthew and are from Year A, Cycle 2 of the readings.
Highlights of the Month
The liturgy of Advent focuses on remembering Christ's first coming at Bethlehem which then directs our mind to Christ's Second Coming at the end of time. The readings focus on the people of the Old Testament awaiting the Messiah, John the Baptist, heralding the way for Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary and her maternal preparations.
The main Feasts of Advent are St. Francis Xavier (December 3), St. John Damascene (December 4), St. Nicholas (December 6), St. Ambrose (December 7), Immaculate Conception (December 9), St. Damascus (December 11), Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12), St. Lucy (December 13), St. John of the Cross (December 14) and St. Peter Canisius (December 21).
Christmastide begins with the First Vespers (Evening Prayer) of Christmas on December 24th and ends on the Sunday after Epiphany. Christmas and Easter are the only solemnities with octaves attached in the revised calendar. The Christmas octave differs from Easter in that it includes some major feasts: St. Stephen (December 26), St. John the Evangelist (December 27), Holy Innocents (December 28) and the feast of the Holy Family (December 29). The octave closes on January 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
The feast of St. Juan Diego (December 9) is superseded by the Feast of the Immaculate Conception which was moved because it fell on Sunday. St. Thomas Becket (December 29) feast is superseded by the Feast of the Holy Family.
The Reason for the Season
The month of December is filled with expectation and celebration. Preparation is the key word for the first 24 days of December. Everyone is getting ready for Christmas — shopping and decorating, baking and cleaning. Too often, however, we are so busy with the material preparations that we lose sight of the real reason for our activity.
Christmas is a Christian feast — and we must reclaim it as such! In the same way that a family eagerly prepares for a baby, so in Advent should we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child. We should keep Advent as a season of waiting and longing, of conversion and of hope and keep our thoughts on the incredible love and humility of our God in taking on the flesh of the Virgin Mary. Let us not forget to prepare a peaceful place in our hearts wherein our Savior may come to dwell.
The best person we can turn to for help during Advent is Mary, Christ's and our Mother. She awaited the day of His birth with more eagerness than any other human being. Her preparation was complete in every respect. Let's crown our preparation and borrow something of Mary's prayerfulness, her purity and whole-hearted submission to God's will.
All honor to you, Mary! From you arose the Sun of Justice, Christ our God.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Mary, who was "intimately united with the birth of the Church in America, became the radiant Star illuminating the proclamation of Christ the Saviour to the sons of these nations." — John Paul II
Recipe of the Month
This hard spice cookie is made for the feast of St. Nicholas in Holland. It is a delicious cookie and appropriate for Christmas as well.
Activity of the Month
The Tree of Jesse, with its symbols representing Old Testament stories and events leading up to the birth of Christ, is another approach to the meaning of Christmas.
Based on dogma, the singular Grace of Our Lady is celebrated on December 8th.
This emblem of St. John, the "Beloved Apostle," refers to the legend of a poisoned chalice being offered to him in an attempt made on his life.
These arms, evidently of French origin, are displayed at Dijon. The stones refer to the manner of his death and the palm to his spiritual victory.
This wealthy Sicilian maiden was, after torture, killed by a sword thrust through her throat. The emblem refers to her continuing devotion to Christ—an early symbol of martyrdom, deriving possibly from the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.