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Catholic Prayer: Blessing of the Christmas Tree

Description:

A popular custom is to bless the Christmas tree before lighting. This can be done on Christmas Eve. Helen McLoughlin describes the Christian origin of the Christmas tree, and provides a short blessing that can be used for the tree. Since Vatican II, the Roman Ritual has been updated, with a newer form of the Blessing of the Christmas Tree.

Prayer:

In recent years a growing number of families bless their Christmas trees before lighting them. We like to remind our children of the part a tree played in the sins of our first parents and of the sacred wood of the Tree on which Jesus Christ, whose birthday we are about to celebrate, wrought our redemption.

Father Francis Weiser, S.J., in The Christmas Book tells the story of the Christmas tree and children love to hear it. Father says,

"The Christ tree is completely Christian in origin, and historians have never been able to connect it in any way with ancient Germanic or Asiatic mythology. The origin of the Christmas tree goes back to the medieval German mystery plays. One of the most popular 'mysteries' was the Paradise play, representing the creation of man, the sin of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from Paradise. It usually closed with the consoling promise of the coming Savior and with a reference to His incarnation. This made the Paradise play a favorite pageant for Advent, and its closing scenes used to lead directly into the story of Bethlehem.

These plays were performed either in the open, or the large squares in front of churches, or inside the house of God. The garden of Eden was indicated by a fir tree hung with apples; it represented both the 'Tree of Life' and the 'Tree of discernment of good and evil' which stood in the center of Paradise.

After the suppression of the mystery plays in churches, the Paradise tree, the only symbolic object of the play, found its way into the homes of the faithful, especially since many plays had interpreted it as a symbol of the coming Savior. Following this symbolism, in the fifteenth century the custom developed of decorating the Paradise tree, already bearing apples, with small white wafers representing the Holy Eucharist; thus, in legendary usage, the tree which had borne the fruit of sin for Adam and Eve, now bore the saving fruit of the Sacrament, symbolized by the wafers. These wafers were later replaced by little pieces of pastry cut in the shape of stars, angels, hearts, flowers, and bells.

In some homes the tree is blessed on Christmas eve and the crib on Christmas morning. The following form may be used for the Blessing of the Christmas Tree:

Father: This is that most worthy Tree in the midst of Paradise
All: on which Jesus by His death overcame death for all.
Father: Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
All: let the sea and what fills it resound; let the plains be joyful and all that is in them! All the trees of the forest shall exult before the Lord, for He comes; for He comes to rule the earth. He shall rule the world with justice and the people with His constancy. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
All: This is that most worthy Tree in the midst of Paradise on which Jesus by His death overcame death for all.
Mother: God said: Let the earth bring forth vegetation: seed-bearing plants and all kinds of fruit trees that bear fruit containing their seed. And so it was. The earth brought forth vegetation, every kind of seed-bearing plant and all kinds of trees that bear fruit containing their seed. The Lord God made to grow out of the ground all kinds of trees pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And God saw that it was good.
All: Thanks be to God.
Father: O Lord, hear my prayer.
All: And let my cry come to You.
Father: Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, who by dying on the tree of the Cross didst overcome the death of sin caused by our first parents' eating of the forbidden tree of paradise, grant, we beseech Thee, the abundant graces of Thy Nativity, that we may so live as to be worthy living branches of Thyself, the good and ever green Olive Tree, and in thy strength bear the fruit of good works for eternal life. Who livest and reignest for ever and ever.
All: Amen.

Prayer Source: Family Advent Customs by Helen McLoughlin, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1979
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