Merry Christmas! As the eight day celebration of Our Lord’s Nativity approaches its end this might be a good time to look at the different saints who are celebrated during the Christmas Octave. They are many and varied, so what brings them together during this exalted celebration?
St. Stephen, St. John the Apostle, the Holy Innocents, St. Thomas Becket, the Holy Family. Well, probably no one wonders why the feast of the Holy Family falls within the octave, but what about the others? In their lives we see that the followers of Christ may come from any profession, any background, any culture. The key is not where they came from, but where they were going – no matter which direction their lives were headed, when they heard Jesus’ call they followed Him unreservedly, even to Calvary and the shedding of their blood.
St. Stephen, the first martyr, whose blood bore great fruit for the Church – the grace of his sacrifice turned Saul the Pharisee into St. Paul the Apostle.
St. John, especially beloved of God, and entrusted with the care of Our Lord’s own Mother, his Gospel teaches us so much about the divinity of Christ.
The Holy Innocents – babies and toddlers, unable to speak the name of their newborn King, yet giving their lives for Him. In their martyrdom we see God’s power in bringing grace and goodness out of even the most evil actions of man.
St. Thomas Becket – a close friend of King Henry II, but once consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury, he didn’t shrink from opposing the king in defense of Christ and His Church, even when it cost him his life.
Though not all were called to follow Him to the same end, they all shared a life-changing love for Jesus Christ. As St. Thomas Becket wrote in the second reading from today’s Office of Readings, “The whole company of saints bears witness to the unfailing truth that without real effort no one wins the crown.”
Each one of these saints won the crown of eternal life – some by the witness of their blood, but all by the witness of their life – through sacrifice, prayer, perseverance, and God’s grace; all of which are available to us today, if only we seek and ask.