“In the mystical triad of faith, hope and charity, it is obvious that Christmas stands for charity, and among the more fortunate, for faith. Equally obviously, the New Year may well stand for hope.” – G.K. Chesterton
December 24, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – What can one say about Christmas, that most luminous and joyful feast, and not, in the waning days of 2020, get mired in the foul quagmire of the coronavirus crisis and its attendant miseries and controversies, or to use another metaphor, ignore the elephant in the global room?
In the last few weeks, the line that’s been running in a loop in my head is not one from an Advent tune, or a merry Christmas carol, or of St. Luke’s sublime recounting of Our Savior’s birth.
Rather I hear Christ’s words regarding the last days, which many people think, understandably, may be well upon us now: “Because iniquity will abound, the charity of the many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).
“And the charity of many will grow cold”: what a stark phrase, a glimpse of the abyss of hell, the utter absence of mercy.
One cannot help but think that Our Lord’s description is for these very days, for who can deny that love has grown so cold that many are predicting that society will soon become unable to function, and collapse into warring factions?
Michael Warren Davis, the editor of Crisis Magazine, recently wrote an essay titled “Charity or Death,” in which he said the first step to mending the seemingly irreparable cultural rift in the United States that could lead to ongoing political violence is for Christians to take seriously Our Lord’s command to love our enemies.
And what of the divisions now rending of the Catholic Church? As goes the Church so goes the world. Or, as a former LifeSiteNews editor put it, fundamentally, the only path forward in restoring the world to Christ is by fostering the purification of the Church.
I do not know if this is that purification: bishop pitted against bishop, priest against bishop, priest against the faithful, faithful against priest, bishop, and each other over the extent of cooperation, or collusion if you will, with the state, which bears directly on access to the sacraments, particularly Holy Mass and the reception of Holy Communion, although, of course, this crisis has only made abundantly more apparent the already long existing afflictions and troubles in the Church.
But for Catholics, who believe that the Church is apostolic — or in the words of the Catechism, that she is “taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ’s return, through their successors in pastoral office, the college of bishops, ‘assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church’s supreme pastor,’ — the question of the obedience owed to ecclesial authority is fundamental, and so much weightier than for Protestants.
Nor did I think that “and the charity of many will grow cold,” might refer to me. And yet, I was so wrathful when the cardinal ordered the churches shut and locked in March, I am not sure how things would have gone for me had I not, providentially, heard Fr. Chad Ripperger, exorcist and founder of the Doloran Fathers, put in perspective.
He said at the time that if a bishop directed his priest not to hear confessions except in the case of imminent death, one couldn’t expect him to disobey his bishop to hear one’s confession. However, if one’s death was imminent, “the priest would have an obligation, regardless of what his bishop said, to hear your confession and give you absolution.”
Similarly, when it comes to last rites, the priest would “have the obligation to give the last rites, because his obligation is the person’s salvation over his own physical well-being.”
Fr. Ripperger advised Catholics in these times to pray more, make a spiritual communion daily, develop a spiritual life especially when the sacraments are not available, and particularly to pray for their bishops, many of whom are admittedly “a bit too quick to be overly compliant, or to be overly cautious, rather than being more moderated in their judgment about what can and cannot be allowed” because “of their compromised situation as a result of the whole pedophilia scandal and the civil authority stepping in.”
“This is a good opportunity for the people to realize if they don’t pray for the bishops on a regular basis, they can’t expect them to behave well,” he said.
And now we are approaching Christmas, and a number of bishops have shown great diligence in issuing detailed instructions on observing coronavirus restrictions.
So far, in this archdiocese, where the government has imposed a cap of ten people for indoor and outdoor gatherings, public Masses remain cancelled, but the churches are open for private prayer.
But that brings us to the essential beauty and consolation of Christmas: no matter how dark it is and bereft we seem to be, the feast will come, and we will celebrate that night long ago when Eternal Love came as a light in our darkness; when Our Redeemer was born in Bethlehem, and heaven and nature and all the angels sang.
And it is because of this that we can pray in confidence that with His grace, our charity will not only never grow cold but will burn always as bright and clear as the Christmas star.