843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as "a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life."
I share this because I am, once again, saddened by the attacks on Christmas. The idea that it is the choosing December 25th as the day to celebrate the singular most important event in world history that negates the legitimacy of that event doesn't make sense to me. The fact that The Church may have chosen as a the day to celebrate Jesus' birth a pagan feast day should not mean that Christmas is somehow illegitimate.
However, I understand that most people do not know the teachings of The Church. Many of the members of the Body of Christ are unaware that seeing the practices (even the ugly ones) of a pagan religion as a 'preparation' for Truth is a manifestation of God's Infinite Mercy. Besides, it is so much easier to simply dismiss, attack or ridicule. Sad, but true.
Bunches and bunches of scholars have researched, written and exclaimed about the celebration of Christmas. I am not going to join the chorus. Instead, I am going to offer my understanding of the theology we are missing when we make the issue about the externals.
Christians do not believe in a theorem or a feeling. Christians believe in a Person, an actual historical person named Jesus. In Jesus we recognize two natures: Divine and Human. For us, He is fully Human, like us in all things except sin. He is fully Divine and was there at the beginning and will be here always. He is God, equal to The Father, begotten and not made.
Why is this important?
Jesus was God in the womb of the Virgin Mary from the moment of His conception. He was not born Human and then somehow became God. He is both at once. Through Him all things are possible - all things - which includes a virgin girl in Palestine being saved from the stain of Original Sin at HER conception by HIS sacrifice outside of time and space. Through Him all things are possible - all things - which includes Him being fully Human and Fully Divine from the moment of His conception so that His cousin, also in the womb, would recognize Him as the Lamb of God and leap for joy, causing that child's mother, Elizabeth, to recognize the monumental moment (Who am I that the Mother of My Lord should come to me?).
Jesus opens the gates of Heaven for us so that we might claim our rightful place there, in full communion with God, for all eternity. We are, therefore, called to that communion from the moment of OUR conception which is why, even though we are wounded by the sin of Adam, we have a destiny and a purpose that far surpasses any earthly reward. It doesn't matter that I didn't get to be a famous actress because while that might have been a possible vocation it is not my purpose. My purpose is to be of maximum service to God and to His children, even the ones who have rejected His existence.
The Church teaches that this kind of thought is deep down in every one of us regardless of our station, our intelligence or our life experience. Every single person is always searching for God. When we find Him, that God-size hole in our psyche is filled and we find our
purpose. Once we find our purpose, we can discover how we can best serve Him.
The Church teaches that all religions have at their core this idea that something greater than themselves exists. It is why the missionaries can see in the practices of the native peoples a semblance of the truth, whether it be ancestor worship (communion of saints) or the Sacrifice of Jesus on the cross (human sacrifice). And while some practices might have horrified them, they did not lose sight of the fact that the people to whom they were ministering were trying in their own, limited way to reach a communion with God.
So we know, historically, that Natalis Invicti is a solar feast that has a strong claim on why Christians celebrate the birth of The Son on December 25th. As well explained in the blog TraditionalCatholicPriest.com:
It would be impossible here even to outline the history of solar symbolism and language as applied to God, the Messiah, and Christ in Jewish or Chrisian canonical, patristic, or devotional works. Hymns and Christmas offices abound in instances; the texts are well arranged by Cumont (op. cit., addit. Note C, p. 355).
The debate will always rage, I suppose, because no one ever wants to admit there may be a 'both/and' way of looking at history. Right now, European Christianity is on the outs with people so if it smacks of 'appropriation' that is what it is going to named. I understand that many atrocities were committed (and are still committed, quite frankly) under the cover of authority of Holy Mother Church by sinful men and women.
What I ask my readers to consider is this: is it just as insulting to assume that a member of an indigenous culture cannot convert to Truth?
To consider this, let's look at the last written words of Nicholas Black Elk, Ogala Holy Man and Catholic Catechist whose cause for canonization is being put forward at this time: