Remember to Keep the "Mass" in "Christmas"
At this time of year, the debate begins to rage regarding which major retail chain, or media outlet is going to choose to not use the term Christmas in their advertising and holiday greetings. What is the actual derivation of the word?
From Wikipedia (source of all that is true) "The word Christmas is derived from Middle English Christemasse and from Old English Cristes mæsse. It is a contraction meaning "Christ's Mass."The name of the holiday is sometimes shortened to Xmas because Roman letter "X" resembles the Greek letter X (chi), an abbreviation for Christ (Χριστός). (This usage first recorded in 1123.)"
The Church, around 220 AD, chose December 25th to celebrate Christ's birth. In the fourth century, the nature of who Christ was, both God and Man or just infused with God's nature at the time of His birth was starting to separate and cause division in the Church. The Church used December 25th to promote the doctrine of the Incarnation among the faithful. The celebration of this feast became known as Christ's Mass in the 12th Century as stated above.
So doesn't that prove right there that the Mass is a medieval invention of the Catholic Church? A look back in history may help with an answer. The early Christians called Church Fathers wrote quite a bit regarding what the church looked like and how it worshipped. As I blogged about previously, some of these Church Fathers were instrumental in being led by the Holy Spirit in measuring (canonizing) which books should be part of Inspired Scripture. Even before this time (390's), the writings of the Church Fathers provide a "snapshop" of the Mass which focused on the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Renowned Protestant historian of the early Church J. N. D. Kelly, writes: "Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior’s body and blood" (Early Christian Doctrines, 440).
Justin Martyr wrote:
"We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).
So Christmas reminds me that the Word of God became flesh and died for my sins. His sacrifice on the cross is re-presented (not re-crucified) on all the altars of the world and I am reminded of that at this special time of year. Now just remember "Keep the Mass in Christmas! "