Saturday, November 22, 2014

Heading West for the Holiday

Autumn and winter have always been my favorite seasons, and the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s holidays are always my most looked-forward-to and favorite time of the year. It is also that time of the year when so many of us especially try to make time for family and friends, visiting one another where possible and reconnecting with others by mail and other ways. Here in the United States, Thanksgiving week typically sees more travel than almost any other week of the year. I too am joining the traveling throngs this holiday week, flying cross-country this Saturday to celebrate Thanksgiving in California with my 92-year old mother, and with my nearby sister and her family
Thanksgiving remains the quintessentially American holiday. It has been so since at least the fall of 1623, when Massachusetts Governor William Bradford famously issued this proclamation: that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November ye 29th of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.
On Sunday, I will be celebrating Mass at my mother’s parish church in Walnut Creek, CA. That day, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King. This modern feast was first introduced into the Church’s calendar by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical letter Quas Primas during the Jubilee year 1925. In that encyclical, Pope Pius XI quoted Saint Cyril of Alexandria to say that Christ "possesses dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence, nor usurped from anyone, but his by essence and by nature."

Originally, this feast was assigned to the last Sunday before All Saints Day. Blessed Pope Paul VI expanded the title to “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe” and moved it to the last Sunday before Advent, a day traditionally associated with Christ’s final judgment of the world, which is the subject of today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 25:31-46). That theme of judgment is likewise central to the Advent season which begins next Sunday, as the annual cycle continues. 

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