The Christmas Tree
The use of the Christmas tree is relatively modern. Its origins are found in the medieval mystery plays that depicted the tree of paradise and the Christmas light or candle that symbolized Christ, the Light of the world. According to custom, the Christmas tree is set up just before Christmas and may remain in place until the Solemnity of Epiphany. The lights of the tree are illuminated after the prayer of blessing. In the home the Christmas tree may be blessed by a parent or another family member, in connection with the evening meal on the Vigil of Christmas or at another suitable time on Christmas Day” (USCCB).
FILLING THE WORLD WITH LIGHT
“Filling the world with light, being the salt and light — that was how our Lord described the mission of his disciples. To bring to the ends of the earth the good news of God’s love. All of us Christians should devote our life to doing this, in one way or another.
“I’ll go further than that. We have to yearn not to be alone. We have to encourage others to help in this divine task of bringing joy and peace to men’s hearts. As St Gregory the Great says: “Insofar as you progress, attract others to go along with you, desire to have companions on the road to the Lord.”
“But bear in mind that, as our Lord tells us in a parable, the sower of weeds came ‘while men slept.’ We so easily allow ourselves to be carried away by the torpor of selfishness and superficiality, getting wrapped up in thousands of passing experiences, that we avoid coming to grips with the real meaning of the world and life. A bad thing that lethargy, which smothers man’s dignity and makes him a slave of sadness!
“There is one case that we should be especially sorry about: that of Christians who could do more and don’t. Christians who could live all the consequences of their vocation as children of God, but refuse to do so through lack of generosity. We are partly to blame, for the grace of faith has not been given us to hide but to share with other men. We cannot forget that the happiness of these people, in this life and in the next, is at stake. The Christian life is a divine wonder with immediate promises of satisfaction and serenity — but on condition that we know how to recognize the gift of God and be generous, not counting the cost.
“So we have to awaken the people who have fallen into the dangerous sleep our Lord mentioned. We must remind them that life is not something to play with — it is a divine treasure which must grow. We must also show the way to those who have good will and good desires, but don’t know how to put them into practice. Christ urges us. Each one of us has to be not only an apostle, but an apostle of apostles, bringing others along, so that they in turn will encourage others to make Jesus Christ known to everyone.”
St. Josemaria Escriva
Christ is Passing By, no. 147
BLESSING OF A CHRISTMAS TREE
When the tree has been prepared, the household gathers around it. All make the Sign of the Cross.
The leader begins:
Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Now and for ever.
The leader may use these or similar words to introduce the blessing:
This tree is a blessing to our home. It reminds us of all that is beautiful, all that is filled with the gentleness and the promise of God. It stands in our midst as a tree of light, that we might promise such beauty to one another and to our world. It stands like that tree of paradise that God made into the tree of life, the cross of Jesus.
Then the Scripture is read:
Listen to the words of the apostle Paul to Titus: 3: 4– 7
His own compassion saved us
But when the kindness and generous love of God our Savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in the hope of eternal life.
The reader concludes:
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
After a time of silence, all join in prayers of intercession and in the Lord’s Prayer:
Then the leader invites:
Let us now pray for God’s blessing upon all who gather around this tree.
After a short silence, the leader prays:
Lord our God,
we praise you for the light of creation:
the sun, the moon, and the stars of the night.
We praise you for the light of Israel:
the Law, the prophets, and the wisdom of the Scriptures.
We praise you for Jesus Christ, your Son:
he is Emmanuel, God-with-us, the Prince of Peace,
who fills us with the wonder of your love.
Lord God, let your blessing come upon us
as we illumine this tree.
May the light and cheer it gives
be a sign of the joy that fills our hearts.
May all who delight in this tree
come to the knowledge and joy of salvation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
God of all creation,
we praise you for this tree
which brings beauty and memories
and the promise of life to our home.
May your blessing be upon
all who gather around this tree,
all who keep the Christmas festival by its lights.
We wait for the coming of the Christ,
the days of everlasting justice and of peace.
You are our God, living and reigning,
for ever and ever.
The lights of the tree are then turned on.