Christmas is a time of great celebration and festivities.
The time after Christmas is often a phase of getting through with many cakes, sweets, food…
The foodstuff prepared for the occasion often exceeds the required amount and thus, it needs a few more days to consume it fully….
Something similar also happens in the spiritual realm…
For many people, the spiritual significance of an event like Christmas cannot be absorbed and completed in a day.
It’s like trying to comprehend the grandeur of some magnificent places like…
… the St. Peter’s Basilica at Vatican
… or the Taj Mahal in Agra
… or the Niagara Falls
… or other great and dazzling sites, in one walk-through.
It’s not too easy.
>> We have to return back to grasp greater the beauty and the splendour.
So it is with the spectacular event of the Nativity..
… more time to comprehend about the Christmas Night
… more time to understand the virgin birth
… more time to realise that God came down to earth as a tender Babe for our salvation etc…
As a result, the Church gives us seven additional days to contemplate these divine mysteries.
These extra days on the liturgical calendar, along with the feast day – eight in total – is called as The Christmas Octave.
Every day of the Christmas octave is filled with meaning that reflects back on the Nativity – not just the birth of Christ, but the impact, the reality and the consequence of that birth in the lives of different people.
It’s interesting to note that each of the three days following the Feast of Christmas, commemorates a different type of martyrdom…
Dec 26th – the Feast of St Stephen – the Martyrdom of the Will, Love and Blood:
>> By His powerful witness, St Stephen was stoned to death in act that was completely willed by him, totally offering his Love for Jesus & shedding his blood.
Dec 27th – the Feast of St John – the Martyrdom of the Will and Love:
>> By a life of immense faithfulness & total dedication, lived with a tremendous passion and fervour, St John suffered the martyrdom of the Will and of Love.
Dec 28th – the Feast of the Holy Innocents – the Martyrdom of Blood:
>> On coming to know of the birth of Jesus, King Herod ordered that males under the age of two should be executed. These little babies, too little and young to form a will and a desire to love, became martyrs of Blood. (Mt 2:16)
Their innocent blood came in defence of the blood of their Divine Contemporary – Baby Jesus, who would grant salvation to them by His Precious Blood!
On this third Day of the Christmas Octave, Dec 27th, Holy Mother the Church celebrates the Feast of St John, the Evangelist – the Martyr of Will and Love!
St John, the Apostle and Evangelist is known as the Apostle of Love.
His Life defined Love.
>> His writings expressed Love.
>> His thoughts instilled Love.
The Gospel of St John is a witness that “this disciple who was loved by Jesus” received two unique places alongside Jesus, that none of the other apostles received.
1. Near the heart of Jesus – in the bosom of His Divine Lord! (Jn 12: 23)
Jesus bestowed this unique place, close to His heart, to John, His Beloved Disciple, at the Last Supper.
At the last supper, while Jesus announced that one of His disciples would be betray Him, John, leaning on Jesus’ bosom, asked Him, “Lord, who is it?” (Jn 13: 25)
While the synoptic Gospels testify to the fact, that when Jesus said, “One of you will betray me”, all other disciples, with a (perhaps) sense of guilt or doubt asked, “Is it I, Lord?”
>> But the Gospel of St John, clearly testifies to the fact, that when Jesus said, “One of you will betray me”, John with a clear conscience asked directly, “Lord, who is it?”
The innocent heart of John did not bear any guilt or doubt.
>> The love in John’s veins prompted him to not have any fear or panic.
>> The child-like trust in John prompted him to ask Jesus bluntly, “Who is it..?”
Love seeks to be close to the One who is loved.
>> Love wants to have the nearest place to access the One who is loved.
>> Love longs to be intimate to the heart of the One that is deeply loved.
St John, the Apostle of Love, was given this place to be closest to the Heart of Jesus!
2. Near the Cross – in the crucible of suffering of His Divine Lord (Jn 19:26)
Jesus bestowed this unique place, close to His Cross, to John, His Beloved Disciple.
While all other disciples had forsaken the Lord, John remained close to the Cross of Jesus.
The Apostle of Love remained faithful and committed to His Master.
>> The Apostle of Love was staunchly courageous in the face of extreme fear and danger.
… desires to be with the pain of the One who is loved.
… defies every hurdle to be joined to the suffering of the One who is loved.
… breaks itself completely to have a share in the anguish of the One who is loved.
St John, the Apostle of Love, was given this place to be closest to the Cross of Jesus!
It’s a point to be noted, that the only other person who was given this unique privilege of being closest, both, to the Heart and Cross of Jesus…
… was our Blessed Mamma Mary – the Supreme Apostle of Love!
… She was closest to the heart of Jesus, nurturing and nourishing Her tender Babe
… She was closest to the Cross of Jesus, sharing and suffering the pain of Her beloved Child.
YES… An Apostle of Love can be made and moulded only in these two unique places…
… Near the Heart of Jesus and near the Cross of Jesus.
Love longs to be close to the Heart…
>> Love drives every fear of the Cross.
Love seeks to kiss the Heart…
>> Love impels to embrace the Cross!
Blessed Mamma Mary and St John invite us, with much tenderness and affection:
>> “Come my Child.. Come my brother and sister… Be an Apostle of Love – close to the Heart and Cross of Jesus”
Happy Feast of the Apostle of Love!
God Bless! Live Jesus!