Wednesday, 24 December 2014 14:30

The 12 Days of Christmas: Homelessness, Violence and Martyrdom

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A unified sigh of relief echoes throughout the world, Christmas is over. The sigh is misguided because actually - newsflash - Christmas starts on Christmas day and continues for a week in what is known in the Church as the Octave of Christmas. But you don’t need to hold your breath again, a repetition of Christmas day celebrations with family and friends is not required, but we do have permission to continually remember how God became Man and why we are Christian.

And not many would be unfamiliar with the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, but few would be familiar with its origins. The song is more than about gift giving (and unusual gifts these would be, anyone want a French hen) but was a coded Catholic song during persecution of Roman Catholics in England. Each item and number symbolises a part of the faith and My true love is the One God. I read that if you were to buy all the items on the list literally it would amount to $30,000. Yet for the Catholics of this time, their faith came at a greater cost – their lives.

Within this tradition of the Octave of Christmas is also the 12 Days of Christmas. The 12 Days of Christmas are a countdown to the Epiphany. In Australia this feast day moves to the closest Sunday but historically it has been celebrated 12 Days after Christmas. Some of you may have heard of the Shakespearean play Twelfth Night – well these plot has nothing to do with the Epiphany - but it was written to be played at the end of Christmastide, you know the Twelfth Night.

And not many would be unfamiliar with the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, but few would be familiar with its origins. The song is more than about gift giving (and unusual gifts these would be, anyone want a French hen) but was a coded Catholic song during persecution of Roman Catholics in England. Each item and number symbolises a part of the faith and My true love is the One God. I read that if you were to buy all the items on the list literally it would amount to $30,000. Yet for the Catholics of this time, their faith came at a greater cost – their lives.

the-flight-into-egypt-1650A war torn Christmas is a stark contrast to our fairy light ornate world but the Christmas message is not so nice and embellished as people portray. Homelessness and a flight of terror are all part of the story.  After the birth of Jesus, the Holy Family had to flee to Egypt at risk of being killed by Herod, this was the first Christian persecution in which many innocent children were slaughtered. Like the people from war torn areas, Jesus was a refugee.

Unfortunately this is the way some Christians will be celebrating Christmas.  Thankfully in Australia religion can be practiced freely but there are many around the world who are still martyred for the faith. Pope Francis in his Christmas letter to the Middle East’s persecuted Christians wrote, “I think of the children, the young mothers, the elderly, the homeless and all refugees, the starving and those facing the prospect of a hard winter without adequate shelter. This suffering cries out to God and it calls for our commitment to prayer and concrete efforts to help in any way possible.” It is not so unfitting that within the Octave of Christmas sit two feast days for those martyred for the faith, St Stephen and the Holy Innocents, on these days Catholics can remember those who have died for Christ and pray for those who are being persecuted.

This stark reality of the lives and martyrdom of other Christians calls Catholics to be grateful for the ability to freely practice religion. It also serves, as a reminder of who we live for and who we are prepared to die for – our One True Love.

Anna Fsadni

In 2013 Anna graduated with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Geology and Geography from the University of Sydney.  Following the completion of her degree, Anna attended the Emmanuel School of Mission in Rome, a 9 month Catholic Evangelisation School. During this time she was involved in parish and diocesan evangelisation projects around various European cities and became immersed in the Life of the Church in Rome.

Since then Anna has been employed by the National Office for Evangelisation - Catholic Enquiry Centre as a projects coordinator.

Anna enjoys studying rocks and land formations, travelling, speaking to people she doesn't really know, assembling flat-pack furniture and plays hockey for Rah-Sharkies.