December 5, 2022 Column Father De Celles News

WELCOME, BISHOP MICHAEL BURBIDGE! We happily welcome our Bishop to the Parish today,
to celebrate our 11am Mass in honor of the 25 th anniversary of the founding of our parish on July 5, 1997. The good Bishop John R. Keating, a prominent Canon lawyer, gave us St. Raymond of
Peñafort, patron of all lawyers, as our patron.
We’ve grown a lot from the 200 or so souls we started with under Fr. Salvator Ciullo,
founding pastor, with daily Mass in a house on Triple Ridge Road and Sunday Mass first at Christ
Methodist Church (then West Springfield High School, and eventually the Greater Springfield
Volunteer Fire Department Hall i.e., “the Holy Fire Hall”). In June 2000, the inimitable Father James
Gould became pastor, and on June 4, 2003, he broke ground on our beautiful church. On December
19, 2006, Bishop Paul S. Loverde celebrated the Mass of dedication, and the parish burgeoned in
growth, both in people and activities. For the last 12 ½ years I have been proud to be the pastor of
about 1800 families and 6,000 souls.
Let us pray that we may continue to grow in Christ’s grace, love and holiness, as we make
our way together to heaven. Thank you, Bishop Burbidge, for joining us in celebrating 25 years.
Immaculate Conception. This Thursday, December 8, is the Solemnity of the Immaculate
Conception. Remember, this is a Holy Day of obligation, meaning you are required to go to Mass
under pain of mortal sin (unless one of the dispensations for Sunday Masses applies to you). But
why wouldn’t you want to come to Mass on this great feast day, which celebrates the conception of
Mary, free from original sin, in her mother’s womb? In Advent it reminds us of Mary’s perfect
preparation to receive Christ into her life. In addition to the regularly scheduled 6:30am and 8:30am
daily Masses we will also offer a 7pm Vigil on Wednesday, and a noon and 7pm Mass on Thursday.
Lessons and Carols. Remember to join the lectors, the choir and me on Sunday,
December 11th at 7pm for “Lessons & Carols.” This is a beautiful program of inspiring Advent
music and Scripture readings (aka, “Lessons”). By weaving together prophetic readings from the Old
Testament and pre-nativity readings from the Gospels, the readers lay out God’s breathtaking plan
for the birth of His Divine Son. The choir adds to the atmosphere of joyful expectation by leading us
in popular carols and spreading their vocal wings in a few more complicated choral pieces. And
afterwards there will be an opportunity for joyful fellowship at a short reception.
This “tradition” is rather new, especially to Catholics, originally introduced by the Anglican
Church at Cambridge’s King’s College in 1918, but it has recently become very popular in Catholic
circles. I first experienced it 35 years ago as a layman at a Catholic parish of Anglican converts in
San Antonio. Now I am happy to say it is one of the most cherished Advent traditions at St.
Raymond. Please join us!
Other Advent Events this Week. Seniors don’t forget our Senior Luncheon next Saturday
noon. And all of you: go to confession during Advent—we have confessions every single day of
Advent, except Christmas Eve.
Giving Tree. Please don’t forget to visit the “Giving Tree” signup on the website and help
to make Christmas a little merrier for some folks who are having a rough time this year, by supplying
Christmas presents for families in true need. There are many physical gift items left in need of
sponsors. This year we are helping about 19 families from our parish and local area and 13 from Our
Lady of the Blue Ridge parish in Madison.
The Christmas Tree. This time of year is filled with all sorts of traditions. Unfortunately,
many of us have lost sight of the Catholic origins of many of the traditions that dominate the secular
celebration of Christmas and Advent.

Consider the Christmas Tree. There are many different efforts to explain the origins
of the Christmas tree, including many that try to separate it completely from Christianity. For
example, some try to say that since many different ancient non-Christian cultures used evergreens

as a sign of life or health that therefore evergreen “Christmas” trees are not “Christian,” or that
Christians “stole” the symbol from the pagans. But there is no conflict or stealing here. Since
Christianity converted many ancient pagan cultures, it was natural for those new Christians to keep
the symbols that had meaningfully expressed their long-held spiritual desires that were ultimately
answered only in Christianity. So, if an evergreen tree expressed a pagan culture’s desires for
eternal life, it was natural for them to carry that symbol into to Christianity, which is fine with the

The specific Christianization and “Christmas-ization” of the evergreen tree can be
traced at least to the early 8 th century in Germany. It seems one Christmas Eve the great missionary
St. Boniface and his companions came upon a group of pagans gathered at around their sacred
tree, the “Oak of Geismar” (“Donar’s Oak”) to worship their god, Thor, and to sacrifice a little child to
please him. Horrified by what he had found, Boniface struck the Oak, which the people believed to
be indestructible, and suddenly a great wind came and blew the tree over, tearing it out of the
ground by its roots and into four pieces. When the tree fell, it revealed a small evergreen tree that
had grown behind it. St. Boniface then told the people: “This little tree, a young child of the forest,
shall be your holy tree tonight. It is the wood of peace, for your houses are built of the fir. It is the
sign of an endless life, for its leaves are ever green. See how it points upward to heaven. Let this be
called the tree of the Christ-child; gather about it, not in the wild wood, but in your own homes; there
it will shelter no deeds of blood, but loving gifts and rites of kindness.” The people then took the tree
to the great hall of their village and decorated it with candles, as Boniface told the story of the Baby
Jesus. The whole village, including the pagan priest, were converted that Christmas Eve. (For a
beautiful retelling of this tale see The First Christmas Tree, by Henry van Dyke).

This seems to be the oldest story of the Christmas tree and stands as the inspiration
for later developments in its use. It was popularized later in the Middle Ages through the German
“Paradise Play” depicting the creation of man, with the evergreen decorated with apples to
symbolize both Eden’s Tree of Life (evergreen) and Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (apples).
When the play was performed in churches, the Paradeisbaum (Paradise Tree) was surrounded by
candles. Eventually the Paradeisbaum made its way into homes and the rest is history.
Oremus pro invicem, Fr. De Celles