B.Y., Paso Robles, CA
The answer to your question depends upon what is meant by the term `culture'? With the abandonment of the rules of right reasoning and objective reality, words have lost their meaning. They mean whatever anyone wants them to mean. And so, he who has the gold makes the rule.
We live in a world deliberately made to resemble the chaos before the wisdom of God became manifest in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. God Himself intervened to clarify the confusion brought into creation by the disordered wills of pure spirits (angels) and the subsequent disordered will of that unique creation standing between matter and spirit: man.
What is `culture'? We use this word in many ways. We speak of things being `cultured' - as `cultured pearls.' We speak of people as being `cultured' as opposed to lacking `culture.' We observe the imposition of bizarre religions upon Christian societies disguised as `culture' while the true religion is persecuted and hounded out of every aspect of public life. If you put up a menorah - that's `culture.' If you place a Christmas crib on public land - that's `religion.' Playing upon the disordered sense of `decency' and `broadmindedness' of the masses, such deception proves to be successful. In a country where it was boasted that `the majority rules,' it is blatantly obvious that this is false. It is not the majority that rules; it is the `menorahty' that rules.
You have chosen the modifying word `culturally' well. It is very significant because more and more people are becoming aware of the fact that something is radically wrong with what is passing as `celebrating Christmas.'
For years now - at least in the memory of this writer, one frequently heard some of the clergy condemning the `materialism' of Christmas. Although the intention was good, the understanding was bad. What was - and continues - to be mistaken for `materialism' is not materialism. This is a superficial, diversionary tactic to lead people away from the real purpose.
The real purpose of encouraging buying and giving on Christmas is not to make believer merchants and unbeliever merchants particularly wealthy. This and similar activities are only secondary goals. Profitable goals for the merchants and the recipients of gifts, certainly are intended, but, always secondary.
The primary goal of the frenetic activity is not to `celebrate' the birth of Jesus Christ, but to lead people away from its celebration.
This negation of the reality behind the celebration is cleverly disguised as its promotion. That this is true comes out in the sometimes expressed observations such as "Christmas has become commercialized." This is intended to express the idea that merchandizing has crassly exploited the very reason why we celebrate Christmas, namely, because it is the day on which the Redeemer, Jesus Christ was born. It is a religious holy day, first and foremost.
There are three meanings to the term `culture' which comes from the Latin `cultus.'
The first meaning is: care, honor, or the action of caring or honoring from which the term `culture' derives.
The second meaning of `culture' is: veneration, worship.
And the third meaning is: worship of God or a god.
At the root of all these meanings with their shades of difference we discover an attitude of mind followed by an attitude of body. This is very natural because actions follow the determination of the will. In other words, we generally do what we want to do.
Manipulation of our wants is what causes people to be led astray from that which they ought to desire and would desire if they realized they were being deliberately manipulated. That is, used! More evil is worked under the appearance of good than by obvious evil.
Lucifer and his agents succeed in doing more harm to people when they appear to be doing good than when they use violence to achieve their goals.
When the term `culture' is applied to religion, there are basically only two kinds of cult: idolatrous and proper. Idolatrous culture is giving adoration or honor to a false god or gods. Proper culture is giving honor and worship to God as the highest Lord of heaven and earth.
Proper culture, then, is that means whereby the worship of the true God is carried out by the community in the manner indicated by God Himself.
Presently, the cult or culture of Christmas is in opposition to that which God through His Church expects of His creatures.
The culturally proper way to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ is with a genuinely spiritual and physical attitude of prayer. The fact that Christmas Day has become an anti-climax already indicates a psychological aberration. It's what would be called today `cognitive dissonance.'
Advent is not the time for Christmas concerts, office parties, or erratic shopping. No one bearing the name `Christian' should participate in these hedonistic orgies that even pagans do not indulge in. For example, Buddhists do not give gifts to each other on the birthday of Buddha. They do not have `office parties' or any similar display of disorderly conduct. Buddhists will gather and have an evening candlelight procession to a temple. The hundreds of lighted tapers flickering in the night is the only visible sign of their respect and veneration for the founder of their `value system'. I hesitate to call it a `religion' because it does not bind a person to another person. It does not unite person with Person.
The only proper cultural celebration of Christmas is to publicly honor the birth of man's Redeemer and Savior, Jesus Christ. This can be done in many ways. It is especially proper to visualize the event by displaying the Christmas scene of Bethlehem, first used by St. Francis of Assisi.
Gifts should be given on the feast of the Epiphany when we honor the visit of the three kings to Bethlehem. This would be the proper cultural and Scriptural time to give gifts to those in whom we see the mystical Christ abiding. The true Christian (Catholic) is the temple of the Holy Ghost. Consequently, whatever we do to another Catholic we are doing to Jesus Christ. Even the concept of gift giving has been distorted and thrown out of cultural perspective. The favorite hymn of the non-believing merchant on the day after Christmas is this: "What a friend we have in Jesus!"
The Franciscans fast from the feast of All Saints until the feast of the Nativity. Their fasting is like the fasting during Lent. They celebrate Christmas by decorating their friaries with colorful lights. These lights, culturally and traditionally, are illuminated on Christmas Eve and continue until the feast of the Epiphany. There is no rational purpose to celebrate Christmas before Christmas. No one has a party or gives gifts before an infant is born, but after it is born. That is why we have octaves after great events. We do not have octaves before the great event. It is completely irrational and - to put it mildly: quite stupid!
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