Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
In the six verses that we have from the First Letter of John in our first reading today, the word "remain" appears six times. There cannot be any question that the issue of "remaining" was of paramount importance to the sacred writer of this letter. As I have written in the past, this letter or exhortation is "situational" Scripture. The community to which it was written is struggling with a group of secessionists, men and women who have accepted certain beliefs that are not accepted by the Church as a whole.
This group is known as "Gnostics" or "Docetists." The word "docetist" comes from the Greek "docetai" and is translated as "seem" or "appear." They held that Jesus seemed or appeared as a man, but that he was not truly human. By the end of the first century of the Christian era, this false notion had gained not a few followers. As the heretical thought became more and more popular, the Christian community began to fracture and people began to leave the assembly; hence, the sacred writer's concern with remaining in the community, which was, for him, the same as remaining in Christ.
These people did not have a "Christmas" celebration. The notion of celebrating the birth of Christ on a specific calendar date did not appear until Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. The introduction of this feast was as much about quashing the heresy of Docetism as it was about replacing the Roman Festival of Saturnalia and the Winter Solstice. Today, we celebrate the fact that God loved us so much that God wished to be one of us, fully human and able to understand our humanity.