For almost 2,000 years, the Church has been defending Christmas against a concerted, diabolical attack.
No, it’s not another wacko conspiracy theory; it’s a fact. Since the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us, the truth that God was born a Baby at Christmas has been assaulted with relentless demonic fury. Saint John, the very Apostle of Love, tells us: “For many seducers are gone out into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh: this is a seducer and an Antichrist” (2 John 1:7).
What the Apostle was condemning in those strong words were the earliest of the gnostic heresies, those strange amalgamations of Christianity and pagan mystery religions. Their sectarians fancied that they were little sparks of divinity trapped in matter, who could only be liberated by the gnosis, the secret knowledge. There was also an early heresy, called docetism, which said that the Word did not assume real flesh, but took the appearance of a man (dokein in Greek, means “to appear”). Rebuked by St. Ignatius of Antioch and condemned by the Church, docetism would return in more subtle forms, admitting that our Lord was man, but denying that he had a real human soul (Apollinarianism), a true human nature (Monophysitism), or a human will and operation (Monothelitism). The last of these heresies was so repulsive to St. Maximus the Confessor (580-662), that he preferred to have his hand cut off, his tongue sliced out, and to die in exile rather than submit to a corrupt bishop who professed it.
Then there were the denials of our Lord’s divinity in heresies like Arianism, which still persists in sects as divergent as Unitarianism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Finally, there was Nestorianism, the heresy that denied the union of the two natures in the one Person of Christ. The heretical Patriarch Nestorius had it that there were two persons in Christ, the divine Person of the Word and the person of Jesus Christ the man. Consequently, he asserted in a sermon that Mary should not be called the Mother of God; she was only the mother of a human person.
The Fathers of the Church have left us heroic professions of truth against these blasphemies, and all of them impress upon us that the little Inhabitant of the Christmas Crib was Almighty God come in the flesh to save us. St. Athanasius made the point, against Arianism, that since Christ was supposed to divinize us by grace, He could not perform this mission if He were not Himself divine by nature. St. Gregory Nazianzen professed, against the Apollinarians, that “What has not been assumed has not been healed,” i.e., our Lord did not redeem human nature unless he possessed a human nature. Far from being satisfied with artful turns of phrase in their polemics, these Fathers, like St. Maximus the Confessor, suffered for their confession at the hands of the antichrist heretics.
The entire Catholic Faith is summed up in the image of the Madonna and Child: She, the Immaculate Conception, was conceived full of grace to be Mother of God; and He is One of the Holy Trinity come down to take her Flesh as true Man in order to save us. So much do heretics hate this beautiful scene that the Iconoclasts, who inherited many of the earlier eastern heresies, cut off St. John Damascene’s hand for painting it! That hand was miraculously restored it to him by our Lady.
Orthodoxy has always been attacked by antichrists. (Yes, there will be one Antichrist at the end — “the man of sin” of 2 Thess 2:3 — but St. John speaks of many “antichrists” in 1 John 2:18.) Is it any wonder that certain nefarious elements in society “have issues” with Christmas? As the early heretics wished to “dissolve” Jesus by destroying the union of two natures in one divine Person, so too, modern antichrists wish to dissolve the divine Babe from our public square: “And every spirit that dissolveth Jesus, is not of God: and this is Antichrist, of whom you have heard that he cometh, and he is now already in the world” (1 John 4:1).
According to St. Robert Bellarmine, the focus of the devil’s attack in the second millenium has moved away from the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. Instead, the old goat has taken aim primarily at the Church, giving us the Great Eastern Schism and the Protestant Revolt. And he has been refining his approach ever since. In our own day, he has given us the “deadly error” of indifferentism (to quote Pope Gregory XVI), the heresy that says one religion is as good as another. He has caused an even worse pandemonium: an identity crisis within the Church herself. Some of our very own ecclesiastics do not know what the Church is. They have “dissolved Jesus” in His Mystical Body.
But even in the midst of such a crisis, we find consolation: “Behold, I make all things new!” (Apoc. 21:5). All the historical triumphs against error won by the martyrs and confessors will be renewed in grand style. The victories of the devil and his antichrists continue to mount, but the Triumph of the divine Babe will be all the sweeter because of it. It will mark the victory of our Lord, His Church, and His Vicar. What’s more, to the eternal confusion of Antichrist and Satan, Christ’s Triumph will be the Triumph of His Mother, the Woman who will crush the head of the ancient serpent!
And that should give us all a Merry Christmas.