The Twelfth Night

The twelfth night, the evening of January fifth, has marked the end of the Christmas season since the Middle Ages.  There are many who believe and just as many who think the Catholic meaning of the twelve days of Christmas is an urban legend.  When Catholicism was made a criminal offense by Henry the 8th in England in 1558, many believed that the song was a secret catechism for the Catholics living in Britain to remember and teach their faith without fear of prosecution.

Many people singing this song envision “my true love” as a smitten suitor, while others know the “true love” as God himself.  Each gift given has a catechetical meaning starting with The Partridge as a symbol for Jesus Christ.  Two Turtle Doves refer to the Old and New Testaments.  The French Hens for the Trinity, Four Calling Birds reference the Gospels of the New Testament.  Five Golden Rings symbolize the Pentateuch.  Six Geese are the Creation Days.  Seven Swans symbolize the Seven Sacraments.  Eight Maids are the Beatitudes and Nine Ladies are the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  Ten Lords refer to the Ten Commandments and the Eleven Pipers are the loyal Apostles of Jesus.  Twelve Drummers remind us of the twelve doctrine points of the Apostles Creed.  

The twelfth night may recall the romantic comedy by Shakespeare or the festivities still celebrated in a handful of European countries in Rick Steve’s Christmas Travelogue, but what does it mean to us besides a wee bit of history?

We are blessed to live in a country free from religious persecution.  It is difficult to imagine a world where a multitude of denominations and religions don’t coexist, but we all know those places do exist.  I am not a cradle Catholic, the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and over the head a few times until I found my home in the Catholic faith.  Would I be strong enough to withstand a world where I could lose my freedom or my life if I chose to remain and worship as a Catholic?  Would I be crafty enough to sing a song with dual meaning to my grandchildren in order to maintain our Catholic Faith?  The twelfth night to me is my litmus test.  

After all the gifts my true love gave to me, the greatest is love.  Our First Reading today says “….so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.”  BE FEARLESS!

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Kay Kunz is the Accounts Manager at Diocesan.  She is a mother of two and grandmother of five.  Living on her family’s centennial farm surrounded by nature, creatures great and small, wild and tame, Kay and her husband are in perpetual restoration mode.  When she is not crunching numbers or helping churches with bookkeeping issues, you’ll more than likely find her curled up with a book and a cup of coffee.  Inspired by St. Brigid of Kildare, not just because she is the patron saint of chicken farmers and turning water into beer, but her simple pastoral life of finding peace in nature.

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