A LEGACY FROM THE PAST: THE VIGIL OF CHRISTMAS EVE
Hearts and minds enter the cottage, eyes attentive to detail. The room is tidy and clean. From its ceiling dangle multi-colored paper “worlds” and garlands. The atmosphere is a pleasant blend of the scent of freshly cut evergreens, and the aromas of ceremonial foods tantalizing the palate. Finally, the anticipation of the four long weeks of Advent culminate in the most reverent, beautiful legacy/tradition/ heritage Vigil of Christmas Eve.
Earlier, the father had entered the home with a sheaf of grain which he placed in a corner. This represents the home’s Guardian Angel. The family table, adorned to be a symbolic manger of Bethlehem, has been hallowed by the hay placed under the fine linen cloth. Since sunset, the youngest child has been peering through the window pane. Soon the child exclaims: “It is here! The Star!” With warmed hearts the members and guests gather around the food-ladened table. They begin the ages-long Christmas Eve Vigil Feast with the breaking and sharing of the sacred oplatek – the Christmas wafer. This is the holiest of all the nights of the year in the Polish home. This “Legacy from the Past” is being shared by growing numbers of Christians.
This ancient ritual unites past with present…heaven with earth. An empty place is set in memoriam of ancestors, and Christ. There is high hope that Christ, as the unexpected Guest, will come and bless the gathering. “A guest in the home is Christ in the home”. As each of the odd-numbered courses is served, a small potion is set aside for the animals. At the First Christmas, when Christ was born, the animals were they not, the only honored “eye witnesses” and they deserve to be remembered.
The Vigil centers upon the importance of the Christmas wafer. It literally unites family wherever we are upon the face of the earth. Christmas wafers have been mailed to each other in this holy season to solidify family unity. Distance and time hold no bond as we are plucked out of earth’s measure of these concepts into the possibilities of the realm of cosmic Divinity. This is man’s humble attempt at reciprocity for God’s love in abandoning the security of eternity for His deepest penetration into human form as the Son of the Virgin Mary, the Babe of Bethlehem – our Lord Jesus Christ. The Vigil of Christmas Eve in the home is culminated by the family’s journey to the Parish Church. Here, after the sacred observance in the home, we praise God for His Wondrous Gift. May the Presence of the Babe of Bethlehem, the True Bread of Life from Heaven, bring to each of us through our Christmas wafer…
A BLESSED CHRISTMAS WITH LOVE, JOU, PEACE AND HAPPINESS IN THE NEW YEAR.