FIVE GOLDEN RINGS!
Those three words are meant to be belted. They should echo off surrounding walls with the force of a sledge hammer. Miss Piggy knew how to sing it. It’s all too fitting that this gift creates long dramatic notes, followed by a bit of a pause. Five gold rings as a gift is grand, over the top, and a bit odd. No one is capable of wearing them without looking like a fool, except for Mr. T of course. Plus, in The Lord of the Rings it took only one ring to rule them all, and a wise songstress once said, “if you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it” (not five). There’s something a bit manic about the true-love in the 12 days of Christmas. The lover’s actions are seemingly divorced from reason, his gifts exaggerated. He’s mad with love, both love for the receiver and certainly love for Christmas.
The true-love’s rampant gift giving seems to make even less sense in light of the times. The work week begins today, and it’s that awkward time between the bells of Christmas morning and the chime of fluted glasses filled with champagne resolutions. The exuberance with which the lover gives the 5 gold rings on the fifth day of Christmas doesn’t match up with the Christmas of the world. From Black Friday up to the morning of the 25th we are all inundated with tinsel and carols. Haven’t there been four weeks of festivity and isn’t it time to move on? It’s as if the true-love is not of this world. But that’s precisely what’s different about him. The true-love is Christ, and He gives Himself to us each Christmas day.
The endurance and exuberance our True-Love has for us should encourage us to treat this day in the octave like the 25th. Not with festivity, parties and wrapped presents, but with prayer. The world today doesn’t recognize the fifth day of Christmas, but the residents of Bethlehem didn’t recognize the first day of Christmas. Perhaps now is the time to kneel beside Mary before the manger pondering the mystery.
Each of the gifts in the “12 Days of Christmas” carol are representative of God’s gift of salvation. Today, the five golden rings symbolize the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch. The prophets preceded Christ in history and were guided by the Holy Spirit to communicate God’s plan for salvation. Jesus Christ is the key that unlocks the mystery of the Old Testament. It all points to Him. So, with Christ cooing before us, I’m proposing five golden verses to meditate upon.
“Son,” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust.”
We pray at each Mass, “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” The child adored by the shepherds will become the sacrificial Lamb.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you.”
Christ was born in Bethlehem, meaning “house of bread.” Mary lays him in a manger, a feeding trough. Christ himself says, “I am the bread that comes down from heaven.” At Mass we hear Christ’s words, “This is my body…”
Since the life of a living body is in its blood, I have made you put it on the altar, so that atonement may thereby be made for your own lives, because it is the blood, as the seat of life, that makes atonement.
We are washed clean in the Blood from the Cross. It is the seat of life. That Blood of atonement shed on the Cross flushes the cheeks of the infant in swaddling clothes. It’s horrifying to think of the injustice of an innocent child being slain, but Christ was no less innocent on Calvary than he was at Bethlehem.
When I slew all the first-born in the land of Egypt, I made all the first-born in Israel sacred to me, both of man and of beast. They belong to me; I am the Lord.
In the Old Testament, the first-born of beast was to be sacrificed. The first-born sons of Levites were to be priests who offered sacrifice. This child is born amongst the beasts. He is the first-born. He will be both victim and priest.
Then, provided that you and your children return to the Lord, your God, and heed his voice with all your heart and all your soul, just as I now command you, the Lord, your God, will change your lot; and taking pity on you, he will again gather you from all the nations wherein he has scattered you.
Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Shepherds and Magi came to adore Him, and they departed to their country by another way. All are under the sovereignty of the infant child, and those that turn and come to Him in love can know His mercy.
Image: Bernardo Strozzi, Adoration of the Shepherds