We are all familiar with the catchy Christmas song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” referring to the days between Christmas and Theophany, December 25 – January 5 (January 7 – January 19 in the Julian calendar). What we may not be familiar with according to several sources, there is a symbolic teaching meaning to the song from the Roman Catholic Tradition. According to those sources in the 15th – 16th Century English religious conflicts, the Roman Catholics in England were persecuted and the Church used this song as a more or less secret catechism teaching tool. Other sources challenge this premise. In any case the symbolism presented is very “enlightening”. After all, as our days are now getting longer in the Northern Hemisphere, our Lord Jesus is born as our Light and Salvation. A New Day has dawned and the “Sun of Righteousness” is the Son of God.
Meanwhile, back to the song…
1st Day…“On the First day of Christmas (December 25), my True Love (refers to God the Father) sent to me “A Partridge in a pear tree” – The Partridge refers to Jesus Christ. As a mother partridge feigns injury to decoy predators from her nestlings, our Savior suffered and died for us to bring us life everlasting;
2nd Day…”Two Turtle Doves” – represent the Old and the New Testament;
3rd Day…” Three French Hens” – Represent the three great virtues, Faith, Hope and Love (1st Corinthians 13);
4th Day… “Four Calling Birds” – The Four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John;
5th Day…”Five Gold Rings” – The Torah or Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy);
6th Day… “ Six Geese a-laying” – The six days of Creation confessing God as our Creator and sustainer of the world;
7th Day …”Seven Swans a-swimming” – The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit – Prophecy, Ministry, Teaching, Exhortation, Giving, Leading and Compassion (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12: 8-11);
8th Day…”Eight maids a-milking” – The Eight Beatitudes, Blessed are: The poor in Spirit; Those that Mourn; The Meek; Those that Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness; The Merciful; The Pure in Heart; The Peacemakers; Those Persecuted for Righteousness Sake (Matthew 5: 3-10);
9th Day…“Nine ladies dancing” – Nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit – Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control (Galatians 5:22);
10th Day…”Ten lords a-leaping” – The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20);
11th Day…”Eleven Pipers Piping” – The Eleven Faithful Apostles (excluding Judas) (Luke 6:14-16);
12th Day…”Twelve Drummers Drumming” – The twelve points of the Apostles and Nicene Creed;
Whether or not this was actually a secret teaching tool for Roman Catholics in the 15th – 16th Century, the symbolism above takes what appears on the surface a mundane song to a most meaningful song of spiritual depth.
And so it is with life…May this year of 2016 be a year of re-birth of God’s Grace within you. As our Lord’s Birth dawns, bringing Light to the world of darkness…As the mundane is sanctified by our Lord’s incarnation, please accept His Divine and Life-Giving Presence in your daily life. Then, may you, everyone and everything around you be enlightened and enlivened with the “Sun that never sets” – The Son of God!
Have a blessed, Grace-full and Godly 2016!
With our Lord’s Blessings, Father Lou