Bishop Stephen Wright has released a Pastoral Letter for the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Sunday 31 December 2023:
“Dear Sisters, dear Brothers,
May I wish you every blessing in this Christmas Season. I pray it has been a joyful, peaceful season thus far.
I was recently in a conversation about when people take down their Christmas decorations. The tradition of twelfth night or the Solemnity of the Epiphany seemed to be winning but the Season of Christmas runs until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which we will celebrate on Monday 8th January. The Season is longer than twelve days. There is a more ancient tradition, which I know is still practiced today in some parishes and homes around the world. The decorations remain in place until the fortieth day after Christmas Day, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, on the 2nd February. I do not wish to set any disagreements off in family life, please keep and enjoy your traditions. In any case you may well have to ask, will the tree survive for forty days? Today, we have a blessed compromise as we listen to Gospel of the Feast of the Presentation. It is good to hear it now because it really is a Christmas Gospel. We meet the beautiful and inspiring elderly characters, Simeon and Anna, in the Temple as the Lord is presented and His mother, Mary, receives the traditional prayers and rituals after giving birth.
The Season of Christmas celebrates not only the birth of the Lord but celebrates His early manifestations to the world. We celebrate the Lord being shown to others for the first time. The Holy Family of Jesus grows with each encounter. Mary and Joseph meet the newborn Lord first. Then the Shepherds, the Magi and in our Gospel today Anna and Simeon. The Season of Christmas closes with the Lord making Himself known to wider society at His Baptism. He will call His first followers, and we His Church are the continuation of His family.” [continued]