In the Christmas season, I often want to celebrate in a way that masks any underlying pain. I push down vulnerability in order to put on my holiday smile and try to squeeze myself into my most loving self like it’s a party dress after too many desserts. Happy, bright, sparkling love that dusts everything like glittering snow on a pine tree.
But in Colossians, Saint Paul is not talking about holiday cheer. He is talking about charity, which is God’s love and so much deeper. Love is the bond of perfection of our other virtues: “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another” (Colossians 3:12-13).
I know that I struggle with these qualities, those qualities that help us to put on love. A few years ago, I marked December 23 with arguing and tears. That fight hovered over the Christmas season until I left the family celebrations on December 30. I did not put on love that week. Neither did I put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, or patience. I had nothing to bond together in perfection with love. I don’t want to bond together my frustration and impatience and pride. I need to put on the qualities that underpin perfect, Christian love.
We have plenty of the Christmas season left to celebrate this year. Maybe you (like me) have struggled to put on the true love of Christ this season. Instead of beating myself up over my shortcomings as a sister, daughter, or friend, today I am choosing to embrace and put on the virtues being offered to me. Christ does not require perfect love of me on my own but rather, offers the grace to help me begin to love more fully.
Maybe you need to have compassion for a trying family member, gentleness with an overtired child, patience in situations that could instead create an outburst. Throughout the rest of this Christmas season, put on these virtues of love. With each virtue, we build lives that are just a little more loving every day.
Watch & listen to the insights on family prayer from Saint Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa).
Brigid Hogan is a high school English and ESL teacher who lives in northeast DC. She is passionate about Catholic social teaching and tries to live it out daily in her relationships and community. Most of her pleasures are guilty ones like television, burritos, and Twitter. Find out more about her here. She is the author of our Blessed Conversations Mystery: Beloved found here.