A New Understanding of the Christmas Festival: Rudolf Steiner December 26, 1921


Instinctive feelings for the most holy and sacred things have after all, been preserved throughout the course of history. Many of these feelings and perceptions have weakened, but to those who are willing to look with unprejudiced eyes, the old meaning is still discernible. And so we can read something from the fact that at midnight between the 24th and 25th of December the midnight Mass is said in every Christian Church. We can read something from this fact when we know that the Mass is nothing less than a synthesis of the rites and rituals of the Mysteries which led to initiation, to the beholding of the sun at midnight. This institution of the midnight Mass at Christmas is an echo of the initiation which enabled the candidate at the midnight hour, to see the sun at the other side of the earth and therewith to behold the universe as a spiritual universe, to hear the cosmic word resounding through the cosmos, and revealing, through the courses and constellations of the stars, the being of the universe.

Blood sets human beings at variance with one another. Blood fetters to the early and material that element in us which descend from heavenly heights. In our century, especially, human beings have gravely sinned against the essence of Christianity, turning back to the ties of blood. But they must find the way to the Being who was Christ Jesus, who does not address himself to the blood but who poured out His blood and gave it to the earth. Christ Jesus is the Being who speaks to the soul and to the spirit, who does not separate but unites, so that peace may come about upon earth, out of our understanding of the cosmic Word.

A new understanding of the Christmas festival through supersensible knowledge can transform the material universe into spirit before the eyes of the soul, transform it in such a way that the sun at midnight becomes visible and is known in its spiritual nature. Such knowledge brings understanding of the super-earthly Christ being, the Sun being who was united with the man Jesus of Nazareth. It can bring understanding, too, of the unifying peace that should hover over the peoples of the earth. The being of God is revealed in the heights, and through this revelation peace rings forth from the heights to “men of good will.”

Such is the word of Christmas. Peace on earth flows into unison with the divine light that is streaming toward the earth. We need something more than a remembrance of the day of the birth of Jesus. We need to understand and realize that a new Christmas festival must arise, that a new festival of birth must lead on from the present into the immediate future. A new Christ impulse must be born which recognizes the nature of Christ. We need a new understanding of the truth that the divine-spiritual heavens and the physical world of earth are linked to one another and that the Mystery of Golgotha is the most significant expression of this union. We must understand once again why it is that at the midnight hour of Christmas we are resounding called up on to be mindful of our divine-spiritual origin, to unite in our thoughts the revelation of the heavens with peace on earth.

Rudolf Steiner Basle 12/26/1921