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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Taking Christ out of Xmas

At this time of year,
it is possible to hear that by writing
Xmas to abbreviate the word Christmas,
we are joining the secular world
taking Christ out of Christmas
as if we had put an X through His Holy Name.

But not so!
Such is not a traditional insight.
This is a false new notion
that threatens to take Christ out of Xmas
and fill us with fear of using the hallowed abbreviation.

This is then a good time to remember
that the use of the letter X
comes from the original Greek of the Gospel
and is one of the very ancient abbreviations in our language
that precisely means

When we look at the picture of Our Mother of Perpetual Succour
we see that the letters above the Infant Jesus
the abbreviation for
Jesus (IC) Christ (XC).

In the Greek of the Gospels,
the word Christ
Christos is written as Χριστός,
and the letter X
is just the first letter of his name.
Thus the icon writes the first and last letter of Χριστός
Not all did this.
Some abbreviated Christ to the first two Greek letters Xp.

The X in Xmas
is the Greek letter equivalent to the English letters Ch;
monks and priests have used it for centuries
when writing the Holy Name of Christ.

In English Xt is a common ecclesiastical abbreviation fo Christ.
Seminarians with fast speaking professors
often come to writing
Xt for Christ or even Xh for Church.

The most ancient way to abbreviate Christ's name
was Xp
which in English is the same as
(since the Greek for 'r' is written as 'p').
That abbreviation -the XP- shown above to the right of Christ
comes from the catacombs.

The XP is also is often seen on sacred vestments;
it is the abbreviation and monogram for Christ.

The Anglo Saxon Cronicle.

In our own language we find the Greek Xp
first rendered in English as

In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle written about 1100 we read
abbreviated to
Xres mæsse.

About the same time that we have this abbreviation for Christmas,
we also have an example in the donation Inventory
written by Bishop Leofric
of England
(1046 - 1073)
who records the gift of a Saxon Gospel thus:

Englisc Xres-boc
English Christ-book
He also used the Xr abbreviation in Xres-boc for Christ-book.

(Illustrations of Anglo Saxon Poetry, John Conybeare, London, 1826, p. 199)

Xmas is an ancient abbreviation for Christmas.
Its use does not "take Christ out of Christmas".
Its use continues the ancient style of
uniting the Greek X of the Gospel to our English language,
as our forebears have done
for nearly a thousand years.

Let us keep Christ both in Xmas
and indeed in Christmas too.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father Michael Mary, for this most edifying clarification. As you know, the Greek X is also prominent in the sign of the Passionist Congregation:

Jesu XPI Passio = The Passion of Jesus Christ (may it be always in our hearts)

Wishing you and the community there on Papa Stronsay a most blessed and merry Xmas!


Auricularis said...

Thank you for this!

ROC REV said...

I was aware if the history, but I think I will still pass on the x abbreviation of Christ... Or any other abbreviation. Besides TODAY people absolutely use it to forget Christ.

Michelle Therese said...

Nice to know that, once again, seculars that try to remove Christ from Christmas are actually not achieving their goals in the end. Just like using "holiday" instead of "Christmas" to get Christ out of the picture. Yet it means holy-day which is Christian and Christ centered so neener, neener!

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