My first four years in South Africa was spent in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, also known as KZN. The most popular of the cities in KZN is Durban; popular for its beauty and for it warm beaches streaming from the Indian Ocean. Whenever there is a long weekend and during holiday periods, there is always an influx of people from other parts of South Africa into Durban. I remember standing beside the road and counting how many cars would drive in with the number plate GP, which indicates the car is coming from Johannesburg. This happens especially during Christmas holidays. I am a person who likes to see the spiritual relevance of every event, but it was hard for me to see the spiritual relevance of the crowd in Durban every Christmas. But that is what I am about to do now.

Kwa-Zulu Natal is so named because KZN is a Zulu Speaking province, and Kwa-Zulu simply means ‘Of the Zulu people’, just like my house can be called ‘KwaHenry’. It would be like saying ‘at Henry’s’. Natal is the Portuguese word for Christmas, which can be linked to the latin word natalis , from nat which means to be born. This word is the orgin of English words like nativity, anti-nantal, etc. Someone once thought that Anti-Nantal is a group of people who are against those from Natal. Anyway, the point is clear. The province is so named because the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, sailed from Lisbon- the Sao Gabriel on the 8th of July 1497 and reached the Cape of Good Hope (Cape Town) on November 7th, 1497 and arrived the Durban coast on December 25th, 1497. He then named the place Terra do Natal, which means the land of Christmas. He was a business man but also a missionary and to him is attributed the saying ‘For Christ and for spices’. Though he came for business, he was also interested in converting people to Christianity. Incidentally, da Gama died in India on the 24th of December, 1524. He really has a thing for Christmas.

The coastal town of Durban is full of people every Christmas, though they are not there to commemorate the arrival of da Gama in Natal. However, even though they may have gone there because of the nice weather, beautiful environment and nice beaches, this experience can also be spiritual in the sense that it is Christmas in Natal, which is like saying Christmas in Christmas. Going to Natal for Christmas can then become a pilgrimage. This can give a kind of spiritual fulfilment. David in the first reading wanted the fulfilment of building God a house, but God promised that this fulfilment will happen through his offspring. It did happen at the birth of Jesus on Natal day. Zechariah in the gospel sings the beautiful canticle which we call the Benedictus. He sings celebrating his fulfilment at the birth of his son, John, even though he had doubted the possibility. It is important in life to be fulfilled. But the problem we have is that we want to be fulfilled without God. Many people go to Durban to enjoy all kinds of things. But I hope the churches in Durban will be as full as the beaches. This is the only way to have what I call Natal Fulfillment. Da Gama was fulfilled when he said ‘For Christ and for spices’. Let those who go to Natal also say ‘For Christ and for the beach’. This means that before you go to the beach, you must first go for Mass.

1545634729746310573228.jpgThis is what the beaches look like. What will the churches look like?

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