The Birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – 2017
While all things were
in quiet silence,
And when night was
in the midst of
her swift course,
Your Almighty Word,
Leaped down out
of your royal throne,
~ And the Word became flesh
and lived among us. John 1:14
Our waiting is over.
Christmas is here!
And I’m thinking of some close friends as I write this. (With names changed.)
There’s Beth who was 92 last July—alone and lonely because her sweetie from high school and 67 years of marriage took off for heaven. And yet she has more dates out than I’ve had in five years!
There’s my dear friend Gerry and his wife Martha who’s been struggling with cancer for more years than I can remember; she’s one courageous woman!
And there’s Dorie who sends me at least one Facebook messenger every day, though I don’t have the heart to tell her I don’t read them, though I send this blog to FB, I hardly follow my friends there. (Social media doesn’t much interest this contemplative—though they tell me I should promote my writings more.)
There’s my neighbor Linda who doesn’t want to celebrate Christmas because she misses her own dear one; I wish she would let me provide her some company and lift her spirits.
And there’s 99-year-old Father Gene who has been so kind to me over so many years—understanding my health limitations when few others would. He just lost his sister with whom he was very close.
And there’s my furry friend Shoney, who isn’t very well himself. But dogs don’t know that; they just love you and keep you company and are always faithful.
I’m a contemplative, pretty much. I stay home. I have no TV. And I seldom even listen to music. I just crave silence. It’s just me and Shoney and Jesus in at home.
This Advent ha been very special for me, and I hope through what I’ve shared with you that it has been for you as well. I’d like to summarize some of the fruit of my Advent prayer.
Pope Benedict wrote one meditation on John the Baptist that resonated with me . . .
The desert regions were places of temptation, but also where a person acquires a sense of his own poverty, because once deprived of material support and security, one“ understands that the only reference point is God himself.
I’ve had several intense desert experiences in my life, and I’ve been going through one as I approach Christmas this year. These have been experiences of not only physical poverty, but emotional and spiritual as well. So I asked the Baptist to help me rely more intensely on God, remembering the many times material support and security eluded me.
And actually, this Advent—and this hardship experience—has brought me closer to Christ than I’ve been in years! Why? Because I’ve had to rely on him more radically as I resolve my external affairs. Relying on Mary’s “Fiat; that is, her eager willingness to respond to the angel I try to make it my own: ”Be it done unto me according to your Word.”
And on the Feast of St. John of the Cross, (Dec. 14th), I took in his words . . .
“Preserve a loving attentiveness to God with no desire to feel or understand any particular thing concerning him.”
And finally, besides the Magnificat liturgical magazine that I use for the staple of my prayer, I also want to share a bit of one of my “favoritist” meditations of all time from a book of Advent readings called Watch for the Light. It’s entitled Shipwrecked at the Stable by Brennan Manning. I’ll let him bring us to our final countdown to our Christmas celebration.
The shipwrecked at the stable are the poor in spirit who feel lost in the cosmos, adrift on an open sea, clinging with a life and death desperation to the one solitary plank. Finally they are washed ashore and make their way to the stable, stripped of the old spirit of possessiveness in regard to anything.
He relates a story of Francis of Assisi talking to his companion Brother Leo. Accept being shipwrecked—and this is my advice also to you, dear reader, on this Christmas Day: Renounce everything that is heavy, even the weight of your own sins. See only the compassion , the infinite patience, and the tender Love of Christ Jesus our Lord.
Your guilt and your reproach disappear into the nothingness of non-attention, St. Francis told Brother Leo. You are no longer aware of yourself, like the sparrow aloft and free in the azure sky. Even the desire for holiness is transformed into a pure and simple desire for Jesus.
And I think that’s where I am, this Christmas 2017.
The shipwrecked at the stable are captivated by joy and wonder. The pearl of great price is wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
I believe, says our author, that the single most important consideration during this important season is intensity of desire. Paraphrasing the late Rabbi Abraham Heschel, “Jesus Christ is of no importance unless he is of supreme importance.”
Manning concludes by suggesting that perhaps many of us are in the same position as the Greeks in chapter twelve of John’s Gospel who approached Philip and said, “We would like to see Jesus.”
The question addressed to each one of us this Christmas is: How badly?
And so, open your heart, dear friend.
Take some quiet time today and tomorrow to prepare yourself and be ready receive the Lord into your heart as if for the first time—in humility and the joy and wonder.
Try to be receptive to God as Mary was. She just said, a simple Yes! to the angel:
”I am the servant of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word.”
I pray so very earnestly that you receive the special gift God wants to give you.
Cleanse your heart of resentments—of preoccupations with unnecessary things.
Ask yourself what is the real meaning of life—your life.
For me the answer is to love as best I can, as meager as my life may be in the sunset years of my life. But I suppose I have some wisdom and compassion to share arising from my own crosses over the years. But it’s all gift; it’s all grace!
So, I hope you have received something nourishing and sweet in the posts I’ve been able to create this Advent. They are my gift to you.
May you have a wonderful Christmas with your those you love.
And if your Christmas is lonely with no one really special with whom to share, know that you have someone here who understands and who reaches out to you across these pages. I will remember each of you and your intentions and your needs in my Christmas Masses.
Be sure to open yourself to the holiness—
the wholeness—the peace of this Christmas.
It is there beneath all the craziness and hype.
It is yours if you seek it and ask for it.
Dearest Lord Jesus,
O how wonderful you are to me—to us.
I feel like a child again for you said
that we must be childlike before the Father
and you called him Abba—Daddy.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jesus,
for my priesthood, for my home
for the food on my table,
for my little furry friend Shoney,
for you my readers and so much more!
Please bless my friends and readers,
especially those who have missing a loved one this year,
or who are lonely or sick or in need in any way.
We ask you this, Jesus, always,
in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!
Now, before you go, here is a very special Christmas music video for you. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
If you would like the Scripture readings for any of the several Masses for Christmas. Click here.You’ll find a list of the Vigil, Mass at Night, at Dawn, etc.; click on the one(s) you want.