Third Sunday of Advent
In our Catholic liturgical calendar this is “Gaudete Sunday — the Sunday of Joy. We’re more than half-way through Advent and the vestment color is Rose, rather than purple, the color of penitence. So, we see the celebrant in rose vestments.
This is supposed to be a joyful time of year but . . . some us don’t see things clearly, or can’t speak up for ourselves or are disabled. some of us are afraid ~ disillusioned ~ confused ~ depressed ~ lonely ~weak-kneed and in need of a good old-fashioned infusion of hope and joy, so . . .
Today’s first reading from Isaiah 61:1-2.10 sums up the joyful, hopeful mood of this third Advent Sunday:
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice.
Now to today’s Gospel story. . .
Once again, I’d like to offer a simple commentary to help us understand the scripture a little. For the last two weeks we’ve heard the stories of St. Mark’s accounts of John the Baptist; today we hear from St. John. William Barclay, the great Presbyterian Scripture scholar says that a characteristic of a Fourth Gospel is that the emissaries of the Jews come to cross-question John. The word Jews occurs in this gospel over seventy times and the Jews are always in opposition; they are the ones who have set themselves against Jesus.
The agents who came to interview John were composed of two kinds of people. First, the priests and the Levites, Their interest was natural. As we said a week ago, John was the son of Zachariah, who was a priest. And the Hebraic priesthood was passed on from father to son; thus, John the Baptist was also a priest.
The whole thing shows how suspicious orthodoxy is of anything new. John didn’t conform to the normal ideas of a priest or a preacher. (The same thing happens in the Church with stuff that’s new.)
So they went out to ask him questions. “Who are you? “I am not the Christ—the Messiah”, he said. “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.”
So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?”
He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘make straight the way of the Lord,'” as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”
John answered them, “I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
Second, there were the emissaries of the Pharisees. It may well be that behind them was the Sanhedrin—the Hebrew High Court, who were to scrutinize anyone who was suspected of being a false prophet.
There are two parts to our commentary here: What seemed strange to the Pharisees was that John was asking Jews to be washed while that was only required of Gentiles as they became Jews.
The second is this: “To untie the straps of sandals was slaves work. Barclay notes there was a Rabbinic saying that a disciple might do for a master anything that a servant did except only to untie his sandals. That was too menial a service even for a disciple to render, So John said in effect, “One is coming whose slave I am not fit to be.”
John’s function was simply to prepare the way. He was the great example of the man prepare to obliterate himself in order that Jesus, is Lord and Savior—and ours might be seen. God give us the grace to forget ourselves and to remember only Christ
John was simply the signpost, pointing the way toward Christ. He was faithful even unto imprisonment and death to simply be the messenger.
My spiritual director some time ago suggested I pray to John the Baptist, and so I do so now . . .
O John, how lovingly you served your Lord.
I am dumbfounded at my own lack of humility,
my refusal to serve, the meagreness in the way I do serve.
You inspire me, even in my later years to wait upon my God to act in my life,
to wait for him to do new things.
Thank you, John, for your service-unto-death;
I ask for the grace, the strength and the courage to also serve my Lord unto the end of my days.
COME LORD JESUS!
To get you in a joyful mood I have a surprise for you: Here’s Andre Rieu with a grand orchestra and singers performing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers, enter full screen and prepare to be goosebumped!
And here are all the of the Readings for today’s Mass, if you’d like those as well. Click here.
William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John – Volume 1 Revised Edition Westminster Press / Philadelphia 1975 / pp. 75-80.
The symbol for St. John is the eagle because he soars to the heights of mystical love
Thursday of the Second Week of Advent
Isaiah is so amazing. He offers hope. He sees imminent possibilities for the human race.
At times, he also warns and sometimes chastises.
I’ve always loved this scripture that appear in the Advent Mass texts:
God gives strength to the fainting,
for the weak he makes vigor abound.
Though young men faint and grow weary,
and youth stagger and fall,
They that hope in the Lord
will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagle’s wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.
– Isaiah 40:30-31.
(This was the first reading of yesterday’s Mass) So many of us become discouraged by life. We may lose our job or are told that we no longer have the health benefits we once had for our family. And many of us are now worried how we’ll be affected by the Republican’s tax bill, if it becomes law. We grow older and have more aches and pains and worry more. Some of us are couch potatoes and don’t exercise enough and get more depressed. And are, indeed, in need of an infusion of renewed strength.
In these latter days of Advent, think about the ways you can restore your vigor ~ or better ask the Lord to renew your strength! He will! As he has done for me again and again and again! I’ve been down many times; but he never cease to raise me up again.
And you might note that the symbol for John the evangelist is the eagle, because he soars to the heights of mystical glory in his writings.
I praise you, Lord, because you’ve restored my vigor in marvelous ways.
You have renewed my strength again and again.
And I’d love to soar as if with eagle’s wings,
if you would grant me that grace even now.
Soar to the heights of the mountains,
and dive to the depths of the ocean of Your love, Lord.
Yes, as I grow older, I’m ready to serve You, Lord
as long as you grant me the grace, the vigor and the strength.
Whatever You will, Lord. Whatever you will.
Now, before you go, here is one of our great Catholic liturgical songs ~ “On Eagles’ Wings” Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Click here.
Today is the Feast of St. John of the Cross, the great Carmelite mystic and reformer Here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.
Our God Becomes Flesh (and Hanukkah Day 2)
Today, let’s reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation — the Christmas portion of our faith. (If you do not accept this as an article of faith, then just consider it as a beautiful story; it still has power; it still can have real meaning for you.)
St. John says “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Jesus saves us as man. Incarnation: Carnal: meat, flesh. Our God became flesh. “He emptied himself of his equality with God and became as humans are” (Philippians 2). The Father sent his Son into our world to identify with us. To become one of us and with us. God likes the human race! In Jesus, a marriage is made between God and the human race.
But this article of our Christian faith often doesn’t dawn on folks. Many think he was just play-acting – pretending to be human.
I offer this passage (excerpted) from St. Gregory Nazianzen, bishop and doctor of the church in the fourth century from the Advent Office of Readings:
“He [Jesus] takes to himself all that is human, except sin (unfaithfulness) .
He comes forth as God, in the human nature he has taken, one being, made of two contrary elements, flesh and spirit.
Spirit gave divinity, flesh receives it.
He who makes rich is made poor;
he takes on the poverty of my flesh, that I may gain the riches of divinity.
He who was full is made empty;
he is emptied for a brief space of glory, that I may share in his fullness.
We need God to become one of us and with us.
To help us like and love ourselves.
To realize that Love and Beauty and all good things are our destiny.
We need God to invite us to our future instead of destroying ourselves.
If only we believed.
If only we believed.
Take time today to allow this story of God’s love affair with the human race to touch you,
embrace you, and heal your heart, and transform your life as it has mine.
And continues to do so, day after day after day
because I, for one, really, really, really like being caught up in Love!
And for your listening pleasure here’s a selection from Handel’s Messiah: “Rejoice, Greatly, O Daughter Zion!” Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are today’s Mass readings for the Feast of St. Lucy. Click here.
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe – December 12 (also Day 1 of Hanukkah)
Today,we honor our sister and brothers in Mexico
as they celebrate the appearance of the Mother of Jesus to a poor peasant native Mexican.
Today, may we unite ourselves in solidarity with all the peoples of North and South and Central Americawho rejoice in this feast day;indeed may we unite ourselves in solidarity with all the world’s poor.
Here is the charming story:
An elderly Indian man named Chuauhtlatoczin (“Juan Diego” in Spanish) had a vision of Mary, the mother of Jesus, at Tepeyac, a squalid Indian village outside of Mexico City, 469 years ago. Mary directed Juan Diego to tell the bishop to build the church in Tepeyac. The Spanish bishop, however, dismissed the Indian’s tale as mere superstition. He asked that he bring some sort of proof, if he wanted to be taken seriously. Three days later, the Virgin Mary appeared again and told Juan Diego to pick the exquisitely beautiful roses that had miraculously bloomed amidst December snows, and take them as a sign to the bishop. When the Indian opened his poncho to present the roses to the bishop, the flowers poured out from his poncho to reveal an image of the Virgin Mary painted on the inside of the poncho. That image hangs today in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City and is venerated by thousands of pilgrims from all over the world.
Significantly, Mary appeared not as a white-skinned, blue-eyed, blond-haired European Madonna but as a dark-skinned, brown-eyed, black-haired “Tonantzin,” the revered Indian Mother, and she spoke to Juan Diego not in cultured Castillian but in his own Nahuatal language. She spoke in the language of the powerless, disenfranchised, and despised Indians. She was then and is today, “La Morenita” – the Brown One. Her message to the bishop was that God’s church should be built out on the fringes of society, amidst the poor and the downtrodden. The vision challenged the powerful conquerors, the Spaniards of Mexico City, to change their way of thinking and acting. It challenged them to move out from their position of power and influence to the periphery; to leave their magnificent cathedral and build God’s house in Tepeyac – among the poor and the despised, away from the center of power and culture and education and the arts.
Guadalupe is a “vision” story and, like all such stories, tells us something about God and something about ourselves. More precisely, it tells us how God wants to be among us. St. Juan Diego’s vision of where God wants to be or whom we should listen to should come as no surprise to us. Throughout history, God has consistently chosen to be with poor people. In that respect, the Blessed Virgin Mary’s message to St. Juan Diego at Guadalupe is a restatement of Jesus’ mission: That God is in those who are hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, naked, sick, stranger, and suffering. The challenge for us is to heed the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the message of Christ’s Gospel, and reach out to those who belong to the margins of our society.
~ Source: The Manila Bulletin online.
God of power and mercy,
you blessed the Americas at Tepeyac
with the presence of the Virgin Mary at Guadalupe.
May her prayers help all men and women
to accept each other as brothers and sisters
Through your justice present in our hearts
may your peace reign in our world.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
. . . a prayer from today’s Mass
The Image of Our Lady is actually an Aztec Pictograph
which was read and understood quickly by the Aztec Indians.
1. THE LADY STOOD IN FRONT OF THE SUN
She was greater than the dreaded Huitzilopochtli, their
sun-god of war.
2. HER FOOT RESTED ON THE CRESCENT
She had clearly crushed Quetzalcoatl,
the feathered serpent moon-god.
3. THE STARS STREWN ACROSS THE MANTLE
She was greater than the stars of heaven which they worshipped.
She was a virgin and the Queen of the heavens for Virgo rests over her womb and the northern crown upon her head.
She appeared on December 12, 1531 and the stars that she wore are the constellations of the stars that appeared in the sky that day!
4. THE BLUE‑GREEN HUE OF HER MANTLE
She was a Queen because she wears the color of royalty.
5. THE BLACK CROSS ON THE BROOCH AT HER NECK
Her God was that of the Spanish Missionaries, Jesus Christ her son who died
on the cross for all mankind.
6. THE BLACK BELT
She was with child because she wore the Aztec Maternity Belt.
7. THE FOUR PETAL FLOWER OVER THE WOMB
She was the Mother of God because the flower was a special symbol of
life, movement and deity-the center of the universe.
8. HER HANDS ARE JOINED IN PRAYER
She was not God but clearly there was one greater than Her and she
pointed her finger to the cross on her brooch.
9. THE DESIGN ON HER ROSE COLORED GARMENT
She is the Queen of the Earth because she is wearing a contour map of
Mexico telling the Indians exactly where the apparition took place.
The Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Science
1. The image to this date, cannot be explained by science.
2. The image shows no sign of deterioration after 450 years!
The tilma or cloak of Saint Juan Diego on which the image of Our Lady has
been imprinted, is a coarse fabric made from the threads of the maguey
cactus. This fiber disintegrates within 20-60 years!
3. There is no under sketch, no sizing and no protective over-varnish on the
4. Microscopic examination revealed that there were no brush strokes.
5. The image seems to increase in size and change colors due to an unknown
property of the surface and substance of which it is made.
6. According to Kodak of Mexico, the image is smooth and feels like a
modern day photograph. (Produced 300 years before the invention of
7. The image has consistently defied exact reproduction, whether by brush or
8. Several images can be seen reflected in the eyes of the Virgin. It is
believed to be the images of Juan Diego, Bishop Juan de Zummaraga, Juan
Gonzales, the interpreter and others.
9. The distortion and place of the images are identical to what is produced in
the normal eye which is impossible to obtain on a flat surface.
10. The stars on Our Lady’s Mantle coincide with the constellations in the sky on
December 12, 1531. All who have scientifically examined the image of Our
Lady over the centuries confess that its properties are absolutely unique
and so inexplicable in human terms that the image can only be supernatural!
IN SEARCH OF A SONG TO HELP CELEBRATE THE FEAST THE ONE I GOOGLED WAS “MANANITAS GUADALUPE,” WHICH MEANS.”BREAK OF DAY”. YOU’LL FIND THEM, STILL AT NIGHT, WATCHING AND WAITING. BE PATIENT. THE VIDEOGRAPHER WILL EVENTUALLY TAKE YOU INSIDE THE CHURCH TO WITNESS SOMETHING AMAZING TO US GRINGOS. ENJOY.
BE SURE TO TURN UP YOUR SPEAKERS AND ENTER FOR SCREEN. CLICK HERE.
Here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.
And here’s a video that explains the meaning of Hanukkah. It’s short and well worth watching. Click here.
Advent Day 9 ~ Monday, December 11, 2017
“Prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” Isaiah 40:3
This image was taken on I-95 between St. Augustine and Jacksonville one misty December Sunday morning about 2 AM. I was living in St. Augustine at the time.
On my way home from “Father Bob’s night out,” I was so taken by the magic of the vista before me I had to pull off and capture it on my Canon Power Shot.
For me, even the Interstate can be a place for reflection. . .
I was thinking of John the Baptist’s message that also appeared in yesterday’s (Sunday’s) gospel:
“Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths.”
And this was what I wrote back then, inspired by that moment on the side of a highway at 2 AM on a magical, mystical Sunday morning.
Where are we going, Lord?
Every day we’re on a journey that will not be complete until we meet You.
In our daily commutes, stuck in traffic, are we making progress in our spiritual journey, Lord?
Are we making a straight highway in the spiritual wasteland I sometimes think America is today, Lord?
John’s message was one of repentance.
When he said, “make straight his paths,” he meant to clear a way for the coming of God into our heart and soul.
Are we getting rid of the roadblocks that stop us from making progress. Our addictions. Our resentments. Our selfishness.
If we don’t make an effort to do that, our Christmas will be hollow, empty, Lord.
In all of our pre-Christmas bustle and hustle are we preparing a straight path for you to come
into our hearts, our homes, our workplace, our land, our world this Christmas?
What are we doing, Lord? Really doing with our lives?
Where is our life’s journey taking us?
What is life really all about?
I-95 at 2 AM can help us ponder that question.
I realized that was a special moment for me; a moment I seized.
Or rather seized me.
Thank you, Lord.
On Monday morning many commuters would return to their frenzied ~ furied ~ hurried ~ unaware ~ unreflected lives going to and fro and not know really where they’re going or what they were doing or why.
Time for a change, dear friend? Time for a change?
Now before you go,here’s another video from Godspell: Where are You Going? Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here. (The First reading from Isaiah is a wonderful piece of prose; try reading it aloud.)
Second Sunday of Advent
(December 10, 2017)
Mark opens his gospel saying,
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
‘A voice of one crying out in the desert:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.’”
Mark starts his story a long way back—not at Jesus’ birth as Luke’s Gospel does; it does not begin with John the Baptist in the wilderness. The Scripture-scholar William Barclay says it began “with the dreams of the prophets long ago; that is to say, it began in the mind of God.”
“It has been said that ‘the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts,’ and so are the thoughts of God. History is not a random kaleidoscope of disconnected events. It is a process directed by the God who sees the end in the beginning
The prophetic quotation Mark uses is suggestive.
I am sending my messenger ahead you; he will prepare your way.
This is from Malachi 3:4. In its original context it was a threat. In Malachi’s day, the priests were failing in their duty. The offerings were blemished and shoddy and second bests. The messenger was to cleanse and purify the worship in the temple before the Anointed One of God emerged on earth. So then the coming of Christ was the purification of life. Seneca called Rome ‘a cesspool of iniquity. Juvenal spoke of her ‘as the filthy sewer into which flowed the abominable dregs of every Syrian and Achaean stream.’
Where Christ is allowed to come the antiseptic of the Christian faith cleanses the moral poison of society and leaves it pure and clean.
John the Baptist came announcing a baptism of repentance. The Jew was familiar with ritual washings. Leviticus 11 -15 details them. Symbolic washing and purifying was woven into the very fabric of Jewish daily ritual.
The Jew knew baptism—as proselytes to Judaism were supposed to undergo it to cleanse them of the pollution of their past life—but the amazing thing about John’s baptism was that he, a Jew, was asking Jews to submit to that which only a Gentile was supposed to need.
Bishop Robert Barron, writing in the December issue of the Magnificat liturgical magazine (p.135), reminds us that John the Baptist was the son of Zechariah, who was a Temple priest. Since the priesthood was passed on from father to son, we must assume that whatever John was doing in the desert had something to do with Temple sacrifice.
When people came to the Temple, they were seeking remission of their sins through the mediation of their priests, but before they could do that they were obliged to undergo a ritual washing called a mikvah.
That’s what John was doing in the desert; he was drawing his followers through a purifying bath and then promising them forgiveness.
But how would that forgiveness happen? In Mark’s Gospel, John says. “One mightier than I is coming after me…..I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (1:7-8). And in John’s Gospel, the Baptist cries, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (1:29). These two statements are functionally equivalent.
John the Baptist was preparing Israel for the arrival of the definitive priest who would perform the final sacrifice by which sins would be wiped away. His water baptism was an anticipation of a fiery immersion by which Israel would be eschatologically purified, that is, for her final survival.
It is worth noting that all four Gospels compels us to approach Jesus through John the Baptist. All four Evangelists realize that we won’t understand what Jesus is doing and what he means without the interpretive key he provides by this strange desert prophet.
Barclay would add a little more description for us. It is clear that John’s ministry was hugely successful; they streamed out into the desert to listen to him and queued up to submit to his baptism. But why such an impact?
First, he was a man who lived his message. Not only his words, but his whole life was a protest against contemporary life.
Between Judea and the Dead Sea was one of the most terrible deserts in the world. It was a limestone desert; the rock is hot and blistering and sounds hollow to the feet. In the Old Testament it is sometimes called Jeshimmon—The Devastation. John was a man from the desert and from its solitudes and its desolations. He was a man who had given himself a chance to hear the voice of God.
In regard to his clothes, he wore a garment woven of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist. So did Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). To look at the man was to be reminded of the prophets of old.
And there was his simple food—locusts and wild honey, the Scriptures tell us. But “locusts” could have been a bean or a nut—the carob–that was the food of the poorest of the poor. And the honey may have been the honey wild bees make orit may be a kind of sweet sap that distills from certain trees.
So John emerged and people had to listen to a person like that. For John, the man was the message. His message was effective because he told people what they knew in their heart of hearts and the depths of their souls they were waiting for.
The Jews had a saying, “If Israel would keep the law of God perfectly for one day, the Kingdom of God would come.”
As the folk queued up to be washed in the River Jordan, they were well aware that for three hundred years the voice of prophecy had been silent. John’s message was effective because he was completely humble. His own verdict on himself was not fit even for the duty of a slave. He said, “I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.” Or as the Gospel of John relates it, “I must decrease; he must increase.”
His message was effective because he pointed to something and someone beyond himself. He told his followers that his baptism drenched them in water, but one was coming who would drench them in the Holy Spirit.
COME LORD JESUS!
Now, listen and watch Prepare the Way of the Lord from Godspell Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. (Get a chuckle out of Jesus’ 1973 ‘Fro.)
And here are today’s Mass readings . . .Click here.
William Barclay / the Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of Mark – Revised Edition The Westminster Press / Philadelphia 1975 (pp. 13-18)
THE FEAST OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
December 8, 2017
This is a feast of Mary for us Catholics. In today’s gospel, we read the story of Mary’s Yes to God, her consent to bring Jesus into our world.
I offer for your reflection the Song of Mary that Luke places upon her lips ~ the Magnificat, sung or recited everywhere in the church throughout the world each evening of the year.
And as you’ll see, it has a pretty radical message ~ if you allow yourself to think about it.
And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy on those who fear him in every generation
He has shown might with his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel,
for he has remembered the promise of his mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers [and mothers]
to Abraham [and Sarah and Hagar] and [their] children for ever.
+ + + +
The song speaks of lowliness ~ humility. Yet it recognizes what God does in our lives.
Look with favor on ME too, Lord.
Please ~ I need Your favor, Your grace.
Let me see (and accept) that You do good things for me, too.
Let me cry out every day: Holy is Your name, my God!
Let Your mercy be on us and our world.
Show Your strength, Lord, the strength of Your justice.
Scatter the proud, the arrogant ones who control so much of our world.
Cast down the mighty!
Lift up the lowly!
Fill the hungry!
Send the rich empty away like the ones in Power often do to the poor, Lord.
Come to the help of Your people now, Lord!
We, too, are descendants of Abraham ~ Jew ~ Muslim ~Christian~ non-believer.
We are all Your children, Father.
To You be glory and honor and praise for ever. Amen!
The Evangelist Luke places these words in the mouth of Mary at the very beginning of the story of Jesus. It is the “Magnificat,” the Canticle of Mary, sung or recited by priests and nuns and monks all over the world every day of the year at Evensong. So, it’s a pretty important text to reflect upon.
I would like you to notice how radical this message is: “Cast down the mighty.” “Raise up the lowly.” “Send the rich away empty.”
Sounds like a pretty political message, doesn’t it?
People have been thrown into prison for saying things like that.
But these words are two thousand years old!
They’re an essential and enduring part of the Christmas story as told by Luke.
It’s a Song about Justice from the lips of Mary, the Mother of God. About Justice entering our world.
I have sung Mary’s Song every evening for 30 years with spontaneous melodies arising from the mood of my soul of the moment.
And in that, I try to live the song!
How do you respond, dear friend?
How do you respond? There are political messages buried in this song that are pretty obvious for us right now ~ or at any age or in any country. If the shoe fits, wear it!
Now to thrill you and inspire you, here’s introduction to Bach’s Magnificat on You Tube. If you scroll down the right side of the page, you will find other segments of the concert as well. Or you can Google “Magnificat videos” and have an amazing choice, including Shubert and Mozart and John Michael Talbot Be sure to enter FULL SCREEN. ENJOY!
And here are all of today’s Mass readings: Click here
A special notes for you: The image above is a copy of the famous Vladimir icon. It hangs upon the wall in my living room opposite my chair where I pray and write.
The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th (December 19 on the old Julian Calendar).
Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas’ life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.
One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman’s father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man’s daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry.
This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.
One of the oldest stories showing St. Nicholas as a protector of children takes place long after his death. The townspeople of Myra were celebrating the good saint on the eve of his feast day when a band of Arab pirates from Crete came into the district. They stole treasures from the Church of Saint Nicholas to take away as booty. As they were leaving town, they snatched a young boy, Basilios, to make into a slave. The emir, or ruler, selected Basilios to be his personal cupbearer, as not knowing the language, Basilios would not understand what the king said to those around him. So, for the next year Basilios waited on the king, bringing his wine in a beautiful golden cup. For Basilios’ parents, devastated at the loss of their only child, the year passed slowly, filled with grief. As the next St. Nicholas’ feast day approached, Basilios’ mother would not join in the festivity, as it was now a day of tragedy. However, she was persuaded to have a simple observance at home—with quiet prayers for Basilios’ safekeeping. Meanwhile, as Basilios was fulfilling his tasks serving the emir, he was suddenly whisked up and away. St. Nicholas appeared to the terrified boy, blessed him, and set him down at his home back in Myra. Imagine the joy and wonderment when Basilios amazingly appeared before his parents, still holding the king’s golden cup. This is the first story told of St. Nicholas protecting children—which became his primary role in the West.
Nicholas’ tomb in Myra became a popular place of pilgrimage. Because of the many wars and attacks in the region, some Christians were concerned that access to the tomb might become difficult. For both the religious and commercial advantages of a major pilgrimage site, the Italian cities of Venice and Bari vied to get the Nicholas relics. In the spring of 1087, sailors from Bari succeeded in spiriting away the bones, bringing them to Bari, a seaport on the southeast coast of Italy. An impressive church was built over St. Nicholas’ crypt and many faithful journeyed to honor the saint who had rescued children, prisoners, sailors, famine victims, and many others through his compassion, generosity, and the countless miracles attributed to his intercession. The Nicholas shrine in Bari was one of medieval Europe’s great pilgrimage centers and Nicholas became known as “Saint in Bari.”
To this day pilgrims and tourists visit Bari’s great Basilica di San Nicola.
Through the centuries St. Nicholas has continued to be venerated by Catholics and Orthodox and honored by Protestants. By his example of generosity to those in need, especially children, St. Nicholas continues to be a model for the compassionate life.
Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas’ feast day, December 6th, kept alive the stories of his goodness and generosity. In Germany and Poland, boys dressed as bishops begged alms for the poor—and sometimes for themselves! In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas arrived on a steamship from Spain to ride a white horse on his gift-giving rounds. December 6th is still the main day for gift giving and merrymaking in much of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands St. Nicholas is celebrated on the 5th, the eve of the day, by sharing candies (thrown in the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles. Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint’s horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. Simple gift-giving in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the Christ Child.
Despite various iterations handed down over the centuries, Dutch settlers brought the legend of Saint Nicholas, known to them as Sinter Klaas, to America towards the end of the 18th century. As their tradition goes, Sinter Klaas rode a white horse and left gifts in wooden shoes. This story merged with the British character Father Christmas, who dates back at least as far as the 17th century. Sinter Klaas was eventually Americanized to “Santa Claus.”
The rituals and fantasy surrounding Santa Claus became fixed in the modern American imagination with the publication of the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Moore in 1823. Better known as “The Night Before Christmas,” the poem established Santa’s physical appearance (plump and jolly), his mode of transportation (a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer), and his method of toy delivery (down the chimney) for generations to come.
Now that I’ve got you in a holiday mood, (sort of) yet since this is Advent we want to keep Christ in Christmas. This goes contrary to our world that insists that it’s a “Holiday” season. Here’s a great Christmas song that illustrates the point from a group that calls themselves (get this) ACLU. You’ll want to turn up your speakers and enter full screen for this one! Click here.
Tuesday of the First Week of Advent
Isaiah dreams of a bright future for us; he also chastises us for our idolatry and unfaithfulness to God and encourages us to be our best selves.
But today he shows us a wonderful vision: the animals lead the way to peace!
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb . .
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest:
the lion shall eat hay like an ox
The baby shall play in the cobra’s den (Isaiah 11:5-10.)
Let’s muse about peace and harmony today.
About the animal’s leading the way to peace.
(I have a Christmas short story about an owl from the banks of the Shenandoah
and a young lion from the Serengeti Plain in Africa leading the way to peace.
It’s a delightful story. Why not download it and save it for close to Christmas?
I have stories of him with turtles and little doves with broken wings and bunny rabbits and ducklings on our walks around our condo.
What is so new about the promised “mountain of the Lord” is not that the wolf and the lamb are there, but that the wolf remains a wolf and the lamb remains a lamb and yet they dwell together without hurt in God’s kingdom. Under God’s rule, conversion and obedience do not mean the loss of identity, but the discovery of our true identity as one in Christ.
Think about it.
What can we do today to bring more harmony into the habitat in which we live . . .
– at home, at work, at church, in my neighborhood, in our world?
In America today, we are so polarized and torn apart, this story can be an inspiration to us to help bring us together. Maybe this week you and I can make a little effort to reach out to someone across a divide and make a new acquaintance.
Behold a broken world, we pray,
Where want and war increase,
And grant us, Lord, in this our day,
The ancient dream of peace.
Bring, Lord, your better world to birth,
Your kingdom, love’s domain,
Where peace with God and peace on earth,
And peace eternal reign.
~ Timothy Dudley Smith / 1985
If you’re new to this Advent blog, I recommend reading Welcome to Advent 2009 to get a sense of why we want to spend four weeks preparing for our Christmas celebration and how it can help you deepen your spirituality whether you are a Catholic or even a Christian.
I will be posting each day of Advent, (God willin’ n’ the creek don’t rise.
You can make yourself mini-retreat for five minutes a day and have the best and most meaningful Christmas ever!
It’ll relieve your stress. Calm your nerves. Put a bounce in your step and a smile on your face. And it’s free!
So, what are you waiting for? Come on board! Put your email address in the hopper and you won’t have to think about it again.
And now, for your listening pleasure from Handel’s Messiah here’s “And the Glory of the Lord” from Robert Shaw’s Atlanta Symphony. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.
And here are today’s Mass readings: Click here.
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