The Feast of the Epiphany ~ Follow your Star!

The Feast of the Epiphany ~

Sunday, January 3rd, 2021

Today’s feast day has two meanings.  In the Roman Church we celebrate the story of the Magi visiting Jesus and offering him gifts.  In the Eastern churches, they focus on the story of the Baptism of the Lord.  Both celebrate the manifestation, that is, the revelation of Jesus to the whole world.

St. Paul in today’s letter to the Ephesians proclaims that

“The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”  (Ephesians 3:6)

We focus on the story of the Magi in our celebration today.  In the Gospel of Christmas, the angels proclaim the Good News of Christ’s birth  to the shepherds, who were uneducated, poor folk.  The story from Luke indicates that the gospel is to be preached to the poor.

Today’s story is from Matthew.  The Magi are scholars and learned men.  They discern from their study of the heavens that the Messiah was to be born in their time and they would risk the search for him and offer their treasures.  The Magi represent all the peoples of the earth outside and beyond the Jewish experience.  Jesus is the Christ for everyone!

This Gospel story is about darkness and light. Brilliant light and terrible, fearful darkness.

The Magi were comfortable with the dark.  They knew how to find their way in the dark, because they could interpret the lights of the sky.  They were adventurers ~ seekers ~ explorers.

They represent all people who are at home in the world of the intellect.  All people who are willing to journey far to seek and find the truth. (Unfortunately, we live in a world where some of our leaders don’t bother with seeking truth and are afraid of science.)

The Magi went out into the night following the light, the great star which marked a singular event in human history.

They stopped to see Herod, expecting that he would welcome the light.  He couldn’t; he was filled with diabolical darkness; he could not abide the light of truth.  He tried to snuff out the life of the God-Man: Jesus the Light of the world.

Herod, the guy in charge, a king, was worried about the birth of a baby.  Herod was powerful, and yet, as Matthew says, “ . . . he was greatly troubled ~ not unlike some leaders today.”

What was Herod afraid of?  He knew that Jesus was going to make a difference in his world and was afraid that a change would mean losing the power he had.  He wanted Jesus gone before any of that could happen.  He liked things just the way they were, the proverbial “status quo.”

So Herod decreed that all firstborn males under two were to be killed.   Jesus and Mary and Joseph would have to flee into the night to find a safe place in a foreign land, the land of Egypt.  And so a shroud of violence would invade the innocence of the Christmas story.  Jesus and his family became political refugees. (Remember that fact if you are inclined to quickly condemn other political refugees.)

I’d like to try to penetrate the meaning of this sacred event by sharing excerpts of two articles that really impacted my faith and understanding of this great feast.

The great 19th Century  Danish philosopher-poet and theologian  Søren Kierkegaard, in an article entitled, Only a Rumor, states,

Although the scribes could explain where the Messiah should be born, they remained quite unperturbed in Jerusalem.  They did not accompany the Wise Men to seek him.  Similarly we may know the whole of Christianity, yet make no movement.  The power that moved Heaven and Earth leaves us completely unmoved.

What a difference!  The three kings had only a rumor to go by.  But it moved them to make that long journey.  The scribes were much better informed, much better versed.  They sat and studied the Scriptures like so many dons, but it did not make them move.  Who had more of the truth?  The three kings who followed a rumor, or the scribes who remained sitting with all their knowledge?

What a vexation it must have been for the kings, that the scribes who gave them the news they wanted remained quiet in Jerusalem.  We are being mocked, the kings might have thought.  For indeed what an atrocious self-contradiction that the scribes should have the knowledge and yet remain unmoved.  This is as bad as if a person knows all about Christ and his teachings, and his own life expresses the opposite. 

Father Alfred Delp, the Jesuit priest imprisoned and executed by Hitler in 1945, whom we recently quoted in a powerful Advent article before Christmas, The Shaking Reality of Advent  concurs . . . .

The wise men. Whether they were really kings or just local eastern chieftains or learned astronomers is not important. The secret of these people is as plain as the shepherds. they are the men with clear eyes that probe things to the very depths. They have a real hunger and thirst for knowledge. They subordinated their lives to the end in view and they willingly journey to the ends of the earth, following a star, a sign, obeying an inner voice . . . . The compelling earnestness of their quest, the unshakable persistence of their search, the royal grandeur of their dedication ~ these are their secrets.  

And it is their message for us and their judgment of us. Why do so few ever see the star? Only because so few are looking for it .

What are we looking for anyway? And will we find a genuine yearning so strong that neither fatigue, nor distance, nor fear of the unknown, nor loneliness, nor ridicule will deter us?  

Where is our desire? Where is our risk to set out to find the meaning of our life? To find Jesus at our center? Where is our yearning? Hunger?  Thirst?  What star do you follow?

And so, listen to these  powerful words  from Isaiah in the first reading:

RISE UP IN SPLENDOR, DEAR PEOPLE OF GOD, YOUR LIGHT HAS COME.

THE GLORY OF THE LORD SHINES UPON YOU.

This feast is about a light that penetrates the most stubborn darkness of our lives.

This feast brings a Light to us all, if only we, like the Magi, would seek.

SEE DARKNESS COVERS THE EARTH

AND THICK CLOUDS COVER THE PEOPLES.

Violence seems to shroud our whole planet at times.

Some of us too are swallowed up by darkness, enshrouded by night, as happened to all of us this past year because of the pandemic.

Some of us live in  dysfunctional families.  That too can be terrible darkness, though we may not recognize it.  We may think that yelling and screaming are quite normal.

Some of us get up and work hard, day in and day out.  Perhaps it is work that we do not enjoy, perhaps even hate.  Perhaps our spirits are far away from our jobs.  We go to work trying to eke out a living, hoping to not be enshrouded by darkness. And because of the pandemic, so many lost their jobs or where in unemployment lines trying to apply for assistance!

And we know that there is darkness in the world.  Israelis refuse to seek peace with the Palestinians.

And there’s troubles in hotspots all over the world and in our own country.  People have been displaced by the wildfires in the Amazon and in California.  Hate seethes deep in the souls of neighbors a few blocks away from each other.

BUT UPON YOU THE LORD SHINES

AND OVER YOU APPEARS HIS GLORY.

Don’t despair of the darkness, dear friends.  Know that there is a Light that can penetrate it.

There was sadness and a thick veil of darkness over my own life for many years.  I had the good sense to move to the little bit of light that I could find.

A candle flame can be as bright as a great Nova when one is looking for light.

WE need the light of God’s truth in the world today.

NATIONS SHALL WALK BY YOUR LIGHT,

AND RULERS BY YOUR SHINING RADIANCE.

And finally, dear friends, out of the darkness came the Magi bringing gifts for the Light of the World.  Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the Holy Child who was the Light.

But before we can give a gift, we must ~ often in the midst of the darkness ~ open our hands and our hearts to receive the gift God would give to us.  We must first receive before we can give.

Out of the darkness of your lives, you also can find gifts to give to the Lord and your family and friends.

What gifts do we bring?

Do we bring Jesus the gift of our adoration that the Magi did? The gift of our hearts?

These learned and influential people got down on their knees before this little child.

What or who receives the gift of OUR adoration and allegiance?

The world does not know how to adore God.  We adore so many other things.  Maybe we adore a favorite movie star or our favorite sports team when they’re winning at least, or a new sports car, a new home, a gifted child of our own.

Maybe we adore our career path, willing to do whatever it takes, even as we embrace the darkness along with it.

And so, this Epiphany Sunday, I pray . . . .

Dearest Lord,

When I get down on my knees on Sunday morning,

 I’ll be humbled by this story of the Wise Men who traveled from afar                                                                                                 and fell to their knees with their gifts for you.  

Please allow me ~ allow us – to be renewed in your love this day.  

May we live in your Light and share your Light                                                                                                                                             with our families, friends and neighbors, and, indeed, all the world!  

And please, as I’ve pleaded for years and years for our country, dear Lord, 

help us to remember that it is in You we trust.

and are the source of our justice,

and the reason for us to live in civility and good will.  

Renew us in your justice, love and peace.

To You be glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

now and forever. Amen.

And before you go, here’s a beautiful rendition of ‘ O Holy Night’. Click Here.   (Remember to click on the < back arrow on the top left corner of your browser for the three remaining items I have for you below! enjoy!

Further, if you’re interested in the star of Bethlehem, you might read this article “Synchronicity and the Star of Bethlehem”  Click here.

And if you’d like an extra treat, do you remember the little drummer boy? Here he he is! Click here.

You can find today’s Mass readings at this link. Click here.

With love,  

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

What will 2021 bring to us? Better things for us all we hope!

St. Augustine, Florida at Christmastime / bob traupman / 2007

Dear friends,

When we were preparing for Y2K twenty-one years ago, I dreamed about “A New Humanity for a New Millennium.” So I thought I’d reprise most of last year’s post because it was so positive and we kinda need that positivity this year too, don’t you think?

And I wrote some really positive stuff about us humans, knowing full well we really didn’t warrant it back then.

Can we dust those thoughts off  now some twenty-one years later and give them a second look, a second shot . . . ?

. . . . Even though we have failed to live up to the potential of the human family, we nevertheless are called to a deeper faith and hope.  The work of Jesus is hardly begun.  The task of building a new humanity, partially begun in the first and second millennia, remains the agenda for the third.

As we reach beyond our self-imposed limits of sight, we can look beyond ~ look to the horizon ~ look where we’re headed.

Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin envisioned  humanity as evolving toward the “Omega Point,” a point of union of all of creation drawing together in Christ.  The Omega Point, Teilhard observes, is the endpoint of the historical process.

Perhaps we can see glimpses of this wonderful and exciting world view in the theology of St. Paul:

“There is no Jew or Greek . . . Christ is everything in all of you” (Col. 3:10).

And again:

“Let us profess the truth in love and grow toward the full maturity of Christ the head. Through him the whole body [the world?] grows and with the proper functioning of the members joined firmly together by each supporting ligament, builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:16)

Thus, we are part of something larger than ourselves. With each generation, we ARE growing closer to the goal of all humanity ~ complete and utter union with Christ ~ even though we don’t perceive it!

If we keep that in mind as we look forward in hope to 2021, as we climb out of a year still filled with worries about getting covid,  cooped up in our homes for weeks-on-end, trying to cope with loneliness, or perhaps reaching out to a friend or relative whose family member has passed, or wondering how to react to the racism that reared its ugly head throughout the summer and has impacted our police communities . . . .we can look upon this process with hope that, despite our failures in love, humanity will one day grow into loving relationship with all there is!

Can you feel it?  Can you peer down into the future of humanity and see that we are growing in our ability to love?  Or can  we only manage to be cynical about all of the devastation that so many humans now create for one another and our planet?

If there is one thing that we can learn in the opening movement of the Third Millennium,  it is that we live in the present moment, yet we are connected with a past with all of its achievement and failure, and with connection with a future with all of its hope and uncertainty! 

Yes! we must learn to live in the present moment!

The focus of renewing humanity has got to be with renewing ourselves ~ each and every one ~ of having faith in our own growth and hope in our own future. Of  realizing that each of us can be transformed again and again into a new person by receiving the grace of transformation that the incarnate and risen Christ extends to us, day in and day out, year in and year out.

Here’s Pope Francis in his New Year’s message this year . . . .

“No peace without a “culture of care”

In his message for the 54th World Day of Peace marked on  January 1st, Pope Francis offers the Church’s social doctrine as a “compass” to foster a culture of care for peace in the world.

Pope Francis appeals to the international community and everyone to foster a “culture of care” by advancing on the “path of fraternity, justice and peace between individuals, communities, peoples and nations.”

“There can be no peace without a culture of care.” In other words, we simply need to care for and about one another.

This evening, as I parked my car outside of my local Walmart, I heard a faint voice nearby cry, “I’m hungry.” I new I only had a few bucks in my wallet, but I walked over toward him and asked his first name, which was ‘Joe.'(I thought of St. Joseph as Pope Francis has declared 2021 a special year in honor of St. Joseph and all fathers.) And he was cold, I could tell; I asked him to tell me a little about what was happening, and then I gave him a little something. (I just had enough money to get what I needed in the store.) When I came out of the store, he was still there; I inquired what the first initial of his last name was so I could add him to my Evening Prayer list and prayed for all the other homeless folk I’ve met and are on my list as I drove home . . . .

Established by Pope St. Paul VI in 1967, the first World Day of Peace was observed on January 1st,1968.

Pope Francis said that “massive Covid-19 health crisis” has aggravated interrelated crises like climate, food, the economy and migration, causing great sorrow and suffering to many. He makes it an occasion to appeal to political leaders and the private sector to spare no effort to ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines and to the essential technologies needed to care for the sick, the poor and those who are most vulnerable.

Alongside the pandemic, the Pope also notes a surge in various forms of nationalism, racism, hatred (xenophobia) and wars and conflicts that bring only death and destruction in their wake. These and other events of 2020, he says, have underscored the importance of caring for one another and for creation in our efforts to build a more fraternal society. Hence, “A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace” is a “way to combat the culture of indifference, waste and confrontation so prevalent in our time.”

The Holy Father traces the evolution of the Church’s Culture of Care from the first book of the Bible, to Jesus, through the early Church down to our times.

After the creation of the world, God entrusts it to Adam to “till it and keep it”. Cain’s response to God – “Am I my brother’s keeper?” – after killing his brother, Abel, is a reminder that all of us are keepers of one another.

God’s protection of Cain, despite his crime, confirms the inviolable dignity of the person created in God’s image and likeness. Later, the institution of the Sabbath aimed to restore the social order and concern for the poor, while the Jubilee year provided a respite for the land, slaves and those in debt. All this, the Pope says, shows that “everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationship with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others.”

The Christian concept of the person, the Pope says, fosters the pursuit of a fully human development. “Person always signifies relationship, not individualism; it affirms inclusion, not exclusion; unique and inviolable dignity, not exploitation.” “Each human person is an end in himself or herself, and never simply a means to be valued only for his or her usefulness.”

According to the “compass” of social principles of the Church, every aspect of social, political and economic life achieves its fullest end when placed at the service of the common good, which allows people to reach their fulfilment more fully and easily.

This highlights the need to listen to the cry of our brothers and sisters in need and the cry of the earth our common and care for them.

“A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be authentic if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings,” the Pope says, citing his encyclical.

“Peace, justice and care for creation are three inherently connected questions, which cannot be separated.”

In the face of our throw-away culture, with its growing inequalities both within and between nations, Pope Francis urges government leaders, and those of international organizations, business leaders, scientists, communicators and educators, to take up the principles of the Church’s social doctrine as a “compass”. It is capable of pointing out a common direction and ensuring “a more humane future” in the process of globalization

In this regard, the Pope calls for resources spent on arms, especially nuclear weapons, to be used for priorities such safety of individuals, the promotion of peace and integral human development, the fight against poverty, and the provision of health care. He says it would be a courageous decision to “establish a ‘Global Fund’ with the money spent on weapons and other military expenditures, in order to permanently eliminate hunger and contribute to the development of the poorest countries!”

This begins in the family where we learn how to live and relate to others in a spirit of mutual respect. Schools and universities, the communications media, as also religions and religious leaders are called to pass on a system of values based on the recognition of the dignity of each person, each linguistic, ethnic and religious community and each people.

Pope Francis concludes his message, urging “We never yield to the temptation to disregard others, especially those in greatest need, and to look the other way.” “Instead, may we strive daily, in concrete and practical ways, to form a community composed of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another.”

And now my prayer . . . 

Where are we, this New Year’s Day 2021, Lord?

Are we better or worse off than we were last year?

And what will 2021 bring for us?

Are we prepared for whatever it will bring?

Do we realize that . . . . “You never know . . . what the next minute will bring?”

Give us hope, Lord, this New Year’s Day.

A realistic hope that we might be a little kinder toward one another,

a little less self-centered,

a little more willing to go the extra mile for someone, even ~ or especially ~ a stranger.

Give us the strength to be ready for whatever may come . . .

~  in the next Congress and Administration?

~ or if the economy would get better or worse

~ if we lose our job or gain some success,

~ if we meet the girl of our dreams.

Give us the grace to be truly thankful ~ truly repentant ~ truly humble when we wake up this New Year’s morning.

This is my prayer, Lord, for me, for my friends, for our country, for our world.

This New Year’s morning may we pray as St. Francis taught us . . .

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen!

May it be so! may it be so for each of us and our country and the whole world!

 Now here’s the great song “Let there be peace on earth”. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings for the Feast of Mary, Mother of God. Click here.

A Happy and Blessed New Year, to you and your family! And stay safe!

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Fourth Day of Christmas ~ The Feast of the Holy Innocents ~ Rachel mourns for her children ~ still (and Day 3 of Kwanzaa)

The Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs ~ Monday, December 28, 2020

( and Day 3 of Kwanzaa) 

Herod the Great had been elected “King of the Jews” by the Roman Senate in 40 B.C. When the Magi told him of the new King of the Jews, Herod could think of nothing but wiping out the threat to his throne. The Holy Innocents are those children who were brutally murdered by Herod as he sought the Christ Child. At his hand, the Church receives their first martyrs, thereby this feast three days after the celebration of Jesus’ birth.  

And because of  Herod’s act of terrorism among his own people, Joseph had to fly by night to Egypt with Mary and the young child Jesus. Thus, Jesus himself became a political refugee.

Today we think of other innocent children ~ some killed as the unborn are or have been. We also think of those innocent ones  gunned down Parkland, Florida and David Hogg, a survivor, and 2018 graduate, who has gone on to advocate for the end of gun violence. These are the statistics for this past year according to Gun Violence Archive . . .

Gun violence:  children under age 11  murdered 292  / injured 685 Teenagers murdered  1,092 / injured 3,010 / Mass shootings 610

Then there are children who are trafficked as boy soldiers or as prostitutes or as child laborers.

And what of the horror of children caught in war or in Syria or the Tsunami in Indonesia or the wildfires in California.

images-3And what of the child immigrants in our own country who are held in overcrowded, unhealthy detention camp for years without legal representation that caused two tragic deaths of 7-year-old Guatemalan boy followed by the death of an 8-year-old Guatemalan girl in the custody of Homeland Security.

And what of the DACA children? What will their fate be? They have known no other country but ours.

In Ramah is heard the sound of moaning,

of bitter weeping!

Rachel mourns her children

she refuses to be consoled

because her children are no more 

    ~  (Jer 31:15).  

You know, the infant Jesus was threatened by violence himself.  So, the Christmas story is not all sweetness and light. The Wise Men inquired of Herod where the newborn King of the Jews was born. Seething with diabolical fury because of his jealousy, Herod orders the massacre of all who resemble Jesus in gender and age.

 The Mass texts proclaim . . .

The Innocents were slaughtered as infants for Christ;

spotless, they follow the Lamb and sing for ever: Glory to you, O Lord.  

I would think the same is true for our own dear innocent children ~ not that all of them are Christian, but that will in their own way sing for ever.  

Psalm 124, also from today’s Mass, states,

“Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.”

 So, for many, an eternal life of happiness and a reunion with loved ones is indeed a consolation.  

And I conclude today with prayers from our dear Pope Francis  . . .

Child of Bethlehem, touch the hearts of all those engaged in human trafficking, that they may realize the gravity of this crime against humanity.  Look upon the many children who are kidnapped, wounded and killed in armed conflicts, and all those who are robbed of their childhood and forced to become child soldiers.

As we fix our gaze on the Holy Family of Nazareth as they were forced to become refugees, let us think of the tragedy of those migrants and refugees who are victims of rejection and exploitation of human trafficking and slave labor.    

Lord Jesus, as a little child you were a refugee yourself,

and a political one at that.

Thousands of innocent children were murdered.  

Millions of children die in our world because of other despots.

Because of cruelty and brutality and bullying goes on and on.

Lord, I have no idea what the future holds for children in our own country.

Please watch over them all and keep them safe.

We mourn for the children who have been gunned down,

or sick and died unattended while under the protection of Homeland Security.

And please watch over all children who are refugees,

or in war-torn countries or who are migrants on the road searching for a better home. 

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Now before you go, here’s a Christmas carol for you that reflects on the strife of the world.  Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Second Day of Christmas ~ St. Stephen’s Day ~ Heroic Love ~ How heroic is your love? (and the first day of Kwanzaa)

The Feast of St. Stephen ~ First Martyr, December 26, 2020

Today, December 26, is the second day of Christmas, and the first day of Kwanzaa (African-American).  May we learn about our own and each other’s celebrations.  It’s easy, just Google the word Kwanzaa.

For us Christians the mystery of Incarnation (God-becoming-human in the person of Jesus Christ) needs more than one day to celebrate.  Here is the second day of Christmas:  The Catholic liturgy centuries ago placed the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, the day after Jesus’ glorious feast to show that our faith is not sentimental but requires of us heroic, sacrificial love.  Stephen fearlessly witnessed in court (the word martyr means witness) his conviction that Jesus is  the Messiah, knowing that his testimony was his death sentence.

Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people. Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.

When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.       (Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59)

How heroic is our love, Lord?

Do we abandon people — our friends, our lovers, our spouses, our children when the going gets rough?

And I ask you please to be with those who’ve been abandoned by loved ones, Lord ~ children of alcoholic parents or kids who have gone through the foster care system and may never feel Your Love or those who have to prostitute themselves in order to survive.

Are we only concerned about our own survival?  What’s best for Number One — Me?

Are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of a friend in need — for You, Lord?  

Are you, elected officials willing to show any kind of heroic love for the sake of  our American people ~ black or white, rich or poor, Muslim, Christian or Jew, North, South, East or West, Wall Street or no street? 

And what about the DACA children or the immigrant children lost in the system? What about the Rohingya  people who are stateless and suffering untold violence and immigrants and refugees the world over?

Allow me the grace to witness to your love for me, Lord, to share it when I can.

Allow me the grace to do that this day, St. Stephen’s Day and every day. Stephen, a young man,  has always been one of my heroes, Lord.

We need such heroic love in our time, Lord, such heroic young people.

Inspire young women and men to be there for their friends in the hard times ahead.

Teach us to never abandon a friend, Lord.

And let my readers know that you love them, Lord,  and You will never abandon them either ~ no matter what.

Now, before you go, here is Mariah Carey singing “Hero.” Click here.   Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are all of today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

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The Birthday of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ ~ 2020

While all things were

      in quiet silence,

And that night was

      in the midst of

   her swift course,

Thine Almighty Word,

     O Lord,

Leaped down out

of thy royal throne,

      Alleluia!

 ~ And the Word became flesh and lived among us.  John 1:14

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Dear Friends,

Our waiting is over.

Christmas is here!

My dearest Brothers and Sisters, I pause to think about you intimately at this moment. I have 397 of you on my email list and I’m aware some of you share with other friends. I also reach out to others on Twitter and Facebook. As my cursor crosses the page I’m thinking and praying for each of you wherever you are and yes, I do have one or two readers on other continents.

So on this Christmas Eve, let’s collectively think about where we’ve been this past year.  It’s been a helluva ride for every one of us trying to cope with this pandemic, hasn’t it? We’re all sheltering in place and getting “cabin fever” –though many have found good things from staying at home. The grim thing is that this disease is not something to play around with. I had heard a statistic that this is has been the deadliest year in US history and I just confirmed it.

So how do we celebrate Christmas against that background? How is all this affecting your own celebration of Christmas?

I want to share with you an excerpt from one of my favorite Advent authors —Brennan Manning entitled Shipwrecked at the Stable.  I shared it last year, but it has become more poignant this year. Think about the image of being shipwrecked for a moment. You’ve been to sea, and are now washed up on some beach somewhere—groggy, famished, thirsty, in rags, wondering  where the h – – you are, probably struggling along with other grumbling, annoying former shipmates; in other words: Lost! 

Our author begins . . . .

God entered into our world not with the crushing impact of unbearable glory, but in the way of weakness, vulnerability and need. On a wintry night in an obscure cave, the infant Jesus was a humble, naked, helpless God who allowed us to get close to him.

God comes as a newborn baby, giving us a chance to love him, making us feel that we have something to give him.

The world does not understand vulnerability. Neediness is rejected as incompetence and compassion is dismissed as unprofitable.

The Spanish author José Ortega puts it this way:

The man with the clear head is the man who frees himself from fantasy and looks life in the face, realizes that everything in it is problematic, and feels himself lost. (Like so many of us during this pandemic!) And this is the simple truth—that to life is to feel oneself lost. The shipwrecked have stood at the still-point of a turning world and discovered that the human heart is made for Jesus Christ and cannot really be content with less. 

We are made for Christ and nothing less will ever satisfy us. As Paul writes in Colossians 1:16, “All things were created by him and for him.” And further on, “There is only Christ: he is everything” (3:11). It is only in Christ that the heart finds true joy in created things.

Do you hear what the shipwrecked are saying? Let go of your paltry desires and expand your expectations. Christmas means that God has given us nothing less than himself and his name is Jesus Christ. Be unwilling next Christmas to settle for anything else. Don’t order “just a piece of toast” when eggs Benedict are on the menu. Don’t come with a thimble when God has nothing less to give you than the ocean of himself. Don’t be contented with a ‘nice’ Christmas when Jesus says, “It has pleased my Father to give you the Kingdom.”

You know, dear Readers, this is what I’ve been sharing with all my heart with you for years. To know Jesus and his heavenly Father is the sole reason for the existence for this Blog!

The shipwrecked have little in common with the landlocked. The landlocked have their own security system, a home base, credentials and credit cards, storehouses and barns, their self interest and investments intact. They never find themselves because they never really feel themselves lost.  (Like so many we know in politics these days.) “At Christmas, one despairs of finding a suitable gift for the landlocked. “They’re so hard to shop for; they have everything they need.”

The shipwrecked, on the contrary, reach out for that passing plank with the desperation of the drowning. Adrift on an angry sea, in a state of utter helplessness and vulnerability, the shipwrecked never asked what they could do to merit the plank, and inherit the kingdom of dry land. They knew that there was absolutely nothing any of them could do. Like little children, they simply received the plank as a gift. And little children are precisely those who haven’t done anything. “Unless you… become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

The shipwrecked at the stable are captivated by joy and wonder. They have found the treasure in the field of Bethlehem. The pearl of great price is wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

So here we are at Christmas once again.

Dear Sisters and Brothers it’s time.

Open your heart.

Prepare yourself to be ready to receive your Lord into your heart as if for the first time—in humility and joy and wonder.  As you see from Brennan Manning’s wonderful story, Christmas is really not about giving gifts, but about receiving the one that Jesus wants to give you.

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. Keep your Christmas very simple this year.

And, 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. There are many more to come.

May you have a good Christmas with your those you love—even you’re not able to be with them physically present to them this year.

I will remember each of you, your intentions and needs in my Christmas Masses.

Dearest Lord Jesus,
O how wonderful you are to me—to us.
May we be like children again for you said
that we must be childlike before the Father
and you called him Abba—Daddy.
Thank you, Jesus,
for my priesthood, for my home
for the food on my table,
for my little furry friend Shoney for the time you gave him to me,
for you my readers and so much more!
Please bless my friends and readers,
especially those who are missing a loved one this year,
or who are lonely or sick or in need in any way and those caring for them.
We ask you this, Jesus, as always,
in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

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.You’ll find a list of the Vigil, Mass at Night, at Dawn, etc.; click on the one(s) you want.Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

P. S. We’ll be back again on December 26th ~ The Feast of  St. Stephen and the Twelve Days of Christmas and the celebration of Kwanzaa!

Advent Day 23 – O Emmanuel, Where art thou?

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Wednesday of the fourth week of Advent

O Emmanuel,

Our King and Lawgiver,

The hope of nations and their Savior:

Come and save us,

O Lord our God!

~ The Eighth O-Antiphon

Emmanuel, they tell us you are “God-with-us.”

Where are you, Emmanuel?

Are you here?

Are you here in the messiness of our lives? 

In the midst of this pandemic?

Can you really ransom us from our captivities,

our slaveries to addictions, our hatreds and grudges and jealousies that eat us up and spit us out?

Our guilts, our “coulda, shoulda, wouldas — our druthers and regrets?

Our lethargy, our hopelessness, our slumber, our rage?

O Israel!  O America!

Do you want Emmanuel to come?

Do We want you to?  (Do I?)

Many languish in mourning in this pandemic, Emmanuel,

in exiles made by Wall Street and homelessness and sickness

and loneliness and selfishness.

Many a young heart mourns / aches for direction and meaning and love.

Prisoners waste away.  Such a waste of young lives!

Will you ransom their hearts, and souls Emmanuel?

Our hearts and souls?

Will you truly rain down justice as the psalmist says?

Yes, O come, Emmanuel!

Be God-with-us!

Even though we can sometimes hardly be with ourselves, Lord.

Captivate us, inhale us with Your love.

Dazzle us with hope and new life and possibility.

Yes, Emmanuel!  We believe you will come.

Maybe not today or tomorrow.

You will transform the secret longings of our souls.

We will dance and sing and embrace You and each other

because you came among us, Emmanuel.

You ARE with us, Emmanuel.

Because of  You our being becomes “being-in-love!”

We rejoice! We give thanks! We believe!

Come, Lord Jesus!  Yes, Lord Jesus, come.

 

Brothers and sisters, Christmas is two days away.  Let each one of us give thanks

– and receive again in a new way

such a precious, wondrous love,

such a wonderful gift.

Here is a YouTube presentation of the powerful hymn sung by Steve Green  “What wondrous love is this?

 And here are today’s Mass readings about ol’ Zechariah being struck dumb because . . .  Click here

 

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

 

Advent Day 22 ~ The shaking reality of Advent

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Tuesday of Fourth Week of Advent

O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
Come and free the prisoners of darkness!

~ The O Antiphon for December 20th

Father Alfred Delp, S.J. aptly wrote two years after I was born about being shaken up, as so many of us feel in our world today, unsettled as we are by political events in our own country, especially this past year with the pandemic with hundreds of thousand of deaths and a contested election and having to spend days on end sheltering in place and the loneliness which that has brought about for so many of us.

Fr. Delp wrote with his hands in shackles in his prison cell in Berlin, just before he was hanged for high treason in 1945, three months before the war ended. His ashes were scattered on the winds; Hitler wanted him forgotten. (His writings were smuggled out of prison.) In a widely published article, The Shaking Reality of Advent, he wrote:

There is nothing we modern people need more than to be genuinely shaken up.

Where life is firm we need to have a sense of its firmness;

and where it is unstable and uncertain and has no basis, no foundation,

we need to know this too and endure it.

We may ask God why he sent us in this time,

why he has sent this whirlwind on the earth,

why he keeps us in this chaos where all appears hopeless

and dark and why there seems to be no end to this in sight.

I found Father Delp’s message considerably consoling in the light of what our country and our world situation is in at the moment. He goes on . . . .

Here is the message of Advent:

faced with him who is the Last,

the world will begin to shake.

The world today needs people who have been shaken by ultimate calamities and emerged from them with the knowledge and awareness that those who look to the Lord will still be preserved by him, even if they are hounded from the earth. [ . . . . .]

 If we are inwardly unshaken, inwardly incapable of being genuinely shaken,

if we become obstinate and hard and superficial and cheap,

then God will himself intervene in world events and teach us what it means to be placed in this agitation and be stirred inwardly.

Remember, that Father Delp was talking about the disastrous times of war-torn Germany in 1945.

God of mercy and compassion,

our times are quite like the days Father Delp was writing about.

We, too, need to be shaken from our complacency.

Even in recent years ~ and this year too ~ hatred  and bullying and fear has increased among our people.

We need you, Lord!

Come among us once again and shake us up to the reality of your justice!

And as the O Antiphon shouts:

Free the prisoners of darkness among us ~  

The poor, those imprisoned unjustly, those without healthcare, the unemployed, those about to be evicted, the homeless,

the DREAMERS who’ve got a reprieve from being deported,

and migrants all over the world in search of safe harbor.

And so so many more crying out to us, pleading for mercy and our love.

     Come Lord Jesus and do not delay!  

And now, before you go, here’s Josh Groban singing J. S. Bach’s awesome Jesu, Joy of man’s desiring. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer  

Alfred Delp, S.J. The Shaking Reality of Advent / translated by the Plough Publishing Company

 

Advent Day 21 ~ Depressed or lonely at Christmastime? (and the winter solstice)

St. Augustine Beach Florida

O come, thou dayspring, come and cheer

Our spirits by thine advent here;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

 And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

O Antiphons

Monday of the fourth week of Advent  

There sometimes can be a lot of depression swirling around at Christmastime especially at the end of this loooong year when most of us have had to spend long days and nights pent up in our homes. I’ve talked to several friends who spoke to me about their loneliness in the past couple of days.

Some of us can feel lonelier because we’re expected to be cheerful and we may just not feel much Christmas joy, but instead may feel plain down in the dumps or like diving into the bottom of a bottle.

This blog is meant for us to notice and reach out to our friends and pray for them.

Let’s be with those who have lost a loved one and still miss them.

Let’s also remember kids who are shuffled back from one parent to another to “celebrate” the holidays; that’s got to be a terrible thing to do to children.

And what about service men and women away from their families and others who have to work long hours and come home to an empty house.

And so, may we pray:

There are sometimes dark clouds in our lives, Jesus.
Pierce the gloominess of our lives with Your very own Light.
May we allow You to dawn in us this day.
May we be ready for Your dawning in a new way in our lives this Christmas.
May this celebration of Your birth bring meaning and joy in the midst of our worries and concerns.
And may we BE the dawning of  your light and love and justice
in our homes, our neighborhoods, our jobs, our world.

And there are dark and ominous clouds over our world too, Lord.
Pierce our greed and hate, fear and complacency and violence with hope, Lord.
May we pray earnestly for a new dawn for our beloved country and our world.
May we BE the dawning of your light, your love and your justice in our land.

Lord Jesus, come!
We need Your Light and Your Love now more than ever. 

And earthy religions celebrate the Winter Solstice, the beginning of the ascendancy of the sun in the northern hemisphere on Monday, December 21 at 5:02 am. It happened before most of us put our toes on the floor this  morning at 5:02am for most of my readers.

(Christianity subsumed pagan celebrations into its own. Christmas trees  came to us from Germanic pagan customs. And actually, it’s because of the winter solstice that we celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th at the time of the solstice. Remember St. John the Baptist saying, ” I must decrease; he must increase?” Thus, our Christmas celebration comes when the sun is on the ascendancy again, and we shared it with our ~ um ~ pagan sisters and brothers who celebrated it long before we did!)

And before you go, here’s ~ “His yoke is easy” from Handel’s Messiah. Click here. Be sure to turn up your  speakers and enter full screen. 

With love

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Fourth Sunday of Advent ~ Mary’s yes to God

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Fourth Sunday of Advent ~ December 20, 2020

Few things have ever been written in the history of the world that can approach the lyric beauty of the Gospel of Luke today. No matter how many times we read it, we are immersed in its majestic simplicity.

This moment in history had been foretold since the days of creation, when it was promised that a woman would give birth to the One who would vanquish the power of Satan. If the moment had been orchestrated by Madison Avenue, it would’ve been surrounded by pomp and circumstance, proclaimed far and wide. As usual, though, God’s ways are not our ways.

The word that had been awaited for centuries came silently as the sunrise, to a young girl in an obscure village, a young one who, until that moment,  had but one significant event to anticipate: She was to wed the local carpenter.

Now, with a few soft-spoken words from an angel,  and her “Fiat!, her resounding Yes, / her “let it be done according to thy word,”   she became the central figure in the plan of Redemption, without whom / God’s plan would not be fulfilled.

(God needed Mary’s YES!)

This was not the first time God had sent a messenger  to announce the birth of a child in extraordinary circumstances. Remember Sarah and her husband, Abraham?   They had exhausted every hope of having a child of their own, for they were far beyond the age of childbearing. But since nothing is impossible with God, Sarah conceived and bore a son whom they named Isaac, as God had directed.

Centuries later,  the scene is repeated: Zechariah and Elizabeth had despaired of having a child, for both were advanced in age. But Elizabeth conceived and bore a child, John the Baptist,whose entire life would be dedicated to one purpose ~ to prepare the way of the Lord. 

Now the centuries of prophecy are about to be fulfilled. Again, there is an unlikely conception, for Mary was yet a virgin. Again that this most unlikely of all births might become a reality, God’s intervention was needed. Gabriel, messenger of the Most High, assures her . . .

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you. Therefore, the child to be born from of your womb will be called holy,  the Son of God.”

All that had transpired in salvation history up to this moment hung in the balance  waiting for this girl’s response:  She took her time. She questioned the angel. and then she finally said, Yes.  “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word.”

And then the angel left her, leaving for her and Joseph to work out the details, some of which were going to be quite problematic.

We’ll hear the Nativity story in four days. Today, I invite you to think about the whole story,  as though you were thinking about it for the first time. Consider what a wild, crazy, loving thing God did!   God created us, when he didn’t have to, simply because he wanted to share his love and his joy. We sinned, rejected God,  decided to go our own way, and created a huge distance between God and us. You would think that God would say, “OK, have it your own way, then, but be prepared for the consequences.” But he didn’t. Instead, God decided to bridge that distance  and repair the damage that we did.

How? First of all, by becoming one of us. A real, living, breathing, in-the-flesh human being who was also God. And not by coming down in overpowering glory and majesty. No,  by being conceived in the womb of a young woman, a teenager, actually. And then by being born not in a palace but in a stable, a shelter for animals,  on the outskirts of a small town, in a country that was not one of the big players  in the power and politics of the time.

Does this make sense? Is this a normal way of behaving – considering that the person doing it is almighty God,  creator and Lord of the universe? No. this doesn’t make a shred of common sense. This is the action of someone absolutely consumed by infinite love for people  who were not acting lovably. We get so used to hearing this story that we say, “Well, sure, of course!” when it ought to take our breath away.

Today, as preparation for the great Christmas feast that’s coming in four days, let’s try to appreciate in anew the stunning immensity of God’s love for us ~ God’s desire to get us back when we were gone astray as the Christmas carol says.

Let us say Yes to God as Mary did.

A Yes that opens us up to his great love.

A Yes that shares his love with our family,

with our neighborhood,

with our work place,

with our country,

with all the world.

In a few days we will celebrate the birth of Mary’s child, a birth as striking in its simplicity as was the announcement by Gabriel.   Perhaps, during these few days,  we would do well to ask Mary to help us prepare our hearts for his coming, as she did. Better than anyone else, she knows how to do that.

And now, before you go, here’s the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with a glorious rendition of Handel’s “And the Glory of the Lord. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Advent Day 17 – The Burning Bush of the World (and Hanukkah Day 7)

st. augustine beach, florida

Advent Day 17 ~ Thursday of the third week of Advent –  (Hanukkah Day 7)

Advent themes are all about waiting for light to shine in our darkness.
For we who are Christians we await, Jesus, Yeshua, who is for us the Light of the World.
We prepare a place for him to shine in our own hearts this day.
We invite you to search out your own inner meaning whatever that might be.

On this the seventh day of Hanukkah we honor our Jewish brothers and sisters with these words
that appear in the Catholic liturgy just before Christmas, one of the magnificent O Antiphons:

O Adonai and Ruler of the House of Israel,

you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush

and on Mount Sinai gave him your law.

Come, and with outstretched arm redeem us.

And my prayer . . .

O Adonai*, we need you in our world more than ever!

You appeared in the burning bush long ago.

I remember this awesome sunrise over the ocean when I lived  some  years ago on St. Augustine Beach, Florida.

I’m reminded of the old sailor’s maxim:  “Red at night, a sailor’s delight; red in the morning, sailors take warning.”

Come with your refiner’s fire and burn your way into our hearts.

so we can prepare the way for the Messiah to come into our lives,

into our homes,

our workplace and marketplace,

our neighborhoods

and, most especially into our beloved country that so badly needs You right now,

and our waiting world!

Come Lord Jesus!

______

What are  the “O” Antiphons?”

If you’re interested in learning more about them, here’s a website that has information and recordings of all seven. Click here. (Skip the first half and scroll ALL the way down to the bottom for the O Antiphons themselves.  You will notice little speaker signs next to each one. If you click on those little music notes, it will play for you the actual chant melody for each O Antiphon.

But before you go, here’s O come, O come Emmanuel with the lyrics that are the seven O-Antiphons in English for your reflection.

And here are today’s Mass Readings. Click here.

* Adonai is one of the names the Jewish people use for God, meaning “Lord God Almighty.”

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer