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.
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.
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,
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.”
Advent Day 16 ~ Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent
I have learned to be intrigued by the shadows of my life, Lord.
The stronger the light, the deeper the shadow.
I have come to realize there will always be shadows.
I must accept the shadows of my life as well as the light; they will just always be there.
And so I now pause for a moment when a shadow greets me;
and take in its beauty.
Teach me to stop and be confronted, to be changed, by them.
This day, Lord, help me to realize what the shadows of my life can teach me about You and Your great love for me.
Editor’s note: This was my very first blog post on December 5, 2007.
I had two priests write back and say: “Thank you, Bob.
I wonder what they were saying?
I pay a lot of attention to shadows in my photography.
It’s “both ~ and.” That’s the way life is.
Carl Jung in psychology got us to pay attention to the Shadow side of life.
And in one’s prayer life, the mystics like St. John of the Cross talk about the “dark night of the soul.”
If we deny the shadows are there, we’re in trouble.
If we embrace our Shadow, make friends with it,
we become whole.
And now before you go, here’s a selection from Handel’s Messiah to put you in an Advent mood
Third Sunday of Advent ~ Sunday December 13, 2020
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.
Saturday of the Second Week of Advent ~
THE FEAST OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE (and Hanukkah Day 2)
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 nearly five hundred years ago.
Today, may we unite ourselves in solidarity with all the peoples of North and South and Central America who rejoice in this feast day; indeed may we unite ourselves in solidarity with all the world’s poor.
Half way down is an interpretation of the symbolism of the image that of the woman who appeared on Juan Diego’s cloak. That’s truly amazing. Be sure to check it out. It converted a whole culture.
Here’s the charming story; it’s well worth the read:
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, 481 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 millions 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.
O God, Father of mercies,
who placed your people under the singular protection
of your Son’s most holy Mother,
grant that all who invoke the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe
may seek with ever more lively faith
the progress of peoples in the way of justice and peace.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
~ The official prayer for the Feast
(May we lift up in prayer today those in our country ~ and certain media outlets ~ who have been known to demean the Mexican peoples that they would be uplifted by the Virgin’s message. And may we who celebrate this glorious feast today and attend holy Mass and pray for those who demean and cause hatred toward brown and black people everywhere. It truly IS the VISION message that Our Lady came to give us nearly five hundred years ago through a simple Mexican native man, overruling the Spanish Conquistadors and the Bishops: GOD PREFERS THE POOR!
Now here’s an explanation of the image . . .
The image of Our Lady is actually an Aztec Pictograph
that was read and understood quickly by the Aztec Indians.
She was greater than the dreaded Huitzilopochtli, their sun-god of war.
2. HER FOOT RESTED ON THE CRESCENT MOON
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 worshiped.
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.
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!
Now in search of a song to help celebrate the feast, the one I found was “Mananitas Guadalupe,” which means “break of day.” You’ll find them still at night, watching and waiting. Be patient. The Videographer will soon take you inside the church to witness something amazing for us gringos. Enjoy.
Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. CLICK HERE.
And here are today’s Mass readings. if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
The symbol for St. John is the eagle because he soars to the heights of mystical love
Monday of the Third 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 youths stagger and fall,
They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.
– Isaiah 40:30-31.
So many of us become discouraged by life, especially after months and months of sheltering in place because of this pandemic. Many of us may lose our job or have been told that we no longer have the health benefits we once had for our family.
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.
After the weariness of this election, I’d say most of us could use an infusion of renewed strength for our personal lives and our families and hope for the future of our country.
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 ceases 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.
And today’s Gospel will comfort you too! . . .
Jesus said to the crowds:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
The Advent season provides many texts to comfort us and offer us hope. God knows we need hope in our land today! and throughout the world.
I praise you, Lord, because you’ve restored my vigor in marvelous ways.
You have renewed my strength again and again.
Please allow our young people to soar as if on eagle’s wings,
and our older folk to borne up on the wings of Your love, Lord.
Yes, as I grow older, I’m ready to renew my priestly service to You, Lord,
as long as you grant me the grace, the vigor and the strength.
Whatever You will, Lord. Whatever you will – for all of us! Amen.
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.
Here are today’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them. It’s the lovely feast of St. John of the Cross. (Below, I’ll provide you a link if you’d like to know some more about this lovely poet and co-founder of the reformed Carmelite Order alongside St. Teresa of Avila in the sixteenth century.) For today’s readings, Click here.
St.John of the Cross is known especially for his writings. He was mentored by and corresponded with the older Carmelite, Teresa of Avila. Both his poetry and his studies on the development of the soul are considered the summit of all Spanish literature. Read more.