Advent Day 22 ~ The shaking reality of Advent

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Wednesday of Fourth Week of Advent

~ 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 is the beautiful hymn Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by J. S. Bach. I suggest you take in the words into your soul as you see them on the screen as you listen to the this short but awesome music. Click here.

hAnd 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 22 ~ 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

Tuesday of the fourth week of Advent  

There sometimes can be a lot of depression swirling around at Christmastime especially at the end of these loooong years 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 during the holidays

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 Tuesday, December 22 at 10:59 am.

(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  Handel’s “His Yoke is Easy” 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

Advent Day 18 – The Burning Bush of the World

st. augustine beach, florida

Advent Day 18 ~ Saturday of the third week of Advent

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.

During Hanukkah earlier this month we honored 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?”

They are one of the most cherished collections of our ancient liturgical chants called the seven “O Antiphons” that are sung each of the seven nights before Christmas at Evening Prayer. They have beautiful chant melodies.  I am using some of them interspersed this week before Christmas, like the one above.

If you’re interested in learning more about them, here’s a website that has information and  recordings of the chant melodies of all seven. (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 don’t miss this slide show of  O come, O come Emmanuel 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

Advent Day 15 – What’s it all about?

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                                                  Downtown Fort Lauderdale

Wednesday of the third week of Advent 

Dear reader,

I’ve decided to take a deeper turn in this Advent blog.

As I get closer to Christmas, my prayer is opening up to two things in the last few days.

(1) a deeper realization of my sinfulness and frail human nature.

and (2) an ongoing surrender to the process of transformation that is occurring in me as I turn my life and my will over to God.

That, ongoing dual process ~  “a kind of coincidence of opposites,” dear friends, is what gives meaning and joy to my life.

The Church invites us to enter into that process of ongoing repentance and conversion each year during Advent.

To step out of the rat race. To take a look at our maneuvering / scheming / elbowing for status or power or success or prestige. Or any of the things American society tells us we’re supposed to have to make us happy.

The wise person realizes they won’t!

Let’s reflect a little more on what we can learn from John the Baptist what it’s all about . . .

He was a pretty successful preacher.  People were streaming out into the desert to listen to him; he was persuasive.  People were willing to change their lives after listening to him.

But he didn’t let it go to his head.  He realized what his role was.  He was just the “advance man.”  And was content with that.

He knew who he was.  He didn’t let success go to his head.  He didn’t want to be the star.  Even though many thought he was “The Man.

The saying of John that I love and pray often myself is:

       “He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

My spiritual directors remind me to stay focused on Jesus. To make all my plans provisional.

“To seek through prayer and meditation knowledge of God’s will and the power to carry it out,”  as the Eleventh  Step of Alcoholics Anonymous puts it.

I was a young, cool, creative priest.  I was a rising star.  I thought I was pretty hot stuff.

A bishop once told my father, “He’ll be a bishop someday.”

But God had other plans.

Today, I’m just a little guy, content  with a tiny flock to care for and writing a little blog few know about.

Arrogance was my greatest character defect and it has taken till recently to whittle that away.

And so today I pray inspired by the one who was content to live in the wilderness . . .

Jesus, You are the light of my life.

Without You I would be nowhere.  Nada. Nothing.

And that’s fine with me.

(And to tell ya the truth, I’m amazed at that! That’s quite a transformation for me!)

I want You to be in all my relationships,

in all of my writing,

in everything.

You help me to be humble, Lord.  You cast me down and raised me up again.

You chastise me; You heal me.

With St. Paul, You have helped me realize that in the midst of my brokenness,

it was ~ and is ~ You who make me strong.

Not in the ways of this world,  with ambition or striving for power or success or influence,

but in knowing You are right here:  You are enough for me, Lord.

Whatever flows from my relationship with You will be good

as I allow You more and more to increase

and  allow my false self, my little (Big) ego to fall away.

To  be humble is to be close to the “humus” — “muck”.

So, I’m content with the muckiness of my life.

And yet, You have surprised me / delighted me / ravished me with Your love

       And you know what? 

There, I found You!

You raised me up!  You drew me to Yourself!

You bound up my wounds!  You clothed me with LOVE!

What a joy!

And now I’m eager to share Your Love.

To help others realize that You love each and everyone ~ no matter what.

But You want us to love You in return.

Yes, Lord Jesus, You must increase; I must decrease.

Let me never ever forget that.  No matter what.

Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus!

In the coming days I will try to have you take a deeper look at  the mystery of the Incarnation — God’s love affair with our messy /mucky / crazy  human race as it is appears in Luke’s story that God came into our world as a vulnerable, homeless baby who cooed and pooped in his pants like the rest of us.  That story ~even if you just accept as a story ~ has much to teach us.  Let’s take a fresh look at it and go down to a deeper level.  We’ll do that in the next week.

Here is an inspiring YouTube orchestral and voice arrangement of J. S. Bach’s lovely Advent piece     Click here.  Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

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

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

Advent Day 14 ~ Soar like an eagle!

The symbol for St. John is the eagle because he soars to the heights of mystical love

Tuesday 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.

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. 

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 be 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. Click here.

(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.)

 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. 

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

Advent Day 13 The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe – God prefers the poor

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe – December 12 , 2021

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 America who 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, 471 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
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.

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
image.

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
photography.)

7. The image has consistently defied exact reproduction, whether by brush or
camera.

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 FULL SCREEN. CLICK HERE.

Here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

(Actually, the Feast this year was suppressed because it fell on a Sunday.)

 With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Advent Day 12~ Rejoice! The Lord is near!

Third Sunday of Advent ~

Sunday December 12. 2021

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, and so . . .

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4: 4-7)

In our Gospel today we hear again about John the Baptist.  The Jews were sure that God favored their nation; that God would judge other nations by one standard but the Jews by another. They felt they were safe from judgment simply because they were Jewish. John told them otherwise: that life, not their heritage was God’s standard of judgment, according to Scripture scholar William Barclay.

Barclay tells us that there are three outstanding things about John the Baptist’s message.

(1) He demanded that people should share with one another. It was a social gospel that declared that God would not be pleased if someone had too much while others had too little.

(2) He told people not to leave their jobs, but to work out their salvation by doing those jobs as they should be done. Let the tax collector be a good tax collector and a soldier be a good soldier.

The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.” (Lk 3:10-15)

In other words, when people came to the Baptist and asked, “What should we do?” he gave them the most reasonable, commonsense reply. He says, in effect, “ Live reality. God is asking you to be faithful to the ordinary circumstances of your life. He will make himself evident there.

And with that advice, “ the people were filled with expectation, asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.” All because John made them attentive to their own hearts in a way that neglected nothing of their humanity. They can exult with their own heart because they can now trust that the desires of their heart are not illusions. They have no anxiety for the Lord is near as the next moment and whatever it brings.                         (Magnificat liturgical magazine, December, 2018, ed.)

Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people. 

(3)  (Barclay) John was quite sure that he himself was only the forerunner. The King was still to come and with him would come judgment. The winnowing fan was a great flat wooden shovel; with it the grain was tossed into the air, the heavy grain would fall to the ground, but the chaff would be blown away. And just as the chaff was separated from the wheat so the King would separate the good and the bad.

Thus, John painted a picture of judgment and it could be faced with confidence by those who had looked after their neighbor’s needs and faithfully done their day’s work. (Barclay / Luke pp.44.2)

John was simply the sign-post, pointing the way toward Christ.  He was faithful even unto imprisonment and death and content 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 meager way I have served him.  

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;

ask for the grace, the strength and the courage to also serve my Lord unto the end of my days.  

     Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.  Amen.

And before you go, here is a 1970-ish John the Baptist and company from Godspell singing a spirited Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord!  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

Advent Day 11 ~ The Feast of St. Nicholas December 6th (the man and the legend)

Advent Day 7 ~ St. Nicholas’ Feast Day ~ December 6th. 2021

Here’s 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, and 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 on 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. 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 the “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 variations of these customs 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  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 before you go, here’s a delightful Polish Christmas carol for you. Click here.

But a couple of corrections; this should have been posted earlier in the week. Secondly, yesterday’s feast was labeled incorrectly; it should have been Advent Day 10. I was confused with the date of the Feast which was December 8th.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Bob Traupman
Contemplative Writer
arise7@me.com
904.315.5268
Blog: http://www.bobtraupman.com

Wait for the Lord to lead,
then follow his way.
(Liturgy of the Hours.)

Advent Day 8 ~ Our Lady’s Song of Justice

THE FEAST OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

Tuesday, December 8, 2021

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 with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed: 

the Almighty  has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

His mercy on those who fear him in every generation.

He has shown strength of 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 US too, Lord.

Please ~ We need Your favor ~Your grace.

May we see (and accept) that You do good things for us!

May we 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 as the ones in Power often do to the poor, Lord.

Come to the help of Your people now, Lord ~ especially during this pandemic!

We, too, are All descendants of Abraham ~ Jew ~ Muslim ~Christian ~ non-believer.

We are all Your children, dear God,

To You be glory and honor and praise for ever.  Amen!

Dear Reader,

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 and many more believing Christians 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 as told by Luke. 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 as our country struggles to find itself~ or at any age or in any country.  

Now to thrill you and inspire you, here’s the introduction to Bach’s Magnificat on YouTube.  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 note 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.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer