Advent & Christmastide: December 2010 Archives

Holy Innocents

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Holy Innocents Duccio.jpg

There were innocent children slain instead of Christ, by a wicked ruler. Even the nursing babes were put to death. Spotless, they follow the Lamb Himself, and say forever: 

Glory be to You, O Lord!

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An old Roman custom is reverencing the baby Jesus. One approaches the figure of the Christ child to bestow a kiss, often kissing the foot of the figure. It is a captivating gesture of recognition of the birth of the Savior.

Thanks to JP Sonnen for the picture.
Christ draws us to Himself through beauty. Beauty in the sacred Liturgy, in music, words, human gesture, the human body, indeed, through His own birth. Here the Pope tells us again that the birth of the Savior, the Incarnation of the Word, i.e., God, really happened in history; it is a fact, not a legend or a pious myth. The birth of Jesus is not "a just nice" story and it is normative for all of humanity, all of history. The following is Pope Benedict XVI's homily given tonight at Saint Peter's Basilica, Vatican City State, Rome.

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

"You are my son, this day I have begotten you" with this passage from Psalm 2 the Church begins the liturgy of this holy night. She knows that this passage originally formed part of the coronation rite of the kings of Israel.

The king, who in himself is a man like others, becomes the "Son of God" through being called and installed in his office. It is a kind of adoption by God, a decisive act by which he grants a new existence to this man, drawing him into his own being.

The reading from the prophet Isaiah that we have just heard presents the same process even more clearly in a situation of hardship and danger for Israel: "To us a child is born, to us a son is given. The government will be upon his shoulder" (Is 9:6).

Installation in the office of king is like a second birth. As one newly born through God's personal choice, as a child born of God, the king embodies hope. On his shoulders the future rests. He is the bearer of the promise of peace.

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On that night in Bethlehem this prophetic saying came true in a way that would still have been unimaginable at the time of Isaiah. Yes indeed, now it really is a child on whose shoulders government is laid. In him the new kingship appears that God establishes in the world. This child is truly born of God.

Father Julián Carrón, the head of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, gave this message for Christmas. He writes from Milan, Italy.

In the mystery of the Incarnation, man and history

"That Christianity gives joy and breadth is also a thread that runs through my whole life. Ultimately someone who is always only in opposition could probably not endure life at all" (Light of the World, part 1). These words of Benedict XVI challenge us to ask ourselves what it means to be Christians today. Continuing to believe simply out of devotion, habit, or tradition, withdrawing into one's shell, does not meet the challenge. Similarly, reacting strongly and going on the offensive in order to recover lost territory is insufficient; the Pope even says that it would be unendurable.  Neither path -withdrawing from the world or opposing it- are capable of arousing interest in Christianity, because neither respects what will always be the canon of the Christian announcement: the Gospel. Jesus entered the world with a capacity to attract that fascinated the people of His time. As Péguy said, "He did not waste His years groaning and demanding explanations of the wickedness of the times. He cut through ... making Christianity." Christ introduced into history a human presence so fascinating that anyone who ran into it had to take it into consideration, had to reject it or accept it. No one was left indifferent.

O Antiphon: O Emmanuel

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Mystical Nativity SBotticelli.jpgO Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, God with us, our King and Lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: Come to save us, O Lord our God (Is 7:14; 33:22).

All is fulfilled now in Jesus. In the previous days you would have noticed the Messiah as he was expected in the Scriptures. Today, we address Jesus with the title given by God, Emmanuel --"God with us."

The promise of God the Father pitching His among us is known so clearly in the Incarnation of the Word. This antiphon is the climax of all expectations for a Savior who ushers in a new time in history where everything, everything is reversed (see the Prophet Isaiah). "The very term Emmanuel, God with us, reveals the kindly, human heart of Jesus --He wants to be one of us, a Child of man, with all our human weakness and suffering; He wants to experience how hard it is to be man. He wants to remain with us to the end, He wants to dwell within us, He wants to make us share His nature" (Pius Parsch). Come, Lord, Jesus.

O Antiphon: O King

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King David Fra Angelico.jpgO Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

O King of the Gentiles and their desired One, the Cornerstone that makes both one: Come, and deliver man, whom You formed out of the dust of the earth (Is 9:7; 2;4; Ps 2:7-8, Eph 2:14-20).

Considering Pius Parsch's reflections, "The antiphon should provoke enthusiasm for the conversion of pagans. Try to realize how ardently Christ desires that we carry the gospel to non-Catholics [and today even to Catholics poorly catechized]; to all of us, directly or indirectly, His apostolic commission is addressed. Each one of us can at least pray for the conversion of those still ignorant of Christ."

In Jesus, the unity of believers, Jew and Gentile, is known. He's spoken of as the cornerstone: the peacemaker where as Saint Paul said "There is neither Jew nor Greek; neither slave nor free person, there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:29).
Christ in the Carpenter GLaTour.jpgO Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Dawn of the East, brightness of the light eternal, and Sun of Justice: Come, and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. Psalm 19:6-7.  (Ps 19:6-7; Is 9:2).

Lost on us today by-and-large is the cosmological connections with Jesus as not only Son of God but also the Sun of Justice. Often I say that salvation comes from the East, the where we see the Rising Sun. This is not unique to me: the our parents in the Faith in Jesus knew this intimately because of their connection with the land, and the heavens. No doubt that today the Church gives us this antiphon on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Astronomically we, as Catholics, are aware that God works in and through creation. Architecturely, Christians in Rome built churches that accounted for the sun with not only its usefulness in growing vegetables but energy and light, taking up the ancient liturgical (theological) metaphor noted in today's antiphon: Christ is the Dayspring, the Dawn of the East. Christ is Light from Light, as stated in the Creed. Those who pray the Divine Office will recall that in the Canticle of Zachary --the Benedictus-- pray the words of St Luke: "the Dawn from on high"; He will give light to those who live in darkness, those who dwell in the shadow of death.

It is only Jesus who dispels the darkness of the world (temporally) and mystically (spiritually). And that's why we face East in the sacred Liturgy, and that is why the priest ought to face East when praying the Mass. 

O Antiphon: O Key of David

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Nativity detail GDavid.jpgO Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and Sceptre of the House of Israel, who opens and no one can shut, who shuts and no one can open (Is 22:22; Rev 3:7): Come and bring the prisoners forth from the prison cell, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death (Is 42:7; Ps 106:13-14; Lk 1:9)

For Jews reading (hearing) this will notice that Jesus makes the claim that he is God, precisely for us, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity. The image of the "Key of David" is a clear indication of God and His holy name. As Pius Parsch reminds us, "It should, then, be perfectly obvious that Christ is the "Key of David," i.e., the One who opens all the secrets and mysteries of the Old Testament. The sceptre implies a true fullness of power over God's kingdom."

A Social Network Christmas

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My Mom sent me these two digital Christmas videos. See one and another here. Enjoy watching...

Over 2 million views thus far. Happy Advent!

O Antiphon: O Root of Jesse

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Master of ames IV of Scotland MS Ludwig IX.jpgO Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse (Ac 13:22-23), standing as a sign to the peoples (Is 11:10), before whom kings shall shut their mouths (Is 52:15), and whom the nations shall seek (1 Kings 10:24; 2 Chr 9:23): Come and deliver us and do not delay (Hab 2:3; Rev 22:20)!

The prophet saw the rebuilding of a destroyed Israel and foretold a Messiah, a twig of hope from the line of David. As Pius Parsch said, "The bulk of the anitphon is devoted to a description of the kingdom. The small twig becomes the unifying principle about which the nations will gather like soldiers and citizens about their flag. With yearning the peoples will assemble around Him, will turn and acknowledge Him as Ruler. The Messiah's glory will be so great that even kings will stand dumstruck in wonder and awe."

O Antiphon: O Wisdom

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O Sapinetia quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter sauviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and reached from end to end, and disposed of all things sweetly and mightly: come and teach us the way of prudence

You can hear the Great O Antiphons here...

I absolutely love this part of Advent as our liturgical sensibility starts to be centrally focussed on the birth of the Savior, Emmanuel. At Vespers the antiphon for the Magnificat hymn in the Divine Office shows us  the solemnity of the next days. The first antiphon is noted above in Latin and in English. Each of the antiphons appeals to the Old Testament types given to tell of the coming of the Messiah. The OT typology indicates the new dispensation of grace. Today, we ask for a new sense of prudence rooted in Christ.

And NOW we are able to sing the famous Advent hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel. It is only tonight that singing the hymn makes any real sense as opposed to singing it when Advent begins, a common mistake.

I was reading a bit on Advent in Father Pius Parsch's The Church's Year of Grace:

"Come, teach us the way of prudence! What an all-embracing petition! Make us perfect Christians, Christians who are wholly penetrated --mind, will, and emotions-- with the leaven of Christianity. Make us true Christian personalities who combine strength  with gentleness. Make us strong in battle against hell, the world and self; make us glow with the love of God and neighbor! Enable us to show virile courage, and heroism unto martyrdom. Enable us to show the virgin gentleness and sweetness of a bride. In this sense we pray, "Thy kingdom come!" All this is part of our yearning plea, Come! teach us the way of prudence.

Edward Pentin, a National Catholic Register journalist and based in Rome, wrote a good article on Christmastide --Vatican style. We are in the middle of Advent and it's time to think of Gaudete Sunday this coming weekend. Read Pentin's article.
Vatican Chrsitmas tree.jpegMy mother and the neighbors have had the Christmas tree up for a week. We've got three small trees. In fact, my neighborhood is alighted with Christmas lights. New York's Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was lit last week with several stars entertaining us with "Christmas songs." The Vatican put its Christmas tree, a gift from the good people of Bolzano, Italy (a German speaking of Italy where Pope Benedict has vacationed in the past) A little too early for my tastes. SO, it MUST be Christmas time!!! What does it all mean? But what does the Christmas tree stand for? How ought the Christmas tree be interpreted by the Catholic?

The Christmas tree began as a reminder of the tree of life and the life-giving cross of Jesus Christ. When you see the evergreen Christmas tree you will also see the life-giving tree of life on which Jesus hung as our crucified savior.

For those interested, a short history is helpful.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Advent & Christmastide category from December 2010.

Advent & Christmastide: November 2010 is the previous archive.

Advent & Christmastide: January 2011 is the next archive.

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