Category Archives: Advent & Christmastide

Our Advent observance

The scriptures tell us that there is a time and season for everything, for each particular event. There is a time of preparing for Christmas, and that is Advent, and then there is a time for Christmas itself. There is no doubt in my mind that the more serious we are about our personal Advent journey, the greater the joy we shall reap during our Christmas celebration.

It is a good practice to make concrete plans on how best to keep our Advent observance. Often, if no plans are made in advance, much of Advent goes unnoticed and wasted. Since Advent is basically a quiet time of waiting for the arrival of the Light at Christmas, it is good to start by trying to become more internally quiet during this rather brief season.

Above all, we must make the most of these moments of stillness by remaining calm, silent, and spending quality time with the Lord. The words from one of the psalms counsel us: Be still, and know that I am God. Monks always strive to preserve a more quiet recollected spirit during these lovely Advent days and thus enjoy the Lord’s intimate company.

There is no reason why others, in a monastery or elsewhere, could not do the same wherever they are. It is a question of resolving to do so and making the effort. The Holy Spirit will do the rest. Come, Holy Spirit.

A Monastery Journey To Christmas
Br. Victor-Antoine D’Avila-Latourrette, OSB

Preparing for the Messiah: patiently waiting in Advent

During these blessed Advent days, we, too, are called to imitate the Israelites by cultivating an attitude of strong hope, patiently waiting as they did, for the arrival of the expected Messiah. The reading and prayers in the liturgy, especially the psalms, encourage us to “relive” Israel’s eager waiting for the Savior, and to do this in peace and joyful expectation. From the depths of our being we pray for Emanuel to come be with us and to save us.

Through our Christian faith we know that the Messiah, the Christ, has already come once and that he will come again, a second time, at the end of time. It is not a coincidence that today both pious Jews and fervent Christians are still awaiting his coming. Indeed we both have much in common. We are both waiting for the same Person!

When he comes, his coming shall be a first time for the Jewish people and second time for the Christians. However, for both Jews and Christians, in fact for all people, this shall be his last and final coming. Thus is our Advent hope and why we find great consolation in our common waiting. Veni, Emmanuel!” Come, Emmanuel!

Br. Victor-Antoine D’Avila Latourrette, OSB
A Monastery Journey to Christmas

Presentation of the Lord

The liturgical life of the Church is a prism which diffuses the blinding light of revelation into the variegated hues that we can perceive and whose colors gladden the hearts of the faithful. The metrical homily of Mar Jacob of Sarug on the Encounter of the Lord sheds light on why the righteous elder Simeon and the aged Anna the prophetess were chosen to greet the new-born Savior. “It was right too that one ancient in days should bear witness to the Elder Who became a Child at the end of the times.” The aged ones are a sign to us the Pre-eternal God-made-man has come at the end of time. In this context we recall the words of another Syriac father, Mar Isaac of Nineveh, “Life is given to us for repentance: let us not squander it in idle pursuits.”

h/t SMRC

The Importance of Epiphany

theophanyAsked why is Epiphany/Theophany important is answered only by looking at the sacred Liturgy? This feast is one of the oldest of the Christians even predating the December 25th observance of the Lord’s Nativity. This is a good exercise in doing liturgical theology: reflecting on the texts of the Liturgy as a way of understanding why do and believe what we do. This is theologia prima.

First things first. The title of this feast speaks volumes; this feast manifests, or you can say, reveals God to us. The Liturgical hymns inviting us to rejoice at God’s appearance in human history. Here are 20 reasons taken from the Prologue chanted by the celebrant as he prepares to chant the ancient prayer, “Great are You”:

Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for he has regarded and redeemed his people: for behold, the time of the feast has drawn near to us: angels with men celebrate and a choir of saints draws near to us.

1) Today the grace of the Holy Spirit, sanctifying the waters, appears to these.
2) Today the heavens delight in raining dew upon the earth.
3) Today the never-setting sun appears and the world is illuminated.
4) Today the moon shines on the world with the brightness of its rays.
5) Today the luminous stars beautify the world.
6) Today the clouds give the dew of righteousness to mankind from the heavens.
7) Today all of the waters spread their back to the feet of the master.
8) Today the invisible one becomes visible in order to manifest himself to us.
9) Today the uncreated one by his own will receives the laying on of hands from his own creation.
10) Today he who does not bow down bows his neck before his servant so that he might release us from slavery.
11) Today we have been delivered from darkness and we are being illuminated with the light of the knowledge of God.
12) Today the master reforms the archetype through the regeneration of the image.
13) Today the whole creation is watered by breathing streams.
14) Today the errors of men are wiped away by the waters of Jordan.
15) Today the bitter waters of the sea are transformed into sweet by the manifestation of their own master.
16) Today paradise has been opened for men, and righteous people congregate with us.
17) Today we have been released from our ancient lamentation, and as the new Israel we have found salvation.
18) Today we have cast off the old garments of sin and have been clothed in the vesture of incorruption.
19) Today is the holy and luminous celebration of the right-worshipping Christian.
20) Today we have received the kingdom of heaven from the heights, and of the Lord’s kingdom there is no end.

Epiphany

Baptism of LordThe Catholic liturgical calendar may be confusing for some people since it is not well articulated by churchmen. Today is the 12th day of Christmas, the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (or the Theophany in the Eastern Churches). The word “epiphany” means manifestation, or revelation of God. Divine Revelation reveals that God the Father claims Jesus as his own son and commands that we listen to him. The voice from the heavens sets the drama. Epiphany, therefore, is the day on which we celebrate three things: the adoration of the Magi, the baptism of the Lord in River Jordan and the Wedding Feast at Cana.

On the point about the Lord’s baptism by his cousin John, Saint John of Damascus explains that Christ was not baptized because He had need of purification, “but to identify Himself with our purification.” Saint Hilary of Poiters follows upon the teaching of the Damascene but saying gate Lord did not need the baptism of repentance, but we do, and therefore Jesus sanctified the waters of baptism by his own. Thus the Lord’s own baptism became a model for our own baptism.

Let us look in awe at the revelation of God.

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]yahoo.com.
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