- Sunday, 23 December 2012 13:58
(Mary prays:) “The Lord has exalted me by a gift so
great, so unheard of, that language is useless to describe it; and the depths
of love in my heart can scarcely grasp it. As I contemplate his greatness,
which knows no limits, I joyfully surrender my whole life, my senses, my
judgment, for my spirit rejoices in the eternal Godhead of that Jesus, that
Savior, whom I have conceived in this world of time.”
The Venerable Bede
- Thursday, 20 December 2012 10:50
We all are hurting today. Whatever the reason, joy seems to be lacking in many. For some people any celebration of Christmas is out of the question. They believe that joy is not permitted due to the murders of children and adults. There is no room for hope, no possible way to feel anything but misery. There is no question that the radical absence of loved ones is very trying and almost hopeless. I think we can understand this line of thinking, but I think for people of true Christian faith this is not the answer.
Our friend, Dominican Father Peter John Cameron (Editor-in-Chief of Magnificat), tells us why Christmas is important and how it shapes our humanity and our belief that death and violence doesn’t have the final word. He makes a clear case for a true celebration of JOY. Father Cameron celebrates the sacred Liturgy weekly at the now famous Catholic Church in Newtown, Connecticut, Saint Rose of Lima.
- Wednesday, 19 December 2012 12:09
Latin Catholics are accustomed to fasting once a year
at Lent. Historically speaking, there was a time when the tradition of fasting
was proposed a few more times a year than merely Lent, e.g., the Assumption fast, the Saints’ fast and the Advent
Liturgically speaking the time before any great feast of the Lord (i.e., Christmas & Easter), the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and
also of Mary (Assumption of the BVM) was preceded by a distinct time of preparation: prayer, fasting almsgiving.
In time, Catholics have relaxed some traditions and now they have become virtually obsolete. Think of the practice of Ember Days. Today, in fact, is the first of the three Advent Ember Days. You may have heard that the US bishops are encouraging the reinstitution
of abstinence on Fridays. Fasting and abstinence are different; do you know the
difference? What can we do to restore a reasonable practice of the Catholic faith that includes expanding our utilization of spiritual disciplines such as fasting? Can Catholics reinstitute the Ember Days in the praying of the Novus Ordo Liturgy?
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- Monday, 17 December 2012 16:21
The tradition of the “O Antiphons” is now upon us. We will hear them beginning tonight at Vespers.
ERO CRAS is a convenient nemonic device, meaning, “tomorrow, I will come.”
During the 8 days before Christmas, the Church has collected, one for each
night, a biblical verse from the Advent Prophets Isaiah and Micah (that is, an “antiphon”)
that is known to be prophetic of the birth of Jesus; each notes a title of the
Messiah. Each offers us a key to understand the gift of the Messiah promised through the use of typology.
The Octave of Advent begins on December 17th and concludes on the 23rd.
Seven different antiphons are traditionally sung prior to and following the
Magnificat during Vespers as part of the Divine Office (the Liturgy of the
Hours). The eighth day of the octave is Christmas Eve, so Vespers for that
evening is the Christmas Vigil. Each antiphon begins with the word, “O” in the
incipit. Hence, “O Antiphons.”
Most of us are familiar with the Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come,
Emmanuel,” the content of which the O Antiphons form the structure Vespers at
this time of the liturgical year.
The Church always distinguishes what she
says and since in our theology we derive our belief from the manner in which we
pray, the O Antiphons give ample food for what we belief the Messiah to be, who
he is. Secularism gives the world an emasculated Santa Claus but the Church
gives us a Messiah. He is known through his titles, that is, his activities. In
the final stretch before Christmas use this time to pray with the O Antiphons:
they provide a beautiful framework for reflection before the Nativity.
- Sunday, 16 December 2012 20:02
Our worship of God began today with the Church quoting Saint Paul who wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near” (Phil. 4:4-5).
Hard to hear these words today following the tragic events of Friday the 14th where the citizens in Newtown, Connecticut, indeed, the nation, faced horrific acts of evil. As we “faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity” our affect, our prayer, our humanity has a new orientation, a new recognition: a cry of anguish and a cry of joy. That’s the Christian paradox. We are sad (troubled and grieved) to have young people gunned down. Lives cut short. The living who are searching for ways to go on with meaning and peace. The somber joy of the Third Sunday of Advent is an invitation, a recognition, a way being, to a life of joy found only in God no matter the circumstance.
Advent, like every day of our liturgical lives is call to be aware of God; to be reawakened to the movements of grace in the depths of our being.
The Liturgy concludes with the petition that the divine gifts received in the Eucharist “cleanse us of our faults and prepare us for the coming feasts.” That’s the challenge we all face together: to begin our conversion with the awareness that sin can have deleterious effects in each of us if not attended to. What can be said of Adam Lanza with his crime, personal sin and affective disorder can happen to each of us. There is that line that’s sometimes helpful to remember: There I go but for Christ’s grace. The measure of life is not our passion but the Mystery of Christ.
The anxiety of these days is mitigated by what the Lord does in our hearts: He loves us.
I noticed in the first Scripture reading for today’s Mass the phrase: the Lord is near. It ought to echo for you where you hear the Great O Antiphon, O Emmanuel, God with us. Is that our belief? Is there a true awareness that the Lord is near in the way we live our lives in the particular circumstances in which we find ourselves? Are there concrete ways that we recognize the nearness of the Lord in His gift of the Holy Eucharist, in the proclamation of the Word, in lectio divina, in the community of faith that worships and does works of charity?