Sunday, December 31, 2017

Recessional/Processional Song

The parties have started; the countdowns have begun. We celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of the next. We give thanks for what 2017 bestowed and optimistically look ahead to 2018. And shortly after the stroke of midnight, that familiar tune and that familiar poem by Robert Burns fill the air: 

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And never brought to mind? 
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear, 
For auld lang syne, 
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne.
And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp, 
And surely I'll be mine! 
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear, 
For auld lang syne, 
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne.
We twa hae run about the braes, 
And pu'd the gowans fine; 
But we've wandered mony a weary fit 
Sin' auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear, 
For auld lang syne, 
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidled i' the burn, 
Frae morning sun till dine; 
But seas between us braid hae roared 
Sin' auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear, 
For auld lang syne, 
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne.
And there's a hand, my trusty fiere, 
And gie's a hand o' thine! 
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught 
For auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear, 
For auld lang syne, 
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne.

May God grace the New year with favor upon favor. May His blessings upon you be manifold and plentiful. May you grow holier in His sight and continue to be His beloved child.

Happy New Year, Everybody!

Corners Of Time

On this, the first day of the week, it also happens to be the last day of the year.

What an interesting juxtaposition.

An intersection of an alpha and omega, a beginning and an end.

And so 2017 comes to a close.

What else can I say?

The status quo is status quo.

Again it seems the focus is still on my economic woes. The job front continues to be a source of consternation. I did return to that amusement park for a third season (and would be welcomed back for a fourth).  I balanced that with a part-time position at a branch of the county's library system; however, that ended five months into a six-month probationary period. Fortunately, two weeks after that, a two-year old application for a school crossing guard position came to fruition. It is not much in terms of an income, but at least I still have a sense of usefulness. Perhaps along with St. Anthony of Padua it's time to add St. Jude into the mix.

Lest this dourness color your perception of what is happening in my infinitesimal corner of the universe, let it be known I am still grateful for what has happened the past twelve months. I still live, move, and have being. While the dismissal from the library was a psychological punch in the stomach, one that brought my self-worth to my knees for a time, I still grasp onto the hope I will find something gainful and full-time. While my value as a human being is seemingly tied to the size of a paycheck, I know it isn't.

Beat up by the world as I am, I realize my problems are not as bad as many in this world, especially those who world have been turned inside out and upside down by natural catastrophes and man-made calamities. I am still learning to bear my cross profitably. At least my prayers can be their Simon of Cyrene.

For that is where we all can turn. It is not, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" It is remembering I am fearfully, wonderfully made in His image and likeness. His divine indwelling in me is more than enough; His Grace is sufficient. Introvert that I am, it is within my soul where I will meet the living Triune God, who will show me how to love, how to have faith, how to hope and trust. If this is not my cornerstone, I really do have nothing upon which to build.

Perhaps this is the real meaning of "Go Forward".

Which is all I can do in 2018.

Which starts at the end of this day.

Monday, December 25, 2017

2017 Christmas Card

May God, Who gave to us His only begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit, grant us the joy this holy night brings. May the Word made Flesh, of the Father's love begotten, also bestow that love upon us. May the King of Kings and Lord of Lords grace us with His peace which is beyond all measure.

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

2017 Christmas Eve Reflection

The Gospel Reading of the Feast of the Nativity--Vigil Mass (Short Version):
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means "God is with us." When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-25
The complete opening chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew is the Gospel reading for this Mass. It has two parts:  the genealogy from Abraham to Jesus (a total of 42 generation) and the birth of Jesus. It is this second part which will be my focus.

But before we look at this couple, we have to look at another.

The First Couple.

God, Who made man and woman in His image and likeness, is with Adam and Eve as He gives them dominion over all the Earth. He asks one thing:  to not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; if so, they will die. So our First Couple hear the words of the Lord and heed them--they obey. They continue to do that until the Fall. And while God is still with them, they are not with Him.

So begins a pattern between God and humanity, now the tarnished and broken crown of His creation. Throughout salvation history, when the figures of the Old Testament heard and heeded the words of the Lord, He was with them. All the while, the promise of a savior rang through what God commanded.

When we return to St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary, the parallelism somewhat ends. While our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the new Adam and not St. Joseph, this couple still has the same choice as the First Couple. They must now hear and heed the words of the Lord, lest God not be with them. But this time, the stakes were seemingly much higher. To not hear and heed the words of the Lord could mean the Word would not be made flesh at the appointed time. To not obey could mean even more delay in our salvation.

Like Eve, Mary would have the first chance. Gabriel, not the serpent, would speak to the New Eve. Instead of a denunciation, a rejection of the Word, Mary chose to heed the words of the Lord. And in the most intimate way possible, the way God desires our relationship with Him to be, God was truly
with Mary.

Now, it was St. Joseph's turn. Devoutly obedient to Mosaic Law as he was, there was a voice greater than Moses speaking to him--the One Who wrote the Law. Like Mary, assured this was all part of the plan of salvation, he also chose to heed the words of the Lord. Once again, God was truly with him.

The key to all this, as you have surmised by now, is obedience. While all those we've seen who heard and heeded the words of the Lord make great examples, there is no greater example than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Himself. His life on Earth was all about saying "yes" to God, hearing and heeding the words of the Lord (and because He is the Word made Flesh, being true to Himself), doing His Father's will. St. Paul says it best:
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Phil. 2 6:11
Advent has been a time of preparation. It has been a time of hearing and heeding. It has given us an opportunity to become more obedient. It has been about "making room at the inn" of our being so that God can be with us even more. It is the answer to this verse of "O Little Town Of Bethlehem":
O holy child of Bethlehem! Descend to us we pray;
Cast our our sin and enter in; Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
Our time to prepare for this year is finished.

Hodie Christus natus est!

Advent's Final Hymn

This is the original Latin, from the 7th. century Liturgia Horarum:
Conditor alme siderum
aetérna lux credéntium
Christe redémptor ómnium
exáudi preces[voces] súpplicum

Qui cóndolens intéritu
mortis perire saeculum
salvásti mundum languidum
donans reis remedium.

Vergénte mundi véspere
uti sponsus de thálamo
egréssus honestissima
Virginis matris cláusula.

Cuius forti ponténtiae
genu curvántur ómnia
caeléstia, terréstia
nutu faténtur súbdita.

Te, Sancte fide quáesumus,
venture judex sáeculi,
consérva nos in témpore
hostis a telo perfidi.

Sit, Christe rex piissime
tibi Patríque glória
cum Spíritu Paráclito
in sempitérna sáecula.

Virtus, honor, laus, gloria
Deo Patri cum Filio,
Sancto simul Paraclito,
in saeculorum saecula

This is the English translation of John M. Neale found in the 1852 Hymnal Noted:

Creator of the stars of night,
Thy people’s everlasting light,
Jesu, Redeemer, save us all,
And hear Thy servants when they call.

Thou, grieving that the ancient curse
Should doom to death a universe,
Hast found the medicine, full of grace,
To save and heal a ruined race.

Thou cam’st, the Bridegroom of the bride,
As drew the world to evening-tide;
Proceeding from a virgin shrine,
The spotless Victim all divine.

At Whose dread Name, majestic now,
All knees must bend, all hearts must bow;
And things celestial Thee shall own,
And things terrestrial, Lord alone.

O Thou Whose coming is with dread
To judge and doom the quick and dead,
Preserve us, while we dwell below,
From every insult of the foe.

To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Laud, honor, might, and glory be
From age to age eternally.

After what seems to be a long wait from the fall of Adam, humanity finally gets its answer:

Ero cras.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Week Full Of "O's"

It is always a pleasant surprise when the liturgical calendar and the Gregorian calendar syncronize in a way that gives one a focus upon an event. While it is not a rare event, the infrequency of it does make one pay attention. It's as if God is tapping you on the shoulder and saying, "Here. Look at this."

This can only happen when December 17 falls on Gaudete Sunday. (And how much rose did you see in church?) It's as if the change in color is also highlighting another aspect of the liturgy which will be celebrated later. It seems to say, "Your rejoicing is about to become complete."

All this week, the last "full" week of Advent this year, the Liturgy of the Hours will include some of the most beloved chanted prayer the Church can offer.

From the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
The Roman Church has been singing the "O" Antiphons since at least the eighth century. They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from December 17-23. They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the imperative "Come!" embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.
As has been this 'blog's tradition, for the next seven days I offer my own very humble reflections upon these liturgical passages. The format has not changed much over the past few years; it has, in a way, become an on-line booklet. It is my hope that my meager musings will give your soul cause to reflect ever more deeply upon the great mystery to be celebrated. May they continue to be a means to finishing your Advent worthily.

In two hours, they begin.

"Venite, venite."

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Less Prep Time

Last year, we had four full weeks.

This year, because December 24 falls on Sunday, we are "missing" six days.

It's a moot point.

Advent is here.

Regardless of its length, the time to "prepare the way of the Lord" so we can "see the salvation of our God" is at hand.

Readying ourselves for the birth of Jesus seems much easier than readying ourselves for His death (Lent). We are missing the point. Both "purple" seasons are about new life; we look forward to the two biggest solemnities of the year (the Incarnation and the Resurrection) and give renewed effort to "make straight His path" to our hearts and souls. The work of the interior life is just that. But we must make the time to make the work to make it work.

So amid the decorating (the first thing should be the Advent wreath), the gifting, the baking, and the partying should be praying, meditating, contemplating, and sacramental doing. Balancing Mary and Martha is always a challenge. But by paying attention to the "reason for the season", we hope not to issue the veiled complaint of Martha and instead have "the better portion".

Find the time to watch and wait, like the Blessed Virgin Mary. (If you think about it, her "advent" was nine months long.) Let the Holy Spirit be the true "spirit of the season". Prepare a place for the Christ Child, unlike the inn keeper.

Do it soon.

This year, you don't have a lot of time.

Friday, December 01, 2017

December 2017 Morning Offering Prayer Intention

Here is the intention for this month when reciting the Morning Offering:
The Elderly.  That the elderly, sustained by families and Christian communities, may apply their wisdom and experience to spreading the faith and forming the new generations.
A reflection for this intention is found here.