Monday, December 31, 2018

This Year's Final Rite


Whether we admit it or not, humans do like ritual. Certain spots on the calendar are a time for remembering and doing so in a mannered way. Tonight is especially no exception. And it all revolves around a clock drawing closer to midnight. And when it finally arrives, we make a secular joyful noise. The familiar tune set to the poem of Robert Burns marks the apex of that celebration:

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 bless and keep you even more in 2019. May you experience His face and may it shine upon your endevors. May He be even more gracious to you and yours and grant you an abundance of peace, joy, and love.

Happy New Year, Everybody! 

A Year-End Summary

What's the best thing that happened to me this past year?

Nothing.

And I am grateful for that.

The status quo peacefully remained the status quo. Nothing earth-shattering, soul-searching, mind- disturbing, or heart-wrenching rocked my life. I performed my tasks at my two job, I continued my participation in the church music ministries which welcome my talents, and I continue to live my life.

Who would have thought boring would be beautiful?

Yes, I did have my share of disappointments regarding the job search, especially an opportunity within the past few days. But I am working on not letting the rejection affect me more than it should and I have met with a modicum of success. I will just keep looking for the next opportunity. Perhaps I then can meet the Kipling standard.

But for now, I do expect 2019 to have it own demands of me, mostly of things where I can say "been there, done that, have the souvenir" and the occasional plot twist. What they will be, I have no clue. I just hope to be prepared to successfully deal with them, "with the help of Thy grace".

The resolutions are the same.

I pray the resolve with be there.

Be Bold.

Go Forward.

The calendar page turn comes some.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Celebration Of A Carol

I didn't know this until a few days ago.

"Silent Night" celebrated its bicentennial this past Christmas Eve.


Count me among the many who find it their favorite Christmas carol.


This article from the National Catholic Register provides the background.


The Wikipedia article add a bit more.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

2018 Christmas Card


May the Christ Child, Who came on this "Silent Night", bring "Joy To The World" and your heart.
May "the Babe, the Son of Mary", bring peace to you and yours this day and always.
May the "Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing" bring you "light and life" and love.

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

Monday, December 24, 2018

2018 Christmas Eve Reflection

The First Reading from the Mass of the Nativity of the Lord--During the Night:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing,
as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
For every boot that tramped in battle, every cloak rolled in blood, will be burned as fuel for flames.
For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David's throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!

Isaiah 9:1-6
This is such a familiar passage to us at this time of the year, particularly if you attend a performance of Handel's Messiah, and especially if you attend this liturgy. Maybe so familiar the message doesn't pack a punch anymore. While there are the obvious references to the Christ Child easily discerned in an act of "lecto divina", I would like to delve into the text and see if there is more than that. As I remind those who read this post, these are only the observations of a very ordinary person in the pew and meant as a point of departure for your own insights.

"The people who walked in darkness...those who dwelt in the land of gloom." That would be us. That darkness and gloom is sin, what we inherited from Adam and Eve and those thoughts, words, and deeds we have and haven't done. Are you the Pharisee or the tax collector mentioned in the Gospel of St. Luke (18:9-14)? Do you truly see your need for redemption and sanctification? Is your recitation of the Confietor during Mass and your Act of Contrition during the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation as humble and sincere as possible? 

I echo the sentiments of those who bemoan the loss of a sense of sin in the world today, which is why I make mention of it at times when I write. And lest you think I am a hypocrite, the most oft repeated prayer of mine right now in my life is the "Jesus Prayer". While I don't know the state of your soul, I do know the state of mine.

"A great light...has shone." That would be our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Light of the World as mentioned in the Gospel of St. John, heard at the Mass of the Nativity of the Lord--During the Day (1:5). As darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of good. As humanity was made in the image and likeness of God, the first act of disobedience marred both in us. Light and goodness needed to re-enter the world. And so, in the Christ Child, it has.

"You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing." The birth of a child is always cause for joy. Now that God has given us His Son, that joy is infinite and everlasting. And that joy is because our salvation is now at hand, culminating in the victory over sin and death in His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. 

"As at the harvest...when dividing spoils." For different reasons, these are occasions for celebration. The former is in gratitude for the blessings of life; the latter, in gratitude for the overcoming of an enemy. And what greater celebration can we have, as Jesus has overcome the Enemy and given us abundant life?

"For the yoke...the pole...the rod...you have smashed, as on the day of Midian." Historically, this passage refers to the conquering of Midian by Gideon (cf. Judges 6-7). Allegorically, this refers to the conquering of the yoke of sin, the pole of enslavement to evil, and the rod of the taskmaster Satan. God's hand was involved in both.

"Every boot...every cloak...will be burned." These remnants of war will be destroyed so that peace may be the order of the day. In the war for our souls, either the remnants of sin will be destroyed through the flames of Purgatory or sin remain with us in the flames of Hell. As St. Augustine reminds us, while God created us without our consent, He can only save us with it.

"For a child is born to us, a son is given us." Emmanuel. God is with us. "...Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages....For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man."

"Upon his shoulder dominion rests." Recall the words of the angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Annunication:  "He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32-33) The Father has given the keys of the kingdom to His Son (cf. Isaiah 22:22). Heaven and earth are full of His glory.

"They name him..." When I was an undergrad, I remember seeing a poster with the various names and titles ascribed to Jesus, each complete with a biblical reference. In the middle of the poster were the words "I AM", mentioned various times in the Gospel of St. John (and especially in the Passion Narrative). This is the ultimate reference to Who He Is. Any other title, including the ones mentioned here, is only a signpost leading us to the Tetragrammaton.

"His dominion is vast and forever peaceful.". It is evil and sin which destroy peace, both within us and throughout the world. Only when "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven", only when "people of good will" do the will of the Father, only when we allow the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to reign over us, only then will the song of the heavenly hosts ring true.  Only then will there be "peace on earth".

"From David's throne, and over his kingdom." The beginning of the Gospel of St. Matthew establishes the Messianic Lineage. Israel longing for a king like David would have to wait some 28 generations, yet very few recognized Him when He came. The same question to the new Israel, the People of God, could be asked today. Are we the shepherds and Magi, or are we Herod? Who is our true ruler?

"He confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever." There has been so much emphasis on the mercy of God the past few years that His judgment and justice is being downplayed and overshadowed, if not completely ignored. Remember, He will come again to judge the living and the dead (Matthew 25:31-46). Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said we could be surprised at who we would and wouldn't find in heaven and that could include us.

"The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this." And what is that zeal? It is nothing less than God's love for us. John 3:16, anyone?

You have to read the preceding verse to get a better sense of the walking in darkness the Israelites was doing:
There is no gloom where there had been distress. Where once he degraded the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, now he has glorified the way of the Sea, the land across the Jordan, Galilee of the Nations.

Isaiah 8:23
The gloom is gone. The Light of the World now shines. No darkness shall overcome it.

Hodie Christus natus est.

With Eyes Toward The New Dawn

This is probably my favorite Advent hymn, one I often use as a recessional on the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Originally found in the 1928 edition of The Oxford Book Of Carols, the words of Eleanor Farjeon are set to a traditional French carol tune (Besancon):

1. People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.

2. Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the rose, is on the way.

3. Birds, though you long have ceased to build,
Guard the nest that must be filled.
Even the hour when wings are frozen
God for fledging time has chosen.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the bird, is on the way.

4. Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim
One more light the bowl shall brim,
Shining beyond the frosty weather,
Bright as sun and moon together.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the star, is on the way.

5. Angels, announce with shouts of mirth
Christ who brings new life to earth.
Set every peak and valley humming
With the word, the Lord is coming.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Lord, is on the way.

Yes, indeed.

Ero cras.

Monday, December 17, 2018

In The "Coming" Week

The winter solstice falls this year on December 21. We are in the last days of decreasing daylight in the Northern Hemisphere. The yearning for light becomes more pronounced.

That yearning finds its fulfillment in the Light of the World. That yearning finds its most exquisite expression in the "O" Antiphons, the petitions which proceed the Marian canticle during Vespers/Evening Prayer the next seven days and are also used as the Gospel Acclimation during Mass in the Ordinary Form during this time. They are, in as sense the embodiment of St. John the Baptist, who as herald and forerunner to Jesus, pointed the way to the Messiah while his position dwindled--"He must increase; I must decrease." (John 3:30)

Once again I present my posts on these signposts which lead to the Christ Child. Along with my most modest meditations, I include those from Fr. John Zuhlsdorf and Fr. Mark Kirby, OSB, the main courses to my appetizers. Perhaps the most popular presentations from this infinitesimal corner of the universe, I consider these a final (and, hopefully, useful) part of your final preparations during Advent.

Look for them later today, when the darkness had overcome us.

Then look for Him, "[T]he light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:5)

Monday, December 10, 2018

December 2018 Morning Offering Prayer Intention

Here is the intention for this month when reciting the Morning Offering:

Evangelization: In the Service of the Transmission of Faith. That people, who are involved in the service and transmission of faith, may find, in their dialogue with culture, a language suited to the conditions of the present time.
A reflection for this intention is found here.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

The Pre-Christmas Season

The first Sunday nearest the Feast of St. Andrew (November 30) marks the beginning of the Advent Season.  It can be anywhere from 22 to 28 days long, depending when on the calendar Christmas falls. It also marks the start of a new liturgical year; and for those of use involved in the preparation of music, it is the final preparation time for the first set of major celebrations (Advent/Christmas/Epiphany/Baptism of the Lord) as well as any other musical activities that are planned.

Preparation. The watchword of this season. With its penitential undertones, the cry of St. John the Baptist is like a descant over all the hustle and bustle, the hurrying and scurrying, the sights, sounds, and smells of the season as the secular world's idea of "the most wonderful time of the year" bears its weight upon us. But it forgets "the reason for the season". While it began with the Annunciation nine months ago, the beginning of the end of the work of salvation draws nigh.

As we plunge into longer periods of darkness, climaxing with the winter solstice, we "rage against the dying of the light". The Advent wreath, with candles marking each Sunday and standing sentinel over the week, is the reminder we are not only remembering His first coming, but also are preparing for His second. The flames of each taper, in a nod to the Holy Spirit, are a tribute to the Light of the World, a Light which no darkness can overcome.

In this time where gift-giving is a welcome surprise, God has given to us the ultimate gifts in the Word made Flesh--eternal life, forgiveness of sins, reunification with the Father as adopted children.
For this we can sing "Joy To The World", but only after we sing "O Come, All Ye Faithful". And then we cannot be premature with these carols; their place is after midnight on December 25. The time now is for readiness, to find the balance between Martha and Mary. It is a time of waiting to be delivered, just like the Blessed Virgin.

"Prepare the way of the LORD."

The time for that is now.

Besides, anticipation makes for greater gladness when the task is done.