Thursday, December 31, 2020

A Muted Celebration

While the gatherings to ring out the year will be limited in attendance, they will be nevertheless be occasions of joy. We give thanks for surviving what perhaps we be for most of us the most stressful twelve months we have encountered. We remember the souls that did not make this day, especially those who succumbed to COVID-19. We pray God will grant us relief and healing in the upcoming days. And as we listen to, and perhaps sing, the following words penned by Robert Burns, we may notice the melancholy in some of the verses and the hope in the refrain:

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 us in 2021. May His peace flow abundantly as He aids us in recovery. May we turn to Him in all hope and trust, resting with assurance in His merciful love.

Happy New Year, Everybody!

Hindsight Being 2020

Well, I can't say nothing happened in 2020.

At least, without my tongue in my cheek.

To say it has been an eventful year would be an understatement. I finally experienced my first earthquake. (And there was an aftershock I felt exactly four weeks later.) Another major wind storm struck the area the day after Labor Day, hauntingly reminding me of the one which hit December 1, 2011. (Each of these, by the way, necessitated the installation of a new fence on the west side of the property where I live.) And then there was this small matter of a large viral breakout...

In various degrees, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected each of us. Although my younger brother caught it about two weeks ago and is recovering, physically, I have not contracted it yet. (Please, God, let it not infect me.)

Regarding my two jobs, I took a hit financially. As a school crossing guard for a local police department, I wasn't working in the early stages of the nation-wide lockdown. Fortunately, through the lobbying of the chief of police, we all as a group received the balance of our income for the rest of the school year. (Currently, the school schedule is four days of in-classroom sessions and Friday remotely. There are plans to return to a normal schedule in mid-January. We'll see.) As for the amusement park, where I have been for the past six seasons, that was a different story. Normally open on weekends starting at the tail end of March, the park didn't open until Memorial Day weekend. Along with a reduction in operating hours, they utilized the child labor laws to their advantage. What that meant was I only worked an average of 12-13 hours a week. All in all, my income was down about 20% over 2019. Ouch. (UPDATE--1/1/2021: I did the math again with more accurate figures. It is closer to 15%. Still ouch.)

As infinitesimal as this corner of the universe is, so were my problems. There is no way I can even come close to comparing my lot in life to others. I still have a way to make money; many have lost it all. I am still uninfected; many aren't. I am still am alive; many have succumbed. Indeed, I have been blessed. Indeed, I am grateful. Indeed, I need to pray for mercy and compassion for all.

The one thing which concerns me about all this was how this story is being written. There seems to be a lot of conflicting information and advice circulating. While people can and do question the accuracy, I am questioning the completeness. I think the same could be said about the escalation of racial tension, the rioting and looting which bordered on anarchy, and the election of the President of the United States. Which raises for me a bigger question--will the truth about these events be portrayed? (Remember what the first casualty of any war is.)

The postscript for 2020 has yet to be written, and it may be a long time before the final copy is published. I think the watchword for 2021 will be "recovery". How will we as individuals and society in all its building blocks return to some semblance of normal? And don't get me started on the phrase "the new normal". There is nothing normal about what we have experience the last twelve months. Change does happen, but growing from it is an act of will.

Perhaps the world will adopt my motto for the next 365 days, as I certainly will again.

Go Forward.

Traveling the other direction is not an option.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Christmas Poem From Middle Earth

While the date of this story is June, 2019 it contains a timeless message.

What a wonderful discovery.

2020 Christmas Card

May the Christ Child bring you peace, joy, hope, and love. May He, whose nativity we celebrate, bring you abundant life. May he shower you will blessings beyond belief.

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

2020 Christmas Eve Reflection

The First Reading from the Mass of the Nativity of the Lord--During the Day:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, “Your God is King!”

Hark! Your sentinels raise a cry, together they shout for joy, for they see directly, before their eyes, the LORD restoring Zion. Break out together in song, O ruins of Jerusalem! For the LORD comforts his people, he redeems Jerusalem. The LORD has bared his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God.

Isaiah 52:7-10

I did a little digging into my archives, looking for inspiration for this year's reflection. My research showed I have not used five of the twelve readings proclaimed during the Liturgy of the Word for the various Christmas Masses which can be celebrated, as has been my wont for the past few years. Two of them were the Gospels for the Mass at Dawn (the continuation of St. Luke's nativity narrative) and During the Day (the prologue of St. John). Two of them were the other readings from the Vigil Mass. That left this one, which, after mulling it over, I have opted to use.

This will also be an exercise in lecto divina. Unlike other attempts, where I usually just take things as they come, I discovered when I was reading this passage things didn't grab my attention until the end. So this time, while it might look like a hodgepodge, I hope it will make sense at the end. (As a gentle reminder, I hope you use this for your own point of departure for contemplation and meditation. I am not a pro at this.)

The LORD has bared his holy arm in the sight of all the nations. What He has promised from the time of the Fall, God has now delivered. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, true God and true man, who sits at the right hand of the Father, has now come down to earth from Heaven. Emmanuel--"God is with us"--has been revealed, first to the Chosen People through their representatives, the shepherds; then to the Gentiles through their representatives, the Magi.

The LORD restor(es) Zion; He redeems Jerusalem. His birth marks the beginning of the end of the process of redemption, culminating in His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. He came not to condemn the world, but to save it, to give His life as a ransom for the many. The Lamb of God, born in a cave used as a stable, will become our Pascal sacrifice for the remission of sins, Original and personal.

The LORD comforts his people. It is Jesus who "brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, 'Your God is King!'” His message of love and assurance, needed then as now, was so radically different that it drew both rants and raves. It divided people in His time (as He said it would); it does so in ours. Why is that? Is it too good to be true? Yes and yes. It is too good and it is true. Our fallen nature still recognizes goodness and truth. We have to utilize His grace to incorporate it into our lives; we have to do our part to be saved.

Your sentinels raise a cry, together they shout for joy (and) break out together into song. Christ's work did not end when He ascended into Heaven. It started in earnest at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon His Church in the Upper Room. We, the Mystical Body of Christ, are the new sentinels. The People of God have to continue the Great Commission found at the end of St. Matthew's Gospel. We have to do the evangelizing now:  bring glad tidings, announce peace, bear good news, announce salvation, and say, "Our God is King." And we have to do it with joy, so "all the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God."

The "greatest story ever told" ends at the Second Coming. While we know the ending, we are still writing the chapters leading to it. And what is our inspiration?

Hodie Christus natus est.

It is enough.

The Promise Kept

The original (in German) was written by Johannes Olearius, with another able translation to English by Catherine Winkworth. The more familiar tune setting is "Freu dich sehr," found in the Geneva Psalter. Originally for the feast of St. John the Baptist, the herald's words, ringing in our ears for these past "four" weeks, are a fitting way to make our final preparation.


1. Comfort, comfort ye my people,
    Speak ye peace, thus saith our God;
    Comfort those who sit in darkness,
    Mourning 'neath their sorrows' load;
    Speak ye to Jerusalem
    Of the peace that waits for them,
    Tell her that her sins I cover,
    And her warfare now is over.

2. Yea, her sins our God will pardon,
    Blotting out each dark misdeed;
    All that well deserved His anger
    He will no more see nor heed.
    She hath suffer'd many a day,
    Now her griefs have passed away,
    God will change her pining sadness
    Into ever-springing gladness.

3. For Elijah's voice is crying
    In the desert far and near,
    Bidding all men to repentance,
    Since the kingdom now is here.
    Oh that warning cry obey,
    Now prepare for God a way;
    Let the valleys rise to meet Him,
    And the hills bow down to greet Him.

4. Make ye straight what long was crooked,
    Make the rougher places plain,
    Let your hearts be true and humble,
    As befits His holy reign;
    For the glory of the Lord
    Now o'er earth is shed abroad,
    And all flesh shall see the token
    That His Word is never broken.

Ero cras.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

"O" The Time Has Come

We are past the halfway point of Advent. While we have lit the rose candle to remind us to rejoice that the Christ Child is coming, He is not here yet. Meanwhile, in the Northern Hemisphere, the darkness continues to overtake us. We are a few days away from the Winter Solstice. Our yearning for light only magnifies.

It is in that yearning, especially now in the prayers of Vespers/Evening Prayer (depending on which form you use), which intensifies. As if the world groans and cries out for its savior to appear, it invokes some of the various titles which are associated with the Messiah. These are the basis for the "O" Antiphons, the seven antiphons which precede the Magnificat for the upcoming week. While sources mention their use in the 4th. Century, their use was firmly established by the 8th. Century.

As has been the tradition of this 'blog since its inception, I once again present my meditations on the "O" Antiphons. While there have been no changes to these posts for a few years now, I hope they are still edifying. They seem to still be my most popular writings, and for that I am grateful.

Expect them at their usual time, when the darkness of night has overtaken the light of day.

Remind yourself, however, the Light of the World is never overcome. 

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

December 2020 Morning Offering Prayer Intention

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

For a life of prayer. We pray that our personal relationship with Jesus Christ be nourished by the Word of God and a life of prayer.

A reflection for this intention is found here. (NB)--As of the time of this post's publishing, there was no monthly reflection.)