Friday, December 31, 2021

A Tune For One And For All

It still is a time to celebrate, despite the trials, tribulation, and turmoil of the past 365 days. If we gather with family and friends around us or spend it quietly by ourselves, it it still an occasion in which to revel, even in a subdued way. These words, penned by Scottish poet Robert Burns and set to music in the late 18th. century, is a reminder that, while we will always have God with us, we also we have each other as well:

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 you richly in 2022. May He bestow upon you every grace you need. May joy, peace, hope, and love be your companions.

Happy New Year, Everybody!

Same Things, Different Year

Just a few hours left in 2021.

In some ways, it looked a lot like 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic still was the overarching story, as both the virus and the narrative continued to show variety. Until this disease goes away, this saga won't. And any associated drama and tension which this blankets, in terms of social and political activities, is going to hover below the surface, occasionally coming up for air. Heaven help us when these hells breaks loose. (And they will.)

Yet there are signs of recovery, however hindered by the threat of rising inflation or infection rates. However, just when people think they are going to turn the corner, even every so slightly, they realize they are in a roundabout. It is this awkward waltz of two steps forward, one back.

I did OK the past year. Physically, I still haven't encountered this menace. (Full disclosure--I am fully vaccinated and thinking about a booster.) My finances made a bit of a rebound as well. A small raise last year as a crossing guard took full effect as schools returned to five days in-person. And at the local amusement park, I picked up additional hours performing duties in hiring personnel as well as my duties in the park, as it was open as close to there normal hours this season. It all added up. For the first time since 2004, my total income for the year was a five-digit figure. Granted, that first figure is a one, but it is a victory on the economic front for me.

The park, on the other hand, had to suffer a couple of heartbreaks, both of which happened in the past five months. In August, this happened. I was there; I didn't see it happen, but I was about 50-60 feet away from where he landed. (Please say a prayer for the repose of his soul; I have a few times.) And just before Christmas, this happened. (Just another example of gains and losses.)

It was also a bit of a tease when it came to seeking full-time employment, especially when it came to jobs within the Church. Four positions involving liturgy and/or music (including one at the parish where I got my start as a church musician) got at least to the interview stage. Alas, none of them yielded any further consideration. But despite the fact of where I am in my life, I am still hopeful of landing something. I know what I have to overcome.

So, there you have it. The status quo is still status quo, ever so slightly trending up. Opportunities are going to present themselves in 2022. I still have to remind myself to "Go Forward; Be Bold." But all in all, there is a sense of eagerness and anticipation about the next twelve month.

I hope to see improvement.

I hope for blessings from God like never before.

I hope you continue to share my journey.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

2021 Christmas Card

May the Christ Child fill you with joy, hope, peace, and love.
May the newborn King of Kings reign in your life.
May He, born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger, bestow upon you abundant blessings in the coming year.

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

Friday, December 24, 2021

2021 Christmas Eve Reflection

The First Reading from the Mass of the Nativity of the Lord--Vigil Mass:
For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch.  
Nations shall behold your vindication, and all the kings your glory; you shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the LORD. You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the LORD, a royal diadem held by your God. No more shall people call you “Forsaken,” or your land “Desolate,” but you shall be called “My Delight,” and your land “Espoused.” For the LORD delights in you and makes your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.

Isaiah 62:1-5

As has been my wont for the past few years, I once again turn to one of the readings found in the Masses celebrated on Christmas for inspiration. If you remember from last year, I only had five remaining amongst the twelve. Slim pickings only in number, not quality. (And if you truly want to do any justice to the Prologue of the Gospel of St. John, that can easily be broken up into digestible bits.) Let's just say the order of the next few reflections seems to be established.

The imagery found here begs for an act of lectio divina. Like last year, there are not a lot of short clauses to parse; however, on a quick first perusal, I do see a lot of parallelism. And with this post comes my usual disclaimer:  as an untrained laymen in theology or biblical exegesis, I am only expounding on what my poor brain is gleaning. Please feel free to use my meager musings as a point of departure for your own meditation.

For Zion’s sake...for Jerusalem’s sake... For the sake of the People of God, first the Israelites, then the entire world, something had to be done. Since the Fall, humanity has been in a pitiable state. (Makes one wonder if things have changed.) Mired in sin, cut off from Paradise, unable to see His face, the crowing glory of God's creation was one step short not of returning to the nothingness from which it was made, but entering the emptiness which is Hell.

...I will not be silent, ...I will not be quiet,... God is definitely speaking through this prophet. Return to the creation of the world. For six days "And God said...And it was good." (cf. Genesis 1) As the Father spoke the Word on the breath of the Spirit then, now He shall re-create and redeem the world in the same manner. Hence, the Annunciation.

...until her vindication...her victory... Here is a hint of what is to come in the rest of this passage. Like the prophet Hosea, who forgave the unfaithfulness of his wife time and time again, God is demonstrating His faithfulness to the covenant He established with Abram and his descendants. As creation was whole before the disobedience of our First Parents, so it would become again. As there was communion (common-union) between God and us, so shall that integrity return. "But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:57)

...shines forth like the dawn...a burning torch. "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption." (Galatians 4:4-5) "What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:3b-4) And what is this light but none other than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Light of the world (cf. John 8:12), the Resurrection and the Life (cf. John 11:25-26). 

Nations/all the kings...behold your vindication/your glory; "All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD; All the families of nations will bow low before him. For kingship belongs to the LORD, the ruler over the nations. All who sleep in the earth will bow low before God; All who have gone down into the dust will kneel in homage." (Psalm 22:28-30) Isaiah must have been very familiar with what King David had written in order to proclaim this. And is this not a foreshadowing of the visit of the Magi (cf. Isaiah 60:1-6; Matthew 2:1-12)? But this beholding is not complete until "...when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself." (cf. John 12:32)

...called by a new name..."See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are....Beloved, we are God’s children now;..." (Cf. 1 John 3:1-2) Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we are now adopted children of God, beloved in Christ. We are more than restored; we have been renewed. Our dignity as a creation of God has been elevated even more.

...a glorious crown/a royal the hand of the LORD/held by your God. When humanity was made, God finally pronounced all He made "very good" (cf. Genesis 1:31), and thus we became the crowning glory of His creation. When humanity sinned, that crown was tarnished beyond repair or replacement, as far as human hands were concerned. But for God nothing is impossible. Sacred Scripture is not nothing but what God has done and has done for us. Through Jesus Christ, we have become a new creation, even more fitting a jewel than before. But it is still up to us, "with the help of thy Grace," to continue to be fitting.

No more...“Forsaken,”...but “My Delight,”... Recall these words Jesus spoke upon the Cross, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46b; cf. Psalm 22:2) Recall also what St. Matthew said, "This was to fulfill what had been spoken through Isaiah the prophet:  'Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom I delight;...'" (Matthew 12:17-18a; cf. Isaiah 42:1a). Because Jesus assumed our humanity, we now have a share in his divinity. Because the Father sees the Son in His creation, this passage also applies to us.

No more ...your land “Desolate,” but...your land “Espoused." "Yes, the LORD will grant his bounty; our land will yield its produce." (Psalm 85:13) Our efforts at producing good fruit on our own in our soul, the land of which Isaiah is alluding, is a fool's errand. Our efforts at appeasement are in vain. Only being united with Grace will our works be fruitful. Only then will the admonition in the Letter of St. James come true (cf. James 2:17-18).

As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you;... Here is a return to the image of Bridegroom and Bride hinted at earlier. Here is where God pledges His love to us and for us. Here is where He forgives us. "For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back. In an outburst of wrath, for a moment I hid my face from you; But with enduring love I take pity on you, says the LORD, your redeemer." (Isaiah 54:7-8) It is from this covenantal image, along with the covenants God made throughout the Old Testament, that the Church's teaching on the Sacrament of Marriage comes.

...and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you. "Because God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being, and the creatures of the world are wholesome; there is not a destructive drug among them nor any domain of Hades on earth, for righteousness is undying." (Wisdom 1:13-15) God wants us to live and live forever. He rejoices when we are faithful to the covenant between Him and us and will take us back when we truly repent of breaking that covenant. Paraphrasing St. Augustine, while we were created by God without our consent, we can only be saved by God with it.

As I look back at the opening verse of this reading, like Isaiah, we cannot be mute in proclaiming the salvation of the world in Jesus Christ. Word and deed make us not only a disciple of Jesus but also a witness to the love of God. When we do those things, we affirm the reality of the Incarnation.

Just as it first came to be some 2,000+ years ago.

We announce vindication and victory.

Hodie Christus natus est.

Another Advent Plea

The original Latin was penned by none other that St. Ambrose in the 4th. Century. Martin Luther translated it into German in the 16th. Century. William M. Reynolds translated it into English in the 19th. Century. It is sung to the tune is Nun Komm, Der Heiden Heiland

Maranatha! Come, O Lord!


1. Savior of the nations, come;
Virgin's Son, here make Thy home!
Marvel now, O heaven and earth,
That the Lord chose such a birth.

2. Not by human flesh and blood;
By the Spirit of our God
Was the Word of God made flesh,
Woman's offspring, pure and fresh.

3. Wondrous birth! O wondrous Child
Of the virgin undefiled!
Though by all the world disowned,
Still to be in heaven enthroned.

4. From the Father forth He came
And returneth to the same,
Captive leading death and hell
High the song of triumph swell!

5. Thou, the Father's only Son,
Hast over sin the victory won.
Boundless shall Thy kingdom be;
When shall we its glories see?

6. Brightly doth Thy manger shine,
Glorious is its light divine.
Let not sin overcloud this light;
Ever be our faith thus bright.

7. Praise to God the Father sing,
Praise to God the Son, our King,
Praise to God the Spirit be
Ever and eternally.

Ero cras.

Friday, December 17, 2021

In The Correct "O"rder

Nearly everyone is familiar with the Advent hymn "O Come, O Come Emmanuel". It is a combination and paraphrase of the "O" Antiphons, the seven antiphons recited or chanted before the Magnificat during Evening Prayer (Liturgy of the Hours)/Vespers (Divine Office) beginning tonight. For many, this is the most and only exposure they have to these texts.

What those folks don't know or realize is that the order of the verses presented in the hymn is not the order the antiphons are presented. Properly edited in chronological order, the familiar first verse (O come, O come, Emmanuel) would be the last, with the other six moving up one spot and staying in the order presented. My guess is that having the last verse first keeps the traditional Advent theme of preparing for the coming of Christ (cf. Isaiah 7:14) at the fore.

Nevertheless, as has been tradition in this infinitesimal corner of the universe since its inception, I once again humbly submit my reflections on the "O" Antiphons. The first major series I undertook on this 'blog, it has undergone two revisions during it life (as I still have versions 1.0 and 2.0 archived). In its current form, it is still my hope that the next seven days of posts will provide food for meditation as we approach the final days of Advent.

Bethlehem is not that far away.

The time of fulfillment is nearing.

Venite first; then, Gaudete.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

December 2021 Morning Offering Prayer Intention

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

Catechists. Let us pray for the catechists, summoned to announce the Word of God: may they be its witnesses, with courage and creativity and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

A reflection for this intention is found here.