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December 26, 2013

“The First Day of the Christmas Octave

The following “link” will take you to an interesting piece about "The Twelve Days of Christmas"

Saint for the Day: St. Stephen the 1st Martyr

Scripture Readings for today's Liturgy:

Acts of the Apostles 6:8 – 10; 7:54-59

Psalm 31

Matthew 10:17-22 

St. Stephen“But Sephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God…” (Acts 7:55-57)   

Interesting, how quickly “The Church” moves away from Bethlehem and the quiet holiness of that great moment. And where are we taken? To the scene of the martyrdom of Stephen in the early days of the “Christian Era!” It seems to be yet another reminder how close Christmas and Easter are bound together.  empty manger

 

In the meantime, however, we’ll celebrate this “octave” of Christmas with a string of saints and commemorations: St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, the Holy Innocents. The Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s - the Feast of the Holy Family. The Feast of St. Thomas Becket (murder in the Cathedral) is on next Monday. Tuesday, New Year’s Eve, will be the Feast of the Holy Innocents and then the “Octave of Christmas” ends with the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God on January 1st.  So, we’ll be kept busy with these significant feast days and celebrations even before we get to Epiphany Sunday, which will be celebrated on the 5th of January (in the US).

“In the old days,” before the Church started moving various feasts and celebrations around in order to have them land on Sundays, things like “The Twelve Days of Christmas” really did land on the 12th day! We also lost additional holidays (especially for school kids) and the intended “play” on numbers and sequences got all jumbled up.

 stairs to heavenYet, still in the end, we realize that in God’s mind there is no beginning or end. No distance we have to go. No deadlines whatsoever. There is just that one, eternal moment. A “be here now” moment that this Feast of St. Stephen drives home: we are called to keep our eyes focused on Jesus who gives us the grace to be transformed so that the light of Christ radiates from the core of our very being. Keep an image of Jesus lying in the manger – and also one of Him on the Cross. Put those images together and you will have a vision of Heaven. Not out there … somewhere: but within! Bask in this time. It’s Heaven all the way to Heaven! Amen!

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I’d like to hear from you to know that you’re getting these reflections. Use this link to go to my home page where you will find a link to e-mail me.

December 25, 2013

 Christmas Day

Click on this “link” to read some interesting facts about: The Feast of Christmas.

Scripture Readings for the Mass at Midnight

Isaiah 9:1-6

Psalm 96

Titus 2:11-14

Luke 2:1-14

Scripture Readings for the Mass at Dawn

Isaiah 62:11-12

Psalm 97

Titus 3:4-7

Luke 2:15-20

Scripture Readings for the Mass during the day

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 98

Hebrews 1:1-6

John 1:1-18

Today, the Church gives us a wide selection of Scripture Readings for the three stages of Masses on this special Feastday. With all these choices the “people of God” have no excuse to miss the true meaning of Christmas.

The 1st line from the 1st Scripture Reading for the 1st Mass of Christmas is our opener: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. (Isaiah 9:1)

Then, skipping to the Scripture Readings for the Masses during the day we are given what some of us from the “old days” might remember as The Last Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us… ( John 1:1 & 1:14)

Jesus is born in a simple stable in the darkness of a winter’s night. His first visitors were the ox and the ass and then, at the Angels invitation, the shepherds. Those facts, alone, should be able to tell us something unique about the birth of this child destined to be the savior of the world!

                                                                           doveclouds

No “pomp and circumstance” here. Just the common animals and some shepherds. Again, I’m sure that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, will put some focus and attention on this and we, too, should not overlook it either.This Jesus, son of God, was born in simplicity but  did not let equality with God something that He clung to (Philippians 2:6) and, instead became the “Shepherd of Souls” leading us to the Father and making us understand that He will be with us all the time – as a light in our darkness. It’s important for us to always remember “He is like us in all things but sin” (Hebrews 4:15)

As you attend Mass on this Christmas Feast and receive Holy Communion try to remember some aspect of what Jesus’ Birth is all about: He is the creative “word of God” that brings order out of chaos; light out of darkness; joy out of sadness; strength out of weakness. His birth brings us the possibility of entering into eternal life. But remember He also said, “The Kingdom of God is within/among us” (Luke 17:21) And our dear St. Catherine of Siena tells us, “It’s Heaven all the way to heaven” and we are given the star to guide us up and over the little hills and valleys that discourage us. But … just like Jesus we will have to climb the “Hill of Calvary” and knock at the door of the Cross to complete our own, personal journey to the fullness of that Kingdom promised.

That’s why the celebration of the Birth of Jesus can’t be separated from the Paschal Mystery that leads to our awareness of the Resurrection of Jesus.

If I’m not mistaken, I think that the Church allows us to receive Holy Communion at any of these three Masses in order for us to have the Grace to make it to the celebration of Easter! That’s pretty wonderful … isn’t it? Amen!

                                                                                                 * * * * *  

I’d like to hear from you to know that you’re getting these reflections. Use this link to go to my home page where you will find a link to e-mail me.

December 24, 2013

December 24, 2013 – Christmas Eve

“Come to the stable:” Christmas at Greccio

Scripture Readings for the Mass in the day:

Samuel 7: 1 … 16

Psalm 89

Luke 1:67-79

light on the road“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)

These words from the end of today’s Holy Gospel are packed with the essence of the meaning of the Christmas celebration. Just go back and read those words slowly in order the grasp the meaning in its fullness.   God is tender and gentle with us and full of compassion. A new day is coming and the dawn from on high shall break through the dark valley with its shadow of death. And our feet shall be guided into the way of peace.

Those of us who celebrate the Church’s’ Liturgy of the Hours are familiar with the words from this Gospel passage since we sing them every day at the end of our Morning Prayer. Maybe that’s why I am being drawn to slow it down a bit in order to grasp new meaning from something that we might have a tendency to just “get through.”

In today’s first scripture reading from Samuel we are taken all the way back to King David – the Old Testament Patriarch who gives Jesus his legitimate ancestry. In that reading he speaks about his living in a fine palace while the “Ark of the Covenant” dwells in a tent. Yet, this “Son of God” will, himself, be born in a stable.

I’m sure that our Holy Father, Pope Francis will get a lot of mileage out of this passage as he struggles to draw the leadership of our Church back to the reality of our “King of Kings” and “Lord of Lords” who was born in a simple stable.

But all of us have to be careful that we don’t go around pointing our fingers at “those people, out there” but realize that we are all called tolight and clouds meet our God – not in a palace but in the everyday places of – wherever we are. Our Christmas Celebration is a time when we struggle to make a home for our God … wherever we are. We have to remember the words of Jesus, “The Kingdom of God is within/among you!” If we don’t make a place for Him in our lives – right now - we will never find him even if we search every cave and stable in the world.

Before we get all caught up with festive celebrations let us be sure that we have take some time to quietly open up our own hearts to welcome the “Lord of Lords” and “King of Kings” – creator of all that is - into our lives. Don’t back off saying, “Lord, I’m not worthy…” (that’s true) but don’t forget how we end that phrase as we prepare to receive Him in Holy Communion and say, “but only say the word and I shall be healed!” He has said the word. He wants to come to us. He has nowhere else to go! Amen

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I’d like to hear from you to know that you’re getting these reflections. Use this link to go to my home page where you will find a link to e-mail me.

December 23, 2013

Monday in the 4th Week of Advent

Click here for today’s “O Antiphone:” O Emmanuel

Saint for the day: St. John Kanty (1390? - 1473)

Scripture Readings for today's Liturgy:

Malachi 3:1 …24

Psalm 25

Luke 1:57-66

“Good and upright is he Lord; thus he shows sinners the way.” (Psalm 25)

As we get closer and closer to the celebration of the Christmas Feast we seem to be running on parallel tracts with today’s Holy Gospel giving us the account of the naming of John the Baptist. You’d think that we’d be hearing of Mary and Joseph’s trek to Bethlehem. So what’s the significance of today’s Liturgy?

Remember John’s response when the people asked him “Are you the Messiah or are we to look for another?”  He said, “I am not He and I am not fit to carry His sandals. I must decrease so that He might increase. (Luke 3:16)

Interesting Fact No. 321: Nobody knows the precise date of the Birth of Jesus but the Church landed on the date of December 25th based on the Northern Hemisphere’s Winter Solstice when the days were just beginning to get longer after the dark days of winter. Conversely, the Feast of the Birth of John the Baptist is given as – I think you probably already guessed it - June 24th: the day after the Summer Solstice when the days are beginning to get shorter: “I must decrease so that He might increase.”

But all of this manipulation wasn’t done just to be cleaver. It has significance for all of us living right now. In the first Scripture reading from Malachi we hear those familiar words which are part of Handle’s Messiah, “Yes, He is coming … but who can endure the day of his coming … He is like a refiner’s fire.”(Malachi 3:2ff)

Empty Stable

 

We don’t get to stay at the stable holding a cute little Jesus. Jesus comes to bring us out of darkness into His wonderful Light and His next line comes to us when he appears to His Disciples after the Resurrection and tells them, “What are you doing hiding in this locked upper room? You’ve heard what I told you before: “Go out and proclaim that redemption has come.” And He breathes on them the Power of the Holy Spirit. (John 20:21ff)

And our tongues – just like Zachariah’s – are loosened and we can tell of the marvelous wonders of this God who saves us. It’s good for us to remember that the Church celebrated the Resurrection of the Lord centuries before the date of Christmas was established. So, in some sense it is probably more important for us to understand the meaning of Jesus’ Resurrection than for us to stay at Bethlehem even as wonderful as this might seem to us.Heart afire

The ending words from the Malachi reading are key: “… the Lord comes … to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers." (Malachi 3:24)  We should be able to leave Bethlehem with a burning fire in our hearts so that - like the disciples on the "Road to Emmaus" we can meet Jesus - out there on the way - and say, with them "Were not our hearts burning within as He spoke to us?" (Luke 34:22)  

This is what Christmas is supposed to be al about! Changing people who are in darkness into people of the Light. Amen? 

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I’d like to hear from you to know that you’re getting these reflections. Use this link to go to my home page where you will find a link to e-mail me.

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The church and convent of Santa Sabina on the Aventine hill in Rome have been home to the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) since the 13th century. At that time the church and associated buildings formed part of the holdings of the Savelli family. A Savelli Pope, Honorius III, approved the Order in 1216. Read more...

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The Dominican friars of the Province of St. Joseph were founded in 1806 by Edward Dominic Fenwick, O.P., an American who had joined the English Province of the Order as a young man during its exile in Belgium. Fenwick eventually returned to the United States with the dream of establishing the Order in his native land. Read more...

 

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