Friday, December 31, 2010

The Everlasting Light

"Yet in thy dark streets shineth
the everlasting Light..."

The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
~John 1:5

O Jesus,
God from God
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
we love You
and we adore You!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Littleness of God

To restore man, who had been laid low by sin, to the heights of divine glory, the Word of the eternal Father, though containing all things within His immensity, willed to become small. This he did, not by putting aside His greatness, but by taking to Himself our littleness.
~from The Compendium of Theology by St. Thomas Aquinas

Once in royal David's city,
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby,
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ, her little Child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall:
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Saviour holy.

For he is our childhood's pattern,
day by day like us he grew;
he was little, weak and helpless,
tears and smiles like us he knew.
and he feeleth for our sadness,
and he shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see him,
through his own redeeming love;
for that Child who seemed so helpless
is our Lord in heaven above;
and he leads his children on
to the place where he is gone.

"Once in Royal David's City"
Cecil Frances Alexander, 1818-1895

Thank you, dear Jesus,
for being born for us
a little child!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Light from Light!

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel,and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Lord, now let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you prepared in the sight of every people, a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.” ~Luke 2:25-32

We, too, can become bearers of the light that comes from Bethlehem. Then we can pray, full of confidence: Adveniat regnum tuum. Your kingdom come! Your light come! Your peace come! ~Pope Benedict XVI

Beloved Jesus, "new-born and newly dear," I give thanks with all my heart that I, too, have seen Your salvation, that every day I behold anew Your light and glory, so full of grace and truth. Make me, dear Lord, a bearer of light that reveals You to all. Amen.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Light of Christmas

"The Word became flesh". The light of this truth is revealed to those who receive it in faith, for it is a mystery of love. Only those who are open to love are enveloped in the light of Christmas. So it was on that night in Bethlehem, and so it is today. The Incarnation of the Son of God is an event which occurred within history, while at the same time transcending history. In the night of the world a new light was kindled, one which lets itself be seen by the simple eyes of faith, by the meek and humble hearts of those who await the Saviour. If the truth were a mere mathematical formula, in some sense it would impose itself by its own power. But if Truth is Love, it calls for faith, for the "yes" of our hearts. ~Pope Benedict XVI, "Urbi et Orbi," Christmas 2010
Ave Maria, Mother of Our Savior, teach us the truth of life that is love, so that with you we may say "YES!" to the fruit of your womb, your beloved child Jesus, who is forever the light of the world. Amen.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Gloria in Excelsis Deo!


So this angelic song has been recognized from the earliest days as music proceeding from God, indeed, as an invitation to join in the singing with hearts filled with joy at the fact that we are loved by God. Cantare amantis est, says Saint Augustine: singing belongs to one who loves. Thus, down the centuries, the angels' song has again and again become a song of love and joy, a song of those who love. At this hour, full of thankfulness, we join in the singing of all the centuries, singing that unites heaven and earth, angels and men. Yes, indeed, we praise you for your glory. We praise you for your love. Grant that we may join with you in love more and more and thus become people of peace. Amen. ~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily of Christmas Eve, 12/24/10

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Feast of the Holy Family

Father, help us to live as the holy family,
united in respect and love.
Bring us to the joy and peace
of your eternal home.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Solemnity of Christmas

Christus natus est! Venite adoremus Dominum!
Christ is born! Come let us adore the Lord!

Friday, December 24, 2010

And in the morning...

Today you will know that the Lord is coming,
and in the morning you will see his glory.
~Invitatory Antiphon from the Liturgy of the Hours for December 24
Dearest Mary, Mystical Rose, the time of singing has come! The winter is past, the rain over and gone. You spread out your glorious and graceful branches, and, like a vine, you cause loveliness to bud. Your blossoms become glorious and abundant fruit as you give birth to your Beloved Son. We come to you to be filled with the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Let us see His face and hear His voice, for His voice is sweet and He is lovely indeed. With you, Virgin of Advent and Mother of God, we sing forever the goodness of the Lord! Amen! Alleluia!

Ave Maria! Dear family and friends, tidings of comfort and joy to you on this Christmas Eve! The above prayer is not mine -- it comes from the Holy Word of God, as you will see if you turn to Songs 2:11-14, Sirach 24:16-18, and Psalm 89. No, that's not quite true -- this prayer is mine because His Word dwells within me, for which I am humbly grateful. The beautiful Rose of Sharon is, of course, an image captured by my sister Ann Krumrein, who used to grow these on the front porch of the home she and her husband lived in when they resided in Lanham, MD years ago. It is one of three shots she took and put together for me in a beautiful triptych that now graces the wall above my prayer altar. Rejoicing with you in the blessed birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Alice Claire

Thursday, December 23, 2010

O Emmanuel!

O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people: Come and set us free, Lord our God. ~O Antiphon for December 23

Emmanuel. Could we have found a name more sweet? God-with-us. That is to say that nothing in our difficulties, our misunderstandings, our sorrows, even in our agony, will find us alone. We will always have Someone with us, Someone present in our very heart to give the strength and light necessary in those moments.

Also, at the same time, our Beloved is always before us. He is the All-Powerful and He wants that we should be saints, all of us. Therefore, we never again need to be afraid. We can be certain that, should it be called for, even heroism is within our reach because our Companion on the road, our daily Food, is always there. We know that He is in us and we know what He asks of us. We know to what degree of detachment and to what gift of self He calls us. We know to what point we must be found holy at the moment of our death.

In what peace, in what serenity, in what an outpouring of joy should we live, just recalling this name of the Lord? What bad thing can befall us, or even what lesser good, since all is known by Him, all is willed, all is allowed by Him who has prepared our eternal happiness. He knows what He allows.

What a lack of awareness it is and what a hurt for the Heart of Jesus that we should have the slightest fear! Let us strive to be cured of this terrible ill by repeating often “God-with-us.” Even now He can, and wills to triumph over all the hell within us.

~Mother Marie des Douleurs Wrotnowska

O Mary, Virgin of Advent, blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Soldier and A Saint

Ave Maria! Many thanks to the Anchoress, whose blog is always full of good links, for pointing out these two articles on the Web!

Montana Soldier "glad" he stepped on IED -- God bless this young man who may have just lost three limbs, but whose heart has is larger and more alive than ever!

Homily for 4th Sunday of Advent -- Blessed be St. Joseph, "a man for our age – an Age of Anxiety."

O King!

O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart: O Keystone of the mighty arch of man. Come and save the creatures you fashioned from the dust. ~O Antiphon for December 22

O King of nations! You are approaching still nigher to Bethlehem, where you are to be born. The journey is almost over, and your august Mother, consoled and strengthened by the dear weight she bears, holds an unceasing converse with you on the way. She adores your divine Majesty; she gives thanks to your mercy; she rejoices that she has been chosen for the sublime ministry of being Mother to God.

She longs for that happy moment when her eyes shall look upon you, and yet she fears it. For, how will she be able to render you those services which are due to your infinite greatness, she that thinks herself the last of creatures? How will she dare to raise you up in her arms, and press you to her heart, and feed you at her breasts? When she reflects that the hour is now near at hand, in which, being born of her, you will require all her care and tenderness, her heart sinks within her; for, what human heart could bear the intense vehemence of these two affections — the love of such a Mother for her Babe, and the love of such a creature for her God?

But you support her, O Thou the Desired of nations! for you, too, long for that happy birth, which is to give to the earth its Saviour, and to men that corner-stone, which will unite them all into one family.

Dearest King! be blessed for all these wonders of your power and goodness! Come speedily, we beseech you, come and save us, for we are dear to you, as creatures that have been formed by your divine hands. Yea, come, for your creation has grown degenerate; it is lost; death has taken possession of it: take it again into your almighty hands, and give it a new creation; save it; for you have not ceased to take pleasure in and love your own work.

From The Liturgical Year, volume 1, Advent by Abbott Prosper Louis Paschal Guéranger, O.S.B.

O Mary, Virgin of Advent, blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

O Rising Dawn!

O Rising Dawn, Radiance of the Light eternal and Sun of Justice: come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. ~ O Antiphon for December 21

O Rising Dawn, who lightens our darkness ... in whose light we see light ... who made the great lights and yet outshines them all ... for whom even darkness is not dark and night is as clear as the day ... whose life is the light of men ... who lives in unapproachable light yet dwells among us ... who has come into our world as light so that whoever believes in You may never remain in darkness ... O Morning Star that never sets ... O Sun of Righteousness who rises with healing in your wings! ... Light from Light, God from God, True God from True God! O Rising Dawn, come!

O Mary, Virgin of Advent, blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus!

Monday, December 20, 2010

O Key of David!

O Key of David, and sceptre of the house of Israel, who open and none may close, who close and none may open, come and bring out of prison the captive who sits in darkness and the shadow of death. ~O Antiphon for December 20

O Key of David, the Father has entrusted all things to You, giving you all power and authority on heaven and earth. You open for us who believe the Kingdom which You purchased for us with Your most precious Bllood, "a kingdom of truth and life ... of holiness and grace ... of justice, love, and peace." You invite us to enter in and dwell with You and the Father for all eternity. You shut the door on all the darkness of hell and sin, of pain and death, of sadness and fear. You lead us into the splendor of Everlasting Light, setting us free to live for the praise of Your glory. O Key of David, come!

O Mary, Virgin of Advent, blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

O Root of Jesse!

O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid. ~O Antiphon for December 19

Do You not give fecundity to the root hidden underground, and can You not, if You so will, make this darkness in which You are pleased to keep me, fruitful? Live then, little root of my heart, in the deep, invisible heart of God; and by its power, send forth branches, leaves, flowers and fruits, which, although invisible to yourself, are a pure joy and nourishment to others. Without consulting your own taste, give of your shade, flowers, and fruit to others. May all that is grafted on you receive that indeterminate sap which will be known only by the growth and appearance of those same grafts. Become all to all, but as to yourself remain abandoned and indifferent. Remain in the dark and narrow prison of your miserable cocoon, little worm, until the warmth of grace forms you, and sets you free. ~Rev. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, S.J., in Abandonment to Divine Providence

O Mary, Virgin of Advent, blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

O Adonai!

O Adonai, leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the Law on Sinai, come to rescue us with outstretched arm. ~O Antiphon for December 18

Ave Maria! Today's O antiphon begins with "O Adonai." This was the word the Hebrews used in the place of the holy and unutterable name of God which they were forbidden to pronounce, even now. We recall the giving of the law to Moses, the law that we are born with written on our hearts, and the power of God to deliver us from slavery to Satan. We remember, too, that both Mary and Joseph were told by angels to name their son Jesus because he would save his people from their sins (Luke 1:30-32; Matthew 1:21-23).

Jesus, the name above all other names, bestowed upon Him by the Father who greatly exalted Him (Philippians 2:9-11) ... Jesus, before whom we "adoring, bend the knee, while we own the mystery" ... Jesus, who fulfilled the old law and gave us the new when He commanded us to love one another as He did (John 13:34) ... Jesus, who stills come in majesty and awe though, at times, there is in Him no comeliness whereby we might know Him (Isaiah 53:2) ... Jesus, who from the cross stretched forth His arms in unspeakable love to gather us into the heart and the kingdom of His Beloved Father ... JESUS!

O Adonai, O Sacred Leader and Master of All, O Jesus, our Lord and our God! Come and rule our hearts and our lives with Your enduring love!

O Mary, Virgin of Advent, blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus!

Friday, December 17, 2010

O Wisdom!

O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High and, reaching from beginning to end, you ordered all things mightily and sweetly. Come, and teach us the way of prudence. ~O Antiphon for December 17

Ave Maria! My heart always skips a happy little dance when December 17 appears on the calendar as today we sing the first of the seven Great O Antiphons. For the next seven evenings, a different O antiphon will accompany the singing of the Magnificat during Vespers. Each antiphon begins with "O," followed by a specific biblical title of the Messiah and then a brief recounting of the saving will and action of God recalled in title. Several good articles on these beautiful and powerful antiphons can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here. O joy untold! O hope assured! O come, Divine Messiah!

At Mass today, we hear the gospel of the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1-17). It's full of tongue-twisting names, most of which I can never remember. But what I do remember is the second chapter of Lumen Gentium (The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), which is entitled "On the People of God." Its opening sentence declares: "At all times and in every race God has given welcome to whosoever fears Him and does what is right. God, however, does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased Him to bring men together as one people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness." We did not come from nowhere. We do not exist in a vacuum. We are not alone. We belong to God, we are His people, the sheep of His flock (Psalm 100:3). And we have each other. Our genealogy is far greater, richer and deeper than we realize. "Blest be the tie that binds!" It is precious indeed!

O Mary, Virgin of Advent, blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Steadfast Love

For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you. ~Isaiah 54:10

O Jesus living in Mary, when I feel abandoned in the desert, help me to trust in Your steadfast love. Amen.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Live moments of silence..."

Ave Maria! On the occasion of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, sent a message to the media of Latin America, stressing the need for silence in our lives as we prepare for Christmas. The following excerpt is a challenging and welcome invitation to make deep interior silence a priority in our lives, not only during this holy Advent season but also every day of our lives.

I invite you to live moments of silence during these days of Advent, to hear Jesus' voice who speaks to our heart. Holding Mary's hand, let us meet with him without haste, as he always awaits us! Lets put a dike to the flood of concerns and noises that so often drag us endlessly. Silence is like a blank screen on which we can project the film of our daily life to see it clearly. If we project it on a wall full of pictures, books and objects, with a background of noise, we will understand little. Only in silence do we assume in a more conscious way our options; in silence we hear the voice of God. In this way we will be able to be genuine bearers of his Word -- as Mary who, "kept all these things in her heart" (Luke 2:19) -- and do whatever he tells us (cf. John

Perhaps it is difficult advice to follow at this moment of news bombardment, pastoral needs, bustle in families, in our media and in parishes, not to mention purchases, gifts, parties and celebrations. However, if we dedicate time to choose the ingredients and to prepare the dinners and meals we will share over the holidays, must we not also prepare, and even more so, what we will communicate through radios, newspapers, television programs and Web sites? What can we give that is substantial, if our life is filled only with repeated words, with little depth and contents? Let us dedicate time to the Lord whom we are awaiting this Advent.

May Mary ... grant us from God the gift of interior silence, precisely to be able to renew our life of discipleship, so that he will make fruitful our words, texts, images and musical notes, and make them bearers of the Good News.

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, let me enter into your silence as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of Jesus, the fruit of your womb and the Father's Incarnate Word. Amen.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Today's Saint: John of the Cross

Ave Maria! Today we remember St. John of the Cross, Spanish mystic, Carmelite friar and priest, poet and artist, and doctor of the church. He's probably best known for the term "the dark night of the soul." The austerity of his life and soul were surpassed only by his ardent love for Jesus Christ, whose cross he gladly made his own. As always, cyberspace is full of excellent resources about today's saint, such as here, here, here, here, and here. At the end of this page here is a succinct explanation of St. John's theology by Fr. Jordan Aumann, O.P. , taken from his book Christian Spirituality in the Christian Tradition.

(Wow! Dear God, may I please stay home all day today to read, reflect and pray?)

My own reading of the works of St. John of the Cross has been sporadic over the years. Frankly, the guy terrifies me. He was such a denuded soul! And I am so not there yet -- and probably never will be. Bits and pieces of his writings remain firmly lodged in my heart and periodically remind me that God alone matters. According to this wise and holy man, I must persistently and vigorously do everything I humanly can to become ever more firmly attached to HIM who is all LOVE. This means detaching myself from everything that is NOT Him, even that which is good and dear to me.

The soul that is attached to anything, however much good there may be in it, will not arrive at the liberty of divine union. For whether it be a strong wire rope or a slender and delicate thread that holds the bird, it matters not, if it really holds it fast; for, until the cord be broken the bird cannot fly.

Today I ask St. John to help me break the gossamer that holds me captive so that I can soar above myself to the Living Flame of Love, who desires to consume me for Himself alone.

Mary, Virgin of Advent, with you may I be attached only to your Son.
P.S. The saying on the scroll in the above icon of St. John of the Cross reads: "The light of faith will be my guide."

Monday, December 13, 2010

An Advent Prayer

Lord, may you now let us this year once more approach the light, celebration, and joy of Christmas Day that brings us face to face with the greatest thing there is: your love, with which you so loved the world that you gave your only Son, so that all of us may believe in him and therefore not be lost, but may have eternal life.

What could we possibly bring and give to you? So much darkness in our human relationships and in our own hearts! So many confused thoughts, so much coldness and defiance, so much carelessness and hatred! So much over which you cannot rejoice, that separates us from one another and certainly cannot help us! So much that runs directly against the message of Christmas!

What should you possibly do with such gifts? And what are you to do with such people as we all are? But all of this is precisely what you want to receive from us and take from us at Christmas—the whole pile of rubbish and ourselves, just as we are—in order to give us in return Jesus, our Savior, and in him a new heaven and a new earth, new hearts and a new desire, new clarity and a new hope for us and for all people....

Be among us as we once again...together prepare to receive him as your gift! Make it so that we may rightly speak, hear, and pray, in proper, thankful amazement about everything that you have in mind for all of us, that you have already decided regarding all of us, and that you have already done for all of us!


~Karl Barth

O Jesus, living in Mary, thank you for coming to be our Savior!

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near. ~Entrance Antiphon, Third Sunday of Advent (cf. Phil 4:4, 5)

Ave Maria! Today is the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday or "Rejoice Sunday". According to my well-worn Collins Latin-English/English Latin Dictionary from my high school days, the Latin word "gaudeo" means "rejoice, be pleased, delight in." And this is precisely what the Church does today as we pass the midpoint of Advent. The mood lightens a bit as the priest wears rose-colored vestments at Mass and we light the rose candle in our Advent wreaths. As we pray in our Alternative Opening Prayer, "the earth rejoices in hope of the Savior's coming and looks forward with longing to his return at the end of time." Because we still experience the sorrows, losses and unhappiness of life on this earth, we beg the Father to "Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which his presence will bestow, for he is Lord for ever and ever. Amen."

Today is also the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe! I am on my way to our parish celebration for this happy occasion, which begins at 3am, so I will continue blogging later. Until then, dear family and friends, and now and forever:


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mary, Our Advent Star

The star of Mary Immaculate shines down on the path of Advent.... What person is more luminous than Mary? Who can be for us better than her the star of hope, the sunrise that proclaims the day of salvation? ~Pope Benedict XVI

Holy light on earth's horizon,
Star of hope to those who fall,
Light amid a world of shadows,
Dawn of God's design for all.

Mary, Virgin of Advent, may we always walk with you in the light of the Lord, Jesus, the fruit of your womb! Amen.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Today's Saint: Juan Diego

Hear and let it penetrate into your heart, my dear little son: Let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you. Let nothing alter your heart or your countenance. Also, do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else that you need? ~Words of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego, Dec. 12, 1531

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent and Our Lady of Guadalupe, hold me close in the crossing of your arms for with you I have all I that could ever want or need -- Jesus, the fruit of your womb! Amen!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

"Looking at her, we recognize the loftiness and beauty of God's plan for everyone: to become holy and immaculate in love (cf. Eph 1: 4), in the image of our Creator.... What a great gift to have Mary Immaculate as mother! A mother resplendent with beauty, the transparency of God's love. " ~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 12/8/2007

Ave Maria! Tota pulchra es, Maria! You are all beautiful, Mary! God's grace makes you so! You "let all God's glory through" at every moment of your life, whatever you were doing, wherever you were -- Nazareth, Bethlehem, Egypt, Cana, Calvary, the Upper Room, and now united with your Beloved Son forever, reigning "in splendor with Jesus our King." The Almighty has done great things for you, Mary -- and for us, too, especially in giving you to us to be our loving Mother. Help us to shine with God's love and yours, to reflect the glory of your Son, who is forever the light of the world. We love you, dear Mary! Your praises we sing! And we rejoice forever with you in the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Ave, ave, ave Maria! Amen! Alleluia!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Today's Feast: St. Ambrose

Ave Maria! Today we remember St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (AD 339-397). At first glance, he seems to have been an unlikely candidate for this ecclesiastical office. He was a young lawyer with a successful career, not yet even baptized, when the Bishop of Milan died and, amidst much tumult, the crowds elected Ambrose bishop. These were harrowing times for the church, so it's not all that surprising that his response was to run away. But God's grace prevailed and transformed Ambrose. Go here and here and here and here and here to learn more about this extraordinary man who became the first of the 33 Doctors of the Church.

One of the best known prayers of St. Ambrose follows:
Lord, teach me to seek You, and reveal Yourself to me when I seek You. For I cannot seek You unless You first teach me, nor find You, unless You first reveal Yourself to me. Let me seek You in longing, and long for You in seeking. Let me find You in love, and love You in finding. Amen.
Another prayer of St. Ambrose that I particularly like, especially when I am preparing for the sacrament of confession, is this one:

O Lord, who has mercy upon all, take away from me my sins, and mercifully kindle in me the fire of Your Holy Spirit. Take away from me the heart of stone, and give me a heart of flesh, a heart to love and adore You, a heart to delight in You, to follow and enjoy You, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, when I start to run away from Your Son, come after me, please, and bring me back to Him. Amen.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Being Happy with Being Unhappy

But it is a wonderful thing that we are not happy with ourselves, because the most terrible thing would be that we are at peace with our faults, absorbed in ourselves, blaming our faults on other people...the tenderness, the sweetness of Advent is wedded to that great mystery which begins with the call: Now is the time. Now is the hour. Wake up and be made perfect in holiness.

~from Come, Lord Jesus: Meditations on the Art of Waiting by Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C.

O Jesus, living in Mary, I'm happy being unhappy with myself as long as it makes me more aware of my deep need for Your salvation and brings me closer to You. Mary, Virgin of Advent, please, always lead me to Your Son, the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Ave Maria! The call to repent rings loudly and clearly in today's Gospel (Matthew 3:1-12). And in case I don't get it, St. Augustine explains it well in one of his sermons on repentance (see below). Now is the time for faith, he says, now is the hour of mercy. Now! Not tomorrow when perhaps I shall feel like it -- and what if I don't? -- but NOW! Now is the acceptable time, of God's favor, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). The Kingdom of God is at hand!

And it is I who must repent. This isn't about my brother or sister with the speck of sawdust in his or her eye that is infinitesimally smaller than the wooden beam in my own (Matthew 7:3). Nor this person who always ignores me or that person who forever puts me down. They are not my concern when it comes to repentance. That is between them and God. This call is for ME. I. MUST. REPENT. NOW. As best as I can, I must lay the axe to the root of my own trees, the biggest one being my ego. And I must humbly submit to the relentless but loving hackings of the Master Wood Cutter, who alone can finally clear the jungle of my heart and soul. Only then, by the grace and mercy of the Divine Messiah, shall a shoot sprout from the stump of my nothingness and a bud blossom for the praise of His glory (Isaiah 1:1).
Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.

The gospel tells us that some people were rebuked by the Lord because, clever as they were at reading the face of the sky, they could not recognize the time for faith when the kingdom of heaven was at hand.

It was the Jews who received this reprimand, but it has also come down to us.

The Lord Jesus began his preaching of the gospel with the admonition: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. His forerunner, John the Baptist, began his in the same way: Repent, he said, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Today, for those who will not repent at the approach of the kingdom of heaven, the reproof of the Lord Jesus is the same. As he points out himself, You cannot expect to
see the kingdom of heaven coming. The kingdom of heaven, he says elsewhere, is
within you.

Each of us would be wise therefore to take to heart the advice of his teacher, and not waste this present time.

It is now that our Savior offers us his mercy; now, while he still spares the human race. Understand that it is in hope of our conversion that he spares us, for he desires no one’s damnation.

As for when the end of the world will be, that is God’s concern. Now is the time for faith.

Whether any of us here present will see the end of the world I know not; very likely none of us will. Even so, the time is very near for each of us, for we are mortal. There are hazards all around us.

We should be in less danger from them were we made of glass. What is more fragile than a vessel of glass? And yet it can be kept safe and last indefinitely.

Of course it is exposed to accidents, but it is not liable to old age and the suffering it brings.

We therefore are the more frail and infirm. In our weakness we are haunted by fears
of all the calamities that regularly befall the human race, and if no such calamity overtakes us, still, time marches on.

We may evade the blows of fortune, but shall we evade death? We may escape perils from without but shall we escape what comes from within us? Now, suddenly, we may be attacked by any malady.

And if we are spared? Even so, old age comes at last, and nothing will delay it.

~St. Augustine, Sermon 109, 1: PL 38, 636

Dear Jesus, living in Mary, love and mercy are Your treasure. May they be mine, too, as I answer Your call to repent now.

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, pray for me to become all that Your Divine Child is calling me to be.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Watching and Waiting

Ave Maria! Our response to the responsorial psalm at Mass this morning -- "Blessed are those who wait for the Lord!" -- made me think once again of Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman. Among his sermons is one entitled "Watching", which is undeniably part of waiting. The following passage from this sermon is often quoted during Advent:

"He watches for Christ who has a sensitive, eager, apprehensive mind; who is awake, alive, quick-sighted, zealous in seeking and honouring Him; who looks out for Him in all that happens, and who would not be surprised, who would not be over-agitated or overwhelmed, if he found that He was coming at once."

But it is another passage that I'm recalling on this Saturday devoted to Our Lady because it speaks of the obedience that must be part of our watching and waiting, and it was through Mary's obedience that the watching and waiting of mankind became fulfilled. Bl. Newman says that we "have to seek His face; obedience is the only way of seeking Him." By her obedience, the handmaid of Nazareth not only sought God but also found Him. Bl. Newman adds that "to obey Him is to approach Him." The Virgin of Advent not only approached God but also enables us to come to Him through her and with her.

Year passes after year silently; Christ's coming is ever nearer than it was. O that, as He comes nearer earth, we may approach nearer heaven! O, my brethren, pray Him to give you the heart to seek Him in sincerity. Pray Him to make you in earnest. You have one work only, to bear your cross after Him. Resolve in His strength to do so. Resolve to be no longer beguiled by "shadows of religion," by words, or by disputings, or by notions, or by high professions, or by excuses, or by the world's promises or threats. Pray Him to give you what Scripture calls "an honest and good heart," or "a perfect heart," and, without waiting, begin at once to obey Him with the best heart you have. Any obedience is better than none,— any profession which is disjoined from obedience, is a mere pretence and deceit. Any religion which does not bring you nearer to God is of the world. You have to seek His face; obedience is the only way of seeking Him. All your duties are obediences. If you are to believe the truths He has revealed, to regulate yourselves by His precepts, to be frequent in His ordinances, to adhere to His Church and people, why is it, except because He has bid you? and to do what He bids is to obey Him, and to obey Him is to approach Him. Every act of obedience is an approach,— an approach to Him who is not far off, though He seems so, but close behind this visible screen of things which hides Him from us. He is behind this material framework; earth and sky are but a veil going between Him and us; the day will come when He will rend that veil, and show Himself to us. And then, according as we have waited for Him, will He recompense us. If we have forgotten Him, He will not know us; but "blessed are those servants whom the Lord, when He cometh, shall find watching … He shall gird Himself, and make them sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if He shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants" [Luke 22:37, 38.] May this be the portion of every one of us! It is hard to attain it; but it is woeful to fail. Life is short; death is certain; and the world to come is everlasting.
Mary, Virgin of Advent, teach me true obedience as I watch and wait with you. Amen.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Domus Aurea!

Ave Maria! Earlier this week I reflected on Tolkien's observation that "All that is gold does not glitter" (here and here). There are a few chosen souls, however, whose entire lives have been so continually and carefully burnished by the grace and love of God that they have become gold that doesn't just glitter but simply dazzles. There is one in particular who arises like the dawn, fair as the moon and as resplendent as the sun (Song of Songs 6:10). Did the psalmist anticipate her when he exclaimed, "With you is the fountain of life, and in your light, we see light" (Psalm 36:10)? It is Our Lady! Mary, who carried in her womb "with love beyond all telling" our Lord Jesus Christ, who is forever the light of the world! Ave Maria, Domus Aurea! Hail Mary, House of Gold!

Again I turn to Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman, this time to his Meditations on the Litany of Loretto, which include a reflection on Mary, the house of Gold.

Mary is the "Domus Aurea," the House of Gold

Why is she called a House? And why is she called Golden? Gold is the most beautiful, the most valuable, of all metals. Silver, copper, and steel may in their way be made good to the eye, but nothing is so rich, so splendid, as gold. We have few opportunities of seeing it in any quantity; but anyone who has seen a large number of bright gold coins knows how magnificent is the look of gold. Hence it is that in Scripture the Holy City is, by a figure of speech, called Golden. "The City," says St. John, "was pure gold, as it were transparent glass." He means of course to give us a notion of the wondrous beautifulness of heaven, by comparing it with what is the most beautiful of all the substances which we see on earth.

Therefore it is that Mary too is called golden; because her graces, her virtues, her innocence, her purity, are of that transcendent brilliancy and dazzling perfection, so costly, so exquisite, that the angels cannot, {16} so to say, keep their eyes off her any more than we could help gazing upon any great work of gold.

But observe further, she is a golden house, or, I will rather say, a golden palace. Let us imagine we saw a whole palace or large church all made of gold, from the foundations to the roof; such, in regard to the number, the variety, the extent of her spiritual excellences, is Mary.

But why called a house or palace? And whose palace? She is the house and the palace of the Great King, of God Himself. Our Lord, the Co-equal Son of God, once dwelt in her. He was her Guest; nay, more than a guest, for a guest comes into a house as well as leaves it. But our Lord was actually born in this holy house. He took His flesh and His blood from this house, from the flesh, from the veins of Mary. Rightly then was she made to be of pure gold, because she was to give of that gold to form the body of the Son of God. She was golden in her conception, golden in her birth. She went through the fire of her suffering like gold in the furnace, and when she ascended on high, she was, in the words of our hymn,

Above all the Angels in glory untold, / Standing next to the King in a vesture of gold.

Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman
Meditations on the Litany of Loretto, for the Month of May

Mary, Virgin of Advent, help me to yield in obedience and faith as you did to the burnishing of God so that I too may shine with His everlasting radiance. Amen.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bishop Wester on Keeping Advent

Ave Maria! Yesterday I was delighted to see at Catholic News Service an article entitled "Meaning of season lost by rushing Christmas celebration, bishop says." Here, here! Don't we know it, too! In his first pastoral letter, "Waiting in Joyful Hope!" , Salt Lake City Bishop John C. Wester reflects upon the meaning and beauty of this "season of joyful hope, a time of preparation and waiting." He not only urges us to keep true to the spirit of Advent but also offers us some practical suggestions on how to accomplish this. Hold off on decking the halls until December 24! What's the rush? Put up a Jesse tree for Advent, then a Christmas tree for Christmas. For us Catholics, the Christmas season continues until the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, celebrated this year on January 9, which gives us ample time to savor and celebrate the blessed nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

While our society encourages us to worship mammon, especially during the frenzy of holiday shopping encouraged by slick advertising that bombards us before we've even cooked our Thanksgiving turkey, "the Church teaches us to slow down, to be patient, and to wait." During this holy season, Bishop Wester reminds us, "the Church is called to gather and quietly wait in hope for the coming of Christ, her bridegroom, the Light of the World." He will surely come and will not delay (Habbakuk 2:3), for as certain as the dawn is His coming (Hosea 6:3), and in that day there will be great light. Then all the false brightness of this ephemeral world will fade, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed (Isaiah 40:5). But we shall see Him in His splendor only insofar as we have celebrated Advent as Bishop Wester recommends, "with rich prayer." The Scripture readings at daily Mass provide us with a sumptuous feast to feed our prayer during Advent and, indeed, every day throughout the liturgical year. And, of course, a plethora of Advent resources is readily available on the Web -- simply Google "Advent" or "Advent resources" or "Advent prayers."

As Catholics, we must observe this time of year differently, Bishop Wester points out, adding that "If we truly believe the Church is the sacrament of Christ in the world (Lumen Gentium, sections 1, 9, and 48), then we must authentically celebrate the story of salvation as it unfolds in the liturgical year so that we can witness God’s profound love and mercy to the world." As we faithfully keep Advent with the Church, we become the "beautiful feet" of Isaiah that bring glad tidings and good news, proclaiming to all that our God is King (Isaiah 52:7).

Bishop Wester closes his pastoral letter with these words, which is my prayer for you, dear reader, and for the entire Church as we journey through the valleys and hills of Advent to the manger in Bethlehem: "May our observance of this season renew us and be an example of patience, silence, and joy to our hurried and anxious society."

Mary, Virgin of Advent, show me how
I can best prepare for the birth of your Holy Child,
the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

More Gold That Does Not Glitter

Ave Maria! Yesterday when I was thinking about that line from Tolkien, "All that is gold does not glitter," (and which I mentioned in my blog post of yesterday) a Christmas carol I learned many long years ago came to mind. It's a charming traditional Christmas song that has been around for quite some time, called "The Friendly Beasts". As the song unfolds, each of the various animals gathered around the crib of the Holy Child of Bethlehem tells of the gift he gave to Immanuel. Nothing spectacular or showy here -- just ordinary gifts from ordinary but friendly beasts who recognized the Real Treasure laying in the manger and and paid Him homage.

The Friendly Beasts

Jesus our brother, kind and good
Was humbly born in a stable rude
And the friendly beasts around Him stood,
Jesus our brother, kind and good.

"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
"I carried His mother up hill and down;
I carried her safely to Bethlehem town."
"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown.

"I," said the cow all white and red
"I gave Him my manger for His bed;
I gave him my hay to pillow his head."
"I," said the cow all white and red.

"I," said the sheep with curly horn,
"I gave Him my wool for His blanket warm;
He wore my coat on Christmas morn."
"I," said the sheep with curly horn.

"I," said the dove from the rafters high,
"I cooed Him to sleep so He would not cry;
We cooed him to sleep, my mate and I."
"I," said the dove from the rafters high.

Thus every beast by some good spell,
In the stable dark was glad to tell
Of the gift he gave Immanuel,
The gift he gave Immanuel.
"I," was glad to tell
Of the gift he gave Immanuel,
The gift he gave Immanuel.
Jesus our brother, kind and good.

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, help me to give
my best gift possible to your holy child this Christmas. Amen