Sunday, 29 December 2013

Coping With Christmas

It is often said
That Christmas brings with it
High anxiety, stress and depression
And the reason for such darkness
Finances, family troubles and sickness
And many, many more the like

To these are often added
Travel problems and displacement

An ice storm strikes and all power comes crashing down
Many find that they are displaced
Forced to huddle on an airport floor
Or spend Christmas in a warming shelter
Christmas dinner coming from a vending machine

And Joseph and Mary were forced from their home
So that Joseph might register in his birthplace, Bethlehem
And Mary’s baby was about to be born
No room could be found but to shelter in a cave
With only the animals breathe for warmth
And straw for a bed
And there He is born
Only to uproot and flee again
The murderous threats off a madman

And so that first Christmas began in all such stress

Perhaps the reason why this season
Brings with it such anxiety and depression
Is the expectation that Christmas must be
That perfect time when all is well
When only joy and happiness prevail
And hearts are filled with rejoicing and celebration

But the reason for Rejoicing and Tidings of great Joy
Is not that all is well in the world
But in spite of all our troubles
Hope has come to be with us
And lead us through to find solutions

So when we see people helping people
We see the true Spirit of Christmas
Salvation in other words 

The solution to death
Is now resurrection and eternal life
The solution to an imperfect world
Is the motivation to work to mend what can
The solution to hate and war
Is the work of peace and forgiveness
And all that the Beatitudes teach us

In the world's long lists
Of ways for coping with Christmas
They fail to understand
That the Real and True Christmas comes
As the way to cope with all
That stresses us at Christmas time and beyond

It brings into our lives the renewal of our faith
That through prayer and devotion
And the receiving of the Grace of Christ’s presence
Our minds can be enlightened
To new and real reason for Hope in the world
That our hearts be healed
And motivated through Christian love
Which is Christmas love
To be co-redeemers with Christ in a broken world

Coping with Christmas is replaced
By cooperating with Christmas

Need proof – read again the beautiful Christmas stories

Friday, 27 December 2013

More Voices of Christmas

St. Stephen

Stephen filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people. Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke. Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven …“Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” … But they covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

  • Grant, Lord, we pray, that we may imitate what we worship,and so learn to love even our enemies, for  we celebrate the heavenly birthday of a man who knew how to pray even for his persecutors.
  • As they were stoning Stephen, he called out: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
  • For the many mercies which surround us we give thanks to you, O Lord, who save us through the Nativity of your Son.

St John the Evangelist

Beloved: What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life — for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing this so that our joy may be complete. 1 Jn 1:1-4

  • This is John, who reclined on the Lord’s breast at supper, the blessed Apostle, to whom celestial secrets were revealed and who spread the words of life through all the world.
  • In the midst of the Church he opened his mouth, and the Lord filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding and clothed him in a robe of glory
  • O God, who through the blessed Apostle John have unlocked for us the secrets of your Word, grant, we pray, that we may grasp with proper understanding what he has so marvelously brought to our ears.

Holy Innocents

When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, Out of Egypt I called my son.  When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more.
Mt 2:13-18

  • O God, whom the Holy Innocents confessed and proclaimed on this day, not by speaking but by dying, grant, we pray, that the faith in you which we confess with our lips may also speak through our manner of life.
  • Behold those redeemed as the first fruits of the human race for God and the Lamb, and who follow the Lamb wherever he goes.

From Morning Prayer

We rejoice in the glory of Jesus Christ, who conquered the enemy not by force of arms but with a white-robed army of children, and we cry out:
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.

The Holy Innocents gave witness not by words but by their life’s blood,
– give us strength to be your witnesses before men, both by words and actions.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.

They were not ready for battle but you made them fit to win the palm of victory,
– now that we are prepared for victory, do not let us despair.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.

You washed the robes of the Innocents in your blood;
– cleanse us from all sin.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.

You rewarded the child martyrs with the first share in your kingdom,
– do not let us be cast out from the unending heavenly banquet.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.

You knew persecution and exile as a child,
– protect all children whose lives are in danger from famine, war and disasters.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Voices of Christmas

Perhaps one of the more difficult things about Christmas is hearing the True Voices of Christmas. Christmas is full of sounds of all kinds, coming at us from every side, so much so that the authentic Christmas voice can easily be blurred out. To hear the Voices of Christmas will take some effort on our part, but if we make the effort, what a beautiful and joy-filled sound will fill our hearts. The effort I speak of may be called - 

Praying Christmas.

We begin by bringing something we hear, i.e. texts from scripture, prayers of the Advent/Christmas liturgies, words from the hymns of Christmas etc. to a time of prayer. As we pray, we read and reread these words over again. If they are in a story, we try to create the scene in our imagination. If they are words addressed to God, we listen for the sentiment they express. But all the while, we listen to our own hearts by identifying the various feelings that emerge while we listen. To hear the Voices of Christmas, one must listen with the heart.

What This Effort Will Require:

  • A time and place set aside for listening.
  • The words we have chosen out of all the words around us.
  • Patience to listen, not analyse, over think, and study.
  • Humility to ask and ask again - all the while listening for sounds in the heart.
  • Recording what you hear, returning again and again to listen.
  • "Speak Lord, I am listening".

Some suggestions to add to the Christmas Voices

From second reading for Fourth Sunday of Advent.

Communion Antphon, Monday December 23

Opening Prayer, morning Mass, Dec. 24

Gospel Acclamation, morning Mass, Dec. 24

Prayer after Communion, morning Mass, Dec. 24

First Preface of Christmas

Prayer for Christmas Mass of Dawn

Second Preface of Christmas
Through Christ we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.


Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if anyone hears my voice and opens the door to me, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me. (Rev 3)

Come quickly, we pray, Lord Jesus, and do not delay, that those who trust in your compassion may find solace and relief in your coming.


Radiant Dawn, splendour of eternal light, sun of justice: shine on those lost in the darkness of death.

Grant to us who find new vigor, O Lord, in these your wondrous gifts, that, as we prepare to celebrate in adoration the festivities of your Son’s Nativity, so we may possess in gladness his everlasting rewards.


For in the mystery of the Word made flesh a new light of your glory has shone upon the eyes of our mind, so that, as we recognize in him God made visible, we may be caught up through him in love of things invisible.


Grant, we pray, almighty God, that, as we are bathed in the new radiance of your incarnate Word, the light of faith, which illumines our minds, may also shine through in our deeds.


…… when our frailty is assumed by your Word not only does human mortality receive unending honor but by this wondrous union we, too, are made eternal.

Canadian artist William Kurelek  "A Northern Nativity" set to the composition "When Winter Comes" by Chris de Burgh.


Friday, 13 December 2013

Gaudette - Rejoice in the Lord

Each celebration of the sacred liturgy of the Eucharist begins with the "Entrance Antiphon". Like the doors of a great hall flung open and a trumpeter stepping forward and sounding forth, announcing the procession about to begin, the entrance antiphon sets the tone and leads us forth into the great mystery of the liturgy. The Entrance Antiphon for the Third Sunday of Advent begins with:

Have you ever had the experience of someone coming up to you and asking why you have that great smile on your face? If you have, you know that it was because something wonderful was happening in your life. Your smile is your entrance antiphon, your announcer; "...ask me and I will tell you."

In the First Letter of Peter we read, "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15"  

I think that this text should be posted above the door frame of every Christian's front door, to be read every time they are leaving their house. It should be the first principle of the New Evangelization. The gospel is Good News, and the role of an evangelist is to spread good news. This is the message Pope Francis is trying to get us to grasp in the Church today.

The Easter morning accounts in the gospels begin with Jesus' followers in utter desolation, their hearts broken and their hope crushed. Then they encounter Jesus, alive and in glory, before them. Consider this account in John's gospel:
At this, (Mary Magdalene) turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her,  “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said,  “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

At first, no one recognizes Jesus standing before them, because this recognition is a GRACE, only he can give. But at his word, now their eyes are opened and they see, and their desolation changes to consolation, as their hope returns. Saint Ignatius calls this grace, "grace without previous cause"; nothing you do can make it happen, it is pure gift.

Even though we cannot make such a wondrous grace happen, we can go in search of it; "... seek, knock, ask and it will be given you." As we contemplate on the texts and prayers we find in Advent, let this prayer begin our devotions and conclude them.

Come O Spirit of Light. Illumine the darkness of my mine and heart with the radiance of your presence; that recognizing you by this wondrous grace, my faith will be imbued with this new certainty, and become visible in my life for all to see. Amen.

I am sending 
my messenger 
ahead of you; 
he will prepare 
your way before you.

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Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Breath of God

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.

And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory.

Continuing our reflections on the Mystery of the Incarnation - this text from the prologue of John's gospel begins the gospel reading for the Mass of Christmas Day. The words "... became flesh ..." is the part of Christmas that is available for all to see - a human baby, newly born, wrapped in a blanket. But the words "... and we saw his glory ..." this is not everyone's experience. Despite the discussion today over the exact historicity of the gospel accounts of the nativity, Jesus the man, the human person like us, born in time, remains excepted with confidence.  Seeing the divinity that Jesus shares with the Father and the Spirit is a different matter. And equally challenging is comprehending the suggestion that we too are meant to share in this same divinity. The opening prayer for the Mass of Christmas Day prays:

O God, who wonderfully created
the dignity of human nature
and still more wonderfully restored it,
grant, we pray
that we may share in the divinity of Christ,
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

 To prepare our selves to make this prayer with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the mystery it celebrates, is the focus of these Advent devotions.

I saw a video news report of a person who had suddenly collapsed at a public event and appeared to have died. Then someone from the crowd rush in, placed their mouth over the stricken person's mouth and began breathing into the person their own breath. Shortly after beginning this action, the stricken person began breathing again on their own. We know this action as resuscitation intervention; the how to, being something we all should be familiar with for such emergencies.

Now, the image of a living person breathing their breath into a lifeless person is an intriguing one for our reflection here. The Living God, as opposed to the gods of wood and stone, is filled with the Breath of God, the Spirit. The Word, who is also with God, is filled with this Breath of God, and in time and history, is breathed into a human body, giving it not only human life but divine life as well, and given the human name, Jesus - Son of God - the Incarnation.

As wholly inadequate as this humble description of the incarnation is, we have a hint of what it must mean to share in the divinity of Christ. Jesus, with his Breath of God, now breaths new life into our spirits, giving them a share in his divine life. The gift of GRACE.

The Grace of Advent and Christmas, that we are seeking, is the renewal of the Breath of God within us; to revive our sagging and breathless souls with the Grace that flows from the Incarnation of Christ.

For he assumed at his first coming
the lowliness of human flesh,
and so fulfilled the design you formed long ago,
and opened for us the way to eternal salvation,
that, when he comes again in glory and majesty
and all is at last made manifest,
we who watch for that day
may inherit the great promise
in which now we dare to hope.
First preface for Advent

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Advent and the Coming of Christ

Centered in the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, is Michelangelo's famous depiction of the creation of Adam. The finger of the creator God reaches down from heaven and mankind is created.  

But today a new image has emerged, one with a new creator, creating a new Adam. Increasingly in this age, God is being removed from the true picture of reality and relegated to the place of myth and fiction, that is the modern view of religion. Now man designs man and defines his purpose.

As Advent begins, the anticipation of the coming of the New Adam preoccupies our attention and meditation; his historic first coming, fulfilled in time with the birth of Jesus, and his second coming, to be fulfilled in the fullness of time. And so, during Advent, our meditation focuses on the creative hand of God in our lives and on the questions, who is shaping my life, and who am I becoming -
  • A person being formed by the hand of God, into his image and likeness, or
  • A person formed and shaped by the influences of an age where the hand of God has been replaced by hands of human reason alone?
We have before us these two polarities. On the one extreme there is the religious fundamentalist, who views human reasoning and ingenuity with doubt and skepticism - reason opposing faith. On the other extreme we have the atheist, who views religion with outright contempt and rejection - faith as anti intellectual.

 The Fundamentalist

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.

And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory.
The Atheist

It is between these two extreme and mislead positions that we have our starting point, the Incarnation. This text from the prologue to John's gospel, begins the the gospel reading for the Mass of Christmas Day. This was the gospel for the earliest Christmas liturgy. Later, two additional liturgies, with their gospel readings taken from Luke's account of the Nativity, were added, Midnight Mass and Mass of Dawn. This has become the more popular focus for Christmas, the infant Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the stable in Bethlehem. Often, a merely sentimental view of Christmas replaces the profound mystery of the Incarnation. Here too, we often find the culture conflict between those wishing to display the Nativity scene in public and those intent on removing Christ from Christmas.

Our prayer and meditation during Advent will prepare us to receive this Word from God, with the certainty that comes from a grace-filled  faith. 

Resources For Advent Meditation:

The opening prayer for the Mass on the First Sunday of Advent prays:

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that your faithful may resolve to run forth with righteous deeds
to meet your Christ who is coming,
so that, gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom…

  • "run" - that our hearts are revived with new excitement, real joy coming from a new outpouring of grace.
  • "Christ who is coming" -  hope replaces doubt and guilt - the past is past - look for what is new, that the Lord is bringing you.
  • "righteous deeds" - Advent is a time for a serious examination of conscience - of discovery of the compromises I have made with this age of denial of God.


Brothers and sisters:
You know the time;
it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.
For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;
the night is advanced, the day is at hand.
Let us then throw off the works of darkness
and put on the armor of light;
let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day,
not in orgies and drunkenness,
not in promiscuity and lust,
not in rivalry and jealousy.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

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