Saturday, 31 December 2016

Mary Mother of God - New Years 2017

Today, New Years Day, is a solemn feast day in the Church's liturgical calendar. We know it now as the Feast of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, but it has had different titles over the years. Fr. Thomas Rosica, of  Salt&Light, has an excellent article on these titles. Here is the LINK :>


New Years and resolution are commonly linked at this time. Here is an approach using the Prayer of Examine to review the year past.


Thursday, 29 December 2016

Voices of Christmas Week

St Stephen

Psalm Ps 31:
Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
for your name’s sake you will lead and guide me.

Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy.

Rescue me from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your kindness.
St. John

So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, through Christ our lord. For on the feast of this awe-filled mystery, though invisible in his own divine nature, he has appeared visibly in ours; and begotten before all ages, he has begun to exist in time; so that, raising up in himself all that was cast down, he might restore unity to all creation and call straying humanity back to the heavenly Kingdom
Holy Innocence

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.

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. 

This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ and proclaim to you: God is light, and in him here is no darkness at all. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the Blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

May your people, O lord, whom you guide and sustain in many ways, experience, both now and in the future, the remedies which you bestow, that, with the needed solace of things that pass away, they may strive with ever deepened trust for things eternal. Through Christ our lord.
Holy Family - Return From Egypt

Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.

Almighty ever-living God, who in the nativity of your son established the beginning and fulfillment of all religion, grant, we pray, that we may be numbered among those who belong to him, in whom is the fullness of human salvation.
Now Hear the story

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
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.

He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.

But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.

And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth.

Saturday, 24 December 2016


Our Advent days are now fulfilled. We began with a precious new gift given to us by the Lord – a gift of time. These beautiful liturgies were filled with many voices, the Voices of Advent. For the first three weeks of Advent it was the voices of the ancient prophets we heard, telling us that God has a new plan for our lives; announced with ancient words but with new expectation for us today.

For this last week of Advent, it has been no less than the voices of angels awaking us from the slumber of doubt and unbelief; announcing, “He is here!” The second Preface of the Advent liturgy summed up the message conveyed by all these voices

For all the oracles of the prophets foretold him, the Virgin mother longed for him with love beyond all telling, John the Baptist sang of his coming and proclaimed his presence when (at last) he came.

Now in this new gift of time – 2016, a new Christmas begins. Now it is not only about hearing a new message, but also seeing it fulfilled. The Second Preface of the Christmas liturgies tells:

For on the feast of this awe-filled mystery, though invisible in his own divine nature, he has appeared visibly in ours; and begotten before all ages, he has begun to exist in time;” – in this our new gift of time.

The people of the Old Testament knew well no one can see the face of God, not even Moses on the mountain of the Ten Commandments. In Exodus, we read:

 But, (God) said, "You cannot see my face, because a man cannot see me and live." The LORD said, "Look, there is a place near me where you can stand on the rock; and as my glory passes by, I'll put you in a crevice in the rock, and cover you with my hand until I've passed by. Then I'll remove my hand so you may see my back, but my face must not be seen." Ex: 33:20

But God wanted us to be able to see him face to face. That is why we have this day, so that we can see our God, face to face. But not only does he come as one of us, but as a baby child into who’s face we can now gaze with tenderness.

Now we may say that in a literal sense it was only they who lived during Jesus time on earth who actually saw Jesus face to face. Perhaps, but, as for presence and intimacy with Jesus we are not left out. Today, when you approach this altar to receive Holy Communion, there in your hand you are holding Jesus, with the same intimacy as were the people of that first Christmas day. In his real and true presence in the Eucharist, we behold our God, face to face.

While gathering together these reflections for this Christmas message I came across this Christmas song composed by Francesca Battistelli, a contemporary Christian song-writer and singer. The title of the song is, You’re Here. Bellow is a video of her performing her song.


Monday, 19 December 2016

Advent Annunciations



The Angel's Voice of Advent

During these Advent days, we have heard the voices of the prophets proclaiming to us God's plan to come and save us. As we meditated on the prophets' words, we sought to make them personal; to hear how we should now be looking to our own future, to discover what plans the Lord has for us.

Now, in these final days of Advent, it is the angel's voice that we hear, foretelling God's plan. We may not have had the experience of an angel's visit, standing before us, telling us of God's plan, yet deep within a voice may be heard, announcing God has some personal for us to accomplish.

Listen again to the angel's voice, then listen again, deep within your own heart, for the message that is for you to hear.
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
  • From what sins have I been saved?
  • From what sins am I yet to know salvation?
 * * *
“Though you are barren and have had no children,
yet you will conceive and bear a son.
Now, then, be careful to take no wine or strong drink
and to eat nothing unclean.
As for the son you will conceive and bear,
no razor shall touch his head,
for this boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb.
It is he who will begin the deliverance of Israel
from the power of the Philistines.”
  • How well I know my many limitations - my many plans that came up empty. 
  • Have I considered that a lowly messenger can be the bearer of a great message when God sends them?
 * * *
 “Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
  • "Do not be afraid" - easy to say, so impossible to be. What voices of fear speak loudest in my heart - telling me to take my place and not expect? 
  • Can I learn that it is not I but Christ who lives in me who has the powers necessary to do what is asked of me?
 For nothing will be impossible for God.”
  • Yes Lord, I am willing to accept, to be your servant and instrument. May all you ask of me be done according to your word.”

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Advent IV - Joseph and the Angel

+ The birth of Jesus the Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.

But just when he had resolved to do this, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the Prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the Angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife. (Matthew 1.18-24)


Having some background into the marriage practices of the Jewish people at the time of Jesus birth helps us understand the dynamics of today's gospel text.

Marriage had a few stages to it. The first stage was betrothal. A contract was drawn up, effectively making the woman the legal wife of the man. The next stage was a waiting period of several months, when the bride remained with her family. The couple did not come together as man and wife during this period. This time of abstinence was to ensure that she was truly a virgin, thus ensuring that any children born of this union were fathered by the husband. If pregnancy was discovered during this waiting period, it would mean that the wife had been unfaithful, the conceived child was not the husband’s. The betrothed wife would immediately be divorced and could be severally punished, even by stoning.

Whether Mary tried to explain to Joseph how she came to be pregnant is not revealed in the text, but it does tell us that Joseph did not want Mary to be publicly shamed or put at risk of punishment. Perhaps he was deeply conflicted; on the one hand trying to believe what Mary told him, but on the other hand, who ever heard of virgin conception? (But wait – did not the prophet Isaiah foretell this very reality?)

The text does tell us that an angel of God comes to Joseph to confirm that if God has so ordained it to be, a virgin shall conceive and that Mary is that true virgin, who has conceived a son by God’s design, and that she is the one foretold by the prophet.

The gospel for tomorrow, Monday, tells us of John the Baptist’s father, Zachariah experiencing a similar encounter with the angel, announcing to Zachariah that he and his wife, even in their advanced years will conceive a son; that this child will have an important role to play in the plan of God. In the gospel for this Tuesday’s liturgy, Luke will give us Mary’s side of this beautiful story.

These stories are not meant to be just pious stories to fill the Christmas imagination. They are serious stories, and their retelling has important lessons meant for us to ponder – to gain wisdom for our own story and relationship with God.

Here is one lesson we can start with as we take to prayer and reflection these scriptures. Nothing is impossible for God. Do not fear life’s events, no matter how confusing and challenging they may be. Rather, seek to discover and understand what is God’s plan for you as things unfold.

The O Antiphons begin today, the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Click on the picture for more information.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Advent III Gaudete Sunday

Gaudete Sunday

The Third Sunday of advent is transitionally referred to as “Gaudete Sunday”. The name comes from the first word spoken in the liturgy for this day, in the Entrance Antiphon: (Gaudete in Latin): Rejoice in the Lord always: again, I say rejoice. The Lord is near.

There is a similar theme that recurs in Lent, in the fourth Sunday of Lent, traditionally called “Laetare Sunday” again taken from the first word of the entrance antiphon: (Laetare in Latin) Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation.

The first words of the third Sunday of Advent are the words of St. Paul found in the fourth chapter of the Letter to the Philippians, vs. 4-5.

So why Gaudete, why Rejoice? The answer begins in the First Reading, with the words of the prophet Isaiah: Isaiah 35:1-6 (The Return of the Redeemed to Zion)
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,the desert shall rejoice and blossom;like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,and rejoice with joy and singing.The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.They shall see the glory of the Lord,the majesty of our God.Strengthen the weak hands,and make firm the feeble knees.Say to those who are of a fearful heart,“Be strong, do not fear!Here is your God.He will come with vengeance,with terrible recompense.He will come and save you.”Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,and the ears of the deaf unstopped;then the lame shall leap like a deer,and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,and come to Zion with singing;everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;they shall obtain joy and gladness,and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Israel has been conquered and its people have been living in exile for many years. But now the prophet Isaiah is telling the people that soon their exile will come to an end, and they will be returning to their homeland. The condition of their hearts and their hope has been like the wasteland of a desert; God had abandoned and forgotten them, so they thought, all hope is dead. But now, what is this they hear, their God is coming to save them.

Believers of every generation, at various times, have found their hearts and hope shattered; believing they have been abandoned by God, left alone with no hope. So, the Church returns each year at Advent, to address this ancient problem, the problem of evil, to gather all who are wounded, to hear once again these words of truth and healing and restoration: “Rejoice, the Lord is near!”

 You will notice that all the serious Christmas stories that we read all have this same theme running through them. In the darkest night, when all seems lost, hope is restored.

The true spirit of Advent has a penitential character to it, where we examine our lives to root out our own causes for our downfalls and miseries. Then, the candle of the Advent Wreath, lighted on this day, the third Sunday of Advent, rose colored, with the name “Joy”, raises up our spirits at the prospect of the new coming of mercy into our lives.

In many ways, our popular culture, with its commercializing of Christmas has interfered with the real spirit of Advent with its rich and beautiful spirituality.

So where does this Gaudete Sunday find you? Are one who is carrying heavy burdens – be they burdens brought on by your own faults and failures, or has human frailty and the faults of other beset you? If so, the grace offered on this Sunday is meant for you.  

The Grace of Gaudete Sunday is the grace of a clear sense of Presence. I am not alone, the Lord is here, with me now. The Lord comes bearing gifts, the gift is the gift of Hope. What ever the details of my deliverance are to be, will be revealed in the days to come. But first, a broken heart must be healed and given the eyes of hopefulness with which to see - to begin to see how the Lord's plan is to unfold. For me, now, it is to turn my face eastward, to look forward in hope for His coming.

Hear again these words of the prophet:

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The "O Antiphons"

The Roman Church has been singing the "O" Antiphons since at least the eighth century. They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from December 17-23. They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the imperative "Come!" embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah. (USCCB.ORG)

O Antiphons
December 17
O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!

December 18
O Leader of the House of Israel,
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power!

December 19
O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!

December 20
O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!

December 21
O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the
shadow of death.

December 22
O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:
come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!

December 23
O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!

There are many ways one might employ the O Antiphons in there prayer time during Advent. The following are some links:

The "Veni, veni Emmanuel!" = "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel", with its five verses, dating back to the 12th century, takes its inspiration from the O Antiphons. Here is a link to a rendering of that hymn on You Tube.

Here is a link to a document with full scripture text for each O Antiphon
O Antiphons Scripture Sources - LINK

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Advent II - A Time of Preparation

Time To Listen & Hear

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

"Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

"He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."

"His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Mtt. 3:1-12

A Voice ... crying out ... in the wilderness ... Advent is such a precious time that is so often missed entirely. In these four weeks, our popular culture is busy getting into the Christmas spirit. All around us is filled with the sounds of Christmas. The "wilderness" of today is the market place filled with people - unable to hear that voice of Advent calling out. A wilderness is a place of space; a space to pray, to listen, to hear.

Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight ... Everyone has a path marked out for their life. But do I know where it is taking me? Is it leading me ever deeper into the mystery of union with God? Or, has my path added many new side paths - involvements that increasingly leave little room for things spiritual? Is my chosen path leading me away from god's presence?

Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees ... And what shall my response be ... this is a time to take an axe to the dead wood in our lives. These are days of discernment. What in my life is bearing fruit and what is taking up space and waisting my precious gift of time? 

Once again I would like to recommend the Ignatian Prayer of Discernment here; as well as some of their other resources for Advent.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Advent Wreath

One of the symbols associated with Advent is the Advent Wreath. There are various traditions that describe its meaning and use. In the midst of all the Christmas decoration, having an Advent Wreath in the home helps keep us in touch with the spirituality of Advent. This in turn will prepare us to connect to the rich spiritual meaning of Christmas. Here is a sample of some of the ways you might use an Advent Wreath as part of your Advent prayer.

             Advent Wreath Candles

Set on the branches of the wreath are four candles: three purple candles and one pink candle. In the center of the wreath sits a white candle. As a whole, these candles represent the coming of the light of Christ into the world. Each week on Sunday, an additional candle is lit

On the First Sunday of Advent, the first purple candle is lit. This candle is typically called the "Prophecy Candle" in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. This candle represents hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah.

On the Second Sunday of Advent, the second purple candle is lit. This candle typically represents love. Some traditions call this the "Bethlehem Candle," symbolizing Christ's manger.

On the Third Sunday of Advent the pink, or rose-colored candle is lit. This pink candle is customarily called the "Shepherds Candle" and it represents joy.

The fourth and last purple candle, oftentimes called the "Angels Candle," represents peace and is lit on the Fourth Sunday of Advent.

On Christmas Eve, the white center candle is traditionally lit. This candle is called the "Christ Candle" and represents the life of Christ that has come into the world. The color white represents purity. Christ is the sinless, spotless, pure Savior. Also, those who receive Christ as Savior are washed of their sins and made whiter than snow.

First Week
All-powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God, forever and ever.

Second Week
God of power and mercy open our hearts in welcome. Remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy so that we may share his wisdom and become one with him when he comes in glory, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

Third Week
Lord God, may we, your people, who look forward to the birthday of Christ experience the joy of salvation and celebrate that feast with love and thanksgiving. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Fourth Week
Father, all-powerful God, your eternal Word took flesh on our earth when the Virgin Mary placed her life at the service of your plan. Lift our minds in watchful hope to hear the voice which announces his glory and open our minds to receive the Spirit who prepares us for his coming. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

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