CHILDREN: Models Of How To Enter The Kingdom, by Xavier Léon-Dufour

From To Act According to the Gospel

Even though Jesus blessed the little children, he did not thereby affirm that the reign of God belonged to them.  Nevertheless, he held them up to his disciples as living models for them to imitate.  In what sense?

Most readers of the gospels continue to follow the traditional interpretation, which the scholarly consensus also reflects: children are obedient and trusting, they provide an example of availability and are to be admired for their simplicity, innocence, and even humility.  But the Biblical perspective is quite different: children are a sign of divine blessing and must be exposed to the realities of the faith, first by their parents and then by their teachers until they reach the age of religious majority (twelve years old for girls, thirteen years old for boys), which is to be celebrated by a bat or bar mitzvah in keeping with the law, because they represent the future of the chosen people.  While they are never cited for their innocence, they are afflicted like everyone else with the common failing: they are without understanding.

In the eyes of Jesus, children are significant, not because of their innocence, nor because of their humility, and not even as an anticipation of Israel’s hoped-for future, but because of their capacity to welcome.  Jesus received little children, unlike his disciples, who tried to turn them away:

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them.  But then Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs.  Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”  And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)

Jesus took in his arms and blessed those who had no privileges according to the law, no doubt because they were so disposed to welcome others.  This disposition makes children a model of the behavior Jesus expects of everyone.

The idea of “welcoming the reign” implies a personal response that connects the one who welcomes with the one who gives.  Early Christianity freely used similar formulas.  The verb “welcome” describes our roles: not to do something to seize the reign, but to become disposed to receive it as a gift.  Welcoming the reign of God is analogous to the relationship between grace and free will.  In any good deed, everything is of God, and everything is of humanity.  It is not possible to distinguish which parts of the action belong to each of them.  However, we can recognize their separate roles: the gift and the grace are God’s part; our part is to welcome.

So Jesus invites us to welcome the reign of God, and another saying of his permits us to specify of what this welcome consists.  The saying is transmitted by two traditions that are probably mutually independent.  According to Mark, we must imitate children who welcome, but according to Matthew, we must also “change and become like them.”

Truly I tell you,
whoever does not receive the
kingdom of God as a little child
will never enter it. (Mark 10:15)
Truly I tell you,
unless you change
and become like children
you will never enter
the kingdom of Heaven.
Whoever becomes humble
like this child is the greatest in the
Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 18:3-4)

Matthew, in his version of verse 3, adds the idea that change is a condition of entering the Kingdom of God.  In verse 4 he gives an explanation: one must “humble oneself” (tapeinōsei) to the level of a child.  Jesus requires his disciples to make an effort at “turnaround,” which here is probably not the equivalent of a “conversion,” but simply an invitation to present themselves as children would, without pretension.  But does this mean that disciples must renounce their capacity as adults, or simply that they must not put on airs?

For Matthew as for Mark, the disciple of Jesus must act “like a little child” in order to be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  But Matthew makes the requirement for kingdom entrance stricter: it is not enough to think of ourselves as imitating the actions of children; we need to “change and become like little children.”  The requirement is strict because the child whom we are to emulate has no rights, except that of being loved.


let-the-little-children-come-unto-me

CHILDREN: Let The Children Come To Me, by A. James Murphy

From Kids and Kingdom

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to him belong. They are weak, but he is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me.
The Bible tells me so.


This Christian hymn is learned by countless children every year.  It underscores Jesus’s concern and commitment for children in the vulnerability of youth.  The theme central to this hymn probably stems, in large part, from the widely familiar Biblical refrain, Let the young children come to me.  This verse has been used to justify infant baptism and communion for young children, Sunday-school programs, children and youth ministries, mission trips, and Christian relief agencies that specifically target children abroad, as well as the simple practice of bedtime prayers.  Some of these have only emerged in recent centuries as the Industrial Age began to alter the place and functions of children in modern western culture.  Corresponding to these social changes, children and childhood have seemingly become more important in our society, and have gained significant legal protections.  And yet, their prominence in the gospels has only recently received noteworthy consideration, perhaps as an inevitable result of such changes.

Furthermore, like the hymn above, modern theologians and Christian writers who reflect on children, faith, and community usually reinforce our belief, perhaps our need to believe, that God is good and just, and is especially so where the concerns of children in all their vulnerability lie.  Much of this belief is constructed by reading children into the creation account of Genesis 1, where God calls everything “good.”  For example, David Jensen has written that as creator God’s benevolent justice extends to “all children, regardless of heritage.”  Marianne Thompson explains that, Because they are created by God they have status, dignity, and inestimable value.  Certainly from Torah, God’s concern about, and legal recognition of children, at least Jewish boys, is signified by circumcision, a mark symbolizing their covenant relationship with Israel’s God, including the “youngest in the fold, even those young (such as slave children) who might be considered ‘outsiders.'”  Still, most theologians who write on children, like Thompson, express the universality of divine concern: God is the giver of all life and the law of God protects those to whom God has given life.  However, such sweepingly positive assessments gloss over texts such as the flood narrative and passages of the conquest of Canaan, where Israel’s God sentences to death untold children under circumstances not of their own making.  Nevertheless, with such positive assessments of the deity’s concern for children, it should come as no surprise that Christian writers find the same level of concern for children in Jesus.  And where the Jesus of history appears thus concerned in the Synoptic Gospels, even more so the post-resurrection Jesus of faith, petitioned as God throughout the Christian world for protection and sustenance.

As I write these words, my one-year-old daughter studies me from her high chair; my eight-year-old stand proudly next to me in our picture from last year’s father-daughter dance.  From these faces I recall how God-like my own parents once seemed to me at a tender age.  Caregivers such as parents or guardians feed and clothe us; they can seem omnipresent in our early lives.  They can mete out God-like punishments that in pre-adolescent years seem unchallengeable.  And they provide a sense of unrivaled security, and may even be called upon to display such protection before their child’s eyes.  A faith is developed within the child, a faith in the God-like provisions of her caregivers.

So what then becomes of such faith when the God fails?  How does the child’s perception of his or her father (or Father) change when protection is suddenly needed and is not forthcoming?  Maybe the father or mother is absent, or perhaps is the perpetrator of some act against the child.  Of course we mortal caregivers are not gods, and some time ago, usually in our adolescence, we learned that neither were our own caregivers.

Fortunately for many, the Hebrew Bible makes it pretty clear that the God of Israel is not human, and the New Testament points toward the divinity of Jesus as his son.  Furthermore, a number of scholars claim that Christianity has been directly responsible for positive steps in the concern for and treatment of children throughout history.

Still, what happens within a child when her faith, and the God of her faith, fails to protect and provide against all that threatens?  Matthew says the risen Christ promised his followers (usually taken implicitly to include Christians today), And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.  Yet, where is God for the untold numbers of children of every generation suffering abuse or neglect?  Where is Jesus for the thousands of victims of sexual abuse by priests, church leaders, and laypersons, which has scandalized the modern church?  Lest anyone think this is merely a Roman Catholic problem, how absent the deity must have seemed for the Pentecostal boy I knew as a child that was fondled by an older member of our church.  Sexual abuse knows no denominational boundaries.  If the Synoptic authors felt it so important to show Jesus’s concern for children that he embraces them and wants them near to him, at what point does his concern languish?  Is not at least one possible interpretation by one of “these little ones,” represented in this paragraph, that he or she has been abandoned by Jesus?  Do the Synoptic authors only present Jesus as a “friend of little children,” or might they unwillingly reveal traces of a lesser god, the potential for an interpretation most “believers” would find impossible, sacrilegious, or objectionable?

The inclusion of non-adult children in the kingdom of God presented in the Synoptic narratives is tempered by images of household disruption and alienation of children as a consequence of Jesus’s eschatological gathering of followers depicted in these three gospels.  In fact, the Synoptic authors offer a more troubling – even vexing – vision with respect to young children, where concern for them (and other marginalized peoples) is embedded in narratives whose elements (themes, plot, sayings), when more closely scrutinized, signal enormous potential for the detachment of bonds between children and caregivers.


crying-child

PRAYER: Seven Things To Pray For Your Children, by Jon Bloom

From Desiring God

Some years back a good friend shared with me seven scripture texts that he and his wife prayed for their two daughters from the time they were infants. The girls are now grown. And it’s beautiful to see how God has (and still is) answering the faithful, specific prayers of faith-filled parents in the lives of these young, godly women.

I have frequently used these prayers when praying for my children, too; and I commend them to you.

But, of course, prayers are not magic spells. It’s not a matter of just saying the right things and our children will be blessed with success.

Some parents earnestly pray and their children become a gifted leaders or scholars or musicians or athletes. Others earnestly pray and their children develop a serious disability or disease or wander through a prodigal wilderness or just struggle more than others socially or academically or athletically. And the truth is, God is answering all these parents’ prayers, but for very different purposes.

That’s why scriptures like John 9:1–3 are in the Bible. We must not too quickly assess God’s purposes because they can be opposite of our perceptions. God measures success differently than we do, which is why he often answers our prayers in ways we don’t expect.

So pray for your children. Jesus promises us that if we ask, seek, and knock the Father will give us good in return, even if the good isn’t apparent for 40 years. And because Jesus regularly asked those who came to him, What do you want me to do for you?, we know that he wants us to be specific with our requests.

So, here are seven helpful, specific things to pray for your children:

One: That Jesus will call them and no one will hinder them from coming.

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of Heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. (Matthew 19:13–15)

Two. That they will respond in faith to Jesus’s faithful, persistent call.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Three. That they will experience sanctification through the transforming work of the
Holy Spirit and will increasingly desire to fulfill the greatest commandments.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

Four. That they will not be unequally yoked in intimate relationships, especially marriage.

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)

Five. That their thoughts will be pure.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

Six. That their hearts will be stirred to give generously to the Lord’s work.

All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord. (Exodus 35:29)

Seven. That when the time is right, they will GO!

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)


SPIRITUAL WARFARE: A Rant

I am angry.  Very angry.

Well, at least I was.

I came to a boil when I read the words that generally said in an article on deliverance that fighting Satan is no harder than taking out the garbage.

That it’s merely something you might not want to do, but it’s your responsibility, so go for it.

Oh, and there’s nothing to be afraid of.  Because you know, Jesus something or other.

The man who was nailed to a cross to bleed to death because of evil has your back.

You know.

So forget about it.

On the evening of the day that I read this – I won’t stoop to calling it nonsense – I heard the same statement made in a lecture.

It must be in the air.

Nothing frightening about Satan.  Oh, no.  He’s a peach.  A pesky peach.  But a peach, nevertheless.

And earlier in the day, at a Bible discussion class, I sat gobsmacked at the assertion that if you asked the average person on the street, they would say that Satan had free will.

A bag of trash with free will.

This is the best our church can do with this subject?

(I’m very proud of myself for limiting myself to only one question mark.)

Concerning the matter of evil having free will I asked, if it is free, is it free to commit good deeds for the sake of goodness?

I didn’t hear anyone say, YES!

They tried, I’ll admit.  But then came the, Satan would only do something good so that he could do something evil to you when you fell for it.

That’s free will?

That’s nothing to be frightened about?

My noon intercessory prayer is dedicated to the work of the International Justice Mission.  They do things like save children from slavery – of all kinds – and restore land to widows who had it snatched from them illegally.  Things like that.  Social action with real meaning and even more real results.

For a while, I prayed on a different issue every day.  But that was very inefficient.  I found myself going into shock about a matter; then the next day, going into shock about another matter; and so on.  It was quite a disruptive process for the middle of every day.

The way I pray these prayers – although I should admit that these prayers and really visions of the most intense nature – is an unusual way for me.  I listen to the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy sung while I close my eyes, and let the roller coasters of these prayers have their way with me.

I’m not an amusement park fan, and I really don’t like roller coasters, though I’ve been on them.  I have children, after all.  It’s one of those things that mothers do, like pushing a stroller up the hill at the National Zoo, because I WANT TO SEE THE PRAIRIE DOGS.

And these prayers are hard.  They are especially hard because the individual prayers are hard on their own, and then they just get strung out, over and over and over and over.

One after the other.

Day after day.

I found myself one day at the feet of God, on my knees, asking him, Please tell me what I can do.

And almost immediately the nature of my visions changed.

They became even stranger.

They had started out strange, but in the early ones I was just an observer of the strangeness.

After I made my petition to God, I became part of the strangeness.  An actor in the action.  A participant.

I immediately changed my process and prayed the same issue for an entire week.  Or even longer.

And that helped.

A lot.

The prayers became like stories that I not only prayed, but watched agog at it all.  Things rose up, were addressed, were resolved.

Ish.

So I will tell you about one of these journeys.

Sex trafficking is a recurring subject.  It’s here in Guatemala.  It’s over there in Belize.

Or wherever.

But an especially loud scream went up for what was happening in the Philippines.

Normally, the missionaries would seek out women and children who were kidnapped and forced to work at brothels.  There was a physical place where men would go.  It could be identified.  It could be penetrated.

But in the Philippines the focus had shifted and many, many sex traffickers were stealing children and broadcasting their sexual abuse of them over the internet.

A very fast growing industry.

So I appealed to God before I “went in” to let me focus on the men.  Not the children this time.  I wanted to see what I could do about the criminals.

Well, I prayed my noon prayers.  I took off my glasses.  I set the chaplet going.  And I sat back.

I just settle in as I listen to the opening prayers.  The Lord’s Prayer.  The Creed.  While I hear the spoken words, I just whisper the name of the location to myself.

And then the music begins.

Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

And I was off.

I landed in a dark street with many alleyways going off of it.  I remember all the stairs leading up into houses.  Not a few steps.  Long stairways.  And it was dark.  A few low streetlights.  It was damp.

I chose a staircase and sat down on one of the steps.

And they came.

They roamed the streets.  They were comfortable with each other.  Busy with their business.

They were in the form of wolves.

The first night I just sat there frozen in fear.  They didn’t detect me.  They were too focused on what they were about.

The second night I stayed standing in the street.  It took a while, but eventually they noticed me.  And they didn’t like what they saw.  So they came up to me.  Individually.  Slowly.  First one.  Then another.  Then another.

Snarling.

A gang formed around me.

I was relieved that I didn’t urinate on myself.  In reality.

That’s how frightening it was.

My heart pounded.  I shook.

It was not a pleasant experience.

My discipline through that vision was to look up, over their heads.  To focus on a point on the horizon that I only pretended existed.

If I looked down and into their eyes, saw their teeth, I think I would have cried.

In reality.

And this was only a vision.

Not reality.  Not where Satan is supposedly just something like an inanimate object that you have to move.

The next night I tried again.  This time as they crowded around me, they must have determined that I was not a threat to them.  I had nothing in my hands, after all.  And I stood very, very still.  Which took work.  Even for a vision.  The focus I had to maintain was exhausting.

As the prayers went on I became able to move about.  At first only a few steps.  Then more and more until I was able to walk about, not exactly with them, but through them.  Through their paths that they were on.

There was no contact between us.

Finally, I came with a canvas feed bag hanging from me.  Inside the bag were small dog biscuits.  And I began to toss them to the wolves.  They didn’t seem to mind.  They caught them, or found the ones that had landed on the street.

And that was the vision.  Which last for about a half hour.

Toward the end, the biscuits seemed to have an effect on them.  Their pacing became slower.  They started to lie down, right there in the street.

They seemed like dogs in front of the fire after a hard day’s work.

Peaceful.

Peaceful?

So the next night I asked God, What were in those biscuits.

And he answered.

The body and blood of Jesus Christ.

So during that vision I had to unscramble my experience and try to understand how consuming the body and blood of Jesus could tame wild beasts.

Dangerous beasts.

Devouring beasts.

We associate that act with a sacrament.  A special act done in holy places, and done by holy men.

Given to people who prayed every day to become holy themselves.

Not to wolves.

Tossed at them by me in the dark and the damp, in the street.

Falling into their mouths.

Falling on the ground.

It felt obscene.

So I asked.

These “biscuits” – what they are made of – are meant to heal us internally.  To calm the waves of evil that can rise up in us.

Still the waters, as it were.

Which struck me as funny.

Some Christian churches don’t believe in this sacrament.

Some demand that you be a baptized member of a church to be “allowed” to receive it.

Another church has even tighter restrictions than that.

But this is not about that.

This is about garbage bags.  And fear.  And free will.

And forgiveness.

What I saw was not forgiveness.

It was grace.

God’s grace.

The direct result of the sacrifice God made.

The sacrifice of his son.

And the very, very real nature of evil.

If fighting Satan is no more difficult that performing a daily chore, then why is there so much sex trafficking in the world?

I don’t see evil diminishing in our culture, our country, our world.

And just that frightens me to my bones.

And facing it, fighting it, does not strike me as something I can do while whistling a tune and thinking about what to make for dinner.

If we don’t respect evil for what it is – in its fullness, or what it can do to us, how can we appreciate the Passion of Christ?

What he really did for us?

Which is not to provide us just with something pretty to watch and be part of, but to save the world.

Literally.

Amen.


wolf

POETRY: First Forgive The Silence, by Mark Jarman

First forgive the silence
That answers prayer,
Then forgive the prayer
That stains the silence.

Excuse the absence
That feels like presence,
Then excuse the feeling
That insists on presence.

Pardon the delay
Of revelation,
Then ask pardon for revealing
Your impatience.

Forgive God
For being only a word,
Then ask God to forgive
The betrayal of language.


silence

ABORTION: A Dangerous Reflection On The Feast Of The Holy Innocents, by Charles Pope

From The Archdiocese of Washington 

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents, all those young boys in and around Bethlehem, two and under, whom Herod had massacred in order to kill Jesus Christ. We do not know their number or their names, but the church lists them as among her martyrs. Some have disputed that they should be called martyrs since they did not submit freely for the sake of Christ but were “merely victims” of Herod. Nevertheless, the church has long numbered them in her ranks of martyrs. Saint Augustine says of them:

And while Herod thus persecutes Christ, he furnished an army (or martyrs) clothed in white robes of the same age as the Lord. O blessed infants! He only will doubt of your crown in this your passion for Christ, who doubts that the baptism of Christ has a benefit for infants. He who at his birth had angels to proclaim him, the heavens to testify, and Magi to worship him, could surely have prevented that these should not have died for him, had he not known that they died not in that death, but rather lived in higher bliss. Far be the thought, that Christ who came to set men free, did nothing to reward those who died in his behalf, when hanging on the cross he prayed for those who put him to death.

Today we honor their sacrifice. And through our honoring of them, and worship of God, we seek to atone for the many sins against human life, beginning with abortion, and including other forms of murder, and euthanasia, disregard for the safety and dignity of others, mistreatment and indifference to the plight of others, and all other sins against life.

Where does human cruelty come from? Surely it grows in us by stages, for most of us are not born with murderous fear of others. It is “bequeathed” to us by others, and we grow it in our heart. Hatred, rooted in fear, is handed on down through the generations, and the murderous inherit a thinking that there are some who are not worthy of their respect and love. Perhaps they are a threat, perhaps their relatives did something in the past. Perhaps they may do something in the future. Herod was clearly a fearful man, so fearful that he was unmoved by the cries of wailing parents, or of suffering infants. His heart had grown cruel through repeated insensitivity inflicted on others, due to raging and irrational fear.

An old Latin hymn says, Crudelis Herodes, Deum Regem venire quid times? Non eripit mortalia, Qui regna dat caelestia (Cruel Herod what do you fear in the King and God to come? He seizes not Earthly things who gives Heavenly kingdoms). But in the end it IS his fear that drives him.

We know well that Holy Innocents continue to be killed in our world through abortion. And here too, it is most often fear that drives the killing. How will the baby be afforded?! What changes will this baby bring that I cannot take? Perhaps the prenatal tests show a possible defect. I cannot deal with this! What if my parents know that I am pregnant? How will this pregnancy affect my career?! What if my father finds out I got my girl-friend pregnant!? And society says, What of poverty? What of overpopulation? What of deformity? How can we collectively handle all this?

And thus fear drives the current bloodshed. Fear makes us focus on our self, such that we think too little of what we do to others. Abortion thus becomes an “abstraction,” an “issue” that is debated, a “choice.” Abortion, to many, is anything but real. The reality of fetal pain is out of sight and thus less real than the fear. What abortion is doing to our world, that too is less real than the fear. It is the fear that is real, and the fear eclipses everything else. And fear desensitizes, and thus the killing of the innocent becomes plausible, a woman’s “choice,” reproductive “freedom.”

The only solution to fear is trust, faith in God. God alone can set us free from the awful fears that currently drive abortion. We in the church must be realistic about the fears that many face before the mystery of new life and we must provide reasons for hope and trust. Fear is a cruel task-master and it drives us to do some pretty awful things.

One of the most common lines in the New Testament is “Do not be afraid.” Hope, trust, and faith are important to us on this feast of the Holy Innocents.

There is also this dangerous thought on this Holy Feast.

I’ll explain what I mean by “dangerous” in a moment. But for now consider some biblical facts with me.

  1. When God was drawing close to liberating his chosen people from slavery in Egypt there occurred the order to murder of the all the baby boys among the Hebrews. It is almost as though Satan sensed that God was up to something good, and Satan raged, through Pharaoh, in murderous anger driven by fear. Thankfully the actual numbers were reduced since the Egyptian midwives engaged in civil disobedience, refusing to allow the practice to continue.
  2. At the time of Jesus, when God was preparing to liberate his people from sin, there also occurred the murder of innocent baby boys. Here too, it is almost as though the Devil sensed that God was up to something good and, he once again raged, this time through Herod, in murderous anger driven by fear. Thankfully, too, this infanticide also ended at some point.
  3. Notice the pattern.When God prepared a great liberation, the Devil, raging in fear, went after the babies. In our time, on a scale as never before, the Devil is going after our babies in murderous anger driven by fear. What is he afraid of? Is God planning something big in the near future? Is there a great liberation at hand? Is there a great advancement of evangelization and conversion in the offing? We can only speculate. But patterns are patterns and scripture has a way of repeating its patterns and echoing down through the centuries.

Why is this a dangerous reflection? Because I want to make it clear that abortion, the killing of the innocents in our age, is NOT, and never can be, considered something good, or a “positive sign.” Such a speculation might cause some to wrongly conclude that abortion is part of God’s plan or something we should see “positively.” We should not. It must be fought. It is of Satan, it is rooted in fear.

End the Massacre And the Glory follows. I want to conclude by reminding you that the great liberation that followed the past infanticides did not occur until AFTER those murderous rages were stopped. Hence, to follow the pattern established in scripture, and to see a potentially great and liberating act of God, we must first see an end to the slaughter. Work and pray to end abortion. May the Holy Innocents pray for us!

I put the following video together to honor these young martyrs. The musical setting is by Michael Haydn of the hymn for the Feast of the Holy Innocents: Salvete Flores Martyrum – It is from his Vesperae In F for Equal Voices, Soli and Orchestra. The singers are the Collegium Instrumentale Brugense. This music is available at iTunes. The Latin text of this ancient hymn is quite beautiful. I produce here the Latin text followed by a fairly literal translation.

I would like to call your attention to the second verse and a very charming detail. That verse described these young, two year old martyrs as holding palm branches (the symbol of martyrdom) but as they hold them they play with them, in the way a young child will often fiddle with palm branches in church. Beautiful and so very human!

Salvete flores martyrum, – Hail Martyr Flowers
quos lucis ipso in limine – On the very threshold of the dawn (of life)
Christi insecutor sustulit – Christ’s persecutor destroyed (you)
ceu turbo nascentes rosas. – like the whirlwind does the budding roses.

Vos prima Christi victima, – You Christ’s first fruits
grex immolatorum tener, – A flock of tender sacrificial victims
aram sub ipsam simplices – right up by the very altar
palma et coronis luditis. – now play with your palms and crowns

Iesu, tibi sit gloria, – Jesus to you be glory
qui natus es de Virgine, – who were born of the Virgin
cum Patre et almo Spiritu, – with the Father and loving Spirit
in sempiterna saecula. Amen. – unto to eternal ages. Amen.


GOD: Heaven’s Encores, by G. K. Chesterton

From Orthodoxy

Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising.  His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life.  The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they feel some game or joke that they specially enjoy.  A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life.  Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged.  They always say, Do it again; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead.  For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.

But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.  It is possible that God says every morning, Do it again, to the sun; and every evening, Do it again, to the moon.  It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.  It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.  Heaven may encore the bird who laid an egg.  If the human being conceives and brings forth a human child instead of bringing forth a fish, or a bat, or a griffin, the reason may not be that we are fixed in an animal fate without life or purpose.  It may be that our little tragedy has touched the gods, that they admire it from their starry galleries, and that at the end of every human drama man is called again and again before the curtain.  Repetition may go on for millions of years, by mere choice, and at any instant it may stop.  Man may stand on the Earth generation after generation, and yet each birth be his positively last appearance.


encore

POETRY: Solace, by Dick Allen

Newtown, CT
December 2012

There are the fields we’ll walk across
In the snow lightly falling.
In the snow lightly falling,
There are the fields we’ll walk across.

There are the houses we’ll walk toward
In the snow lightly falling.
In the snow lightly falling,
There are the houses we’ll walk toward.

There are the faces we once kissed
In the snow lightly falling.
In the snow lightly falling,
There are the faces we once kissed.

Incredible how we laughed and cried
In the snow lightly falling.
In the snow lightly falling,
Incredible how we laughed and cried.

Incredible how we’ll meet again
In the snow lightly falling.
In the snow lightly falling,
Incredible how we’ll meet again.

No small hand will go unheld
In the snow lightly falling.
In the snow lightly falling,
No small hand will go unheld.

No voice once heard is ever lost
In the snow lightly falling.
In the snow lightly falling,
No voice once heard is ever lost.


snow-lightly-falling

POETRY: Childhood Stories, by Gražina Bielousova

I will never forget the story
I was never supposed to know—
Nor was my mom, who as a child
Overheard some distant relative of hers
After a couple shots of vodka
In a large family get-together brag
About his war-time heroic deeds
Of cleansing the country from the Jews;
“I’d take a kid and throw him up in the air
And shoot him. By the time
He hit the ground, he was already dead…”
I can see him grab the baby from the crib,
A helpless bundle, unsuspecting of such evil,
See him perform his act of murder
In the eyes of the screaming mother…

No, I will never forget the story
I heard as a child, long ago,
When my mom amidst her never-ending chores
Instead of fairy tales would talk to me
About life, the family and the war,
About her father, who in a Nazi train,
Bound to where no one had come back from,
By accident discovered a loose board
And before anyone had the wit
To realize what that could mean,
He pushed himself outside
And quickly hid under the train,
Firmly pressing his body against the rails…

Who knows how many horror seconds
He had to count before the dusk fell
On the station and he could steal away.

How could I ever forget the story
I heard by my grandmother told
About the times when during the war
Betrayed by her own cousin
She awoke one night with someone
Thumping on the door.
(And they almost started to believe
They had survived the worst!)
The overcrowded cattle wagons
With every turn over of heavy wheels
Crushed her dreams to study
And maybe one day to teach,
Her teenagerish romance—
Oh that blue eyed curly chap
With whom she loved to dance!—
Her very life that was worth nothing,
One among the agony of thousands others
Buried under the cover of Siberian snow.
She says it was so unimaginably cold
That even icicles hanging down
Their log cabin’s ceiling
Would never melt.

I will always remember the story
I heard about my grandpa told
How famished and frozen stiff
They, ragged soldiers, in the dead of winter,
Came across a good-hearted peasant
Who shared the best he had with them—
Jars of honey, honey dripping from aluminum spoons,
Luscious and sweet beyond what their tongues,
Unaccustomed to such luxury, could lick…
They gorged themselves on the amber sweet—
Who knows when someone else will offer anything to eat?—
Until all of them were poison-sick
With honey oozing from the pores of their skin,
And vomiting the precious treat…
Afterwards, I heard, my grandpa
Would not even touch the sweets.

I will never forget these stories—
How could I?
How could anyone even fall asleep,
When against the dark screen of night
All these stories come alive
And slowly flow before the eyes?
History does not ask names,
Preferences and point-of-views
And the most unlikely find themselves
Saying things and acting in ways
That otherwise they would have never dared.
But where, O God, in history do I look for you?
No one telling their stories
Gave you credit, nobody blamed.
I don’t know if in the midst of horror
They remembered how to pray.


praying-in-war

REFLECTION: The Flight Into Egypt, by Josemaria Escriva

From Friends of God

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.” (Matthew 2:13-15)


The charity of Mary brought about the birth of the faithful into the church, who are members of that head of which she is effectively the mother according to the flesh. Mary teaches us as a mother does, and, being a mother, she does so quietly. We need to have a sensitivity of soul, a touch of refinement, in order to understand what she is showing us, by what she does more than by what she promises.

She teaches us to have faith. Blessed art thou for thy believing, were the words of greeting uttered by her cousin Elizabeth when Our Lady went up into the hill country to visit her. Mary’s act of faith had been a wonderful one, Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word. When her son was born she contemplated the greatness of God on Earth: a choir of angels was present, and not only the shepherds, but also important men of this world came to adore the child. Afterwards, however, the Holy Family had to flee to Egypt, to escape Herod’s murderous intent. Then, silence; thirty long years of simple, ordinary life, just like that of any other home in a small village in Galilee.

In a few brief words, the Holy Gospel points the way for us to understand our Mother’s example: Mary treasured up all these sayings, and reflected on them in her heart. Let us try to imitate her, talking to our Lord, conversing like two people in love about everything that happens to us, even the most insignificant incidents. Nor should we forget that we have to weigh them, consider their value, and see them with the eyes of faith, in order to discover the will of God.

If our faith is weak, we should turn to Mary. Saint John tells us that it was because of the miracle at the marriage feast at Cana, which Christ performed at his mother’s request, that his disciples learned to believe in him. Our Mother is always interceding with her son so that he may attend to our needs and show himself to us in such a way that we can cry out, You are the Son of God.


flight-to-egypt-3

POETRY: The Flight Of The Holy Family, by Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff

The shadows have been ready, falling
Through cool evening air.
And from the cleft comes Joseph, striding
Across the hush of meadow. There,
Ahead, the trees.
He points the donkey toward them
And feels a lightly fanning breeze.
It’s from angels’ wings—
The child sees them in his dream.
Mary, gazing down at him in love and pain, sings
Silent cradle songs. The quiet has no seam.
Crisscrossing glowworms light her way,
Eager to show each step and stay;
Sweet shudders bend the grasses—
They stroke her cloak’s hem as she passes;
The brooklet ceases its chatter,
The forest whispers scatter
That they might not betray the flight.
The child raised his hand,
And for their kindness on this night,
He blessed the silent land,
So that the Earth, each flower and tree,
From then on to eternity
Must dream of Heaven each night.
O happy time and bright!


flight-into-egypt-2

JESUS: Baptism Of The Lord—A Tale Of Intimacy, by Kathleen Norris

From The Cloister Walk

True intimacy is frightening, and I was well into my marriage before I realized that I either had to seek it or live a lie.  Intimacy is what makes a marriage, not a ceremony, not a piece of paper from the state.  I have shared great intimacy with several people; my friend dying of cancer for whom I would hold (and later clean) the bowls in which she frequently had to vomit; the monk homosexual and resolutely celibate, with whom I’ve shared the deepest confidences.  But it is only with my husband that I feel the mystery Saint Paul speaks of in Ephesians, our lives so intertwined that they feel like “one flesh.”

I had forgotten how much marriage imagery there is in this feast that ends the Christmas season.  On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, I read last night in my breviary.  Cana again in the morning hymn, and Here is my beloved, at morning prayer, and again at Mass.  But why, at the end of Mass, a song about a wedding garment?  Is baptism a kind of marriage?  Why, to celebrate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, hymn verses that echo the Song of Songs, the lover knocking on a door that is locked against him, and the night?

It brings a flood of memories that exhaust me.  For years I hated weddings.  I used to think it was simply a cultural prejudice against a ceremony that seemed only to celebrate sentiment and money, the barbaric custom of “giving away” a woman, as if she were not a person but property.  But it ran much deeper, a fear of giving myself to anyone.  And then, one night, when my husband had hidden himself away, and was found by a gentle policeman (who later told me, M’am, your husband was so depressedI never saw a man so depressed as that), I read myself to sleep with the Song of Songs and found us there, the beloved knocking, calling, Open to me, my sister, my love, and my own delayed response, the selfish thought, in the face of love – I had put off my garment, how could I put it on again?  I had bathed my feet; how could I soil them?  The comic scurrying, my bad timing: I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned and was gone.

That night I discovered, in the “Song,” a religious dimension to something I’d never fully understood.  When I found him whom my soul loves, I held him and would not let him go, until I brought him to my mother’s house, into the chamber of her that conceived me.  I had, in fact, brought my husband from New York City to my grandmother’s house in South Dakota, the house where my mother was born, and now I wondered if this had been an attempt to build a marriage, to free us from the distractions of the city so that we could get to know each other.  Maybe love needs space around it, and time.  Is love fostered by time as much as it needs and fosters intimacy?

Yes, I am married, but do I know how to love?  Has my heart been shut for so long?  I look up that passage in Paul.  The two will become one flesh, he says, but only after sputtering on for a good long while, trying to make explicit the comparison between marriage and Christ’s love for the church.  Finally, he gives up; I hear exasperation as well as wonder in his voice when he says, This is a great mystery.  I read the end of Ephesians 5 as an example of what happens when you discover a metaphor so elusive you know it must be true.  As you elaborate, and try to explain, you begin to stumble over words and their meanings.  The literal takes hold, the unity and the beauty flee.  Finally you have to say, I don’t know what it means; here it is.

A mystery indeed, elusive as prayer.  For years I had chosen relationships that seemed safe, because I was choosing; in fact, I had chosen them because they didn’t require commitment.  It’s hard to change old ways, to let myself be chosen, blessed by love, as if anointed.  I don’t know what it means, but after my husband had been missing for three days and I found him in the emergency room, I did not know him.  Depression had turned him inside out; he looked as ravaged as the corpus on the crucifix on the wall behind him.  (I’m afraid all the time, is what he told me, a few days later, when he could speak.)

Of course, it was a Catholic hospital, Benedictine; one of our best friends, a young monk, had just become a chaplain there.  Here it is, a mystery: I carry with me still the photograph of the three of us taken the summer before.  My husband, our friend (who had just been ordained), and me.  David had left, but I went to find him and brought him back.  The three of us smiling, in the abbey courtyard.  And that night, in the wine cellar, when the celebrating was done, I helped Father Robert wash glasses.  He’s an older monk whom I had yanked out of semi-retirement to help me become an oblate, and wine tasting and washing up in his cellar were part of the deal.  I’d been an oblate for a little more than a year and felt as lost as ever.  Prayers were a torment, but what I knew I needed to do.  My life was a hurricane, and our marriage, confused as it was, the calm at the center.  You are entering the deep, uncharted waters, is what he said to me.


monks

PRAYER: Prayer For The Feast Of The Baptism Of The Lord

Author unknown

Open the heavens, Almighty Father,
and pour out your Spirit upon your people.

Renew the power of our Baptismal cleansing,
and fill us with zeal for good deeds.

Let us hear your voice once again,
that we may recognize in your beloved son
our hope in inheriting eternal life.

Grant this through Jesus Christ,
your Word made flesh,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
in the splendor of eternal light,
God, forever and ever.

Amen.


baptism-of-our-lord

SERMON: The First Sunday after the Epiphany, by David Curry

Be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.
(Romans 12:2)


The twelve days of Christmas end with the Feast of Epiphany, the last and great festival of Christmas. Epiphany is, as it were, the Christmas of the Gentiles, for in the journey of the Magi-Kings, the birth of Christ is made known to all the nations of the world. As a 17th century Anglican divine, Bishop John Cosin of Durham puts it: Christmas has been indeed a feast of joy to us all this while but our fullness of joy comes not until now, for the Angelic tidings of joy came first to the shepherds, to Israel, to those near at hand, but upon this feast it is omni populo (to all people), news which the star brought to all the world, and to us too, that now salvation was come unto the Gentiles. Joy increases to fullness of joy and light blazes forth into fullness of light.

Epiphany means more than just the ending blaze of Christmas, however. It also inaugurates a season of teaching, the season of Epiphany.

The word Epiphany means manifestation or shining forth, and refers to the manifestation of God’s glory in the Incarnate Son of God, Jesus. Epiphany raises our minds from the paradise of Bethlehem to the Heaven of Jerusalem. In a way, we move from meditating upon “His coming in the flesh that was God” to “His being God that was come in the flesh”; in short, “to turn ourselves from his humanity below to his divinity above” (Cosin). For that reason, too, the Epiphany season abounds with the stories of the miracles of Jesus, told, however, as teachings about the divinity of Christ, the very thing which grounds all worship.

The manifestation of the divinity of Christ is Epiphany’s theme. In the words and deeds of Christ, God is revealed and revealed in ways which open out to us the true nature of God. What is made manifest is not something arbitrary, tyrannous, and willful. No. Epiphany in every way is pregnant with purpose, the purpose of God. Epiphany celebrates in Saint Paul’s words, the making known of “the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Thus, the First Sunday after the Epiphany signals the manifestation of Christ as the Wisdom of God, the epiphany of the divine wisdom, the true source of all teaching and every learning.

Education is often about the discovery of things which were previously hidden from our view. Here, in the only Gospel story that treats the boyhood of Christ, Jesus is found in the temple at Jerusalem, “sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions.” The initial picture is Jesus as the student but “all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.” Jesus the exemplary student is also Jesus the Teacher among the teachers.

These teachers have the humility to be astonished, to be amazed and full of wonder. As Jesus will say to an anxious Mary and Joseph who had sought him,” as Mary said, sorrowing, so, too, he says to us “wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” Which only heightens the wonder.

It is a curious phrase and one which is variously rendered as being about my Father’s business or in my Father’s house, in any event, underscoring the connection between the boy Jesus and the Heavenly Father in the place of teaching, the temple at Jerusalem. It suggests something of God’s will and purpose for us.

Epiphany makes known to us the twofold purpose of the coming of Christ. He comes to reveal divinity and to redeem humanity. He is the eternal Word made flesh, true God and true Man, as Orthodox Christianity rightly and firmly insists. As Athanasius, the Father of Orthodoxy says, Without forsaking what he was, namely God, he became what He was not, namely man. Divine wisdom is fully present at every stage in the true course of his real humanity, the unchanging in the midst of the changing, from the unspeaking babe in Bethlehem to the agonizing words of the crucified Christ at Calvary. Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, humanly speaking, that we, too, may grow up into wisdom provided we are attentive to Christ.

Like Mary and Joseph, we, too, must find him in the Temple with the priests and doctors of the Law, the place for those who seek God. And what could be more appropriate than that he should be in their midst in the study of God’s Holy Scripture? He who reveals divinity among those who would have divinity revealed? What could be more fitting than that a school boy’s innocent simplicity and directness of insight should be the vehicle of the manifestation of God’s wisdom?

And yet, there is the astounding wonder of the thing precisely because it runs so completely counter to our expectations. Be not conformed to this world, Saint Paul says in a similar fashion, for Christ’s coming runs counter to all human expectation, to all worldly calculation. It confounds our schemes and designs, as it must, for it all about grace, God’s grace and our engagement with him. Epiphany shows us that God is the teacher through the wonderful paradox of the child Christ among the doctors.

Christ’s coming opens out to us a new vision and a new perspective. He opens out to us the kingdom of God, the place of human perfection, and he opens out to us the form of our participation by grace in that kingdom. In no small measure, it has to do with our being taught. Be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds, Saint Paul says.

This, too, is a wonderful phrase. It signals the hope of transformation through our being changed and our being changed fundamentally in terms of our outlook, in terms of our thinking. This renewal of our minds requires our attentiveness to God’s revelation of himself, to the means of his engaging us through the words of Christ in the witness of the scriptures and through the sacrament of his body and blood, the revealed and given means of his being with us. This renewal of our minds requires our turning away from “being conformed to the world.” Conformity, as something static and confining, contrasts with the dynamic of our being transformed by our attention to the high things of God unveiled in our midst. The vain pursuit of every passing fad and fancy afflicts contemporary culture and alienates us from the dynamic of God and thus from ourselves and one another. To be transformed means to attend to Christ in the places where his Word is proclaimed and his sacraments celebrated. Only so can we be what we behold in Christ.

You must therefore seek him there in the Temple, seek him in the church, where you will find the Word and the Wisdom of Christ, as an older wise man and theologian, Origen, once said. Nothing could be more profoundly counter-cultured even as it shapes and defines cultures. Ultimately, we are what we contemplate. We become what we behold. The church must be the place where we behold Christ in his revelation of himself to us; only so can we find him in one another. Trasumanar, (transhumanised) as that wise poet, Dante says, coining a word in Italian to capture the wonder of our being transformed into what we shall be according to will and purpose of God.

The collect for the First Sunday after the Epiphany sets the logic for the Epiphany season and for our lives. We seek the wisdom of God that we may both perceive and know what things we ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same. There is a kind of logical priority given to our reasoning, the sense of the logos of God undergirding all rightful action. That sensibility goes to the very meaning of education, to the idea of our being led out of the prisons of ourselves in conformity to the whims and dictates of our world and day and our being led into the wisdom of God which alone is transforming. Only by contemplating the wisdom of God made manifest in Christ, in his Word proclaimed and his sacraments celebrated, can we hope to grow up into wisdom. The meaning of the Epiphany, it signals the journey of our lives to God and with God.


Un personnage hors du rang

CHRISTMAS STORY: The Magi Hangup, by William Cox

From The New Yorker

One thousand eight hundred and seventy dollars.  That was all.  And seven hundred of it in nickels.  Nickels saved one and two at a time by spreading his sandwiches with mayonnaise that wasn’t “real,” by the purchase of Levi’s brutally stamped “seconds,” by fueling his hopped-up Yamaha with low-test regular, and by oh so many pride-deflating devices that Clarence wondered if he could ever again hold his head high in any but the shabbiest of coffeehouses.  Nine times he counted the money.  One thousand eight hundred and seventy dollars.  Not a dollar more.  And tomorrow – Christmas!

Clarence glanced over at his wife’s guitar, started to reach for it, then stopped.  Surely this was the time to sing, “The No Bread Blues.”  But just as surely this was not the time.  Playing it would not increase the one thousand eight hundred and seventy dollars by a single sou.  Now its thin notes would only add to his pain.  And this was the Christmas when Clarence had so wanted to get something special – really special – for Clarissa.  His Clarissa.  Oh, the weeks that had gone into thinking of something suitable – something truly worthy of the honor of being owned by his wife of just three months!  It had been a simple wed-in in Central Park.  Under a spreading chestnut tree – the date, September 24th; the weather, perfect.  Everything according to plan except for the untimely falling of first one soot-exhausted chestnut then another.  With unwavering resolution, he pushed the thought aside.

As he paced the floor, Clarence caught his reflection in the mirror.  He stopped and ran a comb through his hair – the magnificently full head of hair that fell just below his shoulders, rippling and shining like a waterfall of pure, luminous gold.  Glorying in the reflection, Clarence grimaced only slightly as he recalled the scene that had taken place last week between himself and the university’s beetle-browed dean.  Clarence had refused to be shorn, and the dean had retaliated by “expunging” him – that was the way he’d put it – from the senior class, “until such time as you choose to return to classes looking like a recognizably normal, well-trimmed American male.”  Now Clarence bravely turned to other matters, but not before a few tears had fallen to his sandaled feet.

Clarence’s hair, however, was but one of the two possessions in which he and his wife took fierce pride.  The other was Clarissa’s twelve-string supersonic double-cutaway guitar – perfect except for its embarrassingly bourgeois, unelectrified state.  But it would remain an embarrassment only until that time when Clarence could earn the amount needed for the crowd-exciting two-channel amp, with 90-watt peak, patented baffle, crossover network, and master control, they had seen in the window of a music supply store on St. Marks Place.  The price was two thousand dollars, federal and city taxes included.  And here it was, the day before Christmas, and Clarence had but one thousand eight hundred and seventy dollars toward Clarissa’s guitar-electrification project.  A hundred and thirty clams short!

Earlier that day, Clarence had gone to the store and promised to pay twice the amount he was short before the fifteenth of January if only the proprietor would let him take the amplifier now.  But the man knew Clarence and refused.  It was payment in full or no dice.

And then it dawned on Clarence.  Why hadn’t he thought of it before?  Hadn’t he seen an advertisement in the East Village Other for the Greater Precision Instruments Corp.?  Yes, he remembered now.  “Wanted – fine hair for use in delicate industrial instruments,” it read.

On went his Hindu bead collar.  On went his sleeveless denim vest.  On went his boots.  A bit of hair jelly on his hair, then a quick spray of Command, and Clarence was on his way.  Whistling his favorite fifteenth-century madrigal, he hurried down the street.  A light, delicate snow was transforming the parking meters into a veritable wonderland.  He quickened his stop.  The solution was so perfect for Clarissa that the sacrifice could be borne.  With short hair, he might have to return to class, but at least Clarissa would be able to play along with her records of the Screaming Ends, and that rich, happily hippy sound would not only liberate his sensibilities but might also help him with his evening studies.

Clarence stopped whistling when he came to the door of the Greater Precision Instruments factory.  He paused for a moment in the wet street, feeling the familiar, luxuriant weight on his neck and ears.  Then he took a deep breath, entered the building, and carefully shook the snow from his hair.  “Hair purchases?” he said to the receptionist in a steady voice.  “I want to sell my hair.”

The receptionist looked up, then caught her breath sharply.  “Oh, no,” she gasped.  “Not your hair.”

“It’s my wife,” said Clarence resolutely.  “Something for my wife.”

Tears came to the girl’s eyes.  “Your need must be very great,” she whispered.  “You are a brave man.”

“It is Christmas,” said Clarence simply.

The snow felt cold on Clarence’s crew-cut head, but he hardly noticed it.  The highly prized amplifier was now his, and would shortly be Clarissa’s.  Outside their pad, he silently hid the bulky parcel in the hall, then opened the door and stepped inside.  “Hi, baby!” he called.  “It’s me.”

Clarissa quickly ran some white lipstick across her lips and, still carrying the leek she was peeling, danced toward him from the sink.  But on seeing Clarence she let out a gasp and stared as if he were something she had discarded in Scarsdale.

The smile on Clarence’s face disappeared.  “Clarissa!” he said.  “Don’t look at me that way.”

Clarissa shook her head from side-to-side, as if telling herself that what she saw wasn’t true.  “They!” she cried bitterly.  “They’ve got this big authority game going, and like you sold out to them.”

“I sold my hair,” he said, “but I didn’t sell out, baby.”  He hesitated momentarily, groping for the rest of his answer.  “Like I sold it because they were buying.  And I needed the bills to get you –“

Clarissa threw the leek to the floor.  “If it was better phrased,” she shouted, “I’d call it liberal rhetoric!”  Apparently startled at the sound of her own voice, she lowered it slightly.  “But pretty soon you’ll start wearing socks.  And like the next thing, I’ll be washing them, and before long… before long you’ll end up going back to school, back where the girls are the ones with long hair.”  She began sputtering, searching for words.  “And then, then… then what’ll happen to our heightened catharsis of experience?”

Clarence envied her way with words, her uncompromising ideals.  He could see that this was not the time to reason with Clarissa.  Maybe tomorrow.  He’d think of it tomorrow – on Christmas Day.  “Let’s wish each other a merry Christmas,” he said softly.  “A very merry Christmas.”  It was a little like Tiny Tim’s speech, and Clarence hoped it would work in an apartment full of posters of the Grateful Dead.  Remembering the beautiful amplifier, he went to the hall and retrieved the parcel.  In a moment he had it open.  The chrome, glistening like Christmas-tree lights, reflected her tear-filled eyes.

Clarissa smiled briefly, but then the smile vanished.  “I sold it,” she said.  “Like just this afternoon I sold it.  Sold it so you could get a tutor and graduate with your hair on.  But now you don’t need a tutor, and you don’t need me.”

Clarence put his arms around his sobbing wife.  “I don’t want no tutor,” he said.  “But I do want you.  And we can take that money and buy back your guitar.”

Take the money and buy back your hair!” shouted Clarissa as she pushed Clarence away and ran to the window.  Sullenly, she stared out at the snow, which was now falling more heavily.

Clarence joined her at the window, but the arm he tried to put around her shoulder was quickly brushed away.  He glanced across the street at the snow-laden Psychedelicatessen sign, then down at the wet pavement below.  “It’s turning to slush,” he said.  “Everything’s turning to slush.”


new-york-city-in-snow

STATIONS OF THE NATIVITY: Return To Nazareth, by Raymond Chapman

From Stations of the Nativity: Meditations on the Incarnation of Christ

Before the Stations

Almighty God, whose blessed Son took our human nature so that we might regain our lost innocence and be restored to the divine image that was disfigured by sin, grant that as we meditate on the mystery of his humanity we may share the glory of his divinity, who lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.

Amen.


A hymn may be sung: the familiar Christmas hymns tell of the wonder of the Incarnation and the following is particularly suitable (click on hymn title to be directed to the YouTube video of its performance):

Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King


14: Return to Nazareth

V: We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee.
R: Because by thy wonderful Nativity thou hast given us new birth.

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.”  Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.  But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judaea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.  And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee.  There he made his home in a town called Nazareth. (Matthew 2:19-23)

After the joys and perils of the birth of Jesus, the Holy Family moved quietly back to Nazareth where the first announcement of God’s purpose had been made.  Jesus began the years of growing and learning, and the life of a family home, until the time should come for his ministry to begin.

We give thanks for our homes, for the shared joy of families and the quiet happiness of daily life.  Grant that the pattern of our lives may be governed by the grace that was in the home at Nazareth, as Jesus grew from infancy to manhood.

We do not always value as we should the simple blessings of life.  We would like each day to bring a special pleasure or a new personal success.  Give us contentment in the day and the hour of opportunity, with grateful hearts for our creation and preservation.

V: God sent his Son into the world.
R: To bring us to eternal life.
V: Let us bless the Lord.
R: Thanks be to God.

The time of waiting was not yet over.

Centuries of expectation had ended with a host of angels, with greater wonder among the simple and the wise, and flight from the shedding of innocent blood.

The final time appointed would not come until God had lived the full experience: learned to walk, read, reason, labor for a living, and the Maker came to the maturity of his human image.

Before the battle, with evil was begun, life was blessed in the little things, and there was grace in a humble house; and light would forever shine in darkness because God had visited and redeemed his people.

Jesus, bearer of our humanity,

Mary, gracious, gentle mother,

Joseph, faithful, loving protector,

have mercy on us.

May God grant that the Holy Family of Nazareth shall be our protection and guide day-by-day and year-by-year, leading us to the full revelation of glory.


After the Stations

Almighty God, grant to us, who have followed our Lord through the time of his coming to Earth, the peace promised by the angels, the simple trust of the shepherds, the wise discernment of the Magi, and the love of the Holy Family in our homes and in all our lives, through Jesus Christ, our Savior,

Amen.


A hymn may be sung: see above.


A priest who is present may give this blessing, or the people may say it together, saying, us, for, you.

May God give you grace to follow the example of Christ, and bring you through the power of his Incarnation to eternal life, and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.

Amen.


STATIONS OF THE NATIVITY: Massacre Of The Innocents, by Raymond Chapman

From Stations of the Nativity: Meditations on the Incarnation of Christ

Before the Stations

Almighty God, whose blessed Son took our human nature so that we might regain our lost innocence and be restored to the divine image that was disfigured by sin, grant that as we meditate on the mystery of his humanity we may share the glory of his divinity, who lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.

Amen.


A hymn may be sung: the familiar Christmas hymns tell of the wonder of the Incarnation and the following is particularly suitable (click on hymn title to be directed to the YouTube video of its performance):

Songs of Thankfulness and Praise


13: Massacre of the Innocents

V: We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee.
R: Because by thy wonderful Nativity thou hast given us new birth.

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned form the wise men.  Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation.
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more. (Matthew: 2:16-18)

Like all tyrants, Herod feared any challenge to his position.  No star would guide him to the real King of the Jews and he thought he had made himself secure when he murdered all the infants in the region of Bethlehem.  He did not know that the one he sought was safely away from his power, and that he himself had not long to live.  The wonderful birth of Jesus brought a cruel response from an evil heart, as many today still refuse his offered love.

We give thanks for the faith that grants us light in darkness, to see divine love at work even through suffering.  Help us to hold fast when hope fails and understanding is dimmed, ever to trust in Christ who brings new life out of death.

We close our eyes to the suffering that does not come near us; we too readily ignore the abuse of power that does not touch us.  Give us strength to speak for those whose voices are not heard, and to reach out in love to those whose hearts are broken.

V: God sent his Son into the world.
R: To bring us to eternal life.
V: Let us bless the Lord.
R: Thanks be to God.

Death came with a new face into the village, not with the familiar sword of sickness or striking through the perils that evade a mother’s care.

The royal swords, forged for confrontation of equals, flashed like deadly lightning in a clear day; mothers cried out to an empty sky where no angels descended, demanding to know why God had forsaken them.

It was not the first or the last time that innocence would be harried into death: and the pain would never be lessened by sharing or the mystery of suffering be made clear.

One mother was spared to hold her child in safety until the time of agony by the soul-piercing sword.

One child lived, to grow into perfect manhood, suffer a greater torment, break the tyranny of death.

Lord, take our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh:

restore lost innocence, that we may relieve the innocent.


After the Stations

Almighty God, grant to us, who have followed our Lord through the time of his coming to Earth, the peace promised by the angels, the simple trust of the shepherds, the wise discernment of the Magi, and the love of the Holy Family in our homes and in all our lives, through Jesus Christ, our Savior,

Amen.


A hymn may be sung: see above.


A priest who is present may give this blessing, or the people may say it together, saying, us, for, you.

May God give you grace to follow the example of Christ, and bring you through the power of his Incarnation to eternal life, and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.

Amen.


POETRY: The Magus, by James Dickey

It is time for the others to come.
This child is no more than a god.

No cars are moving this night.
The lights in the houses go out.

I put these out with the rest.
From his crib, the child begins

To shine, letting forth one ray
Through the twelve simple bars of his bed

Down into the trees, where two
Long-lost other men shall be drawn

Slowly up to the bring of the house,
Slowly in through the breath on the window.

But how did I get in this room?
Is this my son, or another’s?

Where is the woman to tell me
How my face is lit up by his body?

It is time for the others to come.
An event more miraculous yet

Is the thing I am shining to tell you.
This child is no more than a child.


adoration-of-the-magi

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: The Magi And New Birth

From The School of Charity

The story of the Magi shows the new life which has appeared within the rich texture of our normal experience, casting its purifying radiance upon the whole existence of man, the Light of the world, not the sanctuary lamp of a well-appointed church.  Cosy religious exclusiveness is condemned in this mystery.  It is easy for the pious to join the shepherds, and feel in place at the crib, and look out into the surrounding darkness saying, Look at those extraordinary intellectuals wandering about after a star; they seem to have no religious sense.  Look what curious gifts and odd types of self-consecration they are bringing; not at all the sort of people one sees in church.  Yet the child who began by receiving those unexpected pilgrims had a woman of the streets for his most faithful friend, and two thieves for his comrades at the last.  Looking at these extremes, so deeply significant of the depth and breadth of that divine generosity into which our narrow and fragmentary loves must be absorbed.  The Epiphany means the free pouring out of a limitless light – the Light of the World – not its careful communication to those whom we hold worthy to receive it.  The Magi, after all, took more trouble than the shepherds.  They came a longer journey, by more perilous paths.  The intellectual virtues and longings of men are all blessed in Christ, “the intellectual radiance full of love.”

We turn to another point which every mystery in its turn will show us; for they are there to light up the cycle of our own interior growth.  And here again, God’s mysterious and life-giving action in the soul is for a purpose that points beyond ourselves.  It happens not merely for our sakes; but because his manifestation to the world must be through us.  Every real Christian is part of the dust-laden air which shall radiate the glowing charity of God; catch and reflect his golden light.  Ye are the light of the world, because you are irradiated by the one Light of the World, the holy generosity of God.  The great New Testament saints – in fact, all saints – look right through and past the outward appearance of men’s lives, and seek only for the seed of the divine life within them, the hidden child of God.  Ye are of God, little children, exclaims Saint John, greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.  That is the awful truth which rules the inner life of man.


STATIONS OF THE NATIVITY: Flight Into Egypt, by Raymond Chapman

From Stations of the Nativity: Meditations on the Incarnation of Christ

Before the Stations

Almighty God, whose blessed Son took our human nature so that we might regain our lost innocence and be restored to the divine image that was disfigured by sin, grant that as we meditate on the mystery of his humanity we may share the glory of his divinity, who lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.

Amen.


A hymn may be sung: the familiar Christmas hymns tell of the wonder of the Incarnation and the following is particularly suitable (click on hymn title to be directed to the YouTube video of its performance):

What Star Is This With Beams So Bright


12: Flight Into Egypt

V: We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee.
R: Because by thy wonderful Nativity thou hast given us new birth.

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”  Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. (Matthew 2:13-15)

While shepherds and Magi adored the child, Joseph had been in the background, quietly watching and caring for his wife: now he was urgently called to action to protect the Son of God.  Escaping the jealous rage of Herod, they fled southward to Egypt, the land from which their ancestors had been brought out of slavery.

We give thanks for all who protect the weak and vulnerable and pray that they may be given strength to fulfill their calling; and for the divine love that uses our frailty to support one another in need.  We pray for guidance in all times of danger and uncertainty.

We do not open ourselves fully to God’s ways of guiding; we stand aside while others act to help those in need.  Make us more ready to care not only for those near to us but for the stranger and the outcast, the homeless and those who flee from persecution.

V: God sent his Son into the world.
R: To bring us to eternal life.
V: Let us bless the Lord.
R: Thanks be to God.

God’s protecting darkness concealed their flight from the dark jealousy that feared the defenseless.  They had to leave the Promised Land, go back through the wilderness to the place of slavery.  God who had carried his people in the wandering years made the return journey in a mother’s arms, divine power diminished into a bundle of humanity.

They were not the first to flee from tyranny or the last to stumble across a strange frontier, to seek safety among alien faces when the familiar took on a face of doom.

In time the child would welcome the stranger, the outcast, the despised, the unprotected, with a royal love that kings dared not feel because the ground beneath the throne might be shaken.

On wanderers without a home: Lord have mercy.

On refugees driven by war and violence: Lord have mercy.

On my hardness of heart when help is needed: Lord have mercy.


After the Stations

Almighty God, grant to us, who have followed our Lord through the time of his coming to Earth, the peace promised by the angels, the simple trust of the shepherds, the wise discernment of the Magi, and the love of the Holy Family in our homes and in all our lives, through Jesus Christ, our Savior,

Amen.


A hymn may be sung: see above.


A priest who is present may give this blessing, or the people may say it together, saying, us, for, you.

May God give you grace to follow the example of Christ, and bring you through the power of his Incarnation to eternal life, and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.

Amen.


CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Light Of The World

From Light of Christ

You know how sometimes on a pitch black night in the country, you see far off one glimmer of light and you follow it and it turns out to be just a candle in a cottage window – but it was enough to assure you of life ahead, to give you the lead you wanted in the dark.  In the same way, when the Magi turned from their abstruse calculations in search of Heaven and followed a star, they did not arrive at a great mathematical result or revelation of the cosmic mind.  They found a poor little family party and were brought to their knees – because, like the truly wise, they were really humble-minded – before a baby born under most unfortunate circumstances, a mystery of human life, a little living growing thing.  What a paradox! the apparently rich Magi coming to the apparently poor child.  There they laid down their intellectual treasures – all pure gold to them – and, better than that, offered the spirit of adoration, the incense which alone consecrates the intellectual suffering and sacrifice, that death to self which, like myrrh, hallows the dedicated life in all its forms.

The utmost man can achieve on his own here capitulates before the unspeakable simplicity of the methods of God.  He is the Light of the World – all of it.  He does not only want or illuminate spiritual things.  His hallowing touch is for the ox and the ass, as afterwards for the sparrows and the flowers.  There never was a less high-brow religion or one more deeply in touch with natural life than Christianity, although it is infinite in its scope.  Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same shall be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

It is no use being too clever about life.  Without him it is a tissue of fugitive and untrustworthy pleasures, conflicts, ambitions, desires, frustrations, intolerable pain.


POETRY: Into Solitude, by Anna Kamieńska

We descend into solitude step by step
further and further down stanzas of verses
into depths never expected
determined to live without poor substitutes
in a cruel and impossible purity
there at the very bottom to regain
all those who huddle
at the gate of this wide-open emptiness
grandmothers aunts and uncles already forgotten
strangers who once crossed a courtyard
someone out of work who knocked on the window
someone passed by on a footbridge
the dead the living it doesn’t matter
the beautiful boy who stood below the pulpit
looking like an angel almost an angel
and the one who hit me on the forehead with a stone
where a mark still remains
and the washerwoman who reappeared at our home like Kronos
and went away bent under the weight of the laundry basket
the wagon-driver with whom I danced at the harvest festival
and Someone else was there a carpenter or a woodworker
who placed a hand on my forehead
and said Don’t be afraid
with me no one is lonely


with-jesus

POEM: Joseph At The Nativity, by Tania Runyan

Of any birth, I thought this
would be a clean one,
like pulling white linen
from a loom.

But when I return to the cave,
Mary throws her cloak
over the bloody straw and cries.
I know she wants me to leave.

There he lies, stomach rising
and falling, a shriveled pod
that does nothing but stare
at the edge of the feeding trough
with dark, unsteady eyes.

Is he God enough
to know that I am poor,
that we had no time
for a midwife, that swine ate
from his bed this morning?

If the angel was right, he knows.
He knows that Mary’s swell
embarrassed me, that I was jealous
of her secret skyward smiles,
that now I want to run into these hills
and never come back.

Peace, peace, I’ve heard in my dreams.
This child will make you right.

But I can only stand here,
not a husband, not a father,
my hands hanging dumbly
at my sides. Do I touch him,
this child who is mine
and not mine? Do I enter
the kingdom of blood and stars?


joseph-at-the-nativity

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: The Magi And Prayer

From The School of Charity

Look at the story of the Magi: those scholars of the ancient world, turning from their abstruse calculations and searching of the heavens because they saw a new star, and driven to seek along fresh paths for a clue to the mystery of life.  What they found does not seem at first sight what we should now call “intellectually satisfying.”  It was not a revelation of the Cosmic Mind, but a poor little family party; yet there they were brought to their knees – because, like the truly wise, they were really humble-minded – before a little, living, growing thing.  The utmost man can achieve on his own here capitulates before the unspeakable and mysterious simplicity of the method of God; his stooping down to us.  His self-disclosure at the very heart of life.  After all, the shepherds got there long before the Magi; and even so, the animals were already in position when the shepherds arrived.  He comes to his own; the God of our natural life makes of that natural life the very material of his self-revelation.  His smile kindles the whole universe; his hallowing touch lies upon all life.  The animal world and the natural world have their own rights and their own place within the thought of God.  There never was a religion more deeply in touch with natural things than Christianity, although it is infinite in its scope.

The essence of the story of the Magi is that it is no use to be too clever about life.  Only in so far as we find God in it, do we find any meaning in it.  Without him it is a tissue of fugitive and untrustworthy pleasures, devices, conflicts, frustrations, and intolerable pains.  Historical Christianity need not involve for us an elaborate philosophy of the Spirit; but it does mean accepting as deeply significant all the great events of the gospel, because conveying God.  And, if we thus recognize the supernatural within these events, some so strange and some so homely; then we also accept all these incidents as carrying a sacramental reference, conveying something of the over-ruling will and thought of God, and having something in them for each of us.  If we are ever to learn all that this record can mean for us, we must never forget that these beyond all other facts of history, are indwelt and molded by the Divine Charity.


STATIONS OF THE NATIVITY: Presentation, by Raymond Chapman

From Stations of the Nativity: Meditations on the Incarnation of Christ

Before the Stations

Almighty God, whose blessed Son took our human nature so that we might regain our lost innocence and be restored to the divine image that was disfigured by sin, grant that as we meditate on the mystery of his humanity we may share the glory of his divinity, who lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.

Amen.


A hymn may be sung: the familiar Christmas hymns tell of the wonder of the Incarnation and the following is particularly suitable (click on hymn title to be directed to the YouTube video of its performance):

Of the Father’s Love Begotten


11: Presentation

V: We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee.
R: Because by thy glorious Nativity thou hast given us new birth.

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.  Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.  Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the Temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “A sword will pierce your own soul, too.” (Luke 2: part of verses 22-35)

Forty days after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph went to make their offering as the law commanded (Leviticus 12:6-8).  This religious duty brought a further revelation that Jesus the Messiah was born for the salvation of the whole human race.  Simeon, a devout worshiper after the Old Covenant, was given a vision of what would come to pass under the New.

We give thanks for the gift of light by which we receive the word of God and can see the tokens of his presence all around us.  We praise the salvation brought by this Holy Child and pray that the light of his grace will shine within us and through us, keeping us faithful to the end when we may depart in peace.

We too often observe our religious duties in a casual way, and sometimes resent the time that they require, failing to accept the peace that they can bring.  Help us to come with joy to our worship, resolved to open our hearts to what God is showing us, so that we may receive and declare the word of revelation.

V: God sent his Son into the world.
R: To bring us to eternal life.
V: Let us bless the Lord.
R: Thanks be to God.

God said, Let there be light, and forever after there was light for those who would see it, and no darkness of sin or sorrow could quench the light.

Light reveals the visible signs of God’s glory and the secret signs of his grace: for light itself is his glory, awesome, unapproachable, and also the grace that is intimate, inviting all to the child.

Light reveals the true state of our being, the hidden things that we would rather not have known, penetrates like a scalpel the festering wounds of sin.

If a sword would pierce the most pure heart of Mary, none can escape the sword of judgment at the last – except by the love in the eyes of the child that lets us depart in peace.

Because he is the Word of salvation who reads us in the light of mercy.

That was the true Light, coming into the word.

Lord, give me light to know my sinfulness;

give me light to see your salvation;

give me light to overcome the darkness of death.


After the Stations

Almighty God, grant to us, who have followed our Lord through the time of his coming to Earth, the peace promised by the angels, the simple trust of the shepherds, the wise discernment of the Magi, and the love of the Holy Family in our homes and in all our lives, through Jesus Christ, our Savior,

Amen.


A hymn may be sung: see above.


A priest who is present may give this blessing, or the people may say it together, saying, us, for, you.

May God give you grace to follow the example of Christ, and bring you through the power of his Incarnation to eternal life, and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.

Amen.


CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: The Magi

From Light of Christ

Now to accept historical Christianity as God’s supreme self-revelation does not mean some elaborate philosophy of the spirit.  It means accepting the gospel story as touching our lives significantly at every point, because it is conveying God.  If we are ever to learn all that this record can mean for us, we must never forget that these, beyond all other facts of history, are indwelt, molded, brought into being by the Living Spirit of God, while plastic to his creative thought.  And if we thus feel God within these events, some so strange and some so homely, inspiring this action and record, then we also accept all these incidents as conveying something of his overruling will and thought, having something in them for each of us.  Nothing is there by accident.  Everything is there because it conveys spiritual truth, gives us the supernatural.  It all “speaks to our condition,” as Fox would say.  The Synoptic Gospels may not always have the accuracy of a photograph but they have a higher reality, they are charged with God.  That is the reason why meditation on the gospels, chewing the evangelical cud, is so nourishing to the soul and so inexhaustible as a basis of prayer.  In that sense every word of the gospel is sacramental; and like some great work of art gives us more and more light and food, reveling greater depths of significance as we grow in the wisdom which is the child of humility and love.  The Magi came away from Bethlehem much wiser than they were before.


PRAYER: Litany Of The Holy Name Of Jesus

Author unknown

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Jesus, hear us. Jesus, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on us.
Jesus, Splendor of the Father, have mercy on us.
Jesus, brightness of eternal light, have mercy on us.
Jesus, King of glory, have mercy on us.
Jesus, sun of justice, have mercy on us.
Jesus, Son of the Virgin Mary, have mercy on us.
Jesus, most amiable, have mercy on us.
Jesus, most admirable, have mercy on us.
Jesus, the mighty God, have mercy on us.
Jesus, Father of the world to come, have mercy on us.
Jesus, angel of great counsel, have mercy on us.
Jesus, most powerful, have mercy on us.
Jesus, most patient, have mercy on us.
Jesus, most obedient, have mercy on us.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart, have mercy on us.
Jesus, lover of chastity, have mercy on us.
Jesus, lover of us, have mercy on us.
Jesus, God of peace, have mercy on us.
Jesus, author of life, have mercy on us.
Jesus, example of virtues, have mercy on us.
Jesus, zealous lover of souls, have mercy on us.
Jesus, our God, have mercy on us.
Jesus, our refuge, have mercy on us.
Jesus, father of the poor, have mercy on us.
Jesus, treasure of the faithful, have mercy on us.
Jesus, Good Shepherd, have mercy on us.
Jesus, true light, have mercy on us.
Jesus, eternal wisdom, have mercy on us.
Jesus, infinite goodness, have mercy on us.
Jesus, our way and our life, have mercy on us.
Jesus, joy of angels, have mercy on us.
Jesus, King of the Patriarchs, have mercy on us.
Jesus, master of the Apostles, have mercy on us.
Jesus, teacher of the evangelists, have mercy on us.
Jesus, strength of martyrs, have mercy on us.
Jesus, light of confessors, have mercy on us.
Jesus, purity of virgins, have mercy on us.
Jesus, crown of saints, have mercy on us.

Be merciful, spare us, O Jesus.
Be merciful, graciously hear us, O Jesus.

From all evil, deliver us, O Jesus.
From all sin, deliver us, O Jesus.
From your wrath, deliver us, O Jesus.
From the snares of the devil, deliver us, O Jesus.
From the spirit of fornication, deliver us, O Jesus.
From everlasting death, deliver us, O Jesus.
From the neglect of your inspirations, deliver us, O Jesus.
By the mystery of your holy Incarnation, deliver us, O Jesus.
By your nativity, deliver us, O Jesus.
By your infancy, deliver us, O Jesus.
By your most divine life, deliver us, O Jesus.
By your labors, deliver us, O Jesus.
By your agony and passion, deliver us, O Jesus.
By your cross and dereliction, deliver us, O Jesus.
By your sufferings, deliver us, O Jesus.
By your death and burial, deliver us, O Jesus.
By your Resurrection, deliver us, O Jesus.
By your Ascension, deliver us, O Jesus.
By your institution of the most Holy Eucharist, deliver us, O Jesus.
By your joys, deliver us, O Jesus.
By your glory, deliver us, O Jesus.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, spare us, O Jesus.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Jesus.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us, O Jesus.

Jesus, hear us.
Jesus, graciously hear us.

O Lord Jesus Christ, you have said, Ask and you shall receive, seek, and you shall find, knock, and it shall be opened to you. Grant, we beg of you, to us who ask it, the gift of your most divine love that we may ever love you with our whole heart, in word and deed, and never cease praising you.

Give us, O Lord, as much a lasting fear as a lasting love of your Holy Name, for you, who live and are King for ever and ever, never fail to govern those whom you have solidly established in your love.

Amen.


presentation

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Shepherds And Magi

From Light of Christ

The Christmas Mystery has two parts: the Nativity and the Epiphany.  A deep instinct made the church separate these two feasts.  In the first, we commemorate God’s humble entrance into human life, the emergence and birth of the Holy, and in the second its manifestation to the world, the revelation of the supernatural made in that life.  And the two phases concern our inner lives very closely, too.  The first only happens in order that the second may happen; and the second cannot happen without the first.  Christ is a light to lighten the Gentiles as well as the glory of his people, Israel.  Think of what the Gentile was when these words were written – an absolute outsider.  All cozy religious exclusiveness falls before that thought.  The Light of the world is not the sanctuary lamp in your favorite church.  It is easy for the devout to join up with the shepherds and fall into place at the crib and look out into the surrounding night and say, Look at those extraordinary intellectuals wandering about after a star, with no religious sense at all!  Look at that clumsy camel, what an unspiritual animal it is! We know the ox and the ass are the right animals to have!  Look what queer gifts and odd types of self-consecration they are bringing; not the sort of people who come to church!  But remember that the child who began by receiving these very unexpected pilgrims had a woman of the streets for his faithful friend and two thieves for his comrades at the end; and looking at these two extremes let us try to learn a little of the height and breadth and depth of his love – and then apply it to our own lives.

It was said of Father Wainwright that he cared above all for scamps and drunkards and unbelievers – least for those who came regularly to church – and no man of our time was fuller of the Spirit of Christ.  The first point about Epiphany is that all are called and welcomed and accepted.  Our own loving adoration and deep certitude, if God in his mercy gives us that, is never to break our brotherhood with those who come longer journeys by other paths, led by a different star.  The Magi took more trouble than the shepherds.  The intellectual virtues and intellectual longings of men are all blessed in Christ.


CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Holy Name—Born For A Purpose

From Light of Christ

Beholding his glory is only half our job.  In our souls, too, the mysteries must be brought forth; we are not really Christians till that has been done.  The Eternal Birth, say Eckhard, must take place in you.  And another mystic says human nature is like a stable inhabited by the ox of passion and the ass of prejudice; animals which take up a lot of room and which I suppose most of us are feeding on the quiet.  And it is there between them, pushing them out, that Christ must be born and in their very manger he must be laid – and they will be the first to fall on their knees before him.  Sometimes Christians seem far nearer to those animals than to Christ in his simple poverty, self-abandoned to God.

The birth of Christ in our souls is for a purpose beyond ourselves: it is because his manifestation in the world must be through us.  Every Christian is, as it were, part of the dust-laden air which shall radiate the glowing Epiphany of God, catch and reflect his golden Light.  Ye are the light of the world – but only because you are enkindled, made radiant by the One Light of the World.  And being kindled, we have got to get on with it, be useful.  As Christ said in one of his ironical flashes, Do not light a candle in order to stick it under the bed!  Some people make a virtue of religious skulking.


POETRY: The Year, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That’s not been said a thousand times?

The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.

We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.

We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.

We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.

We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that’s the burden of the year.


new-years