POETRY: Christmas Trees by Geoffrey Hill

December 26, 2012

Bonhoeffer in his skylit cell bleached by the flares’ candescent fall, pacing out his own citadel, restores the broken themes of praise, encourages our borrowed days, by logic of his sacrifice. Against wild reasons of the state his words are quiet but not too quiet. We hear too late or not too [...]

CHRISTMAS MEDITATION: Ox and Ass by Giovanni Papini

December 26, 2012

Jesus was born in a stable, a real stable, not the bright, airy portico which Christian painters have created for the son of David, as if ashamed that their God should have lain down in poverty and dirt.  And not the modern Christmas Eve “holy stable” either, made of plaster of Paris, with little candy-like statuettes, the holy stable, clean and prettily painted, with a neat, tidy manger, an ecstatic ass, a contrite ox, and angels fluttering their wreaths on the roof — this is not the stable where Jesus was born. A real stable is the house, the prison of the animals who work for man.  The poor, old stable of Christ’s old, poor country is only four rough walls, a dirty pavement, a roof of beams and slate.  It is dark, reeking.  [...]

PRAYER: Prayer To Our Newborn Savior

December 26, 2012

From Treasury of Novenas Divine Infant Jesus, with Mary and Joseph, I kneel down in devout worship as I gaze upon you lying in your crib.  You wished to enter the world as a child in order to prove yourself to be true man; for by your weeping and by your need for rest and nourishment you prove that you have truly taken on human nature.  You become human that I may be able to see you, listen to you, imitate you, and unite myself to you. Even though you are God, you are now able to suffer for us, atone for our sins, and merit graces for our souls.  It is through the flesh that man turns away from God; it is in taking on the flesh that you, our God, deliver us. But you become man also that man may become like God.  In exchange for the [...]

CHRISTMAS MEDITATION: The Mystery by Saint John Chrysostom

December 25, 2012

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14) I behold a new and wondrous mystery.  My ears resound to the shepherds’ song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn.  The angels sing.  The archangels blend their voice in harmony.  The cherubim hymn their joyful praise.  The seraphim exalt his glory.  All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on Earth, and man in Heaven.  He who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised up. Bethlehem this day resembles Heaven; hearing from the stars [...]


December 25, 2012

From Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers  Things An old man said, “Just as grass does not grow at all on a well-traveled road, even if you sow seed on the road, because the ground is trampled down, so it is with us: Live quietly, apart from things, and you will see plants growing that you had no knowledge of because they were within you and you were trampling them down.” Christ the Compassionate Potter Abba Macarius said: The potter who sits working the earth first takes care to fashion vessels decorated with colorful motifs that become honored at the morning and evening meals of emperors and are even honored by the priestly order of the church.  After making these, he fashions other vessels that are [...]

PRAYER: Christmas Novena (two of two)

December 24, 2012

From Treasury of Novenas Heavenly Father, you made Christmas night radiant with the splendor of Jesus Christ, our light.  I welcome him as Lord, the true light of the world.  Bring me to the joy of his heavenly kingdom. We are filled with the new light by the coming of your word among us.  May the light of faith shine in my words and actions. Lord God, I praise you for creating man, and still more for restoring him in Christ.  Your son shares our weakness: may I share his glory.  Make me faithful to your word, that I may bring your life to others.  He made me your child.  May he welcome me into his kingdom. God of power and life, glory of all who believe in you, fill the world with your splendor and show the nations the light of [...]

PRAYER: Novena To The Divine Infant Jesus (one of two)

December 24, 2012

(Author unknown) Divine Infant, after the wonders of your birth in Bethlehem, you wished to extend your infinite mercy to the whole world by calling The Wise Men by heavenly inspiration to your crib, which was in this way changed into a royal throne.  You graciously received those holy men who were obedient to the divine call and hastened to your feet. They recognized and worshiped you as The Prince of Peace, The Redeemer of Mankind, and The Very Son of God. Show us also your goodness and almighty power.  Enlighten our minds, strengthen our wills, and inflame our hearts to know you, to serve you, and to love you in this life that we may merit to find our joy in you eternally in the life to come. O Jesus, most powerful child, I [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: To You Christ Is Born by Martin Luther

December 24, 2012

The angel said to them, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people; for there is born to you this day a savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10) The Gospel teaches that Christ was born, and that he died and suffered everything on our behalf, as is here declared by the angel.  In these words you clearly see that he is born for us. He does not simply say, Christ is born, but to you he is born.  Neither does he say, I bring glad tidings, but to you I bring glad tidings of great joy.  Furthermore, this joy was not to remain in Christ, but it shall be to all the people.  This faith no condemned or wicked man has, nor can he have it.  Christ has a pure, innocent, and holy birth.  Man has an [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: Bethlehem by Annie Dillard

December 23, 2012

One of the queerest spots on Earth — I hope — is the patch of planet where, according to tradition, a cave once stabled animals, and where Mary gave birth to a son whose later preaching — scholars of every stripe agree, with varying enthusiasm — caused the occupying Romans to crucify him.  Generations of Christians have churched over the traditional Bethlehem spot to the highest degree.  Centuries of additions have made the architecture peculiar, but no one can see the church anyway, because many monasteries clamp onto it in clusters like barnacles.  The Greek Orthodox Church owns the grotto site now, in the form of the Church of the Nativity. There, in the Church of the Nativity, I took worn stone stairways to descend to levels [...]

POETRY: A Christmas Card by Thomas Merton

December 21, 2012

When the white stars talk together like sisters And when the winter hills Raise their grand semblance in the freezing night, Somewhere one window Bleeds like the brown eye of an open force. Hills, stars, White stars that stand above the eastern stable. Look down and offer Him. The dim adoring light of your belief. Whose small Heart bleeds with infinite fire. Shall not this Child (When we shall hear the bells of His amazing voice) Conquer the winter of our hateful century? And when His Lady Mother leans upon the crib, Lo, with what rapiers Those two loves fence and flame their brilliancy! Here in this straw lie planned the fires That will melt all our sufferings: He is our Lamb, our holocaust! And one by one the shepherds, with their snowy [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: Shipwrecked At The Stable by Brennan Manning

December 20, 2012

Do you think you could contain Niagara Falls in a teacup? Is there anyone in our midst who pretends to understand the awesome love in the heart of the Abba of Jesus that inspired, motivated, and brought about Christmas?  The shipwrecked at the stable kneel in the presence of mystery. God entered into our world not with the crushing impact of unbearable glory, but in the way of weakness, vulnerability, and need.  On a wintry night in an obscure cave, the infant Jesus was a humble, naked, helpless God who allowed us to get close to him. We all know how difficult it is to receive anything from someone who has all the answers, who is completely cool, utterly unafraid, needing nothing and in control of every situation.  We feel unnecessary, [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: Room For Christ by Dorothy Day

December 19, 2012

It is no use saying that we are born two thousand years too late to give room to Christ.  Nor will those who live at the end of the world have been born too late.  Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts. But now it is with the voice of our contemporaries that he speaks, with the eyes of store clerks, factory workers, and children that he gazes; with the hands of office workers, slum dwellers, and suburban housewives that he gives.  It is with the feet of soldiers and tramps that he walks, and with the heart of anyone in need that he longs for shelter.  And giving shelter or food to anyone who asks for it, or needs it, is giving to Christ. We can do now what those who knew him in the days of his flesh did.  I am [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: The God We Hardly Knew by William Willimon

December 14, 2012

No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor. The self-sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything, look down on others, those who have no need even of God — for them there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God. Emmanuel. God-with-us. Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God. (Oscar Romero) Probably most of us have had the experience of receiving, right out of the blue, a gift from someone we really don’t know all that well.  And perhaps, to our consternation, the gift turns out to be nice, something that we didn’t know we wanted and certainly didn’t ask for, but there it [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: Christmas Joy by Emmy Arnold

December 12, 2012

To become like children!  The most beautiful childhood memory that comes to my mind is that of celebrating Christmas and the joy of Christmas. Perhaps my experiences of Christmas came from the fact that I was born on Christmas Day.  A hundred days before each Christmas we children would begin to count the days.  Only a hundred times more I will wake up in the morning, and then, hurrah! it’s Christmas Day!  When at six o’clock on the eve of the First Sunday of Advent the bells rang in the Advent season, it seemed as though the angels were exulting, and we little earthly children joined in.  “O welcome, thou blessed Christmas time!” From then on, the joy and eagerness for what was to come mounted with each day.  Sometimes in [...]

POETRY: And The Old Man Became As A Little Child by Madeleine L’Engle

September 5, 2012

This poem was written in remembrance of the Holy Innocents — those babies who were killed around the time of Jesus’s birth.  The man in the poem is imagined to be the father of a Holy Innocent, and the nobleman from Capernaum whose son Jesus saved from death. He could not sleep. The tomb was dark, and the stone heavy that sealed it. He could not sleep for all the innocent blood he had seen shed. He was an old man. Too old for tears. Not yet young enough for sleep. He waited and watched. Thrice he had spoken to him whose body had been sealed within the tomb, thrice had the old man spoken, he who was a disciple, but not one of the twelve, older, gentler in all ways, and tired, worn with time and experience and the shedding of [...]

POETRY: Arc of the Lily by Loretta Watts

July 25, 2012

for Susan The movements of the Madonna— moment of maternity, passion of the Pieta are the same stance. See first her skyward gaze open-handed, empty, bloom to full arms. Follow the arc of her head downward, beholding the babe. She wraps the cloth tighter around hot baby flesh, gathering Him to her face, her breast. She wraps another cloth around his still warm body broken, gathering Him to her face, her breast. His head in her lap has the heft of her newborn boy.  Her hand drapes over the man.  Her white face turns upward, a lily seeking [...]