Hodie Christus Natus Est

•December 25, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Nativity_-_WGA23026

Hodie Christus natus est. Hodie salvator apparuit. Hodie in terra canunt angeli, laetantur archangeli. Hodie exsultant justi, dicentes: Gloria in excelsis Deo, Alleluia.

Christ has been born today; the Saviour has appeared today; the angels sing today in the earth; today the fair ones are happy saying: Glory be to God in the heights, Hallelujah.

(Antiphon to Magnificat – Vespers of the Christmas day)

Christ is born!  Hallelujah! Peace and joy to all this day!

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Advent Journal: Day 22–Christmas Eve

•December 25, 2017 • Leave a Comment

annunciation and nativity

I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,
and I will make his kingdom firm.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.”

2 Samuel 7:16

Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Luke 1:28-30

 Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.
  He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.
Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of the Virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.
From a Sermon of St. Augustine of Hippo
And justice looked down from heaven:  that is what has happened, is happening this night.  As on the Easter Vigil we celebrate the passing over of Christ the Lord from life to death, and then back again, so this night do we keep vigil, celebrating the passage of the Son of God from the eternal realm to the temporal one.  A world in which there was no justice, a world in which the powerful consumed the weak, a world in which there was no way to blot out the effects of sin.   This world had, still has, an evil king, which seeks to ruin its peoples, who rules through the effects of sin, which men introduced.  Tonight comes the true king, the true heir to the kingdom of this world, our true Lord, our true Sovereign; to us who believe, we know none but he.  This night God enters the world in human vesture, and we are not the same as we were before.  This, the true God, was also the true Man, Jesus of Nazareth, our Savior, our Redeemer, our King.  The time is now that we have, all the time we shall ever have, to call upon the Lord who is near to us, as near as the nearest tabernacle, nearer to us than we are to our selves.  Look, and see:  our redemption is at hand.  Look, and see that He who has made us has not left us alone, is not a watch maker or an absentee landlord, has not abandoned us to our fate.  No, he is the God who loves us, and he has come, he is here; He lives, and dwells among us. No longer need we dwell in agony because of our misery, because our sinful nature will not allow us to be whole.  For, behold the angel Gabriel has announced it, the Virgin Mary has assented to it, and now, the Son is born unto us, unto his people.   Let us worship him as did the Shepherds and the Magi, let us live our lives for him as the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph did:  for Christ our God and King has come to dwell in our hearts, and to rule us in peace and justice forever, never to leave us again.

Advent Journal: Day 21

•December 24, 2017 • Leave a Comment

birth of john the baptist

Thus says the Lord GOD:
Lo, I am sending my messenger
to prepare the way before me;
And suddenly there will come to the temple
the LORD whom you seek,
And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.
Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

Malachi 3:1-2

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
“No. He will be called John.”
But they answered her,
“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
“What, then, will this child be?
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.”

Luke 1:57-66

It is amazing that we think of Christ being born in Bethlehem, as an anonymous child of no social birth or standing.  Yet, angels announced his coming, a star prepared the way for the shepherds and the Magi.  But John the Baptist, who would announce his coming, was the son of a priest of the Temple; he was already marked out as different for that reason, though not by a supernatural occurrence.  That was for the angel Gabriel to announce, as the birth of Christ.  But the point is, God announces his coming.  There are no “anonymous Christians,” and we will know when he comes to us.  He will make it clear.  We have his promise on that.  If it seems so doubtful to some that he exists that he no longer announces things in this way, it is because they expect Him to do so in the same way, for what was a unique event.  And no doubt, when He comes for the last judgment, it will also be that unique.  But even though he uses more “ordinary” means to speak to us until he comes again, it is no less clear: the witness of Scripture, Tradition, and the Authority of the Church.  Above all, he does not have to announce it; he is here.  He is here wherever a tabernacle in a Church is present, in the Holy Eucharist.  Advent is the time we remember that it was announced before hand that he would come, and that He did, and has never left us, and that when He comes again it shall be forever to dwell with those who have kept his Word, waiting expectantly for Him.

Advent Journal: Day 20

•December 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

zaharia_si_elisabeta_ioan

Hannah brought Samuel with her,
along with a three-year-old bull,
an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine,
and presented him at the temple of the LORD in Shiloh.
After the boy’s father had sacrificed the young bull,
Hannah, his mother, approached Eli and said:
“Pardon, my lord!
As you live, my lord,
I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the LORD.
I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request.
Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD;
as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD.”

1 Samuel 1:24-28

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.”

Luke 1:46-56

The coming of the Saviour was promised to Abraham and to his descendants for ever. These are the children of promise, to whom it is said: If you belong to Christ, then you are descendants of Abraham, heirs in accordance with the promise.
  But it is right that before the birth of the Lord or of John, their mothers should utter prophecies; for just as sin began with a woman, so too does redemption. Through the deceit of one woman, grace perished; the prophecies of two women announce its return to life.
From a Commentary on Luke, by St. Bede the Venerable
 Dear Lord Jesus Christ, give us the faith of St. Elizabeth, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that we might, despite our evil inclinations, welcome the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, and be found worthy to stand before the Lord in his eternal light by submitting ourselves to his most gracious will for our lives.  Through the prayers of the All Holy Virgin Mary, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Advent Journal: Day 19

•December 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The_Visitation_by_Karl_von_Blaas-496-x-500

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you,
he has turned away your enemies;
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Zephaniah 3:14-18

Mary set out in those days
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

Luke 1:39-45

How long did Israel believe that a king would come to redeem her?  Five hundred, a thousand years? I suppose five hundred, if we reckon from the Babylonian exile.  To await a protector,  a redeemer, someone who will take away all the pains and humiliations that we have suffered, put them right in the end–who has not wished for this?  Who has not suffered in vain, awaiting such a redeemer to come?  How can in one person exist the bitterness, the disappointment, the sense of betrayal, and yet–still hope? It is not a defense mechanism; we can easily kill our selves, or go on living as if dead.  I did so for many years, before I was called into the Church.  The traditional answer must be the one, for I can find no other:  to manifest his glory.  The king who would save Israel came from a virgin daughter of Zion, and God raises up life from death, hope from despair.  It is enough.  The hour grows late.  The king is coming. Let us prepare him a place in our hearts.  Let us await our salvation with conviction, and anticipation:  for now, now is the hour when we shall begin our long journey, from the slavery of sin, death, and despair, to the life giving light that is Christ our God.  Amen.

Advent Journal: Day 18

•December 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

8Annunciation-Panicale

Listen, O house of David!
Is it not enough for you to weary men,
must you also weary my God?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel.

Isaiah 7:13-14

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38

You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion.

From a Sermon of St. Bernard of Clairvaux

How easy it to disobey! When there is easy evil, and difficult good, there is no doubt which we will choose.  If someone asks something of us that will help them, but is merely burdensome to us, we are wont not to do it, even if it the cost is not that great.  Our souls are a precarious balance of forces, and we are all too aware of how easily they can be disturbed.  This is why we do less good than we should, why we commit so many venial sins from which we excuse our selves.  I had to, you use, because there was too much pressure, too much fear, too much desire, too much, much too much for me to give away.  I would have been left with nothing, had I given away my power, and consented to God’s wishes.  And this is not completely false.  Ours is a mind shaped, no doubt, by eons of evolution, of fight or flight instinct, of the desperate reality that if we do not ration our resources, psychological or physical, we shall perish beneath someone else’s hand.  To say yes, and leave it to God to work in us, is so far alien to the biological and cultural habits that have made mankind successful, it is astonishing to me that the Christian Gospel has had any success at all.  Thus do we weary God with our innumerable infidelities, our pathetic sins, capricious lies to ourselves, and weak worship of Him.  And yet, and yet–he does not abandon us, but gives us extraordinary signs of his grace, his love.  God wants us to believe, but we take it as presumptuous to ask him for any great deed–“I will not tempt the Lord,” said king Ahaz, and we agree.  Afraid to risk being disappointed, afraid to have our faith revealed as mistaken, we do not ask what we should, or how we should ask it.  For if there were no God, such as God Himself had revealed to us, we would not bother to ask the question at all.  There would be certainty, and we could be at peace.  But since we are not sure, and because, at a certain point, as St. Paul tells us, “where there be knowledge it will pass away,” we debate whether or not to put out into the deep, and risk our lives for God and his only Son. For that, we could not rely on certain knowledge, but only on our faith, and love for Him.  And we know how weak that is!  Let us pray, therefore, that He give us the humility to seek the faith that will sustain us, and the love that will carry past any doubt when he calls, so that we may answer with the Virgin Mary to him:  “be it done unto me according to thy word.”

Advent Journal: Day 17–O Radix Jesse

•December 19, 2017 • Leave a Comment

archangel-gabriel-strike-zacharias-dumb-ivanov-alexander

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

“I am Gabriel, who stand before God.
I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news.
But now you will be speechless and unable to talk
until the day these things take place,
because you did not believe my words,
which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”

Luke 1:19-20

God is man’s glory. Man is the vessel which receives God’s action and all his wisdom and power…
If man, without being puffed up or boastful, has a right belief regarding created things and their divine Creator, who, having given them being, holds them all in his power, and if man perseveres in God’s love, and in obedience and gratitude to him, he will receive greater glory from him. It will be a glory which will grow ever brighter until he takes on the likeness of the one who died for him.
St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies
An angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her,
“Though you are barren and have had no children,
yet you will conceive and bear a son.
Now, then, be careful to take no wine or strong drink
and to eat nothing unclean.
As for the son you will conceive and bear,
no razor shall touch his head,
for this boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb.”
Judges 13:3-5
The story of John the Baptist’s birth is an echo of the two great biblical stories of the Hebrew scriptures–the birth of Samson, recalled in today’s readings, and the birth of the prophet Saul.  In those stories, a a barren woman is blessed with a son–the unnamed mother of Samson by angel, and Hannah, the mother of Saul, prays and the priest Eli prays for her.  Though the story of Samson more closely parallels that of John the Baptist, the Magnificat of Mary is a direct echo of the prayer of Hannah in First Samuel.  What is notable, however, is that in the New Testament, how Zechariah, the priest, lacks faith in Gabriel’s annunciation.  In fact, it is unusual that he reveals himself, as the angel in the Samson story does not.   It is almost as if he is displaying his pedigree for Zechariah, who is so quick to doubt his word.  When challenged by the doubting priest, he offers no explanation, but merely states who he is:  God’s messenger.  It is the angels, of course, who announce the new of the birth of Christ in Luke, but it is notable that Gabriel says he was there to “announce this good news” and punishes Zechariah for his unbelief.  The good news is for those can receive it; kings and priests will shut their mouths who cannot believe, when the King of All has come.  Zechariah comes to believe, but it is noteworthy the reversals here in the Gospels: the wives acquiesce freely, but Zechariah and Joseph have to be prodded into belief.   While we await our salvation, we grow tired of hope, cold and slack in our belief.  It easy to forget when it is so far off.   Like Samson, our destiny is set from the womb, for man is that unique part of his creation that can become like the Creator.  Out of the billions of planets, in all the galaxies, around all the stars, he chose man for his revelation.  Like our moon that receives its light from our sun, so do we humankind derive our glory from the one who made us.  Today, and throughout our lives, we have had and will have many messengers; let us heed their words, and be not unbelieving.  For what awaits us is the glory of our Lord,  in whom we hope, and whose word does not fail.
 
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