Tag Archives: Advent

27 December: Big is Small.

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The cross shines into the stable in Blake’s Nativity

There is something ridiculous from a human point of view about the whole Christian story. It’s not as though we need Richard Dawkins to point that out to us. Saint Paul got there first and what he says about Christ crucified applies equally to Christ new-born:

We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness: But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1Corinthians 1:23-25

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Over at the Vatican Observatory website, Fr James Kurzynski has been grappling with new research that suggests there are two trillion galaxies – galaxies, not stars – in the Universe. He concludes with these words:

According to the definition of the Sacred Name, God IS, God’s understanding of creation is not limited to the musing of the human person. Therefore, it very well might be that to God every microorganism is a universe and every universe is a microorganism. The God who Is, the God who is Being, can at the same time be present to the grandeur of the totality of all creation, both known and unknown, seen and unseen, while at the same time be present to the smallest singularity in which the potential of a two trillion galaxy universe resides. In short, God transcends our limited language of small and big, helping us understand that the God who brought all things into existence is also aware of the smallest of things in existence, even, to quote Scripture, the hairs on our head and the sparrows of the sky.

Reflection: How do you perceive your place in God’s creation? Does it fill you with awe and wonder or do you feel a bit deflated, feeling small and insignificant? In [this] season, let us remember that we believe in a God who both brought into existence an unthinkably big creation, but also entered into our smallness in the womb of Mary. And may we open our hearts to God [at] Christmas and allow God’s infinite love to enliven our soul through the intimacy of Christ’s love for us and the stirrings of the Holy Spirit.

Do find time over the next few days to read Fr Kurzynski’s essay in full HERE.

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22 December: This birth was hard

 

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It’s easy to feel smugly indignant at the commercialisation of Christmas and attempts to create an official Winter Holiday instead. I wonder whether that is a greater threat to the truth of Christmas than sentimental carols, sung unheedingly? Christmas is, as Mary herself said when she met Elizabeth before their sons were born:

He casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly;

He fills the starving with good things, sends the rich away empty.

Luke 1: 52-53.

Here is one mighty one, years later, most uneasy on his throne, cast down even:

 … this birth

Was hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to  our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people, clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.

T.S. Eliot, Journey of the Magi.

Clutching their gods? We are tattooed on God’s hand (Isaiah 49:15); he hold us, gently. May we know his presence  every day, seeing him in the eyes of every person we meet.

MMB.

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21 December: O come, Thou Day-Spring

Today is the shortest day of the year, up here in the Northern Hemisphere. From today, the hours of daylight gradually increase, as people were well aware before the mixed blessings of electric light allowed us to forget we live in a world we only like to think we control.

The Church has long prayed on this day the antiphon ‘O Oriens’:

O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

This verse of ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ is not a direct translation but captures the spirit of the original, especially in lines three and four.

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O come,Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Of course we want the light, and would be far more lost in a power cut than our ancestors were in days gone by. And we pray ‘God from God, Light from Light’ in the Creed, perhaps without thinking too much about it.

For a surprising view, let’s turn to our old friend, William Blake; Auguries of Innocence includes these lines, which I leave you to digest.

 

God Appears & God is Light

To those poor Souls who dwell in Night,

But does a Human Form Display

To those who Dwell in Realms of day.

MMB.

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18 December … Like the Dew-fall.

 

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Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above,

and let the clouds rain the just:

let the earth be opened,

and bud forth a saviour.

Isaiah 45:8

One Sunday our walk to church took us across a field of crystals, each blade of grass glowing in its jewels, our path marked out by one who had gone before. I was reminded of the good bit of the new translation of the Mass, where the presiding priest asks God to ‘send down your Spirit [upon the Bread and Wine] like the dew-fall‘. Maybe the image does not work in big cities but that’s no reason to discard it.

The same verse from Isaiah is often used in Advent – ‘Heavens drop dew from above’, ‘Rorate Coeli’ and so on.

 

Scientifically, what’s interesting is that dew does not exactly drop from the heavens; it is water that is in the air all along, and appears when conditions are right. When the air is saturated with water vapour. And the dew is seen when eyes are open to it.

We do not need a thunderstorm to impart the Spirit. (1Kings 19:12) The Spirit is already  within us through baptism – water again! We can let ourselves be saturated, with grace, with mercy, at least sometimes. After all, it is for us to prepare the way of the Lord by letting the Spirit be visible in our lives. If one person sees the spirit of love in me today the Holy Spirit will be able to touch them, and change them a little. And maybe change me a little.

Amen to that.

MMB

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17 December: Welcoming Christ among us.

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I have a friend whom I have not seen or heard from for quite a long time now.  Every day, I prayed and hoped that one day we should be re-united.  How I longed that this day would come!  I had imagined how happy and excited I would be if I eventually had contact with her.

Waiting for the coming of Christ is another big event for me.  Out of his love for me, Christ humbled himself to be born as a little baby among us.  He shed every glory he had with his father to come and identify with you and me.  This event, like welcoming a dear friend, should spur me to an eager preparation.  How am I preparing to welcome Christ the Son of God made man?

In the process of evaluating my preparation, I discover I have not measured up very well in my Christian calling. I have not loved unconditionally, not been kind enough and sometimes have judged others without mercy.  I realise I still have much work to do, to enable Christ to enter into my heart. In order to feel that joy and excitement I desire when Christ comes, I need to get rid of all kinds of anger, pride, jealousy or hatred that tend to occupy my heart.

Let us look deep into our hearts to see where God is calling us to change.  God is willing and always ready to come and dine with us if we invite him.

FMSL

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Stars of Wonder

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Eleven times in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles the scholars record comets in the sky – including the year 1066, when it was interpreted as signalling the Norman invasion. Small wonder that many people have tried to establish that the Star of Bethlehem was a comet, and that the appearance of one or other comet around 1AD could help date Jesus’ birth more accurately.

We’ll not go there!

But the Vatican Observatory website tells us that at least three comets will be visible, perhaps to the naked eye as well as telescopes, during 2017 -2018. they may be giant snowballs rather than stars, but are stars of wonder to most of us. I’m hoping to see at least one of them. Where are the dark skies round here? Not an easy question to answer.

We need not fear the darkness of night for

The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen.             Isaiah 9.2

This comet I did see! Hale Bopp, photographed by NASA.

MMB

 

 

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16 December: What can I do?

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Isaiah the prophet challenges us today in the first reading to ‘have a care for justice and keep away from evil’.

Listening to what is happening in world today, it seems there is no justice anywhere and everywhere is full of different kinds of evil. There are so many wars, hunger, illnesses, killings, displacement etc being faced by many people.  Every created thing seeks for justice and fairness. I often wonder where God is in all this. When I reflect on various areas in which injustices are being perpetuated in our world, I weep and feel powerless.

When I consider further, I tell myself I can make a difference in whatever little way is possible for me.  I can speak out for those who are unjustly mistreated. I can write to MPs supporting proposals that promote fair treatment for all.  I can stand up for the truth no matter what it will cost me.  I can also pray for a change of heart for those who no longer seek for God’s justice but rather for punishment without mercy. If I see injustice around me, I can try to be, by following Jesus’ example, a light that shines for all to see.

I pray that in my everyday activities, I will do my best to detach myself from anything that does not promote goodness. I ask God to help me make sure that people and other creatures are treated with fairness, and never trample on them because I have the power and resources to do so.

Come Lord Jesus, Sun of Justice!

FMSL

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15 December: Accept God’s invitation to change.

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There is an aura of joy about today’s readings; in the first, the people are told to: “Shout for joy” and mourn no more, for salvation was coming.  Isaiah was prophesying about a time when the people had repented and returned to God, and He had forgiven them, making a “Covenant of peace” with them which would never be shaken.  His only requirement was that the people had faith in Him.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus commends John, who had been the “greatest of all the children born of women”, because he had known what God wanted and had not been afraid to preach it.  He had been the person bridging the gap between the Old and New Testaments, showing people the first step of the new order: repentance and baptism.  Yet, those coming after who accepted the teaching of Jesus would be in a greater position than John because they had faith, having learned the truths of the Gospel, and were to benefit from the Sacrifice of the Cross.

The reading ends with a warning to the Pharisees, who had been too proud and too convinced of their righteousness to receive baptism from John. They had not realised that this was how God was leading His people at this time; they were “Thwarting God’s plan”.

Let us pray that we will always be open to change our ideas to do whatever God asks of us.

FMSL

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13 December: Our God is a God of Second Chances

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Image from myktis.com

One of the central beliefs of our faith is that God loves us unconditionally.  He never stops searching for us because He wants us to be with Him. He is always willing to give a second chance to those who have separated themselves from Him; today’s readings demonstrate this. They challenge us in our attitudes towards forgiving and not holding resentments.

In the first Reading, the prophet Zephaniah tells us that, although the people have rebelled against Him, God will forgive them and give them “lips that are clean”, so that they will turn to Him and serve Him.  It would be a great thing if we had hearts big enough to forgive like that!  Do we give those who have offended us a second chance, much less “seventy times seven” chances?

The Gospel brings to mind a situation that we can identify with: when confronted with a challenge, we often initially say: “I won’t do this”, as the first  son said, or: “I can’t do it”.  However, when we think it through, think around the situation, we often find that it is better to obey.  Ezekiel tells us that God is always ready to forget the sins of one who repents (Ezek 18:21-24). The second son, who agrees to do what his father asks of him, but does not do it, reminds us of those who agree with the teachings of the Gospel, but do not carry them out: “Why do you say to me: “Lord, Lord”, but not do as I ask”?  (Lk 6:46)

We must beware of being hearers of the Word only, not doers.  There is a long way to go for “second son” people, whereas God is always ready to take back those who repent, “first son” people.  Let us thank God that He is a God of second chances.

 

FMSL

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12 December: ‘Lord, make me know your ways.’

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Image from stmaryslakeport.com

Today is Monday 12th in the third week of Advent and we also celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

In the first reading from the book of Numbers 24: 2-7, 15-17, the prophet Balaam said that “a star from Jacob takes the leadership, a sceptre arises from Israel”. Jesus is the prophet and Leader of Israelites, whose sceptre is a sceptre of power and authority. This is seen in the Gospel reading from Matthew 21: 23-27. Here Jesus is teaching in the temple with authority but the priests and elders who have closed their minds and hearts come to ask him a question. “And who gave you the authority for acting like this?” Because Jesus is full of wisdom and authority, He also asks them a question which they are not able to answer. They only say, “we do not know”.

So for me today, how do I react to authority? Do I welcome true authority, power and wisdom or do I try to trap them like these elders and priests that want to trap Jesus by asking Him questions, simply because they have closed their minds and hearts to the change and freedom that Christ has come to give us?

My prayer today and always is what the Psalmist said in today’s Psalm 24: ‘Lord, make me know your ways. In your Love and Mercy, remember me. Teach me your wisdom, guide me in the right path and give me humility of heart.’ Our Lady of Guadalupe, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us. Amen!

FMSL

 

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