Friday, December 9, 2016

Let's Watch and See

Because many of you are pressed for time during this busy season, most of the posts here during the rest of Advent will be brief thoughts or prayers. I know that I, for one, am in need of ongoing reminders of the Presence of Christ in what could be hectic, stressful days.

If things go as I expect, we will start by thinking about how we can spend this season with God 'in the midst of the world.' Then the final week of Advent can (ideally) be spent going more deeply into silence.

Will things work out that way? 

I expect that either they will or they won't. Now, how's that for a plan?

Let's watch and see....

Thursday, December 8, 2016

If You Knew He Worked Through Your Hands...

'How to find Christmas peace in a world of unrest? You cannot find peace on the outside but you can find peace on the inside, by letting God do to your soul what Mary let Him do to her body; namely, let Christ be formed in you.... 

'As He was physically formed in her, so He wills to be spiritually formed in you. If you knew He was seeing through your eyes, you would see in every fellowman a child of God. If you knew that He worked through your hands, they would bless all the day through.'

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

Painting Gerhard Wilhelm von Reutern, 1843

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Revisiting The Wondrous Interruption

Sometimes the activities of Advent and Christmas can feel like an intrusion. Day to day life is more or less put on hold by an urgent need to shop and wrap and plan. Chairs and tables are displaced by, of all things, a tree in the middle of our house.  There is no time to do ordinary things, as everyday life is seriously disrupted for weeks on end. It can seem like a major interruption. 

A few years ago, the truth of it hit me. This is what Christmas has been since the instant of the Incarnation: an interruption. Please stay with me here, because our first reaction to the word “interruption” could be negative.  But interruptions are often quite positive, and this Interruption was the most positive of them all.

Think of it.  Mary was living a quiet, hidden life.  She was betrothed. Then one day an angel appeared to her, and with that Holy Interruption Mary’s life was changed forever. As was Joseph’s, as was yours, as was mine.

As we know, there was a Birth.  There were shepherds tending their flocks, and again an angel appeared.  A night of sheep-watching was interrupted.  

While most of the world went on unaware, a few men in the east noticed something out of the ordinary.  A sign in the sky.  Something signaling, to them, a wondrous Interruption – one so marvelous that they must drop any other plans they had and go in haste, and they must bring gifts.  These men were wise enough to know that somehow the world had changed, maybe even that the course of life on earth had been altered.

The change was so shattering that mankind took notice.  Calendars would later mark the divide. 

God Himself had split the heavens.  

We now measure time by the before and after of that Grand Interruption, in effect saying that yes, we see. We may not understand, really, but we recognize the wonder and the mystery of it. God interrupted the cycle of sin and death by breaking into our world (John 3:16).  Jesus broke into the flesh of man, shattering hopelessness with His power and mercy.

With Jesus' arrival in the flesh, God interrupted our misery.  He opened to us the path to salvation.   

When I feel stressed by Christmas interruptions, I try to remember what I'm celebrating. Death was interrupted by Life. Despair was interrupted by Hope. 

With His glorious interruption, God tore through the fabric of time.

Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

To Carry Him As You Did

'Teach us, O Mother, to carry Him as you did, completely oblivious of material things, with the eyes of your soul fixed unceasingly upon Jesus within you, contemplating and adoring Him in continual wonder.

'You passed in the midst of created things as in a dream, seeing everything that was not Jesus as though in a mist, while He shone and scintillated in your soul as resplendent as the sun, and encompassed your heart and enlightened your mind.

'Teach us to act on our little excursions in this world and indeed on our whole journey through life so that we may walk as you did, on your travels and every day, seeing external things as though they were plunged in deep darkness, with our eyes fixed only on your Jesus Who illuminates our souls like a flash of fire.'

Charles de Foucauld

Painting: Chiesa de S. Pietro, Madonna del Parto

Monday, December 5, 2016

Advent in Daily Life

'It is necessary to understand that the whole of our life must be an 'advent,' a vigilant awaiting of the final coming of Christ. 

'To predispose our mind to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the Creed, one day will come to judge the living and the dead, we must learn to recognize Him as present in the events of daily life. 

'Therefore, Advent is, so to speak, an intense training that directs us decisively toward Him Who already came, Who will come, and Who comes continuously.'

Pope St John Paul II

Painting: Jules Breton. The Weeders, 1868

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Do We Seek A Savior?

"The question is: is the humanity of our time still waiting for a Savior? One has the feeling that many consider God as foreign to their own interests. Apparently, they do not need Him. They live as though He did not exist and, worse still, as though He were an 'obstacle' to remove in order to fulfill themselves. Even among believers - we are sure of it - some let themselves be attracted by enticing dreams and distracted by misleading doctrines that suggest deceptive shortcuts to happiness. Yet, despite its contradictions, worries and tragedies, it seeks a Savior and awaits, sometimes unconsciously, the coming of the Savior who renews the world and our life, the coming of Christ, the one true Redeemer of man and of the whole of man."

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Painting: T F Simon, New York

Friday, December 2, 2016

To Recollect the Mind

'One way to recollect the mind easily in the time of prayer, and preserve it more in tranquility, is not to let it wander too far at other times: you should keep it strictly in the presence of God; and being accustomed to think of Him often, you will find it easy to keep your mind calm in the time of prayer, or at least recall it from its wanderings.'

Brother Lawrence 

Painting: Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Crack in the Everyday

This time last year, I shared an archived post called 'The Advent Window' for It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday. Because Advent presents such an ideal opportunity for sharing Christ with others, I'm now revisiting this anew.

My 'Advent Window' opened when I was twenty years old. I was in what I call my 'God doesn't bother me and I don't bother Him' phase. There was so much to do... friends to hang out with, boys to date, parties to go to. I took no time to think about God; in fact, I was ignoring Him altogether. 

God, however, was 'thinking' of me, and began reminding me of Himself through a series of little seasonal things. A song heard on the radio, a nativity scene featured on the courthouse steps, Christmas songs piped into stores to draw customers, strains of O Come Let Us Adore Him wedged between Have a Holly Jolly Christmas and Here Comes Santa Claus. One song in particular stood out to me that year, with its announcement that 'Jesus the Savior is Born.' I didn't know what was happening to me when I heard those five simple words on the radio. I only knew my heart felt strangely warmed.

I've heard discussions about whether or not Christmas should be celebrated before the 25th.  After all, it's still Advent. In the Church, it is a time for quiet, for prayer, for gentle shades of purple. In the physical monastery, hearts wait in hushed anticipation.

But most of us live out in the red and green neon of the world. We're where bells jingle, songs jangle, nerves frazzle, patience frays. Because of my long ago 'Advent window,' however, I believe these weeks before Christmas bring rare moments when the love of Christ can be smoothly shared with neighbors, co-workers, family members, store clerks, acquaintances, friends.

In the midst of a secular, godless, 'we're-doing-fine-by-ourselves' world, there appears in this one season a window of opportunity. There is a slot, a crack in the Everyday. A few short weeks during which the whisper of God might be heard through carol or card.

In recent years, we have seen that crack narrow. The courthouse steps of my youth haven't seen a nativity display in years. But even now, somewhere between shoppers lined up for black Friday and the queues awaiting after-Christmas sales, there is still a window of opportunity. A time when someone rushing through a store might catch the strains of an old familiar carol, one she's heard every Christmas since childhood. Yet this time, the words sound different. She remembers a Babe in a manger, and her heart is strangely warmed.

This is a season when we can smoothly and naturally acknowledge (like at no other time) the One Who was born for us. After all, few friends would toss out cards that have nativity scenes on them. Neighbors visiting our homes won't be offended by the words of  'Silent Night.' It's all just part of the season, part of the holidays, part of the fun.

The Church will begin Christmas music and celebrations on the 25th. But out here in the world, the Advent window is now wide open.

This is when scenes and songs normally found only in Church can spill out into the world.

And who knows? Someone years from now might look back on a card you or I sent this season, and recall that 2016 was her own special Advent. We just never know.

This is a repost from our archives. It is linked to Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.'
text ©

The following video captures (externally) what can happen to us (internally) when the Advent Window begins to crack open...

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent: We Begin in Song

To our e-mail subscribers: this post features a video, which can be seen by going to the blog itself

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Beautiful Task of Advent

'Advent is concerned with 
that very connection 
between memory and hope 
which is so necessary to man. 
Advent's intention is to awaken 
the most profound and emotional 
memory within us; namely, 
the memory of the God Who became a child. 
This is a healing memory; 
it brings hope.... 
It is the beautiful task of Advent 
to awaken in all of us 
memories of goodness 
and thus to open doors of hope.'

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Friday, November 25, 2016

Enclose My Heart

'Heart of Jesus, I give my heart to Thee, but so enclose it in Thee that it may never be separated from Thee. Heart of Jesus, I am all Thine; but take care of my promise so that I may be able to put it into practice even unto the complete sacrifice of my life.'  
Blessed Miguel Pro

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

We Give Thanks

'In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.' 
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Painting of monks: Wilhelm Riefstahl
Painting of family: Von Bornin

Monday, November 21, 2016

I Apologize!

This is a quick between-the-acts-post to apologize.

Like most blogs, this site's program has a filter that automatically dumps comments it "determines" to be spam into a spam folder. It does this before I see them, and if I don't check that folder, I never even know such comments have come and gone.

I seldom think about the spam folder, and it doesn't occur to me to check it. I happened to do so tonight, however, and lo and behold! There were a few wonderful and very real comments from very real people - and oh, I would hate to have missed them.

So if you have taken the time to write a generous comment and wondered why it never showed up - I was not ignoring you, and your kind words are deeply appreciated.

I have no clue as to why the "program" categorizes some perfectly fine things as spam. But I do solemnly (raises right hand) promise to check the folder much more often!

The Soul's Secret

Quote from 'Listening to the Indwelling Presence' by a Religious, Pelligrini, 1940

Painting: Carl Gustav Carus (attr), Mönch in Winterlandschaft

Saturday, November 19, 2016

When Night Comes

'When night comes, and retrospect shows that everything was patchwork, and much that one had planned left undone; when so many things rouse shame and regret, then take all as is, lay it in God's hands and offer it up to Him. In this way we will be able to rest in Him, actually to rest and to begin the new day like a new life.'

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Painting: William Peter Watson, Asleep Under a Patchwork Quilt