Thursday, December 13, 2018

SAINTS OF THE LIGHT


In today’s feast iwe celebrate one of the great martyrs of the early Church, ST. LUCIA (Lucy).  Because her torture reportedly included the gouging out of her eyes, Lucy, whose name means light, is associated in a special way with Christmas and the biblical image of Jesus as the light of the world. Her feast day is a major holy-day in Scandinavia and usually marks the  beginning of the Christmas. Often her feast day is celebrated by candlelight processions, usually involving girls holding candles or wearing a wreath of candles.



It may be no accident that ST. JOHN of the CROSS’ feast day is celebrated during the Advent season (December 14), for it is he who is best known for his moving account of the “dark night of the soul” that all Christians must experience on their way to God. This darkness may be terrifying, but it is no cause for despair. As one Carmelite nun has written: “The darkness of that Bethlehem night held the glory of God’s greatest gift to humanity. The Carmelite friar’s description of going to God through the night is not a sad dirge at all. He tells us that the night he describes is really God coming to us with the intensity of a light so dazzling it overwhelms our capacity to see. We walk through the nights of our lives with the assurance that we will see a new dawn, more glorious than any we have looked at before.”

Like the shepherds waiting in the darkness of that night in Bethlehem, so too are we standing vigil for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

If St. John of the Cross  teaches us about the darkness that precedes our encounter with God, St. Lucy reminds us to look forward to the heavenly light that will follow.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

PATRONESS OF THE AMERICAS- LIGHT TO THE PEOPLE


We just finish celebrating the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, when we celebrate another great feast of our Lady. On December 12, we honor OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE, patroness of  all the Americas. December 9th is  the  feast of  Aztec  ST. JUAN DIEGO who was given the extraordinary grace of a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Juan  was walking on Tepeyac hill, now part of Mexico City, on December 9, 1531, when he heard music and saw a beautiful woman in a striking garb, surrounded by  golden rays, with garments  as brilliant as the sun. .

The image of Guadalupe relates to Immaculate Conception imagery, which drew aspects of its symbolism from the Book of Revelation  which  describes the Woman of the Apocalypse as “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” In the Guadalupe image, twelve golden rays frame her face and head, a direct reference to the crown of stars.

The moon for the Meso-Americans was the god of the night. By standing on the moon, Mary shows that she is more powerful than the god of darkness. The crescent moon under the Madonna’s feet is usually a symbol of her perpetual virginity, and refers to her Immaculate Conception.

The aureole or luminous light surrounding our Lady is a sign of the power of God who has sanctified and blessed the one who appears. The rays of the sun would also be recognized by the native people as a symbol of their highest god, Huitzilopochtli. Thus, the woman comes forth hiding but not extinguishing the power of the sun. She is now going to announce the God who is greater than their sun god.


The stars on the Lady’s mantle shows that she comes from heaven. The stars also are a sign of the supernatural character of the image. The research of Fr. Mario Rojas S├ínchez and Dr. Juan Homero Hern├índez Illescas of Mexico (published in 1983) shows that the stars on the Lady’s mantle in the image are exactly as the stars of the winter solstice appeared before dawn on the morning of December 12, 1531.  

No small wonder that this miraculous mantle, which still exists intact after 500 years, defies scientific
scrutiny.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

SECOND SUNDAY of ADVENT





A longtime friend of our Abbey in CT (and close to our Mother Ruth who died in August) is Br. Victor-Antoine D’Avila-Latourrette OSB who lives in the Hudson Valley of NY.. He has written many books-  from cook books (The Monastic Kitchen), to blessings at meals to understanding monastic life (A Rhythm of Life- The Monastic Way).   He has much to say abut Advent  in his book Monastery Journey to Christmas. Great insights for meditation during this holy season of preparation for the Lord's coming.  Slow down and read a page a day! 

“ We wait and wait for the Lord. We become very conscious of the waiting. It is an eager waiting, full of anticipation and wonder, for as with the prophets of old, our companions on the road, we long to see his face.

The Lord, of course, is very much aware of this patient waiting, of this deep yearning for him, and he is ever ready to come into our lives and fulfill our deepest desires. Advent waiting is always twofold. On our part, we await prayerfully, consciously, and anticipate his coming. On God’s part, he is eager to arrive and find a warm dwelling place in our hearts. The greater our desire and patience in waiting for him, the fuller we shall be filled with his presence.

If we learn to cultivate this inner attitude of waiting for him steadily, faithfully, not only during the Blessed Advent days, but throughout the whole of our lives, we shall likewise be rewarded with the grace, joy, and warmth of his real presence in the innermost of our hearts."


Friday, December 7, 2018

MARY, THE SOURCE OF ADVENT LIGHT





(Immaculate Conception- Peter Paul  Rubens, 1628)

There  are very few saints we celebrate in December, but those we do celebrate seem to be connected to light.

Foremost in our minds and hearts in Advent, as we prepare for the coming of her Son, is the Mother of our Savior.  As Pope Benedict once wrote: “For Mary, as for Abraham, faith is trust in, and obedience to, God, even when He leads her through darkness. It is a letting go, a releasing, a handing over of oneself to the truth, to God. Faith, in the luminous darkness of God’s inscrutable ways, is thus a conformation to Him.”

Two Marian feasts fall during Advent. The first of which is:OUR LADY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, patroness of the USA., on December 8.

According to St. (Pope)  Paul VI in his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus, “The Church asks Mary’s intercession for those who have closed their eyes to the light of this world and appeared before Christ, the eternal Light”. Mary, far from detracting from the light of Christ, actually acts as a mirror shining in the darkest times to point us toward the source of true Light-God.

Venerable Fulton Sheen spoke of Mary as the reflection of the light of Jesus.   
“God who made the sun, also made the moon. The moon does not take away from the brilliance of the sun.  All its light is reflected from the sun.  The Blessed Mother reflects her Divine Son; without Him, she is nothing.  with Him, she is the Mother of men”. (The World's First Love: Mary, Mother of God)



Thursday, December 6, 2018

WINTER LIGHT


OLR Chapel in Winter

To those who are not used to it, life in the Pacific NW  can get a bit gloomy in December, especially when it rains day after day.  I think it is no coincidence that the Church chooses to  celebrate the coming of the Light at this time when all things appear to be “dead”.  It is in the silence that He chose to come to us- not in the garish summer’s heat.  Advent reminds us to wait, to hope, just as we await the signs of spring after a cold, dark winter. It is the time of longing, of anticipation that we will be freed of the darkness in our lives. 

St Maximus Bishop of Turin (5th Century) an outstanding Biblical scholar and preacher revered for his writings wrote: “ The depressing shortness of the days itself testifies to the imminence of some event which will bring about the betterment of a world urgently longing for a brighter sun to dispel its darkness. In spite of fearing that its course may be terminated within a few brief hours, the world still shows signs of hope that its yearly cycle will once more be renewed. And if creation feels this hope, it persuades us also to hope that Christ will come like a new sunrise to shed light on the darkness of our sins, and that the Sun of Justice, in the vigor of his new birth, will dispel the long night of guilt from our hearts.”

Sunrise from Monastery 


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

CALL TO HOLINESS IN A NEW YEAR


In a pastoral letter marking the first Sunday of Advent, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury dedicated 2019 as the diocesan YEAR OF HOLINESS, calling attention to the Second Vatican Council's emphasis on the universal call to holiness.

“It is this universal call to holiness which I wish all of us, clergy and people, to focus upon anew. It is striking that, amid all the crises of the 20th Century, the central message of the Second Vatican Council was that every one of us, in every state of life, is called to the fullness of the Christian life and the perfection of love: that is, called to become nothing less than a saint,” Bishop Davies wrote.
“Advent is a time of renewed hope leading us to the light of Christmas,” he said. “It is a journey we make in the darkest days of our year. Such days evoke the dark shadows in the world around us, and those failures in the lives and witness of Christians which have at times cast dark shadows over the face of the Church, obscuring for many, the clear light of Christ shining from her.”
He said that “our renewal in holiness” is “the only renewal of the Church which will ever matter … It is why only saints resolved the crises the Church has faced throughout history and why they have proved to be the great evangelisers.”
“It is also why, today, amid the dark shadows of scandal and the challenge of a new evangelisation of western societies, it is urgent to recall this one goal of every Christian life for it is in the saints that the true face of the Church shines out. For, though they can have their place, no pastoral programme; no discussions amongst us; no re-organisation or re-structuring can ever accomplish this; only our striving for holiness to become the saints we have been called by God to be.”
Both “our Christian calling and the ultimate goal of every human life” is “to become, in the end, a saint,” said Bishop Davies, recalling that Christ told us “that this is the one thing which alone matters.”
The bishop noted that Pope Francis wrote in a recent letter that “the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.”
Andrea di Bonaiuto

“A saint is someone who reaches the complete and everlasting happiness of Heaven. We might say that holiness is happiness … it is only by being holy that we can be truly happy.”
Bishop Davies said: “The Holy Father writes, 'Do not be afraid to set your sights higher, to allow yourself to be loved and liberated by God'. For holiness, he writes, is 'the extent that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we model our life on Christ’s'. We can never reach this goal by our own unaided efforts. By the grace of God we can!”
He encouraged everyone in the Diocese of Shrewbury to recall in the coming year that there is found in the Church, holy though composed of sinners, everything needed to grow in holiness.
“In daily prayer, frequent Confession and, above all, in the Holy Eucharist, we are given the Divine means, the grace to reach this goal,” wrote Bishop Davies.
“This is our purpose as we enter anew into Advent,” the bishop concluded. “Let us ask Our Lady, she who is 'full of grace', to accompany us along the path to the holiness, the true happiness to which we are called. In the beautiful words of the Second Vatican Council, we know that in the most Blessed Virgin Mary the Church has already reached perfection and in our struggle she shines out for us as a sign of certain hope and consolation until the day of the Lord shall come in splendor.”

Monday, December 3, 2018

ADVENT READING



One really good way of preparing our hearts for Christ’s coming during Advent and welcoming Him at Christmas is through daily reading.  There are many good books by modern authors as well as ancient.  

Our favorite book to read in Advent is Father Alfred Delp’s  Advent of the Heart (see Blog  6/3/2016 for more on this Jesuit martyr)

The publisher writes,
His  approach to Advent, the season that prepares us for Christmas, is what Fr. Delp called an “Advent of the heart.” More than just preparing us for Christmas, it is a spiritual program, a way of life. He proclaimed that our personal, social and historical circumstances, even suffering, offer us entry into the true Advent, our personal journey toward a meeting and dialogue with God. Indeed, his own life, and great sufferings, illustrated the true Advent he preached and wrote about.
 From his very prison cell he presented a timeless spiritual message, and in an extreme situation, his deep faith gave him the courage to draw closer to God, and to witness to the truth even at the cost of his own life. These meditations will challenge and inspire all Christians to embark upon that same spiritual journey toward union with God, a journey that will transform our lives.



Another good book is Advent with St Teresa of Calcutta, meditations which call us to consider how we might love more deeply, surrender more completely, and let go of all the things not necessary in our busy lives, so there is more room to receive the Lord into our hearts.




Waiting for Christ: Meditations for Advent and Christmas by Bl. John Henry Newman.  (The Vatican just announced  his canonization will take place in 2019)

These beautiful meditations give us reflections on preparing for the Lord's coming at Christmas and the end of time, Our Lady’s  role in salvation history, as well as God's call for each and every one of us to holiness.

It is not too late to start.  Go to Amazon.com (you can even get books used for less than regular price) and you will have in a few days! Blessed Advent!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT




Today we begin  preparation for the Nativity of the Lord by the lighting of the first candle on the Advent wreath in our Chapel. For me it is a special remembrance of a time when I visited the newly "freed" East Germany.  My friends  took me to a very famous artist's home,  primitive but lovely, hidden in a deep woods.  He did pottery among other arts.  I chose a ceramic advent wreath which would hold the 4 candles as well as some greens. It was a lovely blue-green and made from local clay,  Sad to say the artist died soon after my visit.


The Advent wreath is a Christian tradition that symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of Advent in the liturgical calendar of the Western church. It is usually a horizontal evergreen wreath with four candles. Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, the first candle is lit.  Monasteries traditionally do this on the Saturday before just before the first Vespers of Sunday. An additional candle is lit during each subsequent week until, by the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles are lit.

The Advent wreath originated a few hundred years ago among the Lutherans of eastern Germany. It probably was suggested by one of the many light symbols which were used in folklore at the end of November and beginning of December. The Christians in medieval times kept many of these lights and fire symbols alive as popular traditions and ancient folklore.

In the sixteenth century the custom started of using such lights as a religious symbol of Advent in the houses of the faithful. This practice quickly spread among the Protestants of eastern Germany and was soon accepted by Protestants and Catholics in other parts of the country. In modern times the tradition is found in all catholic countries.

The traditional symbolism of the Advent wreath reminds the faithful of the Old Testament, when humanity was “sitting in the darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 2:79); when the prophets, illumined by God, announced the Redeemer; and when the hearts of men glowed with the desire for the Messiah. The wreath — an ancient symbol of victory and glory — symbolizes the “fulfillment of time” in the coming of Christ and the glory of His birth.

In our monastery Mother Prioress lights the first candle  and the following Saturday the next nun in rank. Because we immediately pray Vespers, no specific prayers are said, but in many Churches and homes there are  special prayers.

On the First Sunday of Advent, the father of the family blesses the wreath, praying: O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth  Your blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from You abundant graces. Who lives and reigns forever. Amen”.  The youngest child then lights one purple candle.

During the second week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Your only begotten Son, that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve You with pure minds. Who lives and reigns forever. Amen.” Another child then lights the purple candle from the first week plus one more purple candle.

During the third week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, we beg Thee, incline Your ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Your visitation. Who lives and reigns forever. Amen.” The mother then lights the two previously lit purple candles plus the rose candle.

Finally, the father prays during the fourth week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Your power, we pray You, and come; and with great might help us, that with the help of Your grace, Your merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impede. Who lives and reigns forever. Amen.” The father then lights all of the candles of the wreath.


Since Advent is a time to stir-up our faith in the Lord, the wreath and its prayers provide us a way to augment this special preparation for Christmas. This  tradition helps us to remain vigilant in our homes and not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas.

The message from Pope Benedict XVI is very clear as to why we have these four weeks of preparation- beyond the hustle and bustle of material  concerns. 

"Advent is a time of openness to God’s future, a time of preparation for Christmas, when He, the Lord, who is the absolute novelty, came to dwell in the midst of this fallen humanity to renew it from within. In the Advent liturgy there resounds a message full of hope, which invites us to lift up our gaze to the ultimate horizon, but at the same time to recognize the signs of God-with-us in the present. The Lord wants to do in Advent: to speak to the heart of His people and, through them, to the whole of humanity, to proclaim salvation."