Monday, December 31, 2012


The Beautiful Pilgrim (Jasna Gora)

Madonna of the Night
Jesus Christ is Born
Just as Christmas honors Jesus as the "Prince of Peace," the SOLEMNITY of MARY MOTHER of GOD (January 1) honors Mary as the "Queen of Peace".

On this feast we are not only honoring Mary, who was chosen among all women throughout history to bear God, but we are also honoring our Lord, who is fully God and fully human.

Mary is the "perfect woman",  hand-picked and created by God to be His mother. She knows the fullness of God's love and passes this beautiful blessing onto to us. She is not only God's mother, but our mother as well. She is the gentle, concerned mother who watches over us day and night, and cares for our every need. Every pain, every worry, every joy we feel she wants us to share it all with her. The love that God manifests toward her, she shares abundantly with us. The Holy Spirit dwells within her heart, and she is the channel of love, grace, and tender mercy for us.

Today I present a wonderful Polish artist to illustrate Mary in the many mysteries of her life with her Son, from His birth to His death.

Madonna of the City of Birds
Madonna on a Deer
“Polish Madonnas in Art and Poetry,” was an exhibit  in 2005 by the renowned Polish artist Wislawa Kwiatkowska. I love her work for the colors, her use of many birds in her paintings, and her sense of the wonder and joy of the Madonna.

The fifty paintings are more than isolated samples of Polish art and poetry. Wislawa Kwiatkowska’s art is a tribute to the Polish genius, marvelously gifted to bring into one the things of this world and the views of God and his saints. (Fr. Stefan Ceglowski, Director of the Diocesan Museum of Plock)

We also knew about the marvelous love story between the Polish people and the Bogarodzica, the Polish “Mother of God.” It was Bl. John Paul II, the Pope of the “Totus tuus,” who gave us an inkling of this enduring relationship of mutual affection.

 This pietà reflects on tragic Polish history when, during the occupation of Poland by the Nazis, many people starved; most wondered where they would find a bit of food to sustain them for another day. The artist shows that all around Mary, the birds find nourishment in the thistle seeds, while she finds nothing to feed her Son. The Polish people know that Mary understands their pain, for her life, like theirs, was full of suffering. (Fr. Stefan Ceglowski)

Surrounded by the flowers of the linden tree, the Holy Mother, with tears in her eyes, rocks her Son.  She has no place to lay her Child to sleep. Golden birds draw near to soothe the Babe with their song and the moon offers itself as a cradle. 

The royalty of Mary and the Child is emphasized by the use of rich blues and purples in this night scene. Mary wears a tall crown and holds her doll-like Son for all to see. The Child spreads His hands, blessing all of nature. Even the most beautiful birds, the proud peacocks, humbly fold their fine tail feathers in the presence of the Madonna and her Son.

Sunday, December 30, 2012


Br. Mickey McGrath, OSFS

Scripture tells us practically nothing about the first years and the boyhood of the Child Jesus. All we know are the facts of the sojourn in Egypt, the return to Nazareth, and the incidents that occurred when the twelve-year-old boy accompanied his parents to Jerusalem. In her Liturgy the Church hurries over this period of Christ's life with equal brevity.

The general breakdown of the family, however, at the end of the past century and at the beginning of our own, prompted the popes, especially the far-sighted Leo XIII, to promote the observance of this feast with the hope that it might instill into Christian families something of the faithful love and the devoted attachment that characterize the family of Nazareth. The primary purpose of the Church in instituting and promoting this feast is to present the Holy Family as the model and exemplar of all Christian families.
                                        -Excerpted from With Christ Through the Year, Rev. Bernard Strasser, O.S.B.

In a beautiful address on December 28, 2011 Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the life of the Holy Family in Nazareth.  "The house of Nazareth is a school of prayer where we learn to listen, to meditate, to penetrate the deepest meaning of the manifestation of the Son of God, drawing our example from Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

Br.McGrath again

The Holy Family is an icon of the domestic Church, which is called to pray together. The family is the first school of prayer where, from their infancy, children learn to perceive God thanks to the teaching and example of their parents. An authentically Christian education cannot neglect the experience of prayer. If we do not learn to pray in the family, it will be difficult to fill this gap later. I would, then, like to invite people to rediscover the beauty of praying together as a family, following the school of the Holy Family of Nazareth".

My personal Christmas card this year was taken when I went over the mountains to the  funeral of my friend Les in October.  Fortunately, I had the camera in hand just as the Steller's jay landed on St. Joseph's head.  I love the statue, as Joseph, who is so often portrayed as an old man (maybe he was a few years older than Mary but....) is here shown as a virile protector of Mother and Child, of Wife and Son.  The jay, true to aloof form almost seems to be watching out for this Family.

A few weeks before my trip, the Shaw Birding club, which this year studied crows and won Best of Show at the county fair for their project (see 8/27/12), decided to study the Steller's jay for their 2013 project (more on this later). Coincidence?  I think not!

Our Lady of the Snows- Leavenworth, WA

Saturday, December 29, 2012


Dr. He Qi

Dr. He Qi
The flight into Egypt is a biblical event described in the Gospel of Matthew,  in which Joseph fled to Egypt with his wife Mary and the Child Jesus after a visit by  the Magi because they learn that King Herod intends to kill the infants of that area. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet Hosea, "Out of Egypt have I called my son."

The episode is frequently shown in art, as the final episode of the Nativity of Jesus. Here I present some of my favorite by modern artists whom I like to showcase, as I think they can sometimes speak to us more of our times than the better known Masters.

Gillian Lawson- British
Why Egypt?  Egypt was a logical place to find refuge, as it was outside the dominions of King Herod, but both Egypt and Palestine were part of the Roman Empire, making travel between them easy and relatively safe. Egypt had long been a safe haven for Israel’s prophets fleeing evil.
Anthea Craigmyle- British

Abraham ran to Egypt. Joseph and his family ran there. Archeologists tell us that at that time the capital city was Alexandria, and there were a million Jews living in Alexandria.

So when Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt, they were fleeing to a place where it was familiar, where they had relatives and their home language was spoken. There is historical plausibility that Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt for safety and to be with people who spoke their own language and shared their customs.

Roy Jamini- Indian
Dr. Stephane Rene- Coptic
Later, Egypt would become one of the earliest strongholds of Christianity outside Palestine. The Coptic Church and Christian monasticism owe their origins to these early times in Egypt.

According to the Gospel of Matthew the family remained in Egypt until an angel in a dream to Joseph announced the death of Herod, but since Archelaus, his evil son, now governed Judea they did not return there but made their home at Nazareth in Galilee.

Michael O'Brien- USA

Friday, December 28, 2012


Rachel Weeping- Salvador Dali

Today is the day we remember the HOLY INNOCENTS, the first martyrs for Christ.

Thus says the LORD: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”  Jeremiah 31:15

The story of Herod the Great  and his infamous infanticide is a dark chapter in the story of the Nativity. The source of the story of this heinous crime is Matt. 2:13-23.
           When the wise men from the East failed to return to Jerusalem from Bethlehem to tell Herod about the new-born king, but, at the angel’s command, returned to their home another way, Herod was as furious as a wild beast, and commanded that all the children of two years and under in Bethlehem and its surroundings be killed. This terrible command of the king's was carried out to the letter. His soldiers cut off some of the children's heads with their swords, dashed others on the stones, trampled some of them underfoot and drowned others with their own hands.

Alexey Pismenny

St Bede in his writings states that: we are dealing with Martyrs, and that in this death is represented the precious death of all Christ’s martyrs. The fact that little children were killed signifies that through the merit of humility one comes to the glory of martyrdom, and that unless one has turned and become as a little child, one will not be able to give one’s life for Christ. (St Bede)

Rose Marie Berger
Rachel will not bewail her children, but ‘God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’ (Revelation), and give them the voice of gladness and of eternal salvation in their tabernacles, he who lives and reigns with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit for ages and ages. Amen. (St Bede)

Amid our holiday celebration we must stop to consider the Innocents in our time.  While infant mortality, worldwide, is down, war, famine, disease, and neglect still feed on the most vulnerable and most precious among us.  It is a sad fact, of course, that in our own time, more innocent children are murdered each day than ever before in history. In so far as we condone or tolerate this situation, we have all become Herods.

One of my favorite songs for the season is the haunting and lovely Coventry Carol which concerns the slaughter of the Innocents.

    Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
    By by, lully lullay, thou little tiny child,
    By by, lully lullay.

    O sisters too, How may we do
    For to preserve this day
    This poor youngling,
    For whom we do sing,
    By by, lully lullay?

    Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
    By by, lully lullay, thou little tiny child,
    By by, lully lullay.

    Herod, the King, In his raging,
    Charged he hath this day
    His men of might,
    In his own sight,
    All young children to slay.

    Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
    By by, lully lullay, thou little tiny child,
    By by, lully lullay.

    That woe is me, Poor child for thee!
    And ever morn and day,
    For thy parting
    Nor say nor sing
    By by, lully lullay!

While it is easy to get lost in the nightmare of what happened to the Innocents, it's to be remembered that they ultimately triumphed! They are the first Saints of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


St. Aiden's Cathedral, Enniscorthy,England

Today is the feast of St. John the Apostle, the disciple "whom Jesus loved". It is a custom in monasteries (and throughout Europe) to drink of "St. John's Love". The Church provides a special blessing of wine in honor of the Saint.

According to tradition St. John drank a glass of  wine poisoned by Emperor Domitian without suffering harm because he had blessed it before he drank. (Just as did our St. Benedict 500 years later).  When the Apostle said a blessing over the wine, the poison left the wine in the form of a snake.
Alonso Cano, 1636

The wine is also a symbol of the great love of Christ that filled St. John's heart with loyalty, courage and enthusiasm for his Master. He alone of all the apostles was not afraid to stay close to Jesus during the Passion and Crucifixion and he was the only Apostle not martyred.

In Catholic Europe, even the children receive a little sip of this blessed wine after the main course of the dinner. The wine is poured in glasses and passed around to the family and guests. As each glass is given, they say:  "I drink you the love of St. John." 

After our Mass of  St. John, Father will say the following prayer over several bottles of wine that we have chosen. For us it represents the wine we will drink through the year as well.


Let us pray.
If it please You, Lord God, bless + this  wine  by the power of Your right hand; and grant that, through the merits of St. John, apostle and evangelist, all Your faithful who drink of it may find it a help and a protection. As the blessed John drank the poisoned potion without any ill effects, so may all who today drink the blessed wine in his honor be delivered from poisoning and similar harmful things. And as they offer themselves body and soul to You, may they obtain pardon of all their sins; through Christ our Lord.     Amen.

Bless, † O Lord, Your creation which we will drink: that it may be a health giving remedy to all who receive it. Grant, through the invocation of Your holy name, that all who taste of it be healed in body and soul; and what they have given You, they may receive abundantly in return. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


One of my favorite artists: Chinese American Dr. He Qi
We are are familiar with traditional paintings of the Birth of Jesus Christ but I would like to present some perhaps unfamiliar and unusual modern works from around the world.
Another favorite- from Japan  Sadao Watanabe
Also by S. Watanabe

Russia- Yelena Cherkasova
Romania- Joann Lutai  (paint on glass)
Poland- Katarzyna Gawlowa

England - Stephen Whatley
France- Hermine David Drypoint

Haiti- Pierre Valcine

Charles Carillo, New Mexico

Diana Bryer, New Mexico


Sunday, December 23, 2012


The Expectant Virgin

O EMMANUEL, our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of the nations and their  Savior.  Come and save us, O Lord our God.

Isaiah 7:14: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel".

Expectant Virgin- German
With this antiphon our expectation finds joy now in the certainty of fulfillment.  We call Jesus by one of the most personal and intimate of His titles, Emmanuel, God-with-us.  We recall that in His birth from the Virgin Mary God takes on our very flesh and human nature: God coming nearer to us than we could have ever imagined!  Yet He is also to be exalted above us as our king, the lawgiver and judge, the one whom we honor and obey.  And He is our Savior, long-expected by all creation.

Today is also the 4th and last Sunday of Advent which gives us the wonderful Gospel of the Visitation, where Mary hastens to visit Elizabeth, having found that she too is with child.

Elizabeth experienced a jump in her womb and Luke ascribes it to John’s recognition of Jesus. It captures beautifully the emotion and feeling of that meeting between the two pregnant women.
Jim Janknegt- USA
 Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit cried out on a loud voice:
"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the Fruit of your womb." (Lk.1)

Mary and Elizabeth both saw themselves as willing instruments in the hands of God. They both knew that even though they didn't fully understand the "how" or the "what" of God's activities He was at work in their lives and that the FIAT from both was to have consequences to our day.

In these two women , God has again taken the obscure and unthinkable and put it at the beginning of His work. Again, His way, not ours.


The events of our redemption all really begin at the meeting of John and Jesus in the desert and so this early history is just setting us up for that event.  Both women in the Gospel offered their bodies for God’s purpose.

Through the body of Christ we ourselves have been blessed, just as Mary has been blessed, and we too are able to carry the body of Christ within us. The Incarnation can take place within us each time we receive Him in the Eucharist.

Dr. He Qi
Visitation- John Armstrong- England 1949

Saturday, December 22, 2012


"Prince of Peace"- Br. Mickey McGrath
"O King of the Gentiles and the Desired of the Nations, you are the cornerstone that binds two into one. Come, and save man whom you fashioned out of clay."

By calling the Messiah the “Desired of all Nations,” Scripture recognizes the hearts of every nation and culture towards the good, the true, and the beautiful, which for us Christians is Christ.

Isaiah had prophesied: "For a child has been born for us, a son given us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah had prophesied: "For a child has been born for us, a son given us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." ( 9:6)

Linda Henke

 "He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." (2:4)

Friday, December 21, 2012


Sr. Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ
"O DAYSPRINGO RADIANT DAWN, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”

Isaiah 9:1: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone". The sun which rises in the east is a harbinger of the light which dispels the darkness.

Jesus is indeed the true light, the radiance of his Father's splendor. We pray this daily in the Benedictus at Lauds (the morning prayer), joining in the words of Zechariah: "He, the Dayspring, shall visit us in his mercy to shine on those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death"  (Luke 1:78).

Linda Henke
Today’s O Antiphon, my favorite to sing,  is a surprise as it departs from the familiar pattern of the other "O"s: the Veni coming, as it were, out of the depths: do-fa-mi. "Today, our Veni has a certitude, a note of triumph, the beginning of a jubilation. It is as if the first rays of the Dayspring are already illuminating our eyes and warming our faces. Today, our cry Veni is sung on la-sol, right after the musical summit of the whole antiphon. Picture this: you have climbed to a mountain peak before sunrise and there, as you survey the dark horizon, you catch the first rosy glimmers of the dawn. From your mountain height you give voice to the cry of your heart: Veni! But the cry comes from one who already sees the light." (Dom Mark Daniel Kirby, Prior of  Silverstream Priory, Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland.)

In the Mass for the day we pray from Malachi (3:19): Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven...and the day that us coming will set them on fire..but for you who fear My Name, there will arise the Sun of Justice with His healing rays.