O Rex Gentium

In a year I have a new readership base. The O Antiphons are my favorite preparation to Christmas and I wanted to share these short posts I have from previous years. Please check back through the rest of the week for a new reflection each day. Minor edits have been made.

O King of the nations,

and their desire,

the cornerstone making both one:

Come and save the human race,

which you fashioned from clay.

Between Genesis chapter 1 and 2 we have the great accounts of how God created the human race.  Whether you believe that we were originally created from clay or not, There is no doubt that we are fashioned from our beginning by God.

You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know.

Psalms 139: 13-14

It is not that we are born and forgotten but that we are loved even greater because we are created in the image and likeness of God. While people will often remind us that we are male and female, all different ethnicities and different, it does not diminish our value as human beings.

Being made in the image and likeness of God, comes from our very souls. Our souls are created to live on after our bodies decay. Our souls are immortal, they have a definite beginning and will have no end. This is similar to God who is eternal, He has no beginning and he has no end.

That being said St. Augustine reminds us “that our hearts are restless, until we rest in thee, O Lord.” This echos the greatness that every person is created in, from natural conception to natural death.

With two days until the vigil, please pray for those who have passed and are able to fully see the greatness of God this Christmas.

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O Clavis David

In a year I have a new readership base. The O Antiphons are my favorite preparation to Christmas and I wanted to share these short posts I have from previous years. Please check back through the rest of the week for a new reflection each day. Minor edits have been made.

O Key of David and scepter of the House of Israel;

you open and no one can shut;

you shut and no one can open:

Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,

those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

The Key of David actually doesn’t remind me to look backwards but rather to look forwards.

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Matthew 16: 18-19

Jesus himself knew that he was coming to be the covenant for many. He knew his death would be opening of the gates of Heaven for all. Growing up, the church I went to incorporated icons into the liturgical seasons. Although this isn’t the exact icon that would be present at times in our parish, the story it tells is the same. Our resurrected Savior has come, and he is also raising those who have already died to their new lives. Traditionally, it is believed that Adam was the first person that Jesus raised to this new life.

Those who died in faith prior to the death of Jesus were held as prisoners in their death. They were not held in Hell as we think of it, but they were not allowed to enter Heaven either. The faithful departed existed in a “lesser hell” that one priest explained to me was like a huge waiting room at the doctor’s office and the wait just kept getting longer and longer. They were waiting for their Diving Physician to render the final blow on death.

So too now we wait for him to come again. We wait for a time of peace, joy, hope and love. We wait for a place where we hear this:

“Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God]. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.” The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then he said, “Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.”

Revelations 21: 3 – 5

Come O Key of David, for we wait anxiously for you.

O Adonai

In a year I have a new readership base. The O Antiphons are my favorite preparation to Christmas and I wanted to share these short posts I have from previous years. Please check back through the rest of the week for a new reflection each day. Minor edits have been made.

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,

who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush

and gave him the law on Sinai:

Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

When we think of God, we don’t often like thinking of the connotation of Master. Lord, I can handle, but Master, is asking a bit too much. Society has often placed before us the desire to be our own master, to paraphrase Frank Sinatra, I’ll do it my way. However, our Master doesn’t truly ask for much. Obedience, service, and compassion seem to top the list. We have the Ten Commandments, the Virtues,  the Catechism, nothing too outrageous, unless it conflicts with what I want.

While there are times when we believe that we are doing the right thing by not helping others or not wanting to interfere with others lives,  Saint Bernard of Clairvaux is quoted as saying “Hell is full of good intentions and desires.” As Catholics, we need to remember a tiny thing called the Sins of Omission, those sins we have committed because of what we did not do. I didn’t correct someone speaking wrongly about the Catholic faith, I didn’t help the person struggling to open the door, I didn’t do what I am called to do under the law.

“The law, the law, the law; laws are subjective and shouldn’t impose beliefs on me.”

I think we can all agree that the Ten Commandments are more than just a great moral code, they are a true gift from God which we have promised to uphold and obey.

The gift of the commandments and of the Law is part of the covenant God sealed with his own. In Exodus, the revelation of the “ten words” is granted between the proposal of the covenant and its conclusion – after the people had committed themselves to “do” all that the Lord had said, and to “obey” it. The Decalogue is never handed on without first recalling the covenant (“The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb.”)

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2060

Here’s the truth though, we’re human. Sin and fault is unfortunately part of our lives. We are in need of a redeemer who will guide us and help us on our journey. One that will lead us, guide us, and forgive us when we do stumble and fall.

O Sapientia

In honor of the O Antiphon’s returning to us again this year I am reposting my reflections on them from last year.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,

reaching from one end to the other mightily,

and sweetly ordering all things:

Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Growing up, I always heard people tell me, “Amanda, you are such a prude.” Meaning, I didn’t want to break the rules, I didn’t want to have fun, I wasn’t the one you trusted when you would divulge your plans to do something illegal. I would sit there and just pick apart those things and think about everything that could, and (knowing my friends) would go wrong. I have no qualms about admitting I was the wet blanket.

But Prudence is also defined as such:

Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; “the prudent man looks where he is going.” “Keep sane and sober for your prayers.” Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle. It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1806

I really enjoy St. Thomas Aquinas’ explanation of “right reason in action.” Not only being the wet blanket, but following through with it. I jest but I am trying to make a point. Prudence is the ability to have the foresight to make the decision and the desire to follow through with it.

Now God, the height of all wisdom, had the sight and ability when he created humanity to keep us wonderfully obedient people, yet He still gave us the gift of free will. God saw that free will could have its problems and had the prudence to know how we could be redeemed. The God who created the universe had a plan.

That plan was to give us the gift of His son, Jesus Christ. I would call that wisdom and prudence indeed.

Perception is everything

About five months ago my husband and I moved in order to be closer to family and for a job I had accepted. I was trying to get healthy but nothing was working. Somehow after we moved, I started losing weight. It wasn’t a conscious decision but it started happening and I have taken a more active role again in my health. The truth is, I’ve always been overweight and if you follow the BMI index I would still be considered morbidly obese, but I’ve already lost 25 lbs. I consider that a pretty big accomplishment. I haven’t lost any sizes on my clothing, I still have issues with certain activities and I still am often the first to get tired at Zumba class, but I still do it.

It does get disheartening once in awhile but I keep going. Trying new things and looking for motivation on the internet. I have been looking for new exercises, diet tips, recipes, anything to get me out of a workout rut and I noticed the people in those pictures. Always skinny, always smiling, and usually perfect.

As a photo enthusiast, I somehow remember the Cannon Camera ads with Andre Agassi saying “image is everything.” As a photo company, it was quite catchy and it made the point. It’s the photos that you want to remember, what is portrayed is what you get. Wrong. I take photos, I know and love the thrill of being behind the lens and capturing the beauty I see. I love the opportunity to express what exists and what can be revealed with some creative thinking. It isn’t the image which is important, it is the perception.

Before my husband and I started officially dating, we would hang out together and hike, go for coffee, talk, and be each other’s best friend. One blustery January day I wanted to go get some pictures of Duluth, Minnesota’s shipping canal since it had been very cold and there was some really interesting ice. Although close to shore everything was covered in ice and I didn’t want to go alone, just incase I slipped and cracked my head open. So I drafted my best friend who I certainly wasn’t dating.

He didn’t understand what I saw that night as the sun was setting behind us. The light was dimming and I was shooting frantically but I loved it. It was thrilling, and after I slipped a few times, he saw why I didn’t want to do this alone. We went for coffee afterwards, it was his reward for dealing with the cold, and he still couldn’t see what I saw from behind the lens. A month later I had the pictures developed, I was still shooting 35mm film, and he could finally see it. Our perceptions finally matched.

The same occurs when we talk about our faith. From teens and adults I too often hear, “my faith … my beliefs… I won’t tell others what to believe…” people fear sharing their perspective. However, without our personal experiences or our personal testimonies, we do not have the chance to evangelize those around us through our example. If we are seen to be loving, caring, exuberant disciples of Christ who would want to follow him. How we are perceived and how we perceive ourselves is everything.

Chick-Fil-A, Oreos, and Yiayia

It’s been a while since I’ve posted and I’ve had a lot that has happened. I hope to be back rather than start a new blog.

I don’t know about you, but lately my Facebook wall has been filled with photos that look like this:

and

The letter from the Mayor of Boston prohibiting Chick-fil-a corporation to open a restaurant in their city.

These are not the only photos, I have also received an equal number of posts regarding the other side of the issue. However, Gay Marriage, while important, is not the topic of this post.

Internet memes, laughs at one’s self and others, seem to dominate my Facebook feed. It’s what those I care about share in their lives. It may be their attempt at humor or “taking a stance” on an issue, but effectively, I know what’s on their minds.

Last night my husband and I were watching Food Network, enjoying a quiet evening and we were introduced to Yiayia. Yiayia is Greek for “grandmother” and the star of the Athenos commercials.

Please watch it and enjoy the laugh. What got me wasn’t what the actors were wearing, and it wasn’t that Yiayia reminded me of someone from Mamma Mia. It was that Yiayia came out and said that these 4 young and attractive people are sitting near a pool, and she calls it pornography. The young adults then try and cover themselves up a bit, but it still looks like they are ashamed, even though they are eating the right product.

There are four Yiayia adds that I have found: Yiayia calls a woman with a low-cut, but otherwise modest, dress a prostitute, Yiayia tells a non married couple who is living together that they are going to hell, and Yiayia tells a house-husband  that he is the wife because he does not bring in the family income. Well worth the chuckle if you have the time.

The reason I bring these ads up is because they touch on the Conservative Social Values that Chick-fil-a’s President-COO Dan Cathy shares. These grandmothers are chastising these young people because they live in a way that is a part of society, but against their personal views. We, as an audience, just laugh.

Many people would argue that these aren’t the views of the parent company, or we are laughing because these views are so archaic and backwards. I laughed at the first commercial because it touched on those values and told me, an advertiser is realizing we don’t need to show all that skin! For that, I may be unique, but I, as a young adult female who chooses to dress modestly, have a traditional view of family, and was a virgin who was separated by distance from my husband when we married, saw a glimmer of hope in advertising.

There are also many calling for a national boycott of Chick-fil-a based on the comments made by their founder. This is the quote that sparked a national outrage:

 “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives.”

Chick-fil-a has also made this statement on its Facebook Page from July 19, 2012

“The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 Restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.

Chick-fil-A is a family-owned and family-led company serving the communities in which it operates. From the day Truett Cathy started the company, he began applying biblically-based principles to managing his business. For example, we believe that closing on Sundays, operating debt-free and devoting a percentage of our profits back to our communities are what make us a stronger company and Chick-fil-A family.

Our mission is simple: to serve great food, provide genuine hospitality and have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”

The emphasis is mine, because it closely resembles the Catholic Church’s stance as well.

“They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2358

The emphasis is again mine. Catholics, who are completely aligned with the Magisterium believe that those who are homosexual are called to lives of chastity. All people should be able to agree on the dignity of everyone, regardless of gender, race or creed.

Back to Yiayia. Based on these adds alone, one could argue that the parent company is in support of Conservative family values. These ads chastise how most people in the United States live their every day lives and mocks it in a public venue. Am I ashamed or offended by these commercials? No, I find them humorous, and as evidenced by this post, thought-provoking.

I try to be a thoughtful consumer. Does this mean that I will go out of my way to support Chick-fil-a because they support my views? No, I have never eaten there and do not live in an area where there is a Chick-fil-a. Will I go out and buy Athenos products because of their commercials? No, I purchase their hummus because it is the brand I prefer and I don’t know how to make my own. I still eat Oreos, Wheat Thins, Hummus, Feta Cheese, and Ritz crackers.  Why? I enjoy them and unless I could get a couple million friends to not purchase those things with me, I know my $5 here and there won’t do much to their bottom line. What will make a difference, is knowledge and standing up for our beliefs regardless of how controversial they are.

And for the record: Oreos are manufactured by Nabisco, which is a sister company to Athenos. Both are owned by Kraft Foods.

Love

Although I am only 25, I could share quite a few different perspectives on love and what it means to me and those I care for. Then there is the fact that I cannot get The Beatles “All You Need is Love,” out of my head, and my husband would find this greatly amusing. So I’m going to share the love with you.

Then I will share the randomness of how my brain works. I can’t help listening to this song and then have 1 John 4:8 pop into my head, “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” Now I’m am nearly certainly positive that The Beatles were not making this connection when this song was written and recorded, but I want to share specifically the second verse and the chorus with one key change that I’m going to let you discover.

There’s nothing that can know that isn’t known,

Nothing you can’t see that isn’t shown,

There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you are meant to be,

It’s easy

All you need is God,

All you need is God,

All you need is God,

God is all you need.

Lennon/McCartney  – Adaptations in italics are my own (substitute God for love)

In 1 John 4, John, makes it very clear that love is essential to faith and in the eighth verse makes the bold statement that “God is love.” Taking into account a couple of mathematical principles, we can easily say God = Love and making a quick substitution for God in the lyrics of a Beatles song still makes sense.

Going back to the beginning, we know that God creates man and woman with a purpose and the Baltimore Catechism teaches it as such, “God made man to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.” This is pretty clear when God tells man to have dominion over the earth and it’s creatures, plus to honor and love God by not eating from the Tree of Knowledge. In short we know what God asked from Genesis chapters 1 and 2, then that pesky snake comes into the picture in chapter 3.

Satan doesn’t often tempt us with what we do not already know. God told Adam and Eve, don’t eat from that tree or you will die. It wasn’t that God didn’t make enough other plants that they could have eaten from. We also know that it was the tree of knowledge. Although Adam and Eve had free will they did not know what a negative consequence was without eating from that tree, Adam and Eve were completely protected from that knowledge.

So Satan stealthily slithers in and tells Eve the truth, “[…] You certainly will not die! God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.” Genesis 3: 4 – 5, and he was telling her the truth. God knows what good and evil is and wanted to spare Adam and Eve from that because God already knew what the consequences would be. The consequence wouldn’t be physical immediate death, but the physical separation between God and humanity. The complete consequence for humanity in that separation, as defined by both the Baltimore Catechism and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1033), is Hell.

So why all this focus on love?

Love is the key to all of Salvation History. Love is why Moses was able to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and why they stayed in the desert for 40 years. Love is why David built the temple and why David was forgiven for what happened with Bathsheba. Love is why Abraham was given Issac, why Issac was sacrificed and why Issac was spared. Love, “for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life,” John 3:16.

God’s love doesn’t stop there. We have the sacraments, grace, prayers, the mass, Saints and saints, forgiveness, virtues and the list just continues in great abundance. It is no wonder that we call love the greatest of all virtues. “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Cor. 13: 13

In short, The Beatles may have been onto something when they said, “all you need is love,” but the fullness of that statement should be, all we need is God.