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.

A Simple Stable

Here’s my latest post from Ignitum Today with a few slight changes

With my job come several wonderful perks. Attending weekly mass with the Catholic School is one of them. It’s a K-8 school, and my favorite part of mass is going to receive Communion. The voices of the students grow louder and louder as I approach the altar. Of course, the older students think they are too cool to sing, and the Kindergartners are just happy to make a little noise. But it is a beautiful choir nevertheless.

As we were transitioning between Christ the King and the First week of Advent, I snuck into the school chapel to get in some prayer time. Coming into the chapel from a side entrance, I saw the Advent Wreath. But I also saw that they had put up the stable for the Christmas Creche. I prayed as I walked to the front that they had not placed Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and the rest in it yet. I was shocked and in awe of what I saw. There was no Mary, Joseph, Jesus, or any person in it. Only sheep and some hay.

I had never seen this before, and was completely engrossed in it. A simple stable unknowingly waits to receive our Lord. For now, it is crowded with animals. They make a mess of the floor, live their daily lives and are none the wiser. As the weeks progress more animals will be stabled because of the census. It will be very crowded.

The same happens in our very own lives. Advent is a time to prepare for Christ to enter into our lives. Yet, there are tasks and activities which also enter our lives as Christmas approaches. There are cookies to bake. Presents to wrap. Events to attend. All of which can be good, but they have a tendency to muck up our lives. They leave us so busy and frazzled, we are more ready for Christmas to be over as it has just begun.

The good news. As with the stable, there are opportunities to muck out the stalls and floors of our own hearts. It’s not a pleasant job, but it must be done. New hay needs to be laid. Waste removed. Hungry animals fed. If you aren’t a stable hand, what are you to do?

New Hay – Many barns or stables have a dirt floor, so hay is needed to keep animals warm from cold, and to absorb animal waste. Try to get into the true spirit of the season by starting a new devotion. Attend daily mass. Sign up for daily mass readings via email, (https://www.flocknote.com/list/431). In short, do something new to help you grow this Advent.

Muck the Stalls – This job is often smelly, stinky, and required for the health of any animal. The same is true for our souls. We need cleaning up so that we are presentable for this great celebration. While Advent (a time for preparation) is not Lent (a time for repentance), we still would not go to a fancy party without cleaning up first. The same is true for the reception of Communion. We need to be in a state of grace when we receive him.

Feed the Animals – Nutrition is a fundamental aspect of our daily lives. Do we feed ourselves spiritually? Although Advent is a season to start new practices, do not let current practices fall aside. Just because you could sustain yourself on a liquid diet, doesn’t mean you should pass up a chance to eat your favorite meal. That would be like praying daily and never receiving the Eucharist. Sure, you could live like that. But it wouldn’t be filling you.

Yesterday marks two weeks until Christmas. If you haven’t started anything, that’s ok. There is still time. If you are like me, you have lists of everything to complete by Christmas. Take a few minutes to make one more list. But instead of who is getting what, or the menu for Christmas day, make a list of what you want to have completed spiritually before Christmas comes. Mine looks something like this:

Go to Confession

Read the Daily Catechism (http://www.flocknote.com/catechism)

Read the Sunday Readings before Mass

Take 15 minutes of silence per day for God

Pray daily with my husband

It’s a short list but it’s manageable. In time, my stable will be fresh and ready to welcome the Holy Family. Blessed Advent all!

Away in the Manger

Since the Christmas season doesn’t truly end until the Feast of the Epiphany, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

In unrelated news, I want to thank you all for your visiting. I’m happy to see that what I have to share has gotten a small viewership. I will also be blogging at Ignitum Today. My first post over there will be on January 9, 2012. I will be joining their regular blog roll at that time.

Onto today’s post…

Living in Iowa has provided a few perspectives on life that has had a great impact on my life. I’ve gotten to know the people, the culture and even gotten to understand what kind of impact the family farm does have on an area. When I lived in Minnesota, I had everything at my fingertips. It wasn’t a long distance to travel to see my family, I could get anything I needed as I wanted it, everything was there. I wouldn’t think of it any other way. I didn’t live in a giant metropolitan area, but I could get anything I wanted, at any time, and my night owl status didn’t need to be compromised.

My move to Iowa was a bit of a shock. Anything I wanted was at least an hour away, I knew no one, I was kinda lost. Although this wasn’t my first time living  in an isolated area, it was my first time isolated and alone. I sat many nights alone in my apartment, glued to my phone, hoping and praying someone would talk to me. I then got over myself and started exploring. Sure things weren’t as accessible but that’s where creativity needed to be abundant.

I went hiking, exploring, driving, and became a bit more familiar with the surroundings. Sure, it wasn’t my element yet but I was getting there. Then came the day I actually got to see a farm. There were many things that I wasn’t familiar with. I knew farming was hard, dirty work. A few of my friends in high school had farms, but they were mostly used to sustain themselves, not be their way of making a living. Sure, I was prepared for all this, but that was just a line I had been feeding myself. Who was I kidding, certainly not myself. I worked hard, I enjoyed it and it reminded me of when I worked in the taconite mines back home. Exhausting but refreshing, it was honest work.

Feeding was something that did come to a shock to me. Animal barns and pens themselves are messy, then the animals become  intrigued as, oh yeah, I am the one with the food. Cows would eat lazily while pigs would be at their trough instantly. Please remember this is one visit and only by memory. Then I remember today, praying before mass and looking at the clean, tidy cresh that is in the corner of the sanctuary. It’s beautiful, handmade and used with great care. There isn’t a piece out of place and even the straw seems meticulously placed.

But here’s the truth, the stable where Mary and Joseph needed to go was just that, a stable. In Bethlehem, it was more than likely a small cave rather than a building. The Church of the Nativity currently resides at this place. Then rather than a crib or a basket, Jesus was laid in the manger, let sleep in the feeding trough.

“and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Luke 2:7

I don’t know if this is the first, tenth, hundredth time hearing this, but today it hit me. In a dank, dirty world, in need of a savior; a baby, weak and susceptible to illness and the elements, is born in a stable. Then let rest in a manger with hay, left for the animals to feed on through the night. Even at his birth, there were signs showing Jesus’ purpose.

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

John 6:51

Whether or not the shepherds, or the magi, (who are still in transit) believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah, here in the arms of a young girl or in the feeding trough, was a child whose birth changed all of history.

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,

the hope of the nations and their Saviour:

Come and save us, O Lord our God.

Emmanuel, God with us.

Over the past two years I’ve lived closer to Missouri than I have my home state of Minnesota. It’s been a different change and I am really enjoying the opportunities my husband and I have had. Living close to Missouri I’ve really begun to understand the concept of “show me.” The people I live around are not cynical but they definitely want to be shown all the facts of a situation before they make a decision. I do not fault them, it just makes my approach to teaching very different as well.

In this time of anticipation, I can almost hear the Jewish people of Jesus’ time saying, show me. If you are God, show me. Just like we the people of today wanting everything at face value;  being Emmanuel, show me.

We all know the story of the Nativity. The star, the manger, the inn, shepherds, Wise Men, and the angels. They were definitely shown the way. Yet there are times when my doubting Thomas seems to come out, show me.

The Emmanuel wasn’t what they expected. The Jewish people wanted someone who would free them from the opressive Roman occupation. Yet he comes, meek and gentle, waiting for us to come to him.

This can be said for our everyday spiritual journey. God waits patiently for us to come to him. Yes, he could force us, but that would strip us of our free will; free will that makes our choice truly great.

I will not be posting much after today through the New Year as I am spending time between my family and my husband’s family. I wish you all a Merry and Blessed Christmas.