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.

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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.

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.

What Happened to Advent?

I will be the first to admit that I haven’t spent my Advent as eagerly preparing as I should have.  However, this morning I got to thinking, some preparation is better than nothing. I’ve seen the priests at our parish simply scurry and frantically prepare for the events that they have going on and they are truly busy men. But what has happened to Advent?

I have to laugh because I feel like my Advent looks a lot like this.

But this is the truth about Advent (excuse the ad at the end):

In case you didn’t watch the videos, (like I have a tendency to occasionally do on blogs) the first is the Christmas Can Can by Straight No Chaser. It laughs at the secularism before Christmas, like hearing the same Christmas carol 20 times and it’s not even Halloween yet. The second is a brief intro as to what Advent is about, “the cozier, getting your home ready to welcome a special guest,” ie: Jesus.

Now the truth of the matter is, we are getting stressed about Christmas presents, cookie baking, maybe that feel good volunteer trip to the soup kitchen and we are saying that we don’t have time to prepare for anything else. The nice thing is, it’s not too late. This is coming from the person with the huge list, meetings, social events, Christmas program planning, youth events, travel plans, an occasional nap, shopping, wrapping, more meetings, appointments and it goes on and on. I don’t like what I’m becoming and I’m becoming the innkeeper, you know the one who didn’t have room to properly house Joseph and Mary and then a little baby Jesus.

Honestly, I’m not pointing fingers at anyone but myself. I am accountable for my actions and lack there of as well. So as I stop and see that thing are slowing down for me I wonder what do I have that I can prepare with? My mind immediately flashes to the Gospel readings before Advent began; the parables of thieves breaking in or the unprepared virgins, be vigilant, be alert! Well here I am dozing off going “but we don’t know when he’s coming right? A little nap might be nice, that’s preparation too?” The truth is, it’s not.

I don’t know about you but I saw that 3rd candle being lit this weekend and went “whoa, when did that happen? When did we get so far along?” I’ve been guilty of preparing everything but myself. So here we sit, t minus 10 days to Christmas, and I am not ready and I am not prepared, I don’t want it to be Christmas yet. For me that’s a good thing, I know I’m not ready and there is still some time.

Starting on December 17, is a great tradition of the Church. If you have ever sang “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” ever, you have taken part in this great tradition. This tradition is called the “O Antiphons” This is the yearnings of we the people as we anticipate the coming of Christ into our world and our hearts. I am hoping to stay on top of my game and post daily a small reflection on each of these antiphons. Which leaves me with one last question for today:

In this time of business and preparation, will you prepare with me?

Exciting News

In the terms that most of my family and friends would initially think, I am not pregnant. I would love to be, but it hasn’t happened yet. 😦

The exciting news I have for you regards this blog. I have been picked up to occasionally guest post at another blog and I will give you more details when they become available. The other cool news, it’s a purely Catholic Blog site. I’m excited and could now get some major exposure. As for this, your humble blogger will be doing more work and spreading the Gospel.

Till later!

The Honor of Being Chaste

I remember learning Natural Family Planning (NFP) for the first time. I was 20 years old, engaged (for the first time) and completely naive. I had sound knowledge of a woman’s fertility, I was decent at judging mucus and could now start learning the rules about having sex.

I was a virgin in every sense of the word and all my instructor could talk about was when I couldn’t have sex once I was married. This blew my mind and it seemed like I would never be able to have sex with my husband. All I could think about was “I will be married and sex is supposed to be a good thing. Why do I still have to wait to have sex while I’m married?” Long story short and a different husband than I first intended, I am five years older and a pinch wiser.

Chastity and marriage are two words that are hardly ever mentioned in the same sentence as concepts that go together. In my opinion, this is a shame since chastity as a virtue can thrive within a marriage. Any NFP practitioner will give solid examples of why abstinence “should” be practiced, but a great NFP teacher will help couples embrace the call to married chastity.

The purpose of sex within the Sacrament of Marriage is two-fold, unitive and reproductive. This is a change in pastoral care since the Second Vatican Council. Prior to Vatican II the emphasis was on raising good, solid Catholic families and not necessarily the love relationship between spouses. The Second Vatican Council looked at the role of sex between married couples and found that the bond between couples grew with having sex during a woman’s infertile cycle. With this change in the mentality of sex, the responsibility of married couples (in regards to sex) also changed.

With these changes the most powerful word in a marriage became “no.” When looking at other virtues, this becomes apparent. For example, the key to Temperance is saying no before over indulging. The key to Humility is to say no to ourselves when our ego take control. In the same respect, the key to Chastity is saying no to the use of ourselves and others. Within each yes or no with Alex, my husband, is the same full consent of our marriage vows. Also what power is there in our yes to each other if we cannot say no. In this is also the essence of our Sacramentality,  we could not say yes to our marriage if in that same moment we did not have the free will to say no.

When it comes to saying no to the marital embrace, there can be a myriad of reasons: timing, fatigue, illness, personal situations or the simple need to say no. However, none of these reasons rule out the need for intimacy. It is in these intimate moments away from the marriage bed, personally, I can reflect more fully on our relationship. This is also where creativity in a movie/date/dinner/goofy British TV sci-fi marathon night ensues.

It isn’t in the midst of our crazy lives that we are separated, but rather that our marital bond is cemented. So what if the downstairs neighbor’s music is too loud, I’m watching Dr. Who with my husband and he is holding my hand. It is in that small routine act of giving that I am reminded of how much I am loved.  It is in the goofy nights playing laser tag that I feel joy, and in the simple kiss on the cheek while cooking that Alex lets me know I am honored and through my receiving, I honor him.

In Peace,

Amanda

Sad Day

Blogs are great. I can be completely anonymous, keep things bottled up and only share the tidbits that are juicy, scandalous or just plan cool. However readers would find themselves being completely deluded by a master storyteller. Well lucky for you I am not that great of a storyteller. I have a life and in that life really amazing things and really cruddy things happen and occasionally at the same same time. I know that I promised a post on the Catholic Liturgy but that got placed on the back burner for a little bit.

The name of this post really seems to put the day into perspective. Yesterday wasn’t good. At the same time I can’t say it was bad. I had many moments of great laughter and joy and more moments of profound humility and sorrow. All in all, I had a sad day.

Yesterday my world got considerably smaller. I lost a giant of a man who truly influenced my life in many many ways. On September 8, 2011, my grandfather passed away.

He is a great man with a heart of gold, stories for any occasion, and a love for the outdoors. He taught me how to play cribbage, golf and learn to enjoy the wisdom that anyone has to share. He is amazing and in a short post, I cannot share everything that my heart is processing. I am in full fledged grief and I am finding consolation that I can even say that.

While there is a lot I can share about my grandpa, as I am sitting here writing this, I can’t help but think of Mary presenting Jesus in the Temple and the prophet Simeon speaking to Mary.

and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted, and you yourself a sword shall pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Mark 2:34-35

At this point Jesus was only 8 days old and being prepared for Circumcision. All the events and visits surrounding His birth were still fresh in Mary’s heart. Things that she would “treasure in her heart” forever. Events that during Jesus’s persecution, torture and death, although Mary too was suffering, she could hold onto as a tangible reminder of the happiness she had with her Son. It doesn’t mean that at those times when Mary’s heart was sore with the pain only a mother could feel. These memories gave her a gentle reminder that there was a reason for His suffering.

My heart also yesterday was crushed. After seeing someone I loved dearly crushed by dementia and other illnesses, he passed away. I suffer now but find that the memories of fishing, walking the road to the mine gate, sitting in the golf cart and listening to his wild stories while playing cards offer me a peace that couldn’t be from anywhere other than the heart of God. My grandpa wasn’t destined for the rise and fall of many but was destined to be my grandpa as I was to be his only grandchild.

While it’s true that I am hurt emotionally and I’m pausing occasionally as I scrounge for some kleenex, I have a restless joy and hope. I know that he is no longer suffering and that he has seen the face of God and borne witness to his life. I have faith that he is in Purgatory because his sins have been forgiven through Extreme Unction. There is nothing else I as a Catholic can do but pray for him and have masses offered for him in order to enter Heaven sooner. The ball is in my court and it is up to me and my family who are living to do the dirty work now.

I am sure that I will have more peace after the funeral, which will be sometime next week. I thank my family and friends for their support and prayers. Rest assured that you all have mine as well.

Requiem en Pacem Grandpa.