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.

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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.

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.

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.