December 23, 2016

Dec. 23

December 23, 2016:  Friday, 4th week, Advent

  • 'Fire' pin:  He is like the refiner's fire (1st reading)
  • 'Ship's wheel' tie pin:  Guide me in your truth; the Lord shows sinners the way, guides the humble... (psalm)
  • Gold- and silver-colored accessories:  The Lord will refine the sons of Levi like gold or silver (1st reading)
  • 'Tablets' tie:  Zechariah asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name” (gospel re tablet, O Antiphons re law)
  • 'Hearts' suspenders:  I'll send Elijah to turn fathers' and children's hearts to each other (1st reading); all who heard these things took them to heart (gospel)
  • 'Hand' tie pin:  Your redemption is at hand (psalm); "Surely the Lord's hand was with him” (gospel)
  • 'Visitation' pin:  Elizabeth (gospel)
  • Purple shirt:  Advent (season)
1st reading
    • Thus saith the Lord/But who may abide the day of His coming, from Messiah/ Handel:  traditional"soulful"
Psalm 25
O Antiphon
    • What child is this?/ Dix:  about Jesus, but in today's gospel, people asked the same about John the Baptist
    • John/ Winter:  leadsheet and note
Papal Preacher Fr. Cantalamessa's 4th Advent sermon:
By the Holy Spirit He was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man"
Christmas, a Mystery “for Us”:  Augustine distinguished between celebrating an event of salvation history as a mystery or as a simple anniversary. For a mystery, we celebrate in a way so its significance for us is understood and received.  Christmas is in the category of a mystery.  “Just as we were crucified with him in his passion and raised with him in his resurrection,... so have we been born with him in his Nativity” (Leo the Great).
At the basis of it all is the Virgin Mary's becoming the Mother of Jesus through the Holy Spirit.  This mystery is extended at a sacramental level in the Church and at a moral level in the believer's life.  Mary, the Virgin Mother who generates Christ by the Spirit, is the “type,” perfect exemplar, of the Church and the believer.  "Mary and the Church are one mother, yet more; one virgin, yet more.  Both are mothers, both virgins....  In Scripture, what is said of the Virgin Mother, the Church, is also understood of the Virgin Mary...  In a way every Christian is also a bride of God’s Word, a mother of Christ, his daughter and sister, virginal and fruitful" (Bl. Isaac of Stella).  Lumen gentium speaks of Mary as the exemplar and model of the Church (63), also called to be a virgin and mother in faith (64), and of believers who, imitating her virtue, give birth to and allow Jesus to increase in their hearts and others' (65).
“By the Holy Spirit”:  "The birth from the Virgin is the Spirit's work....  The Spirit is the Creator, the Author of the Lord’s Incarnation....  If the Virgin conceived from the Spirit's power, who will deny the Spirit as Creator?" (Ambrose)  The gospel calls the Spirit “the power of the Most High.”  He brings beings into existence.  The Spirit , is “the Lord, the giver of life.”  Here (again) the Spirit creates “from nothing,” from the absence of human possibilities, without need for assistance; this “nothing,” this absence of explanations and natural causes, is called the virginity of Mary.  The angel told Mary, "The Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you...."  Her virginity is a sign that can't be eliminated without tearing the fabric of the Gospel account and its significance.
The Spirit that descended on Mary is the Creator Spirit who formed Jesus' flesh from her.  He is also for her, “fount of life, fire of love, sweet anointing from above.”  The mystery becomes impoverished if reduced to the objective and dogmatic (2 natures, 1 person), overlooking subjective aspects.  Paul speaks of “a letter from Christ delivered by us, written... with the Spirit of God... on tablets of human hearts.”  The Spirit wrote this letter, Christ, in Mary’s heart so that Christ “was kept in Mary’s mind insofar as he is truth; he was carried in her womb insofar as he is man” (Augustine).  The  saying, “Mary conceived Christ first in her heart, then in her body” (Augustine) means the Spirit worked in Mary’s heart, illuminating it and inflaming it with Christ even before filling her womb.  Only saints and mystics who have had a personal experience of God’s eruption can help us understand what Mary must have experienced at the Incarnation.  "When she gave her consent, the Spirit came upon her, inflaming her soul and sanctifying her flesh.  But the power of the Most High overshadowed her so she could endure such a fire....  Oh, if you could feel that fire, the coolness with it, the consolation it imparted; if you could realize the exaltation of Mary, the ennobling of humanity, the condescension of God,... then you too would sing with Mary, My soul magnifies the Lord" (Bonaventure).
Mary experienced the Incarnation as a charismatic event that made her “aglow with the Spirit”; it was her Pentecost.  Many of her actions and words can only be understood in the light of a mystical experience beyond compare.  Everything we see in someone visited by grace (love, joy, peace, light) we recognize in Mary at the Annunciation.  She was the first to experience “the sober intoxication of the Spirit”; her Magnificat is the best evidence.  But it's a “sober” intoxication, humble.  Mary’s humility after the Incarnation seems like a great miracle of grace.  How could she carry the weight of being Mother of God?  She remains humble, as if nothing had happened.  Once the Gospel shows her begging for the chance to see her Son. (concluded tomorrow)
  • Mal 3:1-4, 23-24  I'm sending my messenger to prepare the way.  The Lord will come to the temple, but who will endure that day?  He, like the refiner’s fire, will purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer sacrifice pleasing to the Lord.  I'll send you Elijah to turn fathers' hearts to children and children's to fathers.
  • Ps 25:4-5ab, 8-10, 14  "Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand."  Teach me your paths.  God shows sinners the way, guides and teaches the humble, is friend to those who fear him.
  • Lk 1:57-66  Elizabeth bore a son; friends and family rejoiced.  She said he was to be named John; when Zechariah confirmed, his mouth was opened.  They said, “What will this child be?  God's hand was with him.”
    • Today's O Antiphon:  O Emmanuel, King and Giver of Law:  come to save us, Lord our God!  Reflection
      • Creighton:  "Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand." Where is my head? What's my focus?  What am I looking at?  What path am I on?  Am I looking at the path the Lord has laid out for me today?  Am I open to God’s presence and desire to guide my steps?  I can practice the examen to reflect on God’s presence and my daily path, giving thanks for today's gifts.  Once Christmas comes, let's keep seeking justice, serving those in need, and lifting up our heads.
      • One Bread, One Body:  "Jesus Christ is coming to town!" Jesus is coming in a new way into our lives and our world this Christmas.  Many are working to ensure his coming goes unrecognized.  May we be like the shepherds who recognized his coming, not the innkeepers too busy to make room for him.  Lord, purify me of whatever keeps me from you.  Make me more attentive to you....
        The Last Judgment/ Michelangelo
        (surprising to see just before Christmas, but
        in line with today's 1st reading)
      • Passionist:  The relatives don't understand why he should be named John, but Zechariah names him, can speak again, and praises God.  The people ask, “What will this child be?”  In the 1st reading, Malachi prophesies about the “day of his coming,” predicting the coming of Elijah, who will “turn fathers' hearts to their children, and children's to their fathers.”  We can say about all children that the Lord's hand is with them and ask “What will they be?”  Will they be allowed to be who God made them to be?  What can help turn our hearts toward them?  May we turn our hearts towards the most vulnerable, young and old.  To make room for Jesus, we need to make room for each other....
      •  "What will this child be?"  Elizabeth and Zechariah are firm in the face of family arguments about the naming of their son as John ('the Lord is gracious').  In the births of John the Baptist and Jesus God's grace breaks forth into a broken world.  Malachi foretold the return of Elijah to announce the Messiah's coming.  John fulfills Elijah's role; his miraculous birth shows God's favor in preparing his people for Jesus' coming.  When we trust the Lord, he fills us with the joy of the Spirit and renews our hope and gratitude....

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