December 24, 2016

Dec. 24

December 24, 2016:  Saturday, 4th week, Advent / Christmas Eve

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Legend below

Jamie, today's guest dresser; more
For AM gospel
Papal Preacher Fr. Cantalamessa's 4th Advent sermon:
By the Holy Spirit He was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man" (concluded)
“Of the Virgin Mary”:  Mary’s part in the Incarnation, her response to the Spirit, consisted in giving flesh and blood to the Word.   In Dante Bernard salutes her as “Virgin Mother, daughter of your Son, more humble yet more exalted than any other creature.”  Many (GnosticsDocetistsdenied Jesus had a real human body, born of a woman, taken from her flesh and blood.  The truth needed to be asserted that he was Mary's son, “the fruit of her womb,” that she was his natural Mother.  This is when she was first called Theotokos ['God-bearer'], the title that led the Church to discover a more profound, 'metaphysical,' motherhood, during the 5th century when there was disagreement not about Jesus' humanity but the unity of his person.  Mary’s motherhood came to be seen in relation to the unique person of the Word made man.  Since the person Mary bore is the divine Person of the Son, she's “Mother of God.”  The relationship between Mary and Christ is not solely physical but also metaphysical, creating a unique relationship between her and the Father.  Ignatius of Antioch calls Jesus son both “of Mary and of God,” almost like we say a person is the son of this man and this woman.  The Council of Ephesus settled it:  “If anyone does not confess that Emmanuel is truly God and for this reason the holy Virgin is the Mother of God [Theotokos] (since she begot, according to the flesh, the Word of God made flesh), let them be anathema.”
But there was yet another level of Mary's motherhood.  People had not yet drawn the logical consequences from that title regarding the person of Mary and in particular her unique holiness.  The Theotokos title became a point of division instead of an expression of common faith.  Cyril of Alexander, who fought for Theotokos, said Mary's life had weaknesses and defects, primarily at the foot of the cross, where he said her faith vacillated:  the Lord “gave forethought to his mother, who was not understanding the mystery, and since he knew her thoughts, he commended her to [John] who could explain it fully.”  Cyril didn't accept that a woman could have had greater faith than the apostles, who vacillated at the time of the passion!  He reflects the general lack of esteem for women at the time and demonstrates how little benefit there was to recognizing Mary’s physical and metaphysical motherhood without a spiritual motherhood, one of the heart.  Augustine and the Latin authors saw Mary’s motherhood as one in faith.  "Did the Virgin Mary, who believed and conceived by faith, the chosen one from whom our Savior was born among men, created by Christ before he was created in her—not do the Father's will?  Indeed she did, and so it was for her greater to have been his disciple than his mother" (Augustine re “My mother and brethren are those who hear and do God's word”).  Mary's spiritual motherhood makes her Christ's first and most docile disciple.  The most beautiful fruit of this perspective is the importance of the theme of Mary’s holiness.   “I make an exception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in whose case... I raise no question when the discussion concerns sins” (Augustine re human sinfulness).  The Church will express this with the titles “Immaculate,” and “All-holy” (Panhagia).
The Third Birth of Jesus:  What does Jesus’ birth by Mary through the Spirit mean for us?  “What good does it do me that Christ was born of Mary in Bethlehem if he is not born by faith in my heart?”  “Where is Christ born, in the most profound sense, if not in your heart and soul?” (Ambrose)  Thomas Aquinas explains the three Christmas Masses refer to the Word's triple birth:  his eternal generation by the Father, his historical birth by the Virgin, and his spiritual birth in the believer.  “O eternal Word of the Father, Son of God and Son of Mary, renew again today in our hearts the wonderful marvel of your birth” (St. John XXIII).
Jesus is born both “for” and “in” us:  Paul says Christ must “be formed” in us, that Christians “put on... Christ,” and that Christ must come to “dwell in our hearts through faith.”  The concept of Christ’s birth in the soul is based primarily on the doctrine of the mystical body:  Christ mystically repeats “in us” what he once did “for us” in history.  This applies both to the Paschal Mystery and the Incarnation.  "The Word of God desires to repeat in everyone the mystery of his Incarnation" (Maximus the Confessor).  The Spirit invites us to “return to our hearts” (Confessions) to celebrate a more intimate and true Christmas, that makes real the Christmas we celebrate outwardly.  The Father wants to give birth to his Word in us so he can proclaim anew, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.”  Jesus desires to be born in our hearts; in these last days of Advent, he's walking among us, going door to door, knocking, in search of a heart in which he can be born.
St. Bonaventure wrote The Five Feasts of the Child Jesus [SpanishFrench], in which he explains what it means to have Jesus born in our hearts.  You can spiritually conceive, give birth to, name, seek, and adore the Word of God and offer him to the Father.  The soul conceives Jesus when it sets aside old habits and faults and becomes spiritually fertile by the grace of the Spirit, and conceives the intention to live a new way.  But this plan for a new life needs to be made concrete in the transformation of our lives and habits, or else he's conceived but not “brought to birth,” a spiritual abortion.  If you decide to change your life, you'll face two kinds of temptation:  people will tell you, “It's too hard; you won’t have the strength, you'll get hurt, and your name and position will be compromised.”  Once that's overcome, others who don't truly believe in the power of God and of his Spirit will tell you that if you begin to live this way—praying, avoiding useless chatter, doing works of mercy—you'll be regarded as a saint, but since you know you're not yet a saint, you'll be a hypocrite, deceiving people and drawing down God's wrath.  Respond, “The Lord can save!”  Tell yourself, as Augustine did, “Can't you do what these others have?” (Confessions 8, XI, 27)
Let us recite this 3rd-century Greek prayer invoking Mary as Theotokos:  "We fly to Thy protection, Holy Mother of God; do not despise our petitions in our need, but deliver us always from danger, O Glorious and Blessed Virgin."

  • 2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16  Lord to David via Nathan:  “Should you build me a house?  I chose you, have been with you, and will make you famous.  My people will dwell safely.  I'll establish a House for you, raise up your heir, make his Kingdom firm, be father to him.  Your throne shall stand forever.”
  • Ps 89:2-5, 27, 29  "For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord."  God's covenant with David will stand firm.
  • Lk 1:67-79  Zechariah prophesied:  “Blessed be God who came and freed his people, raising up a Savior from the House of David.  He promised to save, show mercy, remember his covenant, and free us to worship him.  You, John, will prepare the Lord's way, giving people knowledge of salvation by forgiveness.  In God's tender compassion, dawn shall shine on those in darkness and to guide us to the way of peace.”
Evening:  Christmas vigil

  • Is 62:1-5  Nations shall behold your vindication and kings your glory.  You'll be a crown in the Lord's hand.  People will no longer call you “Forsaken” but rather “My Delight”; God will marry you and rejoice in you.
  • Ps 89:4-5, 16-17, 27, 29  "For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord."  I'll maintain my covenant, my kindness, and your throne forever.  Blessed those who walk in your light; they rejoice and are exalted.
  • Acts 13:16-17, 22-25  Paul:  “God chose our ancestors, led them out of Egypt, raised up David as king, and from his descendants brought a savior, Jesus.  John heralded his coming:  ‘One is coming after me; I'm not worthy to unfasten his sandals.’”
  • Mt 1:1-25  Genealogy of Jesus, son of David, son of Abraham:  14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the Babylonian exile, 14 from the exile to Christ.  Before Mary and Joseph lived together, Mary was found with child.  Joseph was about to divorce her, but angel appeared:  “Take Mary into your home; the child was conceived through the Spirit.  Name the child Jesus; he'll save his people.”  This fulfilled the prophecy, “The virgin shall bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, God-is-with-us.”  Joseph did as the angel commanded.
    • Creighton:  In the Advent 1st readings, we have read of God’s promises to save us and be a constant, caring presence in our lives.  May this Christmas season be for us about listening to the God who loves us so deeply. What does he want to tell us, give us?
    • One Bread, One Body:  "Free at last":  Today we still "mourn in lonely exile," singing for God to visit and save us.  We need Emmanuel; only he can set us free.  May we receive from Jesus the ultimate gift, freedom to serve him and be holy in his sight....
    • Passionist:  Christmas is about the greatest gift God could give us, his Son.  “Thanks to God for his indescribable gift!”  Job couldn't understand why God would bother with us:  “Who are we, that you make so much of us, and set your heart on us?”  When God shared with Solomon his pleasure at the building of the temple, he promised, “My eyes and heart will be there forever.”  When people came to the Temple, they entered into God's loving gaze and heart!   In Jesus, the eyes of God human and divine are on us in a loving gaze; his heart is there in the face of a Babe.  Jesus talked of his Body being the new temple.  His Incarnation offers us startling intimacy with God; no wonder Mt begins and ends with 'Immanuel.'   Jesus' coming in the flesh, a human face, is incredibly friendly and gentle.  Christ takes on a closeness the Old Testament world couldn't imagine!
      Nativity Scene/ Alawi
    •  "Nothing is impossible with God":  When the Lord comes to redeem us, he fills us with his Spirit, the source of our joy and hope.  John the Baptist was born shortly before Mary delivered her son, Jesus. When John was circumcised, his father was "filled with the Spirit" and joy.  Inspired by the Spirit, he prophesied and sang a hymn for God's redemptive work.  He foresaw that David's dynasty would endure through the coming of the Messiah.  This King would establish peace and security.  The peace the Messiah restores our broken relationship with God.  The Spirit gave Zechariah a vision for his son as prophet and forerunner to prepare the way for the Messiah.  The Spirit wants to give us vision, joy, and confidence in the knowledge of God's mercy, protection, and care.  We too are called to prepare the way that leads to Christ.  Life is a journey; we either move towards the Lord or away.  The Lord comes to visit us each day with his Word and Spirit.  Those who hunger for the Lord won't be disappointed.  In sending the Messiah, God visited his people to redeem them.  Jesus was sent into the world to redeem sinners.  At Christmas we celebrate God's gift of sending his Son to redeem us.  May the Spirit inspire us and fill us with joy and boldness to proclaim the message of the Lord's visitation and redemption.
    Dress legend
    • 'Crown' tie bar:  I'll raise up your heir and make his Kingdom firm (1st reading); God raised up David as king (vigil 2nd reading); you shall be a glorious crown... (vigil 1st reading)
    • 'Hand' tie pin: the hand of the Lord (vigil 1st reading); he swore to free us from the hand of our enemies (gospel)
    • 'Heart' pin:  I have found David a man after my own heart (vigil 2nd reading)
    • 'Castle' pin:  House of David (1st reading); Joseph taking Mary into his home (gospel)
    • 'Angel' pin:  Angel appeared to Joseph in a dream (vigil gospel)
    • 'Dove' pin:  Zechariah, filled with the Spirit, prophesied (gospel); Mary was found with child through the Spirit (vigil gospel)
    • 'Abacus' tie pin:  14 × 3 generations (gospel)
    • 'Rock' tie pin:  "My God, the rock" (psalm)
    • 'Mary' pin:  Mary in genealogy and birth story (vigil gospel)
    • 'Peace sign' tie bar:  the dawn shall guide us to the way of peace (gospel); Jesus, Prince of Peace
    • 'Christmas lights' tie:  Jesus, Light of the World
    • 'Cross with purple robes' pin:  Last day of Advent
    • 'Christmas tree' suspenders, button (legend):  Christmas!
    • Sandals (not shown):  John the Baptist:  I'm not worthy to unfasten the sandals of the one coming after me.’ (vigil 2nd reading)

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