Monday, December 31, 2007

Octave of Christmas and Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, our Lady's greatest title. This feast is the octave of Christmas. In the modern Roman Calendar only Christmas and Easter enjoy the privilege of an octave. Before the Calendar was reformed this was the Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord.

"Mary, the all-holy ever-virgin Mother of God, is the masterwork of the mission of the Son and the Spirit in the fullness of time. For the first time in the plan of salvation and because his Spirit had prepared her, the Father found the dwelling place where his Son and his Spirit could dwell among men. In this sense the Church's Tradition has often read the most beautiful texts on wisdom in relation to Mary. Mary is acclaimed and represented in the liturgy as the "Seat of Wisdom." — Catechism of the Catholic Church 721

The Eighth Day of Christmas

Mary the Mother of God

Like the Churches of the East, Rome wished to honor the Virgin Mother of God during the days after Christmas. As a result the ("Anniversary of St. Mary") made its appearance on January 1 in the seventh century; it has accurately been called "the first Marian feast of the Roman liturgy." — The Church at Prayer

On New Year's Day, the octave day of Christmas, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Holy Mother of God. The divine and virginal motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a singular salvific event: for Our Lady it was the foretaste and cause of her extraordinary glory; for us it is a source of grace and salvation because "through her we have received the Author of life" (127).

The solemnity of 1 January, an eminently Marian feast, presents an excellent opportunity for liturgical piety to encounter popular piety: the first celebrates this event in a manner proper to it; the second, when duly catechised, lends joy and happiness to the various expressions of praise offered to Our Lady on the birth of her divine Son, to deepen our understanding of many prayers, beginning with that which says: "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, sinners."

In the West, 1 January is an inaugural day marking the beginning of the civil year. The faithful are also involved in the celebrations for the beginning of the new year and exchange "new year" greetings. However, they should try to lend a Christian understanding to this custom making of these greetings an expression of popular piety. The faithful, naturally, realize that the "new year" is placed under the patronage of the Lord, and in exchanging new year greetings they implicitly and explicitly place the New Year under the Lord's dominion, since to him belongs all time (cf. Ap 1, 8; 22,13)(128).

A connection between this consciousness and the popular custom of singing the Veni Creator Spiritus can easily be made so that on 1 January the faithful can pray that the Spirit may direct their thoughts and actions, and those of the community during the course of the year (129).

New Year greetings also include an expression of hope for a peaceful New Year. This has profound biblical, Christological and incarnational origins. The "quality of peace" has always been invoked throughout history by all men, and especially during violent and destructive times of war.

The Holy See shares the profound aspirations of man for peace. Since 1967, 1 January has been designated "world day for peace."

Popular piety has not been oblivious to this initiative of the Holy See. In the light of the new born Prince of Peace, it reserves this day for intense prayer for peace, education towards peace and those values inextricably linked with it, such as liberty, fraternal solidarity, the dignity of the human person, respect for nature, the right to work, the sacredness of human life, and the denunciation of injustices which trouble the conscience of man and threaten peace.

Excerpted from the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy.

The Circumcision of Our Lord

The old liturgy celebrated three feasts in one. The first was that which the old Roman sacramentaries called "the octave of the Lord," and indeed the greater part of the Mass was of the octave of Christmas with many extracts from the Masses of Christmas. Various portions of the Mass and Office celebrated the divine maternity of Mary. The third feast was that of the Circumcision which has been celebrated since the sixth century. Eight days after His birth Christ underwent, like all the Jews, this rite enjoined on Abraham by God as a pledge of his faith, and He received the name of Jesus.

When Our Lord submitted to the cut in His flesh at the Circumcision he began His work as Redeemer. He commenced that shedding of Blood which would reach its highest point of generosity in the Passion and Death.

In giving to Abraham the law of circumcision God bestowed on him his new name — Abraham. With the Jews henceforward the giving of a name had a spiritual significance; like circumcision it meant that the person belonged to the people of God. The bestowal of the name of Jesus has an even loftier significance: it is an assertion of His mission as Savior of the world.

The Holy Father's Intentions for the Month of January 2008

General: That the Church may strengthen her commitment to full visible unity in order to manifest ever more clearly her nature as a community of love in which is reflected the communion of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Missionary: That the Church in Africa, preparing to celebrate the second Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa, may continue to be a sign and channel of reconciliation and justice in a continent still suffering from war, exploitation and poverty.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Twelve Days of Christmas

It is Church tradition that the 12 days of Christmas song originated in England during the 16th century persecution of Catholics. The song was developed to help children in particular remember certain important tenants of the faith. The True Love referred to in the song is the True Love that is GOD. The 12 days of Christmas, in most liturgical calendars, starts on Christmas day and runs through January 5th. It leads up to the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord on January 6th.

On the first day of Christmas my true Love gave to me
A partridge in a pear tree.

This is Jesus Christ whose birthday is the first day of Christmas. He is like a partridge who tries to protect its young from predators. He expressed His sadness for the fate of Jerusalem in Luke's gospel. "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you refused! So be it! Your house will be left to you. Yes, I promise you, you shall not see me till the time comes when you say: Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!"

On the 2nd day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Two Turtle Doves

This is a reference to the Old and New Testaments. Both are God's revelation to us through history and creation. The story of His people is the story of God to the world.

On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Three French Hens

In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13) This of course is the three theological virtues.

On the 4th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Four Calling Birds

What else are there four of in the Bible but the four Gospels. They proclaim the Good News of Jesus, God Incarnate, coming into the world.

On the 5th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Five Gold Rings

There are five books in the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. They give the history of the beginning of the world, the creation of man as a reflection of God, of man's relationship with God, the failure of original sin, the promise of a saviour, and the selection of a people through whom salvation would come.

On the 6th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Six Geese A-laying

This is a reference to the six days of creation in Genesis chapter one. God's power, majesty, and goodness can still be seen in the beauty of His creation.

On the 7th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Seven Swans A-swimming

The seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord, and fortitude (or courage).

"Our gifts differ according to the grace given us. If your gift is prophecy, then use it as your faith suggests; if administration, then use it for administration; if teaching, then use it for teaching. Let the preachers deliver sermons, the almsgivers give freely, the official be diligent, and those who do works of mercy do them cheerfully." (Romans 12: 6-8)

On the 8th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Eight Maids A-milking

The eight Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in spirit, Blessed are those who mourn, Blessed are the meek, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, Blessed are the merciful, Blessed are the pure in heart, Blessed are the peacemakers, Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. (Matthew 5:3-10)

On the 9th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Nine Ladies Dancing

"What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness [some translations say faithfulness], gentleness, and self-control." (Galatians 5:22) This is the traditional list of nine of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Ten Lords A-leaping

The Ten Commandments:
I. I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me!
II. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain!
III. Remember to keep holy the LORD'S Day!
IV. Honor your father and your mother!
V. You shall not kill!
VI. You shall not commit adultery!
VII. You shall not steal!
VIII. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor!
IX. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife!
X. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods!
(Exodus 20:1-17

On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Eleven Pipers Piping

The eleven Faithful Apostles: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the less, Simon the Zealot, Judas known as Thaddeus. (Luke 6:14-16).

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Twelve Drummers Drumming

This is for the 12 points of the Apostle's Creed: (1)I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. (2) I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, (3) who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, (4) suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. (5) On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and (6) he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

(7)I believe in the Holy Spirit, (8)the holy catholic church, (9) the communion of saints, (10) the forgiveness of sins, (11) the resurrection of the body, and (12) the life everlasting. AMEN.

Monday, December 24, 2007

O COME EMMANUEL (God with us)

O Come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that morns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Wisdom, from on high,
and order all things far and nigh;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, o come, Thou Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times did give the law,
in cloud, and majesty, and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse's stem,
form ev'ry foe deliver them
that trust Thy mighty power to save,
and give them vict'ry o'er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heav'nly home,
make safe the way that leads on high,
that we no more have cause to sigh.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death's dark shadow put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Desire of the nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid every strife and quarrel cease
and fill the world with heaven's peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

St Catherine of Siena on the Incarnation

Incarnation -- Gift of Immeasurable Love
Saint Catherine of Siena

"My sweet Lord, look with mercy upon your people and especially upon the mystical body of your Church. Greater glory is given to your name for pardoning a multitude of your creatures than if I alone were pardoned for my great sins against your majesty. It would be no consolation for me to enjoy your life if your holy people stood in death. For I see that sin darkens the life of your bride the Church - my sin and the sins of others.

It is a special grace I ask for, this pardon for the creatures you have made in your image and likeness. When you created man, you were moved by love to make him in your own image. Surely only love could so dignify your creatures. But I know very well that man lost the dignity you gave him; he deserved to lose it, since he had committed sin.

Moved by love and wishing to reconcile the human race to yourself, you gave us your only-begotten Son. He became our mediator and our justice by taking on all our injustice and sin out of obedience to your will, eternal Father, just as you willed that he take on our human nature. What an immeasurably profound love! Your Son went down from the heights of his divinity to the depths of our humanity. Can any one's heart remain closed and hardened after this?

We image your divinity, but you image our humanity in that union of the two which you have worked in a man. You have veiled the Godhead in a cloud, in the clay of our humanity. Only your love could so dignify the flesh of Adam. And so by reason of this immeasurable love I beg, with all the strength of my soul, that you freely extend your mercy to all your lowly creatures."

This is an excerpt from the Dialogue (4, 13) of St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church.

My Christmas Tree

You Are a Bright Christmas Tree

For you, the holidays are all about fun and seasonal favorites.

You are into all things Christmas, even if they're a little tacky.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Shopping Rules for Men

I lifted this from another Blog called Catholic Fire. I think this list is terrific. I hope my husband reads and heeds.

"Since the majority of men purchase gifts for their wives during the final week of Christmas (most often on Christmas Eve), I am not too late with this post.

Getting a personal gift for your wife or woman friend has specific rules, like a size limit on a fish caught in a lake. Here are some that will help keep you out of trouble:

- Avoid sizes. If you have to get her any clothing, get a size too small. This translates in her mind as a compliment.

- No underwear, teddies, or pajamas unless otherwise requested. This is interpreted as a gift for you.

- If it comes from a store you are comfortable in, get something else. There are no personal items for women in sporting goods, hardware, liquor, or fishing/tackle stores. The possible exception is if you are building that romantic porch swing she has bugged you about for years. In this case, have it finished before Christmas, or you will have to go back into the forest for something else.

- No plants, flowers, or cards by themselves. These are for other occasions, weddings, and deaths. These are interpreted as make-do gifts, such as those things you grab at the last minute at the airport, the gas station, or the check-out stand.

- The gift must be personal and impractical. The breadmaker and blender are used by everyone in the house, not just her. It must be hers and hers alone.

- Things that enhance her personal hobby or collection are sure winners.

- Expensive candy is okay, but does not constitute the main gift. Put this in her Christmas stocking with the plastic candy cane you forgot to put back.

- Never purchase cologne, body mist, or perfume, unless you know for certain her specific preference. Getting her the wrong scent is equivalent to her getting you a twelve pack of PBR when you're a Michelob Lite kind of guy.

- Gift cards she can use for after-Holiday shopping sprees are wonderful. However, she will probably not appreciate gift cards from any of the following stores: Bob's Hardware, Dick's Sporting Goods, Peter's Pipe and Cigar Shop, Home Depot, Bubba Jack's Tackle, Golden Moose Liquors, or Big Bear Butt's Gun Shop.

- Most women like jewelry -- it doesn't have to cost a fortune. Something that reminds you of the color of her eyes or hair along with a sentiment -- a personalized poem -- attached is meaningful and will leave a lasting impression. Just make sure you spell her name correctly and that you don't put your ex's name down by mistake or you may not live to enjoy another Christmas season."

Revision of an earlier post.

Posted by Jean M. Heimann

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What Christmas ornament are you?

You Are a Tree

You love every part of the holidays, down to the candy canes and stockings. And you're goofy enough to put a Christmas tree ornament on your tree!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Today is a wonderful celebration in the Church. I enjoyed the vigil Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception this evening. I wish I could remember all of Father F.'s homily. The essence of it was: You have to accept both the terrible cross and its burdens, and the crown of joy in this life. Mary is a perfect example of a person who experienced great joy (the birth of the Son of God, watching Him grow and mature, being present during much of His ministry, and, especially the Resurrection., etc) but she also suffered great agony (Jesus' suffering and death). As a mother, I can really empathize with Mary. I have experienced both heartache and great joy with the blessing of my five children.

Today's Gospel
Lk 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.