minima maxima sunt

The Small things are the Great things; as in a grain of mustard seed.

Archive for the month “December, 2011”

The Holy Innocents

20111228-105635.jpgThe Feast of the Holy Innocents , celebrated on the 28th day of December remembers the darker side of the Christmas story. Herod, who was King of Judea when the Incarnation occurred, ordered the massacre of all children under the age of two years, for fear of the “new born king” taking his throne.

Historically this event may have happened well after the birth of Christ; even up to two years. Often it is easy to lose track of time when reading the stories in the bible. The story of the nativity, having many elements crammed into a few verses tends to paint a picture of the classic  Christmas manger scene with shepherds and wise men gathered around the Infant. It is more likely that the wise men arrived some time later and running into Herod, accidentally tips him off to the birth of the messiah, and so Herod commits this horrible act, slaying the innocent, who become the first martyrs.

A prophecy from Jeremiah is referenced, which speaks of Rachel, wailing for her children for they were no more. In my mind I see just the darkness of desert night, and wind blowing the sand like ashes as hollow cradles are filled with tears. It is often claimed that Christ appeared at a time when the world was at peace, and yet this is how a world at peace responds. True peace was born among us, and the world was troubled.

Matthew 2

1When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.

     2Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him.

     3And king Herod hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

     4And assembling together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born.

     5But they said to him: In Bethlehem of Juda. For so it is written by the prophet:

     6And thou Bethlehem the land of Juda art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel.

     7Then Herod, privately calling the wise men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them;

     8And sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go and diligently inquire after the child, and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come to adore him.

     9Who having heard the king, went their way; and behold the star which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was.

     10And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

     11And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him; and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

     12And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their country.

     13And after they were departed, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy him.

     14Who arose, and took the child and his mother by night, and retired into Egypt: and he was there until the death of Herod:

     15That it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Out of Egypt have I called my son.

     16Then Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry; and sending killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.

     17Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying:

     18A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

Christes Maesse

The Nativity

Keeping the Mass in Christmas. A little twist on a term many know about keeping Christ in Christmas. The holiday season has become huge! Starting before All Hallows These days, I remember when you didn’t see a light on a house until after Thanksgiving. Without a doubt it is the most popular holiday going, even in the church it ranks very high, coming in second to Easter. In modern times, it has been the fashion to secularize Christmas, to make it less offensive I suppose to those who are not religious, but even among the religious, who have no problem keeping Christ in the holiday, we sometimes fail to keep the Mass.

This is one of those little things that are really the big thing. Such a small ceremony and yet it has become this great holiday. Christmas celebrates the Incarnation of our Lord. In the darkness of the night of creation, the Creator steps in, and:

For us men and for our salvation

        he came down from heaven,

        and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate

        of the Virgin Mary,

        and became man.

Gaudete in Domino semper!

Advent Wreath

Advent Wreath

The third Sunday in Advent is traditionally known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is The Latin word for rejoice. Advent wreaths and church vestments switch from the seasonal purple to a rose color for this Sunday and it symbolizes the halfway point of Advent, thus the emphasis on rejoicing.

Advent is all about preparation, setting the mood for Christmas. Through the season, the practice of penitence, fasting and prayer accompany our preparation. Gaudete Sunday brings encouragement that the coming of the Lord is close and the season of advent will soon be over and the celebration of the Christ Mass will be here. Gaudete means to rejoice!

Gaudete, Gaudete!

(16th century carol)

Gaudete, Gaudete! Christus et natus Ex maria virgine, Gaudete!

Tempus ad est gratiae, Hoc quod optabamus; Carmina laetitiae, Devote redamus

Deus homo factus est, Natura mirante; Mundus renovatus est A Christo regnante.

Ezechiellis porta Clausa pertransitur; Unde lux est orta Salus invenitur.

Ergo nostra cantio, Psallat iam in lustro; Benedicat Domino: Salus Regi nostro.

English Translation

Rejoice, Rejoice! Christ is born Of the virgin Mary, Rejoice!

It is now the time of grace That we have desired; Let us sing songs of joy, Let us give devotion.

God was made man, And nature marvels; The world was renewed By Christ who is King.

The closed gate of Ezechiel Has been passed through; From where the light rises Salvation is found.

Therefore let our assembly now sing, Sing the Psalms to purify us; Let it praise the Lord: Greetings to our King.

Immaculate Conception

The Annunciation

The feast of the Immaculate Conception, the catholic belief that Mary the mother of Jesus, was born without original sin, is celebrated during the Advent season on Dec 8th.

The idea is simple. Mary, was born in a state of grace without original sin, thus freeing her to respond to gods call with a pure heart not bound by the selfish nature of original sin. The angel Gabriel comes, and announces the news of her role in gods salvation, to which Mary responds “let it be done to me according to your word”.

I like to contrast Mary to another figure from the Scriptures named Sarah. Sarah was the wife of Abraham. God had promised Abraham a child, a great nation of descendants to follow, but Abraham, and Sarah, were now getting very old, and no child had been born yet. Then, a “visitation”, three strangers come to Abraham, and announce that Sarah will have a child. Sarah laughs in response, saying to herself “After I am grown old, and my lord is an old man, shall I give myself to pleasure?”.

Now who in Sarah’s shoes would have thought any differently? And who in Mary’s shoes would have responded in such faith? We are looking at two “miraculous births”, and two biblical figures who respond quite differently to the word of the Lord. And in this difference can be seen the Grace that God bestowed upon Mary to respond the way she did to the promise of God.

St. Nicholas and the raging sea.

Sunday December 2nd began the season of Advent which will continue for a total of four weeks until Christmas Eve. Advent; a word that comes from the Latin, ‘adventus’ meaning ‘to come’; is not only the preparation for Christmas, but also marks the beginning of the Catholic liturgical year.

It’s only fitting that a few Saints associated with Christmas find feast days tucked into this season. One Saint whose day is often overlooked is St. Nicholas, who being very popular in our pop culture as the Santa Clause of elves and flying reindeer, that we associate with Christmas; was actually a real live Bishop in the fourth century, whose feast day is on the 6th of December.

The Bishop of Myra, a city in what today is Turkey, Nicholas was known for his generosity, gift giving, and concern for sailors and ships. While serving as Bishop, Nicholas suffered persecution, exile, and imprisonment under Roman persecution. He was also one of the attendees at the council of Nicaea in 325, the first ecumenical council held by the church, which among other things settled disputes about Christology and formed part of  the  Nicene Creed.  St. Nicholas died Dec 6th, 343 AD. and is known as the patron saint of children, thieves, and sailors.

It’s strange to think of St. Nicholas; Santa Clause,  as a patron of anything besides children. I guess the patron of thieves makes a little sense, climbing down chimneys and all, but I think the one that surprised me was his association with sailors and ships.

When I first came across the Icon above I thought it was a strange variation of the story about Jesus and the Apostles at sea, and would never have suspected that it was “Santa Claus”. But the truth is that St. Nicholas has several stories and legends surrounding his life, one of which goes like this:

While returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Nicholas travelled by sea.  A storm arose and threatened the ship he was on, so he calmly prayed and the storm ceased. The sailors were saved from disaster, and so St. Nicholas as a patron of sailors and voyagers found it’s beginning.

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