minima maxima sunt

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

Archive for the category “Christmas”


Have a few updates I’m hoping to put out today. The last month of the calendar I completed about a weeks ago. I was very excited with this last calendar entry for a few reasons. I was looking forward to getting into new sections of a book of hours, (the gospel readings). December and Christmas are favorite times of the year and I had a lot of ideas for the art. I also planned to do some kind of Saint or Icon referencing the incarnation.

Really the first time to try drawing a Saint or human figure in the book. I know I have mentioned several times that I am a hack at this. Not really a refined artist, my calligraphy is not that great….. But drawing hands… yikes! I was happy with the Virgin Mary that I drew but those hands took several attempts to get right. I am satisfied with the final and hope this gets easier as I do plan to have more of this.

Ending the calendar I had planned for a while to have a winter scene with cardinals and snow. A simple scene of winter.

Missa – The Great Doxology

image002Following the Kyrie in the “Order of the Mass” is the Gloria. Taking it’s cue from the praise of the angels at the Nativity who sang: “Gloria, in excelsis Deo”, which translates as “Glory to God in the Highest”, this hymn of praise is a beautiful example of the ancient trinitarian doctrine expressed through poem. In a way it could almost be considered the Creed in the form of a prayer. The Gloria is known as the Great Doxology which is contrast to another popular prayer known as the “Glory be”, which is the “Minor Doxology”.

A Doxology is typically a song or psalm which in the christian church was sung to the Trinity. The word comes from the Greek doxa – “glory” and logia – “saying”, an in early church years these hymns find their birth. Some of these were done in attempts to imitate the psalms from the Hebrew Scripture and are termed private psalms (psalmi idiotici).

To my the Gloria follows other creedal statements, it begins with a statement which addresses God, and then begins to focus on definition as attention is drawn to the Father and continues to the Son and follows with the Holy Spirit. The Gloria uses terms which we have seen already and will see again in the mass, hinting back to the Kyrie and looking forward to the Creed and the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).

An interesting thing about the Gloria is that it is part of the “ordinary” but during Advent and Lent is absent from the liturgy. This is to emphasize the importance of the holidays which follow both preparation seasons, Christmas and Easter. For the layman in me it works. It’s like a surprise or a visit from an old friend. At Christmas, I can sing with the angels: Gloria in excelsis Deo… and at Easter I can sing Gloria as I celebrate the resurrection of the Lamb.


Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory.
Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father.
Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son,
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.
you are seated at the right hand of the Father,
have mercy on us.For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. AmenCristo%20na%20Cruz

Puer Natus

Nativity from House of Catherine of Cleves

Nativity from Hours of Catherine of Cleves

Christmas Eve is probably one of the most popular vigils in the Liturgical year. A vigil is meant as a time of preparation for the feast which occurs on the following day. All Hollows Eve and the Easter Vigil would also be recognized by many as vigils. In the Catholic celebration during the Christmas season, we hold a vigil mass, a midnight mass and of course the mass on Christmas Day which is the Christ mass from where we get the word Christmas.

Christmas Eve is probably my favourite part about Christmas. There is something beautiful about even the term “Eve” which brings to mind our “new Eve”, the Blessed Mother, who we remember was seeking shelter in the dark Middle Eastern night with Joseph. No city lights to pollute the night sky, the stars must have seemed like the light from myriad candles, hand held by a heavenly congregation not yet known to the world but soon to be brought into communion through the Incarnation of the Most High God. A flame even brighter in their midst, guiding Magi from wherever Magi come from… outshining even the great Jupiter whose reflection shines in the night sky this Christmas Eve; like a secret reminder of what was.

The Holy Parents, the Magi, shepherds and angelic hosts all closing in on their destination to await the arrival of the Child who will forever tie eternity and time together like a celtic knot with no beginning and no end. Mercy and justice, free will and predestination, and unfathomable Divine Love ready to break forth from the cold chrysalis of the night sky.

In the silence we hear the fragile cry of a baby.

A Christmas Carol Poem


A Christmas Carol poem
by G.K.Chesterton

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down

A Christmas Carol Poem by G. K. Chesterton

Christmas Poem.


Christmas Poem


There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.

Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost—how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.

This world is wild as an old wife’s tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall all men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

(Gilbert Keith Chesterton)

Gloria in Profundis


G.K. Chesterton

There has fallen on earth for a token
A god too great for the sky.
He has burst out of all things and broken
The bounds of eternity:
Into time and the terminal land
He has strayed like a thief or a lover,
For the wine of the world brims over,
Its splendour is spilt on the sand.

Who is proud when the heavens are humble,
Who mounts if the mountains fall,
If the fixed stars topple and tumble
And a deluge of love drowns all-
Who rears up his head for a crown,
Who holds up his will for a warrant,
Who strives with the starry torrent,
When all that is good goes down?

For in dread of such falling and failing
The fallen angels fell
Inverted in insolence, scaling
The hanging mountain of hell:
But unmeasured of plummet and rod
Too deep for their sight to scan,
Outrushing the fall of man
Is the height of the fall of God.

Glory to God in the Lowest
The spout of the stars in spate-
Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
And the lightning fears to be late:
As men dive for sunken gem
Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
The fallen star has found it
In the cavern of Bethlehem.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Adventus – The Jesse Tree


Jesse Tree from Illuminated manuscript

The season of Advent is here, the beginning of the Liturgical year in preparation for the Incarnation. The term comes from the Latin adventus which means “coming”, and it serves the church in two ways. It ties into the Second Coming; following last weeks Feast of Christ the King we await his return in Glory, and reminds us of the first coming which we celebrate yearly at Christmas.

Most people who celebrate Advent do so with the later in mind and the most popular custom today to keep Advent is the lighting of candles on an advent wreath. Throughout history, Advent has seen many different customs, some were strict fasts like those celebrated by it’s couterpart Lent. It has also been a time of penitence when people should make their way to confession.


Jesse tree from a Book of Hours

Another tradition is that of the Jesse Tree. This symbol dates back to Bohemia in the middle ages and is basically a representation of the genealogy of Christ as found in the Gospel of Matthew, another “advent” as this text ties together the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. The Famous Chi Rho symbol announced this text in several old Gospel manuscripts like the Book of Kells and Lindisfarne Gospels. In the Middle Ages the use of the Jesse Tree found popularity in illuminated manuscripts, stained glass, and sculpted art in cathedrals and churches. And because of its tie in with Advent passage, an interesting devotion took root.
Starting with the first of December an ornament is hung on a tree representing a person or persons in the genealogy of Christ, which would start with Adam and Eve. Beginning at the bottom of the tree and working your way up to the top, which will end with the Infant Jesus. Scripture readings accompany the daily hanging of ornaments.

While this custom seems to be gaining popularity today, a revival of sorts, I had to wonder if the historical celebration of this had anything to do with our modern Christmas tree. The resemblance is obvious, and I could see how this tradition, passing through time, merely morphed into the Christmas tree. Another similar modern tradition is the Advent Calendar, which is a daily devotional leading us through the Advent season. If there is any tie in with the Jesse Tree it would be hard to prove, but I would place my bets that at least the Christmas Tree drew from this older tradition.

As Advent begins and in whatever way you keep it, Dominus Vobiscum!


December from the Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry

December from the Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry

December has arrived! The last month of the year and the last installment of the Roman months series we started last Ianuarius. Through the year we have been following the art from the Tres Riches of Jean Duke de Berry, with special attention to the calendar scenes which accompany the feast days through the liturgical year.

This fascinating Book of Hours is a wonderful timepiece into the culture and spirit of the Middle Ages. Many more beautiful scenes from Biblical stories fill the rest of this religious book which are certainly worth a look at for those interested. The art work is the result of a combination of artists starting with the Limbourg brothers and being completed by Jean Columbe in the 15th century.

This month our scene shows a hunting party which has taken down a wild boar. The trees are all brown and bare letting us know that winter is right around the corner. The structures in the background are the Château de Vincennes. Built in the 14th century the castle was originally a royal hunting lodge, which apparently was still used in this fashion during the time of the Duke of Berry. The castle still stands today but several of the towers that are seen in this picture are gone. The castle has through the ages served as a prison, a library, a residence and even as temporary storage for the relics of the Crown of Thorns.

The Chateau de Vinceness today.

The Chateau de Vinceness today.

The Month of December was originally the 10th month of the year and it’s name comes from the Latin word decem, (10). It was and still is the last month of the year, but originally it’s end didn’t start the new year. Rather there was a monthless period of winter which was later filled in with the addition of January and February.

December is a month which prepares for the Christ Mass on the 25th, and while the holiday is often crowded and over run by the modern hum drum of commercialism and the very sad pessimism which burns at the heart of modernity, it is my hope that we can all find the time to feel the stillness and silence and peace which this season is all about. It goes with the theme of this site, minima maxima sunt : the small things are the great things; and is at the heart of the Catholic faith as it proclaims the Birth of a Child who is the incarnation of the Most High God.

The feasts on the General Roman Calendar celebrated during the month of December are:

2. First Sunday of Advent, Sunday
3. Francis Xavier, Memorial
6. Nicholas, Opt. Mem.
7. Ambrose, Memorial
8. Immaculate Conception, Solemnity
9. Second Sunday of Advent, Sunday
11. Damasus I, Opt. Mem.
12. Our Lady of Guadalupe (USA), Feast
13. Lucy, Memorial
14. John of the Cross, Memorial
16. Irenaeus, Gaudete Sunday
21. Peter Canisius, Opt. Mem.
23. Fourth Sunday of Advent, Sunday
24. Christmas Eve, Sunday
25. Christmas, Solemnity
26. Stephen, Feast
27. John, Feast
28. Holy Innocents, Feast
29. Thomas Becket, Opt. Mem.
30. Holy Family, Feast
31. Sylvester I, Opt. Mem.

A Twelfth Day Consideration.

Three Kings

January 6th, the “twelfth day of Christmas” is the Epiphany of Our Lord (though it will be celebrated on the nearest Sunday). In older times the Epiphany or “revealing” had a few more concepts than it does today. There was the Baptism of the Lord,  the Wedding at Cana, The Visitation of the Magi, and The Nativity.  In the west, these have been spread out a bit… The Nativity is now celebrated on Christmas day; The Baptism of the Lord on the Sunday after the Epiphany and The Wedding at Cana (Christs first miracle) the Sunday following. That leaves the Visitation of the Magi and their bringing the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, to honor the Infant. In the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches, they use the term Theophany, which in ancient Greek means “vision of God” and celebrate the Baptism of Jesus.

In all of the ways it has been, and is now celebrated, the epiphany comes down to the idea of revealing or disclosure. God reveals himself to Israel in the Nativity; and to the Gentiles at the Visitation of the Magi. God reveals His Son at the Baptism of Jesus and Christ reveals His own Divinity at Cana, turning water into wine.

As Christmastide comes to an end, the trees put away, the lights and decorations taken down, the New Year begun; we continue the journey of faith, with an epiphany in our hearts.

Theotokos, The Solemnity.

Mary, Mother of God

January 1st is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. This feast finds itself on the octave day of Christmas and celebrates Mary as the Mother of Jesus. Theotokos, is the Greek word which we translate as Mother of God. It means God-bearer. The title has often been criticized or rather misunderstood and applied. To the Catholic it simply means that Mary is the Mother of God in his Incarnation, not that Mary is the Mother of God in Eternity. The importance of this term really comes from the time when it was first coined. Debates in the early church over Christology, the theology centered on the nature of Jesus Christ, caused some division in the Church. Some believed that Christ was God and others that He was only a man or a creature; others that He was not a man but a spirit. The point of Theotokos was to state that the child of Mary was God, and that he was truly a child of flesh, human. Fully God and Fully man.

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