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Posts Tagged ‘Advent’

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As I have done in the past, I repost some of Deacon Greg Kandra’s homilies here at Coming Home (with his permission). Deacon Kandra writes a terrific blog, The Deacon’s Bench, over at Patheos. Stop by The Deacon’s Bench daily for a dose of spiritual refreshment. Today’s homily is a soothing balm after the events in Newtown this past week. Here’s Deacon Kandra:

As some of you know, my office is located in the Catholic Center in Manhattan, on First Avenue. On Friday they were decorating the lobby for Christmas – trimming trees and hanging lights and assembling a small wooden stable, the Nativity scene. As I was leaving work, I stopped to take a look.

This Nativity scene is a little out of the ordinary. While it has all the usual characters, carved from wood – Mary, Joseph, shepherds, animals — it doesn’t have a manger. Instead, the figures are arranged in a kind of semi-circle, and Mary is kneeling, with her arms outstretched – arms that, at Christmas, will hold the Christ child. But now, like all of us this Advent, she is waiting. Her arms are empty.

It’s a poignant image – and, I think, given the events of the last 48 hours, devastating.

In those outstretched arms, we can’t help but notice what is missing. I looked at that figure in the crèche on Friday night and thought of the empty arms of the mothers of Newtown.

We are all Newtown this morning. Those children are our children. The indescribable heartbreak of those parents is shared by the world.

Ironically, in our liturgy, this third Sunday of Advent is a Sunday for rejoicing. We put away the purple and wear rose. The readings point with excitement to Christmas. “Cry out with joy and gladness,” the psalm tells us. “Rejoice in the Lord always,” St. Paul declares. In the gospel, we hear for the first time the phrase that will define the Christian faith for all time: “good news.”

Yet, the news right now isn’t what anyone would call good.

We keep hearing words like “massacre” and “tragedy” and “slaughter.” Mixed in, of course, is another word that we can’t escape: “Why?” I wish I had an answer. I can’t explain it. I don’t think anyone can.

At times like this, God can seem distant, even detached. Yet, this Sunday, we are reassured: He is closer than we realize. “The Lord is near,” Paul writes. And it’s not just because Christmas is 9 days away. It is so much more than that. In the great mystery we are about to remember at Christmas—the Incarnation, the Word made flesh—we celebrate this astonishing fact: God became us. He invested Himself in humanity.

The implications are staggering.

On the five-year anniversary of 9/11, the great Presbyterian minister Timothy Keller spoke about the Incarnation. I’d like to read you part of what he said:

“One of the great themes of the Hebrew Scriptures,” he said, “is that God identifies with the suffering. There are all these great texts that say things like this: If you oppress the poor, you oppress me. I am a husband to the widow. I am father to the fatherless. I think the texts are saying God binds up his heart so closely with suffering people that he interprets any move against them as a move against him. This is powerful stuff! But Christianity says he goes even beyond that. Christians believe that in Jesus, God’s son, divinity became vulnerable to and involved in – suffering and death! He didn’t come as a general or emperor. He came as a carpenter. He was born in a manger, no room in the inn.”

And then Rev. Keller adds this:

“But it is on the Cross that we see the ultimate wonder. On the cross we sufferers finally see, to our shock, that God now knows too what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack.”

On TV the other night, they showed the devastated father of a child, hearing the news of what happened and burying his face in his hands.

God is that weeping father.

“The Lord is near.” He knows what it’s like.

And He knows what we need: hope. And He has given it to us. The Passion of His son assures us of this: death doesn’t have the last word. We have been promised eternal life. We live in the hope of one day seeing God face-to-face – and seeing in His reflected light those we love.

This is the real promise and joy of Christmas: the salvation that was made real on Calvary began in Bethlehem.

And so we wait for that beginning. We wait for what will be— like that figure of Mary in a lobby on First Avenue.

We wait with open arms.

And in our waiting, we pray. For the victims. For their families.

We pray for the gunman and his family.

We pray for our country.

And we pray, especially, for the children.

I think one of the reasons that this terrible event struck all of us so deeply is that it was carried out against the smallest among us—the most trusting, the most hopeful, the most vulnerable. Five, six, seven years old.

On Friday night, was there any parent who didn’t hold their child closer, who didn’t pray a little more deeply, who didn’t cherish even more profoundly the gift of life?

As I mentioned at the beginning: we are all Newtown this morning. Those children are our children. The wound is deep.

This morning, we pray for all the victims of Newtown, and we pray for those things we Catholics always pray for in times of mourning. We pray for rest, for light, for peace.

It is a prayer whispered with the resilient hope of people who believe that God is with us.

The Lord is near. He walks with us. He weeps with us.

And so we pray:

Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, Amen.

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I love the prayer immediately following the Our Father during Mass, when the Priest says:

Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

In the pro-life work that we all do, we feel the constant anxiety, we see the evil all about us, we lose our peace of mind, and maybe forget that the fight is the Lord’s. But how can we not feel the exhaustion that comes with battle? We find friends in whom we confide our doubts, share our fears.

These are healthy and normal. They show that we care.

We care about the slaughter of innocents.

We care about the mothers and fathers.

We care about the corruption of medicine, nursing, and the political process.

We care about our nation.

We care about our communities riven by the strife that accompanies abortion.

We care. Deeply. Passionately. And sometimes it can become distracting.

Through it all the Church prays that beautiful prayer tens of thousands of times a day, all over the world, in every tongue. It’s medicine for our souls, “Deliver us Lord from EVERY evil, and grant us PEACE in our day” That peace isn’t the absence of conflict, but the ability to manage it and triumph over it. God’s peace, Shalom–peace in the midst of chaos.

“Keep us free from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ”. With Shalom, we need not fear, and in this fist part of the season of Advent, we turn our hearts and minds, not to Christmas, but to that day when, “every tear will be wiped away.”

It’s a good time for us to look toward the promise and its fulfillment, to take time and sit in silent stillness with Jesus, to ask Him to nourish our souls not just with wishful thinking, but with “Joyful Hope.”

Jeremy Camp captures the Joyful Hope in his beautiful song with lyrics and video below.

Happy Advent!

There Will Be A Day (Lyrics)

I try to hold on to this world with everything I have
But I feel the weight of what it brings, and the hurt that trys to grab
The many trials that seem to never end, His word declares this truth,
that we will enter in this rest with wonders anew

But I hold on to this hope and the promise that He brings
That there will be a place with no more suffering

There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears
There will be a day when the burdens of this place, will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face
But until that day, we’ll hold on to you always

I know the journey seems so long
You feel your walking on your own
But there has never been a step
Where you’ve walked out all alone

Troubled soul don’t lose your heart
Cause joy and peace he brings
And the beauty that’s in store
Outweighs the hurt of life’s sting

I can’t wait until that day where the very one I’ve lived for always will wipe away the sorrow that I’ve faced
To touch the scars that rescued me from a life of shame and misery this is why this is why I sing….

There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears
There will be a day when the burdens of this place, will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face

There will be a day, He’ll wipe away the stains, He’ll wipe away the tears, He’ll wipe away the tears…..there will be a day.

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Deacon Greg Kandra is ordained and ministers in the Diocese of Brooklyn. He writes a fantastic blog, The Deacon’s Bench, at Beliefnet. His Homily for today, the First Sunday of Advent, is a stunner. It is reprinted here with Deacon Kandra’s permission.
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Homily for November 28, 2010: 1st Sunday of Advent

Anyone looking for interesting holiday recipes may have stumbled on a new word that has entered the American lexicon: “Cherpumple.” It’s a desert, created last year by Los Angeles writer Charles Phoenix – a diet-destroying, gut-busting feat of cooking that seems guaranteed to induce sugar shock.

It’s three different pies, stacked one on top of the other, and baked into one gargantuan “monster pie” with three layers – cherry, pumpkin, and apple, hence the name “cherpumple.” The recipe has swept the internet and has become a sensation on YouTube.

I showed a picture of a “cherpumple” to my wife and she agreed with me: it’s absolutely disgusting.

Some things just aren’t meant to be mashed together like that.

Deacon Greg Kandra

But I have to wonder if we haven’t done something similar with Advent and Christmas. For all intents and purposes, we have managed to create one massive season – “Chradvent” – that conflates two distinct seasons into one. And it’s starting earlier and earlier.

Hundreds of radio stations started playing Christmas music the day after Halloween – many of them all Christmas, all the time, 24/7. The week before Thanksgiving, I was amazed to walk by an apartment on 108th Street and see the lobby fully decorated, complete with a fully lit Christmas tree and wrapped gifts. Last Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, I went down to Sergei’s Barber Shop on Ascan Street for a haircut and saw workers unloading Christmas trees to sell. How anyone could expect a Christmas tree to live a month or more is a mystery to me. But people do it. I saw cars going down Queens Boulevard with trees strapped to the roof. Even before Thanksgiving, it seems, we’ve started to celebrate “Chradvent.”

Before everyone hops on that “Chradvent” bandwagon, I’d just like to take a moment to celebrate this season that so many have forgotten about – the season of Advent. We need to remember the reason for this season, and to hold on to Advent just a little while before surrendering to the craziness of “Chradvent.”

The readings today alert us to something great about to begin. The language is emphatic. Night is ending. Dawn is at hand. “Stay awake.” Put on “the armor of light.” And “let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” There is a sense of anticipation – the kind we celebrate at every Eucharist, when we pray that we “wait in joyful hope for the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ.” Advent is that waiting, that moment of joyful hope, lived out across four weeks.

Cherpumple

We symbolize that, and ritualize it, with the Advent wreath. But we don’t light all four candles at once. We go one at a time, so the light gathers and grows. If you have an Advent calendar, you don’t fold open every window at once, but you go one small window at a time. Later in the season, we will sing the haunting refrain, “O come, O come, Emanuel, and ransom captive Israel…” We are captives awaiting freedom, prisoners held in dungeons of despair. But light is coming. Freedom is coming.

Jesus is coming.

But until he comes, we wait, and watch, and wonder, and pray.

We shouldn’t rush it. Advent is the time for taking stock, and making plans – a season of great expectations. Dorothy Day, in fact, compared it to a woman expecting a child. “She lives in such a garment of silence,” Day wrote, “as though she were listening to hear the stir of life within her.”

That brings me to question all of us should ask during these coming weeks:

Are we listening?

Are we paying attention?

Are we looking to what will be – or are we already there?

If we jump right into the holiday season, we forget to wait, and watch, and wonder, and pray. We neglect the “joyful hope” that is so much a part of this beautiful season. When Christmas arrives, it will seem almost anti-climactic: one more day in a long litany of jingling bells and canned carols.

This year resist the urge. Wait a while to get the tree and hang the wreath. Turn down the Christmas music. It’s okay: it will be there in the middle of December, just as it was in the middle of November.

Instead, use these weeks to pull back, to retreat from the ho-ho-ho and fa-la-la-la-la. Find time to look within — to pray more deeply, and converse more intimately with the One who is coming. Ask Him: How can I prepare for you? What can I do to welcome you into my life?

If all of us do that, we may be surprised at the answer.

And we’ll actually be able to HEAR the answer if we give ourselves over to the “garment of silence” that Dorothy Day wrote about.

“Cherpumple” is over the top, and unhealthy. And so, I think, is “Chradvent.” So pull the two seasons apart, and live each of them as fully as possible.

Let’s look forward to a merry Christmas.

But let’s also use this opportunity, as well, to enjoy a blessed and holy Advent.

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Advent Meditation

“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.”
— Sigrid Undset

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Advent encouragement for pro-lifers from today’s Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings

A letter to Diognetus

God showed his love through his Son

No man has ever seen God or known him, but God has revealed himself to us through faith, by which alone it is possible to see him. God, the Lord and maker of all things, who created the world and set it in order, not only loved man but was also patient with him. So he has always been, and is, and will be: kind, good, free from anger, truthful; indeed, he and he alone is good.

He devised a plan, a great and wonderful plan, and shared it only with his Son. As long as he preserved this secrecy and kept his own wise counsel he seemed to be neglecting us, to have no concern for us. But when through his beloved Son he revealed and made public what he had prepared from the very beginning, he gave us all at once gifts such as we could never have dreamt of, even sight and knowledge of himself.

When God had made all his plans in consultation with his Son, he waited until a later time, allowing us to follow our own whim, to be swept along by unruly passions, to be led astray by pleasure and desire. Not that he was pleased by our sins: he only tolerated them. Not that he approved of that time of sin: he was planning this era of holiness. When we had been shown to be undeserving of life, his goodness was to make us worthy of it. When we had made it clear that we could not enter God’s kingdom by our own power, we were to be enabled to do so by the power of God.

When our wickedness had reached its culmination, it became clear that retribution was at hand in the shape of suffering and death. The time came then for God to make known his kindness and power (how immeasurable is God’s generosity and love!). He did not show hatred for us or reject us or take vengeance; instead, he was patient with us, bore with us, and in compassion took our sins upon himself; he gave his own Son as the price of our redemption, the holy one to redeem the wicked, the sinless one to redeem sinners, the just one to redeem the unjust, the incorruptible one to redeem the corruptible, the immortal one to redeem mortals. For what else could have covered our sins but his sinlessness? Where else could we, wicked and sinful as we were, have found the means of holiness except in the Son of God alone?

How wonderful a transformation, how mysterious a design, how inconceivable a blessing! The wickedness of the many is covered up in the holy One, and the holiness of One sanctifies many sinners.

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Second Theme of Advent

Today marks the beginning of the Second Theme of Advent in the Catholic Liturgical Calendar. The daily liturgical readings up until today have focussed on Jesus’ second coming and our judgment. Beginning today, the readings focus on the prophecies and events leading to His first coming, a child born of the Virgin Mary. They culminate in the Nativity readings on Christmas Eve.

This beautiful Christmas Day Prayer from Priests for Life:

A Christmas Day Prayer

Praise to You, Lord God!

You have become one of us — You have become a human being, while still retaining all your power and holiness as God!

You, O Lord, made the journey of the unborn child. By being an embryo, a fetus, and a newborn, you joined all unborn and newborn children to you!

From the beginning of history, O Lord, You were the Creator of every human life. Now, with Christmas, You join Yourself in an unthinkable way with the life You created.

Let this Christmas, O God, fill all of us with awe and wonder at how close human life is to You. Cleanse the world of all that tarnishes and rejects this gift. Purify our hearts of all that fears this gift.

Let our Christmas joy be the joy of welcoming every human life! Amen!

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