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Happy and blessed 2nd Sunday of Advent.  Today’s readings, and our pastor’s homily thereafter, were so beautiful and comforting.  And I needed them so very much.  I’ve been feeling like I’ve fallen into a deep ravine and can’t get out.  Just as I was feeling so ready to move forward with my life, I’ve been brought down with a lot of grief.  Such grief as I have not felt in a long while now.  It’s hard not to panic a little.  To wonder whether I will ever make it back up and be able to continue on my journey. And honestly, it’s hard not to feel a little forsaken. Does God care? Will He help me? Will anybody?

And what do I hear at Mass today?  From the Old Testament:


God has commanded
that every lofty mountain be made low,
and that the age-old depths and gorges
be filled to level ground,
that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God.

Baruch 5:6-7

And from the New Testament (a quotation from the Old Testament):

Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

Luke 3:5

From the Psalm:

Those who sow in tears
shall reap rejoicing.
Although they go forth weeping,
carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
carrying their sheaves.

Psalm 126:5-6

And from the Epistle:

I am confident of this,
that the one who began a good work in you
will continue to complete it
until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

See what I mean?  I like the parts about depths and gorges being filled, and about coming back rejoicing.  One line from the Baruch reading says that the people are “rejoicing that they are remembered by God” (Bar. 5:5).  These are people who have suffered captivity, exile, diaspora, and other tragedies.  People who had probably suffered more than me.  And God did not forget them–he will never forget any of us, no matter what.  He will rescue us and lift us up.  We can have complete confidence in Him, as St. Paul does.

Looking at my life, I know that God would not bring me this far just to drop me in a hole and let me rot there.  Thinking about it like a rational person, I can see how absurd a fear that is.  But, because I’m irrational sometimes, and stubborn, and a bit dense, I just need to be told over… and over… and over again.  And God and the Church are very good about that.  They never get tired and impatient.  They know how I am made.  They know how we all are made.

I have to say though, I have no doubt that the Advent season is working its wonders in me.  Father said that Advent exists to shake us from our complacency, to make us realize what we are lacking, and to fill us with an intense longing for Christ and Heaven.  That’s definitely going on with me!

I’m so happy that my parish is offering extra opportunities for Eucharistic Adoration during Advent.  That really has filled a great need for me.  It’s like a fresh oasis in everyday life.

And we get a Holy Day of Obligation this week, and for once, it’s not transferred to Sunday!  I always consider that a bonus.  It’s 8 December–the Immaculate Conception.  I look forward to that!

So, anyway, I’m feeling happier and much better now.  I hope it’s a happy and blessed week for all of you!

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We are entering the second week of Advent. I am trying to quiet down, avoid getting caught up in the hustle-bustle commercialism with which the rest of the world “celebrates” this season, and focus on the real meaning of this season, awaiting with eager anticipation the coming of our King–not only His coming on the first Christmas, but also His coming in the future, at the end of time.  Thus, Advent is a season of joy and wonder, and also a season of penitence as we prepare our souls for that day and avail ourselves of His grace.

There are some truly beautiful hymns in Advent (as there are for every season).  Here, from Michael Martin’s wonderful site, Thesaurus Precum Latinarum, we have this 7th century hymn (with a 19th century translation):

CONDITOR alme siderum,
aeterna lux credentium,
Christe, redemptor omnium,
exaudi preces supplicum.
CREATOR of the stars of night,
Thy people’s everlasting light,
Jesu, Redeemer, save us all,
and hear Thy servants when they call.
Qui condolens interitu
mortis perire saeculum,
salvasti mundum languidum,
donans reis remedium,
Thou, grieving that the ancient curse
should doom to death a universe,
hast found the medicine, full of grace,
to save and heal a ruined race.
Vergente mundi vespere,
uti sponsus de thalamo,
egressus honestissima
Virginis matris clausula.
Thou camest, the Bridegroom of the Bride,
as drew the world to evening tide,
proceeding from a virgin shrine,
the spotless Victim all divine.
Cuius forti potentiae
genu curvantur omnia;
caelestia, terrestria
nutu fatentur subdita.
At whose dread Name, majestic now,
all knees must bend, all hearts must bow;
and things celestial Thee shall own,
and things terrestrial Lord alone.
Te, Sancte, fide quaesumus,
venture iudex saeculi,
conserva nos in tempore
hostis a telo perfidi.
O Thou whose coming is with dread,
to judge and doom the quick and dead,
preserve us, while we dwell below,
from every insult of the foe.
Sit, Christe, rex piissime,
tibi Patrique gloria
cum Spiritu Paraclito,
in sempiterna saecula. Amen.
To God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Spirit, Three in One,
laud, honor, might, and glory be
from age to age eternally. Amen.
Thesaurus Precum Latinarum

I hope everybody has a blessed, peaceful, and fruitful Advent!

Elsewhere this evening, I was casually writing about Christmas parties and how much I love them.  I don’t even mind if they’re called “holiday parties,” and I’ve never met a non-Christian who was offended when, in practice, they really were Christmas parties.  There’s just something about the festivity, food, fellowship, music, etc. that just makes everybody enjoy being human and alive!

Nor do such earthly festivities diminish the religious meaning of Christmas: the birth of Christ, true God and true man, the Savior, the King, the Messiah, God Incarnate.  One of the most mind-blowing events in human history!

Sure, it’s possible to get wound up in unimportant, mundane, material things.  Unfortunately, such things have largely pervaded and possessed our society.  And it happens even to the most devout of us.  But when it happens to you, you have the option to pick yourself up and get on the right road again.  You have the option to pursue the meaning and mystery behind it all.  As I said before, it tends to take me the first 2 weeks of Advent to get to that point… but I’m learning and growing, and it’s never too late, right?  Just let us not get discouraged or despair.

God rest ye merry, gentlemen;
let nothing ye dismay!
Remember Christ our Savior
was born on Christmas Day!

I think that verse can apply to Advent.

As with so many things, the term “both-and” applies to celebrating Christmas.  You can eat, drink, and be merry and revere the Savior’s birth.  They are not mutually exclusive.  They are both part of reality.  Catholics are neither puritans nor hedonists.  We are a sacramental people: we often find truth and spiritual significance in earthly things, and certainly in meals and fellowship–things always at the heart of a good party!

For us, the good things in earthly life often evoke greater realities and things to come in the next world.  And we ought to thank, praise, and bless God every day for that, as the great Hilaire Belloc says:

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
there is always laughter and good red wine.
At least I have always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!

In any case, I am praying and pondering during this last week of Advent, looking forward to celebrating the Nativity of the Lord, and also enjoying some fun festivities!  Life is overflowing… life is good!

And it shall be especially good if I can get through the rest of this month without somebody trying to bore me to death (or at least to tears) by lecturing me on how Christmas symbols are really pagan, or how Christ wasn’t really born on 25 December, or any other inconsequential drivel that doesn’t even come close to getting the point of Christmas, whether for a devout religious observer or for a more secular merry-maker.

To think… I was once one of those somebodies! If I could, I’d willingly and gleefully give my former self a sound thwacking for being such a smug, self-interested “intellectual” addicted to congratulating myself on my cleverness and superiority to all the Christmas-loving sheeple.  Ha.

Related post:

Eat, Drink, and Be Grateful!

"Study in pink flowers" by Flickr user photogirl7Happy Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent which calls us to “rejoice!”  We get a nice break from the penitential color of violet for the joyful color of rose.  The color of approaching dawn!

It’s sad, but Gaudete Sunday is usually when I am finally able to settle down into a still, quiet, contemplative state of being.  Sad because, well, I wish I could be this way for the first 2 weeks of Advent too!  But at least I can properly observe the latter half of the season.

I absolutely love the Mass readings for today, especially this passage from the prophet Isaiah:

I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,
like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
like a bride bedecked with her jewels.
As the earth brings forth its plants,
and a garden makes its growth spring up,
so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise
spring up before all the nations.

Such beautiful imagery!  And we do have ever so much in which to rejoice in our Lord, if only we don’t take it all for granted.  He has given us this beautiful world.  He has given us our families and friends.  He has given us His Church and the Sacraments.  Above all, He has given us Himself!

I know how easy it is to be distracted by worldly things in this Advent season; I’ve been struggling with that for the last 2 weeks.  But if we can just take even a moment to think about the Incarnation–God taking to Himself a human nature and a human life… the mighty Creator and King of the universe becoming a helpless little babe, born into poverty!–does it not humble and amaze us?  Does it not fill us with wonder?

That is our Lord and our God, so infinitely awesome and full of wonders!  So bewildering in His power, and also in His magnanimity.  His power can pierce you straight to your soul, and His mercy can not only heal and restore you, but also make you better than before.  His mercy and love are unwavering, no matter how many times or how grievously you mess up.

My heart aches because I just can’t express how very much I love and adore Him!

Our pastor gave the most wonderful homily today about what our purpose is in this world as Christians–namely to worship God and to point others to Him.  Our purpose is the same as that of the prophet Isaiah:

… to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.

Our purpose is the same as Mary’s as expressed in her canticle, the Magnificat, which takes the place of a psalm today:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior

Our purpose is also set forth by St. Paul in his epistle to the Thessalonians:

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise prophetic utterances.
Test everything; retain what is good.
Refrain from every kind of evil.

Our purpose is the same as that of St. John the Baptist, who

came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.

In summary, our pastor said, if any of us is feeling lost or seeking direction or wondering why we are here, this Sunday is for us.

Yes, this Sunday is for us… just one of the countless and constant gifts our Lord has given us!  We have so much to rejoice for… and so very much to be grateful for!  Gaudete, fratres!

(Photo:  “Study in Pink Flowers” by Flickr user photogirl7)

I hope everybody had an excellent Thanksgiving!  I had a wonderful stay with my parents… got to see some snow… was very spoiled… and have returned well-rested and very well-fed!  My parents are doing well, and we still appreciate everybody’s prayers!

Advent at St. Mary of the Assumption Church, Northampton, Mass., by Flickr user pcorreiaWe are almost through the first week of Advent–hard to believe!  I went to Confession this evening to get me off to a good start, to focus my eyes on the eastern horizon, to fortify me for the wait in the wintry darkness before the breaking of the  divine dawn from on high.

It can be a real challenge to hold this sacred vigil amid all the hustle and bustle and commercialism and secularization of this holy season.  I do enjoy choosing gifts for loved ones and writing Christmas cards.  But it is very important not to just rush through or overlook Advent.

Advent is one of those mysteries of eternity we find throughout our Church year; it is a season in which past, present, and future converge.   In Advent, we look to the past–to the Incarnation of Lord Jesus.  We also look to the future–to the Lord’s second coming.  And we examine the present: what do these comings of the Lord mean to me, and how am I living my life in light of them?

Tomorrow is First Friday–I’ll be joining other Catholic bloggers in praying and fasting for an end to abortion.  It also gives me a chance to spend time with my Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  Being in His presence still makes me feel like I’m made of jello.

Saturday, I’ll start writing Christmas cards.  If anybody would like one, please send me your name and address!  :)

May this Advent be a holy, peaceful, fruitful time for you and bring you closer to our Lord Jesus!

(photo by Flickr user pcorreia)

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