Sunday, December 27, 2015

Feast of the Holy Family, Year C


The Feast of the Holy Family, which honors Jesus, Mary and Joseph, is relatively recent: it was instituted by Pope Leo XIII in 1893 and it commemorates the Holy Family's life at Nazareth. The holiness of their ordinary lives is held up as a model for all Christian families. In his Wednesday audience of December 29, 2011, Pope-emeritus Benedict spoke of the feast:
The house of Nazareth is a school of prayer where we learn to listen, to meditate, to penetrate the deeepest meaning of the manifestation of the Son of God, drawing our example from Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
And in 1964 on the Feast of the Holy Family, Blessed (Pope) Paul XI spoke these beautiful words at Nazareth:
The home of Nazareth is the school where we begin to understand the life of Jesus — the school of the Gospel....
Nativity, Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)
First, then, a lesson of silence. May esteem for silence, that admirable and indispensable condition of mind, revive in us, besieged as we are by so many uplifted voices, the general noise and uproar, in our seething and over-sensitised modern life. May the silence of Nazareth teach us recollection, inwardness, the disposition to listen to good inspirations and the teachings of true masters. May it teach us the need for and the value of preparation, of study, of meditation, of personal inner life, of the prayer which God alone sees in secret.
Next, there is a lesson on family life. May Nazareth teach us what family life is, its communion of love, its austere and simple beauty, and its sacred and inviolable character. Let us learn from Nazareth that the formation received at home is gentle and irreplaceable. Let us learn the prime importance of the role of the family in the social order.
May the Holy Family grant peace and unity to all the families of the world! 





Friday, December 25, 2015

Feast of Christmas, Year C

 We wish our friends and all the world a joyful, blessed feast of the Birth of Christ.

Nativity Illumination from a Bible Historiale, central France, 1403-1404. British Library, Harley 4382.

"Today," says St. Augustine,
Truth has sprung up from the earth; Christ is born in the flesh. We must celebrate this day of joy as worthily as we can. It's a day which of its nature impels us to consider also the everlasting day, so we must not fail to turn our minds to that also: with hope that cannot be shaken, we should yearn for gifts that are eternal.
...Let us all together then, perfectly united in mind and heart, celebrate today the birthday of the Lord. Let us celebrate with chaste hearts and holy affections the day on which Truth sprang up from the earth. Does anyone think lightly of this Truth, if it sprang up from the earth? Let him consider that in order that it might come from the earth, it first came down from heaven. He who is this Truth came down in order to raise us up. Let us then learn to be rich in the one who became poor for our sake. Let us accept freedom from the one who for our sake accepted the form of a slave. In the one who for our sake sprang up from the earth, let us in turn take possession of heaven.
May the peace of which the angels sang fill our hearts and all the world!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

4th Sunday of Advent, Year C

The Fourth Sunday of Advent - so close to Christmas! Let us accompany Mary and Joseph in our hearts as they journey to Bethlehem. Let us go forth to greet Christ, as the 12th century Cistercian abbot Guerric of Igny exhorts us:
Our King and Savior is coming; let us run to meet him! "Good news from afar country," in the words of Solomon, "is like cold water to a thirsty soul" and to announce the coming of our Savior and the reconciliation of the world, together with the good things of the life to come, is to bring good news indeed.
"How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good tidings and publish peace!"
Such messengers truly bear a refreshing draught to the soul that thirsts for God; with their news of the Savior’s coming, they joyfully draw and offer us water from the springs of salvation.... Let us too arise with joy and run in spirit to meet our Savior. Hailing him from afar, let us worship him, saying: Come, Lord, "save me and I shall be saved!" Come and "show us your face, and we shall all be saved. We have been waiting for you; be our help in time of trouble." This was how the prophets and saints of old ran to meet the Messiah, filled with immense desire to see with their eyes, if possible, what they already saw in spirit.
We must look forward to the day, so soon to come, on which we celebrate the anniversary of Christ’s birth. Scripture itself insists on the joy which must fill us—a joy which will lift our spirit out of itself in longing for his coming, impatient of delay as it strains forward to see even now what the future holds in store.

Lord, open our hearts to your grace. Through the angel’s message to Mary we have learned to believe in the incarnation of Christ your Son: lead us by his passion and cross to the glory of his resurrection.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

3rd Sunday of Advent, Year C

This Sunday's gospel continues the theme of St. John the Baptist, the voice crying in the desert: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths." The people wonder if John himself is the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah. St. Augustine comments:
Since it is difficult to distinguish the voice and the word, John himself was thought to be Christ. The voice was taken to be the Word. But the voice admitted his identity, lest he might displease the Word. I am not the Christ, he said, nor Elijah, nor the prophet. In reply to, Who are you? he said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, the voice of one breaking the silence. Prepare the way of the Lord, is as though he said: I cry out to lead him into your heart – but he will not condescend to come where I am leading, unless you prepare the way. 
What does to prepare the way mean, except to pray as you ought, to be humble-minded? Take an example of humility from John himself. He is thought to be the Christ, but he says he is not what people think. He does not use the mistake of others to feed his own pride. Suppose he had said: I am the Christ. How easily would he have been believed, since that was what people were thinking before he spoke! But he did not say it. He acknowledged who he was, distinguished himself from Christ, humbled himself.
 O God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity, enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvation, and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year C

Today's gospel reading is taken from Luke 3:1-6. It tells of St. John the Baptist proclaiming a baptism of repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. John is the "voice in the wilderness" foretold by Isaiah, the herald who urges us to prepare our hearts for the Savior during this Advent season, as we wait for the Lord's coming.

In his Commentary on St. Luke's Gospel, Origen writes:
We read in the prophet Isaiah: “A voice cries out in the desert: Prepare a way for the Lord. Build him a straight highway.” A way by land? Could the Word of God travel such a road? Is it not rather a way within ourselves that we have to prepare for the Lord? Is it not a straight and level highway in our hearts that we are to make ready? Surely this is the way by which the Word of God enters, a way that exists in the spaciousness of the human body. The human heart is vast, broad, and capacious, if only it is pure.
[I]f what contains so much is not small, let a way be prepared in it for the Lord, a straight highway along which the Word and Wisdom of God may advance. Prepare a way for the Lord by living a good life and guard that way by good works. Let the Word of God move in you unhindered and give you a knowledge of his coming and of his mysteries. To him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.