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“If You Want”

If
you want
the Virgin will come walking down the road
pregnant with the holy
and say,

 “I need shelter for the night, please take me inside your heart,
my time is so close.”

 Then, under the roof of your soul, you will witness the sublime
intimacy, the divine, the Christ
taking birth
forever,

 as she grasps your hand for help, for each of us
is the midwife of God, each of us.

 Yes there, under the dome of your being does creation
come into existence externally, through your womb, dear pilgrim—
the sacred womb of your soul,

 as God grasps our arms for help; for each of us is
His beloved servant
never
far.

 If you want, the Virgin will come walking
down the street pregnant
with Light and
sing . . .

 

“If You Want” by St. John of the Cross, translated by Daniel Ladinsky,
Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West

 

Reading 1:  Revelation 11:19a; 12: 1-6a, 10

God’s temple in heaven was opened,
and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun,
with the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.
Then another sign appeared in the sky;
it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns,
and on its heads were seven diadems.
Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky
and hurled them down to the earth.
Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth,
to devour her child when she gave birth.
She gave birth to a son, a male child,
destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.
Her child was caught up to God and his throne.
The woman herself fled into the desert
where she had a place prepared by God.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed.”

Responsorial Psal: Judith 13:18

  1. (15:9d) You are the highest honor of our race.
    Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God,
    above all the women on earth;
    and blessed be the LORD God,
    the creator of heaven and earth.
    R. You are the highest honor of our race.
    Your deed of hope will never be forgotten
    by those who tell of the might of God.
    R. You are the highest honor of our race.

Alleluia

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.
    Blessed are you, holy Virgin Mary, deserving of all praise;
    from you rose the sun of justice, Christ our God.
    R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: Luke 1:26-47

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

A New Heaven and a New Earth by Henri Nouwen

Long before Jesus was born the prophet Isaiah had a vision of Christ’s great unifying work of salvation.  Many years after Jesus died, John, the beloved disciple, had another but similar vision:   He saw a new heaven and a new earth.  All of creation had been transformed, dressed with immortality to be the perfect bride of Christ.  In John’s vision the risen Christ speaks from his throne, saying:  “Look, I am making the whole of creation new. ….  Look, here God lives among human beings.  He will make his home among them; they will be his people, and he will be their God, God-with-them.  He will wipe away all tears from their eyes;  there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness or pain.  The world of the past has gone”  (Revelation 21:5; 21:3-4).

Both Isaiah and John open our eyes to the all-inclusive nature of Christ’s saving work.

The Peaceable Kingdom by Henri Nouwen

All of creation belongs together in the arms of its Creator.  The final vision is that not only will all men and women recognise that they are brothers and sisters called to live in unity but all members of God’s creation will come together in complete harmony.  Jesus the Christ came to realise that vision.  Long before he was born, the prophet Isaiah saw it:

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the panther lie down with the kid,
calf, lion and fat-stock beast together,
with a little boy to lead them.
The cow and the bear will graze,
their young will lie down together.
The lion will eat hay like the ox.
The infant will play over the den of the adder;
the baby will put his hand into the viper’s lair.
No hurt, no harm will be done
on all my holy mountain,
for the country will be full of knowledge of Yahweh
as the waters cover the sea.

(Isaiah 11:6-9)

We must keep this vision alive.
 

When Paul says to “pray always” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), he can’t mean to walk around saying the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” all day.  Prayer is basically a total life stance. It is a way of being present in the world in which we are present to the Presence and present to the Presence in all things. In a certain sense, you either pray always (or almost always) or you do not pray at all.

….

Once we can learn to be present to the Presence, the things that used to bother us don’t bother us quite as much. The things that used to defeat us no longer defeat us. The things we thought we could never surrender to, we now can. Even to accept that we are not ready to accept something is still a form of this utterly grounding and accepting Presence.

from The Eternal Now

emphasis mine

“In the farthest sweeps of history, the prophet’s dream is that the knowledge of God will cover the face of the earth.”  Alton B. Pollard, III

1.

The frost has killed the summer flowers.
They hang brownish heads

from spindly stems.  The autumnal sky
is gray and looks like ice.  November

rain brought the leaves down.  They now cover
most of the ground.  But the hour

is not yet come for the feast that will usher in
the Best Holiday of them all.

I like Christmas.  I love it.
Yet I am wary as a turkey before

the slaughter and have forgotten the word
that was on my mind that night,

when I took notes about the blurring of
false boundaries, so that memories and dreams

became parts of my prayer.  That word destroyed
all categories into which everyone must fit.

I know there were natives present.
But everywhere one goes, it seems,

there are natives.   What was I thinking
that could “break barriers down”?

Is there a word that transcends all difference
and puts my feet on solid ground?

2.

I sat on the concrete wall near a pile of leaves,
raked to Third Street’s edge.  Pam’s in
her poodle skirt.  We are sisters.

And with childhood’s frolic over,
we are left to mine what’s happened since.
We must try to figure it out.
As the moon grows cold deep in the night,

watermelon vines wind themselves,
where there is nothing to wind themselves
around or to.   They look tangled and brown,
even before the birth of young melons.

Singing words may tease the senses,
and we could cackle all by ourselves,
but we won’t forget a single sparrow,
for no one flies with broken wings.

3.

I see a river, as it dives from the cliff,
feel its spray on my cheeks, my white, aging
chin. I taste the river’s sweetness.
I see a river whose shores hold the answer.

I see the sweat and the blood, as they river
on the back of a dark, black slave.
I hear the beat of a slave mother’s heart,
beneath the noonday sun.  I hear the beat

of the feet of the Cherokee brave,
running alone through the hot, green forest,
then up toward the sacred hills.  I smell
the smoke from the great chieftain’s pipe.

4.

The echo of loon-calls infiltrated
low-dragging branches.  While white patrollers
with their guns and their bloodhounds
were fighting tangled trees, their canoes fought
the waters of the swamp-jungle,
beside the alligator-shadows, where abandoned
human bones lay undisturbed, unquestioned
in the grayness of spontaneous gnarls of the maze
of the Spanish Moss.  And when the sky grew

darker and search parties turned back, the tired
runaway did not.  Having drunk deeply from the pot
lying on its side and hearing the song held safely within,
Jacob ceased from his hiding and started his
wading into the black, troubled water.
He turned north, followed a guiding star.

“There is a Presence” now, there in that swamp,
and there always has been.

5.

Distant stars now grace the darkness.
And six farmers under a quarter moon
kneel but do not speak.

By day, the sun burns through barren fields.
The old women shout,
“Dirt to mud, mud to dirt.”  The barefoot children
stomp a rain-dance.

Silence follows begging in this hell-dry penumbra,
which is not to say what the villagers now believe.

6.

A rainbow is visible through the clouds,
but the multitudes stand like sheep,
while the rain comes stroking the air.  The rain
cleans the water and the firmament.
The people don’t know, of course,
that they are sheep, forsaking what matters most:

They have forgotten to dream.
And as the pond and the lake fill with water,
small puddles form on the land,
the sheep relive their false memories.

They think they are thinking, choosing,
watching for wolves.  They “know about”
wolves, because they are sheep.
But they don’t know wolves.

The sheep bow their heads,
while raindrops fall into a small pond
in the openness of meadow. But other drops
became lodged in the trees, where they hang in
fine slivers of hope—unless, in the coldness,
they freeze—only to fall when the sun penetrates
the dense forest, sending them on a journey
to wherever it is they must go,
which is—at least, for some—

like speaking the truth in love.

7.

The other night
as music over-shadowed the meaning of what

I was trying to say, I realized that prayer is best,
when we recognize the fog and acknowledge it.

Snow swirls toward a whirling earth,
so that as you hear a leaf fall,

you need not ask about love.
Outside my window, bright leaves swayed

in the grayness of sky:   Some yellow, some red.
That evening when they floated toward us in your car,

we stopped, turned off the motor, stepped outside
into what soon became the redeeming moment.

The fog and the wind were coming
as quickly and as surely as my pain.  Then suddenly,

raindrops were all over us.   And just so you know,
that evening, as we sat awkwardly on the back of your car,

when you suggested how close we’d become,
I decided to forgive you.  And God—

who is, perhaps, saner than we like to pretend—
smiled down upon us all.

from Better with Friends

**

Reading 1: Isaiah 40, 1-5, 9-11

Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end,
her guilt is expiated;
indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Go up on to a high mountain,
Zion, herald of glad tidings;
cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by his strong arm;
here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 85: 9-10,11-12, 13-14

R/ (8) Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD—for he proclaims peace to his people.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
R/ Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R/ Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and prepare the way of his steps.
R/ Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Reading 2: II Peter 3:8-14

Do not ignore this one fact, beloved,
that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years
and a thousand years like one day.
The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,”
but he is patient with you,
not wishing that any should perish
but that all should come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief,
and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar
and the elements will be dissolved by fire,
and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.

Since everything is to be dissolved in this way,
what sort of persons ought you to be,
conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion,
waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God,
because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames
and the elements melted by fire.
But according to his promise
we await new heavens and a new earth
in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you await these things,
be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.

Alleluia: Luke 3: 4,6

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.
    Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths:
    all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
    R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: Mark 1: 1-8

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.”
John the Baptist appeared in the desert
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
People of the whole Judean countryside
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
John was clothed in camel’s hair,
with a leather belt around his waist.
He fed on locusts and wild honey.
And this is what he proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

**

St. Nicholas

Lived: (d. 350?) | Feast Day: Saturday, December 6, 2014

The absence of the “hard facts” of history is not necessarily an obstacle to the popularity of saints, as the devotion to St. Nicholas shows. Both the Eastern and Western Churches honor him, and it is claimed that after the Blessed Virgin, he is the saint most pictured by Christian artists. And yet, historically, we can pinpoint only the fact that Nicholas was the fourth-century bishop of Myra, a city in Lycia, a province of Asia Minor.As with many of the saints, however, we are able to capture the relationship which Nicholas had with God through the admiration which Christians have had for him—an admiration expressed in the colorful stories which have been told and retold through the centuries.

Perhaps the best-known story about Nicholas concerns his charity toward a poor man who was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters of marriageable age. Rather than see them forced into prostitution, Nicholas secretly tossed a bag of gold through the poor man’s window on three separate occasions, thus enabling the daughters to be married. Over the centuries, this particular legend evolved into the custom of gift-giving on the saint’s feast. In the English-speaking countries, St. Nicholas became, by a twist of the tongue, Santa Claus—further expanding the example of generosity portrayed by this holy bishop.

Comment:
The critical eye of modern history makes us take a deeper look at the legends surrounding St. Nicholas. But perhaps we can utilize the lesson taught by his legendary charity, look deeper at our approach to material goods in the Christmas season and seek ways to extend our sharing to those in real need.
Quote:
“In order to be able to consult more suitably the welfare of the faithful according to the condition of each one, a bishop should strive to become duly acquainted with their needs in the social circumstances in which they live…. He should manifest his concern for all, no matter what their age, condition, or nationality, be they natives, strangers, or foreigners” (Vatican II, Decree on the Bishops’ Pastoral Office, 16).***

Merry Christmas, St. Nicholas

A Personal Saint is a prayer partner,
who lived in a different age:
A person with whom
you have something in common.
So many to choose from.
So many to consider, before it hit me:
Just how many times have I declared my love
for all things Christmas?

The twinkling lights…
the red and the green…
A warm fireplace…
Star over Bethlehem…
Common shepherds
keeping common sheep…
The flame of a candle
coaxing prayer toward heaven….

Dear Old St. Nicholas,
loved and honored
by East and West,
Patron of more causes
than any other Saint.

He’s the Patron of bakers,
scholars, teachers, and poets:
all of which I have been.
He’s the Saint for prostitutes,
murderers, and corn-measurers:
none of which I have been.
Saint Nicholas is an Advent Saint.
And the key to a joyous Christmas
is in the Keeping of Advent.

Even in the Middle Ages,
when Nicholas walked the earth,
he showed Christians
how to live for their faith
rather than how to die for it.

He’s a special Saint for children.
And yes—in my heart—
I’m a squirming child,
safe only in the vastness
of God’s wide arms,
where I am loved for being
the person I was created to be.

Merry Christmas, St. Nicholas.
I choose you.

“Our keenest desire is to come to know the Christ who, as a just judge, comes to us in mercy and humility, in communion with us with his Body and Blood. With Jesus, who first came among us as an infant, we wait for the fulfillment of that coming when God will become all in all.”

from Let Us Adore Him: Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas by Richard Fragomeni

***

Death, a New Birth by Henri Nouwen

There comes a time in all our lives when we must prepare for death.  When we become old, get seriously ill, or are in great danger, we can’t be preoccupied simply with the question of how to get better unless “getting better” means moving on to a life beyond our death.   In our culture, which in so many ways is death oriented, we find little if any creative support for preparing ourselves for a good death.  Most people presume that our only desire is to live longer on this earth.   Still, dying, like giving birth, is a way to new life, and as Ecclesiastes says:  “There is a season for everything: … a time for giving birth, a time for dying” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2).

We have to prepare ourselves for our death with the same care and attention as our parents prepared themselves for our births.
***

In Advent we cry out, “Come, O come Emmanuel! Come, visit us and bring your peace to hearts filled with the cares and troubles of our lives. Let us become a holding place for you as we begin this blessed season.”

from Let Us Adore Him: Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas by Richard Fragomeni

***

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said,
“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows who the Son is except the Father,
and who the Father is except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

Turning to the disciples in private he said,
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.
For I say to you,
many prophets and kings desired to see what you see,
but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

Luke 10: 21-24.

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