Category Archives: Advent Reflections

Christmas Eve Reflection 2012

730541-NO-ROOM-AT-THE-INN-CARD
Typically these posts are done ahead of time and I have them on a scheduler that uses a timer. But today I woke up really early, after going to bed pretty early, and while I was praying I read something that got me thinking. Now I can’t shake the thought – how often have I communicated that there is “no room at the inn?”

You may know that I work at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Glenville. As you can imagine, things have been busy in the parish office. Regrettably, sometimes I let it get the better of me. Someone called on Friday afternoon when I was trying to finish up and get home. Add to that, three phones were ringing at once, and I let them get the better of me too. The third call was from a familiar parishioner; I was harried and probably very rude to her.

Today I am reminded, as we all are, that all guests should be welcomed as Christ. (See Chapter 35 in the Rule of St. Benedict for a direct quotation.) I take that pretty seriously in the parish office – and in life, I hope. Sometimes I fall short and Friday was one of those days.

2000 years ago, give or take, an innkeeper, very harried on a busy and overcrowded night, told some prospective guests that there was no room for them at his inn. We see how that worked out! Now his busy brush-off may not have been intentional. And goodness knows when things are full, they are full…. right?

All of this is a reminder that we must stop, look, and listen. (The link takes you to a beautiful post by my friend Michelle Francl-Donnay, on paying attention to radiant dawn and other things.) We must be attentive and we must be responsive in the context of our attentiveness. For me, that might mean letting one phone ring and go to voicemail, knowing that God is taking of everything, and pay attention to the person I am speaking with. For me, that is very hard to do – and in my good intention of trying to take care of everyone at once, I take care of no one.

So what can we do to welcome the Child who is about to be born? The Child who is born in us, over and over again? Perhaps those three things that Michelle reminded me of in her post, those words from my childhood, to “stop, look and listen.

If I stop, I might be more centered and more attentive, more aware, and more welcoming. If I look, I may see who is before me at all times, no matter how I feel – and then be more welcoming. And if I listen, I will hear the call, the call that should bring me to attention and not to frustration – and then be more welcoming.

Perhaps today we are all the innkeeper, in our various ways. What innkeeper will we be – the welcoming one or the the one who shuts the door?

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Advent Reflections – Friday, December 21, 2013 by Jeanne Speanburg

My-Dove-for-Web-950x746Song of Songs 2:10-13

My lover speaks; he says to me,
“Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one,
and come!
“For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!

These words are beautiful to read, but difficult for me to imagine God saying to me.  They are so personal, so intimate, and yet I know they are words that God speaks to each one of us.  Words we long to hear; words we need to hear even if they may embarrass us with their intimacy.

Our community and our nation have recently experienced the deaths of so many innocent, young victims and we are grieving.  Grief can be all consuming and it is hard to see an end to the pain.  This scripture offers us hope that the winter of our grief will pass and we will heal so we can go on with life.  It gives us a picture that life will someday be beautiful again.  In the midst of our grief, the hope of God can be our lifeline during the difficult days ahead.   Hope will sustain us during the slow, painful process of healing and someday we will again see beauty in our world.

 

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O Antiphons – O Radix Jesse

l_antiphons3O Radix Jesse
O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.

About four years ago I read a book about liturgy and worship, I believe that it was by Nathan Mitchell. I can’t find the book right now, so that’s as accurate as I can get at the moment.

Mitchell was talking about the communal nature of liturgy and of how networks arise. Trust me – it made sense in the book, which I hope to get my hands on and quote more directly. He wrote about the roots of rhizomes, which unlike tree roots, that go deep, reach out to connect to one another. While I have thought of this many times over the years, I never thought of it in relationship to this O Antiphon until today. Continue reading

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Unwilling Willingness – An Advent Reflection

church_bazaar_christmas_fair_or_christian_event_flyer-p244107641514716651b73co_400God is with us.

God is with us.

God is with us.

It doesn’t always feel like God-is-with-us, does it? Especially now. Typically we might find ourselves on December 18th, pretty deeply into the “are-we-there-yet?” stage. You know, that feeling where we find our “it’s-almost-Christmas” glee crisscrossing with high anxiety over all the things yet unaccomplished as we race towards December 25.

Anxiety or glee – neither one is especially rooted in our Advent journey of holy waiting, but both are very common things to feel. I don’t know about you, but I am in a state of mind and heart that says, “can-we-leave-now?” rather than “are-we-there-yet?” And the “God-is-with-us” matter might be harder than usual to grasp. This makes me wonder if perhaps “are-we-there-yet?” and “can-we-leave-now?” are the wrong questions to ask.

We might find ourselves wanting to ask Continue reading

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The O Antiphons – O Sapientia

December 17th marks the beginning of the O Antiphons.

From the linked article:

The “O Antiphons” refer to the seven antiphons that are recited (or chanted) preceding the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, Dec. 17-23, with Dec. 24 being Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening being for the Christmas Vigil.

The Liturgy of the Hours is the prayer of of the church as we literally “pray through the day.” Many of us in the secular life use an abbreviated form of this prayer, but in monasteries, convents and all sorts of places, this is prayed daily.

Vespers is the Continue reading

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Third Sunday of Advent Reflection – Deep Sorrow and Sharp Joy

050811-066.Today’s readings can be accessed here. I was all set to post the homiletic reflection that was published in the book, Hungry and You Fed Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle C.  Today is Gaudete Sunday, a day of joy, rejoicing and the homily that is in the book reflects that. If you want to read it, you can see it here, on the diocesan Amazing God webpage.

What do we think of today? Father Pat Butler, our pastor, spoke to us about the importance of silence in his homily for this weekend. I also went to mass at Immaculate Conception in Glenville, where I work, and Father Jerry Gingras reminded us of how easy it is to conflate joy and happiness, rejoicing and celebration. This reminds me that joy something that we possess in Christ, and happiness is but a fleeting feeling.

The image above was taken in a forest. I was struck by what the fire had wrought – a field of rose colored flowers. The photo shows a forest that was burned to nothing, to black scorched earth. The fire killed everything in sight, or so it seemed. Our Gospel today has John the Baptist telling us this:

His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

The unquenchable fire burns, but look at what grows in the aftermath! This mystery is unknowable, we encounter such rich gifts in life, and we encounter such unfathomable sorrow. There is no answer, and I am reminded of the gifts of silence that Father Pat Butler spoke of. This image and these few (probably too many) words – that is all.

May God gather the children and the adults of Sandy Hook into God’s loving embrace. May God’s mercy enshroud the grieving families and friends of those who have died so tragically, so brutally. And we continue to offer our prayers for the families of Deanna Rivers and Chris Stewart.

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Advent Reflection – December 13, 2012 by Charles Burre

Advent Reflection for December 13: A Threshing
by Charles Burre

ThreshingIsaiah 41:13-20; Psalm 145:1, 9-13; Matthew 11:11-15

I can relate to Isaiah’s prophecy that the Lord would make His people a threshing sledge that would separate the wheat from the chaff. As I continue on my faith journey, many of my long-held opinions and beliefs have crumbled and been dispersed in the wind due to the witness of Christian people whose beliefs and actions are closer to the teaching of Jesus.

I grew up as a Protestant in the “red-state heartland.” I adhered to, and nurtured, a conservative-Republican philosophy up until the last ten or fifteen years. In my twenties I read all of William Buckley’s books as well as National Review every fortnight. What attracted me to these writers, in addition to their generally Republican-sounding views, was that they often brought faith and theology into the discussion. In matters of world affairs and wars, I always supported the actions of our nation.

In the last several years, I have found myself re-examining many of these viewpoints and listening more and more to the views of other leaders and writers, people whom I used to write-off as naive, “bleeding-hearts” or having self-centered political ambitions.

Perhaps the sharpest of the threshing sledges that has been pounding on me lately has been Chris Haw’s book From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart. While born a Catholic, Chris joined an Evangelical mega-church in his teen years, during which he found a faith-community that instilled in him the message of the gospel and caused him to become involved several social causes. However, he saw that many of his evangelical brethren did not always practice what Jesus preached particularly when it came to the matter of national revenge after 9/11. Chris has devoted his life and resources to improving the most neglected of neighborhoods in Camden, NJ. There he began worship in the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and came back to sacramental union with the Church. He has delved deeply into church history and theology throughout his life and ministries and has written one of the most cogent apologies for Roman Catholicism that I have ever read. I wondered how he had time to do this, but then I’m sure he didn’t let the worldly things that have occupied so much space in my life do so in his.

Earlier this year I received another threshing as I listened to A Good Man, the biography of Sargent Shriver by his son Mark. Mark tells the story of the faith of his father, which motivated him to accomplish so much for the underprivileged in the world: e. g., the Peace Corps and the many civil right causes which he championed . I thought to myself: years ago I would have said; “These are just a bunch of Kennedys trying to gather a few more votes.” Having listened to this book, however, I have come to realize that people like Shriver are truly trying to live as Jesus taught.

I don’t mean to espouse one political philosophy or one faith over another here. There are certainly many sincere people across the spectrum working for the good of all or for what they believe to be God’s will. What I think is important is for us to critically evaluate our beliefs, actions, and their consequences against what Jesus taught. We need to be willing to listen to rebels like John the Baptist and “hear with our ears.”

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