Category Archives: Christmas

Epiphany

e·piph·a·ny

əˈpifənē/
noun
noun: Epiphany; noun: epiphany; plural noun: epiphanies
  1. the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12).
    • the festival commemorating the Epiphany on January 6.

This Sunday the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the Epiphany of the Lord. Guided by a star, the magi – or three kings, made their way to the “newborn king.” Here at the blog, I will wait until Tuesday night to post my reflection.

There is a method to my madness; I will be offering said reflection at Evening Prayer here at church on Tuesday night, at 7PM. All are welcome! If you are a reader and I do not know you, please make sure you catch me and say hello – I would love to meet you!

Comments Off on Epiphany

Filed under Christmas, Epiphany

The Christmas Moment – A reflection by Bill Thornton

Greetings all – it is still Christmas, even if all the world around us says otherwise. Let us still live it! Here is a blog, meant for Christmas day, by Bill Thornton. Your blogger-in-chief fell down on the job and missed posting it until today. Thankfully, it is *still* Christmas, so Bill’s reminder is a good one. Christmas moments can come any day, can’t they? Blessings of the season, and gratitude to all who pray and journey with us here.

Photo credit: Damian Peach, found on APOD.

Photo credit: Damian Peach, found on APOD.

There is a moment – a Christmas moment – maybe THE Christmas moment. It is hard to find and easy to miss, but it is there and it is worthwhile finding. It lies between commercial Christmas and religious Christmas. After pop culture Christmas songs, but before carols and hymns. After White Christmas, Blue Christmas, All I want for Christmas …, Jingle Bells, Rudolph, Santa Claus is Coming, Santa Baby, Grandma Got Run Over …, etc., but before Silent Night, Adeste Fideles, Joy to the World, God Rest Ye Merry …, O Holy Night, and the Messiah. After shopping, buying, wrapping, decorating, cooking, planning, cleaning, sending cards, running the Christmas Ironman, but before going to church, greeting friends, singing, praying, listening, and before giving, opening, and enjoying gifts, before hugging and loving family, before serving and eating that special meal, loosening your belt and breathing a sign of satisfaction – and relief.

It is in there somewhere. If you look for it you will find it – a brief, brilliant moment of unadorned divine light. This is where you will see? Hear? Feel? Somehow understand that God so loved (your name here) that he sent His only begotten Son so that when you believe in Him you will not die but have eternal life.”

Hold on to that moment as long as you can. It won’t last long, it is too intense and you’re too busy. Relish that tiny moment, and quietly give thanks.

2 Comments

Filed under Christmas

Christmas Reflections – December 29, 2013 – Where Are the Shepherds by Shannon O’Donnell

Where Are the Shepherds?a guest post from Shannon O’Donnell

On Advent Sundays this year, I pondered the shepherds. At a funeral we sang, “Shepherd Me, O God. A homilist repeated the pope’s admonition that pastors should be shepherds who smell like their sheep. Our inner city parish is far from any sheep’s pasture, but I sit in the pew and I ponder shepherds.

donation-box-foodAs the gifts are prepared, young children converge on the basket before the altar. In their hands are peanut butter, soup, mac and cheese, packages of rice and noodles,. All of it goes into the basket, headed for the food bank.

Todd, a tall lanky dad, carries his not-yet-walking son on his shoulders. Connor tosses in a juice box with glee.

Food Collection basket_2Four-year-old Sean pulls his younger sister along. Together they stand before the basket. He’s holding a multipack of ramen noodles. Lily doesn’t want to let go of the box of crackers. He places the noodles in the basket, then steps back and points. She frowns. Sean pokes her shoulder. Lily leans over and at the very last moment, she lets go of the box. She raises her hands. Victory! They skip back to their parents on the sidelines.

Some approach like old-timers, well-practiced in the art of giving. Others need a guiding hand or verbal urging (“Come ON!”)

Later, lines for Commuion form and move.

sign-of-peace-600-400-300x200Brian shakes hands with every person he sees until his wife runs gentle interference. His Alzheimer’s is more pronounced these days. Jeanne and her mother gather up the grandchildren. Susan gets her mother’s walker in place. Michael’s mom wheels her laughing son forward. One of the L’Arche assistants leads Sherry from a pew, a familiar dance between them.

Where are the shepherds? They are all among us, watching their flocks, smelling like their sheep.

**************************************************

1474562_10202284427985779_1840724417_nShannon O’Donnell is an author from Tacoma, WA. Her book, Save The Bones, is a deeply moving account about memory, Alzheimer’s disease, and her (now recently deceased) mother Marie Cain. Shannon also blogs about life as a Catholic jail chaplain at Finding Grace Within. It is an honor to welcome Shannon’s work to the blog today.

This post may have you scratching your head and wondering what it has to do with the Christmas season, and even more specifically, with the Holy Family. Shannon is looking back at Advent and wondering where the shepherds are now. When I read it, I thought about the less-than-perfect holy family that we all are when we are church together. And what better reminder is needed today and always?

Comments Off on Christmas Reflections – December 29, 2013 – Where Are the Shepherds by Shannon O’Donnell

Filed under Christmas, Christmas 2013

This unimaginable being “with-us-ness”

o-come-o-come-emmanuel-snippitWe sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” with an almost mindless grace, an unconscious awareness, but not always true comprehension. We may not be purposefully arrogant about it, but may be too distracted to be fully in the mystery.

baby-jesus-bluebirdEmmanuel. God with us. We like to gaze down at the infant, “so tender and mild” in the Creche; we smile, our heart warms. And then, how we love to leave God in that Creche, in the Church, and in our Bibles, as we carry on. God in those places appears to be very manageable, fitting in with our plans and priorities.

fontanini_masterpiece_colle_lgGod was not aiming at sweetness during the Incarnation. This is not meant to be a moment of pious nicety. Jesus was sent to transform us through an unimaginable being “with-us-ness” that transcends our antiseptic images of nativity sets, singing angels, and a well-coiffed Mary, reliable Joseph, and the cute Baby Jesus. These images are not bad images, but if we stop there, what do we miss?

This “with-us-ness” reminds me of Duns Scotus’ concept of haecceity, or “this-ness,” rather than “what-ness.” And it is in that vein that the highly unimaginable being “with-us-ness” of the Incarnation comes to light.

imagesBeautiful and perfect Nativity scenes, may imply a sense of “what-ness.” The Christ child born in the world is different, He is the “this-ness,” the “with-us-ness,” that is barely imaginable, yet real. This is something beyond beautiful, pious, or sweet in any way. The birth of the Christ child transforms our relationship with God! God did not come to be something to be admired, or even feared; God came to be one-with-us in an unimaginable way, never before known.

baby-jesusTonight when you see the Baby Jesus placed in the manager at mass, or if he is already there when you arrive later, or tomorrow, please don’t just smile. Forget the beautiful images that the Creche offers, although those images are important. This is not just a pretty moment to gaze upon, but an invitation from God. God did not just happen to stop by, to be a beautiful baby. God was born, to be with you – yes, you – in a deeply intimate and complete way. God was born for all of us in this way, not some holy few, but for all who will welcome him as such. Can we do that?

This year, if you can, try to shift into that more challenging “with-us-ness” of Christ, not simply the “what-ness” of the Creche. Trust me, I have no clue how to do this, I’m just trying this myself. And with all things that are of Christ, they are never meant to be done alone. Let’s do this and be this “with-us-ness” together, one in the heart of Christ this christmas_painting_holy_family_nativity_scene_original_oil_and_winner__ed44aa76aeba1f73ddb22a1c29a3ea7eChristmas.

1 Comment

Filed under Christmas, Christmas 2013

January 8, 2013 – A Reflection by Doreen Salse

128828982.275.275For my extended family, 2011 was the year we were caught in a storm of sadness. For one cousin alone, the year brought the death of a husband from a long illness, her daughter was taken from her in a motorcycle accident and both my cousin and her son were diagnosed with kidney cancer. Breast cancer and ALS struck my own sisters and by December I was only too happy to see the end of the year approach.

Was my faith shaken? Not only shaken but stirred. Grief, and the anticipation of loss are at the same time universal and devastatingly personal. I knew in my heart that these events happen to the beloved of other people, but this time it was people I knew like I know myself.

I spent Christmas in the Keys that year. I guess, like Jonah, I wanted to get as far away as possible from what God was asking of us. No luck. At Mass at St. Peter’s church on Big Pine Key I spent a long time looking at the depiction behind the altar of a storm tossed boat and some very distressed disciples waking Jesus from his nap.

Every now and then, I marvel at the simple brilliance of the Gospel stories and how they show how the faith of the first followers is both overwhelming and fragile. One of my favorites is from Luke:

One day he got into a boat with his disciples and said to them, “Let us cross to the other side of the lake.” So they set sail, and while they were sailing he fell asleep.

They must have felt peaceful and tranquil and full of trust as they sailed in that little boat, secure that Jesus was with them. Just like me, I thought. My faith is pretty strong when the waters are calm.

And then as soon as the squall came and the boat rocked and started to take in water, the disciples went looking for Jesus in their terror. As though he wasn’t with them the entire time.

How different am I? In my sadness I look around to see if perhaps Jesus isn’t busy with something else or asleep or doing something that made him take his eyes off me for a second. I want to wake him up too.

Although Mark’s Gospel today is not the same story and Jesus is not asleep, he seems nonetheless to be taking a little break from his followers, leaving them to live what he has been trying to teach them. But he is never too far away to step in and remind them of his presence.

2011 is over and so is 2012. My sisters still struggle with the aftermath of their respective diagnoses. I pray and read from the Scripture with one of them over the phone several times a week – she listens because her disease has robbed her of her speech. Before we read from Luke we pray:

Dear Lord, as we meditate on these passages from Scripture, please help us to trust you with our whole being. We cannot know what you have in store for us, but allow us to live each day trusting that you will be there to hold out your hand to help us through the storm.

1 Comment

Filed under Christmas, Christmas Reflections 2012, Doreen Salse

ἐπιφάνεια – The Epiphany

ἐπιφάνεια

I keep trying to find something to say about this video and song, about the Epiphany we celebrate today, but no words come. The music speaks for itself. May your Epiphany be obvious, yet not obvious, likely, yet unlikely, clear, yet filled with mystery, fully human and fully divine, filled with spirit and yet incarnate, full of flesh. Special thanks to Fr. Pat, who shared this video with me.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Christmas, Christmas Reflections 2012, Epiphany

Christmas Reflections – Mary, Mother of God January 1

Mary, Mother of God – January 1, 2013
(This homily was written for and first published in the book, Hungry and You Fed Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle C.)

Many years ago, I befriended a woman with whom I had nothing in common. In fact, we were far apart in many ways. She was one of the “cool people” that a self-professed nerd like me might never get to know. However, academic circumstances brought us together, and we became good friends. What struck me the most about her, when we first became more closely acquainted, was how “human” she turned out to be. From my original point of view, this woman seemed to have it all; she appeared completely self-confident and self-possessed, she was remarkably beautiful, and she maintained an aura of perfection that seemed unattainable to us mere mortals.

Over time we got to know one another, and a real friendship began to develop. This woman began to reveal just how challenging things were for her. First of all, she was not perfect, although I found that hard to believe. At that age, I believed that we were all socially divided into some “have/have not scheme” when it came to perfection. To that end, I was Continue reading

Comments Off on Christmas Reflections – Mary, Mother of God January 1

Filed under Christmas, Christmas Reflections 2012, Homilists for the Homeless, Hungry and You Fed Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle C, Mary Mother of God