In front of St Theresa’s before yesterday’s snow arrived (the clouds in the background ushered in a few fresh inches).
Grant, we pray, almighty God, that we, who are weighed down from of old by slavery beneath the yoke of sin, may be set free by the newness of the long-awaited Nativity of your Only Begotten Son. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Today’s prayer reminds me of Galatians 5:1: “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” Today’s prayer as well as St Paul in his letter to Galatians makes clear that it is Our Lord who sets us free from sin. We cannot make ourselves holy; Jesus makes us holy. As Christmas approaches, may we reflect on the profound implications of Jesus’ nativity for us.
For the past week or so, those of us in the Merrimack Valley have been living the Christmas carol that says, “Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful…” When I got the newspaper this morning the temperature was -2º Fahrenheit. To break with the bleak weather outside, I’ve decided to post some “phone photos” from a walk I took along the Merrimack River in Lowell with Father Christopher Wallace about a month ago.
Remember: The best way to prepare for Jesus’ nativity at Christmas is by making a thorough examination of conscious and a good confession. Unprepared hearts are like the inns in Bethlehem that did not have a place for the Holy Family to stay. May each of us make plenty of room in our hearts for the newborn King, Our Lady, and Saint Joseph.
O God, Creator and Redeemer of human nature, who willed that your Word should take flesh in an ever-virgin womb, look with favor on our prayers, that your Only Begotten Son, having taken to himself our humanity, may be pleased to grant us a share in his divinity. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
I love this prayer. It says how Jesus, in the Incarnation, took up our broken human nature and thereby united us to Himself. More than just bringing Himself down to us, Jesus brings us up to Himself. This prayers asks for the grace to fulfill what is promised in Romans 8:16-17: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”
Incline a merciful ear to our cry, we pray, O Lord, and, casting light on the darkness of our hearts, visit us with the grace of your Son. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
The brightness of God’s grace is spectacular. It can shine brightly into all of the recesses of one’s heart. However, when a person welcomes God’s grace into his heart, he cannot simultaneously hold onto the darkness. The enlightening of a person’s heart does not frequently take place all at once; this is the work of ongoing conversion. Once God’s prevenient graces enter a heart, utter darkness seems a mere shadow. The big areas of darkness are removed by repentance and conversion. As a person comes to enter more deeply into God’s friendship, the lesser areas of darkness come to light and are removed. Consciously holding onto any sort of darkness in one’s heart is incompatible with growth in holiness or the enlightening of his heart. In practice, this means that a person lives with greater virtue and less vice as they progress through life.
I did not post the “Weekly Euchology” yesterday on account of not getting it written in advance of a busy weekend. I hope to be caught up with my parochial responsibilities by this afternoon, and perhaps a bit ahead by this evening. Tomorrow, I will post some pictures from along the Merrimack River in Lowell as a distraction from the snow that has fallen here (and is predicted to fall tomorrow). I hope that you are joyful in anticipation of Christmas!
May the splendor of your glory dawn in our hearts, we pray, almighty God, that all shadows of the night may be scattered and we may be shown to be children of light by the advent of your Only Begotten Son. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
At least every couple of months, I get up early and head down to the beach to try and catch the sunrise. Unless you live where there is a great view of the horizon, you cannot tell if it is going to be a good sunrise until you arrive. Even if there are no clouds above your house, there could be plenty on the horizon shrouding a spectacular view. Contrarily, if there are clouds above your house, there could still be a grand sunrise if the horizon is clear. The only rule for trying to see a sunrise—aside from being able to see the horizon–is this: you have to show up. And when you do show up, you should stick around even if there are clouds in the sky; sometimes there are spectacular sights when the sun pokes through an unseen break in the clouds. In our following of Christ, much is to be said for just showing up. I am not just talking about church on Sunday. Whenever God’s grace first dawns in our hearts, we have to be ready to greet Jesus.
I am a bit later than usual in getting this up, but better late than never!
Wednesday’s sunset behind Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry
Grant that your people, we pray, almighty God, may be ever watchful for the coming of your Only Begotten Son, that, as the author of our salvation himself has taught us, we may hasten, alert and with lighted lamps, to meet him when he comes. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
When we pray the Our Father one of the things that we pray for is to receive the “daily bread.” Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (the Bread of Life Discourse starts at John 6:22). I do not think that it is too much of a stretch to interpret the Lord’s Prayer as asking that we receive Jesus everyday. Though receiving Our Lord in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is the most important, we should also receive Our Lord in other ways throughout the day and week. During our time of Advent preparation, may we be open to finding Jesus wherever he is found.
Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the paths of your Only Begotten Son, that through his coming, we may be found worthy to serve you with minds made pure. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Lots of preparations have to be for Christmas: presents bought, homes decorated, food cooked, religious service attended, cards sent, and more. One preparation that might be overlooked is the preparation of a special path down which Our Lord wants to travel. This is the path that leads into our hearts. If it has been a long time since you have been to Holy Mass (or even if it has not), particular concern should be shown to prepare oneself for worthy reception of Holy Communion. Contrary to what one might think, the path that leads into one’s heart can become obstructed by many things (these are all the things that make minds impure). Even if the path Our Lord takes to heart is “basically” clear, it is still a good idea to give the path a clean sweep. Two indispensable tools to clearing Our Lord’s path into our hearts are a daily examination of conscience and recourse to Sacrament of Reconciliation. With these preparation made, we will be ready to welcome Jesus into our hearts at Christmas.
On Sunday, the choirs of St Mary, St Andrew, and St Theresa of Lisieux parishes in Billerica had a combined Advent/Christmas concert. They did great! Below is my attempt at a panoramic photo of the combined choirs singing.
Almighty God, who command us to prepare the way for Christ the Lord, grant in your kindness, we pray, that no infirmity may weary us as we long for the comforting presence of our heavenly physician. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Tony Hendra in his book, Father Joe, shares his initial thought when he would enter a church and see the sanctuary candle alit, “the Savior is in!” For Tony and us, the sanctuary lamp points to the presence of the Holy Eucharist in the tabernacle. Knowing that Our Lord is with us should give us a great comfort in the face of trials and suffering. More than just being a comforting presence, Jesus heals us of that which ails us. In the Sacrament of Confession, Jesus restores the order of our souls which we often make a mess of. In the Anointing of the Sick, Jesus cures that which spiritually ails us. Every person should make prayer a daily practice so that they can always experience the Lord’s comforting presence. May we always know that, “the Savior is in!”
I took the picture below before celebrating Mass for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception at St Mary’s in Billerica, yesterday. It seems that the sloppy weather of the New England winter has arrived.
O God, who have shown forth your salvation to all the ends of the earth, grant, we pray, that we may look forward in joy to the glorious Nativity of Christ. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Generally in the spiritual life it is not advisable to spend much time dwelling on the past or future because we love God in the present. However, today’s collect advises both. We look back as we behold the historical event of Christ’s Nativity, and look forward to its annual commemoration at Christmas. In looking back, we would do well to picture ourselves in the manager with the Holy Family in the moments after Our Lord’s birth. What would we be doing and feeling? What would our reaction to the newborn Savior be? In looking forward to Jesus’ Navity, we should imagine that it is happening anew for us. The closer we get to Christmas, the more excitement should build in our hearts. Once one begins to grasp the implications of the Nativity for me, next he might consider what the Nativity means for the whole world. May each of us be ready to behold the newborn King at Christmas.
Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Please say a prayer to Our Lady for my intention. Our regular reflection follows below.
May our prayer of petition rise before you, we pray, O Lord, that, with purity unblemished, we, your servants, may come, as we desire, to celebrate the great mystery of the Incarnation of your Only Begotten Son. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Often when people speak of purity, they limit its meaning to the realm of chastity. Chastity is indeed an important virtue, but it is a mistake to reduce purity to just that. When the Archbishop of Paris described the sisters at the Jansenist convent in Port-Royal as “pure as angels, but as proud as devils,” he was certainly speaking in the narrow sense. Surely, to be truly pure means that one must be free of anything that weakens or impairs his faith. The more we abstain every impurity, the better our desire to worship God becomes. During this season of Advent, let us purify our desires that we may joyfully celebrate the birth of Jesus.