Tag Archives: Advent

Holy Bulldozer

2 Dec

cat-bulldozer-clipart-cat-bulldozer-clipart-cat-xuoljh-clipartHave you ever driven on an icy, winding mountain road, or sat in construction traffic for miles? Now think about driving on a wide, dry, flat open highway.  In which scenario can you arrive at your destination more quickly?  In which case is the journey more fun?

In today’s Gospel, John declares that his job is to “make straight his paths.” He has been tasked with unwinding, smoothing and clearing the highway between people and their Savior.

Your marriage is your vocation, which means it is your “highway” to Jesus. We all need to heed John’s admonition to straighten that path and keep it clear. How do we do this?  By learning simple ways to communicate or reconcile, by being reminded of our spouse’s wonderful qualities, by receiving encouragement from others.  In other words, by setting aside some time for marriage enrichment.  What better gift could you give your spouse this Christmas?  See www.joyfulmarriageproject for ideas.

The foregoing is this week’s installment of the “Marriage Minute,” produced by the Marriage and Family Life Office of the Archdiocese, which attempts to view the Sunday readings through the lens of the Sacrament of Marriage

 

An Advent Invitation

26 Nov

advent wreathWe all have plenty of time.

If that seems like a crazy statement, think about what you’d do if you found out there was a huge wildfire coming toward you. Suddenly, your schedule would open up, and you’d be able to do what you needed to do to secure your home and family.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges us to be prepared before disaster strikes. One of the best things we can do on an ongoing basis to keep our family secure is to fortify our marriages. Often, since our marriages seem to be “okay,” we turn our time and attention elsewhere. But our marriages are our vocation, our life’s work! Don’t we owe it to our spouses to invest time in making them great?!

This Advent, why not adopt one small practice that will bring more joy to your marriage? See www.joyfulmarriageproject.com for ideas.

The foregoing is this week’s installment of the “Marriage Minute,” produced by the Marriage and Family Life Office of the Archdiocese, which attempts to view the Sunday readings through the lens of the Sacrament of Marriage.

What About the Tree?

26 Dec

Christmas treeFor many people, Christmas ends on Christmas day, so over the ensuing few days, amidst the various after-Christmas sales, the trees are unceremoniously taken down and dragged out to the curb.

But for those of us who do have a sense of Christmas extending beyond December 25th, the question still remains: When does Christmas season actually end? When should we take down not only our tree, but also other seasonal items such as nativity sets?

Traditionally, Christmas season is twelve days (like the song), which would take us to January 6th, the traditional date for celebrating the Epiphany, when the wise men brought gifts to the child Jesus. Now Epiphany is only approximately 12 days after Christmas, as in the United States it is celebrated on the second Sunday after Christmas. This year, for example, the second Sunday after Christmas falls on January 3rd.

But while Epiphany is an important feast within the context of the Christmas season, it doesn’t bring about the end of the Christmas season. The Christmas season ends on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, at which point “Ordinary Time” begins. The Sunday after the Baptism of the Lord is thus the second Sunday of Ordinary Time.

The Baptism of the Lord usually falls on the Sunday after Epiphany, which this year will be January 10th.

Lastly, prior to the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the Christmas season extended all the way to February 2nd, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord (aka Purification of Our Lady or Candlemas), based on Luke 2:22-38. While that is no longer the case, there is still something of a Christmas “flavor” to the early weeks of Ordinary Time leading up to the Presentation of the Lord.

But what does all that have to do with taking down my tree? And besides, if I wait too long to take it down, the garbage trucks won’t take it!

Well, rest assured there are no “rules” on all this. My recommendation, based on the liturgical season, is to keep Christmas decorations up till the Baptism of the Lord (January 11th). If that seems a little extreme for your household, I’d counsel at least waiting till after Epiphany (January 4th). That’s especially true for Nativity sets that include the three wise men.

And after all, why cut short “the most wonderful time of the year”?

The Roots of the Messiah

17 Dec

December 17th marks a turning point in the Advent season. We are now unmistakably in the home stretch. As we heard at Mass last Sunday, “the Lord is near”–Christmas is just around the corner.

December 17th also marks the beginning of the “O Antiphons” in Evening Prayer, which draw on some biblical titles of our Lord and Messiah. Today’s “O Antiphon” theme is Wisdom: “O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, You govern all creation with Your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.”

A more literal translation (since we’re into new translations, right?) might be: “O Wisdom, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come, and teach us the way of prudence.” Check out this chart giving the biblical roots for each of the O Antiphons.

On December 17th, the Gospel readings at Mass undergo a significant shift. Instead of hearing about John the Baptist, we are now delving into the infancy narratives from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Today we start at the beginning, with the genealogy of Jesus, the son of David, the son of Abraham, found in the opening verses of St. Matthew’s Gospel.

There is much more to this genealogy than meets the eye. Continue reading

Preparing for Mary’s Visit

21 Dec

VisitationToday’s Gospel, the first part of the event commonly known as the “Visitation” (Lk. 1:39-45), is very familiar to most Catholics. It’s read a few times during the year at Mass, and of course it’s one of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.

Sometimes we hear a passage over and over again, and it can be a challenge to open our minds and hearts to allow the Holy Spirit to give us new insights.

In hearing this Gospel anew today, I was struck by how much we should be devoted to our Blessed Mother, especially on Christmas.

When Elizabeth greets Mary, John the Baptist leaps for joy in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice (vv. 41, 44). After all, Mary has brought Jesus to him! (The best baby shower gift of all time!) But there’s more.

All Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Even more, Scripture says that Elizabeth was “filled with the Holy Spirit” when she cried out: “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb . . .” (vv. 41-42). When we turn to Our Lady, when we pray the “Hail Mary,” we are simply making our own the doubly inspired words of Elizabeth.

Okay, but enough already, right? Perhaps we’re still a little hesitant or unsure about turning to Mary. But what were the next words out of Elizabeth’s mouth? She said, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Instead of obsessing over whether she should make such a fuss about Mary, she does pretty much the opposite: She marvels at the great honor bestowed upon her that the Blessed Virgin Mary would actually come to her.

Mary wants to come to each one of us this Christmas, as the definitive bearer of our long-awaited Savior. Let us run to greet her, and leap for joy in the presence of the Gift she has brought to the world–the Gift that, as the saying goes, is the “reason for the season.”

The Infancy Narratives

14 Dec

birth of JesusIn light of some of the controversy surrounding recent media coverage of the Pope’s new book on the infancy narratives (Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2), I thought it would be good to offer our readers (at least those who don’t have the time to read the Pope’s book!) a good summary of the Church’s teaching as we prepare to celebrate the Birth of Jesus in the coming days. To that end, check out this tract, published by Catholics United for the Faith.

In short, some secular commentators have taken statements from the book out of context, suggesting that the Pope does not assert the historicity of the biblical accounts of Jesus’ birth. That surely is not the Holy Father’s view.  In fact, Pope Benedict XVI concludes his reflections as follows: “The two chapters of  Matthew’s Gospel devoted to the infancy narratives are not a meditation  presented under the guise of stories, but the converse: Matthew is  recounting real history, theologically thought through and interpreted,  and thus he helps us to understand the mystery of Jesus more deeply” (p. 119).

Commandments for Advent

3 Dec
AdventWe are so blessed here in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas to have such a knowledgable and faithful man as Michael Podrebarac heading our liturgy office. He has been instrumental in compiling our liturgy guide for our archdiocesan “Faith Initiative,” and he also has a series of videos on the “Mystery of Faith” at the website of The Leaven. Michael also has a wonderful sense of humor, and I think it comes through in the following “Ten Commandments” from the liturgy guide for December, which in a light-hearted way most ably summarizes how we should approach the beautiful season of Advent.
“Ten Commandments on How to Properly Celebrate the Season Advent” by Michael Podrebarac
I. Advent is a proper season unto itself. Thou shalt have no other seasons before it. Advent is a season by which we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas. It is also a season during which we recall his promise to return to us again in glory. The Christmas season is itself a beautiful time of celebration, and each day, as we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we pray “thy kingdom come” in anticipation of the Lord’s return. Keeping the season of Advent as a “period of devout and expectant delight” (The Roman Missal) means holding back from the fullness of Christmas festivity while at the same time sharing peace, joy, and love with others as we prepare for the festive days to come as well as share in the many activities associated with the “holiday” season. Continue reading

Pope’s Intentions for December

1 Dec

AdventFollowing are the Intentions of our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI for the month of December, courtesy of the Apostleship of Prayer:

  • Migrants.  That migrants throughout the world may be welcomed with generosity and authentic love, especially by Christian communities.
  • Christ, light for all humanity.  That Christ may reveal himself to all humanity with the light that shines forth from Bethlehem and is reflected in the face of his Church

Of course, the beginning of December marks the beginning of Advent, the beautiful four-week season of preparation for Christmas. Check out this link for a list of some time-honored Catholic traditions for Advent and Christmas. Maybe you would like to make one or more these part of your own celebration of this holy season!

Christmas, Don’t Be Early

19 Dec

As a child I really liked the Chipmunks’ Christmas album, including the classic “Christmas Don’t Be Late.” What little kid isn’t eager for Christmas day to finally get here?

However, as Christmas has become more of a secular holiday than a religious celebration in the minds of many, some of the liturgical and theological nuance of the feast has become obscured. In particular, we don’t know exactly what to do with Advent anymore. Our society doesn’t fully appreciate the season as one of joyful anticipation, of vigilant expectation, of penance and spiritual renewal, of recalling Christ’s first and second coming. Heck, the Jews had to wait thousands of years for the first Christmas, but we can’t even wait four weeks!

Where I see this most acutely is in the way we celebrate with Christmas lights, parties, and carols throughout all of Advent, as though it were already the “Christmas season.” In fact, the pc way of greeting people this time of year is by saying “Season’s Greetings.” I’m all for lights, parties, and carols, but not if they take away from the actual celebration of Christmas. By the time Christmas finally rolls around, we’ve had our fill of all these things.

I pray that isn’t the case for us!

In reality, Christmas season only begins on Christmas!  That’s why we have songs like “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Like Easter, Christmas is too important of a feast to celebrate on one day, so it has its own octave (week-long celebration) and season. Yet, once we open our gifts on Christmas, we’re all partied out. We take our trees to the curb on the second day of Christmas, and then we begin the “pseudo-Second Advent” of preparing for New Year’s Day and bowl games.

Everyone celebrates Christmas differently, and that’s wonderful. But I invite all of us to see this present time of Advent as more of a time of preparation, as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

And when Christmas finally arrives, let the celebration really begin–in our hearts, in our homes, and in our parishes and neighborhoods!

Prepare for a Merry Christmas

15 Dec

Ten days til Christmas. Are you ready? If you’re like me, you probably still have cookies to bake, presents to wrap (or buy), a menu to plan, a house to clean (or suitcases to pack)… and on and on. The parents I talk to these days are buried under their fa la la la lists. At the risk of adding one more thing to your list I am going to, well, suggest you add one more thing to your list. Don’t worry, this thing is free, and it just might be the most valuable thing you do to ensure a merry Christmas.

Often, after all the material and even spiritual preparations we do during Advent to make the season bright, we still end up having arguments, blow ups or melt downs when the big day comes. Since they tend to happen every year, we may be tempted to just accept them as “just how things are”, or we may become discouraged and upset by them every time, as if we didn’t see them coming. Instead of either of these responses, I’d like to suggest a third: foresight. Continue reading