Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Anecdotic Accounts Of The Incarnation

Madonna of Port Lligat, Marquette University

During an excellent Christmas Eve homily from a Redemptorist priest, we were challenged to reconsider the miracle of the Incarnation, both from our own vantage points and reflecting on the mystery through great art.

As for a contemporary take on the Nativity, I must commend a Portuguese advertising agency for coming up with an anachronistic retelling of the Greatest Story:

Another approach to better appreciate the miracle of the Word becoming flesh is through depictions in great art.  Hence the Madonna of Port Lligat (1949) by Salvador Dali from the Marquette University Haggerty Museum of Art.  Fr. Jim Wallace, C.Ss.R., also commended a short poem by the American poetess Denice Leterov:  “On the Mystery of the Incarnation”

It's when we face for a moment
the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know
the taint in our own selves, that awe
cracks the mind's shell and enters the heart:
not to a flower, not to a dolphin,
to no innocent form
but to this creature vainly sure
it and no other is god-like, God
(out of compassion for our ugly
failure to evolve) entrusts,
as guest, as brother,
the Word.

That’s a lot to chew on while savoring some tryptophan inspired shut eye.

A “Happy Christmas” to all and to all a good night.

A Christmas Prayer

"We thank you for this place in which we dwell, for the love that unites us, for the peace accorded us this day, for the hope with which we expect the morrow, for the work, the health, the food and bright skies which make our lives delightful for our friends in all parts of the earth."
                                                           ~Robert Lewis Stevenson

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Meaning of Christmas

Linus said it best:

Such wisdom from the mouths of a babe. Fitting for the miracle of the Incarnation, which allowed for the Savior of the world to come to the earth born as an innocent child to a faithful mother not in a palace but a manager. Good grief!


 Yet that child was a Prince of Peace who redeemed humanity. And a host of angels sang in praise of the newborn king.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Savoring the Sweet Meaning of the Candy Cane

This spiritual hermaneutic of the candy cane is less saccharine than beating your noggin with Moose A. Moose singing the candy cane song. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

"Winter Festival" Wackiness

For scores of years, there have been a squabble amongst secularists to prevent communities from celebrating the Federal holiday of Christmas on public property.  Religious references have been minimized to a holiday tree, Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  School systems have abolished the Christmas vacation in lieu of the "Winter Break".  If these anti-traditional forces had their druthers, perhaps even public mentioning of Christmas would be prohibited and we would simply celebrate the "Winter Festival".

To try to accommodate all beliefs, some municipalities have tried to incorporate symbols of many faith systems during the holiday season.  So it was not uncommon to see a Chanukah menorah, later a Muslim Crescent and in some places displays celebrating the holiday for atheists (sic).  Alas, in Santa Monica, California, their half century tradition of holiday displays became too cumbersome due to political correctness, so it was abolished on public space.  But Santa Monica churches found a loophole  which allows for live displays. So now both Christians and atheist displays are permitted, as long as there is a live person. Time will tell how man convicted atheists will commit to manning their displays. 

Since 'tis the season to be jolly, while embracing politically correct celebrations of the "Winter Festival" (a.k.a. Christmas or the Feast of the Incarnation), it is time for a rousing chorus of "Have a RamaHanaKwanzMas!

The Christmas Card by Terry Gilliam

And now for something completely different.  Hope that Yule love it! (sic).

 If only my Christmas cards were so animated.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Modern Paradox

As we make Advent preparations in preparations for Emmanuel, we should listen to this contemporary wise man from the East and prepare ourselves for the Holy Spirit and share the love to transform the world.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Spotless Rose- Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Americas and of Mexico.

In the 1540s, a peasant named Juan Diego was walking between his village and Mexico City and he saw a vision of a girl approximately sixteen years old surrounded by light on Tepeyac Hill. Speaking to him in Nahuatl, the local language, she asked Juan Diego that a church be built on Tepeyac Hill in her honor.  Juan Diego recognized the vision and the Virgin Mary.  The Bishop instructed Juan Diego to return to Tepeyac and ask the lady for a miraculous sign to prove her identity.  The visage instructed Juan Diego to gather flowers from the top of Tepeyac Hill.  The usually barren Tepeyac Hill was blooming in Castilian roses, which were not native to Mexico.  Juan Diego gathered the roses which the Virgin arranged in his tilma cloak.  When the peasant opened the cloak before the Bishop, the flowers fell to the floor and an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe was miraculously imprinted on the fabric.

Pope John Paul II canonized St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin in 2002.  And in 1999, Pope John Paul II elevated Our Lady of Guadalupe to a Solemnity in all of the Americas.

The iconography of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was understood as being the Woman of the Apocalypse from Revelations 12:2 "clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars”.  Yet there are hermeneutical images that appealed to indigenous Americans too.  The Lady’s blue-green mantle was a hue reserved for the divine couple Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl.  A cross shaped image below the sash is the nahui-ollin and indicates the cosmos.  The rays of light look like maguey spines, the source of the sacred beverage pulque (and tequila).  Moreover, Many understand the black girdle along the Lady’s belt to indicate pregnancy, so Our Lady of Guadalupe is also unofficially considered the Patroness of the Unborn to the Pro-Life movement.

The rose amidst winter’s cold is an image of Advent which is not isolated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.  A Spotless Rose is a 15th Century German carol.

A spotless Rose is blowing,Sprung from a tender root,Of ancient seers' foreshowing,Of Jesse promised fruit;Its fairest bud unfolds to lightAnd in the dark midnight,Amid the winter cold,A spotless Rose unfolds.

The Rose which I am singing,Whereof Isaiah said,Is from its sweet root springing,In Mary, purest Maid;For, through our God's great love and might,And in the dark midnight,Amid the winter cold,The blesse`d Babe she bare.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Immaculate Conception Metanoia

Although both the Eastern and Western Churches have ascribed to the sinless conception of Mary the Mother of God, it dogmatically proclaimed as the Immaculate Conception until the 1854 ex cathedra papal bull  Ineffabilus Deus by Pope Pius IX.

Due to unclear contemporary catechesis, a minimization of Mariology and its place on the liturgical calendar near the start of Advent, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception can be mistaken as the sinless conception of Jesus rather than His mother Mary.  As a child of Vatican II, I struggle with mystagogical necessity of the Immaculate Conception--how can our sinless savior be born from a Mother with sin? Nevertheless, I accept it as a mystery of faith which I may not wholly appreciate but that I believe.

Perhaps a better way to understand the Immaculate Conception is through an Eastern approach.  On December 9th, Orthodox Christian Churches celebrate the Conception of the Most Holy Theotokis by St. Anne.  Celebrating St. Anne should have significance to the City of Detroit, which the Vatican named as its patroness in 2011.

 One of the common synonyms for Mary the Mother of God is as Theotokis or god-bearer.  To me, that semantical construction  god-bearer calls to mind the Ark of the Covenant from the Book of Exodus, where God dwelled among His people. This is rich with symbolic significance and points to our Savior.

Typically we think of the Immaculate Conception as Mary, the Mother of God, being born without sin (the unblemished Tabernacle for the Incarnation).  That being said, it seems more useful to consider Mary as being full of the Holy Spirit.  So rather than focusing on herself, she could magnify the Lord through her son Jesus Christ.

So to celebrate the Conception of the Theotokis by St. Anne and its consequence, we can reflect upon portions of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy as scored by Arvo Part.

Rejoice, O virgin Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, forthou hast borne the Saviour of our souls.

John Lennon on Friends

Paul McCartney, John Lennon

Friday, December 7, 2012

Now and Zen

Sometimes we try too hard to imitate intimate essence of nature in a dry landscape garden.

h/t: Bizarrocomics

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Advent: A Season of Hope and Anticipation--Maranatha!

Archbishop Charles Chaput

In 2006, Archbishop Charles Chaput, the former Archbishop of Denver and current Archbishop of Philadelphia, offered some instructive observations about Advent:

Catholics observe these last few weeks every year before Christmas as the season of Advent. It’s a time when the Church asks us to prepare our lives to receive Jesus the child at Christmas, and Jesus the king at the end of time. How can we best do that? The tradition of the Church tells us by vigil and by prayer.

The season of Advent is a vigil. The word “vigil” means to keep watch during normal sleeping hours, to pay attention when others are sleeping. It comes from a very old Indo-European word “weg,” which means “be lively or active.” So to keep vigil or to be vigilant does not mean passive waiting but active, restless waiting, expectant waiting for the Lord. It means paying attention to what is going on in the world around us, and not being asleep. It means acting, living out our mission to be God’s agents in the world.

The Advent tradition of the Church is vigil and prayer.

There are two places in the New Testament — 1 Corinthians and Revelation — where we find a prayer in the Aramaic language, the Semitic dialect spoken by Jesus. Since this prayer is in Aramaic it must come from the very earliest days of the Church. The prayer is “Marana tha” and means “Lord, come!”
St. Augustine tells us that God is indebted to us, not because of anything we have done, but because of His promises. God always keeps His promises. So we call on Him to come again.

Our Advent prayer is “Lord, come!”

Lord, come — into our world!
Lord, come — into our lives!
Lord, come — and purify our longings!
Lord, come — to free us from our compulsions and sins!
Lord, come — into our relationships!
Lord, come — into our work!
Lord, come — into our sufferings!

And into the darkness of our troubled world.

We speak these words — “Marana tha” — with a real and confident urgency, not only for ourselves and our personal lives, but also for our Church and our nation.

The Maranatha! Singers have a more joyful sounding approach to keeping vigil for Advent.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ham Handed Holiday Special

Wonder what Wal-Mart was thinking? But don't bother to boycott. It seems that the photo was a fake. But it sure did conjure up some chuckles.

Honoring the Gift of Life

As she strived to cope with the loss of her father, Gail Broeckel chose to celebrate the gift of life.  Herb Broeckel was blessed with an extra fourteen years of life due to the donation of a kidney by his niece Shelli Cannon Hill.

[L] Shelli Cannon Hill (Kidney Donor)  [R] Herb Broeckel

Ode to Shelli’s Kidney
You were such a little thing,
but you should receive wings
For your giant purpose
extended life brings.
You saved my Dad.
We all were so glad.
Your new life gave hope.
And that’s more than we had.
Extra birthdays we shared,
because Shelli cared.
Now the first one without dad
is rather hard to bare.
So to help remember the time,
we’ll use Dad’s talent of rhyme.
And we’ll treasure a kidney
That was just sublime.
Here’s a way to celebrate, have you heard?
Dad’s birthday is December third.
Practice a random act of kindness.
And feel free to spread the word.
Let a car ahead in line.
That stranger’s coffee?, say “the bill is mine.”
You can honor Shelli’s kidney.
Being kind makes you feel really fine.
So thanks little one…
We appreciate all you’ve done.
Even though we miss Dad.
We sure had a lot of fun

Herb paid the gift of life forward by donating organs after his death on January 5th, 2012.  At least three people benefitted from his gift of life.  The Washington Regional Transplant Community honored Herb Broeckel’s organ donation by hanging an ornament in his honor on the Tree of Life at the Washington Hospital Center.

Pastor Broeckel’s favorite scriptural passage was Galatians 2:20 which revolves around life giving gifts.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Grooving on Advent--Gangnam Style

Preparing for Christmas--this time with Seoul (sic):


May we take some time during this busy season to prepare for the Feast of the Incarnation of the Lord with soul. 

 h/t: XT3

Thomas Merton on Advent

Thomas Merton Advent