O Antiphons – O Rex Gentium

Today our O Antiphon is O Rex Gentium, or O, King of All The Nations! Jesus the Christ leads us all, he is our Lord and King!

The word king can draw up many images, but they all relate to one thing – power. The king is the ruler, above all, the one with the most power. The question becomes, how has the power been used? Human kings and other leaders can often misunderstand or misuse their power. Jesus comes to us as a vulnerable infant, with God’s glory and power confidently in him, expressed through mercy, compassion, and love. Jesus is a different kind of king, the kingdom of God is a different kind of kingdom.

ORuler-smThe inbreaking of the Spirit through the birth of Christ will usher in this new kingdom. Are we ready to be subjects of this new king, the one who rules all with love? The antiphon says it so beautifully, “the only joy of every heart.”

Dec. 22:
O Rex Gentium
, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.

O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart;
O Keystone of the mighty arch of man:

O Antiphons – O Oriens

Our antiphon for today is O Oriens, or O Radiant Dawn, sometimes referred to as. As our days grow dark and short, we await the light, the dawn. On Christmas, the dawn will break with the Light of Christ, the day that we longed for, the day that we hoped in. As people who have walked in darkness, we will now walk in light, the Light of Christ!
risingsun-1

O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae,
et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris,
et umbra mortis.

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.

O Antiphons – O Clavis David

Each day draws us closer to the Dawn, the birth of Christ, and our O Antiphons guide us there in prayer and chant. Today’s antiphon is O Clavis David, O Key of David. Yesterday we prayed about the Root of Jesse, from which David came. Jesus is also of this lineage, as was foretold.  Jesus is the Key of David, his birth heralds the opening of the doors of the Kingdom, setting us free, leading us to light, to God!Key-of-David

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel,
qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperuit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel,
controlling at your will the gate of heaven:
Come, break down the prison walls of death
for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death;
and lead your captive people into freedom.

O Antiphons – O Radix Jesse

Today’s O Antiphon is O Radix Jesse, or Root of Jesse. Remember that King David was chosen, from the root of Jesse. In 1 Samuel 16:11, Samuel sees Jesse’s sons, and knows that none of them are the one whom God seeks. He then asks if there are any others, and David was brought forth – and immediately chosen by God. He was the unlikely one – as is The Christ. Think about unlikely so many things are in your life, and then consider all of that against these things. All things are truly possible with God.

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Flower of Jesse’s stem,
you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

The O Antiphons – O Adonai, O Lord

Today’s O Antiphon is O Adonai. Two years ago I learned something very interesting about this particular name for God, Adonai. Apparently it has a meaning that translates to “bread keeper.” When we think of the Eucharist, this name has a powerful meaning! I am struck by the image of Moses before the burning bush that this antiphon presents us with. It is an encounter that changes everything, one that will change the world. So it is with our encounter with Christ, who is going to show himself, stretching out his might arm to save and to love.

O Adonai, et dux domus Israel, qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: Come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

The O Antiphons – O Sapientia

o antiphonsIn the seven days leading up to Christmas Eve, as a church we pray the O Antiphons. Part of the Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office, they are sung immediately preceding the Magnificat at Vespers each day. To pray the O Antiphons, whether in a communal setting, or on your own, is to partake in an ancient and beautiful prayerful chants that call out for the coming of the Christ child. We are still in Advent, true, but our journey to the birth of Christ edges closer and closer.

o sapientiaThe O Antiphons are each named with the prophecy of Isaiah as a backdrop and each one calls out a name for the messiah, beginning with today’s antiphon, O Sapientia, or O Wisdom!

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter, suaviter disponensque omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

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.

Dreams Made Real – A Reflection on Gaudete Sunday

"I haven't any dreams left to dream." Dolly

“I haven’t any dreams left to dream.” Dolly

“I haven’t any dreams left to dream.” Those are the words of Dolly, one of the residents of the “Island of Misfit Toys, from the 1964 TV special, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Upon seeing this program premiere when I was 7, I discovered an instant and on-going favorite for the Christmas season.  As a kid who always felt slightly out of the mainstream, the whole misfit toys thing really appealed to me.

Forty-nine years later a line caught my heart as I watched the show last night. Rudolph, he himself a bit mis-fitty (let’s not even go there, the subtext of that part of the show is too much for me right now), has promised to return to the island and to get the toys delivered this Christmas. There is a big storm and the night draws nigh, and it seems that once again, the toys will not escape their lonely exile.

Charlie-in-the-box is resigned to waiting.

Charlie-in-the-box is resigned to waiting.

Misfit toy Charlie-in-the-box resigns himself to getting back in his box and wait until “next year.” Poor Dolly, in all her felted glory sniffs and says, “I haven’t any dreams left to dream.”

The Jewish people of first century Palestine had seemingly run out of dreams themselves. Under the heel of the Roman occupiers, and down on their luck in so many ways, they longed for a delivery just like the toys did. The delivery that they were awaiting was that of the Messiah, who would deliver and redeem them.

Today, the Third Sunday of Advent, is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means to rejoice, and that is what we are doing. The liturgical color is pink, like that third candle in your Advent wreath. In some churches, the priest will be vested in a rose colored chasuble. We are inching our way towards the radiant dawn of Christ’s birth, but first the night grows long and dark. This Sunday is a reminder that the light will come – and that we still have dreams to dream.

GaudeteFor so many of us, this is a difficult time of year. We may be far too busy, we may be sick, we may be unemployed and/or financially overextended,or we may just feel low. Our Scriptures today mean to orient us towards not only hope, but joy.

The desert in bloom.

The desert in bloom.

From Isaiah, we have this opening:

The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!

Joy and hope, although often conflated with happiness and optimism are not the same thing. The generous joy given to us by God is within even in the darkest moments, the unhappiest times. Our hope is rooted in God, while optimism is rooted in ourselves.

How do we find that hope when we feel bereft, dry, empty, and out of patience? What does James tell us?

See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient with it
until it receives the early and the late rains.

Our Gospel from Matthew reminds us that John, the great prophet with the ultimate foretelling of Jesus’ coming, is fading, the redemptive power of Christ is at hand.

“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”

There is a shift, things are changing. When things are at their almost darkest, we are prone to the most discouragement. Like Dolly, we all may feel as if we are out of dreams to dream. Today may we find ways to rejoice in the coming of the Lord, even if we can’t see or feel it. Today may we find ways to encourage others, who have come to the end of their own dreams.

campfireIn the TV show, which many of you may already know, just as Dolly offers her statement of defeat, the ringing of bells announces the arrival of Santa and his sleigh. She and the other misfit toys will now be delivered to homes where they will be loved. And in our lives, the pink candle announces that we will be delivered and that love will abound. This is not simply the light of the candle, but the Light of Christ that we await.

Gaudete002Let us light that third candle in our wreaths and in our hearts, shining for not only ourselves, but for the world to rejoice in. The Good News is being proclaimed – and there are countless dreams left to dream, dreams made real in the name of Christ the Lord.

Unexpected and unlikely

eye2

Fiddling with what I sometimes call “the Google machine,” (I heard Rachel Maddow say that about 5 years ago and have used it ever since) I was looking for references to Our Lady of Guadalupe that might expand the focus beyond what we typically find. With thoughts of Pope Francis and his cry to bring the joy of the Gospel to all, to go out from the Church, mla-virgen-de-guadalupe-estampada-en-la-tilma-de-juan-diegoy fingers flew. Knowing that the “Google machine” works this way, I was not surprised to find a post written by my friend Eric Stoltz in 2010; it was for his parish website. (Eric is a deacon at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Beverly HIlls.) What I came across was his website post for today’s feast from 2010, when he wrote:

The third gift of Tepeyac deals with issues of authority. In the story, the bishop is the obstacle and the conquered peasant carries the world-changing message. This is why, in my world, when her oppressed children cry out—whether janitors massing at City Hall, or farm workers protesting along a dusty road in California’s Central Valley, or gay and lesbian Catholics marching down Santa Monica Boulevard; anawim [those who are despised by society but loved by God] of every stripe—they always carry an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We know she walks with us. Impoverished, immigrant, indigenous or “intrinsically disordered,” we remember her words of assurance to Juan Diego: ¿No soy tu madre? “Am I not your mother?”

God persistently reaches out to us, often in the the most unlikely places and faces. Today it is the appearance of La Guadalupana, but that is simply one variation. How can we recognize God? How can we hear and believe the invitation? How do we understand authority?

Juan+Diego+-+Jose+de+IbarraThis all makes me think that perhaps it is not the institution that needs to be toppled, but rather our own expectations, and the expectations of said institution. Today we are given yet another reminder that when that happens, change comes with it.

Over and over we are given examples of God’s love, mercy, invitation, embrace, assurance, and hope. This is God’s authority! God seeks our response and God’s expectation is that we will do the same for others. That is our authority!

Today, may we walk with the images of God, breaking in unexpectedly and in unlikely people and places. Today, may we remember that our expectation and God’s expectation may be very different things.

Papal Patience and Holy Waiting in Advent

4.2.7Tonight I will host a viewing of “I Would Be Called John,” a one man play about Pope John XXIII, starring Charles Durning. Written by Eugene Kennedy and shot in 1986, the show aired on PBS during September of 1987.

It was interesting to watch the film a few times in preparation, and to hear some of Bl. John XXIII’s ideas, hopes, dreams, and prayers for our Church. His life was certainly interesting, growing up as the son of a tenant farmer, then his life in the Church. He was a humble man and that humility came with him to the Vatican. Pope John XXIII’s focus was very much on how to make a faith real for people.

One thing that struck me is that he wanted hearts and minds that were fully engaged with faith and with the world – and that meant not only transforming the Church for those of us who are members of the Body of Christ, but also for the Curia and those in the Vatican. He had an almost mischievous intensity about what the Holy Spirit urged him to do, something that had been brewing in him for a lifetime of service.

So what?

This also came to mind…  I am constantly amazed by the over-the-top praise (OK, I have done it myself…) and over-the-top criticism of Pope Francis. As I watched the movie and saw what Pope John XXIII was up to, I saw a connection to what Pope Francis is up to. I also saw connections to what the four popes in between were up to, as well. It is all God’s work in the world, through Christ and by the Holy Spirit. Each moment is but a moment, just like we are all members of the Body of Christ.

We are in this season of Advent waiting, the Holy Waiting that we are called to by God. If we think that all of this is happening on our timetable and in our lives, think again. We sit in the shade of trees that were tiny seeds entering the earth a long time ago. So it is with faith, our lives are the seeds of future growth.

This year I am experiencing a rare form of patience, one typically unknown to me. How grateful I am to have been asked to facilitate this movie night, because it led me to see Pope John XXIII in a deeper light – and Advent too. I think of him, that he must have known that the seeds he scattered back then, would take a long time to grow. What hope, what waiting, what patience! From saplings to the ancient woodland forest, God’s work is everywhere. Like Advent, seeds spread long ago, still germinating, still growing, still taking root to this day.  May we all find the peace of Advent in that long arc of grace, God forever at work in this world.

(The DVD “I Would Be Called John” will be shown at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on Wednesday, December 11, 2013, at 10 AM, hosted by Deacon Michael Melanson, and again at 7 PM, hosted by me. Viewings will take place in the Flicker Room, at the Parish Center. There is no admission, but donations are always gratefully accepted. All are welcome!)

Lost sheep

If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? - Matthew 18:12-13

If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? – Matthew 18:12-13

The conversation so often begins this way:

I was Catholic, but the Church hates me now.” Or perhaps, “I can’t come to Church any longer, I am divorced.” It might be, “Once I realized that I was gay, I knew that the Church would not accept me.”

These are variations on things that I have heard over the years, no more so than when I began to work as the parish secretary. People come in for mass cards, or to drop off religious items that they came across when cleaning out their parents’ old house.

You see, people come in for a simple transaction – our culture is transaction based. Yet, don’t we all long in some way for encounter? Relationship? Connection? I could quietly prepare their mass card or take the box of rosaries and statues, but I usually try to initiate some conversation.

Today’s Gospel from Matthew is a reminder that when just one sheep is lost, the shepherd goes looking.  In today’s lingo, that might now work. Hey, it’s just one stupid sheep, I’ve got 99. Who has the time to go looking? Cut your losses and move on.” That would be the efficiency model.

Since when has Jesus Christ ever been about efficiency?

The Church, no matter what you may hear – or regrettably, experience, welcomes all visitors as Christ. Finding the lost sheep is never efficient. Sadly, it is not the sheep, but the welcome and love that has gotten lost so often. But that does not mean that we can’t bring that love into focus again.

Today, if you feel like a lost sheep, be attentive to your surroundings – you might just hear someone calling your name, seeking your heart. If you have a lost sheep in your life, and who amongst us does not, seek and find them if you can, even if simply with a silent prayer in your heart.