Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Snippets - A Catholic Carnival (4th Sunday of Advent 2014)

    Welcome to Sunday Snippets – A Catholic Carnival, Ladies and Gentleman.  Sunday Snippets is a weekly gathering of Catholic bloggers who come together (in a virtual sort of way) to share their posts for the past week.  The main party is here, at This That and the Other Thing, home of our gracious hostess RAnn, who is also providing the eggnog - but don’t worry, as good Catholics we won’t even think about touching it until Christmas Day.

     Today on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, as we anticipate celebrating the Nativity of Our Lord in a few short days, I am reminded of the following passage from the Old Testament, in which God comes to the prophet Elijah as he hides in a cave:

And he [the Lord] said, "Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD." And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice; And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him, and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"  (1 Kings: 11-13)

This, in its way, is as clear a foretaste of the Messiah as the passages we read in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel throughout advent.  Most of us have probably heard that, before the coming of Christ, people lived in fear of divine power.  Encountering God was something to be avoided: the point of praying and offering sacrifice, even sacrificing one’s own flesh and blood, was so that God (more often understood as “the gods”) would leave you alone.  We can detect echoes of this ancient attitude in the account of Abraham as he brought his beloved son Isaac up Mount Moriah, prepared to offer him up (Genesis 22).  The story of Abraham and Isaac, in which God reverses expectations and provides the lamb in place of Isaac, shows us the end of Christ’s earthly ministry; the story of Elijah in the cave shows us its surprising beginning. God doesn’t show himself in any of the terrifying guises one would expect (wind, earthquake, fire), but as a “still, small, voice” (in some translations a “whisper”).  In just the same way, the second person of the Trinity comes among us in the least threatening way imaginable: a helpless little baby, cradled in a feeding trough.  No wonder, when the Angel announces Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, he first tells them not to be afraid; and then he says:

For behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people: for to you is born this day in the city of Davis a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:10-12).

Good News , indeed.  It is, in fact, a Great Joy, and not at all a bad thing when God is in our midst, for “God is Love”(1 John 4:8); and the Infinite Creator of the Universe makes himself finite, small and vulnerable . . . for us.
     And from the sublime to the, well, rather less than sublime.  One year ago today Principium et Finis published its first blog post, the first of a five-part series discussing St. Thomas Aquinas’s teaching on conscience (later reposted in more digestible form here).  It’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve learned a few things along the way.  Such as, eventually, to get to the point - and so here are my posts for this week:

Monday – Perhaps the oldest of Christmas songs, and certainly one of the most lovely: “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” [here]

Tuesday – As St. Therese of Lisieux learned after Midnight Mass in 1886, we all get just the conversion experience we need, if we’re willing to take it:  “The Christmas Conversion of St. Therese”  [here]

Wednesday – Don’t buy the lie, ladies and gentlemen; there is no greater affront to the rights and dignity of women today than abortion: “Abortion Myth #13” [here]

Thursday – No matter how hungry you are, God has bigger things in store for you than a bowl of soup: “Being Christian in the Age of Esau” [here

Friday – OK, I see a Theme For The Week here: look below the surface, there’s more at stake than mere appearances suggest.  Today it’s architecture . . . sort of: “When A Church Is Not A Church” [here]

Finally, as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of Our Savior at Christmas, at the End of Time, and to each one of us in our own lives, here’s a beautiful song, "Mary Did You Know?" performed by the lovely HayleyWestenra: