Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas! Of The Father's Love Begotten

Coreggio's "Nativity"
Merry Christmas!
There are many wonderful, joyful, exuberant Christmas songs, and more than a few will appear in this space over the course of the Christmas Season.  Today, however, on the Feast of the Nativity itself, I'm sharing something quieter, a little more contemplative, but something that beautifully expresses the power of the Eternal Word that came among us in the form of a little baby lying in a stable.

"Of The Father's Love Begotten" is one of the oldest Christmas songs, in fact one of the most ancient Christian hymns of any sort.  The words were written in the 5th Century by Aurelius Prudentius, and the melody dates back to the 10th century.  The wonder it expresses, however, is as fresh as it was the day Prudentius first put the words down on parchment . . . as fresh, in fact, as it was two thousand years ago, when The Word became Flesh.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming (Frederica Von Stade)

Nativity With The Torch, Nain Brothers
   The beautiful hymn "Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming" (originally the 16th century German song "Es Ist Ein Ros Entsprungen") is one of my favorite songs of the Advent Season, especially when beautifully sung, as it is here by Frederica von Stade (with the help of the American Boy Choir).  It draws it’s inspiration from the following Messianic passage from the Prophet Isaiah:
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:1-2)
Here the “shoot” (the Messiah Jesus, descended through his human mother Mary from King David, Jesse’s son) is depicted as a lovely Rose, which we are invited to gaze upon in the company of the Blessed Mother. It's a wonderful reminder of what we are waiting for as this Advent Season draws to its conclusion.

The Lord is close at hand - come, let us worship Him

Today, December 23rd, is also the Feast of St. Servulus.  Please see my post “St. Servulus, Tiny Tim, & The Nativity of Jesus” on the blog Nisi Dominus.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

4th Sunday of Advent: A Still, Small Voice & The Lord of Creation

     Today, Sunday of the Fourth Week of Advent, we anticipate the Nativity of Our Lord in a few short days.  The (seemingly) unexpected appearance of the Lord of Creation in the form of a human infant in a stable reminds me 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 "messianic" passages we read in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel throughout advent.  We may have 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 brings  his beloved son Isaac up Mount Moriah, prepared to offer him up (Genesis 22).  At the last moment God sends an angel to stay Abraham's hand, and provides a lamb for the sacrifice. The unexpected reversal in the story of Abraham and 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.

For more Catholic Commentary from the past week, please see the following from the blog Nisi Dominus:

God's Truth is better than anything we can imagine: “Awaiting The Arrival of the God Who is Man

The Mass and what makes the Church ‘Catholic’ - “A Tale of Two Sundays: God’s Love is Universal

Our worth comes from God: “What We Have vs. What We Are

Christmas is coming . . . but not quite yet: “The Reasons for the Season of Advent

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Prima Luce - Gaudete (Gaudete Sunday 2016)

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete (“Rejoice in the Lord always, I say again, rejoice”, Philipians 4:4)

Please see also "The Reasons for the Season of Advent" on Nisi Dominus.