O LORD our Governor, whose glory is in all the world; We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and to all in Authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness; and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
When the numbers are so high you can’t tell whether it’s the Powerball Jackpot or the pollen count, you know it’s cedar time in Texas. Even as the rest of the country is getting a respite from allergies, we are deep in the misery that is cedar pollen. And yes, if you’re wondering why we’ve been so quiet these last few weeks, it’s because of allergies.
By the way, that tree in the photo is not smoking, it’s releasing pollen. Or as I like to call it, the Devil’s Sneeze.
Up close each once of those millions of pollen grains look like this, with lots of little points to latch onto everything in their path – mostly you, your clothes, your hair, they’ll take whatever they can get to make you miserable.
Which is why we all feel so wretched when cedar season hits. Not just runny noses and itchy, watery eyes, (not to mention the ensuing sinus infections) but exhausted and achy, too, like getting repeatedly run over by a Mack truck. Driven by Jaws.
So if you’re enjoying an allergy free winter somewhere nice (by nice, I mean anywhere that doesn’t have cedar pollen, which means even the inside of a volcano counts as nice), please take pity on us Texans and offer a prayer for our shark ravaged sinuses.
First posted January 21, 2013
On this Octave Day of Christmas we begin 2017, as we begin every new year, under the patronage of Mary, Mother of God. May she keep us safe in her maternal embrace as we face the blessings and the crosses God has in store for us this year.
The above is one of the oldest images of the Mother of God, dating from the 7th century. And this Egyptian papyrus fragment contains the oldest known prayer to the Theotokos (Bearer of God), dating from the third century. This is written in Greek, but you would be familiar with its Latin name, the Sub Tuum. There is an informative little article about it here, as well as a link to hear the prayer chanted in the original Greek.
Merry Christmas! Hopefully you are still celebrating on this fourth day of the Christmas Octave. Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents, one of the many important feasts celebrated during these Christmas days. In the monastery this was an occasion to sing the very beautiful (musically, anyway, despite the tragic subject matter) Coventry Carol. It written in 1534, just missing the Late Middle Ages, but we can talk about it in this post since we have a copy it being performed by the Mediaeval Baebes (ha, ha). It is traditionally sung acapella, as you will hear, which makes it so haunting.
In case you missed last week’s episode of A Good Habit, you might want to take a listen, as we discussed Christmas in the Middle Ages with the Modern Medievalist, James Griffin. I was so looking forward to this show since we were privileged to have James in studio with us, but I was kept at home by a nasty cold and laryngitis. The first time I ever missed a show in three and a half years and it had to be this one…It was a great episode, and really could have gone on for another hour or two, since there were so many subjects they didn’t get to, like the Boar’s Head Feast (which I don’t know anything about, but I did find this engraving of it, and I know the MM could probably write a fascinating blog about it). After you whet your appetite listening to the show, you’ll want to add his blog, Modern Medievalism, to your favorites and grab a cup of coffee, there are lots of fascinating articles to read there and you will always find something to interest you. Keep an eye on it, and perhaps he will add some posts on Christmas in the Middle Ages that he didn’t get to on the radio. You may have heard James on our radio show earlier this year to discuss Requiem Masses and other topics related to praying for the dead, but here’s another link that will be of interest to you as well: His appearance on Radio Maria to discuss lay piety in the Middle Ages.
Seven days ago in the first of the O Antiphons we prayed, “O Wisdom, Who didst come out of 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.” Now, as He promised, the Eternal Word, present with God the Father before time began, will come to us. For while all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, thy almighty word leapt down from heaven from thy royal throne… (Wis 18:14-15)
He Who orders the stars and planets is about to do something very out-of-order, or so it seems, by showing us the countenance of God in the fragile face of a Newborn Infant, Who is at the same time both God and Man. But even this is fully within His plan, something He planned before all ages, something He revealed to the angels (some of whom balked at this condescension of love and rebelled against their Creator).
The order God stamped on all creation is a constant source of wonder for us, especially when we see it up close. The tiny Baby lying in the manger is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Author of Creation. This is something we can hardly begin to comprehend in this life, and which we won’t fully grasp until we enjoy the beatific vision. But even so, it inspires wonder in our souls, and the reality of His love – that He would take on human flesh and be born in time of a Virgin to die for our sins and rise again by His own power – imbues every created thing with wonder.
Sometimes it’s hard not to feel sad at Christmas over our own brokenness and the brokenness of our world: shattered families, mistakes, heartbreaks, loneliness, the many disappointments and failures that seem to weigh heavier upon us during these days, and the ugliness brought to the world by the enemies of Christ, those who want to blast his Image out of society and the created world. The Christ Child brings us many gifts by His birth; one is that we can unite our sorrows and sufferings to His for the salvation of our own souls and the souls of others. But another gift He brings which we should embrace at this time is the gift of wonder, that His Incarnation and Birth have turned all of creation into a marvelous present, on which every thing bears His stamp, which reads “I Love You.”
By taking on our fallen humanity God has turned an unredeemed world into a beautiful landscape of color and vitality and hope; He has woven eternity into a finite world; He has turned creation into a great big kaleidoscope.
When you look through the lens of a kaleidoscope, you see a riot of color, fantastic shapes tumbling like jesters, but at the very heart of that window you see one dot that doesn’t change, doesn’t move, it’s fixed. The tiny infant of Bethlehem is that dot, unmoved and unchanging, eternal. The dizzying whirl of color that spins around Him like a Catherine Wheel is His creation. The objects in a kaleidoscope are always the simplest of things – beads, pebbles, little bits of colored glass. You turn them round and round and they never fall in the same pattern, although the objects themselves are always the same, trapped between two pieces of glass, every image is unique and unrepeatable. It is the simplest things, when we see them in the right perspective, radiating out from their true center, Who is Christ, it is the simplest things that give us joy. When we see the world through the kaleidoscope of the Incarnation, every thing is astonishing, everything is a new and wondrous pattern, though the things that form these patterns are simple, never-changing, even dull if not seen through the proper lens.
God’s perfection and beauty is reflected just as fully in the drops of rain on a cobweb as it is in the Hubble images from deep space. And in the micro-worlds which the human eye cannot see, His order and wisdom are ever-present there, too. Take a look at this image comparing the shapes of Medieval rose windows to cross-sections of human DNA. The resemblance is breathtaking.
Of the many gifts the Infant Jesus brings to us this Christmas, let us hold on to the gift of wonder, which will keep our hearts fresh and joyful, despite the stale air of sin and despair which wants to overtake our well-placed and rightful joy at the Birth of Our Savior. And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them. And they shall be his people; and God himself with them shall be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away. And he that sat on the throne, said: Behold, I make all things new. And he said to me: Write, for these words are most faithful and true. – Rev. 21:3-5
These words Our Lord utters at the end of time, from the Book of Revelation, are also words that He uttered at His Incarnation, at His Nativity, at his Crucifixion, and at every moment in between – God is at all times making a new creation out of the old, and we receive that gift of newness and life as often as we choose to open our hearts, to repent, to put Christ at the center of our lives and hearts and make of our own souls a beautiful kaleidoscope reflecting the wonder and joy of the Incarnation.
The O Antiphon for Dec 23 sung by the Cantarte Regensburg.
O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos Domine Deus noster.
O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of the Nations and their Saviour, come to save us, O Lord our God.
A meditation on the antiphon by Fr. Roger Landry
O Emmanuel: “O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The Lord himself will give Continue reading
The O Antiphon for Dec 22 sung by the Cantarte Regensburg.
O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.
O King of the Gentiles and the Desired of them, Thou Cornerstone that dost make both one, come and deliver man, whom Thou didst form out of the dust of the earth.
A meditation on the antiphon by Fr. Roger Landry
O Rex Gentium: “O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.” Isaiah Continue reading