Mother of God & Our Mother

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Agiosoritissa (Mother of God) Icon – 7th century, one of the oldest images of Mary

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. screen-shot-2017-01-01-at-12-29-01-pm 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.

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In Case You Missed It…

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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.  

screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-10-37-19-amIn 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 screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-10-43-34-amget 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.

The Gift of Wonder

2006af4448_bourdichon_nativitySeven 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.

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North Rose Window at Chartres Cathedral with the Virgin and Child in Glory at the center.

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.

 

Gifts from The Father

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And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.  They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Today the Magi bow before the Christ Child, offering their gifts to The Gift of God the Father:  Jesus.  For us, this Christmas has been filled with gifts from the Father.  The most unexpected surprise was the invitation from Mother Dolores Marie to spend Christmas with our sisters in Alabama!  It was a wonderful way to welcome Our Savior, back at our old home.  It had been several years since our last trip to Our Lady of the Angels, so it was a grace-filled time seeing Mother Angelica and catching up with all our sisters, as well as meeting the newer members of the community.  We had hoped for a cold Christmas, but we didn’t get one.  We did, however, get lots of rain. Thankfully, all was fine at the monastery, and our prayers were with the many people who suffered from flooding and tornadoes on Christmas day.

Since being in San Antonio on foundation we have been keeping our monastic Christmas traditions, but it was so beautiful to see them in their proper setting in the choir chapel.  Here Rev. Mother Dolores Marie reads the Gospel of the Nativity at the Office of Readings, flanked by novices bearing candles.IMG_6953

On the altar is an old statue of the Infant Jesus, with a relic of the Crib of Our Lord.  Before beginning the Office of Readings each of us venerates the relic and then Rev. Mother blesses the community with it.  This is one of the sweetest traditions at the monastery.IMG_7020

Another great gift which our Lord gave us was walking through the Holy Door as part of the Year of Mercy inaugurated by Pope Francis.  Bishop Baker gave the huge bronze doors, which welcome visitors to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, the special designation of being Holy Doors, which means that you can gain the plenary indulgence as part of the Year of Mercy when you pass through them. But he also designated the chapel doors on the cloister side as well, so we were able to gain our first Jubilee Year indulgence at the monastery. [Click here to learn more about the meaning of the Holy Door, and how to gain a plenary indulgence as part of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.]

IMG_7028-2On that day, the Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope.

– Pope Francis

As most of us prepare to go back to the monotony of our daily routine after the Christmas holidays, let’s not forget that the Father is full of surprises, and He likes to catch us unawares with a gift – sometimes large, sometimes small – that reminds us of His infinite Love for us.  To reunite His lost children with Himself, He gave us His Son.  Today we thank Him, too, for the surprise gift of a family reunion He gave us for Christmas.

Journeying to the Christ Child

tumblr_my2cl61mTI1ssmm02o1_1280“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Is 60:1-3).

Today I planned on sharing what Pope Francis had to say today about the Epiphany, and the I realized that he hasn’t said anything about it because in Rome it’s celebrated on the traditional date of January 6th, the twelfth day after Christmas.  So this forced me to come up with some semi-original thoughts, something which, I’m sorry to admit, I was trying to Continue reading

God is in love with our smallness

457f48651fa02f2038f24e32db4b11ccMerry Christmas, everyone! With grateful hearts, we are praying to Our Infant Savior for each of you on this joyful day.  Thank you for reading our blog, listening to our radio show, supporting us through our Nonnavita Soap, and, most especially, thank you for praying for us.  May the joy and wonder of the Nativity, which filled the hearts of Our Lady and St. Joseph, fill your hearts, too.

Here is Pope Francis’ homily from Midnight Mass:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Is 9:1).  “An angel of the Lord appeared to [the shepherds] and the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Lk  2:9). This is how the liturgy of this holy Christmas night presents to us the birth of the Continue reading

Feast of the Holy Innocents

From a sermon by Saint Quodvultdeus

A tiny child is born, who is a great king. Wise men are led to him from afar. They come to adore one who lies in a manger and yet reigns in heaven and on earth. When they tell of one who is born a king, Herod is disturbed. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill him, though if he would have faith in the child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and for ever in the life to come.

Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this you are disturbed and in a rage, and to destroy one child whom you seek, you show your cruelty in the death of so many children.

You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the deaths of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are seeking to kill Life himself.

Yet your throne is threatened by the source of grace – so small, yet so great – who is lying in the manger. He is using you, all unaware of it, to work out his own purposes freeing souls from captivity to the devil. He has taken up the sons of the enemy into the ranks of God’s adopted children.

The children die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to himself. See the kind of kingdom that is his, coming as he did in order to be this kind of king. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the savior already working salvation.

But you, Herod, do not know this and are disturbed and furious. While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying him homage, and do not know it.

How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.

O God,
whom the Holy Innocents confessed
and proclaimed on this day,
not by speaking but by dying,
grant, we pray,
that the faith in you
which we confess with our lips
may also speak through our manner of life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
 Amen.