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.

 

O Emmanuel (Dec 23)

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

O Rex Gentium (Dec 22)

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

O Oriens (Dec 21)

The O Antiphon for Dec 21 sung by the Cantarte Regensburg.

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

O Dawn of the East, Brightness of the Light Eternal and Sun of Justice, come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

A meditation on the antiphon by Fr. Roger Landry

O Oriens: “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (9:1).

This title is variously translated “morning star”, “Dayspring”, “rising sun”, “radiant dawn”, “orient”. All beautifully express the idea of light shattering the darkness of night, of sin and Continue reading

O Clavis David (Dec 20)

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

O Key of David and Sceptre of the house of Israel, Who dost open and no man doth shut, Who dost shut and no man doth open, come and bring forth from his prisonhouse the captive that sitteth in darkness and in the shadow of death.

A meditation on the antiphon by Fr. Roger Landry

O Clavis David: “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 Continue reading

Prayer to the Guardian Angel of the United States

IMG_1419 - Version 2Today, as the 538 members of the Electoral College cast their votes, let’s remember to say a prayer for them, as well as for our nation.  This is a beautiful prayer to our country’s Guardian Angel from Opus Sanctorum Angelorum.

Prayer to the Guardian Angel of the United States

O Glorious Guardian Angel of the United States, to whom God has entrusted the care of our beloved country, we honor you and thank you for the care and protection you have given to this great nation from the first moment of its inception.
O Powerful Angel Guardian, whose watchful glance encompasses this vast land from shore to shore, we know that our sins have grieved you and marred the beauty of our heritage. Lead us to a deep conversion, so that we may return to the embrace of His merciful love!
O Holy Angel, obtain for us, through the intercession of the Queen of Heaven before the throne of God the graces we need to overcome the forces of evil so rampant in our beloved land.
Help us, our God-given protector and friend, to respond wholeheartedly to the urgent pleas of the Mother of God at Fatima.  Assist us to offer the prayers and sacrifices necessary to bring peace and goodness to our nation.
We want to make you known and loved throughout our land, so that docile to your inspirations we may know, love and serve our Lord more faithfully and so become once more “one Nation under God”!  Amen.

O Maria, sine labe concepta, ora pro nobis qui ad te confugimus.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.