Saturday, December 31, 2005

Mary, Mother of God

January 1 is the feast of Mary, the Mother of God.

This title was officially given to Mary at the Council of Ephesus in 431. A bishop named Nestorius, who was patriarch of Constantinople, had been teaching false ideas about Jesus. Nestorius said that Jesus was, in effect, two persons, a human person and a divine person. This is different from the Church's teaching that Jesus is one person, the divine person, with two natures: human and divine.
A consequence of Nestorius' teaching is that Mary can't be the Mother of God, but only of the human Jesus.
The ordinary Catholics of his day may not have followed the theological subtleties of the debate, but they knew that they had always honored Mary as the Mother of God, and whoever denied that had to be wrong. After the bishops at the Council of Ephesus declared Mary is truly the Mother of God, the faithful to the streets and had a great procession in her honor.

This shows how what the Church teaches about Mary is important because it safeguards the true teaching about Jesus.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Where are these thoughts coming from?

This morning I was feeling disturbed about something that had happened, and I was thinking some dark, negative thoughts. Then suddenly a question popped into my head, "Are these thoughts coming from God?"
I had to say no, they weren't coming from God, and I had to pray to the Holy Spirit for help to replace them with better ones.

It made me reflect on how easy it is to get carried away by negative thoughts, which can often come from a lack of faith or of charity, and how often I've done that. This morning's experience gave me something to aim at in the new year: to be more aware of what I'm thinking and to ask myself where those thoughts are coming from.

Bl. James Alberione, our founder, liked to talk about what he called "the sanctification of the mind." I think this is what he meant.

Christ is on board

Today's office of readings has a meditation by St. Thomas Becket (the saint of the day). In it he reminds us to think about all the storms that the ship of Peter, the Church, has successfully weathered, because "Christ is on board."

What a great thought--Christ is on board. He's with us. Are we with him?

Christmas continues

The secular world starts Christmas early--even before Thanksgiving nowadays--and ends it just as early. By the day after Christmas, regular programming resumes and Christmas carols are hard to find. Trees are thrown out on the curbside awaiting pickup.

But the Church's liturgy is just the opposite. Advent is a time of waiting and expectation. Once Christmas arrives, the liturgy celebrates the Christmas season. During these two to three weeks the Church offers us the opportunity to ponder the meaning of Christ's birth in peace and quiet.

The great thing about the liturgy is that it actually makes present the grace of the feast. It doesn't simply recall it, like we recall the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4. The liturgy brings us into a real contact with Christ and the grace of salvation that he offers.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Happy feast of St. John the Evangelist

If any one theme stands out in the letters of St. John, it's the theme of God's love for us.

God loves us. To really take that in, understand it and live by it would make us all saints. When we know that we are loved, it is easier to love other people.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

God became man

At the heart of Christmas is the deepest mystery: God became man.
It could seem like blasphemy but it's at the heart of our faith: God became man.
All the Christmas presents, all the rushing around, the shopping, the baking, the cooking, the parties, laughing, fun and get-togethers only make sense if we remember: God became man.

God became one of us! How can we fathom the mystery?

In the Office of Readings for Christmas, the Church gives us a wonderful homily by St. Leo the Great, entitled, "Christian, remember your dignity!"
Because God became man, and through baptism we are made one with him, we have a tremendous dignity that no one can take away.
St. Leo reminds us of this and urges us now that we have been cleansed, not to return by sin to our former base condition.
He says that the mystery of Christmas is meant for everyone, no one is shut out from the rejoicing for this feast: let the saint rejoice as he receives the palm of victory, and let the sinner rejoice as he hears the call to conversion. Everyone has a reason to rejoice.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Come, O King of all nations!

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.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Mary in Advent

The Mass for today, Dec. 20, has been called the "Golden Mass" in honor of the Blessed Virgin. The readings for this Mass center on Mary; the Gospel is the Annunciation.

Mary's example helps us to be open to whatever God is asking of us.

What does God want of me today?

Thomas Tuesday

The other day I happened to look at the very first article in the Summa, and St. Thomas mentions an interesting thing. He just says it almost "by the way," as an example in a reply to an objection. He mentions that the earth is round. His reference makes it clear that educated people in the Middle Ages knew that.

I remember growing up hearing the story that Christopher Columbus was the first person to discover the earth was round. But St. Thomas knew it, and so did the ancient Greeks. Although scientists in our times have made astounding discoveries, the people in the Middle Ages knew more than we might suppose.

Monday, December 19, 2005

US National Debt over 8 Trillion Dollars

This link brings you to the US national debt clock, which tracks the national debt and breaks it down.
Right now the debt is over 8 trillion dollars.
The government keeps ahead of this debt by selling treasury bills. But that only postpones the debt to the future. It also is dangerous because it makes the economy depend on whether or not investory buy those treasury bills. Right now, more than 50 % of them are owned by people in other countries. That makes our national economy depend on decision makers in those countries; but is it a good thing to make our economy so dependent on them?

This is not a political blog, but sound economic policies should be the concern of every American, regardless of political ties.

Chronicles of Narnia

Yesterday I went to see the movie Chronicles of Narnia. I like it a lot. It's been a long time since I read the book so I didn't remember that much from it, but I thought they did a great job with the movie.
If you've seen it, what was your reaction?
One thing that struck me was how easy it is to run into voices of discouragement. For example, in the scene when Peter had to kill the wolf, Susan told him he couldn't do it and urged him to put down his sword--in other words, she was telling Peter he was no good. That's the voice of discouragement, the voice of the tempter, the voice of Satan. Satan always tries to get us to think we're no good--because if we think that, we'll live up to that idea.
Instead, Aslan calls forth the good in people. That's what Jesus does. He tells us the truth, which is that God loves us and his love creates goodness in us. Look deep into your heart and discover the greatness that God has put there. In fact, St. Thomas says that the sin of acedia or spiritual apathy is the refusal of one's own greatness.

Come, O Root of Jesse!

O root of Jesse, standing an ensign of the people, before whom even kings silent will remain, whom the Gentiles, too, shall beseech, come now to deliver us all; delay no longer (cf. Is 11).

Christmas Novena: Day Four

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years. Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord" (Lk 1:5-14).

Reflection

The infant king will stand as a sign in full view of all the nations. This king will be a sign not only for the Israelites, but also for the Gentiles. All people shall come to him. Our hearts call out, "Come Lord, save your people, do not delay, for we are ready to receive you; we desire to see you face to face."

Antiphon
O root of Jesse, standing an ensign of the people, before whom even kings silent will remain, whom the Gentiles, too, shall beseech, come now to deliver us all; delay no longer (cf. Is 11).


Intercessions
Son of Man, may we celebrate your birth, you who are the Lamb of God;
--you take away our sins and the sins of the world.
Son of Mary, while in your Mother's womb you were welcomed by Elizabeth and her infant son, John;
--though hidden, may we always recognize you and welcome you into our hearts.
God our Counselor, come; tell us that your kingdom is at hand;
--protect the Church and the Pope. Keep the Church as your spotless bride.
Root of Jesse, you humbled yourself to share our human nature;
--come and save us without delay.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Come, O Lord!

O Lord and leader of the house of Israel, who once appeared to Moses and spoke to him from a bush aflame, and on the peak of Sinai gave him the law; come now, bring us your redemption with your mighty outstretched arm (cf. Ex 3, 15, 24; Deut 5).

Christmas Novena: Day 3

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: "The Lord is our righteousness." Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when it shall no longer be said, "As the Lord lives who brought the people of Israel up out of the land of Egypt," but "As the Lord lives who brought out and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the land of the north and out of all the lands where he had driven them." Then they shall live in their own land (Jer 23:5-8).

Reflection

God of Israel, you appeared to Moses in the burning bush. You delivered the Israelites from bondage in Egypt by parting the sea, and blessed your people with a covenant as a bridegroom marries his bride. Redeeming Lord, come to save us from the folly of our sins. Give us the blessing of a new covenant written in our hearts for all times. Rescue us with your mighty power!

Antiphon
O Lord and leader of the house of Israel, who once appeared to Moses and spoke to him from a bush aflame, and on the peak of Sinai gave him the law; come now, bring us your redemption with your mighty outstretched arm (cf. Ex 3, 15, 24; Deut 5).

Intercessions
Light of the world, dispel our darkness,
--and make us worthy of your coming.
Key of David, unlock the mystery of your incarnation for all people,
--so that all humanity may praise you together in loving joy.
Eternal Son, let your face shine upon the sick,
--so they may serve you worthily in their infirmity.
Son of David, remember all those who are to die today,
--and bring them into your perfect light

(Novena is taken from Favorite Prayers and Novenas (Pauline Books & Media)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Come, O Wisdom!

"O Wisdom,
who proceeds from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching out mightily from end to end,
and sweetly arranging all things:
come to teach us the way of prudence."

The O Antiphons

Starting on Dec. 17, the Church uses seven special antiphons in her liturgy. Called the "O" Antiphons (because each one starts out with "O"), they were written in Latin by an unknown author during the Middle Ages. Each one of them uses a special title for Christ and expresses the Church's longing for a Savior.

They are:

O Wisdom (sapientia in Latin)
O Lord (Adonai)
O Root of Jesse (radix)
O Key of David (clavis)
O Radiant Dawn (orient)
O King (rex)
O Emmanuel (Emmanuel)

The first letter of the Latin terms forms SARCORE, and read backward, it reads "ero cras," which in Latin means "tomorrow I will be!"

I'll post the full text of the expanded antiphon each day, because the current ones are a bit abbreviated.

Did you notice that our Advent hymn "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" is actually based on these antiphons?

Christmas Novena: Day Two


Assemble and hear, O sons of Jacob; listen to Israel your father. Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion's whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He crouches down, he stretches out like a lion, like a lioness--who dares rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and the obedience of the peoples is his (Gen 49:2, 8-10).

Reflection

When we read Scripture and yearn for the coming of the divine, powerful Wisdom who will teach us how to live throughout our life, we think of Mary, the humble Mother of God who always waited upon the Lord as his handmaid.
Let us pray: Father, you spoke, and your Word became man, born of the Virgin Mary. Christ humbled himself to share our human nature. We humble ourselves before the child and ask for faith and love.


Antiphon
O Wisdom eternal, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High, you reach from end to end and order all things mightily and sweetly; come now to direct us in the way of holy prudence (cf. Sir 24; Wis 6-9).



Intercessions
Christ our Redeemer, your law is a light to our path;
--teach us always to walk in the light of your law.
Coming Savior, dawn on us in radiant beauty,
--so that we may receive you with loving devotion at your birth.
God of Jacob, you desire that all might be saved;
--bring all people safely into the kingdom of heaven.
Lord of nations, show us your glory and give us true faith and love;
--protect us from harm and let us live in peace with each other.
Lord of ages, you desired to become one like us;
--may the revelation of your humanity free us from our sinfulness.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Christmas Novena Day One


And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant--these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples (Is 56:6-7).


Reflection
Advent prepares our minds and hearts for the coming of the Word of God. It is a gentle time, a time to watch that the word of Scripture does not fall on the rocky ground of distraction, nor by the wayside with our many cares, nor among thorns, caught up in flashy advertisements. It is to fall upon the rich soil of our minds and hearts where the Word of God can bury itself deep and bring forth fruit. The Lord is already near! Let us admit that we need his power and help. Come, Lord Jesus! Give us the gift of yourself.

Antiphon
Behold the king will come, the Lord of the earth, and he will remove from us the yoke of our captivity (cf. Hab 2:3; 1 Cor 4:5).

Intercessions
Jesus, light of the world, we wait in darkness, but also in hope for your coming;
--show yourself to us in mercy and love.
Lord of Israel, you showed yourself to Moses in a burning bush;
--stretch forth your mighty arm and come to save us.
Jesus, born of Mary, we pray with joyful hearts and wait with her in prayer;
--come, Adonai!
Jesus, life of our bodies and souls,
--by your coming let us be immersed in the mystery of your incarnation.


Closing Prayer
Christ goes before us. He is the Lamb without sin who will open to us the gates of heaven. He is the high priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech. He is the king of justice and his reign is eternal.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Take a look at these...


Real panda cubs in China

Christmas novena starts tomorrow

December 16 begins the Christmas novena. I'll post some prayers and antiphons for it.

"The Lord is coming and will not delay; he will bring evey hidden thing to light and reveal himself to every nation."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Changing genes to extend lifespan

The above link is to a scientific article--the gist of it is that removing a certain gene from yeast cells increased their life span about six-fold. Scientists speculate that a similar effect could be obtained in people.

Even if you take 50 as an average life span, increasing it six times would mean living to be 300! I don't know about you, but I'd rather go to heaven than stay on earth, this "vale of tears," 6 times longer than I'd otherwise have to!

It seems that today scientists will do whatever they are able to technologically. But who's asking questions if this is a good thing or not? Is it really a good thing to artificially prolong human life by genetic manipulation? It seems to me that only people who don't believe in eternal life with God would want to do that.

Even apart from that, imagine the problems that would plague a society full of 100, 200 and even 300 year olds! Even if they managed to physically live that long, would they really have optimal health? Would it become a society with a huge overpopulation of elderly persons who need critical care, without enough younger people to provide it? Who would regulate retirement age? Would it make euthanasia compulsory? Would it create a new class of elites who could afford such technology?

What's your take on this?

Feast of St. Lucy

From today's Office of Readings by St. Ambrose:

"The Word of God moves swiftly; he is not won by the lukewarm, nor held fast by the negligent. let your soul be attentive to his word; follow carefully the path God tells you to take, for he is swift in his passing."

Monday, December 12, 2005

Our Lady of Guadalupe

I didn't post much last week since a lot of other things were going on. Thanks to everyone who left me a birthday wish!

Today's feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe comes just a few days after the Immaculate Conception. Of the two, the Immaculate Conception is the more important feast since it's based on one of the four great Marian dogmas (the others being Mary's divine motherhood, her perpetual virginity, and her Assumption). But somehow Guadalupe has captured the popular imagination more because of the story surrounding the apparition. It really is a lovely story and one thing that always moved me about it was what Mary said to Juan Diego: "Am I not your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection?" Then she added, "Is there anything else you need?"

If there's anything else we need, Mary will help us get it!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Happy feast of the Immaculate Conception

The feast of the Immaculate Conception is my favorite Marian feast--and not only because it's my birthday. (I'm turning 50 today--tempus fugit!)
It's a great feast because Mary, the sinless one, is a model of what we will one day be. She was preserved from original sin; we were born with it. She never sinned during her life; we sin all too often. But Mary's freedom from sin makes her sympathetic to us who are trapped in its web. She offers us the hope that Jesus brought in redeeming us from sin and death.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Prayer

"St. Thomas is right. The essential prayer is the prayer of petition." (Fr Vincent McNabb, OP)

Keep on asking!

Pope Benedict and Vatican II

This link is to an interesting article about the Pope and Vatican II.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Christmas concert

On Sunday I went with the sisters from our Staten Island community to St. Paul's Church in Princeton, NJ, where we had one of our Christmas concerts. It was awesome! Sr Anne Joan was there and did a solo of "O Holy Night." She hit all those high notes! check her blog for more info on the concert.

In Princeton we met Lisa Burke, a fellow blogger! It's the first time that I met someone whom I first met through my blog. If you haven't already visited her blog, please check it out. She posts great commentary and thoughtful reflections.

Manhattan at Christmas

Over the weekend I went to a family reunion in NY. My brother organized it and he and my sisters and I met several of our cousins in Manhattan whom we haven't seen for a long time. We had a great time! It was a lot of fun to get together for a happy occasion instead of a funeral.
There's something really special and exciting about Manhattan, especially at Christmas time. We stopped at St. Patrick's, Rockefeller Center, saw the Christmas tree and the show at Radio City, then we had dinner together.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Good commentary on Vatican document

In today's issue of Zenit, Fr. Harvey, founder of Courage, has some good comments on the new Vatican document on the priesthood and homosexuality.

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