Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rejoice, he is drawing near!

"Look toward the east, O Jerusalem,
and see the joy that is coming to you from God!" (Baruch 4:36)

Monday, December 21, 2009

O Radiant Dawn

Today, the shortest day of the year, the O antiphon is this:
"O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, and sun of justice, come, and shine on those seated in darkness, and in the shadow of death."

Christ draws near. He said of himself, "I am the light of the world."
The first letter of John simply says, "God is light."

Up to now darkness has been increasing every day. But with the solstice, each day will bring us a bit more light. The birth of Christ is celebrated at this time of year to show in a symbolic way that he is indeed the light of the world.
John the Baptist's birth is celebrated in the liturgy on June 24, near the summer solstice. Symbolically, it fits with what John said about himself: he is not the light, but the precursor of the light. "He must increase, and I must decrease," he declared. After John's birth the days begin to grow longer, but with Christ's coming we start to walk in greater light.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Advent "O" Antiphons

This last part of Advent has a special feature called the "O" antiphons. They're designed to help us desire the coming of Christ more and more. They were developed centuries ago, in Latin, and the first letters of the Latin words spell out SARCORE. Read backwards, it says "ero cras," which means "tomorrow I will be." There's a lot of thought behind the liturgy! Here are the words:

Sapientia: O Wisdom
Adonia: O Lord and Leader
Radis: O Root of Jesse
Clavis: O Key of David
Oriens: O Radiant Dawn
Rex: O King
Emmanuel: O Emmanuel, God with us!

The text of today's antiphon is:
Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with your outstretched arm.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Demise of the Dollar

Sometimes I blog about things related to the economy, because it's such a big issue today. The dollar's days as the world's reserve currency are dwindling. I don't know exactly how it will play out, but there are more and more signals that other nations are getting out of dollar-denominated investments.
Last month the reserve bank of India exchanged dollars for 200 tons of gold. And today there's some news coming out of the Gulf states. They are planning to introducing their own currency (the "Gulfo") as an alternative to the dollar. The full story is here.

What does this trend mean for Americans? We need to get our financial house in order. Up to now we've been able to borrow money from other countries to finance our deficits. But with government spending spiraling out of control, wise people in other countries realize what many Americans do not: there is no reason in the world for them to finance our profligate spending. And what will happen when the U.S. Treasury holds an auction for T-bills and nobody buys? Americans will have to finance their own government's out of control spending. And with so many people in debt, there's no way we as a country can continue to live beyond our means. But imagine the social chaos that will occur when government checks stop arriving: whether they're Social Security checks or any other type of entitlement. Think it can't happen? It's happened to other countries and there's no law of nature that says the United States will always be prosperous no matter how reckless we are.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rejoice, Mary!

Mary is an important figure during Advent. And she shows us how to be joyful.
At the Annunciation, Gabriel’s first word to Mary is chaïré, a Greek word meaning “rejoice.” The angel invites Mary to rejoice, because God has chosen her for a most special mission. But if Gabriel is telling Mary to rejoice, why is the most popular Marian prayer called the “Hail Mary” and not the “Rejoice Mary”? It’s because of the way the Gospels were translated into Latin. The Latin Vulgate Bible, translated by St. Jerome, used the words “Ave Maria.” In Latin, “ave” is a greeting. The Latin Bible was used extensively in the church in the West (mainly Europe), and became the basis for the prayer we know as the Hail Mary. Western writers also liked to contrast Eve (or Eva in Latin) with Mary, using a play on words of changing Eva into Ave.
In the Eastern church, however, the people could read Greek so they had a better sense of the invitation to joy that Gabriel was extending to Mary. Many of the Greek Fathers of the Church wrote about joy in connection with the Annunciation. The famous Marian hymn of the East, called the Akathist Hymn, constantly uses the refrain “rejoice” in relation to the Annunciation.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Immaculate Conception

This is a day late because I was away for a few days at a funeral. The feast of Mary's Immaculate Conception is my favorite Marian feastday (it's also my birthday.)
It's often confused with the Virgin Birth. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary was conceived by her parents in the natural way, but she was free from original sin. Her soul was endowed with a fullness of sanctifying grace. All of that was in view of her vocation to be the Mother of God. The Virgin Birth, of course, refers to the fact that Mary conceived Jesus in a virginal way, through the power of the Holy Spirit and not by any man.
All of us were maculately conceived--that is, in the state of original sin (from "macula," the Latin word for sin.) Mary, instead, was the only human being conceived immaculately--without original sin. ( besides Jesus, of course, who also did not have original sin). But through baptism and the life of grace, Jesus has joined us to himself and sanctifies us. Our life is a daily struggle with sin. We often fall. But our hope is that at the end of our lives we will die free from sin. Mary Immaculate will obtain that grace for us if we ask her.