A little of this and a little of that

So you think that it’s just a tale of days gone by?

This has been on YouTube since 2009 but I just saw it this week and loved it. Very clever.

A Dangerous Firebrand

We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him “meek and mild,” and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies. To those who knew him, however, he in no way suggested a milk-and-water person; they objected to him as a dangerous firebrand. True, he was tender to the unfortunate, patient with honest inquirers, and humble before heaven; but he insulted respectable clergymen by calling them hypocrites; he referred to King Herod as “that fox”; he went to parties in disreputable company and was looked upon as a “gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners” . . . when confronted with neat dialectical traps, he displayed a paradoxical humor that affronted serious-minded people, and he retorted by asking disagreeably searching questions that could not be answered by rule of thumb. He was emphatically not a dull man in his human lifetime, and if he was God, there can be nothing dull about God either.

Dorothy Sayers (essayist, playright and translator of Dante’s Divine Comedy) “The Greatest Drama Ever Staged is the Official Creed of Christendom.” The Sunday Times, April, 2, 1938

Flannery and The Hillbilly Thomists

This was one of my favorite passages from Flannery O’Connor’s prayer journal, published a few years ago:

You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all one like I am should or could see; but what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing.

O’Connor was the original “hillbilly Thomist” and she referred to herself as such. So what exactly is this type of individual?

In 1955, the southern author Flannery O’Connor said of herself, “Everybody who has read Wise Blood thinks I’m a hillbilly nihilist, whereas. . .I’m a hillbilly Thomist.” She said that her fiction was concerned with the ways grace is at work among people who do not have access to the sacraments. The Thomist (one who follows the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas) believes that the invisible grace of God can be at work in visible things, just as the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, in the person of Christ. (source)

A group of Dominicans calling themselves The Hillbilly Thomists released an album this week and it sounds very cool. I love the old-timey pose they struck for the album cover.

From C.C. Pecknold at First Things:

But after nearly four years of performing, they’ve now produced their first album, and it is a veritable feast of Bluegrass banjo bliss! The twelve-song album includes nineteenth- and twentieth-century bluegrass classics, such as Jefferson Hascal’s “Angel Band” (prominently featured in the Cohen Brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou?), as well as original bluegrass arrangements of hymns such as “Amazing Grace” and “What Wondrous Love Is This.”

Many of the songs chosen for the album emphasize the theme of pilgrimage, and the vocal harmonies of songs like “Angel Band” remind us of our heavenly destination. From the opening track, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” we learn about how sweet it is to walk “in this pilgrim way.” The beautifully produced music video that promotes the new album features Br. Simon Teller’s pitch-perfect rendition of the pilgrim’s ballad, and the fourth track, “Poor Wayfaring Stranger,” which hints at the way Dominicans have understood their witness as a joyful sign of contradiction in a world that is passing away.

I’ve sampled a few tracks on iTunes and liked what I heard. While I’m not an avid bluegrass fan, thanks to Alison Kraus I listen to my fair share. They’ve already sold out of their physical inventory of CDs, but it can be ordered in digital format by way of iTunes and Amazon by visiting their page here.

Speaking of St. Thomas, how about a pint?

Matt Fradd recently began a podcast that has become quite successful called “Pints with Aquinas”. As I spend most of my social media time on Twitter these days that is where I first stumbled across his new podcast venture. I’ve not yet had time to listen to any but have a few downloaded and plan to give a listen this weekend. I’m a huge fan of “The Dumb Ox” as Aquinas was known, and have dipped my toes into his Summa Theologica a few times from their place on my bookshelf. You may find him on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or the world wide web.

I first noticed him when I saw a few cartoons retweeted that made me laugh out loud. A few of my favorites are below.

Prayer Time > Free Time

Having logged off Facebook until after New Year’s in order to avoid Star Wars spoilers, and cutting way back on Twitter, I’ve got some more time on my hands. We are at the halfway point of Advent and Christmas will soon be here (no matter how much Madison Avenue tries to convince you that it’s already here…it’s not.) So what am I doing with that extra time each day?

How much time do Catholics spend in prayer? Prayer is a great gift that one should find joy in. The cultivation of virtue—which is the outcome of habit (habitus)—requires striving. It requires time. It demands that we set aside time for God in the midst of our daily lives. To have an active prayer life is the result of the habit of prayer.

To this end the Rosary embodies the call to a virtuous prayer life better than most prayers because of the time it takes to pray the Rosary. Time is the one thing we can never get enough of according to some people. And the more time spent reading, praying, or contemplating God, the less time one is “making something of themselves” in the material world. For all the wonders that God has done for us it would be fitting of our appreciation and understanding of God’s wonders and love to devote time to him throughout the day. From small things greater things come. (source)

Happy Advent! And I wish for you all a very Merry and Blessed Christmas!

Random Thoughts from Thanksgiving weekend

My oldest son had as an assignment the task of interviewing someone who lived through the 1980s and chose me as his interviewee. I don’t recall much of the 20 minute interview conducted yesterday (Sunday) or its questions but I do remember addressing the subject of communication. I described for him the differences in my childhood and mine with regards to technological innovations such as cell phones, smartphones, texting, the internet and social media. As I described sitting on the stairs in the house where I grew up, stretching the phone cord as far as it would go so that I could sit higher on the stairs while talking to my girlfriend and eek out a little more privacy, I could see him chuckling in an attempt to comprehend my actions. Especially since he’d spent much of the extended Thanksgiving weekend exchanging texts with his girlfriend and as far as I know has never in his life seen a phone cord.

Remember these?

Remember these?

I closed that portion of the interview with words to the effect that while we have more quantity in our communications I’m not sure we have more quality. There are more means available than ever for us to access information and communicate with the world around us, but I questioned whether our ability for meaningful personal communication has suffered. I mentioned how we are more alone than ever.

And then this morning I saw this. I don’t post it to be a smarty-pants and say I’m prescient. I post it merely for edification. And for your information. We are together alone.

*****

How to counter this? Here’s a hint of what I use.

Prayer is man’s richest boon. It is his light, his nourishment, and his very life, for it brings him into communication with God, who is light, nourishment, and life.  – General Preface to The Liturgical Year, Vol. 1, by Dom Prosper Gueranger.

*****

As usual my plans for this time of year include a lot of reflection, study and prayer. I formed this habit fifteen years ago when I was a small business owner. Sales for my line of work (small business advertising) would slow down and allow me two weeks of unfettered review, planning, goal-setting, etc. For the last ten years I’ve been back in corporate America and no longer own my own business. While I don’t have all that free time I do still make it a point to reflect, to plan, and to pray.

*****

One of the ways I am doing this is by the use of three books and a journal. By combining The Better Part, the Catena Aurea and The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture I plan to slowly make my way through all four gospels and write reflections and points of interest as I go. I only started a few weeks ago but in that short time have learned more about Matthew’s Gospel than I had before, and I’m only just finished with the first chapter of verse.

[I realized that the above paragraph and the books I cite make me appear a pretty stuffy dude. All that’s missing is a tweed jacket with elbow patches and a pipe, right? Actually, I’m just a guy who has invested in some good sets of books over the past decade and is finally figuring out how to use them. I mean, the Catena Aurea was written and compiled by St. Thomas Aquinas for Pete’s sake! While it ain’t exactly a page-turner or an easy summer read, it’s perhaps the “richest” set of books I own. It took me over six or seven years to acquire the full ACC 29-volume set as I did it via an installment plan. One volume arrived every 2-3 months until the set was complete. See my note on books as an investment at the very end of this blog. Now please excuse me as I light my pipe and look for space to build more shelves.]

*****

Maybe I am just a fuddy-duddy. A fuddy-duddy that reads good books and drinks good Scotch.

*****

I also plan to read the recent work of Pope Francis: Evangelii Gaudium or The Joy of the Gospel. I hadn’t thought much about it and almost missed its release in all the hub-bub surrounding Thanskgiving and a busy week of work leading up to the holiday. But anything that can upset persons from both sides of the political aisle as varied as Rush Limbaugh and those at MSNBC is worth reading. Pope Francis appears to be upsetting people left and right and brings to mind another figure from two thousand years ago, a man controversial in his time who said some rather uncomfortable things.

*****

Thanksgiving morning

Thanksgiving morning

Thanksgiving morning found me waking up at my in-law’s farm in south central Nebraska. It was an overcast morning, chilled by a wind that swept across the fields. I showered and dressed for Thanksgiving Mass, and afterwards went for a walk on the farm with my breviary. I stopped at a spot facing south across the fields and prayed Morning Prayer while watching my brother-in-law’s cows walk in for some feed. His daughter introduced my young daughter to some of the cows later that morning, particularly those she named. There was Buttercup, Cookie Dough, Ginger, Oreo and Minty. Samantha explained in great detail to Sophie how some of the young cows lacked manners and she was putting them through a finishing school of sorts to teach them to not be so pushy at feeding time. Then she walked us to the chicken house, introduced us to the group, and allowed Sophie to feed them as well. Being in an enclosed space with a rooster crowing every few seconds brought me back to a childhood morning when I was my daughter’s age on my first sleepover at a friend’s house in eastern South Dakota where I grew up. Terry’s chickens were loud, too.

chicken

*****

The four-day extended weekend went by much too fast. Friday we were back at home and visited with my parents who were in town. Since we were blessed with terrific weather overall and were able to spend time outdoors my boys and I raked leaves and filled too many recyclable sacks. At one point I paused to smell the unique aroma that is dead, dusty leaves and wished for another unique smell of autumn that is no longer possible due to city fire codes: the smell made by small piles of leaves as they smolder and burn.

autumn leaves

We also disposed of all of the October pumpkins and gourds. They were getting a little soggy and soft.

tub-o-plenty

On Saturday afternoon while playing football in the backyard with my three kids we saw several “v” formations of geese flying and honking overhead.

geese

And on Saturday night while my oldest took a break from texting his girlfriend to treat her to a movie, a few of us had a movie night of our own at home. As you can see, Buster wasn’t really into the movie.

movie-night

*****

We finished our weekend on Sunday in Aurora, Nebraska, to attend the confirmation of my nephew at St. Mary’s Church. It was the first Mass they’d had in their small parish in six months after undergoing a beautiful restoration and renovation process. It was the first time since his installation a year ago that I’d attended an event with our new bishop, Bishop James Conley, and I was unsurprised that I was as impressed with him in person as I’d been while reading about him.

Afterwards we drove to my brother-in-law’s home to eat still more food and visit with family. As we were leaving Jonah and Sophie noticed that some sheep had escaped their pen and were wandering in an open space in the yard. After my nephews rounded them back into their pen my daughter did what she’s learned to do best over the weekend: feed farm animals.

Feed my sheep

Feed my sheep

*****

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, however you chose to celebrate it. I can’t honestly say that I took time to reflect upon blessings or “count my blessings”, but after re-reading the few blurbs written above perhaps it’s because I was too busy living those blessings and sanctifying Time. As I move into the next few weeks of Advent in which I look forward to Christmas, I hope you will also join me in your own personal ways.

Reflecting. Planning. And praying.

*****

[Personal Note: When I bought the hardcover Jubilee Edition of Gueranger’s fifteen volume set in 2001 I did spend some coin. However the price on Amazon quite honestly shocked me. To see new and unused editions of the set selling for almost $3,000 seems ridiculous. I don’t buy books as a monetary investment but as an intellectual and spiritual investment. The publisher, Loreto Publications, is now offering a softcover set of all fifteen volumes for a much more reasonable price in case you would be interested in this very interesting work of a favorite monk of mine. Yes, I do have favorite monks. Go figure.]

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Photo credits: All are mine, except the phone cord. For that one credit must go here.

December 23 – O Emmanuel

The O Antiphons | O Sapientia | O Adonai | O Radix Jesse |
O Clavis David | O Oriens | O Rex Gentium | O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel

LATIN: O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos Domine Deus noster.

ENGLISH: O Emmanuel, God with us, our King and lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: come to save us, O Lord our God.

Emmanuel. “God with us.”

Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

…it will sweep on into Judah as a flood, and, pouring over, it will reach up to the neck; and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Emmanuel. (Isaiah 8:8)

“Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic. Yes, the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us”. (Isaiah 33:22)

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

We have reached the final of the O Antiphons. Each of the four candles on our Advent wreaths have been lit. The Light is near.

Gerrit van Honthorst, Adoration of the Shepherds, 1622

Gerrit van Honthorst, Adoration of the Shepherds, 1622

Traditionally, each of the four candles on an Advent wreath has their own meaning. The first Sunday of Advent symbolizes Hope with the Prophet’s Candle reminding us that Jesus is coming. The second Sunday of Advent symbolizes Faith with the Bethlehem Candle reminding us of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. The third Sunday of Advent symbolizes Joy with the Shepherd’s Candle reminding us of the Joy the world experienced at the coming birth of Jesus. The fourth Sunday symbolizes Peace with the Angel’s Candle reminding us of the message of the angels: “Peace on Earth, good will toward men.”

The light again signifies Christ, the Light of the world. Some wreaths will include a white candle placed in the middle of the wreath, which represents Christ and is lit on Christmas Eve. Another tradition is to replace the three purple and one rose candles with four white candles, which will be lit throughout Christmas season.

Our expectation now finds joy in the certainty of fulfillment. We call Jesus by a most intimate and personal name: Emmanuel. God with us. We remember that in being born of the Virgin Mary the Creator of the Universe takes upon Himself our very flesh. He comes more near to us than ever before. Yet He is also to be exclaimed as our King, the judge and lawgiver whom we both honor and obey.

And it is in His being born in a simple cave and placed in a manger, used to feed lowly animals, that we are reminded of the simplicity and poverty surrounding the birth of Jesus as well as His life of humility. He would proclaim “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35) years after being born in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread.”

*****

The final O Antiphon is referred to in the following verse of O Come O Come Emmanuel. It is the first verse, and the one most commonly known:

Veni, Veni, Emmanuel captivum solve Israel,
qui gemit in exsilio, privatus Dei Filio.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!
Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel nascetur pro te Israel!

December 22 – O King

The O Antiphons | O Sapientia | O Adonai | O Radix Jesse |
O Clavis David | O Oriens | O Rex Gentium | O Emmanuel

O Rex Gentium

O Rex Gentium

LATIN: O Rex gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

ENGLISH: O King of the gentiles and their desired One, the cornerstone that makes both one: come, and deliver man, whom you formed out of the dust of the earth.

There are many references to Christ as King in both the New and Old Testaments. Here are but a few:

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:7)

He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:4)

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and wonderful are thy deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are thy ways, O King of the ages! (Revelation 15:3)

Who would not fear thee, O King of the nations? For this is thy due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like thee. They are both stupid and foolish; the instruction of idols is but wood! (Jeremiah 10:7-8)

He received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:14)

The antiphons so far have already alluded to the coming Messiah arriving not only for Israel but also for the purpose of converting the gentile nations and redeeming them as His own. He did so, coming to all nations once as a babe and man and we long for His coming again in glory. Men and women have many gods and kings; we see the result of this every day. Whether its King Pride, King Government or King Possessions, we set up for ourselves many kings and slavishly grovel before them and serve them while at the same time indignantly turning away from the One King to whom we owe our allegiance. The cornerstone, still rejected by men.

*****

The sixth O Antiphon is referred to in the following verse of O Come O Come Emmanuel:

Veni, Veni, Rex Gentium, Veni, Redemptor omnium,
ut salvas tuos famulos peccati sibi conscios.

O Come, Desire of the nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid every strife and quarrel cease
and fill the world with heaven’s peace.

December 21 – O Radiant Dawn

The O Antiphons | O Sapientia | O Adonai | O Radix Jesse |
O Clavis David | O Oriens | O Rex Gentium | O Emmanuel

O Dawn-antiphons

O Oriens

LATIN: O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol iustitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris et umbra mortis.

ENGLISH: O dawn of the east, brightness of light eternal, and sun of justice: come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Here are a few references from Scripture:

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. (Isaiah 9:2)

But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go forth leaping like calves from the stall. (Malachi 4:2)

Through the tender mercy of our God, when the day shall dawn upon us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:78-79)

newgrange_solsticeToday is the shortest day of the year and longest night of the year: the winter solstice. Yet today’s antiphon is O Radiant Dawn. During this, the darkest day of the year, the Church looks out from the darkness to the source of all life and light and hope. As if to illustrate this are two of my favorite passages from Scripture are from my favorite Gospel, the Gospel of St. John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-4)

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God. (John 3:16-21)

At Holy Mass of the ancient Church, Christians would face “East”, at least symbolically, so that they could greet the coming of the Savior, both in the consecration of the bread and wine and in the expectation of the glorious return of the King of Creation.

But not just during the times of the early Church 2,000 years ago. Man’s desire for a Savior, a Redeemer who is capable of ransoming from the darkness of our sins and from the blinding and numbing wound of ignorance from which we all suffer goes further back.

There is an ancient site in Ireland called Newgrange that contains what archeologists say is a passage tomb: a place to bury their dead. This tomb is designed so that

At dawn, from December 19th to 23rd, a narrow beam of light penetrates the roof-box and reaches the floor of the chamber, gradually extending to the rear of the chamber. As the sun rises higher, the beam widens within the chamber so that the whole room becomes dramatically illuminated. This event lasts for 17 minutes, beginning around 9am.

Pre-Christian pagan civilizations, too, sought light in the darkness. The desire for and knowledge of God is in our DNA. He is written on the human heart.

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The fifth O Antiphon is referred to in the following verse of O Come O Come Emmanuel:

Veni, Veni O Oriens, solare nos adveniens,
noctis depelle nebulas, dirasque mortis tenebras.

O Come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death’s dark shadow put to flight.

December 20 – O Key of David

The O Antiphons | O Sapientia | O Adonai | O Radix Jesse |
O Clavis David | O Oriens | O Rex Gentium | O Emmanuel

o-key-of-david


O Clavis David

LATIN: 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.

ENGLISH: O Key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens: come, and lead forth the captive who sits in the shadows from his prison.

Here are a few references from Scripture:

And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. (Isaiah 22:22)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens. I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut; I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. (Revelation 3:7-8)

St. Peter holding the keys to Heaven in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican

St. Peter holding the keys to Heaven in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican

Both the key and the scepter are traditionally used as symbols of kingly authority and power. Christ is the heir of David and the possessor of the kingdom. Jesus himself used this symbol when he showed the prophetic relationship of the earthly kingdom of David to the kingdom of God. All power and authority was given to him after the resurrection, and he entrusted this power to “bind and to loose” to Peter and the ministers of his Church in Matthew 6:19.

To point the way to His return Jesus gave us a visible point of reference as someone to exercise His own authority to open and to shut, to bind and to loose. He gave us His Church and the Vicar in the person of Peter and all of Peter’s successors. The key is David’s. It is the Lord’s. And the one who has the keys act’s with the authority of Christ and speaks with the voice of Christ.

As we head into Christmas, what are the sins, or chains, to which we are locked? What self-destructive habits, or even seemingly innocuous ones, do we perpetuate daily while at the same time telling ourselves it has to stop?

All of this serves to remind me that the Sacrament of Confession is available, and something I’d planned to do this Advent. I’ve yet to find anything to replace the grace and peace I experience afterwards and always walk out wondering why I don’t go more often.

Some chains bind tighter than others I guess.

*****

The fourth O Antiphon is referred to in the following verse of O Come O Come Emmanuel:

Veni, Clavis Davidica, regna reclude caelica,
fac iter tutum superum, et claude vias inferum.

O Come, Thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heav’nly home,
make safe the way that leads on high,
that we no more have cause to sigh.

In the Bleak Mid-Winter

02_o-street

07_driving

03_lights

06_lights

We’re getting our first snowfall of the season and it’s shaping up to be a doozy. I drove home late from the downtown office because I brought my laptop and work home with me just in case the weather gets as bad as they say it will. School is likely to be cancelled tomorrow, which will be disappointing to our kindergartner who was all set to bleat her one-word line in the Christmas program…as a sheep. I had to dig the shovels and snowblower out of the shed since we haven’t used them in almost ten months. Late winter/early spring 2012 was very mild. This meant I also needed to fill my two-gallon gas can with the 2-cycle engine mix so I ventured back out into the elements, taking my camera-phone along for the ride.

I’ve been meaning to post this video for a few weeks after discovering the poem by Christina Rossetti in the back of my breviary. Even without the snow it has seemed bleaker than bleak for some time now: economic and political stagnation, news filled with horror stories and a media all-too-seemingly eager to showcase the worst of humanity. It’s not just the frosty wind that moans or the earth that stands hard as iron. Just as water freezes to stone our hearts are susceptible to doing the same if we’re not careful and leave them exposed to the elements of this world for too long. Only just this afternoon I wrote to a long-time friend of mine, exchanging Christmas greetings and discussing one of our favorite topics: Middle-Earth and hobbits. She asked me how my Christmas season was going and this is my reply. I apologize in advance for the language, but emotions remain raw as they will for some time. It is the recognition of that rawness that has forced me to discipline myself from commenting or writing on a subject too painful to grasp.

As for my Christmas, well….it’s been a struggle this Advent. I have to be honest. Since the election I have been in a massive funk trying to wrap my brain around the mind-set of the country, but when the tragedy of last Friday occurred in Connecticut I went numb. I have largely avoided the news, the internet and even Facebook. As we both have children that age I know you understand. Having a child of any age…but they were 6 and 7. What a complete fucking bastard. I’ve had to withdraw from the media to keep my sanity. I’ve instead immersed myself in prayer, my family, my parish, any good works or service I can provide…anything to keep moving forward and avoid not just the news of that awful day, but also the political football those who would seize a political opportunity have made of those poor children and people before they are even buried.

To keep from falling into loathing hatred or depression I serve. It is in serving that I love. And that’s what keeps me from collapsing into a blubbering zombie.

That is what I’ve done. Looked anywhere and everywhere for ways to serve, one fellow human being at a time. It does help, and when my eyes are on others they are not on myself. That has made all the difference.

During Midnight Mass next week is probably when I will release it all and let it go. I hope the people sitting around me can ignore the sobs of gratitude and release.

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

We have only a week of Advent waiting to go. The good news of course is that Heaven cannot hold Him and into the stable of our hearts He comes. To we poor, small people He comes.

May we react to Our Savior’s coming with as much exuberance and jubilation as our family’s 10-month old beagle Buster did tonight when encountering snow for the first time.

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