Tonight’s forecast for here is snow, perhaps a lot and cold to boot!
From Pope Benedict via Asia News Italy:
Christian martyrdom – still current today – is “is exclusively an act of love towards God and all mankind including persecutors”: this was how Benedict XVI introduced today’s Angelus prayer on the feast of St Stephen, the first martyr of the Church. Speaking to the thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter’s square, the pontiff recalled that “the deep bond which unites Christ to the first martyr Stephen, is divine Charity: the same love which pushed the Son of God to strip himself and be obedient onto death on the cross (cfr Fil 2,6-8), also pushed the Apostles and martyrs to give their lives for the Gospel”.
A sign of this “love” are prayers offered up for “enemies” and “persecutors”, by the many “sons and daughters of the church down through the centuries”. This sets Christian martyrs apart from those who are victims of self-held ideals.
Benedict XVI then underlined how martyrdom has always accompanied the profession of the faith and still today remains deeply actual: “still today – he said – we receive news from across the world of missionaries, priests, bishops, religious brothers and sisters, and lay faithful who are persecuted, tortured, imprisoned and denied their freedom or stopped from professing their faith because they are disciples of Christ or apostles of the Gospel: often some suffer and even die because of their communion with the universal Church and their loyalty to the Pope”.
The pope did not mention specific places or situations, but held up for examination, the “map of martyrdom” can be traced from nations in Latin America to Africa and Asia, in particular Islamic nations (“persecuted, tortured, imprisoned …”) and China (“some suffer and even die because of their communion with the universal Church and their loyalty to the Pope”). India can be added to the list, from where news reaches us today of Christians killed and churches burned.
Quoting from his recent encyclica Spe salvi (n. 37), he recalled how the experience of the Vietnamese martyr Paolo Le-Bao-Thin (who died in 1857), in which “sufferance was transformed into joy through the power of hope with faith provides”.
“The Christian martyr”, underlined Benedict XVI, “like Christ and through his intimate union with Him, accepts the cross, and through it transforms death into an act of love. That which on the outside is brutal violence, on the inside becomes an act of love and total giving. Thus violence is transformed into love and death into life’ (Homily at Marienfeld – Cologne, 20 August 2005). The Christian martyr realises the victory of love over hate and death”.
“Let us pray – concluded the pope – for all those who suffer because of their loyalty to Christ and his Church. Blessed Mary, Queen of Martyrs, help us to be credible witnesses of the Gospel, answering our enemies with the disarming power of truth and charity”.
For those watching Midnight Mass from the Vatican, you may want to read this fine article on what to watch for during the ligurgy, i.e. the enthronement of the baby Jesus on the throne used at the Second Vatican Council to enthrone the Word of God, the seventh candle on the altar and other tidbits found here.
The “O Antiphons” continue, today’s from Father Mark:
O Key of David and Sceptre of the House of Israel , who opens and no one can shut,
who shuts and no one can open (Is 22:22; Rev 3:7): Come and bring the prisoners forth from the prison cell, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death (Is 42:7; Ps 106:13-14; Lk 1:9).
The Key of the House of David
The antiphon draws its invocation from the twenty–second chapter of Isaiah. The Lord says to Shebna, the master of the household of King Hezekiah, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Helkias, and I will clothe him with thy robe, and will strengthen him with thy girdle, and will give thy power into his hand: and he shall be as a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Juda. And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder: and he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut and none shall open. And I will fasten him as a peg in a sure place, and he shall be for a throne of glory to the house of his father” (Is 22:20–23).
A Key Borne on the Shoulder
Eliakim, whose name means, “God has raised up,” is a figure of Christ. Christ is Lord and Master over the household of the Father. On the shoulder of Christ was placed the key of the Cross, the key that opens what no mortal can open, and that closes what no mortal can close. In the image of the great key placed on the shoulder we recognize a figure of the Cross placed on the shoulder of Christ, the key by which heaven is opened and hell vanquished.Before Thee A Door
The second biblical source of the antiphon’s invocation is in the third chapter of the Apocalypse. “And to the angel of the church of Philadelphia, write: These things saith the Holy One and the true one, he that hath the key of David; he that openeth, and no man shutteth; shutteth, and no man openeth. I know thy works.” (Ap 3:7). Read on! The following verse is crucial: “Behold, I have given before thee a door opened, which no man can shut: because thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word and hast not denied my name” (Ap 3:8). The open door set before us is like the door opened before the Virgin Mary by the message of the Angel. It is comforting to hear the Lord say to each of us, “Thou hast a little strength” (Rev 3:8). Our little strength is no obstacle to the designs of God, “ because no word shall be impossible with God” (Lk 1:37).
Out of Darkness
The O Antiphons are composed of two parts: the invocation beginning with the word “O,” and the petition beginning with the cry, “Veni.” The petition of today’s antiphon is derived from the Song of the Servant given in the forty-second chapter of Isaiah. There, the Lord God presents his servant whom he upholds, the Chosen in whom his soul delights” (Is 42:3). The Servant is given as “a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness” (Is 47:7).
The Orient From on High
The second text related to the petition of the antiphon is a familiar one because we sing it every morning at Lauds in the Benedictus. “Through the bowels of the mercy of our God . . . the Orient from on high hath visited us: to enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death: to direct our feet into the way of peace” (Lk 1:79). The way of peace is the way opened before us by the Cross-bearing Christ. Christ, with the key of the Cross, opens the door before us.
Into the Mystery of the Eucharist
The way of peace leads to the altar and into the mystery of the Eucharist, the actualization of the Kingdom here and now. From the altar, the light of the Resurrection penetrates into all that, in our lives, remains shadowy and locked. With the Virgin of the Annunciation, we have only to believe in Love and, believing, say faith’s simple “Yes.” Our “little strength” is of no consequence. Let us go in to the Eucharist to be overshadowed by the power of Love. Love will do the rest for “God is love” (1 Jn 4:16 ) and “ no word shall be impossible with God” (Lk 1:37).
The third “O Antiphon” from Jeanne Kun:
O Root of Jesse, you stand as a sign for the peoples; before you kings shall keep silence and to you all nations shall have recourse. Come, save us, and do not delay.
Isaiah 52:13, 15; 53:2: “See, my servant shall prosper…So shall he startle many nations, because of him kings shall stand speechless. …He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot”.
The second “O Antiphon” from Jeanne Kun:
O Adonai and Ruler of the House of Israel, you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and on Mount Sinai gave him your law. Come, and with outstretched arm redeem us.
Exodus 3:2: “An angel of the Lord appeared to him in fire flaming out of a bush. As he looked on, he was surprised to see that the bush, though on fire, was not consumed”.
Exodus 6:6: “Therefore say to the Israelites: I am Yahweh. I will free you from the enforced labor of the Egyptians and will deliver you from their slavery. I will rescue you by my outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment”.
Today begins the “O” Antiphons that lead us up to Christmas, from Jeanne Kun:
O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High and, reaching from beginning to end, you ordered all things mightily and sweetly. Come, and teach us the way of prudence.
This antiphon, like all the others to follow, is based on a composite of Scripture texts.
Sirach 24:3: “From the mouth of the Most High I came forth, and like mist covered the earth”.
Wisdom 8:1: “She reaches from end to end mightily and governs all things well”.
From the Papa Ratzinger Forum:
“Gaudete in Domino semper” – Rejoice in the Lord always! (Fil 4,4).
These words of St. Paul open the Holy Mass of the third Sunday of Advent, which is therefore called Gaudete Sunday. The Apostle exhorts Christians to rejoice because the coming of the Lord – that is, his glorious return – is certain and won’t be long in coming.
The Church makes this its own invitation while it prepares to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord, looking ever more to Bethlehem these days.
In fact, we await with certain hope the second coming of Christ because we have known the first. The mystery of Bethlehem reveals God-with-us, the God who is near us, not simply in a spatial and temporal sense. He is near us because he has ‘wedded’, one might say, our humanity. He took the human condition upon himself, choosing to be like us in every way, except in sin, so that we may become like him.
Christian joy comes from this certainty: God is near, he is with me, he is with us, in joy and in pain, in health and in sickness, as a friend and as a faithful spouse. This joy remains even through trial, in suffering itself, and it remains not superficially, but in the depth of the person who trusts in God and confides in him.
Some might ask: Is this joy still possible today? The answer is given, with their lives, by men and women of every age and social condition, who are happy to consecrate their existence to others.
Was not Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, in our day, an unforgettable witness of true evangelical joy? She lived daily in contact with poverty, human degradation, death. Her soul knew the ordeal of the dark night of faith, and yet, she gave everyone the smile of God.
We read in one of her writings: “We await Paradise with impatience, where God is, but it is in our power to be in Paradise starting here and starting now. To be happy with God means to love like him, to help others like him, to give like him, to serve like him” (La gioia di darsi agli altri [The joy of giving oneself to others], Ed. Paoline, 1987, p. 143).
Yes, joy enters the heart of whoever places himself in the service of the little ones and the poor. God takes up his dwelling in he who loves this way, and the soul is in a state of joy.
If instead one makes happiness an idol, then one loses his way and it is truly difficult to find the joy whereof Jesus speaks. Unfortunately, this is the proposition of cultures which place individual happiness in place of God, a mentality which finds its emblematic effect in the search for pleasure at any cost, in the use of drugs for escape, as a refuge in artificial paradises which then prove to be totally illusory.
Dear brothers and sisters, even at Christmas, we can lose our way, replacing the true feast with something that does not open the heart to the joy of Christ.
May the Virgin Mary help all Christians and men in search of God to arrive at Bethlehem and encounter the Baby born for us, for the salvation and happiness of all mankind.
From Fr. Mark:
What the Latin gives as, “gaudete,” and the English as “rejoice,” is astonishingly rich in Saint Paul’s Greek. Any one translation would be inadequate. Paul says, “chaírete.” It is the very same word used by the angel Gabriel to greet the Virgin of Nazareth. “Chaire, kecharitoménè!” “Joy to you, O full of grace!” (Lk 1:28). The word is untranslatable. Just when we think we have seized its meaning once and for all, another door opens inside it. “Chaírete” was the ordinary greeting of the Greeks. It embraces health, salvation, loveliness, grace, and joy, all at once. In the mouth of Christians, the taste of the word is indescribable. “Grace to you, and loveliness, and joy in the Lord; again I wish you grace, and loveliness, and joy” (Phil 4:4). Paul’s greeting is not so much an imperative — a command to be joyful — as it is the imparting of a gift in the Lord. “What I wish for you, what I send you, what I give you in the Lord is grace, and loveliness, and joy.”
He had, I still have a good friendship with Dr. Lena Allen Shore, mentioned in Rocco in comments about the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Sambi:
He’s helped light a Hindu rangoli before holding a dialogue with Deepak Chopra and paid tribute to Wojtyla’s beloved Lena Allen-Shore, a Holocaust survivor and longtime friend with whom he’s shared his love of Jerusalem — the place where, in a 2004 interview, he said he “met Jesus,” who had previously been “a beautiful dream somewhere up in the sky” for him.
Medical leave that is…(I don’t think he’s been around since his incident at home, so it seems to me this isn’t news, since one would presume he’s been on a medical leave of absence, but I’m guessing this is a canonical move that paves the way perhaps for an early retirement), from KOAT:
Roman Catholic Bishop Donald Pelotte, who suffered an apparent fall at his home this summer, is taking a medical leave of absence.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Gallup said Pelotte has informed Vatican officials of his decision.
Matt Doyle said the Rev. James E. Walker will take over administrative duties of the diocese.