by Sister Fidelis
This week we celebrated the Dormition or Assumption of Mary. In preparation for this feast I pulled out a CD recorded by the Gloriae Dei Cantores Men’s Schola entitled, “The Chants of Mary.” As I listened I was struck with the richness of the chant written in Mary’s honor, and thought again about how well-known these pieces are — pieces such as Salve Regina, Ave Maria, Regina Caeli, Ave Maris Stella. These are the beloved chants that many congregations can still sing by heart. Here, I think, is an example of our “human-ness” – the part of us that will still, even in our old age, respond to and be touched by the love and care of a true Mother, and the honor and respect we feel toward one who was willing to be simple and vulnerable, and to accept of all that God asked of her.
Taking a moment to look at Salve Regina a couple of thoughts come to mind. The simplicity and tenderness of the piece are evident in the simple structure, lack of melismas and “frills.” The line of the melody sweeps up and down peaking on important words and thoughts in a most straight-forward and child-like manner. The prayer that these words spell out has lasted through the centuries, still as pertinent as ever. Sometimes it is important just to take a moment to enjoy a little gem such as this. Listen here!
By Faithful Finch
We received a beautiful Christmas card with a picture of Mary & Joseph, and the shepherds huddled in light around Baby Jesus and the words, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” I put it up on our bathroom mirror to remind me as I dry my hair to “prepare Him room.” But how do I do that? I feel so small in the pains and inadequacies of my puny life as I scurry from thing to thing to make space for Christ the King. As I wash my face at the end of the day, and look at the beauty and simplicity of that card, I once again feel convicted from the words, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” I say, “Ok, I want to get there. I do, but all I have to offer is sin and the pain that comes with it. I’m sorry. Help me.”
A peace comes on me as I realize that not one person in this Nativity scene came to “prepare Him room” without pain, without sacrifice, but with so much blessing. That’s what the preparing is all about: making room every day of the year.
Paul gives us an astonishing understanding of waiting in the New Testament book of Romans, as rendered by Eugene Peterson, “Waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.” With such motivation, we can wait as we sense God is indeed with us, and at work within us, as he was with Mary as the Child within her grew.
Though the protracted waiting time is often the place of distress, even disillusionment, we are counseled in the book of James to “let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete.” Pain, grief, consternation, even despair, need not diminish us. They can augment us by ading to the breadth and depth of our experience, by enriching our spectrum of light and darkness, by keeping us from impulsively jumping into action before the time is ripe, before the “the fullness of time.” I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope.
By Luci Shaw
Excerpted from God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, Edited by Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe (Paraclete Press)
By Melodious Monk
Yesterday, we celebrated the feast of the Annunciation, a feast that once again comes wholly unexpected at this time of year. In reading the story again, I’m struck by two things. Firstly, this visit from the angel on this March day, not Christmas, is the moment that God entered our world in the flesh; and secondly, on this day that Mary made her famous “fiat” — but she could have said no. While I easily glide over both these events, hardly thinking more than, “of course that happened, the angel came and Mary agreed, and that’s wonderful and amazing and we love her for it!”
But I would do well to take a moment this week to ponder the amazing and multi-layered spiritual events that happened on this day. In his book on saints, Father Alban Butler said this about the feast day: “The world, as heaven had decreed, was not to have a Savior till she had given her consent to the angel’s proposal; she gives it, and behold the power and efficacy of her submissive fiat!”
I see in this statement God giving Mary (and I believe all of us) a choice to say yes. Not a one time offer, but daily, even many times a day we are given “angels’ proposal’s” or choices. I tend to forget that in all situations, I have a choice for or against God. On this feast, Mary’s example reminds us that the Savior will come readily after we say yes.
By Sr. Nun Other
At Christmas, we have the opportunity to dwell in the fruition of this beautiful imagery: Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. (Psalm 85:10) We kneel at a manger to discover a mystery, a holy riddle, beyond human reasoning. He is Mary’s son, entrusted to Joseph, a carpenter from Nazareth. He is God’s son, sung to by angels and visited by kings. He is the reconciliation of all that divides us, and, if we follow his footsteps, the one who makes us whole.
By Renaissance Girl
John the Baptist astounds me. His entire existence was about Jesus. And not just in the way we endeavor to “live for Jesus” — but literally — all about Him, from the moment John leaped in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice (perhaps eager to get started on his task), to the moment he submitted to the will of God and baptized Christ (despite his humble protest that it should be the other way around). He was beheaded at the whim of a girl and her mother, because his message to “prepare” threatened their comfortable existence. Everything he did — wild and confronting as it was — was meant to point to Jesus. And then John quietly stepped aside when He arrived.
I am astounded by this, because this is not how I live at all. But what if I could? What if, instead of seeking accolades myself, I was ALL about Jesus? My prayer as we draw closer to Christmas, is for the grace to become a little more like John the Baptist.
By Sr. Nun Other
Yesterday, I experienced quiet in a room with several people. Each was absorbed in their work, but not isolated from the other. It was an active quiet, and brought to mind my personal Advent reading for the day: Luke 1:26-38, the Annunciation. There is no written proof, but traditionally, Mary is pictured alone, in quiet work, when Gabriel appears. The scene unfolds (at least in my mind) in discreet tranquility, in a quiet village in Nazareth, a quiet event, that will one day alter the course of humankind.
By Melodious Monk
I don’t often think about the Holy Spirit very much at Christmas time. We prepare through Advent for a small baby, for a Savior, asking God to prepare our hearts for him to come. But what about the other part of the Trinity? For with Jesus came also the Holy Spirit and his gifts to us. Through Jesus we are given wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord; the 7 gifts of the spirit. That’s a pretty emboldening list of credentials to put on a resume! Yet most of the time we are too arrogant, or are too prideful, or too self-sufficient, or too un-wanting to use these gifts of grace. Like Mary, we need no pre-requisites to receive the Trinity’s gifts this year. In faith, imagine if we all together say “yes” anew, how much good-tidings and good-cheer could be unleashed in our lives and the lives of others.
by Renaissance Girl
I received a special gift this past week. I’m about as white, Anglo-Saxon as they come – Irish, Swedish, Scottish three generations back, but my friends have teased me about having some Russian Orthodox blood in me. Ever since visiting Russia with the choir in 1998, and then again with our youth group in 2002, I have hoped to go back someday. There is something about it that I love – a depth and history to the country and the people that just grabs hold of your heart. Especially in worship. I’ve never seen people so eager to be close to the Eucharist – so unconscious of the personal space that we Americans fight to preserve. They press in and past each other to draw close to the altar. And their music – impossible to describe with words how years of persecution and perseverance and love pour out in achingly beautiful harmonies.
So earlier this week, I happened to mention to a friend that I was wanting to pray the rosary, something I used to do as a teenager, but had lost my rosary years ago. The next morning she showed up at work and said “I have these two rosaries if you’d like to use one.” She handed me a red, knotted rope with beads and said “this one was blessed by the Patriarch.”
It’s been in my pocket and passed through my fingers since then. It helps find words for what’s in my heart.