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.
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.
I was taking myself very seriously the other day. I wasn’t sure how I could solve (or survive) global warming, the health care crisis, the rise in violent crime, and all the diseases I read about in magazines. Modern life is complex, and it’s easy for me to get lost in its intricacies. I had a thought about Jesus that brought comfort and led to a poem of sorts:
He is Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
And Mary’s son.
The Great High Priest, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,
Author and Finisher, the Chief Cornerstone, King of Kings,
And calmer of storms.
Desire of Nations, Sun of Righteousness, Bread of Life,
And friend of sinners.
He is of the highest complexity and the greatest simplicity.
He alone is God even when I pretend to be.
The Nativity of the Virgin Mary is celebrated on September 8th. However, we’re celebrating it today, because it falls on a Sunday this year. This is a feast of great exultation! The antiphons, hymns and texts used are all joyous in character.
The feast was first celebrated in the East in the mid 6th century; moved to Rome in the 7th, and had spread throughout the West by the 8th and 9th centuries.
The Lauds hymn in Mode 2, is used for both the Nativity of Mary, and the Annunciation of the Lord. The text is from the 7-8th century and is rich with imagery in it’s description of her role.
v.1) O gloriosa Domina, excelsa super sidera,
qui te creavit provide,lactas sacrato ubere.
O glorious Lady, high above the stars,
to him who created you providentially, you give suck from your sacred breast.
v.2) Quod Eva tristis abstulit, tu reddis almo germine;
intrent ut astra flebiles, sternis benigna semitam.
What sad Eve took away, you restored by your gracious seed;
that the sorrowing may enter the stars, you, O gentle one, smooth the way.
v. 3) Tu regis alti ianua et porta lucis fulgida;
vitam datam per Virginem, gentes redemptae plaudite.
You are the door of the high king, and the shining gate of light.
life given through a virgin, you redeemed people, applaud.
v.4) Patri sit et Paraclito tuoque Nato gloria,
qui veste te mirabili circumdederunt gratiae. Amen.
To the Father, and to the Paraclete and to your Son, be glory,
who surrounded you with the wonderful garment of grace. Amen.
The gospel reading today was the story of Mary and Martha. I cringe every time I hear that story, because I know I would be a Martha. Her voice rings as my own in my head. “Don’t you see what I’m doing? Can’t you see she’s not helping? Do something.” Before she even had a chance to think, Martha had reprimanded the King of the Universe. And what makes me cringe almost as much is His reply. He says her name, not once, but twice, and the love practically spills off the pages of scripture. And then he cuts right to the heart of her, “you are anxious and distracted by many things. There is need of only one thing…” And with that one phrase it is as though he slices through her self-imposed tether, and sets her free. Only one thing is needed.
One sister is bold and quick of action, the other reflective and spiritually sensitive. Both are welcome and loved by God.
It may change tomorrow, but for today’s journey (a small chunk of time seems more manageable!), I will annunciate forward, actively, trusting you to keep me in your care.
by Sr Fidelis
The Feast of the Annunciation, normally celebrated on March 25th, was transferred to today, April 8th. Any feast which falls during Holy Week or Easter Week is moved to a later date, because of the importance of these sacred days in the Church’s calendar.
The Annunciation was celebrated in the East as early as 430 AD. Luke’s Gospel gives us the account of the Angel Gabriel’s visit to the Virgin Mary.
V 1. How can this be done in me, who have not known a man? The Spirit of the Lord will come over you ,and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
V. 2 Therefore the holy one to be born of you will be called the Son of God.