A worthwhile Christmas read
I am indebted to TomKay, owner of Monastic Life list, for passing this along to me. It hits the nail on the head. JL
When the now infamous White House social secretary Desiree Rogers revealed to The New York Times that the Obamas were planning a "non-religious" Christmas for the "people's house," she put herself at the center of an entirely different, but no less fiery, controversy -- the Christmas wars.
Early this year, during a luncheon with other former social secretaries, Rogers announced that part of the Obamas' new spirit of inclusiveness (ironically) would exclude references to Christianity during Christmas. Most notably, the Obamas would not be displaying the 18th century White House nativity scene. An Obama official confirmed that there were internal discussions regarding the manger display, but in the end, tradition (along with post-state dinner scandal fatigue) trumped, and the Holy Family was not banned from the East Room after all.
Meanwhile, Dr. James Dobson's influential conservative Christian organization, Focus on the Family, is promoting StandforChristmas.com, a Web site that helps shoppers rank "Christmas-friendly" retailers (most friendly: Bass Pro Shops; least friendly: American Eagle Outfitters). The site reminds visitors that retailers "want your patronage and your gift-shopping dollars" and then asks, "but do they openly recognize Christmas?"
Sadly, both approaches precisely miss the point of this sacred and beautiful holiday.
It makes zero sense to recruit retailers in this crusade when consumerism is the reason why Christmas has morphed into a hollow shopping ritual that, come January, leaves too many families with debt hangovers and an empty feeling inside. Demanding that store clerks cheerily proclaim "Merry Christmas" as they ring up your power tools and iPod does precious little to put the Christ-child back in Christmas.
To the Obamas and others pushing the ridiculous notion of a "non-religious" Christmas, it would do them well to consider that respect for other people's faith is not accomplished by hiding your own. If the goal of the White House is to remain neutral about part of our nation's heritage, Christianity, or, for that matter, about the religious beliefs held by many of its current residents, fine with me. But if that's the case, then please spare us the tab for the reported 50,000 visitors who will be cocktailed and dined this month in an endless succession of banal and meaningless "holiday" parties.
If Christians truly desire to bring sacredness and religious significance back to Christmas, then it's silly to look to retailers or the First Family. Instead, let it begin, as charity does, at home. Families can start by reintroducing the season of Advent and the spirit of reflection and spiritual preparation that once occupied the four weeks leading up to Christmas.
Instead of allowing ourselves to get swept up in the whirlwind of "holiday" parties, useless gift exchanges and harried shopping, we can use those weeks to prepare our hearts and homes in meaningful ways for the Prince of Peace. Make time for family prayer, singing and the lighting of the Advent wreath. Choose cards and decorations that have religious significance.
How many homes have a prominently displayed nativity scene at Christmas time? My guess is not too many. The same goes for Christmas carols. Does your playlist include more Frosty and Santa Baby than Silent Night and Handel's Messiah? How about keeping those lights on and the tree in the house for the twelve days of Christmas - you know the twelve that follow Christmas day. Or consider caroling or having a Christmas gathering after December 25th? We have only ourselves to blame when we lose these beautiful traditions.
Should Christians be concerned about the secularization of Christmas? Sure they should. I resent school "winter" concerts, "holiday" parades, and the ridiculous fear that prevents people from wishing each other "Merry Christmas!" with total abandon.
But Christmas starts with us. In our hearts. In our homes. And in a very simple decision to reclaim the silence, joy, and quiet simplicity of that first Christmas in Bethlehem when God chose to speak to mankind in the small cry of a newborn baby.
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- +PAXPlease continue prays for the recovery of our good Brother Jerome.
Lord, help us all as You know and will. God's will is best. All is mercy and
grace. God is never absent, praise Him! Thanks so much. JL
February 14, June 15, October 15
Chapter 12: How the Morning Office Is to Be Said
The Morning Office on Sunday shall begin with Psalm 66
recited straight through without an antiphon.
After that let Psalm 50 be said with "Alleluia,"
then Psalms 117 and 62,
the Canticle of Blessing (Benedicite) and the Psalms of praise (Ps.
then a lesson from the Apocalypse to be recited by heart,
the responsory, the verse,
the canticle from the Gospel book,
the litany and so the end.
Ever notice how a loving parent makes allowances so the kids WON'T
slip up or be discouraged? Good teachers do the same thing. Some
things are made so deliberately easy that all of the students can
generally make it through the hoop!
St. Benedict does this with both morning Offices, beginning Vigils
and Lauds with 2 psalms that are said every day. He even stresses
that, at Lauds, the 66th Psalm is to be said slowly, so that the
monastics may have time to gather.
Those two Offices are the time people are most likely to be running
late, either because they had to bound out of bed at the last minute,
or because the "necessities of nature" break between Vigils and Lauds
delayed them unexpectedly. It is worth noting that only with these
two Offices, when tardiness can so easily occur, does the Holy Rule
make such allowance. For a further bit of trivia, these four Psalms
are repeated every day: one could miss them several times in a week
and still have said all 150 Psalms in that week.
Sometimes people (including, alas, ourselves!) can make unrealistic
conditions and demand that others meet them. The concept of failure
is built into those demands. We fence people about with our own
standards that they could not possibly meet, then condemn them for
failing to meet them! What a sad and tragic game.
Take a self-inventory and check to see if there is anyone you dislike so
intensely that they cannot be right, no matter what they do. If there are any
such folks, it's time for you to change, not them! I recall, alas, one pastor
who annoyed me so much that even when he used incense (something I ordinarily
love,) I carped to myself that he didn't do it right. With me, he just could NOT
win. Sigh... When things get that bad, it's ourselves who need the overhaul,
not the presumed "offender."
St. Benedict, by his example, teaches us to be the exact opposite. He
shows us that we should be gentle and loving, that we should not be
about setting burdens on others that are guaranteed to make them fail
or quit or be discouraged. If we have received such kindness, we
should pass it on!
Love and prayers,