Dec. 23: O Emmanuel
Since the 24th is First Vespers of Christmas, actually beginning the
solemnity, today's antiphon is the last of the great O Antiphons. The
Roman Church formerly made more extensive use of the Jewish custom of
beginning feasts the night before, spanning sunset to sunset, but now
reserves that practice for Sundays and solemnities. Too bad, in a
way. First Vespers of many lesser feasts used to be a joy, and it was
a further connection to our Jewish roots.
"O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of Nations and their
Savior: come, and save us, O Lord our God!"
Emmanuel- God with us- this was a radical fulfillment of the
Messianic prophecies which the Jews had never dreamed would happen: a
divine Messiah. Though the promises all refer to and fit Jesus, the
Messiah expected by the Israelites was not divine. To their
reasoning, none could be literally divine, really the Son of God.
Their expectation of a saving ruler did not assume that God would
share His very nature and essence with the Anointed One.
Emmanuel reflects an entirely Christian and entirely new theology,
one of Incarnation and an immanence hitherto unknown. God with us,
sharing every hardship of humanity but sin in His own flesh, dwelling not in
a Temple spiritually, but as flesh and blood among humanity, wishing
to remain with us until the end of time. This is a dramatic contrast
to the affection, yet distance with which the Lord was regarded in
the Old Testament.
Emmanuel- God with us- it finally springs the liturgical construct
of "waiting" all these weeks and admits that we knew He was there all
along. Advent has that flavor, of a pretended waiting for Him Whom we
know to have already arrived. We place ourselves in the shoes of
those who had Him not in order to better appreciate Him Whom we have
had all along.
We hail Christ as King and Lawgiver (Isaiah 32:22,) and echo the
dying words of Jacob in Gen. 49:10, " The scepter will not pass from
Judah, nor a ruler from his thigh, till He comes that is to be sent.
He is the expectation of the nations." We ask Him to save us. The
Latin "Salva" , the imperative form of "to save," is related
to "salus", health, wholeness. We are asking for a holistic well-
being of mind, soul and body when we thus ask to be saved. We
are, in fact, asking to finally be made perfect, fully whole and sound,
something only God can do!
Lastly, we no longer beat around the bush, (burning or otherwise!) We
come right out and directly call Jesus "our Lord and our God." It is
the crowning acclamation of faith to a long season of expectation.
A blessed late Advent and Christmas to you all. I have enjoyed
sharing these with you because I truly feel they are the best poetry
left in the liturgy of the West, even beating out the now pared-down
Exultet at Easter!
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A blessed Easter to all! Christ is risen, truly He is risen!!
Prayers, please, for the spiritual and temproal welfare of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them:
Luke, house sale - his house has been on the market for over a year and he really needs to sell it and downsize after the end of a long-term relationship.
Deo Gratias, V. has been offered and very limited place next year on the post-graduate course of his dreams...now he needs the money to pay for it.
Funding for D. to further his studies, or inspiration for something even better.
Continued prayers for baby Grace and her family. She is stable but still on oxygen in the house 24/7, and is waiting to see a specialist.
Jual, young mother of three battling breast cancer. Nodules found in her lung. Having surgery Sunday.
Prayers for safe journey, and back, for an extended family going on a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land for almost 2 weeks, and prayers for a wonderful time.
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
April 8, August 8, December 8
Chapter 55: On the Clothes and Shoes of the Brethren
For bedding let this suffice:
a mattress, a blanket, a coverlet and a pillow.
The beds, moreover, are to be examined frequently by the Abbot,
to see if any private property be found in them.
If anyone should be found to have something
that he did not receive from the Abbot,
let him undergo the most severe discipline.
And in order that this vice of private ownership
may be cut out by the roots,
the Abbot should provide all the necessary articles:
cowl, tunic, stockings, shoes, belt,
knife, stylus, needle, handkerchief, writing tablets;
that all pretext of need may be taken away.
Yet the Abbot should always keep in mind
the sentence from the Acts of the Apostles
that "distribution was made to each according as anyone had need"
In this manner, therefore,
let the Abbot consider weaknesses of the needy
and not the ill-will of the envious.
But in all his decisions
let him think about the retribution of God.
There is a tendency, both within the cloister and without, to hunt
for dramatic ascetic practices, while ignoring the truly more
difficult matters that lack the fanfare. Lights! Camera! Action! We
must always be wary of the Nora Desmonds of our hearts, who are
always willing to say, a la Sunset Boulevard: "I'm ready for my close-
up now, Mr. DeMille." How we do love to star, even at self-
Well, there's two bad pieces of new for Ms. Desmond et al. First the
penances we choose are usually not the most effective ones. The
best ones are imposed by God or our situation of daily duty and they
become tremendous means of grace when we patiently embrace them.
Second, the ones we do choose can be terrible risks for pride, which
undoes our efforts so insidiously.
What on earth does this have to do with the current chapter? Easy-
and very, very hard, too! The great ascesis here is to aim at
limiting ourselves to "all the necessary articles." There is a
challenge here for everyone from Abbot Primate to newest Oblate
novice. It is a challenge we shall likely never meet fully in life,
so it is something we can always be profitably picking at!
Do you know anyone at all, in any vocation, who has absolutely
nothing beyond what they need? I have known a few; alas I cannot
say it of myself. I think this is an area where we can all look at a challenging
grace-filled ascetic struggle that is placed on us by the Holy Rule.
Down-sizing actually feels great, once one gets over the consumerist
terror of doing so! One will quickly find that, in this area, less
really *IS* more, (unlike poetry and art, architecture and liturgy,
alas...! Minimalism there gets old fast...) We become freer when we
let go of things which hold us more than we realize.
We can get buried in things we are saving to complete unfinalized
plans that will never come to fruition, and while we save them, we
are disheartened by our own failure to use them. Jettison, m'dears,
jettison. As the one Desert Father used to say to the brethren,"Flee,
brothers, flee!" so do I say: "Jettison!"
This has the further charm of fitting well into a depressive's sofa
paralysis, too. Recall how I told you about that resolution to make
three things, no matter how tiny, better each day? Works here, too!
And you will often find to your delight that the trip to dumpster or thrift
shop donation includes 7, 8, or more things!
Keep chipping away and the mountain of our false hearts' desires,
beloveds. And one day may all those chips be ground to sand and may
we stand together on level, smooth quartz
sand, confronted by nothing but the dazzling ocean of God's
unfathomable mercy and love!
Love and prayers,
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