I have blogged here at this domain since my High School days. But at last, may God be glorified!
Jan 15, 2012
Dec 20, 2011
The Lord Jesus gave us a Divine Imperative: Watch! Wait! You know not the hour. And
this is exactly what we do when we keep vigil. It is an ancient Christian practice which has been lost in the contemporary Church. Yet it is so vital for the life of Christian culture. The monastery always stood as a witness to the world of men and women dedicated keeping vigil
against the devil, the flesh and the world. It stood as an exhortation to praying unceasingly. Christians saw the monastery and were reminded of their sacred duty to pray constantly.
The saints were masters of keeping vigil. We can look to
the Desert Fathers like St. Anthony and the scholastics like St. Thomas
Aquinas. Then of course there is St. John of the Cross. All of these of course
are modeled after the Divine Master Himself who went alone in the early morning to pray. (cf. Mark 1:35)
In the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church has retained the
custom of keeping vigil. That is the original nature of the Office of Readings,
traditionally called Matins. In fact the General Instructions of the Liturgy of
the Hours maintains this tradition stating, praise is therefore due to all who maintain the character of the Office of Readings as a night office.
The Instruction goes on to state the it was customary to begin certain solemnities with a vigil. Among these solemnities Christmas and Pentecost are preeminent. This custom should be maintained and fostered according to the particular usage of each Church.
There is a custom that myself
and many of my brother seminarians have developed. On the eve of all Sundays
and feasts we gather around 9 or 10 in the evening to pray Office of Readings,
those keeping the tradition of keeping vigil. This is a spiritual practice I
highly encourage. In fact the canticle that is prayed in the extended vigil in
the Office of Readings is from the Prophet Isaiah. There the prophet says, My souls yearns for you in the night, yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you.
As we enter into the Christmas season there are many feasts
and opportunities to consider taking up this wonderful custom.
- The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
- Feast of St. Stephen, the First Martyr
- Feast of St. John the Evangelist
- Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
- Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God
- Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
The Church maintains the practice of observing an Octave
for both Easter and Christmas. And Octave is a series of 8 days starting on the
feast in which the days following are treated as the feast itself. So the
Church actually celebrates 8 days of Christmas. As she does 8 days of Easter.
It is way of joyfully entering into the feast celebrated.
Vigils are made up of:
- A Hymn
- 3 Psalms
- 2 Readings (Biblical and Patristic)
- Holy Gospel
- Hymn, Te Deum
The season is also a great time to take walks under the
stars. Particularly keeping in mind Bishop Conley’s reflection To Wonder at the Stars.
May Christ who is the true
light shine brightly in our hearts and give us peace, joy and love as we await in vigil for His coming. Amen.
Posted by at 7:03 PM
Bishop Conley wrote another stellar reflection, and I do mean stellar! As we approach Christmas it is a good practice to star gaze. Yes we have stars on our Christmas trees and all over our houses. But there is nothing like looking up at the heavens on a chilled evening. And to think, these stars that gaze down up on us also gazed down upon the Word made flesh, the God-Man, Jesus Christ. They are a reminder of God's watching over us, His power and His love. The heavens are telling the glory of God. (Psalm 19:1) The question is are we listening to the heavens?
Christ Jesus, our King, was announced to all
creation by a star rising in the eastern sky.
The Magi saw it—they had been waiting and watching.
Finally they saw the announcement that God was with us—Emmanuel—incarnate in
the person of Jesus Christ.
I sometimes wonder why the Magi were watching the
sky in the first place. What were they watching for? I would like to believe
that the Magi watched the sky for the same reason I do—to stand in awe at the
splendor and majesty of our God.
The sky in Colorado is broad and clear. Even in the
heart of Denver, where I live, I can glance out the window at an incredible
expanse of sky and mountains and stars. Recently I was awestruck with the
beauty of the full moon over Denver. In our archdiocese, the splendor of God’s
creativity, love and goodness is everywhere for us to behold.
“To look up at the stars,” said the ancient
philosophers, “is to become lovers of wisdom.”
We seem to spend time during Christmas “beholding
the stars.” We’re more aware of God’s love for his people. We rejoice together
at the Incarnation. For children especially, but for all of us really,
Christmas is a time of wonder, of awe and of joyful curiosity.
We ought to cultivate a sense of wonder all the
time, not just this time of the year. In our families, we should seek a sense
of awe about the universe. By reading
Scripture together, by praying together and by taking time to look up at the
stars, God will transform us into lovers of wisdom. And as we become truly
wise, like the Magi, we shall see more clearly the work of God in the world
It is easy to disregard the miraculous. We’re often
too busy to recognize miracles. When we do encounter miracles, our
hyper-rationality encourages us to find some other explanation for God’s work
in our lives. We lose sight of the miracle of our family’s love. We forget the
ways we have been transformed by God’s grace throughout our lives. We take for
granted the miracle of the Eucharist—that Christ becomes present to us in the
form of bread and wine.
At Christmas, we seem to suspend our
hyper-rationality for a while. There is a collective hope that the miraculous
will somehow break through. We talk about “Christmas miracles” for a
reason—Christmas is a miracle, and perhaps by grace, we’re more disposed at
Christmas to see the presence of God.
This Christmas let’s commit to live our lives with a
greater sense of wonder. After the Nativity set and the tree and the lights
have all gone away—hopefully not until the solemnity of Epiphany, the 12th day
of Christmas—let’s keep looking for the Christ Child. Let’s keep looking to the
stars. Let’s be in awe at the miracle of God’s great love for us.
I pray the Lord will bless your families this
Christmas. I will remember each of you
in my prayers and in the Mass on Christmas Day. I pray you will encounter Jesus
Christ, and come to know his love. I
leave you with my blessing and with a Christmas poem, “Moonless darkness stands
between,” by Father Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.:
Darkness stands between.
Past, the Past, no more be seen!
But the Bethlehem-star may lead me
To the sight of Him Who freed me
From the self that I have been.
Make me pure, Lord: Thou art holy;
Make me meek, Lord: Thou wert lowly;
Now beginning, and alway:
Now begin, on Christmas day.
Posted by at 2:50 PM
Dec 19, 2011
Pope Benedict gave us something else to reflect on as we approach Christmas:
The liturgical texts for this Season of Advent renew the invitation to us to live in expectation of Jesus and not to stop looking forward to his coming so as to keep ourselves open and ready to encounter him. Heartfelt watchfulness, which Christians are always called to practise in their daily life, characterizes in particular this season in which we prepare joyfully for the mystery of Christmas (cf.Preface of Advent II).
The external environment proposes the usual commercial messages, although perhaps to a lesser degree because of the economic crisis. Christians are asked to live Advent without allowing themselves be distracted by the bright lights but knowing how to give things their proper value and how to fix their inner gaze on Christ. Indeed if we persevere in “watching in prayer, our hearts filled with wonder and praise” (ibid.), our eyes will be able to recognize in him the true light of the world that comes to dispel our gloom.
Posted by at 3:33 PM
Dec 13, 2011
Dec 1, 2011
"Keep watch; when the body is asleep nature takes control of us, and what is done is not done by our will but by force, by the impulse of nature. When deep listlessness takes possession of the soul, for example, faintheartedness or melancholy, the enemy overpowers it and makes it do what it does not will. The force of nature, the enemy of the soul, is in control.
When the Lord commanded us to be vigilant, he meant vigilance in both parts of man: in the body, against the tendency to sleep; in the soul, against lethargy and timidity."
Posted by at 9:23 AM
Nov 30, 2011
It's already the Second Week of Advent! That's right, we are 1/4th of the way done and well on our way to the celebration of Christmas! But, WAIT, were not quite there yet!
And yes, that is the correct word: WAIT!
Advent is a time of waiting. Yes, we wait to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We wait to open our Christmas presents on the morning of December 25th. We also wait for those grand family gatherings with loved ones who have traveled great distance to be reunited for that short encounter. You see, we can't escape waiting. The question is, are we internalizing? Are we training our spiritual senses to wait, to hunger and desire more for the coming of Jesus?
You see, when the Church celebrates Advent, she does not simply focus on the birth of Jesus when He came 2,000 years ago in the cave in Bethlehem. The Church also calls us to reflect and prepare for the great Second Coming of Jesus was as Christians should be longing for everyday. That is the Mystery of Faith, right? We proclaim your death O Lord, and profess your Resurrection, until you again!
So as we enter the Second Week of Advent, I invite you to meditate on Jesus. Learn to desire Him more and more. Cultivate a longing in your heart for His Second Coming. You see, as Christians we don't have to fear nuclear war or things of that sort. Though we do work of peace and justice, our hope and confidence is in Jesus, and we believe He will come again, in His glory!
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus, come!
Posted by at 8:37 AM