Daily Archives: December 26, 2009

Vatican Radio: Serving on the Front Line at Christmas

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has paid tribute to the country’s armed forces in her traditional Christmas Day message.

The queen who is the symbolic head of the U.K. military spoke of the soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

More than 100 British soldiers have died this year in Afghanistan and 243 have been killed since operations began in October 2001.

As many troops spend this Christmas Day away from loved ones, the Bishop of the British Armed Forces, Richard Moth spoke to us about the importance of God for soldiers serving on the front line.

Listen to it all (just over 1 1/2 minutes).

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, England / UK, Iraq War, Military / Armed Forces, Religion & Culture, War in Afghanistan

Urbi et Orbi Message of Pope Benedict XVI for 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world,
and all men and women, whom the Lord loves!

“Lux fulgebit hodie super nos,
quia natus est nobis Dominus.
A light will shine on us this day,
the Lord is born for us”
(Roman Missal, Christmas, Entrance Antiphon for the Mass at Dawn)

The liturgy of the Mass at Dawn reminded us that the night is now past, the day has begun; the light radiating from the cave of Bethlehem shines upon us.

The Bible and the Liturgy do not, however, speak to us about a natural light, but a different, special light, which is somehow directed to and focused upon “us”, the same “us” for whom the Child of Bethlehem “is born”. This “us” is the Church, the great universal family of those who believe in Christ, who have awaited in hope the new birth of the Saviour, and who today celebrate in mystery the perennial significance of this event.
At first, beside the manger in Bethlehem, that “us” was almost imperceptible to human eyes. As the Gospel of Saint Luke recounts, it included, in addition to Mary and Joseph, a few lowly shepherds who came to the cave after hearing the message of the Angels. The light of that first Christmas was like a fire kindled in the night. All about there was darkness, while in the cave there shone the true light “that enlightens every man” (Jn 1:9). And yet all this took place in simplicity and hiddenness, in the way that God works in all of salvation history. God loves to light little lights, so as then to illuminate vast spaces. Truth, and Love, which are its content, are kindled wherever the light is welcomed; they then radiate in concentric circles, as if by contact, in the hearts and minds of all those who, by opening themselves freely to its splendour, themselves become sources of light. Such is the history of the Church: she began her journey in the lowly cave of Bethlehem, and down the centuries she has become a People and a source of light for humanity. Today too, in those who encounter that Child, God still kindles fires in the night of the world, calling men and women everywhere to acknowledge in Jesus the “sign” of his saving and liberating presence and to extend the “us” of those who believe in Christ to the whole of mankind.

Wherever there is an “us” which welcomes God’s love, there the light of Christ shines forth, even in the most difficult situations. The Church, like the Virgin Mary, offers the world Jesus, the Son, whom she herself has received as a gift, the One who came to set mankind free from the slavery of sin. Like Mary, the Church does not fear, for that Child is her strength. But she does not keep him for herself: she offers him to all those who seek him with a sincere heart, to the earth’s lowly and afflicted, to the victims of violence, and to all who yearn for peace. Today too, on behalf of a human family profoundly affected by a grave financial crisis, yet even more by a moral crisis, and by the painful wounds of wars and conflicts, the Church, in faithful solidarity with mankind, repeats with the shepherds: “Let us go to Bethlehem” (Lk 2:15), for there we shall find our hope.

The “us” of the Church is alive in the place where Jesus was born, in the Holy Land, inviting its people to abandon every logic of violence and vengeance, and to engage with renewed vigour and generosity in the process which leads to peaceful coexistence. The “us” of the Church is present in the other countries of the Middle East. How can we forget the troubled situation in Iraq and the “little flock” of Christians which lives in the region? At times it is subject to violence and injustice, but it remains determined to make its own contribution to the building of a society opposed to the logic of conflict and the rejection of one’s neighbour. The “us” of the Church is active in Sri Lanka, in the Korean peninsula and in the Philippines, as well as in the other countries of Asia, as a leaven of reconciliation and peace. On the continent of Africa she does not cease to lift her voice to God, imploring an end to every injustice in the Democratic Republic of Congo; she invites the citizens of Guinea and Niger to respect for the rights of every person and to dialogue; she begs those of Madagascar to overcome their internal divisions and to be mutually accepting; and she reminds all men and women that they are called to hope, despite the tragedies, trials and difficulties which still afflict them. In Europe and North America, the “us” of the Church urges people to leave behind the selfish and technicist mentality, to advance the common good and to show respect for the persons who are most defenceless, starting with the unborn. In Honduras she is assisting in process of rebuilding institutions; throughout Latin America, the “us” of the Church is a source of identity, a fullness of truth and of charity which no ideology can replace, a summons to respect for the inalienable rights of each person and his or her integral development, a proclamation of justice and fraternity, a source of unity.

In fidelity to the mandate of her Founder, the Church shows solidarity with the victims of natural disasters and poverty, even within opulent societies. In the face of the exodus of all those who migrate from their homelands and are driven away by hunger, intolerance or environmental degradation, the Church is a presence calling others to an attitude of acceptance and welcome. In a word, the Church everywhere proclaims the Gospel of Christ, despite persecutions, discriminations, attacks and at times hostile indifference. These, in fact, enable her to share the lot of her Master and Lord.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, how great a gift it is to be part of a communion which is open to everyone! It is the communion of the Most Holy Trinity, from whose heart Emmanuel, Jesus, “God with us”, came into the world. Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, let us contemplate, filled with wonder and gratitude, this mystery of love and light! Happy Christmas to all!

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

A Prayer for Christmas (III)

O Lord our God, who didst manifest thy love toward us by sending thine only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him : Grant us, by thy Holy Spirit, the precious gift of faith, whereby we may know that the Son of God has come; and help us to join our praises with the song of the heavenly host : Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Spirituality/Prayer

The Christ-child

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)

The Christ-child stood at Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown.
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.

–G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Poetry & Literature

The Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta's Christmas Message

Let us go now to Bethlehem and see his thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.

What have you dropped for Christmas?

There they were. The shepherds. Doing what shepherds do. Tending to their animals, keeping watch for predators that might hurt their flocks. The shepherds were there to make sure the sheep were safe, fed and watered, nurtured and loved.

I suspect most of the shepherds on Bethlehem’s hillside cared deeply for their sheep. It would be hard to embrace that vocation if one did not possess some affinity for sheep. But let’s not be too romantic about it. These shepherds were also in business. They had a job to do. They made their living caring for flocks of sheep. They cared for themselves and those they loved by being shepherds.

They were tending to business just like they always did the night the angel showed up. Luke says the shepherds were terrified at the angel’s appearance. Imagine how they must have felt when a whole choir of angels appeared! Have you ever wondered about what your reaction would have been if you had been a shepherd on a hillside and had a visitation from the head angel and a bunch of his singing friends?

As Saint Luke tells the story, the shepherds dropped what they were doing and went to Bethlehem. They left the familiarity of their hillside camp, the soft bleating of the lambs and heaving breathing of the sheep – their livelihood – and went to Bethlehem to see what God was doing. Ever since I was a child, I’ve admired those shepherds, their courage, and their willingness to go completely on faith, totally unsure what they might in fact discover.

There’s an invitation here for all of us: what have you dropped for Christmas? What have you laid aside, even if only for a day or two, in order to go to Bethlehem and see? What can wait so you can discover as though for the first time what God is doing . . . in you . . . for you . . . through you. We can’t say for sure, but I suspect that most of those sheep were there the next morning right where the shepherds left them, just like most anything we drop for Christmas will be there when we too get back from Bethlehem.

So drop something at Christmas, even if only for a little while. Come to Bethlehem and see!

Christmas blessings!

–(The Rt. Rev.) J. Neil Alexander is Bishop of Atlanta

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops

Salus Mundi

I saw a stable, low and very bare,
A little child in a manger.
The oxen knew him, had Him in their care,
To men He was a stranger.
The safety of the world was lying there,
And the world’s danger.

–Mary Coleridge (1861-1907)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Poetry & Literature

Nativity

Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-belov’d imprisonment,
There He hath made Himself to His intent
Weak enough, now into the world to come;
But O, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars and wise men will travel to prevent
The effect of Herod’s jealous general doom.
Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith’s eyes, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.

–John Donne (1572-1631)

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Christmas, Christology, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Theology

Christus Natus Est

In Bethlehem
On Christmas Morn
The lowly gem
Of love was born
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

Bright in her crown
Of fiery star
Judea’s town
Shone from afar
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

For bird and beast
He did not come
But for the least
Of mortal scum
Hosannah! Christus natus est.
While beasts in stall
On bended knee
Did carol all
Most joyously
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

Who lies in ditch?
Who begs his bread
Who has no stitch
For back or head
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

Who wakes to weep,
Lies down to mourn?
Who in his sleep
Withdraws from scorn?
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

Ye outraged dust
On field and plain
To feed the lust
Of madmen slain
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

The manger still
Outshines the throne
Christ must and will
Come to his own
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

–Countee Cullen (1903-1946)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons

This Lord, this Jesus, this Christ, this Immanuel God with us

I can bring it so neare; but onely the worthy hearer, and the worthy receiver, can call this Lord this Jesus, this Christ, Immanuel God with us; onely that virgin soule, devirginated in the blood of Adam but restored in the blood of the Lambe hath this Ecce, this testimony, this assurance, that God is with him; they that have this Ecce, this testimony, in a rectified conscience, are Godfathers to this child Jesus and may call him Immanuel God with us for as no man can deceive God, so God can deceive no man; God cannot live in the darke himself neither can he leave those who are his in the darke: If he be with thee he will make thee see that he is with thee and never goe out of thy sight, till he have brought thee, where thou canst never goe out of his.

–John Donne (1572-1631), Preached at St. Pauls, upon Christmas Day, in the Evening, 1624

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Christmas, Christology, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Theology

A Prayer for Christmas (II)

O God, who makest us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of thy only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that as we joyfully receive him for our Redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him when he shall come to be our Judge; who livest and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Eschatology, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

A Prayer for Christmas (I)

Almighty God, who hast revealed the glory of thy love in the in the face of Jesus Christ, and called us by him to live as thy children: Fill our hearts, as we remember his nativity, with the gladness of this great redemption; that we may join in the heavenly song of glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, and goodwill towards men; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Spirituality/Prayer

Peter Kreeft on the Meaning of Christmas

Let’s apply the spiritual sense of the Christmas story to our lives. For that story happens not only once, in history, but also many times in each individual’s soul. Christ comes to the world ”” but He also comes to each of us. Advent happens over and over again.

Christmas is so familiar that we sometimes wonder whether anything fresh and true can be said about it.

But there is a way to explore its meaning that may seem new to us today, yet is in fact quite traditional, dating back to the Middle Ages and the ancient Fathers of the Church.
Modern interpreters often argue about whether a given Scripture passage should be interpreted literally or symbolically. Medieval writers would question the “either/or” approach. They thought a passage could have as many as four “right” interpretations, one literal and three symbolic.

These were: (1) the historical or literal, which is the primary sense on which the others all depend; (2) the prophetic sense when an Old Testament event foreshadows its New Testament fulfillment; (3) the moral or spiritual sense, when events and characters in a story correspond to elements in our own lives; and (4) the eschatological sense, when a scene on earth foreshadows something of heavenly glory.

This symbolism is legitimate because it doesn’t detract from the historical, literal sense, but builds on and expands it. It’s based on the theologically sound premise that history too symbolizes, or points beyond itself, for God wrote three books, not just one: nature and history as well as Scripture. The story of history is composed not only of “events,” but of words, signs and symbols. This is unfamiliar to us only because we have lost a sense of depth and exchanged it for a flat, one-dimensional, “bottom-line” mentality in which everything means only one thing.

Let’s try to recapture the riches of this lost worldview by applying the spiritual sense of the Christmas story to our lives. For that story happens not only once, in history, but also many times in each individual’s soul. Christ comes to the world ”” but He also comes to each of us. Advent happens over and over again.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

A Prayer for Christmas Day (III)

We pray thee, O Lord, to purify our hearts that they may be worthy to become thy dwelling place. Let us never fail to find room for thee, but come and abide in us that we also may abide in thee, who as at this time wast born into the world for us, and dost live and reign, King of kings and Lord of lords, now and for evermore.

–William Temple (1881-1944)

Posted in Uncategorized

A Prayer for Christmas Day (II)

Most merciful God, who hast so loved the world as to give thine only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life: Vouchsafe unto us, we humbly pray thee, the precious gift of faith, whereby we may know that the Son of God is come; and, being rooted and grounded in the mystery of the Word made flesh, may have power to overcome the world, and gain the blessed immortality of heaven; through the merits of the same incarnate Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.

–Book of Common Order

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for Christmas Day (I)

Loving Father, Help us remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds,
and worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting. Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children, and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

–Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

Posted in Uncategorized