Daily Archives: December 27, 2010

Movie recommendation: The King's Speech

The whole family here went last evening–it was simply stellar.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Movies & Television

Archbishop Wenski brightens Christmas for Florida's Krome detainees

Jesus Christ was born in a humble stable because there was no place for him at the inn. And later, according to Christian scripture, Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt with the baby, seeking refuge from King Herod’s decree to kill all newborns.

That was the Christmas tale Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski presented Saturday to 150 undocumented immigrants at the Krome detention center, using the Bible narrative as a metaphor for the immigrants’ travails.

“We are sure Joseph was not delayed trying to obtain a visa to cross the border,” said Wenski, who officiated at an emotional Mass in Spanish, English and Creole. “That is why we can say that Jesus was a refugee and an undocumented immigrant.”

Read it all.

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

(Boston Globe) Behind bars, a cardinal’s quiet prison ministry

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley was just out of seminary when his friary sent him to serve as chaplain at the Butler, Pa., county prison. His first task was to preach to the inmates, but he had never given a sermon before, much less to such a tough crowd. He consulted his preaching textbook, which advised: “Speak into the horizons of your congregation.’’

Inspired, O’Malley gave a lively account of the Bible’s great escape stories: Daniel and the lion’s den, St. Paul escaping over the walls of Damascus in a basket, St. Peter in chains. The inmates listened, rapt.

“The problem was, that night, several prisoners escaped from the prison,’’ O’Malley said with a laugh during a recent interview. “And I was afraid my first sermon was going to be my last. The superior was very unhappy.’’

O’Malley went on to become a well-regarded homilist; in a quieter way, he has also continued ministering to prisoners….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Prison/Prison Ministry, Roman Catholic

(AP) Pope invites poor to post-Christmas lunch at Vatican

Lasagna, veal and cake were on the menu Sunday as Pope Benedict invited about 250 poor people to join him for a post-Christmas lunch and denounced as “absurd” new attacks on the faithful around the globe.

Joining the Pope and his guests were some 250 nuns, seminarians and priests of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity order, which runs soup kitchens around Rome.

Last year, Benedict travelled to a Rome soup kitchen to join the poor but this year’s meal was held inside the Vatican’s main audience hall.

Read it all.

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

Christmas Message From the Franciscan Custos of Holy Land

Let us not make vain this Christmas which comes for the umpteenth time, but which is always new.

Because Christmas cannot fail to make us uncomfortable: it is a celebration that seems to have lost its most intimate and truest meaning, and that leads us to wonder who that Child is for us, to see God in a child, to believe in a God who chooses to enclose his greatness in the smallness of our humanity.

For Christmas is not Jesus who was born in Bethlehem just over two thousand years ago. Christmas is Jesus, the Son of God, who again this year, like every day since that ancient time — for the men of his time, as for each of us today — waits for us to make room for him, waits to be born in our hearts. Christmas is an effort of conversion. It is being willing to respond to God’s waiting.

As we are summoned by faith to wait for him in glory, Christmas fixes our attention on God: his infinite wait for humanity to find room for him in daily history, in everyday life, in the ordinary solidarity that Jesus himself asked of us….

Read it all.

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

The Jerusalem Patriarch's Christmas Message

We were very concerned about the fire that destroyed entire forests in the Haifa area. We offer our condolences to the families of victims, and our admiration for the courage of those who died in the line of duty. This sad event made us experience international solidarity. The fact that the Palestinian Authority made available their team of firefighters was a very significant gesture and may be a beginning of a fruitful collaboration in the future, when peace will be established in this troubled land.

We suffer from the failure of direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. This should not lead us to despair. We continue to believe that on both sides, and in the international community, there are men of good will who will work and put their energies together in their commitment for peace. We believe that nothing is impossible with God and we want to carry out the wishes sang by the angels on Christmas night: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”(Lk.2 :14) We also wish Europe to play a more significant role in this process.

We were shocked and troubled by the massacre of Christians in Baghdad in the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help….

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Middle East, Religion & Culture, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle

The Right Way to Approach Christmas

No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor. The self-sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything, look down on others, those who have no need even of God””for them there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Without poverty of spirit, there can be no abundance of God.

–Archbishop Oscar Romero (1917-1980)

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

The Archbishop of Sydney’s Christmas message 2010

From here:

Christmas 2010 – the end of the first decade of the 21st century. The children born this decade are 21st century citizens. They never knew the last century. In another ten years they and their friends will be judging us 20th century types. That’s what happened a hundred years ago when the twentieth century people passed a savage judgment on the nineteenth century, the Victorian era they called it.

What will they say? They won’t be too happy at our reckless consumption, our materialism. They will look back in wonder at our brutal wars. They will be astonished that we allowed family life to decay and created a world of selfishness and aloneness. They will groan under the weight of looking after aged baby-boomers without friends or family. Perhaps they will find a lot to condemn in our legacy and if they can judge us, I suppose God will find it even more simple.

But I am filled with hope for them, and I won’t mind their criticisms. Human failure is not the end of the story. We can’t beat God that easily.

Each year will still end with Christmas until the end of time. Christmas says this: Our failures, our sins, are not the last word. Hope and peace with God are still possible. God is bigger than our failures. Christmas says this: Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world came to dwell among us, and save us from our failures. When we turn to him, we will find hope rekindled and peace restored. Happy and hopeful Christmas!

— Dr. Peter Jensen is Archbishop of Sydney

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons

O Magnum Mysterium (Morten Lauridsen)

The words:

O magnum mysterium, et admirable sacramentum, ut animalia viderent Dominum natum, jacentum in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt portare Dominum Christum. Alleluia!

O great mystery, and wondrous sacrament, that animals should see the newborn Lord, lying in their manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy to bear the Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia!

This is sung by the University of Santo Tomas Alumni Singers directed by Allan Diona Sims. My understanding is that this performance is in 2006 at the Hollywood Choir Festival, at the Hollywood United Methodist Church across from the Kodak Theater.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Music

Ring out, wild bells

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

–Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)

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

The Archbishop of York: Do not Be Afraid

That message of the angel is for each one of us: “Don’t be afraid”. Forthe missing, such as Madeline McCann, Claudia Lawrence and their parents: “Don’t be afraid!” For children in our own country who suffer at the hands of those who should care for them: ‘”Don’t be afraid!” For the downtrodden in our world: “Don’t be afraid.”

Why? Because two thousand years ago in King David’s city, a Saviour was born for us all, He is Christ the Lord. And he invites us to go and be angels in our communities till a new day dawns.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons

The Bishop of Europe’s Christmas Message of 2010

Not long ago I came across a Christmas meditation by Michael Stancliffe, a fine preacher whose ministry encompassed time as Speaker’s Chaplain in the House of Commons, and later as Dean of Winchester. In this meditation he points out that the Christmas story is concerned with small things.

”˜At the heart of it is a human being at its smallest, and that newborn child is surrounded by no greatness ”“ no palace, no pomp, no grand people. Nor had the first to join that little group anything impressive about them ”“ shepherds on night duty don’t look princely ”“ and it was only later that more imposing personages put in an appearance. Christians believe that what happened in that small setting was of cosmic significance.’

The birth of Jesus at Bethlehem which we celebrate at Christmas is the burning glass which concentrates in the vulnerable fragility of a new-born child the immensity of the Divine Love by which all things were made and which holds the vastness of the universe in being. What is God like? God is like ”“ indeed God is ”“ this totally dependent, tiny bundle of life….

Read it all.

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

A Prayer for Christmas

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 Uncategorized

Holy Child

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee.
My heart for very joy doth leap,
My lips no more can silence keep,
I too must sing, with joyful tongue,
That sweetest ancient cradle song,
Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given
While angels sing with pious mirth.
A glad new year to all the earth.

–Martin Luther (1483-1546)

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

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Stephen

We give thee thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the first martyr Stephen, who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors to thy Son Jesus Christ, who standeth at thy right hand: where he liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology, Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Bible Readings

The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.

–Psalm 28:7

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Nativity of Christ

Behold the father is his daughter’s son,
The bird that built the nest is hatched therein,
The old of years an hour hath not outrun,
Eternal life to live doth now begin,
The Word is dumb, the mirth of heaven doth weep,
Might feeble is, and force doth faintly creep.

O dying souls, behold your living spring;
O dazzled eyes, behold your sun of grace;
Dull ears, attend what word this Word doth bring;
Up, heavy hearts, with joy your joy embrace.
From death, from dark, from deafness, from despairs
This life, this light, this Word, this joy repairs.

Gift better than himself God doth not know;
Gift better than his God no man can see.
This gift doth here the giver given bestow;
Gift to this gift let each receiver be.
God is my gift, himself he freely gave me;
God’s gift am I, and none but God shall have me.

Man altered was by sin from man to beast;
Beast’s food is hay, hay is all mortal flesh.
Now God is flesh and lies in manger pressed
As hay, the brutest sinner to refresh.
O happy field wherein that fodder grew,
Whose taste doth us from beasts to men renew.

—-Robert Southwell

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

(RNS) Legends Abound for Lords-a-leaping and Maids-a-milking in `Twelve Days’

Twelve drummers? Ten leaping lords? Two turtle doves?
Chances are, the gifts in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” are not high on anyone’s Christmas list this year. In fact, it’s hard to imagine they were ever popular presents.

“It’s not a literal song,” said Mickey Mullany, a professional caroler in Baltimore who admits to sometimes forgetting parts of the famously long lyrics. “If it was a literal song, it would be monstrous….”

Given their unsuitability as gifts, how did dancing ladies, piping pipers, and a bevy of birds become part of one of the season’s best-known carols? What, if anything, do they symbolize?

It depends on whom you ask.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Christmas, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Music

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

Ever since I first heard it, my favorite Christmas song–KSH.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Music

John Chrysostom In Perhaps the First Christmas Sermon Ever

I behold a new and wondrous mystery! My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn.

The Angels sing!

The Archangels blend their voices in harmony!

The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise!

The Seraphim exalt His glory!

All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.

Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side the Sun of Justice.

And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed, he had the power, He descended, He redeemed; all things move in obedience to God.

This day He Who Is, is Born; and He Who Is becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became he God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassibility, remaining unchanged.

And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.

Yet He has not forsaken His angels, nor left them deprived of His care, nor because of His Incarnation has he departed from the Godhead.

And behold,

Kings have come, that they might adore the heavenly King of glory;
Soldiers, that they might serve the Leader of the Hosts of Heaven;
Women, that they might adore Him Who was born of a woman so that He might change the pains of child-birth into joy;
Virgins, to the Son of the Virgin, beholding with joy, that He Who is the Giver of milk, Who has decreed that the fountains of the breast pour forth in ready streams, receives from a Virgin Mother the food of infancy;
Infants, that they may adore Him Who became a little child, so that out of the mouth of infants and sucklings, He might perfect praise;
Children, to the Child Who raised up martyrs through the rage of Herod;
Men, to Him Who became man, that He might heal the miseries of His servants;
Shepherds, to the Good Shepherd Who has laid down His life for His sheep;
Priests, to Him Who has become a High Priest according to the order of Melchisedech;
Servants, to Him Who took upon Himself the form of a servant that He might bless our servitude with the reward of freedom;
Fishermen, to Him Who from amongst fishermen chose catchers of men;
Publicans, to Him Who from amongst them named a chosen Evangelist;
Sinful women, to Him Who exposed His feet to the tears of the repentant;

And that I may embrace them all together, all sinners have come, that they may look upon the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sins of the world.

Since therefore all rejoice, I too desire to rejoice. I too wish to share the choral dance, to celebrate the festival. But I take my part, not plucking the harp, not shaking the Thyrsian staff, not with the music of pipes, nor holding a torch, but holding in my arms the cradle of Christ.

For this is all my hope, this my life, this my salvation, this my pipe, my harp. And bearing it I come, and having from its power received the gift of speech, I too, with the angels, sing:

Glory to God in the Highest; and with the shepherds:
and on earth peace to men of good will

–From Antioch in 386 A.D.

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

The Gloucester Cathedral Choir sings In the Bleak Midwinter

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Music

The Bishop of Europe’s Christmas Message of 2008

St Luke tells us at the end of his story of the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem that his mother Mary ‘kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.’ (Luke 2.19) This is what as Christians we do year by year, as, in the familiar words of Bishop Phillips Brooks’ much loved Christmas hymn, ‘the dark night wakes, the Glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.’ The Greek word which St Luke uses to speak of Mary’s deep and reflective meditation is sumballo, from which we get our word ‘symbol’. Mary both keeps and holds on to the amazing and overwhelming reality of God’s action and presence in and through her motherhood, and imaginatively reflects upon it, going deeper and deeper into the meaning of what this birth and this child, of which she is so intimately a part, is about. She ‘ponders in her heart’, and the heart in the Bible is not primarily the place of feeling, but of willing and of choosing. Her deep reflection is to shape her life, and brings her to the foot of the cross, and to be part of the worshipping and expectant community, as Luke tells us in Acts, awaiting the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost.

The angel had said to Mary in the moment of annunciation that ‘the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you’ and therefore the child she was to bear would be called ‘the Son of God.’ And so Mary became, in the words of another ancient Christian hymn, ‘the gate of Heaven’s High Lord, the door through which the Light has poured.’ When Jacob in the ancient story in Genesis lay down in a desert place and dreamed of a ladder set between heaven and earth with the angels of God ascending and descending upon it, he woke up exclaiming, ‘this is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!’ if this was true of the place of Jacob’s dream, even more is it true of the Mother of the Lord and Christian devotion has not hesitated to speak of Mary as the temple of God, the ark of the covenant, and the gate of heaven.

Mary, the ‘Christ-bearer’ reflected deeply and imaginatively on what Jesus meant, and she has been seen as an image, a picture of the church, which likewise reflects on and lives out the meaning of the God who so comes among us. The great movements of renewal in Christian history have come about through a return to what the Scriptures tell us. We have to realise over and over again how great and how overwhelming is the reality of God’s love which always comes down to the lowest part of our need, as it came in Mary’s child at Bethlehem.

Many years ago J.B. Phillips, one of the first translators of the Bible into contemporary English, wrote a book with the title, Your God is too small. He was right then, and is right now. Our human tendency is to domesticate God, to make God in our own image, to shape him by the culture and expectations of our own day, But the Gospel message of Christmas ”“ and of Good Friday and Easter from which that Christmas message is inseparable ”“ is of a love that goes to the uttermost and will never let us down and will never let us go. This is the ‘amazing grace’ of Evangelical conversion; this is the same grace which we receive and adore in the holy and blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. As John Betjeman put it simply, ‘God was man in Palestine, and lives today in Bread and Wine’ ”“ and so in our hearts, in our willing and our choosing, in our transformed lives as we like Mary live out our vocation as ‘Christ-bearers’. St John said of the Word of God who became flesh, that the light shone in the darkness and the darkness was not able to overwhelm it, to snuff it out. The light of Christ in us is to shine in the darkness ”“ the darkness of human fear, and violence, and the sinful distortions of deception and betrayal. At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, God with us, God in the muck and the mess (and the stench) of a stable at Bethlehem; God as a fragile, new-born child laid in the pricking straw of a rough feeding-trough; God in the mess of our world, a world both beautiful and distorted. At Christmas also we celebrate our own new birth, the Christ born in us. And so we rightly sing and pray:

O holy child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us today.
May the God who came to us at Bethlehem to take us by the hand, surround you and renew you with his love, and light, and grace, that you, like blessed Mary, may know his peace and joy this Christmas and in the year ahead.

With every blessing,

–(The Rt. Rev.) Geoffrey Rowell

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

For These Young Nuns, Habits Are The New Radical

For the most part, these are grim days for Catholic nuns. Convents are closing, nuns are aging and there are relatively few new recruits. But something startling is happening in Nashville, Tenn. The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia are seeing a boom in new young sisters: Twenty-seven joined this year and 90 entered over the past five years.

The average of new entrants here is 23. And overall, the average age of the Nashville Dominicans is 36 ”” four decades younger than the average nun nationwide.

Unlike many older sisters in previous generations, who wear street clothes and live alone, the Nashville Dominicans wear traditional habits and adhere to a strict life of prayer, teaching and silence.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Spirituality/Prayer, Women, Young Adults

Long-eared Jerboa: extraordinary desert creature

What an amazing looking animal!

Posted in * General Interest, Animals

Alister McGrath on the Incarnation: He alone is the mediator

This mediator must represent God to humankind, and humankind to God. He must have points of contact with both God and humanity, and yet be distinguishable from them both”¦.the central Christian idea of the incarnation, which expresses the belief that Jesus is both God and man, divine and human, portrays Jesus as the perfect mediator between God and human beings. He, and he alone, is able to redeem us and reconcile us to God.

“I Believe”: Exploring the Apostles’ Creed ( Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p.48

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

(BBC) Nigeria: Jos sees renewed clashes after bombings

Further violence between armed groups has broken out in the city of Jos in central Nigeria following bombings that killed 32 people.

Witnesses said buildings were set alight and people were seen running for cover as police and soldiers arrived.

Previous violence between Christian and Muslim ethnic groups in the region has killed hundreds.

The latest unrest was triggered by explosions on Christmas Eve in villages near Jos.

Nigerian Vice President Namadi Sambo is reported to be on his way to the area.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Nigeria, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Violence