The Christmas Encounter

By Sr. Princess Mary Dawson, MHSH

 

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

 

The birth of Christ into the world was not one filled with the comforts one would expect.

The evening was cold and in some ways empty of joyous celebration – at least to the eyes of onlookers. The child came into the world with much love from his parents and with the air of mystery in their hearts.

 The infant Jesus’ birthing was bringing many gifts to the world. The gifts could not be wrapped, but instead would grow as Jesus would and be given to all who opened their hearts.

 Jesus is the loving gift of God to the world. The very son of God became small in the taking on of our flesh. Jesus in his humanity would feel our pain, grief, hunger and more. This child Jesus, born into the world, was given in love and was destined to teach us how to love.

All who would encounter Jesus would find they are loved completely without conditions and such loving would bring about transformation to many wounded hearts.

Jesus Christ, the infant born to us this day with a heart full of God’s love for each person, is the Christmas Encounter fully alive. There is no greater gift.

“I Rejoice Heartily in the Lord”

A Reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent

By Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

Readings:
Isaiah 61: 1-2a, 10-11
Luke 1: 46-48, 49-50, 53-54
Thess. 5:16-24
Jn. 1: 6-8, 19-28

advent 3 candlesThe Church designates the third Sunday of Advent “Gaudete” Sunday. Gaudete is Latin for “rejoice.” At the midpoint in this Advent season of expectant waiting and watching, we are called to reflect on the joy of God’s presence and promise.   As we hear Isaiah exult in the mission he has been given by God, Mary brimming over with gratitude and praise in her Magnificat, and Paul’s exhortation to “rejoice always,” we are led to the Gospel’s joyous promise of “the one who is coming.”

We invite you to pray with the passage of Isaiah, found below, using the technique of “lectio divina” (holy reading). In this approach, you first settle yourself in a quiet, comfortable posture, acknowledging the presence of God. Read the passage slowly and reflectively, noticing if any words of phrases stand out for you. Allow those words or phrases to sink in. You might repeat them a few times. Don’t try to analyze them, just allow them to be with you.

Slowly read the passage a second time. Reflect on what the significant words or phrases are touching in you. It might be your own experience of comforting someone who is brokenhearted, or of being comforted yourself. Whatever it is, trust that God speaks to you in your own personal experiences. Talk with God about this reaction, just as you would speak to a good friend. Then sit quietly and notice how God seems to be responding to you. That response may be a feeling of peace, or a sense of close presence. You may sense that God rejoices over you!

Read the passage a third time. What grace (gift) do you desire as a result of your prayer? Or, what might God be calling you to do, or to become?

Close your prayer time with the Lord’s Prayer or another prayer.

During the week, you might wish pray with the other readings, using lectio divina.

Isaiah 61: 1-2a, 10-11

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the Lord
and a day of vindication by our God.

I rejoice heartily in the Lord,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,
like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
like a bride bedecked with her jewels.
As the earth brings forth its plants,
and a garden makes its growth spring up,
so will the Lord God make justice and praise
spring up before all the nations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

GREAT SOULS – A reflection on the death of Maya Angelou

By The Rev. F. M. “Buddy” Stallings, Rector,
St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City*

Maya Angelou died this week. Over the years, I have read her work and heard her rich, sonorous voice at various events, never once failing to be inspired by what she had to say. I have quoted her poem, When Great Souls Die, as part of All Saints’ Day sermons, probably more often than permissible. The poem begins: 

Maya AngelouWhen great souls die,
The air around us becomes
Light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
See with
A hurtful clarity.

And it ends:

And when great souls die,
After a period peace blooms,
Slowly and always
Irregularly. Spaces fill
With a kind of
Soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
To be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
Better
For they existed. 

And now she is one of those great souls gone from us. Our world is diminished for that, not quite as actively good as it was when more than her spirit prevailed: when her voice, even if only through Twitter, as it was a few days ago, could still be heard.

This week I have contemplated what it was about her that moved me so. A woman and a person of color, Maya Angelou and I don’t/didn’t have much in common—though the power of common southern-ness should never be completely discounted. But it was more than our regional connection…that made her so profoundly compelling.

She knew me—without even knowing that I existed. She knew what hurt inside me, the part that I never wanted to share with anyone; she knew what held me back, what gave me hope, what enraged me and what made me laugh. To be known like that is an amazing thing and the rare gift of a great soul, particularly one who can do it through her words from afar. I will miss her, but even as I do I shall give great thanks that because she existed, I can “be and be better.”

*This reflection first appeared in Fr. Stallings’ weekly e-letter, “From my Heart to Yours.”

 

Reflections for the Fourth Week of Advent–The Grace of God Has Appeared

By Sister Natalie DeLuca, MHSH

We are drawing near the December date that brings vivid images of a tiny bundle of humanity—a promised child filled with grace who will fill us with hope and joy.  All children are beautiful. All children are filled with promise. But this child fills the desire of nations!

Set to music, our hearts swell with joy as we recall, read, hear and sing the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“For a child is born to us, a son is given us;

Upon his shoulder dominion rests,

They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,

Father-forever, Prince of Peace…”

The grace of God has appeared.  During these gifted moments that surround the anniversary of the birth of Christ, memories of many past Christmases crowd the space in our hearts.  We cherish the memory of children who perhaps left our side much too soon, of family members or friends whose love of life and whose strong faith revealed Christ to us.  They fed us with a bread of blessing.  They were Eucharist for us.  We are who we are today because of their joy, their hope, their excitement of life.

As we visit the crèche in our churches or place the small figure of the infant Jesus in the manger under the tree, we recall the birth of Jesus and all that He did for us.  It is a good time for recalling the joy and blessing of other births – of sons and daughters who gave their lives unselfishly for others; family members whose kindness let us grow in freedom as children of God; friends and teachers of our childhood or adulthood whose lives were transparent with honesty and truth and made a difference in our journey of life.

We rejoice.  We celebrate.  We are so grateful for the lives of the many who touched our lives during their journey to God.  In celebrating the birth of the ONE who was the face of God, we celebrate all the births of those loved ones who gifted us with the grace of the Babe born in Bethlehem.  Their birth was a Christmas gift to us that will last our lifetime.  We pray our Christmas praises and, in joy, give thanks!

During this last week of Advent, allow some time to reflect on the gift of Christ in your life.

What difference does He make in your life?

Who brings Christ to you today?

To whom do you bring Christ?