Leaning on the Everlasting Arms of Love

By Sr. Donna Fannon, MHSH

(This post is part 3 in a six part series on “To Love Like Jesus: A Spirituality of the Heart”.  Each week, we will post a reflection based on the Litany of the Heart by Wendy M. Wright.  To read the Litany, click here.  As Women of the Heart, the Mission Helper Sisters invite you to pray and reflect with us during the next 3 weeks, as we publish one reflection each week on this rich and inviting spirituality).With us, ponder:

What would it mean to love like Jesus?
What would it mean to have a heart like his?

Where do you go when you need a helping hand and no one is around, or no one understands what you are going through.  Maybe you have experienced a major disappointment, lost a job or were turned down for a promotion.  Perhaps you feel alone, lost, confused, hopeless, unloved, or you do not know what to do or where to go.

 Do you remember that Jesus, the visual image of the Trinity, is always approachable and ready to lavish grace and love on anyone who asks?  The title of this reflection comes, in part, from an old spiritual that was popular in the days when pioneers were setting into the Southern and Western parts of the United States.  It was a long and dangerous undertaking.  Many travelers put their trust in God and hoped to survive the journey.  Where else could they put it?

 The section of the Litany of the Heart I choose to explore (eighth stanza) is near the end.  It highlights some qualities that Jesus can share with each of us in our life journey.  In fact, the entire Trinity wants to participate in this outpouring of grace.

 Here’s what the litany might suggest:

 Be our refuge when we feel alone, confused, and away from home.

 Be our shelter when we feel rejected, misunderstood, lost.

 Be our comfort when we don’t know where to go, or what to do when we are sick, confused or weary.

 Be our rest when we try too hard, are lost and alone along the way.

 Be our welcome breast when there seems to be nowhere to go, when we are hungry and cold.

 

 For reflection: What graces do you desire from God?  Do you ask in confidence?

 

Las Posadas

By Sister Sonia-Marie Fernández, MHSH

In Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and some parts of Central America, a wonderful Christmas tradition—“Las Posadas”—is celebrated during the nine days before Christmas. The name “Las Posadas” literally means “the inns, shelter, or lodgings.”

It is a re-enactment symbolizing the Biblical journey that Joseph and Mary took to find shelter as they traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem before the birth of the Christ child, Jesus. It goes from December 16 to 24 each year. Its origin is debatable; some say Las Posadas began in Spain and others believe it originated in Mexico. Nonetheless, it is now becoming popular in the United States, especially in Hispanic neighborhoods.

The Las Posadas celebration is different in individual areas, but all have the same common theme of re-enacting the nativity. In the United States it is difficult for an entire town to observe Las Posadas, so it usually is done in individual neighborhoods or on certain streets. But, in some areas there are very large celebrations that are open to the public and visitors are welcomed.

It begins with a group of neighbors and friends who visit each other’s homes, re-enacting Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to spend the night. The processions can be held in churches or in the streets. The participants carry lit candles and a child dressed as an angel usually leads the procession. Other children pull a wagon that has a nativity scene in it.

At St. Gabriel in Windsor Mill, Maryland, my parish, we have children dressed as Mary and Joseph and they carry images of Mary and Joseph as they knock on doors asking for lodging. A choir of pilgrims (parishioners) stays outside with Mary and Joseph “singing” for lodging.  Another choir is at the home of the family who has volunteered to host the night; the other homes visited have responded that “there is no room.”  Finally, after some pleading, Mary and Joseph are admitted to the host home.

In some locations, the word “posadas” is synonymous with “parties” (fiesta). These fiestas are given every night for nine nights during the celebration leading up to Christmas Day. In my parish we have a piñata every night, with bags of gifts for the children and a light supper for all the pilgrims.

On the ninth day—Christmas Eve—everyone gathers at a specific house where Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging is recreated at the door of each room. Then, on the stroke of midnight, the hostess of the house leads Mary and Joseph to a table that has been prepared. Images of Mary and Joseph are placed on this table and the feasting begins.

An essential part of the Las Posadas party is a piñata for the children. This piñata is usually in the shape of a star to represent the one that guided the three kings on their search to find Jesus.

The last piñata of the Christmas season is broken on Christmas Eve when the people dress the image of the baby Jesus in satin clothes and place him in a manger; they sing songs to help him sleep.  Then, they continue the celebration for another several hours.

Reflection: Are we letting Jesus into our hearts and sharing “the good news” during this Christmas season?