Patient Waiting, Undying Hope

Each year when we begin our preparation for Christmas with the season of Advent, we listen to an instruction by Saint Cyril of Jerusalem:

“We do not preach only one coming of Christ, but a second as well, much more glorious than the first. The first coming was marked by patience; the second will bring the crown of a divine kingdom.

In general, whatever relates to our Lord Jesus Christ has two aspects. There is a birth from God before the ages, and a birth from a virgin at the fullness of time. There is a hidden coming, like that of rain on fleece, and a coming before all eyes, still in the future.

At the first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. At his second coming he will be clothed in light as in a garment. In the first coming he endured the cross, despising the shame; in the second coming he will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels. We look then beyond the first coming and await the second. At the first coming we said: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. At the second we shall say it again; we shall go out with the angels to meet the Lord and cry out in adoration: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

– Office of Readings, 1st Sunday of Advent

These words mark the anticipation of the Christian life. We sit between two comings of Christ, and, St Cyril reminds us, when the Lord comes again, it will not be clothed in silence in a manger. At the second coming, there will be no mistake that the Lord is here. But in our waiting for that day that only the Father knows, what is our attitude of waiting?

Jesus tells us what our attitude should be like. When the disciples questioned him about the signs that the end was near, Jesus responded, “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come…whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” (Mark 13:32-33, 35-37)

vigilance copyThe first disciples of Jesus thought that the Lord would return in their lifetime. They committed all their resources to getting the word out, proclaiming the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. As one Disciple after another began to die, it made them wonder, where is the Messiah? Isn’t He coming back soon? Urgency turned to hesitancy. Many possibly returned to their previous lives. Their vigilance turned its energies to ordinary tasks.

To think, we’ve been waiting for the Messiah’s return for not quite two thousand years. And, a general pattern follows that after a period of complacency, believers find themselves persecuted and must choose whether what they believe is worth dying for. We see many signs that any hope for the return of Christ is fading from our cultural memory. The memory is clouded with a sense of urgency for what is not eternal. Eternal seems so far a way, like an old fairy tale. But it is not a fairy tale and the words of Jesus are words for our generation:

“Be watchful! Be alert!…Watch!”

To have such a capacity comes from a life formed by prayer and worship. For these require discipline which also prepares the heart for hardship and difficult choices. Do we have such an attitude that will sustain our waiting? Are we willing to wait in patience and vigilance, without letting hope of His coming die in our hearts?

Come Lord Jesus! Come soon!

The Cross from the Creche


We received a very curious Christmas card.

Mary is tenderly holding the sleeping Christ child, her veil a crimson red. Behind her is the cross, and an owl peering out from over her shoulder.

It is not unusual to have Mary caressing her newborn infant Son in greeting cards at Christmas time. However, the imagery around the Mother and Child seem all wrong.

Mary is dressed in red. Red often stands for the Holy Spirit, but it also represents blood and suffering,  of Christ’s passion and of martyrdom. Placed in the context of the nativity, it reminds us that this is no ordinary child being held by a mother. Her garment is a foretaste of the sword that will pierce her heart.

The Cross.  Philippians 2:7-8 remind us:

“He emptied himself…coming in human likeness;

and found human in appearance, he humbled himself,

becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”

Our Christmas celebrations sometimes conveniently leave us to stay at the manger scene, while to understand the full meaning of the Incarnation, we must reach beyond the tenderness of the creche to the Cross. Some of Christmas’ finest songs still remind us of the ‘why’ of the Word made flesh:

Nails, spear shall pierce him through

The cross be borne for me, for you.

Hail, hail the Word made Flesh,

The Babe, the Son of Mary!

– What Child is This, verse 2

=> Read More at Ignitum Today


Advent – A Call to Wait

Passion of Cross and Mary’s Role

Three Reasons for Mary

Who Are You?

Reading ahead for this third Sunday of Advent, in the Gospel (John 1:6-8, 19-28), we hear the narrative of some priests and Levites sent into the wilderness to question John the Baptist. The dialogue that unfolds, if we can imagine, is rather odd. The inquirers approach the rough man dressed in camel’s hair:

“Who are you?” they ask.

John:  “I am not the Christ.” 

The inquirers continue, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?”

“I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”


So they said to him, “Who are you…what do you have to say for yourself?”

I was struck in reading this dialogue, with the question, “Who are you?”

How do I respond to such a question? Who am I? 

The Gospel passage begins by describing John as one “…sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (John 1:6).

Is this also the role of every follower of Christ? To give testimony to the Light, which is Christ? To be like John, allowing ourselves to become less and less, as those to whom we testify grow in their knowledge of Jesus (ref. John 3:30).

John the Baptist is a reminder for us, a contrast to the way the world would like us to see reality. His austerity tells us, all his attention is upon the “one among you whom you do not recognize…whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:26-27). Our world is uncomfortable with such a message of self-depreciation, and even more so with a messenger that points to Christ by the very way he lives his life. It is not possible for a person to live with such conviction if they are not certain of who they are.

The question begs an answer. “Who are you?”


Advent – A Call to Wait

Here’s a brief ‘retreat’ for you (thanks to Ruth – from the Pulpit of her Life) to remind us all to slow down a little bit in our anticipation of the Christ-Child. These four precious weeks before Christmas – Advent – is a time to step back and prepare our hearts to receive the Christ-Child. Are we ready to receive Him?

What if you were waiting for something that would change your life? How would you get ready for it? How are you getting ready now?

Let us pray:

God of power and mercy, open our hearts to wait.

Remove the things that hinder us from listening in the silence.

Help us to slow down, to ponder your deep unending love,

expressed through the incarnation of your Son,

the Word made Flesh.

Help us to be careful of the traps of this season of joy,

the things that distract us,

the things that keep our hearts from pondering Your love.

Open our hearts anew to recognize the ways

our relationship with You has changed our life forever.

Come Lord Jesus! Come!

Advent for Little Ones

I just came across this series thanks to a friend of mine, and I liked it so much I thought I’d share it as a resource to all my readers with children (and, for all you adults out there – like me – who are children at heart!).

The Series entitled ‘Advent Adventure’, put together by Holy Heroes, guides families through daily activities of the Jesse Tree. It is a way of helping children to prepare for Jesus, while learning about his lineage and the scriptural basis for the celebration of his birth (and salvific mission). I like the fact that the stories are told – and designed by – children, for children. For example, this cute clip on sacrifice (from Day Three), explains how the small things we do for others prepares a place for the baby Jesus (just as doing good prepares our hearts):

The preparation began this last weekend, but it’s still not too late to start this Advent project with your little ones.

Day One – Explanation of the Jesse Tree Project and Resources.

Day Two – Monday the 29th: gives a good explanation of why we need to prepare, and how to help our children understand this:

To my children, preparing for the coming of Jesus always seemed like a wonderful game, until one day when my eldest child said to me, “I really don’t get this, because Jesus has already come.”

Then I realized that I had never explained that we are preparing not only for Jesus’ coming at Christmas, but for when He comes again…In fact, our whole lives should be a preparation to meet Jesus, but the Church gives us this wonderful time of Advent to really focus us on the coming of Jesus at Christmas…”

Day Three – Tuesday the 30th: the sacrifice manger (above) and the second part of the story of creation.

Day Four – Wednesday – December 1 – more about sacrifice, and the Jesse Tree – and the Fall of Man:

“Because battle is pretty rough sometimes, we have had to develop a sturdy set of sacrifice beads and a way to secure them reliably.”

Day Five – Thursday – December 2 – Noah and the Flood is explained:

“The Jesse Tree video is all about Noah and the Flood, which is a motif that re-echoes throughout Salvation History. Think of all the times that God rescues His Chosen Ones through water or with water! Have your children think about all the times they hear about this in their catechism, and how much water plays a part in our Faith.”

Day Six – Friday – December 3 – discusses the role of St John the Baptist in salvation history:

“John the Baptist is trying to get our attention.  He is saying, “Wake up! He is coming!  Prepare yourselves for the coming of the King of Kings!”  And that is what Advent is all about.”

Day Seven – Saturday – December 4 – An introduction to St Nicholas and his feast day (Monday), and the Jesse Tree figure of the day – Isaac:

“St Nicholas is the patron saint of children. So Sunday night my children will put their shoes out by the fireplace, and overnight St. Nicholas will place in them some small token, or candy, or money…They are happy with the smallest token and that makes me realize it is not the stuff, but the celebration that they love.”

Day Eight – Monday – December 6 – Feast of St Nicholas and the praying of the Angelus:

“This practice is all but lost, but many have begun to revive it in their families before meals. We pray it before lunch every day. It is a beautiful and simple prayer, and a perfect prayer to contemplate during Advent.”

Day Nine – Tuesday – December 7 – About liturgical colors and for the Jesse Tree, Joseph, Son of Jacob:

“Today the video is about liturgical colors, something my children are always interested in because it is visual, symbolic, and they can learn it easily.  It helps them to understand the meaning of the season before they can even understand the meaning of words like “penitential.””

Day Ten – Wednesday – December 8 – On the Immaculate Conception of Mary and for the Jesse Tree, Moses:

“There is one way in which Mary is not just like any other woman: she was conceived without Original Sin. She is a human person, just like the rest of us, except that we are all conceived with Original Sin.  She was protected from Original Sin as a way to prepare her to be the Mother of God.”

Day Eleven – Thursday – December 9 – On Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego and for the Jesse Tree, Moses (continued):

“Today is a great feast day for Saint Juan Diego, the man who saw Our Lady of Guadalupe. Our first video gives you the basics about her miraculous appearances to St Juan Diego, a Mexican Indian, nearly 500 years ago…” (go to the page for the day to read more!)

Day Twelve – Friday – December 10 – Some ideas on what to do for Gaudate Sunday (3rd Sunday of Advent), and for the Jesse Tree, Samuel:

“This third Sunday is called “Gaudete Sunday.”  “Gaudete” means rejoice, so this is the Sunday when we can lighten up a little on the penitential aspect of Advent and rejoice that the Savior of the World is almost here…If your children have been doing some sacrifices, they can really feel the difference today if you do some fun Christmas preparation.

Need some ideas?  Here’s one: We often invite friends over to play and sing songs, and the older girls like to make this “Christmas cookie baking day” with their friends.” (video in today’s lesson)

Day Thirteen – Saturday – December 11 – Looking at the life of St Lucy, Gaudate Sunday, and for the Jesse Tree, Jesse:

“Today the video is about St. Lucy. We also mention “Gaudete Sunday” and a bit about this Sunday’s Gospel, which again centers on John the Baptist. Let me comment a bit on both the above.

First, John’s baptism is different from the sacrament instituted by Christ, which we are heirs of today. Ask your older kids—in light of the Immaculate Conception video—how our current baptism is different from John’s.” (Go to link for more)

Day Fourteen – Monday – December 13 – A little history about the Nativity, and for the Jesse Tree, David:

“Today the video is about the Nativity or manger scene. Our son is going to show all the different parts of our Nativity dressed as St. Francis, because he is the Saint who popularized the Nativity.”

Day Fifteen – Tuesday – December 14 – A look at the Three Kings, and for the Jesse Tree, Solomon:

“It was a star that led them (the wise men), and while that in itself is miraculous, it is a physical thing.  While our children have never seen a real angel, they have seen a star.  And the gifts they brought were physical things, too, which we may not have seen—but we can.”

Day Sixteen – Wednesday – December 15 – What are the ‘O’ Antiphons, and for the Jesse Tree, Elijah:

“During the last seven days of Advent the antiphons are called the “Great O Antiphons,” because they each begin with the exclamation “O” and then a plea for the Messiah to come. Each “O Antiphon” invokes the coming of Christ by titles derived from Old Testament prophecies.” Click the link for more interesting information.

Day Seventeen – Thursday – December 16 – What gift should I give to Jesus?, and for the Jesse Tree, Elisha:

“Today our Advent Adventure video is about giving a gift to Jesus for Christmas.  After all, Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. Since love is shown by actions, I try to encourage my children to give something to Jesus that will really help them develop their character, but also something they can actually complete for a set period of time.”

Day Eighteen – Friday – December 17 – the Blessing of a Christmas Tree, and for the Jesse Tree, Isaiah:

“When we arrange the gifts around the Christmas tree, the tree becomes a symbol of the Tree of Life, a figure of Christ, God’s greatest gift to all man.” P. John Paul II By blessing the tree, it ceases to be a pagan symbol, but a symbol of Christ.

Day Nineteen – Saturday – December 18 – the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, and for the Jesse Tree, Jeremiah:

“Because at Mass tomorrow (Sunday), you’ll hear what by now is a familiar story: the Visitation as recorded by St Luke. I hope your children recognize it and relish it, whether it is something new they’ve learned this Advent or something they are seeing new insights into.”

Day Twenty – Monday – December 20 – what are the 12 Days of Christmas, and for the Jesse Tree, Zechariah and Elizabeth:

“For Catholics, Christmas begins the night of Christmas Eve and continues until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, when Jesus’ public ministry begins.  (Yes, when you count all the days up, that’s more than 12 days!)” Click the link to find out more.

Day Twenty-One – Tuesday – December 21 – The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Annunciation:

“Today the Jesse Tree video is about the Annunciation and the Visitation.  We are almost finished with Advent!  Just a couple more days.  Remember that the celebration of Christmas begins on Christmas and continues until the Baptism of our Lord.”

Day Twenty-Two – Wednesday – December 22 – For the Jesse Tree: St Joseph

“St Joseph played an extremely important part in not just the Christmas story, but also the life of Christ…We tend to project modern times with our (unfortunate) norms of engagement and marriage onto this story…”

Day Twenty-Three – Thursday – December 23 – Feast Days of the Christmas Season, and for the Jesse Tree: Angels:

Here are the feast days of the Christmas season:

* Octave of Christmas: Dec 25 – Jan 1 —every day is celebrated as a Solemnity! It’s all just like Christmas Day!

* Dec 26: Feast of the Holy Family.

* Dec 27: Feast of St John, Apostle and Evangelist.

* Dec 28: Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs.

* Jan 1: Octave of Christmas – Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (Holy Day of Obligation).

* Jan 2: Epiphany celebrated in the United States (Epiphany traditionally is Jan 6, after the 12 Days of Christmas).

* Jan 3: Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.

* Jan 9: Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (end of the Christmas season).

Day Twenty-Four – December 24 (Christmas Eve) – The Nativity:



Also, there are a lot of other catechetical resources at the site, including a daily rosary: you can click the green arrow and participate in the daily rosary with the children.

As we enter into this season of wonder, let us pray our children come to know the deep reason for the gift giving is because of the eternal gift we have in our Lord Jesus.

Advent Vigil – for all Nascent Human Life – Update

Pope Benedict will hold a prayer vigil for unborn babies on Nov. 27, the evening before the First Sunday of Advent, at St. Peter’s Basilica in conjunction with Vespers for the Start of Advent and he is requesting that parishes, religious communities, associations and movements the world over host vigils in communion with him.

The Pope said:

“The season of preparation for Christmas is an appropriate time for invoking divine protection over every human being called into existence and for thanking God for the gift of life we received from our parents,”

This Vigil for Nascent Human Life, which has pro-life leaders rejoicing, will be held after Vespers for the Start of Advent. EWTN will televise both celebrations beginning at 11 a.m. ET, Sat., Nov. 27.

The Pope said he will pray for the unborn and their parents, for an end to abortion and research that destroys embryos, for recognition of the dignity of every human life, for the overturning of laws that permit the destruction of innocent lives, and for the healing of those who have acted against innocent human life.

He asks that all diocesan bishops (and their equivalent) preside over similar celebrations involving Catholics in every state of life around the world. (Read in full at EWTN)

Advent begins this Saturday night…candles in churches and homes will be lit…and prayers will be prayed. But this Advent will be different in its introductory tone in many Churches around the world who have pledged to pray in union with the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI for “All Nascent Human Life”. The Pope has made an unprecedented request to all Bishops around the world to reserve first vespers on November 27th for the specific intention of all life on the verge of coming into existence. The Unborn.

The timing for these prayers for children not-yet born, sets the tone for our anticipation of the Christ-child anew. It is also a reminder to us that our Lord, too, began His earthly life in a precarious state of complete dependence upon a woman for all nourishment while being carried for nine months in Mary’s womb. Advent turns our gaze to the anticipation of His coming, and preparation of the great feast of Christmas, and yet, it is the anticipation with the Christ child for the birth of every child.

Are we ready to welcome him? Let us prepare our hearts for the Lord, in our prayers for every child in waiting to be born.

__What Others are Saying __

Prayer materials have been developed by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and the Pontifical Council for the Family, and are available on the USCCB Pro-Life site.

You may also feel a desire to write a note of support of this project to the Pope at the Yes! for Benedict website.

Thanksgiving with the Holy Father By Mary McClusky

Life News: Pope’s Vigil for Nascent Human Life “Could not be more Important

National Catholic Register

Catholic News Agency: Spanish Bishops Encourage Participation

Zenit: Holy Father Urges Participation in Pro-Life Vigil

Fr. Z explains the word nascent very well.

Lisa Graas: Pope Benedict to Celebrate “Vigil for All Nascent Human Life”


Prayer of Pope John Paul II

O Mary, bright dawn of the new world,

Mother of the living,

to you do we entrust the cause of life

Look down, O Mother,

upon the vast numbers

of babies not allowed to be born,

of the poor whose lives are made difficult,

of men and women

who are victims of brutal violence,

of the elderly and the sick killed

by indifference or out of misguided mercy.

Grant that all who believe in your Son

may proclaim the Gospel of life

with honesty and love

to the people of our time.

Obtain for them the grace

to accept that Gospel

as a gift ever new,

the joy of celebrating it with gratitude

throughout their lives

and the courage to bear witness to it

resolutely, in order to build,

together with all people of good will,

the civilization of truth and love,

to the praise and glory of God,

the Creator and lover of life.

– Evangelium Vitae, 105