Monday, November 29, 2010

First Monday of Advent

Christmas is the Feast of the Home 
s Gilbert K. Chesterton has said, by a divine paradox Christmas, which is the Feast of the Homeless One who had to find shelter in a cave and to be warmed by the breath of oxen, is celebrated in every home.  For this reason it is good for us in this holy season of Advent to reflect on the importance of the home and Christian civilization.

One of the most historic shrines of France, attended annually by thousands of visitors, is Malmaison, the home of Napoleon and Josephine.  It was here that Napoleon came after his brilliant military victories.  Each room is arranged exactly in the same manner as when this great military leader occupied it.  There is the very chair in which sat this monarch of the world  empire, there is the desk at which he wrote, and there the pen with which he mapped out his great victories. 

As the visitor passes through these rooms exuding a martial atmosphere, he comes into the suite occupied by Josephine.  There is a marked contrast.  No martial note here.  Only the little incidentals that minister to the needs of womankind and echo forth the dominant note of her heart are present.  True, here in this room is a beautiful harp, a symbol of domestic peace and homely concord.  Upon further inspection, however, we note that its strings are broken.  It stands there mute and silent as an ironic reminder that discordant notes of domestic strife once filled this chamber.  To every informed visitor it is a symbol and a reminder that the great Napoleon who conquered Europe failed in the altogether crucial building of the most important empire of all -- the empire of his own home.  Indeed, the inspired writer has written the epitaph for this story when he said: "Greater is he who governs himself than he who rules cities."

With the authority of the Vicar of Christ and the kindly voice of a shepherd caring for his sheep, the pope reminds all peoples that the home is the foundation of human society.  He who undermines the home, the Father of Christendom points out, blasts at the solid bedrock upon which not only society but all stable government alike is built.  No expedient yet devised by the sociologist or political scientist constitutes so might a bulwark for the protection of human society and orderly government as the teaching of Christ's Church concerning the sanctity of marriage, the indissolubility of its bond, and the permanence of the Christian home.

The mother is the "heart," the father is the "head" of the home.  It is the plan of an all-wise and provident God that a child be reared in a home where the principles of proper thought and action are instilled by a loving mother and a kindly ruling father.  After years of study and research, experts in child psychology now assure us that impressions received during early childhood undoubtedly set up mental patterns and modes of conduct, in the light of which all the experiences of later life are interpreted and evaluated.  Indeed, this is merely an affirmation of a truth spoken thousands of years ago by the inspired writer of the Book of Proverbs, wherein we read: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

The home dominated by the mother and father occupies the all-important position in life.  A mother need not be learned, as measured by worldly standards.  She need only have a knowledge of God and a loving, kindly fear of the Lord in order successfully to train her child.  A father need not know the ways and means of ruling an empire!  Indeed, if he did, he, like the great Napoleon, might neglect the empire of his home.  A father need only have an understanding of the words,"the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."  Such a father placed in rule over a child, with his loving spouse at his side, is indeed the builder of nations and is beloved of God!

Our Holy Father Pope Pius XII reminds us in his encyclical letter on "Christian Education" that the home precedes both the church and the State in the matter of education.  For, since the mother is the first and most effective teacher of the child, the home becomes the first and most important school.  No lay teacher, sister, or priest can be an adequate substitute for the mother as a teacher.  These agencies are only meant to be complementary and supplementary to the training given the child in the home.

The Church for our edification and inspiration points to the model home of Nazareth, where Jesus dwelt in obedience to Mary and Joseph.  Thus did our divine Lord set up an example for youth everywhere, for Scripture tells us, "He was subject to them."

Great has been the example of good homes through the ages!  Look to the saintly influences of St. Monica in praying for her son, Augustine.  Look to the example of the queenly mother Blanche and hr influence over her son, St. Louis of France.  Look about the world today and wherever you see priests and sisters you will know the influence of the home that is good.  Look into your own heart today!  Remember the joys of your happy home life!  Is it any wonder that a ballad comes down through the years, sung by a thousand voices, a thousand times over, "Home, Sweet Home"?

Somewhere in heaven today there is a mother reaping the reward of a Christian home she founded upon earth.  To such noble women we pledge our loyalty to preserve these ideals for America, under God, and in filial devotion and prayer, we say:
Mother, upon me gaze tonight
From thy beautiful home above;
And tell me are the stars as bright
As the beacon of thy love?

Mother, does sometimes upon thy knee
While the angels stand and stare,
The Christ-child sit and tell thee of me,
And finger thy silvery hair?

Mother, when life's short years are run,
And the Gleaner beacons to me,
Oh, pray the God in that Little One
To bring me home to thee.

One of my all-time favorite paintings of Our Blessed Mother with the Child Jesus, this work, called "Kissing the Face of God" blesses the world through the hands of Morgan Wiestling.  You can read about her inspiration for this masterpiece here.
 ~ Lisa

First Sunday of Advent

Preparing For Christmas

The Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent:
esus said to this disciples:  There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars;  and on the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the sound of the sea and of the waves, men withering away for fear and expectation of the things which shall come upon the world; for the powers of heaven shall be moved.  And then they shall see the Son of man coming on a cloud with great power and majesty.  But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads; because your redemption is at hand.  And He spoke to them a similitude;  See the fig-tree, and all the trees;  when they now shoot forth their fruit, ye know that summer is nigh.  So also, when the kingdom of God is at hand.  Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all things be fulfilled.  heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away  (Lk. 21;25-33).

The Catholic Church is the most interesting institution in the world.  Like her Founder, she is both human and divine.  She is human because her members are of human origin; she is divine because Christ, the Head of these members is divine.  The Catholic Church is the greatest true-story teller in the world.  She is the greatest of all narrators because, being human, she is like a great nourishing mother, Alma
sa she soothes her children with the happiest of tales in a most loving manner.  She is the most profound and interesting storyteller, for she tells the story of God in His relations with men, the "sweetest story ever told,"  the story of God becoming man, the Incarnation.

Now, how does holy Mother Church tell this story and where does she get her facts?  The Church tells the story by her liturgy, by her chant and, as it were, by painting liturgical word-pictures, thus arresting our attention, and by turning over the pages of the life of Christ for the perusal of the facts.

The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the storytelling by narrating the anticipation of Christ's coming and by highlighting the story in the word-picture of the liturgy. The liturgy of the Catholic Church is most impressive and contains a world of meaning if we will but look beneath the surface and meditate reflectively.  Every movement of priest and people, every psalm, every prayer that is uttered has a meaning and contains a fund for spiritual enrichment.

It is our purpose in these thought pieces, in preparation for Christmas, to show the role that prayer and penance play in the life of each member of the Mystical Body of Christ.  Thus, by a close following of the Gospels for the Sundays and by our thinking with the Church in a liturgical sense, we shall listen to the story related by our fostering holy Mother Church concerning the greatest character of all history, Jesus Christ, true God and true man.

There is a pamphlet by Dom Gueranger entitled, "Advent, Its Meaning and Purpose," which tells of the preparation that should be made by Christian hearts before Christmas.

In such a spirit of prayer during these Advent days we come to the feet of our Holy Mother; we liste to the most interesting of all storytellers and to the sweetest story of them all.  In spirit we go to a church in the City of Rome, St. Mary Major's.  In this church we kneel before the Crib of Bethlehem.  On the first Sunday of Advent all Christians in the spirit of the liturgy of the Mass make their way to this station.  It is for this reason we find the prayers of the Mass centering around the birth of Christ and the Virgin Mother and the crib.

The story of the long awaiting for the coming of Christ is told in the words of Isaias the prophet, who of all the prophets has most directly and explicitly spoken of the Messias.  Each day of
Advent the priest reads in his Divine Office something from the writings of this great prophet.

In this prophecy Isaias speaks of the Lord, who exalted His children only to have them despise Him; He speaks of  Israel, "who hath not known the Lord and his people, who hath not understood."  And He says:  "They have forsaken the Lord, they have blasphemed the Holy One of Israel; they have gone backwards."

The words of the Prophet should make a deep impression on our hearts at the beginning of the holy season of Advent.  Who of us can hear without trembling this voice of the Lord, who is despised and unknown even at the very time when He is to come and visit His people:  "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts."

The story is being retold.  The Church, in accents of solemnity, in colors of penitential purple vestments, in notes of solemn music is repeating for us the burden of her message.  Christ is coming to save the world, which, as Isaias says is sickened -- "the whole head is sick and the whole heart is sad."  Christ is coming to judge the world, for "the powers of heaven shall be moved, and then they shall see the Son of man coming on a cloud with great power and majesty.  When thee things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand."

Members of Christ's Mystical  Body, hearken to the words of the "sweetest story ever told" as recounted by the greatest mother of them all.  The story is Christ's coming, or Advent.  The mother is the Church.  Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep, to save the world from chaos, to rescue souls from the materialism of communism and to save them for the all-powerful dignity of incorporation in Christ's Mystical Body.  We shall do this by beginning to reform ourselves, by spending Advent prayerfully, by "casting off the works of darkness and putting on the Lord Jesus Christ."


Blessed Saviour of men, You [prepared for long years by prophecies and symbols to foretell of the Coming of the Anointed One, the Messias, who would redeem the world and reopen for us the gates of Paradise.

This Advent we pray and beseech You to accept our humble offering of peparation.  Each day will be for us a step, each step a prayer, each prayer will be a pilgrimage toward Bethlehem with Jesus and Mary and Joseph.  Help us to pray fervently, to walk valiantly, and to persevere to the end.

And one of the seraphims flew to me, and in his hand was a live coal, which he had taken with the tongs off the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said:
Behold this hath touched thy lips, and thy iniquities shall be taken away, and thy sin shall be cleansed.
And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:
Whom shall I send? and who shall go for us?
And I said:
Lo, here am I, send me.
(Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8
Douay-Rheims Challoner)

Concerning Isaias, you might also recognize this passage from the prayer of the priest before the Holy Gospel of the Mass:

Cleanse my heart and my lips, O Almighty God, Who cleansed the lips of the Prophet Isaias with a burning coal.  In Your gracious mercy deign so to purify me that I may worthily proclaim your holy
Gospel.  through Christ our Lord.  Amen.


he theme of this book suggests that man has gotten away from the true nature of Christmas.

Today, Christmas is celebrated without Christ in many quarters.

Christmas is the season when God became man in the form of a child, and yet, unhappily, in how many homes, because Christ is uninvited, children, too, are no longer welcome.  Christmas, like Emmanuel, means "God with us."  If we celebrate Christmas without God, we have lost its meaning.  If we refuse an inn to God's children as the fruit of marriage, we repeat the sad tale of Bethlehem that refused an inn to Mary and Joseph and the Child.

Christmas means Christ's Mass.  But the Protestant revolt has denied the true sacrifice of the Mass.  It has uprooted His altar and replaced it with a pulpit.  There are some who profess to be ministers of Christ and yet deny His divinity.

The Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament has been removed from their altars and the voice of man has usurped his place.  the pivot and focal point of the Protestant Church is not the altar but the pulpit.  Man's presence has replaced god's presence; private interpretation has taken the place of God's authority.

Christ is sacrificed in the Mass and the Mass is Christ present with us.  Take away the tabernacle of God and, since nature abhors a vacuum, the pulpit of man is ushered in to replace it.  Remove the Mass, where Christ is offered and adored, and the result is that man is dehumanized whereas he should be super-naturalized.  Man exalts himself instead of humbling himself and adoring God.  Without God man is not even himself.  He is dehumanized.  He is less than man.  For man, as God made him, is just a little less than the angels.

Christmas today, for the average worldling, means feasting and food -- a holiday, with tinsel and tree, and an exchange of gifts.  it is externalized and made pagan in its concept.

It should mean attendance at Mass -- at Christ's Mass on Christmas day.  it should be a day of great dignity, of rejoicing as evidenced in a temperate use of food and drink and a meeting of loved ones under the star and spirit of Bethlehem.  it should mean not so much a receiving as a giving to Christ's poor in imitation of God who gave Himself to the poor in the greatest of all gifts -- His only-begotten Son.

This book is written with the hope and intention of bringing to our minds the thoughts of Advent that we may think and pray with Mary who brought Christ to us.  Advent, like Lent, is a time of preparation in thought and deed for a great event.  Certainly if a king or a cardinal were to come to our home as a guest we would prepare for the advent.  Should we not prepare, then, for the great King of the universe during these days?  His Advent or "coming" into our hearts depends so much on how we pray and meditate during these preparatory days to Christmas.

In thinking of Christmas we always conjure up in our mind's eye the happy days of childhood, the memory of our parents who may have passed onto God's Judgment, and of our early home -- all these are most joyous recollections.  Certainly Advent should not be observed in a lugubrious or melancholy manner.  Penance is a joy when it is performed for God.  When imposed upon us for a selfish motive it is a drudgery.

These Advent days, then, can be most joyful, our recollection of former years can be most happy if we dedicate them to God.  In simple terms, we can be happiest when all things are in harmony and in their proper place.  This is the definition of health.  This is the understanding of peace -- the "tranquility of order."  It is our aim here to put Christ back into Christmas -- to enjoy the godliness of having Christ's Mass at Christmas.

Merry Christmas to you!  May Christ and His Mother bless you by their presence because of your goodness in giving to them your will and understanding during these Advent days.

Christmas Mass  -- Clarence Ganon, 1908