Monthly Archives: December 2017

Home Sick

by Howard Hain

I wonder. Did God ever catch a cold?

Did Mary look at Him while He slept, watching carefully His chest rise and fall?

Did Joseph pace around their small home, looking upward, his right hand touching his brow?

I wonder. Did they wince in sync when Jesus coughed from the bottom of His soul?

Was there a day, a single hour, from the moment Jesus was conceived that Joseph and Mary weren’t concerned?

Concerning all this there’s not much to wonder.

Jesus is human.

Of course He experienced “cold” in all its forms.

Of course Joseph and Mary felt they’d rather die than see their child in pain.

And Jesus is divine.

Of course He was homesick.

Of course He longed to return.

Between Mary’s womb and heaven the desert is awfully dry.

He climbed up high, seeking out mountain views.

He returned to the sea, seeking out salt air.

He stopped to hang out with the little ones, seeking out angels.

Jesus is just like you and me.

Only He allows Himself to be loved.

And that led Him to love to the utter extreme.

All flowed from and toward a family reunion.

His pain, His grief, His hope, His love were perfectly ordered.

Even when He coughed or sneezed or tossed and turned, Jesus did so while in the company of a promise.

And He’s extremely contagious.

Joseph and Mary became homesick too.

There’s only one place they could want to be.

With their only child.

Clinging to Him, to their God with all their might.


 

The Bird of Good Hope

Interesting old books at Books Online, a wonderful free service. In Routledge’s Christmas Annual from 1872 there’s a Christmas story called “Aidan of the Cows.” What’s that about?

It’s about a young woman named Aidan who has herds of the choice cows producing the best milk and cheese in the village of St.Koatsven in a Distant Land near the shore of a distant sea.

Unfortunately, Aidan falls on bad times because the young man she loves spends her fortune til all her cows are sold to moneylenders.

Christmas morning Aidan wanders sadly down a meadow near the sea and  hears a robin singing:

“ She listened with amazement, with fear and trembling,  with a fearful joy, because the bird sang in human speech.
“I am Robin Redbreast,” he sang, ” the Bird of Good Hope, I am much endowed among birds. For in ancient times when He was toiling up the heavy hill bearing the bitter Cross, I, moved by Heaven, alighted on His head, and plucked from out His bleeding brow ONE thorn from the cruel crown that bound his temples. One drop of His blood bedewed my throat as I stooped to the blessed task, and the blood-drop dyed my breast in a hue of glorious beauty for ever.”

Aidan listened with all the ears of her heart.
“In remembrance of what I did, a poor foolish bird! this blessing was laid upon me—that once  every year, on Christmas-eve, I should be empowered to give a good gift to the first maiden, good but unhappy, who should put her foot upon the herb Marie, as you, Aidan, have done.”

The girl looked down. Her foot was lightly- pressing the pretty little yellow trefoil plantret, which is called the herb Marie. “As you have done, Aidan of the Cows,” the robin repeated with a confident chirrup.

Of course, Aidan got her cows back and even her repentant young man, whom she marries and they live happily ever after.

The author ends the tale remarking that this all took place in a Distant Land. “ In the land that is close by us nothing of the kind takes place.”

But we know that it does. And so,  may the Bird of Good Hope, speak to you today.

4th Sunday of Advent: Mary, Woman of Faith

King David wonders, in our first reading today of the 4th Sunday of Advent, what he can do for God after all God has done for him. David had built himself a palace of cedar wood in Jerusalem, while the ark of the covenant, the sign of God’s presence, is in a tent. Should I build God a temple, a place of beauty where God would dwell and be honored,” the king asks?
The prophet Nathan tells the king: instead a building, God wants to dwell with you and your people.

In today’s gospel, God goes further. God will dwell in Mary’s womb, to take flesh from her and be cared by her. 
Our gospel begins:
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.

This gospel says so much about Mary. God showered graces upon her: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” Just a young girl of 15 or 16, Mary answers: “Be it done to me according to your word. She accepts God’ s call, but she has her questions: “How can this be?”
The power of God will overshadow you, the angel tells her. The only sign she’s given is that her cousin, Elizabeth, “has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”
“Nothing will be impossible for God.”

Then, the angel leaves, and never returns, as far as we know. Mary meets the days as they come with faith, gathering her experiences and treasuring them in her heart.
At Christmas, we’ll see Mary in Bethlehem, humbly, silently holding the Infant, her Child, God with us. At Easter, we’ll see her standing beneath the cross of Jesus.
She’s his mother, a woman of faith. We learn from her and ask her to pray for us: “Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worth of the promises of Christ. 

Communion with Saints

by Howard Hain

 

A man named Paul lives in my home.

He’s an excellent house guest.

He never imposes.

He’s never and always alone.

My daughter and I talk of him often.

He brings wisdom to our kitchen table.

I’m not exactly sure when he moved in.

But it wasn’t so long ago.

Before and with him there are others.

Theresa, Francis, Bruno, John…just to name a few.

But Paul for some reason never seems to leave.

The others, they kind of come and go.

Paul on the other hand always hangs around.

But then again, I could say the same about the rest.

Is it cliché to say it’s a mystery?


 

My Soul Proclaims God’s Greatness

Visitation

St. Luke offers a beautifully crafted narrative of the infancy of Jesus Christ in the first two chapters of his gospel. Mary concludes her visit to Elizabeth with a song of praise to God, who is “mighty and has done great things to me.” Her Magnificat.

After John the Baptist’s birth, his father Zechariah sings his praise to God. “Blessed be the Lord, God of Israel. He has come to his people and set them free.” His Benedictus.

The Benedictus is sung or said in the church’s morning prayer each day as the silence of night ends and the day is blessed.  “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet in the way of peace.”

Every evening we pray Mary’s “Magnificat” at evening prayer in thanksgiving for the blessings of the day. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…God has come to the help of his servant Israel, remembering his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.” The promises of God remain and with Mary we rejoice in them now and wait for their fulfillment to come.

Commentators on Luke’s gospel say that Luke probably uses Jewish Christian prayers applying them to Zechariah and Mary. The New American Bible, for example, says: “ Because there is no specific connection of the canticle to the context of Mary’s pregnancy and her visit to Elizabeth, the Magnificat (with the possible exception of v 48) may have been a Jewish Christian hymn that Luke found appropriate at this point in his story.”

Ancient prayers, the Magnificat and the Benedictus appropriately are attributed to Mary and Zechariah. They’re our prayers too.

Gracious God,

Let me not doubt your promises, your tender mercies, but let me rejoice in them as Mary and Zechariah did, and look for their fulfillment, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Visits and Gifts

Visits, gifts, greeting cards ( some now by email) are part of the holiday experience. But how can we love everyone all at once? I don’t know.

But Luke’s gospel makes visiting a part of the Christmas mystery. Mary goes into the hill country to visit her cousin Elisabeth after she hears the angel’s message. They meet, not just to trade family news and pass the time together, but to share faith.

They’re two believers who reveal to each other the mystery hidden within them in their unborn children. And they rejoice in their common gift.

We’ll gather with others this Christmas time; most people of faith, believers in a mystery they do not see. At Christmas, believers meet, believers to a degree.

More than we know, we are signs to each other, like the bread and wine, sometimes hardly evident. In his commentary today on the gospel of the visitation, St. Ambrose says we are like Mary and Elizabeth; “Every soul that believes–that soul both conceives and gives birth to the Word of God and recognizes his works.”

So let’s visit each other and give our gift.

Wednesday, 3rd week of Advent

 

Sacred Heart Church

 

The angel came to Mary in Nazareth, the last place we might expect an angel’s message. In this little known place, Jesus became flesh. In this young unknown woman, he came to dwell among us.

It wasn’t in Jerusalem, in the temple where God’s Presence was proclaimed. It was in Nazareth, in the quiet hills of Galilee, on a routine day, that He came.

We celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation and pray, “Pray for us, O holy mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”