Tag Archives: God

The Most Common Occurrence

by Howard Hain


Christ lives in the Eucharistic Prayer.

He listens carefully.

The Father listens too.

We listen with Them.

The Holy Spirit speaks.

He speaks a great silence.

He listens to the listeners.

We collectively hear.


Three Persons.

His Entire People.

All Creation.

The Sound of One Breathing.

The Sound of Life.





Still Life with Nativity

by Howard Hain


Can’t keep it neat

Bunched-up cloth

Shifting sand

An avalanche of gifts

Those toward the outside move the most

The trough is fixed in place

The world turns, the Cross stands still” *

Manger, manger, what happened to you?

Sprouted roots

Began life as a tree

…..A table

……….A sawhorse

……………A wagon wheel

Dusty bumpy road

Excitement of a coming feast

Not quite yet

To and fro

Which place is home?

Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem

The land of Cana

A wedding toast

Now a wooden throne

Plenty of wine to go around

The world turns, the Cross stands still” *

Manger, manger, what happened to you?

Sprouted roots

Began life as a tree


* this line is a loose paraphrase of the Carthusian motto: “Stat Crux Dum Volvitur Orbis” (The Cross Stands Firm, While The World Turns)

Wise as Doves

by Howard Hain


Rembrandt, “The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds”, 1634

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.

—Luke 2:8-9

Perhaps the scariest thing to those of us who cling tightly to the things of the world is to accept the job that the Lord assigns us.

Oh, how so many of us are so quick to long for greater adventure!

Yet, when it comes to those humble, little shepherds to whom the angel of the Lord appeared, we are perhaps even quicker to long to be one of them—sitting quietly upon a gentle hillside, effortlessly tending to a passive flock, while the always-full moon provides a soft, ever-so-appropriate illumination from above.

But we are liars. For there’s nothing less romantic in each one of our daily lives, or more mundane. We simply have to be honest, or at least consistent. It all depends on how we look at it. If we see the shepherds in such a delicate light then we also need to see ourselves in the same. For before the angel appears, the shepherds were hardly posing for picturesque landscapes. Perhaps it is for this very reason—their realness, their authenticity, their holy simplicity—that the Lord chose them to be present when He revealed His glory.

It is exciting. We have a wonderful choice, then. Either our “boring” lives make us just the kind of people to whom God prefers to reveal Himself, or our lives are a lot more “exciting” than we ever imagined. Either way, what is vital to making such a decision is true sincerity and genuine gratitude. We need to thank God for who He has made us, for where He has placed us, and for what type of task He has assigned us.

A faithful, humble heart dreams and believes and sees great things among the most ordinary circumstances. Just look at the young virgin and the upright carpenter to whom the shepherds “went in haste” to find in a stable, adoring a child born within the company of the “lowest” of men.

If we spend our time dreaming of being someone else, living somewhere else, and doing something else, we miss the opportunity of being exactly who God intends us to be—and when that happens—we are always in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and most tragically, doing that which matters very little.

For to be the first on the scene, the first to “lay hold”, the first to adore the New Born King, is as good as it gets—even for those whose “normal existence” isn’t standing around all alone—day after day in the scorching sun or biting cold, while picking fleas from matted-down fleece or scaring off hungry wolves.

The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…”

So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.

Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.”

—Luke, Chapter 2:10,16-18,20


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.


Mary’s Mother

by Howard Hain

Albrecht Durer, “Virgin and Child with Saint Anne”, ca. 1519 (The Met)

Christmas is a time for grandmothers.

They bake and cook and decorate. Their homes become mini North Poles, diplomatic outposts of Santa’s Castle.

At its core, Christmas is of course all about Jesus. All about Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. All about the Holy Family.

The Holy Family is an extended family though. And it doesn’t stop at grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, or even cousins and distant cousins.

Just ask Saints Joachim and Anne, Zechariah and Elizabeth, or John the Baptist—not to mention all the unknown relatives whom the child Jesus surely encountered throughout His Galilean days. Ask any one of them about the far-reaching ripple effects of family grace.

Those touched by Jesus have a tendency to appear bigger than life.

Look at Santa Claus.

Most of us are aware that he is really Saint Nick.

But do we stop to wonder who Mrs. Claus really is?

I think she’s Saint Anne.

After all, Mrs. Claus is seen as everyone’s grandmother, especially when it comes to holiday cheer. But when it comes to truly celebrating the birth of Jesus, it is through Saint Anne that we approach the gates of Christ’s Nativity.

Mary’s Mother holds a special key. She is first among grandmas, first among those who pinch chubby cheeks, who pass along one more extra sugary treat.


Saint Anne help us. Speak to us. Show us how to be grand parents to all those around us, especially the little ones. Stir up the spirit of Advent. Bake away the holiday blues. Cook up a dish of Christmas love that only your hearth can serve.


Come one, come all, to the home of Saint Anne. Come with me to Grandma’s house for a holiday visit. Taste and see. Enter her kitchen, where the hot chocolate can always fit a little more whipped cream, where you hear the constant refrain: “eat…eat…eat…”

At Grandma’s your plate is never empty.

Her table is continually set.

She always sees Jesus as having just been born.

She is always wrapping Him up tightly in swaddling clothes.

It is simply grand.

To Grandma, Jesus is always an innocent child.

And she can’t help but see Him deep within both you and me.


Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com

Web Link: Metropolitan Museum of Art. Albrecht Durer, “Virgin and Child with Saint Anne”, ca. 1519


Little Drummer Boys and Girls

by Howard Hain

Yesterday I witnessed a “dress” rehearsal for a live nativity. The cast was made up of first and second graders, and the audience was mostly composed of residents of a retirement home for religious sisters, Franciscans. It was spectacular.

Last week I was at Radio City Music Hall to watch the Rockettes in their “Christmas Spectacular”. It was quite a production.

Sitting in the dark this morning I cannot help but contrast the two.

I also cannot help but relate to the seven-year old who played the part of The Little Drummer Boy.

As that child walked so slowly toward the foot of the altar, where the rehearsal was being staged, I saw my vocation in an entirely different light.

The children were all singing their hearts out, and many of the eighty and ninety year-old sisters were mouthing the words. The boy with the drum didn’t utter a sound. He just kept walking, slowly, extremely slowly toward the altar, every once in a while ever so slightly pretending to tap two tiny sticks upon a toy drum. He was beautifully awkward.

There was no greater spectacle on earth at that very moment. Shall I dare to say, no greater event that heaven or earth has ever known?

For a child was born. We were all being born.


Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.*

Little Drummer Boy was composed by Katherine K. Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone in 1958.

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com


A Man Named John

by Howard Hain

A Man Named John

There is a man named John. He was born and raised to be good. He believes that if he is a good person when he dies he will enter heaven. So while here on earth he prepares for death. The result is John lives a simple life. His home is simple. His occupation is not one many would find out of the ordinary. Yet John spends much of his time quietly bettering himself. In short, John is a good man.

It has been a long process. And John knows that his time is coming to an end. He also knows well that the end of his life is not in his own hands. He tells himself again and again “all one can do is prepare.” And prepare is what John has done since birth: He spent his youth lassoing his passions, his middle years harnessing his ego and pride, and his later years in private reflection upon the afterlife—an afterlife in which he hopes and prays he will be permitted to share. But it is his recent days that have been the most difficult. He battles to stop himself from thinking that he has been good and is one of the few who deserves to enter paradise. So each morning, before he rises and meets the day, John prays in bed. He prays in these final days, the days that matter most, for humility. He asks God for nothing but to remain within His glorious will.

Morning after morning John continues to pray. With each day he senses that his preparation is coming closer to an end. He feels his body slipping away and his spirit being freed. He senses he is on the verge of being born into salvation.

One morning as John is praying in bed the door is thrust open. A man and a woman walk into the room. The woman immediately applies a large metal clamp to John’s head. She holds John in place while the man begins to rip John’s body apart. Piece by piece, limb by limb, the man cuts away. The man and woman chat about their weekends as if John were never alive. Piece by piece John is pulled apart. Oblivious to John’s screams, indifferent to his fear, ignorant of his pain, in denial of his life, the man continues to tear away, as if John never breathed nor was ever born—as if dismantling an unwanted couch that won’t fit through the door.

Now what if I told you that John was never born, never lived, never prepared for the afterlife, never ripped into pieces and pulled from his bed. What if I told you that instead of being born John was conceived, instead of living he developed, instead of preparing for the afterlife he prepared for this life? What if I told you that instead of being ripped into pieces and pulled from his bed he was ripped into pieces and torn from the womb?


Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com