~ Fr. Brian Cavanaugh, TOR
St. Francis used . . . to say: "Let us begin, brothers, to serve the Lord God, for up until now we have done little or nothing. He did not consider that he had already attained his goal, but tireless in pursuit of holy newness, he constantly hoped to begin again."
The Life of Saint Francis
by Thomas of Celano: FA:ED, vol. 1, p. 273
Such is the meaning of celebrating Advent:
Advent is the pursuit of this "holy newness."
"Loving Father, help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men.
"Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world.
~ Robert Louis Stevenson
Old-fashioned, Spiritual Christmas?
John R. Brokhoff, Preaching the Parables—Cycle C. p. 28.
"What has happened to the old-fashioned, spiritual
Christmas? The cause is our disregard of Advent. The church set aside this
four-week pre-Christmas season as a time of spiritual preparation for
Christ's coming. It is a time of quiet anticipation. If Christ is going to
come again into our hearts, there must be repentance. Without repentance,
our hearts will be so full of worldly things that there will be ‘no room in
the inn' for Christ to be born again.…We have the joy not of celebration.
Which is the joy of Christmas, but the joy of anticipation."
Memory Awakens Hope
"Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent's intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church's year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart's memory so that it can discern the star of hope.…
It is the beautiful task of
Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of
Fire of Advent
"Advent, like its cousin Lent, is a
season for prayer and reformation of our hearts. Since it comes at winter
time, fire is a fitting sign to help us celebrate Advent…If Christ is to
come more fully into our lives this Christmas, if God is to become really
incarnate for us, then fire will have to be present in our prayer. Our
worship and devotion will have to stoke the kind of fire in our souls that
can truly change our hearts. Ours is a great responsibility not to waste
this Advent time."
Take Time to be Aware
Edward Hays, A Pilgrims Almanac, p. 196
"Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christs birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present.
"An old abbot was fond of saying, The devil is always the most active on the highest feast days.
"The supreme trick of Old Scratch is to
have us so busy decorating, preparing food, practicing music and cleaning in
preparation for the feast of Christmas that we actually miss the coming of
Christ. Hurt feelings, anger, impatience, injured egos—the list of clouds
that busyness creates to blind us to the birth can be long, but it is
familiar to us all."
An Advent Examination
"Advent is the perfect time to clear and prepare the Way. Advent is a winter training camp for those who desire peace. By reflection and prayer, by reading and meditation, we can make our hearts a place where a blessing of peace would desire to abide and where the birth of the Prince of Peace might take place.
"Daily we can make an Advent examination. Are there any feelings of
discrimination toward race, sex, or religion? Is there a lingering resentment, an
unforgiven injury living in our hearts? Do we look down upon others of lesser social
standing or educational achievement? Are we generous with the gifts that have been given
to us, seeing ourselves as their stewards and not their owners? Are we reverent of others,
their ideas and needs, and of creation? These and other questions become Advent lights by
which we may search the deep, dark corners of our hearts.
Life Is an Advent Season
"Life is a constant Advent season: we are continually waiting to become, to discover, to complete, to fulfill. Hope, struggle, fear, expectation and fulfillment are all part of our Advent experience.
"The world is not as just, not as loving, not as whole as we know it can and should be. But the coming of Christ and his presence among usas one of usgive us reason to live in hope: that light will shatter the darkness, that we can be liberated from our fears and prejudices, that we are never alone or abandoned.
"May this Advent season be a time for
bringing hope, transformation and fulfillment into the Advent of our lives."
St. Andrew — Nov. 30
"The feast of Saint Andrew invites us to ponder his response to Christ's call: "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men. At once they left their nets…" (Mt. 4:19-20). With his brother Peter, Andrew immediately left his fishing nets to catch souls for the Kingdom.
Are we hesitating to
respond to Christ this Advent because we are waiting for just the right
moment, those perfect circumstances that will allow us to be just as quick
as Andrew? Sadly, we may discover that while we were waiting for that
illusive moment, we failed to be attentive to the here and now invitations
of everyday life, missing opportunities to respond with the generosity of a
true follower of Christ."
Called to be Witnesses
"…[W]e are called to be
witnesses of God's by the love we extend to others; precursors of his
justice by our unfailing commitment to what is right and good; lamps
reflecting the light of God's Christ in our forgiveness, mercy and
compassion; harvesters of souls through our humble and dedicated
An Advent Reflection
"During Advent opportunities for works of charity abound calling out for Christians from every side: a sack of food for a needy family, money dropped in a Salvation Army kettle, a donation to an Indian school, a toy for Toys-for-Tots, etc. Unfortunately, these works of charity so easily can assuage the Christian conscience, while doing nothing to being about a solution to the root causes of the problem.
"Works of justice, on he other hand, follow the road less
traveled of Advent’s hope to pursue solutions for difficult
problems. Hope comes through works of justice rather than simply performing
works of charity."
Gift of Wonder
"Each year, God asks us to shed one more coat of awareness, one more dream state and come alive to the vision of Gods plan for each of us and the world-at-large.
"The older we get, the harder this is to do. As children we had a sense of wonder. Our eyes were wide open and drinking in the fascinating gifts we beheld Our thirsty souls could not have enough of the wonders of creation.
"Then, somehow, we grew too old to dream. We tired of the abundance of the world, or at least grew weary of keeping up with the feast of life, and stepped away from the banquet of life.
"The natural gift of wonder God gave us as children was meant to be kept alive. Instead we let wonder go to sleep. We entered the typical dream state of most humans.
"Why else does Jesus tell us today, Stay awake! Advent says, Wake up and realize the gifts of love you have received.
"…Psychology says, ‘Let go.’
Spirituality says, ‘Wake up.’ In both cases there is a withdrawal from the
busyness of daily life (our dream state) and a waking up to the subconscious
and spiritual depths of ourselves."
The Advent Virus
WARNING WARNING: ADVENT VIRUS
Be on the alert for symptoms of inner Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. The hearts of a great many have already been exposed to this virus and it is possible that people everywhere could come down with it in epidemic proportions. This could pose a serious threat to what has, up to now, been a fairly stable condition of conflict in the world.
Some signs and symptoms of The Advent Virus:
Please send this warning out to all your friends. This virus can and has affected many
systems. Some systems have been completely cleaned out because of it.
Meanings of Christmas
"It might be easy to run away to a
monastery, away from the commercialization, the hectic hustle, the demanding
family responsibilities of Christmas-time. Then we would have a holy
Christmas. But we would forget the lesson of the Incarnation, of the
enfleshing of God—the lesson that we who are followers of Jesus do not run
from the secular; rather we try to transform it. It is our mission to make
holy the secular aspects of Christmas just as the early Christians baptized
the Christmas tree. And we do this by being holy people—kind, patient,
generous, loving, laughing people—no matter how maddening is the Christmas
Christmas…a Living Reality
St. John Paul II December 19, 1999
John Paul II, in his Angelus message of December 19, 1999, explained that Christmas is not simply the remembrance of the Event that took place 2000 years ago when, according to the Gospel, the power of God took on the frailty of a baby. It is really about a living reality that is repeated every year in the heart of believers.
"The mystery of the Holy Night, which
historically happened two thousand years ago, must be lived as a spiritual
event in the ‘today' of the Liturgy," the Pope clarified. "The Word who
found a dwelling in Mary's womb comes to knock on the heart of every person
with singular intensity this Christmas."
Last Days of Advent
St. Pope John Paul II, Dec. 18, 2002
Pope John Paul II in his address on Dec. 18,
2002 said, "The liturgy of Advent…helps us to understand fully the value and
meaning of the mystery of Christmas. It is not just about commemorating the
historical event, which occurred some 2,000 years ago in a little village of
Judea. Instead, it is necessary to understand that the whole of our life
must be an ‘advent,' a vigilant awaiting of the final coming of Christ. To
predispose our mind to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the Creed, one day
will come to judge the living and the dead, we must learn to recognize him
as present in the events of daily life. Therefore, Advent is, so to speak,
an intense training that directs us decisively toward him who already came,
who will come, and who comes continuously."
St. Joseph, a Model of Recollection
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 18, 2005 (Zenit.org).- With Christmas approaching, Benedict XVI exhorted the faithful to cultivate a spirit of interior recollection in an often noisy world that makes it hard to listen to God.
The Pope today presented St. Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus, as a model of recollection. Joseph's silence in the Gospel, the Holy Father said, "does not demonstrate an empty interior, but rather the fullness of faith that he carries in his heart. Let's allow ourselves to be ‘infected' by the silence of St. Joseph!"
Silence "is so lacking in this world which is often too noisy, which is not favorable to recollection and listening to the voice of God," Benedict XVI said. "In this time of preparation for Christmas, let us cultivate interior recollection so as to receive and keep Jesus in our lives."
He suggested that the faithful establish in these days "a kind of spiritual dialogue with St. Joseph so that he helps us live to the fullest this mystery of faith."
The Bishop of Rome recalled that his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, "who was very devoted to St. Joseph," dedicated the apostolic exhortation "Redemptoris Custos" (Custodian of the Redeemer) to the adoptive father of Jesus.
In that 1989 document, John Paul II gave "a particular importance to the silence of St. Joseph," observed Benedict XVI.
Such a silence was "permeated with the contemplation of the mystery of God, in an attitude of total availability to the divine will," Benedict XVI said. "A silence through which Joseph, together with Mary, guard the Word of God, known through sacred Scripture, comparing it continually to the events of the life of Jesus; a silence interwoven with constant prayer, a prayer of blessing of the Lord, of adoration of his holy will and of boundless confidence in his providence."
The Holy Father added: "It
is not exaggerated to say that Jesus will learn—on a human level—precisely
from ‘father' Joseph this intense interior life, which is the condition of
authentic righteousness, the ‘interior righteousness,' which one day he will
teach to his disciples."
"Magnify the Lord With Me"
From a commentary on Luke by Saint Ambrose, bishop
December 21 - Office of Readings
"Let Mary's soul be in each
of you to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let her spirit be in each to
rejoice in the Lord. Christ has only one mother in the flesh, but we all
bring forth Christ in faith. Every soul receives the Word of God if only it
keeps chaste, remaining pure and free from sin, its modesty undefiled. The
soul that succeeds in this proclaims the greatness of the Lord, just as
Mary's soul magnified the Lord and her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior. In
another place we read: Magnify the Lord with me. The Lord is
magnified, not because the human voice can add anything to God but because
he is magnified within us. Christ is the image of God, and if the soul does
what is right and holy, it magnifies that image of God, in whose likeness it
was created and, in magnifying the image of God, the soul has a share in its
greatness and is exalted."
Wreathed in Flesh
"A novice master once
responded when asked about a life lived in Christian authenticity, said that
to be a Christian was not to know the answers but to begin to live in the
part of the self where the question is born.…He was speaking of an attitude
of listening, of awareness of presence, of an openness to mystery."
Message of the Christmas Tree: Life Is "Ever Green"
St. John Paul II
Pope John Paul II in his Angelus message on 12/19/04: The traditional "Christmas tree" is a very ancient custom which exalts the value of life, as in winter the evergreen becomes a sign of undying life. In general, the tree is decorated and Christmas gifts are placed under it. The symbol is also eloquent from a typically Christian point of view: It reminds us of the "tree of life" (see Genesis 2:9), representation of Christ, God's supreme gift to humanity.
The message of the
Christmas tree, therefore, is that life is "ever green" if one gives: not so
much material things, but of oneself: in friendship and sincere affection,
and fraternal help and forgiveness, in shared time and reciprocal listening.
A St. Nicholas Note
"It is fitting that the feast of St. Nicholas comes at the beginning of Advent and the beginning of the shoppers season. As the patron saint of shoppers he proclaims, Keep it simple! Keep it simple enough to fit in a shoe or a stocking.
"One gift that could fit in a shoe, or in a stocking hanging on the fireplace, is a note that speaks of one of our most precious gifts, the gift of time. Such a St. Nicholas note might read: The gift I give to you is half an hour of quality conversation each night right after the dishes are done. Or, The gift I give to you is one Saturday a month to be with you and do whatever you want to do. We can appreciate the value of such a gift if we keep in mind that according to a recent survey, the average married couple in America has only 30 minutes a week of communication outside of exchanges that take place at the dinner table, and between parent and child is only 14 minutes. As you can see, the possibilities are almost unlimited for these St. Nicholas shoe gifts.
"Come, St. Nicholas, patron of shoppers
and gift-seekers, and make Christmas this year fun, creative and
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, First Sunday of Advent
Pope Benedict XVI in his homily celebration of First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent(Saturday, 2 December 2006) said, "At the beginning of a new yearly cycle, the liturgy invites the Church to renew her proclamation to all the peoples and sums it up in two words ‘God comes.' These words, so concise, contain an ever new evocative power.
Let us pause a moment to reflect: it is not used in the past tense—God has come, nor in the future—God will come, but in the present—‘God comes.' At a closer look, this is a continuous present, that is, an ever-continuous action: it happened, it is happening now and it will happen again. In whichever moment, ‘God comes.' The verb ‘to come' appears here as a theological verb, indeed theological, since it says something about God's very nature. Proclaiming that ‘God comes' is equivalent, therefore, to simply announcing God himself, through one of his essential and qualifying features: his being the God-who-comes.
Advent calls believers to become aware of this truth and to act accordingly. It rings out as a salutary appeal in the days, weeks and months that repeat: Awaken! Remember that God comes! Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today, now!
The one true God, ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,' is not a God who is there in Heaven, unconcerned with us and our history, but he is the-God-who-comes. He is a Father who never stops thinking of us and, in the extreme respect of our freedom, desires to meet us and visit us; he wants to come, to dwell among us, to stay with us. His ‘coming' is motivated by the desire to free us from evil and death, from all that prevents our true happiness. God comes to save us.
The Fathers of the Church observe that the ‘coming' of God—continuous and, as it were, co-natural with his very being—is centered in the two principal comings of Christ: his Incarnation and his glorious return at the end of time (cf. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis 15,1: PG 33, 870). The Advent Season lives the whole of this polarity.
In the first days, the accent falls on the
expectation of the Lord's Final Coming, as the texts of this evening's
celebration demonstrate. With Christmas approaching, the dominant note
instead is on the commemoration of the event at Bethlehem, so that we may
recognize it as the ‘fullness of time.' Between these two ‘manifested'
comings it is possible to identify a third, which St. Bernard calls
‘intermediate' and ‘hidden,' and which occurs in the souls of believers and,
as it were, builds a ‘bridge' between the first and the last coming."
Joy is the True Gift of Christmas
Pope Benedict XVI (12/18/05) commenting on the scene of the Annunciation as recounted in today's Gospel (4th Sunday of Advent). "With the angel's greeting to Mary —‘kaire' in the Greek, which means ‘be joyful'—the New Testament begins," he said. "We could say that the first word of the New Testament is ‘be joyful,' ‘be happy,' in other words, ‘joy.' This is the true meaning of Christmas: God is near us, so near that He became a child."
The Holy Father then highlighted how "we realize that today's world, where God is absent, is dominated by fear, by uncertainty." Nonetheless, "the words ‘be joyful because God is with you and with us,' truly open a new time."
"Joy is the true gift of
Christmas, not the expensive gifts that call for time and money. We can
communicate this joy simply: with a smile, a kind gesture, a little help,
forgiveness. And the joy we give will certainly come back to us.…Let us pray
that this presence of the liberating joy of God shines forth in our lives."
The Christmas Mystery
Adrian Nocent, OSB,
The Liturgical Year: Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, Collegeville, MN. Liturgical Press, 1977
p. 182 "…God became man, not so that he might be with us, but so that we might be with him. In other words, the incarnation is the starting point of our divinization.…It comes about so that, having become in a sense ‘divine,' we may be capable of effectively working with Christ to rebuild the world for the glory of the father. We are thus not passive bystanders at the incarnation. The incarnation radically transforms the history of the world and the personal history of each of us. Because of it, each of us must measure up to God's plan and play his proper role in it."
p. 191 "…What Christmas renders present is the starting point of our salvation; it is ordered toward our redemption, which it already contains.
The introduction of the crèche and all the Christmas folklore has been a good thing, and neither can nor should be simply rejected. We must admit, however, that the injection of these elements, especially at a time when both the liturgy and the knowledge of Scripture were in decline, has turned Christmas, for many, into the feast of tender piety; midnight Mass is the most important thing to these Christians, and the feast has no further influence on their lives."
p. 218 "The birth of Christ destroys the effects of death, and causes new life to be reborn in us, man is regenerated by Christ's coming as man. This new life consists in our sharing the divine nature.
Here again, the Church in her liturgy has been guided by the theology of the Fathers. In the patristic reading for the Office of Readings on Christmas, St. Leo bids us thank God through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, because ‘in his loving mercy he took pity on us, and when we were dead because of sin, he gave us life with Christ so that in Christ we might be a new creation, a new work of his hands.' He then utters the well-known exclamation: ‘Christian, recognize your true dignity, and now that you have become a sharer in the divine nature, do not return to your earlier degradation through evil ways.'
The liturgy links the birth of Christ with a renovation, or renewal, with our generation, or birth, and with a novitas, or newness of life, as opposed to a vetustas, or decrepitude (the state of one who is worn, decayed, old, and feeble)."
p. 220 "The renewal that Christ's birth effects is not to be thought of as restricted to intelligent beings. The whole of creation benefits from the re-creation that is the fruit of Christ's suffering and resurrection and that is already implicitly contained in his birth. St. Paul told the Ephesians that the aim of God's love-inspired plan was ‘to unite all things in him [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth' (Eph. 1:10)."
"…This theme, which has become part of the Eucharistic liturgy, is the best expression we have of the glorification of the cosmos. The whole of creation, and not man alone, experiences the regenerative power of the incarnation."
"…we must realize that his
[Christ's] presence is a consecration of the world. The world was of course
already consecrated to a degree, since God was the one who had made it, but
the presence of the Word within the cosmos restores its dignity and gives it
the possibility of rebuilding itself with the elements already at its
The Christmas Woman
William Frebuger, "Making Christmas a Saving Event," Catholic Update, 12-85
"Lukes Gospel account of the Christmas event is full of activity And yet, in the middle of the frenetic action, here is this woman wrapped in mystical silence She demonstrates the necessity of a quiet place within ourselves at Christmastimethat place where we are most ourselves in relation to God.
"It is a place of silence, not because
it is untouched by all the activity of our lives, but because it is capable
of wonder. Every prayer begins with silent wonder before it turns to words.
Our first response to God is dumbstruck awe at who he is and what he has
done for us."
The Coming of the Light
…Christmas celebrates the dawn of the Light of the World. The powers of darkness are overcome by his coming to share our life. The long reign of sin is ended and grace has been poured out upon the earth. The Sun of Justice has arisen, and evil is vanquished."
Perhaps the hardest thing to remember about Christmas is this. "It celebrates the incarnation, not just the nativity. The incarnation is an on-going process of salvation, while the nativity is the once-for-all-historical event of Bethlehem. We do not really celebrate Christs birthday, remembering something that happened long ago. We celebrate the stupendous fact of the incarnation, God entering our world so thoroughly that nothing has been the same since. And God continues to take flesh in our midst, in the men and women and children who form his body today. And the birth we celebrate is not just the past historical event but Christs continuing birth in his members, accomplished by the power of the Spirit through the waters of baptism.
"…What we celebrate is our
redemption in Christ and the transformation of all creation by the presence
of the divine in our midst."
"‘There is not enough
darkness in all the world to put out the light of one small candle…' I have
always remembered those words, not so much for their poetry and imagery as
for the truth they contain. In moments of discouragement, defeat or even
despair, there are always certain things to cling to. Little things,
usually: remembered laughter, the face of a sleeping child, a tree in the
wind – in fact, any reminder of something deeply felt or dearly loved."
The Whisper of Christmas
"There is no evidence of any kind regarding the date of Jesus' birth. His nativity began to be celebrated on Dec. 25 in Rome during the early part of the fourth century (AD 336) as a Christian counterpart to the pagan festival, popular among the worshipers of Mithras, called Sol Invictis, the Unconquerable Sun. At the very moment when the days are the shortest and darkness seems to have conquered light, the sun passes its nadir. Days grow longer, and although the cold will only increase for quite a long time, the ultimate conquest of winter is sure. This astronomical process is a parable of the career of the Incarnate One. At the moment when history is blackest, and in the least expected and obvious place, the Son of God is born…"
The Joy of Christmas
Christmas Day, cycle A,
Sunday Sermons, The Millennium Edition, CD-ROM Collection, Voicing Publications
"The joy of Christmas is contagious—but not primarily because of our gifts of dolls and trucks, bikes and pretty dresses, sweaters and ties…The joy of Christmas is contagious because of the spirit behind the gifts. The glory of Christmas is that a gracious God became one of us to tell us that He loves us. And, in his or her Christmas giving, the genuine believer symbolizes his or her inner desire to spread this Good News.
Today we celebrate
Incarnation! Today we rejoice! The eternal God comes into the flesh and
blood of humanity. Christmas cards portray the little Babe, the Manger, the
Magi, the shepherds. Little children learn that today is Jesus' birthday.
But these pieces of the story only touch the edge of the mysterious event
which brings us together. The Good News is that the God of Mercy has come
into the history of humanity to bring us perfect peace. For the peace of
mind and heart and soul that the world cannot give, follow Jesus. And when
you follow Jesus, do not be surprised to see others following you. After
all, the spirit of Christmas is contagious."
Christmas – God Comes So Close to Man
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI in his weekly address on
January 4, 2012 said: "The phrase admirabile commercium, current in
the theology and spirituality of the Nativity, is used to describe this
‘admirable exchange between the divine and the human.…The first act of that
exchange comes about in Christ's own humanity. The Word assumed our humanity
and, in exchange, human nature was raised to divine dignity. The second act
of the exchange consists in our real and intimate involvement in the divine
nature of the Word.…Thus Christmas is the feast in which God comes so close
to man as to share the very act of being born, showing men and women their
most profound dignity: that of being children of God. Humanity's dream which
began in the Garden of Eden – we want to be like God – is realized in an
unexpected way, not through the greatness of man, who cannot make himself
God, but through the humility of God Who came down among us in His humility,
raising us to the true greatness of His being.'"
Christmas is for Adults
William Freburger, The Secret of Christmas," Catholic Update, 12/85
"The real reason for celebrating Christmas is that it happened once. And that one time changed the world. The infant born that first Christmas grew in wisdom and age and strength; he suffered and died and rose again; and he saved his people from their sins.
"This saving feast, for once and for
all, has given birth to a special child who becomes the model and pattern
for our human growth and wholeness. The real secret of Christmas—if we must
treat it as a secret—is that the feast is for…adults!"
Heart of Christmas
Dr. Brian Linard, A Way to the Heart of Christmas
"A noted poet was once asked in an interview if he could explain one of his poems ‘in ordinary terms.' He replied with some feeling, ‘If I could say what I meant in ordinary terms I would not have had to write the poem.'
From the time of Christ's birth the people of
God have ‘had to write a poem' to Christmas, composing a single
multi-stranded paean of praise spanning the centuries, because ultimately
the meaning of Christmas resists being fully spelled out ‘in ordinary
Let Me Not Keep Christmas
Linda Felver, A Book of Christmas, Nashville: Upper Rooms, 1988, p. 48
"Let me not wrap, stack, box, bag, tie, tag, bundle, seal, keep Christmas.
Christmas kept is liable to mold.
Let me give Christmas away, unwrapped, by exuberant armfuls. Let me share, dance, live Christmas unpretentiously, merrily, responsibly with overflowing hands, tireless steps and sparkling eyes.
away will stay fresh—even until it comes again."
Bells on Christmas Day
Pulpit Helps, 12-92, p. 23
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was filled with sorrow at the tragic death of his wife in a fire in 1861. The Civil War broke out the same year, and it seemed this was an additional punishment. Two years later, Longfellow was again saddened to learn that his own son had been seriously wounded in the Army of the Potomac.
Sitting down to his desk, one Christmas Day, he heard the church bells ringing. It was in this setting that Longfellow wrote these lines:
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
And thought how, as the day had come
Till, ringing, singing on its way,
Then from each black, accursed mouth
It was as if an earthquake rent
And in despair I bowed my head;
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep.
Christmas Eve Prayer
"Give us, O God, the vision which can see Your love in the world in
spite of human failure.
"May the forgiving spirit of Him to whom we dedicate this season prevail again on
A Christmas Prayer
"We thank you for this place in which we dwell,
LIVING FAITH, Vol. 4, # 3
"Meister Eckhart once said: ‘What good is it that Christ was born 2,000 years ago if he is not born now in your heart?'
"Lord, we do far too much celebrating your actual coming in our hearts. I believe in God, but do I believe in God-in-me? I believe in God in heaven, but do I believe in God-on-earth? I believe in God out there, but do I believe in God-with-us?
"Lord, be born in my heart. Come
alive in me this Christmas! Amen."
The Joy You Give
"It's sharing your gifts, not purchasing gifts;
Irish Christmas Prayer
May the winter wind be always at your back.
May the frost shimmer soft upon your fields.
And, until we meet again,
may the love of the Christ Child
shine warm upon your home.
The Night Before Christmas
Sister St. Thomas, B.N.D. de N,
A more spiritual version of the famous Christmas story
Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the town,
The children were nestled, each snug in their beds,
He thought of the caves in the side of the hills,
And there in a cave, in a cradle of hay,
More rapid than eagles Gods bright angels came;
Now fly to the Earth, where My poor people live,
The Angels assured them, theyd nothing to fear,
He was swaddled in bands from His head to His feet,
Then softly they left Him, The Babe in the hay,
The Gospel Tree
There once was a shining Christmas tree
"The lights are so bright," they would say
Then one bulb was heard to say
Besides I am so very small
I think of all the lights upon the tree
I thought perhaps no one would care
Our Gospel, like this Christmas tree,
Lets keep our tree ablaze with light,
The Best Gift
On Christmas Eve, a young boy with light in his eyes
He leaned up and whispered in Santas good ear
How is it, dear Santa, that in your pack of toys
And Santa smiled kindly and said to the boy,
He told that small boy with the light in his eyes,
But although I do visit each girl and each boy
Some homes are broken, and the children there grieve.
So I tiptoe in, kiss each girl and boy,
"If only God hears me and answers my prayer,
Its a very hard task, my smart little brother,
"Thats part of the answer. The rest, my dear youth,
The sack never empties of love, or of joys
"And do you know something? Youve got a sack, too.
And if on this Christmas you want to help me,
The light in the small boys eyes was glowing.
And just for a moment the small boy stood still,
Day of Hope
Edgar Guest, The Gift of Christmas
Christmas is the one day of the year
It carries the torch of brotherhood.
It is the one day in the year when most of us
It is the single day when most of us
When most of us are as gracious and generous
When the joy of home is more important
When peoples of all races speak cheerfully
When high and low wish each other well;
And the one day when even enemies forgive and forget.
"A man is at his finest towards the finish of the year;
When it's Christmas man is bigger and is better in his part;
If I had to paint a picture of a man I think I'd wait
Man is ever in a struggle and he's oft misunderstood;
from Collected Verse of Edgar Guest
Some Special Gifts
Here are a few suggestions for special gifts:
Christmas is a gift of love wrapped in human flesh and
tied securely with the strong promises of God.
Christmas is angelic music in the form of a carol
Christmas is "glory to God,"
"good will to man,"
Christmas is "peace on earth" for those who accept it
Christmas is a man on duty tending sheep, or machine,
Christmas is a tall green tree which serves as festive altar
Christmas is a ringing bell calling a distraught humanity
Christmas is a glowing hearth gently placed in the winter
Christmas is an altar to which man can bring his heartache
Christmas is the sparkle of anticipation and the steady light
Christmas is the shining star of hope in the sky of all mankind.
Christmas is more than words can tell,
William Arthur Ward
Christmas is more than a
time of music, merriment and mirth;
Christmas is more than a
time of gaiety, greenery and gifts;
Christmas is more than a
time of tinsel, trees and toys;
Christmas is more than a
time of festivities, family and friends;
Christmas is more than a
time of carols, cards and candy;
Christmas is more than
Santa, stockings and surprises;
The Presence of Christmas
William Arthur Ward
"Christmas is not just a season,
Christmas is truly the essence
"It is easy to think Christmas,
A Christmas List
"Fear less, hope more;
A New Way of Living
"The birth of Jesus made possible not just a new
way of understanding life but a new way of living it."
Where to Search for the Lord
"The Christmas story reminds us once again it was not mans idea that the Son of God should be born in a stable. And so the first thing we learn from Jesus birth is that the Lord will not always be found where we expect to find Him. We tend to look for Him in the nice, the clean, the warm. We expect Him to be in churches and in the Bible and in hymns of praise and in Christmas cards which have Scripture verses on them And if these are the only places we search for the Lord, then were not looking in the stable. This reality is expressed with dramatic force in these lines from Michael Quoists book called Prayers:
A Prayer for Christmas Morning
The day of joy returns, Father in Heaven, and crowns another year with peace and good will.
Help us rightly to remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wisemen.
Close the doors of hate and open the doors of love all over the world…
Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil, by the blessing that Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clean hearts.
May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children,
And the Christmas evening bring us to our bed with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus' sake.
from A Treasury of Christmas Stories.
There is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day,
Are you willing
to ignore what the world owes you,
to put your rights in the background,
to see that men and women are just as real as you are,
to own up to the fact that probably the only good reason
to close your book of complaints against the management
Are you willing to do these things even for a day?
Are you willing to stoop down and consider
to remember the weakness and loneliness of people growing old;
to stop asking how much your friends love you,
to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear
to try to understand what those who live in the same home with
to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less
to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your
Are you willing to do these things, even for a day?
Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing
Then you can keep Christmas.
And if you can keep it for a day, why not always? But you can never keep it alone.
Six Days of the Week,
A Candy Makers Witness
A candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would be a witness, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane. He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ.
He began with a stick of pure white hard candy. White to symbolize the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus, and hard to symbolize the Solid Rock, the foundation of the Church, and firmness of the promises of God.
The candy maker made the candy in the form of a "J" to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior. It could also represent the staff of the "Good Shepherd" with which He reaches down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like all sheep, have gone astray.
Thinking that the candy was somewhat plain, the candy maker stained it with red stripes. He used three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the Cross so that we could have the promise of eternal life.
Unfortunately, the candy became known as a candy
canea meaningless decoration seen at Christmas time. But the meaning is still there
for those who "have eyes to see and ears to hear." I pray that this symbol will
again be used to witness to the wonder of Jesus and his great love that came down at
Christmas and remains the ultimate and dominate force in the universe today.
Affirmations of Christmas
I believe that Christmas is more than a time for parties and ornaments; it is a time for remembering Christ and the incarnation of God's love in human flesh.
I believe there are gifts more important than the ones under the Christmas tree, the things we teach our children, the way we share ourselves with friends, and the industry with which we set about reshaping the world in our time.
I believe that the finest carols are often sung by the poorest voices; from hearts made warm by the wonder of the season.
I believe in the angel's message that we should not be afraid—that the Child of Bethlehem is able to overcome all anxieties and insecurities.
I believe in prayer and quietness as a way of appropriating Christmas—that if I wait in silence I will experience the presence of the one born in the manger, for he lives today as surely as he lived then.
I believe in going away from Christmas as the wise men went: "another way." I want to be different when these days are past—more centered, more thoughtful, more caring.
And I believe God will help me. Amen.
10 Christmas Commandments
"The following item appeared in a church newsletter and contains some good advice that will help us keep selfishness in check this Christmas:
Anyone keeping these commandments is sure to have a
1 Corinthians 13 – a Christmas Version
If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child. Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband. Love is kind, though harried and tired. Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way. Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can't.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure.
Merry Christmas and lots of love to you and yours!
Is Your Family Holy?
Mitch Finley, CATHOLIC DIGEST, Jan. 1993, p. 39
"When the Bible says holy it means separate or different. The word implies being healthy and whole in a world where much is un-healthy and fragmented. The English phrase hale and hearty sums up true holiness.
Holiness includes such concepts as humor and laughter, compassion and understanding, and the capacity to forgive and be forgiven, to love and be loved. Thats holiness.
Holy families are not free from conflict, nor do they never hurt one another. Holiness in families, rather, comes from learning to forgive and to be reconciled, and learning to face our problems and do something about them.
In family life, holy means striving to surrender to Gods light within us when the darkness around us seems overwhelming. It means struggling day after day to bring creative orderif only a bit of itto the chaos in our lives. When we work at cultivating forgiveness, reconciliation, and community, we embody Gods holy will in the context of family life.
A family embodies holiness by striving
to be ‘hale and hearty,’ not by trying to be ‘perfect’ according to a set of
other worldly standards."
St. Pope John Paul II, "Lay Members of Christ’s’s Faithful People"
§ 40 "The Family: Where the Duty to Society Begins" "The family is the basic cell of society. It is the cradle of life & love, the place in which the individual ‘is born’ & ‘grows.’"
And he says, "…make the family aware of its identity as the primary social nucleus, & its basic role in society, so that it might itself become always a more active & responsible place for proper growth & proper participation in social life."
"Tips for Today’s Parents"
Christopher News Notes, (# 385, June 1996)
Work of Christmas Begins
"When the song of the angels is stilled,
And to radiate the Light of Christ,
The message of the Feast of Epiphany announces to all people, everywhere:
Rise up in splendor
your light has come,
Let the work of Christmas begin,
and let it begin with you."
"Long after the angels disappear into the heavens, the shepherds return to their flocks, the magi journey home and the great star sets, Jesus remains.
The Child in whom we rediscover God's great love for humanity becomes the adult Redeemer who challenges us to imitate his selflessness and compassion in order that we might transform our world in love…
May we allow the miracle of Christmas to continue long after the holiday trappings have been packed away;
May we welcome the adult
Messiah and his challenging Gospel to recreate our lives, making the peace,
justice and hope of this holy season a reality in every season of the new
Message of Hope
St. Pope John Paul II, January 1, 2000
Pope John Paul II, in his message
Earth to Those Whom God Loves!" for January 1, 2000 says: "At the dawn of
the new Millennium, we wish to propose once more the message of hope which
comes from the stable of Bethlehem: God loves all men and women on earth and
gives them the hope of a new era, an era of peace. His love, fully revealed
in the Incarnate Son, is the foundation of universal peace. When welcomed in
the depths of the human heart, this love reconciles people with God and with
themselves, renews human relationships and stirs up that desire for
brotherhood capable of banishing the temptation of violence and war."
Wise Men, Return to the World
"…we are like the 3 Wise Men who journeyed to Jesus. Now, like those Wise Men, we return to the world from which we came, to the everyday life where we will witness to what we have seen.
…"indeed it compels us to start out afresh on a new stage of the journey on which we become proclaimers and heralds.…The Wise Men were in a sense the first missionaries. Their encounter with Christ did not keep them in Bethlehem, but made them set out anew on the paths of the world.
"We need to ‘set out anew
from Christ,' with the zeal of Pentecost, with renewed enthusiasm. To set
out from him above all in a daily commitment to holiness, with an attitude
of prayer and of listening to his word. To set out from him in order to
testify to his Love by living a Christian life marked by communion, charity,
and witness before the world."
Phyllis A. Tickle, "What the Heart Already Knows",
A Book of Christmas, Nashville: Upper Rooms, 1988, p. 13
"The twelve days of
Christmas come to an end on January 6, and the season of the Epiphany
begins. But Epiphany not only ends Christmas, it also fulfills it by
celebrating the revelation of the Christ to the whole world. The coming of
Incarnate God to all people, especially to those of us who are Gentiles, is
the bridge from birth into life, the event that makes Easter possible for
most of us. The light of the Epiphany illuminates the church's year as it
illuminates the human race from whom the kings came."
Epiphanies are Made for Sharing
Father Thomas Rosica, CSB,
Solemnity of the Epiphany, Year A, Dec. 25, 2010
"The word ‘epiphany' means ‘to show forth.' Epiphanies, both large and small, tend to be private events – yet events with great significance for the public. Trying to share the details with another of an epiphany is fraught with complications. The words are never quite right, and even the most sympathetic listener cannot fully bridge the gap between description and what is was like being there. Most of us keep our personal experiences of the Holy to ourselves. Who would believe it? And who would really understand? The irony is that epiphanies are made for sharing, even as they are impossible to communicate fully.…
"Unlike the poor shepherds, the Magi had to travel a long road; they had to face adversity to reach their goal. It was anything but a romantic, sentimental pilgrimage that we often see in our manger scenes!…
"The experience of the magi reminds us that all who make the tedious journey to the truth will finally encounter it and be changed in the process. They can never go back to a ‘business as usual' way of life. When we meet Christ and see who he really is, we will never be the same – and only then can we hope to begin to share in his mission.…"