Thursday, September 18, 2014

On Love Expressed and the Christian Life

Dear Coffee Talkers,

I was recently reading an article talking about the importance of expressing our love for our family and friends, and citing some examples of ways to express our affection rather than just assuming these relationships would continue to run on auto-pilot from the efforts we'd perhaps made in the past or simply from an ongoing feeling of mutual affection, un-fueled by current expressions of kindness. Some of the ideas for showing our affection included sending a text message or an e-mail, giving the person a phone call, and sending a letter or a simple gift.

While I liked the idea of the article, there was something about it that seemed incomplete to me. In grappling with what ideas might be missing, I considered an important thought about the Christian life and love: that true love expressed always seeks the good of the other and is sacrificial, not selfish. This is not to suggest that the ideas of communicating with another person in simple ways or sending cards and gifts is not part of an expression of someone's affection, but to point out that, despite Hallmark's persuasive marketing scheme, perhaps simply giving someone a greeting card does not truly represent 'the very best' that love has to offer.

I think it's fair to say that most people have experienced the development of a new friendship, a fresh crush, or a blossoming romance and the ambivalent emotions that can accompany this experience. At first, we might see the other person entirely through rose colored glasses, so to speak, and we can be easily carried away by the excitement that accompanies every smile, text message, phone call, and card we receive. Soon, however, we may find that the relationship is put to some kind of test and that it has either grown stale or has become one-sided. Maybe we are the only one sending texts and cards, or perhaps the other person is giving 'gifts' that do not really consider our good but are intended to manipulate and get something from us that they want. We may realize that one or the other of us has a need that the other party is not willing or able to meet, and we realize that perhaps this was never really love at all but instead an arrangement of feel-good convenience at best and mutual using at worst.

While some may think that hate is the opposite of love, a Christian worldview offers the possibility that using another person is that which is most contrary to loving them, or caring for their ultimate good. When I merely use someone to meet my own selfish needs, true love can never enter into the picture.  I must stop using, and being used, if I ever hope to enter into a truly loving relationship, one in which both parties truly consider the good of the other and enter into a love of reciprocal self-gift.

In Christianity, we see this ultimate model of sacrificial, selfless, and life-giving love in action: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son..." This is agape love, the love of self-sacrifice. This type of love does not seek to take anything, and while it is open to receiving back an offering of love from the beloved, it never demands or requires reciprocity for its gift to be given.

Next time we consider how to express our love for our family and friends, let us truly consider the needs of the other person, place their good above our own, and put into action this love of self-sacrifice. Let us be willing to give the gift of our very selves, and to take the chance that even when sacrificial love is unrequited it is its own reward because it is the most true to our highest calling and destiny. Because when we care enough to send the very best, it will rarely involve a greeting card but will always require self-sacrifice, a sacrifice that will bear fruit in both this life and in eternity.

As always, thanks for stopping by. Be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

On Failed Prayers, Action, and Waiting: Opening A Spiritual Door

Dear Coffee Talkers,

A journalist recently asked Pope Francis, "Given what has happened in Gaza, was the Prayer for Peace held in the Vatican on June 8 a failure?" Pope Francis responded by saying it was not a failure, but rather that "the door of prayer was opened." He continued by saying that the encounter of prayer "is a fundamental step of the human attitude" toward God's gift of peace and that while "the smoke of the bombs and the war do not let one see the door ... the door was left open at that moment."

The two ideas that struck me most in this interview were the concepts of failed prayer and of opening the door of prayer. I believe that many of us can relate to the experience of a 'failed' or seemingly unanswered prayer and the accompanying pain that goes with the experience. Sadly, this is why many have abandoned the practice of any faith or prayer at all -- the risk of being hurt again by God is simply too much to bear. This seems to be part of the experience of the prophet Jeremiah who in the midst of intense sufferings and an interior crisis proclaims, "You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped...All day long I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me." Thankfully for Jeremiah, that was not the end of the story, but his feeling of being misled and mocked as a result of his efforts at prayer and faithfulness ring in the hearts of the faithful through the centuries.

The untimely death of a loved one; the loss of a job; the end of a romantic relationship or long-time friendship; a breach of trust within a family that can perhaps be forgiven but not forgotten -- where was God in the midst of these situations? Were our prayers a failure? And if so, why bother continuing to pray at all?

The image of a door being opened, and then remaining open, as a result of our prayer is very powerful, especially in considering some of the more tragic moments of our lives. The first way that the image moves me is that the idea of the door being opened reminds me that, while the work of grace is God's, I have a part to play in the divine action by walking toward and through that door. Yes, prayer is important, but in most cases if it is unaccompanied by any action on my part it is unlikely to bear much fruit. While certain situations do not allow for a great deal of human action, most of the time we should be moved by the Spirit of God to do something practical that would move us toward the result of our prayer.

The second way that the image of the door of prayer inspires me is that it causes me to consider how many doors are still open from prayers that I have already initiated but given up on. There are times where the human action accompanying my prayer is flawed or insufficient, or where I simply have to wait upon the Lord and for much longer than I am willing. Maybe I think that prayer failed or was unanswered, and I'm so busy looking at the 'smoke' left behind by a series of unfortunate events that were simply not according to my plans. But God has not given up, and the door remains open, perhaps to be answered in a different way and  time than I was originally prepared for. That is part of the mystery of grace --  freely given, wholly unexpected, and far surpassing our wildest dreams.

Am I ready to look again for that open door, to open myself to the risk of prayer even after being burned before? When I ask this question, I hear the words that the Lord spoke to Jeremiah after the prophet's crisis of faith: "For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for woe, plans to give you a future full of hope."

As always, thanks for stopping by. Be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Friday, August 22, 2014

Guatemala 2014 - A Thank You to Our Benefactors

I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:3-6)

Click here for a link to many awesome pictures of our mission, taken by our sound technician James! :)
I am writing to express my profound gratitude for your partnership in the mission of Celebrant Singers, and to share with you a bit about my team’s recent outreach in California and Guatemala. As one of our benefactors, I consider you a very important part of our mission team and want to assure you of my team’s daily prayers for you and your intentions.

The Guatemala Team of Celebrant Singers came together for 4 intensive days of rehearsal and spiritual preparation, and then started out on our 3-week mission. I originally traveled with Celebrant Singers on a 10-week summer team to Trinidad 14 years ago, and so I was amazed not only by the invitation to travel with the ministry again, but by the idea of preparing for the mission so quickly. Any musician knows how long it can take for a group to come together musically, and even that preparation does not take into account the need for spiritual readiness and learning to work together as a ministry team. Also, our team was extremely diverse in every possible way – we ranged in age from 17 to 79 years old and came from many different Christian churches, work and family backgrounds, and countries including USA, Canada, Mexico, France, Bulgaria, and Slovenia. Even before we set out on mission, I could tell that the Lord had something very special in mind for our team, and I can truly say that by the end of the mission we had become a family deeply bonded in faith, hope, and love.

Our ministry outreach in Guatemala far surpassed any of our expectations. We were hosted by a charismatic community of Catholic Christians who had been greatly anticipating our arrival and welcomed us with open arms. The hospitality we received was extraordinary, and our presentations of music, testimonies, and presentation of the Gospel message were received by more than 5,000 people in Guatemala City and Antigua. In every place we presented, we were greeted by a large crowd of people, usually with standing room only and long lines of individuals coming forward for prayer. The great sincerity and faith of the Guatemalan people was very moving, and it was clear that the enthusiasm they had in receiving us was their way of welcoming Christ himself into their midst. We were certainly undeserving of such hospitality, but truly honored to be welcomed as representatives of Jesus.

We returned to California to conclude the ministry with the France team at the 37th Annual Homecoming Concert in Visalia and the World Touch Partners Banquet and Concert. During this time, we were able to remember the larger scope of the ministry and the importance of all of our sponsors in a very special way. Of all of the music and ministry experiences I have had in my life, this summer’s was one of the most powerful and I cannot express my profound gratitude to you for making this possible. While words may fall short, I pray that grace will suffice and I assure you of my grateful prayers.

In Christ,

Leslie A. Elliott

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Time Is Now: A Tribute to Roy the Bus Driver

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

As some of you may have heard, I've been on mission with Celebrant Singers in California and Guatemala, which at least gives me a somewhat legitimate excuse for not writing for some time now. I do plan to write at least weekly from here on out, so hold me to it!

The mission experience this summer, though brief, was extraordinarily powerful and moving in so many different ways. Really, I'm rarely lacking words to describe anything, but in this case words really do fall short.

After returning from any kind of spiritual experience like this, I always find that the reality of daily life tends to smack you in the face again pretty quickly. That's not to say that what we experienced on mission wasn't real -- on the contrary, I'd say that it was more real in the bigger picture of life and eternity -- but to point out that it's easy to come down from that mountaintop experience and get dragged down by the minutiae of daily responsibilities and trials.

But there is one particular person that my mind keeps coming back to that I want to share with you now, a person who taught me in a very short time about what is really important. His name is Roy Dick, and he was one of our bus drivers.

Roy was such a kind and gentle person, so happy to be with all of us on the team, and to serve God and us by driving us to all the ends of the earth (or all the ends of California, at least!). He always greeted each of us with a hello and warm smile, and there are a couple memories of Roy that I'd like to share.

Roy took our team for a WalMart run before we were to depart for Guatemala, and not needing anything myself, I just hung around outside for a while. When I saw Roy, he asked how I was doing and if I needed anything -- he was always concerned for others -- and when I told him that I was fine, he asked if I might have time to run in to the McDonald's to grab a Big Mac for him. It was something so small that I did for him, but he was so grateful that you'd have thought that I went and bought him a new car (or an upgraded Celebrant Singers bus, perhaps?).

The next special moment with Roy happened on the afternoon on the Celebrant Singers 37th Annual Homecoming Concert. I had just returned to meet the teams for rehearsal, and when I went in to the building I had my children with me. I was in a bit of a hurry to get them to the restroom and then to get ready myself for the rehearsal, but we saw Roy in the hallway. He was so happy to see me upon my return to the team, and really excited to meet my girls. Because I was feeling rushed, I felt inclined to just give a quick hello and to keep walking, but I felt Jesus say to me, "Won't you stop and visit with me for just a moment?" Roy wanted to know my girls' names, to say hello to each of them individually and to see how they were doing. He was so kind. I found out later that it was actually his weekend off (the ministry sometimes has the volunteer bus drivers on a rotation) but that he had come anyway that day because he loved being around us and the music. My girls and I told Roy that we'd see him later, and continued on to prepare for the rest of the day.

That was the last time I saw or spoke to Roy. A few hours later, while the musicians were on a break from rehearsal, Roy took a misstep at the edge of the stage and took a big fall into the orchestra pit area. He was flown to a hospital for treatment, but he sustained such serious injuries that he died last Tuesday evening, the night of our final banquet and concert for this summer's outreach.

I learned so much in the few weeks of our mission, but the most profound lesson was learned from Roy's life and his sudden death: that we should never take one another for granted, that we should never pass up an opportunity to give and receive love, that we should always take an opportunity to serve others, to give, to love to the point of sacrifice. The time is now to love; we have no time to waste!

When I think of Roy, I think of this Bible verse about love in action:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12: 9-12)

And I trust that we will see Roy again, and soon. May the soul of Roy, and all of the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace.

As always, thanks for stopping by and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Why I’m Honored When Satanists Mock the Mass

Dear Coffee Talkers,

It's been a while! There's been so much going on in the Catholic news scene, but so little time to write!

Some of you may know that I am one of the religion columnists for the local newspaper where I live. I haven't submitted any columns for a while because of pre-Easter and post-Easter busyness at the parish where I work, and family obligations, and also due to my occasional love of sleep. In any case, a man from my parish asked me a while ago when I was going to have another column in the paper, and he said something like, "Make it a good one -- something to stir people up, something controversial!"

I honestly wasn't thinking of what he'd said when I wrote this column today, but perhaps his exhortation was somewhere behind what follows. I wonder if they'll run it? Crazier things have happened...


          This week’s planned, then canceled, then relocated-to-a-Chinese-restaurant Harvard student group’s ‘Black Mass’ has certainly garnered a lot of attention. Understandably, many Catholic Christians were deeply offended by this satanic mockery of the central form of worship in Catholic Christianity, namely the Mass and the Eucharist. As a Catholic Christian myself, I am actually somewhat honored by this tremendous offense. Let me explain.

          I’ve learned that there are a couple major types of so-called satanists: theistic (or theological) satanists, who believe in satan as a deity and worship him, and atheistic satanists, who believe neither in the devil or in God but rather ‘worship’ themselves as their own God. It seems that the group responsible for the Harvard Black Mass happens to be of the atheistic variety, but in either case, let’s consider why any satanists would mock the Catholic Christian Mass and Eucharist specifically.

First, it seems that theistic satanists would want to pit the devil against Jesus, worshipping the evil one over his adversary. Satan, as the Prince of Darkness, would be worshipped over Jesus, the Prince of Peace and the Light of the World. In a real Black Mass, the actual Mass of Catholic Christians is not only mocked, but the Eucharist (a consecrated host which Catholic Christians believe to contain the true presence of Jesus’) is desecrated. If Jesus was not truly present in the Eucharist, why would they use a consecrated host at all? If this was just some crazy Catholic hoax, any piece of bread would do and the consecration of the host would be entirely irrelevant.

Secondly, considering the case of atheistic satanists who believe neither in God nor in the devil, their Black Mass seems more of a strict mockery than of actual devil-worship, an extreme exaltation of self over the worship of a Divine Other. The Harvard Black Mass was apparently conducted by this type of satanists, and it is said that a consecrated host was not used but that they originally had desired to use one. Again, why? If these people do not believe in God or in the devil, why do they not mock all major world religions? Why is there not an open mockery of the most sacred acts of Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, or even of Protestant Christians? Instead, we see the now rather predictable mockery of Catholic Christianity and disrespect for the Mass and the Eucharist. If this type of atheistic Black Mass exalts the self as the ultimate authority and divinity, then it must set itself as an adversary against (and exalt itself above) the other source of authority and divinity: namely, the Catholic Church, its Mass, and the Eucharist.

When satanists (of theistic and atheistic varieties) start mocking any other world religion besides Catholic Christianity, maybe I’ll consider converting, but until then I’ll hold it as a deep honor that those who choose to worship darkness and self have pitted themselves against what I (and millions of Catholics worldwide) hold to be the source of true light, peace, authority, and divinity: Catholic Christianity, the Mass, and the Eucharist.

Holy Hour of Adoration and Benediction at St. Paul's, the home parish of the Harvard Catholic Student Association

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Shortest Trip to Change My Life -- Happy Valentine's, Neighbor!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

One of my favorite things about being Catholic is that I have never been asked, as an action of faith, to go door-to-door throughout my neighborhood for any reason whatsoever. Don't get me wrong -- it's not that I am reluctant to talk with people about matters of faith (quite the opposite, in fact). It's just that, while I am rather outgoing in many circumstances, when I'm home I tend to go into hermit mode. I mean, not full-blown hermitage, but I'd definitely say that home time is when the more introverted part of me kicks in and just wants to be minding my own quiet, peaceful business and thinking my own lovely thoughts. When door-to-door folks of faith come proselytizing, I loathe it and sometime avoid answering the door altogether, but not because I don't want to talk about faith... it's because I'm at home! So needless to say, I don't really know any of my neighbors.

It's a terrible commentary on my faith life, really, to admit that I don't know a single one of the people in my immediate neighborhood very well after living here for a few years. I mean, I know the Bible mentions loving your neighbor on a number of occasions, and I'm pretty sure this concept is more demanding than the little wave I give when I see that one neighbor taking out their garbage can and the way that I generally avoid contact with the rest of them. I was recently thinking that I should do better in this regard, but as usual, made no concrete plans to do so.

The weather was so nice today that I suggested to my girls that we take a walk in our neighborhood. And then my girls asked me to let them go door-to-door to all the neighbors on our block to give out Valentine's cards while we were at it.


Everything inside me rebelled, but I knew I had to let them do it, at the risk of my own personal inconvenience and very probable embarrassment. I never could have guessed that the next hour would change my life. Here are a few highlights:

House 1: a kind older lady, presumably the wife of the man to whom I occasionally wave over garbage can transport. She was really happy to receive the girls' Junie B. Jones paper Valentines and to finally meet us, and sincerely thanked us several times for coming by, even though I was still kind of embarrassed and trying to get off her porch in pretty short order.

House 2: some kids peeking through the window, followed by their dad opening the door holding a bottle of Windex and, clearly far more embarrassed than I had ever been, apologizing to us in case we had overheard whatever it was that he had yelled at one of the misbehaving children. We handed over the Valentine's, I told the kids to be good for their dad, and a little while later a couple of the kids came out to their yard to yell a thank you to my girls for the cards.

House 3: a mom and her 3 children who we actually had met before when we were having a yard sale quite a while ago, but who we haven't seen much since because I am a procrastinating hermit (the worst kind). The mother had shared that they are Catholics from Israel who have been wanting to have their children prepared for the sacraments, and I had been meaning to follow up. They were so excited to see us again, and I honestly have seen few children as happy as those 3 were when my girls gave them their Valentines.

House 4: the young guy in his shorts and tank top, who looked groggy and possibly hung over, but couldn't stop smiling when he heard why we were there.

House 5: the guy who was cleaning the house after all of their furniture had already been moved out, and who apologized that they were leaving just when we came over to say hello. (Little did he know that we're about two years late, and not the regular welcome wagon.) He gave a big thanks, and we wished him well on his family's move.

House 6: the friendly but kind of strange guy across the street who I remember also coming over to our yard sale, but he seemed to have no recollection of who we were. He seemed happy enough about the girls' Valentines, although it kind of seemed like he thought I might be hitting on him. Hopefully, my facial expression accompanied by my nasty sweats and greasy pony tail made it clear that I was not, and we continued on as he waved goodbye.

House 7: the elderly Asian lady who, when I told her we were neighbors and the girls just wanted to give her Valentine's cards, tried to explain that she didn't speak much English. I tried to explain, through simple words and gestures, that the cards were for her. She looked happy and asked how much. I said, "No money; free, for you!" Her expression changed from confusion to gratitude, and I saw her eyes get teary as she gave an emotional thank you. As we walked down her driveway I turned back to see if my younger daughter needed help with her scooter, and saw the woman still standing there, smiling and watching us. A while later, I saw her on her driveway with a younger man (maybe her son) pointing down the street and looking our way.

You guys. My girls were just giving out these little paper Valentine's:

And I was just walking with them, trying to explain that we were neighbors just giving out some cards. I didn't even bake anything (which is probably for the best for all involved).

And everyone we saw was so happy.

It was really cool.

I'm not going to lie to myself or any of you and say that we're going to make this a regular event (because who wants Valentine's in March, anyway), but I definitely learned some great lessons from today, the most important of which can't really be put into words.

But I think my favorite lesson is that, when you have children who you school in the faith, they're bound to school you soon enough and you better hop on board for the ride.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The UN vs. The Holy See: Who Has Moral Authority?

Welcome back, Coffee Talkers!

It seems that all eyes are on the Catholic Church, and on Pope Francis in particular. As the media tracks his every move and (mis)reports his every word, there seems to be a keen interest in both secular and religious communities to see if and how Francis will set a moral compass for the world. And while his teachings and activities are no departure from his predecessors, his sky-rocket to star status in less than a year of papal reign is notable. Already named person of the year by Time, The Advocate, and GQ, the only cover left un-Poped was, until recently, Rolling Stone. I was gearing up to read my first Rolling Stone article, until a few paragraphs into the nearly 8,000 words of half-truths, gross mis-characterizations, and crude ad hominem attacks on Benedict XVI, I realized that, as Kimberly "Sweet Brown" Wilson so sagely explained, "Ain't nobody got time for that." Clearly, just because people see Pope Francis as a rock star doesn't mean that they 'get' Catholicism or regard the Church as having any kind of moral authority.

Thankfully, I was able to find some other interesting reading in the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child's 16-page lambast of the Holy See. While the UN report was certainly more interesting than the so-called article from Rolling Stone, it seems to have been based on a surprisingly similar lack of factual information about the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. 

Since the UN Committee's concluding observations open by chiding the Holy See for their previously delayed response of approximately fourteen years, I've decided to help the UN out by offering some initial insights right away, at least a decade sooner than they expect to receive a formal response from the Vatican. I will reply to a few key points from the document.

1. The Convention recommends, in a variety of ways that the Holy See (a.k.a. the Vatican) make a full review of all Canon (or Church) Law, with the goal of ensuring that it is in compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

I'm not sure how to break this to the Committee. I mean, the Vatican did get back to them (albeit 14 years late) the last time they were in touch, but they may not be on the top of their list of priorities. More importantly, last I checked, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was in no way nor at any time mentioned or cited in the Code of Canon Law, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or in any other official Church documents. To put it simply, the Holy See does not consult a UN convention for the soundness of the Church's internal laws of governance.

2. The Convention is very concerned with the rights of the child, the reporting of abuse, and the prevention of any further incidents. To this end, they make numerous recommendations to the Holy See regarding the implementation of rules, policies, and programs that would raise awareness, mandate reporting, and educate children, volunteers, employees, seminarians, and religious in appropriate policies and practices.

All of this has been going on, in a thorough and systematic way, for the past decade within the Catholic Church. Honestly, these recommendations were the most absurd to me, because it genuinely seems as though no one on the committee actually took the time to see the extensive work that Church has done in this regard. The work is far from done, I freely admit, but every one of the recommendations in this area has not only been met, but far exceeded, in Catholic schools, parishes, dioceses, and other Catholic organizations throughout the world.

3. "The Committee also urges the Holy See to make full use of its moral authority to condemn all forms of harassment, discrimination or violence against children based on their sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of their parents and to support efforts at international level for the decriminalisation of homosexuality." The Committee also "urges" the Holy See to change our Canon Law to permit abortion services for pregnant girls who are at risk.

First, let's take a look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church, where it's teaching on homosexual persons clearly states that "They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided" (CCC 2358). Again, did anyone on the committee actually consult the Church's teaching before asking them to change it?

Next, it seems particularly twisted that the committee on the rights of the child did not at all mention the rights of the pre-born child in the womb but only of the young pregnant girls (whose abortions are often performed under duress with no consideration of rights of the pregnant girl nor the pre-born child), but in any case let me explain that it will be a cold day somewhere south of Rome before the Vatican changes any doctrines or canons based solely on the recommendations of a UN committee, and certainly not on abortion. The Church does have bioethical norms that explain what might happen in the dangerous case of an ectopic pregnancy, for example, but I fear this may be too much to explain to a committee who apparently cannot even look up simple citations from the Catechism.

Lastly, and most remarkably, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child just appealed to "the Holy See to make full use of its moral authority." Read it again. It's really the most amazing part of the whole document wherein the UN Committee, after just having spent many pages criticizing the law, doctrines, and practices of the Catholic Church and urging them to come into alignment with the UN's own policies and practices, admits that the Holy See has moral authority. 


I’ll be anxious to hear what Pope Francis has to say about the document as well, and while it might make the cover of a popular magazine, I think I’ll wait to read his actual words and see what moral direction he, and the Holy See, have to offer.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Advent Day Whatever: Outside of Time, We Ponder In our Hearts

Dear Coffee Talkers,

Advent has not been at all what I expected. And isn't that just right? Because the season is about acquiring an interior stillness and solitude, about cultivating a type of listening of the heart, that makes our souls open to receive the unimaginable.

We wake from the sleep of our day to day routine to receive the eternal Word made flesh in an infant. Do we have time and room for the inconvenience of a tiny, helpless child?

We prepare ourselves for when the Word comes again. Will we be found ready, and will we even be able to recognize the divine presence in whatever unexpected form He may come to us?

This Advent has totally rocked my world. Turned things on their heads. Twisted up all of my plans and ambitions. Changed my hopes and desires. Knocked the wind out of me.

There are just too many things to do, to say, to write. So I won't anymore. I'll take God's cue to be still.

To just be.

To prepare.

I hope you'll do the same. Christ is coming. We will recognize Him, and will we be found ready?

'Til we meet again, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Advent Day 17: O Antiphons!

Welcome back, Coffee Talkers!

Thanks for all the prayers while I was super busy and then super sick! Whew. I am finally starting to feel better. And here we are again, back together just in time for the O Antiphons!

Starting today (December 17), the Church prays an "O Antiphon" for each day leading up to Christmas Eve, in order to better prepare us for Christ's coming at Christmas. Many of us know the hymn, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," and the verses to this hymn are based on these antiphons. We like to light our Advent candles at meal times in our home (we keep our wreath with candles in the middle of our dining room table), and we sing the appropriate verse of the song each evening before dinner as we light our candles. 

If you have the time and inclination to get into some O Antiphon related crafts with your kiddos (I sure don't, but more power to ya if you do!), check out my friend's blog that's full of great ideas! 

Here's the song, and the O Antiphons in spoken form (along with a little history), for any who wish to join in this lovely Advent tradition of the Church.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good, 

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

(December 17)
O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
who orderest all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go. Refrain

(December 18)
O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times once gave the law
in cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain

(December 19)
O come, thou Root of Jesse's tree,
an ensign of thy people be;
before thee rulers silent fall;
all peoples on thy mercy call. Refrain

(December 20)
O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery. Refrain

(December 21)
O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death's dark shadows put to flight. Refrain

(December 22)
O come, Desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid thou our sad divisions cease,
and be thyself our King of Peace. Refrain

(December 23)
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear. Refrain

The "O" Antiphons

There are seven short verses sung before the Magnificat during Evening Prayer of the Church on the seven days before the vigil of Christmas. They each begin with the exclamation "O". Each of them ends with a plea for the Messiah to come. As Christmas approaches the cry becomes more urgent.

The antiphons were composed in the seventh or eighth century when monks put together texts from the Old Testament which looked forward to the coming of our salvation. They form a rich mosaic of scriptural images. These seven verses, or antiphons as they are called, appear to be the originals although from time to time other texts were used. They became very popular in the Middle Ages. While the monastic choirs sang the antiphons the great bells of the church were rung.

A curious feature of these antiphons is that the first letter of each invocation may be taken from the Latin to form an acrostic in reverse.

So the first letters of Sapientia, Adonai, Radix, Clavis, Oriens, Rex, and Emmanuel, provide the Latin words: ERO CRAS . The phrase spells out the response of Christ himself to the heartfelt prayer of his people: "Tomorrow I will be there".

Why not join with the Prayer of the Church each evening and reflect on these words preparing for Christmas day by day:

December 17th:
O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner. O come to teach us the way of truth.

December 18th:
O Adonai and leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in a burning bush and you gave him the Law on Sinai. O come and save us with your mighty power.

December 19th:
O stock of Jesse, you stand as a signal for the nations; kings fall silent before you whom the peoples acclaim. O come to deliver us, and do not delay.

December 20th:
O key of David and scepter of Israel, what you open no one else can close again; what you close no one can open. O come to lead the captive from prison; free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

December 21st:
O Rising Sun, you are the splendor of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

December 22nd:
O King whom all the peoples desire, you are the cornerstone which makes all one. O come and save man whom you made from clay.

December 23rd:
O Emmanuel, you are our king and judge, the One whom the peoples await and their Savior. O come and save us, Lord, our God.

© Liguori Publications Excerpt from Advent - A Quality Storecupboard The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer

Monday, December 9, 2013

Advent Day 9: Too Cold to Blog, & Gospels in a Year

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Look, I lived in a much colder region of the US for many years, and that said, it is still FREEZING here in California. We don't have as many clothes here, ya know? Like wooly vests and mittens and crazy hats that cover most of your face and such. The point is, I'm too cold to stay up blogging tonight!

So why don't you click this little link instead, and sign up for daily e-mails to read the Gospels in a year? Or you can read the Catechism in a year, which I just completed. I bet you won't regret it.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,