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,

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Advent Day 8: Immaculate Conception Remix 2013

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Happy Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary! First, lemme explain this -- the Immaculate Conception is normally observed on December 8. However, this year it will be celebrated on December 9 because December 8 was the Second Sunday of Advent. Still, it is alright to wish folks a happy feast day even now, since Solemnities are celebrated with a vigil (a celebration that begins the evening before the feast day). And last but not least, I should mention that while this Solemnity is still a holy day, the obligation to attend Mass has been lifted this year. But you can still go to Mass, of course!

Now, there are lots of misconceptions (hahahahahahaha) about the Immaculate Conception. In fact, the Immaculate Conception was a subject of lively debate among my friends in a college dorm room while we were supposed to be doing music homework, and even though I had no theology background at the time I did my best to convince everyone that we are talking about the conception of Mary, not of Jesus. I now know more of the theology behind it, but rather than explain the whole thing in written form, allow me to call upon the help of Fr. Jack Collins to break this down for me. What follows is 4 minutes well-spent in this special Immaculate Conception edition of the Busted Halo Show, "You Don't Know Jack." Enjoy!

(Oh, and I just learned that some readers are having trouble viewing the video on mobile devices, so if you don't see the video below, try clicking here!)

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

Peace and all good,

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Advent Day 7: Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming

Hello, Coffee Talkers,

It's the Second Sunday of Advent! Check out this Sunday's Mass readings, if you haven't already. They start with one of my favorite verses, which inspired one of my favorite hymns.

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom. ~ Isaiah 11:1

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

Peace and all good,

Friday, December 6, 2013

Advent Day 6: Will the Real St. Nicholas Please Stand Up?

Hello, Coffee Talkers,

Hope y'all had a great feast of St. Nicholas. We sure did! We got a few nice treats in our shoes this morning, a great kick off (punny) to a great feast day.

I love to tell people about the real St. Nicholas, as the stories of this Bishop from modern-day Turkey are full of inspiration and intrigue. He is best known for his great generosity, and for his slapping or punching Arius due to his heretical views as he expressed them at the 4th century council of Nicaea. This meme is so funny to me....

If you want to learn more about St. Nicholas, and to get some great ideas for St. Nick-related crafts, projects, and more, check out St. Nicholas Center.

Also, if you are among my friends who forgot (or did not know) about the 'putting out your shoes for a St. Nicholas treat' custom from last night, I'll bet that St. Nick would not mind making a visit to find your smelly footwear this fine evening!

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

Peace and all good,

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Advent Day 5: Put Out Your Shoes!

Oh, Coffee Talkers!

Do you know what tonight is? It's the eve of the Feast of St. Nicholas, so put out your shoes and hope for a treat! 

Do you know the story of the real St. Nicholas? He was a very generous man, and a Catholic Bishop!

Click here for awesome St. Nick stories, crafts, and celebration ideas!
I'd write more, but gotta get to sleep so St. Nick can do his thing. 

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

Peace and all good,

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent Day 4 - Turning Gimmes into Gratitude

Hello, Coffee Talkers,

Sickness has hit my household this past week, and I think everyone's a little extra tired and edgy. Girls are a little extra whiny and argumentative, and mama is a little less patient. I had to give myself a little timeout today when I felt myself particularly annoyed with the incessant whines and complaints (which was also just before dinner, so I'm sure hunger was also a factor for all parties involved), and in my few moments of quiet in my room before the pretty little whiners tracked me down, I thought to myself, "Ugh, it seems like no matter how much I do or how many nice things I get for them, they are always whining, complaining, and ungrateful. Can't they just be thankful?" And then I realized that those same words could be coming from God to me.


So I simmered down a little, and am making sure we all get to bed a little earlier tonight! We all gave each other a hug and told each other some of the many blessings for which we are grateful, including the delicious meal we ate, the fireplace lit to keep us warm, and the Advent candle on our wreath to remind us that Jesus is coming. And we will all go to sleep a little more peacefully tonight than before the whining melt-down took place, because sometimes our weaknesses make way for mercy and grace. O happy fault.

Advent day 4 challenge: make a list of 4 things for which you are grateful. Post it somewhere visible, like a bulletin board or fridge. Add one more to the list during each day of Advent. Turn this into a season of grace and gratitude rather than a season of gripes and gimmes.

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

Peace and all good,

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Advent Blog-fest Day 3 - GQ's Cold-Calling Bouncer

Greetings, dear Coffee Talkers!

He was just named GQ Magazine's Cold Caller of the Year. He recently revealed that, in his youth, he worked as a bouncer. And now he's rumored to be sneaking out at night to feed the poor.

Pope Francis is inspiring all the people of the world, no matter what creed or culture, to step it up in the love of neighbor department. Read this article,  and see what you think of the comments made by the Almoner of His Holiness (the coolest title in Vatican City, if you ask me, which you didn't). Sure, this could be a bit of sensationalist journalism, but already knowing that Pope Francis has very publicly reached out to the poor, marginalized, and outcast of this world I don't really find this too unimaginable. It seems that the Pope's public life is fueled by an intense interior life of devotion to God and by many hidden works of charity toward neighbor, so perhaps some midnight Vatican sneak-outs could be among them.

And so, for today's Advent challenge, let's decide on one hidden act of care we can give to Jesus this Advent in His distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor. Can you donate to a food pantry, work at a soup kitchen, be a Secret Santa to some children in need, help out a single mom, visit some patients in an Alzheimer's care unit, or send an anonymous gift card to a family in crisis? Don't get too ambitious (I always do) -- just pick one, and then do it. I know you'll get creative, and I know the world will be a better place because of your generosity.

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

Peace and all good,

Monday, December 2, 2013

Advent Blog-fest Day 2 -- Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Welcome back, Coffee Talkers,

Have you heard the song "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence"?

I first heard it while on a traveling retreat team years ago; it was on the CD that we would play during the prayer ministry time. It was always playing at a low volume, so I could not make out all of the words right away, but even then it's hauntingly beautiful melody stayed with me.

It's the perfect song for Advent. This should be a time of preparation, not primarily through listening to Christmas songs on the radio or running out to the mall or snatching up some online deals for Cyber Monday, but mostly through silence.

We live in a world that lacks silence, but it is silence that our souls crave the most.

And this silence should help us enter into the awe-inspiring reality of the Incarnation. God sent his Son as an infant -- how tremendously unexpected, how amazingly messy, how terribly inconvenient.  The truth of God becoming man in the form of a human baby is no Chicken Soup for the Advent Soul; when we really consider the Nativity, it is wonderfully, soul-shakingly terrifying.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descending
Comes our homage to demand.

King of kings yet born of Mary, 
As of old on earth he stood,
Lord of lords in human vesture,
In the body and the blood, 
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads it vanguard on the way
As the Light of Light, descending
From the realms of endless day,
Comes the powers of hell to vanquish
As the darkness clears away.

At his feet the six winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence 
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
"Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia, Lord Most High!"

Let us carve out a few moments of silence tonight.

Be still.

Know that He is God.

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

Peace and all good,

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Advent Blog-fest 2013 -- Let Us Go Rejoicing to the House of the Lord

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

In a last-minute decision, in literally the final hours of the first day of Advent 2013, I have decided to dust off the ol' Catholic blog and post something for each day of Advent. I think I even added a new 'follow via Google +' feature, but I'm not sure yet because my theology's better than my technology, if you know what I'm saying. In any case, thanks so much for joining me for this Advent journey!

Advent is a special season of preparation, and while the most obvious preparation is for the celebration of Jesus' birth (a.k.a. Christmas!), there are two other oft neglected but equally important aspects of our Advent preparations. In addition to remembering the Incarnation when Jesus came to earth a couple millenia ago, we are also preparing to welcome Him into our hearts and homes now, and we prepare to welcome Him in His second coming at the end of time. This three-fold nature of celebration and participation in the sacraments and liturgical actions and seasons is one of my very favorite parts about being Catholic -- we are always mindful of what God did, what God is doing, and what God will do, and we join with the whole communion of saints throughout time as we connect with Creator and a community that still exists outside of past, present, and future.

Saint Thomas Aquinas captures this so beautifully in his Eucharistic prayer:

O Sacred Banquet
in which Christ is received
the memory of His Passion is recalled
the soul is filled with grace
and the pledge of future glory is given to us

Those who attended Mass last Sunday and this may have noticed that we sang the same responsorial psalm -- "let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord." We sang this psalm on the last Sunday of the past liturgical year (last week), and again on the first Sunday of the new liturgical year (today), and I have reflected on two important reasons for this repetition. First, all things should begin and end by rejoicing in the house of the Lord -- in life (baptism) and death (funeral Mass), in Christ's dying (Good Friday) and His rising (Easter Sunday), in the midst of our greatest joys and our deepest sorrows, we come together to rejoice in the house of the Lord.

The next reason just hit me today, and it may be even more important than the last -- there are some who, for many varied reasons, are no longer 'rejoicing to the house of the Lord,' and when we sing this psalm we are being called to invite them back. People always joke about Christmas and Easter Only (or CEO) Catholics, those who attend Mass only on those two days of the year, but the sad truth is that many of those people do not feel welcomed or invited to be a regular part of the community throughout the rest of the year. So if you are reading this and have fallen away from regular practice of your faith, please take this as your initial invitation to come back, to be welcomed home, and to let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord, because the rejoicing can only be full when all of the family is present.

Lastly, I have 2 more entirely unrelated topics to share with you (well, I could relate them somehow, I'm sure...):

1. My friends from graduate school, the Garlands, have just been blessed by the birth of their 5th beautiful child, Lillian Faustina Maria, who is a week old and in need of many prayers for healing. Those who wish to follow her progress as you pray can find their blog here.

2. What better time than those potentially hectic pre-Christmas days to carve out some time not only for prayer, but also for better budget planning so that you can have more peace in your life and perhaps even give more generously? I've been budgeting for a while, but was looking for an inexpensive tool that could be used on a computer and an iPod, and a friend just posted about a sale for YNAB (or You Need a Budget -- haha) so I've decided to try it out. The 50% off sale made it only $30, and guess what? I just got a link that you can use to get another $6 off! No joke! But I think the sale price only lasts through tomorrow, so snatch it up while it's cheap if you want to be a better steward of your financial resources. Click here for the link for  $6 off!

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

Peace and all good,