The Magnificat

As we near the end of Advent I though we would take a look at the Canticle of Mary. This is one of the eight oldest hymns and perhaps the oldest one about Mary. The words are taken from the Gospel of Luke (1:46-52) at the Visitation Elizabeth greets Mary with the first half of the Hail Mary and Mary’s response is the Canticle or Song of Mary it is also known as the Magnificat (from My Soul magnifies the Lord) and in the Eastern Church it is simply the Ode of the Theotokos. It is typically prayed during Vespers or Evening Prayer in the Western Churches (Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican) Protestants sing it during Advent and in the East it is sung during Sunday Matins. A version of the Canticle in English is as follows.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.

In the Eastern Church after the Canticle itself they add ‘You who are more to be honoured than the Cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim, you who, uncorrupted, gave birth to God the Word, in reality the God-bearer, we exalt you.’ or “More honourable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: true Theotokos, we magnify thee.”

 

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Fourth Sunday of Advent

This week the readings come from the prophet Micah (5:1-4a), Psalm 80, the Letter to the Hebrews (10:5-10) and Luke’s Gospel (1:39-45)

We light all four candles this week one for Hope, one for Faith, one for Joy and one for Peace or some other sort of four. This is something that isn’t as easy to tack down precisely what it is  and vary from place to place, but from the list this was taken from it is Peace this week.

The focus in this weeks readings seems scattered we get The Visitation in the Gospel, Micah tells us that the Messiah will come from Bethlehem and he shall be peace,and to the Hebrews we hear that Jesus came to do God’s will. By bringing up Mary’s visit to Elizabeth we are reminded that Mary plays a big role in our faith but all to often we forget about her if it wasn’t for her faith to “let it be done unto me according to your will” Christianity wouldn’t be here. I hope that we all can be inspired to follow the example of Mary and Jesus and be able to do the will of the Father. By mentioning the Visitation we should also be turning our thoughts to all those people who are traveling to visit family over this next week and for them all to have safe travels to and from where ever they are going.

Third Sunday in Advent: Gaudete Sunday

Our reading this week come from the Prophet Zephaniah (3:14-18a), the responsorial comes from Isaiah 12, Paul’s letter to the Philippians (4:4-7) and the Gospel of Luke (3:10-18).

If you can’t guess from the title this is a special week in Advent typically this week is associated with Rose/Pink and is a brief reminder of the joy that comes from Christ Jesus. This week we light a candle for Hope, one for Faith and the rose one for Joy. We hear repeatedly in the readings today shout for joy and rejoice and John the Baptist being asked “What should we do?”. Joy is one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit and this isn’t just happiness but it is happiness rooted in Charity or Love from God. It is the awareness that God is one’s strength and protector. As Paul says “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!”  All of our readings may not end on the most positive note “burning of chaff” but as we are reminded in Psalm 1 “Happy are those who delight in the Lord.” We can rejoice in the Lord because we know the Lord. Let us take some time this week and this Year of Mercy to show how much we know the Lord by practicing the Works of Mercy and making them a part of our lives.

Second Sunday of Advent

Our readings for the Sunday come from the Prophet Baruch 5:1-9, Psalm 126, the letter to the Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11 and the Gospel of Luke (3:1-5).

We light one candle for Hope and one candle for Faith this week. In the readings we hear how the mountains will be made low and the depths filled to make a path to prepare the way for the Lord speaking about mercy and repentance. This year has been named by Pope Francis as a Year of Mercy and it will officially begin on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Mercy is a complicated thing it comes from the Latin meaning something like “price paid or wages” and is more closely related to merchandise then the benevolence, forgiveness and kindness to which we think of.  It exists in the ethical, religious, social, legal realm and it can mean different things in the different realms. In the many of the Christian religions there are the Works of Mercy. They come in two types Corporal (feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead) and Spiritual ( instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish the sinner, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses willingly, comfort the afflicted, and pray for the living and the dead).

These Works of Mercy are important as Pope John Paul II said in Dives in Misericordia ” Jesus Christ taught that man not only receives and experiences the mercy of God, but that he is also called “to practice mercy” towards others”. This is something that we need to do in the world today. With all the violence and hostility around the world we need to be able to respond with mercy and not more violence and hostility. All people, Christians and Jews included need to be accepting of Muslims as not all of them are members of radical groups who want the world to be in chaos.  If you have some time perhaps read the Papal Bull from Francis announcing the Year of Mercy. Let us all be willing and able to help make the mountain low and fill in the depth and prepare a smooth path for the Lord.

First Sunday of Advent

The readings for this Sunday are from the Prophet Jeremiah 33:14-16; the book of Psalm 25; the 1st Letter to the Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; and the Gospel according to Luke 21:25-28, 34-36.

As we begin the new Liturgical Year as well as entering into the season of Advent we are reminded that the days are coming when the Lord will fulfill his promise and we have to be patient. We are reminded by the name of the season Advent which means coming.  We light one candle for Hope. For many of us patience is something that doesn’t come easily. Who actually watches television or videos on the internet and not skip the advertisements.  Patience is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and is one that we it seems we need to ask for.  In the days since Thanksgiving some people in my neighborhood have gone and put out their Christmas lights and Coffee shops have dropped the Pumpkin Spice flavoring for something more Peppermint. Yet radio stations have been switched over to the Christmas carol format since about the middle of November and there have been Christmas\Holiday ads on television since Halloween.  Waiting can be difficult but sometimes waiting can be more enjoyable then what you are waiting for, as we should note with the new Star Wars film coming out soon. Back when The Phantom Menace we first released back in 1999, people were so excited to see Star Wars back on the big screen but many people were let down by the film with so much and they continually pick on these later films. Yet we aren’t just waiting for a new Star Wars movie we are waiting for the second coming. Films aren’t the only thing that people are anxiously waiting just look at the 2016 United States Presidential nomination process it seem like it has been going since 2012 when Obama we elected for his second term.  As we were told last week the time in coming but we do not know the day or the hour. Let us all pray that we can have more patience in this season of Advent as well as in the New Year. Since as that saying goes “Good things come to those who wait” whether a romance or something that’s on a Christmas list. Patience is essential for all people and I hope that we all can work on being more patient especially with each other.

 

Advent Calendars

I know it’s a bit early for this but growing up one of the things that was fun about Advent was the Calendar, there was a piece of chocolate and it counted down the day until Christmas.  Now I found this on Reddit that Costco has a German Beer Advent Calendar. This sounds like a wonderful thing 24 beers for the month of December a beer for each day.  After doing a quick Google search it’s not the only game in town as well and they have instructions on how to make your own. Maybe I should start a new Advent tradition.

 

Fourth Sunday in Advent

 

We have arrived at the last week in the season of Advent and it is a short week as Christmas is on Thursday. This week we hear from a different Old Testament book for the first time this year with the first reading from the Second Book of Samuel and introduces us to a key figure from which Jesus comes, King David. Samuel is according to the Jewish people is one of the former Prophets, which provides a historical overview of the people of Israel, Christians have placed Samuel in a new classification of books known as historical books. In our reading today King David has just finished conquering all of Israel and has settled into his palace where he has the desire to build a temple for the Ark of the Covenant since the Ark has been in a tent since the time it was built and David lives in a building he posits that so should the Ark. Well as it would be Nathan, a prophet at the time, is spoken to by the Lord after David states his intention and the Lord establishes a covenant with David. In this Davidic covenant the Lord established David and his ancestors as rulers of Israel and that the kingdom will endure forever, there is some messianic overtones to this covenant as the Lord says that he will raise up your heir and make his kingdom firm and I will be a father to him and he will be a son to me. Many Christian put the dots together and say that Jesus is the fulfillment of this covenant.

In the second reading we hear from Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul once again is very wordy and we have a reading which consists of one sentence. This is the end of the Letter to the Romans and it seems like Paul is saying that salvation is open to all people now, you do not have to be a Jew to be saved. As we reach the Gospel we hear Luke’s account of the Annunciation this is the only biblical account of it, and yes this reading should be familiar since we heard it earlier this month at the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The angel Gabriel was sent down from heaven and tells Mary “Do not be afraid, I bring you glad tidings, for you will bear a son and name him Jesus.” Mary ask how this is possible and Gabriel replies Through the Holy Spirit and tells Mary that her cousin Elizabeth is with child herself and is in her sixth month for nothing is impossible with God” Mary says yes “Let it be done unto me according to your will.” This is a tremendous statement and I am not sure how many of us would have to courage to say it. Let us look to Mary our Mother as an example of letting go of our own personal agendas and following the will of the Lord. Perhaps in the New Year we can try to follow Mary’s lead.

Third Sunday in Advent (Gaudete Sunday)

We take a break from the purple for a week and we light the pink\rose candle and as we rejoice in the nearness of the Lord’s coming at Christmas, it is also known as Gaudete Sunday from the first word in the entrance antiphon, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.”

As we enter into the readings we start once again in the prophet Isaiah. In this reading Isaiah is describing his mission from God, he’s been sent to bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to captives and release prisoners. Now we should remember that Isaiah is talking to people who have just been in exile in Babylon. This mission statement is picked up by Jesus in his live and is something that we should all strive to do. The second half of this reading might be personification of the people of Israel, as the Lord has done great things for them but hasn’t done much in return but the Lord will bring forth justice and praise spring forth before all nations. We can look at this half as an individual as well; this is a bit like the Magnificat, My soul rejoice in God my Savior for God has look upon us with favor. The Canticle of Mary, The Magnificat, is one of the options for the Psalms this week as well “My soul rejoices in my God.”

Turning to the second reading we head from the first letter of Paul to the folks in Thessalonica Paul begins with our theme this week Rejoice always. It is widely believed that this is the first book of the New Testament to be written down. In this reading Paul is giving a rundown of how Christians should be living our lives. Rejoice always, pray unceasingly give thanks, test everything retaining what is good and refraining from evil. Paul was writing to these people with the idea that Jesus would be coming back sometime soon so much of this advice seems absurd to us today who has the time to unceasingly pray in the world today. It is fitting that we hear these words as we grow closer to Christmas since Paul was getting that we must have a reason to be joyful since we know that we are waiting in hope for Christ to come again at Christmas but also to come again for real.
As we reach the Gospel we once again hear about John the Baptist but it is from the beginning-ish of the Gospel of John this week. John was sent by God to testify to the light so that all might believe through him. In the reading the Pharisees and Levites came out to talk with John and they asked him many questions. Are you the Christ? Elijah? A prophet? John reply no to all of them. Then they ask “Then who are you?” to which John replies using Isaiah’s words “I am the voice calling our in the wilderness” This is a question we should all ask ourselves this week “Who are we?” Are we joy filled like Isaiah and Paul talked or like John out there evangelizing the faith? For so many of us at times we would say sure that sounds like us  but not all the time.

Second Sunday in Advent

We continue waiting for the birth of Jesus at Christmas, this week we hear in the readings that the Lord is coming and we need to prepare for him. Isaiah this week tells us that a voice cries out in the desert prepare the way of the Lord. Every mountain made low and the hills turn to dust the pathways will be made smooth and after all this then the Lord will be revealed to all mankind. Then Isaiah describes the Lord saying he is like a shepherd feeding the flock and gathering them carefully into his arms leading them home. This reading today has a handful of songs based on it. We should reflect upon the first part of this reading where everything must be level for the Lord to come. Advent is a great time to clean up our own lives and make room to welcome Jesus into our lives at Christmas.

We also hear from the Second letter of Peter, this is one of the catholic (universal) letters as it is not written to a specific person or location. Peter II is not written be the apostle Peter and it was the last book of the New Testament to be written, many scholars consider it to be less important than the other letters. In this reading we hear that the Lord will come at any time and to be at our best, we also have an explanation as to why we do not know the time, as many in the early church though that Jesus would be coming again soon, Peter explains that with the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. This really hits the nail on the head God is outside of time and can see it all from creation of the earth until it is swallowed up by the sun as it turns into a red giant. I have recently though of this as creation is an ongoing process and the world is being created a new each and every day that we are alive, hopefully for the better as we try to build the kingdom of God here on earth.

Finally we arrive at the beginning of Mark’s Gospel. It begins by quoting from Isaiah, A voice cries out from the desert “Prepare the way of the Lord!” then Mark talks about John the Baptist who was in the desert preaching about repentance, forgiveness of sins and baptizing people. Now John is made out to be a wild man clothed in camel’s hair with a leather belt and he fed on wild honey and locusts. Let us be able to hear the cry of the modern day John who try to get us to go to confession. John the Baptist them tells us all that one mightier than I is to come and John is not worthy to loosen his sandals or baptize him for while John baptizes with water the one to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. I hope that we can all reflect on our baptisms and\or confirmations not as places to stop in our faith but as steps to help our faith lives grow deeper.

The Annunciation

As we begin the season of Advent we reflect upon the event that started it all. The Annunciation is when the Angel Gabriel came down to Mary, this event is covered in the old Basque folk carol Gabriel’s Message.

Mary says yes to the message from God and she becomes pregnant. Help us to be more like Mary and have the courage to say yes to our heavenly Father for whatever he asks of us. Many of us have separated who we are on Sunday with who we are the rest of the week. In order to build the kingdom here on Earth we need to let our faith come through and illuminate the world. As we have heard repeatedly we are to be a Light for the World. We need to shine in the darkness even though it seems to be getting darker, we know that the light will come again.