As we pray today’s antiphon – O Rex Gentium, O King of All Nations, let’s open our minds and hearts to all the world’s people. May we pray especially with and for all refugees, migrants and homeless sisters and brothers. May we become the change we desire for them, just as Christ became flesh for us.
O King of All Nations, Cornerstone holding us as One, Come, save us.
Now, so close to your Revelation, we ask ourselves if it is really darkest just before the Dawn?
Our shadow seems to have gotten so badly in the way of your Generous Light.
Despite your Breath that bids us soar in shared and sacred tenderness, we stubbornly return to selfish clay.
Rekindle us, selfless King, on this eve of eves.
As You prepare to hide your Godhead in our flesh, in total love, change us to Love.
May your Mercy incarnate in our hearts an Everlasting Christmas.
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Poetry: O Rex Gentium – Malcolm Guite
O King of our desire whom we despise, King of the nations never on the throne, Unfound foundation, cast-off cornerstone, Rejected joiner, making many one, You have no form or beauty for our eyes, A King who comes to give away his crown, A King within our rags of flesh and bone. We pierce the flesh that pierces our disguise, For we ourselves are found in you alone. Come to us now and find in us your throne, O King within the child within the clay, O hidden King who shapes us in the play Of all creation. Shape us for the day Your coming Kingdom comes into its own.
For the following prayer with our O Antiphon, let’s begin by placing before us anything that is locked, closed off, chained, frozen within us and in our world. Let us place all these things before God’s mercy, grace and omnipotence as we pray:
O Key of David, O Blessed Freedom, Who unlocks the secret of eternal life within our hearts!
Come absolve the sad incarcerations shackling us!
We hold ourselves and one another captive by our fears, our greed, our terrible need to control Your power within us.
We are afraid of Love, because once released in us, Love asks for everything… … for everything to be unbound, unbarred and given to Your Unrestricted Grace, in flesh named “Jesus”.
Love asks us to become like You, but we are locked in smaller dreams.
O Key of David, come free our dreams with Yours.
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Poetry: Dropping Keys – Hafiz
The small woman Builds cages for everyone She knows, While the Sage, Who has to duck her head When the moon is low, Keeps dropping keys all night long For the Beautiful Rowdy Prisoners.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings offer a harmonious exultation of Mary, beloved Mother of Jesus.
The prophet Micah foretells the time “when she who is to give birth has borne.”
Even the ancient voices spoke of Mary, long before time knew her name. Their hope depended on her cosmic “Yes”, long before she spoke her first childlike word.
Hebrews speaks of the Body of Christ, that physical place where the grandeur of God took flesh, that tabernacle woven of Mary’s own body and blood, that temple made possible by her “Fiat”.
When Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight. Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God.’“
Hebrews 10: 5-7
The Gospel gives us two loving women, Elizabeth and Mary, rejoicing in God’s power manifested in their lives. They need no proclamations, executive orders, bills, or injunctions. Just a soft greeting, a leap within, a confirmed trust carried in each other’s eyes.
This poem by Mark Strand captures their moment for me. These two women had waited with all Creation for the redeeming Messiah. Now it was about to happen within their lives:
The Coming of Light Even this late it happens: the coming of love, the coming of light. You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves, stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows, sending up warm bouquets of air. Even this late the bones of the body shine and tomorrow’s dust flares into breath.
Music: Agni Parthene (Greek: Ἁγνὴ Παρθένε), rendered “O Virgin Pure”, is a Greek Marian Hymn composed by St. Nectarios in the late 19th century. The dulcet melody is sung here in both Greek and English. Lyrics are below.
O Virgin Pure by St. Nectarios
Refrain: O Rejoice, Bride Unwedded.
O Virgin pure, immaculate/ O Lady Theotokos O Virgin Mother, Queen of all/ and fleece which is all dewy More radiant than the rays of sun/ and higher than the heavens Delight of virgin choruses/ superior to Angels. Much brighten than the firmament/ and pure than the sun’s light More holy than the multitude/ of all the heav’nly armies. O Rejoice, Bride Unwedded.
O Ever Virgin Mary/ of all the world, the Lady O bride all pure, immaculate/ O Lady Panagia O Mary bride and queen of all/ our cause of jubilation Majestic maiden, Queen of all/ O our most holy Mother More hon’rable than Cherubim/ beyond compare more glorious than immaterial Seraphim/ and greater than angelic thrones.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with the beautiful, humble Psalm 25. Pastor Christine Robinson interprets the prayer in this way:
I put my trust in you, O God, as best as I am able. May I be strong. May I not be afraid May all who open their hearts hear your voice and know your love. Lead me, teach me, help me to trust.
You are gracious to us, O God You guide us, you forgive our clumsy ways You help us prosper.
When I am sad and anxious I school my heart to trust I act with integrity and uprightness And hope to feel your touch in my heart. May it be so for all the peoples of the earth Who call you by many names.
Psalms for the New World – Christine Robinson
The psalm anchors our other readings today to suggest a theme of searching for Light in the darkness. Certainly, this was the quest of St. Lucy whose memorial we also mark today.
Lucy is the patroness of the blind. She was a brave young woman, martyred during the persecutions. Her name meaning “Light”, she has been venerated for millennia as one who can bring clarity and insight to places of darkness.
In our first reading, we hear the first messianic prophecy of the Bible. It is offered by a source perhaps unfamiliar to us — a teller of the future, Balaam.
Balaam is a diviner in the Torah (Pentateuch) whose story begins in Chapter 22 of the Book of Numbers. Every ancient reference to Balaam considers him a non-Israelite, a prophet, and the son of Beor.King Balak of Moab offered him money to curse Israel (Numbers 22–24), but Balaam blessed the Israelites instead as dictated by God. Nevertheless, he is reviled as a "wicked man" in both the Torah and the New Testament. (Wikipedia)
That story is the one we read today, and it contains a beautiful prophecy to be fulfilled fifteen hundred years after its utterance:
The utterance of Balaam, son of Beor,
the utterance of the man whose eye is true,
The utterance of one who hears what God says,
and knows what the Most High knows,
Of one who sees what the Almighty sees,
enraptured, and with eyes unveiled.
I see him, though not now;
I behold him, though not near:
A star shall advance from Jacob,
and a staff shall rise from Israel.
Sometimes we just need to be pointed toward that star, don’t we? We kind of “see God – but not now; behold God — but not near”. It’s not always easy to believe, to trust.
We all have painful situations, unanswered hopes, lingering fears. Let us bring them out of the shadows today with the help of St. Lucy and our Brilliant God who made the stars to give us hope.
As the year moves closer to its time of deepest darkness, may we know God’s brightness in our hearts. May we sense God lighting, once again, the dark places in our lives and in our world — leading us to a “Christmas Resurrection”.
Prose: from The Seaboard Parish by George Macdonald
The world ... is full of resurrections... Every night that folds us up in darkness is a death; and those of you that have been out early, and have seen the first of dawn, will know it - the day rises out of the night like a being that has burst its tomb and escaped into life.
Today, in Mercy, we celebrate Gaudete Sunday, Advent’s joyful midway pause.
Advent was originally, like Lent, a time of fasting. Midway in the fast, the Church took a break from its rigors and rejoiced prematurely for the coming Christmas.
I remember going, as a grade schooler, with my mother to buy two candy bars on the Saturday before Gaudete (because most stores were closed on Sunday back then!) After Sunday Mass, we would hold a sort of “sweetness ceremony”, delighting in our choices. Mom’s was always a Milky Way. My choice ran with the fads, sticking for a few years on Rollos – remember them?
The Church has its own “sweet ceremony” on Gaudate Sunday. Pink vestments worn for the liturgy indicate joy, as do the uplifting readings.
In our first reading, Zephania tells us that “the Lord will rejoice over us with gladness!”
Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!
In a reassuring blessing, Paul tells us, “Don’t worry. Be happy!”
Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4: 4-7
Even serious John the Baptist seems to tingle with expectation of the coming Savior. He’s just a little more taciturn in his proclamations.
John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Luke 3: 16-17
In our terribly commercialized holiday world, let’s stop and remember the true cause of our hope and celebration.
What gives your heart real joy as we approach the holy celebration of Christmas?
What is the sacred delight you long for in your heart and soul?
Let’s make a deeper effort this week, which will require so much bustle of us, to settle our hearts on God – remembering that God’s sweet presence with us is what this whole season is about.
Poetry: The Flower by George Herbert
How fresh, oh Lord, how sweet and clean Are thy returns! even as the flowers in spring; To which, besides their own demean, The late-past frosts tributes of pleasure bring. Grief melts away Like snow in May, As if there were no such cold thing.
Who would have thought my shriveled heart Could have recovered greenness? It was gone Quite underground; as flowers depart To see their mother-root, when they have blown, Where they together All the hard weather, Dead to the world, keep house unknown.
These are thy wonders, Lord of power, Killing and quickening, bringing down to hell And up to heaven in an hour; Making a chiming of a passing-bell. We say amiss This or that is: Thy word is all, if we could spell.
Oh that I once past changing were, Fast in thy Paradise, where no flower can wither! Many a spring I shoot up fair, Offering at heaven, growing and groaning thither; Nor doth my flower Want a spring shower, My sins and I joining together.
But while I grow in a straight line, Still upwards bent, as if heaven were mine own, Thy anger comes, and I decline: What frost to that? what pole is not the zone Where all things burn, When thou dost turn, And the least frown of thine is shown?
And now in age I bud again, After so many deaths I live and write; I once more smell the dew and rain, And relish versing. Oh, my only light, It cannot be That I am he On whom thy tempests fell all night.
These are thy wonders, Lord of love, To make us see we are but flowers that glide; Which when we once can find and prove, Thou hast a garden for us where to bide; Who would be more, Swelling through store, Forfeit their Paradise by their pride.
Music: Gaudete in Domino sung by the Schola of St. Meinrad Abbey (Latin and English lyrics below)
Gaudete in Domino semper iterum dico gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus. Dominus prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis sed in omni oratione et obsecratione cum gratiarum actione petitiones vestrae innotescant apud Deum. Et pax Dei quae exsuperat omnem sensum custodiat corda vestra et intellegentias vestras in Christo Iesu [Domino nostro].
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus [our Lord].