Today, God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray a prayer full of beautiful, hopeful images. Let us savor them slowly as we make our way to the waiting manger:
O Morning Star, splendor of Light Eternal and Sun of Righteousness: Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
O Radiant Dawn, it is Christmas Eve. We see the hint of your dawning along the dark horizon of our limitations.
How we long for You to fracture time, our fragile eggshell, Eternal Love flowing across our weary hearts.
O Dayspring, let us see beyond the darkness, beyond fear, and selfish calculations, beyond doubt, despair, hatred, even death… …to know that, in You, everything is Light for those who trust Your Rising.
We await your Christmas Morning in our world. Maranatha! Come, Lord, Jesus!
Today, in Mercy, we begin the recitation of the O Antiphons.
The O Antiphons are Magnificat antiphonies used at Vespers of the last seven days of Advent. They are also used as the Alleluia Verse during the daily Mass.
Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture. They are:
17 December: O Sapientia (O Wisdom
18 December: O Adonai (O Beautiful Lord)
19 December: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
20 December: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
21 December: O Oriens (O Dayspring)
22 December: O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
23 December: O Emmanuel (O God With Us)
Oh, how our world needs this prayer to be answered! How we need to discover a Wisdom rooted in truth, justice and mutual love!
Let us pray this prayer together today, dear friends, and wrap the whisper of longing around our whole aching world:
O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge!
As we begin this final week before Christmas, may each one of you feel a dawning of new grace and courage in your hearts. This will certainly be a very different, and perhaps difficult time for many. But let Wisdom teach us that there may be a new and unexpected grace even in this strange season.
Deep into Advent white morning rises out of night’s dark mystery. It will be cold today in some corners even of the heart.
Still, in a distant belfry sweet bells awaken Slowly, the western horizon warms enough to melt stars.
It is a time of promises dancing in and out of hope. Once, we see Glory. Once, we see Void. Our stark challenge is just to hope, no matter what we see.
Deceptively simple, it is a call with caverns unimagined, each one offering its own circuitous journey into Wisdom.
For when peaceful stillness encompassed everything and night had run half its course, your Almighty Word leapt down from heavens throne into a doomed land. Wisdom 18:14-15
Music: O Wisdom – Michael G. Hegeman, Performed by: The Lauda! Chamber Singers
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 85 – a song filled with urgency and expectation!
When we pray this psalm:
Tomorrow, we begin the exclamations of our answered hopes — the great O Antiphons.
But for today, let us relax into the certainty that, indeed, the Savior is coming – just as sure as the clouds turn silver with the weight of rain.
Poetry: Last Night, the Rain Spoke to Me – Mary Oliver
Last night the rain spoke to me slowly, saying, what joy to come falling out of the brisk cloud, to be happy again in a new way on the earth! That’s what it said as it dropped, smelling of iron, and vanished like a dream of the ocean into the branches and the grass below. Then it was over. The sky cleared. I was standing under a tree. The tree was a tree with happy leaves, and I was myself, and there were stars in the sky that were also themselves at the moment, at which moment my right hand was holding my left hand which was holding the tree which was filled with stars and the soft rain— imagine! imagine! the wild and wondrous journeys still to be ours.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 34.
When I read its refrain, my mind was triggered into a kind of “Jeopardy-like” exchange with God:
Answer: This is the reason God sent his Son, and continues to redeem the world in us. Question : What is “The Lord hears the cry of the poor”.
Psalm 34 reiterates a fundamental fact so often overshadowed by our highly secularized “Christmas unconsciousness”. The psalm refocuses us by consistently using words like this:
Let my soul glory in the LORD; the lowly will hear me and be glad.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard, and from all his distress he saved him.
When the just cry out, the LORD hears them, and from all their distress he rescues them.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
Christmas is God’s response to the unrelenting cry of the poor. If we want to truly honor and celebrate Christmas, we must allow that merciful and healing response to flow through us.
Poetry: Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit – Alice Walker (born February 9, 1944) is an American novelist, story writer, poet and social activist. In 1982, she wrote the novel The Color Purple for which she won the National Book Award hardcover fiction, and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Did you ever understand this? If my spirit was poor, how could I enter heaven? Was I depressed? Understanding editing, I see how a comma, removed or inserted with careful plan, can change everything. I was reminded of this when a poor young man in Tunisia desperate to live and humiliated for trying set himself ablaze; I felt uncomfortably warm as if scalded by his shame. I do not have to sell vegetables from a cart as he did or live in narrow rooms too small for spacious thought; and, at this late date, I do not worry that someone will remove every single opportunity for me to thrive. Still, I am connected to, inseparable from, this young man. Blessed are the poor, in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Jesus. (Commas restored) . Jesus was as usual talking about solidarity: about how we join with others and, in spirit, feel the world, and suffering, the same as them. This is the kingdom of owning the other as self, the self as other; that transforms grief into peace and delight. I, and you, might enter the heaven of right here through this door. In this spirit, knowing we are blessed, we might remain poor
Music: The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor – John Foley, SJ
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 25, the prayer of someone who is in love with God – as was John of the Cross:
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me your paths, Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior.
Psalm 25: 4-5
When we truly love someone, we see God’s face in them. Who doesn’t love that beautiful line from Les Miserables:
Take my hand I'll lead you to salvation Take my love For love is everlasting And remember The truth that once was spoken To love another person Is to see the face of God
( Just in case you’re longing to listen to it now🤗)
John of the Cross saw God’s Face in all Creation, and found God deep within his own contemplative soul:
What more do you want, O soul! And what else do you search for outside, when within yourself you possess your riches, delights, satisfactions, fullness, and kingdom – your Beloved whom you desire and seek?
Be joyful and gladdened in your interior recollection with Him, for you have Him so close to you. Desire Him there, adore Him there.
Do not go in pursuit of Him outside yourself. You will only become distracted and wearied thereby, and you shall not find Him, nor enjoy Him more securely, nor sooner, nor more intimately than by seeking him within you.
Spiritual Canticle 1.8
John was in love with God in a way described by the blessed Jesuit Pedro Arrupe:
Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.
As we pray today with St. John of the Cross, we ask our God to deepen us in love. We thank God for the promise and gift of Unconditional Love:
Remember that your compassion, O LORD, and your kindness are from of old. In your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O LORD.
The day takes its name from the Latin word Gaudete (“Rejoice”), the first word of the Introit prayer for this day’s Mass taken from Philippians 4: Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we prayerfully rejoice with Mary’s courageous and hopeful song:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed.
Today is a break day midway through a season which is otherwise of a penitential character, and signifies the nearness of the Lord’s coming. On Gaudete Sunday, the Church is no longer inviting us to adore merely “The Lord who is to come”, but calling upon us to worship and hail with joy “The Lord who is now nigh and close at hand“.
While the whole Church is called this Sunday to rejoice in the approach of the Christ-event, Mary’s Magnificat calls us to celebrate a specific “nearness” – God’s preferential affinity for those who are poor:
The Lord has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel remembering the promise of mercy.
The Gaudete message is not about a cheap and frenzied Christmas celebration. It is a profound reminder that Divine Joy seeks its home in a holy emptiness – in a heart space that has been reflectively cleared of spiritual arrogance.
His mercy is from age to age to those who bow in awe. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
We can pray according to Paul’s blessing to the Thessalonians in our second reading:
May the God of peace make us perfectly holy and may we entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls us is faithful, and will also accomplish it.
Poem: Heart Cave – Geoffrey Brown
I must remember to go down to the heart cave And sweep it clean, make it warm, with fire on the hearth And candles in their niches The pictures on the walls glowing with quiet lights I must remember to go down to the heart cave And make the bed with the quilt from home Strew rushes on the floor And hang lavender and sage from the corners I must remember to go down to the heart cave And be there when you come.
Music: Gaudete – Steeleye Span
This British folk rock group had a hit in 1973 (No. 14, UK singles chart) with an a cappella recording of the song. Guitarist Bob Johnson heard the song when he attended a folk-carol service with his father-in-law. This single is one of only three top 50 British hits to be sung fully in Latin (the others were both recordings of “Pie Jesu” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem)
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1 and its confident responsorial verse.
Last night we watched a public television Christmas special, “Rick Steves’s European Christmas“. From its many beautiful scenes, one in particular remained with me: a little group of friends tobogganing down a snow covered hill at night. Their only lights came from the small lanterns they held and the full moon’s generous luster against the white snow.
My first reaction to the scene was to wonder, “What if their light goes out?”. Then I realized that there was a light beyond them which would guide their way.
There are times in our lives when the light, if it doesn’t go out, at least flickers. I wrote about that awareness in this story a few years ago:
She had arranged to visit with an old college friend. They had been separated too long by the distancing choices that life often demands. She wanted to reconnect to that rare experience of shared transparency found just once or twice in a lifetime – the gift of a real friend.
They sat on a porch overlooking a gentle pond. The day was bright, the coffee hot, the chairs comfortable. But the magic was gone. Only half her friend had arrived for the cherished conversation. The other half – joy, adventure and the excess of youthful hope – had been lost. Somewhere in the intervening years, the light had gone out. Her friend had suffered a wound she did not share. This one afternoon would be too short a time to give that wound a name.
During our Advent journey, God is waiting in the seeming darkness to guide us. God already knows the wounds we carry. God sees where our heart’s light has dimmed. Holding our half-heartedness next to the Divine Heart, God yearns to rekindle us.
Today’s psalm reminds us that there is a always Light waiting beyond us to guide our way.
Blessed the one follows not the counsel of darkness nor walks in it ways, nor remains in the company of the insolent, But delights in the law of the LORD and meditates on its Light day and night.
Poetry: from Mary Oliver
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 145 in which the psalmist once again assures us that our God is
The psalm extends the promises of our first reading from Isaiah:
The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain, their tongues are parched with thirst. I, the LORD, will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
We need promises like those of Isaiah and our psalmist, especially in times when we feel tested, alone, frightened, desperate, or abandoned. Even a taste of these radical emotions is hard to bear without some glimmer of promise.
Faith tells us that the Promise is already fulfilled in the Gift of Jesus Christ.
Advent is our annual liturgical practice in waiting … in the recommitment
to a faith that cannot yet see,
to a hope that waits yet believes,
to a trust that praises even in the predawn shadows.
Poetry: Paul’s great poem from Colossians 1: 15-23
Christ is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.
For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers;
all things were created through him and for him.i
He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things for him,
making peace by the blood of his cross
whether those on earth or those in heaven.
Music: Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise (1867) – Walter Chalmers Smith. The original, beautiful final verses of this hymn have been lost in the English translation. Here they are, and worth their own meditation:
Great Father of glory, pure Father of light, Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight; But of all Thy rich graces this grace, Lord, impart Take the veil from our faces, the vile from our heart. All laud we would render; O help us to see ’Tis only the splendour of light hideth Thee, And so let Thy glory, Almighty, impart, Through Christ in His story, Thy Christ to the heart.