O, Frank!

I so loved my great-aunt Peg. She was that perfect mix of elegance and earthiness that made one both comfortable and inspired.

Peg Tierney wed
Aunt Peg on Her Wedding Day to Uncle Frank – 1929

Her husband, Uncle Frank, loved her totally. And to boot, he was a romantic which led him to proclaim that love often. One summer, in the 1950s, he surprised her with a second honeymoon trip to Niagara Falls.

Upon return, they visited us and Uncle Frank brought a movie of their trip.

camera

Now, taking a movie and eventually showing it was quite an accomplishment in the ‘50s. Not only were the camera and lights cumbersome, so was the screening equipment.

But that effort on my Uncle Frank’s part yielded a long-lasting blessing for me. It came in a brief scene still indelibly etched on my mind.

 

Aunt Peg, dressed in her Sunday best, stood looking over the rail at the majestic falls, her back to the camera. There was no sound on the film, but you could tell Uncle Frank had called to her to turn around. Knowing him, my guess was that he said something like, “Peg, you are as beautiful as the falls!”.

falls

Aunt Peg turns and clearly, despite the silent film, mouths a bashful response,

“O, Frank!”.

Those two words, given with a slight blush and demure smile, carried the whole story of their very special love. And they left me, even at a young age, with such a profound message.

Every time I have thought of that short phrase over these sixty years, this is what I hear:

O, Frank!

  • how blessed am I to be so loved
  • how good you are to show that love so clearly
  • how grateful I am that you share your life with me
  • please know how much I love you in return

Tomorrow, we will enter one of the loveliest times of the Liturgical Year – the proclamation of the O Antiphons.

The great O Antiphons are Magnificat antiphons used at Vespers on the last seven days of Advent. They are also used as the Alleluia verse on same days. The importance of the O Antiphons is twofold. First, each one is a title for the Messiah. Second, each one refers to Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming of the Messiah.


As we prepare for this beautiful and sacred time, I am reminded of my dear Aunt Peg standing before both the magnificent Niagara Falls and my Uncle Frank’s tremendous love.

We, dear friends, are standing in awe at the passage of time into eternity. Our God calls to us to turn around and look into God’s loving face. As we pause in silent, grateful adoration, the great thunder of life silenced behind us, we respond with awe:

  • 17 December: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
  • 18 December: O Adonai (O 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)

As we stand in the shadowed eve of these profound prayers, let’s prepare our hearts to gratefully experience God’s tremendous love.

O Beloved God

  • how blessed am I to be so loved
  • how good you are to show that love so clearly
  • how grateful I am that you share your life with me
  • please know how much I love you in return

Music: Peg of My Heart – sung in full here by Charles Harrison

I hope you might enjoy this tribute to Uncle Frank. This is a very early version of the song he always sang to Aunt Peg. We did a lot a singing when the family gathered back then  – an activity sadly lost today. There are more mellow, later versions, but this is the way Uncle Frank sang it, straight from the Ziegfeld Follies Of 1913.

Oh, my heart’s in a whirl over one little girl
I love her, I love her, yes, I do
Although her heart is far away
I hope to make her mine some day

Ev’ry beautiful rose, ev’ry violet knows
I love her, I love her fond and true
And her heart fondly sighs, as I sing to her eyes
Her eyes of blue, sweet eyes of blue, my darling

Peg o’ my Heart, I love you
We’ll never part, I love you
Dear little girl, sweet little girl
Sweeter than the Rose of Erin
Are your winning smiles endearin’

Peg o’ my Heart, your glances
With Irish art entrance us
Come, be my own, come, make your home in my heart

When your heart’s full of fears
And your eyes full of tears
I’ll kiss them, I’ll kiss them all away
For, like the gold that’s in your hair
Is all the love for you I bear
Oh, believe in me, do

I’m as lonesome as you
I miss you, I miss you all the day
Let the light of live shine from your eyes into mine
And shine for aye, sweetheart for aye, my darling

Peg o’ my Heart, I love you
We’ll never part, I love you
Dear little girl, sweet little girl
Sweeter than the Rose of Erin
Are your winning smiles endearin’
Peg o’ my Heart, your glances
With Irish art entrance us
Come, be my own, come, make your home in my heart

Gaudete! Rejoice!

Third Sunday of Advent

December 15, 2019

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Gaudete 2019

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate Gaudete Sunday, a name which comes from the first word of the Introit of today’s Mass:

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.

Our readings, too, counsel us to rejoice, and to do so with patience and honesty before God.


REJOICE:
Those whom the LORD has ransomed
…. will meet with joy and gladness (Isaiah 35:10)


BE PATIENT:
You too must be patient.
Make your hearts firm,
because the coming of the Lord is at hand. (James 5:8)


SPEAK HONESTLY WITH GOD:
When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2)


As we pray with these verses, we might ask, similarly to John the Baptist:

  • Is the coming of the Lord really at hand?
  • Is our long wait to be complete in God really over?
  • Hasn’t this gone on for 2000 years with no Second Coming? 

Well, it all depends on how we look at it.

time

 

With our feet and our experiences firmly planted in a time-bound world, it is hard for us to enter God’s timeless view of our salvation.

 

With God there is no waiting. We already live in the fullness of God’s eternal life.

Our time-bound life is our chance to open ourselves to that Fullness by allowing our experiences to fashion us in the image of Christ.

Every moment, every encounter, every experience carries the invitation to this Complete Love. Continually answering this invitation brings us into an ever deeper transparency with God.

transparent

 

When we see and live our lives this way, joy captures us. Circumstances may not always leave us happy or satisfied (I mean, look at John, he was imprisoned). But they cannot claim our joy, because we see patiently through time’s veil to the eternity already within us.

This sacred insight is the gift of our Baptism in Christ.

Today, we draw closer to the celebration of his presence with us in history by his birth on Christmas. But the deeper celebration is Christ’s continual rebirth in our lives of joy, patience and honest relationship with God.

Music: Patience People – John Foley, SJ (Lyrics below)

Patience, people, till the Lord is come.
See the farmer await the yield of the soil.
He watches it in winter and in spring rain.

Patience, people,
for the Lord is coming. Patience, people, till the Lord is come.
You have seen the purpose of the Lord.
You know of His compassion and His mercy.

Patience, people,
for the Lord is coming. Patience, people, till the Lord is come.
Steady your hearts for the Lord is close at hand.
And do not grumble, one against the other.
Patience, people, for the Lord is coming.

Days of Elijah

Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church

December 14, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we think about John the Baptist. For several days in this middle part of Advent, our Gospel makes reference to John, the Precursor of the Messiah.

411px-Saint_John_The_Baptist_Preaching_In_The_Wilderness_by_Anton_Raphael
John the Baptist by Anton Raphael Mengs – looking a lot better than he probably really looked!!!!

Faithful Jews had an expectation that there would be a Messiah, and that a fiery Precursor would announce him. They identified this forerunner with the prophet Elijah, based on writings like today’s from Sirach:

How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds!
Whose glory is equal to yours?
You were taken aloft in a whirlwind of fire,
in a chariot with fiery horses.
You were destined, it is written, in time to come
to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD…

800px-Elijah,_a_prophet_and_a_miracle_worker
Elijah, a prophet and a miracle worker, Gračanica monastery

 

In our Gospel, Jesus indicates that John the Baptist is the new Elijah, preparing the way for Jesus’s ministry.

Scripture scholars can get pretty bundled up in trying to explicate the meanings around Elijah and his return. For the purpose of our prayer, I find it helpful to take another approach.

  • What is it in my life that prepares me to receive God in my heart?
  • What inspires me “prepare the way of the Lord” in the worlds that I touch?
  • Do I pay attention to God’s “announcements”, those quiet inklings that tell me God is trying to make something new in my life?

Jesus says that Elijah “has already come” but has been rejected by the people.

  • Are there habits and choices in my life that make it hard for God to get through to me?
  • Maybe God is sending an “Elijah”or “Baptist” my way today. Will I recognize that Precursor? Will I be open to the message?

Music: Days of Elijah – Robin Mark. 

The commentary in the Worship & Song Leader’s Edition contains a good summary of this hymn’s text: “This is a song of victory and of hope, of God’s triumph forever over death and of Christ’s eternal reign. It also calls believers to stand fast, even in the face of troubles, and to witness to the promised coming of Christ.”

 

A River of Joy

Memorial of Saint Lucy, Virgin and Martyr

December 13, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Isaiah paints a poetic picture of the soul fully taught by God. He describes that sacred obedience, or heart’s listening to God, which leads to fullness of joy, peace and eternal life.

When looking for music to complement Isaiah’s passage, I found a hymn written in 1876 by Frances R. Havergal, an English Anglican poet and hymn writer.

Her hymn Like a River Glorious, although written in older style language, contains several beautiful metaphors, many reflective of today’s passage from Isaiah.

You might want to pray with one or two of these images today:

river
A river of grace – perfect, yet deepening

 

stand_anchor
Our hearts “stayed” upon God, anchored in faith

 

chick
Being hidden in the hollow of God’s hand

 

wind
“no blast of hurry” to disturb our peace (so appropriate to this busy season)

 

sundial
Our joys and sorrows falling like shadows across the sundial of our lives

 

I hope enjoy praying with this hymn, and the accompanying pictures, as much as I did.

Music: Like a River Glorious – Frances R. Havergal – 1876; performed here by the Parkview Mennonite Church. Follow the images and verses below.

river
A river of grace – perfect, yet deepening

 

Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.

 

stand_anchor
Our hearts “stayed” upon God, anchored in faith

 

Refrain:
Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

 

 

chick
Being hidden in the hollow of God’s hand

 

Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;

 

 

wind
“no blast of hurry” to disturb our peace (so appropriate to this busy season)

 

Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.

 

 

 

sundial
Our joys and sorrows falling like shadows across the sundial of our lives

(Refrain then …)

Every joy or trial falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
We may trust Him fully, all for us to do;
They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

Even in Darkness, TRUST!

Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent

December 11, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, folks in Isaiah’s reading are exhausted! He’s written a plethora of words to convey that God’s People are just about done in! He uses the words “faint”, “weary”, and “burden” at least a dozen times! We get it! The image would be something like this:

burden

But Isaiah encourages the people to look up from the weight of their burdens:

Do you not know
or have you not heard?
The LORD is the eternal God,
Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint nor grow weary,
and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny.
He gives strength to the fainting;
for the weak he makes vigor abound.
Though young men faint and grow weary,
and youths stagger and fall but …

wings

Some of you, dear readers, carry heavy burdens just now, in yourselves and in your dear ones: illness, aging, sorrow, disappointment, the confusions of life, the passing of beloveds, unfulfilled dreams, an unmerciful world. 

Know this:
God is with us in any darkness,
and God’s light will prevail.

This is the whole meaning of our faith-filled journey through Advent. Trust the Promise of our Incarnate God to be with us, given in today’s tender Gospel:

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,

for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.

Music: On Eagles’ Wings – Michael Joncas

Comfort the Lost

Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent

December 10, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we have the exquisite “Comfort” passage from Isaiah. Our Gospel gives us Jesus tenderly seeking the single lost lamb.

Isaiah40_1_11

The first and last words of these two readings – COMFORT, LOST – capture the whole intent of God’s message:
Life is a maze whose walls are heightened by our incivility to one another. Isaiah calls to be a leveler of walls, a straightener of twists, a bridge over deadly valleys; Jesus calls us to seek and carry the lost sheep. They call us to be Mercy.

The US southern border is one of the many places in our world crying out for these acts of mercy. Please listen to our Sister Anne Connolly describe the cry:

 


Music: Comfort Ye from Handel’s Messiah – sung by Jerry Hadley

As we pray this glorious music today, let us ask for the strength and courage to be Mercy for the world, to find the ways to comfort God’s people, close by and at life’s borders.

Choose Your Kingdom

Second Sunday of Advent

December 8, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Our readings counterbalance each with other peace and urgency.

HicksJPG
A Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks

Isaiah, on the one hand, describes the Peaceable Kingdom where:

the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord
As water covers the sea.


Matthew, on the other hand, presents us with John the Baptist, who preached a fiery message. No doubt shocking in his camel hair tunic, a scrap of leather holding it in place, John railed at the pompous Pharisees for their deceitful, pretentious lives:

You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’

For I tell you,
God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.

Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.

Mt3_10 ax

The message of this Second Sunday is clear for us. We may have lived a half-hearted faith at times in our lives and gotten away with it. Those times are over.

For the One is coming who will “baptize with the Holy Spirit and with Fire”. 

“Fake” will not hold up against his mighty gaze.

So this Second Sunday is a time to test the sincerity of our faith as proven by our actions. It is a time to check what kind of fruit we bear for the world. As we pass through the circumstances of our lives, do we leave a trail of peace, wisdom, counsel,and all the other blessings Isaiah envisions?

We can do this only by uniting ourselves in prayer and actions to the One rising today from the Root of Jesse, the One to whom both Isaiah and John tied their souls in unquenchable hope.

Music: A song of peace (Charles Villiers Stanford, (30 September 1852 – 29 March 1924) an Irish composer, music teacher, and conductor.) Lyrics below

1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse,
and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:

2  And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;

3  And he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes,
neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:

4  And with righteousness shall he judge the poor,
and reprove with equity the meek of the earth:
and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

5  And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins,
and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.

6  The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
and a little child shall lead them.

9  They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain:
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord,
as the waters cover the sea.

10  And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse,
which shall stand for an ensign unto the people;
and his rest shall be glorious.

The Promise of Wholeness

Memorial of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Saturday, December 7, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Isaiah – in glorious prophecy – promises God’s People better times.

hope

Oh my, don’t we all long for the fulfillment of that promise! Sometimes, I can’t even watch the news anymore because the world is in such seemingly irreversible pain!


Perhaps we can use our prayer within these readings today to call on God for the healing they promise.

It is a healing that requires our cooperation. Isaiah says that we must name our pain to God – for ourselves and for all who suffer in our world:

The Lord will be gracious to you when you cry out,
as soon as he hears he will answer you.

Is30_21 Walk

The prophet says that this crying out will change us. We will see the Lord with us in our suffering. God will lead us through that suffering by our acts of faith, hope, love, justice and mercy:

No longer will your Teacher hide himself,
but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher,
While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears:
“This is the way; walk in it,”
when you would turn to the right or to the left.


 

Christ_Healing_the_Mother_of_Simon_Peter’s_Wife_by_John_Bridges
Healing Peter’s mother-in-law by John Bridges, 19th century

Our Gospel tells us that we are called to be Christ’s disciples, and that disciples are healers. By letting our lives become sources of healing in the world, Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled for our time.

Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus,
“Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.

Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”

How we do these wondrous deeds in the world is an ongoing revelation. When I was very young, I took the proclamation quite literally. I soon lost confidence that I would ever really “cure” someone of anything!

Life has blessed me with the realization that there are many degrees of healing. There  many ways in which living people are caught in deadly lives. There are all kinds of “lepers ” in our society, rendered so by the prejudices of others. Certainly, many of us carry all sorts of crippling demons.

Acknowledging the pain in ourselves and others, and trusting that God wants us to be healed and whole, is the work of true discipleship. Let’s keep our eyes on Isaiah’s promise to give us a generous, merciful courage for our call! Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus as he shows us the way.

Music: (Can you take a little hint of “country” this morning?)

Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus – written by Helen Howarth Lemmel (1863-1961) and sung here by Alan Jackson, one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold over 75 million records.

Ask to See

Friday of the First Week of Advent

December 6, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we stand with Isaiah on the rim of hope. We wait, trusting that “in a very little while”, the Lord will make Creation whole.

Is29_18 blindJPG

It’s a precipitous place, this cliff called “Hope”. It requires that we risk ourselves solely on the promises of a God we cannot see. It invites us to leap into a mist we cannot control.

Or can we?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites the blind men to the cliff’s edge by asking them:

Do you believe that I can do this?

Well, that’s everything, isn’t it? If our answer is “No”, “Maybe”, or “Kinda’”, we might as well just lie down on this side of the Promise.

faint

 

But if our answer is brave, like the Gospel blind ones, we too may have our vision cleared to see that there is no leap required. We already stand beside God.

When his children see
the work of my hands in his midst,
They shall keep my name holy;
they shall reverence the Holy One of Jacob,
and be in awe of the God of Israel.
Isaiah 29:23

Music: Amazing Grace sung by Il Divo

God Sings

Once, in a half-hidden glen in Waller Mill Park in Williamsburg, Virginia, I stood in a silence so complete, I could hear nothing but God humming. Even the birds had stopped to listen. If you can, take the time to find a spot like this in your life. Wait there long enough to lose the noise of your own anxieties. Wait for Love and Lavish Mercy to sing with you.

glen


Every Riven Thing ~ Christian Wiman

God goes, belonging to every riven thing he’s made
sing his being simply by being
the thing it is:
stone and tree and sky,
man who sees and sings and wonders why

God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing he’s made,
means a storm of peace.
Think of the atoms inside the stone.
Think of the man who sits alone
trying to will himself into a stillness where

God goes belonging. To every riven thing he’s made
there is given one shade
shaped exactly to the thing itself:
under the tree a darker tree;
under the man the only man to see

God goes belonging to every riven thing. He’s made
the things that bring him near,
made the mind that makes him go.
A part of what man knows,
apart from what man knows,

God goes belonging to every riven thing he’s made.


Music: Walking through Clouds – Berward Koch