Here is the old antiphon on the Magnificat (Gospel Canticle) for today, Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ:
“Now do we celebrate a holy day adorned by three miracles: today a star led the wise men to the manger; today water was made wine at the wedding feast; today Christ vouchsafed to be baptized of John in Jordan that he might save us, alleluia.”
This year it all got scrunched up. Yesterday the Church kept the 12th Day of Christmas (on the 14th day!) aka The Epiphany. Now all of a sudden, today we are at the Feast of the Baptism. Well, go figure. It shouldn’t ought to be so. Today’s feast will slip by most folks. If we had kept Epiphany on the 6th of January, then yesterday would be Baptism. However, in the mystic world of this antiphon, notice that it is all TODAY! TODAY!
Just to turn your mind down another twist, listen to this from Morning Prayer of the Epiphany: “Today, the Bridegroom claims His bride, the Church, since Christ has washed away her sins in the Jordan waters; Today, the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding feast; Today, the guest are regaled with water made wine, Alleluia.” Picture this scene in the timelessness of the Eternal Banquet!
So this is not about liturgies. It’s about a PARTY! St Leo the Great, writing of the grace (gift) that calls all people to the Christ Child, as the Magi were called and led by that Star – “…we should be at the service of this grace which invites all men to Christ.”
AMEN, may it be so!
Has it been eight days already??? Thank goodness no one gave us “8 maids a milking”! Or for that matter “a Partridge in a pear tree.” For many folks this is the end of the Christmas vacation; however, it is only the 8th day out of 12. And there is not much “end” to Christmas, at least that season of the heart which loves to give and give again, a season without a calendar. Unto us a Child is born. A gift. Being a Jewish boy, He was circumcised and given his name on this day – whenever it really was. He first shed his blood for us, as the ancient writers would say. May this First Day of the New Year of Grace bring all of us the gift of hope and interior Joy which is celebrated in this holy season.
Take a lesson from Bennie the Cat who waited for the Christ Child. Rest in your Saviour!
From an old prayer for the blessing of the Christmas Crib:
“Lord Jesus, Child of Bethlehem, for love of men made Man: Create in us Love so pure and perfect that whatsoever our Heart loves may be after thy Will, in thy Name, and for thy Sake; who now lives and reigns in the Glory of the Eternal Trinity for ever and ever. Amen.”
The trees are up. The cat is ready. The Sisters are….well, mostly. I love the words of the song: “People look East, The time is near Of the crowning of the year. Make you house fair as you are able, Trim the hearth and set the table. People look East and sing today: LOVE THE GUEST IS ON THE WAY.”
Bennie the cat knows who he is waiting for (sort of) although he will have to move over a bit. It is easy to forget what this season is all about and that Christmas begins on the eve of the 24th and lasts for 12 Days….and can be extended until Candlemas on February 2. It is about the Divine GUEST whose birth we celebrate. Christmas is not always “happy” but it should be greeted with deep inner joy of heart. “Christ our Savior is born!” Of course, we too have to move over a bit……
Jeremiah 6:16 “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the old paths where the good way is found. Walk in it and you shall find rest for your souls.”
As we begin ADVENT, that special almost forgotten season, this is a good message. Advent is a uniquely Christian season which faces the increasing darkness with great hope. From the author of “Romans” we read, “…our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of the night and put on the armor of light……put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh.”
And this from a hymn we will sing tomorrow, “O Day of God, draw nigh/ In beauty and in power./ Come with thy timeless judgement now/ To match our present hour. Bring to our world of strife/ Thy sovereign word of peace,/ That war may haunt the earth no more/ And desolation cease.” Do I hear an AMEN?
“One down, three to go.” Sometimes in November there are a series of Requiem Masses [from ‘Rest in Peace’] – at least three. Why do Christians do this ‘cemetery’ thing? Perhaps it’s because we don’t think this life is the end of life – there is more. There is heaven….but of course, who wants to jump right into that? Maybe that is just too much! We are not saints – not yet, if ever. There must be an ante-chamber to heaven. Or even someplace near the entrance to the property – like a “gate house” where strangers can rest and think about it.
By tradition this has been called “purgatory” – not meaning a place of torment, but more a place or region of healing. Thing is, at death, most all of us are not ready for the full gaze of God Almighty – we’d fry for sure! Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote: “I would go so far as to say that if there was not purgatory, then we would have to invent it, for who would dare say of himself that was able to stand directly before God.”
Today is All Souls Day when we pray for all good people (and not so good) who have left this life for the next, under any circumstances, with any sort of “religion” or none. In a small way we offer them the LOVE of the Lamb, His glance of pure, gentle, healing Love. We will do this three times – for good measure and at the command of the Church through the ages.
CHRIST at All Saints Cemetery
We all know about “Halloween” – meaning, really, Hallows Evening” – but no one has ever popularized All Hallows Day – aka All Saints Day – November 1st. It is terribly Christian, of course. Today we celebrate all the saints, known and unknown – from familiar ones like St Francis of Assisi and St Patrick of Ireland, or St Thomas More – to more obscure ones like St. Anselm, St. Cuthbert, St Edward the Confessor and St. Hilda of Whitby – to name some English ones. We also celebrate many others never made official saints, like maybe your grandmother, school teacher or the old lady who begs at the church door…..all holy children of God and servants of Christ our Lord.
In the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:3 – 12 we read a portrait of the colors that paint the image of a sanctified life. St Gregory of Nyssa says this is the beautiful face of the redeemed which make up the ranks of saints, named and unnamed. “Blessed are the poor in spirit…..Blessed those who mourn…..Blessed the meek (gentle)…..Blessed those who long for goodness to prevail…..Blessed are the merciful…..Blessed are the pure in heart….Blessed the peacemakers…..Blessed are the persecuted for the sake of goodness….Blessed are you when you suffer insults …for My Name’s Sake…..”
If we are or tend to be merciful, gentle, peacemakers, etc…then we are on the way to becoming SAINTS!