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So What Happened Next – An After Christmas Story by Sean Caron

**Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa – Sean sent this to me 3 days ago and I thought I had published it, but I had not. My apologies in the delay! Do not delay in reading Sean’s fine work!** – editor

In A Gospel of Christmas according to St Luke I talked about the period from the Annunciation to Mary through the birth of Our Lord in the stable of Bethlehem, and the arrival of the boisterous shepherds. As my friend Fran Rossi Szpylczyn reminded us in her Christmas blog post Dependent Small and Powerless , Jesus, tho certainly still God, was completely dependent on His earthly caregivers for protection and care.

And the first item of that care was an important one. As the Gospel of Luke reminds us,

at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

One line. But how much is behind that! In one act, Jesus, who is the Law Giver, is placed under the Law. He who presented the Law to Moses on Sinai is now subject to it! And, in becoming subject to it is shed the first of His blood for a sinful world. He receives the Holy Name given to Him by Gabriel, “Jesus” – which in Hebrew means “God Saves”. It is a name, and it is also Him. It is a sign, that effects what it signifies. In modern times we celebrate the Feast of Mary the Mother of God on that eight day, which is New Years Day. But in the past, that feast was also rightly called the Feast of the Circumcision, and the Feast of the Holy Name.

Now we must talk of Herod. Herod the Great was the Roman-installed (and maintained) King of Judea. He was not a Hebrew, but rather an Edomite, one of the descendants of Esau, brother of Jacob – a traditional enemy of the Jewish people. As such, he was proud of the title “King of the Jews” – given to him by the Roman Senate. And very jealous of that title. He is called “the Great” primarily for the extensive building campaign he completed during his reign – no one who knew him or had to live with or near him would ever call him “great” because of his actions. He was insanely jealous of his title and position, and killed all who got near that power – including his wife and his own sons.

And Herod was beginning to be concerned. First, there was a wild tale of an old temple priest, performing his duties in the Holy of Holies, who had reportedly conversed with an angel of God and was struck deaf and dumb. Then this same old man had reportedly fathered a child, and recovered his speech, setting the hill country of Judea ablaze with rumors. He had attempted to capture the man and his son, but the son had been taken directly into the desert after his birth, and had eluded his spies.

Then the news from Bethlehem – a new, bright star over the town, and more angels! There had been no angels, no prophets, no divine communication in Judea for nearly five hundred years! And worse yet was the message – a King and Savior! This was a direct threat to his power.

Next, news from the Temple itself – his Temple, into which he had poured the wealth of his kingdom. Spies there had reported that two old prophets had declared that a child – was to be “The downfall and rise of many in Jerusalem”!

And lastly, the appearance of visitors from the East in his court – specifically looking for “the new born King of the Jews” – his very title! And even these visitors had given him the slip – not returning with the information he desperately needed to stamp out this threat.

Ever a man of direct and violent action, Herod orders the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, in one last-ditch effort to remove the threat. All children under the age of two are put to the sword in Bethlehem. But as we know, Herod is unsuccessful. Once more an angel comes to Joseph in a dream, and the Boy and His Mother are taken away from danger, into Egypt.

There is an interesting post-script to the story. Shortly after this, Herod dies – a particularly horrible death. He is buried in a large, opulent tomb. In 2007, Israeli archeologists discovered this tomb, right where the first century historian Josephus said it was. And from this tomb, across the valley about five miles away, is clearly visible the Church of the Nativity, which covers the Cave of Bethlehem.

Monday Musing 2 – The Feast of St. Stephen, Martyr

There is already a Monday Musing up; it is an essay that I wrote for the Christmas bulletin. However, I woke up and was praying and was struck by the full force of what this day, the feast of St. Stephen, is about.

We have journeyed through Advent with all of its peaceful images – watching, waiting, hoping. We see the darkness encroaching as the days grow shorter, colder. Then, as one of the readings for Christmas Eve, from Isaiah, proclaims: Continue reading

Monday Musing – Dependent, Small and Powerless – A Christmas Essay by Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

Is there anything more antithetical to our way of life than being dependent, small and powerless? Yet if we follow Christ, we worship his as just those things as a child. At the same time, we are invited to reconcile ourselves with all that is such and rely on our God, who initiates all and without whom, we would not know life. We too are dependent, powerless and small.

Dependent, Small and Powerless   A Christmas Essay by Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

Lately I have been thinking about what to write about for Christmas this year. Has it all been said?  But then I start wondering, what was God thinking? The whole notion of the incarnation is so unbelievable! Think about this, God – who is all power and might, God who can do anything, intentionally comes to be one with us. Emmanuel, God with us. This is crazy, right? We live in a world where power is the thing and achievement is an obsession. The most powerful creator then acts in the most contrary way – and by coming to earth as a Continue reading

Christmas Reflection – by Father Jerry Gingras

Christmas reflection, 2011 – By Father Jerry Gingras

I remember when I was just eleven years old.  I was going to be an uncle for the first time.  I was thrilled especially since I was so young and my uncles seemed so old (they were probably in their forties!!).  The day came and first member of the second generation Gingras family was born, Vincent Paul.  My first encounter with Vinny was at his house about a week after his birth.  I was so proud; you might have thought it was my own child.  My brother Dan, Vinny’s father, handled him with great ease even to holding him in the palm of his hand!  When I was asked if I wanted to hold him, I almost froze!  I had to sit down, secure myself in a chair, and take a deep breath!  Then the moment came:  Vincent was placed in my arms!  I held him like I was holding the chalice: with reverence, care and honor.  He smelled like baby powder and he looked…. well to be honest he looked like a little prune, full of wrinkles and eyes like slivers of almonds.  I couldn’t believe how small he was and so delicate.  I felt like he would break in half if I but move him a few degrees left or right.  I was Continue reading

Saturday Song – December 24, 2011

Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, and yet he must be in it, his place is with those others for whom there is no room. His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world.- Thomas Merton

O Antiphons – O Emmanuel!

This is the last O Antiphon before Christmas, O Emmanuel, no translation here… simply, O Emmanuel, which we know means, “God with us.”

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
expectratio gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos,
Domines, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver,
desire of the nations, Savior of all people:
Come and set us free, Lord our God.

Yes, our Savior comes – He comes to set us free!  Have a blessed and beautiful Christmas, one and all!

Gloria in excelis Deo! A Christmas Guest Post by Sean Caron

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

It was a high, round hill where they slept. It had stood there for almost a million years – ever since that part of the world had been formed. Its crown of grass was cropped short by the repeated grazings of their flocks.

They lay in a rough circle around the remains of their dying campfire – crude, home-made bows and slingshots lay by their sides, with a few strategically placed cairns of fist-sized rocks. Nothing discouraged the wild-dogs preying on the flock like a well-hurled rock to the ribs. Each of them had a  place to hide away these weapons when the Roman soldiers came up their hill, looking to steal from them a mutton dinner, still on the hoof.

Far below, on the Jerusalem road, lay Bethlehem, the Town of Bread. Usually a quiet, sleepy place, tonight it had been loud and raucous, stuffed to overflowing by travelers. All through their lower grazing lands in by the town, fires twinkled from hastily assembled campsites.

This was a cold, clear night – the coldest of the winter season so far. A new, incredibly bright star hung in the sky over the town. It shone with a blueish light bright enough to cast a slight shadow when they moved away from their campfire on their rounds around the flock. Continue reading

Yes, Maggie, There Is A Santa Claus – A Guest Post by Katie Andersen (updated)

Yes, Maggie, There Is a Santa Claus –  By Katie Andersen

When it comes to Santa Claus, Christmas is not easy on any parent. We go out of our way to conceal the reality from our little ones, encouraging good behavior with tactics like the “Elf on a Shelf” and half bitten cookies on a platter. It’s all fun and games until they decide to question the whole thing. As a parent of an original unbeliever, I’ve learned that the coming of the Christ and the story of Santa Claus are not necessarily opposed to one another, and that there is a catechetical lesson in the midst of it all.
“Santa is not real. He is fake. He is a decoration on the tree. Come here; I’ll show you.”

Two years ago, after asking our two-and-a-half-year-old what she’d like Santa to bring her for Christmas, Erik and I were met with this unexpected response. Maggie grasped our fingers tightly, dragged us to the Christmas tree, took a deep breath, and pointed out the silliness of our inquiry: “You see?”

We were unable to pinpoint an instance where this sort of realization could have been learned, so we simply shrugged it off to Maggie’s precocious, literal nature, and went on to enjoy taking full credit for her presents that year.

The following year, Continue reading

O Antiphons – O Rex Gentium

Today our O Antiphon is O Rex Gentium, or O, King of All The Nations! Jesus the Christ leads us all, he is our Lord and King!

Dec. 22:
O Rex Gentium
, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.

O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart;
O Keystone of the mighty arch of man:

An Advent Reflection

At my home parish of St. Edward the Confessor, we have a beautiful tradition of offering evening prayer on Tuesdays during Advent and Lent. I was privileged to offer the reflection last night.

It was a true gift to see people from Immaculate Conception present and I am grateful beyond measure! Thank you for your presence!

Typically the reflection is offered based on the Gospel or one of the other readings for that particular day. The spirit moved me to reflect on the Gospel, which was Luke 1:26-38. Typically the reflection gets posted at the Parish Blog of St. Edward, and I am also posting it here.

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Here at St. Edward the Confessor we have a beautiful practice during Advent and Lent – Evening Prayer on Tuesday evenings at 7 PM. While we have thought about doing this outside of the liturgical seasons mentioned, we have not done so. And there is something special about bracketing these times when we are called to a particular kind of attention.

Last night I was privileged to once again offer the reflection and I am reprinting the text of my reflection here. Please note, if you were present, I do read from the script, but I do deviate from it as well. Thus – this may be slightly different than what you heard!

Thank you to everyone who has attended evening prayer so faithfully! Thank you to everyone who has come just once! Thank you everyone – presider, helpers, music ministers and other reflectors, for another beautiful season of prayer.

Are You Ready? A Reflection on the Gospel According to Luke, 1:26-38.

The question is everywhere… I am asked it and although I say that I am not going to ask it, I do… You know, you have said it yourself – I’m pretty sure you have either asked or been asked this at least once this week…

After all, we have this nice long Advent, the one in which that last purple taper gets to burn down a bit, just like the others, thanks to the fourth Sunday being followed by 6 entire days. More time to – get ready. Whatever ready means! Continue reading

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