Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Church or the Mall?, and other Brief Meditations

Dear Parish Faithful,

The Church or the Mall?

We begin our final movement toward the Feast of the Lord’s Nativity with the first of four consecutive prefestal Vespers that begin each evening – Monday-Thursday – at 7:00 p.m. These are “low-key” services, basically daily Vespers with the prefestal Nativity hymnography, together with the hymnography for the saint of the day. In addition to hearing the various themes surrounding the Advent of the Lord in the flesh, these services embrace us with the warm, quiet, calm, and prayerful atmosphere of the church. The setting, thus, is peaceful, and perhaps a much-needed contrast to the hectic, loud and brazenly commercial atmosphere of the shopping malls. Instead of a generic version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” as background noise to a sea of humanity flowing aimlessly from store to store, one can listen to “O,Gladsome Light” in the stillness of a candle-lit church. Instead of “Deck the Halls” mingled with the sound of computerized cash registers feasting on plastic or real money as the biblically-condemned pagan deity Moloch feasted on his sacrificial victims; one can listen to the soulful and plaintive cry of “Lord, I Call Upon Thee” wafting toward the heavens as fragrant incense rises to carry our prayers. It makes life much simpler when some choices are easy and obvious. So, if we have paid our tribute to mammon for one more Christmas, now is the time to be mindful of the Lord with the opportunity to do so.

Monday – Thursday: Prefestal daily Vespers at 7:00 p.m.

Readers are Needed

We need four readers for the Royal Hours this coming Friday. The First Hour is at 9:00 a.m.; the Third Hour is at 10:00 a.m.; the Sixth Hour is at 11:00 a.m.; and the Ninth Hour is at Noon. The reading includes psalmody, an Old Testament prophecy and an Epistle. Each service is about twenty-five minutes long and thus there is about a half-hour between each Royal Hour. You can come for the entire set of Royal Hours or “drop in” for one that most suits your schedule. As I said yesterday in the homily, it is unfortunate that these biblically-rich services are chanted in a near-empty church. Our parish is too large for that now. Please contact me if you would like to read.

A Brief Meditation: Why Did He Come?

Christmas means that there are two births of Christ: one into the world at Bethlehem; the other into the soul when it is spiritually reborn. Through the Holy Mysteries of Baptism and the Eucharist, Christ is born in the second Bethlehem, i.e. or hearts and minds, our souls and bodies. He that is the pre-eternal God becomes a newborn babe that we might be converted and become babes in Christ. The Only-begotten Word of God, One of the Trinity becomes man, that man might become a “communicant of the Divine Nature” through theosis. The dark cave of dumb beasts in Bethlehem becomes heaven and is filled with the unwaning, uncreated light of Divinity. Christ is born that our dark souls may be filled with light; for do we not invite the Divine Son of God to come and dwell in us when we pray in the Pre-Communion prayers: “And even as Thou didst deign to lie in a cave and in a manger of irrational beasts, so also deign to lie in the manger of my irrational soul and to enter my defiled body.” If He was born in the first Bethlehem, it was only that He might come and be born in the second Bethlehem – your soul and mine!
- Anonymous (sent to me by Mother Paula)

Bumper Sticker Existentialism

A recently-read bumper sticker said the following: “I used up all of my sick days, so I called in dead.”

And another: “Of the things I have lost, the one I miss the most is my mind.”

Questionable Theology

On her final, one of my students wrote: “The resurrection of Christ occurred from the ground up.”

I am still working on that one … Feel perfectly free to enlighten me if you are so moved.

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