Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From December 25th, 2011 Bulletin)

“Let us go then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”
 One shepherd to another, Luke 2:15

     Blessed and Merry Christmas to all! It is a beautiful time to be together to worship our New-born King. Has He taken root in your heart this season yet? The holidays can be so stressful, given the traffic, shopping and festivities. It is easy to lose our peace in the midst of so much activity. Guerric of Igny writes:
If in the depths of your soul you were to keep a quiet silence, the all-powerful Word would follow from the Father’s throne secretly into you. Happy then is the person who has so fled the world’s tumult, who has so withdrawn into the solitude and secrecy of interior peace, that he can hear not only the Voice of the Word, but the Word himself: not John but Jesus.

     “Quiet silence”, “Sacred Silence”, “Silent Night”, the words seem easy to sing, consoling to consider, but when can they happen? I’m reminded of a riddle from the movie, Life is Beautiful: “If you say my name, I disappear.” Of course “Silence”, once said, is no longer present. Even in writing about it, I delay finding it. We need silence, we need inactivity, we need, like the Blessed Virgin, for the Holy Spirit to overshadow us in a moment of silence and awe.
     I recommend breathing to start. Last week I wrote about the Jesus Prayer. Breathing in the Sacred and Powerful Name of Jesus is one of the best ways to bring silence and peace to the soul. Mere contact with His Name is enough for the soul to be quieted, like a lamb that at once feels safe in its Shepherd’s arms. Let Him draw you near to His Heart, a Heart full of goodness and love for you. Writing about it makes me want to stop and take that five minutes of the Jesus Prayer right now…I invite you to do the same….

Lord Jesus Christ, (Son of God and Son of Mary), have mercy on me, a sinner.

…five minutes is not enough. I am at least ready for a nap! I hope you can take quality time for prayer during this Christmas Season. Remember as Catholics we have a whole Season to celebrate that lasts 15 days this year. That is one reason why we are closing our offices from Dec 25th through Jan 2nd. Not only does our Pastoral Team (staff) need a rest, but I think it is important for all of us as Christians to take real extended Sabbath at various times during the year. The Christmas Octave (8 days of Christmas) is a perfect time to start. I encourage all to take time with family and friends; time for prayer; time for rest. Emmanuel, God with us, will be with you.
     From all of our Pastoral Team and the Parish Community of St. Stephen the Martyr, have a Blessed Christmas Season.

by Stephen Wentworth Arndt, Ph.D.

In a thistle-thick field, The sun-baked clay with its break-spade soil
Had a summer-seared yield, And the drought-sky-flouted dry ground foiled all of Israel's trouble and toil.

But the Caretaker saw And tilled that wilderness field with priests
And their ground-breaking law, As the prophets' cry thinned high sin-weeds,
And the kings did their battle with beasts. Then the Husbandman sowed
Pure virgin earth, and the germ took root. When the gracious rain flowed
On the love-lit plot, it shot out shoots, And it budded forth, bearing its fruit.

Now the fruit of our womb Is blest grain bread and a vine grape wine
From the Passover room; O incarnate Lord, O Christ divine, Make the fruits of your flesh and blood mine!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From December 18th, 2011 Bulletin)

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. 
May it be done to me according to your word.”

As we live this last week of Advent, let us ask that this Christmas bring a new receptivity to Jesus’ presence in our lives. Our Advent and Christmas liturgies are not meant to be mere external reminders of an historical event. They are meant to be a real entrance into God’s active covenant with His people. This again is not a reality out there, in all the members of the Church outside of myself, it is a personal participation in the Incarnation of God made flesh. May our final preparation for Christmas make room for the Christ Child within us, in our relationships and in the way we use the great gift of time.

Del Verbo Divino
The Virgin,
weighed with the Word of God
Comes down the road;
If only you'll shelter her.
- St. John of the Cross

Receptivity is one of the most important attributes of Christian growth. If we are full of ourselves, complacent in our spiritual state, there is not much room for God. Since God is perfect love, in relation with Him, we naturally realize our deficiencies. Love, it is said, conforms itself to its Beloved. If we love God, then we will want to be like Him. Are we receptive to this during the week before Christmas? Can we slow down enough to love? Our Lady gives us the supreme example of receptivity. She was ready, open and welcoming to the Word of God, Jesus the Christ.

Annunciation: The Words of the Angel   
You are no closer to God than any of us;
We all live far and wide.
But it’s wonderful how your hands
Have been sanctified.
They don’t find a match in other women’s,
So brilliant from beneath their sleeves:
I am the day, I am the dew,
But you are tree.

I am rather tired now, my journey was long,
Forgive that I forgot
That he, who sat in gilded garb
Like a ray of light,
Sends news to you, you quiet one
(this room here startled me).
Look: I am the beginning one,
But you are tree.

I spread my wings apart
And became oddly broad;
Now your little house is flooded
With my coat.

And still, you are so all alone
As neer before, me you hardly see;
Because I am just breath in woods,
But you are tree.

Perhaps it will come about soon
And you will grasp it as if in a dream.
Blessings to you, my soul perceives
You are ready and ripe to receive.
You are a great and lofty gate
And about to open up.
You are my song’s most beloved ear.
I feel there disappears and seeps
Into you my word.

That’s how I came and completed
Your dream among a thousand and one.
And with blinding eyes God looked at me…

But you are tree.

- Rainer Maria Rilke (from Magnificat Missalette)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From December 11th, 2011 Bulletin)

Pray without ceasing  - 1 Thess. 5:17
This is the whole verse in Thessalonians. Our readings focus on an increased urgency for the sanctification of each one of us. The Gospel of John repeats some of what we heard from Mark last week, and yet it is expanded and elaborates on who exactly this John is and how he is related to the Christ who is imminent. Isaiah writes of the Spirit anointing one who will bring Good News to the poor and to heal the brokenhearted. Paul prays that "…the God of peace make you perfectly holy…" The message is, I think, start today, start now.

One of the most important aspects of holiness is prayer. We must pray in order to become holy. It is like breathing for the body. We need spiritual oxygen to transform our souls in right-thinking and right-practice (Orthodoxy and orthopraxis). St. Paul writes to the Philippians "have this mind within you" and then goes on to describe the humble mind of Christ. Prayer is a vehicle whereby God plants His thoughts within us.

Advent for Christians is also the peak season for retail commerce. Parties and festivities and plays and shopping all add up to make it one of the busiest times of the year as well. This can crush the spirit of prayer. We need to breathe the silence and sweetness of the season. Preparation in nature often happens in secret and solitude. So it is in the Spirit, we need time alone to think, meditate and pray. I encourage you to take time this Advent to prepare the way of the Lord in your hearts. I offer the simple Jesus Prayer, something one can even say at the Mall!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Breathe in on the first part "Lord Jesus Christ", letting the name of Jesus inebriate your soul. Breathe out on the second part, letting go of all sin, all worry. If one took 5 minutes a day for this prayer, I believe it could transform our world. Will you join me today in doing this every day before Christmas? Let us pray for one another, that our faithful God will continue to accomplish His work within us.

Giving Opportunity in Bethlehem
We were not able to have Khaled Jaraysa here this fall with his Bethlehem crafts, but one can still help in the middle east by supporting the Children of Peace. I, with other pilgrims from St. Stephens, were able to visit the Children of Peace project in Beit Seor, or better known from the Bible, the Shepherd’s Field, where the angels announced the birth of Christ. They provide funding for the Holy Child Program which serves 33 children and their families traumatized by the strife in the area.

They recently lost their free lunch program which was providing much needed nutrition. It is documented that children in this region are known to be deficient in vitamin A, B12, and iron, resulting in vision problems, anemia, and other health-related issues. It takes only $1.50 a day to provide a hot lunch for a child in the program. Can you provide for a day of lunches for the school? That would be $49.50. Could you provide for one child for a month? That would be $45. How simple, yet such a difference.

See the Children of Peace website for more information. You can use their website for donations.
  Their first goal is to raise $4000 by December 31st. Children of Peace is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to supporting programs that serve traumatized children and their families regardless of race, religion or cultural background.