Archive | December 2010

The Philokalia

I got the Philokalia for Christmas, and I will be blogging out some of my thoughts and reactions. I want to do a series of reflections as I read through the various authors. I will examine the writings of the authors, and tease out some of the major themes of the entire work.

Subjects to look forward to include: Interior life, contemplation, silence, the intellect, the Logos, the Jesus prayer, the intellect, passion, anger, virtue, demonology, psychology and monasticism. On this blog they will be examined from a more personal/pastoral perspective.

I have no time table for these posts and they will happen as time allows. Look for the Category tag: Philokalia

I hope you enjoy. I know I will.

For those interested in my more academic work, check out my other blog for more studies in the Philokalia from an academic perspective.

Chrysostom on The Pursuit of Poverty

In the matter of piety, poverty serves us better than wealth, and work better than idleness, especially since wealth becomes an obstacle even for those who do no devote themselves to it.

Yet when we must put aside our wrath, quench our envy soften our anger, offer our prayers, and show a disposition that is reasonable, mild kindly, and loving, how could poverty stand in our way? For we accomplish these things not by spending money but by making the correct choice.

Almsgiving above all else requires money, but even this shines with a brighter luster when the alms are given from our poverty. The widow who paid in the two mites was poorer than any human, but she outdid them all.

– St. John Chrysostom

 

To My Brethren

Let us lift a glass and toast our King,
whose praises all the world shall sing
a minuscule and infant Lord
Humility to be Adored

To my brethren then I propose a toast
To Him Who fills the Sacred Host
God with us, enfleshed, enthroned
The Son of Mary whom all are shown

We celebrate this infant well
remembering the gates of hell
the ravages left upon this earth,
fall apart before this fortuitous birth

Then my brethren let us rejoice
and cry aloud with single voice
Glory to God in the Height of heaven,
and on earth, peace for all men

He makes his residence among us by His Spirit
and kings still tremble when he’s near to us
in cloud and fire and manna He dwells and is swift
Epiclesis, Pentecost and Host; He gives gifts

Danger my brothers, for kings of the earth
He cleanses the waters and gives a new birth
interior life is but part of the plan
soon all the nations shall know His command

Let Justice flow, like many waters, he says
For He knows our pains and hears the cries from our beds
Soon we shall see the right that he brings,
if only we open our eyes to the King

Teacher and Preacher, Lamb who returns
we pray for thy table and those who would spurn
the gift of thy presence, the righteousness, a light from above
that You might have mercy and fill them with love

Turn from your quarrels and ponder with glee,
The One who is given for you and for me
Born unto us from Virgin Mother’s womb
calling us too, to enter His tomb

To pass through those waters of death to new life
To help his kingdom do away with our strife
To become one body, all sharing His bread
to eat at His table, one Family, One Head

Brothers and Sisters, let us draw near
and worship the God who beckons us here
that in our exalting we might be the ones
who through the Holiest Spirit make present the Son

Pope Benedict XVI on Beauty in the Church

The only really effective apologia (defense) for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely the saints the Church has produced and the art which has grown in her womb.

Better witness is borne to the Lord by the splendor of holiness and art which have risen in the community of believers than by the clever excuses which apologetics has come up with to justify the dark side which, sadly, are so frequent in the Church’s human history.

If the Church is to continue to transform and humanize the world, how can she dispense with beauty in her liturgies (and in all of her life) that beauty which is so closely linked with love and with the radiance of the Resurrection? No. Christians must not be too easily satisfied. They must make their Church into a place where beauty–– and hence truth–– is at home. Without this the world will become the first circle of hell.

– Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) (all emphases added)

The Church is not the Church without Beauty and Truth. Enough said.

Merry…Christmas Wars?

Welcome back to The Practical Catholic. I don’t exactly know why I’ve taken to welcoming you that way at every post, but I have, so enjoy. if it annoys you, leave a comment/complaint. Anyways, let’s get to it. Today’s post is a highlight, and also, just some really cool readings from the office of readings. I found them at Divinum Officinum, which offers bother Latin and English parallel versions of the breviary.

This is a readings for the upcoming Christmas celebrations to be read on Christmas day which I found particularly moving. Also, I just wanted to showcase a really awesome online breviary to help other Practical Catholics pray the liturgy of the hours and participate in the divine office.

From the Sermons of Pope St Leo (the Great)
1st for Christmas.
Dearly beloved brethren, Unto us is born this day a Saviour, Luke ii. 11. Let us rejoice. It would be unlawful to be sad today, for today is Life’s Birthday the Birthday of that Life, Which, for us dying creatures, taketh away the sting of death, and bringeth the bright promise of the eternal gladness hereafter. It would be unlawful for any man to refuse to partake in our rejoicing. All men have an equal share in the great cause of our joy, for, since our Lord, Who is the destroyer of sin and of death, findeth that all are bound under the condemnation, He is come to make all free. Rejoice, O thou that art holy, thou drawest nearer to thy crown! Rejoice, O thou that art sinful, thy Saviour offereth thee pardon! Rejoice also, O thou Gentile, God calleth thee to life! For the Son of God, when the fulness of the time was come, which had been fixed by the unsearchable counsel of God, took upon Him the nature of man, that He might reconcile that nature to Him Who made it, and so the devil, the inventor of death, is met and beaten in that very flesh which hath been the field of his victory.

I just want to say, if Christmas sermons sounded like this instead of upholding nationalist atrocities like the All American Christmas Tree in which as Stephen Colbert says, “appears as if Jesus, and George Washington teamed up and declared an independence from taste,” then people might not try so determinedly to get rid of “merry Christmas” from common vocabulary. If Christmas sermons were directed at spiritual formation and not just more nativity scenes, things might be different. I think the best thing we can remember about Christmas is that commodification and commercialization is not limited to people saying “happy holidays,” and it’s idiotic to assume that only people who want to be PC about things are the ones “spoiling Christmas.” My point is this: People who are as emphatic about it being CHRIST-mas to the point of crucifying a Christmas tree as a marketing gimmick are just as bad as those they vilify. Christmas is about Jesus.

Merry Christmas

I’m just not a gung-ho enthusiast about keeping Christmas throughout the society we live in. This post will show you my struggles to understand why people are so emphatically for, or against Christmas. Sometimes I wonder what people would do if like Latin, some of these Christian phrases that became common in society suddenly dropped out all at once, would they leave because Christmas was simply uncool and/or unheard of?

Think about it.

We’ve already lost the “mass” part of the Christ-mass, since most of the people fighting Christmas wars are Protestants anyways. If someone wishes me a merry Christmas or is obviously Christian, I wish them one, if not, I don’t say happy holidays, I just say “have a nice day” or might still say “Merry Christmas”. What’s wrong with “Have a nice day?” or “Merry Christmas;” are we really in a society that thrives on the survival of the whiniest? Most people don’t care what you say, they just say it back. The point of all that was, seriously people, liberate yourselves from all the stupid ideas of what Christmas might mean to you, and come back to the gospel. A friend of mine wrote about the Annoying Ghosts of Christmas Present and I thought it was worth sharing.

I’m not ashamed to wish someone merry Christmas, but it doesn’t offend me if someone says “happy holidays” unless they’re at Church, where the only holiday is really Christmas. But Christians need to get over the retailers and other major businesses opting to make Christ irrelevant to their sales. Does it really serve the gospel if I make it known that I am a Christian and I celebrate Christmas and will tell you so as a closing greeting on my way out of your store?

The dropping of “merry Christmas” only makes one thing clear, we can see a it more clearly where Christ is being opposed because society is opening up about it. We should remember our position as pilgrims, aliens and foreigners, except in the Church. Stop trying to whitewash society with paint from the Kingdom.

Yes you have ridiculous atrocities of Christmas marketing that only further aggravate the insanity. No, making sure you can wish everyone a merry christmas or call it a Christmas parade will not solve the real issue. The real issue is a breakdown of the idea of tolerance and respect in free-society. But that’s my opinion. Moving along.

The Christmas Wars

Seriously; isn’t it ironic to anyone but me that we have “Christmas wars” and counterpunches? You know being that it’s the one time per year we celebrate the birth of the one we claim is the “Prince of Peace” and all?

Isn’t a “war” even a “culture war” in the name of peace or society almost always a moronic idea? I mean, seriously. Sometimes, society is going down the tubes and you need to make reparations and fight a culture war I guess, but I don’t think that “merry Christmas” is my kind of war. Abortion, sure. Charity for the homeless, for the abused and the overlooked? Always. Care for widows and orphans? That’s true religion. Those are wars worth fighting.

Fighting so that some distressed, disheveled wal-mart greeter wishes you a merry Christmas is absurd. Trying to get selfish corporations to ally with”JEEZUS” or “family values” so we can all feel better about massive amounts of shopping is ridiculous. Fortunately, we’re gettng the rude wake up call that all is not right in society and the gospel is not concurrent with any world culture except its own. Fighting a christmas war so we can call it Christmas is not illogical, because other religions are gaining currency to get equal footing, I just wonder if it’s the best approach to turn this into a war.

The Other Side of the Christmas Wars

I’m not trying to be a grinch, I love Christmas, despite my ba-humbugging. I love Jesus, I adore Our Infant Lord, and all that He has brought to us. I dislike that people want to prevent my celebration of my faith, I find it troubling, insensitive and wrong that my faith has to be stifled in favor of eastern religions, patriotism or a general cultural agnosticism.

Let’s look at the other side of this Christmas war thing. Some atheists have decided that this could be fun. To be fair, some people have thought that Christmas parades nation-wide need to be rebranded “holiday parades.” Some have thought it best to exclude either santa and nativity scenes or just nativity scenes in schools, or parades, or musicals. It’s absude and I offer a simple piece of advice: Stop it. Stop being snot-nosed brats. It’s a holiday. It has religious tones, but seriously, religion is part of what it means to live in the public square in free-society. Why should it be otherwise?

To be fair, no one wants Christmas admitted as a justification for gifting, as much as a sense of “Hey, other religions are allowed to celebrate openly, we even tolerate “pride parade” as a society, so why not Christmas?” Think about it. We can support a guy in butt-less chaps or shirtless in skimpy underwear for freedom, or liberty or self expression, (insert american liberty jargon here) but want to cover up any mention of a virgin, her child and a star. That simply makes no sense. From a purely objective standpoint, there’s no danger of a baby and his mommy in the public square in December, stop freaking out.

The Breakdown of Tolerance

It is absurd that some people respect the integrity of Ramadan, or Kwanzaa, but piss on Christmas. Is it right? No.

Stop it. Stop being such whiny litigious brats, and grow up. Are we seriously stuck in a society where tolerance means no one can be happy because a single person might become unhappy that someone had a good time?

What happened to the idea of tolerance being “Well, everyone does more or less what they want, and we respect the differences”? Tolerance in the American spirit is broken. It is ow used as a synonym for acceptance rather than what it should mean, which is allowed, but not necessarily supported. What happened to the days when America was about melting pots and a conglomeration of cultures? Nowadays our biggest export in this country is homogenization, the ability to turn everything into the same dull grey-matter that we surround ourselves with as a culture. Worldwide we’re selling secularization, MTV and Kentucky fried chicken, but it all lends itself to a synonymous breakdown of values, of worldview, and of culture. America’s tolerance machine is a bust, and we’re not gonna learn the easy way, it seems.

There are people looking to keep especially Christian religious acts out of pubic discourse, to which I say “Stop it.” We live in a pluralistic society that regards many faiths, so let them all have their claims, and if someone wants to call it a Christmas musical, so be it. If they don’t want to, whatever. Christmas is for the Church first, and secondly for the world. If we uphold it rightly as Christians, will we need a strong cultural Christmas in society? Probably not. But that’s going to hinge on Christian attitudes towards saving Christmas from Christians and giving it a robust dogmatic and traditional feel from within the cultural history of Christian thought and action.

Christmas in Perspective

I look at the above reading from Pope Leo, and then I look at the Christmas wars, and it tells me, “So what?” Someone wants to rename it a holiday parade? So what? Is this a Christian nation? No. Let people have their stupid “holiday parades,” and if you want a proper Christmas parade, go through the channels, and make one. So long as cities won’t prevent the expression of religion in parade form, we should all be fine.

The Savior offers pardon, and more importantly, redemption. Christmas is about the birth of an all new sense of time that does not hinge on making the world more Christian on the surface, but of making Christians and letting them infiltrate and leaven the world piercing through the deepest depths to cause the entire thing to ascend to God. Christmas is about Jesus, not “Christmas,” in the general sense. It’s about this little infant who is God’s gift to us, who has been gifted flesh, so that He can finally inherit us.

He comes bearing gifts, in that, He is God Himself as gift to us. He offers us Himself, his flesh, his sufferings, his entire life, he offers us tears shed and moments staring at stars, he offers us birth and being held against a mother’s breast. He offers all this, to conquer death and the works of the devil, who sought to destroy us through fleshly physicality which was prone to death but has been made alive to God in Christ.

The Spirit of Christmas

This is the Spirit of Christmas, humility, hope, and faith. Good will and benevolence and charity are all essential to the season also. I don’t fight Christmas wars because honestly, I find them pointless. I love Christmas, I expect the Church to, and to uphold Christmas, for the Church.

Behold, unto us a Child is born, to us a Son is given. Just as God gifted Him creation, through His flesh, He gifts us back to the Father until the consummation when we are God’s gift to God, and our very existence is a full manifestation of that reality. God has entrusted us with far more than a parade, though by no means less than that. I am no detractor of Christmas pageants, parades, or floats, or caroling. God has given us a precious gift, and we would do well to learn to cherish Him in our midst, even when society makes it difficult.

What society does, or major retailers is the least of my concerns. I know I will hit some chords with some people, and not make some Christians very happy with this. Christmas is about Jesus. Parties and pageants express this, and they are well and good, but the Christmas wars are about so much more than merry Christmas. These wars are about the soul of a Church, not the soul of a nation.

Merry Christmas becoming a problem is a symptom, not the root of the problem. If you disagree, I would love to hear your thoughts.

But seriously, Merry Christmas. Now, get over it.

St. Francis of Assisi on the Practice of the Kingdom of God

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace: Where there is hatred, let me sow ove; Where there is discord, harmony; Where there is injury, pardon; Where the error, truth; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where th is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, Grant that I may so much seek: To be consoled as to console; to be loved, as to love. For, it is in giving, that we receive; It is in forgetting self, that we find ourselves; It is in giving, that we receive; It is in forgetting self, that we find ourselves; It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned; And it is in dying, that we are born into eternal life.

– St. Francis of Assisi

A Conversion Update

Hey, for those of you who are subscribers, thank you for reading and subscribing. For those who are readers, thank you for reading. For those who want to know more about my personal life, you’re gonna get a treat.

I have a hard time opening up sometimes, but I want you to know that things are well. I feel satisfied, and fulfilled. I still miss my church, and the people I used to lead. It’s not easy going from Baptist pastor to Catholic layman sometimes, but I am managing and Kassie always helps.

Recent Thoughts:

I sometimes feel that maybe I waited too long to convert, the journey now has a more contemplative and somber tone, instead of the fire that was so ardent in my interior life two years ago. I think that it’s for the best though, that I be made sober. I am full of joy, it’s just hidden much of the time, I am not worried, or in pain, just sober-minded and vigilant.

I feel as though something is waiting to be discovered, and I’m not sure what it is, but when i find it, I will let you know.

Anyways, I wanted to say that life is good. I feel that I’m spiritually developing, and that this is very, very good. I feel connected to the Church at large and to all the saints. Recently, I have started to look into working for Catholic Charities, maybe with immigration or some other place where my bilingual skills could be best put to service.

Current Events:

If you follow me on twitter you’ll notice I’ve been watching lots of movies, mostly because film is a way for me to clarify my thoughts and engage reality on another level. There’s nothing like watching movies to me, and I feel hard pressed to find something as soothing or as contemplative as watching films.

Christmas is right around the corner and it’s the first time I’ll ever have spent Christmas itself away from home. I have always spent Christmas with my family, except once before. This time rings of permanence, and change, and that’s a bittersweet thing. I miss my family, but I’m also excited to be spending it with Kassie’s family, who are jovial and good-natured people full of light and love and welcome.

I think the biggest challenge I face related to conversion right now is the waiting. I cannot express how long the waiting seems to be taking, but if Jesus had to wait, I know I must also. I’m trying to see the good in waiting, even if it frustrates me at times. I know that God is with me, the Holy Spirit has worked through my friends and fellow converting colleagues to work in all of us a network of support, guidance and love, and I know we are all benefitting.

My Ponderings:

The following are things I have been thinking on. The first is one that has popped up this week is a line from scripture: “My flesh is real food” -Jesus in John ch. 6

I have been meditating on this, and how, if these words are historically accurate, they have profound existential meaning for the life of Jesus. “My flesh is real food,” he was fully aware of what was going to take place, the anguish and the sorrow of his very self he connects to the meal, making himself the passover, the One who allows God to spare Israel. He is saying that He is the manna of God, the bread which brings life to those in the wilderness.

That’s deep, troubling, and illuminating all at once. It is concurrent with the repeated appearance of the line: “O come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.” It is my Advent meditation, to think on how the infant Jesus, becomes a man, and bears for us all, the weight of sin, to bring to us the hope of glory. “My flesh is real food,” he says. He offers us Himself, and it struck me.

The sorrow of this Jesus, it hit me afresh the other day, and never before have I felt so deep a pain when thinking on those words.

This other line is from an Orthodox prayer:

…[T]hou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ Our God...”

This line happens in a prayer before reading the gospel/scripture, and asks for God’s illumination. The food, from the above meditation, has echoed in my mind with this line of this prayer, and I think it’s for the best. Christmas is indeed a time of illumination, a time of welcoming God into our lives once again, and making room for God to once again reshape us, to refashion us, to illuminate us.

Come Holy Spirit, kindle your fire in the hearts of the faithful, bring us to Christ, the King of All Worlds.

Gregory of Nyssa on Spiritual Warfare

Welcome back to The Practical Catholic, today we look at one of my favorite saints, Gregory of Nyssa, and His interpretation of Spiritual warfare.

When we lay bare the hidden meaning of history, scripture is seen to teach that the birth which distresses the tyrant is the beginning of the virtuous life. I am speaking of the kind of birth in which free will serves as the midwife, delivering the child amid great pain. For no one causes grief to his antagonist unless he exhibits in himself those marks which give proof of his victory over the other. – The Life of Moses

This work of Gregory of Nyssa has formidably shaped the entire mystical Tradition, and also gives Christians both present and future a way of understanding the mystical and spiritual senses of scripture in action. This work also reflects how the Early Church reflected critically on the lives of the Old Testament figures as models for the Christian life, not out of a sense of obligation or haphazard grabbing for historical tradition, but out of a deep sense of understanding the reality of mystical continuity between Judaism and Christianity.

In this work Gregory uses Moses as a commentary on the Christian’s journey in the world using the life of Moses as an allegory for the process of the Christian life. He talks about how we can spiritually imitate the birth of Moses by imitating the virtues which he draws as spiritual realities from the life of Moses.

Understanding Gregory

Gregory says that scripture shows us that the birth of virtue aggravates “the tyrant,” by which he means that the scriptures teach that virtue itself is spiritual warfare. As a former pentecostal I was exposed to the idea that spiritual warfare was something that we engage in, something that we do through targeting spirits and ideas “in the heavenly places.” Gregory offers us a very different idea, one connected to Judaism, Christianity, and virtue as the font of Christian action.

Virtue, Free Will and Spiritual Warfare

What I was taught about “spiritual warfare” had nothing to do with virtuous living, it had nothing to do with simply being a Christian. However, Gregory would have us contemplate that it is not simply the external acts of prayer or speaking in tongues that aggravate “the tyrant” but the entire virtuous life.

Gregory says that free will is the thing that brings along and delivers virtue to us amid persecution and great pain. It is an act of the will to become more virtuous, even from earliest days, the Church has affirmed that will plays an important part in the birth and continuation of virtue. Actions have everything to do with virtue. I understand that grace also plays an important role and Gregory addresses this in other parts of the work, but it is essential to retain the idea that will is formidable in the conquest over evil.

Advent Reflections with Gregory of Nyssa

I think the essential conclusion that Gregory draws is important “…No one causes grief to his antagonist unless he exhibits in himself those marks which give proof of his victory over the other.” Isn’t that the entire story of Advent? This Moses, like Jesus after Him, escapes from the tyrant who seeks His life. He brings frustration to the tyrants of the world by virtue of his existence, He causes the systems of the world grief because He is their end. Where tyrants use violence and coercion to perpetuate their power, the birth of virtue spells their demise.

Jesus spells the end of the powers of the world, as Moses before Him because the very God who supports Him is the God whose activity in history culminates in His final redemption through death and resurrection. His very existence frustrates the tyrant, and makes evil fret.

Gregory is saying that the birth of virtue inaugurates personal persecution.

But think about this:

Where other powers kill, this one seeks to conquer death through submission to it. Where other powers coerce to perpetuate themselves, this tiny infant grows in knowledge and stature, and initiates God’s justice in such a way that none before Him have done.

Personal Application

On a personal level, we can learn from this that the birth of the tiny infant within us is the very same power which frustrates all tyrants. The powers of honor, truth, justice, peace and friendship are how we as a people bring God’s illumination to the world and overthrow the game of thrones that the world would have us play.

Scripture has taught us to frustrate the tyrant with good works, to overthrow the bonds of the oppressor by climbing onto the cross and extending ourselves with Christ in behalf of the world. Spiritual warfare is simply letting Christ shine in us, so let us be expressions of the most dangerous child, the One who offers us war through peace, justice through his suffering, and life through his death. The birth of virtue might incite the Herods and Pharaohs of the world, but it also means their destruction through the power of the cross and the saving waters of baptism.

Let us remember the birth of Moses, who offers us an example of faithful discipleship, let us remember Jesus who offers us a coming kingdom. Let us call on Him, ever faithfully, Come Lord Jesus! Maranatha.

The Government Shall Rest on His Shoulders

In the beginning, God says, “Let there be light!” -Genesis 1:3

Advent this year has been a time of awaiting the final redemption. Hope has been the central core of my reflections, and I have been looking both at the present and to the future for inspiration.

Christ is with us, every one of us, by the power of the Spirit that hovered over the waters. Advent is a time to prepafe for our memorial of the Lord’s birth, but also a time to Rejoice. This coming Sunday is Gaudete Sunday, or Rejoice Sunday. Taken from Phillipians 4:4-5 We remember that “The Lord is at hand.”

The prospect of God-with-us seems so close at hand, we’re in December, Christmas is nearly upon us, and so with the rest of the waiting world we must use this time to shake the dust. Advent is a time of preparation, but it is also a time of awakening. There is good out there, waiting, coming to us and through us.

“Salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” -Romans 13:11 and with St. Paul we must all wake up, and welcome the light that God has ordained for us. The light of His Son that eternally is begotten by the Father and comes to us in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Lord is at hand. This little babe, wrapped in cloth and cooing in his mothers arms, this little one, it is He who shall judge the nations with an iron rod. It is He who shall put away darkness, it is He who bears us up into the very life of God through our theosis. It is He who sends forth the Spirit to renew the face of the earth.

“Behold, I am making all things new.” -Revelation 21:5

In the beginning, there was darkness, in the end, the is the Son who is our light and our temple. It is He who shall be for us the Throne of God, His flesh shall be our salvation. His wounds shall save us from our sins. This little king which comes, it is He who is God’s answer to the cry of the poor and the oppressed.

Those who think they must teach justice, and do so apart from Christ forsake the very answer. God has heard the cry of the lowly and brought down kings and magistrates from their thrones through this child, this king, this rejected one. It is well with us, God is coming to us, He brings peace and salvation.

The child in the cow trough “meek and lowly of heart” overthrows the brute force of Caesar through enthroning Himself in our suffering. It is our glory to behold the child, who by nature of His very existence, breathing and curled against His mother’s breast spells the end of empires.

It is this little child who “has filled the hungry with good things.” -Luke Ch. 1 Magnificat. He has helped His servant Israel, and has scattered the proud. His mercy is for those who fear Him, for those who welcome His coming. The dawn from on high has broken, it is our job in this season to welcome such a coming. As the day breaks we must take care to perceive whether we lie shrouded in shadows or are opening our eyes.

Our empire is not fashioned on the blood of victims and the oppression of the poor, no, our kingdom is not built with stone or flesh or gold, it is not ruthless nor cunning, no, this empire is built upon the hardened prudence of a people who reject the peace of Caesar. This empire is fashioned in the wild hope, tempered like steel, with souls of iron this hope endures. It is the hope of glory, that this little child, this tiny Jesus shall really and truly have been and continue to be God’s answer to the cry of the lowly. The government will be upon HIS shoulders, and His kingdom shall have no end.

We are two years past the world’s hope that Barack Obama should change the world. Things remain as they were, enduringly tedious, and the machinations of empires go out far and wide, maintaining the status quo. Yet this little child, offers us a challenge to all of that.

It is time for a different kind of world, a different kind of empire. This is not just a titillating fantasy to help us cope with the dark reality we find ourselves in. It is the only solution to that dark reality. In the beginning, God said “Let there be light,” and there was. So too Advent and Christmas offer us this light. The story that the gospels tell show us God putting into effect His justice, His Order, into the chaos we have made.

The government is not on our shoulders and that is part of the good news of the gospel. Good men, bad men, women and children cannot force the salvation of the world. This is good news. They can, try as they might, bring things before us, but they cannot change business as usual. Yet a baby hiding in a cow trough turned the world upside down and continues to do so.

We are the kingdom-bringers, we are the advent people, we are the people who are saved in hope. Our hope has tempered our souls and invites us to stop. It invites us, not to substitute Barack Obama with Jesus, but to change the dream altogether. Only through careful, deep and thoughtful devotion to the one who calls us to Love our God, and then our neighbors shall we learn the way of peace.

Fall silent, and contemplate that God has put Himself on our side forever through this little jewish boy. O come, that we may Go up to the House of the Lord, let us adore Him, so that when the world is moved by speeches of change and hope that turn out to be empty, we shall have a higher purpose in mind. So that when the world is imperiled with doubts and anxieties we shall rush once more into the breach, knowing that the Government rests upon His shoulder, and not ours.

Let us know that, despite the machinations of men, He shall rule the nations with an iron rod, and that the judgment He brings shall give us peace. In the power of His Spirit, we go forth into the world with a simple thought, “The baby in the cow trough is the hope, He is the Change.”

Nothing else will do, be it governments and empires or money or power, none shall bring real and lasting change. Let us face this dark chaos with a simple awareness that just as God once brought order to primordial chaos with light, so too He does with us, in each heart that confesses and each life that lives the statement “Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Each of us is an advent of the Lord, it is through our lives that God continues to speak the first words ever uttered in the sacred scriptures, “Let there be Light.”

On Advent:

I love every opportunity we have to expect the Lord.

This season, we can especially remember hope, and the coming of the Lord in our midst once again.

I am especially prompted to remember that in some special way, every person, every interaction that happens among us has the opportunity to be a small advent, a small manifestation of the Spirit of the Lord, and thus of His Kingdom and the Person of Christ.

I wanna keep this post short, so I will close quoting Pope Benedict XVI in Spe Salvi:

Man’s great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God, God who has loved us and who continues to love us “to the end,” until all “is accomplished”.

God has loved us, it is what we see in His ultimate unity to us in Christ. He “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53) and will continue to do so. Every life, everyone, is an opportunity to manifest the kingdom to, and to develop and grow and nurture the manifestation of the Kingdom in us.

Our true hope is this small child who shall come again in glory, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate and who rose again in glory. Our true hope is not the idea of God, but the person of Christ who has invited us into God, and will hold fast to us, even though we walk away. He has anchored his entire identity to our own, and staked the very essence of God on His current and future redemption of the Creation. His Spirit once hovered over the waters and continues to brood over us, working in all things, that He might become the everything in everything

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