Silence. Complete and utter silence. It filled every crevice of the stable. It stretched to the highest heavens, reverberating throughout the midnight sky. It settled quietly and peacefully in their hearts… A tiny light shone, one brave soldier in the midst of a darkness draped over the tiny shelter they were given against the winter wind. The young virgin Mother rested her arms on the side of the manger where she’d laid her tiny newborn, bundled against the cold.
Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
This child “will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his Father.” This child, sleeping in a rough manger belonging to someone else, the gift of someone’s charity, was Son of the Most High. He was the Promised One.
Joseph knelt beside her. His presence warmed her against the cold of the night. The secret they bore was too heavy for their young shoulders. But there they were. Alone. Alone with the Son of the Most High. She his mother. He his appointed foster father. Mary reached out to grasp the tiny hand of her Son. He curled his tiny fingers around her thumb and looked up at her. The first smile. It was brighter than the rising of the sun, more majestic than the breaking of the dawn on a crisp winter’s morning.
Mary and Joseph needed no words as they played with their child, whispering phrases every parent knows. Content in these quiet first hours of his life that had been entrusted into their hands, mystery. Amazing gift.
Though they were poor, oppressed by the Roman government, away from home and family, deprived of hospitality, unsure of the next step, they were at peace.
Come, Lord Jesus, come
Christmas carols ring out the joy of the season, yet so many movies of the Christmas season depict the human suffering and sorrow that Jesus, on that first Christmas morn, embraced as his own. It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, The Great Rupert, and A Christmas Carol were my favorites growing up.
On the last seven days before Christmas, the haunting O Antiphons, the traditional great Magnificat antiphons for Vespers, will be sung throughout the Church, acknowledging that truly Advent and Christmas is about the coming of our God to a people so in need of salvation.
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, Come and teach us the way of prudence.
O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel, Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples; Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.
O Key of David and scepter of the House of Israel; Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
O Morning Star, splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
O King of the nations, and their desire, Come and save the human race, which you fashioned from clay.
O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver, the hope of the nations and their Savior: Come and save us, O Lord our God.
Meditation for Christmas Joy
Friends, I invite you to kneel down in spirit beside the person or situation that right now is poor, lost, cold, neglected, alone, in danger… Each of us carries the weight of someone’s pain, or—like Mary and Joseph—find ourselves in situations precarious and full of sorrow. Or perhaps you yourself are the one calling out in the night for someone to reach out to save you from the floodwaters of death.
Imagine yourself reaching out for the hand of your Infant King, the Savior of the world. Friend. Brother. Guarantee of the Fulfillment of all your deepest soul-desires.
Feel his little finger grasp your thumb. Allow the sweet firmness of his gaze to wash over you. To melt your heart. Tell him everything. Exactly as it is. All that you need. Cry out… O Come.
Then hear this promise, proclaimed on the First Reading for the Mass on December 21, proclaimed now to you, in the midst of all your need:
Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you,
he has turned away your enemies;
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals. (Zep 3:14-18A)
Starting on December 16th we will be including in the newsletter a small ebook on the O Antiphon for the day. May this Christmas novena we share with you bring you comfort and strength and joy, for the Lord “will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love.”
Sr Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP
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Daughters of St Paul