Wednesday, December 31, 2014

In the Beginning

The Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas

Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared.  Thus we know this is the last hour.   1 John 2:18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.  What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  John 1:1-4

Whoever you are, therefore,
who are hastening to the heavenly homeland,
fulfill with the help of Christ
this minimum Rule which we have written for beginners;
and then at length under God's protection
you will attain to the loftier heights of doctrine and virtue
which we have mentioned above.  Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 73

Last day of the year…maybe the Church fathers are jumping the gun just a tad…in the beginning…INDEED!  The first reading had it right…this is the last hour, no?

There is a somewhat modern version of the Rule of St. Benedict that Deacon Jim Bayne likes to pass around entitled, “Always, We Begin Again.”


Yes…we have to wait one more day for the start of the new calendar year.  Yes, we have to wait one more day for the re-start of the cycle of readings from the Benedictine Rule. However, one thing is certain on the last day of the year and the first day…and that is we are asked to put God’s will BEFORE all others.  Before our own.  Before our bosses.’  Before our children.  Before our parents.  Before ABCCBSCNNNBC.  Before Wall Street.  Before Hollywood and Vine. Before K Street.  Before Apple.  And even before Toyota, Lexus or Volkswagen and the soon-to-be concluded December-to-Remember/Sign Then Drive Sales.

Every day and every minute allows us a chance to begin anew.  We do not need a new month in the Gregorian calendar to turn over a new leaf.

Temperance might be the best action for a day that sometimes – although not among loyal readers of Your Daily Tripod – might be inclined to excess food or drink in the celebrations of the New Year’s Eve.  Make your night, and the night of those around you, a safe and happy celebration and a symbol of your year ahead.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Strong and Filled with Wisdom

The Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas

By Melanie Rigney

Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement from the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice! (Psalms 96:11)

(The prophetess Anna) never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to who all were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:37-38)

Lord, I recall the words of Blessed Euphrasia of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: “My joy is to live a hidden life unknown to all. Help me to find quiet in You.

And so, the Presentation at the Temple complete, Luke draws a curtain over the life of the child Jesus, other than to say the family returned to Nazareth and Jesus “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” The next time we see Jesus, he’s twelve years old.

What were those intervening years like, when Jesus teethed and learned to talk and walk? Did he have colic? Was he ever a fussy baby? Who were his friends? What did he play? When did he go into the shop to learn Joseph’s carpenter trade? What were his favorite foods? What did the Holy Family talk about at dinner or when he was being tucked into bed?

We’ll never know, of course. But we do know he was both fully divine and fully humane. Personally, I like to think of him as the typical child of Nazareth… perhaps a little smarter and more thoughtful than most, but one who enjoyed his playtime as well as his prayer time. One who loved his parents dearly, and loved his Father in heaven, even at a very young age, even more. One who had lots of friends, because who couldn’t love the young Jesus, and perhaps a few who were jealous of the ease with which he moved through life.

Maybe Jesus’s early years were just as remarkable and unremarkable as our own, or those of our children and grandchildren. And maybe they were nothing like ours. One thing is certain: he had earthly parents who were devoted to him and watched his growth with pride and love. And perhaps, that’s a gift we can all aspire to help provide to the children in our own lives.

Spend some time in prayer with the child Jesus.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

From the Beginning

Beloved, I am writing no new commandment to you but an old commandment that you had from the beginning.  The old commandment is the word that you have heard.  And yet I do write a new commandment to you, which holds true in him and among you, for the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. 1 John 2:7-9

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.  This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. Luke 2:25-26

Prayer for the Help of the Holy Spirit
O God, send forth your Holy Spirit into my heart that I may perceive, into my mind that I may remember, and into my soul that I may meditate. Inspire me to speak with piety, holiness, tenderness and mercy. Teach, guide and direct my thoughts and senses from beginning to end. May your grace ever help and correct me, and may I be strengthened now with wisdom from on high, for the sake of your infinite mercy. Amen.
-- Saint Anthony of Padua 

There seem to be only two things that come upon the people in the beginning of St. Luke’s Good News:  First comes fear and then comes the Holy Spirit.  We see it in Zechariah, Mary, Jesus, the people and in Simeon.  First, we see fear come over people when they come face-to-face with the unknown.

Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him. Luke 1:12

Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea.  Luke 1:65

However, this sense of fear gives way to awe when they realize that they have found favor, not the anger, of the Lord.

And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  Luke 1:35

For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.  Luke 1:48

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him.  Luke 2:25

The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.  Luke 2:40

Perhaps the absence of the Holy Spirit leads us into a state of fear.  Although the Holy Spirit is never absent.  Maybe in those times of fear, we let other preoccupations get in the way of our sense that the Spirit it present in our lives.  Then, the awareness of this presence of the Holy Spirit leads to the love of the Lord and charity for those around us.

In the first reading, we see the testament that the continuity and freshness of mutual charity in Christian experience.   Jesus did not change the commandment but rather gave it a fresh telling.  Through Christ, the commandment of love is light.  It defeats the darkness of evil in a new age.  All hatred as darkness is incompatible with the light and Christian life.

There are three days left in this calendar (tax) year.  Any gifts you make to provide love and light the charity of your choice through financial or in-kind donations are deductible to the extent allowed by your personal situation.  You have until 11:59 pm on the Seventh Day of Christmas (aka December 31) to claim any charitable deductions on your 2014 taxes.  Tick…tock…the end of the year is near. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Favor of God was Upon Him

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

Those who honor their father will have joy in their own children, and when they pray they are heard.  Those who respect their father will live a long life; those who obey the Lord honor their mother.  Sirach 3:5-6

And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.  Colossians 3:15

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.  The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.  Luke 2:39-40

We learn what's beautiful about relationship from family.  The first family of love is the Holy Family.  All family spirituality takes its beginning in the Holy Family.  We learn how to love one another by the very love of the parents with whom we grew up.  The beauty of love is that wherever there is love, God is there.  The way Mary loved Joseph and Joseph loved Mary gives us the love that Christ had as he grew up in the Holy Family.  Christ thought he knew his own way and discovered when he stayed behind in the Temple that his parents not only missed him but he learned that that was where he was meant to be.  Scripture tells us that he grew in wisdom and knowledge when he was with his parents for the next 18 years.  Christ tells us when he's told blessed is the womb that bore you and the breast that fed you.  Christ said blessed are those who hear the Word of God and live up to it.  The piety of family is spoken to our hearts through the relation of Jesus to his parents and his parents to him.   

Study is what we learn from our own parents and family about goodness.  Jesus and his personality grew out of these interchanges between himself and his mother and his foster father.  This made Jesus the way, the truth, and the life.  The greatest insights into family spirituality come from our own families but they're modeled by Mary and Jesus and Joseph.  The Holy Family gives us the dignity of family life.  A world that is growing sour on family has lost the divine connection to happiness.  Happiness flows out of belonging to others and being loved for who you are.  Many people are waiting for the genius of some profound insight and they don't appreciate that the ordinary family is divine revelation.  When we reflect on the moments we have been loved, out of those instants, divine revelation unfolds in our heart.  The beauty of who we are in God's love has its deepest meaning in how we are loved within our families. 

Family is where we put our minds and hearts to work if we want to share the graces of the Holy Family.  Love is not what another deserves but what we are free to give.  Family justice might well be whatever anyone has suffered for the sake of the ones they love for the family but true love begins where justice leaves off.  No one can force one to love but the richness of love is the free gift of our hearts for one another.  Christ says, "If you'll be my disciple take up your cross and come follow me."  No one lives in family without problems with one another.  Love is the carte-blanche, or blank sheet of paper, where we give others the chance to write the story of their hearts.  Love is the reality of our loving a person not just simply for who they are but even with their faults.  Love is the truth that we would never love anyone more if they got rid of their faults: we love them with their faults.  Love is the realization that we can only change ourselves and we cannot change the members of our family.  Once upon a time in my life, I asked my dad to apologize for not spending more time with me.  With tears in his eyes, he told me that I was worse than he, because I was trying to create a father to the image and likeness of what I thought a father should be.  He told me I was playing a God and challenged me to accept the dad I had if I wanted to have a father.  Jesus gives us the freedom to love as he loved and he won't love us more if we change.  He loves us for who we are.  Family love is the fullness of acceptance of who we are, not who we should be.  Family love gives us the freedom to be ourselves and is the richness of the spirituality of the Holy Family.

Friday, December 26, 2014

At the Tomb

Feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life— for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us.  1 John 1:1-2

Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.  John 20:8


The Angelus

V.  The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary: 
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit. 
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. 
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord:
R. Be it done unto me according to Thy word. 
Hail Mary, full of grace…
V. And the Word was made Flesh:
R. And dwelt among us. 
Hail Mary, full of grace…
V.  Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray: Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.  Amen.

You would think that the great wisdom of the church would allow the glow of Christmas to shine for a few days.  However, as Colleen O'Sullivan noted in yesterday’s installment of Your Daily Tripod, we jumped from the miraculous birth of the Nativity to the sorrowful death of the first martyr.  Now, on the third day of Christmas, our true love church gives to us the metanoia of St. John the Evangelist at the empty tomb.

In this fast-forward from the mystery of the Incarnation to the mystery of the Resurrection, we have eclipsed the entire lifespan of Jesus of Nazareth in three days.  It is as if arriving at the just-filled crib to witness the birth of God-with-us will not bring you to believe, then perhaps standing inside the empty post-crucifixion tomb will touch your faith chords.

Neither crib side nor tomb side are places we would like to be seen.  The same could be said of being at the feet of an angel or at the foot of the cross.  Yet, all are places we need to be.  Christmas – indeed all of Catholic Christianity – is not about staying where we are.  It is about crossing to where we should be.  As Fr. Greenhalgh pointed out in his Christmas Day homily, the whole point of this God-baby was to come down and be the change that he wanted to effect in the world. 

Lives like those lived by Mary and Joseph, St. Stephen and St. John, and of course Jesus of Nazareth, are models of what we are supposed to do with our faith.  We are not only called to have faith, but also are called to act it out in the real world.  St. John was asked to cross the threshold of the tomb – and in so doing, he accepted by faith the mission laid out by Jesus.  What more will it take for us to intone those words of Mary?  “Be it done to me according to THY word, not my word.  Here I am, Lord.  I come to do your will.”  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas – A Study in Contrasts

Feast of Saint Stephen, First Martyr

By Colleen O’Sullivan

When they heard (the wisdom and the spirit with which Stephen spoke), they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him.  But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”  But they dried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.  They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.  The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.  As they were stoning Stephen, he called out “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  (Acts 7:54-59)

Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety.  You are my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake you will lead and guide me.  (Psalm 31:3cd-4)

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing.
Glory to the newborn King.
(from Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Charles Wesley, 1739)

Yesterday, we knelt at the manger in adoration of the Christ child.  Today, we stare in horror at the first grim martyrdom scene.

Yesterday, we witnessed to the Light come into the world.  Today, we see the darkness that struggles to overcome it.

Yesterday, we gathered with family and friends, exchanged gifts, shared a bountiful meal.  Today, we are reminded that even as we are rejoicing, wars are being fought in faraway places and people are dying, some because they are Christians.

We ask, “Why do we have to have such downbeat Scripture readings today?” We want to stay with the glow of Christmas for at least a few days, we protest.  Maybe we didn’t understand what we saw in the stable in Bethlehem.  Yes, Jesus looked like any other newborn.  He cried like all the rest of them to be changed and fed.  Yet within that tiny scrap of humanity God sent to live among us was contained the greatest power ever known.

Christmas isn’t about the cuteness of the infant Jesus.  It’s about God come to share in our humanity, Love and Light spilling out across the land.  It’s about seeing in the babe the one who grows up to offer us healing and forgiveness, the one who loves us so much he gives his life for us on the Cross, the one who offers us a place with him and his Father for all eternity.

Jesus asks that we live as he died – for others.  And that’s what St. Stephen was doing in our first Scripture reading.  His job in the fledgling Christian community was to distribute alms to the widows, to look after those who had no one else to care for them.  He truly lived as Jesus did – for others.  He died as Jesus did, committing his spirit to God.

St. Stephen prayed for his persecutors.  As you continue to celebrate the Christmas season with family and friends, take a few minutes to consider who or what would like to derail you from your faith and pray for them.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Sing for Joy, the Lord has Redeemed

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)

By Beth DeCristofaro

Break out together in song, O ruins of Jerusalem!  For the LORD comforts his people, he redeems Jerusalem.  The LORD has bared his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God. (Isaiah 52:9-10)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.   All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. …[T]o those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.  (John 1:1-3, 12-13)

O God, we pray with the Holy Father Pope Francis.  “That the birth of the Redeemer may bring peace and hope to all people of good will.”

“Are you ready for Christmas?”  We ask each other this at cashier lines, in workplaces, drinking coffee after Mass.  This year I’ve had some trouble answering because, in fact, I am rarely ready in the sense of gifts bought and wrapped (HAH!), menu planned (what did you say you wanted for vegetables, Mom?), house cleaned (HAH! Again) and so on.  But this year my Advent has been one of intense awareness, prayer-time and struggle.  Recurring themes for me have been courage, consent and come as I have read and prayed on the liturgical readings.  My job, working with the very ill and their families, has brought me again and again to the Truth of the holy Birth that even in death we have the promise of eternal life and joy in the midst of sorrow.  

In a spiritual sense I am ready for Christmas but am also not ready to let go of the season of preparation.   In the Christmas Mass during the Night, Isaiah promises the people:  For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed, as on the day of Midian. (Isaiah 9:3).  How can we not raise our heads in joy?

Living daily with Advent mindfulness is preparation and readiness. Sr. Joan Chittister  suggests that “Christmas moves us to recommit ourselves to re-form our minuscule worlds to take in Christ the homeless child, the outcast, the refugee … Christmas will come to us in its fullness when we welcome into the human race all those we persistently see as lesser, and cry, ‘Peace to God’s people on earth.’”  In what ways can we remain mindful of our “Christmas readiness,” joyfully welcoming others into readiness?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

To Guide Our Feet

“’The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you.  And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his Kingdom firm.  I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.  Your house and your Kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.’”  2 Samuel 7:11B-12, 14A, 16

“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”  Luke 1:78-79

O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Do you have a favorite movie that you see over and over again?  You know the film so well that you can recite the lines before the characters even speak them? 

Maybe you act out being Captain Von Trapp from the Sound of Music:  “Were my children prancing around Salzburg dressed in some old curtains?”

Or Judy Garland as Dorothy Hale in The Wizard of Oz:  "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

Perhaps you fancy yourself Tevia from Fiddler on the Roof:  “Tradition!”

"All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my closeup," proclaimed Gloria Swanson (as Norma Desmond), in Sunset Boulevard.

Or do you lean more toward Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove?  "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room." 

Well, "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night. May the Force be with you."  The Christmas story, the rituals, and the Christmas carols are like these old standbys.  The problem is that the meaning of the words might get lost when we gloss over the words from rote memory. 

Today’s Gospel – known as the Canticle of Zechariah -- is repeated daily in the Breviary.  Before setting out in the world every day, religious and lay people who participate in the morning prayers remind themselves daily to live a life of hope in the dawn and to let the Lord guide their feet on the path to peace.

Tonight, that path will be illuminated as we end our preparation period.  Whose feet will be guided to the side of the crib?  Mary certainly and Joseph.  But then, we do not see the rich and powerful.  There are no Roman centurions.  No Jewish Pharisees.  No Arabian kings.  We see the workers.  Shepherds.  Sheep.  The legendary little drummer boy may have been there.  I would bet that the innkeeper and his wife ventured out to see the commotion in their stable.  Maybe even some of their relatives who got to Bethlehem ahead of the Holy Family and were staying elsewhere came by to see their new cousin or nephew.     
Pope Francis was not as gentle as the Canticle of Zechariah when addressing the members of the Curia this week.  He was like a school teacher taking his students to task for bad behavior.  @Pontifex did not pull any punches.  He did not serve up a “spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down.”  Those listening probably did figuratively fasten their seatbelts for the bumpy ride of Pope Francis’ comments.

He warned that the feet he was seeing were not resting their hope in the dawn and they were straying from the pathway of peace.  While some headline writers are focusing on terms like spiritual Alzheimer’s, Pope Francis, in his remarks, listed 15 spiritual “ailments” he has encountered in the Curia, and urged the bureaucratic leadership to renew its effort to heal itself as Christmas approaches.

Which of the Pope’s 15 sins also reverberate in your life?  Some include:
  •          The terrorism of gossip?  
  •          The sickness of considering oneself ‘immortal’, ‘immune’ or ‘indispensable’?
  •          ‘Martha-ism’, or excessive industriousness?
  •          The disease of accumulation?

Pope Francis asked the members of the Curia to use Christmas as a time of renewal.
“We are therefore required, at this Christmas time and in all the time of our service and our existence – to live ‘speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love’.”

What morning star will illuminate your walk to get back to and stay on the pathway of the Prince of Peace?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Who Will Endure the Day of His Coming?

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent

By Melanie Rigney

Yes, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire, or the fuller’s lye. He will sit refining and purifying silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the Lord. (Malachi 3:1-3)

Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand. (Luke 21:28)

(Zechariah was again able to speak and affirmed the child’s name would be John and blessed God.) Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. (Luke 1:65-66)

Purify me, oh Lord. Baptize me in fire. Set my soul ablaze for You.

We all have Christmas traditions: the lighting of the Advent candles, the decorating of the tree, the cookie and candy baking, the special meals, the entire family gathering to attend Mass together. Each is holy in its own way, for it involves union with the Lord and, generally, with our loved ones.

For many of the past thirty years, my favorite tradition has been participating in a sing-along “Messiah.” It started with a large group of friends, few of us churchgoers, in Chicago. We’d gather a few weeks ahead of time to practice and then head down to Second Presbyterian on the Near South Side, bringing along some canned goods as donations. Afterward, I’d ask the more learned members of the group what the heck some of the things we sang about meant, like purifying the sons of Levi or why it would be so difficult to endure/abide the day of the messiah’s coming.

These days, I sing along at First Presbyterian in Arlington, walking distance from my home. Some years, my sister comes along; other years, I go alone and chat up some other women in the alto section. I know a bit more about the Bible these days and understand all too well how people might have longed for the Messiah… and yet, at the same time, not been so sure his coming would be a good thing for them and the way they lived. Messiahs are funny that way; when they come to redeem you, some internal and external change generally needs to accompany that redemption.

And so, as we prepare for the joyful arrival of that helpless little baby, consider what not only his coming but also his life and death have meant to people for the past two thousand years. Consider what his coming means to you, today, right now, in the coming year? How will you as a Christian, be purified? What will you let go of? What will you embrace? What will it take for you to be able to stand when he comes again?

As the final rush of pre-Christmas activities winds down, carve out ten minutes of alone time with Jesus. Ask him for help with the purification you both know you need.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Oh! Come and Save

Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent

I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request.  Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD.”  She left Samuel there.  1 Samuel 1:27-28

The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.  He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.  He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.  The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.  Luke 1:49-53

O King of all nations and keystone of the Church; come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!  (December 22: O Rex Gentium)  

In these final seven (now three) days before Christmas, our liturgy includes the “O” antiphons.  The seven "O Antiphons" (also called the "Greater Antiphons" or "Major Antiphons") are prayers that come from the Breviary's Vespers during the Octave before Christmas Eve, a time of this pregnant season also called the "Golden Nights."  (Did you know that the O Antiphons are the source of the lyrics of the Advent song "Veni, veni Emmanuel" ("Come, O come Emmanuel")? 

Today’s antiphon helps us to remember the prophetic verses of Isaiah when talking about the coming of the King:  He shall judge between the nations, and set terms for many peoples.  They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.  (Isaiah 2:4)

This “king” is a boy grown up – alluded to in our readings in the person of Samuel who was left with Elijah and the baby boy dwelling and growing inside Mary.  

Oh, what shall we make of this holiday almost upon us?  Are we ready for the challenges it brings to our daily, distracted life? 

What are we “O”verdoing this season with our spending and credit limits?
What are we Overeating at the endless holiday parties at work, at home and in our neighborhoods?

Where are we Overrun by crazy shoppers and drivers rushing to the mall, the theatres and the parties?

Are we Overdue to slow down and get off our feet and rest?

Are we guilty of Overuse of our credit limit in trying to meet the expectation of Black Friday and Cyber Monday and the three shopping days left until Christmas?

Have we Overbid for that gift we want on our favorite auction site or for that car that allegedly promises to make this month the December to remember?

What sins of omission make the clouds of our pride Overcast the Holy Spirit coming upon us this season?

Look Overhead for the star in the East.
Be Overcome with awe.
Let the Spirit of the Lord Overshadow your desires.
Like Mary, sing out with the sense of Overall joy at the message and the reality of this season.
Set out, like the shepherds and kings – trekking Overland so you can get a glimpse of the child.
In this little baby, see how God has sent a tiny person who will grow up to fulfill an Oversized task and redeem us from our sins.