The Annunciation: To Feast or Not to Feast????

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annunciation-John Collier

The Annunciation by John Collier 

 

Last week I was visiting the FB page for a conference I’m helping to organize for June of this year.

In the midst of commiseration discussions surrounding the stress and anxiety that Lent can provoke, my attention was caught by the following thought from one of my colleagues and fellow event-organizer:

Having a baby in the middle of Lent kind of throws off the tone. Hard to be penitential and abstain when there is so much to celebrate.

Indeed! 🙂

Having a baby often turns lives upside down. Everyone is excited to welcome the newest family member. People take time out of their schedule to visit the hospital, to bestow adorable onsies, gifts, kisses and smiles and hugs all around. If ever there was a time to say Alleluia! I’m pretty sure this is it. 😀

The regular rhythm of life for the family is also interrupted. If there are kids already in the picture, they now become siblings. Mom and Dad are now instantly “on call.” Diapers must be changed, cries attended to, and feedings to provide at all hours of the day or night. Sleeping patterns are temporarily dashed to pieces…..and a whole new way of life begins.

Which brings me to a reflection about the Feast of the Annunciation. This day in our Christian calendar–when Mary finds out that she is carrying a precious baby boy–typically falls in Lent.

The Good News which we remember and celebrate today, is the message of a child who will not only provide the Blessed Virgin’s family with love and fulfillment…..but will in fact carry that love and grace to the whole world; becoming our brother, our friend and our Saviour.

During the 40 day fast, it is customary to bury the Alleluia altogether. Mind you, I have seen parishes in which the custom is to break out the “A” word for this feast and also for the Feast of St. Joseph (March 19th)

So……what is a young priest to do??? 😛

The Feast of the Annunciation is all about the unexpected. Can you imagine being a 13 year old girl who has an angel show up at your doorstep??? Not only that…..but this scary-ass angel is telling you that you’re PREGNANT?!? :P…….

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Mary’s life was forever changed…….whatever way she hoped to observe the Jewish calendar probably fell apart, especially on account that being pregnant meant that she could not fast, even on Yom Kippur.

After getting over the initial terror and shock…..I can picture tears of joy coming from Mary’s eyes……crying Hallelujah! as she goes to immediately share the Good News with her cousin Elizabeth. Excitement and anticipation accompanying every step….. as her soul magnifies the Lord and rejoices in God her Saviour.

Just like Mary, our lives and our plans are interrupted. Our initial intention to observe the fast thrown out the window….at least for today. Today we praise God, the maker of heaven and earth. Alleluia! ❤ +

Evening Prayer: Even of All Hallows (Hallowe’en)

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Psalm: 34
Old Testament: Wisdom 3:1-9
New Testament: Revelation 19:1,4-10

Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow-servant with you and your comrades who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’ (Rev 19:10)

Growing up, I was definitely one of those Roman Catholic kids that didn’t understand the whole saint thing. To me, they were the people enshrined in the stain-glass……their stories often seemed unbelievable……their lives of virtue and inner peace entirely too convenient.

Even stranger to me was the whole idea of praying to the saints….asking them to talk to God on our behalf…..why wouldn’t I just pray to the Father or Jesus directly???

I’ll touch on the theology of intercession tomorrow…but for right now, I want to concentrate on what we hear from Revelation. In his vision, John is so overwhelmed that he feels moved to spontaneous worship.

Not knowing the proper outlet for that praise, he starts to bow down before the saint (holy one) that is unveiling the message of what the apostle sees.

Startled, the saint stops him….and–in my head at least–I can picture that exchange being very awkward for both parties. Wanting to dissuade any false illusions, the white-robed companion immediately directs the writer’s attention back to Jesus.

Contrary to the way the cult of the saints was taught to me in RC circles, the saints are not the object of worship. Rather, looking at their lives is SUPPOSED to lead us to Christ, and the virtues that he teaches in the Gospel……a point which is not always explicitly made.

Tonight, on the eve of All Saints, we are also made aware that the Church–the community of the faithful is an eternal reality. Made not only of the people living in the world today…..but of all who came before us, and those who will follow in the future.

The seemingly endless tales of Christian men and women are a call to be holy as God is holy….and in the next few days we celebrate the fact that progress in a faithful life is not only possible, but that it has the power to shape the world…..and shape it for the better. A transformation that began and was made possible by the One who clothes us in righteousness with His blood. Alleluia! +

Morning Prayer: Easter Day

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Psalms: 148, 149, 150
Old Testament: Exodus 12:1-14
New Testament: John 1:1-18

Alleluia! The Lord is Risen! +

We have made it to the dawn and discover the tomb empty. Christ has trampled on death, and given us freedom from sin! Christus Victor!

Today the whole Church…..from North to South, East to West rejoices in new life as we celebrate this feast of victory for our God. Alleluia!

On this great day of hope, celebration and praise, let us all hear with joy the Paschal invitation of St. John Chrysostom.

If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast.
If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.
If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast.

If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived therefor.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing.
If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness;
for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first;
he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.

And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts.
And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering.
Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second.

You rich and poor together, hold high festival.
You sober and you heedless, honor the day.
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.

Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.
let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free.

He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.
By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.

It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is your sting?
O Hell, where is your victory?

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown.
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen.
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice.
Christ is risen, and life reigns.
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.

For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.

May God bless each and every one of you this day and forevermore. ❤ Alleluia! +

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