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! ❤ +

Ascension Day

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While [Jesus] was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’ (Acts 1:10-11)

The Feast of the Ascension has always struck me as a very mixed bag of emotions. I can just picture the bewildered disciples staring up into the sky…thinking to themselves: What the hell just happened???

Caught somewhere between the elation of spending time with their Risen Lord, and the sudden shock that they are once again “on their own”……this is a day of both celebration and apprehension.

You see..at this point in the story….the Holy Spirit hasn’t arrived yet. Pentecost is still a week away……and in many ways, the disciples are right back where they’ve started. A frightened minority, locked behind closed doors……And yet, something is different compared to the time when they hid themselves away on Good Friday.

Now….the followers of Jesus know something is different. They have touched the hands and feet of their Lord and know that he lives! Despite Christ’s sudden departure from their midst….they can’t simply ignore what they have experienced. They know they have something special…..but the question remains….what do we do with it????

Something holds them back. How exactly are we supposed to feel about this? On the one hand, we know that we have been blessed by Grace, forgiveness and love, and seen it with our own eyes….and yet…on the other hand, we find ourselves staring into nothing as it travels somewhere beyond our knowing.

At the risk of sounding too personal…I can relate to this bewilderment and confusion. given some of the life-events which have occurred in the last three weeks.

Between the call to priestly ordination, and the (mutual) break-up of a loving and life-giving relationship….I feel that I’m caught between two extremes…..Joy and celebration at the fact that a life-long dream is coming true…..while at the same time, sadness at having to let something go that has been equally precious to me.

I honestly don’t know what to do when these feelings come at me simultaneously……but I take comfort in knowing that even the Church recognizes and holds on to those feelings within it’s own traditions and feast-days. Ambiguity and a sense of being uncomfortable and confused is not something that I–or any of us–are alone in…it is a shared experience with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Like the infant church…..scared and unsure…..we move ahead even though we are clueless of the direction…..and with the sure knowledge that somewhere along the way, the Holy Spirit will come to be our comfort, our guide, and the one who lights a fire under our ass ;)…(or in our hearts if you prefer the more traditional image) +

On The 2nd Day of Christmas, A blogger gave to me…….

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A song for the feast of St. Stephen, celebrated today 😀

Evening Prayer: Feast of St. Andrew (Nov. 30th)

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Psalms: 96, 100
Old Testament: Isaiah 55:1-5
New Testament: John 1:35-40

One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter). (John 1:40-42)

As it was a feast day today, and a Wednesday, I went to the regular Eucharist offered at the Cathedral. During his sermon, the Dean of the Cathedral reflected on his relationship with his older sister….with whom he shares a 12 year age gap.

The reading from this afternoon was from Matthew’s Gospel where Peter gets called first along with Andrew……and here in John’s account, Andrew is the one who tells his older sibling about this new-found Messiah.

Despite the difference in order, I think the central part of his homily remains true. When we are brought to faith…..we need the guidance and tacit approval of people whom we love, trust and respect.

Whether it is an older brother, or younger one (or sister for that matter)……I encourage you to reflect this evening on who your mentors have been. Who in your life has helped you discern who you are and what you are uniquely gifted to do????

Along with this question, I think it’s also important to consider the other side of the coin: In what ways are we motivators and mentors for others??? Are our lives reflecting the Light that never fades??? Are we living the example of hope and expectation that is part of this pre-Christmas season??? What are you inviting people to come and see? +

P.S. Don’t forget to vote on my poll in the sidebar for charity! Thanks & pax Christi!

Morning Prayer: Feast of St. Andrew (Nov. 30th)

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Psalm: 34
Old Testament: Isaiah 49:1-6
New Testament: 1 Cor 4:1-16

We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honour, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, 12and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. (1 Cor 4:10-11)

I freaking love this passage of Scripture! 🙂 Why, you ask? Not because of the poetic language…..though it surely has that quality….but I love this quote because it reminds me that it’s OK to be sarcastic/tongue and cheek and Christian at the same time.

I have yet to find a commentator who agrees with me on this…..but I’m fairly certain that St. Paul is throwing a light jab to the Corinthian community under the guise of advice.

My evidence for this is based back in chapter one where he says that God’s weakness is greater than human strength and that:

God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. (1 Cor 1:27-28)

So when Paul calls the leaders of the church strong, and he himself weak….he is mocking them slightly and kind of saying Hahaha! I am better than you! 🙂

Now….do I think Paul’s intention is mean-spirited??? No. It is meant as a comment that the people can latch on to…..to recognize where they are going wrong…..and as a message to the people of Corinth to exercise more humility.

It’s passages like these that remind me that Paul, Andrew, and the other saints were human beings. They had their own style of preaching, their own foibles, and even their own sense of humour.

As we move further into Advent, let us strive to be weak, despised, and lower than anyone else. As a Christian people this is a calling of service…..in stark contrast to the culture of individualism we come across every day in North America. +

Last Sunday Before Advent: Feast of Christ the King (Combo Post)

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Psalm(s):118, 145
Old Testament: Isaiah 19:19-25
New Testament: Romans 15:5-13
Gospel: Luke 9:11-27
Patristic Reading: Anexcerpt from a discourse on prayer by Origen

Wow! It’s been almost a year since I started this blog, and the Church once again prepares itself to contemplate the great mystery of the Incarnation, the payment of the Cross and the victory of the Empty Tomb. A victory that inaugurates the feast which we celebrate today.

The Feast of Christ the King (since renamed the Reign of Christ to remain gender neutral) is a time when the community of the faithful takes a collective breath. To recognize that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the father and that the promises of God have been realized.

More than that, this is a celebration…..a rejoicing in hope…..not of what the world was….broken, dark and sinful……..but of what the world IS a creation made new…….a world where everything is made possible.

A world where segregation, hatred, and injustice are no more. Where Jew, Gentile, women, man, slave and free live as one…….but I’ll let a better preacher than myself take the lead here…..While his message is in the context of the civil rights movement, dreams are always bigger than we can ask or imagine.

The bright day of justice will emerge, all will live in the light….. and thanks to the love of Jesus we are set free at last, if only we drop our chains! +

Evening Prayer: Feast of All Souls (Nov. 2nd)

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Psalm: 119:73-96
Gospel: Matthew 13:53-58
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a book by St. Ambrose on the death of his brother (scroll down to Reading II)

Tonight I’m going to post what is called a litany….in this case one directed to the saints.

This is a very ancient practice and is one that is popular for All Saints and All Souls, two feast days which are very closely connected. In this form of prayer….the whole church dead and living ask for intercession, mercy, and forgiveness.

If you’ll notice, the way that litanies are structured are designed to again bring us to the contemplation of Christ , The saints who are listed are arranged according to their proximity to our Lord.

We start with Mary, the Theotokos (who is above the cherubim and seraphim), then angels, then apostles, then martyrs, then virgins, then theologians.

After recognizing those who have gone before, the whole church then adds petitions for themselves and for the world. Again asking that the whole world come to know Jesus

These litanies to God are not empty rituals….but an act of remembering the community we are a part of. A family that stretches across all times and places for the glory of God.

I hope you are able to get something out of this exercise, and–on this Feast of All Souls–may you with confidence find a place for yourself in the company of the blessed.

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy

Holy Mary Mother of God.
Pray for us
St. Michael (Archangel)
Pray for us
Holy angels of God
Pray for us
St. John Baptist
Pray for us
St. Joseph (stepfather of Jesus)
Pray for us
SS Peter & Paul
Pray for us
St. Andrew
Pray for us
St. John
Pray for us
Mary Magdalene
Pray for us
St. Stephen
Pray for us
St. Ignatius
Pray for us
St. Lawerence
Pray for us
St. Perpetua and Felicity
Pray for us
St. Agnes
Pray for us
St.Gregory
Pray for us
St. Augustine
Pray for us
St. Cecila
Pray for us
Holy men and women
Pray for us

Lord be merciful
Lord Save your people
From all evil
Lord save your people
From every sin
Lord save your people
From everlasting death
Lord save your people
By your coming as man
Lord save your people
By your death and rising to new life
Lord save your people
By the gift of your Holy Spirt
Lord save your people

Be merciful to us sinners
Lord hear our prayer.
Grant to all the souls of the departed eternal rest.
Lord hear our prayer.

Jesus son of the living God
Lord hear our prayer

Christ hear us
Christ hear us
Lord Jesus hear our prayer
Lord Jesus hear our prayer +

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