Thursday, December 31, 2015

Merry 7th Day of Christmas!

2015 has been a year of new life for me.  I wonder what God will help me make of 2016.
As I began writing I heard a powerful reading of Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem, Ring Out, Wild Bells, published in 1850.  Here is the beginning and end of it:

Ring out wild bells, to the wild sky
The flying cloud, the frosty light
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring happy bells across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true....

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand years of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

(I so wish I could share a picture with you.  Maybe in the new year?)

Monday, December 28, 2015

Merry 4th Day of Christmas

I've spent the afternoon sending Christmas cards.  It feels good to remember and be in touch with people I haven't heard from in a year.  I think it was Dickens who said, "Memory burns brightest at Christmas!"

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Merry 3rd Day of Chistmas!

Touch Hands. This poem by William Henry Harrison Murray is an old favorite of mine, made more meaningful by recent events:
Ah, friends, dear friends, as years go on
  and heads get gray,
  how fast the guests do go!
Touch hands, touch hands,
  with those that stay.
Strong hands  to weak,
  old hands to young,
  around the Christmas board, touch hands.
The false forget, the foe forgive,
  for every guest will go
  and every fire burn low
  and cabin empty stand.
Forget, forgive, for who may say
  that Christmas day may ever come
  to host or guest again.
Touch hands!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Merry 2nd Day of Christmas!

Family has changed enormously over the centuries.  As we see more and more variety, it might be good to remind ourselves that love, not biology, is what makes a family.
That certainly was true for Mary and Joseph.  He was not the biological father of Jesus, but in love he accepted Jesus as his son and showed a father's love and care for the boy.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

A little girl
Had wandered in the night, and now within
The shadows of a broken stall, was waiting,
While  the night winds and the breath of time
Were moving over her...
Starlight moving imperceptibly.
The drift of time.  And then a moment's fall,
The last that we should know of loneliness.
A sign, unheard within the dark, and then...

She wrapped him up in swaddling clothes
and laid him in a manger.

And then
She knelt and held Him close against her heart,
And in the midnight, adoration fused
With human love, and was not separate....

This is God's chosen way with men,
To take men's way: and so the streets she walks
And all the roads, the shepherd and the shepherds'
Sheep, the winds, the firelight, Israel's hills,
Will find just this, no more, a woman plain
Upon the earth, and in her arms, a Child.

(from John W. Lynch's A Woman Wrapped in Silence)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Gift of Life

Being in the hospital, I missed last Christmas.  This year as I decorate and send cards, I am often deeply moved at the thought that I am alive to do these Christmas things again. 
Life is the best Christmas gift, not only life in the Spirit, but also life in my body.  A new heart in every way.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Brilliant Religious Thinker

Yesterday I said that "2nd Isaiah" probably came to his confession of one God along with other Jews in the Babylonian Exile.  Upon further reflection I like to think, rather, that he was a brilliant, unique, religious thinker.  (I thought of Einstein in science.)  In  2nd Isaiah's own deep prayer and individual meditation, he becomes convinced that there is only one God.  He feels impelled to tell others.  He is bold enough to put in the mouth of God these words: "Besides me there is no god."
For 2nd Isaiah the one God is responsible for the entire cosmos, the God of the natural world and the God of history.  This one God has the care of all the nations (gentiles) and intends to save them all.  2nd Isaiah links monotheism with universal salvation.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

One God

I was surprised to find out that the earliest explicit confession of monotheism in the Bible is Isaiah 44:6: "I am the first and the last; besides me there is no God."  In case we missed it he repeats his confession twice in 45: 5-6: "I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no god....there is no one besides me; I am the Lord and there is no other."
The author of the second part of Isaiah, chapters 40:1-55:13, was living in Babylon during the Exile about 540 years before Jesus.  He probably did not arrive at this revolutionary insight all by himself. No doubt, he and his fellow Jewish thinkers in exile arrived at this conclusion as they looked askance at the many "gods" of the Babylonians.  The remarkable insight that there is only one God is so mind-blowing that it colors our whole way of reading the Old Testament even before Isaiah.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Unrestrained Joy

"Unrestrained joy" is the phrase that Father Ray Brown uses to describe the scene in Luke's Gospel where Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth (1:39-45.)  The Divine saturates the scene and  envelops the two women and they brim over with joy.  Even the baby in Elizabeth's womb jumps for joy.
Teilhard de Chardin says, "Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God."

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Dark Lady

I have seen Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast is today, referred to as "The Dark Lady." She came in the color and appearance of a Mexican Indian to Juan Diego, a Mexican Indian.  It's the reason this story appeals to me.  Mary comes in the form with which Juan Diego is comfortable.
God's way with us is to take our way, to become Flesh.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

In Our Midst

"O come, O come, Emmanuel!" we sing during Advent.  Emmanuel means "God with us," yet we are asking God-With-Us to come.  This Advent tension is present throughout the season.  This coming Sunday the prophet Zephaniah assures us, "The Lord your God is in your midst (3:17.)"  When we pray for God to come, it is not to bring God closer; God couldn't be any closer. We are praying that God will sharpen our awareness of God-With-Us and enlarge our welcoming love.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Year 2 Begins

My heart attack happened a year ago yesterday.
Love Who love us, thank You.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

All Humanity

When Luke quotes Isaiah in 3:1-6, he goes one line further than Mark and Matthew to include Isaiah's "and all humanity shall see the salvation of God."  Luke continues it to include the promise of universal salvation, a prominent theme in his Gospel.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Seeing Him

Sunday I read Truman Capote's A Christmas Story.  It comes closer than any fiction I know to capturing the significance of the Incarnation, God becoming flesh.  Capote tells how as a 7 year old he made Christmas preparations with his friend, who was "sixty something, though still a child."  Near the end of the story, as they lie in the grass, watching their kites cavort in the sky, she exclaims,
"I've always thought that a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord.  And I imagined that when He came it would be like looking at the Baptist window: pretty as colored glass with the sun pouring through, such a shine you don't know it's getting dark.  And it's been a comfort: to think of that shine taking away all the spooky feeling.  But I'll wager it never happens.  I'll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself.  That things as they are, just what they've always seen, was seeing Him.  As for me I could leave the world with today in my eyes."