Tuesday, December 27, 2005

It's Dated Dec. 25th, It Talks About the Bible, ...
This Doesn't Violate the Moratorium -- Does It? :-)

Falling birth rates not just a problem in Europe

December 25, 2005


"But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John."

If, like increasing numbers of Europeans, you have "some problems with conventional organized religion" (as Harry Potter's J.K. Rowling puts it), you've probably forgotten that bit from the Christmas story. It's Luke 1:13, part of what he'd have called the back story, if he'd been a Hollywood screenwriter rather than a physician.

Only two of the gospels tell the story of Christ's birth. Mark plunges straight into the son of God's grown-up life: He was writing for a Roman audience and, from their perspective, what's important is not where Jesus came from but what he did once he got going. But Matthew was writing for the Jews, and so he dwells on Jesus and his parents mainly to connect the king of the Jews with all that had gone before: He starts with a long family tree tracing Joseph's ancestry back to Abraham.

Like Mark, Luke was writing for a gentile crowd. But, like Matthew, he also dwelt on Jesus' birth and family. And he begins with the tale of two pregnancies. Before Mary's virgin birth, he tells the story of her cousin Elisabeth: Zacharias is surprised to discover his impending fatherhood -- "for I am an old man and my wife well stricken in years."

Nonetheless, an aged, barren woman conceives and, in the sixth month of Elisabeth's pregnancy, the angel visits her cousin Mary and tells her that she, too, will conceive.

If you read Luke, the virgin birth seems a logical extension of the earlier miracle -- the pregnancy of an elderly lady. The physician-author had no difficulty accepting both. For Matthew, Jesus' birth is the miracle. Luke leaves you with the impression that all birth -- all life -- is to a degree miraculous and God-given.

There's a lot of that in the Old Testament, too, of course -- going right back to Adam and Eve, and God's injunction to go forth and multiply. Or as Yip Harburg explained in his rollicking biblical precis in the show ''Finian's Rainbow'':

''Then she looked at him

And he looked at her

And they knew immediately

What the world was fer.

He said 'Give me my cane.'

He said 'Give me my hat.'

The time has come

To begin the Begat.''

Confronted with all the begetting in the Old Testament, the modern mind says, ''Well, naturally, these primitive societies were concerned with children. They needed someone to provide for them in their old age.'' In advanced Western society, we don't have to worry about that; we automatically have someone to provide for us in our old age: the state.

But the state -- at least in its modern social-democratic welfare incarnation -- needs children at least as much as those old-time Jews did. And the problem with much of the advanced world is that, like Elisabeth, it's barren. Collectively barren, I hasten to add. Individually, it's made up of millions of fertile women, who voluntarily opt for no children at all or one designer kid at 39. In Italy, the home of the Church, the birth rate's down to 1.2 children per couple -- or about half ''replacement rate.'' You can't buck that kind of arithmetic.

Here's a story from Friday's Japan Times:

''Japan's population has started shrinking for the first time this year, health ministry data showed Thursday, presenting the government with pressing challenges on the social and economic front, including ensuring provision of social security services and securing the labor force.''

Happy New Year, guys! And, as the reporter adds, ''Japan joins Germany and Italy in the ranks of countries where a decline in population has already set in.'' And don't forget Russia, which is even further ahead in the demographic death spiral. Of the great powers of the 20th century, America's still healthy birth rate, like its still healthy Christianity, is now an anomaly.

Demography is not necessarily destiny. Today's high Muslim birth rates will fall, and probably fall dramatically, as the Roman Catholic birth rates in Italy, Ireland and Quebec have. But demographics is a game of last man standing. It's no consolation that Muslim birth rates will be as bad as yours in 2050 if yours are off the cliff right now. The last people around in any numbers will determine the kind of society we live in.

You can sort of feel that happening already. ''Multiculturalism'' implicitly accepts that, for a person of broadly Christian heritage, Christianity is an accessory, an option; whereas, for a person of Muslim background, Islam is a given. That's why, as practiced by Buckinghamshire County Council in England, multiculturalism means All Saints Church can't put up one sheet of paper announcing its Christmas carol service on the High Wycombe Library notice board, but, inside the library, Rehana Nazir, the ''multicultural services librarian,'' can host a party to celebrate Eid.

To those of us watching Europe from afar, it seems amazing that no Continental politician is willing to get to grips with the real crisis facing Europe in the 21st century: the lack of Europeans. If America believes in the separation of church and state, in radically secularist Europe the state is the church, as Jacques Chirac's ban on head scarves, crucifixes and skull caps made plain. Alas, it's an insufficient faith.

By contrast, if Christianity is merely a ''myth,'' it's truly an immaculately conceived one, beginning with the decision to establish Christ's divinity in the miracle of his birth. The obligation to have children may be a lot of repressive Catholic mumbo-jumbo, but it's also highly rational. What's irrational is modern Eutopia's indifference to new life.

A year or so back, I had a conversation with an European Union official who, apropos a controversial proposal to tout the Continent's religious heritage in the new constitution, kept using the phrase ''Europe's post-Christian future.'' He used the phrase approvingly. But the evidence suggests that, once you reach the post-Christian stage, you don't have much of a future. Luke, a man of faith and a man of science, could have told them that.

©Mark Steyn, 2005

Thursday, December 22, 2005

They Defended our Right to Observe the Reason for the Season

I saw this picture from Arlington National Cemetery linked from Michelle Malkin's blog. In your prayers this Christmas, please remember the men and women of our Armed Forces who died defending us, thereby ensuring that we can openly celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And may perpetual light shine upon them.

May the souls of the faithfully departed
through the mercy of God rest in peace.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

December 18, 2005

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Old Calendar: Fourth Sunday of Advent
Today is the second of the O Antiphons, O Adonai (O Almighty God). As Moses approached the burning bush, so we approach the divine Savior in the form of a child in the crib, or in the form of the consecrated host, and falling down we adore Him. "Put off the shoes from thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground . . . I am who am." "Come with an outstretched arm to redeem us." This is the cry of the Church for the second coming of Christ on the last day. The return of the Savior brings us plentiful redemption.

2nd O Antiphon:

And leader of the house of Israel, who Appeared to Moses in the bush's flaming fire, And gave to him the Law on Sinai,

To redeem us with outstretched arm.

Thou art He "who didst appear to Moses in the burning bush." "I have seen the affliction of My people in Egypt, and I have heard their cry because of the rigor of them that are over the works. And knowing their sorrow, I am come down to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians and to bring them out of that land into a good and spacious land, into a land that floweth with milk and honey" (Exod. 3:7 f.). Thus spoke the Lord to Moses from the bush which burned but was not consumed, which is a figure of God's condescension to assume the weakness of human nature. The human nature of Christ is united to the burning divine nature, and yet it is not consumed.

As Moses approached the burning bush, so we approach the divine Savior in the form of a child in the crib, or in the form of the consecrated host, and falling down we adore Him. "Put off the shoes from thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. . . . I am who am" (Exod. 3:5, 14).

O Adonai, almighty God! Mighty in the weakness of a child, and in the helplessness of the Crucified! Thou, almighty God, mighty in the wonders that Thou hast worked! Mighty in guiding, sustaining, and developing Thy Church! "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18).

"Come with an outstretched arm to redeem us." This is the cry of the Church for the second coming of Christ on the last day. The return of the Savior brings us plentiful redemption. "Come, ye blessed of My Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you" (Matt. 25-34).

Excerpted from The Light of the World by Benedict Baur, O.S.B.

Now Back to the Moratorium

Here's another great post from a milblog, again via Michelle Malkin. (And just because it involved Iraq, doesn't mean it's political ;-)

More Civil Affairs

In another recent letter from Brian:

I have a new story from last night that is pretty neat. We got a call fairly late in the evening that two Iraqi nationals were up at the hospital and needed to be picked up. Evidently they had been treated in Baghdad and flown here, which shouldn’t have happened, and the hospital that released them expected someone here to get them back to their town.

Nobody really knew what to do with them, so they called us, since we are civil affairs. We went to the hospital and that’s where the story begins. When we got there we found out that it was an Iraqi man and his grandson. The grandson has cerebral palsy and had somehow got a hold of some kerosene where he lives and drank some of it. When the American military found out, they put him on a helicopter along with his grandfather and flew him to Baghdad for treatment.

We brought one of our interpreters so we could communicate, then figured out what to do. Evidently a flight in the morning had already been identified for them, so we just had to put them somewhere for the evening, since the hospital here refused to let them stay over night, saying, “We’re not a hotel”, which I thought was a little ridiculous.

Well, we decided to put them up for the night at the local mosque, because we know the caretaker really well and work with him often on various projects. This all took a couple of hours to figure out so by this time the child had fallen asleep so I wrapped him up in his blanket and carried the little guy out to the truck to take them over there. He didn’t wake up until we got outside and into the cold air but when he did, he didn’t seem afraid at all that a stranger was carrying him. It seemed like he knew that he could trust us, and when we got to the mosque and I went to get him back out of the truck he reached for me and put his little arm around my neck when I carried him inside. I guess it made quite an impression on the mosque caretaker as well, because he told our interpreter a little later that he was very moved by it. He told her it was such a sight to see an American carrying an Iraqi child as if it was his own. Like he was carrying him to safety. I’m not sure how much the child knew what was going on, but when I laid him on the bed they had ready for him, he looked up at me and smiled.

The caretaker and his wife invited us to stay for tea (a common custom in this culture) so we sat down and visited with them and the grandfather of the child. As it turns out, the grandfather is a village elder where he is from and holds a significant amount of authority and power. He had never dealt face to face with Americans and kept saying how impressed and amazed he was with us. He said that he watched all of us work and he had never seen a group of people that work day and night every day without tiring and that work together so efficiently. He had been in the Iraqi military years ago and said that it couldn’t compare to the level of efficiency and effort of our American military. He also couldn’t believe that we would do so much for a man that we had never met before and did not know. That we would fly his grandson all the way to Baghdad, treat him, and get them back home. He couldn’t believe that we all cared so much about people we didn’t know, and that my fellow Marines and I would take time to sit and talk with him and look after their well being. He kept saying, “Look, you are all officers and you talk to me and look after me. I am nothing.”

Judging from the stories he was telling, evidently he had been fed the propaganda that the Americans were conquerors and that we had come to “swallow Iraq up.” With reference to me carrying his grandson and us treating and looking after them he said, “Look, this is not how conquerors behave.” Our interpreter said that he kept repenting for the way he had thought and for what he had done before, which led us to believe that he had probably supported the insurgency in one way or another. He repeatedly said that he would go back to his home and tell everyone about the Americans and how we really are. That we are here to help them and to help rebuild their country and give them a better life. Since he probably has quite a bit of local influence, this could be pretty good for our cause. Who knows, maybe we helped prevent some insurgent activity and possibly saved a couple of American lives down the road somewhere. I hope so.

After tea we left for the night, then came back early in the morning and got them on the flight back to their home. I was left with a good feeling about the whole experience. This is one of those things you don’t get to see on the news. How we completely changed someone’s mind about what Americans are like and how we were able to save a little Iraqi child. The man assured us that under the old regime before we were here, his grandson certainly would not have been flown to Baghdad and treated and saved. When we said goodbye to the man, he shook my hand and blessed me and wished me long life. That was pretty neat.
Christmas Moratorium* Temporarily Held in Abeyance

Michelle Malkin had a link to this blog and I couldn't resist posting it:

US Troops Terrorize Iraqi Family

December 14, 2005 Staff Sgt. Carlswell, from 23rd Infantry Regiment, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, greets an Iraqi family at a traffic control point in Mosul, during pre-election security operations. Photo by Staff Sgt. James H. Christopher III

The horror!!! Look at the wrist lock he’s employing on that innocent child!!!

Coach TC
12/15 at 06:23 AM •
(27) comment • (1) pingsPermalink
Page 1 of 1 pages

In case you're curious, the moratorium was on posting. I'm still reading political magazines, blogs, etc. -- I'm just not blogging on politics during the Christmas season. :-)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

See Advent’s Meaning Through Mary

Pope Benedict XVI
Nov. 26, 2005

(courtesy www.catholicculture.org)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With the celebration of First Vespers of the First Sunday in Advent we are beginning a new liturgical year. In singing the psalms together, we have raised our hearts to God, placing ourselves in the spiritual attitude that marks this season of grace: “vigilance in prayer” and “exultation in praise” (cf. Roman Missal, Advent Preface, II/A).

Taking as our model Mary Most Holy, who teaches us to live by devoutly listening to the Word of God, let us reflect on the short Bible reading just proclaimed.

It consists of two verses contained in the concluding part of the First Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). The first expresses the Apostle’s greeting to the community: The second offers, as it were, the guarantee of its fulfillment.

The hope expressed is that each one may be made holy by God and preserved irreproachable in his entire person — “spirit, soul and body” — for the final coming of the Lord Jesus; the guarantee that this can happen is offered by the faithfulness of God himself, who will not fail to bring to completion the work he has begun in believers.

This First Letter to the Thessalonians is the first of all St. Paul’s Letters, written probably in the year 51. In this first letter we can feel, more than in the others, the Apostle’s pulsating heart, his paternal, indeed we can say maternal, love for this new community. And we also feel his anxious concern that the faith of this new Church not die, surrounded as she was by a cultural context in many regards in opposition to the faith.

Thus, Paul ends his letter with a hope, or we might almost say with a prayer. The content of the prayer we have heard is that they [the Thessalonians] should be holy and irreproachable to the moment of the Lord’s coming. The central word of this prayer is “coming.” We should ask ourselves what does “coming of the Lord” mean? In Greek it is “parousia,” in Latin “adventus,” “advent,” “coming.” What is this “coming”? Does it involve us or not?

To understand the meaning of this word, hence, of the Apostle’s prayer for this community and for communities of all times — also for us — we must look at the person through whom the coming of the Lord was uniquely brought about: the Virgin Mary.

Mary belonged to that part of the people of Israel who in Jesus’ time were waiting with heartfelt expectation for the Savior’s coming. And from the words and acts recounted in the Gospel, we can see how she truly lived steeped in the prophets’ words; she entirely expected the Lord’s coming.

She could not, however, have imagined how this coming would be brought about. Perhaps she expected a coming in glory. The moment when the Archangel Gabriel entered her house and told her that the Lord, the Savior, wanted to take flesh in her, wanted to bring about his coming through her, must have been all the more surprising to her.

We can imagine the Virgin’s apprehension. Mary, with a tremendous act of faith and obedience, said “yes”: “I am the servant of the Lord.” And so it was that she became the “dwelling place” of the Lord, a true “temple” in the world and a “door” through which the Lord entered upon the earth.

We have said that this coming was unique: “the” coming of the Lord. Yet there is not only the final coming at the end of time: In a certain sense the Lord always wants to come through us. And he knocks at the door of our hearts: Are you willing to give me your flesh, your time, your life?

This is the voice of the Lord who also wants to enter our epoch, he wants to enter human life through us. He also seeks a living dwelling place in our personal lives. This is the coming of the Lord. Let us once again learn this in the season of Advent: The Lord can also come among us.

Therefore we can say that this prayer, this hope, expressed by the Apostle, contains a fundamental truth that he seeks to inculcate in the faithful of the community he founded and that we can sum up as follows: God calls us to communion with him, which will be completely fulfilled in the return of Christ, and he himself strives to ensure that we will arrive prepared for this final and decisive encounter. The future is, so to speak, contained in the present, or better, in the presence of God himself, who in his unfailing love does not leave us on our own or abandon us even for an instant, just as a father and mother never stop caring for their children while they are growing up.

Before Christ who comes, men and women are defined in the whole of their being, which the Apostle sums up in the words “spirit, soul and body,” thereby indicating the whole of the human person as a unit with somatic, psychic and spiritual dimensions. Sanctification is God’s gift and his project, but human beings are called to respond with their entire being without excluding any part of themselves.

It is the Holy Spirit himself who formed in the Virgin’s womb Jesus, the perfect Man, who brings God’s marvelous plan to completion in the human person, first of all by transforming the heart and from this center, all the rest.

Thus, the entire work of creation and redemption which God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, continues to bring about, from the beginning to the end of the cosmos and of history, is summed up in every individual person. And since the first coming of Christ is at the center of the history of humanity and at its end, his glorious return, so every personal existence is called to be measured against him — in a mysterious and multiform way — during the earthly pilgrimage, in order to be found “in him” at the moment of his return.

May Mary Most Holy, the faithful Virgin, guide us to make this time of Advent and of the whole new liturgical year a path of genuine sanctification, to the praise and glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent

December 17 marks the beginning of the O Antiphons, the seven jewels of our liturgy, dating back to the fourth century, one for each day until Christmas Eve. These antiphons address Christ with seven magnificent Messianic titles, based on the Old Testament prophecies and types of Christ. The Church recalls the variety of the ills of man before the coming of the Redeemer.

1st O Antiphon:
Who hast issued from the mouth of the Most High, Reaching from end even unto end, Ordering all things indomitably yet tenderly,

To teach us the way of prudence.
Divine Wisdom clothes itself in the nature of a man. It conceals itself in the weakness of a child. It chooses for itself infancy, poverty, obedience, subjection, obscurity. “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the prudence of the prudent I will reject. . . . Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of our preaching, to save them that believe. For both the Jews require signs, and the Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews, indeed, a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God. . . . But the foolish things of the world hath God chosen, that He may confound the wise; and the weak things of the world hath God chosen, that He may confound the strong. And the base things of the world and the things that are contemptible, hath God chosen, and the things that are not, that He might bring to naught the things that are” (I Cor. 1:19 ff.).

  • Come, O divine Wisdom, teach us the way of knowledge. We are unwise; we judge and speak according to the vain standards of the world, which is foolishness in the eyes of God.
  • Come, O divine Wisdom, give us the true knowledge and the taste for what is eternal and divine. Inspire us with a thirst for God’s holy will, help us seek God’s guidance and direction, enlighten us in the teachings of the holy gospel, make us submissive to Thy holy Church. Strengthen us in the forgetfulness of self, and help us to resign ourselves to a position of obscurity if that be Thy holy will. Detach our hearts from resurgent pride. Give us wisdom that we may understand that “but one thing is necessary” (Luke 10:42). “For what doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Matt. 16:26.) The Holy Spirit would have us know that one degree of grace is worth more than all worldly possessions.

Excerpted from The Light of the World by Benedict Baur, O.S.B.
(Courtesy of www.catholicculture.org)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

"As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us"

If a stranger brutally injured you, would you show mercy to your attacker? Victoria Ruvolo did exactly that in October, 2005, at the sentencing of Ryan Cushing, a 19-year-old whose "prank" had nearly killed her.

Ruvolo, 45, of Lake Ronkonkoma, New York, was on her way to hear her niece sing in a recital when her car passed Cushing's. He was riding with five other teens who had just gone on a spending spree with a stolen credit card at a nearby supermarket. One of their purchases? A frozen, 20-pound turkey. Cushing decided to toss the turkey into oncoming traffic, and when he did, it smashed through Ruvolo's windshield, crushing her face. It took 10 hours in the operating room at Stony Brook University Hospital, a medically induced coma, and a month in the hospital before, miraculously, Ruvolo was able to go home. She still had a tracheotomy tube. Months of painful rehabilitation followed.

During her ordeal, Ruvolo was in touch with Cushing, who wept and expressed remorse for his action. At his sentencing on October 17, 2005, Ruvolo asked the judge for leniency. Part of her statement read: "Despite all the fear and the pain, I have learned from this horrific experience, and I have much to be thankful for.. Each day when I wake up, I thank God simply because I am alive. I sincerely hope you have also learned from this awful experience, Ryan. There is no room for vengeance in my life, and I do not believe a long, hard prison term would do you, me, or society any good."

Cushing was sentenced to six months in jail. He could have gotten a 25-year prison sentence had Ruvolo not intervened. Ruvolo added: "I truly hope that by demonstrating compassion and leniency I have encouraged you to seek an honorable life. If my generosity will help you mature into a responsible, honest man, whose graciousness is a source of pride to your loved ones and your community, then I will be truly gratified, and my suffering will not have been in vain..Ryan, prove me right."

Ruvolo, an animal lover with four cats and a dog, all rescued, told the media, "What would vengeance do? God gave me a second chance, and I'm just passing it on."

Courtesy: Beliefnet.com

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

How Penguins Commit Suicide

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Christ Was Born for Our Salvation

Pope John Paul II
Homily at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1998)

1. "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy.... For to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2: 10-11).

On this Holy Night, the liturgy invites us to celebrate with joy the great event of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. As we have just heard in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is born into a family poor by material standards, but rich in joy. He is born in a stable, for there is no place for him in the inn (cf. Lk 2: 7); he is placed in a manger, for there is no cradle for him; he comes into the world completely helpless, without anyone's knowledge, and yet he is welcomed and recognized first by the shepherds, who hear from the angel the news of his birth.

The event conceals a mystery. It is revealed by the choirs of heavenly messengers who sing of Jesus' birth and proclaim glory "to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased" (Lk 2: 14). Through the ages their praise becomes a prayer which rises from the hearts of the throngs who on Christmas Night continue to welcome the Son of God.

2. Mysterium: event and mystery. A man is born, who is the Eternal Son of the Almighty Father, the Creator of heaven and earth: in this extraordinary event the mystery of God is revealed. In the Word who becomes man the miracle of the Incarnate God is made manifest. The mystery sheds light on the event of the birth: a baby is adored by the shepherds in the lowly stable, at Bethlehem. He is "the Saviour of the world", "Christ the Lord" (cf. Lk 2: 11). Their eyes see a newborn child, wrapped in swaddling cloths and placed in a manger and in that "sign", thanks to the inner light of faith, they recognize the Messiah proclaimed by the prophets.

3. This is Emmanuel, God-with-us, who comes to fill the earth with grace. He comes into the world in order to transform creation. He becomes a man among men, so that in him and through him every human being can be profoundly renewed. By his birth he draws us all into the sphere of the divine, granting to those who in faith open themselves to receiving his gift the possibility of sharing in his own divine life.

This is the meaning of the salvation which the shepherds hear proclaimed that night in Bethlehem: "To you is born a Saviour" (Lk 2: 11). The coming of Christ among us is the centre of history, which thereafter takes on a new dimension. In a way, it is God himself who writes history by entering into it. The event of the Incarnation thus broadens to embrace the whole of human history, from creation until the Second Coming. This is why in the liturgy all creation sings, voicing its own joy: the floods clap their hands, all the trees of the wood sing for joy, and the many coastlands are glad (cf. Ps 98: 8; 96: 12; 97: 1).

Every creature on the face of the earth receives the proclamation. In the astonished silence of the universe, the words which the liturgy puts on the lips of the Church take on a cosmic resonance: Christus natus est nobis. Venite, adoremus!

4. Christ is born for us; come, let us adore him! My thoughts already turn to Christmas next year when, God willing, the Church will inaugurate the Great Jubilee with the opening of the Holy Door. It will be a truly great Holy Year, for in a completely unique way it will celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of the event and mystery of the Incarnation, in which humanity reached the apex of its calling. God became man in order to give man a share in his own divinity.

This is the good news of salvation; this is the message of Christmas! The Church proclaims it tonight, by means of my words too, for the peoples and nations of the whole earth to hear: Christus natus est nobis Christ is born for us. Venite, adoremus! Come, let us adore him!

C.S. Lewis on 'Xmas and Christmas' -
Some lessons from the barbarian mists of Niatirb
12/7/2005 5:08:00 PM
By Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. - Denver Catholic Register

Fifty years ago C.S. Lewis published an ironic little essay called, "Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus." In it, he reverses the letters of his home country, "Britain." Then he writes about the strange winter customs of a barbarian nation called Niatirb.

It's worth reading, as we get deeper into Advent. I'll share with you just one passage. "In the middle of winter when fogs and rains most abound, (the Niatirbians) have a great festival called Exmas, and for 50 days they prepare for it (in the manner which is called,) in their barbarian speech, the Exmas Rush.

"When the day of the festival comes, most of the citizens, being exhausted from the (frenzies of the) Rush, lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much as on other days, and crowning themselves with crowns of paper, they become intoxicated. And on the day after Exmas, they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and the reckoning of how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine.

"(Now a) few among the Niatirbians have also a festival, separate and to themselves, called Crissmas, which is on the same day as Exmas. And those who keep Crissmas, doing the opposite to the majority of Niatirbians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast.

"But (as for) what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, (this) is not credible. It is not likely that men, even being barbarians, should suffer so many and so great things (as those involved in the Exmas Rush), in honor of a god they do not believe in."

What Lewis wrote about in Britain half a century ago is increasingly true about our own country today. We're already half way through Advent. What have we done to really live it? The world has an ingenious ability to attach itself to what Christians believe; tame it; subvert it - and then turn it against the very people who continue to believe. Too many Americans don't really celebrate Christmas. They may think they do, but they don't. They celebrate Exmas.

The world - left to its own devices - has no room and no use for the birth of Jesus Christ. It has contempt for Christians who seriously strive to be His disciples. So we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by being the saints God intended us to be. We can at least seek to be holy by tithing our time to sit quietly with God; allow Him to fill our actions and our choices with His Son; and let Him shape us into the men and women He needs. We can get up and experience the dawn in silence as a reminder of what Advent and Christmas mean. We can prepare ourselves to be alert for the voice of God and to receive God's word afresh and proclaim it anew.

We need to understand that in many ways America is no longer a Christian culture. Of course, that can change. Many good Catholics and other Christians still live in it. But if people really understood and acted on the meaning of Advent, the world would be a different place.

Advent means "coming." What's coming in the reality of Christmas is an invasion. The world needs the invasion but doesn't want it. It's an invasion of human flesh and all creation by the Son of God; by the holiness of the Creator Himself.

All of us in the Church were baptized to be part of that good invasion. The doubts, the failures, the mistakes of the past don't matter. Only our choices now matter. How will we live our Christian faith from this day forward? How will we make our Catholic witness an icon of Christ's Advent?

For our own sake, and the sake of the people we love, we need to pray that our yearning for God will truly reflect God's yearning for us. And when it does, then the world will be a different place.
What Are the 'O Antiphons'?
Fr. William Saunders

The “O Antiphons” refer to the seven antiphons that are recited (or chanted) preceding the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, Dec. 17-23, with Dec. 24 being Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening being for the Christmas Vigil.

The exact origin of the “O Antiphons” is not known. Boethius (c. 480-524) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time. At the Benedictine abbey of Fleury (now Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire), these antiphons were recited by the abbot and other abbey leaders in descending rank, and then a gift was given to each member of the community. By the eighth century, they are in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome. The usage of the “O Antiphons” was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrases, “Keep your O” and “The Great O Antiphons” were common parlance. One may thereby conclude that in some fashion the “O Antiphons” have been part of our liturgical tradition since the very early Church.

The importance of “O Antiphons” is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah. Let’s now look at each antiphon with just a sample of Isaiah’s related prophecies :

O Sapientia: “O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).

O Adonai: “O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” (11:4-5); and “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us.” (33:22).

O Radix Jesse: “O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (11:1), and A On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).

O Clavis David: “O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.” Isaiah had prophesied, AI will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.” (9:6).

O Oriens: “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (9:1).

O Rex Gentium: “O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.” Isaiah had prophesied, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (9:5), and “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on 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.” (2:4) .

O Emmanuel: “O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”

(7:14). Remember “Emmanuel” means “God is with us.”

According to Professor Robert Greenberg of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one - Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia - the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, “Tomorrow, I will come.” So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.


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