Thursday, November 29, 2018
Genesis, chapter 22, Verse 12
“Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the angel. “Do not do the least thing to him. For now I know that you fear god, since you did not withhold from me your son, your only one.”
This was the last test of Abraham. It was by Abraham’s confidence and humility before God that all the peoples of the earth are blessed for God did not withhold from us his only son Jesus Christ in sacrifice for our sins.
Rabbinical sources record that there were 10 tests of Abraham:
1) God tells him to leave his homeland to be a stranger in the land of Canaan.
2) Immediately after his arrival in the Promised Land, he encounters a famine.
3) The Egyptians capture his beloved wife, Sarah, and bring her to Pharaoh.
4) Abraham faces incredible odds in the battle of the four and five kings.
5) He marries Hagar after not being able to have children with Sarah.
6) God tells him to circumcise himself at an advanced age.
7) The king of Gerar captures Sarah, intending to take her for himself.
8) God tells him to send Hagar away after having a child with her.
9) His son, Ishmael, becomes estranged.
10) God tells him to sacrifice his dear son Isaac upon an altar.
Sex and Holy Purity
"A man is worth what his heart is worth." Purity of heart is a gift of God and we are to be constant in our vigilance to acquire and keep this purity - whose reward will be the Beatific Vision. Holy purity is a virtue. Jesus placed such an emphasis on purity that He warned us to fight hard without making any concessions. And, if we fall from grace, we begin again. King David suffered the grave crime of adultery. God punished him, he repented his sin and went on to lead a life of holy purity. Jesus warned us to protect the purity of our whole being, especially the 'lust of the eyes' and 'adultery in the heart.' To understand this important teaching, let us look at scripture, Mt. 5: 27-28:
"You have heard that it was said, you shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
"Adultery 'in the heart' is committed not only because man 'looks' in this way at a woman who is not his wife, but precisely because he looks at a woman in this way. Even if he looked in this way at the woman who is his wife, he could likewise commit adultery 'in his heart.'"
"Decorum and modesty are younger brothers of purity," said St. Josemaría Escrivá.
Advent wreath and calendar
Many Catholics may be surprised to learn that the Advent wreath actually came from Lutherans living in east Germany. Yet though this custom is relatively recent as far as tradition goes, it has rightly earned a place of prominence among our Advent customs. A simple wreath made of evergreen (yew or fir or laurel) is adorned with four candles equidistant from each other. These candles may be of any color: in some European countries they are all white, though in the U.S. they generally correspond to the liturgical colors of the four Sundays of Advent (three purple and one pink or rose). In a dark room, a purple candle is lit on the First Sunday of Advent, another on the Second, the rose candle on the Third Sunday (in commemoration of Gaudete Sunday), and the last purple candle on the Fourth Sunday. Thus, all four candles will be lit for the week before Christmas. There is no formal ceremony for the lighting of the wreath or for the prayers that are said around it; there is not even an official Roman formula for blessing the wreath. Catholic families simply pray together for a holy preparation and a holy Christmas, concluding with a traditional Advent hymn. The symbolism of the Advent wreath is simple but effective. The wreath, with its crown-like character, reminds us of the King, while its circular shape betokens the "fulfillment of time" that both Comings bring about. The candles, on the other hand, represent the prophets whose inspired words pierced the darkness under which mankind groaned while waiting for the Messiah; they also represent the elects' hearts burning for Christ.
Another popular Advent custom, also from Germany, creates a similar build-up of anticipation. Advent calendars are colorful pieces of cardboard on which is depicted a many-windowed house. Behind the shutters of each house is a picture or symbol that points to the coming of Christmas. Beginning December 1, the children are allowed to open the shutters of one window per day. Finally, on December 24, the front door of the house is opened, showing the nativity.
The Jesse Tree dates back to the middle ages and came from Europe. Even some ancient cathedrals have Jesse Tree designs in their stained-glass windows. The "tree" is usually a branch or sapling and is decorated with various symbols that remind us of the purpose and promises of God from Creation to the Birth of Jesus Christ. Jesse was the father of King David and God promised David that his Kingdom would last forever. Two centuries after the death of King David, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah and said: And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:1-2) Each Jesse Tree ornament usually consists of a handmade symbol or drawing that represents one of the major stories of the Old Testament along with a brief verse of Scripture from that story.
Jesse Tree Ornaments
Jesse Tree Scriptures (The Symbols Are Only Suggestions)
December 2 Adam and Eve: Gen. 2:7-9, 18-24 Symbols: tree, man, woman
December 3 Fall of Man: Gen. 3:1-7 and 23-24 Symbols: tree, serpent, apple with bite
December 4 Noah: Gen. 6:5-8, 13-22; 7:17, 23, 24; 8:1, 6-22 Symbols: ark, animals, dove, rainbow
December 5 Abraham: Gen. 12:1-3 Symbols: torch, sword, mountain
December 6 Isaac: Gen. 22:1-14 Symbols: bundle of wood, altar, ram in bush
December 7 Jacob: Gen. 25:1-34; 28:10-15 Symbols: kettle, ladder
December 8 Joseph: Gen. 37:23-28; 45:3-15 Symbols: bucket, well, silver coins, tunic
December 10 Samuel: 1 Sam. 3:1-18 Symbols: lamp, temple
December 11 Jesse: 1 Sam. 16:1-13 Symbols: crimson robe, shepherd's staff
December 12 David: 1 Sam. 17:12-51 Symbols: slingshot, 6-pointed star
December 13 Solomon: 1 Kings 3:5-14, 16-28 Symbols: scales of justice, temple, two babies and sword
December 14 Joseph: Matt. 1:18-25 Symbols: hammer, saw, chisel, angle
December 16 John the Baptist: Mark 1:1-8 Symbols: shell with water, river
On December 17, the Church begins to intensify the preparation for Christmas with the use of the "O" Antiphons during the Liturgy of the Hours. The symbols for the Jesse Tree from December 17 to 23 are based on the "O" Antiphons.
December 17 Jesus is Wisdom: Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus in old Bibles) 24:2; Wisdom 8:1 Symbols: oil lamp, open book
December 18 Jesus is Lord: Ex. 3:2; 20:1 Symbols: burning bush, stone tablets
December 19 Jesus is Flower of Jesse: Isaiah 11:1-3 Symbols: flower, plant with flower
December 20 Jesus is Key of David: Isaiah 22:22 Symbols: key, broken chains
December 21 Jesus is the Radiant Dawn: Psalm 19:6-7 (in older Bibles this will be Psalm 18) Symbols: sun rising or high in sky
December 22 Jesus is King of the Gentiles: Psalm 2:7-8; Ephesians 2:14-20 Symbols: crown, scepter
December 23 Jesus is Emmanuel: Isaiah 7:14; 33:22 Symbols: tablets of stone, chalice and host
December 24 Jesus is Light of the World: John 1:1-14 Symbols: candle, flame, sun
Activity Source: Jesse Tree Kit, A by Betsy Walter, Pauline Books and Media, Boston, MA, 1983
49 Godly Character Traits
As we near the Advent season let us take up the nature of God by reflecting on these traits that make us a model for our children and our sisters and brothers in Christ. Today reflect on:
Attentiveness vs. Unconcern
Showing the worth of a person by giving undivided attention to his words and emotions (Hebrews 2:1)
2716 Contemplative prayer is hearing the Word of God. Far from being passive, such attentiveness is the obedience of faith, the unconditional acceptance of a servant, and the loving commitment of a child. It participates in the "Yes" of the Son become servant and the Fiat of God's lowly handmaid.
Deep calls to deep… (Ps. 42)
The Way Heart
"Read these counsels slowly. Pause to meditate on these thoughts. They are things that I whisper in your ear-confiding them-as a friend, as a brother, as a father. And they are being heard by God. I won't tell you anything new. I will only stir your memory, so that some thought will arise and strike you; and so you will better your life and set out along ways of prayer and of Love. And in the end you will be a more worthy soul."
You are afraid of becoming cold and distant towards everyone. For you want to be so detached!
There is no need to worry: if you belong to Christ — completely to Christ! —
from him you will get fire, light and warmth for all men.
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