Genesis, Chapter 42, Verse 35
When they were emptying their sacks, there in each one’s sack was his moneybag! At the sight of their moneybags, they and their father were afraid.
Why was Jacob (Israel) and Joseph’s brothers afraid? As I pondered this thought it occurred to me that they were afraid because they had no compassion in them. Yes, even Jacob; for was it not Jacob who cheated his brother out of his birthright and stole Esau’s dying blessing from his own father Isaac. These men were hard. Yet, God still loved them and blessed them. Finding the money sacks still in with the grain meant to them that now they would have to pay for the grain with their lives-for nothing is free! This act of compassion from Joseph unsettled them. It upset their world; it toppled their assumptions of the world and they would never be the same. They were by this simple gesture being asked to radically change. To think in a new way: that is to realize that the dignity and loyalty that men seek; is not a birthright given to the firstborn or something to be gained taken by being the most powerful of men. That dignity and loyalty are the birthright of all persons; however, they can be lost by unbridled selfishness. Wisdom teaches us that in order to retain our dignity and the loyalty of others we must be persons of character and that we must lose our absorption with ourselves to contemplate and develop a sincere love for others.
O Antiphons The "Octave" Before Christmas and/or the Golden Nights
Today also marks the beginning of the "Greater" or "O" antiphon (so named for its opening vocative) is said which explicitly invokes the Son of God under various titles and begs Him to come. The Gregorian chant for these antiphons is exquisite, as are the antiphons themselves, which call attention to the Word's different manifestations to man in the Old Testament and to several of His divine attributes. The antiphons are also noteworthy for their "code." The titles for Christ from each antiphon form an acrostic which, when read backwards, spells, "ERO CRAS" -- "I will be [there] tomorrow!" It is as if Christ were answering our prayers through the prayers themselves. Finally, the Greater antiphons are the inspiration of the beautiful medieval hymn, Veni, Veni Emmanuel. Each stanza of this famous song is a poetic rendering of an antiphon, which is why the hymn is traditionally sung only during the eight days prior to Christmas. In many places, however, the octave of preparation was extended over nine days, making a Novena. By special permission, the "Golden Mass" of Ember Wednesday was sometimes offered in the pre-dawn hours for nine consecutive days prior to Christmas. Central Europe observed the "Golden Nights," a festive season honoring the Blessed Virgin, the expectant Mother of God; in fact, December 18 was once the Feast of the Expectancy in Spain. In the Alps, schoolchildren observed the custom of Josephstragen -- "carrying St. Joseph." Each night, a group of boys would carry a statue of St. Joseph to another boy's home. The night after the visit, the boy who had been visited would join the procession, making the number of carriers grow progressively larger. On Christmas Eve all the boys, accompanied by schoolgirls dressed in white, would process the statue through the town to the church, where it would be placed near the manger. In Latin America, on the other hand, a Novena to the Holy Child (La Novena del Niño) was held in which prayers would be said and lively carols sung in front of the church's empty manger., the seven jewels of our liturgy in preparation of Christ. With each new Sunday heightening our sense of anticipation and with every Advent custom doing the same, it is little wonder that the eight days before Christmas became a semi-official octave of impatient expectation. This is expressed liturgically in the Divine Office's special magnificat antiphons for this period. Beginning on the evening of December 17 during Vespers, a
Come, and teach us the way of prudence.
O Wisdom, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly, Come, and teach us the way of prudence.
Monday of the Third Week in Advent
Read: "Saint Francis of Assisi began the custom of the nativity scenes when he celebrated Christmas with his brothers at Greccio in 1223 with a Bethlehem scene which included live animals. This tradition quickly spread, and people began to construct their own nativity scenes in their homes. Children take a great joy in helping to set up a nativity scene. The crèche may be made from various materials. Simplicity and beauty go often hand in hand. You may set up your entire scene at the beginning of Advent, leaving the crib empty for the Christ Child to arrive on Christmas Eve. Or you may set up the scene slowly, day by day . . . Mary and Joseph can also 'travel' to Bethlehem, as they move slowly across your room every day until they reach the cave." (excerpted from "Celebrating Advent as a Family" )
Reflect: "While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:6-7)
Pray: Add this "O Antiphon" to your daily or meal-time prayer today: "O Leader of the House of Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai: come to rescue us with your mighty power." (Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, Revised Edition, 76)
Act: . (Based on your family's tradition, you may choose to hide the baby Jesus until Christmas morning.)
Today, according to the Roman Martyrology, is the feast of St Lazarus known as the brother of St Martha and St Mary of Bethany. He was the man whom Jesus raised from the dead after having been dead and in his tomb for four days. The Bible does not trace his history after the miracle, but tradition says he became a missionary to Gaul, the first bishop of Marseilles, France, and a martyr in the persecutions of Domitian.
Things to do
· Read this account of St. Lazarus of Bethany at the The Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus website.
· Read about Bethany, where Jesus raised St. Lazarus from the dead.
· Read about the Agios Lazaros Church in Cyprus.
· Read about the translation of the relics of St. Lazarus.
The Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem
The Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus is one of the orders of chivalry to survive the downfall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the attempts by the Crusader knights to win control of the Holy Land from the forces of Islam. In theory the Order remained a military one, but with the exception of a brief period in the 17th century it played no military role after 1291. The Order of Saint Lazarus is one of the most ancient of the European orders of chivalry. At the very least it dates back to the time of the Crusader knights. From its foundation in the 12th century, the members of the Order were dedicated to two ideals: aid to those suffering from the dreadful disease of leprosy and the defense of the Christian faith. Today the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem is an international self-governing and independent body, having its own Constitution; it may be compared with a kind of electoral kingdom. According to the said Constitution the Order is nonpolitical, oecumenical or nondenominational, as its membership is open to all men and women being practicing members of the Christian faith in good standing within their particular denomination. Its international membership consists of Roman-catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Orthodox, United, Old Catholic, New Apostolic and other Christians, upholding with their lives, fortunes and honor the principles of Christianity. Traditionally it is organized as a Christian Chivalric Order. The Order is registered in London in accordance with the laws in England. It is both a Military Order of Mercy and a Hospitaller Order dedicated to the care and assistance of the poor and the sick. Its aim is to preserve and defend the Christian faith, to guard, assist succor and help the poor, the sick and dying, to promote and maintain the principles of Christian chivalry and to follow the teachings of Christ and His Holy Church in all its works. With the exception of the present Teutonic Order ("Deutscher Orden") the Order of Saint Lazarus is today the smallest of the orders of Christian chivalry. It is made up of approximately five thousand members in the five continents. The Order sees itself as an oecumenical Christian order whose genesis goes back to the Holy Land, to the crusades and to the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
A special devotion that can be performed during Advent to prepare for the coming of the Infant Savior. It can be adapted for adults and/or children and applied as is appropriate to your state in life.
· 7th day, December 17th THE CRIB—Confidence Build the little Crib by an unbounded confidence in God. Give not way to sadness in adversity. Also think not too much of our past sins and faults, making many acts of hope in God's mercy instead. Reflect a little each hour on the great love of God, who becomes Man for us.
49 Godly Character Traits
During this 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:
Forgiveness vs. Rejection
Clearing the record of those who have wronged me and allowing God to love them through me (Ephesians 4:32)
1462 Forgiveness of sins brings reconciliation with God, but also with the Church. Since ancient times the bishop, visible head of a particular Church, has thus rightfully been considered to be the one who principally has the power and ministry of reconciliation: he is the moderator of the penitential discipline. Priests, his collaborators, exercise it to the extent that they have received the commission either from their bishop (or religious superior) or the Pope, according to the law of the Church.
2151 Rejection of false oaths is a duty toward God. As Creator and Lord, God is the norm of all truth. Human speech is either in accord with or in opposition to God who is Truth itself. When it is truthful and legitimate, an oath highlights the relationship of human speech with God's truth. A false oath calls on God to be witness to a lie.
2844 Christian prayer extends to the forgiveness of enemies, transfiguring the disciple by configuring him to his Master. Forgiveness is a high-point of Christian prayer; only hearts attuned to God's compassion can receive the gift of prayer. Forgiveness also bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin. The martyrs of yesterday and today bear this witness to Jesus. Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their Father and of men with one another.
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."
How clear the way! How easily seen the obstacles! What good weapons to overcome them!... — And nevertheless, what side-tracking and what stumbling! Isn't it true? That fine thread — that chain: that chain of wrought iron — of which you and I are conscious and which you don't want to break, that is what draws you from your way and makes you stumble and even fall.
Why do you hesitate? — Cut it... and advance!
Why do you hesitate? — Cut it... and advance!