Genesis, Chapter 38, Verse 11
Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Remain a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up”—for he feared that Shelah also might die like his brothers. So Tamar went to live in her father’s house.
Judah feared the his youngest would die like his two brothers who married Tamar and failed to provide for her children from the marriage sending her back to her father; fearing she was cursed causing Judah’s two older son’s deaths. This sordid tale reads like a soap opera.
Tamar is first described as marrying Judah's eldest son, Er. Because of his wickedness, Er was killed by God. By way of a Levirate union, (a marriage in which the brother of a deceased man is obliged to marry his brother's widow) Judah asked his second son, Onan, to provide offspring for Tamar so that the family line might continue. Tikva Frymer-Kensky explains that this could have substantial economic repercussions, with any son born deemed the heir of the deceased Er, and able to claim the firstborn's double share of inheritance. However, if Er was childless, Onan would inherit as the oldest surviving son. Onan spills his seed out on the ground as an act of greed. His actions were deemed wicked by God and so, like his older brother, he died prematurely. At this point, Judah is portrayed as viewing Tamar to be cursed, and is therefore reluctant to give his remaining and youngest son to her. Rather, he told Tamar to wait for Shelah, his son to grow older. However, even after he grew up, Judah did not give Tamar to Shelah in marriage.
At the time Shelah grew up, Judah became a widower. After Judah mourned the death of his wife, he planned on going to Timnah to shear his sheep. Upon hearing this news, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and immediately went to Enaim which was en route to Judah's destination. Upon arriving at Enaim, Judah saw the woman but did not recognize her as Tamar because of the veil she wore over her face. Thinking she was a prostitute, he requested her services. Tamar's plan was to become pregnant by this ruse in order to bear a child in Judah's line, because Judah had not given her to his son Shelah. So she played the part of a prostitute and struck a deal with Judah for a goat with a security deposit of his staff, seal, and cord. When Judah was able to have a goat sent to Enaim, in order to collect his staff and seal, the woman was nowhere to be found and no one knew of any prostitute in Enaim.
Three months later, Tamar was accused of prostitution on account of her pregnancy. Upon hearing this news, Judah ordered that she be burned to death. Tamar sent the staff, seal, and cord to Judah with a message declaring that the owner of these items was the man who had made her pregnant. Upon recognizing his security deposit, Judah released Tamar from her sentence. Tamar's place in the family and Judah's posterity secured, she gives birth to twins, Perez and Zerah. Their birth is reminiscent of the birth of Rebekah's twin sons. The midwife marks Zerah's hand with a scarlet cord when it emerges from the womb first, but Perez is born first. Perez is identified in the Book of Ruth as the ancestor of King David.
Whew! To Er is human but to love is divine. It is stuff like this that sometimes makes you want to go out into the desert and become a hermit.
The Three Feasts of the Nativity
When we celebrate Christmas, we are commemorating the three nativities of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the reason for the three Masses celebrated on this day. The first is the eternal begetting of God the Son from all eternity within the mystery of the Blessed Trinity by the Father, “You are My Son. Today I have begotten You.”
· This first nativity was before the seven days of Creation, when everything was darkness. This is why the first Mass is at midnight to recall the darkness that prevailed during that first eternal birth of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
o The first nativity reminds us of the Spirit of poverty, the Spirit that tells us that all the things God created is His, to be used for His glory and not for man’s enjoyment. Even man was to use himself for the glory of God. This represents the six days of creation. If Adam, being the head of creation, had observed the spirit of poverty and used all of creation for the glory of God, then he would have entered into the Sabbath, God’s rest… i.e. eternal happiness. But Adam messed up everything. And the consequence: the whole of mankind could not enter God’s rest.
· The second nativity, or birth, of the Second Person of the Trinity is commemorated on Christmas day when He became man, born of the Virgin Mary, in Bethlehem. For the world, the darkness was beginning to be dispelled. This is why the second Mass is celebrated at dawn when the dawn is beginning to dispel the darkness.
o The second nativity reminds us of the Spirit of chastity. That Spirit reminds us to give up all physical comforts, pleasure and conveniences. And Christ in the manger is a clear example of this. It is a continuous reminder that true happiness can only be found in God and that we are on earth to seek God. All the rest will come with that find. True rest can only be found in God.
· The third nativity of Christ is when He is born in our souls, through His in-dwelling, when man, through grace, becomes enlightened. Thus, the third Mass is celebrated during the day when the sun is bright. For man is truly enlightened when he has Christ in his soul.
o The third nativity reminds us of the Spirit of obedience. It is only when we can say, “Not my will but Your will be done,” can Christ be born in our souls. The apostolic commission at the end of St. Matthew’s Gospel reiterates this, reminding us of the role of the Church and the men of the Church: “… teach all My commands and how to observe them.”
Christmas reminds us of one lesson. Christ was born to die. For us the message is clear. We are born to die to oneself. And to die to oneself means reaching a point in our lives when we no longer do our own will but the will of the Father in heaven. This is to lose one’s life in order to find it. If we have learned the lessons of the first nativity, if we have learned the lesson of the second nativity, our reward is the third nativity, when Christ is born in our souls…. indeed, our eternal Christmas. This is truly a Merry Christmas.
— Excerpted from Fr. Odon de Castro, Bo. San Isidro, Magalang, Pampanga, Philippines
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.
· 5th day, December 15th: THE STRAW—Mortification Today the infant Jesus desires mortification from us; therefore let us watch for opportunities with a joyful heart. Not look about when we are walking; not lean back when sitting; not warm ourselves when cold; not satisfy the taste at table; when tempted to impatience not to show it, and yield our own opinion to that of others. Today really listen to others
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:
Faith vs. Presumption
Visualizing what God intends to do in a given situation and acting in harmony with it (Hebrews 11:1)
166 Faith is a personal act - the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself. But faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life. The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. Our love for Jesus and for our neighbor impels us to speak to others about our faith. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith.
2733 Another temptation, to which presumption opens the gate, is acedia. The spiritual writers understand by this a form of depression due to lax ascetical practice, decreasing vigilance, carelessness of heart. "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." The greater the height, the harder the fall. Painful as discouragement is, it is the reverse of presumption. The humble are not surprised by their distress; it leads them to trust more, to hold fast in constancy.
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."
Suffering overwhelms you because you take it like a coward. Meet it bravely, with a christian spirit: and you will regard it as a treasure.