· I will observe your statutes; do not utterly forsake me. – Psalm 119:8
· Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12
What is your “Egypt”? What is your temptation, your land of (empty) promise? What has placed you under bondage? For some it could be that “dream” job across the country. For others it could be that big house, or luxury car. Chances are, if you find yourself saying something like, “Things would better if I could only…”, then you have an “Egypt” of your own. In most cases your “Egypt” is really just another heap of steaming trouble, bundled in empty hope and wrapped with false promise. God knows that humility, and a sense of self-worth centered in God’s grace and not in “things” and “stuff” is what leads to a heart that is not been made cynical by the disappointments of materialism. A humble and compassionate heart is softer, fertile ground made ready and willing to love. We must find contentment in the immutable, in the unwavering God. Only then will the distractions, the idols, and the daily lies we tell ourselves to feel okay… only then will they start to fall away and we can be fully Present. Being Present means to exist fully in the now, in this moment. Not regretting the past, not worrying about the future, but fully mindful and present in the moment at hand. Then you would be able to give this text your full attention, and not simply a cursory scan. You would find yourself really listening to someone speaking, and not simply waiting for a chance to talk. And most importantly, your find yourself fully enjoying the presence of someone close to you, fully mindful that in an instant they could be gone. Our personal “Egypt” is a always a source of bondage and domination. We find ourselves broken through our pursuit of it, and God forbid, we attain it! Then we realize that its promise and hope were dust and dreams and there is nothing of substance to sustain us. Where do we turn to now? We’ve already spent ourselves trying to attain our own personal “Egypt”? We turn back to God. He is always ready and willing to perform the next personal Exodus out of another personal Egypt. And you will need God’s help, for the wisdom of the world and it’s Pharaohs will rise up to stop you the very moment you start to trust God’s immutable providence for your life: Wake up. Spread the blood of lamb on the lintels of your soul. Ask God for salvation from bondage to your own personal Egypt, and God will act in your life.
Ember Wednesday Commemoration of the Annunciation
Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Gaudete Sunday (3rd Sunday of Advent) are known as "Advent Embertide," and they come near the beginning of the Season of Winter (December, January, February). Liturgically, the readings for the days' Masses follow along with the general themes of Advent, opening up with Wednesday's Introit of Isaias 45: 8 and Psalm 18:2 : Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior. The heavens show forth the glory of God: and the firmament declareth the work of His hands. Wednesday's and Saturday's Masses will include one and four Lessons, respectively, with all of them concerning the words of the Prophet Isaias except for the last lesson on Saturday, which comes from Daniel and recounts how Sidrach, Misach, and Abdenago are saved from King Nabuchodonosor's fiery furnace by an angel. This account, which is followed by a glorious hymn, is common to all Embertide Saturdays but for Whit Embertide. The Gospel readings for the three days concern, respectively, the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-28), Visitation (Luke 1:37-47), and St. John the Baptist's exhorting us to "prepare the way of the Lord and make straight His paths" (Luke 3:1-6).
Attend mass today and feel the joy of Mary at the annunciation!
Associations and Symbols of the Advent Ember Days
Winter is characterized by "wet and cold," and is associated with the golden years of old age; remember them this season. Get your children to think of what changes atmospherically and astronomically during this season. Why is it so cold? How does the cold affect the earth's air and waters? Remember that lore says that the weather conditions of each of the three days of an Embertide foretell the weather of the next three months, so the weather seen on Wednesday of Advent Embertide predicts the weather of the coming January, Friday's weather foretells the weather of February, and Saturday's weather foretells the weather of March. Make a note of the weather on those three days and see if the old tales are true! What stars can be seen during the Winter months? Do your children know the traditional names for this season's full Moons? Ask your children to consider how the seasonal changes of Winter affect the plants and animals. How have the trees changed? What are the animals doing now? Which are hibernating? Which are gone, having migrated? What do the animals that aren't hibernating or gone eat now? Have any stored-up food to eat during the cold months? Which have fur that has grown thicker to protect them? Do any have fur that has changed color to match the snow? Ask them to consider how the seasonal changes affect (or traditionally affected) the activities of man. What can we do now that we couldn't do at other times of the year? What can't we do? How do modern conveniences affect the answers to those questions? Ask them how they would ensure they had shelter, food, and water if they were put into the middle of the woods right now, with the season as it is. What plants and animals would be available to eat? How would they keep themselves dry and warm and protected from the winds? In the Middle Ages, the months are almost always uniformly depicted by showing the "Labors of Man" throughout the seasons. In stained glass windows, in illuminated manuscripts, one sees over and over the same human activities used to portray the months. In addition to these things, now is the time to make snow angels, build snowmen and snowforts and ice sculptures, sled, ski, skate, ice fish, sit around hearths and tell tales, make crafts indoors, watch for and feed the Winter birds, and, most of all, praise God for His artistry and providence... Get to it! -- and know that just when you tire of this season, Spring will be here!
Today's Mass was historically called the "golden Mass" and celebrated with special solemnity, because it focuses on the role of Mary in the Incarnation. The first reading is the famous prophecy from Isaiah about the virgin who will conceive and bear a son. The Gospel is the Annunciation account. Mary is a special Advent figure. The expectant mother is a sign to us of what our Advent waiting is all about: the coming of Christ, our Savior. Today's first reading from Isaiah is the same one we had yesterday (for the Fourth Sunday of Advent). Ahaz, the king, had entered into political alliances in an attempt to save Israel from her enemies. But the prophet Isaiah was telling him not to trust in politics, but in God. Only God could deliver Israel. In refusing to ask for a sign, Ahaz was not being humble, but tricky. He was keeping his options open, so to speak, by refusing to trust the Lord. Mary, instead, was completely committed to doing God's will. By her "yes" to the angel Gabriel, Mary totally surrendered to what God was asking of her. She didn't know exactly what would happen. It was very risky--in those days a woman in an irregular pregnancy could suffer severe penalties. What would Joseph think? Mary turned all those worries over to God. And God made it all work out. Whatever problems we face, God will help us also to work them out, if we turn to him in trust.
Every Christmas although the same in many ways is always new for each Christmas expresses a hope learned from a lifetime of praising God. For every Christmas if we open our eyes to truth we will see the handiwork of God; the rock of our salvation. Perhaps in these final days of anticipation it would do us well to reflect on the virtues of Mary Christ’s very own mother and in these final days in some way reflect them in our own lives.
Humility the first of Our Lady’s virtues
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” ,
“These are the few ways we can practice humility: To speak as little as possible of one's self; to mind one's own business, not to want to manage other people's affairs; to avoid curiosity, to accept contradictions and correction cheerfully; to pass over the mistakes of others, to accept insults and injuries; to accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked, to be kind and gentle even under provocation; never to stand on one's dignity, to choose always the hardest.” ― Mother Teresa, The Joy in Loving: A Guide to Daily Living
How to celebrate Look for an Evergreen Day
· The best way to celebrate is to grab a book of local flora/fauna, and head out to identify all the different types of evergreen plants that grow in your part of the world· There are literally thousands of different varieties from every place in the vegetable kingdom, so there are certain to be multiple examples in your local area.
· Obviously, if you haven’t gotten your tree yet, then Look for an Evergreen Day is when it should happen· By understanding the difference between Blue Spruce, Douglas Fir, and the dozens of other varieties of Christmas Tree available, you’ll know which ones will have the most even spread, which ones will be the most dense, and will best compliment your home and decorating scheme.
Come to deliver us, and tarry not.
O Root of Jesse, who stands for an ensign of the people, before whom kings shall keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: Come to deliver us, and tarry not.
O Root of Jesse
"Come to deliver us and tarry not." The world cries out for Christ its King, who shall cast out the prince of this world (John 12:31). The prince of this world established his power over men as a result of original sin. Even after we had been delivered from the servitude of Satan through the death of Christ on the cross, the prince of this world attempts to exercise his power over us. "The devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour" (I Pet. 5:8). In these trying times, when faith in Christ and in God has largely disappeared, when the propaganda of a pagan culture is broadcast everywhere, and the forces of evil and falsehood rise up to cast God from His throne, who does not feel the power of the devil? Does it not appear that we are approaching that time when Satan will be released from the depths of hell to work his wonders and mislead, if possible, even the elect? (Apoc. 20:2; Matt. 24:24.)
"Come, tarry not." Observe how thoroughly the world of today has submitted to the reign of Satan. Mankind has abandoned the search for what is good and holy. Loyalty, justice, freedom, love, and mutual trust are no longer highly regarded. Establish, O God, Thy kingdom among us, a kingdom established upon truth, justice, and peace. "Come, tarry not." "Thy kingdom come."
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.
· 9th day, December 19th: THE OX—Silence Today we may speak nothing unnecessary, much less give way to distracting thoughts. On the contrary, hold interior converse with God by loving aspirations to Him.
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:
Gentleness vs. Roughness
Showing personal care and concern in meeting the need of others (I Thessalonians 2:7)
1832 The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: "charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity."
2416 Animals are God's creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals.
The Way Mortification
"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."
If you don't deny yourself you will never be a soul of prayer.