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Friday, December 17, 2021

 The Book of Wisdom[1]

The Book of Wisdom was written about fifty years before the coming of Christ. Its author, whose name is not known to us, was probably a member of the Jewish community at Alexandria, in Egypt. He wrote in Greek, in a style patterned on that of Hebrew verse. At times he speaks in the person of Solomon, placing his teachings on the lips of the wise king of Hebrew tradition in order to emphasize their value. His profound knowledge of the earlier Old Testament writings is reflected in almost every line of the book, and marks him, like Ben Sira, as an outstanding representative of religious devotion and learning among the sages of postexilic Judaism. The primary purpose of the author was the edification of his co-religionists in a time when they had experienced suffering and oppression, in part at least at the hands of apostate fellow Jews. To convey his message, he made use of the most popular religious themes of his time, namely the splendor and worth of divine wisdom, the glorious events of the exodus, God’s mercy, the folly of idolatry, and the manner in which God’s justice operates in rewarding or punishing the individual. The first ten chapters in particular provide background for the teaching of Jesus and for some New Testament theology about Jesus. Many passages from this section of the book, notably, are used by the church in the liturgy. 

DECEMBER 17 Ember Friday of the Third Week of Advent

O ANTIPHONS 

Wisdom, Chapter 4, Verse 20

FEARFUL shall they come, at the counting up of their sins, and their lawless deeds shall convict them to their face.

 

Sounds like purgatory to me and the judgement of the wicked.

 

For the Lord of all shows no partiality, nor does he fear greatness, because he himself made the great as well as the small, and he provides for all alike; but for those in power a rigorous scrutiny impends.

 

Is the US being the Most Corrupt Country in the World[2]

While it is true that you don’t typically have to bribe your postman to deliver the mail in the US, in many keyways America’s political and financial practices make it in absolute terms far more corrupt than the usual global suspects. After all, the US economy is worth over $16 trillion a year, so in our corruption a lot more money changes hands.

1. Instead of having short, publicly funded political campaigns with limited and/or free advertising (as a number of Western European countries do), the US has long political campaigns in which candidates are dunned big bucks for advertising. American politicians don’t represent “the people.” With a few honorable exceptions, they represent the 1%. American democracy is being corrupted out of existence.

2. That politicians can be bribed to reduce regulation of industries like banking (what is called “regulatory capture”) means that they will be so bribed.

3. That the chief villains of the 2008 meltdown (from which 90% of Americans have not recovered) have not been prosecuted is itself a form of corruption.

This month, according to the Los Angeles Times, the Justice Department decided not to charge Angelo Mozilo, the former CEO of the former company known as Countrywide Financial Corp., someone long thought of as a prime potential target Should Americans be outraged that the meltdown moguls aren't headed for the slammer, as director Charles Ferguson suggested Sunday night when his documentary, Inside Job, won an Academy Award? Perhaps. But, nearly three years after the financial crisis hit, a better way to look at the lack of high-level indictments is as an indictment of the entire financial system — a system that was rife with avarice, ignorance and double-dealing.[3]

4. The US military budget is bloated and enormous, bigger than the military budgets of the next twelve major states. What isn’t usually realized is that perhaps half of it is spent on outsourced services, not on the military. It is corporate welfare on a cosmic scale.

 

5. The US has a vast gulag of 2.2 million prisoners in jail and penitentiary. There is an increasing tendency for prisons to be privatized, and this tendency is corrupting the system.

 

6. The rich are well placed to bribe our politicians to reduce taxes on the rich.

 

7. The National Security Agency’s domestic spying is a form of corruption in itself and lends itself to corruption. With some 4 million government employees and private contractors engaged in this surveillance, it is highly unlikely that various forms of insider trading and other corrupt practices are not being committed.


 

8. As for insider trading, it turns out Congress undid much of the law it hastily passed forbidding members, rather belatedly, to engage in insider trading (buying and selling stock based on their privileged knowledge of future government policy). That this practice only became an issue recently is another sign of how corrupt the system is.


 

9. Asset forfeiture in the ‘drug war’ is corrupting police departments and the judiciary.

 

10. Money and corruption have seeped so far into our media system that people can with a straight face assert that scientists aren’t sure human carbon emissions are causing global warming.


 

Today think about righteousness and self-restraint and the coming judgment. Pray for our Priest’s and Bishop’s that the love of the world and money does not turn their hearts from the one pearl of great value. 

Ember Friday of Advent.[4] Commemoration of the Visitation. 

Mary visits her relative Elizabeth; they are both pregnant: Mary with Jesus, and Elizabeth with John the Baptist. Mary left Nazareth immediately after the Annunciation and went "into the hill country ... into a city of Judah" (Luke 1:39) to attend to her cousin (Luke 1:36) Elizabeth. There are several possibilities as to exactly which city this was, including Hebron, south of Jerusalem, and Ein Karem. The journey from Nazareth to Hebron is about 130 kilometers (81 mi) in a direct line, probably up to half as far again by road, depending on the route taken. Elizabeth was in the sixth month before Mary came (Luke 1:36). Mary stayed three months, and most scholars hold she stayed for the birth of John. Given the prevailing cultural traditions and needs for security, it is probable that Joseph accompanied Mary to Judah then returned to Nazareth, and came again after three months to take his wife home. The apparition of the angel, mentioned in Matthew 1:19–25, may have taken place then to end the tormenting doubts of Joseph regarding Mary's maternity.

 

In the Gospel of Luke, the author's accounts of the Annunciation and Visitation are constructed using eight points of literary parallelism to compare Mary to the Ark of the Covenant.

 

Some Catholic commentators have maintained that the purpose of this visit was to bring divine grace to both Elizabeth and her unborn child. Even though he was still in his mother's womb, John became aware of the presence of Christ, and leapt for joy as he was cleansed from original sin and filled with divine grace. Elizabeth also responded and recognized the presence of Jesus, and thus Mary exercised her function as mediatrix between God and man for the first time.

 

And she [Elizabeth] spoke out with a loud voice, and said, "Blessed [art] thou among women, and blessed [is] the fruit of thy womb. And whence [is] this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed [is] she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord." (Luke 1:42–45)

 

In response to Elizabeth, Mary proclaims the Magnificat (My soul doth magnify the Lord) Luke 1:46–55.

 

The word "blessed" is rendered in Greek not by the word "Makarios" but as "evlogimeni", which is the feminine second person singular, used only this once in the New Testament. Its masculine third person singular counterpart "evlogimenos" is used only for Jesus and only on this occasion and when he was welcomed into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday with: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord". The masculine/mixed gender third person plural "evlogimenoi" is used by Jesus only when referring to the righteous who are to be raised to life in the Last Judgement. 

Ember days-wintertime[5]


Psalm 147:12, 16-17 "Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem: praise thy God, O Sion. Who giveth snow like wool: scattereth mists like ashes? He sendeth his crystal-like morsels: who shall stand before the face of his cold?"

Winter is a time of reflection, when human activity is stilled, and snow blankets the world with silence. For the Christian, Winter symbolizes Hope: though the world now appears lifeless and makes us think of our own mortality, we hope in our resurrection because of the Resurrection of the One Whose Nativity we await now. How providential that the Christ Child will be born at the beginning of this icy season, bringing with Him all the hope of Spring! Also among our Winter feasts are the Epiphany and Candlemas, two of the loveliest days of the year, the first evoked by water, incense, and gold; the latter by fire...Yes, despite the typical, unimaginative view of Winter as a long bout with misery, the season is among the most beautiful and filled with charms. The ephemeral beauty of a single snowflake... the pale blue tint of sky reflected in snow that glitters, and gives way with a satisfying crunch under foot... skeletal trees entombed in crystal, white as bones, cold as death, creaking under the weight of their icy shrouds... the wonderful feeling of being inside, next to a fire, while the winds whirl outside... the smell of burning wood mingled with evergreen... warm hands embracing your wind-bitten ones... the brilliant colors of certain winter birds, so shocking against the ocean of white... the wonderfully long nights which lend themselves to a sense of intimacy and quiet! Go outside and look at the clear Winter skies ruled by Taurus, with the Pleiades on its shoulder and Orion nearby... Such beauty! Even if you are not a "winter person," consider that Shakespeare had the right idea when he wrote in "Love's Labor’s Lost":

Why should proud summer boast
Before the birds have any cause to sing?
Why should I joy in an abortive birth?
At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows.

Christ’s Seven Messianic Titles[6]

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 in this seven Golden Nights travels through the centuries recalling the longing for the Redeemer.

For more information on the O Antiphons, see

O Antiphons[7] The "Octave" Before Christmas and/or the Golden Nights 

Today also marks the beginning of the O Antiphons, 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 "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. 

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

Lazarus 

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[8]


 

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. 

Spiritual Crib[9] 

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.

·       THE CRIB—Confidence-Build the little Crib by an unbounded confidence in God. Give no 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.

Daily Devotions

·       JESSE TREE: Jesus is Wisdom: Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus in old Bibles) 24:2; Wisdom 8:1 Symbols: oil lamp, open book

·       Unite in the work of the Porters of St. Joseph by joining them in fasting: Today's Fast: Individuals with Mental Illness

·       Drops of Christ’s Blood

·       Iceman’s 40 devotion

·       Universal Man Plan

·       Operation Purity

·       Rosary


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