Thursday, December 19, 2013

Listen to the Locust-Eating Guy! (But have some fun while you're at it)

O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!

This is the O Antiphon for today. When I came to Franciscan my freshman year, I met some people who would get super pumped about the O Antiphons each December 17. I had heard of these antiphons before, but they had never seemed to be that crazy huge of a deal. Well, a book that I received many years ago about preparing for Christmas has reflections each day, and starting December 17, the reflections were all about the O Antiphons--and lately, especially since I took a class on Covenantal Theology in the Old Testament (PBS I with Bergsma), the O Antiphons have struck me much more. These antiphons all show the desires for the Messiah; the Anointed One who was prophesied in the Old Testament. The Old Testament prophecies are so cool, and seeing how they are fulfilled in Christ is amazing! Just look at Ezekiel 34. Seriously, do it! 

The O Antiphons capture the different Messianic hopes of Jews in the ancient times, but also our hopes today. I know that many times, people get so caught up in the decorations, music, and customs around Christmastime, that they forget the time of Advent, the preparation, repentance and longing for the Messiah. Yes, making Christmas candies is a way to prepare for the blessed occasion, but we cannot lose the penance of the season. After all, what did John the Baptist do? He preached a repentance, and the forgiveness of sins as he prepared the people for Jesus! 

We need to listen to this locust-and-honey eating desert guy. 

In this final stretch before Christmas, we need to intensify our preparation for Christ with repentance of sins and forgiveness of others. Repent! Examine your conscience and your life, go to Confession, forgive others, reach out to others in love, and prepare for the Messiah! We need to prepare for the coming of Christ, not with tinsel and twinkly lights, but with pure, loving, forgiving, selfless hearts! That doesn't entail being all "Bah humbug, no Christmas cheer" and such, and going Christmas caroling is good, but I really feel that our society--and many Catholics--have lost a sense of penance and spiritual readiness during Advent. 

Our first Christmas tree in our little home! : )
The scrappy snowflakes were made by yours truly,
 the good ones were made by Jacob. 
As we prepare for Christmas, Jacob and I have been praying Las Posadas, frequently lighting our Advent wreath during prayer, and have been focusing on Advent--prayer, repentance, forgiveness, etc--not going crazy with Christmas stuff, aside from a couple parties at school. However, with Gaudete Sunday this a few days ago, we have been in more of a rejoicing mood! Yesterday, we took a trip to Amish country, which is a lovely place. While there, we bought our first Christmas tree, and last night we decorated it while blasting the Seraphic Fire Christmas CD :D (as a side note, y'all need to listen to Seraphic Fire, because it is an INCREDIBLE group! They came to Franciscan and gave a performance once. So good!) What a super awesome day! 

At Tis' The Season store, in Berlin Ohio!
So, my friends, I hope that you all have a very blessed and penitential Advent, and that you all have fun preparing for the coming of Christ on Christmas, and every single day at Mass and in others!  And don't forget--liturgically, Christmas goes until January 12th, the Baptism of the Lord. So don't put away those Christmas decorations and music in December, 'cause we need to party right into the New Year with the Baby Jesus! In fact, I challenge all of you to say "Merry Christmas" to random people in late December/early January. It gets people in the store confused sometimes, but it's a great evangelization opportunity--we need to let people know that Christmas keeps going!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Living the Posadas

On Saturday night, Jacob and I   drove down to the convent of the Daughters of Mary of the Heart of Jesus for Las Posadas (Posadas means "inn" or something in Spanish, I think). I was really excited to celebrate Posadas; I had been once when I was a young girl (though I didn’t remember it too well), and I also grew up reading the Josefina American Girl books, which include the custom of Posadas.
Posadas were held in an auditorium (it used to function as a church) next to the convent, and when Jacob and I arrived, the scene was bustling with activity. The whole scenario flooded me with so many memories of homeschool group get-togethers from my childhood, church Christmas pageants, and family life in general! The tan-clothed sisters were rushing around, talking with people and handing out candles. Young Hispanic children ran around in excitement, their winter boots scuffing the floor. One of the sisters, Sr. Pillar de Santa Maria, talked with us for a little bit about Posadas, explaining that it is a prayerful recounting of Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to stay in Bethlehem. Jacob and I joined about half the people gathered in the cold air, to journey with Mary and Joseph. The mothers shouted for all of the Marys and Joseph’s to come outside so that Posadas could begin. Five girls dressed as Mary and two boys dressed as Joseph (plus one girl dressed as an angel) gathered in front of the door. Just as we were about to begin, one mother exclaimed, “Wait! There’s another Joseph inside—he needs to come out here!” A confused looking, blanket-clad boy was guided outside, to which another mother exclaimed, “No, he’s not Joseph—he came as King David!” so the poor boy was led back inside. Slight confusion then ensued between one of the men in charge and one of the sisters, as they tried to decide which sections of Posadas to do in English, which to do in Spanish.
Finally, they came to an agreement, and those of us outside began to sing to the group gathered inside:
“In the name of Heaven/I beg you for lodging,/for she cannot walk/my beloved wife.” The people inside replied, singing:
“This is not an inn/so keep on going/I cannot open/you may be a rogue.”
So the song continues, until finally the people inside the inn sing:
“Come in, pilgrims, holy Pilgrims,/holy Pilgrims,/in this nook take your part;/not alone of my poor dwelling,/my poor dwelling/but take also of my heart.”
And they proceed to throw open the doors to let us in. Singing, we all gathered in the pews for two Scripture readings, a bilingual Rosary, and a short reflection. Afterwards, we gathered in the basement for treats, cider, and fellowship. While talking with one of the postulants, I really began to think back on the reflection that a man gave after the Rosary. He had talked about living the Posadas.
The Posadas recount the experience of the Holy Family trying to find an inn to stay at, so that Jesus can safely be born. Every day, the Holy Family is asking to stay in our hearts and our homes, just as they did in Bethlehem so many years ago. Many times, I think people get a proper sense that “Yes, we need to let Jesus into our hearts and homes”—and this is very good. But, something that I had not thought much about before Posadas was this: the entire Holy Family wants to be let into our hearts and homes. We cannot just let Jesus in, we must let in His Blessed Mother. The Mother and her Son are inseparable, and we cannot expect to achieve holiness without devotion to Mary. Furthermore, we must also let St. Joseph, the protector of the Church, into our hearts and homes as well. St. Joseph guided the Holy Family—the domestic Church—and kept it safe. Who guides and protects the Church? The pope. Not only must we allow Jesus, Mary, and Joseph into our lives, but we must allow the Papa into our lives, hearts, and homes as well! They all come as a package deal. You cannot simply let Jesus into your house and leave Mary and Joseph in the cold (which would also be hard, since Jesus is inside of Mary in the Posadas…). And, you cannot bring Mary and Jesus in, leaving St. Joseph (and the Holy Father) outside! Living the Posadas requires us to let them all in, to open our hearts and homes to the Holy Family and the Holy Father.
Subsequently, our daily Posadas calls us to welcome Christ as we meet Him continually throughout our days. Christ is in all people we meet, and we need to recognize Him and love Him in those people. Recognizing Christ in others calls us to deep humility, because many times we can pridefully place ourselves above others, and think of others as less than us. But humbly seeing the beauty, goodness, and sacrificial love in other people reveals their great dignity and the dwelling of the Almighty in them. A few weeks back, we began our New Liturgical Year, and—since it was at the tail end of Thanksgiving break—Jacob and I were able to watch a couple of movies. Looking back on it, the movies we watched really presented a good theme to this liturgical year that we have begun: Maria Goretti and Les Miserables (the one with Liam Neeson, because it is AMAZING!!). Both movies are about forgiveness, humility, mercy, and sacrifice.
We pray the Posadas as a novena to prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas. But Christ also comes to us in the Mass and in every person that we meet each day. We need to prepare for His arrivals by living out Las Posadas daily.

            Blessed is the house
            that shelters this day
            the pure Virgin,

            the beautiful Mary.