Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
When I first prayed this morning’s reading from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, I was immediately struck by just how little we know about Joseph, the beloved spouse of Mary. He is not even mentioned in the gospels according to Mark and John and, in Matthew’s and Luke’s, the two gospels with “infancy narratives,” Joseph drops out of the story entirely, well before Jesus begins his public ministry. While all kinds of pious legends about Saint Joseph developed later in the Christian tradition, we have only these few portraits of him from the canonical gospels themselves. This week, as I prayed these propers for today’s homily, I felt that I wanted to know more about this man who, like Mary, had acquiesced so graciously to God’s plan for the world’s redemption and salvation. Who was he, I found myself asking in my prayer, and where did he find the astonishing equanimity to say “yes” to God’s improbable and decisive entrance once again into human experience? Continue reading →
Overwhelmed by omnipotence, we miss the heart of love. How can I matter to him? We say. It makes no sense; he has the world, and even that he does not need. It is folly even to imagine him like myself, to credit him with eyes into which I could ever look, a heart that could ever beat for my sorrows or joys, a hand he could hold out to me. For even if the childish picture be allowed, that hand must be cupped to hold the universe, and I am a speck of dust on the star-dust of the world.
Yet Mary holds her finger out, and a divine hand closes on it. The maker of the world is born a begging child; he begs for milk, and does not know that it is milk for which he begs. We will not lift our hands to pull the love of God down to us, but he lifts his hands to pull human compassion down upon his cradle. So the weakness of God proves stronger than men, and the folly of God proves wiser than men. Love is the strongest instrument of omnipotence, for accomplishing those tasks he cares most dearly to perform; and this is how he brings his love to bear on human pride; by weakness not by strength, by need and not by bounty.
Signs of endings all around us, darkness, death and winter days, Shroud our lives in fear and sadness, numbing mouths that long to praise. Come, O Christ, and dwell among us! Hear our cries, come set us free. Give us faith and hope and gladness. Show us what there yet can be. – Dean Nelson
Two years ago Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. As many of you may recall, she died a month later, just after Christmas. Two years ago today when my parents went to church, the opening hymn was the hymn we just sang:
Signs of endings all around us, darkness, death and winter days, Shroud our lives in fear and sadness, numbing mouths that long to praise…
Neither could make it through the hymn.
Advent – the Church’s season of New Year that we begin today – reminds us that life changes, and that change always involves letting go. Let me say that again: Advent reminds us that life changes, and change always involves letting go. Continue reading →
When the eternal God meant to stoop so low as to be fixed in our center, he chose for his mother a holy person and a maid. She received the angel’s message with such sublimity of faith that her faith was turned into vision, her hopes into actual possession, and her grace into glory. She who was now full of God, bearing God in her virgin womb, and the Holy Spirit in her heart, arose with haste and gladness to communicate that joy which was designed for all the world; and she found no breast to pour forth the first emanations of her overjoyed heart so fit as her cousin Elizabeth’s, for she was to be the mother of the Baptist, who was sent a forerunner “to prepare the way of the Lord” her son.
Let us notice how light and airy was the coming of the Virgin, as she made haste over the mountains; her very little burden which she bore hindered her not but that she might make haste enough; and as her spirit was full of cheerfulness and alacrity, so even her body was made airy and full of life. And there is this excellency in religion that when we carry Christ within us, his presence is neither so peevish as to disturb our health, nor so sad as to discompose our cheerfulness, but he recreates our body by charity and by securing God’s providence over us while we are in the pursuit of the heavenly kingdom. For as the Virgin climbed mountains easily, so there is no difficulty in our life so great, but it may be managed by those assistances we receive from the holiest about us.
—From The Life of our Blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667)
Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a
mikvah, a ritual pool
One of the several unique aspects of the Gospel according to Saint Luke is its two brief vignettes concerning Jesus’ so-called hidden years of childhood. Saint Luke describes Jesus’ naming and circumcision at the Jerusalem Temple on the eighth day following his birth, along with Mary’s purification in a mikvah, a ritual pool located at the Temple’s entrance-steps. Whenever a fully observant Jew comes into direct contact with the primordial forces of life and death, she or he must begin anew by becoming “ritually pure,” “fit for the worship of God” who is the Lord of life and death. Having momentarily touched the sacred during childbirth, Mary undergoes a ritual bath to re-enter the profane world and to take up the mundane, the ordinary, and the daily once again. The Conservative synagogue just down the road here on Washington Street has a mikvah for fully observant Jews in our area. Continue reading →
This morning I am going to talk about Mary and angels, and also about hopes and dreams. But I don’t want to begin there. I want to begin with a soccer game and the setting aside of hopes and dreams.
I knew, right then, that a mid-life crisis was in my future. There, at the edge of the field after Shaw’s soccer game was over (he was maybe in the fourth grade) … Well, let’s just say I was taken right back to my youth. To endless summer days in the rural Midwest, to the smell of the earth, the sound of the wind blowing through rows of corn, an achingly blue sky overhead, and that youthful yearning, awakening. That figure, those curves; I’d seen them somewhere before… “Dodge Challenger, 1972!” I thought. Only it wasn’t the ’72; it was the 2008, the first year in which Dodge reintroduced the model. Continue reading →
The angel is waiting for your answer: it is time for him to return to the One who sent him. And we too are waiting, O Lady, for this word of mercy, we-who are overwhelmed by misery under sentence of condemnation. The price of our salvation is being offered to you. If you consent, we shall be set free straight away. In -the eternal Word of God we have all been made, and look, we are dying. By one small word of yours in answer we shall be restored and brought back to life.
Answer, O Virgin, answer the angel quickly; or rather, through the angel answer God. Speak the word and receive the Word. Offer what is yours and conceive what is God’s. Breathe one fleeting word and embrace the eternal Word. Continue reading →