December

In such a place of rest. . .

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Sleep! Holy Babe! upon Thy mother’s breast;
Great Lord of earth and sea and sky,
How sweet it is to see Thee lie
In such a place of rest,
In such a place of rest.

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Sleep! Holy Babe! Thine angels watch around,
All bending low with folded wings,
Before th’incarnate King of kings,
In reverent awe profound.
In reverent awe profound.

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Sleep! Holy Babe! while I with Mary gaze
In joy upon that face awhile,
Upon the loving infant smile
Which there divinely plays.
Which there divinely plays.

A most merry Christmas to you all! Let us, with Mary, gaze in joy upon that Face awhile, the Face of God made Man! Our Lord has come! Venite adoremus!

You might enjoy the lovely Christmas videos that the Benedictines of Mary at Ephesus have put out–I know I did, so I thought I would link to them here. Merry Christmas!

In our Loving Lady,
Lena

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December

O Emmanuel: Ero Cras!

The last of the Golden Nights is here!

December 23rd: O Emmanuel
(O God with Us)

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O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver,
the desire of the nations and the Savior thereof,
come to save us, O Lord our God.

O come, O come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Emmanuel
Rex Gentium
Oriens

Clavis David
Radix Jesse
Adonai
Sapientia

Tomorrow, I come!

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December

O Oriens, O Rex Gentium

December 21st: O Oriens
(O Dayspring)

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O Dayspring, Brightness of light eternal,
and Sun of Justice, come and enlighten them that sit
in darkness and in the shadow of death.

O Come, Thou Dayspring from on high
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadow put to flight.
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

December 22nd: O Rex Gentium
(O King of the Gentiles)

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O King of the Gentiles and the desire thereof,
Thou cornerstone that makest both one,
come and deliver mankind, whom Thou didst form out of clay.

O Come, Desire of Nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

A blessed and holy Ember Friday to you!

In our Loving Lady,
Lena

December

‘Make your house fair as you are able. . .’

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People, look East; the time is near
Of the crowning of the year;
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look East, and sing today:
Love, the Guest, is on the way.

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Furrows, be glad, though earth is bare:
One more seed is planted there;
Give up your strength, the seed to nourish,
That in course, the flower may flourish.
People, look East, and sing today:
Love, the Rose, is on the way.

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Stars, keep the watch when night is dim;
One more light the bowl shall brim.
Shining beyond the frosty weather,
Bright as sun and moon together.
People, look East, and sing today;
Love, the Star, is on the way.

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Angels, announce on this great feast
Him Who cometh from the East;
Set every peak and valley humming
With the word, the Lord is coming!
People, look East, and sing today;
Love, the Lord, is on the way!

Photos courtesy of my brother 🙂

December

O Radix Jesse, O Clavis David. . .

Perhaps these are just meant to appear in pairs. . .it seems like every other day is insanely busy! On this Golden Night, the last day of Fall, I look forward and see four short days before Christmas, the next two of which are booked with activities, fun and exciting. At the same time, I am determined to live these last four days more faithfully and fully than I have lived the rest of Advent. We are approaching the stable–it is within sight–the Star is shining with increasing brilliance–and now is the time to run!

December 19th: O Radix Jesse
(O Root of Jesse)

Ask, ask, ask___

O Root of Jesse, Which standest for an ensign of the people,
before Whom kings shall keep silence, Whom the Gentiles shall beseech:
come and deliver us, and tarry not.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse’s stem
From every foe deliver them
That trust Thy mighty power to save
And give them victory o’er the grave.
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

December 20th: O Clavis David
(O Key of David)

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O Key of David, and Scepter of the house of Israel,
that openest and no man shutteth, and shuttest and no man openeth:
come and bring the prisoner forth from the prison-house,
and him that sitteth in darkness and in the shadow of death.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our Heavenly home,
Make straight the way that leads on high
And close the path of misery.
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Good night!

December

O Sapientia, O Adonai. . .

The Golden Nights of the O Antiphons are finally upon us! As the first antiphon for Sunday’s Vespers proclaimed, “The Lord will come, and will not tarry. . .” Less than a week until He comes!

I was hoping to make a short post for each O Antiphon, but because I’ve been so busy I’m having to combine the first two a day later than planned. Oh well; humility is good too!

If you aren’t familiar with the O Antiphons, you can read more about them here on FishEaters.com. But the brief of it is that they are seven titles for Christ, prophesied by Isaiah and Micah, the Latin initials of which, when arranged in reverse order, are an acrostic of the Latin Ero Cras: tomorrow I come. The O Antiphons are found, day by day, in Vespers during the Octave before Christmas, ending on the 23rd. This period of time is known as the Golden Nights.

Sapientia
Adonai
Radix Jesse
Clavis David
Oriens
Rex Gentium
Emmanuel

December 17th: O Sapientia
(O Wisdom)

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O Wisdom, Which camest out of 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.

O Come, Thou Wisdom from on high
Who orderest all things mightily
To us the path of knowledge show
And teach us in her ways to go.

December 18th: O Adonai
(O Lord of Israel)

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O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel,
Who didst appear to Moses in the flame of the burning bush,
and didst give unto him the law on Sinai:
come and with an outstretched arm redeem us.

O come, O come, thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribe on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

A very blessed last week of Advent to you! I had such happy news today. . .a reply from Ephesus! Deo Gratias! What a surprise from my Merciful Mother.

LL

December

A year of Total Consecration to my Merciful Mother

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How to speak of it, Mother? How to begin to tell what you have done for me?

Oh, Mother, to steal the words of a Saint, if only I could proclaim throughout the whole world the mercy Our Lord has shown me by giving me to you! If only everyone might know that I should be already long-lost were it not for you! If only I could offer worthy thanksgiving for so great a blessing: that you are in me. . . in me! Why me, Mother? Who could have deserved you less? There was never anything I had done to merit or even be worthy to receive such an honor as to belong completely and irrevocably to the Queen of Heaven and Earth! On the contrary, I must have grieved your Immaculate Heart at times with my sins, my indifference and ingratitude to you.

With St. Juan Diego, I could cry, “I beg you, Lady, to entrust this grace to someone important. . .I am no one, nothing. . .” With St. Elizabeth, I can do nothing but exclaim,
Et unde hoc mihi, ut veniat Mater Domini mei ad me?”
“And whence is this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Yet there is no happiness which is not mine, for I belong to you! I ought to be the happiest person in the world! You, my merciful Mother, you have come down to me, called me, beckoned me, even chased me. And in exchange for the nothingness which I offered you a year ago, you have only said,

“Listen and keep in your heart, my littlest child:
There is nothing for you to fear, let nothing afflict you.
Let not your face or your heart be worried. . .
Am I not here, I who am your Mother?
Are you not in my shadow, under my protection?
Am I not the fountain of your joy?
Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in my crossed arms?
Is there anything else you need?”

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You have never been surprised by my nothingness. You know well enough that there could be no one less deserving to be your child than I am, no littler child. And you have made me all yours anyway, knowing that such a little one could safely tread no other way to Jesus except the perfect, easy, and Immaculate way by which He Himself came to us. Truly, there is no bound to your love, my gracious Mother! Truly, there is no limit to your maternal mercy! Come over to me, you say with your sweet smile. Come and be filled with my fruits. Let me fill you with roses and arrange them with my own hands. I will make of your heart a garden, where my Son will love to dwell.

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Roses of Castile

“Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun?
As the rainbow giving light in the bright clouds, and as the flower of roses
in the days of spring.”
Gradual for Our Lady of Guadalupe

Quae es ista? Who is she? She, the Queen of Heaven, the Mother of God, the beautiful Virgin of Guadalupe: she is my Mother.

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“I have chosen, and have sanctified this place, that my name may be there,
and my eyes and my heart may remain there for evermore.”
-Offertory verse for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

“I am your merciful mother;
yours, and of all the inhabitants of this land, of all who love me. . .
I will be grateful and will reward you with happiness.
See, you have heard my command, my littlest son; go and put forth all your effort.”

-Our Lady to St. Juan Diego

Oh merciful Mother, to think that your name will be forever sealed upon my heart, your eyes forever upon me, your heart beating within my own breast. . .what joy! I need no reward, most generous and grateful of all Mothers, for obeying your commands! How could I do anything less than put forth all my efforts to be your faithful slave, your good child, out of no other motives but love and gratitude to God and to you! For you have turned your eyes of mercy towards me, and after this my exile, you will show unto me the blessed Fruit of your womb, Jesus.

O Clemens! O Pia! O Dulcis Virgo Maria!

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 Hail, Mary, full of grace!
Hail, shining splendor of the human race!
Within thy gentle face,
Thine eyes are morning stars of mercy,
Thy smile warms like the dawn;
How blest the frozen earth it falls upon!
O Mother, turn thine eyes!

Hail, Mary, hope of Eve!
Hail, womb of love where Jesus was conceived!
“Let it be done to me.”
A daughter’s humble answer
Whispered into Gabriel’s ear
Was the glorious song all Heaven longed to hear!
Oh Mother, make us sing!

Hail, Mary, cause of joy!
Hail, Mother of our God made baby Boy!
Thy fingers were Christ’s toy.
When they caressed in wonder
That Child’s angelic face,
He sighed and slept in mantle folds of grace.
Oh, Mother, hold us close!

Hail, Mary, full of grace!
Hail, dove whose wings held Christ in their embrace!
Thy feathers are of lace;
Their threads of radiant beauty
Were woven by the Father’s hands
To carry Heaven’s light to darkened lands.
O Mother, bear us home!

Hail, Mary, hope of Eve!
Hail, wondrous dawn for those who mourn and grieve!
Blest are they who believe
The Lord’s Word is not void,
But Flesh and Blood for all to see,
And Life Eternal, hanging from a tree.
Oh Mother, give us hope!

Hail, Mary, cause of joy!
Hail, one whose faith the tomb could not destroy!
The faith thou didst employ
Once chosen by thy Heart, and
Kept in confidence unworn,
Was the faith God asked for Resurrection Morn.
Oh Mother, give us faith!

 LL

December

Excita, Domine, corda nostra!

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Is there anything that could be more beautiful, more exciting, and more lovable than the Christ Child? And He is coming in two weeks!

My mom remarked yesterday how nice it was to hear another mother after Mass saying, “Christmas is only two weeks away! I’m so excited!”

I suppose it is very easy to sink into subtle complaining. Advent is too short this year! It’s going by too fast! There’s too much to do to get ready! Guilty as charged, folks! I’ve said it all!

Of course it’s important to be conscious that we need to make the most of the time we have been given to prepare the way of Christ in our hearts, but at the same time it shouldn’t be an anxious, panicked, or dreary consciousness. It should be a time of breathlessly excited and joyful waiting–the waiting of Mary to see the face of baby Jesus for the first time! The waiting of the Magi to see the Infant King, before whom all their wisdom and treasures were as so much dust! The waiting of a desolate world for the advent of its Salvation and the fulfillment of all its hope!

Jesus is coming in two weeks! Jesus is only two weeks away! Advent is very short this year. . .that must mean He is all the more anxious to come swiftly into our hearts, be they ever so poor. He did not spurn the stable! And while we should work as St. Joseph did to make the poor straw of our souls as comfortable, warm, and clean as possible to welcome Him, we also have to acknowledge our lowliness with all the joy of true humility, recognizing that God has sought it out to be His dwelling place, His nest of love. He is coming to you and to me, asking only for an open door, a little warmth, a little love in a cold and indifferent world.

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single flame.”
-St. Francis of Assisi

Capture

“Oh, that I might offer worthy thanksgiving for so great a blessing!
Mary is in me! O what a consolation! O what a treasure!”
-St. Louis de Montfort

Could any place be less than beautiful to Jesus when Mary is there? Surely even the stable was utterly ravishing to the Infant Christ because of Mary’s presence, the straw made delightful because of her loving touch. This is what I dare to ask of my most loving Mother this Advent; namely, that she will be in my heart, poor as it is, when Jesus comes, so He will find within my stable everything He could desire.

So what have we to fear? How happy we should be! As yesterday’s Introit exclaimed, Populus Sion, ecce Dominus veniet. . .“People of Sion, behold the Lord shall come to save the nations; and the Lord shall make the glory of His voice to be heard, in the joy of your heart.”

And the Collect: Excita, Domine, corda nostra. . .“Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the ways of Thine only-begotten Son: that through His coming we may deserve to serve Thee with purified minds: Who with Thee liveth and reigneth.”

So I challenge you to be excited! Let us stir up our hearts like a fire with the ecstatic expectation of His coming to us! And let us lean upon Our Blessed Mother, so we can welcome Him at Christmas with all the love of our souls, for which He did not consider His Incarnation, Passion, and Death too high or extravagant a price.

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O Mary, Mother of Jesus, give me your heart, that I might receive Jesus!

I pray for a very blessed 2nd Week of Advent for you! And happy Feast of St. Damasus, and of the Humility of Our Lady!

Look forgivingly on Thy flock, Eternal Shepherd, and keep in in Thy constant protection, by the intercession of blessed Damasus, Thy Soverign Pontiff, whom Thou didst constitute Shepherd of the whole Church. Through our Lord. Amen.

O God, Who regardest the humble and removest Thine eyes from the proud, grant that we Thy servants may imitate with a pure heart the humility of the blessed Virgin Mary, who pleased Thee by her virginity and who by her humility became the Mother of Thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ: Who with Thee liveth and reigneth. Amen.

LL

December

He hath clothed me as a bride. . .

La_Inmaculada_de_Soult,_1678,_Bartolomé_E__Murillo

“Thy vesture is white as snow,
and thy face is as the sun.”

I can’t really describe the raptures of my heart as I look out my bedroom windows and watch the first snow of the season, gentle and relentless, cover everything, today on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. I’m not sure if the weather has ever made me this happy before.

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“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God: for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, and with the robe of justice He hath covered me, as a bride adorned with her jewels.”

Sometimes you just have to laugh with joy at how beautiful our God is, how extravagantly He loves His Blessed Mother and us. On this very day, when Our Lady’s most immaculate life began in all the fullness of grace and purity, He has decorated the world around me, in her honor, with snow.

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“I was with Him, forming all things, and was delighted every day, playing before Him at all times, playing in the world; and my delight is to be with the children of men.”

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“By the word Ave (which is the name Eve, Eva),
I learned that in His infinite power God had preserved me from all sin and
its attendant misery which the first woman had been subject to.
“The name Mary which means ‘lady of light’ shows that God has filled me
with wisdom and light, like a shining star, to light up Heaven and earth.

“The words full of grace remind me that the Holy Spirit has showered
so many graces upon me that I am able to give these graces in abundance
to those who ask for them through me as Mediatrix.

“When people say The Lord is with thee they renew the indescribable joy
that was mine when the Eternal Word became incarnate in my womb.

“When you say to me blessed art thou among women I praise Almighty God’s Divine mercy which lifted me to this exalted plane of happiness.
“And at the words blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, the whole of Heaven
rejoices with me to see my Son Jesus Christ adored and glorified
for having saved mankind.”
-From a collection of St. Louis de Montfort’s writings

  Though it is looking quite dubious that we will be able to make it to Mass tonight because of the road conditions, we plan to tune in to Fribourg at 11:30 as a family (God bless the FSSP!), and with Dad off of work and cooking breakfast this morning, a day to spend together admiring the snow, playing games and making snow ice cream, it still feels like an unbelievably wonderful and blessed Holy Day. My cup is running over. Thank you, sweet Mother! Blessed be thy Divine Son, Who loves thee so much!

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“Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus.”

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”

(3x) O Mary, conceived without sin,
pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Happy Feast Day!

 

LL

December

Advent so far. . .

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“Brethren, now is the hour for us to rise from sleep. . .
The night is passed and the day is at hand.
Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness. . .
Let us walk honestly, as in the day.”
-Romans 13

Happy New Year!

Over the past several days, I’ve felt as though material for five or six different blog posts has been whirling around my head, waiting for a chance to leap out. I don’t know why it is (or actually, maybe I do) that busyness seems to creep in and disrupt the (relatively) quiet routine of daily life most during Advent. Especially such a short Advent as we have this year.

Already, during the first few days of Advent, it’s been a real struggle for quiet, stillness, prayer, reflection. But today, thankfully, there’s nowhere to go and no huge projects to be undertaken. Yesterday saw my laundry done, my Christmas budget all sorted out (finally! I’m such a terrible procrastinator!), and lots of St. Nicholas festivities, including baking and decorating two dozen cookies after the fashion of my favorite St. Nicholas picture book (yes, I love picture books), The Baker’s Dozen. Although time-consuming, it was a really fun project and very rewarding when they turned out both tasty and adorable. It was also so fun to spend time baking with my younger sister as Advent at Ephesus played in the background.

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Yes, that was yesterday. Throw in a sick younger brother, a favorite episode of Laramie, some chicken fajitas, a hysterical game of Telestrations, regular prayer and chores, improvised on notepads because we don’t actually have the game itself, and the first half of the Fellowship of the Ring. . .the theatrical cut. . .so nostalgic. . .and you get the idea.

But today, I have time to sit back, breathe out, and gather my thoughts up into a blog post with a quiet and reflective spirit. This is nice.

St. Barbara

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The Holy Family with St. Barbara and St. John the Baptist

“On a time this blessed maid went upon the tower and there she beheld the idols to which her father sacrificed and worshipped, and suddenly she received the Holy Ghost and became marvelously subtle and clear in the love of Jesu Christ. . .This holy maid Barbara, adorned with faith, surmounted the Devil, for when she beheld the idols she scratched them in their visages, despising them all and saying: ‘All they be made like unto you which have made you to err, and all them that have faith in you’; and then she went into the tower and worshipped our Lord.
“. . .the judge commanded to slay her with the sword. And then her father, all enraged, took her out of the hands of the judge and led her up on a mountain, and St. Barbara rejoiced in hastening to receive the salary of her victory. And then when she was drawn thither she made her orison, saying, ‘Lord Jesu Christ, which hast formed Heaven and earth, I beseech Thee to grant me Thy grace and hear my prayer for all they that have memory of Thy Name and my passion; I pray Thee, that Thou wilt not remember their sins, for Thou knowest our fragility.’
“Then came there a voice down from Heaven saying unto her: ‘Come, my spouse Barbara, and rest in the chamber of God my Father which is in Heaven, and I grant to thee that thou hast required of Me.’
“And when this was said, she came to her father and received the end of her martyrdom. . .”
From Caxton’s
The Golden Legend

When I read about St. Barbara, I can’t help but love how peppery she was. She was angry at her father’s mere question whether or not she wanted to marry–completely unafraid of ordering a third window, representing the Holy Trinity, be added to his architectural plans for a new building–scratching off the faces of his idols. And this was no sweet, meek pagan father. He eventually insisted on killing her himself. But St. Barbara, imprisoned in a tower because of his intense jealousy over her, had found Christianity in spite of his best efforts. She had found a love, the hold of which was far more powerful than his crazed jealousy. It is a gritty story, as are most martyrdoms, but radiantly beautiful. Christ entrusted to His beloved spouse Saint Barbara the courage of the most heroic of men, the purity of a child, and the faith of an angel, and after many trials freed her like a bird from her deranged father’s prison to rest in the chamber of her true Father. With what surpassing and indelible joy must she have flown to Him!

She is invoked especially against a sudden and unprepared death, hence the beautiful prayer she offers above before she is beheaded by her father, an act of adoration, a plea for grace, and a prayer for mercy upon other poor sinners. On that note, I read today that sixteen-year-old St. Stanislaus Kostka, while seriously ill in the house of an intolerant Protestant who would not allow Holy Communion to be brought to him, turned to Our Lady and St. Barbara and begged that he might not die without receiving the Blessed Sacrament. In answer to his prayer the Virgin Martyr appeared to him with two angels and administered Holy Communion to him.

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Too cool!

St. Barbara, pray for us, share with us thy fortitude! Let us fear nothing except the loss of Christ! Assist us at the hour of our death!

A New Year

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My little sister and I at the beach this summer. . .she’s even taller now!

“If we would overcome one fault a year, we would soon be perfect!”
-The Imitation of Christ

“It is vanity to desire a long life, and to have little care for a good life.”
-The Imitation of Christ

(Check out Mary’s free Living Virtuously Prints!)

“The Devil writes down our sins–our Guardian Angel all our merits.
Labor that the Guardian Angel’s book may be full, and the devil’s empty.”
-St. John Vianney

“We ought to run after crosses as the miser runs after money. . .
Nothing but crosses will reassure us at the Day of Judgment.
When that day shall come, we shall be happy in our misfortunes,
proud of our humiliations, and rich in our sacrifices!”
-St. John Vianney

“We should only make use of life to grow in the love of God.”
-St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

As another liturgical year begins, I can’t help but wonder what it may hold. It’s no joke that life begins to race by, faster and faster, as you get older. Childhood is steadily slipping into the past; womanhood is almost upon me. I am standing at the edge of a new path, straight and narrow, paved with roses and their thorns; breathing in the scent of all I’ve ever known around me, precious and yet not mine, just as I cannot belong to it.
It is God’s, and so am I.

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By a Benedictine of Mary, Queen of Apostles

This Advent so far truly is a time of patience, waiting with Our Lady for the mail to come, wondering if a response might be in it today at last. I won’t pretend it isn’t intensely difficult for me to be patient sometimes; but I know it’s a virtue I must gain, and can gain, with our Lady’s help. What a comfort to be united to her holy Expectation in this season!

While there are the bittersweet moments, the wondering if this or that event may be the last of its kind in this stage of my life, I feel so grateful that I can recognize the precious beauty of each moment now, hold it, kiss it goodbye, and give it back to Jesus with a smile, until He invites me to rejoice in it again an hundredfold in eternal life. I know without a doubt that there is nothing I could possibly give to Him that He will not, in indomitable, incorrigible generosity, turn right back around and make into the greatest of gifts.

. . .and Advent

Passion

“Do grant, oh my God, that when my lips approach Yours to kiss You, I may taste the gall that was given to You; when my shoulders lean against Yours, make me feel Your scourging; when my flesh is united with Yours, in the Holy Eucharist, make me feel Your passion; when my head comes near Yours, make me feel Your thorns; when my heart is close to Yours, make me feel Your spear.”
-St. Gemma Galgani

Before I even asked, our dear Lord answered my question of how I was to focus on receiving Him this Advent; namely, in His distressing disguise. He has whispered, too, that the only way I can do this is through true humility.

Beautiful, elusive, true humility. Like every other virtue, it comes easier with practice; so that is the theme of my journey towards Christmas this year, and thanks to Mary’s excellent suggestion, I’ve replaced my usual daily meditations with Mother Teresa’s Fifteen Steps to Humility. And, like every other virtue, it is found nowhere except in the Treasury of all Virtues, Mary Immaculate. As I renew my Total Consecration to her, I ask her as never before for true humility; because there is no way that, without relying on Jesus and Mary, I will ever attain that most precious gem.

“Be comforted, be comforted, O my people: thy Savior shall come quickly!
Why hath grief devoured thee? Why hath sorrow disfigured thee?
I will save thee: fear not: for I am the Lord thy God,
the Holy One of Israel, thy Redeemer.”

-Rorate Caeli

I pray you all have a blessed and fruitful season of preparing to embrace our newborn Lord at Christmas! Oremus!

LL

December

A Gift

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I just had to share this with you, before all of today went by!

Anyone who’s browsed much about on my blog, or ever been inside our home, might have suspected that Tracy Christianson’s work on PortraitsofSaints.com will forever have me as a fan. She has a huge selection of beautiful work that just captivates my eye, from nine different portraits of the Madonna and Child to several of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, from Adrian of Nicomedia to Andre Bessette, from Charles Lwanga to Jacinta and Francisco. Not to mention that she donates ten percent of her proceeds to the FSSP.

I first discovered this amazing site when searching for an image of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque for my younger sister for Christmas a few years ago. Since then, I’m afraid I’ve found it far too easy to spend money out there, and my gift-giving patterns have probably become quite predictable to my family. I love just going out to the site and scrolling through the hundreds of portraits, randomly clicking on a Saint I hadn’t heard of and learning more about them, and usually a visit to the site to check for newly-released portraits is part of my daily (and very limited) Internet routine.

I spent a long time waiting and checking in the hopes that she would come out with a portrait of my beloved Carlo Acutis, the one main face I was missing in the sea of lovely faces on her site. I guess it hadn’t yet occurred to me that me simply asking was all it would take.

But finally, in early October, I did have the sense to email her with a request. She responded quickly that she would add him to the list, and, happily, I continued my routine of checking, waiting, checking each day. Except for yesterday and the day before, when I was recovering from feeling quite under the weather and really didn’t even get to my computer at all.

Well, last night I check my email before going to bed and find that an email from Tracy is sitting in my inbox, letting me know that she had finished Carlo and hoped I liked him.

I can’t describe the excitement and happiness I felt as I read her very kind email and then clicked over to the site to find him there, smiling at me. Maybe it was just a small dream. . .but there’s nothing quite as lovely as when the Lord makes your smallest dreams come true. #thankYouJesus

One thing’s for sure; nobody around here is at a loss for Christmas gift ideas for me anymore. As we enter this season of preparation to receive the Gift of all God’s gifts into our souls and you look for gifts for those you love, please at least give Portraits of Saints a visit! I can’t think of a lovelier or more edifying resource.

God bless you on this New Year’s Eve!

St. Bibiana, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us!
Servant of God Carlo Acutis, pray for us!

December

When Christ comes to me {in distressing disguise}

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“And they forced one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by coming out of the country. . .to take up His cross.”

Sometimes I can become so blind that, more than anything, I need a little self-knowledge.

I think that’s why yesterday happened the way it did. Wednesday night, I expected a perfectly normal Thursday. . . some sleeping in because of a late Fraternus night, efforts (some of them likely to fail) at keeping up my daily prayer routine (and adding, of course, the St. Andrew Christmas Novena), a lovely hour of Adoration with Mom, and an evening out as chaperone with Mary and her guy. Perhaps a chance to get some good work done on my writing project and to finish getting all of the winter clothes scattered about my room organized and put away.

Well. . .God had different plans.

I woke up at ten before seven yesterday and spent the next half hour in some of the worst abdominal pain and discomfort I can ever remember, covered with cold sweats and almost incapable of walking or speaking enough to go get someone to take care of me. Nothing contagious, chronic, or even serious–really just an opportunity to suffer for a little while.

I’ve always been very attracted to saints who suffered greatly in illness or martyrdom; I’ve even written and self-published a novel about my own fictional one. I’ve spent a lot of time (probably more due to my love of drama than pure virtue) daydreaming about suffering such illnesses or martyrdoms with heroic patience and joy.

But yesterday morning, I received a much clearer (and humbling) view of my true weakness. Unable to relieve my pain and shaking in cold sweat, I was not exactly patient, joyful, or peaceful in my soul, as I could have been with more prayer and greater virtue. The prayers I managed to utter were almost all ejaculations to St. Erasmus (the Holy Helper in charge of stomach pain) or just begging for it all to end. I know it wasn’t sinful to ask for that. . .but it wasn’t virtue, either.

Luckily for me, I have an amazing older sister whom, when I roused her out of her happy repose by coming into her room with a face as white as death and a “I feel awful“, sprang into action, bathing my face with a cool bath cloth, massaging and applying essential oils, until I felt human again. You never quite appreciate just how wonderful it is to feel normal (or at least not in pain) until you’ve felt miserable.

I spent most of yesterday on the couch under a couple of blankets, dealing with a minor sore throat that had already been bothering me Wednesday night, as well as a headache that resulted from not having coffee that morning on account of my stomach. It felt rather like one thing after another, but I was kind of enjoying the drama of it (melancholic to the end) and the attention and love I was receiving. Who wouldn’t, right?

But, once the morning’s misery was gone and I had time to think, I became more and more conscious that I had missed an opportunity. I hadn’t exercised the heroic virtue I’d always imagined I would meet suffering with. I had barely prayed. I had, even after the worst was gone, given in to pampering and pitying myself.

What had just happened?

In a word, I came to realize that, while I had expected to go before the very Face of Christ in Adoration yesterday, He came to me instead first thing with His bloodied, disfigured, forsaken Countenance, looking for my embrace. And I didn’t recognize Him.

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“Jesus has always many who love His heavenly kingdom, but few who bear His cross. He has many who desire consolation, but few who care for trial. He finds many to share His table, but few to take part in His fasting. All desire to be happy with Him; few wish to suffer anything for Him. Many follow Him to the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the chalice of His passion. Many revere His miracles; few approach the shame of the Cross. Many love Him as long as they encounter no hardship; many praise and bless Him as long as they receive some comfort from Him. . .Those, on the contrary, who love Him for His own sake and not for any comfort of their own, bless Him in all trials and anguish of heart as well as in the bliss of consolation. Even if He should never give them consolation, yet they would continue to praise Him and wish always to give Him thanks. What power there is in pure love for Jesus– love that is free from all self-interest and self-love!”
-The Imitation of Christ

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“. . .the occasions for embracing my Spouse have certainly not been lacking. . .but these are so many occasions for love that I have to be even more rooted in God.”

  I had behaved like Simon rather than Veronica, shrinking from suffering rather than reaching out for the Face of my God, hidden in pain.

But, just as Our Lord fell and rose, fell and rose as he climbed that road with Simon, I see Him at my side teaching me gently through my failure that I must rise up with a greater humility. I must become more rooted in Him, so that the next time I have such an occasion to help Him bear a splinter of His Cross, I will embrace Him, forsaken and full of sorrows, in my pain, and let Him free my love from all self-interest and self-love.

I didn’t read the following antiphon for St. Andrew’s feast yesterday until this morning (I probably should have read it sooner!), but it made me smile. I think this dear Apostle knew I needed his great example as I learned a lot about my own weakness on his feast day.

When the blessed Andrew had come to the place where the cross was prepared, he cried out and said: O good Cross, so long desired, and now made ready for my longing soul! I come unto thee with confidence and joy; do thou also joyfully receive me, the disciple of Him Who hung upon thee.

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Dear St. Andrew, pray for me!

“When it is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather you will regret having suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly.”
-Blessed Sebastian Valfre

So yes, I am really thankful that yesterday didn’t turn out the way I expected it to.  Having just finished a few days ago the first week of preparation for Total Consecration, which is dedicated especially to “Obtain Knowledge of Yourself”, yesterday came as the unexpected answer to all those prayers for humility and self-knowledge. One might say “be careful what you pray for”; but, honestly, what is there to fear? Could there be a better gift from Our Blessed Mother than a share in her profound humility?

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“. . .it is from her that we hope for light to know ourselves. It is near her, we shall be able to measure the abyss of our miseries without despairing.”

As Advent begins and I look to the coming of Christ at Christmas, I can only pray that I will grow in the humility, courage, and true love of the Blessed Virgin, so that I will be prepared to embrace Him when He comes searching for my embrace in His distressing disguise, looking for someone, as He says He is, that would grieve together with Him, one that would comfort Him

A very blessed First Friday to you as this liturgical year draws to an end.
Cor Jesu, patiens et multae misericordiae, miserere nobis!
Cor Jesu, attritum propter scelera nostra, miserere nobis!

 

LL