31 December 2015

Luke 12

Several verses from this week's chapter jumped out at me as appropriate to today, on the eve of a new year. 

And I say to you, my friends: Be not afraid of them who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.

But I will shew you whom you shall fear: fear ye him, who after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell. Yea, I say to you, fear him.

And I say to you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God.

But he that shall deny me before men, shall be denied before the angels of God.

15 And he said to them: Take heed and beware of all covetousness; for a man's life doth not consist in the abundance of things which he possesseth.

34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

It's certainly easy, too easy, to find things to be fearful about in the world today. But Christ here provides a perspective-check: preserving our physical wellbeing, even our very lives, is not as important as defending our spiritual wellbeing. Not to say that we can't or shouldn't take care of our and our dependants' physical needs, but if we believe that our spiritual wellbeing is as important as Christ says it is, that belief will be reflected in our priorities. I don't know about you, but my day-to-day priorities could stand a little reorganizing here...

Verses 8 and 9 sort of tie into that, but specifically regarding how our spiritual health is manifested in our words and actions. 

"...for a man's life doth not consist in the abundance of things he possesseth." The gentleness of this reminder is actually what stopped me. It's not so much a 'woe to you wicked covetous people' as it is nudge to remember that we're all inclined to this in one way or another, so we need to be on guard for it because allowing ourselves to dwell on or act on covetous thoughts will not benefit us. 

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Pretty much sums it all up, right? Our "treasure" is whatever we safeguard, build up, single out as our priority, "set our hearts on." 

I'm not the biggest fan of New Years resolutions, certainly in part because I'd be lucky to remember any of them by the second week in January. But as we begin a new year, I'm hoping to come back to these verses a couple of times as reminders of what Christ is looking for from me.

23 December 2015

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, God with us, our King and lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their savior; come to save us, O Lord our God!

The last O Antiphon; tomorrow night, we celebrate the long-awaited Savior's birth. We proclaim Him our Lord, our God, our king, our savior. Emmanuel, God with us. Though we have one more day before Christmas, this last antiphon carries a uniquely excited, eager note: we expect Him. We know that he is coming, and we hover tonight on the cusp of that joyous proclamation the shepherds will hear tomorrow night: a child born, a savior, Christ the Lord!

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!

22 December 2015

O Rex Gentium

O King of the nations, desire of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

King and Keystone, two images of the key piece without which everything below them falls apart. The king holds together his kingdom as surely as a keystone holds up an arch. Without Him, we are jumbled, fallen pieces; with Him, parts of a cohesive, functioning whole. 

In the context of King and Keystone, today's antiphon's description of Christ as the "desire of every human heart" becomes self-evident: everyone desires wholeness, even if they don't realize that the wholeness they seek is only found in connection with Christ.

O come, desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease
And fill the world with heaven's peace.
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

21 December 2015

O Oriens

O rising dawn, brightness of light eternal, and sun of justice: come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Say, there're those folks sitting "in darkness and in the shadow of death" again, still referring to us, of course. This antiphon reiterates that we aren't merely "looking forward" to Christ's coming—we are desperately longing for Him. Longing for His enlightenment, and particularly so on this dark Solstice night.

We know a little bit about darkness, here in Alaska.

And on this darkest day of the year, we boldly proclaim Christ to be our light. Not just a light, but the "rising dawn": the light whose arrival we so eagerly watch for on the horizon. The "brightness of light eternal," shining through the bleakest night. The "sun of justice," putting all things to rights.

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

20 December 2015

Luke 11

And he said to them: Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and shall say to him: Friend, lend me three loaves,

Because a friend of mine is come off his journey to me, and I have not what to set before him.

And he from within should answer, and say: Trouble me not, the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.

Yet if he shall continue knocking, I say to you, although he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend; yet, because of his importunity, he will rise, and give him as many as he needeth.

And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you.

10 For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.

Encouragement to keep knocking, to keep asking. I've fallen into an overthinking pattern lately that's left me needing to hear this particular passage; I somehow reasoned myself to a place of thinking that it was "more right" to just pray for God's will to be done in whatever given situation instead of making specific intentions. That praying "May Your will be done in X's life" was what I ought to be saying, rather than "Please help X to get better." And because of this, praying for people was starting to be a source of stress and confusion and even guilt.

But right here we have Christ instructing us to bring those specific petitions to God: "Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you." God does want me to bring my needs and particular prayers to Him, and even to continue doing so over and over again.

Understanding that prayers may not be answered the way I think they should be is still important, of course; God sees everything, and I see only a small part, so any time one of us is wrong about what the best course of action is, it's always going to be me. But even in spite of my shortsightedness, God invites me to ask, to seek, to knock. What a gift!

O Clavis David

O Key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens: come, and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.

What "captive" are we speaking of here, asking Christ to come set free? Ourselves. Each one of us is that captive, trapped "in darkness and in the shadow of death" by our sins. Only Christ has the key, is the Key, to free us from our prisons.

Today's antiphon sounds reminiscent of Matthew 16:19, wherein Christ tells Peter that He gives him the "keys to the kingdom of heaven," and bestows upon him (and a few chapters later, the other apostles) the authority to bind and loose, open and shut. In today's verse, we proclaim belief that Christ comes bearing these powers, in order that He (and down through the ages, priests and bishops to whom the ability to cooperate with His authority has been passed down) may loose us from the sins that bind us.

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

19 December 2015

O Radix Jesse

O Root of Jesse, that stands for an ensign of the people, before whom the kings keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make application: come to deliver us, and tarry not.

Getting impatient for our Advent waiting to end? "Tarry not," we pray today. Come as quickly as possible! 

"Root of Jesse," we call Him, proclaiming Him the successor and fulfillment of the Davidic line. This antiphon weaves together the old covenant and the new: He comes to the Israelites awaiting the Messiah, but also to the Gentiles to whom the promise of salvation had not originally been revealed. All of us, all the world, grow impatient for the deliverance that Christ brings.

O come, Thou root of Jesse's stem;
From all distress 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.

18 December 2015

A Late-Advent SQT


We're in the midst of the Advent ember days, folks: the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday following the feast of St Lucy (Dec 13). In the Shifflerhaus, that means meatless meals plus discussion, each time someone wants meat, of how giving up meat winds up giving us lots of opportunities to remember (each time we want it and realize we can't have it) to be grateful for all of the blessings we've received—especially the blessings of the Christmas season which we're fast approaching!—and to use the gifts God gives us as best we can.

Even more than ember days, the O Antiphons tell me that we're flying toward the end of Advent. Those began yesterday, with O Sapientia (O Wisdom); today we sing O Adonai, O mighty Lord. I introduced Little Bear to the hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel early this Advent, swapping it for one of the songs he'd been accustomed to hearing at bedtime, so by this point he sings the refrain with me and is enthusiastic about having me sing the verse for the day's Antiphon, over and over again all day long. He's also somehow developed a firm belief that the only place you can breath during the refrain is between the second "rejoice" and "Emmanuel." I'm certainly the one who taught him that we breathe before the "Emmanuel" instead of after, but when I'm feeding Kit, sometimes it's hard to hold enough air to skip the breath before "O Israel"!

Upon turning 6 months old this week, Kit promptly produced her first tooth! It completely took me by surprise—she hadn't been fussy at all, and the "chewing on everything" has been going on long enough that it's just normal. Long about bedtime that first night, she discovered the tooth for herself, biting down on the finger she was gumming. I'm wondering if there might be another lurking just beneath the surface, because her gnawing on hard things certainly hasn't slacked off since the tooth popped through; if anything, it's increased.

Speaking of Kit, she's still having some troubles, but they're seeming to be getting smaller and less frequent. We will see how the weekend goes, and what the pediatrician has to say at her 6 month appointment on Tuesday. I'm planning to stay off dairy for at least the 21 days that Jenna recommended, despite the fact that people have been bringing us delicious-smelling Christmas treats that I can't eat... Nope. Not complaining. Matt and Little Bear will certainly enjoy them all for me, and then I won't feel as badly for making mostly dairy-free treats this year.

I have not the brain this evening to make a separate post for this, so here's a super quick look at today's O Antiphon:

O Lord and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai, come, and redeem us with outstretched arms.

Lord, ruler, lawgiver. All mighty titles, presenting an image of strength and power... and then the antiphon throws in that paradox at the end: "come and redeem us with outstretched arms." How did Christ redeem us? With arms outstretched in submission, obedience, sacrifice. If we're acclaiming Him as our Lord, the one who leads us, then we are by extension agreeing to follow where He leads.

O come, o come, Thou Lord of might, 
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice, rejoice; Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

The only physical preparing-for-Christmas that I accomplished today was reorganizing the living room to make a spot for the tree; Matt and Little Bear are planning to go out tree-hunting tomorrow, because the low tomorrow is still above 0, but our temperatures are supposed to begin tumbling Sunday, bottoming out close to -30 by Christmas. Hey, that'll be a good reason to stay inside and do the baking later on, right?

Actually, I intentionally didn't bake anything today. Matt and I were talking about Advent and Christmas the other day, the way we celebrate them compared to the way we both grew up, and we discovered that while we've done a thorough job of keeping Advent as Advent, we haven't done very well at celebrating Christmas as Christmas. We both grew up with Christmas music and treats and a festive air permeating the days leading up to Christmas Day, and by making our Advents simple, we've lost that sense of festivity. And we miss it! So we're going to try to put it back where it belongs by intentionally celebrating the Christmas season: December 26 through Epiphany the Christmas lights will be on, carols playing, cookies and candies being made... Honestly, I'm not really sure what it'll look like yet; it's our first attempt. But it'll hopefully feel more Christmassy than past years!

Have you heard of the Christmas Rose Novena? It started on December 12, so obviously I'm quite late to be writing about it, but maybe think about filing it away for next year, if you're interested. It's a novena to St Therese of Liseux, and you say this prayer 12 times each day for the 12 days leading up to Christmas:

Remember, O Gracious Little Rose Queen, your promise to spend your heaven in doing good on earth and even, if necessary, to come down to help those who ask your aid. If it is God's Holy Will, and my dispositions are pleasing to Him by their honesty and true desire for goodness, keep your promise to shower roses and send me some visible sign of your heavenly friendship for me and for those I love. In memory of the great interior enlightenment you received on a certain Christmas of your early life, ask God for a "Christmas Rose" for me in these my urgent needs, that I may experience an increase in faith, hope and confidence. (Meditate, here upon your petitions so that St. Therese can understand why your are asking her to assist you.)  I desire to know and to accept real objective truth about life and death. Give me assurance that you understand and will remain my heavenly friend, so that one day we may be together with God. Keep your promise to give some answer! Amen.

St. Therese of Lisieux ~ Pray for us!

I am absolutely terrible at remembering to say the prayers before 11 o'clock at night, but I haven't missed a night yet! I've been meaning to try to connect with St Therese more for a while, so this was a good opportunity, and saying the prayers each night has given me a great deal of peace over my worries about Kit.

Hope your weekend is warmer than ours! As usual, you can find more quick takes at  This Ain't The Lyceum.

17 December 2015

O Sapientia

O Antiphons time already! Goodness, how quickly Advent goes. You're probably busy and preoccupied with a myriad of things; I know I am! But let's try to quickly take advantage of these focuses for reflection that the Church gives us in these final days of Advent.

O Wisdom, who came forth 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.

The phrasing of "reaching from end to end" is tickling my brain this year. What does it mean? Is it temporal, from the beginning to the end of time, or earth's creation to its destruction? Or spatial, "from the River to the ends of the earth," as the coming king's sovereignty was described in today's psalm? Or both, or something else entirely?

Ends. I have a lot of loose ends right now, a lot of things I'm trying to finish up, a lot of questions I'm trying to find answers to. These ends, I'm impatient to hurry and have arrive already. Other ends, like the end of Advent (how is it already almost over?), the end of a little one's littleness (how does she have a tooth already?), I'm unprepared for.

"O Wisdom... reaching from end to end, and ordering all things..." I need that wisdom, that order. The long to-do list, the questions I can't resolve by myself, all the "ends" that I look at and feel are coming too quickly or too slowly, they're all going to come in God's time. If they feel "off" to me, I'm the one who is off kilter, and I need to learn to hand God my master plan and let Him teach me to order it rightly.

O come, thou Wisdom from on high
Who orderst all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show
And teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice, rejoice; Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

14 December 2015

Luke 10

42 But one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.

A brief reminder that many of us probably need in this busy season: Am I too busy preparing things for the celebration of Christ's birth to listen to Him here and now?

Martha's busyness isn't wrong; the trouble comes when she dedicates herself to her work so completely that she sees listening to Christ as a distraction from something more important. Could Martha have listened while she worked? Probably. Could Mary have set the table while she listened? Probably. But Martha, like I, like many of us, needed to be reminded that listening to the Word and receiving Him in our hearts is ultimately more important than any of our physical preparations for His coming.

How are you listening in the midst of this busy season of preparation? I've recently been appreciating the daily readings and reflections from Blessed Is She. I'd sure like to say that I read them both first thing in the morning... but most days, it's mid afternoon at the earliest, more often in the evening while the baby nurses. They get read before I fall asleep, at any rate. Often I feel like I "should be being productive" instead of sitting and reading, but I'm trying to remember the value of this "best part," and choose it like Mary did.

11 December 2015

Seven Quick Takes

Linking up with SQT guest hostess Anabelle of Written by the Finger of God this week! Yesterday I promised tales aplenty from this all-the-things crazy week, and here they are...

Kit and I spent last Saturday morning at the walk-in clinic, and came home with a possible diagnosis of lactose intolerance for her and a ban of all forms of milk products for me. I bake all of our everything, and most of my breads have milk, butter, or both; my mother-in-law's delicious pumpkin bread is pretty much the only exception, calling as it does for canola oil and water instead. I'm reluctant to admit to how much butterkin (butternut squash/pumpkin) bread I've eaten this week...

We did also learn that taking my standard sandwich bread recipe, replacing the milk with water, and using all white flour (gasp!) (only because I ran out of whole grain flours and the baby was asleep on my shoulder so I couldn't grind more), and kneading for a solid 10 minutes, produced a respectable loaf that held up well both fresh and toasted.

Sunday, the feast of St Nicholas, we woke up to chocolate coins in our shoes, which I suddenly couldn't eat because there is milk in everything and it is ridiculous and frustrating. Since chocolate is pretty much my favorite thing in the world, Matt's and my coins went directly into his bag to take to work the next day. And then he went and brought home a plate of fudge, which has been sitting in the fridge taunting me all. week. long. Anyway. Bigger things than fudge to fret about this week...

On Monday, the well stopped filling the holding tank, and we ran out of water. No showers, laundry, dishwashing until the well started working properly again; since Monday it has done a not-quite-mediocre job, struggling to fill the 200-gallon tank even with all of us (both apartments draw water from the same well/tank) severely conserving water.

Well, it was doing a just about mediocre job until Wednesday, when water pressure somehow sheared the valve off one of the pipes next to our washing machine. Water was fountaining out of the pipe, splattering the garage ceiling, covering the floor, soaking everything in a 6' radius... until the holding tank emptied, and then the well stopped filling it again and there was no more water. Again.

We do have an incredibly clean garage floor now, though.

Thursday the plumbers came out and replaced the broken valve, and the water delivery truck filled the holding tank. We've been asked to continue conserving water until the landlord can get a well guy out to hopefully fix the well. I totally understand the request—having water delivered is expensive—but I'm not quite sure what "conserve" means at this point. How long, realistically, would one expect 200 gallons of water to last two households?

But Tuesday was good: it was the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, we had supper at my parents' house (which came with the added bonus of not accumulating more dishes in our kitchen that I couldn't wash), and we were cheerfully laboring under the delusion that by giving the well a little rest it would be back to normal soon. Oh, and we made it to noon Mass for the solemnity as a family! Matt was able to take a long lunch to come with Little Bear and Kit and me, and we happened to have a visiting priest from the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, who gave a wonderful homily.

First thing Thursday morning Kit had a follow-up with our regular pediatrician, who said that given her symptoms, A) Kit much more likely has cow's milk protein allergy (CMPA) than lactose intolerance, although B) it's a little unusual for CMPA to have taken so long to show up, but C) at this point, there's more evidence to support CMPA than any of the other possible causes he could think of for her symptoms. So I'm off dairy completely until next weekend, when I can try reintroducing baked goods containing milk/butter as long as she's doing fine. If symptoms return while I'm off dairy, then it will be clear that CMPA isn't the culprit, and we'll have to start doing tests to see what's really going on.

And because I haven't been able to do any Christmas baking yet, both because of A) not wanting to make more dishes and then feel guilty for using water to wash them, and B) slightly panicking over the idea that I may have to go off dairy completely for another year or longer and feeling completely overwhelmed by the question of whether to abandon our classic butter-bearing recipes, rework them to be dairy-free, or just make them the right way for Matt and Little Bear and tell myself that God is helping me lose weight this Christmas... ahem. Yes, slightly overwhelmed here. But that's effectively kicked me out of the kitchen this week, so we've been doing lots of reading:

And, apparently saving this most exciting news for last, Little Bear is definitely reading! That little booklet he's looking at? He read that story to me yesterday, with very little help. And today on our way in to Mass, I heard him in the back seat sounding out words in a picture book; I didn't quite have the brain power at the moment to explain silent Es, so I just let him laugh at the book about baby moose for calling them "moosE"s. Having him so excited about learning to read is so much fun!

10 December 2015

Luke 9

Late, so late. But I legitimately forgot to read and write about the chapter this time, instead of just putting it off!

...Actually, I'm not sure whether that's better or worse.

Anyway, there will be stories aplenty tomorrow about this week of watery angst that will hopefully excuse my tardiness with this, but I'll leave them for my Seven Quick Takes and just jump straight into the ninth chapter of Luke here.

Foreshadowing. So much foreshadowing in this chapter.

Now Herod, the tetrarch, heard of all things that were done by him; and he was in a doubt, because it was said
By some, that John was risen from the dead: but by other some, that Elias had appeared; and by others, that one of the old prophets was risen again.
And Herod said: John I have beheaded; but who is this of whom I hear such things? And he sought to see him.

If I recall correctly, Herod's desire to see Christ doesn't come up again until the Passion narrative, when Pilate sends Christ over to Herod briefly.

23 And he said to all: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

"Take up his cross daily..." Reading that today and knowing the whole story, we have the context to know that Christ is using imagery from his coming Passion, and so can interpret that as a call to follow in Christ's footsteps, through sacrifice and dying to self. But what context did his disciples have? Peter just affirmed that Christ is the Messiah, the Savior of Israel; at this point, a Roman instrument of torture has no part in their concept of being saved. 

29 And whilst he prayed, the shape of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became white and glittering.
30 And behold two men were talking with him. And they were Moses and Elias,
31 Appearing in majesty. And they spoke of his decease that he should accomplish in Jerusalem.

The Transfiguration physically foreshadows the glorified, risen Body of Christ. The "shape of his countenance was altered;" possibly a prevenient explanation of the disciples on the road to Emmaus not recognizing the risen Christ? I love the word "prevenient"—it made me ridiculously happy to hear it at Mass on Tuesday. Am I a dork? Yes, yes I am.

Moses and Elias/Elijah also appear "in majesty," which the longer I think about it, the more it confuses me. Our physical bodies will be raised and perfected at the final judgement, and presumably that's the "majesty" here, but if Christ hadn't died yet (thus opening Heaven to those who had already died), how did Moses and Elias...? Because God is outside of time, and because nothing is impossible for God, I suppose is probably the best answer. 

Also, given the centuries separating them and the clear Hebrew prohibition of graven images, how did Peter know that the two men were Moses and Elias? I wonder if there was any way, apart from God allowing him to know it.