Monday, December 31, 2018

Flight 2018 Reports the Runway is in Sight

It's been quite a flight, from January 1, 2018 to the present and in relative moments, we'll be across the threshold and wheels on the ground.  As one incredibly grateful for the blessings experienced in the past 365 days, I am also one who'll be happy to close the calendar on a year that watched civility and public discourse die just a little more.  Friendships were made, friendships were solidified, and some friendships fell victim to  our toxic political climate.

We'll have to see just what 2019 holds for us all and our God willing, in another 365 days we'll take a cup o' kindness yet, For Auld Lang Syne.

Friday, December 28, 2018

In Christmastide, The Feast of the Holy Innocents

From today's Gospel:
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him." 14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, "Out of Egypt I called My Son." 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: 18 "A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping [for] her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more." Matthew 2:13-18, NKJV
"The Feast of the Holy Innocents", a day of which I became aware of very early on in my faith's journey, at the tender age of six.  Back then, it stood in sharp, harsh juxtaposition between the tenderness of the Nativity of Christ Jesus and the Barbaric world that the Logos of God was was born into.  The cries of Mary in the throes of labor were contrasted by the weeping of Rachel crying for her sons who were no more.  At six years old, it was a frightening story, but one that was devoid of personal context or reference.  Today, I can sigh and say that I've heard "Rachel weeping" far too many times.  I've heard this in a mother's wail, whose son had just taken his own life.  I've heard this in an anguish of a grandmother, whose grandson's life was extinguished in an automobile accident.  Both of these specific examples involved those young men who were created in the Imago Dei, in the Image of God, whose lives were taken out of season by the archenemy of the Almighty.

I've encountered skeptics who, when faced with this massacre of baby boys, aged two and under, often question why there's no "independent' account of this event outside of Saint Matthew's Gospel.  I typically offer this response.  Herod, Known as "Herod the Great" was a client of the Roman Empire who ruled the Roman Provence of Judea from 37 BC until his death in 4 BC.  While he may be remembered for his architectural upgrades to the Temple in Jerusalem, he can equally be remembered for his bloody slaughter of many in his own family, to include his wife, three of his sons, 300 of his military staff and countless others as recounted by the Historian Josephus.  From a historical sense, a few dozen toddlers in a rural village would hardly rate a footnote.  Yet for Rachel, the lifeless baby boy in her arms was her world, not a footnote.

The lamentation of this horrific event is captured in the melody we know as the "Coventry Carol", a carol penned in the mid to late Sixteenth Century.
Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child, Bye bye, lully, lullaby Thou little tiny child, Bye bye, lully, lullay. O sisters too, how may we do For to preserve this day This poor youngling for whom we sing, "Bye bye, lully, lullay"? Herod the king, in his raging, Charg├Ęd he hath this day His men of might in his own sight All young children to slay. That woe is me, poor child, for thee And ever mourn and may For thy parting neither say nor sing, "Bye bye, lully, lullay."
I've included it in this version of the carol, as performed by the choir of King's College.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Crossing, from Advent to Christmastide

From Yesterday's Gospel Reading:
"In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever." And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home." Luke 1:39-56 (ESV)
Yesterday's Gospel Reading for the final Sunday in Advent gave me much to think about as we enjoyed a quiet Sunday.  Much of it centered on Mary, mother of The Christ.  

In my faith's journey, Ive encountered extremes in how this your maiden of Nazareth has been seen by professing Christians of all sides of the faith spectrum.  Over the years, I've witnessed Mary elevated to the place of Co-mediatrix by some, to being almost completely marginalized by others; reducing her to a status slightly above being an egg donor.  Now in Adventide, 2018, the wackiest of the fringe left have attempted to make her a poster child for the woman "#MeToo" movement by inferring that she was an unwilling victim of a sexual assault.  I want to believe that no serious adult would see this latter assertion as being nothing beyond patent nonsense.  Then, there's the sweet, sentimental Christmas ballad by Mark Lowry in & Buddy Greene, and performed by Michael English and a host of others. This song posited the idea that perhaps the fair Mary may not have known the import of the child developing in her womb.

Given the scope of Old Testament prophecy, only a relatively small population at the time of Christ's birth that could meet the profile of the one who was to bear the Christ Child.  A Hebrew woman, a virgin of the Tribe of Judah and a descendant of the house of David who would be a Nazarene who found herself in labor in Bethlehem could be the one.  Clearly, the providential hand of the Almighty was at work; she was the chosen one. 

In engaging the fringe left or fluffy sentimentality of the popular culture, we can, through Saint Luke's account, demonstrate that Mary was not only cognizant of just what child she'd be carrying, but that she was a fully willing party to this Divine opus of grace.  Her words as seen in the Magnificat capture this.  Within this brief passage of the Gospel, Mary seems to speak as both poetess and prophetess, declaring the praises of the Almighty God and his promises to His people, Israel. 

So, tonight as the sun sets on our individual worlds, the setting sun will light ablaze the fifth candle the Advent Wreath, and churches will be gathering to welcome the Christ Child afresh.  And as we welcome Him once more, may we strive to apprehend an understanding of Mary, one that's rooted in Holy Scripture rather than popular culture.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Advent's Longing

Advent, a season characterized by hope, longing, and expectancy.  This season was observed by the faithful as early as the Fourth Century.  It was seen as a time to remember both the Messiah's incarnation as the Christ Child, and a recognition that the infant born of Mary & Joseph that night in Bethlehem, would return to us as he promised.  The swaddled, helpless babe of the manger would (and will) return as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.  

The promise is more sure that our Earth's axis, and we along with all of creation await the consummation of the promise.  The ancient Antiphon Veni, Veni Emmanuel brilliantly captures this longing.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Tuesday Reverie in Advent

Its a bright, cold Tuesday as we press into Adventide 2018 here in Suburbia Majora.  Today is just a bit colder, considering that our Republic now mourns the passing of who might be considered one of our last Kinder, Gentler Presidents of recent memory President George Herbert Walker Bush.

In an age where bluster and bombast seem to be our chief bi-partisan activity, many who know nothing of President Bush would be easily tempted to dismiss him as a meek, milquetoast figure.  This could not be farther from the truth.  Unlike our present age where male adolescence seems to last deep into the 3rd decade of life, President Bush lived in a world where 18 year old males were men in every sense of the world.  Though denied a vote, or even the privilege of legally hoisting a frosty beer in toast to their victories, these young men courageously rose to whatever challenge standing in the way.  Their safe spaces were their foxholes, armor, or aircraft cockpits.  "Triggered" was what happened to their weapons that were wielded in defense of liberty, and the annihilation of Totalitarian Fascism.  Which speaking of, they clearly saw true fascism for what is was, not merely things or ideas that they found distasteful.

I would challenge any would-be rising young person to consider the lessons of lives the like of our late President Bush.  Rather than allowing Leftist organs to tell you what to think, consider the man in his own words.

 George H W Bush
June 12, 1924 - November 30, 2018