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A Christmas meditation

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Mary

Warm, soft, vulnerable and alive, this sleeping One in my lap. I caress the tiny forearm, touch the curled, unsure hands. I can’t stop kissing his fast-beating heart, listening to his unpracticed, uneven breath. I touch his soft, dark, baby hair, nuzzling the top of his head with my nose. His little feet, slightly cold- so tiny and perfect- have never yet touched the ground. I hold them in my hands to warm them. I kiss their satiny soles. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” my heart in wonder repeats, repeats. I press him to me, this Lord of mine, with a profound, peaceful, joyful gratitude and love, a protective love. He opens his eyes, still that deep slate gray of the newly arrived human. They hold the newborn’s sage, open gaze; mildly curious, seeming to drink in the powerful love pouring out of the utterly enchanted person looking back at them. He blinks innocently at the tears falling from my eyes into his.

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Jesus in His Sacred Humanity

I am cold, my arms flailing awkwardly and out of my control. I’m confused. I don’t know what’s happening. I need comfort, warmth, nourishment. And then I am warm, pressed soothingly all around. A deep, sweet peace flows into my mouth and through my body as my unruly hands tangle in her hair; Mama, Mama. The only thing I know is this love, this union, this protection and assurance. I relax completely.

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TheBlessed Trinity

I am that I am, Being, Love, Light and Life. I surround my Son, inhabit my Son, I am within my Son, I love my Son, I am my Son.

I have remained what I have been and will be eternally, and I have become what I was not. In my love of humanity, I have finally become fully human, entering the world of time and space in the most profound and humble way. So great is my love, I have been conceived and born into this human cloud of unknowing, emptying Myself, taking the form of a slave, in order to free and divinize my beloved humanity, made of dust, that they might share my Divine Life.

Vulnerable, human, innocent and unknowing, be, oh Christian soul. I have shown you the way to Me: this little Child, this Way, this Truth, this Life, full of humility and trust, gentle, humble, simple, with the need, the open-ness of the newborn. Come to Me, forgetting everything but Love Itself, and be born again. Be little, be free, be loved. Never be afraid, it is I, the Little One, asking for your love.

Answer Me, say from the heart:

Truly, I have set my soul 

In silence and in peace

As the Divine Child has rest in His mother’s arms,

Even so, my soul.

grayscale photo of baby feet with father and mother hands in heart signs
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Living the sacredness of Ordinary Time

My daughter, Maire, got in trouble at her Catholic middle school for wearing green nail polish, which was against the rules. (Only clear or light pink nail polish allowed, if I remember right.) When asked about her indiscretion, she said, “It’s for Ordinary Time!”

I laughed hearing about that. At least she remembered what season we were in as Church, and it meant something to her.

We have just begun Ordinary Time, that big section of green, the liturgical color of the current Church  season, that fills most of the wheel illustrating the Liturgical Year.

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We have special things we do at other seasons in the Church year. What about Ordinary Time?

Ordinary Time has it’s own feel. I associate its’ post Pentecost beginning with that first breath of cool air from the church door as I step into the intimate hush of daily Mass on a hot Summer day. This season is a contrast of calm and peace after the penance of Lent and the holy fire of Easter and Pentecost. It’s a return to the simple holiness of daily life. 15039609_10211644917782949_4725375496342074872_o

 

One of our family albums is titled, “Ordinary Time.” It is a scrapbook of our family life during a few months of Summer and Fall. Into it I recorded our daily “rule of life;” (or sometimes not-so-rule,) song lyrics to music we were listening to at the time, the every day prayers we prayed, the silly things we did on the spur of the moment like a spontaneous family dance in the middle of dinner, as well as our little celebrations of the feasts of Ordinary Time, such as the Nativity of Mary (September 8.)

We always made Mother Mary a birthday cake. “Chocolate. What other kind of cake would she eat, right?” the caption  says in green ink.

We remembered this part of the Church year by keeping green candles on our family alter. We prayed a “kid version” (when the kids were younger,) of the Liturgy of the Hours I put together for family prayer, which always reflected the current season.

Ordinary Time in Dubina
Ordinary Time at Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Dubina

At Mass, the vestments and alter cloths will be green or have green trim. My mom, always the gardener, used to say this was because “green is the color of life.” In Ordinary Time, the focus shifts from the culminating moments in the life of Christ and His Church; the birth of Jesus, His death and resurrection, and then Pentecost, to the space in between where most of life is lived.

 

“Ordinary” comes from the word, “Order.” So we enter into the daily order of the Church at this time of year, and the emphasis of the Gospel readings is on the ministry of Jesus; His preaching and healing, His daily encounters with people, His conversations, his journeys.

Ordinary time can be a time we pay special attention to our own encounters, conversations, and the events of our own lives, and how God speaks to us in these. How does the life of Jesus unfold in your own?

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What do you do every day? I know I spend a lot of time coping, and sometimes I need to cultivate more conscious awareness of life so it doesn’t just happen to me and I miss it.

I am not by nature a very rule or schedule oriented person. But I do know paying attention to my loosely interpreted cadenza of a life, makes it more of a little holy rule instead of a stream of consciousness in which I might forget to practice the presence of God. * When I can lightly observe the rhythm of the day with holy intention, I feel peaceful and connected.

Ordinary Time is a great time to learn to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, to read the daily mass readings, (or maybe just the Gospel each day, as my youngest adult daughter and I do.) It’s a good time to get in the habit of sanctifying time by stopping, or at least pausing, in our day, to pray, even for a moment. It’s a good time to remember to look around and notice how beautiful God is, and how He is everywhere represented and speaking to us.

Now is a great time to carry Jesus into the work we do, and to consciously do all we do as it truly is; through Him, with Him and in Him. We can try doing every task with gentleness and love. Whether we sit, or lie down, or are talking to our children, whether we are in our house, driving our car, doing the shopping or at work, when we are sitting with friends, or going for a walk, we can try always to be remembering the nearness of God, even in our breathing.

“God is alive. I am standing in His presence.” ~Antiphon from The Carmelite Proper for the feast of Elijah the Prophet (July 20)

We can each day seek to understand how it is that His yoke is easy, His burden light, His Heart meek and humble. We can slowly begin to incorporate that lightness, that easiness, that meekness and humility of heart into our lives as we become more aware of the sweet companionship of His spirit every day.

This is how we enjoy life as people who consciously live in God; by bringing the remembrance of Him into the sacred Ordinariness of our time.

from my out door reading grove :)

“See that I am God. See that I am in everything. See that I do everything. See that I have never stopped ordering my works, nor ever shall, eternally.

~ Revelations of Divine Love by St. Julian of Nowich

* The Practice of the Presence of God is a term coined by the Carmelite mystic, Brother Lawrence, and is the title of a collection of his writings.

on our family land outside of College Station
Green, the color of life

 

 

 

What are you waiting for this Advent?

What are you waiting for this Advent?

Since my conversion* I have seen Advent as a time of waiting for Christmas, or as commemorating the waiting of humanity, the waiting of Israel, the waiting of Mary and Joseph for the Messiah to come.

I have thought of it as an entrance into the mystery of that expectation both a memory of humanity and something that makes  it present.  Also, as the Church teaches, I know Advent as our renewed expectation of the Parousia, the return of the Lord.

Something else is happening with me this year. I find myself sensing that God is about to act in my life in a mighty way, a way I will be conscious of. I feel it like a rising tide, steady and slow, but sure.

God is coming. And He will set things right. Even if setting things right means I become free to accept and walk away from some painful and deep running, long term injustices I have been coming to terms with. Even if that is what is happening, I am happy.

“Lift up your heads, for your redemption is at hand.” (Luke 21:28)

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However, I have a feeling that change is coming. Clarity is coming. An unravelling of seemingly impossible knots is already starting to happen. Justice is rising gently, truly.

I believe it.

Something about it is not just personal to me, but also universal.

Advent, in a very real way, is a special time of grace.

I hope this is happening for you, too.

I hope it is happening for our country, and for the world.

Let us prepare the way of the Lord. (Isaiah 40:3) 

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His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. (see Isaiah 58: 8-9) 

Of course that is so.

But this year, as we wait for the Lord, and we make way in our lives,

let’s really expect Him…

In our houses, for real…

In our lives.

God entered into time in a mighty way by the Incarnation and Nativity of the Lord.

Let it happen now to us.

Let there be a star.

See it.

Because it’s all true.

I don’t know about you,

But I think I will celebrate Christmas this year with my front door open.

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* I was baptized a Catholic October 23, 1990, at the age of 22. 🙂

 

 

 

Novena to the child Mary for the feast of her Presentation in the Temple, day nine

To begin, make the sign of the cross and pray the Sh’ma, a prayer the little Mary would have grown up reciting every day with her Jewish family and community:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

Holy Child Mary, gentle and humble of heart, you are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you are the fairest honor of our people!” (see Judith 15:9)

 

Reflection:

I wonder…. what did Little Mary see at the top of the Temple steps that made her ascend them so quickly, dancing with happiness? I think she saw what is promised to the pure of heart, not in the same way she later would in glory, but as she could on earth as the littlest and most clear-eyed of God’s children. Eve could see and talk to God originally. Mary reasonably could have too. Jesus offers this sight to us, when we believe and have hope that what we see dimly now we will see face to face as perhaps Mary did in that moment she looked up the Temple steps.

Maybe we can remember our Little Mother and try to “grow down, instead of up” as Shel Silverstein put it. Maybe we should carry this picture of Our Lady’s childhood close to our hearts that we may remember who we are and where we are going, that we might enter the Kingdom of God in the same way she ran up those steps. If the Kingdom is within us, why not start now? Ready, set… GO!

Last one up is a rotten egg!

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Little Mary, gentle, joyful, and humble of heart, make our hearts like your own, that we may reflect the love and life and joy that comes from the freedom of the children of God. 

Imagine Mary as a little girl; innocent, kind and wise. Take her hand and ask her to pray for you.  Think about your life, and what you need the most. Place your concerns in her hands to take to the Father. Know that her heart is love, and that it is filled with tenderness and open to the Spirit. She does not judge you, but sees you in humility, purity, and simplicity of heart. She sees who you are in God. That is what she sees. Open your heart to her.

Then pray, “Hail Mary…”

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Suggestion: Make an act of consecration to Mary today, or renew the one you have made. Do something or say something kind to a little girl in your life, and/ or donate to an organization that educates or benefits girls.

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A consecration to the Child Mary: 

My Little Mother, Sister, and Queen,

I give myself entirely to you;

and to show my devotion to you,

I consecrate to you this day my eyes,

my ears, my mouth, my heart,

my whole being without reserve.

Wherefore, Little Mother,

as I am your own,

keep me, guard me,

as your property and possession,

Make my heart like yours,

and let me live in the sweet companionship

of your brave and joyful spirit,

in constant awareness

of the tender

presence of the God.

Amen.

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Nina Maria

 

 

 

 

Novena to the Child Mary for the feast of her Presentation in the Temple Day Eight

To begin, make the sign of the cross and pray the Sh’ma, a prayer the little Mary would have grown up reciting every day with her Jewish family and community:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

Holy Child Mary, gentle and humble of heart, you are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you are the fairest honor of our people!” (see Judith 15:9)

Reflection:

“Do you want to see her?” Jesus asked St. Julian of Norwich.
“Can you see in her how you yourself are loved? It was for love of you that I made her so high, so noble, and so good. And this brings me great joy – and I want it to bring you joy, too.”
St. Julian reflects: “… in all this I was taught… to want to understand the virtues of her soul – her truth, her wisdom, and her love. Through understanding this I can learn to know myself and reverently praise God.” ~ From St. Julian’s book, Showings

When you think of Little Mary, what do you see about who you are and how God loves you? See yourself in God and God in yourself. Spend some time with this, and let yourself enjoy this love.

🙂

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Little Mary, gentle, joyful, and humble of heart, make our hearts like your own, that we may reflect the love and life and joy that comes from the freedom of the children of God. 

Imagine Mary as a little girl; innocent, kind and wise. Take her hand and ask her to pray for you.  Think about your life, and what you need the most. Place your concerns in her hands to take to the Father. Know that her heart is love, and that it is filled with tenderness and open to the Spirit. She does not judge you, but sees you in humility, purity, and simplicity of heart. She sees who you are in God. That is what she sees. Open your heart to her.

Then pray, “Hail Mary…”

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Cause of our joy.

 

“This is how,” Jesus says.

A reading from the Letter of Paul to the Galatians 2:19b-20

I have been crucified with Christ, and the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me. I still live my human life, but it is a life of faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

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The last few years have been so traumatic for me that I have felt alienated from everything and everyone, and like I would never be myself again.

Part of my healing in this latest phase of my journey has been to investigate for myself what really happened and to face the truth around my brother’s suicide, to ask questions I had been too freaked out to ask before, to recognize and re-claim my own experience of what happened after a truly dysfunctional family response that left me confused, dismayed, and even more traumatized.

I called my truth- seeking mission “The Immaculate Heart of Mary Detective Agency.” I thought this appropriate because the sword that pierced Mary’s heart, Simeon said, was “so that the secret thoughts of many may be revealed.

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I wanted to truly love my brother by understanding all of him, not just the parts that I had enjoyed so much all of my life, but all of him. I wanted to try to understand what drove him to do what he did.

I realized I didn’t have to wait around for people to quit lying to me and tell me what was going on. I could find out for myself. So I started asking questions and interviewing people who had the information I wanted, or a different perspective from my own as the sister and room mate I had been at the time.

Unexpectedly, the whole experience of the IHMDA has been empowering, though I uncovered rank injustice and malice I hadn’t known some people were even capable of.  I feel more alive than I have since all this tragedy began. I have a glimmer of an idea that I have a life and a future.

It seems to me that Mary’s heart has helped lay bare many truths, and strengthened me to deal with them.

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I am not sure what I will do next. But it seems God thinks my next step is to forgive. That message was in last Sunday’s Gospel. It seems to pop up everywhere I turn. I seem to read or see or hear something about forgiveness every day.

There is hardly anything I have not lost to some degree in the past couple of years of shock and trauma; my home, my life savings, my family, and the cohesion of my group of wonderful friends. Everything is strange now. I have even felt like I lost myself.

I am grateful for the good relationship between my daughters and me, though honestly, at times, even those sacrosanct relationships were violated and temporarily distorted by lies and manipulation.

What do I do with this horrible story? Sometimes I can hardly believe it myself.

How can I forgive the unforgivable? And how can I ever be a whole person again? How can I bear this?

I have been asking all that for a good while.

I realized, praying Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours today, when I read this reading, (above)  the answer to these questions. “This is how,”Jesus says.

“You will do and experience both of these things because your life is not your own anymore. It’s better than that because I live in you and for you. From within you, I will forgive, I will live, and we will have a beautiful life together. I have loved you and given Myself up for you. You have loved Me and given yourself to Me, no matter what life has brought you. ” 

I thought about this. It is a miracle that the thing I have not lost or had to re-negotiate, so to speak, is my faith in God. Even though I have been broken inside beyond anything I thought it was possible to experience, I have an inner rock solid foundation of faith that God has not let me lose.

I have discovered that, as St. John of the Cross speaks of in his Ascent of Mount Carmel, I am “supported by faith alone,” now, in spite of how disjointed I feel psychologically and socially.

No one and nothing can take me from Christ’s hand. He is even more real to me than I am to myself. And even though my heart is broken, it does know it is safe. It does know Who it belongs to and Who lives there forever. Not even my own death will change that.

In fact, Paul also says that the spirit of Jesus in us is so real, it is that power that will raise our bodies from the dead.

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:11 (This turned out to be in Evening Prayer tonight.)

All the lies and malice, misunderstanding, persecution, blame, rejection, trauma, loss and grief I have suffered, and that the whole world has suffered, are no match for the Truth of God who is Love, and Life.

In a way, in comparison, these terrible things are not even real.

The reality is God.

And I am glad to be only ashes and dust.

That is exactly how I have everything I will ever need in this life and in the next:

“It is not I who live, but Christ Who lives in me.”

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Novena to St. Philomena (Day 5)

 

The only accounts we have of the life of St. Philomena are two corroborating private revelations (from different people in different places) that have been approved by the Church, but are not as certain as written testimony from her contemporaries would be of course. According to these private revelations and the hints from the drawings on her tomb, she had been through and survived several humiliations and tortures to try  to break her down and many attempts by her captors to kill her before she was finally beheaded. 

She gave herself to God bravely one life-threatening moment after another. Her trust converted many of the people who witnessed it. I am sure God was speaking to St. Philomena, too, in the way He is said to have saved her miraculously from two attempts to execute her, once by drowning, once by arrows. God often sends us messages in our lives, as well, often when our suffering is deepest, and our challenges urgent, to let us know, “I am with you.”

Because of her union with God, and her willingness to follow His lead wherever it might take her life, her moments of fear and suffering became her finest.

A Reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians 

Conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ, so that… you are standing firm … struggling for the faith of the Gospel,not intimidated in any way by your opponents. This is proof to them of destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing.For to you has been granted, for the sake of Christ, not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him.

The Word of the Lord

-Thanks be to God.

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St. Philomena, pray for us that our pivotal moments may be transformed in Jesus, and that in these we might glorify His love. May God increase the strength of our souls, and exceed all we have ever known of Him. [Here mention your petitions.] Trusted Saint, lead the way for us bravely, and help us to see the movements of the Holy Spirit in the events of our lives, that every one of them will become sign posts of the way forward. Pray to God for us, that He may turn darkness into light before us, and make crooked ways straight. May we shine with the power of the Lord when we come to moments of decision, and may God bless our efforts to be faithful, as you were unfailingly.

Our Father…

Mother of God, may the sweet companionship of your spirit make our paths bright with meaning and love and grace. As you accompanied St. Philomena to such great bravery, we ask that you also accompany us, especially in times of trial and discouragement. Shine the brilliant light of the Gospel on our paths, that we may see our way through our troubles, and that the grace we will know may, in turn, strengthen the faith of others.

Hail Mary…

Radiant girl, courageous and free of heart, our friend and guide, protect us, lead us, for the glory of God.

Glory Be…

St. Philomena, be blessed and pray for us.

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Novena to St.Philomena (Day 3)

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St. Philomena’s body was found in 1802 in the catacomb of St. Pricilla in Rome. Her epitaph said, “Peace be with you, Philomena,” and showed the martyr’s palm, a drawing of arrows and an anchor; the instruments of the torture she had undergone for her faithfulness to Christ. Inside were the bones of a 13-15 year old girl. Present also was the phial of blood often collected by the early Christians when one of them was martyred. Miracles and signs surrounded the opening of her tomb, and even of the opening of the phial of blood that day in May, 1802, wonders which were witnessed by many.

It seemed God was saying to the world, “Get to know this young woman. She is very close to Me, and I have given her great works to do in My Name.”

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A Reading from the Book of Acts: 

So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

The Word of the Lord

-Thanks be to God

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St. Philomena, who spoke boldly for the Lord, Who bears witness to the Gospel through signs and wonders done by your presence, intercession and prayers, obtain for us the courage that comes from dedicated love for Jesus. Lead us to see the signs God lays before us. Bend our hearts to God’s purpose and will in our lives, that we may run lightly in his paths, that He may give freedom to our hearts. [Here talk to St.Philomena about your situation, your petitions, and your search for God’s will in the matter.] Help us overcome our difficulties that our lives and our victories may beear witness to all of the greatness of your intercessory power and of the beauty of Gospel.

Jesus, be in our very blood.

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Our Father…

St. Philomena, patroness of the children of Mary, strengthen our devotion to our most holy mother, that we may be her worthy daughters and sons, strong in faith and in following Jesus.  May our souls, like hers, magnify the Lord.

Hail Mary…

Radiant girl, courageous and free of heart, our friend and guide, protect us, lead us, for the glory of God.

Glory Be…

St. Philomena, be blessed and pray for us.

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