Behold a new and wondrous mystery.
My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn. The Angels sing. The Archangels blend their voice in harmony. The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise. The Seraphim exalt His glory. All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He Who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.
Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side, the Sun of justice. And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed; He had the power; He descended; He redeemed; all things yielded in obedience to God. This day He Who is, is Born; and He Who is, becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became He God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassability, remaining unchanged.
And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.
Since this heavenly birth cannot be described, neither does His coming amongst us in these days permit of too curious scrutiny. Though I know that a Virgin this day gave birth, and I believe that God was begotten before all time, yet the manner of this generation I have learned to venerate in silence and I accept that this is not to be probed too curiously with wordy speech.
For with God we look not for the order of nature, but rest our faith in the power of Him who works.
What shall I say to you; what shall I tell you? I behold a Mother who has brought forth; I see a Child come to this light by birth. The manner of His conception I cannot comprehend.
Nature here rested, while the Will of God labored. O ineffable grace! The Only Begotten, Who is before all ages, Who cannot be touched or be perceived, Who is simple, without body, has now put on my body, that is visible and liable to corruption. For what reason? That coming amongst us he may teach us, and teaching, lead us by the hand to the things that men cannot see. For since men believe that the eyes are more trustworthy than the ears, they doubt of that which they do not see, and so He has deigned to show Himself in bodily presence, that He may remove all doubt.
Christ, finding the holy body and soul of the Virgin, builds for Himself a living temple, and as He had willed, formed there a man from the Virgin; and, putting Him on, this day came forth; unashamed of the lowliness of our nature.
For it was to Him no lowering to put on what He Himself had made. Let that handiwork be forever glorified, which became the cloak of its own Creator. For as in the first creation of flesh, man could not be made before the clay had come into His hand, so neither could this corruptible body be glorified, until it had first become the garment of its Maker.
What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, Who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infants bands. But He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness.
For this He assumed my body, that I may become capable of His Word; taking my flesh, He gives me His spirit; and so He bestowing and I receiving, He prepares for me the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh, to sanctify me; He gives me His Spirit that He may save me.
Come, then, let us observe the Feast. Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused, and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been ¡in planted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men now hold speech with angels.
Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle. He became Flesh. He did not become God. He was God. Wherefore He became flesh, so that He Whom heaven did not contain, a manger would this day receive. He was placed in a manger, so that He, by whom all things are nourished, may receive an infants food from His Virgin Mother. So, the Father of all ages, as an infant at the breast, nestles in the virginal arms, that the Magi may more easily see Him. Since this day the Magi too have come, and made a beginning of withstanding tyranny; and the heavens give glory, as the Lord is revealed by a star.
To Him, then, Who out of confusion has wrought a clear path, to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Spirit, we offer all praise, now and forever. Amen.
In today’s Gospel (Luke 3:1-6), we find St. John the Baptist on the banks of the river Jordan as a preacher of penance. Great multitudes of people flocked to see and hear the extraordinary prophet. He preached with the power and zeal of an Elias, and threatened with the judgments of God, unless they should bring forth fruit worthy of penance. Besides penance, he preached baptism as the beginning and dedication of a new and better life, and as an illustration of the necessity of the interior purification from sin. To give more emphasis to what he preached, John lived a life of poverty and discomfort. Scripture tells us, "He wore a garment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.” (Matt. 3:4).
Today, we see this same preaching of penance, but so few listen to this call. Why is this? Has repentance become less important in today’s world? Obviously this is not the case, we have just failed to understand its importance. We ourselves need the example of John the Baptist as a wake up call. Often today our priests do not even preach penance and, when they do, often they may be living comfortable lives in a large parish, not living as an example like John.
How then can we remedy this? We must become the example. Those who understand the everlasting importance of repentance with penance must be the precursor to the Word, we must be like John the Baptist in preparation for Christ. We must live our lives as visible examples of penance. This does not mean to be like the Pharisees with our prayer, but rather to never allow someone we know to go without an understanding of Confession, penance, and reparation and their utmost importance in our lives in preparation for Christ.
Roráte cœli désuper, et nubes pluant justum: aperiátur terra, et gérminet Salvatórem. Cœli enárrant glóriam Dei: et opera mánuum ejus annúntiat firmaméntum. Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto. Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in sǽcula sæculórum.
Gaudete! Rejoice! The Lord is near! As we continue to approach close to the Feast of the Nativity, we are told today to rejoice. We may think that today’s celebration of the joy that is about to manifest in our souls on Christmas Day may be all about the opportunity to indulge in a treat, lack our time of prayer, and become occupied with worldly things. However, this is not so! St. Paul continues in his Epistle to the Phillipians, “Let your modesty be known to all men: The Lord is nigh. Be nothing solicitous: but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God.”
Gaudete Sunday does not mark an end to our Advent penance, but rather calls on us to increase our penance and our prayer. Many have forgotten that Advent is a penitential season, but it very well is. This has been echoed in the previous reflections published this season. Evan remarked on how we should increase our prayer, especially with the praying of the Holy Rosary. And Jacob reminded us to repent of our sins and grow in humility. Later this week the Church will commence the St. Lucy Ember Days, read more here, in which we fast and take up penance to remind us that we are children of God, not of the world. Each of these are in themselves the purpose of the season of Advent.
Our desire should be on this Gaudete Sunday to journey with Mary and St. Joseph to Bethlehem. We should increase our prayer, by praying the Rosary, meditating on Sacred Scriptures (especially that Nativity Narratives), confessing our sins, and taking on ourselves penance for our sins and those of the world. Christ is calling us to increase, not decrease in Him. We must not rejoice in worldly things, but rather in our sacrifices to the Lord.
No matter if you have journeyed through this Advent season by completing acts of penance, charity, and prayer or not, begin now! If you begin to spiritually prepare yourself for the coming of Christ on Christmas, you truly will be more joyful. I promise.
Reflection written by Seth Ball
And the Angel being come in, said unto her: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”
--Gospel of St. Luke (1:28)
Mary was always immaculate. In her mothers womb, at her Purification, at the Annunciation, at the Nativity of Christ, at her Betrothal to Joseph and at the Wedding Feast in Cana.
Mary’s beautiful purity remained her entire life, when journeying to Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth. When St. Joseph passed from this life. At the Cross.
In all of the joys of Mary’s life, her purity remained. Her devotion to God never ceased.
In all of the sorrows of Mary’s life, her purity remained. Her devotion to God never ceased.
Now, we were not immaculately conceived and will never obtain the state of living in sanctifying grace for the entirety of our lives, but Mary did and continues to. Mary remains the most perfect vessel, the most perfect mother. It is through turning to Mary, however, that our paths are corrected, grace is bestowed upon us, and peace remains in our souls.
It is on days like this, when we should ponder our spiritual closeness to our Blessed Mother.
Have you fallen away from the daily recitation of the Rosary? Pick it up again!
Have you consecrated yourself to Mary? Begin now!
It is in our sorrows and in our joys of life that Mary seeks to come and remain with us. To place us in her maternal womb and under her mantle.
No one can enter into Heaven except through Mary, as entering through a gate.
Reflection written by Seth Ball
Glory to Jesus Christ, the God-Man, who in His perfect humility, humbled Himself and took the form of a slave, paying the price for our sins and opening up to all people the gates of heaven so that all men may be saved through Him. On this Second Sunday of Advent, let us come together, one in faith and hope in the Lord Jesus, not singing the praises of ourselves nor boasting of our own abilities, but of the glories and great workings of God.
There is real hope for those who believe in the name of Jesus, taking to heart His message, doing penance with a humbled spirit and a contrite heart, cleaving themselves to the grace of God to be detached from the things of the flesh. Jesus came for all, Jews first and Gentiles second. God is faithful to His people. Let us then express our gratitude towards God, a gratitude which should be infinite. For God did not need to save us, and yet He has willed that even the worst of sinners be reconciled to Himself through His Church.
Let us not think that St. John the Baptist doubted whether Jesus was the Christ. John, in his great faith, sent his disciples to Jesus so that they may not rot in their own doubts, but that they may recognize Jesus as the Messiah for whom John prepared the way. We should look to the example of John, the greatest prophet, taking note of his holiness. Not only should we emulate his constant faith, but also his unyielding penances. By his donning of the camel’s hair and eating only locusts and honey, John relied only on the grace of God, detaching himself from the world. He knew, as Jesus says, that soft garments make soft men, because we in our vice are largely unable to humbly enjoy the goods of this world without mistaking them for our highest good, our last end. When the time comes, eat, drink, and be merry, but only with a heart which acknowledges these things come from and point back to the goodness and mercy of God.
We must take care not to mold Christ in our own image, but to conform to the example He has set for us. Jesus was not a military general, or a political leader, as so many expected the Messiah to be. He, in his fantastic humility and perfect virtue, has come to preach to the poor, to heal the sick, and to show unto us the way to salvation, which is the cross. There is no salvation without the cross. So great is Jesus’ humility that it is a stumbling block to the arrogant and the stupid. So simple is God that we fail to comprehend Him. So infinite is His love that it is a mystery.
In this time of preparation for the Second Coming of Christ, let us repent from our sins and glorify God for His great mercy, hoping in the salvation which He has promised to those who remain steady in their faith, as did John the Baptist and St. Paul. Let us find unity not in the dealings of men, but in the Church of Christ, in the Sacraments. Humility, humility, humility!
Reflections taken from Sunday Mass Readings: Romans 15:4-13 and St. Matthew 11:2-10
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, which is also the first Sunday of a new liturgical year for the Church. It is a time of new beginnings as we turn our attention to the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Any day, any moment could be the final coming of the Lord for you and for me. Advent is a time of preparation for this coming. As St. Paul tells us, it is time to awake from our sleep, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
Advent is a time to reflect on what’s really important in our lives and to prepare ourselves to meet Jesus, to welcome him into our lives. We should ask ourselves, “If I changed some of my habits or activities would this give me a bit more time to grow closer to God? Am I too comfortable in my current routine? Am I stretching myself to move out of my comfort zone in order to better serve Him?
Sometimes we just have to make a small change in our routine in order to make a meaningful change in our relationship with God. Maybe consider giving up a half hour of television every evening so you can read and reflect on the day’s Mass readings and pray the rosary. Or maybe it’s getting out of bed a half hour earlier each morning. St. Francis de Sales once said, “Every one of us needs a half an hour of prayer every day, except when we are busy—then we need an hour,”
We all make excuses but surely we can make extra time to go to Mass or adoration on a day we normally cannot. We can use this time of preparation to build habits like this that will not only help us have a fruitful Advent, but also to continue with a fruitful life of prayer throughout the rest of our lives. That’s what habits are for, long lasting fruitfulness. This is my challenge to you: this Advent pray the rosary. Begin with only 5 decades a day, but by the end of the season, try to pray the entire rosary daily. I promise it will change your life.