December 28, 2014

Merry Christmas and the Martyrs

 A Most Blessed Christmas to all! 
Immediately following Christmas, we are reminded that following the Crib comes the Cross.  We find the 3 ways to make our way to Heaven, by shedding blood for the love of God, by living a life of suffering via heroic virtue for the love of God or by innocence.  There is no other way to Heaven except by dying to ourselves for the love of God.

On December 26th, we celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr of blood. A martyr is someone who dies for the love of God.  After St. Stephen addressed the Sanhedren (Acts 7: 1-50) he concludes without mincing any words:

You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do you also. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them who foretold of the coming of the Just One; of whom you have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.
It might suffice to say, the members of the Sanhedren were not happy at that moment... and so continues the story....

Now hearing these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed with their teeth at him. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looking up steadfastly to heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And he said: Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. And they crying out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and with one accord ran violently upon him. And casting him forth without the city, they stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, invoking, and saying: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, saying: Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep in the Lord. And Saul was consenting to his death.

Saul was later converted and became the great St. Paul... imagine the meeting of St. Paul, after after he was beaheaded, with St. Stephen at the Pearly Gates!
On December 27th we celebrate the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, the Beloved Apostle, the one who was pure, holy and filled with heroic virtue who desire to give his life's blood for the love of God, but instead was called to spend his life suffering for the love of God.  He was also the one Christ gave His Mother to from the Cross.  Imagine the pain he must have suffered after the loss of his Beloved Lord and then all his closest friends, the Apostles were martyred.... the union of friends through Christ is the strongest bond of friendship there can be... then also the loss of his Heavenly Mother, the pain must have been horrific.  It didn't end there either as the anti-Christs at the time also tried to kill him by putting him in a vat of boiling oil... he survive unscathed.  Always go to the saints during your hardships, they've "been there done that" and earned their Heavenly Crown!

Today, however, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents. (Commentaries from Dom Gueranger)
The Holy Innocents give their testimony - the only one in their power - of suffering for their Divine Master: but the Christian who has attained the use of reason has more to do than suffer for his faith: he must confess it before persecutors and tyrants when they bid him deny it, and also before that more permanent tribunal of the world and his own passions.

We were (well, will be) blessed to have  High Mass with our children's choir in their honor. What beautiful music!

All Hail! Ye Infant Martyr Flowers
All Hail! Ye infant martyr flowers, cut off in life’s first dawning hours: As rosebuds snapt in tempest strife, when Herod sought your Savior’s life.

You, tender flocks of lambs, we sing, first victims slain for Christ your King: Beneath the altar’s heavenly ray, with martyr palms and crowns ye play.

For their redemption glory be, O Jesu, Virgin born, to Thee! With Father and with Holy Ghost, forever from the martyr host.

 Audit Tyrannus Anxius & Salvete Flores Martyrum
Hymns taken from a poem by Prudentius, sung at Matins & Vespers

The anxious tyrant hears that the King of kings is come, who would rule the people of Israel and possess the royal throne of David. Rendered frantic by the message, he cries out: 'A successor is at hand, we are driven away: Go, executioner, take the sword, drench the cradles with blood!' Let every male-child be "slain, and every nurse be watched, and every Babe feel thy sharp-edged blade, even whilst he sucks his mother's breast. Not a Mother about Bethlehem but I suspect her; then watch them all, lest they hide their boys from thee.'

On this the executioner goes, and in his wild cruelty plunges his naked dagger into the tender flesh and the but freshly formed hearts of these little ones. But where shall he strike? where find space enough to hold a gaping wound in these infant-bodies not so big as the dagger in his hand? Yet still these butchers murder every child. Here it is an infant dashed against a rock, covering its flinty sides, oh! cruel sight! with blood and brains and eyes. There it is a lovely babe torn from his mother's arms and thrown into a deep stream, whose gurgling waters weep whilst drowning sobs and life so sweet as these.

Hail, ye Flowers of the Martyrs! The enemy of Christ cut you down in the very threshold of life, as rose-buds are snapped by a storm. First Victims for Jesus! Tender flock of His Martyrs! ye, with sweet simplicity, play with palms and your crowns even at the very altar of your sacrifice! And what does Herod gain by this dark crime? Does it give him what he sought? The single One he cared to kill is Jesus, and He still lives! The stream of infant-blood has ceased to flow, and He alone is safe: the Virgin’s Child has escaped that sword which robbed all other Mothers of their babes.

So was it in that time of old, when Moses. the liberator of his people. and the type of Christ. escaped the senseless edicts of the wicked Pharaoh. Jesus, Who wast born of the Virgin, to Thee be glory, with the Father and the nourishing Spirit, in the endless ages.

The Holy Innocents 
Christina Georgina Rossetti (1877) 
They scarcely waked before they slept,
They scarcely wept before they laughed; 
They drank indeed death's bitter draught, 
But all its bitterest dregs were kept 
And drained by Mothers while they wept. 
From Heaven the speechless Infants speak: 
Weep not (they say), our Mothers dear, 
For swords nor sorrows come not here.
Now we are strong who were so weak, 
And all is ours we could not seek. 
We bloom among the blooming flowers, 
We sing among the singing birds;
Wisdom we have who wanted words: 
Here morning knows not evening hours,
All's rainbow here without the showers. 
And softer than our Mother's breast,
And closer than our Mother's arm, 
Is here the Love that keeps us warm
And broods above our happy next.
Dear Mothers, come: for Heaven is best. 
Unspotted lambs to follow the one Lamb, 
Unspotted doves to wait on the one Dove;
To whom Love saith, 'Be with Me where I am,' 
And lo their answer unto Love is love. 
For tho' I know not any note they know, 
Nor know one word of all their song above,
I know Love speaks to them, and even so 
I know the answer unto Love is love. 

Herod intended to include the Son of God amongst the murdered Babes of Bethlehem. The Daughters of Rachel wept over their little ones and the land streamed with blood; but the tyrant’s policy can do no more: it cannot reach Jesus and its whole plot ends in recruiting an immense army of Martyrs for Heaven. These children were not capable of knowing what an honor it was for them to be made victims for the sake of the Savior of the world; but the very first instant after their immolation, all was revealed to them. God showed here the riches of His mercy: He asks of them but a momentary 
suffering, and that over, they wake up in Abraham’s Bosom: no further trial awaits them, they are in a spotless innocence, and the glory due to a soldier who died to save the life of his Prince belongs eternally to them.  They died for Jesus’ sake; therefore their death was a real Martyrdom, and the Church calls them by the beautiful name of the Flowers of the Martyrs, because of their tender age and their innocence.

The Church proclaims the wisdom of God in disconcerting the impious plans of Herod, and turning the murder of the Innocents into His own glory, by raising them to the dignity of Martyrs of Christ, whose praises they gratefully sing for ever. May this same earth of ours, grown old in wickedness, draw down the Divine Mercy on itself, by the love and honor it gives each year to these sweet Children of Bethlehem, who, like the Dove of Noah’s Ark, could not find whereon to rest their feet.

Mural of Elizabeth and the infant John the Baptist being conducted   to safety by an angel, during the massacre of the Holy Innocents. 
Herod was aware of John’s unusual birth and he wanted him killed, fearing that he could perhaps be the foretold King of the Jews, but Elizabeth hid herself and the infant in the hills. Elizabeth, when she saw her pursuers, began to implore God for their safety, and immediately the hill opened up, and they were hidden in a cave, concealing her and the infant from their pursuers. 

Additionally, eastern traditions hold that the father of John the Baptist, the priest Zacharias, was murdered by Herod's men between the temple and the altar, because he would not divulge the whereabouts of his infant son (Matthew 23,34-35 "Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.") 

December 24, 2014

Christmas Promises

I received this list in an email... worth a share...

1)   To make my Christmas a holy day with Christ- not a holiday without Him.
2)   To observe Christmas as the birthday of Christ- not a day to give and received material gifts.
3)   To remember that the real symbols of Christmas are the Star, the Stable, and the Crib- not Santa Claus and his reindeer.
4)   To teach my children that “Santa Claus” is the nickname of St. Nicholas- who gave to the poor in honor of Christ.
5)   To help one poor family- in honor of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Holy Family of Bethlehem.
6)   To send Christmas cards remindful of Him, the Infant Saviour- not decorated only with candy canes, dogs, ribbons and wreaths.
7)   To make room in my home for Him- with a Christmas Crib, a window or door poster to remind all that He was born in a stable.
8)   During this season, in a special way, to honor Mary, His Mother- who kept the first Christmas vigil beside the Manger.
9)   To go with my family to the altar today- and let the Christ Child be born into our hearts and souls in Holy Communion.
10) Today and every day, to give “Glory to God in the highest”- to work and pray for “Peace on earth to men of good will.”

Nihil Obstat: Joseph A.M. Quigley, Censor Librorum

Imprimatur: V John J. Krol, D.D., J.C.D., Archbishop of Philadelphia , March 1964


The Lord wishes to come as our Redeemer on Christmas night, and for this, the Advent
season, now beginning, is to prepare us. He wants to free our soul from the foes that press it from every side, from enemies who think they can already rejoice at our defeat. Although we may often have looked up to some vain thing, considering its attainment our life's ambition, there has always come a time when we realized the nothingness of it all, realized that God alone can be our ideal, our goal. Only when we take cognizance of His ways and walk accordingly, can we find true happiness. God alone can guard the beauty and nobility of our soul against its every enemy. At the beginning of the liturgical year our soul strives, therefore, to elevate itself, definitely and decisively, to Him who by His incarnation becomes its God and who wishes to be intimately united with it in Holy 

Translation of the Hymn En Clara Vox Redarguit 
Behold, a clear penetrating voice reveals the falsity of darksome things: 
Let dreams be banished afar: Jesus shines forth from Heaven
These words (clara vox) are probably an allusion to the great preacher  of penance, St. John The Baptist, who said of himself:  Ego vox clamantis in deserto: dirigite viam Domini, sicut dixit Isaias propheta (John 1:23; Is. 40:3)

Let the slothful soul now rise, no longer remaining prostrate on the 
ground: a New Star now shines forth to take away everything harmful.
Christ was the star that was to rise out of Jacob (Num. 23:17), and take away the sins of the world (John 1:29). 

Behold, the Lamb is sent to us, to pay our debt gratuitously: together,
let us all with tears pray for pardon.  
In the Scriptures, the lamb is a most common symbol of Our Lord (Is. 53:7, Jer. 11:19, John 1:29).

That, when for the second time, He comes resplendent and girdles the world with fear, 
He may not punish us according to our deserts, but may
He then lovingly protect us.

Power, honor, praise and glory to God the Father, with the Son and the
Holy Comforter, for ever and ever. Amen

The heart of the Blessed Virgin, the handmaiden of the Lord, was fertile soil, moistened by the dew of heaven. Soon, she will present us with the most beautiful flowerlet, the ripest and most luscious fruit which has ever graced the face of the earth, a fruit so precious, that mankind, generation after generation, will never weary of calling out to her: "Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is 
the fruit of thy womb, Jesus!"

And it came to pass, that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered.
Luke 1:2-6

The Joys of Divine Advent.
I come, Jesus says, to bring fire to the earth.
The Savior comes to each of us in proportion to the earnestness of our longing for Him. 

According to an ancient story which dates back to the beginning of the sixth century, entitled The Passion of Andrew, these are the words which he cried out on the occasion of his martyrdom, as he was being brought to the place of execution, and sighted the cross at some distance: 

Hail, O Cross, inaugurated by the Body of Christ and adorned with his limbs as though they were precious pearls. Before the Lord mounted you, you inspired an earthly fear. Now, instead, endowed with heavenly love, you are accepted as a gift. Believers know of the great joy that you possess, and of the multitude of gifts you have prepared. I come to you, therefore, confident and joyful, so that you too may receive me, exultant, as a disciple of the One who was hung upon you.... O blessed Cross, clothed in the majesty and beauty of the Lord's limbs!... Take me, carry me far from men, and restore me to my Teacher, so that, through you, the One who redeemed me by you, may receive me. Hail, 
O Cross; yes, hail indeed!

St. Andrew Christmas Novena
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.
(It is piously believed that whoever recites the above prayer fifteen times a day from the feast of St. Andrew (30th November) until Christmas will obtain what is asked.)
Imprimatur + MICHAEL AUGUSTINE, Archbishop of New York, New York, February 6, 1897

Isaiah Writes of Christ’s Birth
Of all the Prophets, Isaias has the most distinctly, and explicitly, foretold 
the Messias. 
Beginning of the Book of the Prophet Isaias (Ch. i):
The vision of Isaias, the son of Amos, which he saw concerning Juda and Jerusalem, in the days of Ozias, Joathan, Achaz, and Ezechias, kings of Juda. Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken: I have brought up children, and exalted them: but they have despised me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel hath not known me, and my people hath not understood. Woe to the sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a wicked seed, ungracious children. they have forsaken the Lord, they have blasphemed the holy One of Israel, they are gone away backwards. For what shall I strike you any more, you that increase transgression? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is sad. From the sole of the foot unto the top of the head, there is no soundness therein; wounds and bruises, and swelling sores; they are not bound up, nor dressed, nor fomented with oil.

Now we are waiting, waiting, waiting... which for certain 5 year olds is an eternity.  This morning's conversation with Pippin went along the lines of "I can't wait for tonight! I get to go to Midnight Mass and serve!"

Hobbit 3 & Happy Birthday

 I took 13 very eager and excited children to see the Hobbit 3 Battle of Five Armies. Being that it was opening day, all went fully clad in Middle Earthen Ware.  They most definitely made a sensation.

I might insert here "opening day" is now a very broad term as 2 days prior there was a "Hobbit Marathon" wherein someone could sit and watch the first 2 Hobbits and then the 3rd one. Then the day before they had a pre-viewing or perhaps it was the "vigil".  I went that evening with Aragorn and Samwise... the " I don't-want-to-dress-up" group.

 Galadriel made most of the costumes.
 Eleanor sported her hobbit slippers that her God Father had given her.

 I kid you not... these are the theater seats. It was exceptionally comfortable.
 We couldn't exactly leave Bilbo out since the opening day coincided with his 7th birthday.
Happy Birthday Bilbo!  The idea of the cake was to be a ring but frosting cakes isn't our thing... at all.  But we are about tasted and the cake was very good.

Woops! Forgot to mention that we loved Hobbit 3.  Yeah... we know how to separate books from movies and can enjoy a movie.  When it was all over, I was sad that I wouldn't see my Middle Earth friends any more... other than at home on the screen! :D

Madrigal Dinner with Children's Choir

Our children's choir was graciously invited by our choir director to attend a Madrigal Dinner put on by a somewhat local high school.  This was their 38th year presenting a Madrigal Dinner!  In the invitation from the Madrigal Dinner Troupe was mentioned, "Guests are invited to attend in Renaissance costume, if that should so please ye Lords and Ladies."  Therefore, we all dressed up!

 My mom gave me my grandma's mink coat so I sported that along with a lovely black fox muff a friend of mine gave me.  My husband thought I looked like a polar bear in the coat and decided to order me a fur cap to match the muff, I believe that would now make me look like a panda bear.  It's ok... I like bears. (Yes, I know pandas aren't technically "bears" but they are bear-like in their cute stature.)

 It might be noted most people did not read the invitation to dress according to Renaissance attire.We were pretty much the only people other than the entertainers who were dressed up.  I think people noticed! :D
 Our beautiful children's choir!
 The evening began in the hallway with musicians playing Christmas music.
 Our troupe was complete with our very own Duchess...
 .... and queen!
 Signing in.
 I'm not sure "excited" is the word for Poppy.  Elated, ecstatic.  
To be 5 is to have the whole world be perfect and exciting.

 The hallways were strung with coats of arms.

 We were served appetizers by the wandering mistresses.
 Music and more music.
 We were seated at "Oatlands Manor"

 People would try to bribe the host... or whatever he was... to bring them to their seats first, hence all the goodies and money in his hands.
 We were fed (and fed and fed) a full 7 courses!  The menu was:
Wassail Cuppes
Ye Olde Turkey and Ham Rolls
Cheese Morsels
Sausage Byts
- - - - - - - - - 
Bubbling Spyrts
- - - - - - - - - 
Lettuse Spyrts
Soupe of the Castle
- - - - - - - - - 
Chicken with Herbs
Red Botata
Green Beans Almondine with Herb Butter
Cranberry Apple Chutney
- - - - - - - - - 
- - - - - - - - - 
Fresh Fruit Platter
- - - - - - - - - 
Bread Pudding

 The whole setting was splendid, it was set up to give the feel and air of eating in a castle, complete with jesters, music, singing, entertainment of all sorts while people hailed the wandering mistresses, coffee wenches and others to fill their various eating and drinking needs.
The singing absolutely superb! Some of the songs included: "Here we come A Wassailing" and "Wassial, Wassail" (during the serving of the "Wassail"(I actually never knew what "Wassail" was until this dinner.  "Doxology"* "The Boar's Head Carol" * "Ding Dong! Merrily on High" * "One Still and Silent Night" * "Personent Hodie" * "Sicut Cervus" * "Ding-a Ding-a Dong" * "Soli Deo Gloria" * "Bidi Bom" * "Men in Tights" * "The Twelve Days of Christmas" (complete with a superb acting out of the verses) * "Stille Nacht"

It was truly a lovely evening! We were there for FOUR hours!  Very, very enjoyable... and delicous!