O Antiphons – December 21

We continue our reflections on the O Antiphons with the Antiphon for this evening.  In some translations, this antiphon is translated, “O Dayspring”, but our sources translate the antiphon as “O Radiant Dawn.”

O Radiant Dawn,pp_dayspring 21
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.

The month of December is not always fun and games.  Not only do we receive stories about people not finding the right gifts for someone.  But more sadly, we find that some of us don’t have a someone to celebrate this season with.  That life is sometimes pretty dark.

It could be anything, of course.  Cancer treatment.  Aging parents.  Financial inability to go home.  The humbling inability to buy presents.  Or the sad and real possibility of spending Christmas Day all alone.

San Francisco can be a very lonely city, if we allow it.  The hook-up scene is simply a bad remedy to put off our feelings of loneliness for a night or two.  We could put all of our time and energy into our start-up or a grant proposal or busywork, convincing ourselves that we are fulfilling our life’s goals, doing something good for the team.

But at the end…even that won’t satisfy.

As dark as the city seems—as lonely as it seems—we are never alone.  There is always hope.  There is always life.  The Radiant Dawn, The Dayspring, Jesus of Nazareth, searches to cast out the darkness of our loneliness.  He seeks fill the empty recess of our hearts.  He searches to cast out the darkness of our lives like a torch that chases away darkness from an empty chamber.

We have all been in a dark room in which we cannot see past our nose.  Then someone strikes a match and the light seduces us.  The light enchants us, brings us warmth and comfort.

O Radiant Dawn—burn among us!

O Antiphons – December 20

We continue our reflections on the O Antiphons with the Antiphon for this evening…

O Key of David,pp_key 20
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!


I remember once getting locked out of my dorm room.  I was an undergrad.  Three o’clock in the morning on a Sunday and here I am, calling the Residential Adviser to get a key to get into my room.  The RA met me at the front desk; he pulls out a shoe box overflowing with keys.

It looked less organized than it actually wasn’t.  After about fifteen minutes of rummaging through the shoe box, the RA selected four or five keys and we went to my locked room.  It took way too long, but he opened my door, and I was allowed to fall back asleep.

The way of life that Jesus illuminates is the key to heaven.  In imitating Jesus, we imitate a life of virtue.  We grow closer to Jesus and the Father, and seek a deeper relationship with Him, and we are rewarded with seeing Him face-to-face in the life to come.

But the funny thing with keys and doors is human desire.  We need to desire the key.  We need to desire to walk through the door.  In other words, it is one thing to be given the grace to act like Christ, but it is completely different to utilize the grace we have been given to follow Jesus unreservedly.

It is one thing to be given all the graces to act like a good Christian. It is another thing to act like a Christian.

The door has been opened.  But we must step through.

O Antiphons – December 19

We continue our reflections on the O Antiphons with the Antiphon for this evening…

O Root of Jesse’s stem,pp_root 19
sign of God’s love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!


History and certain types of fiction are strewn with the fact that one family may change the course of history.  The Ceasars.  The Bourges.  The Tudors.  The Kennedys.

One can say that the House of Jesse is amongst this list, for good or ill. Jesus’ family is both famous and notorious.  His relatives were amongst the great.  They built temples and sanctuaries.  United kingdoms.  Brought peace to the Holy Land.  But they also divided kingdoms because of their marital infidelity, worshipped alien gods and sent sons and daughters to war with the certainty of death.  Jesus’ family history includes prostitutes, reformers, scoundrels, singers and men of wisdom.

Then again, some of our families are much the same way.  Which family hasn’t a black sheep?  Which family hasn’t a member or two that we would rather not talk about?  Who has a relative in jail?  Has been sued for an unrighteous deed—or ought to be?

Yet in God’s amazing providence, He enters into the messy human family to show us how to live and die.  He enters into the family life to show us that we belong to our Great Father in Heaven. Jesus indeed is a great sign of love and fidelity, urging us to a deeper love and compassion of the Father and each other.

O Antiphons – December 18

We continue our reflections on the O Antiphons with the Antiphon for this evening…

O Leader of the House of Israel,pp_adonai 18
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power!


Our God is a Father that keeps his promises.  He devoted Himself to the House of Israel. He promised that He will deliver His people from slavery.  After centuries of waiting, the Father had manifested his promise in the gift of His most precious possession, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.

God never said that he would rescue us from disease or death.  He never promised that he would rescue us from suffering and sadness.  He did promise that He will give us a new life.  He did promise that He would show us a way to freedom and love.  He promised that we will flourish if we keep fast to His covenant of life.

O Antiphons – December 17

antipwnedOne of the beautiful parts of the Advent Season are the “O Antiphons”. These occur during Evening Prayer.  Towards the end of Evening Prayer, we rise and chant the Magnificat, Mary’s song.  (You know these antiphons–I’m sure.  You sing them often enough–the antiphons, together, form the Advent hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.)  Before we chant, the cantor intones a small versicle that will prepare us to chant this piece of scripture.  This versicle is called the antiphon.  The O Antiphons occur in the evenings between December 17 through December 23.  These special antiphons illustrate Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming of the Son of God as a child among us.  They are deeply Christological and magnify certain parts of our theology pertaining the Son of God.

In my reflections in the bulletin, I will offer three concise thoughts about three of six O Antiphons that occur during this time of year.  Here, on the blog, I hope to expand some of my thoughts about each antiphon.

I pray that these reflections prepare you well for the Great Day of Christ’s Mass.

(Translations of the O Antiphons taken from the USCCB website.  Many images from Catholic.org)


December 17

O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!


Jesus Christ is indeed Wisdom, the physical manifestation of the Wisdom of God.  God the Father spoke the Word of God, Wisdom Himself, upon the world.  Wisdom Himself is the agent of creation, the Word that created all things.  This harkens to the prologue of the Gospel of John primarily.

There was no time in which the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity was not.  The Second Person is just as powerful and eternal as the Creator God and the Spirit of God.  The Creator God spoke the Word, the Second Person, and creation was made manifest.  The Spirit of God was breathed into the world, and into each one of us, making us and image and likeness of the Creator.

Jesus spoke, and we were made. We were intentionally made, thought of, spoken of, and given to the world as a gift.  We are not an accident. We are not a random blaring of atoms.  We are intentionally and wonderfully made by a God who loves us.

When the Son of God was made a human being, he came to us to teach us how to live and how to die.  We learn how to live a virtuous life by meditating upon his every word and action.  We imitation him in order to become a reflection of our God.

Giving Tree gifts due soon!

Our Christmas Giving Tree has suggested gift items on angel tags, such as toys for children, gift cards for families, and clothes for our folks at Lima Center. All items are to be given to us unwrapped. We have a day set aside called “The Christmas Store” when parents are invited to come and pick out an item for each child in their family. Plus they receive a box of groceries and a food gift card. Saint Ignatius College Prep High School students, staff and families help us with donations and on the day we distribute. Please have the items turned in by Thursday, Dec. 19 at 9:00pm. You may leave your items in the office or bring them to the Family Christmas Pageant on Sunday, Dec. 15, or to the Parish Christmas Concert, on Monday, Dec. 16. It is a gift that we are all able to work together to help others celebrate this beautiful feast of prayer and gift giving.

Thank you for your help.

Why is Christmas on December 25?

Okay, so the Solemnity of Easter moves dates.  Which means Ash Wednesday moves dates.  But Christmas doesn’t.  Why is that?

500wde_Beato-Angelico_NativityWhy is Christmas December 25?  There is one theory saying that, in the early Church, December 25 was the feast of the Roman Sun god.  This is reasonable—we are, in a way, baptizing these Roman feasts.

However, for me, this is not a good reason. Basically, the reason I’m not a fan of this reasoning is because….it’s not a Jewish reason. It is not a reason embedded with Jewish undertones or with Jewish liturgical praxis.  Jesus is Jewish—why would Jesus care about some pagan, non-existent god?

The Church Fathers, pondered this question rather well. Many of the Church Fathers, linked Jesus’ death—Good Friday—with His Incarnation.  In other words, some patristics linked Jesus’ Incarnation, the feast of the Annunciation, to the day he died on the cross.  His Nativity is explicitly linked to his Annunciation, which is explicitly linked his Passion. Tertullian reported an estimate that the 14th of Nisan was on March 25.

He says, “Therefore our Lord was conceived on the eighth of the kalends of April in the month of March [Nisan 14], which is the day of the passion of the Lord and of his conception. For on that day he was conceived on the same he suffered.”

This idea appears in an anonymous Christian treatise titled On Solstices and Equinoxes, which appears to come from fourth-century North Africa. The treatise states: “Therefore our Lord was conceived on the eighth of the kalends of April in the month of March [March 25], which is the day of the passion of the Lord and of his conception. For on that day he was conceived on the same he suffered.” Based on this, the treatise dates Jesus’ birth to the winter solstice.

Augustine, too, was familiar with this association. In On the Trinity (c. 399–419) he writes: “For he [Jesus] is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since. But he was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.”

fra-angelico-annunciation-1That the day Jesus was sacrificed on the cross was the day that the Angel Gabriel visited Mary.  March 25.

Thus, nine months later, Jesus would be born.  Christmas Day.  December 25.

Thus, 40 days later, he would be presented in the Temple.  Feast of the Presentation.  February 2.

There is also another reason people front December 25 as Christmas. December 25 is roughly the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.  June 24, the date of the summer solstice, is the longest date of the year.  John’s most important saying is that I must decrease, so He must increase.  John, the prophet of the Lord, is decreasing so that the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, may increase and be the light of the World.

Please refer to this link.  I thank Biblical Archeology for this insight.



A Preacher’s Life – The Color Scheme

The Western Dominican Province’s Vocations Office has a great Facebook presence. If you look at their visuals, many of their pictures are in black and white.  This is not merely to evoke an old-school motif, but rather, it’s because we’re Dominican.

The Dominican color scheme is black and white.  And of course, like all things Catholic, the 558864_10152344536328135_2005494687_ncolors symbolize something.

Now what do they symbolize?  Virtues that the Order holds very dear to our hearts, namely, humility and purity.

According to the Christian, Medieval color palette, black symbolizes humility.  Obviously, when we think of the color black, we think of death.  Humility can count as well, simply because death reminds us that we are not immortal, we are not infinite, that we have limitations, that we are weak.  Humility reminds us that God is God and we are not, to paraphrase Saint Catherine of Siena.

The Dominican spends his life contemplating the Mystery of Truth, Jesus Christ.  Yet we intuitively know that God speaks to us through his infinitude.  As much as God tells us, we can only take in so much.  We can only understand so much.  We can only love so much.  It’s a humbling thing to be confronted by the Infinite God.

DominicRosaryWhite symbolizes purity.  Today, when we think of purity, our oversexed culture thinks of sexual purity.  However, the Dominican is called also to a different type of purity, that is, intellectual purity.  (Pope Benedict writes about in his Jesus of Nazareth trilogy.)  When Dominicans talk about intellectual purity, we remember that we need to speak, think and ponder with God’s point of view, and not ours.  Our point of view is contaminated with our own presuppositions, our culture, our misunderstandings of reality, our sinfulness and our limitations.  That God is greater than our mindset, wiser than our intellect, and more elegant than any equation we can conjure.  When the Dominican studies the Truth, we must do our best to do away with any presuppositions that we may have in order to contemplate the Great Truth.  Intellectual purity is a call for the Dominican to shed our presuppositions and put on God’s.

Black and White.  The colors of the Order.  Two virtues that we strive for, yet, in this life, will never fully attain.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!