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!

Las Posadas & Family Christmas play

thDecember 15th at 3:15pm.

All ages are invited to a children’s costumed portrayal of the Christmas story, including carols and a bilingual Las Posadas procession in the Hispanic tradition.  A small petting zoo will start at 2:45pm in the parking lot.  The play begins in the Lady Chapel at 3:15pm.  The party afterwards will be in the Parish Hall, where you can deliver your Giving Tree gifts.

A Preview to the Ceremony of Carols Christmas Concert

Guest Post: Simon Berry

Our Christmas Concert (Monday, December 16, 7:30 pm – see you there) includes a wonderful piece of music In Terra Pax (Peace on Earth) by Gerald Finzi.  Here are some notes to guide your listening and the text for you to enjoy:

christmas-wallpaper-10Finzi’s musical inspiration sprang primarily from his love of literature and the English countryside – the same sources that inspired Elgar and Vaughan Williams. In Terra Pax was composed in 1954 and was almost the last piece that Finzi wrote, though its genesis can be traced to an event some thirty years previously, when one Christmas Eve he had climbed up to the church at the top of his beloved Chosen Hill, between Gloucester and Cheltenham. The sound of the midnight bells ringing out across the frosty Gloucestershire valleys evidently made a lasting impression on him, retrospectively providing the idea for In Terra Pax, as he told Vaughan Williams.

The work is a setting of two verses from Robert Bridges’ fine poem, ‘Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913’, subtitled Pax hominibus bonae voluntatis (Peace and goodwill to all men), which Finzi imaginatively and skilfully uses to frame St Luke’s account of the angels’ appearance to the shepherds. In Terra Pax is subtitled ‘Christmas Scene’, and Finzi explained that ‘the Nativity becomes a vision seen by a wanderer on a dark and frosty Christmas Eve in our own familiar landscape’. This placing of the Biblical story into an English pastoral context is entirely consistent with Finzi’s close affinity with the English Romantic tradition, and his lifelong dedication to the creation of his own rural paradise at his home in Ashmansworth, near Newbury.

The two soloists and the chorus have clearly defined musical roles; the baritone soloist takes the voice of the poet, the soprano is cast as the angel, whilst the chorus narrates the familiar biblical text. In the opening section the poet is standing on a hill contemplating the events of the very first Christmas, the sound of the distant church bells becoming for him the sound of an angel choir. This image is expressed in a pealing-bells motif which, together with the refrain from ‘The First Nowell’, provides the musical fabric of the piece.

A frosty Christmas eve
When the stars were shining
Fared I forth alone,
Where westward falls the hill
And from many a village
In the water’d valley,
Distant music reached me
Peals of bells a-ringing:
The constellated sounds,
Ran sprinkling on earth’s floor
As the dark vault above,
With stars was spangled o’er.

 

Then sped my thoughts to keep,
That first Christmas of all
When the shepherds watching
By their folds ere the dawn
Heard music in the fields
And marveling could not tell
Whether it were angels
Or the bright stars singing.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of
the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round
about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them:

“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in
the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this
shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in
swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the
heavenly host praising God, and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good willxmas concert
toward men
But to me heard afar
It was starry music.
Angels’ song, comforting
As the comfort of Christ
When He spake tenderly,
To His sorrowful flock:

The old words came to me,
By the riches of time
Mellow’d and transfigured,
As I stood on the hill
Heark’ning in the aspect
Of th’ eternal silence.

And on earth peace, Good will toward men.

 

All are invited to our Christmas concert on Monday, December 16, 7:30 pm in the Main Nave.

Immaculate Conception Window

When Constable was designing Saint Dominic’s, he worked under the rubic that the Church is a homily made of stone.  Well, today, we watch him preach.

2013-12-09 09.12.23On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, we take note of a window left of the sanctuary.  It is the Immaculate Conception window.  Of course, taking good pictures of the windows is almost impossible, but perhaps these sorry pictures may inspire you to take a visit and mediate on these windows in real life.

I would also like to point out that to the right of the Immaculate Conception window is a statue from a previous version of Saint Dominic’s…namely, a statue of the Crucifixion of the Lord, with Jesus’ Mother standing next to her Son.

2013-12-09 09.12.55Without her yes, there could not have been His yes.  Without her fiat, His Death would never have happened.

Immaculate Mother, pray for us.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Saint Nicholas

Today is the Memorial of Saint Nicholas, Bishop.

Many think of Saint Nick—Santa Nicolaos of Myra—as someone’s figment of imagination that somehow ended up on Coca-Cola bottles and tins of popcorn.  Actually, this Saint was a real man.  He actually existed.  Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus.

Now, anyone reading this blog can look up Saint Nicolaos’ biography on their own.  However, I would like to “read” the attached icon and allow us to see how we got from this icon to the American counterfeit.st nicholas

Now, with a Catholic Liturgical lens, you would think that Saint Nicolaos was a martyr.  In reality, Saint Nicolaos lived in modern-day Turkey.  He was Orthodox.  The color palette of the East is much different than in the West.  Whereas the West delineates colors for a particular purpose—green symbolizes hope, white for resurrection,  red for martyrs and the Holy Spirit—the East has two color schemes, light and dark.  Dark is for the darker seasons, like fall and winter, and light for spring and summer.  (Needless to say, this is a gross simplification.  My apologies.)  Saint Nicolaos died on December 6, 343, during the darker months.  Hence, a darker color, like red.

Now, notice the pallium over Nicolaos’ shoulders.  (The pallium is a woolen stripe recognizing an archbishop’s authority over his region.) Now notice its color.  Now think of Santa Claus, particularly of that furry stripe going down his chest.  Interesting, hunh?

7572142-santa-claus-waving-a-bellOkay, now what about the hat?  Santa Claus as a funny triangular hat.  Well, so do bishops.  What is now deemed a “Santa hat” is really an adaptation of a Bishop’s Mitre.

I find it fascinating that many of our American Christmas customs are deeply rooted into our Christian tradition.  I hope you found this as fascinating as I do.  More importantly, I pray that you find time today to venerate this very special and holy man, asking him to sanctify this day, this season and your life.

“Catching Fire” & the Kingdom of God

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the second movie of The Hunger Games trilogy, is the hottest movie out there right now.  Reading the books a number of times, I can say that I was quite satisfied with the adaptation.  In fact, I thought that the movie adaptations of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire were both rather effective.  Nicely done.

cf imageRecently, I overheard a conversation in which people were talking down the movies, saying that they are instruments of gratuitous violence.  The argument stemmed that the world is a cold, awful enough place as it is, and really, why should we watch and promote films that bring our spirits, down, down, down?

And to a point, I agree with the conversation.  Christians—at our best—are a hope-filled people, children of the Resurrection.  We are people with our hearts and minds focused on the face of our God.  We trust in a God who will never let us down, a Father who will always keep his promises, and a God who knows us so intimately that he provides us with what he need at the perfect moment.  So yes—why ought we focus on downtrodden movies?  They have a point.

Admittedly, though, when I heard the aforesaid conversation, I rolled my eyes (I never said cf image 2that I am a nice person) I thought, You fools.  You fell right into the trap.  Right.  Into.  The. Trap.  In fact, if you have read the books, the first thing you would notice that author Suzanne Collins is doing is rallying against reality television, child violence, media manipulation, and propaganda.  The purpose of the books was to elucidate and project onto a wide screen the very thing that makes our society weak—the objectification of the young, propagandistic manipulation, entertainment for entertainment’s sake, a squandering of resources, and the list goes on and on.  The Hunger Games trilogy is a story about a normal girl trying to protect her family—the whole gratuitous violence thing is exactly what Collins is rallying against.

Now, I’m not writing this simply because it stirred my pot.

Sermon-on-the-Mount-Fra-Angelico-c1440Whereas the Kingdom of The Hunger Games is founded on manipulation and intimidation, the Kingdom of God is not.  The Kingdom of God is founded on Charity, Peace and the Love of God and Neighbor.  Unlike President Snow, who rules by treachery and forceful, robotic Peacekeepers, Lord Jesus rules through urgent invitations, loving concern and joyful spirits.

It may be easier to be feared, but it is much better to be loved.

Thankfully, the Kingdom of God is not Panem.  Christians at our best are a people responding to the invitations of Jesus Christ to dwell deeper in faith, hope and love.  Children of the Resurrection, we are formed by the radical example of the Son of God, loving desperately and passionately to the point of dying to our selfish ways.   We are not ruled by a sadist, but by a The Crucified.  He invites us to love and to love in the most extreme of ways.

Collins does not give into a world of gratuitous violence, manipulation and media fanaticism.  Rather, she forces us to look into the mirror, and forces us to answer for the manipulations we make of our own selves.  How do we use each other for our own selfish gain?  How are we killing our society and our own children?  How are we murdering the innocent youth of our times?

I say that we ought look into our own world and propose the Gospel message of compassion and innocence and the awe of God.  A beautiful sunset or a late-night conversation resonates much easier than the murder of a child.  If I were to choose my Kingdom, I think it would be God’s…

Advent Waiting and Harry Potter

Advent is a season of waiting. It is a time of spiritual preparation in which we look forward to Christmastide. It is a time in which we mediate on Salvation History and take a long, hard gaze in our past, seeing how God the Father prepares us for the coming of the Son.

We look at our first parents were guaranteed a savior. We look at Abraham and Jacob, men who were promised God’s presence in a singular way. We look towards Judah, the father of a tribe who would sprout the Son of God. We look to Moses, the bringer of the New Covenant. We look to David, of which Jesus’ Royal Dignity comes forth. We look to Isaiah, the coronet of the great title, “Emmanuel”. We look to Joseph of Nazareth, the just, quiet man. And of course, we look to the daughter of Ann, Mary, the lowly handmaid.

Further, we are called to wait in a particular way. We don’t wait as if we are in Safeway, or at the bank. It’s not as if we are waiting to pay our bill at the restaurant. We don’t wait as though we were at AT&T Park, going to the restroom between innings. No—we wait as though…we’re going to see a movie. A really good one.

Ootp_coverI remember when Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out to the theatres. I was in Arizona at the time, serving at All Saints Catholic Newman Center. It was known that I was a fan of Harry Potter and all things related. (Little did they know how much a fan I was and am, but that’s for another post.) When some of my students found out, they invited me to a midnight showing. And there we were, at eleven o’clock in the evening on a Friday night, with about 400 other people, waiting for the gates to open so that we can trample inside and see the summer’s greatest film. (Okay, that year, it wasn’t the greatest greatest, but you get the point.) And some of my fellow movie go-ers were dressed up. Of course. I distinctly remember seeing two generic wizards, three Dumbledores, a flock of Gryffindors, four house elves, two Death Eaters and a slew of random Hogwartians waiting for the show to start.
At half past eleven, we were allowed into our theatre. Once we settled into our seats—high and center, thank you very much—the noisy electricity revved throughout the room. Someone got a beach ball and it bounced back and forth. Others started singing songs from the Potter fandom. Still others screamed the beginnings of quotations from the fifth book, expecting others to finish the line—which we loyally and joyously did.
Then finally. Finally. Finally. The lights began to darken, the curtains rolled out…and all hushed in a frenetic, reverential joy.

advent 1
This, my friends, is Advent waiting. This is the waiting that Advent brings. Knowing that the Lord will come because he always fulfills his promises. The waiting in which we don’t know exactly what kind of wondrous, delicious, delirious idea God has come up with, knowing that we will love it. Knowing that God will give us something needed yet unexpected. Advent waiting.
…and so we wait…