Friday, February 1, 2019

CANDLEMAS DAY AND ST. BLAISE


Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.     - Prayer from the Blessing of the Throats

Saturday, February 2, marked the end of the Christmas/Epiphany season.  (You can take down your decorations now.)  The day is known as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Presentation of Jesus to God in the Temple at Jerusalem 40 days after his birth.  The Light of Christ has come into the World!

This day is also called Candlemas day because around the world in churches and monasteries candles are blessed for the coming year. In Germany, and other countries, at the end of Evening Prayer on Candlemas Day and in anticipation of the feast of St. Blaise, they bless the faithful’s throats with lit candles.  I can only imagine the blaze that could cause if the priest were not of steady hand!    

In our monastery in Beacon were celebrate this ritual, without lit candles, thank you, for our own good health against diseases of the throat and other ailments, and for all the sick recommended to our prayer.

St. Blaise died in 317 and was a physician, bishop and martyr. The most famous legend about him was while he was in prison for refusing to renounce his faith, he miraculously cured a little boy who was choking to death on a fish bone.

May Christ our Light, through the intercession of St. Blaise, cast out all shadows of doubts and fears and cure our illnesses as we joyfully sing full-throated in praise to the God who hears and answers our prayers.  Have your throats blessed.  And as an extra precaution, get your flu shot! 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

THE O ANTIPHONS: THE JEWELS OF ADVENT


Advent is the most beautiful of liturgical seasons.  It is a time of watching and preparing, of hopeful expectation and joyful anticipation.  Advent is the season where we ponder the comings of Christ. The Mass readings of Advent begin with the Second Coming of Christ to earth, the Parousia. (par-u-cia). The word Parousia means ‘to be present.’  Isn’t that what Advent is about?  To be present to the mystery of God: past, present and future. We remember with our ancestors of the past their longing for the coming of the Messiah. We rejoice and celebrate Jesus’ incarnation, his coming in the flesh 2000 years ago.  In the present, we recognize Jesus, our Messiah, in our midst in the here and now, where he is gracing us in every facet of our lives as we look to our reward at his ‘Second Coming.’


If you follow the daily readings at Mass during Advent you find they are filled with much imagery.  A few years ago it got to the point that I felt inspired to illustrate the Great O Antiphons.

Some of you may be scratching your head and saying, ‘The Great what?’ You know at least one of them by heart, ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel… ’   It is probably the most beloved of all Advent hymns.   In the
monastery, as a final preparation for Christmas, we sing these ‘Jewels of Advent,’ the last 7 nights before before Christmas Eve.   The Great O’s are sung during Evening Prayer just before the Magnificat beginning December 17 and then continue for the next 6 days with a different ‘O’ sung every night until December 23.  They are also sung, or said, as the Alleluia verse at Mass during those days.   



The exact origin of the ‘O
Antiphons’ is not known. Boethius (480–524) a Christian philosopher in 6th century Rome made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time. During the next century at the monastery of Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire of Fleury in central France, these antiphons were recited by the abbot and other abbey leaders in descending rank, and then a gift was given to each member of the community. By the eighth century, they were in wide use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome.  The hymn, ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel,’ dates back to the 9th century.

The original O Antiphons, of course, were in Latin. But over the years there have been many translations.  My handout is one of the more modern translations.   
  December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
  December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)
  December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of
Jesse)
  December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of
David)
  December 21: O Oriens (O Morning Star)
  December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
  December 23: O Emmanuel (O
Emmanuel)
Whoever put together all the Latin Antiphons was having a good time because if you take the first letter of each invocation, then read it backwards; it forms an acrostic in Latin:  ERO CRAS.  This can be understood as Christ response to his people's plea, “Tomorrow I will come."

You may say, ‘Wait a minute.  Christmas is on the 25th not the 24th.  Why end on the 23rd ?’  True enough, but thanks to the tradition handed down to us by our Jewish ancestors in the faith, we begin the liturgical day at sundown. So, the evening of the 23rd is Christmas Eve, and as a result, therefore, the Christmas liturgy begins at Evening Prayer on the 24th.  I know it sounds confusing but that is the way it is.

To add to the mix, an alternative English medieval practice arose of moving all of the antiphons forward by one day so they began on December 16th.  They added an antiphon involving Mary to the end on the 23rd.  
O Virgo Virginum…

O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be?
For neither before you, or after shall be.
Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel at me?
The thing you behold is divine mystery.

So they took the ‘V’ from O Virgo and added it to the acrostic so it became Vero Cras, "Truly, tomorrow."

This additional antiphon was only eliminated from the Church of England liturgy in the year 2000, thereby restoring the Great O Antiphons to their original form.

The O Antiphons are all scripture based, or at least they are alluded to somewhere, in the Jewish Testament.  Each Antiphon has three parts:
◊ They all begin with an exclamation of a Messianic title:   O Wisdom, O Root of Jesse, O Morning Star….
  They are followed by an attribute, a description of the power of God:  Giver of Law,  Sign of God’s Love,  Source of Life, Promised Savior….
◊ And then conclude with an invocation to Come and:  Come and teach us, Come and open the way, Come and Redeem us, Come and set us free…

Did you know the name Jesus, Jehoshua, means in Hebrew ‘Jehovah saves or sets free’?  That is the underlying theme of all the O’ Antiphons: our longing for God to set us free.

In many cultures, to know the name of another person gives you power over that person.  Think of the power we have in knowing, in our limited way, some of the names for the ineffable God; and the awareness of some of the attributes of our incomprehensible God.  Because of this power, we dare to cry out, to demand that God come to our aid to open our hearts and teach us, to hurry up and unite us to God’s self, to redeem us and set us free.  And this God has done and is still doing so until this day.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

HOMILY ON THE FEAST OF BLESSED CELESTE CROSTAROSA by Fr. Tom Orian 9/11


‘We heard in the Paul’s letter to the Ephesians these words, “we are God’s work of art, created in Christ to do the good things God created for us to do and today the Church celebrates one of God’s masterpieces, Blessed Maria Celeste Crostarosa.   To many however, when you mention her name the response is not one of great joy but more one like Who?  To the small band of her followers in this room she is model, guide and companion even centuries later.

Paul further says we exist to display the immeasurable riches of God’s grace and kindness in Christ and the gift of faith given to us in Christ . This is what saints do and it was what Blessed Celeste did in her life. Like Martha in the Gospel came to do, she was also able to come to believe that Christ was the Messiah and Son of God who had come into the world to save us.  Her world was a special world just as Martha and Mary’s world was, she knew and believed that in Christ Jesus, “whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

Giulia Crostarosa was born in Naples in 1696, the 10th of 12 children. She was considered by some as the “darling of the family” both intelligent and high spirited.  There was much to be discovered about her as she grew in her understanding of who she was.  She invites us this day on here Feast day to continue to grow in our understanding of who we are as a people of God.
When you want to understand something about a founder such as Celeste you look to her writings, Her writing was so focused on the one who was the redeemer of humankind and thus we have a community who recall and who contemplate as only they can, the one redeemer’s actions for us today and every day, Celeste heard Jesus’ command when he said to her and he says to us. “Do not love any creature, love only me. Imitate my life and unite whatever you do with the works of my life.”   Blessed Celeste went about with eyes focus and heart dwelling in the life of Christ her teacher and redeemer.

She, as many young women did in her day and age, entered religious life and when while still in formation as a novice, she had a revelation that she would be the instrument by which a new rule and order of nuns would be established. She wrote “With desire I have desired to give my Spirit to the world and to communicate it to my creatures endowed with reason, in order to live with them and in them until the end of the world. Out of immense love, I have given them my Only Begotten Son.” 

With the support and collaboration of St. Alphonsus Liguori, who later became her friend the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer was founded on the Feast of Pentecost in 1731. That is the beginning of the story but it certainly doesn’t end there. Like many founders of new communities she was misjudged, she was called a troublemaker, delusional, and to even some she was considered a witch. But persistent in her call she remained strong.

She was eventually expelled from the original monastery for being one her companions could not understand and so she turned to her Beloved  Jesus, who was to show her the way. Blessed Celeste’s heart was always focused on founding a new monastery and new way of life and so she continued her quest in Foggia, where she became a prolific writer and mystic.

The spiritual journey of Maria Celeste was filled with many mystical experiences and is characterised by obedience to conscience, by constant searching for the meaning of the gospel, and by living simply. Here where I invite to do your home work and read more of her life or just turn to her living followers today and let them tell you the whole of the story. Maria Celeste died at Foggia on the 14th September 1755. At the moment of her death, Saint Gerard Majella, her spiritual friend, declared he saw her soul flying to heaven as a white dove.” That’s quite a story of the one who followed the life of her redeemer.  I found that as I reflected more, it was fascinating for the situation here as she began with Carmelite roots but also had a tie to Francis as well.  In 1731, on October 3, the Vigil of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Maria Celeste has a vision of Our Lord with St. Francis and Alphonsus Liguori. She discovers that Jesus wishes to have Alphonsus be the first superior of a men's Institute, with the additional charge to "…Go and preach to every creature that the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Today we celebrate Celeste let us reflect upon the words of their own constitution: the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer accomplishes its mission in the Church in close fellowship with the entire Redemptorist family. The Order is, in fact, closely linked by its origins, name and
spirituality, with the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. The twofold Institute is called to achieve a common goal in a complementary fashion. The apostolate of the Redemptorists is sustained by the contemplative life of the Nuns and their ministry gives incentive to the life of prayer and contemplation of the Nuns who are themselves fully missionary (cf. Canon 674), The mission of both is to be faithful witnesses of the love of the Father and to continue in this way with the grace of the Holy Spirit, the Mystery of Christ Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary for the salvation of mankind."

On this feast day may you remember always the vision of Celeste and live the words of St Paul in Ephesians, God has raised you up, In union with Christ to display the riches of God’s grace and kindness in Christ. May you echo Celeste vision in your life when he joins Paul in saying, “Life for me is Christ.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

THE GIFT AND JOY OF BEING AN ASSOCIATE


For the past 27 years I have had the gift and the joy of being an Associate of the Redemptoristine Sisters.  And even before I became an associate, I was coming to this monastery on Carmelite feast days in the late 1980’s.  And so both Orders of sisters have been my friends and spiritual support for many years.

The witness of all of the sisters in living a deeply committed contemplative life has been a major source of strength for me in my life as a contemplative in the world.

The fidelity of the Redemptoristine sisters in praying for my many intentions and needs of myself and my family gives me deep consolation.

The steadfastness of the sister’s presence to us together with the friendship with my sister associates is a source of strength and deep joy for me in the challenge to try to live the Gospel and be a Living Memorial of Christ the Redeemer in my daily life.

I feel deep gratitude to God, to each of the sisters and to my sister associates for this blessed association which has become such an integral part of my Christian life.


Peggy Mearns   9/9/18


Friday, August 31, 2018

THE GOSPEL OF POOH


How was your summer?  That is the refrain running through our minds with the beginning of school just around the corner. Whatcha (what did you) do?  Whatcha see? What makes you smile just remembering?  What broke your heart? In all of this, how did God’s hand touch you, change you?

I have a confession to make:  I just read for the first time Winnie the Pooh after being intrigued by the commercials for the new movie, Christopher Robin.

What a delightful series of stories of a simpler time. Christopher Robin and Pooh are full of wonder of the world around them.  They are thoughtful, kind and big-hearted.  Present to the present moment. Ah, to be like Pooh and relish the now.  And if things get bothersome, hum a little tune, think up a poem, or just ponder.

The characters in the Pooh stories are the exact opposite of what Jesus warns about in today’s Gospel: “From within people come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, greed, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly.  All these evils come from within and they defile.” Mk 7:21-23


Would that we all would take our cue from Pooh and friends and be a blessing to one another by enjoying the adventures of living in the now, being selfless, humble, generous, modest, and having the  spontaneity to say, “I love you,” just because. Let us carve out times in our days to relish each other and each moment, for those are the times when God’s hand touches us the most.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

POLISHED TO A SHINE

Polished Worry Stone
Rubbed Smooth by Faith and Prayer
Glories in the Cross

Very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had just risen, the women went to the tomb.  They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”  When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled away.       Mark 16: 2-4

 I know I am skipping ahead to the end of the paschal story, but this being Laetari  (Rejoice) Sunday, I couldn’t resist.   Do you hear the worry in the women’s voices?  We know the end of the story.  They meet the risen Jesus.  Yet, they are bewildered, but they also rejoice.   We too have our share of worries and bewilderment and times of rejoicing.   

Even the foundress of the Redemptoristine Nuns, Blessed Maria Celeste Crostarosa, had cause to worry and be  bewildered.    Imagine how you would feel if, as a novice in your community, you had a revelation that you were to be the instrument Jesus uses to found a new Order.  The plan of the new Order was to be  based on the life of Jesus: on His humility and His love.  Imagine the turmoil that would cause in community.   That is exactly what happened to Celeste.

Blessed Celeste was an eighteenth century mystic.  All her life she enjoyed a special relationship with her Beloved Lord.  From the age of six, Jesus spoke tenderly to her heart and through the years He was her Guide saying she would travel in His footsteps in the same way He traveled in His earthly life.

Jesus said, “You are for me alone and I am for you alone.”   He explained, “You are my friend, you are my delight!  In your sufferings and afflictions, I keep you in my Kingdom of the Cross and in the Kingdom of my Peace and rest,  just the way I lived on this earth, so that I might give you the Kingdom of Eternal Happiness.”  

And Celeste indeed traveled in Jesus’s footsteps.  After she told her superiors about the revelation, things went from bad to worse, so much so that at one point she was sequestered to a closet under the eaves for two weeks and forbidden the reception of Holy Communion.  People were calling her delusional, a troublemaker.   It wasn’t until she was interviewed by one Rev. Alphonsus Liguori that Celeste was believed and the Order was approved.  

All the while Blessed Celeste lived in faith and prayer following the pattern of Jesus’s life of self-emptying, embracing the cross for love of Him.   Even after the Order was established, she still experienced worry and bewilderment when was ultimately expelled from the community because she was true to her Lord and followed her conscience.  For five years she was a wayfarer until she founded a new monastery based on the Rule revealed to her by Jesus.

Throughout this time, Celeste wrote in the form of dialogues her conversations with Jesus.   In wonder Celeste says to Jesus,  “In your humiliations all the sweetnesses of your treasures and infinite glory are hidden.  There you invite me to keep you company on the cross and in your mercy gazed on me with compassion.” 

Just a note here:  When Blessed Celeste uses the words ‘humiliations,’ I believe she is speaking of God’s total self-emptying in becoming human like one of us as Jesus, therefore accepting all that it means in foregoing all privilege and reverence due him as Man-God.  In the Florilegium, a collection of her writings, Celeste uses the word ‘humiliations’ at least 35 times:  exemplary humiliations, admirable humiliations, glorious throne of humiliations, the supreme divine humiliations of his death on a cross… and on and on.   In pondering these instances of Christ’s humiliations we discover opportunities for ourselves to be better disposed for the perfect transformative union of our soul with the Man-God Himself.

Jesus responds to Celeste, “Be not surprised that I died for you on the cross: I embraced the cross, loved it, desired it and took pleasure in it ~ all for your love.”  And encourages her saying, “Keep your gazed fixed on Me without any fear in all that you do knowing that this work is totally mine.” 

Celeste answers, “I thank you, my faithful Lover, for the great love and mercy you have for me.  You, God, live in the human person; in my life the Son of the Eternal Father is living, having come down into my heart to give new life to my flesh.  Make me an echo of your love.”

What worries do we have in common with Celeste? Misunderstanding and hurts with our family and friends, our places of work, our local communities?  Do we share them with Jesus? 

We live in a time of self-emptying, like Jesus, our Beloved.  We share humiliations, weaknesses, illnesses, as well as the everyday challenges and mundane occurrences of our lives with Jesus.  These are the hidden treasures that transform us when we unite ourselves to Jesus on the cross.   And you are not alone.  The very people who are such a bother are the same people who, if we accept their critiques, instruction, chisel off our rough edges, ware down our bumps and polish us up.  In the moment, this is not pleasant or easy.  But, if we step back and listen in the silence of our hearts, we may learn something about ourselves and others.  In the book of Proverbs it is written, “Listen to instruction and grow wise.”   These ‘instructions’ are not destructions.  These instructions rub us smooth like the worry stone you hold in your hand polished to a shine by prayer and time.  All of us are all participating in this rubbing, this transformation as we travel together with Jesus.  Together we are being polished to glory.

How can we persevere when things get rough?  Like Celeste we can reflect on the life of Jesus in  prayer, faith and trust knowing we are not alone at any moment of our lives during times of worry.   In sweet acceptance we offer ourselves, like Jesus, like Celeste, to God knowing we are worthy of divine love, and discover the graces and gifts, the wisdom and strength received from those hidden treasures, as we rub up against our own weaknesses and sufferings with others and move on enlightened to share in the supreme glory of the cross of Jesus, our Beloved.    

The stone has already been rolled away! 
Rejoice!

How does it feel to be rubbed the wrong way? 
Do you take this to prayer?
Does it ever smooth out your hard edges?
What does your polished to glory look like?

The Sisters and Associates traced their worry stone on a piece of paper and colored in the 'glory.'