Tag Archives: Christmas

“Peace on Earth” – Classic MGM Christmas Cartoon

23 Dec

Peace On Earth. Classic Christmas cartoon. MGM 1939. Anti-war.

Here is my early Christmas gift to all of my friends and visitors to this blog. I hope you take the 8 1/2 minutes to watch this extraordinary classic cartoon. It is distinguished as being the only cartoon to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. I would describe this as a post-apocalyptic, dystopian-yet-utopian tale that presents the true meaning of the peace associated with the Christmas story in a manner that makes it still as relevant today as it was when it was first released, back in 1939. Think of it as an extended meditation on the twin themes of the “peaceable kingdom” and “turning swords into plowshares” that figure so prominently in the Book of Isaiah; two themes which serve as a backdrop to the story of the first Christmas found in the Gospels of Mathhew and Luke. What is ironic and sad is that this cartoon’s powerful anti-war message was largely forgotten or ignored just two years later when the USA entered the throes of WWII.

I post this now as we enter into this year’s Christmas season in hope that perhaps the message of this cartoon may engender in some people a reconsideration of the subversive but much needed message of Christmas: of the power of non-violent love that was incarnated in the coming of the Christ child some 2000 years ago. As we reflect on the sorrow, injustice and violence that plague our world right now, it should be clear that we need this cartoon’s simple message of peace and hope even more today.

I would love to have you post your reactions and thoughts here once you enjoy this heartwarming cartoon and ruminate over its message. And you are certainly encouraged to share or re-post this!

Merry Christmas and “Peace to All People of Good Will!!!”

Tom

New Series of Advent Video Reflections

5 Dec

I’d like to pass on this example from a new series of Advent video reflections that feature the beautiful artwork of Brother Mickey McGrath. The promise is that a new reflection will be posted each day throughout the Advent season. The focus of this particular video is his painting “The Annunciation.” Enjoy, be inspired, and you are certainly encouraged to share this!

“For Us” — A Christmas Meditation on the Incarnation

25 Dec

Nativity Panel by Ducio

 

A Christmas Meditation

by Tom Webber

 

“FOR US”

 

For us . . .

 

He who is God

Has become Man.

 

He who is Power

Has become weak.

 

He who is Rich

Has become poor.

 

He who is Creator

Has been created.

 

He who is Love

Has sought our love.

 

He who can by give

Has received.

 

He who is Eternal

Has entered time.

 

There is not place that He is not,

And yet He is born in obscurity.

 

He who is Giver

Is our gift.

 

(c) Thomas C. Webber  1990

 

To all of my visitors and friends,

I sincerely wish for you peace, happiness, hope and mirth that are the true Christmas blessings we celebrate and receive this day through the birth of new-born Babe, the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas!

Tom

Advent Resource: The O Antiphons (Dec 17 – 23)

17 Dec

 

Each year, beginning with December 17th and continued through December 23rd, the Church celebrates a centuries old countdown towards the coming of the feast of Christmas through its daily singing of the “O Antiphons.” The “O Antiphons” seemed to have begun in the 7th century for use during the Vespers (evening) prayer and were sung before and after the Magnificat during this period; one verse being sung as a form of meditation on the significance and meaning of the coming of Jesus Christ as a fulfillment of the deepest longings not only of the Jewish people, but that of all human heart. The original melody was lost but have been kept alive through the beautiful Latin hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

A different antiphon is sung and associated with each day during this time, each representing a short scriptural meditation of a few lines long. Each centers on a particular messianic title and ends with a prayerful petition related to the meaning of that title. Each antiphon reads as an inspired jewel of poetry that should serve for Christians as a kind of mantra. Prayerfully meditating upon them can lead us into delving ever deeper into the rich meaning of the mystery of the Incarnation for ourselves and for the world.

Here is a list of the O Antiphons according to the day on which each is celebrated. Following each is an English translation of the original Latin verse associated with each antiphon. Also note that related scriptural verses are provided.

Isaiah 22:22; Revelation 3:7

 

The themes of the “O Antiphons” (see the illustration above for these) are drawn from the Hebrew Scriptures, mainly from images found in the prophet Isaiah, although in a couple one finds allusions to stories found in the books of Genesis and Exodus. In a little Advent / Christmas pamphlet I have used since I was a child, we find a this helpful explanation concerning the order in which the O Antiphons are celebrated by a Jesuit priest named Fr. William J. McGarry, S.J.:

There is a climactic order in these antiphons. In the first, O Sapentia [i.e., Latin for “O Wisdom”], we take a backward flight into the recesses of eternity to address Wisdom, the Word of God. In the second, O Adonai [Latin for “O Lord], we have leaped from eternity to the time of Moses and the Law of Moses (about 1400 B.C.). In the third, O Radix Jesse [Latin for “O Root of Jesse”], we have come to the time when God was preparing the line of David (about 1100 B.C.). In the fourth, O Clovis David [Latin for “O Key of David”], we have come to the year 1000. In the fifth, O Oriens [Latin for “O Rising Dawn”], we see that the line of David is elevated so that the peoples may look on a rising star in the east, and hence in the sixth, O Rex Gentium [Latin for “O King of Nations], we know that He is a king of all the world of [humankind}. The brings us to the evening before the vigil [of Christmas], and before coming to the town limits of Bethlehem, we salute Him [i.e., Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God and descendant of David] with the last Great O, O Emmanuel, God-with-us.” [This passage quoted from Fr. McGarry’s book “He Cometh” in the pamphlet entitled  Family Advent Customs, 1954 Liturgical Press]

In other words, the O Antiphons present us with survey of salvation history as it is presented in biblical revelation, and helps us to appreciate God’s providential preparation for the coming of Jesus that we celebrate at Christmas time.

December 17 – O Wisdom (O Sapientia)

O wisdom, coming forth from the Most High, filling all creation and reigning to the ends of the earth; come and teach us the way  of truth.

Gen 1: 1-2; Isaiah 11: 2-3; Ecclesiasticus 24.3-9; Proverbs 1:20; 8; 9 and 1 Corinthians 1:30

18 December – O Adonai – O Lord of might

O Lord of Lords, and ruler of the House of Israel, you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush, and gave him the law on Sinai: come with your outstretched arm and ransom us.

Exodus 3.1-6; Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:6

Dec 19 – O Radix Jesse – O Root of Jesse

O root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the nations; kings will keep silence before you for whom the nations long; come and save us and delay no longer.

Isaiah 11.1-4,10; Romans 15:12; Revelation 5:5

Dec 20 – O Clavis David – O Key of David

O key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel; you open and none can shut; you shut and none can open: come and free the captives from prison, and break down the walls of death.
Isaiah 22:22; Revelation 3:7

21 December – O Oriens – O Dawn

O morning star, splendour of the light eternal and bright sun of righteousness: come and bring light to those who dwell in darkness and walk in the shadow of death.
Numbers 24.15b-17; Luke 1:78, 79; Malachi 4:2

Dec 22 – O Rex Gentium – O King of Nations

O king of the nations, you alone can fulfil their desires: cornerstone, binding all together: come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust of the earth.
Jeremiah 30.7-11a; Revelation 15:3; Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; Ephesians 2:20; I Peter 2:6

23 December – O Emmanuel – God-With-Us

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, hope of the nations and their saviour: come and save us, O Lord our God.
Isaiah 7:14; 8:8; Matthew 1:23; Haggai 2:7

Some suggestions for Praying the O Antiphons:

1. Each night my family will gather round the Advent wreath for time of shared reflection, prayer and singing. Beginning with Dec. 17th, we will chant the first verse from “O Come O Come, Emmanuel.” Each day thereafter we will add a verse to our singing so that by the time we reach December 23rd, we will be singing the verses corresponding to each of the O Antiphons.

2. Each day during this period, my family also has a tradition of taking turns in composing prayers of petition that are directly inspired by each of the O Antiphons, which we offer to God on behalf of ourselves, others we know, and the for situations in the world-at-large,

For example, after singing the first O Antiphon and reflecting on its meaning, someone might be inspired to pray in a manner similar to the following:

“O Lord, your Spirit hovered over creation at the beginning of time, miraculously bringing forth this universe by your Word out of the swirls of chaos. We beg that today you once again pour forth your creative Spirit  and holy Wisdom upon humankind so that we might be shown the path to peace and harmony, even as we live in a world torn by strife and violence. Amen.”

3. If you are a little more ambitious, I would share the following idea with you… While doing some research in preparation for today’s post, I serendipitously ran across a wonderful blog site called Everyday Liturgy (which I highly recommend you check out) where its author, Thom Turner, has composed his own paraphrase of the O Antiphons. Like me, I’m sure that you will agree that these are marvelously rich theological meditations.

Here is Mr. Turner’s new translation :

December 17 – O Wisdom (O Sapientia)

O Wisdom, coming to us as the voice of God,
The rushing wind of your voice hovers over the earth,
calling us back to the peacefulness of Eden.
Come now and teach us discernment.

December 18 – O Lord (O Adonai)

O Lord of your chosen people, you have spoken to us
through prophets. Through burning bushes and flaming tongues
you have given us your law: to love God and love others.
Come with your outstretched arms and bring salvation to all.

December 19 – O Root of Jesse (O Radix Jesse)

O Root of Jesse, out of you springs up the kingdom of God.
No other kings or nations have the power you possess,
so they keep silent before you and the witness of your kingdom.
Come with your kingdom now and save us.

December 20 – O Key of David (O Clavis David)

O Messiah, King of the Jews, you have given us the mysteries
of God and taught us the way of your kingdom. When someone
knocks you give to them freely and without reservation.
Come now and free those who are held captive by darkness.

December 21 – O Morning Star (O Oriens)

O Morning Star, bright light, eternal dawn, sun of justice,
shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow
of death; be our guide on the path of righteousness.
Come now and show us the light that brings eternal joy.

December 22 – O King of the Gentiles (O Rex Gentium)

O King of the Gentiles, the object of our desire,
you are the rock on which the church has been built.
You graft your chosen people together in one body.
Come now and save us who are but dirt and clay.

December 23 – O God-who-is-with-us (O Emmanuel)

O God-who-is-with-us, our coming king, composer of justice,
the nations will gather and bow down to you
who will come to judge the living and the dead.
Come now and save us, our God in the flesh.

For your personal time of prayer during Dec 17-23, you might consider doing one of two things:

  • meditate and pray over Thom’s new translation of the O Antiphons, focusing on one verse each day;
  • alternately, after reading his, you could try your own hand at writing a paraphrase for each O Antiphon, much like what Thom Turner has done himself. By doing so, you can overcome the barrier of familiarity by gaining a fresher and, perhaps, deeper insight into the meaning of the O Antiphons.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

I sincerely hope you find the closing days of Advent marked by a spirit of prayer, conversion, and Advent joy! And I am happy that you stopped by my blog!

Maranatha! Come Lord, Jesus! Come!

Tom Webber

Video Meditation for Advent: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

9 Dec

Please take a moment to settle back and quiet yourself,

recalling God’s ever present love.

 

Set aside all of the cares and concerns of this day.

 

Be in touch with your deep desire for God;

your own deep need for Love, for Grace, for Peace, and for Hope.

 

Pray: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” several times as you breath deeply.

 

Please watch now, with an open heart, a truly inspiring Advent meditation that I found to share with you this day.

 

 

Blessings,

Tom

Advent Resource: Feast of St. Nicholas, Dec. 6th

7 Dec

Icon of St. Nicholas by contemporary artist James Christensen

As most people know, our modern figure of Santa Claus had a real life inspiration in the 4th century saint, St. Nicholas of Myra. Myra, where he was born, was a busy port city on the Mediterranean Sea, helping to link Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Nicholas came from a wealthy family with parents who taught him to be generous to others, especially the poor and needy. He later came to be ordained a priest. Then one morning, after the bishop of Myra had died, many local people were gathered praying in the village church for a sign to help them discern who should be the next bishop. Divine inspiration told them that the next priest to enter the church should be ordained . This was Nicholas, who became bishop by popular acclamation, as was the custom of the times. Many stories are told of St. Nicholas’ holiness and generosity, including miracles he is said to have performed.

The Story of the Three Impoverished Daughters

One such story depicting the generosity of St. Nicholas concerns a rich man in Myra who had lost all of his money when his business failed. This man had three lovely daughters who all wished to get married. Unfortunately, the father had no money to offer as a dowry.  Without a dowry, the daughters were doomed to be lifelong spinsters, or even worse, subject to being sold into slavery.

The father felt that he was a failure. Desperate to provide food for his family, the man decided to sell one of his daughters into slavery, hoping that they other two would survive.

 

The night before his first daughter was to be sold, St. Nicholas took a small bag of gold into his hand. Then after quietly approaching their house in the darkness, tossed the gold into the house through an open window, and then quickly vanished.

The next day, the father found the bag of gold which had fallen into one of his stockings* hanging next to his bed. He had no idea where it came from. At first he thought that it must be counterfeit, but once he tested it and found out that it really was gold, he set about pondering which of his friends or relatives could have done such a thing. He decided that none of them could have possibly have given this to him.

The poor man fell to his knees and great tears came to his eyes. He thanked God for this beautiful gift. His spirit rose again to new heights of gladness as he quickly set to arranging a wedding for his first daughter. As it turns out, there was enough money not only for her dowry, but for he and the rest of his family to live for a year. But he often wondered who had given them the gold!

After a year had gone by, the father once again found himself broke. Desperate and distraught, he decided that his second daughter must be sold into slavery. Once again, Nicholas, upon hearing of the father’s plight, once again came to the house by night and tossed in another bag of gold. The next morning, the father rejoiced and thanked God as he once again found the gold. The father also begged God’s forgiveness for losing hope. But he was once again left to ponder what mysterious stranger gave him such a gift?

The man kept a vigil by the window for many nights after this, hoping to catch his benefactor, but to no avail. And so he arranged another joyous wedding for his second daughter. Once again, after a year, his money ran out and he found he and his last daughter in poverty.  In the dead of one night, the father heard steps outside of his house and a bag of gold being tossed through the window. He quickly rushed out to see who had thrown it there and discovered the saintly bishop walking away in the dark. After catching up with St. Nicholas, he recognized who his benefactor had been all along.

“Why did you give me this gold?” the father asked?

“Because you needed it,” answered Nicholas.

With tears in his eyes, the father embraced the bishop and thanked him. But he asked, “Why did you not tell us who you were?” “Because it is good to give  and have God alone know about it.”

*This lovely story seems to be the origin of putting stockings out to be filled with goodies and toys, be it on Christmas and/or the feast of St. Nicholas. Also, some versions of the story tell of the gold landing in shoes instead, which explains why many put shoes out instead.

The Legend of St. Nicholas and the Evil Butcher

There is a story, or rather legend, that is told about St. Nicholas, helps to explain why he has traditionally been viewed as the patron saint of children. The story of “The Evil Butcher” can be found in several forms, but the most intriguing is the story as it is popularly told in France. This version, dating apparently from the middle ages, is rather gruesome, sounding an awful lot like one found in a collection of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm. Below is a short form of this story that I found:

Nicholas Saving 3 Children from the Evil Butcher

Three little children sought the plain
Gleaners of the golden grain.
They lingered past the angel-song,
And dewy shadows swept along.

‘Mid the silence of the wood
The butcher’s lonely cottage stood,
“Butcher! lodge us for the night,
Lodge us till the morning light.”
“Enter in, ye children small,
I can find a place for all.”

The butcher seized a knife straitway,
And did the little creatures slay.
He put them in a tub of brine,
In pieces small as they were swine.

St. Nicholas, at seven years end,
His way did to the forest wend.
He sought the butcher’s cottage drear:
“Butcher! I would rest me here!”

“Enter! enter, St. Nicholas!
You are welcome, St. Nicholas!
Enter! enter, St. Nicholas!
There’s place for you the night to pass.”
Scarce had the Saint his entrance made,
He would the supper board was laid.

“Will you have of ham a slice?”
“I will not, for it is not nice!”
“Of this veal you’ll take a bit?”
“No! I do not relish it.”

“Give me of the little swine,
For seven long years have laid in brine!”
The butcher caught the words he said,
And forthwith from the portal fled.

“Butcher! butcher! do not flee,
Repent and God will pardon thee!”

St. Nicholas the tub drew near,
And lo! he placed three fingers there.
The first one said, “I sweetly rest!”
The second said, “I too am blest!”
The third replied, “Tis well with me,
In Paradise I seem to be!”

*freely translated from the French by English poet James Henry Dixon (1803–1876)

 

There are dozens of other fascinating stories and legends surrounding the figure of St. Nicholas, many of them truly inspiring. Always they are delightful to read. I would invite and urge you to spend some time at the links and sites available on the internet. Like me, once you begin to do so, you’ll surely find yourself fall in love with St. Nicholas all over again!

The most comprehensive internet site is most certainly one called The St. Nicholas Center. There you will find a massive collection of information about St. Nicholaus, including: historical information and primary documents; stories and customs about St. Nicholas from around the world; online copies of illustrated children’s books; a large collection of religious icons and paintings of St. Nicholas and his life; and dozens of resources for celebrating and teaching about St. Nicholas. And this just scratches the surface! It would take weeks to make your way through everything there.  I certainly plan on returning there often during the remainder of this Advent season.

Here are a few quick links from the St. Nicholas Center that I found intriguing, and I bet you will, too:

  • Because of how large the site is, start at the site map page found here:   http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=23 . The site is so large and detailed, unless you go to this page, I find that you’ll run the risk of missing much of the fun it offers, especially if you were to rely solely on the side panels for navigation.
  • A large collection of stories, legends and miracle accounts surrounding the life of  St. Nicholas can be found here, including The Golden Legend: http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=911 .  Many of these are lavishly illustrated, and some are interactive.
  • The Life of St. Nicholas shown in paintings, icons, and frescoes from around the world is found here:    http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=913
  • For an interactive page for discovering how the feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated with different customs around the world. Almost three dozen different countries are represented. Go here:    http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=76
  • A collection of online stories, activities, and games for children can be found here:  http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=166
  • An wonderful collection of articles and prayers to enhance your celebration of this great saint can be found here  http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=120 and here http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=1 . One of the articles found there that I especially like include a magical story by the well-known spiritual author Fr. Edward Hayes called The Pay-less Shoe Gift Shop & Hobbit Gifts. Another article I found was a reflection by Orthodox Christian and peace activist Jim Forest on St. Nicholas and the death penalty  called A Saint Who Stopped an Execution.” Once you go there, I’m sure that you’ll find others that appeal to your interests and spiritual needs.

    Banner for St.NicholasCenter.Org (Click me!)


Advent Retreat At Home?: Some Resources for You!

4 Dec

Many of us might wish or dream that we could stow away for an Advent / Winter retreat, but given today’s economy, we find that we can afford neither the time nor the money to do so. Advent is time provided us by the Church to intensify our ongoing conversion to the Gospel, to becoming more attune to God’s presence in our lives, and to grow more Christ-like in our love and service to others. Thankfully, there are many excellent free resources to be discovered right on the internet today that allow you and I, with a little discipline and effort, to make a meaningful spiritual retreat right in the comfort of our own home! I’d like to share a few. These are ones that I have either  personally found beneficial or they are resources on websites that I often visit and know to be of solid value.

It just so happens that in each of these cases, the retreat resources come from members of the Jesuit order. For those of you not familiar with the Ignatian traditions for prayer (another name for the Jesuit tradition), you will find it a scripturally-centered approach that emphasizes using one’s imagination and feelings as important tools for prayer. You will also find that wherever commentaries are provided on particular scripture passages, they are invariably well-written and enlightening. Here they are some links with a brief description of each:

  1. One Day Advent Retreat: If you are strapped for time, or have a whole day to yourself, and want to spend some time in prayerful solitude, an anonymous priest (from the internationally acclaimed site  Sacred Space, which is run by an Irish Jesuit community) has provided the materials for a guided mini-retreat here: http://www.sacredspace.ie/retreat/retreat200511_index.htm.  As you will see, there are three sessions comprising the retreat. You are instructed to make out a schedule for your sessions. Just scroll down to the bottom of the web page and then download the retreat materials, either as a Microsoft Word document or in PDF format.
  2. “PRAYING ADVENT”: I would call this excellent site provided by the Jesuit Community of Creighton University a kind of “Build-Your-Own-Advent-Retreat” or “Spiritual Erector Set” approach, aimed at helping spiritual seekers pray their way through the Advent and Christmas season. The link is found here: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Advent/ In addition to providing a daily meditation for each day of the Advent and Christmas seasons, there are a large number of additional articles, prayers, devotions and and scripture meditations to be found here that can be personally adapted to your interests, needs and time, so that you can prayerfully escape the hustle-bustle of life. In the lower right-hand corner of the web page, you will also find audio retreats (from actual retreat sessions) led by Fr. Lawrence Gillick, S.J. and Andy Jaspers, S.J. You can listen to one session a day or once a week, making it a more extended mini-retreat experience for yourself. This can be done spending as little as ten minutes a day.  So that you get the maximum benefit of the materials found on this site, I suggest that you be sure and read this brief “Guide to Daily Prayer” article found on the site: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Advent/dailyguide.html.
  3. Advent Devotions for High School and College Age Youth: The campus ministry program at Creighton University continues its long tradition of providing daily meditations on scripture written by various students. I have always been struck by how insightful and spiritually challenging these reflections are. Young or old, you’ll find these wonderful aids to making daily prayer an important part of your Advent and Christmas seasons! Go here where you will find the daily reflections displayed in a calendar: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/daily.html
  4. “Advent Reflections” On-the-Go (PODCAST FORMAT): Many people (and I am one of them) like to listen to podcasts on their iPod or MP3 Player. And I have a number of podcasts that I listen to that have spiritual themes. If you are one of these, perhaps you might try this Advent retreat podcast, compliments of the Jesuit community of the New England Province. There are four audio files that can be downloaded for listening to on your portable sites, one for each week of Advent, and each presented by a different Jesuit priest.  The topic themes for each week are: Anticipating Joy, Using the Examen During Advent, Imaginative Prayer, and Advent Gifts and Graces. One of the great advantages here is that listeners are introduced to and taught many of the elements of Ignatian prayer, including how to discern (recognize)  God’s presence (the Ignatian motto is “See God in All Things”), the prayer of the Exam (a wonderful prayer form used to help one learn to “hear” what God is saying), and the use of the imagination in prayer. The site is found here:  http://www.sjnen.org/AdventReflections

There are so many more great resources out there but I hope you find one or more of these sites helpful in enriching your prayer during this blessed season of Advent!

Maranatha! (Come Lord Jesus!),

Tom

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