“My soul rejoices in my God.”
The Presence of God
“I am standing at the door, knocking,” says the Lord. What a wonderful privilege that the Lord of all creation desires to come to me. I welcome his presence.
Leave me here freely all alone / In cell where never sunlight shone / should no one ever speak to me. / This golden silence makes me free.
—Part of a poem written by a prisoner at Dachau concentration camp
How am I really feeling? Lighthearted? Heavyhearted? I may be very much at peace, happy to be here. Equally, I may be frustrated, worried, or angry. I acknowledge how I really am. It is the real me whom the Lord loves.
I take my time to read the Word of God, slowly, a few times, allowing myself to dwell on anything that strikes me.
John 1:6–8, 19–28
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. . . . This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said,
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’”
as the prophet Isaiah said.
Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
- Here are questions we can ask about ourselves: Who am I? What is my purpose in God’s scheme?
- Lord, I think of you beside me, seeing the good and the promise in me. This is what I want to say about myself: I am called into being by God, who loves me.
Do I notice myself reacting as I pray with the Word of God? Do I feel challenged, comforted, angry? Imagining Jesus sitting or standing by me, I speak out my feelings, as one trusted friend to another.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be,
World without end. Amen.
All-powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God, forever and ever.
God of power and mercy open our hearts in welcome. Remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy so that we may share his wisdom and become one with him when he comes in glory, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
Lord God, may we, your people, who look forward to the birthday of Christ experience the joy of salvation and celebrate that feast with love and thanksgiving. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Father, all-powerful God, your eternal Word took flesh on our earth when the Virgin Mary placed her life at the service of your plan. Lift our minds in watchful hope to hear the voice which announces his glory and open our minds to receive the Spirit who prepares us for his coming. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Blest Advent wreath, adorned with flower filled greenery
Purple candles of aching hope, with pink wax of Gaudete
Serene, this unfolding scene, God’s people waiting joyfully
Flickering flames burning brightly, prayerfully, so silently
Christ’s coming is urgent, his arrival is expected, imminently
The tiny Christ child, born in the humility of the stable poverty
Bending the knee before his majesty, we await his return, patiently
Poem used with permission, and courtesy of our dear friend Fr Patrick Brennan © 2017 all rights reserved
The Advent Wreath and Candles:
The concept of the Advent wreath originated among German Lutherans in the 16th Century. However, it was not until three centuries later that the modern Advent wreath took shape. Research by Prof. Haemig of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, points to Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808–1881), a Protestant pastor in Germany and a pioneer in urban mission work among the poor as the inventor of the modern Advent wreath in the 19th century.During Advent, children at the mission school Rauhes Haus, founded by Wichern in Hamburg, would ask daily if Christmas had arrived. In 1839, he built a large wooden ring (made out of an old cartwheel) with 20 small red and 4 large white candles. A small candle was lit successively every weekday and Saturday during Advent. On Sundays, a large white candle was lit. The custom gained ground among Protestant churches in Germany and evolved into the smaller wreath with four or five candles known today. Roman Catholics in Germany began to adopt the custom in the 1920s, and in the 1930s it spread to North America. Professor Haemig’s research also indicates that the custom did not reach the United States until the 1930s, even among German Lutheran immigrants.
In many Catholic and Protestant churches, the most popular colours for the four surrounding Advent candles are violet and rose, corresponding with the colors of the liturgical vestments for the Sundays of Advent. For denominations of the Western Christian Church, violet is the historic liturgical color for three of the four Sundays of Advent: Violet is the traditional color of penitential seasons. Blue is also a popular alternative color for both Advent vestments and Advent candles, especially in some Anglican and Methodist churches, which use a blue shade associated with the Sarum rite, in addition to Lutheran churches that also implement this practice. One interpretation holds that blue means hope and waiting, which aligns with the seasonal meaning of Advent. Rose is the liturgical color for the Third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday from the Latin word meaning “to rejoice”—also from the first line of the traditional entrance prayer (called the Introit) for the Mass or Worship Service of the third Sunday of Advent; it is a pause from the penitential spirit of Advent. As such, the third candle, representing joy, is often a different color from the other three. More recently, some Eastern Orthodox families have adopted an Advent wreath with six candles symbolizing the longer Christmas fast in Orthodox tradition, which corresponds to Advent in Western Christianity.
A Service of Carols and Nine Lessons:
The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is a service of Christian worship celebrating the birth of Jesus that is traditionally followed at Christmas. The story of the fall of humanity, the promise of the Messiah, and the birth of Jesus is told in nine short Bible readings from Genesis, the prophetic books and the Gospels, interspersed with the singing of Christmas carols, hymns and choir music. In its original format, this service would take place on Christmas Eve.
In 1878 the Royal Cornwall Gazette reported that the choir of Truro Cathedral would sing a service of carols at 10:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
“The Choir of the Cathedral will sing a number of carols in the Cathedral on Christmas Eve, the service commencing at 10pm. We understand that this is at the wish of many of the leading parishioners and others. A like service has been instituted in other cathedral and large towns, and has been much appreciated. It is the intention of the choir to no longer continue the custom of singing carols at the residences of members of the congregation.”
Two years later, Edward White Benson, at that time Bishop of Truro in Cornwall but later Archbishop of Canterbury, formalised the service with Nine Lessons for use on Christmas Eve (24 December) 1880. The first service took place at 10:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. There is an oft-repeated myth that the purpose of the service was to keep men out of the pubs. While the original Service of Carols and Nine Lessons was an Anglican invention, it has since become a standard fixture for many Christian churches. It generally retains its original format, although it may also simply be an evening of carol singing accompanied by prayer.
The Jesse Tree:
The Jesse tree helps us connect the custom of decorating Christmas trees to the events leading to Jesus’ birth. The Jesse tree is named from Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot shall come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Jesse was the father of King David. We adorn a Jesse tree with illustrated ornaments that represent the people, prophesies, and events leading up to the birth of Jesus. The ornaments of the Jesse tree tell the story of God in the Old Testament, connecting the Advent season with the faithfulness of God across four thousand years of history.
“Begin by taking in a deep breath, taking in God’s love, the light of Christ, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Exhale all your worries, your challenges, and your fears. During this time of Advent let us reflect on what we can do to prepare for the Lord.
1. Invite the Holy Spirit to help you see the day as the newborn baby Jesus sees it. What joy have you found today? Where have you felt God’s love? What have you done today to prepare the way for Jesus being born into this world for you?
2. Now think about your day as if looking at it through the eyes of a child; what do you see? Did something surprise you? Was it something someone said to you or something you are grateful for? What did you recognize as gifts (thinking about the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh brought to Jesus)? Thank God for the gifts he has given to you today.
3. Take a moment to reflect on the times today when God was especially present to you. Recognize your feelings in those moments. How did you prepare your heart for God’s presence in the coming of Jesus? Where did you feel God’s loving arms wrapped around you the way Jesus felt Mary’s arms? How did you prepare yourself to experience God’s love, forgiveness, and hope?
4. Now take a moment to think about the times when God seemed to be hidden. Where did you struggle to see the Messiah in your life—the way some failed to recognize the birth of the Messiah when Jesus was born? When may you have seen the need for love and didn’t respond (maybe like the innkeeper), or the opportunity for forgiveness and you walked away? How was your heart prepared? Ask God to forgive you for anything that moved your heart away from God’s love and recognizing the birth of Jesus in you. And ask God to help you to open your heart and become the person that God created you to be.
5. Finally, prepare for the hope of Jesus Christ in your life. Think about what you are hopeful for, what you are looking forward to during Advent and the Christmas season. Is your hope like that of a child on Christmas morning? What gifts will you share to be hope for someone else? Ask God to bless all in your life as you prepare the way of the Lord, and ask God to be with you today and every day.”
Through the generous contribution of an anonymous donor, our Parish is now subscribed to the online Catholic educational resource known as FORMED. FORMED offers multiple talks, video presentations, sacramental enrichment programs and other exciting materials to help Catholics of all ages acquire a more enriched understanding of the Catholic Faith. FORMED is available to all members of our parish free of charge. When you visit the FORMED website (www.formed.org), please register by submitting your email address and inputting our parish code to access the FORMED website. The Parish Registration Code may be found in this week’s Bulletin for the 1st Sunday of Advent. Please also refer to the handout in this weekend’s bulletin for additional information about FORMED.
Feast days for the coming week:
Sunday – Dec.17 – St.Hildegard von Bingen
Monday – Dec.18 – Bl.Anthony Grassi
Tuesday – Dec.19 – Bl. Pope Urban V
Wednesday – Dec.20 – St.Dominic of Silos
Thursday – Dec.21 – St.Peter Canisius
Friday – Dec.22 – Bl. Jacopone de Todi
Saturday – Dec. 23 – St.John of Kanty
HAC for Fr.Nathan
We have added a page with a selection of Prayer Cards for your enjoyment and use. These may be accessed from the main page menu, or from this link.
These cards are in Adobe PDF format, and will require a PDF viewer for viewing and printing.
HAC for Fr.Nathan – image – courtesy and used with permission – www.freebibleimages.org – copyright LUMO Project
John humbly recognized that his calling came from God and not from man
When John the Baptist announced the imminent coming of God’s Anointed One, the Messiah, the religious leaders questioned his authority to speak so boldly in God’s name. They asked him bluntly, “Who are you?” and “What do you say about yourself?” They wanted to know if he was really sent by God. Did he claim to be the Messiah or one of the great prophets who was expected to return and announce the Messiah’s arrival (see Malachi 4:5, Deuteronomy 18:15)? John had no doubt and no mistaken identity about his call and mission. In all humility and sincerity he said he was only a voice bidding people to get ready for the arrival of the greatest Ruler of all, God’s anointed King and Messiah.
John’s identity and our identity is derived from God’s Son – Jesus Christ
John the Baptist bridges the Old and New Testaments. He is the last of the Old Testament prophets who points the way to the Messiah. He is the first of the New Testament witnesses and martyrs. He is the herald who prepares the way for Jesus and who announces his mission to the people: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! (John 1:29). John saw from a distance what the Messiah would come to accomplish – our redemption from slavery to sin and our adoption as sons and daughters of God, our heavenly Father. Do you recognize who you are in Christ? The Lord Jesus has come to restore us to friendship with God and he has made us citizens of heaven – his everlasting kingdom of peace and justice.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The time of reckoning is the first advent of Christ, by Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD)
“Being God by nature, the Only Begotten [Jesus Christ the Son of the Father] is the Holy of Holies, and he sanctifies all creation and so originates from the Holy Father with the Holy Spirit proceeding from him and sending in the power from above to those on earth who recognize him. How was he sanctified? For he is God and man equally; he gives the Spirit to creation but receives the Spirit on account of being human…
“‘Acceptable’ is that year in which we were received, when we took kinship with him, having our sins washed away through holy baptism and becoming partakers of the divine nature through the sharing of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:4). Or ‘acceptable’ is the year in which he revealed his glory through the divine miracle attesting the message. We received the time for salvation gladly… the day of reckoning is none other than the time of his dwelling among us in which the reckoning has been given by him to those believing in him through the promise in hope… For the Savior himself said, ‘Now is the judgment of this world, now is the prince of the world cast out’ (John 12:31). The time of reckoning, then, is in this manner, when Christ illuminated the world.” (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON ISAIAH 188.8.131.52–3)
Reflections courtesy of and used with permission – www.http://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org
There will be a time of Eucharistic Adoration on the First Friday of every month. It will take place at Our Lady of the Assumption Church following the 9:00 am Mass and end with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at 11:00 am. All are welcome to join us for a time of silent prayer and adoration before Our Eucharistic Lord.
“Lord Jesus, make me a herald of your word of truth and grace. Help me to be a faithful witness of the joy of the Gospel and to point others to you as John did through his testimony.”
HAC for Fr.Nathan