A reading from John Chrysostom
But why was the Christ child sent into Egypt? The text makes this clear: he was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, out of Egypt have I called my son. (Hos 11:1.) From that point onward we see that the hope of salvation would be proclaimed to the whole world. Babylon and Egypt represent the whole world. Even when they were engulfed in ungodliness, God signified that he intended to correct and amend both Babylon and Egypt. God wanted humanity to expect his bounteous gifts the world over. So he called from Babylon the wise men and sent to Egypt the holy family.
Besides what I have said, there is another lesson also to be learned, which tends powerfully toward true self-constraint in us. We are warned from the beginning to look out for temptations and plots. And we see this even when he came in swaddling clothes. Thus you see even at his birth a tyrant raging, a flight ensuing and a departure beyond the border. For it was because of no crime that his family was exiled into the land of the Egypt.
Similarly, you yourself need not be troubled if you are suffering countless dangers. Do not expect to be celebrated or crowned promptly for your troubles. Instead you may keep in mind the longsuffering example of the mother of the Child, bearing all things nobly, knowing that such a fugitive life is consistent with the ordering of spiritual things. You are sharing the kind of labor Mary herself shared. So did the magi. They both were willing to retire secretly in the humiliating role of fugitive. (The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 8.2.)
Two thoughts come to mind: first, how may I become mindful of “the long-suffering example of the mother of the Child” in my spiritual journey? Second, I’m reminded to pray for those who know to well the countless dangers of following Christ in a hostile world—in particular to pray for those Christians living in Egypt and Iraq.
A Reading from St. Augustine
We believe in him that he was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. Each birth of his, you see, must be considered wonderful, both that of his divinity and that of his humanity. The first is from the Father without mother, the second from mother without father; the first apart from all time, the second at “the acceptable time;” the first eternal, the second at the right moment; the first without a body “in the bosom of the Father,” the second with a body, which did not violate the virginity of his mother; the first without either sex, the second without a man’s embrace. (ACCS IVa:56)
Early church writers like Augustine juxtaposed seemingly incompatible ideas to illuminate the miracle of the birth of Christ. Lingering in this tension between the eternal and the temporal, we receive a glimpse into the mystery of the eternal love of God as revealed in history.
It wasn’t until I served in an interim role at a Lutheran church that I really understood the significance of liturgical seasons like this one. Since that time, I have come to appreciate the historical (since the beginning of the early church) and global practice (with Christians from around the world) of joining the common prayers and reflections of a given season in the church calendar.Read More Post a comment (1)
I held Madonna in my hand–a small figure from our Nativity. Her head was slightly bowed; posture tipped forward, as if bowing her heart, as well. I studied her, something of her form speaking to me about myself.Read More Post a comment (2)
In Luke 1:72-73, Zechariah recognizes that Jesus will be one who God uses “to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” This last line helped me remember that God enables me to minister 1) without fear 2) in holiness and righteousness 3) before him 4) all our days.Read More Post a comment (0)
If you’ve ever seen the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, then you’ve caught a small glimpse of me around the Holidays in the character of Clark Griswald. I start listening to Christmas music around October, and begrudgingly take down the last of my decorations mid-February. I stretch the festivities to their breaking point, and then do one final yank for good measure. It’s been this way since I was a kid: the anticipation, the impatience, the joy…the sweaters. The only difference now, as an adult, is that I am forced to constantly combat the advertising and consumerism that tries to usurp the simple happiness I am trying to so desperately retain from my childhood.Read More Post a comment (0)
We need Advent. Why? Because Advent is not Christmas.
The Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture says the Church is to be transcultural, contextual, cross-cultural, and counter-cultural. When we, as Christ-followers, follow Church Time vs. mall time, we live out these principles intuitively. By living into Advent, a time of focus on the Second Coming of Christ, as well as his first coming, we are less caught up in the madness of December and what our culture calls “the holidays.”Read More Post a comment (1)
During the Cold War, I served for two years on an army missile site in Germany. Vivid in my memory was the trip across the Atlantic on a troop ship filled with 1500 other men. For eleven days, I served guard duty on one of the decks on the 3:00 to 6:00 A.M. shift. It was cold, damp, and windy on the deck, and I remember longing for daybreak.Read More Post a comment (0)
Editor’s Note: Today’s post is a great introduction to this month’s blog theme: Advent. As opposed to the world’s incessant focus on Christmas (from about Halloween on), the Church calendar calls us to take a longer view. Although Advent is something that has become popular these days (as one blogger says, it’s what the cool kids are doing), the focus on Christ’s first and last advents help us to see beyond the season’s instant gratification into a time of waiting and longing. Each of our writer’s will explore this theme in their own way this month. We hope that you will join the conversation.
A scene in the movie A Nativity Story shows a very pregnant Mary on her donkey led by Joseph, as they approach Bethlehem. Hostile soldiers stop them, looking for “the Messiah.” Herod had told them to look for “a man of power, a man the people will follow.” After their search, one soldier concludes, “He [Joseph] is not the man.”Read More Post a comment (3)
This holiday season I decided to move into the New Year in a more contemplative fashion. While those around me are discussing new years resolutions and such I have decided to pray my way into the days post Christmas. I attended a retreat several months back were we prayed the liturgy of the hours. Yes, just like the monks, in this case the monks of Genesee Abbey.Read More Post a comment (1)