O Key of David! Opening Wide to the Thrill of Hope

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We're all prisoners, every damn one of us. The more free we declare ourselves to be, the more restraints we chafe at and goads we prick against, the tighter we're bound. You're not the boss of me! we shout---at the Church, the government, each other, God---but inside, we know better. All our running and rebelling and freak-flag waving and commitment phobia is just distraction from the shadows the bars cast over our lonely lives.Guess what? That's GOOD news. Because it's only when we … [Read more...]

O Root of Jesse! Grant Us Patience, and Step On It!

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Time. This time of year, we're obsessed with it, because there's never enough of it. Counting down the days, opening the doors of the Advent calendar, frantically checking the last-date-for-Christmas-delivery schedule. Weaving holiday parties and extra baking and penitential services and the kids' concerts and the trips to the airport into the already tightly stretched fabric of our daily schedules. Trying to squeeze a little peaceful anticipation from the 24/7 carols and jingling and very … [Read more...]

O Adonai! Because You’re God, and We’re Not

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Names mean something. In the ancient world, the cauldron of cultures where Israel took shape, all words were performative: they called into existence what they described. Names and titles defined relationship. One's true name was a word of immense power, guarded carefully. To entrust another with one's name was an act of the deepest intimacy because of the vulnerability such a revelation implied.Tonight we chant the second of the O Antiphons, and we invoke the Messiah by one of God's most … [Read more...]

O Wisdom! Pile on the Prudence, Please!

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Tonight they begin, the seven prophetic antiphons chanted before and after the Magnificat at Vespers. Each invokes the Messiah by one of his scriptural titles, and each calls on us to prepare a place for him--at his coming now and at his Final Coming--with an attitude that demonstrates our readiness.So, for December 17, O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodidisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviter disponensque omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae. O Wisdom, who … [Read more...]

When Half-Spent Was the Night

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One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite Christmas carols is a great reminder that the Light of the World comes into our darkness when the night is half-spent. The tradition that Jesus was born at midnight is probably based partly on the language from the Book of Wisdom describing the angel who liberated the Israelites from Egypt: For when peaceful stillness compassed everything and the night in its swift course was half spent, Your all-powerful word from heaven's royal throne bounded, … [Read more...]

It’s Always Apocalypse, Now

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One more midnight gone, but for Christians---especially in Advent---we live always in the end-times. And that's good.As a small, fearful child with a galloping case of scruples, I was terrified of the End of the World. Those were apocalyptic times for Catholic school kids, the late fifties and early sixties. There were the weekly drop drills intended to prepare us for the nuclear annihilation that was always thisclose; Sister Maria Consuelo, our Cuban refugee third-grade teacher, was always … [Read more...]

The Cleaning Crew: 3 Advent Allies for Spiritual Warriors

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So here I am, sitting in the clean and light-filled kitchen of my new apartment in Southern California, basking in the blessing of engaging in the simplest of pleasures that I had denied myself in the worst of the hoarding. Making breakfast. Doing dishes. Taking a shower. Doing laundry, and hanging the clean clothes in an empty closet. Sleeping stretched out on a bed with clean sheets. Sweeping the floor. Seeing the floor.This week has been a glimpse of heaven, made possible by family and … [Read more...]

Home for Advent, Christmas, and Ever After

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Really, I tell you, never, never, never count God out.Yesterday, while I was bewailing the uncertainty of my future and being lectured by Dr Phil in the Sky, the band of angels who are my family and friends were tying up the last loose ends of a conspiracy to get me not only a home, but Home. Next Friday I will wing my way out of Ur . . . or Egypt . . . or Dayton, Ohio, and head back to the City of the Angels. Waiting for me will be a small, manageable, even affordable by LA standards … [Read more...]


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