Advent

Advent and Praying for Peace

As we sit here in this warm comfortable Chapel, feeling safe and secure as we pray, people elsewhere are dying, people are being persecuted, and people are being displaced. We could go on and on. Life is very different for so many. Acutely aware of the need for peace, Fr Bruno, the Master of our Order and the Commission for Justice and Peace have proposed that we make the season of Advent, as we await the coming of the Prince of Peace, a period of intense prayer for peace in our war torn world and of solidarity with our Dominican brothers and sisters involved in preaching in situations of injustice. This Advent our focus is on Columbia where there are Dominicans working to support the implementation of the Peace accord that was signed in 2016.We know that peace can come about, that agreements can work. We have seen it happen in Northern Ireland and in our lifetime we have seen the fall of the Iron Curtain. Persistent prayer works. The holy rosary is a mighty weapon against the forces of evil.But a hymn I learnt as a child in school echoes in my heart, challenging me. It goes ‘let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me’. We have to be instruments of the peace we want to see reigning in our world. In the light of this morning’s Gospel Chapter 11 of St. Luke’s gospel struck me with great force. Whatever house you enter first say peace be to this house. And if a person of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him, but if not, it shall return to you. Somehow we have to prove the earnestness […]

O King – 22nd December

“O King,whom all the peoples desire,you are the cornerstone which makes all one.O come, and save manwhom you made from clay.”In today’s antiphon we address Christ as “King” the desire of “all the peoples.” Reflecting on this Antiphon, I wonder to what extent Christ is truly “king”  in my life. Is he “the cornerstone” of all I do and say?Do my thoughts and decisions take account of his will for me at this moment, even if only by, as Frank Duff advises, glancing towards him and asking internally “what do you want me to do?” before making decisions.This kingship in an individual’s life is very important because we are all members of the mystical body of Christ. Just as the holiness of one member benefits other members and the whole Church (CCC 1474-5), so also Christ’s kingship in my life is of benefit to and helps the growth of his universal kinship for the salvation of all human beings.May God grant each of us the grace to welcome him this Christmas as “King”  and “cornerstone”  of our lives.

O Rising Sun – 21st December 2016

O Rising Sun, you are the splendour of Eternal Light and the Sun of Justice.O Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness; those who dwell in the shadow of death, Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus, come.As I read this very beautiful O Antiphon, a memory comes to mind of long summer evenings spent in the high field – the moinin ard as we called it – sitting under a haystack just watching the breathtaking sight of the sun going down beyond the woods and bog lands of our farm in the West.The silence was full, deep and quiet, except for the little birds on their way home to roost and the friendly crickets close by.  But as the last lights faded what a mystery it was to my child’s mind! Where, oh where had the sun gone?!No grown up’s explanations prepared me for what was always a fresh experience of another rising sun as it streamed through the trees – right into my room the next morning.  The chorus of birds as they flew again to the cornfields and the grass glittering with dew drops and diamonds to me.  Even then this scene had power to thrill me with anticipation of something I knew not what! – was it a foretaste of another Rising Sun still unknown to me?What or who is this ‘Splendour of Eternal Light’ coming to enlighten those of us who sit in darkness – lost in our own little worlds?  It is the Lord Himself, majestic and glorious “wrapped in light as in a robe.”Come then my Lord, my God, teach me where and how to find you – you who dwell in light inaccessible and I desire to come […]

O Key of David – 20th December 2016

O Key of David and sceptre of Israel, what you open no one else can close again, what you close no one can open, O come and lead the captive from prison; free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.This ‘O Antiphon’ that the Church sings this evening at the Magnificat, has its roots like all the other Antiphons in sacred scripture, in this case in Isaiah chapter 22 and in Luke chapter I.Our Lord is addressed as Key of David – Jesus is Son of David through his foster father, St Joseph, who was of the house of David.  David was the most beloved and important King in Israel’s history – “a man after the Lord’s own heart” as it says in the Acts of the Apostles.  So Jesus in his human ancestry is truly one of us as he is truly Son of God in his divine nature “conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the Holy spirit. (Mt Ch 1)A key is an indispensable instrument for opening and closing a door, so it is a very appropriate symbol with which to address our awaited Saviour. The Babe of Bethlehem, whom we await, did not die because he was born but He was born in order to die – the Crib and the Cross are closely associated.  By His obedience in suffering His Passion, death and Resurrection, Jesus opened the gates of heaven for the whole human race which our first parents had closed by their disobedience.  There is a lovely Icon called ‘the harrowing of hell’ where Jesus on Holy Saturday is seen in His descent into hell and taking  both Adam and Eve by […]

O Root of Jesse – 19th December

Today, we pray the third of the seven ‘O Antiphons’ leading up to the celebration of the fathomless mystery of the birth of Jesus among us over 2000 years ago:O root of Jesse, set up a sign to the peoples, come to save us, and delay no more.On the first of these seven days, the Church placed on our lips, the plea ‘come and teach us the way of truth’ – on the second day we are called upon to plead ‘come and save us with your outstretched arm (a truly beautiful concept ),  and now today, with still four more days to  go before Christmas Eve,  we are called to  echo the longing of the peoples over the ages, who suffered such anguish in their waiting for the Messiah – yes, we are called to this insistent prayer – ‘come and save us and delay no more.This longing of the ages is expressed so well in one of the Advent hymns:‘Long the ages rolled and slowly to the coming of the Word.  Fervent longings grew more fervent, undismayed by hopes deferred. Weaker spirits sighed and whispered, “Could the Lord of all forget?”While the prophets scanned the portents, And in patience said, “Not yet”.So how do we in this day and age, prepare for this great joy of Jesus birth among us which occurred over 2000 years ago?In answer to this question , I would like to share a few thoughts from an article by one of our English Dominicans written many years ago.  He commences by quoting the Scripture text: “While all things were in quiet silence…thy almighty Word leapt down upon the earth”. Then he goes on to remind us “ In the stillness of the […]

O Adonai – 18th December

O Adonai and leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in a burning bush and you gave him the Law on Sinai, O come and save us with your mighty power.Our O Antiphon this evening invokes God as Adonai and Leader who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the Law on Sinai, as we read in the Book of Exodus.  God, the Lord of creation, intervened in the life of his people at a time when they were sorely oppressed and forsaken in Egypt – when their situation seemed humanly hopeless and Moses himself was fleeing for his life from Pharoah, having killed an Egyptian and buried him in the sand.When we look around us today our situation is no different – we see people in their millions fleeing for their lives from war and violence; people enslaved in so many ways by the glamour of riches and addictions of every kind; the problem of human trafficking and pornography – just to name a few.  There are so many people searching frantically for happiness which eludes them and lets them continually disappointed and depressed because they are searching in the wrong places.  Sometimes, like the Israelites in Egypt, we can feel that God has abandoned us or we even question if He really exists.  Yet it was He who took the initiative to reveal Himself to Moses as he went about his daily tasks of attending the flocks and told Moses that He, God, was well aware of the suffering of His people and that He intended to rescue them from their slavery and redeem them with ‘outstretched arm’– and He gave them the Law, not to enslave them again […]

The Great ‘O Antiphons – O Wisdom – 17th Dec

O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High.  You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner.  O come to teach us the way of truth.We are immediately reminded of the wonderful passages in the Old Testament which speak of Wisdom.  There we read of Wisdom as proceeding from God, as being begotten by Him, as being the beloved who at the beginning stood beside Him, assisting at the creation – ‘ever at play in His presence and delighting to be with the children of men.’These passages concerning Wisdom can be applied to the Word who in the fullness of time took on our human nature and pitched his tent among us.While in the Old Testament God’s Wisdom was manifested by His governance of the created universe in a strong yet gentle manner, being lenient and merciful to all because He loves all that exists – it is in the crucified Christ on the Cross that we experience the full revelation of divine Wisdom, of God’s infinite love and mercy for us human beings.  As St Paul tells us “God’s folly is wiser than human wisdom and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.  In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and of his fullness we have all received.  He has become our wisdom and our holiness.” (1 Corinthians)O Eternal wisdom come and teach us the way of truth – He is Truth itself who leads us to all Truth – the truth about ourselves, about our world, about situations in which we find ourselves.In spite of whatever pain and contradictions we experience in our own lives and in our […]

3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A – Gaudate Sunday

Wait for the LordWe are waiting for the Lord like the farmer from today’s second reading from the letter of St. James:   “Be patient … think of a farmer how patiently he waits for the precious fruit of the ground.  … You too have to be patient; do not lose heart, because the Lord’s coming will be soon.”Several months ago we received the gift of avocados, and I kept the stone to see if it would grow into a tree.  I was told how to plant it – that half the stone must be above water; while half must be covered with water, so I took a plastic container with a lid, in which I cut a hole the same size as my avocado stone, and I filled the container with water.  The stone was secure in the hole, half submerged, half dry.  I had done as much as I could to help it grow and now there was nothing I could but wait.  From time to time I would add more water to the container, like the autumn rains and spring rains.  And I waited.At the end of a month, nothing seemed to be any different, … all my patience!No signs of life at all – the stone wasn’t getting any bigger … but I continued to add more water, still nothing.And then … finally the stone started cracking – it almost split in two!  In my ignorance I thought this meant that it was dead.  But I was hesitant to lose faith, so I did not immediately throw it away.  Then, from the crack, I saw a single root begin to grow; then after some more time, a leaf appeared.  And so it […]

Advent – First Sunday Year A

Mass Readings: Is 2:1-5; Rom 13:11-14; Gospel Mt 24:37-44.The Mass Readings for this first Sunday of Advent provide us with a wake-up call – St Paul tells us that ‘the time’ has come and that we must wake up now and in the Gospel Jesus tells us to stay awake and stand ready for His coming.  What caught my attention most was the theme of ‘light’ – St Paul urges us to give up all that we like to do under cover of darkness and to live our lives in the light and the Prophet Isaias invites us to ‘walk in the light of the Lord.’  As we begin this season of Advent we are invited to come into the light – to remove the blinds from the windows of our hearts and to let the light shine in – remembering that the true Light is Jesus Himself.  He is the True Light shining on us and who desires to penetrate and posses our inmost being.  This theme of light and darkness is fascinating – like a silver thread it is woven into the pages of the Bible – beginning with the Book of Genesis when “darkness was upon the face of the deep …. and God said, ‘Let there be light’; and the last chapter of the Book of Revelation, describes what God has in store for us when we will see him face to face – there will be no more night and He himself will be our light. The struggle between light and darkness is a perennial one – it is the struggle in which we are all engaged – the struggle to keep our hearts free and not to allow […]

O Rex Gentium – 22nd December 2015

 “O King and treasure of the nations,the cornerstone that makes the two into one;Come and save man whom you fashioned from dust.” We heard this morning from the Prophet Isaiah (during the Office of Readings) the following:Thus says the LORD God:“Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.Kings shall be your foster-fathers and their queens your nursing mothers.With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet.Then you will know that I am the LORD: those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.”(Is 49:22-23)It is difficult – never having shaken hands with one – to know what qualities one might expect a king to have – so that he might be approachable and command a certain allegiance and loyalty.  Kindness, perhaps? … and Knowledge?  Insight, maybe also Inspiration; Nobility; Graciousness.We all come into the world in the same way, whether we be high or low; kings or paupers – and in only a very short while now, we will celebrate the great day of JESUS’ birth, and it won’t be immediately obvious what He is – a king or a pauper?  Or both?Do we have eyes to see? Our “O” antiphon this evening speaks of JESUS as “the cornerstone that makes the two into one,” and it was these particular words “makes the two into one” which made the more perplexing impression: what two? … and two what?As with many of the “O” antiphons, it is very possible to give free reign […]