Reflections on the Third Sunday in Advent

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” 1 Corinthians 4

There is but one judgment which you and I are to make: that is to judge ourselves.  And even that task is only possible by the narrow way.

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Reflections on the Second Sunday in Advent

[I am indebted to Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon for many of the remarks on the Revelation to John from his new book Revelation – a Liturgical Prophecy]

In Advent we look to the first and second comings of our Lord simultaneously.  We look at past and future to shape our present – to fashion our way of life.

Our daily office readings reflect this perspective, as we read Genesis to look at our distant past, I Kings to reflect on the later monarchical history of Israel, Mark’s Gospel to focus on our Lord’s first coming to us, and the Revelation to John which looks both at his present and ahead to the end of the ages.  In our Gospel for today, Jesus points to the future in the sort of language we associate with the Revelation – apocalyptic – unveiling.

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Reflections on the Season of Advent

Advent has challenges for us, which seem to increase every year.  I remember over 40 years ago one of my first “children’s sermons” at the first church I served in Arkansas.  I wasn’t too savvy about such things, and began the sermon on 1 Advent with a question: “Who can tell me what season this is?” A young nimrod raised his hand, and offered “It’s duck season, Father!”  Well, I couldn’t argue with that, but I never appreciated the practice of getting up before dawn to sit in the cold waiting for a duck to pass within reach of your shotgun.  It always seemed just an excuse to try to keep yourself warm by imbibing other “spirits”.

I later realized he had given a spiritual answer after all – Advent really is “duck” season. Continue reading “Reflections on the Season of Advent”

Reflections on the Sunday Next Before Advent

On this transition Sunday between Trinitytide and Advent, we have a Gospel which is also from mid-Lent: St. John’s account of the feeding of the 5,000.  It is used today for its closing words: “this is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.”  They refer to a passage from Dt. 18:18-19.

These words of Moses were plainly Messianic, for only one would fulfil this announcement of his successor.  St. Peter in Acts 3:22 and St. Stephen in Acts 7:37 recognize the fulfillment of Moses’ words.  It is expounded as well in Hebrews 3:2-6.  This was clearly part of the Apostolic preaching and teaching, which shows the importance of Moses’ prophecy. Continue reading “Reflections on the Sunday Next Before Advent”

Reflections on the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

According to the preserved accounts of Holy Tradition, The Presentation or Entry into the Temple of the Most Holy Mother of God happened in the following manner:

The parents of the Virgin Mary, Righteous Joachim and Anna, in praying for a divine solution to their childlessness, gave a vow that if a child were born to them, they would dedicate it to the service of God.

When the Blessed Virgin reached three years of age, her holy parents decided to fulfill their vow. Having gathered together their kinsfolk and acquaintances, and having dressed the Mary in her finest clothes, singing Psalms and with lighted candles in their hands, they carried her to the Jerusalem Temple. There Zacharias the priest (father of the Forerunner John) and others of the priests of the Temple met the maiden of God.

In the Temple, the stairway led up fifteen high steps. The Child Mary, it seemed, could not herself make it up this stairway. But just as they placed her on the first step, strengthened by the power of God, she quickly made it up over the remaining steps and ascended to the highest.

Then the high-priest, through an inspiration from above, led Mary into the Holy of Holies, where only the high-priest entered one time a year with a purifying sacrifice of blood. Therefore all those present in the Temple were astonished at this most unusual occurrence.

As St. Theophylact writes:

At that time, the High Priest was in ecstasy, filled with the Spirit of God, and understood that the maiden was the dwelling place of divine grace and more worthy then he to stand always before God’s countenance. He remembered that the Law commended the Ark be placed in the Holy of Holies and straightway perceived that this ordinance pertained to the maiden.”

Righteous Joachim and Anna, having entrusted their Child to the will of the Heavenly Father, returned home. The Blessed Virgin remained in the dwelling for the virgins consecrated to God, situated near the Temple.

The earthly life of the Mother of God from the time of her infancy to the time of her assumption to heaven is shrouded in deep mystery. Her life at the Jerusalem Temple was also a secret. “If anyone were to ask me, — said St. Jerome, — how the Most Holy Virgin spent the time of her youth, — I would answer: that is known to God Himself and the Archangel Gabriel, her constant guardian”.

But in the Church tradition there were preserved accounts, that during the time of the stay of the All-Pure Virgin at the Jerusalem Temple, she grew up in the community of pious virgins, read diligently the Holy Scripture, occupied herself with handcrafts, prayed constantly and grew in love for God. In remembrance of the Presentation, Holy Church from ancient times established a solemn feast day.

It likely originated in Syria where the source text of the Protoevangelium of James was possibly produced in the early 2nd century.

The feast of the Presentation into the Temple of the Most Holy Mother of God — foretells the blessing of God for the human race, the preaching of salvation, the promise of the coming of Christ.

It also shows forth that from henceforth the true Temple of the Living God was no longer made of stones, but was the Blessed Virgin herself, and by extension, all who keep the commandments of Christ.  She is truly the Mother of all Christians, and the restoration of blessedness especially to all women who venerate her as the New Eve – the One who reversed the disobedience of her first mother by her holy obedience and submission to the will of God.

 

St. Gregory of Palamas writes:

She was led into the Holy of Holies not just once, but was accepted by God to dwell there with Him during Her youth, so that through Her, the Heavenly Abodes might be opened and given for an eternal habitation to those who believe in Her miraculous birthgiving.”

And so we ever quote the Angel Gabriel and St. Elizabeth and pray:

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.

Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Reflections on the Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Trinity

On the final Sundays of the Trinity Season, the Church has traditionally looked at the coming new liturgical year as an annual time of repentance; and hence the theme of our Collect:

O Lord, we beseech thee, absolve thy people from their offences: that through thy bountiful goodness we may all be delivered from the bands of those sins, which by our frailty we have committed. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ‘s sake, our blessed Lord and Saviour: who liveth and reigneth with thee, and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end.  Amen. Continue reading “Reflections on the Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Trinity”

Reflections on the Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity

We have been focused on our walk during these weeks of Trinity season – on the believer’s pattern of life, how he conducts himself.  The pattern for our life is not contained in a written code of precepts & rules covering every possible contingency of life, but in a walk.  It is a walk patterned on the life of the Lord Jesus, and, as St. Paul states here, on the lives of His Saints: those who embody the sanctity of life which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit: “BRETHREN: Be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an example.” Continue reading “Reflections on the Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity”

Reflections on All Saints

“Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Heb 12:1

The Saints are a living part of our life in the mystical Body of Christ.  They are integral members of the Church, some of whom, as I often put it, have merely changed their address in the Kingdom. Continue reading “Reflections on All Saints”

Reflections on the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

that we, being ready both in body and soul; may cheerfully accomplish those things that thou wouldest have done.”

The Church takes care to remind us that our eternal destiny is the matter of greatest importance; to hold before us the necessity of readiness to give our solemn account before the dread judgment seat of Christ; to impress us with the great value of being peacefully and penitently ready to make our last and most important journey. We are to take the business of dying seriously; to be “deeply sensible of the shortness and uncertainty of human Iife”.  Continue reading “Reflections on the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity”