HOLINESS, A JOURNEY MADE TOGETHER
“Seeing and acting with mercy: that is holiness” (GE 82)
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall have mercy shown them (Mt 5:7)
By saying “blessed”, Jesus proclaims the happiness of the person which this beatitude describes. At the heart of Jesus’ life, of his message and his gestures, is the human person who, for him, comes first, before the law, before institutions: the person is sacred. The beatitudes are understood only from this centre which is the person.
O Rex Gentium or O King of the Nations
O King of the Gentiles (Jeremiah 10:7; Haggai 2:7),
and the Desired of all, You are the Cornerstone that binds two into one (Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 21:42; Ephesians 2:20). * Come, and save man whom You fashioned out of clay (Genesis 2:7).
1 Samuel 1:24-28; Luke 1:46-56
This is the season of promises. Just what is a promise? A promise is a basis for expectation and central to our faith experience. Indeed, our relationship to God is based on promises -- God’s and ours. God’s promises are the basis for our expectations in this life and in the life to come. The promises of God’s people reflect our faith and our obedience to God. We do well, at this time, to reflect on the lives of some women who played a significant role in the fulfillment of God’s promises in our faith history. They help us see where we too can be agents of God’s promises in the world.
O Oriens or O Rising Dawn or Morning Star
O Rising Dawn, (Jer 23:5; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12),
Radiance of the Light eternal (Habakkuk 3:4; Wisdom 7:26; Hebrews 1:3) and Sun of Justice (Malachi 3:20): * come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death (Ps 107:10; Lk 1:78).
Songs 2:8-14; Luke 1:39-45
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb.” This is astonishing. Luke presents John the Baptist in his mother’s womb leaping for joy when encountering Jesus in Mary’s womb.
Encounters with Jesus bring joy — even in wombs!
O Radix Jesse or O Root of Jesse
O Root of Jesse, (Isaiah 11:1)
You stand for the ensign of mankind (Isaiah 11:10); before You kings shall keep silence and to You all nations shall have recourse (Isaiah 52:15). * Come, save us, and do not delay (Habakkuk 2:3).
The Gift of Silence
Judges 13:2-7, 24-25; Luke 1:5-25
" . . . when he came out, he was unable to speak to them,
and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary." Luke 1:22
The sounds of the season can be beautiful, mesmerizing.
They also can be distractions as we await the coming of our Lord.
Two narratives today anticipate wondrous births: Babies whose comings are proclaimed by an angel of God.
O Clavis David or O Key of David
O Key of David, (Isaiah 22:22; Revelation 3:7)
and Scepter of the house of Israel (Numbers 24:17): You open and no man closes; you close and no man opens (Isaiah 22:22). * Come, and deliver him from the chains of prison who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death (Ps 107:10).
Isaiah 7:10-14; Luke 1:26-38
"The virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel [because "God is with us"].
The Church has always seen Isaiah's prophecy fulfilled in the conception of Jesus in Mary's womb through the power of the Holy Spirit. We humans will never fathom the depth of the Divine Love precipitating God's entrance into history in the womb of an insignificant Jewish virgin in an insignificant little country.
And Immanuel, "God with us," did not merely live on our planet two thousand years ago; He has remained with us ever since. In baptism Immanuel is born again in us through water and the Holy Spirit. We humans will never fathom the depth of Divine Love moving the eternal God to dwell even in our insignificant little hearts.
The O Antiphons, also known as The great Os are Magnificat antiphons used at Vespers of the last seven days of Advent in Western Christian traditions. They are also used as the Alleluia verses on the same days in the post-1970 form of the Catholic Mass. They are referred to as the "O Antiphons" because the title of each one begins with the vocative particle "O". Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture.
According to Fr. William P. Saunders, "The exact origin of the O Antiphons is not known. Boethius (480–524) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time [the sixth century]. At the Benedictine Fleury Abbey, these antiphons were recited by the abbot and other abbey leaders in descending rank, and then a gift was given to each member of the community. By the eighth century, they are in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome. The usage of the O Antiphons was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrases, "Keep your O" and "The Great O Antiphons" were common parlance. One may thereby conclude that in some fashion the O Antiphons have been part of our liturgical tradition since the very early Church."
O Wisdom, O holy Word of God,
you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care:
Come and show your people the way to salvation.
Donald Jackson, artist and scribe
Matthew Frontispiece: The Genealogy of Christ (Matthew 1:1-17)
O Adonai or O Lord and Ruler
O Adonai (Exod 3:14)
and Ruler of the house of Israel (Matt 2:6; Micah 5:1; 2 Sam 5:2), You appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush (Exod 3:2) and on Mount Sinai gave him Your Law (Exod 20). * Come, and with an outstretched arm redeem us (Jeremiah 32:21).
Jeremiah 23:5-8; Matthew 1:18-24
Faith and expectation fill today’s scripture. Faithful expectation is a central advent theme. In Jeremiah and Joseph, we have persons of great faith; faith in their God in the midst of the circumstances in which they found themselves. They are great examples for us as we confront the circumstances of our individual life, our life as a nation or as a global community. We all need a bit of advent’s faithful expectation.
Zeph 3:14-18; Phil 4:4-7; Lk 3:10-18
And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" He said to them in reply, "Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise." Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He answered them, "Stop collecting more than what is prescribed." Soldiers also asked him, "And what is it that we should do?" He told them, "Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages." Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. John answered them all, saying, "I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people. Lk 3:10-18
"I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire."
John would use water to cleanse the initiate for Christ but Christ would use fire to purify the believer. Water cleanses, but fire purifies. We use water to cleanse the dirt off the ore, but we use fire to burn the impurities out of it and, the more precious the metal, the hotter the fire.
Are we ready to be purified; to be made into God’s most precious ore? If so, we must be willing to embrace the fire. We must be willing to reject what is tepid, what is comfortable, and plunge into the heat, into the Refiner’s fire.
Sir 48:1-4, 9-11; Mt 17:9a, 10-13
John the Baptist by Michael D. O’Brien
Today’s readings continue to suggest the importance of preparation. Matthew’s Gospel recalls John the Baptist who gave his life preaching the good news of Jesus and our need to repent of our sins and prepare ourselves to receive Jesus’ presence, love, and forgiveness. Sirach holds up Elijah as the great prophet who calls us to repentance, healing, and restoration.
One theme from the readings that strikes me is how communal the repentance, healing, restoration, and preparation seem to be. Even in the Psalm the refrain is “make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved” (emphasis added). Sirach sees Elijah restoring “the tribes of Jacob.” Preparing to receive Jesus involves repentance and healing.
On 3rd December, 2018, we were honored by the visit of His Grace, Marek Solczynski, the Apostolic Nuncio of Tanzania. He was accompanied by His Grace Isaac Amani, the Archbishop of Arusha Archdiocese, Prosper Lyimo, the Auxiliary Bishop, Fr. Simon Tengesi, the Vicar General, Fr. Juvenalis Wengaa, the Secretary General and five Priests, leaders of the Deaneries.