The Fourth Sunday of Advent, Dec. 20
O Key of David
December 20: O Key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel, you open and no one shuts, you shut and no one opens: Come, and lead forth from his prison the captive sitting in darkness and the shadow of death.
Isaiah 22: 22: And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder: and he shall open and none shall shut and he shall shut, and none shall open.
We find the idea of opening a door no one can shut and of shutting a door no one can open in the Book of Revelation 3: 7-13. Here St. John writes that Christ is the One who holds this Key of David, and what he opens no one can shut and what he shuts no one can open. Christ is the doorkeeper or gatekeeper. He, as Redeemer and Reconciler, is the one who opens the door to the presence of God and his Kingdom. Christ is the door, the gate, to eternal life. It is he and he alone who holds the key to God’s presence, Kingdom and salvation. So it is that we cry out today in the Antiphon: O Clavis David, O Key of David!
Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent, Dec. 21
O Rising Sun
December 21: O Rising Sun, Brightness of the everlasting light, Son of justice: Come to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Isaiah 9: 2: The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelled in the region of the shadow of death, light has risen.
The phrase “shadow of death” is also seen sometimes in Scripture as “deep darkness.” This phrase is a metaphor referring to the fear of death or the depth of despair. It is the divine protection that delivers us from this fear and the shadow of death. It is hard for me and I would imagine also for you to imagine life without Christ. I have only come close to despair once in my life and that was when I experienced the hopelessness of the disease of alcoholism. And it was God and God alone who took that away. Life without Christ would be one big life of despair. His light leads us and guides us through the many pitfalls of life. Sometimes it is bad enough even when he is here! But we know that he never tests us beyond our abilities and that his grace, his light, is always sufficient for us.
Come Lord Jesus and light our way and guide us today. Amen.
Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent, Dec. 22
O King of All Nations
December 22: O King of All Nations and their Desire! O Corner-stone, that makes of two one: Come to save us whom you have made out of the dust of the earth.
Isaiah 9: 7: His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace: he shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom; to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and for ever: the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Isaiah 2: 4: And he shall judge the Gentiles, and rebuke many people: And they shall turn their swords into plowshares, and their spears into sickles: nation shall not lift up the sword against nation, neither shall they be exercised any more to war.
I remarked in a homily I preached the other day that Advent is a season of “impossibilities.” Time after time in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we find things that are impossible foreseen as really happening when the Messiah comes. Today’s citations from Isaiah are no different: There shall be no end of peace, they shall turn their swords into plowshares, their spears into sickles, there will be no more war between nations. All of these impossibilities will come to pass through the zeal of the Lord of hosts. Many of us already experience these impossibilities in the happiness, joy and peace of our souls. Let us pray that it will all come to be one day for the nations.
Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Advent, Dec. 23
December 23: O Emmanuel, our King and Law-giver, Longing of the Gentiles and their salvation: Come and save us, O Lord our God!
Isaiah 7: 14: Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.
God himself is now near, very near. He is coming quickly. And when he comes, he will never leave. He will be with us always and never abandon us for any reason. We may abandon him, leave him, reject him, but he is always true to his Covenant. Let us pray that we may always be true to ours and one day see him face to face. Amen.
Christmas Eve, Dec. 24
Luke 1: 67-79
This evening at 4:00 I am going to be the Presider at the Children’s Christmas Mass at our local parish. I did the same thing last year and for the homily I told the story of St. Francis of Assisi and the first Christmas crib. That went over like five minutes of the plague. Their attention span was just not quite up to that. So, this year I have decided to get them involved in a very short and to the point exercise of just what it is that we are celebrating on this Christmas Eve. I am going to try, with the Good Lord’s help, to get them to be part of an old and simple Nativity Play. This should prove interesting. They will be divided into four groups: roosters, oxen, lambs and donkeys. Roosters go cock-a-doodle-doo. Oxen go moo, moo. Lambs go baa, baa with a touch of tremolo. And the donkeys go hee-haw, hee-haw.
The children are going to shout out the Latin words of the play while at the same time imitating the particular sound of the animal. The roosters will crow: CHRISTUS NATUS EST (Christ is born). The oxen, in as close as the kids can get to the bass register, will moo: UBI? (where?), The lambs, in their very best tremolo, will baa: IN BETHLEMME. (In Bethlehem). And finally, the donkeys will hee-haw: EAMUS! EAMUS! (Let us go there! let us go there!). The end! Short and to the point! What else is there to say about Christmas Day?
THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD JESUS (CHRISTMAS DAY) Dec. 25
Luke 2: 1-14
The Prolamation of the Birth of Christ according to the Roman Martyrology is traditionally chanted during the Liturgy of the Hours on Christmas Eve. This proclamation places the Birth of Christ within the context of salvation history. The following translation is a new translation (1994) and approved by our Catholic Bishops.
It reads as follows:
Today, the twenty-fifth day of December, unknown ages from the time when God created the heavens and the earth and then formed man and woman in his own image.
Several thousand years after the flood, when God made the rainbow shine forth as a sign of the covenant.
Twenty-one centuries from the time of Abraham and Sarah; thirteen centuries after Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt.
Eleven hundred years from the time of Ruth and the Judges; one thousand years from the anointing of David as king; in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel.
In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad; the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome.
The forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus; the whole world being at peace, Jesus Christ, eternal God of the eternal Father, desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, and nine months having passed since his conception, was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary.
Today is the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.
Feast of St. Stephen, First Martyr, Dec. 26
Mt. 10: 17-22
I figure the reason for celebrating the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, on the day after Christmas is meant to get us back to reality. There is more to being a disciple of Jesus than the a-goo of the birth of a child. Whatever………….
Stephen’s name means “crown,” and he was the first disciple of Jesus to receive the crown of martyrdom. Stephen was a deacon in the early church who took care of the widows and the poor. His enemies, jealous of his preaching about Jesus, got some men to lie about him, saying he had spoken sinfully against God. They dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death, As he was dying, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then he fell to his knees and prayed that God would have mercy upon those who killed him. With these words on his lips, he passed to his heavenly reward.
St. Stephen, pray for us.