The Fourth Sunday of Advent 
Dec. 19
O Adonai

The O Antiphon for this final Sunday of Advent is: “O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.”

Almighty God (I am He and there is no other) willed to set Israel and its chosen people free from the forced trials of Pharaoh. He chose Moses and his brother, Aaron, to be his mediators and to lead his people to the land of milk and honey. It was God’s will to redeem his people, to raise them, deliver them, ransom them, and set them free from the darkness of sin. We are set free by the law given to Moses by God on Sinai.

Some say that law restricts us, but that is not really true. Rather, it frees us to live peacefully and safely. For example, we have the traffic light law that tells us to stop when the light is red and to go when it is green. If everyone would obey this law, we would all be free to drive safely and peacefully without being worried about accidents. We would all be going in the same direction according to God’s directives.

“Indeed, the Lord will be with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our King, he it is who will save us.” (Isaiah 33: 22).

Fr. Howard

Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent 
December 20
O Radix Jesse

The O Antiphon for today reads: “O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.”

Jesus is the sign of our happiness, peace, comfort, our wholeness, holiness. He came as man, as we have seen before, to raise the level of human consciousness. We cannot do this alone. For that matter, we cannot do anything alone. Jesus told us: Without me, you can do nothing.

Lord, help us to realize that our way, our efforts alone, are not enough for us to possess the happiness, peace, wholeness and holiness we desire. Come, O Flower of Jesse’s stem!

“But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (Isaiah 11: 1 and 11: 10).

Fr. Howard

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent 
December 21
O Clavis David

The O Antiphon for this fourth Tuesday of Advent is: “O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.”

It is the Lord and the Lord alone, through his redemptive sacrifice, who opens for us the gates of heaven. If we return his love and try to do what he wills us to do, then we will benefit from his promise to us: Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered the mind of humankind what God has prepared for those who love him.

Lord Jesus, help us to know your will for us and to do it. Help us to realize deep within our hearts that YOU are the way, the truth and the life and not we ourselves.

“Adonai will place the Key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, not one shall shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (Isaiah 22: 22).

Fr. Howard

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Advent 
December 22
O Oriens

Today’s O Antiphon states: “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”

Lord, without your divine light in our lives, we will stumble and fall a million times. We are all dust and to dust we shall return. My walk is unsteady. The pot holes of temptation are often in my way and without your light to see the way, I will surely stumble and fall. Come with your light, Help me to see!

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (Isaiah 9: 1).

Fr. Howard

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Advent 
December 23
O Rex Gentium

The O Antiphon for today reads: “O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of humankind, come and save the creation you fashioned from the dust.”

We have defined JOY many times before as the feeling produced by our doing things the way God would have them done according to his divine plan for creation. God wishes us, according to his word in the Scriptures, to be his adopted children, literally the daughters and the sons of the Divine Family of Father, Son and Spirit. And this will happen only when we acknowledge him as the way, the truth and the life and then try and follow his will. The closer we come to doing this, the more joyful we will become. When our cup overflows with contentment, we know we are following his way, for it is then and only then that we have the joy in our hearts that we desire.

“For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-forever, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:5). And: “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat the swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the word against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (Isaiah 2: 4).

Fr. Howard

Friday of the Fourth Week of Advent
December 24
O Emmanuel

The final O Antiphon is as follows: “O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.”

Now our Advent wait is over, This night shall come to us the Savior of the World, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God. Let us rejoice and be glad! I read where the Benedictine Monks in times past arranged the O Antiphons in a rather clever way. They started with the last title and took the first letter of each Latin Antiphon: Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia. Put the first letters together and you get a Latin phrase: ERO CRAS, which is Latin for “Tomorrow, I will come.” Pretty clever, these Monks! These beautiful Antiphons serve to impress us during the season of Advent and then bring the season to an end. NOW, LET US CELEBRATE THE BIRTHDAY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.

Fr. Howard

DECEMBER 25, LUKE 2: 1-14

A couple of years ago the so called Medieval Nativity Plays caught my eye. Simply, they are just what the title or name would imply: a play or performance that recounts the Birth of Jesus. There are those who maintain that the first Nativity Play was performed by St. Francis of Assisi in the little town of Greccio on Christmas Eve 1223. It seems Francis was really into Christmas that year and wanted to celebrate it with the Friars and townspeople in a special way. He asked a friend of his, John Velita, to build a life-size crib or creche and provide for it live animals. But, there may have been other performances before Francis’.

A couple of years ago, when these things caught my eye, it was because I stumbled across a Nativity Play and read it. It really caught my attention. There is nothing complicated about it at all. For that matter, it is quite simple – but right to the point. This particular play had 4 actors playing the parts of a rooster, cows or oxen, lambs, and jackasses respectively. Each has short lines to say imitating the natural, distinctive cry of the individual animals while doing so. For example, everyone knows a rooster goes cockle, doodle, doo. A cow or ox goes mooooo. A lamb bleats. And the jackass goes Hee-Haw, Hee-Haw.

Last Christmas I was privileged to be Presider for the Christmas Eve Children’s Liturgy at St. Michael’s Parish Church in Prior Lake, MN. I decided to turn Director and put this play on as the homily of the Mass and thereby give the kids and the rest of the packed church something to do besides get bored listening to me, especially trying to hold the attention of the children. So, we divided the whole church, kids and adults, into four huge sections each section playing the part of one of the animals listed above.

The first section made up the roosters and their line was, in Latin, Christus natus est. (Christ is born). They shouted this out three or four times at my cue to them imitating the distinctive cry of the rooster while doing so. The next section, the cows or oxen, had only one word to say drawling in the low manner of the cow or ox: Ubi (Where?) The Lamb section then bleated (with a kind of tremolo sound) In Betlemmmmmmme (In Bethlehem!) To which the jackasses all he-hawed: Eamus, Eamus, Eamus (Let’s go there!!).

That’s it!!! I told you it was simple. And it is right to the point. What else matters on Christmas than Jesus being born in Bethlehem and our wanting to be there with him in our hearts. We had a ball performing it at St. Michael’s Church. The walls shook, especially when the jackasses got going. Maybe you could try it this year in your Parish’s Children’s Christmas Mass – or maybe even give it a shot as a prayer before the big Christmas Dinner with the family.


From Fr. Howard and all the Friars and Staff of 
Franciscan Retreats and Spirituality Center in Prior Lake, MN

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