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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Anthology....

of songs, poems, quotations, and reflections to brighten up this holy and festive season!

 

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A Christmas Carol

 
The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast
His hair was like a star.
(Stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

 The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire,
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)

 The Chirst-child stood on Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,

And all the stars looked down.

 - G.K. Chesterton

 
    “Theology, while saying that a special illumination hs been vouchsafed to Christians and (earlier) to Jews, also says that there is some divine illumination vouchsafed to all men. The Divine light, we are told, ‘lighteneth every man.’ We should therefore expect to find in the imagination of great Pagan teachers and myth-makers some glimpse of that theme which we believe to be the very plot of the whole cosmic story – the theme of incarnation, death, and rebirth. And the differences between Pagan Christs (Balder, Osiris, etc.) and the Chirst Himself is much what we should expect to find. The Pagan stories are all about someone dying and rising, either every year, or else nobody knows where and nobody knows when.  
     The Christian story is about a historical personage, whose execution can be dated pretty accurately, under a named Roman magistrate, and with whom the society what He founded is in the continuous relation down to the present day. It is not the difference between falsehood and truth. It is the difference between a real event on the one had and dim dreams or premonitions of that same event on the other. It is like watching something come gradually into focus; first it hands in the cloud of myth and ritual, vast and vague, then it condenses, grows hard and in a sesne small, as a historical event in first-century Palestine.”
 
- C.S. Lewis
 
Lord of the Manger

 
Lord of the Manger,
Calling my name
In a voice that is sweet and clear
But a sound only children hear
 
Child of the Manger, teach me to see
That what often eludes the wise
Can be seen through children’s eyes

 Yet with all of your power
You came as a child
To teach us the kingdom of heaven belongs
To the meek and the mild 

Lord of the Manger
Born long ago
Yet all of the world still rings
With the love of the infant king

 Child of the Manger
Come to us still
In humble hearts you’ll dwell
Jesus Emmanuel

 Came sweet songs from heaven
That first Christmas morn
Now join we the choir of angels
To joyfully sing, “Christ is Born!” 

God of the Manger
Teach me to see
That what often eludes the wise
Can be seen through children’s eyes

- Patrick F. Colgan (our maestro!)

 
     "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined" (Is 9:1). "An angel of the Lord appeared to (the shepherds) and the glory of the Lord shone around them" (Lk 2:9). This is how the liturgy of this holy Christmas night presents to us the birth of the Saviour: as the light which pierces and dispels the deepest darkness. The presence of the Lord in the midst of his people cancels the sorrow of defeat and the misery of slavery, and ushers in joy and happiness. We, too, in this blessed night, have come to the house of God. We have passed through the darkness which envelops the earth, guided by the flame of faith which illuminates our steps, and enlivened by the hope of finding the "great light". By opening our hearts, we also can contemplate the miracle of that child-sun who, arising from on high, illuminates the horizon. 
     The origin of the darkness which envelops the world is lost in the night of the ages. Let us think back to that dark moment when the first crime of humanity was committed, when the hand of Cain, blinded by envy, killed his brother Abel (cf. Gen 4:8). As a result, the unfolding of the centuries has been marked by violence, wars, hatred and oppression. But God, who placed a sense of expectation within man made in his image and likeness, was waiting. He waited for so long that perhaps at a certain point it seemed he should have given up. But he could not give up because he could not deny himself (cf. 2 Tim 2:13). Therefore he continued to wait patiently in the face of the corruption of man and peoples. Through the course of history, the light that shatters the darkness reveals to us that God is Father and that his patient fidelity is stronger than darkness and corruption. This is the message of Christmas night. God does not know outbursts of anger or impatience; he is always there, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, waiting to catch from afar a glimpse of the lost son as he returns.
     Isaiah's prophecy announces the rising of a great light which breaks through the night. This light is born in Bethlehem and is welcomed by the loving arms of Mary, by the love of Joseph, by the wonder of the shepherds. When the angels announced the birth of the Redeemer to the shepherds, they did so with these words: "This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger" (Lk 2:12). The "sign" is the humility of God taken to the extreme; it is the love with which, that night, he assumed our frailty, our suffering, our anxieties, our desires and our limitations. The message that everyone was expecting, that everyone was searching for in the depths of their souls, was none other than the tenderness of God: God who looks upon us with eyes full of love, who accepts our poverty, God who is in love with our smallness."
 - Pope Francis, Christmas Homily, 2014
 
Breath of Heaven

I have traveled many moonless nights
Cold and weary with a babe inside
And I wonder what I've done
Holy Father, You have come
And chosen me now to carry Your Son

I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now, be with me now

Breath of Heaven, hold me together
Be forever near me, breath of Heaven
Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness
Pour over me Your holiness for You are holy
Breath of Heaven

Do you wonder as you watch my face
If a wiser one should have had my place?
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of Your plan
Help me be strong, help me be, help me

Breath of Heaven, hold me together
Be forever near me, breath of Heaven
Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness
Pour over me Your holiness for You are holy

Breath of Heaven, hold me together
Be forever near me, breath of Heaven
Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness
Pour over me Your holiness for You are holy
Breath of Heaven, breath of Heaven
Breath of Heaven

 -Amy Grant

 
     “In the ruins of the old Coventry Cathedral is a sculpture of a man and a woman reaching out to embrace each other. The sculptor was inspired by the story of a woman who crossed Europe on foot after the war to find her husband.Casts of the same sculpture can be found in Belfast and Berlin, and it is simply called Reconciliation. Reconciliation is the peaceful end to conflict, and we were reminded of this in August when countries on both sides of the First World War came together to remember in peace. The ceramic poppies at the Tower of London drew millions, and the only possible reaction to seeing them and walking among them was silence. For every poppy a life; and a reminder of the grief of loved ones left behind.No one who fought in that war is still alive, but we remember their sacrifice and indeed the sacrifice of all those in the armed forces who serve and protect us today. 
     In 1914, many people thought the war would be over by Christmas, but sadly by then the trenches were dug and the future shape of the war in Europe was set. But, as we know, something remarkable did happen that Christmas, exactly a hundred years ago today.Without any instruction or command, the shooting stopped and German and British soldiers met in No Man's Land. Photographs were taken and gifts exchanged. It was a Christmas truce.Truces are not a new idea. In the ancient world a truce was declared for the duration of the Olympic Games and wars and battles were put on hold. Sport has a wonderful way of bringing together people and nations, as we saw this year in Glasgow when over 70 countries took part in the Commonwealth Games. 
     It is no accident that they are known as the Friendly Games. As well as promoting dialogue between nations, the Commonwealth Games pioneered the inclusion of para-sports within each day's events. As with the Invictus Games that followed, the courage, determination and talent of the athletes captured our imagination as well as breaking down divisions. The benefits of reconciliation were clear to see when I visited Belfast in June. While my tour of the set of Game Of Thrones may have gained most attention, my visit to the Crumlin Road Gaol will remain vividly in my mind. What was once a prison during the Troubles is now a place of hope and fresh purpose; a reminder of what is possible when people reach out to one another, rather like the couple in the sculpture. Of course, reconciliation takes different forms. In Scotland after the referendum many felt great disappointment, while others felt great relief; and bridging these differences will take time.
      Bringing reconciliation to war or emergency zones is an even harder task, and I have been deeply touched this year by the selflessness of aid workers and medical volunteers who have gone abroad to help victims of conflict or of diseases like Ebola, often at great personal risk. For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ's example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people, of whatever faith or none. Sometimes it seems that reconciliation stands little chance in the face of war and discord. But, as the Christmas truce a century ago reminds us, peace and goodwill have lasting power in the hearts of men and women.On that chilly Christmas Eve in 1914 many of the German forces sang Silent Night, its haunting melody inching across the line.That carol is still much-loved today, a legacy of the Christmas truce, and a reminder to us all that even in the unlikeliest of places hope can still be found.
 A very happy Christmas to you all.”
 
Queen Elizabeth II, Christmas Speech, 2014
 

The Burning Babe

As I in hoary winter's night stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow ;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear.

Who, scorchëd with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
Alas, quoth he, but newly born in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!

 My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns ;
The fuel justice layeth on, and mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men's defilëd souls.

 For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.
With this he vanished out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I callëd unto mind that it was Christmas day.

 -by Robert Southwell

 

     “For all of human history people have been searching for God. The search has expressed itself in the worship of imaginary gods who jealously grasped at power; it has expressed itself in the philosophical idea of an impersonal god who is remote and distant; and it has expressed itself in the human attempt for domination and self-glorification by diabolical leaders.  
     And what do we find today? We find that God does not grasp for power, but empties himself of it in order to expresss his true authority, which springs from love. We find that God does not want to watch us from a distance, but instead has become flesh and made his home among us.  
     And who are those who recognize this unexpected presence of God in our midst? Not the prideful and powerful, but those whose humble acknowledgement of their weakness leads them to seek for a Savior and joyfully welcome him in the gloriously singular and lowly way he has chosen to come. In Jesus, the Word has become flesh, God has revealed himself to the simple-hearted.  
     Blessed are we who celebrate this day as the gretest discovery of all time – the discovery that God, for whom we groped in the darkness, has pierced the darkness with his humanity and has found us. May all who have walked in darkness welcome the light: Jesus Christ, Emmanuel.”
 
- Fr. John Schmalhofer (our parish priest, written in our bulletin!)
 
Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

 The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the applle tree

His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne'er can tell
His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
I missed of all but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I'm weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
I'm weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
Under the shadow I will be
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

 
     “Night has fallen; the clear, bright stars are sparkling in the cold air; noisy, strident voices rise to my ear from the city, voices of the revelers of this world who celebrate with merrymaking the poverty of their Saviour. Around me in their rooms my companions are asleep, and I am still wakeful, thinking of the mystery of Bethlehem. Come, come Jesus, I await you. Mary and Joseph, knowing the hour is near, are turned away by the townsfolk and go out into the fields to look for a shelter. I am a poor shepherd; I have only a wretched stable, a small manger, some wisps of straw. I offer all these to you, be pleased to come into my poor hovel. I offer you my heart; my soul is poor and bare of virtues, the straws of so many imperfections will prick you and make you weep – but oh, my Lord, what can you expect?
     This little is all I have. I am touched by your poverty, I am moved to tears, but I have nothing better to offer you. Jessu, honor my soul with your presence, adorn it with your graces. Burn this straw and change it into a soft couch for your most holy body. Jesus, I am here waiting for your coming. Wicked men have driven you out, and the wind is like ice. I am a poor man, but I will warm you as well as I can. At least be pleased that I wish to welcome you warmly, to love you and sacrifice myself for you. But in your own way you are rich, and you see my needs. You are a flame of charity, and you will purge my heart of all that is not your own most holy Heart. You are uncreated holiness, and you will fill me with those graces which give new life to my soul. Oh, Jesus, come, I have so much to tell you, so many sorrows to confide, so many desires, so many promises, and so many hopes. I want to adore you, to kiss you on the brow, oh, tiny Jesus, to give myself to you once more, forever. Come, my Jesus, delay no longer, come, be my guest.
      Alas! It is already late, I am overcome with sleep and my pen slips from my fingers. Let me sleep a little, oh Jesus, while your Mother and St. Joseph are preparing the room. I will lie down and rest here, in the fresh night air. As soon as you come, the splendor of your light will dazzle my eyes. Your angels will awaken me with sweet hymns of glory and peace, and I shall run forward with joy to welcome you and to offer you my own poor gifts, my home, all the little I have. I will worship you and show you all my love with the other shepherds who have joined me, and with the angels of Heaven, singing hymns of glory to your loving heart.”
 - Angelo Guiseppi Roncalli, later Pope St. John XXIII, 1902
  

Love Is Not An Accident

 Love is not an accident
Of chemicals that crossed in space
It flows from Everlasting Choice
And rushes with a Timeless Grace

 For out of nothing, nothing comes
Yet that which fills can never drain
It is the essence of the soul
The proof of some transcendent plain 

Random reactions ne’er could weave
The surge of passions, strength of will
The beauty heard in Nature’s Song
The knowing it is wrong to kill

 
What worth the kiss true lovers shared?
What worth the glories of the field?
What worth the life with virtue charged?
What worth the the death with honor sealed? 

We are not products of blind force
We are creations of a Mind
That spoke the Word that made us whole
Though He is sometimes hard to find

Some found Him in the stars on high
But lost Him when they fell and smashed
Some found Him when their heart beat high
But lost him when their hopes were dashed

 In darkest night, our terror reared
We tried to clutch our dream, but no!
It faded fast, and flew away
When wintry winds began to blow

 The battle of our nature raged
The Beast in us consuming all
Or worse the Human sin of Pride
Building false gods doomed to fall

 We sought Him in the desert dry
We sought Him in the forests lush
We sought Him in the clamourous day
We sought Him in the nightime hush

 Now on this night He comes to us
Who searched for Him so many ways
He is not as we thought He’d be:
An infant shivering in the hay

Not some knight in armor clad
Not some king in raimant gold
But a naked innocence
Trembling in winter’s cold 

The Essence of Reality
Lies helpless in a feeding troth
Our hard hearts bleed to hear him cry
We comfort him with baby-talk

Once and for all we swallow pride
And kneel down, not from force, but choice
Our hearts, corrupted, now are cleansed,
Washed by the maiden mother’s voice

 She gathers up the Word of Life
He strokes her face, as babies do
She smiles, and holds Him out to us
And then He strokes my own face, too 

Is that a smile on His face?
As my own cheeks are wet with tears?
Where were you, little baby, where?
When I was wrapped in darkest fears?

 Yet now they fade like bursting stars
The night has broke; the dawn is come
For Love is not an accident
The world can glory in the Son

- Pearl of Tyburn

 

"Breath of Heaven...."
 

6 comments:

  1. Oh, "Breath of Heaven" - one of my favorites! I take it you have listened to (and probably sung) the song, then? I love how it encompasses what the Blessed Virgin must have felt, especially the third verse. We must sing it together over the phone sometime! ; )
    The reflection from Pope St. John XXIII is strikingly beautiful... I remember reading about a similar truce occurring during the Franco-Prussian war. On Christmas Eve, a French soldier climbed out of the trench and sang "Cantique de Noel," (i.e. "O Holy Night"). He was answered by the German carol "From Heaven Above to Earth I Come" and by a general cease-fire.
    Merry Christmas! We keep missing each other over the phone... but I hope we can catch up soon!
    - Katherine

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  2. Merry Christmas! I was glad to see you included "Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree". It's been a long time since I've heard it, but did you know there's a carol version of it? It's really beautiful.

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  3. @Katherine: Yes, I love the song version of "Breath of Heaven" as well! It is my hope to be able to sing it at mass one year...although somewhere we have yet to get around to it! Yes, I'd love to do a duet with you over the phone! ;-)

    @Emerald: Indeed, I have heard the beautiful carol sung by English choirs...you simply can't beat 'em. Have you ever heard King's College Choir on the radio? I listened to there service on Christmas Eve! Sheer ecstacy!

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  4. G. K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis, two commendable individuals but how could a person disagree? Chesterton uttering “Tolerance is the virtue of men who no longer believe in anything”, a poet, a theologian… one could only envy his extraordinary capabilities.

    Advent Calendar

    He will come like last leaf's fall.
    One night when the November wind
    Has flayed the trees to the bone, and earth
    Wakes choking on the mould,
    The soft shroud's folding.

    He will come like frost.
    One morning when the shrinking earth
    Opens on mist, to find itself
    Arrested in the net
    Of alien, sword-set beauty.

    He will come like dark.
    One evening when the bursting red
    December sun draws up the sheet
    And penny-masks its eye to yield
    The star-snowed fields of sky.

    He will come, will come,
    Will come like crying in the night,
    Like blood, like breaking,
    As the earth writhes to toss him free.
    He will come like child.
    - Rowan Williams

    Although ignoring my snickering comment, but it’s quite fascinating to see how secularists and progressives have descended onto the deduction that Pope Francis is discounting Catholic doctrine to appeal to a more “understanding” society.

    Apart from that enjoy a late Merry Christmas and I wish you a blessed New Years. “You crown the year with Your goodness” Psalm 65:11.

    -British Free Corps

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  5. Hello, British Free Corps! (Are you a Brit?)

    Yes, Lewis and Chesterton were truly great minds. I'll admit a certain preference for Lewis, because I find him a bit easier to understand and more gentle with his humor, but both are gems of British literature.

    What a lovely poem that is by Rowan Williams! Thank you so much for adding to the anthology! ;-) I hope you too enjoy a blessed Christmas season and new year, and please feel free to stop by the blog any time you please!

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  6. Regretfully I must inform you though it appears I’ve made an encampment on your blog, however the issue of Unionism and Nationalism is a topic dear to my heart, as being raised in a nation that has seen significant conflict between the two groups. Although we can agree it was an outstanding evening when evidence emerged the Union would not disband, the Nationalists, although I despise and admire continued to fight what they believe was “the good fight”. When debating with disillusioned Nationalists you can sense disappointment, regret and anger. Antagonism which developed into more anti-English rhetoric, to the extent of accusing Prince William and Kate Middleton of “planning” to have their child around the same time of the referendum. Regardless of this absurd statement, it does show how unhealthy Nationalism tied in with a promise of political change and an increase in the nanny state, will turn individuals into collective minions controlled by the few.

    Of course you can argue the same for all ideologies, although I have not witnessed the day when a Unionist will claim that Mr. and Mrs. McGuiness had their children to combat the spread of Unionism and to restore a United Ireland. That said an excellent point was raised, British history and culture needs to start being taught again in British schools. However the irony is those who are heavily Nationalistic (Mostly on the Left), are additionally opposed to supporting an agenda for their own identity for the sake of being “tolerant” and “diverse”. To be British, both is inclusive and exclusive though it doesn’t mean everyone must follow the exact way from individual to individual. Nevertheless to water down a culture built upon centuries of traditions, that is simply inexcusable.

    -British Free Corps

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