“Peaceable Kingdom” — a view of heaven from the book of Isaiah

louisa coverNOTE: I just found out my publisher, ACTA, is giving away 15 free copies of Louisa May Alcott Illuminated by The Message in honor of our favorite author’s birthday. Go here http://actapublications.com/louisa-may-alcott-illuminated-by-the-message/ and type in code HAPPYBIRTHDAY at checkout.

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I could not resist posting this video of my song, “A Shoot from Jesse” from my album, Wait with Me: Advent of the Promised Son. It is today’s first reading from the lectionary, Isaiah 11.

I invite you to listen to the song and read the lyrics for a look at a truly Peaceable Kingdom, the one we all long for.

lyrics to “A Shoot from Jesse”

I also invite you to visit pray-as-you-go.org for a wonderful 12 minute reflection on this reading.

We surely need a Peaceable Kingdom in our world. Christmas heralds its coming in the birth of Jesus, in history and in our hearts.

Here’s a sampler video from Wait with Me to put you into the mood. Enjoy!

Happy Advent. Come Lord Jesus, come!

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Heaven on earth: What is the Ad Orientem mass? What is it like to experience it?

Today I am attending mass at Father Steven LaBaire’s parish, Holy Family in Worcester. Father Steven sent out his weekly newsletter which announced that today’s mass would be celebrated “Ad Orientum.”

Just what is “Ad Orientum?” I will let Father Steven explain.

altar

  • Ad Orientem is the practice of the priest turned toward the altar and the crucifix at Mass whenever the priest is addressing God. Whenever, the priest addresses the people, he turns toward the people. This is the way that our liturgy was celebrated for over 1800 years. It is still the normal way of celebrating Mass in Eastern Catholic churches. Pope Benedict revived the practice. Pope Francis occasionally continues it. Bishop McManus has also celebrated Mass Ad Orientem recently at Saint Paul’s Cathedral. The practice is continued in numerous church and cathedrals all over the world.

preparing altar+ Does this mean the priest is celebrating the Mass with his back to us? Not really. He could only “have his back to us” if we were the center of his attention at Mass. But we aren’t. God is. So the priest simply faces the altar as the leader and representative before God and we are all united in the same direction and posture. Together we gaze upon the altar and cross—the symbols of Christ. Appropriately, when the priest addresses the people he faces the congregation.

+But this means I won’t see the priest’s face at some point during the Mass? That’s correct. But let’s remember that facing the same direction helps us focus our attention on God rather than on the priest.  Praying the Mass ad orientem makes the mass less about the personality of the priest and more about the mystery that he stands in the person of Christ the High Priest, with us and for us. The man who is the priest disappears within the vestments (that’s part of their purpose)and when we do not see his face, we are more free to concentrate on God before us.  Worship is about focusing on God.

Think of it this way: if someone points out a beautiful flower or a star in the night sky to you, do you look at him or what he’s pointing to? Just so with Ad orientem worship. The priest is pointing us to God. Look where he’s pointing, and less at the one pointing.

+Didn’t Vatican II change all this? This is a common point of confusion. While celebrating the entire Mass with the priest facing the people has become the primary way of celebrating Mass  since the Council, ad orientem remains an accepted and time honored way of celebrating the liturgy. Each practice highlights different theological values. The way we celebrate most commonly today highlights the altar and Christ at the center. Ad Orientem highlights our being pilgrims with the priest leading and  pointing toward Christ. Both practices attest to the richness of the liturgy.

consecrating the host and wine

  • Why are we celebrating Ad Orientem on this Sunday? The phrase Ad Orientem means ‘toward the east.” Christians for centuries prayed facing in a common direction toward the east. East signified Jerusalem and the breaking light of dawn. Of course, Christ is the light of the world. So, together, we look east to be reminded of the light of Christ. Churches were often constructed so that everyone faced east. When this was impossible, at very least everyone faced the altar and the cross, together. So on the final days of Advent, we will turn together toward Christ as we prepare to celebrate his coming.
Prescott Pym Kioloa Bay Sunrise, Flickr Creative Commons
Prescott Pym Kioloa Bay Sunrise, Flickr Creative Commons

Impressions

The mass was beautiful. It gave me a sense of transcending this world and capturing a glimpse of heaven. There were times when I could not sing the hymns because I was crying.

It was a wonderful way to bring the Advent season to a close and welcome the birth of our Lord on Christmas morning. In his homily, Father Steven mentioned that December 25 is the day that the sun is just a bit brighter and the day, a tad longer than the night. How appropriate as we meditate on the light of the world in Jesus Christ, here on earth, present in our hearts.

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Be a Light: Living Christmas through Advent by Father Steven LaBaire

father steven labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

The Advent wreath, located on the right side of the sanctuary is a centuries-old Christian tradition.

Christine McIntosh Advent wreath completed, Flickr Creative Commons
Christine McIntosh Advent wreath completed, Flickr Creative Commons

The wreath itself is rich in symbolism: Evergreens signify undying life; life even amidst the barrenness of winter.

The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning and no end, symbolizes the eternity of God, and everlasting life found in Christ.

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent.

Three candles are violet and one is rose. The violet candles represent the color of the sky before sunrise; a sign of hope and a new beginning.

The rose candle lit on the 3rd Sunday of Advent, signifies the joy that hope and a new beginning bring.

The progressive lighting of the candles expresses light overcoming darkness; the light of Christ conquering whatever is contrary to love, mercy and compassion.

Of course, the wreath is meant to signify what Christ calls us to do: Bring light to wherever there is darkness.

Darkness is not confined to San Bernadino, California or Paris, or to the hearts of those who would wish us or anyone harm.

All kinds of shadows and shades of darkness can be found around us:

  • In the home where a child is beaten by hands or by hurtful words;
  • In the office where injustices and dishonesty are overlooked in the name of profit;
  • In the loveless marriage where partners are deaf to the needs of the one they promised to love and cherish;
  • In the residence where the elderly waste away, abandoned by their families;
  • On the playing field sidelines where the push to win the game at all costs, crushes a child’s feelings;
  •  Among friends when an addiction is never addressed;
  •  In our mouths when we speak criticism without being willing to help in the solution;
  • In cyberspace when a 14 year feels as if her reputation has been destroyed;
  • In popular culture, when prayer is mocked and faith is labeled as a “weakness of the intellect.”
  • In that family, where the gay son has been disowned and told that he does not belong;
  • Or, in a parish, when numbers of people and the almighty dollar are more important than fidelity to what Christ taught.
martinak15 83/365 Light in the Darkness, Flickr Creative Commons
martinak15 83/365 Light in the Darkness, Flickr Creative Commons

None of us are strangers to shadows. We pass through them every day.

Advent beckons us to bring light to wherever there is darkness, whatever be the shade.

How are you being called to bring  “light” to someone, somewhere?

Pray for an increase of light. Pray for the nerve (and for the energy) to be that light.

Amen.
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Preparing for Christmas: Veni Veni Emmanuel

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