Sunday, December 30, 2012

They're Coming...


After nearly a month with the 1 volume Christian Prayer & the wonderful assistance of Divine Office.org's podcasts, I've decided to take the plunge & purchase the 4 volume bonded leather set of the Liturgy of the Hours. This wasn't an easy decision to make as its kind of pricey, but after scouring the web, I was able to land a brand new set for the lowest price around.

While the volumes of the "leather" edition are never sold individually, I could have gotten 1 volume at a time over the liturgical year (if I was willing to settle for vinyl). Not only does each volume typically sell for an average of $35 or more (used)- but you have to hunt & peck to find the right one for the season. Its kind of a crap shoot. As a last ditch effort to justify an impending purchase, I made a point to check out one of these vinyl editions in a Catholic bookstore last week. I tried to imagine myself holding this book every day...

The way I see it, I'm not investing in a set of books- I'm investing in a relationship. I've found that a well loved book has a tendency to become a part of you... there seems to be a strange intimacy that comes from nestling it's broken spine in your hand. As you balance it's weight & turn each page, it opens up to you, speaks to you, cries out to you. Books like these seem to have a distinct "presence", sometimes even a particular scent, like that of a person you love. They're comforting to have around & can enrich your daily life on countless levels.  But vinyl, while less expensive & durable, just seems... stiff & sterile. Its almost as bad as an e-reader in my opinion... 

A good book needs no batteries, no screen cover, no wi-fi capability... I don't have to worry about it losing functionality if I spill coffee on it or leave it in my car on a hot or cold day... While its appealing to think I could carry every physical book I own (& then some) with me wherever I go in one slim little tablet, its just not the same. Though I'm reading the same words, I'm not able to connect like I do when I read them on paper. That said, I'm very much looking forward to receiving the Liturgy of the Hours this new year.
Deo Gratias...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Stephen's Reality

Yesterday was the 2nd day of Christmas, the feast of St. Stephen. I happened to be listening to Mass on the radio on my way to work. The priest made a point to contrast how we had celebrated Christmas (new life) & the very next day, we were commemorating the death of the first martyr. He said that "Christ was born to die" & that "martyrdom was the highest prize" in Christianity.

In that moment, I realized Christ had called me to die on the very day He gave me new life, but I've been putting it off. Dying a natural death is one thing. But becoming a spiritual martyr, dying "to self" with full knowledge & consent of will is another. In a way, dying in this manner requires a severing of perceived reality, much like the experience Stephen had as the crowd was gearing up to stone him. He looked up, saw the heavens opened & there was Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. I think it was this reality which enabled him to die so valiantly.

And what is my reality?! When I look up, I see only darkness & begin plotting my survival. But the life I've been given is not my own to "save"... I was not made for my own gain or pleasure. Christ has asked me to "lose my life", to give up my rights for His sake. He's asked me to die to my self & what I want in order that He may be glorified. It strikes me as a frightening thought, even though I've been aware of it for years. Stephen's reality was Christ. What's mine?


"It is much less difficult to conquer others than to conquer oneself."  Imitation of Mary


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Love Conquers All

If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have no love, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal. 

If I have the gift of foretelling the future and hold in my mind not only all human knowledge but the very secrets of God, and if I also have that absolute faith which can move mountains, but have no love, I amount to nothing at all. 

If I dispose of all that I possess, yes, even if I give my own body to be burned, but have no love, I achieve precisely nothing.  

This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.  Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. 

On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails. Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.  1 Corinthians 13:1-8a (PHILLIPS)

Love conquers all...  my hurt, my selfishness, my anger... my infidelity to God & neighbor... but there is a deeper problem. In order for love to conquer all these things, love must first conquer me! Only when I'm conquered by love can I love also. Only then will I be transformed. Only then will life have meaning. Until then, I am a " blaring brass or crashing cymbal". I am out of sync, out of tune & out of touch with God & this world. My faith is hopelessly irrelevant without love.

In Ephesians 5:21, we're told to submit to one other out of reverence for Christ... But only when Christ has conquered me can I truly submit to another out of reverence for Him. Only when He has conquered me can I truly love. The act of  "conquering" anything often requires a battle. It requires loss by force or concession, which consequently results in transformation. Sometimes the battle is swift & other times, its drawn out over weeks, months or years.  Yet "Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything.", even me...

If I don't let love conquer my life, I can't conquer anything in life. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas?

I have to admit, I'm not much into the Christmas spirit. I see the neighbor's lights & wreathes & Christmas trees all lit up in the darkness... I hear Christmas carols from every era playing incessantly on the radio, in the grocery store, even at work. I see the bell ringers with their kettles & the homeless standing out on the corners looking extra cold & pitiful... I've driven by a few plastic creches, though they seem woefully outnumbered by mechanical Santas, Frostys & Rudolphs.

It just doesn't feel like Christmas this year. Many people in my circle of acquaintances have expressed this same sentiment. "We're not celebrating Christmas" they say.  By "not celebrating", they mean minimal or no decorations, no tree, no gift exchanges & no big family dinner. Afterall, Christmas is really just another day. Christmas is commercialism. Christmas is family dysfunction. Its busy, its expensive, its exhausting. At least, this is what it seems to have become. People are tired of it. I know I sure am.

Has anyone ever wondered why we celebrate these things faithfully, yet somehow we forget the source that started it all?  What is "the Reason" for Christmas the world over these days? And when someone says they're not celebrating Christmas, what do they really mean? Christmas is supposed to be a celebration of Christ's birth, of  humanity's salvation, of Emmanuel: God With Us. But we seem to have forgotten. Christmas used to call us to peace (if only for a moment) within ourselves & toward each other. It used to call us to the quiet... to a "silent, holy night". It invited us to wonder. Imagine: God stooped to save us by sending us His Son! Joy to the world, indeed.

But then, no one really believes that drivel anymore... Its just "tradition". We don't need "saving" from a mythological place of torment... We experience the real thing day in & day out right here on this earth.  No ethereal superhero is going to swoop out of the sky to help us. We have to save ourselves. Its easier to lay aside the fairy tales in the wake of reality (the national disappointments, the senseless murders, the blood thirsty media)... Where is God now? And where is His Son? We're on our own. Its time to wake up & join the real world, isn't it. But it seems we need saving now more than ever & in trying to save our selves, we've actually lost our selves... We've lost our hope, our peace, our joy. We've lost our sense of wonder. Its time to wake up, yes... to the reality of a real God Who really loves us & really sent His Son to save us. Its time to wake up to the reality of Christmas.

I, however, am still struggling...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Relocating

For the last 6 years, I've existed on my own, hauling off to work in the city, running my errands & returning to an empty apt. every night. But last month, I finally left the metro area & moved to more rural environs. Now I live in a much smaller "city" & dwell in an actual house on a residential street. Thankfully, for the most part, things here are familiar to me. My housemate (who I've known for 12 years), grew up in this area, so I've spent quite a bit of time in these parts. Relocating seemed like the obvious choice once the opportunity presented itself.

But I've been in transition since November... and I'm tired!

Needless to say, my faith has suffered some. Part of me, at times, just doesn't care about obligations like Mass or confession. And honestly, sometimes I feel like I've slipped back into my Protestant ways, asking "Why" I have to do this or go there or leave that other thing behind. I've realized my problem isn't so much  how busy or tired I am... Its with my willingness to submit to God. When I stay away from the sacraments I would otherwise receive by fulfilling my obligations, I know I am only wounding myself. I don't think God needs me to be at Mass, but the requirement is there for my own well being. If the Church is my mother, it stands to reason that clinging to her & submitting to her can only bring me good... She leads me to her Son, Jesus Christ, in the Body of Christ gathered & in the Eucharist. She magnifies God & sends me off filled with the Holy Spirit. And yet I stay away & try to foster faith on my own. But Catholicism is community... *Throws fit*

I've visited 2 of the 3 Catholic churches in this area over the past year... And I'm going to have to choose one of them to be my new home. It feels a little discouraging. I'm going to have to meet new people & put out extra energy to get involved. Its not exactly my strong suit...


Friday, December 7, 2012

Learning the Liturgy of the Hours

A few years ago, I was poking around a thrift shop & found a copy of Christian Prayer, which is a condensed version of the Liturgy of the Hours. I wasn't even a Catholic yet, but I thought for $4.99, I couldn't go wrong. It's a thick little book, packed full of readings, illustrations, hymns & various writings from Church fathers. I had no idea what the Liturgy of the Hours was, but I kept this book on my shelf in hopes that I would be able to use it some day.

Its admittedly daunting, but I've found a couple resources to help teach me & wanted to share:

http://divineoffice.org/
http://www.universalis.com/