Third Saturday in Advent


“‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.’”—Matthew 1:20b

For a short while after 9/11, people living in the terrorist “bull’s eye” of Washington, D.C. were encouraged to create a sealed room in their house with plastic wrap and duct tape. This was to protect them in the event of a chemical or biological weapons attack. The military surplus stores sold out of gas masks. Plastic sheeting and duct tape were soon rare commodities.

The frenzy appeared to be mostly among the middle class. The rich thought they were impervious to such danger. The poor figured they die anyway. But those in the middle rushed to protect themselves—caught between fear and the illusion of control.

Joseph also had the illusion of control. He controlled who came in and out of his house. He was the gatekeeper of his home. Tradition tells us that he was much older than Mary. He was “established.” He was also from the royal lineage of King David and yet had not produced an heir. When Joseph learned that Mary was already pregnant, he had little reason to continue with her. The lineage had to be kept pure. He didn’t need to invite this complication into his house. God knows what havoc it might wreak!

Joseph, however, like his namesake, was open to the importance of dreams. When the messenger entered Joseph’s dream and said “do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home,” he listened.

Who are you afraid to take into your home? Why? Do you see your home as gift to be shared or a right to be protected? Do you have possessions that are so precious they hinder hospitality? Have you ever had to “depend on the kindness of strangers”?

“O Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end to another, and orderest all things mightily and sweetly, come to teach us the way of prudence!”

Breathe in. Breathe out. Ad…..vent.

With gratitude to Pax Christi USA where some of these reflections first appeared in print.

Third Friday in Advent

Good_shepherd_icon“At Christmas, Christ is born in us. At Passiontide he suffers and dies in us. At Pentecost the flame of the love of the Spirit is kindled in us. Advent returns, Christ prepares to be born in to the world again in us.”Caryll Houselander, woodcarver and mystic

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar.”Matthew 1:1-3a

Names. In traditional cultures, names are sacred and secret. A person’s name may change in their life to mark rites of passage. In oral cultures, names and genealogies are chanted from generation to generation.

Once, in Venezuela, I heard a schoolteacher tell this story about the success of their national literacy program. “There was a very old man who came to our classes. He had never learned to read. After he had learned to write the alphabet people saw him out wandering the hills going from house to house with a little scrap of paper and pencil stub. When asked what he was doing, he replied that he was collecting names. When asked why, he said ‘I have always wanted to learn to write down the names of his friends, so they will know how important they are to me.’”

What names are written on the leaves of your family tree?

We are now in the season of the ancient Christmas octave. In the monastic tradition, these are called the days of the “O” antiphons. Joan Chittister, a Benedictine, writes “these prayers describe quite clearly the type of leadership that marks the coming of the reign of God.” Savor them.

“O Shepherd that rulest Israel, Thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep, come to guide and comfort us.”

Breathe in. Breathe out. Ad…..vent.

With gratitude to Pax Christi USA where some of these reflections first appeared in print..