On the Third Sunday of Advent is the tradition of the blessing of the baby Jesus figurine we place in our manger or nativity scene. Since we might not have the opportunity to have our baby Jesus, bambinelli, blessed in church you may bless it at home as we wait for the light.
Prayer together as a family
make the sign of the cross
Read Lk 2:1-8
Leader: God, our Father
you so love humankind
that you sent us your only Son Jesus,
born of the Virgin Mary,
to save us and lead us back to you.
We pray that with your blessing
this image of Jesus,
who is about to come among us,
may be a sign of your presence and
love in our home.
give your Blessing to us too,
to our parents, to our families and
to our friends.
Open our hearts,
so that we may be able to
receive Jesus in joy,
always do what he asks
and see him in all those
who are in need of our love.
We ask this in the name of Jesus,
your beloved Son
who comes to give the world peace.
He lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Blessing of a Christmas Tree - Waiting for the light
Many families set up their Christmas tree during the season of Advent or at Christmas Eve. The following is a blessing of a Christmas tree that a family can pray at home.
Begin with the sign of the Cross
Leader: Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Resp: Now and forever.
Read one other the following scripture passages
Isaiah 9:1-6 (A son is given to us)
Titus 3:4-7 (His own compassion saved us)
Leader with hands joined:
Lord our God,
we praise you for the light of creation:
the sun, the moon and the stars of the night.
We praise you for the light of Israel:
the Law, the prophets, and the wisdom of the Scriptures.
We praise you for Jesus Christ, your Son:
he is Emmanuel, God-with-us, the Prince of Peace,
who fills us with the wonder of your love.
let your blessing come upon us
as we illumine this tree.
May the light and cheer it gives
be a sign of joy that fills our hearts.
May all who delight in this tree
come to the knowledge and joy of salvation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
(from the Book of Blessings)
December 13, 2020 - The voice of John in the wilderness Part Two - Waiting for the light
The gospel (Jn 1:6-8, 19-28) for the Third Sunday of Advent, Rejoice Sunday, John is sent by God to witness to the light, so that all might believe. John only testifies to the light for he is not the light. John is questioned who he is. John states he is not the messiah or the prophet Elijah or a prophet. John responds to the question with a quote from the prophet Isaiah that he is "A voice in the desert crying out: Make straight the way of the Lord!" John is again question of who he is. He replies that he baptizes with water but the one to come he, John is not worthy to unfasten the strap of his sandal.
"It is fascinating in this context to consider the baptizing ministry of Jesus's forerunner, John the Baptist. When a worshiper entered the Jerusalem Temple to offer sacrifice or to pray, he would cleanse himself in a ritual bath called a "mikvah." John, who was the son of a Temple priest and hence knew this ritual well, was offering a new mikvah, a cleansing in the Jordan, in preparation for a new priest, a new temple and a new sacrifice." (Catholicism by Robert Barron p.24)
From a sermon 'The voice is John, the Word is Christ' by St. Augustine (254-430) he writes, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord'." "The voice of one crying in the wilderness is the voice of one breaking the silence. Prepare the way for the Lord, he says, as though he were saying, 'I speak out in order to lead him into your hearts, but he does not choose to come where I lead him unless you prepare the way for him.' To prepare the way means to pray well; it means thinking humbly of oneself. We should take our lesson from John the Baptist."
This joyful Third Sunday of Sunday, Rejoice! The light is approaching. The light is arriving. In a spirit of hope, faith and joy pray well this week as you continue waiting for the light.
December 20, 2020 The Fourth Sunday of Advent
The Announcement That Changed the World
This Fourth Sunday of Advent begins the conclusion of the season of Advent. Today's gospel is the beautiful story of the Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38). The angel Gabriel is sent by God to Nazareth to a virgin named Mary who is betrothed to Joseph. The angel greets Mary with "Rejoice, O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you, blessed are you among women." Mary is troubled by this greeting and what did it mean. Gabriel tells Mary not to fear for she has found favor with God. The angel continues that Mary is to conceive and bear a son and name him Jesus.
Mary now questions the angel how this can happen since she did not know man. Gabriel answers the Holy Spirit will come upon her and the power of the Most High will overshadow her. This child will be called the Son of God. Mary is informed that her kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son. Mary then said, "I am the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say." The angel then left her.
This story of the Annunciation shows us the awesome power of God and the faith of a young girl in God. Mary opens her whole life and future to bring the gift of a child into the world. Like any parent Mary must have wondered what will be the future of her son. Now she waits and prepare for the birth of her child.
St. Anselm (1033-1109) presents, "It is fitting that the conception of the God-Man should be of a most pure mother, that the purity of the virgin-mother, than which, under God, there was none greater, should be hers to whom God had design to give His Only Son, whom He had begotten, equal to Himself, from His own Heart, that He should so give Him to her to be at same time Son of God and the Son of Man.
Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church writes, "The virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honor as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer." "... she is endowed with the high office and dignity of the Mother of the Son of God and therefore she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit." (#53)
"For Gabriel is announcing to her the advent of a new age, the fulfillment of the promise in the divine Messiah who will be born of her womb." (The Teaching of Christ p.113)
St. John Paul II (1920-2005) gives a stark insight into the impact of Gabriel's announcement to Mary. "When the archangel Gabriel announced to the Virgin of Nazareth the birth of the Son, revealing that His Reign would be unending (cf. Lk 1:33) it was difficult to foresee that those words augured such a future; that the Reign of God in the world would come about at such a cost; that from the moment on the history of the salvation of all humanity would have to follow such a path." (Crossing the Threshold of Hope pp. 67-68)
During these last days and nights of Advent keep a spirit of hope, faith, joy, and peace. Be on watch! Stay awake! Listen to the voice in the wilderness and be open and maybe surprised by what God might ask of you to bring into the world while waiting for the light. The light is so very near!
Waiting for the light with prayers, fasting and alms
The period of Advent should be days and nights of hope, joy and expectation with prayers, fasting and almsgiving. St. Augustine (354-430) tells us that fasting and almsgiving are the two wings of prayer. They are the signs of humility and charity. St. Richard of Chichester (1197-1253) says, "Satisfaction consists in cutting off the causes of the sin, thus, fasting is the proper antidote to lust; prayers to pride, to envy, anger and sloth; alms to covetousness."
Prayer during Advent can be praying the rosary with the Joyful Mysteries. the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. St. Andrew's Christmas Novena, celebrating the Sacrament of Penance, some silent time or a heartfelt prayer of hope, faith, joy, and peace.
Devotional reading gives us material to deepen our faith. Some suggestions are "The Little Blue Book for Advent," "Living Faith - Daily Catholic Devotions and there are a number of other available Advent themed devotional publications. There are also some online sites such as mycatholic.life/advent and adventcatholiconline. During the month of December there are saints' feast days such as St. Andrew, St. Nicholas, St. Francis Xavier. Read up on the lives of the saints. Also, during December we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the feats of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
During Advent is a good time to fast a day or two a week. Each week offer up your fasting for those who are sick, suffering or dying and those with Covid-19, the poor, the needy the hungry and the homeless, families in crises, for religious vocations and the souls in purgatory. The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults state, "... such activities of sacrifice also help us to grow in self-discipline and holiness." (p.335)
Almsgiving presents us the opportunity to give to another who is in need. Some acts to do during Advent are the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. Monetary donations to organizations that help those in need are always welcomed and are in need of donations all year long. Do not forget your parish donations and CSA pledge. With proper precautions donate your time or your expertise to a service organization. As St. Paul writes to the Romans, "He who gives alms should do so generously, ..., he who performs works of mercy should do so cheerfully." (Rm 12:8)
In waiting for the light, "For God said, 'Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Cor 4:6)