Advent Gospel Lectio Divina Prophetic voices Scripture Uncategorized

The God who works marvels

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This Christmas Eve I’m reflecting on the Magnificat. Like Hannah before her Mary responds to her unexpected pregnancy with a song of rejoicing and praise. It’s full of strength, courage and certainty. It’s a song of triumph and confidence that comes from a deep knowledge and trust in God. Today I was touched by these lines:

“The almighty works marvels for me, Holy his name!”

It is tempting to assume that Mary sang them when her life was settled and secure and everything was going well. It’s easy to see God working marvels in our lives when everything is going smoothly.

But that’s not the situation Mary was in when she sang this song of triumph. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a messier scenario than the one she was facing.

Yet in that situation she was able to see God working marvels beyond her wildest dreams in her and through her. God works marvels of some sort, big or small, in all our lives, though sometimes it’s hard to discern them in the midst of challenges and uncertainties. In our own uncertain and messy times her words remind me that God is also with us in all that we face. As God worked marvels in the unlikely circumstances of Mary’s Life God can work marvels in our lives.

What marvels is God working in your life this Advent?

Advent Lectio Divina O Antiphons Uncategorized

Come and save us!

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From the archives:

At vespers yesterday we sang the last of the O antiphons, O Emmanuel, “God-with-us. It always seems to me that it refocuses our attention on the meaning of Advent:

“Emmanuel, our king and lawgiver, for whom the peoples are waiting, and their saviour: Come to save us, Lord our God.”

It reminds us that all the longing and waiting of Advent will end with a promise fulfilled. At just the moment when the waiting might begin to feel like too much the antiphon calls us to keep hoping, keep looking for the light of Christ’s presence to come and transform our lives.

This Advent has seemed longer and darker than any other as we live through the continuing pandemic with its apparently unending suffering and uncertainty. Even in such dark uncertainty we’re called to wake up, to become aware of the presence of Emmanuel, God-with-us.

The antiphon has reminded me that however dark and uncertain our lives seem, whatever we are living through, and however well or not so well we handle that, Christ will come and dwell in our lives with us, bringing his healing, life giving light into whatever darkness we face.

Where do you need Christ’s presence with you this Advent?

Advent Gospel Lectio Divina O Antiphons Scripture Uncategorized

The One we long for.

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From the archives for 22 December:

Today we sing the 6th O antiphon, O Rex Gentium, O King of the nations. It can be tempting to dismiss this antiphon because kingship can seem like an outdated or untrustworthy notion in our days. We live in times that are generally suspicious of leaders and authority figures. That can be another reason for stepping back from this antiphon, from distancing ourselves from this challenging antiphon. But the antiphon, and the gospel, present a different view of kingship, leadership and power:

“O king of the nations, whom they long for, the cornerstone who made two into one: come and save humankind, whom you formed from the earth.”

The King of the antiphon, the one we long for is not like the earthly rulers we’re used to. He doesn’t abuse misuse power, overwhelming or manipulating others. Instead he comes quietly, refusing to trample those who feel crushed by life. He offers hope and consolation to all who grieve and suffer.

He is the saviour, the servant king of the Gospels, come to dwell with his people. He washes the feet of his disciples, and cooks them breakfast by the lake of Tiberius. He doesn’t come with the pomp or power of earthly rulers. He comes gently, kindly, compassionately and courteously into our lives, offering us hope and solace in these painful and challenging times.

What do you long for from the coming of Christ the King in this challenging Advent?

Advent Lectio Divina O Antiphons Uncategorized

Dawning light

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From the archives for 21 December, O rising sun:

Today we sing the 5th O antiphon, O Oriens, O rising sun. On the darkest day of the year we’re called to sing out the glory of the eternal light. As we face challenging and uncertain time :

“O rising sun, glory of the eternal light, and sun of justice: come shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.”

Coming on the shortest day, at the darkest point of the year, it tells us that however deep the darkness it will not overpower us. It points us beyond death and darkness, proclaiming that they will not have the last word.

It seems to me that it’s especially important to focus on the coming of the light in this dark time of year, and in these dark times we live in. Otherwise it might be too tempting to succumb to that darkness that can seem so all embracing.

Whatever we might be facing. However bleak things might feel or appear to us the light of Christ will come into our lives with it’s promise of new life and hope just as the sun will return and the days lengthen.

In these dark days where is the eternal light beginning to dawn in your life?

Advent Lectio Divina O Antiphons Uncategorized

The key to new life

From the archives for December 21, O Key of David:

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Today at Vespers we sing the 4th O antiphon, O Clavis David, O key of David”:

“O key of David, and ruler of the house of Israel: who open and none can close: close and none may open: come bring out of prison the captive who sits in darkness and the shadow of death.”

Last year, reflecting on this in the light of newly imposed Covid restrictions I thought this year would be different. Yet, here we are again, with some restrictions reinstated and the possibility of more to come. Necessary as they are, they are causing pain and anxiety for everyone.

This situation gives the antiphon more significance. Its deep longing for freedom seems even more powerful as we face the the possibility of cancelling of Christmas plans and gatherings yet again

 It’s left me reflecting on the importance of the freedom that the coming of Christ offers us. It’s a freedom that goes beyond physical freedom. However tiresome and painful physical restriction are they can’t undermine or destroy this freedom that Christ brings us. It’s a freedom that calls us into new life however unlikely the circumstances might seem. To accept it requires trust and courage. If we are able to do that it enables each of us to grow into the person we are called to be.

Where are you finding the courage to trust the freedom Christ offers in this challenging Advent?

Advent O Antiphons Scripture Uncategorized

Rooted in Christ

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From the archive for the third O antiphon:

The third O antiphon, O Radix Jesse, O root of Jesse, takes up the image of the root of Jesse that stands as a “signal to the nations.

“O Root of Jesse, who stands as a signal for the peoples, before whom kings will be silent, to whom the nations shall pray: come to free us, delay no longer.”

For me it speaks of Christ, the root of our being, grounding us and nurturing us so that we will bear ” fruit that will last”. In these challenging and uncertain times is easy to feel uprooted and disconnected.

Many of the things we thought were certain have become very unsteady. So much that we thought we could rely on has proved less solid that we hoped. The ground we thought was solid under our feet has turned out to be shifting sands. In that situation the thought of being rooted in Christ, and Christ being rooted in our hearts is especially consoling and hopeful.

In these uncertain times What enables you allow Christ to root you deep within?

Advent Gospel Lectio Divina Prophetic voices Scripture Uncategorized

Joy, hope and promise.

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The Visitation brings together the two women at the heart of the nativity. Elizabeth and Mary are bound together by family ties, unexpected pregnancies, faith in God’s promise and their openness to the life changing power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They are two excited women anticipating a new future together.

Mary, just setting out on life’s journey, turns to her older relative to share what has happened to her and her feelings about it. Elizabeth, wise with the experience of life, is able to offer support and insight from her own experience.

But, beautiful and encouraging as this female bonding is, the significance of their encounter goes far beyond that. Elizabeth, the child within her leaping for joy, recognises that she is in the presence of the mother of her Saviour. Filled with the Holy Spirit she is able to confirm the angel’s message to Mary proclaiming:

“Of all woman you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?”

Her words place her in the long line of prophets that stretches back through Israel’s history. Their role was to be open to the Spirit, to recognise the Lord’s presence and proclaim it to the people.

Both Elizabeth and Mary show us the necessity of being open to the Spirit, of allowing ourselves to listen attentively to God’s word. In our uncertain and challenging times the infectious joy of their encounter is a reminder that, even in these times, we can experience the joy of God’s promise being fulfilled in our lives.

Where are you being called to attentive listening this Advent?

Advent Lectio Divina Monastic Life O Antiphons Uncategorized

O Adonai, the God who redeems

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From the archives:
This evening at Vespers we’ll sing the second of the O antiphons, O Adonai, O Lord God.

“O Lord God, leader of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the Law on Sinai: come to redeem us with outstretched arm.”

It takes us back to one of the passages of Scripture that touches me most deeply, Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush. Moses is engaged in the most ordinary of daily activities, looking after his father-in-law’s herds. Then God breaks into his life in its ordinariness, messiness and uncertainty in a completely unexpected way.

Curiosity compels Moses to turn aside when he sees the bush aflame, and he is drawn into an encounter with God which is challenging and life changing beyond anything he could have imagined.

In the uncertain times we face yet again this antiphon has a very particular message. It tells us that the God of love who came to Moses and the burning bush can also break into the ordinariness and uncertainty of our daily lives and set us aflame. Facing another hard and challenging year it’s good to remember that the God of love who reached out to Moses because of the cries suffering people also hears our cries and comes to redeem us.

As we move through Advent where do you need the redeeming touch of God in your life?

Advent Lectio Divina O Antiphons Uncategorized

O Sapientia

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Something from the archives as we begin the O Antiphons. These prayers developed by the early church call on Christ to come and save us. They never directly used the name of Christ, but take up the titles used for the Messiah in the Old Testament. They change the whole tone of Advent, increasing the sense of anticipation and expectation.

The first one is O Sapientia, O Wisdom:

“O Wisdom, who came forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end of creation to the other, strongly and sweetly ordering all things, come to teach us the way of prudence.”

This antiphon always take me back to the Creation, to the Spirit hovering over the waters as God brings new life out of chaos. I’m always especially drawn to the especially to the image from Proverbs of Wisdom playing and delighting in God’s presence at the Creation.

We’ve lived through a lot of chaotic situations this year and have discovered how vulnerable they leave us. Our need for the hovering Spirit to draw new life and hope out of these chaotic times is clear. By recalling our beginnings O Sapientia reminds us that our beginnings are in the heart of God. However chaotic and disturbing our present might be we are created and held in the love of God.

As we move through Advent where is wisdom drawing you back into the love of God?

Advent Gospel Lectio Divina Prophetic voices Scripture Uncategorized

A courageous response

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The annunciation is one of my favourite parts of Luke’s gospel. The encounter between the angel Gabriel and Mary is so full of mystery, poetry, awe and wonder that it can be difficult to know what to attend to first. Every word carries something of the story’s profound meaning and calls out for attention. Today I’m focusing on these words that the angel Gabriel used as he told Mary of Elizabeth’s pregnancy:

“For nothing is impossible to God.”

They are so familiar that we can easily skip over them. We assume that we know all they have to say to us. We rightly connect his words with the momentous announcements of Elizabeth’s and Mary’s pregnancies, but the angel’s words have meaning far beyond these miraculous occurrences. It’s not only in the Gospels that nothing is impossible to God, but in the messiness and uncertainty of our own lives.

Reflecting on the angel’s words the Jewish New Testament scholar Amy-Jill Levine writes:

“It is not impossible that God could call us, indeed has called us, no matter our place or family of birth, economic status or gender… It is not impossible that we can respond as Mary did, ‘here I am’”

The power of the annunciation lies not just in the retelling of the miraculous intervention of God in our history, but in pointing us towards the miraculous intervention of God that is possible in our lives today.

God calls each one of us and waits for us to respond, as Mary did with our whole being. Filled with the Holy Spirit, and inspired by Mary, we can also respond to God’s call with a yes that is capable of transforming our lives and our world.

How does Mary’s encounter with the angel inspire you to respond to God’s call in your life?