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Christmas Ink Slingers Liturgical Year Maurisa Motherhood Vocations

A Reflection on the Presentation

A Reflection on the Presentation

The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple by Giovanni Bellini, ca. 1469

And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord: As it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord: And to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons: And behold there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was in him. And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. And he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law,He also took him into his arms, and blessed God, and said:Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; Because my eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. And his father and mother were wondering at those things which were spoken concerning him.And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed. Luke 2:22-35 

There were two aspects to Mosaic Law following the birth of a Hebrew child. According to the Law, a woman needed to undergo a period of purification 40 days after the birth of a male child. Secondly, a sin offering would be required to be made in the Temple. Although the Blessed Mother, by virtue of the virginal conception of Christ and her continued virginal integrity after His birth, was exempt from this aspect of Mosaic Law, it is a beautiful testament to her humility and obedience that she chose to submit to the Law, traveling to the Temple in Jerusalem with Joseph and baby Jesus to do so.

The typical sin offering was a lamb and a turtledove, but because of their poverty Mary and Joseph were allowed to make a sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or pigeons. It shouldn’t pass our observation here that Mary was indeed presenting and giving her son to God, following the Jewish precept of offering the first born son to the service of God. This offering would be fully manifested 33 years later when He would become the unblemished lamb sacrificed as expiation for the sins of all mankind.

The Holy Family was met at the Temple by Simeon, who inspired by the Holy Spirit, recognized the babe as the promised Messiah. He took the Child in his arms and made several prophecies regarding Jesus and His mother. In particular that Jesus would be a sign of contradiction, destined for the salvation of the world and the Blessed Mother’s fate would be closely tied to her son’s even sharing in his suffering and redemptive work. 

The painting of this scene between Mary, Jesus, and Simeon by Giovanni Bellini is a fantastic work of Renaissance art. Mary and Simeon intently hold each others’ gaze; sharing this intimate moment of revelation. The Child is wrapped tightly in swaddling clothes but one cannot help but notice how similar they appear to burial wrappings–a symbol and foreshadowing of the prophecy just spoken by the holy man. 

The Feast of the Presentation, celebrated on February 2, is often referred to as The Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary or Candlemas.  A lovely tradition on this feast is the blessing of beeswax candles by the priest to be used throughout the year and in a procession for the feast–making a lovely connection to the prophecy by Simeon that Jesus would be “a light to the Gentiles”.

This brings us to a neat little aside. What do Candlemas and Ground Hog Day have in common besides falling on the same day?  Both have fun connections to the prediction of the end of winter weather. Just as Punxsutawny Phil predicts 6 more weeks of winter if he sees and is frightened by his shadow, the weather on Candlemas makes a similar prediction:

If Candlemas be fair and bright;

Come winter, have another fight.

If Candlemas bring clouds and rain;

Go winter, and come not again.

 

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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year Offering your suffering Prayer Sarah

Offer It Up! The Sanctification of Suffering

Offer It Up

As the cold winter has given way into spring, the Liturgical Calendar tells us that it is Lent. This once was a time when kids around the globe firmly resolved to give up chocolate for the next forty days, moms put down the snacks, and dads might even leave the beer in the fridge, untouched. We sacrifice in Lent, because Christ sacrificed for us.

But have you noticed the changing trend these days? We are a people who loathe suffering. We will do anything for comfort. We’ve seemingly abandoned the idea of “giving up” and embraced the “do-gooder” attitude. Instead of giving up chocolate, we resolve to use kind words. Instead of skipping the sugar in our morning cuppa, we affirm our neighbor. Forget all this suffering nonsense! I’ll just do something “nice.”

Why are we so afraid of suffering? We are afraid to face our humanity, afraid to admit just how small we are, afraid to admit that God’s plan is so much bigger than our own?

Kindness and affirmations are lovely – they truly are – but they miss the point of Lent.

When I was growing up, my mom loved to remind us to “Offer it up!” When we offer up our pain, we sanctify it. Pain and suffering came into the world through the Fall of Adam and Eve. It wasn’t God’s original design, but the logical result of the Fall. We now need to use this pain to draw closer to Him and join in the salvation He is offering us.

When we unite our suffering to Christ, even the small inconveniences become sanctifying. Lent is when we focus on small suffering and offer it to Christ. Our small acts of joyful suffering fortify our souls. They strengthen us, so that when the suffering is big, we are strong enough to turn from sin and embrace virtue. Suffering in the small things makes us strong for the large things. Suffering, offered to and united with Christ, gives grace to our souls and sanctifies us.

We are living in a spiritual battlefield and we need to strengthen our spiritual muscles and put on our spiritual armor. Prayer and real sacrifice are our means of spiritual strength. Each small sacrifice is like a trip to the gym for our souls! We are willing to sweat it out in the gym to make our bodies look and feel great. Why not do the same for our soul?

Christ came to earth to redeem us. He came to undo the effects of Adam and Eve’s Fall. One of the main effects of the Fall is suffering. While Christ could have chosen any means by which to redeem humanity, He chose to suffer! He chose to die a bloody, painful death on the Cross.

Lent has been our time to join Him on the road to Calvary. He didn’t walk that road, handing out joyful affirmations and kind words. He didn’t stop to tell the weeping woman of Jerusalem, “Cheer up! You’re beautiful!” He suffered real pain, offered it for our souls, and died on the Cross so that we could be redeemed.

This Lent, it’s not too late to choose to offer some small, painful sacrifice to Christ. Unite it to His Passion and sanctify your little suffering, particularly as we head into Holy Week. Certainly, be kind, too, but remember that Lent is a time to reflect on Christ’s redemptive suffering and in some small way, to join Him on the road to Calvary.

 

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Antonia Goddard Ink Slingers Marriage Matrimony Sacraments Vocations

Called by Marriage, Not to Marriage

CalledbyMarriageNottoMarriage

A Vocation for Life

After your marriage, your life will change forever. You will change forever. Whatever happens in your life – good or bad, joyful or tragic – you will be married to one another. And nothing, nothing, will ever change that. 

The room rang with the echoes of the priest’s words. My fiancé and I looked at each other a little nervously. It didn’t put us off marriage, far from it, but it made us realise how what we were doing was almost impossible – crazily so – if we didn’t have God’s help.

With our wedding coming up in just one month, I have spent the last year and a half considering my vocation more seriously than ever before. Until recently, it had mostly been presented to me as a series of check boxes. Which of the follow applies to you? Single life, priesthood, religious life, marriage – select one of the above. As though marriage were simply a life event, another sacrament to add to the collection, a stepping stone on the journey to Heaven.

But my vocation, and my marriage, are far more than that. Whilst I have felt a growing call to the married and family life for many years, my wedding is not an event to be checked off the list of life. 

Because as I have been praying, thinking, and trying to understand what God wants for me, I’ve come to understand that my vocation is far more than my marriage. Rather, God is drawing me closer to Him through my fiancé. I am not called to the married life; I am called to God through my marriage.

My fiancé makes me a better person in every respect. He reminds me, not by correction or criticism but simply by being, to be a kinder, more patient, and more loving person. Through him, I know I will grow in my faith and understanding, and become closer to God. I am not called to marriage; I am called to God by marrying my fiancé. 

My vocation won’t be completed in a single day, or even a sacrament. It won’t be complete when we have a ten, twenty, or even fifty year anniversary, nor with the birth of our first child or our last. My draw to God is more than a ring on my finger or a new title or new surname – and to say that my vocation begins and ends with my marriage is to ignore any and all other vocations that God has for me. My desire to care for children, to raise a family of my own, to write and change the world around me for the better – all these vocations are not lessened or nullified by my marriage. Ultimately, it is only by joining Christ and the saints in Heaven can I truly be considered to have fulfilled my vocation.

This understanding comes with it a further revelation – that if I am called to Christ through my fiancé, then he is called to Christ through me. A responsibility, then, beyond ensuring that my husband is well fed, content, and looked after – ensuring that he can fulfil his vocation, whatever that may entail, with my love and support. Once again, I wonder what on earth I’ve let myself in for. The realisation hits me, as it does so often, that what I am about to embark upon is certainly beyond my capability – without the assistance of God.

I have been incredibly lucky in my quest to understand my vocation. Not only have I been set incredible examples from my parents, family, friends, and in-laws-to-be, but I have been blessed beyond measure to begin exploring my vocation with the best man God put on this Earth. In marrying him, I am not fulfilling my vocation – I am taking the very first step.

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Ink Slingers Prayer Spiritual Growth Susan

“You Shall Not Pass!”

I read this past year (I do not recall where) that mercy is that love that keeps evil at bay. Mercy does not permit evil to progress further.  And from a priest: Divine Mercy is the greatest exchange of charity. I hope by reflecting on these insights, we may praise God for His unfathomable mercy and seek to become Mercy for others.

You Shall Not Pass

As I sit and type, I am listening to the movie, The Hobbit.  I am reminded of one of the previous Lord of the Rings movies where Gandalf takes his staff, strikes it into the rock, and commands the devil creature, “You shall not pass!” The staff pierces into the rock, cracking sounds resonant, and echoes travel with powerful cinematic effects. Gandalf makes way for his friends escape and then falls into the deep abyss to battle the creature.  The power behind the action sets a visual effect for us to apply in a sense to Christ’s powerful actions.

 

Can you picture it? God placing His Son, for all to gaze upon, on the hill of Cavalry. “You shall not pass!” The buck stops here! Although there is no devil creature visually present, as in some movies, Christ IS the staff and keeps evil from progressing any further. He clears a way for His Friends to pass,  goes to battle for us all, opens the gates of Heaven. He ushers in Mercy….the great exchange.

 

The Bite Stops Here

Now taking a look backwards into the Old Testament when the serpents were biting and killing the Israelites. God commanded Moses to put a serpent on the stake and place the stake in the high rock. Any Israelite who gazed on it would be saved from dying from the poisonous bites; a merciful act because it stopped the poison from progressing in those persons, and gave them another chance for living righteously. It may be humorously said that the stake with serpent represented said, “The bite stops here!” All joking aside, there was an exchange. Only those who gazed upon it were saved. It is as if the staff was the pivot point where ones life was based upon.

 

But is this not also true from the Cross? There Christ hung, the pivot point for all eternity and for every soul….if one chose to gaze upon “Him whom they pierced.” But why the need for the gaze? And what does this have to do with mercy?

 

In cinematography the scenes can place a strong image into our memories, but nothing that lasts, nothing that enters the heart and soul for lasting transformation. See, not only does the Crucified Christ redirect evil and clear a path for His followers, but He exchanges our weaknesses with His strength. Love put Himself in the direct line of evil, and Charity gives His merits to those who “gaze” from their heart upon Him. Mercy in both cases. He did and does what we cannot do for ourselves. He stopped evil. And He gives us what we need. This is Mercy.

 

Be Mercy for Others

We are told to “Be Mercy” for others. How? Do what Christ did. Stand firm in the face of evil with Truth. Take on the cross to make others’s crosses lighter. Give to others in need what you have that they do not.  But before all this, Gaze on Christ Crucified. Exchange and share your life with His. Let Him give you what you do not have and transform you.

 

But where can we gaze? A Saint once taught that the Crucifix is the school of Christ. Begin by meditating and gazing upon the Crucifix every day. Give Him your weaknesses. But also, go to the place where Christ is made present every day…..the Mass. The Mass is the eternal “You shall not pass!” to evil. The Sacrifice of the Mass is the Sacrifice of Christ.  The once-for-all offering is held up constantly to be Mercy for the world…but through us. Gaze upon and receive Him at the Mass and you are receiving Mercy! The very love that stood in the face of evil, the very charity that was able to give All for all, is offered for you today. Sure there is no cinematography to impress us, but as a blessed priest said recently, “When you come to Mass, you have entered REALITY.”

 

Let us gaze on Christ and become Mercy for others.

 

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Lent Liturgical Year Spiritual Growth Victoria K

The Year I Did NOTHING For Lent

How I gave up nothing, took on nothing…and left everything to the Lord.

I Did Nothing for Lent

 

My Plan for an All-Star Lent

It was Lent 2014. I was a college junior, diving into my faith after my “reversion” (I’m a cradle Catholic, but my faith was rekindled that previous summer). Before my re-version, Catholicism for me had been a series of doctrines and dogmas (and man was I good at following rules…and forcing them on other people!). Even after the re-version, I was slow in adjusting from a faith that was only based on rules to a faith based on a loving relationship with Christ. So, in preparation for Lent 2014, I sauntered confidently into my meeting with my spiritual director. With me, I carried an organized, bullet-point list of everything I planned to do for Lent.

No listening to music or podcasts.

Volunteering once a week.

Rosary every day.

A scriptural reflection throughout Lent.

No gossiping.

Daily Mass.

No snacks between meals.

No sweets.

I kid you not I had fully planned to do each and every one of those things. And would have, too. My spiritual director, a sweet little nun with a big smile and a quiet voice, read through the list thoughtfully. “Yes, Victory” (her very endearing nickname for me) “this is very good.” I beamed, confident in my all-star plan for Lent. “But…” (oh no, the dreaded but) “…but you’re not going to do any of this.” Straining to be humble, or at least not freak out, I replied: “Oh. What would you like me to do then, Sister?” She was quiet for a moment, reading through the list again. “Victory, I’d like you to do nothing for Lent.”

Nothing

Nothing! The voice screamed in my head. I must’ve asked her twenty times just to clarify. You don’t want me to give up anything? Take on something? What about prayer, fasting, almsgiving? This went against literally everything I’d ever known about Catholicism since 1st grade CCD? I didn’t even think it was acceptable to do nothing (definitely talk this over with a spiritual director before you try this at home). But she was completely serious. Nothing.

We set up the parameters: I was to keep up my normal prayer, volunteer, and worship schedule. I was still to abstain from meat on Fridays. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, I wasn’t to cut anything out of the two small meals or one big meal. I was to do the bare minimum and nothing extra. It was…horrible. Everyone else would discuss the struggle and the sacrifice of what they gave up. What could I say? Oh, I gave up nothing? I told only a few people about it, and even then it was humiliating. “Oh you got it easy,” they would say, “I’m so jealous.” And that’s what I hated! I was taking the easy way out. I felt that Christ suffered and died for us, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Christ Gives Us Everything

I carried these feelings all the way through Lent. I would e-mail Sister weekly, asking her what this was accomplishing. She just advised me to continue to pray about it. God gave me no clarity at all about it. My soul was in darkness until Good Friday. I had just knelt down to venerate the cross, kissing the feet of Jesus and felt that had been my only act of love for Christ that whole Lent. Upon returning to my pew, I knelt down. A couple of thin tears fell down my cheeks (I’m not much of a crier, so this was a big deal).

There was my God, my Savior, and King, and all I could give Him was nothing. This whole Lent, I had given nothing. But, even through this, even when my own voice cried out “Crucify Him!”, He gave me everything. My life, my vocation, my talents—but most importantly, His own Life so that I could be with Him. Whatever I did or gave (or lack thereof) could not change His free, incredible gift.

It was in that powerful moment that I came to an incredible realization. Following the “rules” of Lent (prayer, fasting, and almsgiving) can be incredibly important, but it’s not the important thing. I found, through doing nothing for Lent, that Lent was really about letting Christ love me. Opening my heart to His Sacrifice and letting Him love me through it. The next time I met with Sister, my tail was between my legs…she had been totally right.

I pray so much, sisters, that you all are able to abandon yourself to the God Who gives us everything—even when we can give Him nothing.