Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God  

Madonna and Child, Art by Bradi Barth

Madonna and Child, Art by Bradi Barth

Today’s Gospel

LK 2:16-21

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.When eight days were completed for his circumcision,
he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel
before he was conceived in the womb.

 

On this feast of Mary the mother of God, I would like to emphasize specially the word today’s Gospel associates with her: treasured. “Mary treasured these things and reflected on them in her heart.” She pondered them, turned them over, sought out their causes, saw their implications, allowed them to work their way into the marrow of her bones.

Bl. John Henry Newman said that this treasuring quality of Mary makes her the patroness of theology. He furthermore observed that theology is one of the marks of a healthy Catholicism. Augustine, Aquinas, Bonaventure, Dante, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Newman himself, and John Paul II are all Marian figures in this sense.

So when you know your mission, be astonished by what God has done, and never stop treasuring it.

~ By Bishop Robert Barron 

My Winter Garden

My Winter Garden ~ Photo source unknown

My Winter Garden ~ Photo source unknown

Winter has finally arrived, all is white in my garden.
The beauty and stillness of this season is so good for times of prayerful anticipation of Your holy birth,
I love my garden at this holy time. I wait for Your blessed arrival one more time into my heart.

Oh precious Baby, lover of my soul and a constant companion in my life.

Beloved friend and savior, the whole earth and universe is full of Your glory. Everything is impregnated with Your precious aroma.
There is a deep quietude around my garden and around my heart. I sense Your holy presence soon to come.

There are no birds or colorful flowers in my garden at this time. The blanket of the white snow covers it all.
All nature is in reverence. It is also waiting like me for Your coming.

Oh blessed Baby, let me prepare an inn in my heart for you. A place of welcome, of warmth, of love.
A place where You can grow and unite entirely to me. Let me be still my Beloved. Let me joyfully sing praises to You here and for eternity.

Oh happy heart that rejoices in You! 

~ My Personal Reflection

The Flower Of Love

A Starlit Garden ~ Art by Charlotte Bird

A Starlit Garden ~ Art by Charlotte Bird

“Where there is no love, put love and you will find love.” ~ Saint John of the Cross

Whoever first plants the seed in any soil hitherto fallow, and cultivates the shoot with humble toil near steep or shallow…

They will be first to come upon the flower whose instant glory can recreate, in even this trivial hour, the Eden story.

Blessed are they who stand upon their vow and are insistent that love in this bleak here, this barren now become existent.

Blessed are they who battle jest and scorn to keep love growing from embryo immaculately born to blossom showing.

Primarily for them will petals part to draw and win them.
It, when the pollen finds their opened hearts, will bloom within them.

~ A poem by Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D.
Jessica Powers 

 

The Living Flame Of Love

Painting by Celine Martin : St John of the Cross

Saint John of the Cross ~ Art by Celine Martin

“This was requested of me by the Carmel, as he was known. I focused on creating a strong contrast with the cross.” Céline’s note. (taken from the Archives du Carmel de Lisieux)

Songs of the soul in the intimate communication of loving union with God. 

1. O living flame of love
that tenderly wounds my soul
in its deepest center! Since
now you are not oppressive,
now consummate! if it be your will:
tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!

2. O sweet cautery,
O delightful wound!
O gentle hand! O delicate touch
that tastes of eternal life
and pays every debt!
In killing you changed death to life.

3. O lamps of fire!
in whose splendors
the deep caverns of feeling,
once obscure and blind,
now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,
both warmth and light to their Beloved.

 

4. How gently and lovingly
you wake in my heart,
where in secret you dwell alone;
and in your sweet breathing,
filled with good and glory,
how tenderly you swell my heart with love.
~ Saint John of the Cross, O.C.D.

Heaven

Art by Vladimir Kush

Art by Vladimir Kush

The gates of heaven are an allegory and only symbol shapes its guarded door,
nor does the soul plunge headlong into glory without a rumor of a light before.
Though God, indeed, has reservoirs of morning whose unguessed joy we distantly extol,
yet word and choice are altering and adorning:
heaven is something happening in the soul.  

~ By Jessica Powers, O.C.D. ~ Selected Poetry

 

Thankful & Grateful

“Now I occupy my soul and all my energy in His service; I no longer tend the herd, nor have I any other work now that my every act is love.” ~ Saint John of the Cross

He Shall Hear My Voice, art by Michael Dudash

A prayer of gratitude will always influence our perceptions outside prayer. Once we are in the habit of thanking God for all that is happening in our life, including the harder challenges, a new realization awakens. The providential nature of events begins to show itself more. We “see” the hand of God more at work or at least trust implicitly that his reasons will show themselves in time. The actual presence of a divine request in a day’s circumstances becomes more available to our attention. The sense of spiritual opportunity increases, the sense that God is giving us a chance to prove our love in still another way. All these effects are due to a conscious effort to express gratitude to God for all he is doing.

~ A Reflection by Father Donald Hagerty

God is in a Hurry!

 

Art by Holly Irwin 'Country Chapel'

Art by Holly Irwin ‘Country Chapel’

God is in a hurry! The collapse of Western civilization is all around us. We are called to stand still in the midst of chaos, violence, and disorder, as we build a house of love for others in our hearts. The walls inside our hearts are breaking down.
The restoration is speeding up within us.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

Love is the only reality. We have dedicated and consecrated ourselves to gospel love, not human love. This is what our lives are meant to incarnate.
Our primary charism is to love God passionately, and to love and accept ourselves according to our God-given uniqueness. Then we can love one another. Never has it been more important that others touch the reality of God living in, with, and through each of us.

This begins at Mass.

~ Meditations for spiritual pilgrims by Jean Fox, Madonna House Apostolate

Make a Garden

 

Art by Charles Courtney Curran, Betty Newell

Art by Charles Courtney Curran, Betty Newell

“The beginner must see himself as making a garden for the delight of his Beloved.”

So many treasures lie within St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography. In this reflection we’ll explore one of the most sublime analogies about prayer ever written.

Like Jesus, St. Teresa took the most ordinary things and spun them into startling parables. Here she likens the soul to a garden, she begins by saying “It seems to me I read or heard this metaphor somewhere.” Picture her waving her hands as she speaks: “My memory is so poor, I have no idea where it came from, but it’ll work for my purposes now. The beginner must see himself as making a garden for the delight of his Beloved. But the soil is very barren and full of noxious weeds. His Majesty himself pulls up the weeds and replaces them with good seed. Keep in mind that all this is done before you even set out to learn how to pray.”
I don’t know about you, but many times I’ve thought my garden was only poison ivy and oak gone wild. It was scary enough for me to think about going in. I wouldn’t dare invite the Beloved inside. I thought he’d only be repelled, but how I longed for his help to manage my dry, craggy, weed-filled soil. I’d have settled for having his presence while I battered the ground that was my wicked heart. I felt forsaken too much of the time. I was so misguided.

Oh, to have known in those times that my kind Beloved had no fear of what he’d find when he visited me. He wasn’t standing above me, grim-faced and judgmental, as I endlessly toiled, getting sunburned and erupting in skin rashes. Not that I made real progress. Most of the time I was clueless as to what would make my garden grow. But he was there all the time, before I arrived, before I even realized I had a garden. He was right there, hunkered down, doing the hard work of making my soul his resting place.
As much as I like the thought of donning a pair of brand-new floral garden gloves and kicking my feet into those cute rubber clogs, garden tools in hand, I don’t need any of those things to begin the work we’re about to do, because preparing soil and pulling weeds is God’s business.
This is a radical idea. Imagine what it sounded like in the sixteenth century, during the Inquisition! But I believe St. Teresa assured us that we mustn’t get caught up in worrying about our vices because we aren’t meant to do what God does best. We have our own jobs.
All good gardeners must labor. God’s done the difficult prep work, braving the noxious, unwelcoming weeds, but we have our own task. Our job is to take the time to water the plants he’s started so they don’t die. We want our plants to take root, shoot from the soil, bud, and flower. Soon they’ll grow lush enough to perfume the whole garden with their fragrances. Our Beloved will find this so refreshing that he’ll come to our garden often, finding his joy amid our sweet-smelling virtues. But how do we get there from here?

St. Teresa of Jesus gives us the broad picture:

Now let’s see how we need to water a garden, so we’ll understand what we have to do, how much the labor will cost us, if the time and work we put into it is worth it, and how long it will last. Our garden can be watered in four ways: We can draw water from the well, which is a lot of work. Or you can get the water by turning the crank of a waterwheel and drawing it through an aqueduct. I’ve tried this myself and know it’s not as much trouble to do as the first way. And you get more water.
Or you can channel the water from the flow of a river or stream. The garden is watered much better this way because the ground is saturated and you don’t have to water it as frequently. This is a lot less work for the gardener.
Or the water may come from an abundant rain pouring on the soil; the Lord waters the garden himself, without any work on our part. This is by far the best method of all.

So, if the garden is the soul, and we are the gardeners in cooperation with God. What exactly is this water? I’ll let St. Teresa answer. “The four ways of watering the garden in order to maintain it are the four degrees of prayer that the Lord in his goodness has sometimes placed in our soul. Without water everything will die.”
It’s all quite simple: our garden needs water. St. Teresa says, “Nothing I’ve found is more appropriate to explain spiritual experiences. . . I’m so fond of this element I’ve observed it more than any other.” She spoke of three relevant  properties that water has: If you’re hot, it will cool you off. “It’ll even cool off large fires.” I’m sure I don’t have to tell you “hot” and “fire” have multiple implications here, which I’ll leave to your imagination. The second property of water is its ability to clean dirty things. St. Teresa asks, “Do you know what cleansing properties there are in this living water, this heavenly water, this clear water when it is unclouded, free from mud, and comes down from heaven? Once the soul has drunk of this water, it purifies and cleanses it from all sins.”
And St. Teresa explains a third property of water: it quenches thirst. “Thirst means the desire for something so necessary that if we do not have it we will die.” And to St. Teresa, prayer satisfies the most insatiable thirsts. It can also show us our spiritual blind spots. Hold a glass of water up. It looks clear, but if you hold it up to the light, you can see the dust particles. In prayer, God can reveal our weakness.

As for the degrees and grades of prayer, the truth is that in her writings she mentions a lot more than four, but St. Teresa’s life and writings represent years of practicing prayer. Let’s take this journey one metaphor at a time. For now, make a garden, and be sure that is getting enough water.

~ By Claudia M. Burney, God Alone Is Enough

 

‘Go forward then, full of faith and loving confidence, and deliver yourself into the hands of His providence.  Be to Him a field that He may cultivate as He pleases, without any resistance on your part.  Remain humbly and peacefully clinging to His good pleasure.’ ~ St. Margaret Mary

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary, the eternal spring of hope

 

Art by Maria Ellenrieder (1824)

Art by Maria Ellenrieder (1824)

Desperately we seek happiness. The majority of us understand that happiness is found in love. But today the way we use the word “love” often misses its very essence. As humanity is losing its sense of its own identity, it is losing its understanding of love as well, and the pursuit of what many think of as love doesn’t bring the fulfilment that they expect. Perhaps it is because love has been equated with lust, with encounters that barely touch the hearts of those who casually have met and as casually parted.

Yes, we seek happiness and dimly know that love is happiness, but we have lost the true meaning of love. We are going around seeking it or seeking someone who can tell us where it is to be found.

One person who can direct us to love is Mary, the Mother of God. She became pregnant with the Son of God, the Incarnation of Love and gave him birth! She bore him, brought him up, watched him grow to manhood. She lived with him, followed him at a distance, and stood under his cross as he made his supreme sacrifice out of love for the whole human race.

Mary knows the way of Love intimately, deeply, and profoundly. Of all the people who have ever lived, Mary is the one through whom Love was born.
To go to Mary, as you would got to a beloved neighbor’s house, to sit down in her kitchen, and to ask her to tell you about Love and the way to it, is the simplest thing in the world! For to a Christian with faith in the communion of saints, relationships span time and extend into eternity.
Those who have died are with us, and we are with them, united in the immense bond of Love that is the Lord. And so talking to Mary should be very simple. Many have found the way easily. More should try.

She will tell you about her Son who took upon himself your pain and my pain, your sin and mine. She will tell you about the deep, strange, fantastic obedience he had to his Father, and we will know what obedience truly is, and how to pave the way to Love. She will explain that to be fulfilled and find our identity, we have to drop the pronoun “I” and live by a total attention, by constant listening to him, to her…to the other.

She will explain that no one should really do “their thing’ selfishly, but should open their heart and embrace “all good things” that the other does.

Lastly, she will speak in a low voice about her own fiat, her simple “yes” to God. And if we listen carefully to the gentle voice of the mother of Jesus, we will know what that “yes” means in our life. We will know what Love is and, having found it, we will never let it go. So let us turn to this woman who can truly liberate us.

~ By Catherine de Hueck Doherty, ‘Bogoroditza’

Happy Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

 

Transfiguration

 

Transfiguration (1596), art by Giovanni Battista Paggi (1554-1627), Basilica San Marco, Florence, Italy

Transfiguration (1596), art by Giovanni Battista Paggi (1554-1627), Basilica San Marco, Florence, Italy

We want to know you, Jesus.
We want to cherish and hold
Adore and revere
Esteem and glorify you.
Keep you in our hearts
Glimpse you in our lives
Trace you on our paths,
Comforting the homeless
Grieving with the mourners
Forgiving our sins
Healing our wounds
Raising our dying
We are afraid, awed, overwhelmed at your glory.
We are touched, moved, transformed by your love.
We are cleansed, renewed, refreshed by your forgiveness.
We thank you
We praise you
We love you.
You… the transfigured One.
You… the resurrected One.
You… the One…
“This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him.”
Amen.

[Author unknown]