Monday, December 22, 2008

Swamped at work

Dear all, I am so swamped with work, I beg your prayers. Three Christmas Eve Masses back-to-back and then one the following day. Then the usual five weekend Masses, then the Octave Day of the Nativity. Oh, and my house is hardly decorated for Christmas. Parish work is very intense these next few days. It feels like a sandstorm (no snow here, I'm sorry to say) swirling around me. The children's productions went very well which pleased everyone tremendously. But no rest for the weary here. I think I'll go into Adoration today and let the Lord speak about what's truly important. Is it the bright lights? Rudolph's red nose? Stockings hanging on the mantle, mistletoe? I'm trying not to be Scroogish. I do love Christmas and the Christ Child coming in his humility for our Salvation, the Blessed Virgin Mary, in her abandonment to the Father's will, and St. Joseph in his faithfulness to God's word.

Advent for me this year was a time of greater meditation, ironically in the midst of a serious workload. I found myself in contemplation while while I was painting sets and scenery for the plays, I prayed. And at the organ practicing with only Jesus in the Tabernacle to keep me company....folding laundry...mopping floors. It was a deeper path of humility for me, to see that I could glorify God in these simple acts.

There were moments of pure grace, when God peeled back the curtains and let me glimpse for a millisecond, the weight of glory, so to speak. And so the dazzle of tinsel and Christmas lights just can't hold a candle. It's hard to put into words.

I've been too busy to participate in the holiday shopping frenzy. At times, I feel like I live in a bubble being so immersed in parish work...there are gravely ill people to pray for, the dead to bury, the hungry to feed, shut-ins to visit, that I don't have the energy left to put up the Christmas tree.

So what's enlivening me, sustaining me during this time of necessary busy-ness? I'm pondering on the words of "O Magnum Mysterium" which is the third Matins Responsory of the Nativity of Our Lord. In recent years, Morten Lauridsen's setting has become very much identified with this liturgical text.
O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
meruerunt portare
Dominum Christum.

O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.
This particular text always reminds me of Fra Angelico's Nativity. It is spare and full of space, inviting one to enter into the contemplation of Mary and Joseph, St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Peter Martyr, and the wonder, in awe, at Our Lord laid in poor array for our sake.

It reminds me a great deal of being in the Adoration Chapel, being on my knees gazing at the Blessed Sacrament, letting my mind empty of all extraneous things and for a brief moment each week, I soak in the rays of the Sun. Perhaps, incrementally, but in a profound way, my time of adoring each week has changed my perception of what Christmas is and I can't seem to bear to confuse it with images of elves and reindeer. I can't really share what all has been given to me with my time in the Chapel, it's too personal and intimate to relate here. All I can say is that it fills me with tremendous gratitude for everyday of my life, has allowed the scales fall from my eyes to see the glory in every second that I breathe. No Christmas bauble can compare with it.

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