December 17 - Lady Wisdom

Original graphic by Rochelle Brown from the book The Land of No Color by DMGannon

As Advent draws us closer and closer to the birth of Jesus, the church begins to sing the beautiful expression of its wonder at the event that will occur, when God comes to earth as a human being. Because awe is often expressed with an exclamation, these prayers that begin today through December 24 begin with 'O" and are called The O Antiphons. You may recognize them as the verses from the familiar Advent hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel. 

The first of the O Antiphons begins with Lady Wisdom, the biblical source of knowledge, peace and health. The entire universe is ordered by Sophia Wisdom with strong, loving care. And so today, the church prays: 

O Come, O Wisdom from on high, 

who governs all things tenderly;          

to us the path of knowledge show        

and teach us in your ways to go. 

Rejoice, rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to you,

O Israel. 


December 16 - Las Posadas: the custom of lodgings begins

In Mexico and the Southwest United States, the celebration of Las Posadas begins today to recall and reflect on the journey of Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem as a result of a census called by King Herod.

Throughout these middle days of Advent that lead to the birth of Christ, Mexicans and other nationalities will gather in groups and sing throughout neighborhoods and in people's living rooms to sing, pray and remember that Mary and Joseph were immigrants, homeless and at the disposal of someone's hospitality to welcome them, a couple expecting their first child and traveling a great distance and under extreme duress as they searched for lodging while Mary was in labor. Las Posadas reminds us all that unless we open our doors to Christ in any real way, especially to those with the greatest need, he cannot enter. 

As Las Posadas begins, we pray for expectant parents, especially for those who for any reason will encounter challenges during the time of pregnancy and delivery. 

We pray for immigrants, legal and illegal who are looking to create a new home in a foreign land. 

We pray for all doors of our homes and our hearts to open wide to all people who may be in distress of any kind of suffering, sorrow, longing, need, misfortune. 

Come, Lord Jesus. 


Advent, December 15 - Silence 

Rose Mary Dougherty, S.S.N.D., one of the most experienced and wisdom figures in post-modern spiritual direction tells one of the poignant stories of the value of silence and listening. 

A man came to see her for spiritual direction. Sr. Rose Mary was very tired on that particular day but she agreed to meet with the man. They sat back to back on the wall of a fountain. 

The man began to talk. And as he talked, Sr. Rose found herself nodding off from the lull of the fountain and the drone of the man's soothing voice. She fell asleep and awakened about 45 minutes later. Stunned and embarrassed at her own lack of attentiveness to her directee, Sr. Rose was about to apologise when the man stood up to leave. 

"Sister, I want to thank you for a wonderful hour. This was the longest time in my entire life that anyone has let me speak without interrupting me. I now know the answer to my question and I thank you for listening with such quiet attention." 

Sr. Rose did not tell the man that she had not heard a word that he had spoken. When silence enters sacred space, there are three people in that place - the director, the directee and God. The take away for all of us that day who were earning our license in the practice of spiritual direction? Listen well, say little and let God do the rest. Silence allows God to actually get a word in. 

Perhaps today might be the day to begin a new habit,  


Third Sunday of Advent - Walking into progressive darkness - the 'hole'

In Stephen King's book The Shawshank Redemption and Rita Hayworth, Andy Dufresne is unjustly sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife and her lover. Throughout his imprisonment, Andy never loses hope that he will one day be a free man again. Once a banker and accountant, the warden, a corrupt administrator who uses the prison system and prisoners for personal gain appoints Andy as his bookkeeper. A learned man, Andy writes to the state of Maine for two years asking for money to build a prison library. The state finally grants him funds. Not only does Andy build the best prison library in the state; he begins a GED program for inmates and acts as the tax accountant for all of the prison guards during tax season. Andy finds ways to bring a light of hope to others, even when imprisoned. That's real freedom. 

At one point in the story, Andy learns that about evidence that exists about his case that will prove that he is unquestionably innocent. But when Andy asks the warden to assist him, the duplicitous warden of Shawshank State Penitentiary refuses. Andy is too valuable and too dangerous to the warden because he knows too much. So rather than helping Andy to become free, the warden locks him in Solitary, known to the prisoners as 'the hole' because, as King describes it through the story's narrator, Red, " go down into progressive darkness toward terrible." There is no light and little reason to continue to hope.

I thought today about John, Jesus cousin, more commonly known as 'the Baptist' who was sent from God "to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light." (JN 1:6-8, 19-28). But his testimony landed him in the same place as Andy Dufresne - in another corrupt man prison - King Herod's 'hole' - a cell with little or no light. Like Andy Dufresne, John was a danger to Herod, calling him into the light instead of walking into progressive darkness as a ruler. John carried the light inside him. Even in prison, he continued, through his contacts to continue to inquire about Jesus. Perhaps John had a seed of doubt and just had to know who he was before his certain fate of death. If you read other Gospel passages surrounding these events, Jesus assures him that he is the anointed One sent from God to heal the sick, release captives, reassure the heartbroken and give the light of hope to those who walk into progressive darkness. 

Prisoners with something in common

According to the book of Acts, St. Paul was imprisoned almost as much as he was free to preach the Gospel. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison because of his position on anti-apartheid in South Africa. Count how many times Martin Luther King was jailed for speaking out for civil rights. Dorothy Day spent many times in prison for her participation against war, capitalism, injustice and inequality for our poor. 

All of these people had two things in common: they never stopped looking for the light of truth and justice and they never stopped hoping.


Today, Isaiah tells us that God will send One who will bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners. (Is IS 61:1-2A). Today, I began to think about all the times that I've visited people in prison and the hungry hole that have in their eyes. I think of the people in shackles who become sick and are brought in by armed guards and appreciate a smile and a glass of water and heartning word when I see them in the emergency department where I serve. I think about the letters that I've received from persons who live on Death Row, many who may have no one to announce that there is a light in the midst of their darkness. And today, I wonder about my own self-created prisons - the 'holes with no light' that I make for myself. Sometimes I've been led to those self-created prisons because of my choices. And sometimes, I've been a victim of someone else's choices. Either way, my job as a Christians is to continue to look for the light, to reach for it when it seems out of my grasp and hold on to hope when there seems to be none, when it might be easier to walk into progressive darkness toward terrible. And then I have to take that message somehow to the people I meet and interact. The Lord is near. Rejoice. Come out of the prgressive hole of darkness and live in God's marvelous light. 

Come, Lord Jesus.  


St . Lucy by FireFiriel

Memorial of St. Lucy,martyr - (died 304)

Lucy, a young woman from Sicily died during a violent period of the persecutions under the emperor Diocletian. Legend tells that when Lucy told her fiance, that she wanted to devote her life to serving the poor, the young man, a pagan reported her to the authorities who arrested, tortured her by removing her eyes and finally, killing her.

To this day, Lucy is considered the patron saint of Sicily and also the patron of all people who do not have their vision, the blind. In Venice, gondoliers sing the famous song Santa Lucia as they steer their boats through the water canals of the city. In Sweden and Hungary, this is a day of feasting and celebrating the light. "Soon another morning dawn, an everlasting day, when Christ the Lord in glory comes to chase the night away." (Swedish carol) 

Lucy is worth spending some time considering. Although in many parts of the world, the festive lights that accompany this time of year may lead us to believe that we live in the light of Christ, there are still too many people who are hungry, poor, homeless, neglected to affirm that conviction. Does apathy cause us to be blind to these conditions, to these persons? 

Human beings migrate toward light when we're cold, when we need a guide to lead us through shadows, when we want to see. In the short days of winter, we long for the lengthening of days to return us to light and warmth. 

Might today be the time to consider removing our own blinders to see the people who are in need this Advent? As the light of Christ longs to warm our hearts with compassion and mercy toward person who live in the dark, how might be be a light for others who need to be warm, to be healed by persons who can generate a kindness that brings the light whenever it falls someone's way? How will you be the light of Christ for someone today? 

The wonderful liturgical musician Bernadette Farrell penned this music and lyrics. Take a minute to watch and listen to this YouTube of Christ, Be Our Light. Where will this holy message lead you? 

And from the prolific writings of Thomas Merton....

An Invocation to St. Lucy

Lucy, whose day is in our darkest season,
(Although your name is full of light,)
We walkers in the murk and rain of flesh and sense,
Lost in the midnight of our dead world’s winter solstice
Look for the fogs to open on your friendly star.

We have long since cut down the summer of our history;
Our cheerful towns have all gone out like fireflies in October.
The fields are flooded and the vine is bare:
How have our long days dwindled, now the world is frozen!

Locked in the cold jails of our stubborn will,
Oh hear the shovels growling in the gravel.
This is the way they’ll make our beds for ever,
Ours, whose Decembers have put out the sun:
Doors of whose souls are shut against the summertime!

Martyr, whose short day sees our winter and our Calvary,
Show us some light, who seem forsaken by the sky:
We have so dwelt in darkness that our eyes are screened and dim,
And all but blinded by the weakest ray.

Hallow the vespers and December of our life, O martyred Lucy:
Console our solstice with your friendly day.

St. Lucy, pray for us. 

Come, Lord Jesus.