As we near the end of the Season of Easter for this year, I wanted to post some movie suggestions for Lent and Easter, perhaps for next year. But they are not movies about the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Those are easy enough to find. They are movies whose themes reflect the spirit of the season, and whose messages may resonate with people who live those themes.
1. The Man Facing Southeast
A man named Rantes breaks into a mental hospital and claims to be from another planet.
Rantes to psychiatrist: "Stop persecuting the sad ones . . . the meak . . . ."
Psychiatrist: "He claimed to be a 'Cybernetic Christ.’. . but his rage made him resemble the other Christ, the old Christ. . . . Since Rantes was becoming more Christ-like, his end would be the same.”
2. Au Revoir Les Enfants
Père Jaques, a Carmelite priest who was the head of a Catholic boarding school for boys, hid Jewish children in the school during World War II and got caught.
3. Dialogues of the Carmelites
A house of French Discalced Carmelite nuns chooses to continue living in community at the price of going to the guillotine during the Reign of Terror at the end of the French Revolution. Francis Poulenc's opera is a fictionalized account of the lives and deaths of the Blessed Nuns of Compiègne. The video shown here differs from the full length opera videos available for purchase online.
4. The Way
A man's son died while walking the pilgrimage of the Way of St. James. The grieving father walked the Way in coming to terms with his son's death.
5. There Be Dragons
The lives of two childhood friends take different paths in a time of crisis. One of them, St. Josmaria Escriva, is seen through the life of a childhood friend and others who knew him, particularly at the time of the Spanish Revolution. "Now, especially now, we have to be sowers of peace."
6. War Horse
A young man enlists during World War I after his horse and other horses are forced into the role of war horses. The deep suffering of the horse in time of war paralleled the life of the young man until they are rejoined at the end of the conflict. "A miraculous kind of horse, be my guess."
7. A Man for All Seasons
St. Thomas More, a lawyer with a family serving the English crown, faces hanging for his Catholic faith during the English Reformation. "I am commanded by the King to be brief, and since I am the King's obedient subject, brief I will be. I die his Majesty's good servant but God's first."
8. Fiddler on the Roof
Traditional Jewish culture comes into its greatest impact on Christianity during the events of Holy Week as they reflect the Jewish Passover. A father who loves his daughters comes to terms with a changing world as each daughter, in turn, is further from the traditional world of Russian Judaism in which he has lived, and then the Russian Revolution forces the small Jewish community from their homes.
"Tevye: Where are you going?
"Lazar Wolf: Chicago. In America.
"Tevye: Chicago, America? We are going to New York, America. We'll be neighbors."
9. The Jewish Cardinal
Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, born to French Jewish parents and protected by a French Catholic family during the time of Hitler, comes to terms with his Jewish father and sister, and struggles with his mother's death at Auschwitz, as he becomes a Catholic priest, then bishop, then Archbishop of Paris.
Twelfth Century English King Henry II encounters conflict with his friend and confident, Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas à Becket, who chooses to serve God in preference over the king.
"King Henry II: [plotting Becket's arrest] Oh, Thomas!
"Bishop Folliot: You love him, don't you? You still love him! That imposter - that Saxon guttersnipe, that mitred hog!
"King Henry II: Hold your tongue, priest! All I confided to you was my hate, not my love. For England's sake you'll help me get rid of him. But don't ever insult him to my face!"
1. The Edge
Three friends struggle for survival in the wilderness after their plane crashes in water. The only one who survives is billionaire Charles Morse. When the plane first crashed, Charles bravely risked his own life to cut one of his friends free and carry him to the surface, only to find that the friend's cowardice and lack of hope placed all three in jeopardy. In their struggle for survival, Charles learned that his other friend was romantically involved with his gold digger wife. In the end, confronted with reporters after his rescue, he showed grace to his friends who died:
"Reporter #1: Mr. Morse, what happened to your friends? "Reporter #2: How did they die? "Charles Morse: They died... saving my life."
2. Babbette's Feast
The Catholic chef at the Café Anglais flees to a remote Danish island, escaping revolutionary bloodshed in Paris. There, her life becomes entwined with the lives of a peculiar protestant sect. When she wins the lottery, the two sisters who have employed her as their servant assume she will leave. Instead, she spends the entire lottery prize to provide an elaborate 7 course dinner to her new friends in the style that she had once prepared at the Café Anglais.
3. The King's Speech
King George VI, who suffered his entire life from a speech impediment, is unexpectedly crowned king of England. With England on the brink of war, he seeks out the help of an obscure speech therapist, with whom he forms a deep bond. With the therapist's help, he is eventually able to give a radio address to unite the English people in the face of war.
4. Summer Hours
Three generations share a grandmother's home in their summer leisure hours. Only after her death do they come to know her life intimately as they go through her lifetime of possessions, keeping some, giving some to others, and preparing some things for sale. A few of her better pieces go on display in a museum to deal with taxes and the house is prepared for sale. The next generation of children who have grown up with the house look to the future.
5. A River Runs Through It
The two sons of a small town Presbyterian minister grow up together fly fishing. One of the pair, the good one, becomes a writer. The other one, the reckless one, becomes the greater fly fisher but eventually is murdered. The minister father wants to know from his responsible son what happened, but he knows he has not been told the whole story. Based on the novel by Norman Maclean.
“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”
6. How to Make an American Quilt
A graduate student struggles to commit to a theme for her master's thesis and to commit to a man who wants to marry her and have a family. During weeks spent with her grandmother in a Gold Country town in rural California, she learns of the past loves of her grandmother, great aunt, and their friends as their quilting bee sews pictures of their stories into her wedding quilt. Wrapping the finished quilt around herself, she finds hope in her own love drawn from the patchwork of their lives, discovering her own faith in the lifetime commitment of marriage.
Cher plays the part of a bookkeeper in Brooklyn who falls in love with the brother of the man she is supposed to marry. Watching the conflict and developing romance, her mother struggles with the infidelity in her own marriage and questions what love is.
"Rose: Why do men chase women? "Johnny: Well, there’s a Bible story… God… God took a rib from Adam and made Eve. Now maybe men chase women to get the rib back. When God took the rib, he left a big hole there, where there used to be something. And the women have that. Now maybe, just maybe, a man isn’t complete as a man without a woman."
8. Easter Parade
Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Peter Lawford and Ann Miller star in this classic 1948 musical featuring music by Irving Berlin. When a Broadway star's dancing partner goes solo, he tries to make her jealous, claiming that he can make a dancing star out of the next dancer he sees. He falls in love with his new protogée and then realizes that he must let her become her own person to reach her potential.
9. The Sound of Music
A postulant at an Austrian monastery is uncertain whether she is called to be a nun when she takes a job as governess for a widowed navy captain, a baron with seven children. She brings music into the household and eventually finds her true calling as the baron's wife and mother to the seven children instead of as a nun. As Hitler takes control of Germany, the baron is pressured to enter the German Navy. The family escapes quietly to Switzerland.
10. Les Miserables
After years in prison, Valjean is astonished when a bishop's mercy saves him from from another arrest for stealing silver. He uses the money to build a business and eventually agrees to look after the daughter of a dying prostitute. In coming to accept responsibility for his own life and the lives of others, Valjean learns a self-sacrificial love.
The Pontifical Council for Culture begins its Plenary Assembly today on the theme "Women's Cultures: Equality and Difference." Wherever this is going, it doesn't look good so far.
That is the Plenary Assembly that already drew controversy with its promotional video starring an apparently bleached blonde Italian actress talking about equality and difference. "I am sure you have asked yourself many times, who you are, what you do, what you think about your being a woman, your strengths, your difficulties, your body, and your spiritual life. If you want to, you can share your vision."
You're joking, right? The English language version was taken off of YouTube amid controversy, but somebody later loaded it back on, calling it "ludicrous."
Since then, the Council for Culture issued its Outline for the Assembly, which drew more headlines for its suggested opposition to cosmetic surgery as a moral issue. That can be downloaded from the Council's website, or for convenience here: Download Women's Cultures Outline.
The Outline says the Assembly will "gather some aspects of women’s cultures in four thematic stages, in order to identify possible pastoral paths."
If this is going to identify our "pastoral paths", I'm concerned. It isn't rooted in scientific studies. It isn't rooted in theological analysis. If anything, it reminds me of views of women that date back to the 1950's, at least in the United States. We are, I fear, entering a Twilight Zone of imaginative statements that don't have much basis in fact, becoming the basis for principles governing the roles of women in the Church.
For example, the Outline states, "In any case, women who are notmarried or have no children, welcome, include, and mediate; they are much more capable of tenderness and forgiveness than men." Based on what theological or scientific analysis? How was it determined that women, particularly those who do not have children, are "more capable of tenderness and forgiveness than men"? Not only have I never seen that to be true in my practice of law, but I also wondered who they imagine forgiven in day to day life? The cheating husband? Or the woman who is the object of their jealousy? It sounds as if they are trying to throw out a compliment to us, but that compliment is patronizing and unfounded. Is that sort of shooting from the hip stereotype supposed to become the basis for deciding the role of women in the Church?
It goes on to say "there is a difference between the feminine and the masculine in techniques of problem-solving, in the perception of the environment, in models of representation and cycles of rest." Is there? I actually don't see very different techniques of problem solving between men and women of similar educational background and in similar professions. Are the differences they are talking about based on the fact of being a man or a woman, do they extend across cultures, and are they true of women regardless of educational level? I don't see a different perception of the environment, for example, between male and female scientists. And what on earth is meant by "models of representation? There are simply no citations for any of this. It's made up. Archie Bunker couldn't have thrown together this many stereotypes back in the days of "All in the Family" without jumping the shark.
Here's the comment on plastic surgery:
Plastic surgery can be counted as one of the many manipulations of the body that explore its limits with respect to the concept of identity. A specificity that is placed under so much stress in the contemporary world as to provoke pathologies (dysmorphophobia, eating disorders, depression…) or “amputate” the expressive possibilities of the human face which are so connected to the empathic abilities. Plastic surgery that is not medico-therapeutic can be aggressive toward the feminine identity, showing a refusal of the body in as much as it is a refusal of the “season" that is being lived out.
I live in California. I've seen a lot of cosmetic surgery. I've known a lot of women who have had it. And this seemingly moralistic, seemingly empathic statement misses the mark. It reminds me of an old story I heard in the 1970's about a rural, fundamentalist preacher who was asked if he believed women should wear make-up. He replied, "I say, if a barn needs paintin' paint it." Most women and men who have elective cosmetic surgery just want to look better in a world that judges people by their appearance. Even psychotherapists often recommend it -- It is much easier to fix a flaw than it is to give someone years of therapy to help them cope with other people's reactions to it. People don't usually have their nose fixed (or whatever) out of some psychological imbalance. They do it to help their relationships, to help their careers, to simply look better. There is no reason to condemn it based on stereotypes of who those people are.
So are we going back to the 1950's in our analysis of women? American girls and dumb bunnies? I hope not.
Child passenger to flight attendant (Dorothy Chen played by Joy Kim): Miss Chen?
Flight attendant: Yes.
Child: Please, I am so stupid. Here is a letter to my brother in English and I cannot remember this word. It is that thing soldiers wear at the end of their guns, like a sword?
Flight attendant: Bayonet?
Child: Yes. I am so very stupid. Thank you. I am embarrassed.
Flight attendant: Anyone who can write and read more than one language should never be embarrassed. Being the original dumb-bunny, I can barely write my own.
Flight attendant: That's slang for mentally-retarded American girls like me.
Child: Dumb-bunny. How delightful. I must tell my brother of this.
Flight attendant: You tell him you met the number one stupid rabbit.If he knows any American girls, he'll understand.
Canon lawyer Ed Peters, on his Facebook page, says:
Ravasi plans “to appoint a permanent women's consultancy group to his office, though he said for practical reasons it would be predominantly Italian.”
The Vatican left the Italian blonde video online. Maybe Italian women could relate. And no doubt it will be set in context, explained, and once again forgotten.
But the issue needs to be addressed, and in a way that is profound, drawing from facts that cross cultural and educational boundaries, and drawing from sound theological principles. I trust our bishops to produce something solid. I hope they have a good assembly. They need our prayer.
People in Africa and the Middle East express concern that they have been forgotten while the western world's attention is drawn to terrorism in France. I'm not sure if that is true, but I am sure that it is important not to forget the suffering of others elsewhere in the world. Sometimes I think the U.S. news media responds more slowly than European news sources in reporting it. Sometimes I think that is for the best, since the American response to that news, when reported, often begins with the question of sending troops.
While that is often necessary, prayer, food, caring, and voicing concern are all things the average person is more capable of providing.
American Christians, of all people, ought to realize that there is another way to turn hearts and minds. The civil rights movement in our own country did not bring change that way. It brought change peacefully by drawing people's attention to the consciences of those who thought mistreatment of others was wrong. Some of Jesus's disciples thought he was going to enter Jerusalem and militarily overthrow the Romans. He told them that was not the sort of revolution he had in mind. It took centuries, not days, and the message of the Gospel eventually transformed the Romans. Americans, of all people, ought to understand that a march in Paris in favor of free religion, free speech, and non-violent opposition to terrorism, is a message that was spread throughout the world on television and radio. It was a voice of conscience calling to conscience throughout the world, the sort of voice that can bring lasting change that no military force has the power to bring.
With those thoughts in mind, here are links to a few news articles and posts on the persecution of Christians in the rest of the world:
From Aid to the Church in Need, U.S. on Syria:
News: Jesuit laments car bomb attack in Homs, Syria: 'Young people were deliberately targeted"
"Where is the reaction from the rest of the world? After the attacks in Paris all eyes were on France. But here? As far as I am aware, there has not been any reaction by anybody. Not a word. Only silence. Syria and the daily sufferings of its people are forgotten."
French priest from African Missions of Lyon on Niger:
"Pray. Rebuilding churches and especially hearts will be long and painful."
A chuch built last year was burned earlier this month, along with every other Catholic and Protestant church in Niamey, Niger, except that the cathedral was saved. Boko Haram-influenced rioting was a reaction to Charlie Hebdo. Priests and religious were ordered to leave their homes and go to a safe place, and some of their Muslim neighbours helped them get out safely.
I have heard my friend Archbishop Ignatius eloquently insist that these extremists are not representative of genuine Islam, as he describes how Moslems and Catholics in his own area of Nigeria work together as neighbors, and how members of both groups have been slaughtered by the jihadists.
His plea, “Please don’t forget us,” wakes me up at night, dominates my prayers, and prompts my advocacy. Can I ask you to listen to him as well?
Today begins the international Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year's week of prayer amid diverse beliefs within Christianity falls at a time of international discussion regarding respect for diverse religious beliefs in the news media. That discussion in the secular news media arises in the context of Muslim extremist reactions to the Charlie Hebdo cartoons depicting Mohammed. With news reporters increasingly targeted for reporting that the extremists consider insulting to Islam, some members of the secular news media advocate religious sensitivity to religious belief, as reported today by Katie Couric and Oliver Knox. At the same time, many Christians are raising questions of whether free speech rights extend to publications as offensive to others as the Charlie Hebdo publication and whether international support for the French protests have been racist in failing to show equal support for the many people killed by Boko Haram in Nigeria.
During an in-flight interview, Pope Francis spoke to this issue. Catholic News Agency summarized: "You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith," Pope Francis said during a Jan. 15 press conference held en-route to the Philippines. If you do, he said, you "can expect a punch."
I want to address those issues by explaining my own perspective on free speech in the context of respect for religion.
First, I think the timing is good, coming as it does a week after millions of people, including more than 40 heads of state, marched in support of free speech in Paris. The issue of limitations on free speech needs to be discussed, but in a way that does not imply that the Charlie Hebdo journalists caused their own murders.
Charlie Hebdo is often offensive to Christianity and Islam alike in its satire, but that cannot justify a violent attack. By analogy, it is also true that teenage girls often dress less modestly than they should, but if one of them is raped and murdered, it is never true that the girl's own actions were responsible for the rape and murder. Violent actions are not a normal response, and those who react violently bear the responsibility for their reactions, always. Without assigning blame to the cartoonists for the terrorist attacks, it is worthwhile to question their cartoons outside of that context of blame.
Mr Ambassador, you stressed your Country's contribution to the dialogue between civilizations, cultures and religions. For her part, in the present international context with which we are familiar, the Catholic Church remains convinced that to encourage peace and understanding between peoples and people, it is urgently necessary that religions and their symbols be respected and that believers not be the object of provocations that wound their outlook and religious sentiments.
However, intolerance and violence as a response to offences can never be justified, for this type of response is incompatible with the sacred principles of religion; consequently, we cannot but deplore the actions of those who deliberately exploit the offence caused to religious sentiments to stir up acts of violence, especially since such action is contrary to religion.
For believers, as for all people of good will, the only path that leads to peace and brotherhood is that of respect for the religious convictions and practices of others, so that the practice of the religion a person has freely chosen may be guaranteed to each one.
Of course it is true that religions and their symbols should be respected. That does not imply that our laws should be changed to limit free speech by outlawing disrespect. Scripture dictates, "Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for any honest work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all men. (Titus 3:1-2). To "speak evil of no one" and "show perfect courtesy toward all men" are religious principles that oblige us, but that does not mean we should impose those principals on others by law. If we do so, it will impact our own freedom of religious speech. Our freedom to speak openly of Christian belief has already been impacted where one group or another finds it offensive to their social cause. The only means of protecting religious freedom is to also protect the right to speak freely of our own beliefs even where they are found offensive by others. We cannot do that and, at the same time, advocate that speech offensive to us be made illegal. Free speech and free religion must both be protected as human rights. Neither freedom has much meaning if only politically correct speech and religion are legal.
While the situation in Nigeria was deplorable, both before and after the terrorism in France, I don't believe it raises a question of any racism in the march in Paris. That march was a global support for free speech in general, and not just an expression of opposition to one particular terrorist attack. The presence of more than 40 heads of state confirm that. French is the official language of international diplomacy, and Paris is a very common place for protest marches. Indeed, there is probably a protest of one kind or another somewhere in Paris almost every week-end. I walked through the streets of Paris myself once in the Paris walk for life, with youth similarly climbing onto the massive statues with signs and banners at the end of the march, although drawing far smaller numbers of people. Last week's march for free speech did not place the death of a few in Paris at a higher priority than the death of many more in Nigeria. It is a misleading, attention-getting distraction to suggest that it did so.
I am glad to see the current discussion of respect for religions in the secular news media. While they want to say that they have shown respect for the Catholic faith in the past while reporting on clergy sex abuse, I don't believe they really did so. The reporting in that era was so critical of the Church as a whole that many honest and good priests had trouble walking into a super market without attracting stares and criticism. News organizations are entitled to "keep their heads down" to protect the safety of their reporters in the face of personal threats. I don't doubt that. Indeed, the great Christian medieval saints often went silent during times of Muslim extremism, showing great caution in any mention they made of Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries. St. John Climacus in the east in the 7th century and St. Boniface in the west in the 8th century are examples of this. There is no reason to criticize reporters today for caring for their safety. But I hope that their desire to be respectful toward religious belief will extend to Christianity, Judaism and other religions as much as it extends to Islam.
The following is my own quick translation this morning of Cardinal Vingt-Trois's letter to Paris Catholics in the wake of the past week's terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo. It was published today in the French Catholic newspaper La Croix. If I find an official English translation I will replace this one with the better one. A pdf copy of the French text from La Croix is attached for download: Download La_Croix_1265264
To Paris Catholics:
Paris, January 10, 2015
Our country, our city of Paris in particular, have been the scene of acts of violence and unheard of barbarity. For many years for us, war and death have always been elsewhere even if, during this time, French soldiers have been engaged in different countries to try to bring a little bit of peace. Some have paid with their lives.
But violent death has imposed itself suddenly among us. In France, and well beyond our borders, all are in a state of shock. Most of our fellow citizens have experienced this as a call to rediscover a number of fundamental values of our Republic such as freedom of religion or freedom of opinion. The spontaneous gatherings of recent days have been marked by a great meditation, without manifestation of hatred or violence. The sadness of grief and the belief that we have something to defend together is uniting the French.
A caricature, even if in bad taste, a criticism even if seriously unfair, cannot be placed on the same plane as murder. Freedom of the press, regardless of the cost, is the sign of a mature society. That men born in our country, our citizens, can think that the only just response to a mockery or insult would be the authors’ deaths poses serious questions to our society. That French Jews once again suffer the cost of the troubles that agitate our national community multiplies their severity. We also pay homage to the police officers who died exercising their function to the end.
I invite Paris Catholics to pray to the Lord for the terrorists’ victims, for their spouses, for their children and their families. Pray also for our country: that moderation, temperance, and control that all have shown so far will be confirmed in weeks and months to come, that no one will give in to panic or hatred; that no one will give in to the ease of identifying a few fanatics with an entire religion. And pray also for the terrorists who are discovering the truth of God's judgment. Ask for the grace to be artisans of peace. We must never despair of peace, if we build justice.
On this feast day of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzum, Fr. Dwight Longenecker has a post at Patheos about Arianism today. Here's a taste:
"Today Arianism takes a different form, and comes to us in the guise of humanism. . . . This watered down Christianity is our modern form of Arianism. The cultural context of the heresy and it’s expression is different, but the essence of the heresy is the same as it always was: “Jesus Christ is a created being. His ‘divinity’ is something that developed or was added to his humanity by God.”
"The difference between Arius and the modern heretics is that Arius was actually explicit in his teaching. The modern heretics are not. They inhabit our seminaries, our monasteries, our rectories and presbyteries. They are the modernist clergy who dominate the mainstream Protestant denominations and who are too many in number within the Catholic Church as well."
At the beginning of that series of Advent posts, I quoted St. Matthew's Gospel, where Jesus asks, "But who do you say that I am?" Much of the series, especially the posts on the O Antiphons, looked at who the saints said Jesus is. The O Antiphons, in particular, echo, and are echoed by, the words of the Church Fathers including St. Basil the Great in defining who they said Jesus is as the same God as the God of the Old Testament, and as the Messiah described in Old Testament prophecy.
That series is much in agreement with Father Longenecker's post. Indeed, besides Arianism, two of the writings I found from the early Church Fathers using the words later sung in the O Antiphons are writings against the heresy of Marcionism, a heresy that rejected the Old Testament God and that did not view Christ as the same God as the law-giver God of the Old Testament. The words we sing in the final week of Advent (such as "O Root of Jesse Stem" and "O Law Giver") are rooted and defined in the Church Fathers' writings against heresy. Those writings include St. John Chrysostom's homily against the Marcionists and the Manichaeans (defending the reality of the incarnation and Christ as the same God as the Old Testament God: "We beheld Him as a young child, as a root in a dry ground;” and by the dry ground he means the virgin’s womb. And again “unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given,” and again “there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall spring out of his root.”) and St. Irenaeus's argument against Marcionism in Against Heresies (Christ as lawgiver, being the same God who gave the Judaic law to Moses: "Now all these [precepts], as I have already observed, were not [the injunctions] of one doing away with the law, but of one fulfilling, extending, and widening it among us. . . .Inasmuch, then, as all natural precepts are common to us and to them (the Jews), they had in them indeed the beginning and origin; but in us they have received growth and completion.").
Arianism and Marcionism both rear their heads today in modern forms, forcing us to again answer the question Jesus posed: "But who do you say that I am?" The answer is crucial now as it was in the Gospels and in the Early Church.
The Women’s Consultation Group at the Pontifical Council for Culture released a video inviting women to submit a photo or a one-minute video of their “vision” for their role as women. To do so, the video or photo should be loaded on the internet, with a link sent to email@example.com by January 4, 2015. This stirred up a bit of controversy among Kathy Schiffer at Patheos (who offers an English translation of the Italian video), Fisheaters Forum, and The Tenth Crusade , and Creative Minority Report before the Vatican took the English language video off of YouTube.
In any event, having decided that I should respond to an invitation to create a photo about my vision for our role as women, here is my entry in response to the invitation:
I don't remember who took the photo. It is me with a group of friends and our priest from Church of the Nativity, Rancho Santa Fe, California, at the Secular Carmelite promises ceremonies in Redlands earlier this month. Here's a link to an earlier post long ago about the meaning of zeal. #lifeofwomen
Pope Francis's letter to Christians in the Middle East dated December 21, 2014 remembered the serious difficulties they face and encouraged the international community to take action, especially by promoting peace through diplomacy to stop the violence. He encouraged them to remain close to Christ, saying that our hope is in Him:
"Dear brothers and sisters who courageously bear witness to Jesus in the land blessed by the Lord, our consolation and our hope is Christ himself. I encourage you, then, to remain close to him, like branches on the vine, in the certainty that no tribulation, distress or persecution can separate us from him (cf. Rom 8:35). May the trials which you are presently enduring strengthen the faith and the fidelity of each and all of you!"
"And David signifying His incarnate presence said “He shall come down like the rain into a fleece of wool, and like the drop which distills upon the earth” because He noiselessly and gently entered into the Virgin’s womb." (St. John Chrysostom)
"Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three mysteries of renown,which were wrought in silence by God. How, then, was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of which was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment." (St. Ignatius of Antioch)
May God bless you with His divine silence and peace this Christmas night.
Let my spirit be counted as nothing for the sake of the cross, which is a stumbling-block to those that do not believe, but to us salvation and life eternal. “Where is the wise man? where the disputer?” Where is the boasting of those who are styled prudent? For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost. He was born and baptized, that by His passion He might purify the water.
The cross of Christ is indeed a stumbling-block to those that do not believe, but to the believing it is salvation and life eternal. “Where is the wise man? where the disputer?” Where is the boasting of those who are called mighty? For the Son of God, who was begotten before time began, and established all things according to the will of the Father, He was conceived in the womb of Mary, according to the appointment of God, of the seed of David, and by the Holy Ghost. For says [the Scripture], “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and He shall be called Immanuel.” He was born and was baptized by John, that He might ratify the institution committed to that prophet.
Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three mysteries of renown,which were wrought in silence by God. How, then, was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of which was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment. And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And there was agitation felt as to whence this new spectacle came, so unlike to everything else [in the heavens]. Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life. And now that took a beginning which had been prepared by God. Henceforth all things were in a state of tumult, because He meditated the abolition of death.
Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three mysteries of renown, which were wrought in silence, but have been revealed to us. A star shone forth in heaven above all that were before it, and its light was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment. And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star. It far exceeded them all in brightness, and agitation was felt as to whence this new spectacle [proceeded]. Hence worldly wisdom became folly; conjuration was seen to be mere trifling; and magic became utterly ridiculous. Every law of wickedness vanished away; the darkness of ignorance was dispersed; and tyrannical authority was destroyed, God being manifested as a man, and man displaying power as God.
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.”And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman′u-el.
- Isaiah 7:10-14
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit;and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit;she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emman′u-el”