Here is a Serbian Christmas carol called "Angels Sing", lyrics by St. Nikolai Velimirovich, sung by Andjeli Pevaju. Hat tip to Orthodox Church Father Stephen at Glory to God for All Things. Father Stephen's post has the Serbian words with an English translation. Part of the words are:
The night so grand and placid,
a star shining over the cave,
the mother sleeping in the cave,
where the angel of Jesus hast been.
In today's address at the midday Angelus, Pope Benedict XVI expressed grief over the violence in Gaza, calling for the international community to do everything possible to help the Israelis and Palestinians to find a way out of their situation through dialogue and negotiation. He asked the faithful to entrust their prayers to Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, asking for peace in the Holy Land.
On this Feast of the Holy Family, he also spoke of the family as the cornerstone of society. He called on all families to "imitate their faith, hope and charity, so as to bear greater witness to
the singular importance of the 'domestic church' for the life of the
universal Church and for society." Here is his greeting in English:
"I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims at this Angelus. Today we
recall how Mary and Joseph, after presenting Jesus in the temple, took the child
to Nazareth and began their life as a family. May all families strive to imitate
their faith, hope and charity, so as to bear greater witness to the singular
importance of the "domestic church" for the life of the universal
Church and for society. God bless you all!"
The painting here shows the Holy Family resting during their flight to Egypt, together with St. John the Baptist, painted by Fra Bartolommeo. This photo was taken by me. The museum's photo and more information can be found here.
The Pertinacious Papist has posted the full text of Pope Benedict's Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia on December 22, and Sandro Magister posted the bulk of it, both of them offering commentary. Zenit also has a translation. An official English translation has not been released, and I will plan to add a link here after it is.
The Pope's reference to marriage as a lifelong bond between a man and a woman drew news attention as he spoke of the importance of including in the Christian message "a testimonial for the Spirit Creator present in all of nature, but specially in the nature of man, who was created in the image of God."
The overall theme of his greeting was one of the joy given by the Holy Spirit, which he described as a joy "of being in harmony with oneself, which can only be achieved by being in harmony with God and his creation."
With this post, I would like to summarize, and more or less outline, the Pope's greeting, in order to place that portion of the greeting in its context. Of course, it is well worth reading the entire message.
In his greeting, the Pope looked back over the Church's key events of the past year:
1. It was a year of anniversaries that bring us to the future: 50 years since the death of Pope Pius XII and election of Pope John XXIII; 40 years since the Encyclical Humanae Vitae; 30 years since the death of Pope Paul VI.
2. June 28 marked the inauguration of the Pauline Year.
3. World Youth Day, the papal journeys to the U.S. and France, and the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God stand out in particular. Speaking of the Synod, he said of Scripture:
"This Word has shaped our common history and will continue to do so. And so we realize all over that precisely because the Word is so personal, then we can understand it correctly and totally only within the 'we' of the community instituted by God - always conscious that we can never exhaust it completely, that it always has something new to say to each generation."
Speaking of World Youth Day in Sydney, he mentioned the "long exterior and interior path" that leads to the week of World Youth Day, including the procession of the cross and the icon as a part of the spiritual preparation, and also mentioned the long road that follows, as new friendships are inspired that are "capable of making new places of faith emerge in the world, which are also places of hope, and of charity that is practised and lived."
The central theme of the World Youth Day in Sydney, he said, was joy as a fruit of the Holy Spirit. The Pope pointed out "the orientation that was implicit in the theme", discussing four dimensions of pneumatology (the knowledge of the Holy Spirit) and their implications:
1. "Faith in the Creator Spirit is an essential element of the Christian Creed. . . . The ultimate basis of our responsibility towards the earth is our faith in creation." The Church "should validate this responsibility in public. . . . In so doing, it should defend not just the earth, water and air as gifts of Creation that belong to everyone. She should also protect man from destroying himself."
The Holy Father then mentioned the Scholastics who spoke of marriage, as a lifelong bond between a man and a woman, as a "sacrament of creation." The Church's message cannot be limited to "only the message of salvation." Rather, he said, "Part of the announcement that the Church should bring to men is a testimonial for the Spirit Creator present in all of nature, but specially in the nature of man, who was created in the image of God."
2. Addressing other aspects of pneumatology, the Holy Father said that faith tells us that "the Spirit speaks, so to say, in human words; it has entered history, and as the force that shapes history, it is also a Spirit that speaks. It is the Word which comes to us in ancient Scriptures and in the New Testament."
3. The third dimension of pneumatology consists "in the inseparability of Christ and the Holy Spirit."
4. The fourth dimension of pneumatology is "the connection between the Spirit and the Church." The Body of Christ is "an organism of the Holy Spirit." The Holy Father said:
"Thus with the subject of the Holy Spirit which oriented World Youth Day in Australia, and in a more hidden way, the weeks of the Bishops Synod, the entire breadth of Christian faith is made visible, a breadth which leads, from responsibility for Creation and for man's existence in tune with Creation, through Scriptures and the story of salvation, to Christ, and from there, to the living community of the Church - in its structure and responsibility, as in its vastness and freedom, expressed as much in the multiplicity of charisms as in the Pentecostal image of the multitude of languages and cultures."
An integral part of celebration, he said, is joy given by the Holy Spirit. "It is the expression of happiness, of being in harmony with oneself, which can only be achieved by being in harmony with God and his creation." "The missionary spirit of the Church," he said, is "nothing but the impulse to communicate the joy that has been given to us."
At the close of the year, he expressed a wish that such joy "may always be alive in us and thus irradiate the world in its tribulations" and that it "may be given to us abundantly in the New Year."
There are a lot of big sales going on today, and a lot of people seeking to return to spending and savings patterns of the past, when people were more careful to avoid over-spending.
If you want to save money on books this year, my first suggestion is to re-read the books you already have, especially the Bible. And re-read a classic, or two or three. Or re-read the same classic several times.
The classics, whether they are great novels or the classics of spirituality, became classics precisely because they have enough depth to be worth reading more than one time. They were not written to be speed-read. Many were written in an era when books had to be copied by hand, in italic script that could only be read slowly.
In books by saints like St. Augustine and St. Teresa of Avila, there is enough complexity to find something new in them each time they are read, and benefits to be derived from reading them repeatedly that will be missed if several different books are read one time each. The Rule of St. Benedict is read by Benedictines every day, a rule at a time. St. Teresa of Avila is known to have read a little bit each day from St. John Cassian's Conferences.
If you read like that, a library of 5 or 10 books ought to be enough for several years or even a lifetime.
Three years ago, I posted a list of 25 Essential Books that includes at least one book from each century of Church history. That was in response to an earlier list by Ben Myers and a list by Fr. Alvin Kimel that seems to have been lost with the end of his older blog (I did a word search for it on his present blog, and that post is not one of the ones that survived).
Some classics can be found free on the internet, at least (in some cases) if you don't mind an older translation. Here is a short list of 10 spiritual classics available free online to print from your computer for reading and re-reading:
If you want to expand your library anyway, taking advantage of low after-Christmas prices, here is one suggestion from the Barnes & Noble online sale: Geroge Weigel, Letters to a Young Catholic (82% off hardback)
Pope Benedict XVI's homily from midnight Mass last night is posted in English translation at Vatican Radio, Zenit andPapa Ratzinger Forum. All three have a Vatican translation in different paragraphing style.
In his homily, the Pope said that God stoops down in coming "as a child to the lowly stable, the symbol of all humanity's neediness and forsakenness. . . . God is in the cloud of the poverty of a homeless child: an impenetrable cloud, and yet a cloud of glory!" We should ask God to give us watchful hearts, to have the courage "to find God in the form of a baby in a stable." Drawing near to the child of Bethlehem on Christmas night, he said, "In every child
we see something of the Child of Bethlehem." Thus, he encouraged people to think of children who are suffering, and also to pray for peace in Bethlehem. He said:
"The Child of Bethlehem summons us once again to do everything in our
power to put an end to the suffering of these children; to do
everything possible to make the light of Bethlehem touch the heart of
every man and woman. Only through the conversion of hearts, only
through a change in the depths of our hearts can the cause of all this
evil be overcome, only thus can the power of the evil one be defeated.
Only if people change will the world change; and in order to change,
people need the light that comes from God, the light which so
unexpectedly entered into our night."
His Urbi et Orbi Message from Christmas morning is also posted at Vatican Radio, Zenit and Papa Ratzinger Forum. PRF also has photos from both. The Pope spoke of God's supernatural grace being for everyone, and of a small group that accepts that grace. "Jesus was born for everyone, and just as Mary, in Bethlehem, offered
him to the shepherds, so on this day the Church presents him to all
humanity, so that each person and every human situation may come to
know the power of God’s saving grace, which alone can transform evil
into good, which alone can change human hearts, making them oases of
peace." The Pope then mentioned many situations in the world in need of that grace.