Candlemass and the Feast of Mary’s purification

Candlemas-DayThere were two articles recently written to describe a certain reverence by Christians and Catholics towards scripture in general and the Old Testament in particular. In my own particular attitude, I tend to be a bit hasty about the historicity of certain rituals in the church, including the Old Testament.

There occurred two interesting events in the church’s calendar which obviously occur infrequently. On Sunday, February the 2nd, the church celebrated the Feast of Mary’s purification, which coincided with Candlemass days. This was a day when, traditionally, candles used by the church for the following year were blessed in one bulk. At the same time, candles for use in individual homes were also blessed and distributed. The idea behind this particular ritual is the spreading of light into the darkness, what the prophet Malachi calls the light to all the gentiles.

It is a very symbolic ritual and reflects the belief of the church that the messenger Christ represented by candlelight is ready to be spread throughout the world. The candles we utilize during liturgies are not just an antiquated precursor of a civilization before electric lights. Really the use of candles in addition has added theological significance.

Just to reinforce this assertion, the Feast of St Blaze follows the very next day on which occurs the Blessing of throats, a blessing conveyed by the crossing of two candles, significance indeed.

It behooves us therefore, to give more than passing thought to some of the religious articles we commonly take for granted.

An implicit leap to a fresh start

Postell-2011The timing of this issue of the Alumni Now cannot avoid mention of the New Year. We can trivialize the significance of the timing with the usual greeting of Happy New Year. But within the examination of the word Happy, there is the implicit leap to a fresh start. It comes as a surprise to some people that the name “January” owes its origin derives from the ancient Roman god Janus. Janus had two faces, one looking to the past and one scanning the future. The significance of timing in the beginning of this New Year might well involve a two-fold dynamic of examining the past and anticipating the future. Did we live the past year utilizing a potential? Do we anticipate the New Year making a decision to both correct inappropriate behavior, but even more so to take a leap into the unknown, to take a gamble, to use some of our creative reservoirs to make the world a better place? Can we make this New Year a happy era by taking a giant step forward? The Holy Spirit is there to help us make this Leap.

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Living Advent every day…

Postell-2011The season of Advent can probably best be captured by the attitude of two words “watching” and “waiting.” We refer to Advent as a season, if you will a liturgical season, but Advent is also a way of life. It is a way of life lived in watchfulness for the God who comes; not just at Christmas, but every day in various ways and through various people. So we wait, not passively, but actively.

Perhaps the secret of actively waiting is based on the belief that what we await is already on its way. Those who wait actively have faith that the seed of the future has been planted and that growth has already begun. Perhaps it is a good idea to let go of our wishful thinking, like “I wish I had a better job” and to start hoping. Often when we are willing to let go of our wishes, something beyond our own expectations can really happen. What we need to learn to do is to hope. We should be willing to give up control over a future so that God is free to define our lives.


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A Season of Change

Postell-2011Almost any scriptural commentary during this season of the year stresses the importance in the changes of the environment. This is to say, comments are made about the shortening of the days and the lengthening of the darkness. It is almost as if we are reaching a limit of darkness which nature can scarcely tolerate. After this comes the explosion of light.

Even so, we still have a way to go, a greater capacity for tolerating darkness. The breakpoint occurs on December 21st. We have approximately a month to test the experience of the old year, the shortening of the days, and gaining a perspective by the change of seasons.

This change of seasons is the foundation for certain psychic and/or spiritual moments in our internal lives. Most of us do not ignore the yearly evolution of nature. We know that changes are taking place. Even at the most basic level, on a perhaps subconscious stratum, people sit up and take notice.

Have we taken for granted a level of performance that is mediocre? Is something scratching at us that urges improvement? Do we think that God is calling us to an awareness that is more personal, more familiar, and more intense?

Are we satisfied with the care and concern that we show for our family, our friends, our church?

As the year ends and we anticipate a new beginning in nature, can we parallel that change in our spiritual lives and take a look at trends that are unproductive and even selfish.

Have we gone through a process of discernment that reveals a downward slide? Are we gearing up our energy for a new day? Are we prepared to offer a truly sincere Thanksgiving of faith, family and fullness?

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Dimensions of Faith

gospel-of-lukeIn the gospel of Luke, there are several parables which discuss the dimensions of faith. In these parables it is obvious that God is the Master and we are the servants. Sometimes though our faith gets twisted and we end up imitating the Master rather than being the servant. It is not surprising to realize how often people really do manufacture a God in their own image rather than listening to what God wants of us. Obviously, it is easier to take and easier to understand if we fashion God into what we want. But if that happens, the result is that this is our God and not the God who created us. And so, as members of the Brophy community, we have to be careful that we emphasize the God who created us even if what happens to us is not what we would choose and prefer.

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Quantifying humility

pope-washes-feetI have a question for you, how does one consider the topic of humility? By its very nature, any attempt to quantify humility leads to self enhancement, which is a contradiction. We don’t say that we are more humble than our neighbor. Otherwise to say this is not to be humble. Yet, we do recognize the humility in our neighbor or family member. Even considering humility is a by-product of an attitude, there are some characteristics of a person with humility. Such a person thinks of themselves in relation to God, and perhaps the needs of her brothers and sisters. He or she rather is more concerned with being of assistance than calling attention to self. And if he or she is attuned to God, then perhaps he or she is sensitive to those in need and thus a very humble person. Does not the word humility derive from the Latin word, which translated, means pertaining to the ground? If we are humble we are grounded. Grounded is a reality of a God centered universe which created everyone as brothers and sisters.

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Spiritual vigilance

st-ignatiusWe read in sacred scripture about the necessity for spiritual vigilance. The reason for such vigilance is that we do not know when we will die. There are warnings about misdirected priorities wherein we store up treasures which the world considers valuable. Jesus argues against accumulating material possessions and extreme wealth. He argues rather for priorities which place emphasis in another direction. But what Jesus is really suggesting is not so much a program motivated by fear – behave yourself because you may die tonight – but rather a life built on a continual and developing relationship with that of Jesus, Our Lord and Savior. So that one day, when we do meet Him, we will know all along that we have lived with Him and with those we have loved and cared for. We live productively and faithfully, not because we fear to meet Jesus, but because we desire to meet Jesus.

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