Christmas

Cross of Light

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          On this delightful day of simple joys, I asked God once more for His sign for me. All through the chimes of hours since the break of Christmas dawn, through Christmas Day Mass, and Christmas visits, I waited in peaceful expectation of His answer. Towards evening, home again, tired yet happy, I gaze up at a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary above my front door, on the eastern side of the house. Last year, on Christmas Day too, during sunset, I witnessed something impossible in the Heart of Jesus, which I never saw before or after that day.

The sun setting in the west on Christmas Day last year had shone through the Heart – but from behind it.

At that moment, I felt Jesus was reminding me about the Illumination of Conscience.

          Today is Christmas once more. A whole year has gone past. Like a playback, I’m in my living room once more, listening to the tangerine~pinked winds sing the last song of the day. It is sunset again as the sun prepares for grateful slumber. My thoughts return to the miraculously illumined Heart of last year.

          Suddenly comes a prayer I’ve never seen, bringing to light a secret hope of a reunion.

Prayer to St. Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings

O Raphael, lead us towards those we are waiting for, those who are waiting for us! Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings, lead us by the hand towards those we are looking for! May all our movements, all their movements, be guided by your Light and transfigured by your Joy. Angel Guide of Tobias, lay the request we now address to you at the feet of Him on whose unveiled Face you are privileged to gaze.

          Is it a sign or a mere coincidence? Is it a trick? I look at out at the trees bathed in the last rays of the setting sun to clear my head.

          At that very moment, the rays of the Christmas sun pierce the trees in a bright, unmistakable Cross of Light.

          And I have my answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let Mum Rest

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          By early morning today, we had a pretty good idea of how our Christmas this year was going to be. Part of me was hugely relieved that the annual big family gathering was not to be. I’m tiring easily and it’s taking me longer and longer to recover, despite relying more and more on the kids to help out with the cleaning and tidying. In addition to that, with a house packed with guests, I was beginning to wonder how do I pull off massive meal preparations for 3 straight days when I wasn’t bouncing back quickly enough.

          So, it did brighten my day to have it finalised today that Christmas would just be us and the kids.

          And yet, disappointment curled tiny tendrils around my heart that the house wouldn’t be filled this year. I know it’s almost suggestive of madness to feel this way when it’s clear that I’m having trouble coping with the physical work that used to come easy. But this is the shadow which most, if not all, adult survivors of emotional abuse contend with – the tendency to perceive rejection even when there’s none to be found.

          I knew very well that none of our extended family could make it to our place this year for a variety of valid reasons ranging from shortened or no Christmas leave to hospitalised parents and having to care for the elderly who could no longer travel so far out to us here.

          Still, that knowing wasn’t strong enough to smother the snide snigger I kept hearing from somewhere behind my ear.

They could have come but just didn’t want to try, said that voice, just for me.

          I think Jesus heard it.

          Minutes later, out on an errand, some time to myself in the car, I read a line from The Life of Faustina Kowalska. Jesus had appeared to the dying saint and said to her, Heart of my Heart, be filled with joy.

          My heart still filled with conflicting emotions over Christmas, I read the line only with my mind, wondering absently, How would it feel to have Jesus say this to me?

          No sooner had the thought budded when I felt an unseen finger write those very words on my heart.

Heart of my Heart, be filled with joy.

          Suddenly, I felt certain, it was Jesus’ voice I felt.

          Be filled with joy. I felt I needed to make myself worthy of such tenderness. I needed to rid myself of all that was enervating me. So, I resolved to go in cheer to my chores and Christmas preparations. To encourage myself to keep going when I got tired, yet not be unkind to myself to forsake needed rest.

          Jesus stopped by once more to cheer me on.

Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!

~   Song of Songs 2: 13, 1st Reading, 3rd week of Advent

          Happy hours slipped past like tiny boats on a grinning brook, gurgling after the break of winter’s ice. Much got done and done happily. My kind of day. Eager for a short rest, I turned back to take one last look at the tumble of the day’s old hours. I saw each face of my family members and their reasons for not being able to make it. Why? I asked Jesus, why did You keep each one away? Not achingly asked; merely wanting to know.

          In reply, He led me to a new nativity image. Someone had named it, Let Mum Rest.

          For weeks now, I’ve been praying daily for help, consecrating our Christmas to our Guardian Angel, asking that he take each prayer to Jesus and to Mother Mary.

          Today, I knew for certain that our angel had heard the prayers, joining his own heart to each entreaty, as he entrusted it to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

          And as the winds sang their afternoon hymn, I heard Their tender reply.

Let Mum Rest

 

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Touching Bethlehem

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Watch, dear Lord, with those who wake or watch or weep tonight, and give Your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend Your sick ones, O Lord Jesus Christ, rest Your weary ones, bless Your dying ones, soothe Your suffering ones, shield Your joyous ones, and all for Your love’s sake.   ~   St. Augustine

 

Touching Bethlehem this night

Hearts and spirits stilled and waiting

Seeking the miracle of old still bright

Wishing one and all holy joy and blessings

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

 

 

Christmas Rosary~Wreath

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         Early this morning, as I watched and listened to a lyric video of Give This Christmas Away, sung by Matthew West and Amy Grant, I wondered if this just might be the answer to my musings in recent days. I’ve had this sudden, quiet urge to observe the final week before Christmas in a way different from years past. As we journey closer to the final week, I feel myself digging in my heels to stop the inevitable slide into the extreme busyness of house cleaning, baking, decorating, shopping and all other -ings of Christmas. I want to be able to manage all of that yet not lose my inner peace and quiet.

          I don’t want to take my sights off what really matters in Christmas.

          And Give This Christmas Away gave me an idea. A Christmas Rosary~wreath. A different Christmas intention for each day’s morning Rosary in the remaining ten days till Christmas. I could pray the Dominican Rosary or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy or even my Holy Tears Rosary. A different intention each day for the sorrowing of this world. I will pray as the wind leads.

          The moment I come to this decision, I see the word, Joy. That will be the first bloom for my Rosary~wreath. For the world.

          For those most in need, comes the next still whisper. My spirit bends in acquiescence.

          My mind made up, I come across a story about a ‘miracle’ sampler. I read the words, God Bless Our Home, and I pray the same for us. 

          And then, the words, Jesus Loves Me, fall upon my eyes.

          Electricity ribbons through me. My heart catches and I weep.

 

 

 

The King!

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          Early morning’s sunlight dimples. The winds in playful delight through the wetsilver of leaves. A child tumbles in with a Rose of Sharon in full bloom. For a reason wreathed in mists as yet, I felt the bloom ask for its place in our home. So, I gently placed it at the foot of my Our Lady of Fatima statue. I thought the flower was another name for our Blessed Mother. But when I looked it up, to my surprise, the Rose of Sharon instead symbolised Our Lord!

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          My mind then traced the dip in the path to yesterday morning. I had been awakened very, very early by a lone robin’s delirious rhapsody of joy on a branch of purple green, just outside our window. Their song here is usually a gentle morning lilt, tenderly respectful of a slumberer in the last wisps of dreams.

          But not yesterday. The little one sang his heart out to the purple grey skies awaiting the early blush of sunrise. His joyburst startled me out of sleep. Barely registering his exuberant cadence, a song burst from my own spirit:

Hark the herald angels sing

Glory to the newborn King!

          On and on, the two lines of the Christmas hymn trilled  and trilled within me, willing me to join my spirit to its jubilant notes. I hesitated. What madness was this, at the wind down of a ragged two weeks that scraped at my soul, now Christmas in July?

          What Christmas is this?

          The little bird sitting in the tree that bears stars saw what my spirit has yet to grasp. A new wind has begun to weave its way through the disfigured pain~shards of broken dreams and lives.

          Even as the world weeps in its tortures, the King is already here.

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The Pilgrim Christmas

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          It’s the season when Christmas carols waft over and around us, and a quickening in our spirits anticipate the happy day. People merrily busy with gifts and plans for dinners and reunions, happy panic of the much not done yet. Cards being bought, gifts to be wrapped. Homes we pass, busy ovens, busy windows. New drapes, streamers, fresh cakes and cookies, evergreens being dressed. Christmas wreathes its magic, all and sundry caught up in the hope, love and joy it heralds.

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          But for some of us, our place is in the frost just outside of that circle of enveloping Christmas joy. To watch from the periphery. With aching hearts to see the Yuletide light twirl around, and choose to not settle on us. To see everyone else caught up in the giddy joy of the festive days, and wonder what we did wrong to not feel as light and as free and as hopeful. Within us we carry a quiet hurt that God’s magic wand somehow missed us. We hurt that we seem to carry burdens not cast on others. New burdens, old ones from years and old years before. Always us, the choice beast of burden. The grief inside us is a hurt we try to damp down and hide, because it seems to uncharitable to mar the beauty of the season with something that shouldn’t be there. It’s a shame we try to camouflage, that the joy everyone is experiencing is withheld from us, and it’s a wart we don’t want others to see.

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          So, some of us retreat from the world during the season of goldreds. Why inflict our black of hopelessness and despair on others? we ask ourselves. Why beg sympathy from the abundance of the joyful? We retreat, and we hope no one notices because we have no answers to their prodding queries. We retreat out of shame because we bear the black mark of sorrow, a defect that stands out more in the face of so much surrounding merriment. We retreat and hide because it’s much easier on everyone this way.

          But if retreat from cheer is not an option in the Christmas season,  we might plaster on a smile, pretend an ebullience that is not there, so as not to be singled out for a Yuletide inquisition. It gives us anonymity, and allows us to blend into the background of happy. No worries here, move on, please, we grin till it hurts. Pretense buys us the relief of space and time away from the reality of the emptiness in our own lives, where lives a barrenness that refuses to die. And so, we laugh along with others, and hope the hollowness doesn’t show, and pretend to love and be loved.

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          Yet, nothing blinds us from seeing that emptiness has a weight that bears down harder than fullness.

          And the cross bites deep into our wounded shoulders.

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          In our little nook in the frost, an ancient truth almost escapes us ~ Christmas is not about us. A Christian pilgrim Christmas is about Love. Love born of holy obedience. Love blossoming and flourishing in the kingdom of hardship. Love birthed to bring joy to sorrowing hearts.

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          A Christian Christmas is the wounded pilgrim taking Jesus-joy to the fellow wounded. It is the meal we cook for the lonely when we too only have emptiness to return to. It is the card we send to someone who needs to know love, although ours is the address everyone forgets. It is the prayers we sob for broken hearts in other homes when our own children have broken our hearts. The gentle empathy offered by a lonely widow whose husband will never return, to a young, frazzled wife whose husband works far from home.

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          The pilgrim Christmas is taking love to where it has long been dead. To coax life and joy back into bitter deserts. To inject hope and resurrect life. It is to love even as we weep from our own unhealed wounds. It is to draw from our own pain to touch the sometimes, lesser wounds of others.

          And this sowing of Jesus-joy in souls is inadequate if it comes from a filled heart, for there’s sometimes, nothing more dispiriting than to receive from material abundance, because it underscores a grieving soul’s squalor.

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          So, it is precisely when we feel we are running on empty, that the purest giving can we bequeath to others. The parchedness of our own waiting for Jesus-joy must lead us to a Bernadette response ~ to dig streams of Lourdes in the lives of other pilgrims, so that they may receive the gifts of healing and hope. Our seemingly empty lives must never lead us away from the pilgrim path of giving, onto the dark alleys of self, because to feel our barrenness is to be filled with God, and this Light must be shared.

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          The pilgrim Christmas is the antithesis of the world’s Christmas. Ours is a light for the poor, and a holly wreath of tender charity foreign to the world we occupy, and it will earn us ridicule and derision. But it is the way of heaven that for the sunrise joy of Christmas to bloom in us, we must first take it in obedience to where God wills us, and sow it in hearts not ours, so that the mourner’s dirge be transformed into a Gloria.

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          For the Christmas cannot come to us before it comes to others.