Saturday, December 26, 2009

My apologies to all of you who send family-photo (or just plain photos of yourself) style Christmas cards...

I think they are wonderful and very personal, and your kids are definitely not ugly or Stepfordishly personality-less.  I especially love this photo-card (shown) from my physician, as well as the one I got from Millicent and her daughter - who thinks she is a poodle.  I'm grateful just to get any kind of Merry Christmas greeting at all - from anyone.

Organs and church music and church people and stuff.

While I was helping to set up the creche at the Cathedral (I had nothing to do with design, layout, grapevine, etc. - I just did painted backgrounds and painted ceilings.) - anyway - while helping install, the organist was practicing.  It was so loud I couldn't think - well, that isn't true.  But I told the person I was working with, "I hate organ music."  And a short conversation ensued about me disliking church music and organ music and loud noises that scare cats too.
Seriously, I like organs in church, and I like some hymns and carols, but I generally prefer silence.  I actually like to sing - but I don't always do so.  I like to pray quietly.  I don't like rousing renditions of Halle - Halle - Halleluia and clapping, neither am I a big fan of Handel's Messiah and the Alleluia chorus.  (I know!)  Yes - I like classical music and chant.  I also like some hip-hop too, but I prefer to pray in silence.  I prefer Masses without choirs and fanfares - Imagine if there was no Sistine choir.  I suppose I should mention that I happen to love medieval music as well as the music exampled in Nine Lessons and Carols as sung by Kings College Choir at Cambridge...
I like Gospel music too.  Just not at church.
Photo:  What?

"I'm so glad it's over - aren't you!"

A woman I know once said that to me the day after Christmas.  She also boasted she had taken the tree down Christmas night and had the ornaments all packed away before she went to bed - explaining garbage day was the next day and she wanted the tree picked up rather than sitting out on the curb for a week.  How neat and tidy.
Christmas in the United States.
Photo: Jayne Mansfield showing off her ornaments.

Feast of Stephen

St Stephen - Carlo Crivelli
(Proposed patron of stoners.)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Going through the Christmas cards Christmas night, after everyone leaves...

Making a list and checking it twice.
People really do that you know.  If they sent you a card and you didn't reciprocate - you are so off their Christmas card list for next year.  I actually sent cards to the people I missed last year - the people who dropped me this year because I never sent a card last year.  I kind of did it just to confuse them.  ;)
FYI - that is so not what Christmas is all about, is it... you know - tit for tat stuff.

St. Joseph had to work on Christmas...

And other stuff like that...
Only in our Nativity sets does the Holy Family remain frozen in prayer and adoration - but their first Christmas was probably a busy one.  With the help of the shepherds perhaps, St. Joseph began constructing a more suitable shelter for Our Lady and the Infant Jesus.  In one cycle of paintings, I believe by Fra Angelico, the stable is transformed with straw siding by the time the kings got there.  I'm sure Our Lady was pretty busy as well - and the sheperds seemed to like them, so they must have helped out a great deal.
I don't have all of the dates and history of how Christmas has been celebrated throughout the world, but I doubt it was ever as emotion driven as it is today.  In fact our customs for Christmas developed in 19th century Germany and England.  Christmas extravagance and emphasis upon lavish gifts and decorations is a 20th century thing.  The wars spiked the emotional dimension, and alcoholism intensified they crazy bipolar-ism many people experience today.  (Hence last evening's posts with my sincere best wishes for a happy Christmas to the drunks and the sad and lonely, etc. - I was serious.)
Although when you get older - like me - it is amazing how all of those trappings - though pretty, quaint, nice, warm and fuzzy, and all of that - one is no longer obliged by them.  If you do not allow yourself to be sucked into all the expectations society, family, friends and marketing place upon you to have a Merry Christmas - as we understand it today - one is free to penetrate the mystery of the Incarnation in ordinary life.  One experiences a wonderful freedom of spirit marked by peace and joy, snuggled together in the closeness of Christ.
"The Lord provides everyone with tailor-made signals." - Benedict XVI
Sometimes loneliness, sadness, pain, depressions and addictions of all kinds - can be the place wherein such signals are perceived.  As the premier Shepherd stated last night:
"In our daily life, it is not like that. For most people, the things of God are not given priority, they do not impose themselves on us directly and so the great majority of us tend to postpone them.
The shepherds teach us this priority. From them we should learn not to be crushed by all the pressing matters in our daily lives. From them we should learn the inner freedom to put other tasks in second place however important they may be so as to make our way towards God, to allow him into our lives and into our time. Time given to God and, in his name, to our neighbour is never time lost. It is the time when we are most truly alive, when we live our humanity to the full.

We live our lives by philosophies, amid worldly affairs and occupations that totally absorb us and are a great distance from the manger. In all kinds of ways, God has to prod us and reach out to us again and again, so that we can manage to escape from the muddle of our thoughts and activities and discover the way that leads to him. But a path exists for all of us. The Lord provides everyone with tailor-made signals. He calls each one of us, so that we too can say: "Come on, 'let us go over' to Bethlehem to the God who has come to meet us. Yes indeed, God has set out towards us. Left to ourselves we could not reach him. The path is too much for our strength. But God has come down. He comes towards us. He has travelled the longer part of the journey. Now he invites us: come and see how much I love you. Come and see that I am here." - 2009 Christmas Eve Homily, Pope Benedict XVI.
Art: Adoration of the Shepherds - Murillo

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What I Say to the Bambino Jesu

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all the drunks and homeless, and those people whose friends are gone - leaving them all alone.

Pray for the Holy Father

As most of you probably know by now, the Holy Father was attacked entering the Basilica for Christmas Eve Mass.  He is reported to be unhurt and got up by himself after a woman jumped the barrier and pushed the Pope down.  Fr. Z has the news report here.

Merry Christmas

To all the sad and lonely.

Merry Christmas

To all the little people...
Heaven always seems to reveal itself to the littlest and most humble first... often in the lowliest of places.  The angel revealed the birth of Christ to illiterate, rag-clad shepherds.  These coarse fellows found the babe wrapped in swaddling, laying in a manger in a ramshackled shanty warmed only by the breath of an ox and an ass.  The poor were the first to hear...  Blessed are the poor.

Christmas celebrations.

Mash Potatoes.
Oh!  To have Christmas in Hawaii! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How the creatures served the Lady St. Mary and the Baby Jesus on Christmas Eve...

The extraordinary account of animal behaviour that first Christmas.
Although it is not recorded in the Bible, the story of how the lesser beasts behaved at the birth of the Infant Jesus has been handed down through generation upon generation in the animal kingdom, and the stories have varied little no matter what country one finds oneself in. Humans only know the story from their pets, the cats and dogs many people consider members of their family. Of course animal behaviourists like to claim that the animals' stories had been adapted from watching their masters set up a creche in their homes, and that they overheard the tale while the family piously read the Christmas story to children.
Perhaps - but I tend to doubt it, for why would, say a wolf in the forest know the exact same story? Or a country field mouse collect fir needles to festoon his nest with every Christmas Eve, and bring out the pine nuts he had stored up, only to be enjoyed for the twelve days of Christmas? In fact, it is the mice and rabbits who seem to have the most accurate stories of all. Of course the cats never forget a detail, therefore they deserve a great deal of credit as well. The dogs know the story, and tell it to their pups, but otherwise they don't talk about it much, they prefer to lay by the hearth and simply ponder the story quietly.
Oh I know, I know. People think it is the other way around, that dogs are boisterous and talkative, especially little dogs, that they would yap and yap about the story repeatedly throughout the Christmas season. They will argue that cats are more recollected and contemplative - but that theory doesn't hold up in this case. You see the cats acted in a most peculiar manner that first Christmas, and they are quite proud of it, since they feel their reputation for being ferocious and devious creatures had been redeemed that night. I will tell the cat's version of the story here.
How the cats took part in the birth of Jesus.
On that first Christmas eve, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of the holy Virgin Mary - and before anyone else knew about it, even the shepherds, the stray cats of Bethlehem gathered around the stable. They were hiding in the hay and behind the sleepy ox, one kitty slept on the back of donkey because it was warm, a couple of others cuddled up against St. Joseph who seemed to be asleep - although most mystics insist he was really in ecstasy.
The holy Virgin was kneeling upon a fleece laid over a bit of fresh straw, off in a pleasant corner of the stable, protected from view by the large sleeping ox and a low wall made of willow. The Blessed Virgin was in ecstasy as well, when suddenly a great light shone, and upon the fleece was a lovely newborn Infant, glistening as if bathed in star dust. No sooner had He appeared than the Blessed Mother swiftly wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in the manger nearby. As if from nowhere, the tiniest angels appeared, about the size of bees, encircling the newborn in the manger, while strains of heavenly music could be heard, along with the gentle singing of heavenly choirs.
Joseph awakened by the humming of the tiny angels, made his way very slowly into the enclosure, his head bowed, tears streaming down a face made radiant by the light emanating from the Holy Child and his Blessed Mother. He knelt next to his wife, adoring the Holy Infant. The ox noticed and rose partially, although just enough to kneel, facing the Holy Family. The donkey did likewise. The cats, naturally shy and accustomed to being shooed away, kept their distance until they noticed all the other little animals; mice, chipmunks, rabbits, gathering in awe at the foot of the manger, completely unconcerned about any sort of threat the cats posed.
Now, as you know, stray cats are always hungry and always looking for prey - which is why many people who dislike cats, tolerated them in the first place, since they kept their homes free of pests. Amazingly, albeit unnoticed by all, the cats simply watched all the critters assembling, it seemed to them it was a living banquet being laid out before their eyes. However, grandpa cat whispered that this was not the moment or place for feasting. He proceeded to explain to the other cats that they had all just witnessed a miracle:  Indeed, God Himself, our Creator, had come down that very night to live amongst men; first of all choosing to be with the animals, the least of the creatures of earth. Grandpa nodded to all the little animals who had assembled, particularly the mice, and reminded the other cats of the scriptures which referred to the Christ when it foretold, "In that day the kitty cat will lie down with the mouse." (Grandpa cat knew the scriptures because he sneaked into Temple every Sabbath. He quickly related how the Virgin would be found with Child, that her Child is the Redeemer and Saviour, who brings peace to all the world, renewing nature itself, and so on.)
With renewed confidence all the cats crept out of their hiding places, their attention rapt upon the Divine Child. The kitties were neither distracted by the mice and other animals, nor were they a bit perturbed when the shepherd's dogs arrived... the atmosphere being so permeated with peace and joy that silent night. A few of the older cats cuddled near the Madonna and the feet of St. Joseph to warm them. As it was a very cold night that first Christmas, Our Lady picked up a very fat mommy cat and another beautiful Siamese cat, placing them gently near the Child Jesus, to help warm Him and console Him by their purring.
The End

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A rare view...

Into Cathy of Alexandria's bathroom - decorated for Christmas.
Photo:  Scan of Cath's Christmas card... thanks for the card hon!

What I want for Christmas...

"O Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace!

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is discord, harmony.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sorrow, joy.

Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not

so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love;

for it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life."
-Prayer of St. Francis
Art:  Fresco - St. Francis at Greccio

British people are so eccentric...

I know!  Americans can be rather weird too.
That said, an Anglican priest in the UK is encouraging the poor to shop lift.  'So what' you say?  The poor  may get what they need/want by shoplifting, but they will still have to make restitution!  There's no getting around it - you have to make restitution for what you steal - so why bother?  Silly priest... who better to know about such things though, eh?  Oh I'm just kidding... or am I Fr. __?
"Poor people who are desperate for cash have been advised to go forth and shoplift from major stores - by an Anglican priest.   The Rev Tim Jones said in his Sunday sermon that stealing from successful shops was preferable to burglary, robbery or prostitution."   - Priest outrages police by telling congregation: 'My advice to poor is to shoplift'
Evidently Anglicans do not have to study moral theology before being ordained.  The bright side of this story is that if he was a fat Franciscan, he could maybe be the new Friar Tuck.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Nativity Backgrounds

I finished the panels last Friday - there are two sets to choose from - we'll see tomorrow how they fit and if they are suitable for framing by the stable windows. Visit Up Your Street to see the collection, here and here. (The photography is bad - flash back and all - but you get the idea.)
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Have you noticed Fr. Z is getting kind of "Poll-ish"?

I know!  Every other day it seems he has another poll at his blog.
Smart move however.  By encouraging as many readers as possible to participate in a poll - jamming, as it were - it seems to me any chance of accuracy is cancelled out.  As it stands, many popular media polls are imbalanced to begin with, subject to vague parameters, too many variables, etc..  Indeed, it is not unheard of for poll results to be weighted to account for the unresponsive stats.  Nevertheless, I suppose this type of Internet poll can be useful - but I tend to think they are about as accurate as the daily horoscope.
[I'm sure my margin of error on this is way off the charts.]

Christmas Carol...

Yeah - that's what they used to call this girl in the office I worked in... every Christmas she'd show up to the party wearing leopard... -  Oops!  That isn't meant for this blog.

All I was gonna say is that I have not listened to one Christmas carole yet this season.  Yayeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! 

"Q's Jook Joint" though.

Behave at your office parties this week!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kat went out this weekend.

She'll be back on Monday.

Christmas dinner guest(s).

Just a couple of more days and everyone will find out... Watch out Larry.

A comment not published.

On "charity has no strings"...
A friend sent me the following anecdote from the life of Dorothy Day:
"Tom Cornell tells the story of a donor coming into the Catholic Worker and giving Dorothy a diamond ring. Dorothy thanked her for it and put it in her pocket. Later a rather demented lady came in, one of the more irritating regulars at the house. Dorothy took the diamond ring out of her pocket and gave it to the woman.

Someone on the staff said to Dorothy, "Wouldn't it have been better if we took the ring to the diamond exchange, sold it, and paid that woman's rent for a year?"

Dorothy replied that the woman had her dignity and could do what she liked with the ring. She could sell it for rent money or take a trip to the Bahamas. Or she could enjoy wearing a diamond ring on her hand like the woman who gave it away. "Do you suppose," Dorothy asked, "that God created diamonds only for the rich?"" - What I Learned About Justice From Dorothy Day
Thanks DJ!