A Prayer for Christ-Centered Love

He was Obedient to them. . . .( Holy Hill Basilica) © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. EA photographer

He was Obedient to them. . . .( Holy Hill Basilica) © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013. EA photographer

As the season of Advent heralded the Birth of Christ, and Christmas joy leads to the anticipation of the coming of a New Year, I find myself counting my blessings. At this evening’s Holy Mass, celebrated on the Vigil of the Feast of the Holy Family, my prayer seemed a veritable grocery list of gratitude. I am grateful for the abundance of God’s grace – for my family, and for the multitude of blessings that God has bestowed upon each of us in His goodness. As I reflect upon each of these gifts, the common thread that unites them all is Christ’s Love: for His LOVE is truly all that fundamentally matters.

This morning my spiritual father phoned and read a prayer he had recently penned. His words touched me deeply, and thus, with his permission, I am sharing Father Cyril’s prayer:

Throughout the beautiful season of Advent,

I prayed for each and every one of you,

 

That the Newborn Christ might touch your heart,

and mind and soul,

with His tiny hands.

 

May the Newborn Christ touch your heart and mind and soul with His tiny Hands © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

May the Newborn Christ touch your heart and mind and soul with His tiny Hands © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

I prayed that He might open you to His own beauty and

That you might begin to realize

that He needs you in His Mystical Body.

 

I prayed that you might become more Christ-centered

and less self-centered.

Yes, this was my prayer for you-

That you might become Christ-centered, Love-centered.

 

Becoming Christ- centered, Love centered © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013

Becoming Christ- centered, Love centered © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013

It is truly a shame to find so many dedicated Christians, who have been chosen by His Love

And then make Christ wait to receive their love.

 

Yes, I prayed that during the New Year,

You would come to have a greater awareness

of His Love for you.

 

Love is the Essence © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013

Love is the Essence © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013

As you know, Love is the very essence

of our Religion and our Faith.

Amen.

Fr. Cyril Guise, OCD December 28, 2013

Perfect Christ-Centered Love © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

Perfect Christ-Centered Love © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

Fr. Cyril mentioned that the ideal icon depicting this image was that of the Christ Child contained within the Blessed Virgin, the Most Holy Theotokos. For no other individual so perfectly lived Christ-centered Love. Our Lady was aware of His Love for Her, and in turn became a living conduit of Christ’s Love for all humanity. Thus, we too are called to become similar icons – placing Christ and His Love at our very center and essence, and living that love accordingly.

Striving to welcome the tiny hands of the Newborn Christ Child within my heart, mind, and soul. Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas, Blessed Nativity, and Peaceful New Year,

Happy Feast of the Holy Family,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. JMJ

“Hail Full of Grace!” (Kεχαριτωμένη)

 

 

Hail Mary, Full of Grace! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

Hail Mary, Full of Grace! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is one of the most beautiful celebrations in the liturgical year. Today we commemorate the singular grace and privilege that God Himself bestowed upon Our Heavenly Mother: namely that she was conceived without the stain of Original Sin. Through this feast we are invited to thank God for the tremendous grace with which He has endowed Our Lady, and also to seek Her powerful maternal intercession for ourselves.

The privilege of being the Immaculate Conception is unique in Salvation History. Never before – nor ever again – has a mere creature been given so great a gift. Yet the gift is truly fitting when one contemplates the solitary role Our Lady was to occupy within God’s Divine Plan. The Blessed Mother was to provide a pure Tabernacle of human flesh within which Our Divine Savior was to rest and grow for nine months. In anticipation of Mary’s fiat, Our Lord prevented the disfigurement of Original Sin from ever touching her Immaculate Soul- His gift of grace to Our Lady who existed absolutely and totally replete with grace from the first moment of her being.

“Hail Full of Grace!” (Kεχαριτωμένη), © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

“Hail Full of Grace!” (Kεχαριτωμένη), © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

Indeed, the Angel Gabriel greets the Blessed Mother not with the words “Hail Mary,” but rather “Hail Full of Grace.” The Greek word, kechatitomene (Kεχαριτωμένη) is used exclusively to name the Blessed Mother, and it means full (overflowing) with grace. The connotation of this word is that Our Lady, was so brimming with the gift of God’s grace that there was not even an iota of room for anything opposed to that grace. My Koine Greek is pretty rusty, but what I remember is that kechatitomene is in the aorist tense – a past perfect tense denoting an action that was begun in the past, but continued into the present. Mary was conceived sinless, and that state continued into present.

The Lord Will Dawn on You in Radiant Beauty . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

The Lord Will Dawn on You in Radiant Beauty . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

When God uses a word in place of a person’s name or renames an individual, it bears deep significance as it reflects the very being and mission of the individual. Recall for example that: Abram (exalted father) was renamed Abraham (father of many nations), Jacob wrestled with an angel and was given the name Israel (contended with God), Simon the fisherman was renamed Peter- the Rock, and the Pharisee Saul was transformed into the Christian Paul. Thus, when the Angel of the Annunciation refers to the Blessed Mother, not by her given name of Mary, but rather as “kechatitomene,” it reflects the past of her sinless conception, the present of the moment of the Annunciation, and the future of her mission as the Immaculate Conception – a mission which continues to this very day.

The Lord has Chosen Her, His Loved on From the Beginning. . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

The Lord has Chosen Her, His Loved on From the Beginning. . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

In the United States of America, devotion to Our Lady under the title “Immaculate Conception” has early antecedents. For example, a feast of the Immaculate Conception was celebrated in all the Spanish colonies, and established as a Holy Day of Obligation by the First Provincial Council of Lima in 1552. Franciscan Missions to Our Lady under this privileged title include: Convento de Inmaculada Concepcion in St. Augustine, Florida (established in 1573), and La Purisima Conception Mission in New Mexico (1629) and La Purisima Concepcion in California (1787).

The Lord is with You! “Hail Full of Grace!”  © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

The Lord is with You! “Hail Full of Grace!” © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

The renowned Jesuit explorer, Pere Jacque Marquette explored the Mississippi River, and not only entrusted his perilous expedition to Blessed Virgin, but also renamed the Indian Village of Kaskasia “Immaculate Conception of Mary,” as well as renamed the Great River: “Conception River.” Fr. Marquette’s devotion to Our Lady under this title also included spreading a devotion to the Chaplet of Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, a chaplet he himself created in Her honor.

As early as May 17, 1846 Our Lady was proclaimed patroness of the entire country under this privileged title by the bishops if the United States at the Sixth Provincial Council of Baltimore. From early antiquity, a belief in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is evident through the writings of the early Church Fathers. Even before the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was officially promulgated by Pope Pius IX December 8, 1854, in his papal bull Ineffabilis Deus, this doctrine was widely espoused and celebrated, not only in Europe, but also in the United States. In 1884, the bishops of the United States united at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore to require that the feast be celebrated as a Holy Day of Obligation by all dioceses in the United States. This decision received the full approbation of Rome in 1885.

Mary Full of Grace, Intercede for Us!  © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

Mary Full of Grace, Intercede for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

We have a rich history of celebrating the immense privilege that God has bestowed upon Our Lady. Throughout the centuries She has shown Herself to be responsive to the supplications of Her beloved children, especially when they invoke Her under this title. As our nation faces unprecedented threats to Religious Liberty, let us unite on this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception to thank God for the graces He has bestowed upon Mary, and to invoke Her Intercession for ourselves and nation.

Blessed Feast Day!

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. JMJ

See the Lord Coming from Afar; His Splendor fills the Earth: the First Week of Advent

"Let us casts off the darkness and put on the armor of light." © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

“Let us casts off the darkness and put on the armor of light.” © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

“It is now the hour for you to wake from sleep, for our salvation is closer than when we first accepted the faith. The night is far spent; the day draws near. Let us cast off deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light (Romans 13: 11b-).”

Blessed Advent! With the Vespers last night and Holy Mass this morning, those of us in the Roman Rite and the West marked with beginning of the Season of Advent: those four special weeks of prayer, penance, pondering and purification in preparation for the Birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Today, I was fortunate to attend Holy Mass celebrated at Holy Hill by a spiritual father and friend, Fr. Cyril Guise, OCD. The central theme of Father’s homily was the Pilgrimage of Advent. I was so touched by his wisdom that I requested permission to share a bit of it here.

Father began with: “Today we embark upon a pilgrimage more difficult than a pilgrimage to Lourdes or any other location. It is the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and it must take place within each one of us if we are to realize the joy of Christmas.”

"Today we embark upon a pilgrimage. . . a Journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem." © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

“Today we embark upon a pilgrimage. . . a Journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.” © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

This message is so simple, yet absolutely essential to the meaning of Advent and Christmas. Advent is a journey – we are traveling from where we are to where we long to be. There are a myriad of hazards on the way – bright lights, distractions, and social and family obligations – all mingle and compete for the limited hours of a few short weeks which comprise this sacred season. While the festivities and joy of this season are indeed a blessing and can facilitate kinship with others, they can also detract from our primary task, which is to prepare for the coming of the Lord.

We are called to prepare our hearts to receive the real Divine Infant. © SalveMaterDei.com, -2013.

We are called to prepare our hearts to receive the real Divine Infant. © SalveMaterDei.com, -2013.

Fr. Cyril reminded us that while the embellishments of Christmas are indeed lovely and can stir within us sentiments of devotion, they are impermanent. The crèche of wood and straw and the babe of plastic, plaster of Paris, wood or even marble is a mere image, and as such is transient and fleeting. We are called to find the real Jesus, to prepare our souls and find Him waiting deep within our own hearts.

Having begun to delve into Pope Francis’ new Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (available as a pdf download from the Vatican website at: http://www.vatican.va/phome_en.htm), today’s homily resonated deeply with the theme of joy presented in the initial pages of the Holy Father’s document. Paragraph 5 begins with, “The Gospel, radiant with the joy of Christ’s Cross, constantly invites us to rejoice (Evangelli Gaudium, 2013)”, and continues with a multiplicity of scriptural citations demonstrating the call to joy.

We are indeed called to joy. However, like small children we are often more intrigued by the brightly colored wrapping than the gift itself. As such, we tend to be willing to trade true and lasting joy for the ephemeral baubles and trinkets offered along the way. True joy is of the heart and is demanding; it requires perseverance but is well worth the effort. In contrast transitory pleasure is by definition incapable of perseverance; it is sought after, consumed and just as quickly gone and forgotten. Through Advent we are called to open our hearts to authentic joy and journey toward receiving it. Yet, as Fr. Cyril counseled, receiving such a gift requires anticipation and readiness. Like the Blessed Mother, we have the opportunity to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem in our hearts, and prepare a place for He Who Is the ultimate source of joy to dwell forever.

"May the God of Peace Make You Perfect in Holiness." © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

“May the God of Peace Make You Perfect in Holiness.” © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

Fr. Cyril mentioned that when we are expecting a guest to enter our home, we prepare; we clean the house, dust, vacuum, wash the windows, etc. In just the same way we are called during Advent to prepare the dwelling place of our hearts for the Divine Guest. It’s time to sweep out the cob-webs, shine a light into the darkest recesses and make ready for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Thus, these weeks of prayer, penance, pondering, and purification cleanse our hearts and ready an appropriate crèche for He Who Is Not Made by Human Hands.

Yes, the expedition from Nazareth to Bethlehem is arduous and requires our vigilance and consent. Perhaps the best way to initiate this journey is, like Our Lady, to offer Our Lord our own fiat, our unreserved “YES”, each and every morning. In so doing, we allow Our Lord to lead us toward the joy He has prepared for each and every one of us.

Blessed First Week of Advent,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. JMJ