Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Some Final Advent Exhortations

I am greatly indebted to Mgr Charles Pope, for this article published on the 'Community in Mission' blog-site on 20 December. I find his posts extremely instructive, balanced, and truly edifying, and this post is no exception.

'As Advent approaches its end, the Office of Readings features some final admonitions for us from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. On the one hand they console; on the other hand they challenge us to remain firm.

Isaiah addressed a people in exile who still awaited the first coming of the Lord. These texts now speak to us in difficult days when, exiled from Heaven, we await the His great second coming.

Let’s look at these admonitions of the Lord’s (from Isaiah 46:1-13) that were addressed to three different groups in ancient Israel, three groups still present in our time: the faithful remnant, the foolish rebels, and the at-risk fainthearted.

To the faithful remnant 
Hear me, O house of Jacob, all who remain of the house of Israel, My burden since your birth, whom I have carried from your infancy. Even to your old age I am the same, even when your hair is gray I will bear you; It is I who have done this, I who will continue, and I who will carry you to safety.

          Yes, this is directed to the devoted, to the remnant, to those who remain after the cultural revolution, to those sometimes discouraged and sorrowed over the infidelity of loved ones and the world around them. To these, often the elderly among us who remember a more faithful even if imperfect time, to these the Lord first speaks.

          Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Who are the mournful? They are those who see the awful state of God’s people: not glorifying the Lord in their lives, not knowing why they were made, spending themselves on what neither matters nor satisfies. Yes, those who mourn shall be strengthened, and, as their sorrow has motivated them to pray and work for the kingdom, they shall be borne to safety.

          Such as these, the faithful remnant, should never forget that God has carried them from the beginning, even in the strength of their prime. And now, reduced by age, the Lord still carries them. He has never forgotten them and will carry them to safety; their faith in difficult times will be rewarded.

To The Foolish Rebels 
Remember this and bear it well in mind, you rebels; remember the former things, those long ago: I am God, there is no other; I am God, there is none like me. Whom would you compare me with, as an equal, or match me against, as though we were alike? There are those who pour out gold from a purse and weigh out silver on the scales; Then they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god before which they fall down in worship. They lift it to their shoulders to carry; when they set it in place again, it stays, and does not move from the spot. Although they cry out to it, it cannot answer; it delivers no one from distress.

          The word “rebel” is from the Latin re (again) + bellum (war). In this context it refers to those who are forever at war against God and His plan for their lives. They foolishly forget His saving deeds of the past. They imagine vain things: that there are other gods or entities that could save them. Even more foolishly, they craft other “gods” that they have to lift to their shoulders to carry.

          Many in our day act in the same way: always at war with God, His Church, and His plan. As G.K. Chesterton once noted, when people stop believing in God, it is not that they will believe in nothing but that they will believe in anything. Chesterton also wrote that when we reject God’s big laws, we get ten thousand little laws. We transfer our trust away from God to false, crafted gods like government, or science, or the market. We hope that they will carry us, but we end up carrying the weight of these gods on our shoulders. We carry this weight in the form of taxes, debt, and
anxiety about everything in our health or environment (demanded by the increasingly politicized scientific and medical communities).

          Science, the market, and government are not intrinsically evil, but they are not gods either and cannot deliver us from ourselves. Only God can do this. But to the many who rebelliously and foolishly persist with their “non-gods,” God says, “I am God; there is no other.”

To the Fainthearted at Risk

Listen to me, you fainthearted, you who seem far from the victory of justice: I am bringing on my justice, it is not far off, my salvation shall not tarry; I will put salvation within Zion, and give to Israel my glory. At the beginning I foretell the outcome; in advance, things not yet done. I say that my plan shall stand, I accomplish my every purpose. I call from the east a bird of prey, from a distant land, one to carry out my plan. Yes, I have spoken, I will accomplish it; I have planned it, and I will do it.

          Among the faithful there are some who are at risk, who are close to giving up. God encourages them, but also warns that His plan will stand whether or not they endure. Thus there is an implicit warning from Jesus here, and an explicit warning elsewhere, that we must persevere. Jesus says that because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved (Matt 24:12-13).

          St. Augustine also wrote, [God has] devised a plan, a great and wonderful plan … All this had therefore to be prophesied, foretold, and impressed on us as an event in the future, in order that we might wait for it in faith, and not find it as a sudden and dreadful reality (From a discourse on the psalms by Saint Augustine, bishop (In ps. 109, 1-3: CCL 40, 1601-1603)).

          God’s plan will stand whether or not we do. We must stand as well, even when we would faint or fall back. Our love must not grow cold nor our strength fail. God has triumphed and Satan has lost. We must choose with whom we will stand.

          The evidence of the present time does not seem to show this, but as Scripture reminds us,

          'therefore we do not lose heart … So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor 4:16-17)
         For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever (1 Jn 2:16-17) 

Here, then, are some final instructions from the Lord for us this Advent, instructions for us who wait for Him: be faithful; the plan will come to pass. Do not be a foolish rebel, nor one of the at-risk fainthearted. Rather, be part of the faithful remnant. For St. Paul says, Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved” (Romans 9:27).

The song performed in the clip below is entitled “Lord Help Me to Hold Out"    (highlight, then rt. click and open link)

       (Ack. Mgr Charles Pope,  'Community in Mission' blog-site.)

Monday, 7 December 2015

'A Christmas Candle' by Phyllis Taunton Wood

A CHRISTMAS CANDLE  by  Phyllis Taunton Wood

The lover of the world is born
Among the Sainfoin and the corn.
Dear Heart, forget your ancient pain                   
And make a home for him again.


Push in the stubborn door on rusty hinge,
And move the carpet with its ragged fringe;
Scour from the boards the long neglected grime
That all be sweet and clean for Christmas time.

Kindle upon the hearth a friendly blaze
To gladden every guest who hither strays.
Adorn the room with flowers you can bring;
Perhaps a Robin may alight and sing.

Comfort the tenant with your gentle cheer
Lest he despair to entertain you here.
At last, when Mary deems the room is fit,
Her darling baby may be born in it.

And rest within the room a happy space,
And welcome all his friends into the place;
For even a rude and uninvited guest
Is greeted lovingly at his behest.

The Ox and Ass, the Shepherd and the King,
Surround the cradle in a happy ring.
Last comer of the year, and first as well
Shall be the little lord Immanuel.

But You alone, O heavenly Housekeeper,
Could clear the lumber that was here.

 She did not long prepare
For Adam’s heir.

He found where beasts had fed
His little bed.

For so do men despise
The dim sunrise.

Doom of a subject race
He learned to face.

Caesar was master still
And had his will.

He made men’s bodies whole,
And won their soul.

But fear and sloth have part
In mortal heart.

A convict’s death his share,
But God dwells there.

That single-minded quest
Attained its rest.

And we at heart aspire
With like desire;

Though cherishing in shame
Another aim.

JESUS, we hope in you!
Redeem us too.

They kept a vigil for the early lambs,
Those nights of sudden cold,
Rough men that had a wisdom in their hands
To help the labouring ewe, and if they might,
Succour her black legged twins’ divided strength
With careful tending in the fold.

Absorbed in duty to the newly born,
Homage to sacred life,
The shepherds did not childishly complain
Of winter nights, and wind about their necks,
But old men watched the flame with patient eyes
While their sons dozed and stirred and slept again.

Then lightning tore the darkness, and a song
Lovely as light assailed
Their ears, and caught their spirits into joy:
And from the heart of light a trumpet voice
Cried of a Saviour born to set men free.
‘The Son of Man is bare of royal sign.
On straw he lies, with destiny divine.’

They might have hidden from the rose of fire
That crowned the zenith with a diadem,
And sworn such music inconceivable
Was out of all tradition, a wild dream;
But being prone to wonder they arose.
‘Let us now go’ they said, ‘to Bethlehem.’


Contending winds, hail from the bitter north
Buffet the early flowers that struggle forth.
O to reach down into sustaining earth,
The potent source of beauty ere its birth!

In this harsh season comes the Child again,
Unclothed, un-sheltered friend of pitiless men,
Whose flowering spirit dwells in fertile sod,
His root unshaken in the heart of God.


That time of fear,
The legions losing nerve,
Stung into quick reprisals for revolt,
While Zealots, blind with hate
And rancour, paid the unending price
To gain an earthly paradise.
Could mortals bloom for thee
In this sterility?

A soil rock-bound,
Fissured with earthquakes, bare
Of grass and gardens, and the green embrace
Of beech-woods and the yellow Iris, found
With Comfrey in a still, well watered place –
A pledge of bleak despair
Seemed then the human race;
Yet Jesus flowered to Thee,
White-petalled Cherry tree.

They cut it down:
But on our bitter stock
The gardener grafts that dazzling tree of might;
His seeds are left
In many a granite cleft,
And little buds of brown
Turn green, and stretch to long-stemmed cherry flowers.

Rise, Jesus, flower again
Among bewildered men!

Light holds empire
Upon the refluent tide of dark.
Though men’s confused desire
Delay the splendours of the dawn,
Yet can returning chaos drown
No kindled spark.
Fair Jesus, flower in me,
Immortal Cherry tree!


O little hands so soft and pitiful,
Too small to carry what you hold most dear,
No diffident or hopeless man need  fear
To take you, baby hands.

Large skilful hands inscribed with grip of tools
And wise in touch of throbbing flesh and wood,
A humble man will deem it very good
To clasp you, labouring hands.

O wounded hands, helpless & pierced & torn,
Strong hands that suffer more than need be borne.
O patient hands, nailed bleeding to a board –
Into thy hands, O Lord!

                      'A Christmas Candle' by Phyllis Taunton Wood.
                      Published by the Redlynch Press, London. W5.
(limited edition of 50)

Mrs Phyllis Taunton Wood, was a British poet and artist working in the mid 20th century. She was the wife of Sidney H. Wood, described as a leading English educator. Her first exhibition was in 1945 in Salisbury, when she exhibited oil paintings, w/colours, and wood engravings. Her poems in which she included her own hand-painted wood engravings, include 'Prayer of an Artist', 'Four Gates', 'Christmas Candle', 'Pilgrims Elixir', and 'Dark Valley'.

"God is surprisingly good and liberal towards a soul that heartily seeks Him.  Neither can past sins prove a hindrance to our becoming saints, if only we have the sincere desire to attain holiness."                                                                                        'Thoughts from St Alphonsus'

'Wishing you a blessed and happy Christmas and New Year.'