Saturday, December 31, 2011

Comfort and Joy on the Feast of Stephen

**post written the day after Christmas, Dec. 26, 2011**


What are the songs that the title(s) of this post are from? Go ahead, I'll wait...

I  just want to start this post by saying I DOMINATED at the Christmas carol portion of “Holiday Trivia” which I played with the Strukely side of the family last night. (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Good King Wenceslaus, ftw, btw!)

We are HUGE nerds, I know. We also thoroughly enjoy our annual Christmas carol sing a long which usually lasts for- no joke- 2 hours.

My aunts also have founded a new key- the Key of M. M stands for Manhattans. Our drink of choice. It could also stand for "Merry", because it makes our Christmas much more that...

So Merry Christmas, y’all! Yes, I know that Christmas Day has past, but the Christmas SEASON has just begun, folks! Rumor has it that the Pope doesn’t take his Christmas d├ęcor down until the Presentation of Our Lord- February 2nd! Take that, Martha Stewart!

My pre-Christmas/Christmas celebrations were very Merry, though, there is always some element of stress from somewhere.- some kind of drama that the devil loves to throw in just because there’s all this love and joy floating around.

I had to remind myself a couple times these last days that Jesus has conquered that whole mess. That’s why we are celebrating!

Some of the other things that have been giving me comfort: this new book that I received from my Secret Santa at work (which I had really wanted since I saw this clip of Fr. James Martin on the Colbert Report) “Between Heaven and Mirth”: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter are a the Heart of the Spiritual Life”.

I’m only a couple chapters in, but Father makes such good points about how we don’t focus enough on joy in the spiritual life. But it is really what connects us most to God. Suffering can bring us closer to him, since in those moments we open ourselves up to God many times, but if our faith life is just about suffering- it won’t last. We hold onto our faith because of the JOY we experience at certain points of our life. And Christmas is one of the feasts, I think, which we most receive and remember that joy.

Today is also the Feast of St. Stephen Martyr, so I read some of Acts where Stephen is mentioned. The apostles in Acts amaze me. They are SO full of the Holy Spirit! So fearless! They are being terribly persecuted- I mean, Stephen is stoned to death- and yet, they are at peace and perseverant.

Before the break, I was teaching my students about these very things- suffering and virtue. We do so focus on the suffering- myself included- when really should be focused on achieving the virtue it can produce. Reading the Acts of the Apostles today motivated me in this. There is no doubt (since they had just witnessed the Pentecost!) that they were on fire with the gifts of the spirit: Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Fortitude, Counsel, Piety, and Fear of the Lord. It is so evident in their preaching and actions.

We received these gifts at our Baptism and have them stirred up for us at Confirmation. I remind my students that we have these Gifts inside of us, we just need to use them! And JOY is one of the fruits of the Spirit- also given to us at Baptism.

2012 is fast becoming another year of the wedding for me. As we know, I already have quite a few weddings under my belt (and dresses in my closet). Weddings can and should bring much joy.  But for a single girl who has been on the non-stop train from Weddingville since 2003*, it can also bring a little suffering.  I am praying for an increase of the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit in a special way on this Feast of Stephen to carry me through whatever 2012 might bring!

 I’m holding onto Hope, people. Hope and Joy- a theological virtue and fruit of the Spirit- and what most unites us to Christ, especially at Christmas.

Each year, my previous roommates and I would come up with a "theme" for the new year. I haven't quite formulated it yet, but I think 2012's theme will have something to do with "Joy".**

I will leave you with another fun-filled moment from Christmas 2011 that I feel best reflects why I am the way I am.

In addition to Christmas trivia and Christmas carols, my family also got into a heated debate about mortal sin. Who does this? My family.

Luckily, I had 5 priests listed in my phone to settle the score. Who am I? Right. The religious girl who loves pop culture and karaoke. It was refreshing to remember where I get it from.

Merry Christmas!

* I intend to write a post in which I prove this claim...stay tuned!
** I also intend to write a post in which I document these themes and my proposed theme for 2012...I know you will look forward to that! Huzzah!

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