Sunday, December 23, 2012

Confident at Christmas

No, that subject heading is not meant to be an oxymoron or read sarcastically. Seriously. I am going to write about how we should feel confident at Christmas. I dare say no sane woman has ever attempted this before.

It seems contradictory to the stressors that we have placed on the season: buying the perfect gift, shedding the extra pounds put on by Christmas cookies, fearing what inappropriate thing grandma will say about us or our significant other (or lack there of...) this year.  We get STRESSED at the holidays. But we should feel confident at Christmas because the overall message(s) are of hope, peace, joy, and love.

It's the 4th Sunday of Advent. And this year, the 4th week of Advent really only lasts a day. We kind of get a free-bee on Christmas this year. A few less days of repenting? A few days closer to feasting and rejoicing? I'll take it. And the readings for today carry this theme of confidence that I am talking about:

Micah in the first reading is sure of the Savior. Of his origin, of His ability to save. There is no doubt in his voice: "He shall stand firm and shepherd His flock..." That's right. Our Savior isn't going anywhere. He is here to save. Heh.

The psalm response: "Lord MAKE US turn to you...and we shall be saved." We don't even have to turn our own heads to see Him! God will do it for us if we ask and let Him!

And I personally love the reading from Hebrews that discusses the Will. Because although, it sounds really nice that God could "make us turn our heads" there is also an element to that that sounds domineering and not so fun. The reality is, we have our WILL and it was given to us for a reason. And in a beautiful way, the author of Hebrews tells us, it was Christ's Will to die for us so that we don't have to make our own offerings anymore. It is an exchange of our wills now. And isn't that really what Love is? Follow this with me for a second.

This (along with this theme of confidence) is something that my spiritual director and I have been speaking about the past few times we've met, and then I also heard this in my Theology course this semester: Our Intellect + Our Will is what defines or makes up Love.

If you think about it, it is true. What we know about a person, makes us love them. And when we know them so well, we can even predict what they might do! And it is our choice, our will to love them. Marriage, in a sense, is two people willing themselves to each other. Of their own free will. In love.

In the Gospel for today, we see a confident Mary who goes to get confirmation about her cousin being with child. Elizabeth praises Mary's confidence in the Lord: "Blessed are you who believed that what the Lord has spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." - Luke 1: 45

A couple of months ago, we began the year of faith. And I told myself I was going to focus on the gift of the Sacraments as well as my relationship with Mary. This Gospel passage today really helps me connect to Mary. What am I currently believing that the Lord has spoken to me? What am I confidently sharing with others about Him as she did?

And in terms of the sacraments in this year of faith, my spiritual director gave me this beautiful exercise that the Holy Father has suggested to the faithful: make a pilgrimage to the place of your baptism.

Each Christmas, we go to the Church where I was baptized- my grandmother's Church. The same church my parents, my cousin were married in. Same church where we celebrated my grandfather's and uncle's funeral Masses.

I went yesterday and spent a little time in prayer. I walked in and took a seat by the baptismal font. Who knows if it's the same one I was baptized in, but it was kind of cool to think about. I walked passed the altar and saw that a monstrance was all in its place, all ready for adoration! I love when I wander into places not knowing about Adoration and then Jesus shows up. He's so good to me like that.

I got to go to confession, too, at this Church which was a great way to experience two of the sacraments that I can receive regularly- Eucharist and Reconciliation- while meditating on my baptism. I highly recommend and encourage you readers to have an opportunity to do the same!

Place where the magic happened:

Oh, and another reason I am feeling super confident this cousin and I went to my grandmother's to take part in a nearly century-old tradition: pierogi making. And we didn't screw it up! The matriarch of the family may have even COMPLEMENTED us on our work. This is HUGE, people:

 The master at work on the dough. Bowls are overrated.

 The pinching is seriously everything...

I didn't ruin Christmas! Yet!

Happy 4th Sunday of Advent aka the eve before Christmas eve this year! And Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Advent 2012!

Here we are- Advent! Some years it sneaks up on me, some years I can't wait for it to begin. But as God would have it, in the spirit of this pretty great year, it has been a good balance right now of challenge and peace. As it should be right? I think I keep proving to myself that by our 30s, we finally start to get things right ;)

I know it's week two...I couldn't find one with two candles lit and I'm not that tech-literate to create my own. Though I did find this fun generated image on the internetz:

I last blogged on the Feast of Christ the King. With that feast, which ends the liturgical year, began my prayers for a holy Advent. I wanted to enter into the season fully. I went to confession right away, made some resolutions (I am re-committing to daily Mass for one. This school year we switched to a five minute earlier start time for classes and somehow that through my whole morning off! Finally getting it back into gear this Advent!) and am trying to make my daily prayer time special and Advent-y.

I think around this time of year I find myself blogging about hope because it just fits in so easily with the season. No one gets sick of hope,though, right? My thoughts are naturally drawn to hope again this year and like I said, we can never have too much of it.

I love the readings from the prophets during Advent that speak of this hope that I can't get enough of:

"The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song...

Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God..."  Isaiah 35: 1-10

I think I have blogged before about the difference between "Christmas Joy" vs. "Easter Joy". "Easter Joy" comes from the fruit of our suffering having entered into the desert with Jesus during Lent. Advent is a penitential time, too, but one of more waiting and anticipation. And the Joy of Christmas is more a free gift (certainly, the salvation of the Resurrection is free gift! But in the Spirit of Lent, it is a joy we feel after weeks of sacrifice).

Let's put it this way: Easter is more like  an "ALLELUIA! OM THANK GOD EASTER IS HERE!" than "oh, HEY. Christmas is pretty sweet!" . Christmas joy comes out of these messages of hope from the prophets and it is unexpected and truly free.

And so on that note, I'm just feeling real positive this month, y'all! I have passed one test so far towards my Masters degree, I have one final this week which I am also feeling surprisingly confident about. 

My prof gave us about 13 options for possible exam questions last week. ( I made sure to tell him that 13 was a terrible number, but I'm guessing since he teaches the course which is actually numbered TRS 666, he isn't one for numerology or superstition. Priests are like that. )

At first I was overwhelmed about the research I might have to do to find all the answers to said questions,  but once I dove into my notes I realized a.) I had taken REALLY good notes (despite all the texting and tweeting I did through classs...sshhh! I become the WORST student after teaching all day!! and b.) the concepts wouldn't be as hard to remember as I first thought. Whew!

Today in one of my sophomore classes a student actually asked me (without her knowing it) one of the questions on the exam! We were talking about human suffering and Christ's own suffering and she asked: "Does God the Father suffer?" One of my exam questions was on the heresy of patripassianism and I FREAKED OUT. I was like "NO! I know this one! And the answer is NO!" 

I then attempted to explain to her "divine impassibility" the best I knew how. 

I then emailed my prof to tell him all of this and that I was going to nail Question #2 should he ask it on the exam.

He wrote back to tell me he LOL'd. 

This is my life. 

I'm such a nerd.

But Advent Hope! It's here! Christmas Joy! Let's get it! I'm all about it! 

It all reminds of THIS SONG that my roommate introduced me to (whom I'm soo thankful for, btw. Mainly because she watches tragic reality television with me. We gagged together when we watched Honey Boo Boo make "sketti" and also are obsessed with Tamar Braxton- "GET YOUR LIFE!")

Anyways, as the song says: Go get your blessing! It's your time!

(Mary Mary also have their own reality show, too, btw ;)

Peace, Love, Hope and JOY-