Thursday, August 15, 2013

Feasting on the Assumption

There are so many word plays I could make with this feast...but you probably already "assumed" that... Har har har...oh, how I hate puns!

As I've already mentioned, I have a mixed relationship with the Blessed Mother (see Sept 19, 2012...I would hyperlink the post, but I'm working on my iPad app today and I don't know how to do that...humph). But for some reason I was super pumped to celebrate today's feast. I even gave myself a reminder in my phone to go to the vigil last night 'cause I knew I was busy all day today (Last full day of nannying and seeing one of my favvvvv performing artists tonight!!). And I was really glad I went to the vigil because the readings were different than the Mass for today.

This morning's readings use the excerpt from Revelations depicting the woman "clothed in sun" which is a great image for this feast ( the Assumption is the day we honor Mary being taken body and soul into heaven. Why doesn't she just "die" like the rest of us, you ask? Her body housed the Son of God for one! It doesn't get to decompose. For two, she was conceived without Original Sin, and one of the effects of Original Sin is death. No Original Sin= No earthly death. Kinda makes sense, right?).

The first reading used for the Vigil Mass last night, however, was the account of David bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, making it the Holy City it is today. The Ark of the Covenant housed the most sacred thing for the Israelites at the time: The Ten Commandments (and some say a piece of Moses/Aaron's staff). David, flawed as he was, had a pure heart and wanted to honor God and make Jerusalem a sacred city. We call Mary the "Ark of the Covenant" because she housed the most sacred thing for us: our Lord. And both she and David carried their respective sacred items with great joy.

I love the story of David bringing the Ark into Jerusalem because of his unbridled, unabashed simple joy for God. I can relate more to David, I believe, than I can Mary because he was flawed and she was/is perfect. However, while I identify more with David, I aspire to be more like Mary in her simplicity and obedience.

Here's a pic of my man David leading the way for the Ark with great fanfare:

Anyways, so the readings last night made me even more stoked for this feast today. Oh, and the Gospel from last night? ONLY ONE VERSE. And it was a good one! Luke 11: 27-28 (ok, so *two* verses):

"While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to Him: 'Blessed the womb that carried you....' He replied, ' Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.'"

Jesus, once again- the great deflector- putting the attention on other people rather than on Himself. I wonder if there are even shorter Gospel verses or readings ever read at Mass. I'm sure an even bigger Theology/Liturgy nerd than myself can answer that :)

And because I'm such a 90s nerd in addition to theological nerdiness, I always use Lauryn Hill's "To Zion" when talking about this story of David in my Scripture class. I believe she captures the joy of David bringing the ark to Zion (a mount in Jerusalem)  as well as Mary's joy of caring God's Son. Lauryn Hill for the win (always). I mean...Sister Act 2:

Enjoy this feast!


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Vanity and Vulnerability

Summer is winding down and any time something comes to end we pause to reflect: "was it well done? did we make the most of our time? What did we even do, really?!"

Summer has definitely gone way too fast- possibly the most overused, understated phrase ever- but it's true! 2 more weeks of nannying and then I'm back at school for teacher meetings and training already. I definitely think it was a summer well spent, though. No one can say I wasted any time! I put many hours in, did a lot of stuff around DC, made trips to Ohio and Florida, and if my goal was not to sit on my couch all summer, well then, mission accomplished.

I also feel pretty good about my summer goal of maintaining somewhat of a prayer routine. I've continued to take time before going to "work" as a nanny, read the Scripture readings of the day, read a little bit from Pope Francis, and examine and reflect a little each day.

So you are probably saying, GOOD FOR YOU, JULIA. If you are one of my kinder friends, you mean that sincerely. If you are one of my more snarky friends, you mean that sarcastically (and I love you for it). And to each of you I say THANKS. I'm pretty proud of myself. But before we get into vanity, I want to address the latter subject of this post.

This past week I went to Florida and got to spend time with some of my besties. I was reflecting today that these people each love me and accept me for who I am, know me well, but still call me and challenge me to be even more vulnerable which is often difficult for me. In other words, these friendships don't stop at surface level. They easily could. We could just talk about what we have in common, gossip, or shop (almost all of my best friends do this last thing well ;), but we don't. We call each other out while still being loving. I have been blessed with many of these types of relationships throughout my life, with different people at different times, all calling me to something greater by simultaneously loving me but calling me outside of my comfort zone.

Today's first reading kind of addresses this need to go beyond the surface and artificial because it is all vanity:

" Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, [ the author of Ecclesiastes, often attributed to Solomon]
vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!

Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill,
and yet to another who has not labored over it,
he must leave property. 
This also is vanity and a great misfortune. 
For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart
with which he has labored under the sun? 
All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation;
even at night his mind is not at rest. 
This also is vanity. " - Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2: 21-23

Now as a writer, I hate the standard, contrived intro to an idea of: "vanity is defined as... blah, blah, blah." But as a writer, I also always want to know the origins of and research words! So for the purposes of this post:  Vanity can be defined as: "the excessive belief in one's own abilities or attractiveness to others." (Stephen LaMarche a la wikipedia...I never said my sources had to be legit for my posting purposes ;)

This definition kind of cuts me to the heart. This is something I think we all struggle with- pride/vanity defined as above. I know I can get really trapped in my own mind and selfish thoughts if not for the aforementioned friendships and, of course, faith. We can get caught up in our own abilities and become consumed by how attractive we appear, if not for our true friends and True God to rely on and love us no matter what.

I have mentioned several times on this blog the retreats that I have been a part of with the school, particularly the Kairos retreat which we've recently implemented. Tonight, the original leaders of our 1st Kairos are getting together and I'm excited to catch up with the kids. After hearing the readings at Mass this morning and thinking about this week and weekend's events, I was meditating on what makes the Kairos retreats so special. It has to do with the same I idea that I mentioned about my close friends- on Kairos, the kids make themselves vulnerable and truly open themselves up to God and each other in a way that they haven't prior. It gives them a chance to move past the vanity of the world and be vulnerable in a healthy way that allows them to grow personally and spiritually. I need to be constantly reminded of this healthy openness and vulnerability, so I'm grateful for the reminder today.

I'm just grateful for the friends, Mass readings, and prayer time that I've gotten to enjoy this summer. If it could stay summer for a few MORE weeks I'd be even more grateful, but as is also said later in the book of Ecclesiastes: "to every thing a season."

Enjoy the rest of your summer! And here are some Florida beach pics for you to enjoy:

 Palm trees just instantly give me peace!
Ah, the ocean waves!

God gave us a rainbow on the first day on the beach! Always a reminder of His Promise and love.