Advent/Christmas Catholic Gifts

I just wanted to share some Catholic gift ideas for either yourself, your family, friends or your Priest. I ship worldwide and offer free shipping over £100/$125. All available at www.diclara.co.uk

Happy buying!

Surviving Advent as a Sinner.

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Cute little baby Jesus, Christmas trees and family gatherings are all the kind of things that give us the warm fuzzies around Advent and Christmas.

The over sentimentality and uber perfectness of TV adverts, and watching your own beautiful children in the school nativity play is enough to make even the most hardened of us cower at the fearful power of purity and innocence.

It is this purity, innocence and stillness of the nativity that, as a sinner, I can find very difficult to deal with. I am aware of my own sin – all too well this year. I am aware of my human weaknesses and can only bury my head in my hands during prayer right now and beg for God’s mercy.

Who the heck can possibly be expected to celebrate the Incarnation when they are suffering from porn addiction, having an affair, a same sex relationship or recovering from an abortion? Well, I’ll tell you who – all of us. We are all sinners. We are all in desperate need of a saviour. And if you think for some reason you do not need to fall on your face at the foot of the manger and beg for mercy from that tiny baby boy, then you have a serious pride problem.

During Advent we are all called to pray and fast to prepare our hearts for the coming of our saviour. I would suggest giving up something like 1 cup of coffee or 1 cigarette per day. No more than that. Tiny steps. It is not about willpower and it is not about discipline – it is about love. Offer it with the entirety of your heart. Give it to Jesus out of pure love and gratitude for His love.

If you can give up one tiny thing per day, and give it with your whole heart, I guarantee this will be the most life transforming Advent you will ever have.

Prayer, tiny fasting, and of course confession. This is the way for a sinner not just to to survive Advent, but to emerge out the other side as a new creature in Christ.

Let’s do this together.

 

 

A Perfect Deplorable World.

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After Brexit, I was unfriended by many friends and family members. Some I still speak to, some I don’t. I was so unbelievably ecstatic after Brexit that I quite lost my normal composed, modest demure and instead decided to party-like-it’s-my-birthday for a week and become rather un-ladylike in my normally reserved and shy online conversations.

Ok, that is not exactly true. I’m a loudmouth at the best of times. I would describe myself as somewhat of an activist in this new socially conservative worldwide movement that we are now seeing sweep over Europe and America.

Brexit was a massive, peaceful and very British ‘up-yours’ to the Euro-Globalists that have sought to rule over our Sovereign nation for decades. It was a quiet and polite ‘sod off’ to the unwanted imposition of the State into ordinary people’s lives. And it was very much a ‘jolly good show’ for all those normal quiet people who have been forced to remain silent and maintain a stiff upper lip for years and years and years.

Along with Brexit we have seen Hungary and Poland elect socially conservative governments and the socially conservative parties all across Europe are growing in popularity every day.

The BBC would label these people ‘far-right racist bigots’ i’m sure, and by the BBC’s standards they probably are – but let’s not kid ourselves that the BBC are anything less that a far-left propaganda machine.

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Trumps election, I would argue, is even more important than Brexit because rather than just opt-out of something like the UK did, Trump has the power to actually do stuff. It will not really be down to him personally, he is not some sort of messiah, but what he is, is a gateway for change and reform. The people with the opportunity for power now will be those who are of the socially conservative mindset. Not racists, not bigots, just ordinary people who do not want ludicrous notions such as transgender bathrooms and open borders.

The entire socially conservative movement is all about the ordinary people taking back control of their lives, having the freedom to make their own decisions rather than the State enforcing rules upon them,  and not being forced to live under the dictatorship of ‘progression’.

So what’s not to love? The future looks bright right now.

The difficulty comes when friends and family cannot accept what is happening. I would argue that most of these people are living in a sort of brainwashed state right now. I know from my own experience that people are generally lazy in terms of gathering information and are generally happy to be spoon-fed information from one source (usually the TV) rather than actually start looking around at different sources from different political perspectives and then making a fully informed decision of important issues.

So it is very difficult to have any sort of discussion with these people when their one source of information is wrongly telling them that Brexit is the end of the world and Trump is the antichrist – of which they are perfectly happy to believe every word. And the popular pathetic journalistic style of hysterical hyper emotion and aggressive self pity only goes to make matters worse, because then your friends and family believe they are being personally attacked.

So now many of us, myself included, are once again having to trudge our way through the minefield of semi informed political opinion and media lies that our friends and relatives believe to be true. Christmas is going to be fun this year.

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Clark Griswold in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.

Many of us will be trying to keep it together this Christmas with the heroics of Clark Griswold. Some of us will deserve medals for not initiating WW3 at the dinner table. Others will find the best option is to sit in a nice quiet corner with a large bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Creme.

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To be honest, a large part of me just wants to say ‘Forget it! I’ve had enough!’ I’d rather just be among people who understand me. People who do not have in the back of their minds that they are “worried” about me because they think i’m some sort of Nazi for saying that we should have a much stricter immigration system – similar to that of Australia. Are the Australians all Nazi’s? Of course not.

But I find myself unable to walk away for the pure and simple reason that I might be the only person in these peoples lives who supports this socially conservative movement, and therefore the only person who is able to debunk the bigot Nazi stereotype that the media has had them believe that I am.

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How I long to climb back into the safety of the basket with all the other deplorables and revel in our new found glory. But that is beginning to sound like i’m creating my own little ‘safe-space’, and that must never happen. To recluse back into a perfect deplorable world is to allow the media full and unrestricted access to the minds of my loved ones, with absolutely no antidote to the BS.

So I will carry on seeing these people. I will hold my tongue most of the time like I have done for the last few decades while they have been in power. And every time they make an assumption or use a label like bigot or racist, then I will be there on the receiving end of their frustration, misunderstanding and prejudice until they realise that what they are saying is not true, or logical, or good.

 

 

Let Prayer be your Refuge this Christmas.

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For all you Americans… This is a Christmas pudding. We Brits like to pour brandy all over it and set it on fire when we bring it to the table. It’s awesome! (you wouldn’t understand 😉 )

Depending on your situation, Christmas can be completely overwhelming in different ways.

As a mother of 3 young kids it can get pretty hectic. In years passed I have literally been exhausted to the point of tears – which was a stupid position to let myself get into. It would take one wrong look from my husband and we would end up having a blazing row. I’ll never forget the time about 7 or 8 years ago he ended up calling me a b**ch at 11.30pm on Christmas Eve! I refused to open my presents for 3 DAYS!!! Lol! Thank God those days are over! We survived it, and came through, and the marriage carried on. Anyway it couldn’t have been that bad because I fell pregnant 4 weeks later with our 2nd!

Now we do less, have less, expect less, and Christmas tends to be a much happier time for everyone.

All I’m saying is that Christmas tends to amplify everything – including marriage issues. So just be aware of this and try to give each other a break. Don’t allow Satan to use this time to steal your joy, or use you to steal others joy.

Louis and Zelie Martin pray for us.

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This is a Yule Log. It is totally pagan but it has chocolate and cream so I allow it in our house!

And what about relatives? Find them difficult?! Yes. Everyone does. And the worst thing about it is that your job as a Christian is to try to share the Good news of our savior’s birth with a bunch of lousy atheists who insist on staying in your house, eating your food and telling your children that Christmas is all about the birth of Santa!

I guess the only thing I can say here is to pray to God for patience and charity! Remember that God made them, and wants them to come into a relationship with Him, and He may well be using you as the link to accomplish that. Try to understand that you have no idea what the Holy Spirit might doing within them right now, and that your prayers for them all this year will sure to be making a difference – you have been praying for them all year, right? Now is a good time to start 😉

But what if you don’t have a family? or you can’t be with your family? The other thing that people often find overwhelming at Christmas is loneliness.

Having never been alone at Christmas I can’t really comment on this other to say that I do know what it is to be in a room full of people, and be the loneliest person on the earth. Loneliness doesn’t just strike those who are physically alone. It can strike anyone at anytime of their lives, in any given situation.

What I used to detest here is when I used to pretend. On the outside everything was just fine and dandy, but on the inside I would be lost in the dark, drowning in a sea of lonliness. Those dark days are thankfully over, and it is only now when I look back that I see that that loneliness was from God. He was allowing me to enter deeply into the emptiness  of a society without Him, to see that what was being offered to me by the world would never, ever satisfy me. He was teaching me that I needed Him more than I needed air. Through the agony of my secret silent internal isolation He was preparing me for a relationship with Him.

That loneliness, that longing, was soon to start dissolving with that peace that only He can give. The peace of knowing where you belong, of being truly loved and valued. It is the same peace of a sleeping babe in the arms of its mother.

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This is a pantomime dame. It is the only time of year when parents pay to let their children be entertained by a old man in a dress pretending to be a woman (unless you subscribe to SKY TV and watch “I am Cait” – which I know none of you do of course. Apparently it’s hilarious (the pantomime I mean).

What ever you situation this year let prayer be your refuge. Allow God to use your situation to draw you deeper into relationship with Him. An hours meditation on Luke’s Gospel, 5 mins when you get the luxury of escaping the kids to go to the bathroom! Or just a simple glance up to God – a surge of your heart towards your infinitely powerful creator who comes to you today as a tiny helpless baby born to a teenage girl in a stable.

Mary has known chaos at Christmas entering Bethlehem on a flipping donkey for goodness sake!!! She has know longing and loneliness. She had a complicated marriage situation! Her husband was not the father of her Child. She had relatives some of whom no doubt did not understand her faith. But she also had Jesus.

As she held Him for the first time, as she look into the face of God, and kissed that little sweet face, everything else must have just melted away leaving her with the awe and wonder and glory of a newborn baby, and above all, Love.

I hope you have a wonderful, peaceful Christmas this year. Know that I will be remembering you all in my prayers – especially all you priests, giving everything and working so hard! Try not to get overwhelmed, and I look forward to hearing how Christ has made Himself known to you all this Christmas 2015. xx

The Jesse Tree – A family guide through the season of Advent.

My dear friend Lynne has just finished her new book. It looks amazing for those of us with young families. I ordered my copy today! You can order your copy HERE and please come and like the Jesse Tree FACEBOOK PAGE

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By Lynne Drozdik Wardach

When I undertook the task of compiling material for this book, in no way did I ever envision it as a finished product. As any young Catholic mother, I strove constantly to weave the threads of the faith into the fabric of our daily lives wherever I was able. With the shopping, and baking, and wrapping, and visiting and every other secular activity that seemed to occupy the minds of my little disciples at Christmas time, it occurred to me that the preparation for the season seemed the perfect time to do just that, but how?

I began my search and fell upon the concept of the Jesse Tree. This was quite a novel idea to me at the time and reading the Old Testament scripture stories was something my children enjoyed already. As the advent season approached that year, I made a small list of their favorite stories, pulled out my parents’ old Christmas tree and set it up in the family room. We began with the creation of the world that year and my two oldest made little earths from some modeling clay, just as God would have done when He sculpted our world. We spoke of how God must have felt that day as He did so. “Do you think He ever mushed the world back up into a ball like that and started over, like you just did?” “Don’t forget those polar ice caps! Where do polar bears live?” My son made all the planets and the stars too as he loved to look at them at night. So much to learn! We ran a loop of string through each one, and tagged it with the child’s name and the year it was made.

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“Don’t forget those polar ice caps!”

These precious creations are beloved still and grace our tree every year when these same little disciples, now adults themselves mind you, rush to the box to search for them. We talk now about those little lessons that went with each ornament, more deeply and practically now, of course. They remember all the little talking points I used when I was their primary teacher of life, illustrating God’s point for my little disciples. It was my goal at the time that they not forget any of them, so I wrote them all down at night after they went to sleep. This, dear parents…THIS is why I worked so hard compile it all and share this advent adventure with you.

At that time, my own mother looked me in the eye and tearfully and somewhat prophetically told me that THIS was the happiest time of my life. This was the busiest, craziest, messiest, most emotional time with five small children all clamoring for my attention, but it was wonderful! She was so very right. This activity was more to my family than just catechesis; it took those teaching points and attached precious memories that hopefully will live on in them when God entrusts them with their very own little disciples. Perhaps they will remember me too!

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Now, to speak practically, it took me over fifteen years to write the material in this book. You may notice that there are 40 lessons. We are a Byzantine rite Catholic family, so for us the pre-Christmas preparatory season begins on November 15. It is called Philipovka, or St. Philip’s fast, because it begins the day after the feast of St. Philip and lasts for 40 days until Christmas. We realize this is much more material than the average Christian family might use in their own home as they celebrate Advent, but bear in mind that you need not use it every day to be practical. Some families may choose to do the even days one year, and the odd days the next. Some may do one per week, skipping around the lessons as they like and do more over the next several years.

In my own family, we did this, and found that as the children grew, it became more practical to review the story and the lesson and then let them search for past ornaments, now keepsakes, that they had made to adorn the tree. It may also be the case that the tree itself may be difficult to display due to space and size. A friend of mine has solved this dilemma by copying and laminating the icon that accompanies each lesson, and crafting that into a flat ornament to tack to a wall in her kitchen, in the form of a tree. Each family will come to use this book as it suits them best.

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This book is intended to help each family develop a greater understanding of salvation history over the span of many years. The ways in which each family will use this material will also evolve over time and grow and change as the little disciples in the family grow and change. Use this in whatever way works best for you! I hope that it becomes a beloved tradition in your domestic church and that it brings your family as much joy as it has brought to mine.

God bless! Lynne x

Lynne Drozdik Wardach

Lynne Drozdik Wardach

The themes each day include reading the account from scripture as a family, a lesson for the children and making a Commemorative Ornament.
November 15    Introduction to the Jesse Tree
November 16    The Creation and Fall of the Angels
November 17    The Creation of the Earth
November 18    The Creation of Adam and Eve
November 19    The First Sin
November 20    Cain and Abel
November 21    Noah and the Great Flood
November 22    The Tower of Babel
November 23    Abraham
November 24    The Three Visitors
November 25    The Offering of Isaac
November 26    Jacob
November 27    Joseph
November 28    Moses
November 29    The Passover and Exodus
November 30    The Parting of the Red Sea
December 1    The Ten Commandments
December 2    Joshua and the Fall of Jericho
December 3    Gideon
December 4    Ruth
December 5    Samuel
December 6    David and Goliath
December 7    David the Shepherd
December 8    Elijah
December 9    Esther
December 10    Isaiah
December 11    Jeremiah
December 12    Micah
December 13    Habbakuk
December 14    Nehemiah
December 15    The Three Brave Youths
December 16    Daniel in the Lion’s Den
December 17    Jonah and the Whale
December 18    The Annunciation to Mary by the Archangel Gabriel
December 19    Elizabeth and Zaccharias
December 20    The Visitation
December 21    John the Baptist
December 22    Joseph
December 23    The Magi
December 24    Jesus:  The Birth of the Messiah
December 25    Christ is Born!

You can order your copy HERE and please come and like the Jesse Tree FACEBOOK PAGE

Our Lady’s Birthday and Christmas Cake.

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A beautiful friend, whom I love dearly, reminded me the other day that if I didn’t make my Christmas cake FROM SCRATCH at least 4 months in advance of the big day, then I might as well just stamp a big FAIL sign across my head as a wife and mother.

I’m only kidding! There is of course absolutely nothing wrong with buying your Christmas cake – which is exactly what I have done every year since I got married. But this year I have found myself rather more organised than I have ever been, and so decided to follow my friends advice and have a bash at making my own Christmas cake – from scratch!

Lets face it, it is MUCH more expensive to make your own cake, but I am promised wholeheartedly that there is no comparison to a shop bought one.

Today is 8th September: the day Catholics celebrate the Virgin Mary’s birthday. The readings at mass this morning were all about the birth of Christ. It got me thinking that today was the perfect day to begin soaking the dried fruit to make the Christmas cake. I hope I can remember to be this organised every year from now on. (Ha! I seriously doubt it!).

I am loosely following a recipe from The Pink Whisk but changed it a little to incorporate pretty much all the dried fruit in the entire world. In my cake there will be Sultanas, Currants, Raisins, Cranberries, Cherries, Dates, Figs, Prunes, Mixed peel, Apricots, juice and rind from an orange and lemon, Rum, Brandy and brown sugar. I also used Cinnamon, Allspice, Mixed Spice and ground Cloves.

Of course having failed weights and measures at school I was extremely grateful to have the help of my mathematical genius 9 year old who sorted out all the quantities for me 🙂

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All you do at this stage is to chop up all the fruit, mix it in with the liquid and stick it in a big airtight container until “stir up Sunday” (Christ the King) at the end of November. But you know what? It was great to start the new school term doing something really fun in preparation for Christmas – even if it is a long way off.

I think anticipation is a lost thrill in our modern world. People don’t have to wait for anything nowadays which is a shame really. Sometimes the anticipation can be as exciting as the main event itself, and certainly adds to the glory at the end of the waiting time. It also strikes me that waiting in anticipation creates the right mood for contemplating the feast of Christmas.

During any pregnancy there is the feeling of anticipation, but how much more was there for the birth of the Messiah?! The Jews had been anticipating His arrival for almost 2000 years! “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14

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Each night for a week we will stir the fruit to make sure it all gets a good soaking. Then we will stir it once a week until Stir up Sunday. By that time it will have soaked up enough Rum and Brandy to warrant living in it’s own drinks cabinet.

I love Christmas!

Father Dylan’s Sermons – The Epiphany

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By Father Dylan James.

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Today we recall the wise men, the “magi” who came from the East to worship the baby Jesus, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
I’d like to describe to you what most scholars considers to be the reason WHY they KNEW to come and do this. No-one else came, no other long list of foreign kings and dignitaries came. So why did THESE men come? The gospel text tells us that these men came because they saw the star (Mt 2:2). And yet, EVERYONE would have seen the star, but only these few knew what the star meant?
Why?
They knew because they had been attentive and listened to other things that the Lord had said. But what?

The two things we know about these men are that they were from “the east” (Mt 2:1) and that they are called “magi”, which doesn’t mean so much ‘magicians’ as ‘wise men’ of the religion of ‘the east’: magi of the pagan seer ‘Zoroaster’.
As we know, God had been preparing His Chosen people, the Jews, for His coming as the Messiah, for His birth.
But, God had also been preparing other people to come to recognise this Jewish Messiah, recognise Him because He was to be the saviour of ALL peoples. And, one of the ways He prepared others to recognise this Jewish Messiah as their Messiah too was in a prophecy made by the pagan seer Zoroaster. Zoroaster said, as we can read in their pagan texts:
“A VIRGIN will conceive and bear a son, and a STAR will appear blazing at midday to signalise the occurrence… When you behold the star follow it… Adore the mysterious child, offering him gifts with profound humility” (the magi Zoroaster).
And so, they saw the star, they brought gifts, and they did homage.

We can note this as an example of the Christian claim: there are elements of truth in other religions, but they are only verified as true in as much as they lead to the FULLNESS of truth, lead to Him who said He was truth itself: “I am the way, the truth, and the life”(Jn 14:6).

So, these wise men came. But they only were able to do what they did because they were attentive to what had been said. If they hadn’t been attentive then they would have been like everyone else and just seen a star without knowing what it meant.
We might make a comparison with the other small group that the gospels record as having come to do homage to the baby king of the Jews: the shepherds (Lk 2:15-16). They also had heard a message, from angels. They too listened and obeyed.

And let us note something else that both the wise men and the shepherds had in common: JOY at finding Jesus (Mt 2:10-11, c.f. Lk 2:20).

Let me close by applying this to ourselves.
We, too, have heard a message from God, handed down to us in the Scriptures.
We, too, can choose to either be too busy to pay attention (like those who saw the star but didn’t know what it meant),
Or, we can be attentive to the call of the Lord, come to Him, and find joy in worshipping Him.
He is the fullness of what we are yearning for. And we can find it, and find joy in it, if we are just attentive to what has been made known.
“Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’ ”(Mt 2:1-2).

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The romance of Christmas child vomit.

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There is something actually quite romantic about cleaning up toddler sick together at 11.30pm on Christmas evening. I actually had other ideas of what I would be doing with my husband at that time of night – but it seems that was not to be. Luckily God has granted that my cycle coincides with Christmas perfectly this year, and Christmas is of course 12 days long – so there’s always tonight 😉

Anyway… amidst the tsunami of child vomit and lack of sleep, I was reminded that this was not so far from the truth of what would have been happening on Jesus’s original, 1st or 2nd birthday. Mary, no doubt – like any other mother would have spent many a sleepless night dealing with the normal duties of motherhood: dirty nappies, vomit, teething, bumped heads, lost bedtime toys, you name it…

And by her side would have been Joseph. Amazing, kind Joseph who had committed his life to protect and care for a woman he knew he would never sleep with, and a child who was not biologically his. What kind of man is this?! What kind of love is this?! Joseph – my confirmation name, my son’s middle name. Joseph – always there, but always in the background. Obtaining such graces for our family. Solid, gentle, dependable, selfless Joseph.

So as my husband and I look up at each other over a mountain of wet wipes and antibacterial spray, we smile! Our baby is feeling much better now she has been sick, and really that’s all that matters. Despite the hellish, chronic fatigue ridden, unemployed, emotional roller-coaster of a year we have had, Christmas day has been wonderful. And I am here cleaning up sick with a man who could never love me more than he does right now 🙂

‘Why the Ox and the Ass?’ Fr. Dylan James’ Christmas Homily.

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By Father Dylan James.

For my Christmas homily this year I’d like to drawn your attention (c.f. Benedict XVI, The Infancy Narratives, p.69) to two of the figures in our nativity set, in the Christmas crib here. Because the statues in the traditional Christmas crib are not random, rather, they are full of great meaning –meaning that lets you and me see various things about what Christmas is all about.
The two statues I want to mention are probably the two figures you’d think, at first glance, are the least important. The ox and the ass, which for those of you who don’t know your farm animals, is basically a cow and a donkey.
These two figures are in every nativity set. But, let me note a curious detail: the Gospels them don’t mention them. The Gospel says that the baby Jesus was “laid in a manger” (Ml 2:7) because there was “no room in the inn” (Lk 2:7) and so He was born in a stable. But the Gospels don’t tell us which animals were in that stable. A manger would have been full of soft hay, for the animals to eat, and the Christian tradition has obviously imagined what sort of animals would have been there. And the choice of an ox and an ass is not random –it symbolises something.

On one level, the fact that ANY animals are pictured with the baby Jesus is deeply significant: it tells us what this child is all about. This child is the Lord God Almighty entering His creation. It is about the restoration and union of that damaged creation with its Creator. The baby Jesus started His human existence in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, but He existed before her, He existed before all His creation. Thus Scripture calls Him, the eternal Son, “the first-born of all creation”(Col 1:15).

We all experience the fact that we live in a broken and suffering world. Thus the importance of the promise of the Old Testament that a child would be born who would bring about the RESTORATION of His creation. The prophecy of Isaiah thus pictures a child leading harmony between the lion and the lamb, the wolf and the goat, with the child able to put His hand into the snake’s lair (Isa 11). Another prophecy pictures the Lord being recognised between two living creatures (Hab 3:2) while Isaiah himself refers to the “ox” and the “ass” knowing “it’s master’s crib”(Isa 1:3).
As Scripture says elsewhere, all creation is yearning for this revelation with groaning and “eager longing”(Rom 8:19). And so the statue of the ox and ass here in our crib set symbolise this.

But there is another symbolism too. A symbolism that relates to humanity. Because pious tradition has identified the ox and the ass as symbolising both the Jew and the Gentile coming to same one Lord God. It is not just one human race, or just one type of animal, that Jesus has been born for, but for ALL of us –for you and for me.

Let me offer one final piece of symbolism. St Augustine notes that the manger is what the ox and the ass EAT from, where they get their hay. The fact that the baby Jesus was laid in the manger is symbol of Him coming to be the new food, “the Bread of Life”(Jn 6:35) as He would later say of Himself.
He has come among us, He has been born as one of us, that He might feed us. All of humanity has a SPIRITUAL hunger, a longing for more than this world’s material order. Today many fill our stomachs with turkey, and our trees may have a multitude of worldly possessions under them as presents. But there is more to us that such things.

We are made for love. Made to love, and made to be loved. And to be loved in the most solid and dependable manner by the Creator God come among us. And He HAS come and been born and been laid in the manger.

What the ox and the ass in the manger set signify is the fulfilment of such a need. We long for the Creator to come and enter His creation, to teach us, to heal us, to feed us, to love us. The animals, the ox and ass, symbolises that all creation has come to recognise and be at peace with the Creator born as one of us. “Today a saviour has been born to us, Christ the Lord”(Lk 2:11).

Father Dylan’s Sermons – 4th Sunday of Advent, Year B

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Lk 1:26-28; 2 Sam 7:1-5,8-11,16
We’re now in the final few days before Christmas, and this Sunday’s readings are given to us by the Church to be our final preparation for Christmas. And, as every year, the Church aids our final focus by turning us towards Our Lady. The Blessed Virgin was the one who first welcomed the baby Jesus into her heart and into her womb, and if we turn to her she can help us do the same for us this Christmas.
There are a great many things we can learn by imitating Our Lady, a great many things we can gain by turning to her powerful and motherly intercession on our behalf. But this year let me point to just one, one thing that we too can do, can imitate, to prepare for Christmas. And that thing is believing what God has promised. Because He has promised a great many things, including things that hold for us especially at Christmas.

There are two obvious things we can see in today’s readings, two ways she trusted in God’s promises. The most obvious is the manner in which she responded to what the Archangel Gabriel asked of her. She said yes. She trusted that this highly unusual thing that the angel was saying would come true. She had just been told that she was to conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit. This had never happened before in human history, and never since. And yet, she trusted what God said through the angel.
And when she proceeded to go visit her cousin Elizabeth (which we didn’t hear read today), Elizabeth praised her for this very thing: for trusting what God had promised her, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord”(Lk 2:45). And we too need to trust what God has promised for us.

The second, less obvious, thing she trusted in was a promise of God from of OLD. The message from the Archangel Gabriel referred to a much older promise, a promise not made to Our Lady but to King David, a thousand years beforehand. We heard that promise re-read to us today as our first reading, in which God told King David that He would raise up a “House” for him(2 Sam 7:13), meaning that his descendants as a line of kings would continue, and that a great king would arise. Our Lady, as a faithful trusting Jew, trusted and hoped in this promise. She knew that the Scriptures showed countless occasions when the Lord kept His promises, and she expected Him to keep this one too. And so when the angel said that she was to have a child who would be this descendent of David, a new definitive king to fulfil the ancient promise that there would be a king, when she heard this promise to her personally it made sense to her in the light this ancient promise of old.

Where does this leave us, today? We too have promises that were made of old in the Scriptures.
We can choose to ignore those promises, maybe ignore them because they are old and to people in a far away land.
Or, we can choose to listen to those promises, just as Our Lady trusted in promises that were old and ancient and made a thousand years before her.

And what promises are those, for us, at Christmas?
Let me note just two:.
1) The promise that His “grace is sufficient for you”(2 Cor 12:9), as He was sufficient for St Paul in His trials, and His grace is sufficient even to sustain me amidst the busy hectic pace of Christmas.
2) The promise that He still comes to the lowly and humble of heart (c.f. Lk 2:50), as Our Lady joyfully proclaimed in her ‘Magnificat’. If I am lowly and humble, if I put other people before myself at Christmas, think of their needs and preferences before my own, then the Lord will come to me at Christmas.

So to sum up…
Our Lady trusted in God’s ancient promises in the Scripture, and so was ready to hear and trust the message from the angel, and her faith was rewarded by God coming to her.
If we trust in those many promises of old, if we are trust in His strength, if we are humble and lowly before others in their preferences, then He will reward and come to us this holy season too.

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