Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Great Vigil of Easter


Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
This sermon was written by St. John Chrysostom, the Patriarch or Arch-bishop of Constantinople in the fifth century. He gave this sermon at Hagia Sophia, the great cathedral of Constantinople at the Easter Vigil in the year 400. This is the sermon I gave tonight (in español) at the Great Vigil of Easter

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Is there anyone who is a grateful servant?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever.
Amen!

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Holy Saturday


O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Matthew 27:57-66
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, "Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, "After three days I will rise again.'
Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, "He has been raised from the dead,' and the last deception would be worse than the first."
Pilate said to them, "You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can." So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday Viernes Santo


FIRST STATION
Jesus is condemned to death


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests, with the elders and scribes, and the whole council, held a consultation; and they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him to Pilate. And they all condemned him and said, "He deserves to die." When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. Then he handed Jesus over to them to be crucified.

V. God did not spare his own Son:
R. But delivered him up for us all.

Let us pray:

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



SEGUNDA ESTACIÓN
Jesús toma su cruz


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

Jesús salió, cargando su cruz, al lugar llamado de la Calavera, y en hebreo, Gólgota. Y aunque era Hijo, por lo que padeció aprendió obediencia. Como cordero fue llevado al matadero; y como oveja delante de sus trasquiladores, enmudeció, y no abrió su boca. El Cordero que fue inmolado es digno de tomar el poder, las riquezas, la sabiduría, la fortaleza, la honra, la gloria, la alabanza.

V. El Señor cargó en él el pecado de todos:
R. Por las transgresiones de mi pueblo fue muerto.

Oremos:

Dios todopoderoso, cuyo amado Hijo sufrió voluntariamente la agonía y el oprobio de la cruz por nuestra redención: Danos valor para tomar nuestra cruz y seguirle; quien vive y reina por los siglos de los siglos. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.



THIRD STATION
Jesus falls the first time


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped; but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and was born in human likeness. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name which is above every name. Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, and kneel before the Lord our Maker, for he is the Lord our God.

V. Surely he has borne our griefs:
R. And carried our sorrows.

Let us pray:

O God, you know us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: Grant us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



CUARTA ESTACIÓN
Jesús encuentra a su afligida madre


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

¿A quién te haré semejante, hija de Jerusalén? ¿A quién te compararé para consolarte, oh virgen hija de Sión? Porque grande como el mar es tu quebrantamiento. Bienaventurados los que lloran, porque ellos recibirán consolación. El Señor será tu luz eterna, y tus días de duelo terminarán.

V. Una espada traspasará tu misma alma:
R. Y llenará tu corazón de amargo dolor.

Oremos:

Oh Dios, que quisiste que en la pasión de tu Hijo una espada de aflicción traspasara el alma de la bendita Virgen María, su madre: Concede misericordiosamente que tu Iglesia, habiendo participado con ella en su pasión, sea hecha digna de participar en el gozo de su resurrección; quien vive y reina por los siglos de los siglos. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.



FIFTH STATION
The Cross is laid on Simon of Cyrene


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

As they led Jesus away, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross to carry it behind Jesus. "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

V. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me:
R. Cannot be my disciple.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son came not to be served but to serve: Bless all who, following in his steps, give themselves to the service of others; that with wisdom, patience, and courage, they may minister in his Name to the suffering, the friendless, and the needy; for the love of him who laid down his life for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



SEXTA ESTACIÓN
Una mujer enjuga el rostro de Jesús


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

Lo hemos visto sin belleza ni esplendor, su aspecto no era nada atrayente; fue despreciado y rebajado. Era un hombre lleno de dolor, acostumbrado al sufrimiento. Lo despreciamos como a alguien que no merece ser visto, no lo tuvimos en cuenta y sin embargo él estaba cansado con nuestros sufrimientos, estaba soportando nuestros propios dolores. Mas él fue herido por nuestras rebeliones, molido por nuestros pecados; el castigo de nuestra paz cayó sobre él, y por su llaga hemos sido sanados.

V. Restáuranos, oh Señor Dios de los ejércitos:
R. Muestra la luz de tu rostro, y seremos salvos.

Oremos:

Oh Dios, que antes de la pasión de tu unigénito Hijo, revelaste su gloria en el monte santo: Concede que, al contemplar por fe la luz de su rostro, seamos fortalecidos para llevar nuestra cruz y ser transformados a su imagen de gloria en gloria; por Jesucristo nuestro Señor. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.



SEVENTH STATION
Jesus falls a second time


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth. For the transgression of my people was he stricken.

V. But as for me, I am a worm and no man:
R. Scorned by all and despised by the people.

Let us pray:

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



OCTAVA ESTACIÓN
Jesús encuentra a las mujeres de Jerusalén


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

Y seguía a Jesús gran multitud del pueblo, entre ellos mujeres que lloraban y se lamentaban por él. Pero Jesús, vuelto hacia ellas, les dijo: "Hijas de Jerusalén, no lloren por mí, sino lloren por ustedes mismas y por sus hijos".

V. Los que sembraron con lágrimas:
R. Con regocijo segarán.

Oremos:

Enseña a tu Iglesia, oh Señor, a llorar por los pecados de que es culpable, y a arrepentirse y olvidarlos; para que, por medio de tu gracia indulgente, el resultado de nuestras iniquidades no recaiga sobre nuestros hijos ni los hijos de nuestros hijos; por Jesucristo nuestro Señor. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.



NINTH STATION
Jesus falls a third time


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light. He has besieged me and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago. Though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes. "Remember, O Lord, my affliction and bitterness, the wormwood and the gall!"

V. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter:
R. And like a sheep that before its shearers is mute, so he opened not his mouth.

Let us pray:

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



DÉCIMA ESTACIÓN
Jesús es despojado de sus vestiduras


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

Cuando llegaron a un lugar llamado Gólgota, que significa de la Calavera, le dieron a beber vinagre mezclado con hiel; pero después de haberlo probado, no quiso beberlo. Y repartieron entre sí sus vestiduras, echando suertes. Esto fue para que se cumpliese la Escritura, que dice: "Repartieron entre sí mis vestiduras, y sobre mi ropa echaron suertes".

V. Hiel me dieron a comer:
V. Y cuando tuve sed me dieron a beber vinagre.

Oremos:

Señor Dios, cuyo bendito Hijo nuestro Salvador entregó su cuerpo a los azotes y su rostro al esputo: Otórganos tu gracia para soportar gozosamente los sufrimientos de esta vida temporal, confiados en la gloria que ha de ser revelada; por Jesucristo nuestro Señor. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.



ELEVENTH STATION
Jesus is nailed to the Cross


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

When they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him; and with him they crucified two criminals, one on the right, the other on the left, and Jesus between them. And the scripture was fulfilled which says, "He was numbered with the transgressors."

V. They pierce my hands and my feet:
R. They stare and gloat over me.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



DUODÉCIMA ESTACIÓN
Jesús muere en la cruz


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

Cuando vio Jesús a su madre, y al discípulo a quien él amaba, que estaba presente, dijo a su madre: "Mujer, he ahí tu hijo". Después dijo al discípulo: "He ahí tu madre". Cuando Jesús hubo tomado el vinagre, dijo: "Consumado es". Y entonces clamando a gran voz dijo: "Padre, en tus manos encomiendo mi espíritu". Y habiendo inclinado la cabeza, entregó el espíritu.

V. Por nosotros Cristo se hizo obediente hasta la muerte:
R. Y muerte de cruz.

Oremos:

Oh Dios, que por nuestra redención entregaste a tu unigénito Hijo a muerte de cruz, y por su resurrección gloriosa nos libraste del poder de nuestro enemigo: Concédenos morir diariamente al pecado, de tal manera que vivamos siempre con él, en el gozo de su resurrección; quien vive y reina ahora y por siempre. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.



THIRTEENTH STATION
The body of Jesus is placed in the arms of his mother


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

All you who pass by, behold and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow. My eyes are spent with weeping; my soul is in tumult; my heart is poured out in grief because of the downfall of my people. "Do not call me Naomi (which means Pleasant), call me Mara (which means Bitter); for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me."

V. Her tears run down her cheeks:
R. And she has none to comfort her.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death: Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way, that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness; for your tender mercies' sake. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



DÉCIMACUARTA ESTACIÓN
Jesús es puesto en la tumba


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

Cuando llegó la noche, vino un hombre rico de Arimatea, llamado José, quien también era un discípulo de Jesús. Este fue a Pilato y pidió el cuerpo de Jesús. Entonces Pilato mandó que se le diese. Y tomando José el cuerpo, lo envolvió en una sábana limpia, y lo puso en su sepulcro nuevo, que había labrado en la peña; y rodó una gran piedra a la entrada del sepulcro.

V. No me abandonarás en el sepulcro:
R. Ni permitirás que tu Santo vea corrupción.

Oremos:

Oh Dios, tu bendito Hijo fue puesto en la tumba en un huerto, y descansó en el día del sábado: Concede que nosotros, los que hemos sido sepultados con él en las aguas del bautismo, encontremos nuestro perfecto descanso en su eterno y glorioso reino; donde él vive y reina por los siglos de los siglos. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.


Oh Salvador del mundo, que por tu cruz y preciosa sangre nos has redimido:
Sálvanos y ayúdanos, humildemente te suplicamos, oh Señor.

Oremos:

Te damos gracias, Padre celestial, porque nos has librado del dominio del pecado y de la muerte y nos has traído al reino de tu Hijo; y te rogamos que, así como por su muerte nos ha hecho volver a la vida, por su amor nos exalte a los gozos eternos; quien vive y reina contigo, en la unidad del Espíritu Santo, un solo Dios, ahora y por siempre. Amén.

To Christ our Lord who loves us, and washed us in his own blood, and made us a kingdom of priests to serve his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


John 13:1-5
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you." For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean."

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday at the Episcopal Churches of All Saints' and Cristo Rey in Watsonville, California.

Our Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves visited us for Palm Sunday. We had a bilingual service, ¡and the Passion was bilingual, también! AND, as usual, we had an incredible lunch afterwards. A great time was had by all.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Feast of the Annunciation of our Lord


Today is the Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord, the commemoration of the visit of the Archangel Gabriel to a young Jewish girl in Palestine some two thousand years ago. This feast has been celebrated since the fifth century, and it is one of the few feasts which are important enough that the fast of Lent is actually suspended for the day. Some see this feast as Mariological, that is, that it has to do primarily with the Blessed Virgin, but I see it as Christological, I believe that it has more to do with the Christ, the Incarnation.

The reading we heard this morning from the Hebrew scriptures is a very interesting reading, as it can be understood on two levels, and both have to do with prophecy. We can read the meaning of this text in its original historical situation which is described in the second Book of Kings. The nation of Syria had entered into an alliance with the northern kingdom of Israel against the southern kingdom of Judah, of which Ahaz was king. Both Syria and Israel had laid siege to the city of Jerusalem. The prophet Isaiah offered Ahaz a sign that everything would eventually work out and be successful, but Ahaz refused the sign, probably because he didn't want Isaiah's advice. Isaiah was a prophet who always spoke the word given to him by God' he didn't care whether Ahaz wanted to hear it or not. The sign Isaiah gave Ahaz was: A young woman will conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel. In this context, it is probable that the young woman was the wife of Ahaz, and the son to be born is Hezekiah, the future king of Judah. The sign, then, concerned the continuation of the dynasty of David, a sign that God was still with God's people.

The second meaning is that of Matthew and is the meaning which we, as Christians, recognize. We read this as a prophecy of the coming of the Messiah, and we see the young woman as Mary, and the son as Jesus. When the author of Matthew's gospel quoted Isaiah's prophecy, he was not using the actual Hebrew text but using a translation we call the Septuagint which is a translation from the original Hebrew into Greek, which is the language of the Christian scriptures or New Testament. In the Septuagint the word for young woman was translated as παρθενους, which means "virgin." Now, it's quite probable that Isaiah was only thinking of the immediate future when he made his prediction to Ahaz, but since he as a prophet, and the Spirit of God was upon him, the Holy Spirit was speaking through him and this prophecy did have to do with the birth of Hezekiah but also had to do with the birth of the Incarnation. The genealogies of both Matthew and Luke serve to tell us that the birth of Jesus was also a continuation of the Davidic dynasty, and Jesus truly was Emmanuel, "God with us." The Holy Spirit, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, was giving hope to Ahaz and hope to the entire world.

The reading from the Gospel of Luke is the story of the Annunciation, and it is a story that we usually only hear during Advent, and people outside of the Liturgical tradition only think of this story during Christmas. The Bible contains several annunciation stories: there are annunciation stories about the birth of Isaac, about the birth of Samson, the birth of Samuel, and, of course, the birth of John the Baptizer. The purpose of an annunciation story is to acquaint the reader or those listening to the story with the role that the person about to be born will play in salvation history. The purpose is to give us a foreshadowing, in a way, of what will happen, of how important this person's life will be; it is not to serve as an accurate historical narrative. In the other annunciation stories I mentioned, the situation was that a child was to be born to a couple who were either barren and unable to have children, or, in the case of Abram and Sara, a couple who were well past child-bearing age, so the angel was announcing a miraculous birth. But the situation in today's story is quite different: this annunciation is to a young woman of child-bearing age, but she is a woman without a husband, which, as we all know, does not prevent one from having a child. The emphasis in this story is not on a miraculous birth, but on the creative act of the Holy Spirit in bringing about the conception in the womb of this young girl so that the Incarnation, God in Flesh, could come and live among us, so that Emmanuel, God-with-us, could be born in a simple stable with beasts of burden. The Archangel Gabriel came to this young, frightened girl, and informed her that she had been chosen above all others to be the Θεοτοκυς, the God-bearer. Gabriel told her that she would become pregnant, that she would have a son, that his name would be Jesus, and that he would be called Holy and the Son of God. When Mary asked how this could be since she did not have a husband, Gabriel explained the process to her, and also told her that although this may sound strange, her cousin Elizabeth was with child because with God nothing is impossible. And Mary, the one we call Blessed above all women, said, "You see before you the Lord's servant; let it happen to me as you have said." And with her agreement, and with her obedience to God's will, the salvation of the world was able to take place. It is said that "God made us without us, God redeemed us without us, but God cannot save us without us." Mary represented all of humanity when she said "yes" to God's plan, and we have been saved because a human being allowed God to dwell in her womb for nine months.

Mary answered "yes" to God's call, just as Abraham had answered "yes" to God's call. When Abraham answered God's call, he became the father of a mighty nation, the nation of Israel. When Mary answered God's call, she became the mother of the faithful, of God's people, the Λαος, the People of God' she became the mother of the New Israel. Her response to Gabriel, "You see before you the Lord's servant; let it happen to me as you have said," expresses the same faith as that expressed in the prayer her son, Jesus, taught us to say: Your will be done on earth as in heaven. The Annunciation is an event outside of history, because it is the direct intervention of God in human affairs, it is the actual insertion of God into human affairs, because God took on a human body and lived and laughed and ate and drank and slept and woke and experienced all the joys and trials which make up this life, this human existence.

The Feast of the Annunciation takes place on March 25th because it is supposed to be exactly nine months before the birth of Jesus. You mothers know that it is actually quite rare that someone is born exactly nine months after conception; some babies are early and some are late, and it is quite probable that Jesus was not born on December 25. St. Clement of Alexandria was sure that Jesus was born on May 20. But I think that it is appropriate that the Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated during Lent, because the Lenten season points towards the purpose of the Incarnation: to live as one of us, to be arrested and executed, to be buried and then on the third day be resurrected so that death would be conquered, that humanity would be redeemed and given the gift of eternal life. Lent points us towards the arrest, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and the Annunciation points us towards the birth by which the Incarnation came to live among us.

Today we celebrate the Archangel's message to a young girl. Today we celebrate the young girl's obedience to God's will. Today we celebrate the life which told us of the Good News of forgiveness of sins and the coming of God's Reign.

Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever Amen.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Feast of St. Joseph


As is usually the situation with the members of Jesus' family, we know very little about Joseph. The gospel texts tell us that he was a carpenter, that he was a descendant of David the king, and we know that he had to go to Bethlehem for the census. We know that he was betrothed to Mary and wasn't too sure about things when he learned that she was with child, and we also know that he was still around when Jesus was twelve years old. Everything else is a guess and is usually something someone made up for a theological or dogmatic reason.

One thing we know about Joseph is that he was obedient; even when he had his doubts about the marriage and his young bride, when angels would appear to him in his dreams and give him instructions, he would follow them. He married Mary even though she was pregnant, and he took his young wife and baby son to Egypt when instructed by an angel in order to save them from the wrath of Herod. We know that Joseph was a devout Jew and that he brought his family to Jerusalem to sacrifice at the Temple. These are the only stories we have from the Bible. But many traditions sprang up involving Joseph over the centuries. There is a tradition that Joseph was an elderly man when he wed Mary. This tradition was probably invented as a means of preventing some from thinking that Joseph was the biological father of Jesus. If Joseph was an elderly man then he probably had lost all interest in sex by the time he and Mary were wed, so he couldn't possibly be Jesus' biological father; plus Mary could remain ever-virgin! There is another tradition that Joseph was a widower and that his marriage to the Blessed Virgin Mary was his second marriage. This idea may have been developed as a means of explaining all those brothers and sisters of Jesus; if Mary was ever-virgin, those other kids must be step-children. Personally, I don't accept those stories; I thin that Joseph was probably in his twenties when he married Mary, and I think that they had at least four sons together and several daughters, too. He isn't mentioned in the texts after the visit of Jesus to his home town because he was no longer important to the story. The Gospels are not histories in the same sense as a book about the building of the Canal is a history; the purpose of the Gospels is to tell the Good News and they are theological documents serving a theological purpose, not an accurate history as we modern people expect in a historic document.

Today's Gospel reading gives us the only story from a canonical source on the childhood of Jesus. There are several non-canonical sources on his childhood and we call them infancy gospels. This story from Luke's gospel is the only story as such in the Bible. In this story Jesus is very precocious, telling his family that he must be about his Father's business. When I head this story as a child, I always liked it because the child Jesus showed-up all the adults, but as a father I have a lot of sympathy for Joseph and Mary, as I know what it is like to raise a precocious child. Raising precocious children can be difficult, but imagine how difficult it must have been to raise the Incarnation! In this story Joseph and Mary noticed that Jesus was missing, they've gone all the way back to Jerusalem to find him sitting in the Temple teaching the Scribes and Pharisees and Teachers, and he doesn't even feel bad about worrying his parents. When his mother scolds him, he says, "Why were you searching for me? Don't you know that I must be in my Father's house?" In the infancy gospels little Jesus turns children who make fun of him into goats and he even raises a child from the dead to clear himself from the accusation that he had pushed the boy off a tower. Raising little Jesus must have been quite a task! Actually, I think that Jesus was probably more like all the other children in the neighborhood; I doubt that he was turning other children into goats and I'm sure he didn't spend his time doing magic tricks. He probably helped his father and learned about carpentry, and he probably helped his mother take care of his younger brothers and sisters. I'm sure that the family of Joseph and Mary and Jesus and his siblings was as normal as all the other families living in Nazareth, a rather typical Galilean family.

Joseph is very important because he gave Jesus and James and Judas and the other children the fatherly influence that they needed to grow up to be the adults God wanted them to be. Joseph must have been a good, loving father, because the image of the father in Jesus' teachings is that of a loving, caring person. There are many people in the world who do not have good fathers; their fathers are uncaring and abusive, and this affects a person's perception of a father and it makes the name "Father" for God a problem, because when these people hear the word "father," they experience fear or loathing. But Jesus understood the word "father" to be a positive word. For Jesus the image of a father is that of a loving, caring, welcoming person and I'm sure that this image had a lot to do with his experience of his earthly father, Joseph.

Joseph was willing to take Mary as his wife even though her condition could bring scandal upon his name. Joseph was willing to pick-up and head for Egypt for a few years in order to protect his wife and infant son. He returned to Galilee, to Nazareth, and there he raised a family and worked as a carpenter and was a model of fatherhood for Jesus and his brothers and sisters. Joseph is a model of dedication and obedience; obedience to God and dedication to his family, and that is why we honor his memory today.

O God, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I See You!

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