Thursday, December 24, 2009

December 24th/25th - CHRISTMAS

On Christmas Eve we began the Divine Office with the antiphon
Know today that the Lord will come: in the morning your will see his glory

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could live each day with the conviction that yes, the Lord will come - that He will come is as sure as the dawn!
During the past four weeks of Advent we have been waiting for His coming and we have reflected on His three comings:
1) His coming at the end of time
2) His coming on the first Christmas at Bethlehem
3) His coming in grace to each individual

While we remember and celebrate His coming on the first Christmas night when the angels brought the shepherds "the news of great joy that today a Saviour has been born" we can also look on our celebration of Christmas as a foretaste of that moment when that same Saviour will bring us through the gates of death to eternal life and then we shall see His glory! what our joy will be on that day we will never grasp until we experience it!
Therefore each celebration of the Christmas mystery deepens our joy and our hope and unites us with our loved ones who have gone before us and who await us to share in the great banquet of our heavenly home.

We wish all our readers a grace-filled Christmas.

The following is a reflection given by one of the our sisters at First Vespers of Christmas which we would like to share with you


This year marked the 30th Anniversary of Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s death. He was given this title “The World’s Preacher” because he had an audience of millions for his T.V. shows and radio broadcasts – up to 30 million viewers per week in the 1930’s, 40’s & 50’s. His TV show was called ‘Life is Worth Living’ and his message is as relevant today as it was 60 years ago – if not more so.

At his anniversary Mass in New York, two weeks ago Archbishop Dolan said that the key message of the ‘World’s Preacher’ was “He wanted to get to Heaven; and he wanted to bring the whole world with him”- a mission very similar to that of our Dominican Order which was founded by St Dominic “for preaching and the salvation of souls”.

Archbishop Dolan continued to say in his homily that “Fulton Sheen’s pivotal insight, central to revelation, was that Jesus Christ was the way to heaven, the truth about how to get there, the life we hope to share for all eternity. For him this Jesus was alive, still active, still powerful, still teaching, still healing, still praying, still leading us to heaven, because you see the Incarnation was still going on: The Word was still taking flesh; God was still becoming man”. The great mystery of the Incarnation continues if we allow the Word to become flesh in us. In preface III of Christmas, we read these wonderful and astonishing words:

Today in Jesus Christ a new light has dawned upon the world:
God has become one with man,
and man has become one again with God.

It is God who has achieved for us this unity with him. Our communion with God is emphasised also in the prayer over the gifts in Mass tonight (Midnight Mass) as it says:

‘Lord, accept our gifts on this joyful feast of our salvation. By our communion with God made man, may we become more like him, who joins our lives to yours, for he is Lord for ever and ever. Amen’

Our union with Christ is sustained and nourished through the Eucharist and the other sacraments, through the celebration of the Liturgical Hours, through private prayer, through doing good deeds, through loving others. Love and loving are central. Pope Benedict said recently that “the secret of true joy does not consist in having a lot of things, but in feeling loved by the Lord, in making oneself a gift for others, in loving.”

It struck me that Fulton Sheen’s preaching combined very powerfully the three comings of Christ with particular emphasis on the third coming which, if lost sight of, distorts the quality of our living to the full, diminishing it in some way. Like Cassian’s first Conference it is helpful for us to have the goal of the monastic life always in view, which is the Kingdom of God – Heaven Itself, while being aware that the way to reach it, is living deliberately, in purity of heart, in deep love of God and neighbour.

Being aware of the tensions between the past, present and future comings of Christ and keeping them in correct balance, sustains us in our life of prayer, amid personal, Church, country and global darkness and crises. Jesus still invites us to come to Him for peace, meaning, purpose, for salvation, and eventually to come with him forever to Heaven, as Preface II of Christmas says:

“Christ has come to lift up all things to himself,
to restore unity to creation,
and to lead mankind from exile into your heavenly kingdom.

I will end with the second opening prayer of the Mass tonight which beautifully illustrates these three comings of Christ and the joy which will be ours in eternity at the final coming of Christ, while being given a foretaste of this joy now on our journey on earth.

Let us pray
‘Lord our God, with the birth of your Son, your glory breaks on the world.

Through the night hours of the darkened earth we your people watch for the coming of
your promised Son. (1st Coming)

As we wait, give us a foretaste of the joy (2nd coming in grace) that you will grant us when the fullness of his glory has filled the earth, (Final coming) who lives and reigns with you for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

23rd December - O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, You are our king and judge, the One whom the people await and their Saviour. O come and save us, Lord our God.

Today we have the 7th and last 'O Antiphon' - it is a cry from the heart to our Saviour to come and save us. It is also a cry of hope because we know that He will come and will save us - so we prepare our hearts to welcome His coming as we pray:
Almighty God,
now that the birthday of your Son as man is drawing near,
we pray that your eternal Word,
who took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary,
and came to dwell among us,
will show your unworthy people the greatness of His love and mercy,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirt
God, for ever and ever.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

22nd December - O King

O King whom all the peoples desire, you are the cornerstone which makes all one – O come and save man whom you made from the clay

Like the other O antiphons which we have sung during the past few days this antiphon is a cry from the heart to our Saviour to come to save us.
Today we address Him as King whom all peoples desire – yes we greatly desire Him because as St Augustine reminds: “He has made us for Himself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.”

Man is described as “made from clay” reminding us of our origins in the Book of Genesis – God shaped man from the soil of the ground and blew the breath of life into his nostrils and man became a living being. In some ancient cultures the king because of his royal office was referred to as an ‘image of God' but the biblical writer tells us that every human being is a royal image of the living God.

However human beings had disfigured that image by wanting to be independent, to be God, refusing to be the fragile, yet beautiful creatures, moulded from the clay of the earth and held in God’s hand, breathing with His very breath.

The prophets – especially Isaiah and Jeremiah – constantly reminded Israel of its relationship to God as the clay to the potter – as the clay is in the potter’s hand –so you are in mine, house of Israel – but you would not listen.

Jesus is the one who restores in us the image of God be taking on our human nature. He makes all one by uniting us to Himself and drawing us into the heart of the Trinity as He prayed:
Father may they all be one just as you are in me and I am in Your so that they also may be one in us” (Jn 17)

And so we pray:
O King whom all the peoples desire, you are the cornerstone which makes all one – O come and save man whom you made from the clay

21st December - O Rising Sun

O Rising Sun You are the splendour of eternal light and the Sun of Justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!

Today the shortest day of the year when the sun reaches its lowest point in the sky (for us in the northern hemisphere at any rate!) and darkness seems to envelop us it is very appropriate that the Church puts on our lips the beautiful antiphon which cries out to our true Light to come and enlighten us.

O Rising Sun You are the splendour of eternal light and the Sun of Justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!

However let us not forget that our true light has already come into our world in the person of Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate – as St John tells us in the Prologue of his Gospel. The Word was the real light that gives light to everyone – He was coming into the world – He was in the world that had come into being through Him and the world did not recognise Him.

2000 years later as we look around at our world surrounded as we are by so much sin and darkness within our own hearts, in the Church and society we can be blinded to the Presence of the true Light shining in our midst.

God is Light – in Him there is no darkness – Jesus says: “I am the light of the world – whoever follows Me will have the light of life”.

Many people who have ‘after death experiences’ speak of a gentle beckoning light welcoming them to approach and in this light they are able to look truthfully at their past lives.

There is something very gentle in the rising sun – dawn breaks very gradually almost imperceptibly. It does not happen all at once – but very gradually. So too our letting go of our attachment to sin and all that blinds us to God’s Presence is a gradual process. God is Light but He is also Love. In the words of one of our Advent hymns: “your love shall be our light Emmanuel Lord”. In these last days of Advent we pray that His love will soften and heal our hearts and gradually open our eyes to recognise the light of His Presence – Emmanuel – God with us’ and may we in our turn bring His light and love to all those with whom we come in contact and those for whom we pray.

20th December - O Key of David

Today, the fourth Sunday of Advent, we light the fouth candle on the Advent wreath - and our Readings at Mass today focus on Mary - her faith and love.

1st Reading: Micah 5:1-4
Psalm 79
2nd Reading: Heb 10:5-10
Gospel: Luke 1:39-44


O Key of David and sceptre of Israel, what You open no one else can close again; what You close no one can open. O come to lead the captive from prison; free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Another translation of this antiphon as found in the Daily Missal reads as follows:
Key of David who open the gates of the eternal kingdom, come to liberate from prison the captive who lives in darkness

The concept of keys in the Bible usually denotes power being bestowed on someone. Jesus is the One on whom “all authority in heaven and on earth is bestowed” (Mt 28:19) and Who opens the gates of the eternal kingdom to us. When we sing this antiphon what does this mean to us today?

Can we look at the many keys which Jesus uses to open the Kingdom of heaven to us. Just to spotlight a few:

the key of Baptism by which we become children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus – sharing in the life of the Trinity

the keys of Eucharist and of the Sacrament of Reconciliation which nourish this life within us.

the keys of the other sacraments which provide us with special graces.

the keys of Faith, Hope and Love which open up an inner source of wonder and reality.

Jesus left us a very precious key in the heart of His mother when with His dying breath on the Cross He said: “Woman behold your son – son behold your mother!” (Jn 19) If we turn this key and enter in what wonders we will find there. Remember she pondered in her heart on all that happened.

In today’s Gospel Mary is praised for her faith – “Blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled”

There are many other keys – the list is endless………..

And what of us? Have we a tiny key we can offer to Jesus on Christmas night?
Can we once again offer Him the key of our hearts? – giving our unconditional consent to all that He asks of us in all the circumstances of our life no matter how lowly or insignificant? He stands at the door of our heart waiting for us to open – he waits on our ‘yes’ – the wonder!! And we so easily ignore Him.

We see Him waiting on Mary’s ‘yes’ at the Annunciation as St Bernard so beautifully expresses in a homily read at the Office of Readings today:
Open, O Blessed Virgin, your heart to faith; open your lips to speak; open your bosom to your Maker. Behold! The Desired of all nations is outside, knocking at your door. Oh! If by your delay he should pass by and again in sorrow you should have to begin to seek for him whom your soul loves! Arise then, run and open. Arise by faith, run by the devotion of your heart, open by your word. ‘And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to your word.”
May she obtain for us the grace to say our ‘yes’ to the Lord each day of our lives.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

19th December - O Root of Jesse

O Root of Jesse, You stand as a signal for the nations; kings fall silent before You whom the peoples acclaim. O come to deliver us, and delay no longer.

Like all the other ‘O Antiphons’ this one too is steeped in Old Testament imagery. (See Isaiah chapter 11 and 12). Jesse, who was David’s father and one of Jesus’ great ancestors, is mentioned in St Matthew’s genealogy. Because of infidelity to the covenant, David’s royal line is dethroned at the time of the exile to Babylon and became shrouded in oblivion but the Prophet Isaiah prophesies that from the stump or root of Jesse a new twig will spring forth – a twig that becomes a branch for all the nations. It is clear that the prophet is speaking of the Messiah.

Reflecting on this antiphon and Chapter 11 and 12 of Isaiah brings us hope in our present situation in the Irish Church. Throughout history we have ample proof and documentation of the sinful and evil lives of clerical and lay members of Christ’s Church – we have all sinned and fallen short, have betrayed our God in whom we profess our faith and our fellow pilgrims to whom we owe love and respect. Yet the Church (Christ’s Mystical Body) never ceases to renew itself through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ promise - to be with His people always until the end of time - gives us hope and quiet confidence even in the midst of our present pain and bewilderment. It is the responsibility of each of us to live as He taught us while we pray that from the ashes of our shame He will again raise up saints who will show forth the true image of the Church by preaching the Good News to the poor, libery to captives, sight to the blind, and set the downtrodden free (cf Lk 4:18).

In today’s antiphon we call out: “O come and deliver us and delay no longer! – bring us the longed for healing and reconciliation; let us know your comforting Presence in our need; open our hearts to receive your love that we in our turn may be able to love.”

We remember St Catherine of Siena’s prayer:
O great and Eternal Trinity, as if intoxicated with love and gone mad over Your creature, seeing that since it was separated from You who are Life, it could produce only the fruit of death, You provided a remedy for it with the same love with which You created it and grafted Your divinity on to the dead tree of our humanity; O sweet and gentle grafting! You who are greatest sweetness deigned to unite Yourself to our littleness; You who are Brightness with darkness; You, Wisdom with foolishness; You Life with death; You Who are infinite with us who are finite. What constrained You to do this in order to restore us to life? ONLY LOVE!

Friday, December 18, 2009

18th December - O Adonai

O Adonai and leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in the burning bush and you gave him the Law on Sinai. O come and save us with your outstretched arm.

This is a prayer made from a truly humble and trusting heart - one that knows its need of our heavenly Father to save us.

The theme of God’s outstretched arm to help His people is found frequently in the Scriptures and must surely touch us deeply. We read in Psalm 97 “His right hand and His holy arm have brought salvation”

There is something comforting in an arm outstretched towards us – we feel needed and loved which gives us an inner security.

In daily life, we often see a loving mother or father stretch out their arms to save their child from some danger or simply to swoop up the child to give it a hug.

When we return from a journey, after a long absence, what a joy it is to be welcomed at the airport or railway station by a loved one running to meet us with outstretched arms. It cannot be less with our Heavenly Father – He is always and everywhere stretching out His arms to welcome us and to save us. We have only to think of the parable in St Luke’s Gospel where the father runs with outstretched arms to meet his prodigal son. The Gospels are full of occasions where Jesus stretches out His arms to bring healing, life and salvation by His divine touch. How moving it is to meditate on His warm embrace of little children.

During this Advent season, as we prepare to celebrate our Saviour's birth, we are surely filled anew with wonder at the depths of love that led our Father with that same outstretched arm, to send us His Only Begotten Son - this Son who some 30 years later died on the Cross with outstretched arms to save us and thus prove His great love for us.

Such unconditional love means God is summoning us forth with the loudest of calls, stirring up our hidden being, which cannot help leaping at the sound of His voice deep in our hearts, asking us to return love for love. We can only truly love another, if we are certain that we ourselves are loved. Our Heavenly Father re-assures us for He has told us “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you to Myself”.

How right it is then that each night we place ourselves trustfully into those outstretched arms of our Father as we sing at Night Prayer: “Into your hands O Lord, I commend my spirit”

During these last days of Advent as we pray “O Ruler of the House of Israel, come and save us with outstretched arm” let us have confidence that our prayer will be heard for ourselves and all those whom we carry in our hearts.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Preparing for Christmas

Although the Novena for Christmas began yesterday, according to the liturgy the immediate preparation for Christmas begins today the 17th December.

The Daily Office begins with the invitatory antiphon: "The Lord is at hand: come let us adore Him" which is re-echoes in the Benedictus antiphon: "Know that the kingdom of God is at hand; be sure that he will not delay"

At Vespers today and during the coming days we sing the great 'O Antiphons' - each antiphon begins by addressing Christ the Word Incarnate by a messianic title - remembering God's presence and promises throughout the Old Testament the Church prays that He may come to save His people now. In our community we usually sing these antiphons in Gregorian chant as the music expresses very beautifully the prayer and cry of the human heart to its Creator.

We hope to post here a short reflection on each of these 'O Antiphons' in the coming days.


O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner. O come and teach us the way of truth

We are immediately reminded of the wonderful passages in the Old Testament which speak of Wisdom – there we read of Wisdom as proceeding from God, as being begotten by Him, as being the beloved who at the beginning stood beside Him, assisting at the creation – “ever at play in His Presence and delighting to be with the children of men.”

These passages concerning Wisdom can be applied to the Word who in the fullness of time took on our human nature and pitched His tent among us.

While in the Old Testament God’s wisdom was manifested by His governance of the created universe in a strong yet gentle manner, being lenient and merciful to all because He loves all that exists – it is in the crucified Christ on the Cross that we experience the full revelation of divine Wisdom, of God’s infinite love and mercy for us human beings. As St Paul tells us “God’s folly is wiser than human wisdom and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength". In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and of His fullness we have all received. He has become our wisdom and our holiness.

O Eternal Wisdom come and teach us the way of truth – you who are truth itself who leads us to all Truth – the truth about ourselves, about our world, about the situations in which we find ourselves.

In spite of whatever pain and contradictions we experience in our own lives and in our broken wounded and violent world may we never lose faith in the fact that His strong yet gentle power is at work and can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen

O wisdom – come and teach us the way of Truth.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Third Sunday of Advent

This 3rd Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as Gaudete Sunday - The Latin word 'Gaudete' means rejoice! On the Advent wreath the pink candle is lit - there is an air of expectancy that the Lord's coming is near.

The entrance antiphon for the Mass of this Sunday invites us:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.

1st Reading - Zephaniah 3:14-18
Responsorial Psalm: Isaias 12:2-6
2nd Reading Philippians 4:4-7
Gospel: Luke10-18

Each week we, as a community share our reflections on the Sunday Mass Readings - having spent the whole week prayerfully reflecting on them during lectio divina - here we share two reflections from this evening:

Reflection 1

Last week John the Baptist had "proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" - This week we meet John again in the Gospel. Today there is a feeling of expectancy in the air as the people approach John and ask what they must do? nobody is excluded - all are invited to repent and to show their repentance by their lives i.e. share with the needy, act justly, no imtimidation, be content with our lot etc.

John points beyond himself to Jesus who is coming with His "winnowing-fan in his hand to clear his treshing-floor". When reflecting on these lines of the Gospel I was led to see my own heart as the 'threshing-floor' and the 'winnowing-fan' as the loving breath of the Holy Spirit. God stands at the door of my heart during these last days of Advent and waits for my reponse as He waited for Mary of Nazareth's reponse for His Word to take flesh in her womb. Mary's reponse was a whole-hearted 'Yes' - "Let it be done to me according to your word" and "the Word became flesh and He lived amng us"

In my reading during the past week I came across the following lovely quote from Caryll Houselander's The Reed of God
For what is conversion but the fiat of Our Lady echoed again and the conecption of Christ in yet another heart?

May this Advent be a time of true conversion for all of us.

Reflection 2

The words that were given to me from the first day of my lectio were ‘Be content’. I could not make much of these words at all, especially in the present climate of the Child Sexual Abuse Scandal in the Church. What was there to be content about? In the other Readings what was there to rejoice about?

There is most certainly nothing in our human behaviour to rejoice about but everything in ‘God’s Behaviour’ to rejoice over and so, after the whole week of struggling with the meaning of these words for me, I was led to focus on the Lord – on His Presence in the Readings, His nearness to us in our repentance and misery. This is a time of repentance not only because of the sins of others but because of our own sins too – for none of us can judge another, and all of us are implicated in these sins in one way or another - for are we not all part of the One Body Of Christ? Yet it says: ‘The Lord has repealed your sentence.’ God’s forgiveness is there for all of us, no matter what we have done – this is the only reason for rejoicing.

The passage at the end of the first Reading gives us a beautiful description of God’s Joy – a bit incredible that He could rejoice over us frail creatures. It is worth quoting:
The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior.
He will exult with joy over you,
He will renew you by his love;
He will dance with shouts of joy for you as on a day of festival.
( Zeph 3;16-18)

Personally I need the grace of the Holy Spirit to believe this and accept this truth of God’s personal love for me! May God help my lack of faith.

I am much more comfortable praying the lines in the Psalm :

Truly God is my salvation
He became my saviour

And I am also more comfortable praying the beautiful opening prayers – both of them but especially the second one, as it says:

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
ever faithful to your promises
and ever close to your Church: ( even amid the scandals)
the earth rejoices in hope of the Saviour’s coming and looks forward
with longing to his return at the end of time.
Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness
that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope
which His presence will bestow,
for he is Lord for ever and ever. Amen

So I now see in these words: ‘Be content’ to mean for me – that I am to be content to continue to pray as is my vocation and as the 2nd Reading encourages us to do. I realise just that if one is really content to pray then one is not anxious or worried, as St. Paul says;

There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus. ( Phil 4: 5-7)

The needs of the Church and of the world are great and are our responsibility as nuns of the Order of Preachers. May we all, accept this word from God and ‘be content to continue to pray’. Perhaps that is what John the Baptist would say to us were we to ask him:
What must we do?’ !

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Second Week of Advent

The readings for this Sunday are full of hope and enouragement - as we all know, we, Irish people are greatly in need of such hope in our present crises.
One can almost feel that these readings were selected specially for us!!!

The entrance antiphon which we sing in our community for the Mass of this Second Sunday of Advent expresses very well these sentiments of hope which God's loving providence provides:
People of Zion, the Lord will come to save all nations, and your hearts will exult to hear his majestic voice. The people of God will sing songs of joy, like songs in the night. They will have gladness of heart. People of Sion the Lord will come to save all nations and your hearts will exult to hear his majestic voice. On every high mountain streams will flow and there will be light - as you are healed by the Lord. Yes on every high mountain, streams will flow and there will be joy, for your are loved by the Lord

In the Gospel this Majestic voice - the Word of God - came to John the Baptist in the wilderness. So too with us God's word comes to us in the wilderness - in the ordinariness, of our own lives and in bewildering circumstances - if only we have an open ear and an open heart to listen and hear His message. John's message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins is one of hope. No matter how far we may have strayed from God, He is always there at our side - for we cannot escape His all seeing eye - waiting for us to return. Like the father in the parable of the prodigal son (Lk 15) our heavenly Father is always ready to embrace us once we repent of our sin and turn back to Him.

Recently I came across the following poem by PĆ©guy - perhaps it may speak to you, our readers, as it did to me?
You may wonder, you may ask yourself: but how is it
That this fountain of Hope flows eternally,
Eternally young, eternally pure.
Eternally fresh, eternally flowing.
Eternally living.....
My good people, says God, it is not tricky....
If she wanted to make pure springs out of pure water
If she wanted to make springs of pure water,
Then she would never find enough of it in the whole of my creation.
Because there is not a whole lot of it.
But it is precisely with the impure water that she makes her springs of pure water.
And that is the reason she never runs out.
but that is also why she is Hope...
...and that is the most beautiful secret in the garden of the world!

And so we pray with St Paul in the second reading:
May our love for each other increase more and more and never stop improving our knowledge and deepening our perception so that we can always recognise what is best and so become pure and blameless and prepare us for the Day of Christ when we will reach the perfect goodness which Jesus Christ produces in us for the glory and praise of God.