The first few days after the birth of a child can be a trying time for the mother. The physical toll from the birth itself is compounded by lack of sleep and the needs of others in her care. The circumstances surrounding the birth of each of my three boys were different, but my favorite memories with each of them were those quiet times in the middle of the night when it was just the two of us. The rhythmic squeak of the rocking chair provided a backdrop as I hummed a lullaby and breathed in the sweet new baby smell of his head. In the middle of the hectic stressful post birth period, time stood still. It was as if God knew that I needed that time, in the silence, to ponder and take in the miracle in my arms.
We find ourselves within the octave of Christmas, an eight-day celebration of the Solemnity of Christmas. It is as if time stands still. As the commotion of the world goes on all around us, the Church invites us to quiet down and ponder on the miracle in front of us, God Incarnate, the Babe in the manger. The baby has been born and St. Joseph sleeps after the long journey. The shepherds and Magi are on their way and the crowds will soon press in, trying to see the King. We are invited to open our eyes to the invisible reality “hidden from the wise and the learned” (Mt 11:26), and to see how much God loves each one of us. Mary is inviting us to sit with her and adore the Babe.
Christmas is not over, it’s only just begun. God knows that we live in a fallen, hectic, sometimes crazy world, and that we need a little extra time to take everything in. If your house has been busy with guests, or if you are just exhausted from all the preparations and celebrations, open your ears to the invitation to be still. Maybe you can wake up a little earlier than the rest of the household and let the silence outside give way to the silence within. Those moments before everyone wakes up can be like those precious moments before the shepherds arrive. Accept the invitation to this intimate moment with Mary and the Babe. Ask Mary to place the Baby in your arms, and to be right there with you to make sure He is safe. Ask her to teach you how to hold and ponder all these things in your heart. (Lk 2:19)
By: Rick Hernandez
Here we are, once again coming close to the end of another year. But this year has not been like other years. 2020 has been very trying for most of us. We have been mostly isolated and kept from many of our social interactions, at one point even away from our Church.
As a Eucharistic person, being away from the community of the Church and away from Communion is very difficult. We are forever grateful for our faithful priests that made the Eucharist available to us in accommodating and imaginative ways. Drive-by Communion? Yes, that became a thing. Who would have thought that was going to happen? There have been stress and fear, loneliness and sadness, and also profound loss and grief. We have lost so many of our brothers and sisters to this dreadful disease. We have to both acknowledge and remember that. But there has also been great love and mercy. There have been great moments of surrender and growth in humility. Are we remembering that we depend upon God’s mercy? When we remember this, our time of quiet prayer becomes a purposeful offering of faith. Through our faithful actions, we glorify God and bring about that union of purpose that we are required to have as followers of Christ, that others, especially the ones closest to us, may recognize His love for us and believe in Him.
“I pray not only for them but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me and that you loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
Let us consider well that there will continue to be plenty of opportunities for self-reflection, for edifying solitude, for separation from the busyness of regular life, and for connection in prayer to the One who loves us. For us, the faithful, we trust that we are never really alone. He is always accompanying us. “...behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20)
Now, we are almost at Christmas, and we have to ask ourselves if we are taking the time to diligently prepare ourselves to commemorate the birth of Our Lord and Savior. Are we thinking about what the incarnation of Christ Jesus means to our lives, even amid everything that has happened? Are we taking time to meditate on the extent of Our Lord’s love for us? Let us think about that for a few minutes. The Creator of everything that is and will ever be loved us so much that He gave us His son, our Lord, so that we may be redeemed.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)
Our Lord already knew of every challenge that we would have to face and told us that we can meet them well, for He is with us. To all of us that are here on this Earth today, are we feeling hopeful? We can see that the future is starting to look brighter. A slight return to normalcy may be upon us in due time. Still, we must consider what this year has meant for all of us. For all the ones we’ve lost, we must remember and pray. Hope works that way.
Let us pray. Lord of Heaven and Earth, as we come upon the Christmas season in this trying year, we ask for your mercy towards us. Help us to keep our Hope strong and steady. Help us to make our Faith visible, to help strengthen all of those around us. May your love reign brilliantly around the world. Amen.
By: Laura Worhacz
Behold, at last “the strong woman,” the predestined Mother of the Messiah!” - Saint Peter Julian Eymard (Eymard Library, Vol. 7, page 28)
Dearest Eucharistic family,
Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Looking at all the times that our Blessed Mother has come to earth to visit us, we find that the appearance to Saint Juan Diego is one that is so unique. Our Mother comes to us with an appeal to the poor, to her children, standing against oppression. Mary is the example of “the strong woman” (St. Peter Julian); she is depicted in the image of Guadalupe standing on the moon god, the god of night. The angel under her feet was seen by the natives as a god. Mary stands over this, carrying Jesus in her womb. She comes with a message of justice enfolded in the mercy of Christ. Mary is representing life, the unborn, and the sacredness of humanity as Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The conversion of thousands upon thousands of God’s children was made possible by our Lady’s intercession in her apparitions on Tepeyacac Hill. To me, the most fascinating part of God leaving our Lady’s image on the tilma of Saint Juan Diego, is what was identified in her eyes. There, on the cloak enshrined within the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, is Juan Diego’s reflection in the eyes of our Blessed Mother. Every remembrance of this brings tears of joy to my own eyes and reminds me of the eye as the light to our souls.
“The lamp of the body is your eye. When your eyes are sound, then your whole body is filled with light, but when they are bad, then your body is in darkness” (Luke 11: 34). Prayer to our Lady brings clarity to our vision. We learn to see with Mary, all through the lens of the Eucharist. Espoused to the Holy Spirit, our Mother helps us find divine wisdom and understanding. She teaches us how to love and to grow strong. To be in the eyes of Mary, we look to her as Juan Diego did, with superhuman magnificence. In the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we learn how to carry the Blessed Sacrament with reverence in the sacredness of our humanity when we receive the Eucharist. We learn to grow strong and to recognize that our trials will keep us at the feet of Jesus.
Tomorrow we celebrate Gaudete Sunday. In this Advent season we continue to wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior. We look with eyes of hope and joy for the celebration of Christmas in longing for Christ’ peace now, and in anticipation of His second coming to earth. As we keep our eyes on the Star of Bethlehem, let us look into the stars of the eyes of our loved ones. Let our gift to our Eucharistic King be our love for one another.
As we lit our little Advent wreath at home each night this week during our family prayer time, we all wondered if that first candle is big enough to last until Christmas. A little debate ensued, with everyone pitching in suggestions…one person said we should only light it on Sundays, then it would definitely last. Another suggested we turn on a different purple candle each night, so we give that one little candle a break. I didn’t like either of those solutions. For those not familiar with Advent wreaths, they have four candles, each representing one of the four weeks of Advent. The four candles traditionally represent hope, faith, joy, and peace. Each Sunday of Advent, one more candle is lit. The light gets brighter and brighter as we approach the birth of Jesus, who is the Light of the world. So, the way I see it, the first candle of Advent, the one that symbolizes hope, needs to be lit every night, and it needs to last all the way until Christmas. I “suggested” (mom’s suggestions carry a lot of weight around here) we should try lighting it only for the last part of the prayer, when we are sharing our intentions and prayer requests. Maybe we can make it last by lighting it up for a shorter time each night. I am not sure how that will work out; we’ll have to wait to find out.
I find it interesting that the candle that is in danger of extinction is the Light of Hope. As I was pondering about this, the lyrics from one of my favorite Advent hymns, Night of Silence, by Daniel Kantor came to mind:
“Cold are the people, Winter of life, We tremble in shadows this cold endless night, Frozen in the snow lie roses sleeping, Flowers that will echo the sunrise, Fire of hope is our only warmth, Weary, its flame will be dying soon.”
This song has always tugged at the strings of my heart. There is a great truth here. When I look at the world, with all the chaos, confusion, all the sin and darkness, I see hearts weary, running out of hope. Hope… Isn’t that what everyone needs? Isn’t that what we have to ensure we don’t run out of?
The first night we lit the Advent candle, it burned faster than the second night. The difference was that the second night we turned the ceiling fan off. We noticed that when the flame was still and calm, it burned slower and lasted longer. Hearts weary with the storms of life needs to be tended to gently. We must provide shelter from the wind, and then share a little hope. A simple word of encouragement, a smile, a kind gesture… these are concrete things we can do for each other always, but especially during Advent, a time of year when many do struggle with loneliness, when many begin to lose hope. “Whom shall I send?” (Isaiah 6:8). “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased. …a dimly burning wick he will not quench” (42:1,3).
But what can we do this if our own flame is weary? We must first kindle the fire of love in our own hearts. “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of us Your faithful and kindle in us the fire of Your love. Send forth Your Spirit and we shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.” We need grace. We need the Sacraments. We need the Eucharist. We need prayer. We need to avail ourselves of every single opportunity to flame that fire. Much is at stake… the world needs our hope.
With each new candle of Advent, we pray for an increase in hope, faith, joy, and peace. These gifts we are given, as grace, are not just for us. They are meant to build us up, to strengthen us, so we can encourage one another, so we can build each other up. “For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober… But since we are of the day, let us be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet that is hope for salvation… Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do” (1 Thessalonians 5:5-6,8,11).
The Candle of Hope in the Advent wreath needs to last only until Christmas. After that day we don’t need it anymore, for we will have the fulfillment of what we are hoping for, the birth of Our Savior, Emmanuel…God with us. The light of Hope in each of our hearts needs to last until He returns. “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Luke 12:49).
So I am still wondering, will the candle on our wreath last until Christmas? … one can only hope.
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We are Ivonne J. Hernandez, Rick Hernandez and Laura Worhacz, Lay Associates of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, and brothers and sisters in Christ.
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