God has done everything; he has done the impossible:
he was made flesh. His all–
powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human understanding:
the Infinite has become a child, has entered the human family.
And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to him.”
Pope Benedict XVI
(Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2020)
“God travels wonderful ways with human beings,
but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people.
God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather,
his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof.
Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels,
where our piety anxiously keeps us away:
that is precisely where God loves to be.
There he confounds the reason of the reasonable;
there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be,
and no one can keep him from it.
Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous
that he does wonders where people despair,
that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous.
And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…
God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings.
God marches right in.
He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where
one would least expect them.
God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost,
the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded,
the weak and broken.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God is in the Manger:
Reflections on Advent and Christmas
And so He has come…
God of God
Light of Light
Very God of very God…
Begotten of woman, not made
and yet Risen again for our Redemption and Deliverance
And so it is on this Christmas day…
this day of Light and Hope…that we find not only life…
but it is in that life that we must also find death…
For it is in the miracle of both life and death…
That of His birth, His life and eventually His death…
it is there that we actually find our most necessary Hope…
It is a hope found in both life and death—
of which each mingle together so blessedly and painfully…
yet oh so poignantly…
melding into that single transcendence of the Resurrection.
So on this Christmas day we are reminded, once again, that yes,
we are to rejoice…
We rejoice because we have each been invited to a grand banquet…
We have been invited to claim our rightful place at the table…
taking in all that is freely given and yet that which is gravely
but miraculously given nonetheless.
So in that Hope, found in both birth and death,
is a brilliance of illumination…scattering the
darkness from wherever it yearns to spread.
A great Light has shown in that darkness.
And that darkness scatters
because that Light has overcome the darkness.
All of which is offered to each man and woman, young and old,
sick and in-firmed, lofty and simple…underseved, yet a gift
So yes, we are told to rejoice…
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
Again I say,
“What worthy return can we make for so great a condescension?
The One Only-begotten God, ineffably born of God,
entered the Virgin’s womb and grew and took the frame of poor humanity.
He who upholds the universe, within whom and through whom are all things,
was brought forth by common childbirth.
He at whose voice archangels and angels tremble,
and heaven and earth and all the elements of this world are melted,
was heard in childish wailing.
The Invisible and Incomprehensible,
whom sight and feeling and touch cannot measure, was wrapped in a cradle.”
St. Hilary of Poitiers
Veni, veni Emmanuel;
Captivum solve Israel,
Qui gemit in exilio,
Privatus Dei Filio.
Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
Nascetur pro te, Israel!
Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that morns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel
(a woman worships in silence alone, in a small Florentine chapel in Florence, Italy /
Julie Cook / 2007)
(since this past Sunday marked the first Sunday in Advent,
and since we all know that time has not been on my side as of late…
I wanted to share a post regarding my most favorite of hymns—a hymn
that happens to be only sung during the season of Advent…)
Growing up in an Anglican, or more specifically an American Episcopal Church–
with my growing up happening to be taking place within a large
Gothic Cathedral to be more exact,
I was immersed at an early age with beautiful choral music and hymns.
Many of which boast of ancient roots and beginnings.
To hear and to feel the massive and beautiful organ deeply reverberating throughout
the massive stone cavernous church, as it engulfs one’s entire being–
accompanying the voices of the classically trained choir,
echoing and rising out from behind the chancel, was all short of magical.
It was the life and mystical wonder from a time when I was being formed as
a spiritual being.
I am very old fashioned when it comes to hymns and the music associated with
that of a Cathedral.
There is a solemnity and a reverence.
Just merely reading the lyrics of these hymns,
one is struck by the rich poetic history of the stories being told via
the use of ancient song.
There are a handful of hymns, to this day,
which tug upon my heart… bringing tears to my eyes each
opportunity I have to hear them.
Be that either as a member of a Sunday congregation or merely
gently singing to myself as I go about my day–
hymns that move my heart to a place of deep reflection–
an almost mystical reverence.
Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, the Latin version of O come O come, Emmanuel,
is one such hymn.
It is a hymn for the season of Advent, as that is the only time it is sung.
It’s roots are indeed ancient as some scholars date it (the Latin version)
to that of an 8th century Gregorian Chant.
Others date it to either the 12th or 15th century France as a
processional type of hymn.
Even others date it to as late as the 18th century as an antiphon or
type of sung liturgical response.
Sadly, I must confess that I don’t know a thing about music,
as I’ve never been trained or had an opportunity of singing in a choir.
I really can’t sing, but have always wished I could.
So as I explain the power of this particular hymn,
those of you who do understand music, please forgive me for I speak
from my heart about this music and not of classical study.
O come O come Emmanuel is sung slowly…
beginning quite low, being “sung” a cappella.
It can be accompanied by an organ or other single instrument.
Mannheim Steamroller, the wonderfully synthesizing modern music group,
who has produced marvelous holiday music based from many medieval songs,
has a beautiful rendition.
It is very reminiscent of the chants heard from various early Christian monasteries–
which is why I believe it does have it’s roots seeded in that of Gregorian Chants.
The cadence is steady and specific–there is power in the simplistic rhythm
of the 7 groups of stanzas which make up the full body of the text.
I understand the whole joyful noise business,
but I am of the serious school when it comes to worship.
The ancient hymns, that are more typical of a liturgical service,
speak of solemn serious worship–meditative and reflective,
which seems to rise up from one’s very core.
There is not that over the top emotionalism so often associated with
the prayer and praise musical services of today.
In this chant, as well as other similar types of hymns,
there is rather an acute awareness.
Tears will readily cascade down my cheeks even today when
I hear this most ancient of hymns.
Much of the early Church’s music, which has it’s roots in Medieval Europe,
speaks of wondrous mysteries of the world–words which spoke to those
who were apart of those “dark ages,”–as that was indeed a mysterious
time of both space and place.
Those people who were of such a different time than ours, did actually know
the things which we don’t seem to necessarily know today–just as we know things that they did not.
Much of our scientific world has solved many of their mysteries and problems.
While their musical worship was based deeply in a belief and faith that
was undefinable, full of questions, wonderment and awe…much of what we often lack today.
God and the understanding of Him, His Son and that of the Holy Spirit
That was something not easily or readily defined or put in a nice little
box of understanding.
Nor is it to this day.
Their music reflected such.
Mystery and awe.
This particular hymn / chant is serious, steady, determined, meaningful and lasting.
It strikes at something very deep.
It doesn’t get one worked up in a sweat induced, clap your hands and shout
to the heavens sort of deal, but rather it is almost spoken—
spoken as in a statement that is meant to make those who hear it contemplate
its very importance.
It is a hymn that is actually mournful and even heavy.
In part why it is one of the first hymns of Advent–a time of great expectation.
And with expectation comes questions.
It is a time of year that we, the faithful, approach with reverence and measure.
So why mournful and heavy you may ask…why now of all times should there be such
a heaviness as we enter the season of Advent only to followed by the joy of Christmas…
both of which, for the Church, marks a time of waiting and
expectant watching…and eventual joy.
For are we not anticipating a birth?
And is not the anticipation of a birth an event of great joy?
A time of joy, yes, and yet at the same moment, with this particular birth,
comes a deep heaviness as it is a birth marked with tremendous hardship–
only to be followed by the fleeing for safety and then again, a time of more waiting.
The very conception, waiting and birth stay constantly in the shadow of one thing
and that one thing is that of Death.
With this birth comes grave consequence for both me and you…
and yet, as with all births, there is tremendous Hope of what will be.
And as with the anticipation of any birth comes a sense of urgency.
The urgency here is of the coming of the one who is referred to as Emmanuel,
as it is He who is come to ransom the captive Israel,
which in turn refers to all of us today.
He is to come and is to set the captives free.
To free you and me from the prison of our sin and of our death.
As we mourn throughout our “exile” or separation from our Father.
The Immanuel, Hebrew עִמָּנוּאֵל, which has been Romanized to Emmanuel–
meaning God with Us, is invoked…rather meaning, He is to come,
coming to us all…but yet is acknowledged as already being here with us–
the Omnipotent one.
We sing to the God who is with us and yet who is to come,
and who is to come quickly.
We are then told to Rejoice,
Rejoice because He will come, as He has come and as He will come again.
On this first Tuesday in this new season of Advent,
may we all be mindful of our continual need for this Holy Coming–
of the One who will set free and make things right—
who will, in turn, free both you and me from the constant presence of
the shadow of Death—-
who will bridge the gap of separation, as this Emmanuel is the only one who
can and will and has done all of this!
So may we Rejoice and Rejoice continually as He shall come to us indeed—
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”
(words taken from Mary’ prayer
We wait, we wait….
Destiny waits in the hand of God, shaping the still unshapen.
Destiny waits in the hand of God, not in the hands of statesmen.
Come, happy December, who shall observe you, who shall preserve you?
Shall the Son of Man be born again in the litter of scorn?
For us, the poor, there is no action,
But only to wait and to witness.
T. S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral
(a stand of ash trees / Gleandlough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)
What better visual expression and example could exist in which the earth proclaims the majesty of the Creator, as they, the trees, teach us all what it means to rejoice, to delight, to be jubilant and exuberant…
The trees lift our eyes and hearts upward, as we also yearn to reach ever heavenward…drawing our sights, our minds, our senses upward while raising our spirits as we lift our voices in unison singing HOLY, HOLY, HOLY…as we wait expectantly for the birth of the Savior of all mankind….
The 3rd week of Advent is known as Gaudete –latin for the word Rejoice
Hear the words of the ancient hymn:
Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!
Rejoice, Rejoice O Israel,
to thee shall come Emmanuel!
As this 3rd Adventen week begins, which will actually begin on Thursday December 17th, with the admonition by Paul– “The Lord is near”…
Did you hear that?
The Lord is near…..whoa…
As in His presence is in close proximity to our own, your own..
He is close and getting closer by the day, by the hour, by the minute…
Not a mere fable or sweet little story of something that happened long ago..
but rather the approaching of someone real who is soon to be in your presence just as you will be in His…
Does that not make you want to turn around…
to look both left and right as the presence of the Almighty is near and drawing ever closer than you could ever imagine?
Your heart quickens as you feel the reverberations of something monumental.
Your palms are wet, your knees are weak and your mouth is dry.
Something bigger, greater and more grand than you have ever known is soon to take place…. as you my friend can barely wait…
The time draws nigh…
He’s almost here…
are you ready?
Prepare our hearts
and remove the sadness
that hinders us from feeling
the joy and hope
which his presence
(taken from the Catholic prayers for Advent)
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
(a pair of Cardinals/ Julie Cook / 2014)
The still small voice of God
Would we not assume it to be LOUD, LARGE, BIGGER THAN LIFE, ATTENTION GRABBING?
Yet experience teaches that God does not operate as we do or as we would–which is truly our blessing.
We might think a big name Ad agency should be hired. High tech, glitzy commercials, billboards, neon lights. . . run a spot during the Super Bowl—yeah that’s it, the Super Bowl. Use George Clooney or Heidi Klum as a spokesperson.
Offer some sort of give away—a new iPad, a new camera, a new car. A five nights, all expenses paid, trip to Disney–yeah that’s it, Disney.
Maybe we should Google the reviews to that Still Small Voice.
How many likes?
How many followers?
Has it been tweeted?
Can we follow it on FaceBook?
Has it opened on the NYSE?
Does it have a blog?
Can we clip a coupon, getting a discount?
Door busters, that’s it, does it offer a door buster to those who are the first to hear it?
Does its doors open extra early?
Does it offer extended hours?
Funny what we think to be attention grabbing and slick sales techniques—those things which we would employ as all important “hooks”—that which is loud, garish, flashy, tech savvy techniques, with millions spent in order to garner customers and sales. Our all engrossing sensory overload techniques. All this as we as a people are growing ever jaded with and by our savvy consumerism. It now takes something almost monumental to get our attention, our money, our business. As we continue searching and seeking something for nothing.
And yet God, the Almighty, Jehovah, Emmanuel, Yahweh, The Alpha and the Omega, the Omnipotent, the Creator, the Adonai. . . does not employ the tactics of mere mortals. He is not concerned with “out doing” the competition. He is not concerned without out selling the competitors.
The power is in the silence not in the noise.
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
(1 Kings 19: 11-13)
A simple spoken voice.
We wonder where He is?
Why doesn’t He speak?
Why is He so silent?