Friday, December 28, 2007

On the use of flowers to adorn the altar

Shawn Tribe has some suggestions here.

Is the use of flowers to adorn the altar common or permissible to the Eastern rites? I personally don't like flowers on the altar.

Something to think about: what would a hobbit church look like? And if such an edifice (including the altar) were integrated into Nature, would that be objectionable from a traditional Christian point of view?

2 from Boundless

I'm Just Not Attracted To Her by Michael Lawrence
Following My Heart by Nathan Zacharias
The Crunchy Con brings us the following links:

An interview with JHK in The University Bookman. And...

3. Caleb Stegall's penetrating review of a memoir by the last member of a Wisconsin farm family, a man who realizes that he's the end of a line. Caleb picks out the unsettling position most of us are in regarding our relationship to modernity: the cables have been cut to the past, and we're left wandering, wondering if any attempt we make to reconnect with a lost past isn't just sentimental fakery.


Hrm... Barry Strauss has his own website:

Barry Strauss | The Trojan War
Questions for Barry Strauss on THE TROJAN WAR

I'm thinking of reading his The Trojan War: A New History.

h

Dreams

Can dreams reveal subconscious or repressed feelings and desires? Perhaps, but they don't necessarily predict behavior, since dreams leave the will mostly untouched (depending on how "awake" one is when one has the dream). Looking at my dreams, I know that I still have anger towards someone in my family, and that this won't go away any time soon, even if most of the time it remains submerged. (Sometimes the angry thoughts will come out... or perhaps they are temptations.)

Some Chinese people take their dreams seriously, as if they were a form of prophecy or divine message...

I went to bed really early last night, and slept almost 12 hours. First night in a new room, and I could have worked on cards, but I decided to take a nap. I should learn to take a walk or exercise if I want to escape reality, instead of sleeping. I don't know if I have a new cold, but it feels like it.

So in one dream someone expected showed up, and I didn't know what to make of it, since there were a lot of confessions involved, plus time travel. "Wishful" dreaming? Or too many movies? This morning I had a dream about survivalists getting their homes ready in case of a nuclear attack, and their preparations got more and more elaborate, with underground dwellings, plentiful water supply... not sure what they were going to do about food if the soil got contaminated, but I think they had a lot of supplies. Besides it was located in a snow, mountainous area... Colorado. We were looking at the sky and at airplanes, and then some combat plane took down one missile... but I think there were others. Bizarre dream.

The MD and her family should be driving up tonight... I should be playing with the nieces tomorrow. Fun fun! She should be bringing her stethoscope too, to check my heart and chest... we'll see what's going with that part of the body.

Zenit interview with Meg Meeker

here

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Duchess trailer

at AOL Movies

Via AICN.

Zenit: Benedict XVI's Christmas Message

Benedict XVI's Christmas Message


"Neither Individuals Nor Nations Should Be Afraid to Recognize and Welcome Him"




VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Christmas message, which he delivered from the main balcony of St. Peter's Basilica today at noon.

* * *

"A holy day has dawned upon us.

Come you nations and adore the Lord.

Today a great light has come upon the earth."

(Day Mass of Christmas, Gospel Acclamation)

Dear Brothers and Sisters! "A holy day has dawned upon us." A day of great hope: today the Saviour of mankind is born. The birth of a child normally brings a light of hope to those who are waiting anxiously. When Jesus was born in the stable at Bethlehem, a "great light" appeared on earth; a great hope entered the hearts of those who awaited him: in the words of today's Christmas liturgy, "lux magna". Admittedly it was not "great" in the manner of this world, because the first to see it were only Mary, Joseph and some shepherds, then the Magi, the old man Simeon, the prophetess Anna: those whom God had chosen. Yet, in the shadows and silence of that holy night, a great and inextinguishable light shone forth for every man; the great hope that brings happiness entered into the world: "the Word was made flesh and we saw his glory" (Jn 1:14).

"God is light", says Saint John, "and in him is no darkness at all" (1 Jn 1:5). In the Book of Genesis we read that when the universe was created, "the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep." "God said, ‘Let there be light'; and there was light." (Gen 1:2-3). The creative Word of God is Light, the source of life. All things were made through the Logos, not one thing had its being but through him (cf. Jn 1:3). That is why all creatures are fundamentally good and bear within themselves the stamp of God, a spark of his light. Nevertheless, when Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, the Light himself came into the world: in the words of the Creed, "God from God, Light from Light". In Jesus, God assumed what he was not, while remaining what he was: "omnipotence entered an infant's body and did not cease to govern the universe" (cf. Saint Augustine, Sermo 184, No. 1 on Christmas). The Creator of man became man in order to bring peace to the world. For this reason, during Christmas night, the hosts of angels sing: "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to those whom he loves" (Lk 2:14).

"Today a great light has come upon the earth". The Light of Christ is the bearer of peace. At Midnight Mass, the Eucharistic liturgy begins with this very chant: "Today true peace has come down to us from heaven" (Entrance Antiphon). Indeed, it is only the "great" light manifested in Christ that can give "true" peace to men: that is why every generation is called to welcome it, to welcome the God who in Bethlehem became one of us.

This is Christmas - the historical event and the mystery of love, which for more than two thousand years has spoken to men and women of every era and every place. It is the holy day on which the "great light" of Christ shines forth, bearing peace! Certainly, if we are to recognize it, if we are to receive it, faith is needed and humility is needed. The humility of Mary, who believed in the word of the Lord and, bending low over the manger, was the first to adore the fruit of her womb; the humility of Joseph, the just man, who had the courage of faith and preferred to obey God rather than to protect his own reputation; the humility of the shepherds, the poor and anonymous shepherds, who received the proclamation of the heavenly messenger and hastened towards the stable, where they found the new-born child and worshipped him, full of astonishment, praising God (cf. Lk 2:15-20). The little ones, the poor in spirit: they are the key figures of Christmas, in the past and in the present; they have always been the key figures of God's history, the indefatigable builders of his Kingdom of justice, love and peace.

In the silence of that night in Bethlehem, Jesus was born and lovingly welcomed. And now, on this Christmas Day, when the joyful news of his saving birth continues to resound, who is ready to open the doors of his heart to the holy child? Men and women of this modern age, Christ comes also to us bringing his light, he comes also to us granting peace! But who is watching, in the night of doubt and uncertainty, with a vigilant, praying heart? Who is waiting for the dawn of the new day, keeping alight the flame of faith? Who has time to listen to his word and to become enfolded and entranced by his love? Yes! His message of peace is for everyone; he comes to offer himself to all people as sure hope for salvation.

Finally, may the light of Christ, which comes to enlighten every human being, shine forth and bring consolation to those who live in the darkness of poverty, injustice and war; to those who are still denied their legitimate aspirations for a more secure existence, for health, education, stable employment, for fuller participation in civil and political responsibilities, free from oppression and protected from conditions that offend against human dignity. It is the most vulnerable members of society - women, children, the elderly - who are so often the victims of brutal armed conflicts, terrorism and violence of every kind, which inflict such terrible sufferings on entire populations. At the same time, ethnic, religious and political tensions, instability, rivalry, disagreements, and all forms of injustice and discrimination are destroying the internal fabric of many countries and embittering international relations. Throughout the world the number of migrants, refugees and evacuees is also increasing because of frequent natural disasters, often caused by alarming environmental upheavals.

On this day of peace, my thoughts turn especially to those places where the grim sound of arms continues to reverberate; to the tortured regions of Darfur, Somalia, the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia; to the whole of the Middle East - especially Iraq, Lebanon and the Holy Land; to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, to the Balkans and to many other crisis situations that unfortunately are frequently forgotten. May the Child Jesus bring relief to those who are suffering and may he bestow upon political leaders the wisdom and courage to seek and find humane, just and lasting solutions. To the thirst for meaning and value so characteristic of today's world, to the search for prosperity and peace that marks the lives of all mankind, to the hopes of the poor: Christ - true God and true Man - responds with his Nativity. Neither individuals nor nations should be afraid to recognize and welcome him: with Him "a shining light" brightens the horizon of humanity; in him "a holy day" dawns that knows no sunset. May this Christmas truly be for all people a day of joy, hope and peace!

"Come you nations and adore the Lord." With Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, with the Magi and the countless host of humble worshippers of the new-born Child, who down the centuries have welcomed the mystery of Christmas, let us too, brothers and sisters from every continent, allow the light of this day to spread everywhere: may it enter our hearts, may it brighten and warm our homes, may it bring serenity and hope to our cities, and may it give peace to the world. This is my earnest wish for you who are listening. A wish that grows into a humble and trustful prayer to the Child Jesus, that his light will dispel all darkness from your lives and fill you with love and peace. May the Lord, who has made his merciful face to shine in Christ, fill you with his happiness and make you messengers of his goodness. Happy Christmas!

[Original text: Italian]

[After the traditional blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city of Rome and the world), the Pope gave Christmas greetings in 63 languages. In English, he said:]

May the birth of the Prince of Peace remind the world where its true happiness lies; and may your hearts be filled with hope and joy, for the Saviour has been born for us.

© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Zenit: Benedict XVI's Midnight Mass Homily

Benedict XVI's Midnight Mass Homily


"God Finds a Space, Even If It Means Entering Through the Stable"




VATICAN CITY, DEC. 24, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily today at Christmas Midnight Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"The time came for Mary to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" (Lk 2:6f.). These words touch our hearts every time we hear them. This was the moment that the angel had foretold at Nazareth: "you will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High" (Lk 1:31). This was the moment that Israel had been awaiting for centuries, through many dark hours - the moment that all mankind was somehow awaiting, in terms as yet ill-defined: when God would take care of us, when he would step outside his concealment, when the world would be saved and God would renew all things. We can imagine the kind of interior preparation, the kind of love with which Mary approached that hour. The brief phrase: "She wrapped him in swaddling clothes" allows us to glimpse something of the holy joy and the silent zeal of that preparation. The swaddling clothes were ready, so that the child could be given a fitting welcome. Yet there is no room at the inn. In some way, mankind is awaiting God, waiting for him to draw near. But when the moment comes, there is no room for him. Man is so preoccupied with himself, he has such urgent need of all the space and all the time for his own things, that nothing remains for others - for his neighbour, for the poor, for God. And the richer men become, the more they fill up all the space by themselves. And the less room there is for others.

Saint John, in his Gospel, went to the heart of the matter, giving added depth to Saint Luke's brief account of the situation in Bethlehem: "He came to his own home, and his own people received him not" (Jn 1:11). This refers first and foremost to Bethlehem: the Son of David comes to his own city, but has to be born in a stable, because there is no room for him at the inn. Then it refers to Israel: the one who is sent comes among his own, but they do not want him. And truly, it refers to all mankind: he through whom the world was made, the primordial Creator-Word, enters into the world, but he is not listened to, he is not received.

These words refer ultimately to us, to each individual and to society as a whole. Do we have time for our neighbour who is in need of a word from us, from me, or in need of my affection? For the sufferer who is in need of help? For the fugitive or the refugee who is seeking asylum? Do we have time and space for God? Can he enter into our lives? Does he find room in us, or have we occupied all the available space in our thoughts, our actions, our lives for ourselves?

Thank God, this negative detail is not the only one, nor the last one that we find in the Gospel. Just as in Luke we encounter the maternal love of Mary and the fidelity of Saint Joseph, the vigilance of the shepherds and their great joy, just as in Matthew we encounter the visit of the wise men, come from afar, so too John says to us: "To all who received him, he gave power to become children of God" (Jn 1:12). There are those who receive him, and thus, beginning with the stable, with the outside, there grows silently the new house, the new city, the new world. The message of Christmas makes us recognize the darkness of a closed world, and thereby no doubt illustrates a reality that we see daily. Yet it also tells us that God does not allow himself to be shut out. He finds a space, even if it means entering through the stable; there are people who see his light and pass it on. Through the word of the Gospel, the angel also speaks to us, and in the sacred liturgy the light of the Redeemer enters our lives. Whether we are shepherds or "wise men" - the light and its message call us to set out, to leave the narrow circle of our desires and interests, to go out to meet the Lord and worship him. We worship him by opening the world to truth, to good, to Christ, to the service of those who are marginalized and in whom he awaits us.

In some Christmas scenes from the late Middle Ages and the early modern period, the stable is depicted as a crumbling palace. It is still possible to recognize its former splendour, but now it has become a ruin, the walls are falling down - in fact, it has become a stable. Although it lacks any historical basis, this metaphorical interpretation nevertheless expresses something of the truth that is hidden in the mystery of Christmas. David's throne, which had been promised to last for ever, stands empty. Others rule over the Holy Land. Joseph, the descendant of David, is a simple artisan; the palace, in fact, has become a hovel. David himself had begun life as a shepherd. When Samuel sought him out in order to anoint him, it seemed impossible and absurd that a shepherd-boy such as he could become the bearer of the promise of Israel. In the stable of Bethlehem, the very town where it had all begun, the Davidic kingship started again in a new way - in that child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. The new throne from which this David will draw the world to himself is the Cross. The new throne - the Cross - corresponds to the new beginning in the stable. Yet this is exactly how the true Davidic palace, the true kingship is being built. This new palace is so different from what people imagine a palace and royal power ought to be like. It is the community of those who allow themselves to be drawn by Christ's love and so become one body with him, a new humanity. The power that comes from the Cross, the power of self-giving goodness - this is the true kingship. The stable becomes a palace - and setting out from this starting-point, Jesus builds the great new community, whose key-word the angels sing at the hour of his birth: "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to those whom he loves" - those who place their will in his, in this way becoming men of God, new men, a new world.

Gregory of Nyssa, in his Christmas homilies, developed the same vision setting out from the Christmas message in the Gospel of John: "He pitched his tent among us" (Jn 1:14). Gregory applies this passage about the tent to the tent of our body, which has become worn out and weak, exposed everywhere to pain and suffering. And he applies it to the whole universe, torn and disfigured by sin. What would he say if he could see the state of the world today, through the abuse of energy and its selfish and reckless exploitation? Anselm of Canterbury, in an almost prophetic way, once described a vision of what we witness today in a polluted world whose future is at risk: "Everything was as if dead, and had lost its dignity, having been made for the service of those who praise God. The elements of the world were oppressed, they had lost their splendour because of the abuse of those who enslaved them for their idols, for whom they had not been created" (PL 158, 955f.). Thus, according to Gregory's vision, the stable in the Christmas message represents the ill-treated world. What Christ rebuilds is no ordinary palace. He came to restore beauty and dignity to creation, to the universe: this is what began at Christmas and makes the angels rejoice. The Earth is restored to good order by virtue of the fact that it is opened up to God, it obtains its true light anew, and in the harmony between human will and divine will, in the unification of height and depth, it regains its beauty and dignity. Thus Christmas is a feast of restored creation. It is in this context that the Fathers interpret the song of the angels on that holy night: it is an expression of joy over the fact that the height and the depth, Heaven and Earth, are once more united; that man is again united to God. According to the Fathers, part of the angels' Christmas song is the fact that now angels and men can sing together and in this way the beauty of the universe is expressed in the beauty of the song of praise. Liturgical song - still according to the Fathers - possesses its own peculiar dignity through the fact that it is sung together with the celestial choirs. It is the encounter with Jesus Christ that makes us capable of hearing the song of the angels, thus creating the real music that fades away when we lose this singing-with and hearing-with.

In the stable at Bethlehem, Heaven and Earth meet. Heaven has come down to Earth. For this reason, a light shines from the stable for all times; for this reason joy is enkindled there; for this reason song is born there. At the end of our Christmas meditation I should like to quote a remarkable passage from Saint Augustine. Interpreting the invocation in the Lord's Prayer: "Our Father who art in Heaven", he asks: what is this - Heaven? And where is Heaven? Then comes a surprising response: "... who art in Heaven - that means: in the saints and in the just. Yes, the heavens are the highest bodies in the universe, but they are still bodies, which cannot exist except in a given location. Yet if we believe that God is located in the heavens, meaning in the highest parts of the world, then the birds would be more fortunate than we, since they would live closer to God. Yet it is not written: 'The Lord is close to those who dwell on the heights or on the mountains', but rather: 'the Lord is close to the brokenhearted' (Ps 34:18[33:19]), an expression which refers to humility. Just as the sinner is called 'Earth', so by contrast the just man can be called 'Heaven'" (Sermo in monte II 5, 17). Heaven does not belong to the geography of space, but to the geography of the heart. And the heart of God, during the Holy Night, stooped down to the stable: the humility of God is Heaven. And if we approach this humility, then we touch Heaven. Then the Earth too is made new. With the humility of the shepherds, let us set out, during this Holy Night, towards the Child in the stable! Let us touch God's humility, God's heart! Then his joy will touch us and will make the world more radiant. Amen.

[Original text: Italian]

© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Josh Groban, O Holy Night

Christmas tree lighting, Rockefeller Center, 2002


Vatican, 2002

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Available at UNPFII - United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (A/RES/61/295)[AR] [EN] [ES] [FR] [RU] [ZH] (PDF version)
[AR] [EN] [ES] [FR] [RU] [ZH] (html version)

Michael Sheuer invites our opinion

How's al-Qaeda doing? You decide

United States intelligence believes al-Qaeda has successfully regrouped and is capable of attacking inside the US. At the same time, al-Qaeda continues to suffer from manpower losses in Iraq. Other developments in the Muslim world and in the affairs of al-Qaeda and its allies suggest it has been a mixed year for the group, but it depends on how one looks at the data. - Michael Scheuer (Dec 20, '07)

Felix dies Nativitatis!



U Dayton icon
another
SVS press icon
Coptic icon ; another Coptic icon

O Holy Night

Charlotte Church:


w/Placido Domingo

Monday, December 24, 2007

WOW!

I was going through AICN Anime's latest:
A Look At Two Unique Sci-Fi Anime: Glass Fleet and Mushi-shi
Then I saw this:

Gonzo is typically accused of having certain problems in their animeproductions. Satelight on the other hand is more given toocontraversial works (the upcoming Macross F should be interesting).

What! Another Macross sequel? So of course I had to do some digging...

MACROSS OFFICIAL WEB SITE:マクロス オフィシャルウェブサイト
マクロスFRONTIER

YouTube - Macross Frontier (tv) NEW TRAILER (マクロスF)

YouTube - Macross Frontier (マクロスF) - Scans (2007)
Stage6 · Macross F Promo - Video and Download · arahijapon
Studio Nue, Yoko Kanno's Macross F Sequel Set for 2008 - Anime ...
Macross F Sequel's Promotional Video Posted - Anime News Network
Macross F news! « Through the Looking Glass
Macross F(Frontier) - Latest Macross series Hobby Point
tHe hO²Ly gRO²UNd: Macross F
AnimeNation News
:: destroy tokyo :: - Macross F Magazine Scans
A Gabriela Robin Site » Macross F - First EpisodeThis link seems a bit bizarre, but I haven't looked at it yet:
More news about Macross Frontier (aka: Macross F) - CAA: Christian ...

Will Macross Zero ever be released on DVD here?
Macross Compendium Production: Macross Zero

Madonna stamp

Bah. I was too late to buy the Madonna stamps this year... I didn't want to get any of the other Christmas stamps because I only buy Madonna stamps, so I just picked up another sheet of the Forever First stamps.


First-Day Stamp Ceremonies
USPS News Release: “The Madonna of the Carnation” Featured on ...
Luini "The Madonna of the Carnation" Stamp - 2007 U.S. Stamp ...

I like this year's stamp, featuring the painting “The Madonna of the Carnation” by Milanese Renaissance painter Bernardino Luini (CE). I suppose I could try some post offices other than the Cupertino one to see if they still have the Madonna stamp... but I don't think I will bother.

Bernardino Luini (1480 - 1532) Artwork Images, Exhibitions, Reviews
Image at the National Gallery of Art website:

Ugh just found out the USPS is selling them online, after I had put the Liberty Bell on all of the envelopes:
Product: Christmas: Luini's Madonna of the Carnation
Product: Christmas: Luini's The Madonna of the Carnation 5 Pack

Now I have to see if I can peel any of those stamps off...

NATION GETS SNEAK PEEK OF THE FOREVER STAMP

If some local government wanted to get more revenue through traffic tickets, Cupertino (and certain other cities) would be a target-rich environment... when I was driving home a sheriff's deputy on motorcycle pulled over another Asian woman driver, right next to DeAnza...

Reinventing Collapse

Gotta rush to the post office this morning--I hope it's open normal hours today... not that I am trying to get anything to its destination by tomorrow... there are 12 days of Christmas after all. Eh... if it's open I bet it's packed.

JP one of these days I hope to send a card and present to you...

Keep an eye out for Dmitry Orlov'sforthcoming book, Reinventing Collapse (New Society Press, Spring 2008)... (via JHK)

NSP - Titles by Category
ClubOrlov
ClubOrlov (blog)
Closing the 'Collapse Gap': the USSR was better prepared for ...
US Economy–Recession, Depression, or Collapse? - OLD American ...
Edge of Chaos: Dmitry Orlov, Again: Prepare For Collapse
Post-Soviet Lessons for a Post-American Century
Peak Oil: Life After the Oil Crash
another

A Crude Awakening:
A Crude Awakening / The Oil Crash
CrudeAwakening.org
YouTube - A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash - trailer
YouTube - A Crude Awakening (first three minutes of the film)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

EB round-up on China

China - Dec 22
Planner: China needs to cool growth, energy consumption
The Middle Kingdom's dilemma
China grabs West’s smoke-spewing factories
China’s not alone in environmental crisis
China: US must be positive on climate
China's glaciers melting quickly
Many short of water nationwide
published December 22, 2007.

More Dominican chant

O Radix Iesse & Magnificat

Dominican Chant and Liturgy for Christmas Time

Varia, 23 December 2007

Adultery, Evil Mothers-in-Law: Korean Soaps in 2007
The hottest topics in Korean TV soaps in 2007 were adultery and conflicts between woman and her mother-in-law, and the resolutions were inevitably physical. Viewers were treated to cheating spouses being cursed and hit over the head with a washboard. The stock conflict between women and their mothers-in-law also reached new heights of intensity on TV. >>Full Text
'My Man's Woman' Empties Streets
Kim Hee-ae's Realistic Acting Sparks Breakup Rumors

B16: On Evangelization and Christmas

On Evangelization and Christmas


"Nothing Is More Beautiful Than Freely Giving What We Have Freely Received"




VATICAN CITY, DEC. 23, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Only one day separates the Fourth Sunday of Advent from holy Christmas. Tomorrow night we will gather to celebrate the great mystery of love that does not cease to stupify us. God became the Son of Man so that we could become sons of God. During Advent, from the heart of the Church a prayer has often gone up: "Come, Lord, to visit us with your peace, your presence fills us with joy."

The evangelizing mission of the Church is the answer to the cry "Come, Lord Jesus," which runs through the whole of salvation history and which continually goes up from the lips of believers. "Come, Lord, to transform our hearts so that justice and peace are spread throughout the world." This is meant to bring to mind the doctrinal note on some aspects of evangelization just published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The document proposes, in effect, to remind all Christians -- in a situation in which the reason for being itself of evangelization is often no longer clear -- that the welcoming itself of the glad tidings of the faith moves us to communicate the salvation received as a gift.

In fact, the truth that saves life, that became flesh in Jesus, ignites in those who receive it a love of neighbor that moves our freedom to give as a gift that which has been freely received. Being reached by the presence of God, who draws near to us at Christmas, is an inestimable gift, a gift that is capable of making us live in the universal embrace of the friends of God, in that network of friendship with Christ that binds heaven and earth, that directs human freedom toward its fulfillment and that, if lived in its truth, flourishes in a gratuitous love and a concern for the good of all people.

Nothing is more beautiful, urgent and important than freely giving to people what we have freely received from God. Nothing can exempt or discharge us from this fascinating duty. The joy of Christmas of which we already have a foretaste, as we are filled with hope, moves us at the same time to proclaim to all the presence of God in our midst.

Mary is the incomparable model of evangelization, she who did not communicate an idea to the world but rather Jesus, the incarnate Word. Let us invoke her with confidence so that also the Church in our time proclaims Christ the Savior. Every Christian and every community feels the joy of sharing with others the good news that God so loved the world to give his only begotten Son so that the world might be saved through him. This is the authentic meaning of Christmas, that we must always rediscover and live intensely.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[After the Angelus the Holy Father greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

I address my cordial greeting to the staff of the Vatican newspaper "Osservatore Romano," who this morning in Saint Peter's Square propose an initiative of solidarity for the children of Uganda. While I express appreciation for the special attention that the "Osservatore Romano" dedicates to humanitarian emergencies in every part of the world I praise the fact that it is being answered even with concrete gestures such as this for which I wish a successful outcome.

I extend warm greetings to all the English speaking pilgrims and tourists present to this Angelus. On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we contemplate God's ancient promise to send us his Son, Emmanuel, God is with us. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, I pray that you may open your hearts to welcome this joy. God bless you all.

© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Zenit: This Is How the Birth of Jesus Christ Came About

This Is How the Birth of Jesus Christ Came About


Gospel Commentary for 4th Sunday of Advent



By Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 23, 2007 (Zenit.org).- There is something that the three readings have in common this Sunday: In each one a birth is spoken of: "Behold the Virgin will conceive and will give birth to a son and he shall be called Emmanuel, God-with-us" (first reading); "Jesus Christ ... was born from the line of David according to the flesh" (second reading); "This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about ..." (Gospel). We could call it the "Sunday of births!"

We cannot avoid immediately asking: Why are so few children born in Italy and other Western countries? The principal reason for the scarcity does not have to do with economic factors. From an economic point of view, the births should increase as we move up through the levels of society, or as we move from the global South to the global North; but we know that the contrary is true.

The reason is deeper: It is the lack of hope, and the lack of what hope brings with it, namely, confidence in the future, vital drive, creativity, poetry and joie de vivre. If you wed, it is always an act of faith; bringing a child into the world is always an act of hope. Nothing can be done in the world without hope. We need hope like we need oxygen to breathe. When someone is about to faint we say, "Give them something strong to help them breathe." Something similar should be done for a person who is about to let themselves go, to give up on life: "Give them a reason for hope!" When hope is reborn in a human situation, everything looks different, even if nothing in fact has changed. Hope is a primordial force. It literally works miracles.

The Gospel has something essential to offer our people in this moment of history: Hope with a capital "H," the theological virtue that has God himself as its author and guarantee. Earthly hopes -- home, employment, health, successful children, etc. -- even if they are realized, will inexorably delude us if there is not something deeper that supports them and keeps them going. Consider what goes into the making of a spider web. The spider web is a work of art. It is perfect in symmetry, elascticity, functionality. The threads that stretch out horizontally on all sides make it taut. But it is held upright in its center by a thread that comes down from above, the thread that the spider had spun to lower itself down. If one of the threads on the side breaks, then the spider repairs it. But if you break the thread that comes from above down to the center, everything is destroyed. The spider knows that there is nothing it can do and goes away. In our lives the theological virtue of Hope is the thread from above, that which sustains the whole plot of our lives.

In this moment in which we feel the need for hope so strongly, the feast of Christmas can be the occasion for us to change our tendencies. Let us recall what Jesus said one day: "He who welcomes a child in my name welcomes me." This also holds for whoever welcomes a poor and abandoned child, for whoever adopts and feeds a child of the Third World; but it holds above all for two Christian parents who, loving each other, in faith and hope, open themselves to a new life. Many couples who are lost in joy at the moment the pregnancy announces itself are certain to then make their own the words of Isaiah's Christmas prophecy: "You have spread joy, you have made happiness increase, because a child is born for us, a son is given us!"

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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Father Raniero Cantalamessa is the Pontifical Household preacher. The readings for this Sunday are Isaiah 7:10-14; Romans 1:1-17; Matthew 1:18-24.