THE MYSTICAL EXPERIENCE OF CHRISTMAS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Saturday, December 1, 2018

mARY AND aNGEL

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”  The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be known as the Son of God.”– Luke 1:34-35

I choose to not speak of the mystical birth of Christ, the mystical coming together of realms human and Divine, but of the experience described here by the angel. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow.”  From one perspective this speaks of the activity of God; but from another perspective this speaks of the human experience of God.

We do go out and “get” the Holy Spirit, rather the Holy Spirit comes to us and if we allow ourselves to experience this nearing of God, the Holy Spirit enters into us.  Though many people speak of dramatic happenings when the Spirit comes upon them, I have found that among the saints of history, the human experience is one of profound Wonder and a sense of inner transformation.  The imagery of a woman experiencing the awareness of her being with a child forming within her speaks of this Christmas experience of having the Holy Spirit come upon you in a most intimate way.  It speaks of the Wonder in experiencing the power of Life-Creation taking place within one’s own life, a creation of a human child of God.

When the Christian faith becomes a code of laws and rules, when the Christian faith becomes a battle over doctrine, it loses this experience of Wonder, this Christmas Wonder, this Christmas Wonder of the human and the Divine mutually creating New Life.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

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CHRISTMAS IS FILLED WITH LULLABIES

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, November 30, 2018

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?  For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord. – Luke 1:41-45

mARY AND eLIZABETH

Two unborn children stir within two hopeful mothers, mothers who were both kin and kindred spirits.  I believe both Mary and her cousin Elizabeth were women of faith and that faith was centered on hope.   They lived with a faith that promises would become fulfilled.  They lived with a faith that though long-delayed God would come to the aid of their nation, saving them from the heavy boots and sharp swords of the Romans.

Yes, I believe both mothers, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, reared and nurtured their sons in the spirit of Hope, anticipation of a new era dawning and a new realm forming.  John and Jesus, I believe now more than I ever did before, were deeply influenced by the quality of faith so abundant in their mothers.

Luke, the compiler of this Gospel, a man who was deeply influenced by the faith of his own mother, took much time in detailing this story of Mary and Elizabeth.  Possibly, he was keenly aware of the life-changing grace received in the embrace of maternal love.

Yes, more and more I cherish that quality of Divine Love expressed through feminine sensibilities.  Maybe that is why Christmas is so filled with gentle lullabies.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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IF FOR NO OTHER REASON

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, November 29, 2018

sIMEON AND cHRIST cHILD

The old, priest Simeon took the infant Jesus in his arms and praised God, saying,
Master, now You are dismissing your servant in peace, according to Your word;
for my eyes have seen Your Salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel.” – Luke 2:28-32

An old man.  A devout priest.  A fellow-sufferer in these times of the Roman occupation.  An aging man of God whose eyes were beginning to him, holds an infant in his arms.  And there is joy; an uncommon joy, not so much the joy of something already accomplished, but the joy o f soon to arrive salvation.  A nation would be saved in order to become as guiding, inspiring Light for even these Roman governors and their soldiers. They were not to be mighty conquerors such as they once were and these Gentiles now were, but rather they would serve as the radiance of God to the nations all around them.

The old priest after decades of prayerful waiting would behold the Hope, a Hope that would not be fulfilled in his remaining years, but still a new Hope near approaching.  And this brought him joy to know that God had been long preparing for this rescue and relief, patiently waiting for that coming together that comes in the fullness of Time.

I find this moment when the very old embraces the very young to be a most Beautiful Christmas Moment.  If for no other reason … we witness the coming together of all things new and all things old, the hope of worn-out, human souls being embraced by the Hope Divine.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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NOT AS THE SCRIBES AND THE LITERALISTS

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DAILY DEVOTIONAL Wednesday, November 28, 2018 Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us,  just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were … Continue reading

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THE CHRISTIFICATION OF THE UNIVERSE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.   All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being  in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. – John 1:1-5

STARRY SKY

From that first night as a young boy when I ‘discovered’ a starry night, a night sky full of stars somehow exalts my soul and persuades me of God.  And the more I learn of the expanse and depth of the stars, the more I learn of the nature of Light and the echo of the first moment of Creation, all the more is my exultation of the Lord and my being fully persuaded of the creativity of God.

In the beginning was the Word and that Word was the mission of Christ, the mission of bringing together the human and the Divine.  The word “Word” or in the Greek, ‘logos”, is not merely a name for the person of Christ but also is descriptive of the process of Christ, the Christ-ification of the you, me, this world, this earth, this universe and possibly universes beyond our limited sensory awareness.  Christ and we who live on with the life of Christ is a dimension of the Creation, the ongoing unfolding of God’s original intention.  The Christ of Christmas was yet another fulfillment within the ongoing fulfillment in the Hope of God.  And we the children of that Christmas Moment are even further fulfillment of God’s Holy Dream.

They say that the echo of that first Moment of Creation can still be heard.  It is still resounding through the stars.  And that echo will continue of forever.  And when we allow the Spirit of the Divine into the souls of our being … the image of God placed within us resounds.

They say that once light is emitted from a star in travels through the universe for ever.  And upon what that light does fall such as a leaf of a flower, that Light ignites the power of Life.  Oh, far distant stars both in space and time, the starlight can be rather faint, but it never dies away.  We are people whose latent image of God placed within us is activated when we allow the Holy Light to enter into our inner places … and there is igniting yet a further expression of the Creativity of God.

We are people of the echo of Creation; we are people of a radiance of the Lord.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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FROM WHENCE DO COME THE REFUGEES

 

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Monday, November 26, 2018

When the Magi had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up, take the child and His mother and find refuge in Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So Joseph got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. – Matthew 2:13-16

Refugees

In Matthew’s telling of the birth of Christ, the incarnation of the Divine into human life, Joseph and Mary  were told to flee the capricious and vain wrath of Herod.  They fled to Egypt and there they waited until the death of Herod the Great.  They could not return to their land because of the actions of the leader of that land.  They were indeed refugees.

I recall a scene in the movie, “An Officer and a Gentleman” where the gunnery sergeant [played by Louis Gossett, Jr]. is demanding a trainee [played by Richard Gere  to tell him why he refuses to quit officer candidate training.   And from the depths of the candidate with tears in his voice, he cries out …”I HAVE NOWHERE ELSE TO GO!”  I find this is most often the cry of all refugees …”I have nowhere else to go!”

Loved Ones, I have learned, through my first-hand experiences with people in much need of mercy, that one must understand from where the person in need has come from, even from where he or she has fled.  With that knowledge meets Christian compassion … the mercy begins to flow.

What makes a people so desperate to flee from whence they came?  It is a question that justice and mercy requires us to ask.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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DOING EVIL IN THE NAME OF GOD

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Sunday, November 25, 2018

So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs.  If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” – John 11:47-50

PHARISEES PLOTTING

Holy causes can take an unholy turn; holy concerns can lose its holy conscience.  It happened in the time of Christ and it is still happening in the times in which we live.

Amazing how the mind will twist-and-turn in its struggle to justify an evil by rationalizing it as good.  Amazing how a religious movement like the Pharisees and their call to return to the old ways of law-and-order can convince itself to commit evil in the name of the cause.  Amazing how a religious institution such as the Jerusalem/Temple Council can talk itself into doing the unspeakable evil in order to protect its own power.   It happened in the time of Christ and is still happening in the times in which we live.

Political ideology so often takes control over a soul, and in so doing, bends a conscience to serve its cause.  Eventually, the inner sense of the good and godly is overwhelmed by the voices and logic of the ideology.  But it is not only political ideology but also theological systems that push to the background that inner sense of the good and the godly, sacrificing conscience out of fear that their doctrinal construct will be proven insufficient.  Enslaved by the political ideology or the theological system, galvanized by the harangue of the leader and the zealotry of the crowd, the soul is not longer guided by that image of God within that can sense what is truly good and godly.

A word of counsel, my Loved Ones, let not the crowd or the charismatic leader shout down that still, small voice within the core of your soul, no matter how cleverly they have rationalized doing evil in the name of God.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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I BELIEVE IN A SIMPLICITY OF PRAYER

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, November 23, 2018

christ at prayer[And Jesus continued,] “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” – Matthew 6:7-8

Oh, so many prayer meetings I have attended when the air was filled with empty phrases, many words, and endless requests of God.  And almost every time, I had a secret feeling that we were insulting the intelligence of God and failing to trust in God’s providential wisdom.

In these contemplative years, my prayer life is far more about giving thanks, seeking wisdom, and listening for the voice of God.  My intercessory prayers for others typically begin with, “Lord, my heart is reaching out to this person and that circumstance … I want you to know I am filled compassion for them and I need help in my trying to help them.”  I trust God will heal in ways that are Divinely wise; I trust God will be there to watch over them; I trust God knows their needs more clearly than I ever could.  So I share with the Lord what my heart wants for them  … but I do not demand that God do my bidding.  I try as best I can to actually ‘HOLD” them in my heart for my sake and for theirs.

After all these years, I find most sermons suffer from too many words and I find so often with prayers.  Nowadays I hear more in the thoughtful pauses in the sermon than in the constant stream of words and I hear more in the quiet times of prayer than in the string of prayerful clichés and requests.

I do believe in the maturing of the Christian soul there is also a maturation in the nature of their prayers.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

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Pilgrims and Thankful Samaritans

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, November 22, 2018

“On the way to Jerusalem Christ was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as He entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ When He saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.’”– Luke 17:11-18

thanksgiving

Pilgrims in flight from persecution in Europe sought refuge in a faraway land.  They risked their own lives, they carried with them their barest essentials, they were driven by Hope and sustained by faith.  And upon finally arriving after months of journey, they were eventually welcomed and provided for by the native population.  And we gather thanks that the Lord provided for us as refugees in a foreign land.

Was there no one to return to give thanks for being healed except this foreigner?”  And thus of the ten who were healed, this one foreigner was then made well.  I offer that Christ made the foreigner well in the sense of well-being, a foreigner who had been thankful for being given refuge.

I was born in Canada.  My Canadian relatives and friends celebrated their national day of thanksgiving awhile back and in Canada there are foreigners who found refuge in that good land and they are thankful.  Now I live in these United States of America … a refugee from a foreign land … and I am thankful.

Be thankful, all of you, my Loved Ones, for finding Providence in lands that once were not your own.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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IN THOSE MORAL DILEMMAS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes, He does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”
“From others,” Peter answered. “Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him.  “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours. – Matthew 17: 24-27

fish coinPossibly one of the enigmatic moments recorded in the Gospels, this question about paying the tax to pay for Herod’s massive Temple project.  Peter answers the tax collectors with a confident “Yes, my rabbi does pay the Temple tax”  But then on his return, Christ challenges Peter … “Have you considered this Temple tax in this way.”  A teaching moment, most likely, but then that almost cynical statement …”Go fishing and you will find the money for the tax in the mouth of a fish!”  What is this … a miracle of a more magical kind?

Through the years I have pondered the meaning of this strange conversation.  In the end, it appears that Christ and Peter will go ahead and pay the Temple tax.  Yet … Christ argues that the people ought to be exempt from this taxation ordered by King Herod.  It is as if He is implying that any temple should be built out of the generosity of the people and not by dictate of a corrupt king.  But in order to keep the peace … the Lord will provide the means to pay the tax.

In this discourse with Peter the fisherman, the emphasis is that the Lord will provide … even for this questionable Temple tax.  For if there is to be a Temple, it is the Lord who provide for its construction in spire of the questionable intent of the King.

And what do I learn from this strange matter of the Temple tax and fish with coins in their mouths?  The Lord will provide in spite of our questions and moral dilemmas.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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