31 Dec 2010

Happy New Year!

From all the team at Sacred Space 102fm, wishing you all the Best for a Peaceful and Prosperous 2011


John, Lorraine, Michael and Shane

30 Dec 2010

Jan 1st - Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God

Liturgically, we begin the new civil year on January 1st with the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God which is an ancient feast we share the celebration of during the Christmas season with our brethern in some of the Orthodox communities.

The title “Mother of God” is a western derivation from the Greek: Theotokos, the God-bearer. The term “Theotokos” was adopted at the Council of Ephesus (431 AD) as a way to assert the Divinity of Christ, from which it follows that what is predicated of Christ is predicated of God. So, if Mary is the mother of Jesus, she is the Mother of God. Therefore, the title “Mother of God” and the “Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God”, which celebrates her under this title, are at once Mariological and Christological. Mary is the Mother of Jesus Christ.

In the 4th and 5th centuries debates about the nature of Christ raged in the Church. The debate was about the relationship of Christ's divine and human natures. At the center of this debate was a title of Mary. Since at least the 3rd century, Christians had referred to Mary as theotokos, meaning "God-bearer." The first documented usage of the term is in the writings of Origen of Alexandria in AD 230. Related to theotokos, Mary was called the mother of God. Referring to Mary this way was popular in Christian piety, but the patriarch of Constantinople from 428-431, Nestorius, objected. He suggested that Mary was only the mother of Jesus' human nature, but not his divine nature. Nestorius' ideas (or at least how others perceived his arguments) were condemned at the Council of Ephesus in AD 431, and again at the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451. The Church decided that Christ was fully God and fully human, and these natures were united in one person, Jesus Christ. Thus Mary could be called "mother of God" since she gave birth to Jesus who was fully divine as well as human. Since this time, Mary has been frequently honored as the "mother of God" by Catholics, Orthodox, and many Protestants.

The Solemnity of Mary Mother of God falls exactly one week after Christmas, the end of the octave of Christmas. It is fitting to honor Mary as Mother of Jesus, following the birth of Christ. When Catholics celebrate the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God we are not only honoring Mary, who was chosen among all women throughout history to bear God incarnate, but we are also honoring our Lord, who is fully God and fully human. Calling Mary "mother of God" is the highest honor we can give Mary. Just as Christmas honors Jesus as the "Prince of Peace," the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God honors Mary as the "Queen of Peace" This solemnity, falling on New Year's Day, is also designated the World Day of Peace.

The readings for the feast are:
Some reflections for the feast are here, here, here and here.

Pope Benedict XVI's message for the World Day for Peace 2011

New Year 2011

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year
'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'
And he replied, 'Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!'
So I went forth and finding the Hand of God
Trod gladly into the night
He led me towards the hills
And the breaking of day in the lone east.....

28 Dec 2010

December 28th - Feast of the Holy Innocents

Over at Word on Fire blog, Fr Steve has a reflection about todays feast of the Holy Innocents where the Church commemorates the lives of the innocent children lost in the massacre of the first born by King Herod at the time of Christ's birth. Father Steve reflects on this event here, taking a deeper look at the true loss that occurs upon rejecting the advent of Christ.

Lullay thou little tiny child,
By, by lully lullay.

O sisters, too how may we do,
For to preserve this day;
This poor youngling for whom we sing,
By by lully lullay.

Herod the king, in his raging
Charged he hath this day;
His men of might in his own sight
All young children to slay.

Then woe is me, poor child for thee
And ever mourn and say;
For thy parting, no say nor sing
By by lully lullay

27 Dec 2010

Saint for the Year

A common tradition across many houses of religious is the tradition of each member of the community getting an annual patron saint; something which has become also very popular among catholic bloggers. Now one of the experts on patron saints for the strange and wonderful is Sr Mary-Martha over at Ask Sr Mary Martha, a real knowledgeable guide to our celestial friends.

Well over at Conversion Diary, Jennifer Fulwiler has come up with a nifty little web-thingy (for those of us who are web illiterate) which randomly generates a Saints name for you:

"Why would you want to choose a saint’s name at random?

I got the idea from the “saint for the year” devotion, where people have a patron saint for the new year chosen for them at random (usually by a priest or religious, who prays over each choice). I’ve had saints chosen for me this way before, and it’s always been a great experience. E.g. In 2007 St. Maximilian Kolbe was picked as my patron for the year. I wasn’t familiar with him before that, but his life ended up inspiring me tremendously all throughout the year, and I still ask him for prayers for all sorts of matters. He’s become one of my favorite saints.

I thought this might be a fun little tool for anyone else looking to select a saint at random to be a patron for a particular cause or time period. If nothing else, you might get to “meet” some new holy men and women. I had so much fun working on this, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!"

Check it out and let us know what saint you get!

25 Dec 2010

The Holy Dysfunctional Family of Nazareth

Christ-Mass - the celebration of an almost incomprehensible thing, the commemoration of the sanctification of the physical manifestation of the Eternal Word into human history. Incarnation - the in-breaking of the divine into the carnal messy existence of our humanity.
But have we lost some of our understanding of Christmas? Have we wrapped it in too much tinsel, sanitised it too much? Made it too respectable? Where is the Holy Child amidst the tree, the gifts, the music, the shopping and the excess food?

It is arguable that there was nothing respectable about the Holy Dysfunctional Family of Nazareth. Again and again the Church holds up as a model the family of Nazareth and they are right to do so but maybe the interpretation has become too familiar?

“In human terms, in paschal terms – [from the Greek verb pascho with its root word in strickeness and suffering] – the story of Jesus begins with a terrified teenager birthing onto a futon of straw in a rock cavity amid the incense of the breath of livestock. It begins in a Taliban territory, a sectarian state that murders single mothers by stoning them. It begins badly and ends worse – in the public execution of her child as a condemned criminal in a rubbish dump outside the city walls.”

In very human terms, still very much happening today, frightened young girls and women are giving birth in conditions not much better and often worse, relying on the divine grace of their human female nature – often so defiled and abused by the societies that they are in - to bring to climax the process of creation which they have participated in either willingly or unwillingly. Like that young Jewish girl giving birth without the benefit of midwives they too often “experience an unescorted birth; labour without amenity…there are no women present” . It was ironic that it was “the despised shepherds of inter-testamental Palestine [who visit the birth of] the puking mite who has been born at the wrong time and in the wrong environment” . But that irony is further compounded when it is men, the stalwarts in a theatre of atrocity who will be absent from the vigil at the Cross . The roles are reversed, men welcome him into the world and women assist him out of this vale of tears.

But even before the messiness, the pain and suffering of birth in a dark cave where a mother, in her ultimate gift to the world, in bringing new life into that ungrateful world, prefigures the blood and pain of Calvary, she had suffered for her willingness to be open to the message of God.

She suffered from staring eyes and whispers behind her back which forced her to the shelter of her cousin Elizabeth to the consolation of another woman in the same predicament as she. Small consolation to her, but surely it offers hope to any woman in the situation of an unexpected pregnancy and worried about “what the neighbours may say”.

She suffered in the uncertainty as to whether her fiancée would stand by her in what in human terms he could have seen as being an ultimate betrayal. We can say that “Joseph was a very decent man. He didn’t want to give his girlfriend a bad reputation and after a reassuring dream he married her. But was it a happy life?”

She suffered “when Jesus was twelve they lost him in the crowd and when they found him, after three days of anxiously looking, their question: “Why did you do this to us?” was answered with something close to a reproach: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house”(Luke 2:49)? This response, “But didn’t you know I have more important things to do than pay attention to you,” is hardly consoling” to Mary and Joseph but must give hope to any parents of angst-ridden teenagers.

Take and eat…take and drink….we eat of his body, broken on the Cross, birthed in pain and suffering in a dark cave. We drink of his blood poured out for us, but as blood and water flowed from his side, so too it poured forth at this birth, prefiguring the sacrifice to be made on Calvary. Simeon’s prophecy to Mary was that she would experience suffering too for having brought this child into the world, but what mother does not experience suffering from the moment of birth as her child grows further and further away from her into their own person and ultimately journeys back to the God that made them?

“When Jesus hands over his body to the disciples he is vulnerable. He is in their hands for them to do as they wish...It embodies a tenderness that means that one may well get hurt. It is a self gift that may be met with rebuff and mockery and in which one may feel oneself to be used. The Last Supper shows us with extreme realism the perils of giving ourselves to anyone…The Last Supper is the story of the risk of giving yourself to others. That is why Jesus died, because he loved. But not to take the risk is even more dangerous. It is deadly…Love is the only impetus that is sufficiently overwhelming to force us to leave the comfortable shelter of our well-armed individuality, shed the impregnable shell of self-sufficiency, and crawl nakedly into the danger zone beyond, the melting pot where individuality is purified into personhood.” Mary too, as a mother, handed over her body to the world so that the world could receive the Divine Love into its midst and then suffered again as the world rejected that Divine Love by impaling it on a cross.

At Christmas we remember that “‘The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us.’ God became bodily like us. One might say that Jesus became even more bodily than us, at home in his skin, at ease in himself, body and soul, a face without masks. Jesus could only give himself to us. ‘This is my body, given for you’, because he accepted himself as a gift from the Father in the first place.” We celebrate the humanity of Christ, like us in all things except sin and celebrate our humanity – our physicality. “Most of the doctrines of Christianity make no sense unless we have a clear understanding of the goodness of our corporeal existence: Creation, Incarnation, the sacraments, the resurrection of the dead, all rooted in our flesh and blood”.

It is difficult to anticipate the meaning of the suffering of Easter in the light of the joy of Christmas but the shadow of the Cross overshadows the Nativity scene. However, that shadow of a cruel instrument of torture is cast by the light streaming through the open door of an empty Tomb on Easter morn. It is the lens of the Resurrection through which we understand and from that understanding, can dare to celebrate Christmas.The fact that God-made-Man, entered into our existence, entered into our human history, experienced our pains, our joys, our needs, “like us in all things except sin,” is the ultimate hope given to us. The in-breaking of God into human history enables us to share in the ultimate love between the persons of the Godhead expressed as the Holy Spirit. Because Christ has taken on our frail human nature, we are able to participate in, no rather are part of, the Divine Eros, the Divine Love epitomised by the sending of that Spirit of Love on the first Pentecost, the manifestation of love on the world. No longer are we just made in the image and likeness of God, through His sharing in our humanity we share ultimately in his divinity.

At Christmas we should pause and reflect, rediscover the humanity of the season, the celebration of that humanity and ultimately recall that:

“Though he was in the form of God
Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.
He emptied himself
Taking the form of a servant,
Being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form,
He humbled himself and became obedient unto death,
Even death on a Cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him
And bestowed on him the name which above every name…..” (Phil 2:6-11)

Quotes and references acknowledgements:

A. Matthews, In the Poorer Quarters (2007, Veritas, Dublin); H. Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey, (1998, The Crossroad Publishing Company, New York); T. Radcliffe, What is the point of being a Christian?, (2005, Burns & Oates, Continuum, London)

24 Dec 2010

The Christmas Proclamation from the Roman Martyrology

The twenty-fifth day of December.

In the five thousand one hundred and ninety-ninth year of the creation of the world from the time when God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth;
the two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seventh year after the flood;
the two thousand and fifteenth year from the birth of Abraham;
the one thousand five hundred and tenth year from Moses and the going forth of the people of Israel from Egypt;
the one thousand and thirty-second year from David's being anointed king; in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;
in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome;
the forty second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus; the whole world being at peace,
in the sixth age of the world,
Jesus Christ the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, and nine months having passed since his conception, was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary, being made flesh.

The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

“God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfils them.”.

In a rare papal concession to a single media outlet, it emerged that, earlier in the day, B16 had recorded the Christmas Eve edition of "Thought for the Day," aired every morning as part of the BBC's Today program on Radio 4. Taped in the antechamber of the Paul VI Hall following the General Audience, the Beeb's global coup capped an almost year-long effort to nab a Pope-"Thought," the campaign led by Broadcasting House's Catholic director-general, Mark Thompson. Described as "an institution" in British life, while leaders of various faiths have been giving the daily "Thought" for four decades, the rationale behind the unprecedented turn from the Vatican appeared twofold -- for one, the appearance served as a way for Benedict to say "thank-you" to the British people for the warmth of their reception on his historic state visit in September... and it likewise underscores the pontiff's commitment to the new evangelization at the close of a year which saw him birth the Roman Curia's first new dicastery in nearly a quarter-century with the purpose of bolstering a reinvigorated proclamation of the Gospels to the "so-called 'first world.'"

You can listen to the broadcast here or read the transcript below:

Pope Benedict XVI's Thought for the Day was broadcast on Friday 24th December at 7.45am.

"Recalling with great fondness my four-day visit to the United Kingdom last September, I am glad to have the opportunity to greet you once again, and indeed to greet listeners everywhere as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ. Our thoughts turn back to a moment in history when God's chosen people, the children of Israel, were living in intense expectation. They were waiting for the Messiah that God had promised to send, and they pictured him as a great leader who would rescue them from foreign domination and restore their freedom.

God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfils them. The child that was born in Bethlehem did indeed bring liberation, but not only for the people of that time and place - he was to be the Saviour of all people throughout the world and throughout history. And it was not a political liberation that he brought, achieved through military means: rather, Christ destroyed death for ever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the Cross. And while he was born in poverty and obscurity, far from the centres of earthly power, he was none other than the Son of God. Out of love for us he took upon himself our human condition, our fragility, our vulnerability, and he opened up for us the path that leads to the fullness of life, to a share in the life of God himself. As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts this Christmas, let us give thanks to God for his goodness to us, and let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down: he gives us hope, he brings us life.

Dear Friends from Scotland, England, Wales and indeed every part of the English-speaking world, I want you to know that I keep all of you very much in my prayers during this Holy Season. I pray for your families, for your children, for those who are sick, and for those who are going through any form of hardship at this time. I pray especially for the elderly and for those who are approaching the end of their days. I ask Christ, the light of the nations, to dispel whatever darkness there may be in your lives and to grant to every one of you the grace of a peaceful joyful Christmas. May God bless all of you!"

Benedict XVI

Merry Christmas!!

To all our listeners, blog followers, readers and friends of Sacred Space West Limerick 102fm,

Wishing you every blessing of this Holy and Festive Season and into the New Year.

Merry Christmas!!!


John, Lorraine, Michael and Shane

Radio shows during the Christmas Holidays

Christmas Day

Sacred Space 102fm will be going out at the slightly later time of 1pm on Christmas Day (just in time for people coming home from Mass and settling down to Christmas lunch). We will be on for an hour only so we wont take up too much time on this special and holy day, but if you do join us, the line up for the programme includes;

A Christmas message from Fr Tony Mullins (PP Druma-Athlacca and Limerick Diocesan Administrator), our weekly prayer space especially for those who may be on their own on Christmas Day,some traditional Christmas carols and music, our Gospel reflection taken from Luke 2:15-20 (which is the gospel from the Dawn Mass on Christmas Day), some discussion about the symbolism around Christmas including a quick explaination of the meaning behind the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas", some reflections and prayers for the day that is in it.

St Stephan's Day (December 26th - First Sunday after Christmas - Feast of  the Holy Family)

Poor oul' St Stephan gets kicked out of this years calander as the first Sunday of Christmastide is dedicated to the feast of the Holy Family. Our regular Sunday show will go out at its normal time of 10am and will be the regular round up of prayer space, gospel reflection for the Sunday (Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23), some music and reflections around the Holy Family of Nazareth.

We hope you can join us for some sacred space during the busy-ness of the holidays! And as always, thanks for listening,

John, Lorraine, Michael and Shane

A Muppet Christmas Carol - One More Sleep Til' Christmas

22 Dec 2010

Advent - O Antiphons - December 23rd - O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of the nations and their Savior. Come and save us, O Lord our God.

Scripture Reading
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.

Immanuel, God is with us. Not a god high above heavens watching dispassionately as humanity struggles with violence and injustice. Not a graven image - the work of human imagination and craftsmanship. But a God beyond human understanding who freely enters the history of his Creation to redeem his people - to bring them to the glory of life in eternity.

What hope does Immanuel offer you - in your own life - and in the life of the world?

O Immanuel, you are our king and judge, the One whom the peoples await and their Saviour. O come and save us, Lord our God.

Reflection taken from here.

Some seasonal favourites.....................

Advent - O Antiphons - December 22nd - O Rex Gentium

O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust

Todays reflection is from wellsprings.org.uk Advent resource page:

Scripture Reading (Isaiah 2: 2-4 NRSV)
In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation,neither shall they learn war any more.


The days of the King will see weapons of war become tools for the growing of food - what was designed to destroy recreated as something to give life.

Are there things in your life which have been destructive of your peace of mind and which need to be recreated in the light of the coming celebration of the Incarnation of our King? How can you allow Christ to teach you his ways and show you the path in which to walk?

Write down - or copy and paste - a verse - a phrase - or an idea based on your reflection to refer to during the day.


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

21 Dec 2010

Advent Reflections - What does Advent mean to me?

Waking up to hope!

This is the last week of Advent – last Sunday night I lit the last of the four candles which I have placed in the coffee table in my home. Bound together in pretty ribbons and greenery, they have become an icon, a prayer, and a constant reminder of Advent in this great season of preparation. On a purely personal level, Advent helps me to feel good, and it slows me down.

At the same time, today is a day when the news speaks about bank investigations, about drug fuelled lives, about the havoc this ‘unprofessional’ weather is causing and costing. There’s an ennui, a bored weariness, in how we tell one more story of what’s not working.

This year, our economic reality has really challenged my celebration of Advent – insisting, as it does, that pretty decorations and gentle reflections don’t cut it when the chips are down! So, what can Advent mean to me in 2010? In this reality, this place, this time?

Well, at the start of Advent this year, I was struck by an article in the Irish Times (Breda O'Brien, 27/11/10). It read: "Every day someone else tells me they have stopped listening to the radio, or reading newspapers, because it is all too depressing. In one way it is understandable. ... But declaring it all to be TMI (too much information) is to fall prey to some serious delusions ... We are a country that has had more than a grudging approval of people who bend the system to suit themselves. That has to stop. ... It is important this ... is a rejection of that kind of culture and not just impotent rage because we are facing a decade or more of austerity". I found this echoed in an Advent reading "It is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand." (Romans 13 – from the first Sunday of Advent).

I was struck by how I had fallen asleep. Fallen asleep in my faith, in my citizenship, in my family and in life generally. Life is undoubtedly not as easy this year, and I was struck by how much energy I was putting into me (poor me!) and into complaining about this. And I realised how little energy that left for hope & God, for family & life. It seemed like I was becoming more comfortable with darkness than with light.

So, Advent came at a good time for me this year. I needed to step away from the gossip, the complaining and the weariness that I had begun to feel was normal. I needed to be still, to pray and to re-connect with the Good News of faith, hope and love that this season of Advent offers us. I needed to journey with the prophets, with Mary and with my church in preparation for Christmas. This Advent, I have tried to not wait in brittle hope of the I.M.F., but rather to wait in confident hope of God’s grace.

The base of an ancient baptismal font -
In the ruins of Portumna 13th century Cistercian Abbey

Today is the shortest day of the year. This morning we left for work in almost total darkness, and tomorrow we awake in what seems to be the same dark world. But, in truth, tomorrow is fundamentally different. We have crossed the winter solstice, and we are faced towards Spring and towards sunshine. Tomorrow, the first light we see will be the light after the longest dark night - an annual light proclaiming that darkness is always overcome.

What Advent means to me is this year is ‘wake up call’ .... an invitation to stand up and face the Son. Christmas is coming, wake up, be glad .... nothing is impossible for the Son of God.


Advent - O Antiphons - December 21st - O Oriens

Today’s O Antiphon relates directly to the experience of the Solstice, especially — but perhaps not exclusively — north of the equator. O Oriens! The antiphon on the Magnificat for today’s Vespers conjures images not of the evening, but of the morning. As a noun, today’s “O” is Daybreak, Dawn, Sunrise and Morning Star; as a verbal participle it is rising, originating, creating and birthing. Both grammatical forms suggest powerful imagery as we approach the feast of the Nativity of the Lord.

For those who for whom the past few weeks have marked the gradual decrease in daylight hours, today’s Solstice comes as a turning point. It is the beginning of the slow march toward Springtime and Easter. Today’s antiphon, situated on the Solstice, is a liturgical recognition of the change of season: the dawning of a new day, the gradual increasing of the daylight hours, the movement from the “shadow of death” toward the light of life.

For those in the Southern Hemisphere, of course, the slow march toward winter begins again today. Today’s antiphon comes as a promise that, however dark earths seasons may become, light will indeed increase again in time, the cycle repeating itself through the changing seasons, until that “dawn from on high will break upon us” once and for all.

This antiphon also suggests a challenge, by way of a certain anticipated eschatology. Note the connection between the Dawning or Daybreak and the Sun of Justice — “the sun of righteousness” that “shall rise, with healing in its wings” (Mal 4:2). The connection between the coming of the light and the power of healing (here meaning the sort of healing that comes with the Reign of God — wholeness, peace and security, well-being) is found elsewhere in Scripture. Its revelation follows upon our doing of justice, our participation in the making the Reign of God a present reality for the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized and the outcast:
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard. (Isaiah 58:6-8, NRSV)

20 Dec 2010

Advent - O Antiphons

Some more resources for reflecting on the O Antiphons during Advent:

Advent - O Antiphons - December 20th - O Clavis David

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israël, qui aperis, et nemo claudit, claudis, et nemo aperuit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel, you open, and no one shuts, you shut, and no one opens: come, and lead the prisoner from jail, seated in darkness and in the shadow of death.

"One of the highlights of communal prayer at the community of Taizé (France) was the Advent season and the singing of the O Antiphons. The liturgy of the hours at Taizé was simple yet powerful in its beauty, always focused deeply on the psalms and silence and intercessory prayer. The O Antiphons, which we sang every Saturday evening during Advent (and often during the week too… playing freely with the liturgical rule assigned to them simply because we loved them so much!), embodied all three characteristics: like the psalms, they give us a language to speak to God and with one another, the particular musical setting we used in Taizé moved towards silence and, of course, at their heart the antiphons are profoundly intercessory: Come! Viens, Seigneur, viens bientot! We sang a version that was composed by one of the first brothers of the Community. I have unfortunately never seen it in print but a recording was made back in the 1950s and re-edited by the brothers more recently: Taizé dans l’église romane.

My favorite verse was always the fourth one, O Clavis David, O Key of David! (for December 20). Rather than being frightened by this image of Christ as the holder of the keys, the one who opens and no one can close and who closes and no one can open, the image of Christ as Key of David instilled in me a far-reaching confidence. My faith was carried on this promise of the One who holds all things in his life. I am reminded of the verse from John 3:27, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.” There is nothing that we have or could invent that might make Christ present but Christ comes and gives us everything through the Father and the Spirit… not only faith and all spiritual goods but all material goods as well. This Trinitarian image of Christ evokes adoration. We are totally dependent on this One who rules over all. And what a blessed dependence! For this One is described, not as the condemner or exterminator, but as the one who frees the prisoners, who calls out to the dead and leads them to life, who opens the eyes of the blind bringing them from darkness to light, whose heart is full of compassion and mercy, who is the Gospel coming to us in the forgiveness of sins and the restoration of community in God."

Reflection today is from the PrayTell Blog.

19 Dec 2010

Advent - O Antiphons - December 19th - O Radix Jesse: O Root of Jesse

The third O antiphon, O Radix Jesse, takes place on December 19. Here is the Latin:

O Radix Jesse,qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

A somewhat literal translation into English might say;

O Root of Jesse, you stand as a sign among the peoples; before you kings will hold their tongues, and you the Gentiles will seek: come to deliver us, and do not delay.

The scriptural references for this antiphon are from Isaiah 11: 10-11 (“On that day, the Gentiles shall seek out the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations; his dwelling shall be glorious. On that day, the Lord shall again take it in hand to reclaim the remnant of his people.”), as well as Is. 52:15 (“So shall he startle many nations; because of him kings shall stand speechless”), and perhaps from Paul’s quotation of Isaiah in Romans 12:15 (“And again Isaiah says: “The root of Jesse shall come, raised up to rule the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles hope”).

As we know, the English words for the ever popular Advent song, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, are based on the O Antiphons, but with the last antiphon made first. Here is today’s verse, the one based on O Radix:

“O come, O Rod of Jesse’s stem, from ev’ry foe deliver them
That trust your mighty pow’r to save,
And give them victr’y o’er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!”

Further reflection here.

18 Dec 2010

The end of Advent

"Christmas has devoured Advent, gobbled it up with the turkey giblets and the goblets of seasonal ale. Every secularized holiday, of course, tends to lose the context it had in the liturgical year. Across the nation, even in many churches, Easter has hopped across Lent, Halloween has frightened away All Saints, and New Year's has drunk up Epiphany.

Still, the disappearance of Advent seems especially disturbing—for it's injured even the secular Christmas season: opening a hole, from Thanksgiving on, that can be filled only with fiercer, madder, and wilder attempts to anticipate Christmas.

More Christmas trees. More Christmas lights. More tinsel, more tassels, more glitter, more glee—until the glut of candies and carols, ornaments and trimmings, has left almost nothing for Christmas Day. For much of America, Christmas itself arrives nearly as an afterthought: not the fulfillment, but only the end, of the long Yule season that has burned without stop since the stores began their Christmas sales.

Of course, even in the liturgical calendar, the season points ahead to Christmas. Advent genuinely is adventual—a time before, a looking forward—and it lacks meaning without Christmas. But maybe Christmas, in turn, lacks meaning without Advent. All those daily readings from Isaiah, filled with visions of things yet to be, a constant barrage of the future tense: And it shall come to pass . . . And there shall come forth . . . A kind of longing pervades the Old Testament selections read in church over the weeks before Christmas—an anxious, almost sorrowful litany of hope only in what has not yet come. Zephaniah. Judges. Malachi. Numbers. I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: There shall come a star out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel."

Continue reading here.

Advent - O Antiphons - December 18th - O Adonai: O Sacred Lord

Adonai, et Dux domus Israel qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extenso.

“Literal” translation:
O Lord, and Leader of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the red fire of flame and who gave the Law to him on Sinai: come, for liberating us with [your] outstretched arm.

Present ICEL Translation:
O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch our your mighty hand to set us free.

Reflection from the PrayTell Blog:

Assigned as the Gospel Verse at Eucharist and the Antiphon for the Canticle of Mary at Evening Prayer on 18 December, “O Adonai” continues the Advental theme of longing for God’s transformation of the human condition. Employing the same musical phrases as the other “O” Antiphons, it exhibits the same two-part grammatical structure: a divine invocation under various titles and relative clauses followed by the request to come for a particular purpose.

While there may be some debate over whether the Triune God or specifically Christ is invoked in this antiphon, I take “Adonai” to refer to the one God known as YHWH to the Jews and manifested as a Trinity of Divine Persons with the incarnation of the Second Person in Jesus of Nazareth. As is well known, “Adonai” means “my Lord” in Hebrew and was substituted in public recitation of the scriptures for the sacred Tetragrammaton, YHWH, representing God’s proper name as revealed in Exodus 3. This God is named as the true guide and protector (dux) of the house of Israel, and by extension those who enjoy covenant relationship with this God. As in other First Testament passages when God is identified as “God of…” (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.), here God is presented as preeminently “God of Moses,” both because of the mysterious divine calling to Moses from the burning bush which eventuates in the revelation of the divine name and because of the great gift of Torah represented by the ten “words” (commandments) bestowed upon Moses as the covenant stipulations established for the Hebrew people. Notice that both of the verbs in these relative clauses are in the perfect tense indicating actions completed in the past whose effects continue into the present.

The unique focus of the request in this antiphon is that God would come to free those who are praying . At core the verb used evokes the idea of redemption and is taken from the world of economics: a payment is made on our behalf in order to cancel our debt. That this payment would be made by God’s “outstretched arm” at once recalls the refrain in the Deuteronomic history of God’s intervention in human history “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” and the Christian midrash in which the extended arms of the Crucified Christ become the ultimate sign of redemption. How wonderfully, then, does this antiphon highlight the praise of the God who “has shown the strength of his arm” and “lifted up the lowly…” as the Magnificat so powerfully sings!

Advent - O Antiphons - December 17th - O Sapientia: O Holy Wisdom

On December 17, the O-Antiphon begins by invoking “Holy Wisdom,” the ancient feminine embodiment of the Divine Presence in the Hebrew Scriptures. Here is the Latin text, and a literal translation:

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, who proceeded from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other and ordering all things powerfully and gently: come to teach us the way of prudence.

And here is how one might speak this ancient text for today:

O Holy Wisdom, how I long for you!
You are the Word of Life whispered by the Divine Presence.
With fierce tenderness you reach to touch the ends of the galaxy and the edges of the universe, inviting all creation to flourish.
Come, Holy Wisdom, show us wisdom’s ways.

17 Dec 2010

Advent - O Antiphons

Beginning with the 17th of December, the liturgical tradition marks each day until Christmas Eve with an ancient and mysterious text, one of the so-called O-Antiphons. The O-Antiphons are among the most magnificent and ancient compositions of the Roman liturgy. Dating back to at least the seventh century, they are antiphons for the Magnificat, chanted at Vespers on the days before Christmas Eve. They are named “O” after their introductory exclamation of longing. The O-Antiphons give voice to the deepest longing of Advent, the coming of the Redeemer. Each daily antiphon takes a different image from the Hebrew Scriptures — Wisdom, Lord of Israel, Root of Jesse, Key of David, Dawn, King of Nations, Emmanuel — to plead for the coming of Christ. Together, these antiphons move toward Christ’s birth, celebrated the day after the last of them has been chanted. In the English-speaking world, the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” has popularized these O-Antiphons far beyond the confines of the church’s liturgy.

The exact origin of the “O Antiphons” is not known. Boethius (c. 480-524) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time. At the Benedictine abbey of Fleury (now Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire), these antiphons were recited by the abbot and other abbey leaders in descending rank, and then a gift was given to each member of the community. By the eighth century, they are in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome. The usage of the “O Antiphons” was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrases, “Keep your O” and “The Great O Antiphons” were common parlance. One may thereby conclude that in some fashion the “O Antiphons” have been part of our liturgical tradition since the very early Church.

The importance of “O Antiphons” is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah. Let’s now look at each antiphon with just a sample of Isaiah’s related prophecies :

O Sapientia: “O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).

O Adonai: “O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” (11:4-5); and “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us.” (33:22).

O Radix Jesse: “O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (11:1), and A On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).

O Clavis David: “O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.” Isaiah had prophesied, AI will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.” (9:6).

O Oriens: “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (9:1).

O Rex Gentium: “O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.” Isaiah had prophesied, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (9:5), and “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (2:4) .

O Emmanuel: “O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”(7:14). Remember “Emmanuel” means “God is with us.”

According to Professor Robert Greenberg of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one - Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia - the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, “Tomorrow, I will come.” So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.

References for this post here and here.

11 Dec 2010

12th December 2010 - Gaudate Sunday - 3rd Sunday in Advent Year A

We enter into the second half of our Advent journey and this Sunday is Gaudate Sunday or Rejoicing Sunday. We have our regular prayer space, the lighting of our third Advent candle, our regular Sunday gospel reflection with John and Michael, our up coming celestial guides of the week and some local notices on this weeks show.

Certain Sundays throughout the liturgical year have taken their names from the first word in Latin of the Introit, (the entrance antiphon) at Mass. Gaudete Sunday is one of these.The Introit for Gaudete Sunday, is taken from Philippians 4:4,5: "Gaudete in Domino semper" ("Rejoice in the Lord always").
We continue our regular prayer space for our listeners and light our third Advent candle. We also a brief introduction to the "Jesse Tree" and John reads and reflects on some of the posts on the blog about "What does Advent mean to me?" from various contributors.


This weeks gospel from Matthew 11:2-11 again focus's on John the Baptist and provides an example of the way that prophets are treated by the societies that they challange. At the same time, Jesus acknowledges the importance of John the Baptist and his role in salvation history.

But as Fr Martin Tierney reminds us, it also shows John's human need for assurance that he was doing the right thing. "John was a man used to the wild open places; cooped up in prison his mind may have been playing tricks on him......He had invested his life in the message. It was important to him. Jesus pointed to the obvious signs that someone very different was here, 'The blind see again, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life ...' There are times when we too need reassurance. When I think of faith, I think of St Therese. For about fifteen months she was tortured with doubts against the faith. All she could say was, 'I know that behind the dark clouds my sun is still shining.' If we have the eyes to see, there are signs of faith and of the presence of Jesus in the lives of others: the painful suffering of a cancer patient; the brave acceptance of God's will in bereavement; committed love when a marriage is in difficulty. We also see signs of the transcendent in art, literature, drama and music. We see signs of God in the intricacies of a leaf, or the mottled wings of a butterfly, or the sun dancing on a placid lake. But like John we need reassurance. Jesus began to talk to people about John. He says,no greater than John the Baptist has never been seen'. What a beautiful passage of praise. Here the humanity of Jesus is demonstrated. There are times when we forget to praise others, especially those closest to us. Praise makes the talents of others fertile. We grow when we are praised. There are times when those who exercise authority are unconscious of the power they have over the lives of others. The negative power can be greater than the positive. To withhold, or to neglect to praise the goodness of others, can diminish them. People can shrivel up and lose heart when their efforts go unrecognised. Jesus was so human and knew the complexities of the heart."

Further reflections here, here and here

Saints of the Week 

December 13th - St Lucy
December 14th - St John of the Cross
December 15th - St Venantius Fortunatus
December 17th - St Melania the Younger
December 18th - St Flannan

  • Adare Live Crib: - depicting the Nativity scene in Bethlehem takes place next Sunday, December 19th from 2.00pm to 5.00pm.
  • Trócaire Global Gifts: - Let us remember the people in the developing world who struggle every day to find enough food to survive or don’t know how they will keep their children safe. Help them through Trócaire’s Christmas Global Gift appeal. www.trocaire.org/globalgift
  • Viatores Christi: - Would you like to make a difference in the lives of others?  Would you like to go overseas as a volunteer for one or more years?  Please come along to our information and recruitment session in Room 301 of Mary Immaculate College, Limerick on Saturday, December 18th between 2pm and 4pm.  For further information contact 01-8689986.
  • Carol Recital: - Enjoy a wonderful evening of music and song in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Newcastle West at 8pm on Thursday December 16th at the Annual Lions Club Christmas Recital. Top of the bill this year is Limerick woman & Internationally Renowned Singing Star Noirín Ni  Riain.  Noirín is joined by the choirs from Desmond College and Scoil Mhuire agus Íde as well as the Cistercian Boys Choir from Roscrea. Entry is FREE – with a bucket collection for local charities – the main beneficiary this year is Laura Lynn House – a wonderful night’s entertainment is guaranteed so bring the whole family.
  • West Limerick Red Cross (Shanagolden Branch): - If you or anyone you know is unable to get deliveries of fuel, food and medicine in these inclement weather conditions, then we can organise transport to your area.  Contact Ger Doody at 087-2324740.
  • Twelve Days to Christmas: - musical celebration featuring Abbeyfeale Adult choir, Kerry Chamber Choir, Kerry Chamber Orchestra and Kerry Youth Choir will take place this Sunday, December 12th at 7pm.  Funds raised will be distributed between Temple St. and Crumlin’s Children’s Hospitals and to help young people travelling to Madrid for World Youth Day.  Tickets are € 10 for adults (accompanying children are free).  All are welcome.
  • Christmas Mission: A five-day,  pre-Christmas Mission, under the title 'Put Christ Back Into Christmas!', will take place in the Redemptorist Church, Mount St. Alphonsus, South Circular Road, Limerick beginning on Monday, December 13th and ending on Friday, December 17th. Three sessions each day at 7.55am, 10.00am, and 7.30pm. Also available on live the webcam at www.novena.ie On the final day, Friday December 17th, people are invited to bring gifts for the poor campaign to the empty crib and there will be the blessing and lighting of the Christmas tree.

As always, thanks for listening

John, Lorraine, Michael and Shane