Update Third Sunday Advent 2013 Gaudete Sunday

The theme for today is Joy but as I was finishing this post I read of the awful news of another school shooting in Colorado, and the plight of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan- See here and here.

So much healing and action is needed and all I can do is pray for all those affected in their suffering tonight.  My post today deals with the nature of joy and pain in the thick of the tragedies and sadnesses that are an inevitable part of life, and are found so deeply interwoven into the complexities of the Advent story too; the interplay of darkness and the light are ever present.

Tagged onto the end of this post is this link and another here by James Martin S.J. which captures some of the ever present tensions in these difficult situations.

Scripture readings for today's Mass are here

This Sunday is also known as Gaudete Sunday, from the ancient collect that began with the Latin word “Rejoice.”  

Advent was once a season of repentance, like Lent, and this Sunday presented a break in the Advent fast. The third Advent candle is pink.

This is one of two occasions when the priest gets to wear rose pink vestments.
the other being on Laetare Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent.  

I love this image below from today's first reading from the prophet Isaiah.

Image of Christ and St John The Baptist Icon in the Sophia Hagia Istanbul.


A reflection on the Nature of Joy from Fr. Ron Rolheiser here.

Reflections on the various readings from St Louis Centre for Liturgy here.

Source"He Must Increase. I Must Decrease"

John is often described as the forerunner of Christ and this image shows he was also a forerunner of his death. John died before Christ and the image shows the cup of suffering and salvation which he was to share in advance.

St John the Baptist in the Wilderness - Hieronymus Bosch  -
An image that conveys the deep contentment and humility
 of John The Baptist during his time in the wilderness.
 Hieronymus Bosch Source

 and another image of John in the wilderness is reflected on in this video commentary for today from Loyola Press.

St. John the Baptist
The wonderful painting of St John The Baptist by Antonio Mancini 1850's Source
  I have always felt a strange affinity towards John the Baptist. I love his passion and energy, his profound intimacy with God and his ability to tell it as it is. I grew up with a strong perception of his power and strength but I have always felt too that he was gentle and sensitive and the gospel readings today at the end of his life when he is in prison, show his vulnerability and maybe even self doubt.

 Nobody knows for certain where John was buried. This 2012 article sheds some light on recent research.

Click here for a fine reflection from Fr. John Predmore at Ignatian Spirituality - Set The World Ablaze.

Image from here

The full prayer "Open Our Eyes" from the Iona Community is below

Open our eyes, Lord, 
Especially if they are half shut 
Because we are tired of looking, 
Or half open
 Because we fear to see too much,
 Or blurred with tears
 Because yesterday and today and tomorrow
 Are filled with the same pain, 
Or contracted 
Because we only look at what we want to see. 

Open our eyes, Lord, 
To gently scan the life we lead, 
The home we have, The world we inhabit,
 And so to find, 
Among the gremlins and the greyness, 
Signs of hope we can fasten on and encourage.
 Give us, whose eyes are dimmed by familiarity, 
A bigger vision of what you can do
 Even with hopeless cases and lost causes 
And people of limited ability.

Show us the world as in your sight, 
Riddled by debt, deceit and disbelief, 
Yet also
 Shot through with possibility 
For recovery, renewal, redemption.
 And lest we fail to distinguish vision from fantasy,
 Today, tomorrow, this week, 
Open our eyes to one person or one place,
 Where we—being even for a moment prophetic— 
Might identify and wean a potential in the waiting. 

And with all this, 
Open our eyes,
 in yearning, for Jesus. 
On the mountains, 
In the cities, 
Through the corridors of power
 And streets of despair, 
To help, to heal, 
To confront, to convert, 
O come, O come, Immanuel. 

English: The Catholic church of St. John the B...
The Catholic church of St. John the Baptist at Ein Karem, Jerusalem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Inside Church of St John The Baptist Holy Land on left.

 The images above are from the ancient village of Ein Kerem, the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah, now a neighbourhood of Jerusalem. Today, the Catholic church of St John the Baptist stands at the birthplace of John the Baptist, while the church of the Visitation on the right is said to be where Mary visited John's mother, her cousin Elizabeth, while the two women were both pregnant / © A. Fernandez de la Vega. More beautiful images from other places throughout the Holy Land, that figure in the original Christmas story, sites that lie at the very root of the modern-day celebrations can be seen in this gallery here.

Michael D O'Brien's image of JohnThe Baptist in prison

He reaches out to the Holy Spirit which is able to penetrate through the dark bounds of the prison walls. So too do I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to release us from the shackles of oppression.

From the archives

 My Reflections from 2011 are here

Gaudete But Not Just For Advent here

Reflections from 2010 on the First Reading and the Gospel are here.

Another 2010 reflection for Gaudete Sunday here 

For Advent 2010, Brother Mickey McGrath, Father Jeff Putthoff and some youth and staff at Hopeworks ' in Camden New Jersey put together a few video Advent reflections. They used some of Brother Mickeys paintings as a starting point and asked people who live or work in Camden to talk about the painting, Camden, and the meaning of the Advent Season. This one features Bruce Main, President of Urban Promise in Camden and two students, Jeffery and Joshua.

The Mystic Rose of Advent and Mary

  Time for some music...

On Jordan's Stormy Bank
Jars of Clay

On Jordan's stormy banks I stand
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan's fair and happy land
Where my possessions lie

All o'er those wide extended plains
Shines one eternal day
There God, the Son forever reigns
And scatters night away.

I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land
I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land

No chilling wind nor poisonous breath
Can reach that healthful shore
Where sickness, sorrow, pain and death
Are felt and feared no more

I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land
I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land

When shall I see that happy place
And be forever blessed
When shall I see my Father's face
And in His bosom rest

I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land
I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land

Below a lovely version of On Jordan's Bank
Click on arrow

On Jordan's Bank-Advent by The Cathedral Singers˜Richard Proulx, Conductor on Grooveshark

Lyrics to above
On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry
announces that the Lord is nigh;
awake and hearken, for he brings
glad tidings of the King of kings.

Then cleansed be every breast from sin;
make straight the way for God within,
prepare we in our hearts a home
where such a mighty Guest may come.

For thou art our salvation, Lord,
our refuge and our great reward;
without thy grace we waste away
like flowers that wither and decay.

To heal the sick stretch out thine hand,
and bid the fallen sinner stand;
shine forth and let thy light restore
earth's own true loveliness once more.

All praise, eternal Son, to thee,
whose advent doth thy people free;
whom with the Father we adore
and Holy Ghost for evermore.

Let's hope and pray that the Syrian refugees get some much needed help.

 This was a first performance at Choral Evensong in Holy Trinity, Dunoon, Argyll, December 2011.

Lyrics below

Look, God, look
in the vastness of your dark
hear this song
in the chorus of the world
where I sing
for the glory of your coming
held by love
as the music pours from me
a flame within
as the night falls around me
hear my prayer
and come through the darkness
hold me waiting
as you wait to be born.

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