Advent Novena – Pastor’s Reflection (December 10, 2017)
I write you on behalf of our Dominican Shrine of St. Jude, the Parish of
St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena, and the Dominican Friars Health Care Ministry. Please join a program of communal prayer to prepare for Christmas 2017.
Preparing for Christmas with Jesus in the safe womb of the Virgin Mary
When we wish another grown up, “Merry Christmas,” what do we actually want for them?
We might hope they unwrap what they have always dreamed of, or that they would really take a break from work and savor the tastes and sips of the season, better yet, maybe this year they will find themselves under the mistletoe with that certain someone. But exchanging gifts, giving feasts, and falling in love are the works of people who feel safe. What we want for others, and ourselves, at Christmas is a safe place, a place safe enough to thrive in.
But the safest place for thriving is a child’s Christmas.
We inherit our desires for Christmas from our own childhood. Hopefully at this season our families surrounded our young selves with as much beauty, abundance, and attention as they could muster. Even if they couldn’t or didn’t, the absence of this well-being makes us want it for others all the more passionately. Think of the invisible carpet of safety under a child sitting on the floor captivated by a new toy, imagination and hands equally engaged. Think of the time and treasure devoted by parents and family to the creation of this one moment. Now we take this trouble over Christmas because we hope it sets the tone for all of childhood. We also do it for ourselves. We hope the child’s freedom from care will bring the security of Christmases past into our adult present.
Do you think the child at the heart of Christmas was safe? How do you read the story? The Scriptures show Jesus born of a family in forced transit, without the conventional comforts of childbirth. He is born to parents in an unconventional union and together the three go on to become refugees in Egypt. Yet this child is never unaccompanied. Mary and Joseph are both overtaken by events, but steadfast in their love and care. Further, the shepherds, the angels and the Wise Men, are signs of protective presence; they testify that God, who sent them all, is the safety of the child. The Child Jesus knows this and testifies to it when he is found in the Temple among the Doctors. He will make his security in the Father the firm witness of his whole fleshly career, all the way to his Crucifixion.
The Christmas Story is of God providing security in vulnerability. The Christ Child is laid in the Manger for himself and for every child, God taking note of each Soul from its first moment. The Child in the manger, and the child by the Christmas tree, both speak on behalf of God to the vulnerable child inside each of us.
If we get this message and work to make life safe for one child, we make it safe for a whole family, and if we work for the safety of all children we foster the life of our whole race.
Beginning on December 17 and concluding on Christmas Day, we will pray in common for the safety of children, so that childhood may have the power God designed for it. We want to pray that every child may know the safety of the womb, the cradle, the playpen, the classroom, and the playground. We want to beseech God for the well being of children in broken homes, addicted homes, and refugee camps. We will pray that God’s
providence may reach little ones who live in poverty and who live with disease.
The Novena Prayers will be said at each Mass celebrated in the two churches of our Parish. But at three services the preaching will also address our longing that childhood be safe, and the longing for safety by the child in each of us. The preached services will be at 6 AM (the Misa de Gallo) at St. Vincent Ferrer, 5:15 pm at St. Catherine of Siena (December 17 at 5 pm and December 23 -24 at 4 pm), and 6 pm at St. Vincent Ferrer.
At each church there will be a place of prayer for this Novena, complete with holy cards and slips for making petitions.
Christmas Novena Services will be at the Midnight Missa Cantata in the Dominican Rite at St. Catherine of Siena, and at the 8 am Mass at Dawn at St. Vincent Ferrer.
May the blessing of the Christ Child touch the child in you this Christmas.
For all the Friars