Monday, December 18, 2017

18 December, the 3rd Monday in Advent

Jer 23:5-8
Ps 72
Mt 1:18-25

Matthew’s account of the events leading up to Jesus’ birth  is shorter than Luke’s.  It does not include the Annunciation, the Visitation, or the exquisite prayers we say daily in the office.  However, Joseph, who is almost ignored by Luke, plays a critical role in today’s Gospel.  On Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, we will hear Mary’s yes at the Annunciation.  Today we hear Joseph’s yes. 

The background for Joseph's consternation and plan to quietly divorce his betrothed, is a rigid legal system that outlined the marriage process in great detail. The process was complex. It involved the families more than the couple.   Betrothals, were from one to several years. They  had a specific legal status and involved the exchange of a contract.  Only after an engagement, during which the woman remained in her father’s house, was she welcomed into her husband’s.  Today's gospel begins at this point.

Not one word is attributed to Joseph in scripture.  We know that he was righteous only by his actions, we know that he was righteous only by his willingness to do what God commanded through the angel: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.”

Joseph  was righteous because, like Mary, his obedience to God was immediate and unquestioning.  There was no quid pro quo. He did not argue with God.  He did not weary God.  Joseph did what had to be done.  Upon hearing the angel’s message he took Mary into his house.  Later, an angel would come with another message.  Then Joseph would take his young family to Egypt for an extended exile that ended with Herod's death. 

The events we commemorate as we move through the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord are human and humane.  Mary and Joseph struggled as we do.  They were as stressed as we are.  They experienced the same emotions that we do from fear and anxiety to great joy and tremendous sorrow.  Mary and Joseph both acted with the obedience of faith without demanding explanations, goals, and a rationale for what they were told.  They understood that obedience entails giving up control and understanding that faith, as we hear in the Letter to the Romans,  is the conviction of things unseen. 

Tonight at vespers we will sing the second of the O Antiphons that introduce the Magnificat:

"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." 

Allow those words to stay with you. 


Every year during Advent, the 'O Antiphons' are sung or recited before the Magnificat in the Divine Office beginning on 17 December until 23 December.  In addition the readings in the office of readings and the readings at Mass are specific for the same dates.  There is no 4th Week of Advent this year except for a few hours at best sometime between the last Mass for the 4th Sunday of Advent and the Vigil of the Birth of Our Lord.  The readings over the coming days are familiar.  They are read annually.  But that does not diminish their power.  Indeed, the familiarity enhances their effect on those who attend to them as they allow us to meditate on them again in whatever state of body, mind, and spirit we happen to be.  

I took the photos below last Sunday morning after about 6 inches of snow feel over Boston.  The campus was particularly beautiful with the soft snow.  As there was no wind it remained on the branches of the trees and the many crevices and ledges of the buildings.  The sun enhanced the beauty further. 

Will celebrate Mass at St. Patrick Manor in Framingham this morning and then hit the computer to write a bunch of homilies for the coming days.  I suspect I will adapt a previous Christmas homily; no sense reinventing the wheel. 

The view overlooking Boston.  The Prudential Building (The Pru) is the tall building on the right while the Hancock (it may have been renamed) is to the left.  In several months the Boston Marathon thundering horde will pass BC at the top of 'Heartbreak Hill.'  Shortly afterward they will make a right turn and head down Beacon toward the finish line at the Pru.  

Two shots from the refectory in St. Mary 's Hall, the Jesuit residence.  Took these about twenty or thirty minutes after the one above.  The morning started out gray and then blossomed into cold perfection.  There are baskets of apples, plums, oranges, and bananas on top of one of the serving tables.  Nice still-life subjects. 

The Jesuit chapel in St. Mary's Hall.  This will be a frequent subject over the coming months. 

I've gone on record as saying that if I were forced to limit myself to either color or black and white photography for one year black and white would be the easy choice.  It is a tremendous medium.  Fuji makes a camera that only shoots black and white.  The problem is the price: $7500.00, lens not included.  The first black and white is the same as the one of the chapel above converted using the Capture One photo processing program.  

The entrance to St. Mary's Hall

Photography is the study of the relationship of light and shadow, brilliance and darkness.  I began shooting glass   as the primary subject when I was in Slovenia.  There aren't many outdoor cafes in Boston, especially in the winter, but this was an attractive subject in the rectory.  Some cutlery and plates.  

Gasson Hall.  I took this on the way to breakfast.  I'm not sure I can do any better than this.  

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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