Thursday, December 18, 2008

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son"

Issue Date: December 21, 2008 (4AdvB)

BURNING QUESTION: Should Catholics be offended by the term "Xmas?"
FEATURED BLOG: The Virgin Mary: Model of Faith and First Believer
RECONCILIATION: ‘Tis the Season for Reconciliation
PASTORAL HISPANA: El sí de María nos trajo la salvación

Dear Friends,

On the carefully programmed Advent journey to Christmas, the Fourth Sunday belongs to Mary. This is so because Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Jesus, necessarily involves the motherhood of Mary. Sunday's Gospel - and the Discussion Questions we've chosen - tells us how Mary prepared for that wonderful event by accepting the message of an angel, which meant allowing God to determine how she could be a mother and remain a virgin. The Virgin Mary was "A Model of Faith and First Believer."

The Sunday Readings tell us that David does not build a house for the Lord but instead the Lord provides a house for David — a great family of descendents: the House of David. Fr. Alex McAllister notes that Mary was not to build a temple for God but was to be the temple of God. Mary was given a choice. Mary said “Yes!” to the same Word of God that whispers into our ears today, calling us to continue the transformation of the world. While Fr. John Foley, S.J. asks how much do you and I listen to the voice of God’s promise that is written in our hearts? So while many will celebrate the secular Christmas season, Father Cusick reminds us all that celebrating the "holy day" is the best holiday.

Fr. Phil Bloom preaches that we not only admire Mary; we need her help. Mary models for us a life that is wonderfully fruitful through loving concern for the welfare and happiness of others. Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm explains that there is no better way than this to prepare for and to celebrate the birth of Jesus, "the promise made flesh, God become Man." Fr. James Gilhooley explains how we can trace this information in the Old Testament. Christ is really and truly born for us only if we are prepared to celebrate the anniversary of his birth as a moment of faith. Just as Jesus was not born in a perfectly staged setting, Fr. Thomas Rosica exlpains how the incarnation means that we enter history and deal with the world as it is, and not as we would wish it to be.

CELEBRATING ADVENT. From Rome we bring you the 2008 Advent Homily of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the Pontifical Preacher. His message: "Called by God to Communicate With his Son Jesus Christ." Lenora Grimaud shares with all her "Prayerful Advent Reflection." And if you know the Christmas Antiphons, you know that they're sung one per day beginning Deccember 15, at the Magnificat during vespers. They are very ancient, written in Latin and extraordinarily rich in references to the prophecies of the Messiah. Here they are in transcription, with a guide to interpretation. And in the form of our Burning Question this week, should Catholics be offended by the term "Xmas?" Believe us when we say it's not a silly question. Read on.

CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS. Pope Benedict said this week that "Christmas Isn't Too Good to Be True." He affirmed that the feast reveals life's true meaning. It's a sentiment Fr. Peter deSousa shares as he declares, "The Gift of Life is the Christmas celebration." While seminarian Jerome Placido challenges us: 'Tis the Season - How presentable are we to God?

In the midst of secular images of Christmas, the Pope is encouraging the faithful to put a Nativity scene in their homes. And what's the Point of a Christmas Tree? Pope Benedict explains how it is a symbol of Life and Hope. And the Custos of the Holy Land gives his Christmas Message: If like the shepherds we are materially or spiritually poor, we must spiritually go to Bethlehem for answers to problems that "lacerate our souls."

STORE SANTAS, LAS VEGAS AND CHRISTMAS. We bring you a moving story about a department store Santa who brought holiday cheers to a little girl who was dying of cancer. And If you're planning on spending your holidays in Las Vegas, know that the Catholic Church keeps vigil in Sin City. If you feel the need to confess after a night on the Strip, two churches with priests on hand are ready nearby.

If you're like me, Mr. Last Minute Everything, here's a great resource for you: A Procrastinator's Guide to Celebrating Christmas. And if you find yourself stumped when young children quiz you about the reasons behind our many Christmas traditions, "All your questions about Christmas are finally ansered - Here!" And don't forget to explain to them "Why Jesus is better than Santa" depite all the commercial hoopla surrounding the big fellow in red.

Another eventful week in our Catholic world. May you and your family have the most blessed Christmas celebration.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

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