Sunday, December 23, 2012

His Light Amidst Our Darkness. By: C.C.

       As we continue journeying through Advent and anticipate the coming of Christ again into our midst on Christmas day we are reminded of His light amidst our darkness. This idea of Jesus as light has been rather amplified for me personally during this Advent season. On December 19th I received the news that my great aunt Zia Giovanna had passed away.
   As my family continues to mourn the loss of my Zia I realize that there is something greater at work within this situation. Only a few days ago while Zia was on her way alone to visit her Doctor with a gift for Christmas she fell to the pavement as a result of a massive heart attack. Thanks to many kind soul bystanders who called 911 she was able to be stabilized enough to make it to the hospital. Today was difficult as I was just made aware of many of the details of her final moments. My Zia has suffered greatly in her life with heart trouble. From as early as her forties she had already had her first of what would be multiple heart attacks before her final rest at age 68.
   Today we had Zia's funeral and it was a very emotional time for all present. Despite her history of heart trouble she was doing relatively well and this was very sudden for all of us.  The viewing was very difficult and the burial was equally as sorrowful. It was very evident that Zia Giovanna is already greatly missed by everyone who knew her.
  Following the burial, we gathered at my grandparents home to eat and share time with one another. Due to the amount of people my Nonna decided to have our lunch in the basement at the larger table.
   As I walked down into Nonna's basement I realized that it was the first time in years that my entire family (extended family and all) was sharing a meal together in that basement. The death of my Zia had not only joined us all together again in love, but it brought life back into an area of the home where we used to spend many holiday dinners and gatherings. Overcome with emotion many of my cousins sat and cried over the loss of Zia, while others shared memories of Nonna's basement and the many laughs lived. We spoke of our deceased grandparents, great grandparents, uncles, cousins, and other relatives who have gone before us, and were once so very present in the same space that we shared today. When this realization came upon me I paused and took this picture with my phone. I had to capture this moment of us sharing food and candidly chatting with each other. When I looked at the picture later this evening I noticed the amount of light shining in through the small basement window; it was then I realized that the Lord's light is truly present amidst our time of darkness. 

    It is easy to focus on the darkness when these events occur. Death is one of these circumstances that presents us with numerous emotions. In these moments many question their faith, the existence of God, and the purpose for such a loss to happen. Especially now within this joyful season of Christ's birth it seems that death has come at the "wrong time". When we accept that God's time is always right and further seek and yearn for His will we may come to find supernatural hope and divine comfort within our hearts. We may come to see that God's light is truly so very near  to us. 
   Tonight I pray for all of those who mourn the loss of Zia Giovanna, and for anyone who is dealing with loss, suffering, and a heavy heart during this time. May we be open to seeing the light of Christ surrounding us amidst our circumstances. Let us draw nearer to our Lord with trust and hope that though we do not know His plan we can trust in His Providence. May we continue to extend the gift of love and our time to one another. May our Lord have mercy on all of our deceased loved ones and may they be welcomed into His Kingdom. Tonight I am saddened by the loss of my Zia, and yet, I rejoice with hopeful prayer for Zia Giovanna to be blessed to spend Christmas day with The birthday boy. Amen (C.C.)  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Advent: By: C.C.

"God is constantly revealing himself to us. He whispers to us, he doesn't shout--Advent invites us to listen and discover His grace and mercy" (Cardinal Dolan)

  As each of us are preparing for Christmas during this Advent season it is often easy to get caught up in the chaos and noise of our consumerist culture. As we journey through our Advent season it is important to take the time and put everything into proper perspective. As the commercial/consumerist world pulls at us with various propaganda we are called to remember the true focus of Christmas. We are called to keep Christ as the centre of the season.
  Cardinal Dolan reminds us of the quiet voice our Lord uses to speak to us. During this Advent season we are shouted at with an overwhelming amount of Christmas marketing and it is easy for us to lose sight of the real reason for the season. As we journey through Advent we are called to interior preparation for Christ. We must make an effort to set aside time for prayer and spiritual growth. It is important that we seek silence, solitude, and uninterrupted time with our Lord despite the many distractions, commitments, and other external things that may consume us
  The "Christmas season" seems to highlight the way in which we as Christians are in the world but not of the world. This is a time that we prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and one in which the world prepares for "X-mas". Let us continue to walk with our Lord and keep Him as the focus amidst our preparations. (C.C.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

St. Augustine and Perseverance: By: C.C.

"Your first task is to be dissatisfied with yourself, fight sin, and transform yourself into something better. Your second task is to put up with the trials and temptations of this world that will be brought on by the change in your life and to persevere to the very end in the midst of these things."
(St. Augustine)

   This sharing from St. Augustine is not written with any "fluff" at all. Augustine succeeds in relating a very important and hard hitting truth about the spiritual journey, and more so, about the effect of conversion and the on going effort that is required to persevere in the daily battle against sin. For those of you familiar with the life of St. Augustine and his Confessions you are aware that the emotions with which these hard hitting words are written were very familiar to this beloved Saint. Through the life of St. Augustine one comes to witness the tremendous transforming power of our Lord and the multitude of mercy that He has upon His children no matter how "lost" they may seem to be.
   "To be dissatisfied with yourself" is a statement that the secular world may look upon with a large amount of criticism. Today we seek to praise ourselves falsely, often setting our worth upon the external realities of our society and pleasures of the world. The idea of a soul and of sin is something very far from the minds of many individuals. Quite frankly, this reality was also something far from my mind at one point in my life. 
    The greatest blessing that God ever bestowed upon me was gifting me with complete dissatisfaction with myself and my life. This lead me to recognize the reality of sin that plagued me. It helped me to seek something greater. It helped me to find God in a way that I had never known. It was then that the stories of the Saints and statements like that which I share with you tonight became ever so real to me and relative. I began to understand that these works were more than just words and human testimonies of personal experiences- these words were the very real revelation of a present, loving, merciful, and powerful God. Revelations that though written so long ago their truth remains so relevant today because our Lord is constant and unchanging. Consistent with this unchanging and all loving Heavenly Father is the difficulty of the Spiritual life. 
   Recognition of sin and the yearning to "transform yourself into something better" is the beginning of a journey that St. Augustine reminds us is followed by "trials" and "temptations". Yes, these moments can be terribly difficult and the temptation to leave the path flirts with us along the way. Greater than all of this is the love of our Lord and the strength that He can provide when we cry out to Him as David did many times in the Psalms. We will come to see the "fruits" of our journey and our devotion in striving to become holy and better than what we are. The intense pain of purification is truly the birth of indescribable joy.
  Whatever it is that each of us battle within our lives, wherever we seek healing and God's mercy..PERSEVERE do not relent in your walk with the Lord. May we fully turn to Him who is able to satisfy our deepest desires and our restless hearts. In the midst of all trial and temptation may we cling to hope, love, and trust in our Lord. May all the Glory be to God. Amen (C.C.)

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer" (Romans 12:12)

(Musical Inspiration to tonight's writing- David Braid- El Castillo Interior)