December 24, 2016 – Silence

Words cannot describe how excited my children are for tomorrow. Their eyes are glowing and they are twitching and bouncing all over the house. While we aren’t experiencing many “Silent Nights”, their joyful energy is filling the house with special emphasis on our nativity scene.

Advent Prayer Reflections - Christmas Eve. dailygraces.net
Traveling Mary and Joseph – Fontanini Nativity set. CC Kate Taliaferro 2016.

Last year for Christmas Ben gave me a “traveling” Mary and Joseph. Mary is pregnant and sitting on the donkey while Joseph walks beside her. I love the realism. Mary looks exhausted and is barefoot. Joseph also looks weary but still shows the way. They have been traveling to the manger scene since we set up the nativity. We put up the the more traditionally posed Mary and Joseph along with Baby Jesus and the kids know that today Mary and Joseph will finally arrive at the stable. At first, they kept asking “Where are the real Mary and Joseph? The ones who sit by Jesus?” It was interesting to see how even at 5 and 4 years old they already have impressed in their minds the image of the Holy Family peacefully sitting in the stable.

This got me thinking about our past 4 weeks of Advent prayer experiences. We exposed ourselves to a variety of prayer forms, reflections and methods. Prayer is so many things! It is preparation and petition. It is reflection and listening. Prayer has the power to transform and stabilize. Ideally, prayer is our relationship with our God.

Look at Mary and Joseph on their journey. Because of their relationship with God they were open to His divine presence working in their lives. When the angel came to both of them (Mary at the Annunciation and Joseph in his dream) they were given the opportunity to say “yes” to God’s Will for their lives. They continued to say yes each day that followed, all the way to this day, the day before the Day.

We, too, have been preparing our hearts and minds this Advent to welcome the Christ child. We have shouted with John the Baptist, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” and we have quietly offered our own yes to God’s Will. For today, I’d encourage you to spend your 3 minutes in silent union with the Holy Family. Spend your time in silence, finding the tension between peaceful trust and anxious anticipation that Mary and Joseph must have felt on this morning.

It is the last day of travel and unbeknownst to them, the last day of Mary’s pregnancy. They probably shared their breakfast together and I would bet they prayed together. Ahead of the them the road was probably becoming crowded and noisy. They may have been worried about where they would stay that night. Would today be the day their precious baby, God’s son, would be born?

In the midst of all the excitement, noise and celebration today brings, allow yourself a few minutes to be united with Mary and Joseph as they awaited the coming of their Savior, their son.

*** Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook pageDaily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

 

December 10, 2016 – Let us see Your face

I love the Psalm refrain for today: Lord make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved. This beautifully sums up most of what we have been talking about this week, namely looking at Mary to teach us how to unite our will with God’s Will.

Lord make us turn to you: The psalmist is asking God to help us reorient our lives, our wills, to God’s design and purpose for us. We are asking God to clear the path and show us the way to submitting our broken wills to His perfect Will. What better guide than Mary?

Let us see your face: We are asking God to reveal His Will to us. How does God reveal His Will? Sometimes we see it through people around us, sometimes through certain experiences or moments of clarity.  But to see God’s face, to come that close to God, there is something we absolutely have to do. We have to read the Bible, which we believe is the inspired Word of God. We have God’s Words, His promises, His desires for humanity and how we are to live with one another all written down for us in a living text that is as relevant today as the day Jesus read from it in the synagogue. If we truly wish to see the face of God and to know His Will we must read His Words.

We shall be saved: Here we bring in again the blessing of Elizabeth: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Key in on the phrase “spoken to you.” You might think, well God doesn’t speak to us today like He did back then. Friends, God does. Remember, the Scriptures are not dead words on a page but are God’s inspired and creative Words. If we open ourselves to God in Scripture we will find Him in our hearts. We will come to know God’s Will and grow in our union with Him.

St. Augustine explains how during the time of the prophets God made promises to His people. St. John the Baptist was the last prophet. The coming of Christ signaled the beginning of the fulfillment of the promises God had made. We are still in this time of fulfillment, but during Advent we take time to reflect on the original promises God made as we prepare for Jesus to come. For today, spend some time reflecting on the following passages from St. Augustine regarding God’s promises and their fulfillment.

He [God] promised us eternal salvation and an unending life of blessedness with the angels, and an imperishable inheritance, the joy of seeing his face, a dwelling-place with him in heaven, and the fear of death removed from us through the resurrection. This is, if you like, his ultimate promise. We look forward to it, and when we reach it, we will want nothing more. But as to how this final end is to be reached, he has also told us in promises and prophecies…

Even so, it was not enough for God to send his Son to point out the way – he made his Son the way itself, so that we can go on our journey guided by him as he walks along his own way (http://www.catholic.org/advent/story.php?id=30978).

***Are you finding the experience of focusing on what you are waiting for providing opportunities for growth? Is your time spent in prayer over these situations bearing fruit in your life as you unite your will more closely to God’s? Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook page.Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

December 9, 2016 -Waiting Well

I absolutely love this picture and message. Though this is my fourth pregnancy, I have only been pregnant during Advent one other time (with John) and that was early in the pregnancy. This time around, I’m now almost 34 weeks along (anything 38 weeks and beyond is considered full term) I’m feeling much more attune to what Mary may have been going through during this same time.

Mary must have been thrilled with how things turned out for her. Not only was she not stoned or outcast from her community (definitely a plus), but her husband Joseph choose not to divorce her and still took her into his home (double bonus). Things were going well. Then, at some point during the pregnancy, a census is ordered. Because she was now Joseph’s wife, she had to travel with him to his family’s town of Bethlehem. Remember that journey she took to visit Elizabeth (approximately 80 miles) while sick and exhausted? Now she had to make a similar trip, somewhere between 70 and 90 miles, but this time with a growing baby who kicked her bladder, tried to burrow under her ribs and an insatiable need for more food and rest. Again, Mary is way tougher than I am.

Things went from comfortable to extremely uncomfortable quickly. We don’t know the exact timing of the census, but it is completely possible that the couple found out about it on one day and had to leave the next or within the week. Can you imagine needing to gather items for that kind of journey in less than 24 hours. And oh yes, you will also probably have to deliver a baby somewhere along the way or if you are lucky, after you reach Bethlehem. I love you Ben, but I think Joseph might be a bit tougher than you too =)

Waiting, wondering, worrying. Mary and Joseph must have shared these emotions with one another on that grueling journey. What if? How will we? Why now? We ask these same questions today.

In the spirit of Advent, today choose one of these questions and finish it with whatever you are struggling with or waiting for.

  • What if?
  • How will we/I?
  • Why now?

Then, go back to the blessing Elizabeth offered to Mary. “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45). Those words that must have comforted Mary early in her pregnancy would certainly continue to support her at it’s end. They are waiting to offer you solace and strength in the here and now.

***Are you starting to see how uniting our will with God’s is the key to not only getting to heaven, but to our current happiness? Even when life is swirling around us, God’s Will is ever steady. Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook page.Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com