29 December 2023

Feast of the Holy Family, Year B; Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, Year B


St Joseph and the Christ Child

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 2:22-40 [or 22, 39-40] (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they [the parents of Jesus] brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord [(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons”. Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;

    for my eyes have seen your salvation
    that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
    a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

And his father and his mother marvelled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.] 

And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favour of God was upon him.

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

The Census at Bethlehem
Pieter Bruegel the Elder [Web Gallery of Art]

My late father visited me in the Philippines for six weeks in 1981, arriving on 16 February, one day before St John Paul II made his first visit as Pope. My Dad spent most of the time with me in a small seminary for diocesan seminarians that I was in charge of for two years in Tangub City, Misamis Occidental. Before that I had spent less than three months as parish priest of Tangub, the last Columban priest to hold that position.

One evening a family invited my father and myself to visit their home. We went with some other parishioners. When we were walking home slowly someone commented that my father and I were walking in exactly the same way, with our hands behind our backs. I had never been conscious of that before. I recalled Sunday mornings when I was a child when my father would take my brother and myself for a walk in the Phoenix Park, the largest enclosed park in any capital city in Europe, which was about ten minutes' walk from where we lived. Our walks in the Park were usually more of an amble or a mosey rather than the determined 'keep fit' type of walk that so many engage in today.

Phoenix Park, Dublin

But my friend's comment in Tangub City made me realise that I had unconsciously picked up this kind of ambling from my Dad.

I learned a lot more from him without being aware of it. When my brother Paddy, who is three years younger than me, was very young Dad would take me to Sunday Mass while Mam stayed at home with the baby and went to a later Mass. I gradually became aware that my father went to an early Mass every day of his working life before going to work on construction sites. (Like St Joseph he was a carpenter and was named John Joseph.) I noticed that after Mass he prepared my mother's breakfast, bringing it to her in bed, and I often saw him during winter cleaning the fireplace, taking away the ashes from the previous day's fire, and preparing it for the fire that would be lit later in the day. All of this before going to work.

I saw how he deeply respected my mother, and everyone else he met, most especially the men who worked under him on construction sites. I worked with him on one of those during the summer of 1967 when I was a subdeacon. I was ordained the following December. I saw at first hand what I already knew. He never swore, never raised his voice, was a real mentor to young workers, and led by example. He was a quiet man, with a sense of responsibility that he carried lightly and a gentle sense of humour.

The Census at Bethlehem (detail)
Pieter Bruegel the Elder [Web Gallery of Art]

In a number of places Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that St Joseph is the legal father of Jesus: Therefore let us venerate the legal father of Jesus (cfCatechism of the Catholic Church, n. 532), because the new man is outlined in him, who looks with trust and courage to the future. He does not follow his own plans but entrusts himself without reserve to the infinite mercy of the One who will fulfil the prophecies and open the time of salvation. This is because he named Jesus, as the angel had instructed him in Matthew 1:21 - She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sinsOn 19 March the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Today's gospel refers to Joseph and Mary as his father and mother. Jesus in his humanity learned from St Joseph how to behave as a boy and as an adolescent. He learned  the trade of a carpenter from St Joseph. Most likely he walked like St Joseph. And we can be sure that St Joseph took him to the synagogue on the sabbath. In today's gospel St Joseph and Mary take the infant Jesus to the Temple to present him to the Lord. They took him again to the Temple when he was twelve. These two events are marked in the fourth and fifth Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.

It was Joseph as husband of Mary who led the pregnant Mary to Bethlehem as shown in Pieter Bruegel the Elder's painting above, The Census at Bethlehem. The artist shows the Holy Family coming into a 16th-century Netherlands village in the depths of winter, nobody noticing them. This shows on the one hand that He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him (John 1:10-11). It shows on the other hand that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). God who became Man threw in his lot with us. He came into our townland, our village, our town, our city. The villagers in Bruegel's painting haven't rejected Jesus but they haven't yet recognised him.

St Joseph is central to all of this. He exemplifies the vocation of the husband and its consequence for most husbands, the vocation of the father, to an extent that no one else has done. He was the man whom Mary honoured as her husband and whom Jesus called Abba/Dad / Papa / Tatay.

Taken a week before his sudden death on 11 August 1987

Traditional Latin Mass

Sunday Within the Octave of the Nativity of Our Lord

The complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 12-31-2023, if necessary).

Epistle: Galatians 4:1-7. Gospel: Luke 2 1:33-40.

Presentation in the Temple
Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel (Luke 2:24; Gospel).

Monday 1 January 2024

Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

The Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord

This is a Holyday of Obligation in the Philippines, the USA and some other countries.

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 2:16-21 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

The shepherds went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Adoration of the Shepherds
Murillo, painted 1650-55 [Web Gallery of Art]

Traditional Latin Mass

The Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord

The complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 01-01-2023, if necessary).

Epistle: Titus 2:11-15. Gospel: Luke 2:21.

And at the end of eight days , when he was circumsised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Sung by Nancy Griffith with The Chieftains

This traditional Irish carol originated in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland.

A Happy New Year!

22 December 2023

Sunday Reflections, 4th Sunday of Advent, Year B; Christmas Day



Alessandro Allori [Web Gallery of Art]

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”  (Luke 1:38; Gospel)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 1:26-38 (English Standard Version Anglicised, India)

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favoured one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

The human being who came to life in her womb took Mary’s flesh, but his existence derived totally from God. He is fully man, made of clay — to use the biblical symbol — but comes from on high, from Heaven. The fact that Mary conceived while remaining a virgin is thus essential to the knowledge of Jesus and to our faith, because it testifies that it was God’s initiative and, above all, it reveals who the conceived being was. (Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus talk, 4th Sunday of Advent 2011).

Adoration of the Shepherds

Caravaggio [Web Gallery of Art]

And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger (Luke 2:12; Gospel, Mass During the Night).

Christmas Day, Years ABC

The Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord has four different Mass formularies, each with its own prayers and readings. Any of the four fulfils our obligation to attend Mass. These are:

 Vigil Mass, celebrated 'either before or after First Vespers (Evening Prayer) of the Nativity'; that means starting between 5pm and 7pm.

 Mass During the Night, known before as 'Midnight Mass'.

.Mass at Dawn.

 Mass During the Day. 

The readings from the Jerusalem Bible for the four Masses are all on one page but with links to each individual Mass. When you click on 'Readings' below from the New American Bible you will find links to the readings for each of the four Masses.

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel (Mass During the Night) Luke 2:1-14 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)  

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”


Léachtaí i nGaeilge 

From a Christmas Homily of Pope Benedict XVI

Again and again the beauty of this Gospel touches our hearts: a beauty that is the splendour of truth. Again and again it astonishes us that God makes himself a child so that we may love him, so that we may dare to love him, and as a child trustingly lets himself be taken into our arms. It is as if God were saying: I know that my glory frightens you, and that you are trying to assert yourself in the face of my grandeur. So now I am coming to you as a child, so that you can accept me and love me . . .

. . . The shepherds made haste. Holy curiosity and holy joy impelled them. In our case, it is probably not very often that we make haste for the things of God. God does not feature among the things that require haste. The things of God can wait, we think and we say. And yet he is the most important thing, ultimately the one truly important thing. Why should we not also be moved by curiosity to see more closely and to know what God has said to us? At this hour, let us ask him to touch our hearts with the holy curiosity and the holy joy of the shepherds, and thus let us go over joyfully to Bethlehem, to the Lord who today once more comes to meet us. Amen. (Opening and closing of Pope Benedict's homily, Midnight Mass 24 December 2012).

Tichá Noc (Silent Night in Czech)
Sung by Patricia Janečková

This recording was made about two years ago in the Catholic church in the Czech Republic where Patricia’s funeral Mass took place last October. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2022 and was only 25 when she died. May she rest in peace.

White Christmas
Words and music by Irving Berlin
Sung by Patricia Janečková  

The name of Christ is mentioned seven times in this song as is the Holy Sacrifice of Mass, since the word 'Christmas' means 'Christ's Mass', a name that goes back a thousand years in the developing English language.

Traditional Latin Mass

Vigil of the Nativity of the Lord or Christmas Eve 

The complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 12-24-2023, if necessary).

Epistle: Romans 1:1-16. Gospel: Matthew 1:18-21.

Christmas Day

The complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 12-25-2023, if necessary). Click on the circle in front of 'Missa prima', 'Missa secunda' or 'Missa tertia' for the specific Mass texts.

First Mass at Midnight

Epistle: Titus 2:11-15. Gospel: Luke 2:1-14.  

The Second Mass at Dawn

Epistle: Titus 3:4-7. Gospel: Luke 2:15-20.

Third Mass During the Daytime

Epistle: Hebrews 1:1-12. GospelJohn 1:1-14.

Adoration of the Shepherds (London)

Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art] 

And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger (Luke 2:16; Gospel, The Mass at Dawn). 


15 December 2023

'Therefore we may singen Deo gratias!' Sunday Reflections, 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year B


St John the Baptist

Donatello [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel John 1:6-8, 19-28 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’, as the prophet Isaiah said.”

 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.)  They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Mary, Queen of Heaven
Master of the Legend of Saint Lucy [Web Gallery of Art]

In the Philippines the Misas de Gallo, also known as Simbang Gabi or Aguinaldo Masses, the novena of pre-dawn Masses leading up to Christmas, will begin on Saturday, the 16th.  These are votive Masses in honour of our Blessed Mother and in thanksgiving for the gift of our faith. The Spanish word 'Aguinaldo' means 'gift' and in this context refers to the gift of faith. For 15 years, 2002 until 2016, I celebrated these in the chapel of St Joseph, Espinos Village, Bacolod City. As I am now based in Ireland, I don't have to get up at 3:30 am in order to start Mass at 4:30 am.

The Church over the centuries has reflected on gifts we have received from God that we could not have received had our First Parents never sinned. A song included among poems for Advent and Christmas in the Breviary published by the hierarchies of Australia, England &
 Wales, and Ireland is one of those reflections, Adam lay y-bounden. In the Breviary it is given the title O Felix Culpa, 'O Happy Fault'.

This particular song marvels at the fact that but for the reality of the sin of Adam we would never have had Our Lady as Queen of Heaven.

The poem reflects part of the Exultet, the Easter Proclamation: O certe necessarium Adae peccatum, /quod Christo morte deletum est! O truly necessary sin of Adam,/destroyed completely by the Death of Christ. O felix culpa,/quae talem ac tantum meruit habere Redemptionem! O happy fault/that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer.

At Easter we proclaim the great reality that God has given us a Redeemer and that he is now risen from the dead.

Coming up to Christmas we reflect on the birth of our Redeemer through the consent of Mary, his and our Mother. Mary is part of God's eternal plan and if we sideline her we distort that reality, as we also do if we put her in the centre and sideline her Son. In the painting above Mary, while being honoured as Queen of Heaven by the angels and saints is adoring God with her whole being, inviting us to do the same. The song too invites us to sing Deo gratias! Thanks be to God!

That is what the Church invites us to do every time we celebrate Mass, the Eucharist, the Thanksgiving. It invites Filipinos in particular at this time of the Aguinaldo Masses to thank God for the great gift of faith and to share it with others. One way in which Filipinos have been doing that is by introducing this centuries-old practice to other countries, adapting it to local circumstances.

O Felix Culpa (O Happy Fault)
Sung by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, England

Adam lay ybounden,
Bounden in a bond;
Four thousand winter,
Thought he not too long.
And all was for an apple,
An apple that he took.
As clerkes finden written
 In theiré book.
Ne had the apple taken been,
The apple taken been,
Ne hadde never our Lady,
A been heaven’s queen.
Blessed be the time
That apple taken was,
Therefore we may singen.
Deo gratias!

This song from England dates from the 15th century. The text here is an adaptation of the original Middle English and the musical setting is by Boris Ord.

Scottish poet Edwin Muir's One Foot in Eden, included in the Breviary for Lent and Easter, also reflects on the theme of felix culpa. 

One Foot in Eden
by Edwin Muir
Video and reading by Philip Marshall

What had Eden ever to say
Of hope and faith and pity and love
Until was buried all its day
And memory found its treasure trove?
Strange blessings never in Paradise
Fall from these beclouded skies.

Traditional Latin Mass

Third Sunday of Advent 

The complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 12-17-2023, if necessary).

Epistle: Philippians 4:4-7. Gospel: John 1:19-28.

Sung by Anúna, arranged by Michael McGlynn
Lyrics in the original Latin with English translation here.

Today is Gaudete Sunday, the name coming from the opening words of the Introit/Entrance Antiphon: Gaudete in Domino semper - Rejoice in the Lord always, taken in turn from the opening words of the Epistle today, Rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4).