An Angel speaks (and someone listens)

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Ever wonder what an angel’s appearance might be like? Ever been curious how they come down to earth? What, I wonder is the sound of their voice? Angels are strange to describe, and all sorts of interpretations have been crafted in word and paint and wood and stone and clay. None is accurate, nor inaccurate, prove or disprove an angels existence, yet they do exist and make themselves known from time to time. They are present more than people ever admit. They are the most highs messenger and message. Heavenly.

Mary likely described the appearance of the Angel Gabriel to the Apostles (the apperance at the Annunciation) as they would have not yet been on the scene. I wonder what their reaction might have been. (?) I also wonder at which point in their journey with Mary the story was told to them. Was it during Christ’s ministry ,or was it after the Resurrection ,or after the Ascension, or after Pentecost? I wonder what questions they might have asked.

The Apostles world was much more in tune with angels than mine. They knew them and understood them intuitively, they didn’t try to rationalize or dissect them. They were part of life. The age of science had yet to descend upon them. Their dialogue was different.

The Angel Gabriel tells young Mary that the news she is to receive is a blessing. Hail Mary, a salute. The LORD is with you, a blessing. When Mary told the story, she must have told the Apostles the angel’s name, and those Apostles knew the meaning. Gabriel means “the LORD is with you.” Joseph was told the same. They knew what they have received was from God, and that it was good. They would have heard that message before. It is the message of creation. God creates, and saw that it was good. Certainly they must have heard the story of Genesis, did they recognize that the story was being repeated again?

I wonder how many times that angel has reappeared over the centuries. I wonder if anyone would recognize the message. I have no doubt that Mary was receptive to the voices of a variety of angels. Through prayer she learned to be receptive to them, and she kept an open ear to listen for their voices. She must have called out and listened for a response. Her eyes must have been open to discover their path. She was open to angels and their messages, she didn’t shut them out. She heard of them appearing to others both in scripture and as she journeyed throughout life. They were part of her world. She didn’t try to rationalize them or create or disprove them. She understood angels and accepted them, I wonder what would happen if we did the same?

(today mention an angel and people smirk, say you’re a witch and they will play your game)… . .

Zeppole di San Giuseppe

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A couple of days ago I rambled on about an Irish Saint and an Irish-American celebration. Today is the feast of Saint Joseph, and a day that is particularly celebrated in Italy and by Italians worldwide. If I rambled about the national celebrations of Patrick in food and drink, Josephs day should be treated in the same regard. In Italy this is the Feast of San Guiseppe and the word that I think deserves some attention is FEAST. Feasts are celebrated. An interesting twist is that Josephs day always occurs in Lent but it has developed its celebration per that season. One of the highlights of this feast day is the Saint Joseph altars that are constructed, and they are filled with a combination of religious items such as statues and an abundance of food. The altars are tiered to represent the trinity with Joseph at the top. The rest of the altar consists of breads and pastries baked in shapes that highlight Christianity.

It is an altar of abundance, but it is an abundance of thanks to Saint Joseph for answering the prayers of the Sicilians during a great famine. The food gives thanks, it is also used to help feed those in need. It is a feast truly in the spirit of Christ. The altar also is a true altar, it is not simply a banquet. Tradition dictates that the altar be adorned with images of loved ones, and that it contains prayers of petition. The altar feeds both body and soul.

“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.

The Feast of Saint Joseph always occurs in Lent, and it is a food fest, but it is one that is respectful of the seasons fasts and abstinence. It also is an old celebration that dates to the middle ages, that is important because the Lenten season was considerably stricter centuries ago. While there is a copious amount of food on that altar, there is no meat. It is true to the season. Like Saint Patrick’s Day in America with its corned beef and cabbage, Saint Joseph’s feast day has a couple of food specialties of its own. The first acknowledges both the season of Lent and Josephs trade. That dish is Pasta con le Sarde, pasta with sardines. It features the fish to meet Lents requirements and is prepared with breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs represent the sawdust of the carpenter, and they are highlighted on this feast day. The second part of the meal is the dessert, and Sicily is famous for their deserts. For his feast day Saint Joseph gets a special desert made in his honor, Zeppole di San Giuseppe!

Finally, this special day has one more food item associated with it, the fava bean. That was the bean that sustained the Sicilians, through the intercession of Saint Joseph, during that drought so many years ago. The beans are often packaged in little bags with holy card or medal to be given to the hosts guests. The reminder is that a house with fava beans in their cupboard will never go hungry.

Why did I outline this food celebration of Saint Joseph without discussing that blessed Saint so much? I think it is because it highlights the honored tradition of celebrating Saints in festive ways, and festive ways that involve food and drink. Saint Joseph’s feast day goes back centuries and is steeped in tradition. Saint Joseph is the patron saint of families and that should be remembered. Saint Patrick’s feast in America, even though it is only a memorial, only goes back a hundred years or so. Granted it tradition gets a little rowdy, but it still does fit in with tradition if the SAINT is honored. Feasts like the Feast of San Guiseppe should be celebrated as a feast. That’s important, it’s a just dessert.

I included the little quote from the Angel that spoke to Joseph as he slept, telling him not to be afraid to take Mary into his home and for him to accept the Child she was carrying. It gives reason for the celebration, Joseph was obedient to that Angel. He was obedient to the LORD, and accepted what the LORD had planned for him. In embracing Gods plan Joseph accepted bot the joy’s and the sorrow’s and even things he could not yet understand. He listen to, and placed his trust in the LORD. He was grateful for all the LORD had given him as the people of Sicily are grateful for Joseph’s intercession during a time of need. He helped turn a famine into a feast. Is their any greater reason to celebrate than that?

Solemnity of Saint Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary

2 Sm 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16   Ps 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 and 29  Rom 4:13, 16-18, 22   Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24a  Lk 2:41-51a

Mary Mother of God

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Mary, mother of God. The start of a new year.

Mary, mother of God. Salvation is born from her, she listened to the angel’s announcement.

She held it close to her.

Mary, mother of God listens to the message of an angel delivered by shepherds; and holds it in her heart.

Mary, mother of God; salvation is born from her. A new testament begins.

Always open to those angelic voices, and attentive to the voice of the LORD.

Through her, the word becomes flesh. She, the perfect disciple of her son.

Immaculate Mary, free from sin. She intercedes on our behalf, the bearer of the LORD.

Hail Mary, full of grace. God’s Grace. Blessed are thou amongst women, blessed by the LORD. Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, our salvation.

Mary at the annunciation, and the nativity, and at the foot of the Cross.

Mother of God, and always by her Son. Something to remember as one stumbles on a walk or a trek or a journey.

Her intercession can make that journey safe, Mary the Mother of God.

Mary at the Assumption crowned in heaven, never far from her son.

Mary mother of God, pray for us.

That you’re Son might guide us through a new year.

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Angels Gabriel,Michael ,Raphael

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“Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see heaven opened
and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Angels are important. They are the messengers of God. Without the angel Gabriel, would Mary have received the message that “the Lord is with you.” It is the angel Gabriel that tells Mary ” Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God” and it is the angel Gabriel who told Mary “and behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus” The Angel Gabriel said to Mary; The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

Angels are important, and the messages they deliver are important. Angel Gabriel is the message of Gods strength. How often it was that Mary must have prayed for Gods strength, and how vigilant she must have been to receive Gods message and messenger. Through the messenger Gabriel Mary listens about of a child conceived by God, and that listening to Angels is important; if you don’t listen to the angel of God, then chances are you will fall prey to the messages of his opponent. Mary prayed to God and listened for Gods messenger, she awaited an Angel.

Gabriel is the angel “the strength of God”, an answer to prayers to Gods strength. Michael is the angel “who is like God”: Quis ut Deus! Michael battles Satin, the angel Michael is that of a warrior in search of an opponent, a protector and guardian. Prayers to Saint Michael the Archangel are for protection. Gabriel’s symbol is the horn delivering Gods message to Gods people, Michael’s is the sword for the defense of those people from the devil Satin.

The Angel Raphael is the message of Gods healing, or the prayer “God, please heal” and the message “God has healed.” From John, Chapter 5: “And an angel of the Lord descended at certain times into the pond and the water was moved. And he that went down first into the pond after the motion of the water was made whole of whatsoever infirmity he lay under.” The angel is Raphael. As simply human, people make mistakes. As people in battle with a devil enemy, people fall in battle and are wounded. We are subject to human frailties, disobedient, sinful, and easily deceived; we are victims of our human nature. It is the angel Raphael who delivers the message of Gods healing.

Angels are important; they are the messengers of Gods strength, protection, and healing. Throughout the bible, both old and new testament, are encounters with Angels. In the ancient world they were attentive to the works of angels. Over time though the image of angels has shifted through art  and legend, cultural influences, and folklore that the theology of Angels can easily be obscured. That is sad because if the role of an angel becomes lost, there is always the danger that the message they are to deliver also might be lost; and the messages delivered by these messengers, Angels, are supremely important.

The Assumption of Mary

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“By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory”.

-Pope Pius XII    November 1, 1950   Munificentissimus Deus

Mary lived her life as an example to the human race, and her assumption is our hopeful reward for a life faithfully lived.It is the promise made by Jesus to all faithful Christians that they too will be received into heaven. Mary’s incorruptibility in life does not end once her earthly life is completed, it is an immaculate life. In Pope Pius XII’s dogma of the Assumption he refers to her death before the assumption but since the dogma does not emphatically state her death,Catholics are free to believe that Mary did die not before the Assumption.

In the Orthodox Church’s tradition the Dormition of the Theotokos  is celebrated on the same day , August 15. Their teaching does state that Mary did die a natural death, the same as all humans. Her soul  was received  by Christ at the time of death, and her body was resurrected three days after. An empty tomb was found on that third day. The Orthodox Church  places emphasis on Mary’s natural death as to emphasize that Mary was truly human and a true example on how to live.Her example was fidelity to God and the simplest description of that fidelity can be found in the first two lines of the Magnificat, the Song of Mary:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant
From this day all generations will call me blessed
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.”

These are words fitting to be said of any human being. To declare a wondrous God that continuously desires our love and success.  In these lines we also declare our own humanity, just as Mary did,  and our role as humble servants of the Lord.