Wanna understand the world? Study Theology.

I just came across this video from Audrey Assad. Beautiful rendition of a classic hymn. I will give you a bit to listen.

One of the most blessed experiences I have had since coming to seminary is the opportunity to study the faith on a level I never imagined possible. There are some courses where I come out of each and every session with my mind blown, giving thanks to God for His creation and work in salvation, praying that I might be able to grasp even a fraction of this wonder. I am certainly not the best student: I procrastinate for sure, and could always work a bit harder, but the privilege of being able to take time to study these mysteries is a reality that is not lost on me, and I realize that I will likely never have it at any other time in my life.

Case in point: almost every single word in the above song takes on more weight, extra meaning. Studying scripture and theology has had a more profound effect on my own faith, how I view myself, and how I view the world around me, whether in terms of science, morality, or relationally, just to name a few, than I can possibly fathom.

Thank you Lord.

But you do not have to be in seminary or get a Master’s degree in theology to have this experience! We all have the opportunity to deepen our faith, to study, and reflect. He calls us all into a more profound understanding of His love. Whether you are taking 17 units in graduate theology, or simply want to start reading a single book, the opportunity is there. Read the daily mass readings. Make a commitment to read a little scripture each day. Pick up a book by a classic author or saint. Even if you only have a few minutes, take the time each day to study, to pray, to reflect. I promise that you will not be disappointed.

To God be the Glory.

Pax.

This Month in Stargazing: February

This month promises to provide some good opportunities for naked-eye viewing as we continue with cool winter nights, and (hopefully) clear skies:

Five planets before sunrise: about 45-60 minutes before sunrise, you can still view all five of the planets visible with the naked eye. Look for Jupiter in the southwest, and proceed to Mars, Saturn, Venus, and Mercury towards the southeast. The moon does start rising early in the morning this month, but it is also waning, so shouldn’t cause too much interference. Mercury will be particularly striking on February 7. In addition, the moon will be on the other side of the Earth at night on February 8. Discover magazine has a good blog about how to view this event.

Feb. 1 – The moon will be in conjunction with Mars in the early morning hours, rising in the southern sky, with the closest approach occurring in the constellation Libra.

Feb. 3 – Now it is Saturn’s turn to meet the moon, again in the early morning hours.

Feb 23. – Jupiter greets the moon, rising in the east and reaching their highest point, at least here in the Pacific Northwest, at 01:24. Look for their closet approach in the constellation Leo.

Feb. 29 – Mars and the moon meet up once again in the southern sky in the early morning hours, at 01:31.

Moon: The New Moon will be on February 8, which of course promises means some good stargazing. The full moon will be on February 23.

Remember that any of the times listed here need to be adjusted for your locality. For example, the times for most of the planetary conjunctions with the moon are about 30 mins earlier in my hometown of Sacramento. Your best bet is to use a resource like In-The-Sky.org, which will make adjustments based on your location.

Happy viewing! Pax.

Other sources:

On the Journey: How have you used your gifts?

Augustine’s Confessions: Book 1, Chapters 17-18

This very day you are ready to rescue from this fearsome abyss any soul that searches for you, any man who says from the depths of his heart, I have eyes only for you; I long Lord, for your presence. -Confessions I.18

We all have gifts. Some of us are writers. Others are singers. Still others are skilled at working with people, while others have an innate ability to solve complex mathematical problems. Some peoples’ gifts reside in the area of interpersonal relations, others are gifted academics, and still others have gifts in their spiritual life and practice. We have all met people with an abundance of gifts, and yet we often overlook our own. We all, however, have our own special unique gifts, given to us by God. How do we use those gifts though?

If I was pressed to give an answer, I would probably consider one of my own gifts being

writing

One of my favorite pastimes – writing. I just wish I had more time to do it (and more opportunities to do it by hand). Own work, copyright 2014.

that of writing. I don’t have any great talent in it, but I enjoy it and it brings contentment, whether I am writing in my own journal, working on an academic paper, or crafting a letter to a close friend. But like most of us who are struggling on this path of holiness, seeking to grow closer to Him, there have certainly been times when I haven’t cherished this gift as I should.

One example comes from my pre-conversion days in high school. I was in the library at lunch with my then-girlfriend and we weren’t doing anything in particular, just hanging out. I then remembered that I had a paper due in English the very next period. I immediately went over to the computer and started typing away. My girlfriend was a bit incredulous I suppose, thinking that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. I then continued on, finishing up the paper just as the bell was ringing. I looked it over once, corrected a couple of things, and prepared to turn it in.

I got an A on the assignment. In fact, it was one of the few I actually turned in – I wasn’t the best student in high school.

My girlfriend was upset and gave me a bad time about the assignment – I basically just popped the paper out right there without really spending time on it.. What’s worse is that I knew I would get an A on it. I don’t even remember what the topic of the paper was, but boy was I arrogant and prideful!

Saint Augustine experiences the same sort of pride in his childhood too: “Let me tell you, my God, how I squandered the brains you gave me on foolish delusions” (I.17). Now granted, the great saint was a much better student than I was, but he still experienced the same issue, an issue that I experienced and that we all experience at one time or another: he was “so much smoke without the fire” (I.17), squandering his gifts, rather than using them to give glory to the Lord.

So what are we to do with these gifts? How do we keep from letting them fall to the wayside, or worse yet, how do we keep from using them for unworthy purposes? After all, too often in our world, we are taught to “get ahead” and “be successful.” This is usually done when we utilize one or another of the gifts God has given us. Why not turn the focus from ourselves and towards God? This doesn’t necessarily mean that every other word out of your mouth has to be religious; it just means that everything we say and do can be oriented toward His glory, whether implicitly or explicitly, so that we do not “waste in dissipation all the wealth” which the Father has given us. This orientation toward the Lord can be as simple as saying a short prayer before undertaking a task,  or as involved as explicitly reflecting on how our actions serve the Lord and serve others. Remember the words of C.S. Lewis: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” So whether your are a singer or a teacher, an administrator or a writer, an astronomer or a florist, a business executive or a stay at home parent, seek out how you can use your gifts to glorify Him.

As Augustine notes in this week’s reading, the Father, the one who gave us these gifts, is there waiting for us, just as the father of the prodigal son waited. All we have to do is turn around and return to Him.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. What gifts has God given me whether material, intellectual, relational, or spiritual?
  2. How can I better utilize those gifts to serve Him and those people around me?

This is part of a continuing series, Companions on the Journey, which travels along with a particular companion in the spiritual life, one of the great saints, in order discover how some of their writings might be applicable to our everyday lives. Currently, we are traveling with Augustine of Hippo through his work, Confessions. You can take a look at previous posts in the series or read the introduction.

+JMJ+

Pic of the Week: Majestic Saturn

Ah, everyone’s favorite planet! Fresh from the Cassini mission, this picture shows the sheer immensity of the sixth planet orbiting Sol. To give you an idea of how big it is, look in the lower right-hand corner and you will notice one of its moons, Tethys. To give you some reference point, our own moon is only about 3 times as large as Tethys. You could fit 763 Earths inside Saturn itself.

Saturn

From JPL/NASA: This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 8 degrees above the ring plane. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on March 7, 2015 using a spectral filter that preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 752 nanometers.

Tethys has been brightened by a factor of 2 to increase its visibility.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.6 million miles (2.6 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 10 miles (16 kilometers) per pixel. Tethys is slightly closer at 1.5 million miles (2.4 million kilometers) away, for an image scale of 9 miles (14 kilometers) per pixel.

Pax.

From Wandering Hobbit to Believing Astronomer

Well, I meant to post this update about a week ago, but alas, as a seminarian in graduate-level theology, other matters tend to take the forefront (and rightly so!). But I finally have a moment to sit down and give a proper update here at The Believing Astronomer, what used to be The Road Goes Ever On.

First, you’ll notice that I have my own website domain now, thanks to a generous Christmas gift from a family member (thanks Dad!). I’m still running trusty ol’ WordPress, but it should be easier to find the site now. The new address is also reflected in the new title, which is, as you can see, The Believing Astronomer.

But why the new name? Well, there are a couple reasons:

  1. Science and faith are two important aspects of my life, especially astronomy and cosmology in terms of science. While science can never replace my faith, I fully believe that faith and reason go hand-in-hand. God gave us minds to use and to observe, to study the world. We are called to a responsible examination of everything around us, and by doing so, we can get to know His creation even better. I wanted this to be reflected in the blog, not only in title, but in actuality: I plan on posting more astronomy and cosmology based articles from time to time, as well as other odds and ends such as a series on backyard astronomy basics, the first post of which can be seen here. At the same time, my faith, as I said, remains paramount, so I will continue posting on matters concerning my Catholic beliefs, and continuing series such as On the Journey. From time to time, the two topics will most certainly intersect. Of course, I will also post updates on my journey towards the priesthood, as that is, of course, my first concern in my life (well, besides loving and serving God and neighbor, but they all go together, in my opinion).
  2. While I loved the Tolkien reference in the name of the blog (from the poem “The Road Goes Ever On“), I fear that it might be a copyright issue, so rather than even have the remote possibility of receiving a friendly note from the Tolkien estate (although I would like to think he might appreciate some of the work here), better safe than sorry.

So there you have it. This particular hobbit continues the journey, seeking God, looking up, and as always, keeping you in prayer. Please pray for me as well!

Pax.

Backyard Astronomy: Getting Started

Note: Regular readers may notice some changes. Please hang in there while the dust settles; I will be posting an update on said changes (including background on the new address and blog title) this weekend. You can still expect reflections on faith, literature, and current events, but I also want to include more science (and specifically astronomy) based content as well. As always, I reserve the right to post as frequently or infrequently as needed, due to my primary duties and busy schedule as a seminarian and graduate student in Theology. Pax.

 

When I heard the learn’d astronomer, 
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me, 
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, 
   and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with
   much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, 
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

-“When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” by Walt Whitman

Telescope

I hate to break it to ya, but you will be starting with something a bit more modest – your own two eyes. Photo by User Ericd on en.wikipedia (GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0), via Wikimedia Commons

A few people have asked me how to get involved in astronomy. I am no expert by any means, but I am also happy to help people get started on the journey. After all, astronomy helped me in my own faith journey, and continues to be a profound inspiration for me to this day. So when someone expresses an interest in discovering the secrets of our endless universe, I jump at the chance to be a guide, however imperfect. To be honest, that is one of the reasons* for this blog: I hope to show people that the sciences like astronomy and religious faith are not mutually opposed. Here are a few things I have learned over the years about getting started in astronomy:

Go outside and look up – Often times when we get involved in astronomy, we want to go out and buy a telescope, expecting to unlock the mysteries of the cosmos. This is probably the worst thing you could do, and will likely destroy your new hobby. Just go outside and look, and I don’t mean step outside for a few minutes and say, “oooh, that’s nice, time for some hot chocolate.” No, bundle up, get comfortable, and really look. Find objects in the sky that interest you. Jot down their location by identifying familiar constellations.  Try to get away from light pollution too (take a look at the International Dark-Sky Association for more info).

Don’t go off and buy expensive equipment at the start – I already mentioned it above, but seriously, don’t go out and buy the Celestron NexStar 8SE telescope, even if you can afford it, at least not yet (after all, it is pretty nice). Your own two eyes are just fine to start with, and eventually, you can upgrade to a good pair of binoculars. One useful piece of equipment that you can invest in now (for only 10 bucks) is a planisphere, an adjustable hand-held star chart. Make sure you purchase one that corresponds to your area though! There are also many useful apps that you can get for free or relatively cheap.

Share it with someone – Astronomy becomes even more fun when you are with someone. You can compare notes and help one another notice things that perhaps the other person did not notice there before. It’s also great to just geek out about what you saw while warming up over the afore-mentioned cup of hot chocolate after a night of productive star-gazing. You are likely to find astronomy clubs almost anywhere, and many of them are more than eager to help newbies get started.

Read and write – Read read read! The internet of course is a great resource to stay alert to current astronomical events and new breakthroughs. You should also venture down to the local bookstore and library and peruse their selection of astronomy books. There are many fine works out there to get you started. One important aspect of astronomy that I think is often overlooked by the budding backyard sky watcher is journaling. Whenever you go outside and look at the stars, right down what you see! Take notes, draw pictures, give details about the conditions. The more detailed the better, and it will help hone your observational skills.

Be patient – Astronomy is not a sport of the impatient. Some nights you will see countless wonders that leave you breathless, and others you will see a grey rain cloud covering up that planet or nebula you were hoping to catch, and that’s OK. The important thing is to keep at it and to not get discouraged.

Google will provide many resources on getting started in astronomy, and many of the articles provide similar advice, but I have found these sites to be particularly helpful:

Over the next few months, I will provide more detailed posts on each of the topics above, such as explaining the various types of telescopes and some methods for astronomical observations and journaling. These will be including among the more faith-based topics I cover and an occasional review here and there, as well as some newsy items. I currently carry a full load of graduate courses, so I can’t promise a timeline, but my own love for things otherworldly will motivate me to write, and I hope that I can guide one or two people in their first steps into this amazing world. Until then…

Pax.

On the Journey: Moving with the Torrent

Note: Regular readers may notice some changes. Please hang in there while the dust settles; I will be posting an update on said changes (including background on the new address and blog title) this weekend. You can still expect reflections on faith, literature, and current events, but I also want to include more science (and specifically astronomy) based content as well. As always, I reserve the right to post as frequently or infrequently as needed, due to my primary duties and busy schedule as a seminarian and graduate student in Theology. Pax.

Augustine’s Confessions: Book I, Chapter 16

But we are carried away by custom to our own undoing and it is hard to struggle against the stream. Will this torrent ever dry up? How much longer will it sweep the sons of Adam down to that vast and terrible sea which cannot easily be passed, even by those who climb upon the ark of the Cross?Confessions I.16

Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings; for it is well that the heart be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited their adherents. -Hebrews 13.9

Bhs_int_classroom_la

Not for the faint of heart! Photograph of Battlefield High School, taken 2 Feb. 07 by K.D. Reeves. Public domain, free for public use and consumption. Complies with Prince William County School photo use guidelines. Via Wikimedia Commons

Being a teacher is tough. I know. Even though I was not in education any great amount of time, I worked in both the private and public systems. My experience ranged from being an assistant in a program that welcomed students with the most difficult situations and histories to teaching English in a small Catholic school.

Yes, teaching is tough. As a teacher, you are left with the responsibility of forming young minds, of helping them grow and become well-formed individuals. Your job extends far beyond school hours. The Lord knows how many late nights I spent up as a teacher! It is not for the faint of heart, for teaching is one of the greatest tasks a person can undertake.

And yet, there are teachers out there who lead their students astray. Whether through imposing their own personal ideologies or teaching outright error inside the classroom or outside the classroom, it is sad to note that some teachers do not lead their students down the right path, and this is what Augustine speaks about in this week’s passage. He recognizes that many of his instructors not only taught contraditions, but taught outright error as well. I know that many reading this may think that surely it is not so bad today (even I bristle at all of this), but I wouldn’t be so fast to make that assumption. While I have been blessed to work with some of the most gifted educators who deserve far more credit than they have received (specifically those in the Catholic school and those who worked with students who experienced Emotional Disturbance), I have also recognized that many parts of the system are broken, particularly in public schools. False ideologies trump truth and more money is thrown at the problem, rather than trying to spend the existing money more responsibly.

Educators have a lot of hard work ahead of them, and we need to pray for those dedicated teachers who seek to teach and form their students properly! But, that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the student…

Christ the Teacher icon

Christ the Teacher Icon

Augustine recognizes that even though some of his teachers led him down wrong paths, he was more than willing to follow them: “It is true that I learned all these things gladly and took a sinful pleasure in them. And for this very reason I was called a promising boy” (I.16). Augustine acknowledges that even though teachers have a certain responsibility, so to do the students. As we journey on the spiritual path, we should and must look to others for guidance. But those whom we seek need to be well-founded in the truth.

Let’s look at science: would you trust an established scientist who presents peer-reviewed research, or the guy selling snake oil or other “get well quickly” schemes in order to treat an illness? Would you look to an experienced cosmologist to teach you about the universe or the conspiracy theorist who sees shadows around every corner?

But what about our faith? How does all of this apply to Christianity? As Catholics, we have the authority of the Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium. Clinging to the Word of God, looking to the history of the Church, and allowing ourselves to be rightly guided by our shepherds, we can grow closer to the Lord. Some practical ways to do all of this are to read Scripture daily, study the lives of the saints, and get to know the Catechism. In the next few days, I will pass along some helpful hints on reading Scripture and staying with it.

There is one true teacher, but we as students must choose to follow Him.

Questions for reflection:

  • What can I do to better inform myself about my faith?
  • Have I allowed myself to be carried away by strange teachings?

This is part of a continuing series, Companions on the Journey, which travels along with a particular companion in the spiritual life, one of the great saints, in order discover how some of their writings might be applicable to our everyday lives. Currently, we are traveling with Augustine of Hippo through his work, Confessions. You can take a look at previous posts in the series or read the introduction.

Pic of the Week: A Universal Scale

(If you were a subscriber to The Road Goes Ever On, from walkingamdg.wordpress.com, things may look a bit different. Don’t worry, I’m simply redesigning the site a bit, including adding a new custom address: BelievingAstronomer.com, with a focus on faith, science, literature, reflections, with news and reviews thrown in from time to time. A longer post will be added this weekend, as I am currently on retreat and this post is simply a pre-scheduled item that I set up at the end of December. Feel free to tell me what you think!)

From time to time, I will post interesting pictures from astronomy and cosmology, although expect a few surprises too… I’m talking science fiction, faith, or other branches of human knowledge that relate to this enterprise. This week, however, we look at the solar system. In fact, we look at how mind-bogglingly huge our solar system is through NASA’s own APOD, which, incidentally, has brought us a video rather than a picture. Enjoy!

From NASA:  Want to build a scale model Solar System? A blue marble 1.4 centimeters (about half an inch) across would be a good choice for a scale model Earth. Since the Sun is 109 times the diameter of Earth, a 1.5 meter diameter balloon could represent the Sun. But the distance between the Earth and Sun, 150 million kilometers, would translate to just under 180 meters (590 feet) at the same scale. That would mean the completed project, including the orbits of the outer planets, is probably not going to fit in your backyard. Still, you might find enough room on a dry lakebed. Check out this video for an inspirational road trip through the Solar System to scale.

On The Journey: Christmas with Augustine

Rather than continue with Augustine’s Confessions this week, I thought I would reflect rather on one of his Christmas sermons.Then I read the selection in this morning Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours and remembered that today’s reading comes from Augustine himself, incidentally from one of his Christmas sermons. I read it, reflected upon it, and once again found it eye-opening and inspiring. Then I thought to myself, rather than post my own ramblings, why not let Augustine speak for himself this week?

And so I leave you with Saint Augustine and his words on the mystery and reality of Christmas. God bless you all, and I hope you have a joyous Christmas!

Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.

Nativity,_Follower_of_Vasco_Fernandes

Nativity, Vasco Fernandes [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.

Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of a virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.

Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.

Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: for Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory. He does not say: “of our glory,” but of God’s glory: for justice has not proceeded from us but has looked down from heaven. Therefore he who glories, let him glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.

For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.

For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ, were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.

Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head. For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become the son of God?

Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace

Questions for reflection:

  • Have you been asleep, and if so, how?
  • What do you need to do in order to wake up, to bear witness to the Lord?

This is part of a continuing series, Companions on the Journey, which travels along with a particular companion in the spiritual life, one of the great saints, in order discover how some of their writings might be applicable to our everyday lives. Currently, we are traveling with Augustine of Hippo through his work, Confessions. You can take a look at previous posts in the series or read the introduction.

Fourth Sunday of Advent: Christ is coming; are you ready? (Reflection)

Fourth Sunday of Advent – Year C

Micah 5.1-4a, Ps. 80.2-3, 15-16, 18-19

Heb. 10.5-10, Luke 1.39-45

Christ is coming; are you ready? Oh, we are getting ready for many things in these last days before Christmas: family, celebrations, gifts… But are we ready for what, for who, really matters: the coming of Jesus Christ?

Visitation, from Altarpiece of the Virgin (St Vaast Altarpiece) by Jacques Daret via Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

Visitation, from Altarpiece of the Virgin (St Vaast Altarpiece) by Jacques Daret via Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

In the Gospel today, we read the story of the Visitation, one of the events on which we also meditate when we pray the joyful mysteries of the rosary, where the Virgin Mary, who has been visited by the angel Gabriel, travels “to the hill country in haste,” seeking her cousin, Elizabeth.[1] We see this young girl, perhaps riding a donkey, moving quickly along, looking forward to visiting her cousin, as she approaches a small house. Then another woman, older than Mary, comes out. This person, Elizabeth, is understandably excited to see her cousin and opens her arms in welcome. But then we see something else, something more: Elizabeth, who is by this time visibly pregnant, feels the child in her womb, John the Baptist, leap for joy. This is the same John the Baptist whom we heard last week announce, “one mightier than I is coming.”[2] Elizabeth, immediately recognizing what is happening, exclaims those words that are so familiar to us: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”[3]

What if Mary, with the Christ-child in her womb, were to come to our door? Would we leap for joy like John the Baptist? Would we react in wonder and gratitude, asking, “How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”, like Elizabeth? Or would we notice at all, absorbed with all of the busy details of the Christmas season?

In other words, would we react to the coming of Christ with hospitality or indifference? As we grapple with how we would react, we can take our cue from one of the great saints in Western civilization, Saint Benedict, who told his followers, “all should be received as Christ.”[4] I think this is what we should strive for in this Christmas season: we must strive for true hospitality, whether we are receiving others or receiving Christ Himself, since as believers, we know we are indeed receiving Jesus Christ when we encounter those around us in our daily lives. In the person of Elizabeth, and even in John the Baptist who was still in her womb, we see a striking example of hospitality: there is no trepidation, no fretting over this or that detail, just pure joy and wonder. Granted, they had the privilege of literally welcoming Christ.

Then again, we have that privilege too. We encounter Christ in an intimate and miraculous way on the Cross. That child in Mary’s womb, the one that will “stand firm and shepherd his flock, by the strength of the Lord” and whose rule “shall reach to the ends of the Earth”[5] will one day leave Bethlehem and enter Jerusalem, giving Himself up on the cross, dying for us. That small infant who is to be born in five days, who we are called to welcome with open arms, the child for whom the Innkeeper didn’t even have hospitality for, will offer His body once for all[6], destroying sin, opening up to us the gates of heaven. Even in this early moment with Elizabeth, we get a glimpse of the true nature of the child who will make the journey from womb to manger to cross and finally to the tomb. Let us remember all of this when He approaches us!

And He does approach us! We encounter Him on the cross, and so we encounter Him now in the Eucharist: in humility and mercy, he entered Mary’s womb, in humility and mercy he died on the cross for our sins, and in humility and mercy, he comes to us today, “just as He filled with His power the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”[7] Let us open the doors of our hearts in hospitality, seeking to embrace His presence, welcoming His “humility who bears witness to the truth.”[8] Let us follow the example of Mary, who “most perfectly embodies the obedience of faith” by welcoming “the tidings and promise brought by the angel Gabriel”[9] as we seek to invite Christ into our lives.

In these final days of Advent, the Holy Spirit prompts us to welcome the infant Christ with open arms and hospitality, calling upon His name, so that He will give us new life.[10] As Christmas draws near my friends, “may we press forward all the more eagerly”[11], inviting Him into our hearts, even leaping for joy, knowing that in five days, our God will be born in a manger, He who “shall be peace”[12], in the anticipatory hope that one day we will hear the words, “Blessed are you who believed.”[13]

Christ is coming. Are you ready?