Pope Francis and Greccio Revisited

The connection between Saint Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) and the first recorded Nativity re-enactment has been well documented by sources close to him. The year was 1223, and Francis enlisted the help of a friend to stage a reverent live rendering of the scene which had taken place in the stable at Bethlehem. The setting was Greccio, a small Italian town located about 55 miles north of Rome.

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Joseph knew

December 23

There was no room for them within the inn.
And Joseph turned away.
To find again,
A woman wrapped in silence. Had she heard?
No sign appeared, nor stir of tranquil veil
To tell of it.
But Joseph knew. And silence and the glance
That smiled at him could not shut out the need
   For shelter that was yet unsaid. He knew!
And suddenly it rose in him again
What it was he knew, and what was here
Beseeching in the night. An innocence
That had been burnished flawless to return
All brightness, till the Inexhaustible
Had searched for her this last and utter grace
That left no more to give.
…Like blessedness that had not been before…
And he was guardian. Guardian!
Whose task to fear not, but to throw his life
About her as a cloak. To be a strength
Between her and the world’s uncertainties.
To fend, and guard, and break the fall of harsh
He had not thought refusal was a word
Remaining in a language that had held
Her name.
For Reflection
What aspects of these lines strike you most? Consider the relationship between Mary and Jesus. How was/is rejection of her, rejection of Him? What is Joseph’s response to the rejection? How do you see in his response the charisms that mark authentic masculinity – provider, protector, leader? What do you make of the surprise he experiences as expressed in the last three lines? How have you experienced rejection in your life? During this beautiful season, ask St. Joseph’s intercession.

(Excerpted from A Woman Wrapped in Silence By John W. Lynch)

No room at the inn

December 22

A little while,
And then the day was slipping down behind
The dark, and clung there, like a crystal drop…
O, was there here some haste
That pushed the light more hurriedly, as if
This were an ending era, and the last
Of days? …
Then suddenly, the road
Was turning, and ahead, some clustered roofs…
He turned,
And called to her: “Mary. It is here.
This is Bethlehem.

So now he pulled the bridle on a path
Well worn, ahead of him.
…A fire and feel that there were others near.
A kind of courtyard, square, but with a roof
Around the edges, and a gate to close…
Joseph’s eyes were hopeful as he stood
To wait an answer. Then he heard them say,
There was no room for them within the inn.


For Reflection

These lines speak of hope and promise, new beginnings and graces. But, they also speak of the Cross. Where and how do you see both? Consider how the Cross is implicit from the moment of Mary’s annunciation to the moment of Golgotha. How is it at the heart of the Christmas story – in its joys and its deprivations? How have your crosses also produced joy? Journal your thoughts. What do you make of the words, “…as if this were an ending era, and the last of days?”

(Excerpted from A Woman Wrapped in Silence By John W. Lynch)


December 21

“A Christmas Journey of Prayer

Then the word came with the iron
Of empire forged in it:…
Of enrollment. Lands and provinces,
They’d said, and men and citizens and slaves.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem…to be enrolled with Mary, his espoused wife, who was with child.

And then,
A door was closed behind them, and the sound
Was loud in isolated emphasis
Against the stillness and the dawn’s cold fog…
A woolen shawl
And wrappings clutched together for the cold
Enveloped her…
A final glance had shut away this house
That had been hers, the echo of her movement
Fades to silence…
It’s true enough, that they had often stopped,
And she had gone, as one among the rest
Of women then to find relief against
The road’s fatigues, and when the fires were made,
She worked among them in the fading day.
Did they not know? Could they not feel the nearness?
…The Source? Already, some unheld reflection
Of the questing light that was to rest
Forever in His eyes, looked out from hers
As answering, she said: “To Bethlehem.”


For Reflection

“Enveloped her…” In addition to the cold, what else do you think enveloped Mary as she trod the distance to Bethlehem? What is suggested throughout the poem? What do you think enveloped Joseph? What envelops you now? What do you make of the last four lines – consider them in light of the previous GraceLines?

(Excerpted from A Woman Wrapped in Silence By John W. Lynch)

I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me

December 20
“”No one could ever say more truly than Mary: ‘I live, now not I,
but Christ liveth in me.’”
-Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, OCD
For Reflection
Could one ever plumb the depths of the mystery of Mary’s holy “advent” – when the Divine Life took shape and form within her? Just as Christ took on her flesh, did she not “take on” something of Him as well? Could this have been what Elizabeth realized when Mary came to her home (Luke 1:40-44)? As Child stirred within her, did currents of grace flood Mary’s being in humble response to each baby move? Was she not transformed into Him throughout her nine-month advent? Is this why “No one could ever say more truly than Mary: “I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me?” Journal your thoughts and insights, your prayer and your reflection.

Heart of Jesus

December 19

“…Mary acquired a very special relation with God. The blood of Jesus, the heart of Jesus and the body of Jesus are formed by the blood of Mary. By adoring the blood, the sacred wounds and the heart of Jesus, we adore something proceeding from Mary which was assumed by the Son of God.”

-Blessed James Alberione


For Reflection

The words of St. Maximilian Kolbe come to mind: “Oh, Immaculata! Who are you?” What great mystery is ours in the Incarnation! Jesus is in Mary. And Mary is in Jesus. Ponder this mystery of our Faith and journal your thoughts. Then pray the following prayer:

Dear Mother, draw me into your Immaculate Heart and chain me there with cords of grace. In this Sweet Vessel, imbue me with the life of your Son, Jesus Christ. Teach me how to imitate your virtues that I may be filled with grace. Carry me to the Sacred Heart of your Son that in Him I may rest forever. Amen.

He who created all things

December 18
“The God who made all things gave Himself form through Mary, and thus He made His own creation. He who created all things from nothing would not remake His ruined creation without Mary.”
-St. Anselm
For Reflection
Consider the reality of this statement. Jesus Christ, the Word Made Flesh, took on the flesh of Mary only. This was His chosen means of “making” His own creation. So, too, does He seek to remake His ruined creation with her as well. What do these words say about me, a daughter re-born through Christ Jesus? How does this statement increase my wonder and awe of the mystery of the Incarnation and the mystery of Mary, Mother of God? See tomorrow’s GraceLine for another perspective of this awesome truth of our Faith.

The “O” Antiphons: Shining Gems as Advent Ends

During the final days approaching the great feast of Christmas – of God’s dwelling among us as one of us – our time and attention often become distracted and fragmented at best. The multiple aspects of holiday preparation can descend upon us as an intimidating army of chores to be accomplished, duties to be fulfilled. We can so easily lose focus on the true meaning behind all the gift-wrapping and cookie-baking.

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My soul doth magnify the Lord

December 17
He might be born, and see the stars through eyes
That were her eyes in Him! And might she trace
Her features in the molding of His brow?
Here her voice in His, and know the need
He had of her, and uttered in a cry?
And she…and…she might sing for Him at dusk!
Might sing, but no, she could not dare this dream…
But yet, it was a mother’s need to sing…
And then a song the world has never heard,
Rising in the faintest strains of distance
Loveliness had moved along the silver
Shining of her dreams, like light returned
Within a purer light, until it came
To her unfrightened. Caroling of angels’
Praise, and love that lifts to lullaby
Became as one, and blended for a fragile
Music that was hers and only hers…
My soul doth magnify the Lord:…Because he that is
mighty has done great things to me: and holy is his name.
For Reflection
Every mother dreams of the child she will birth. And as her time drew near, Mary’s thoughts of Jesus were marked by the quintessential ponderings of the pregnant woman. But hers were marked by something more as well. Her Son was the Holy One of Israel! In A Woman Wrapped in Silence, John W. Lynch speaks of this reality in poetic strain. Where do you see every mother in Mary’s musings, and where do you see that which marks her as the Mother of God? Of her thoughts, which echo your own longings?

(Excerpts from A Woman Wrapped in Silent by John W. Lynch, reprinted by permission of Paulist Press.)