Advent Waiting… Christmas Is Coming

I love the Advent Season.  When I was a kid, that meant that I loved Advent calendars.

Advent calendar

Oooo… my kind of Advent calendar!

Opening little doors every day to find hidden words, pictures, or best of all, CHOCOLATE, gave me a delighted little thrill that is still very warm in my memory.  I confess, the deeper, symbolic meaning of Advent was lost on me.  Back then, Advent was all about counting down to Christmas.

What child who receives presents on Christmas morning doesn’t shiver with excitement as the day draws nearer and nearer?  My parents were generous, but also practical.  My older sister sister and I knew that the only toys or games that we would own would be gifts received for either our birthdays or Christmas.  And we both have April birthdays.  So, during that long, long period between the end April and the end of December, whenever we might desire something, from a toy to a jacket, we would hear from our mother, “Christmas is coming.”  Even in July! Continue reading

Joy of Heaven

When I was going through my cancer scare, a friend of mine asked me to pray for her friend who had just been told that his leukemia was terminal.  And I didn’t know what to pray.  The thought of my own dying was, I think, still to close to the matter.  If I were, indeed, terminal, I thought, for what would I pray?  For what would I want others to pray?

After heading out of church one Sunday with a sudden, bright knowledge that I was healed, I began to understand what was important about last rites and what was needed in all of our prayers for the dying.  It isn’t enough to tidy things up before one dies and then leave everything to God’s mercy.  The part about leaving everything in God’s merciful hands is certainly sufficient, but the beautiful healing in that is not only the rightness of it and the sense of peace that it can bring – but also the joy.

Sky, clouds, Revelation

Joyful Hope

What will it be like to be dead?  Does this question seem dark and morbid to you, raising up fear?  It does a little to me, but, perhaps that is instinctive, since it goes against nature to want to experience being dead.  However, as people of faith, it is not a scary question to ask.  For, we do not believe that death is the end of our lives.  Our bodies will no longer be able to hold onto life, will die and decay back into the earth – but the life that is let go continues.  Our souls, which had animated our bodies, are of spirit and therefore they are immortal and cannot die.  So… what happens after our lungs stop breathing, our hearts stop beating, and our brains stop firing signals?  What will life be like then? Continue reading

Beauty Hunger

I have always been drawn to beauty, as bees are called to nectar and deserts thirst for rain.  When I was an atheist, I found delight in the beauty of the natural world – which I would never have called God’s Creation, but only Earth or universe.  As a believing Christian, I now experience the beauty of the created world in a more personal and exquisitely intimate way, with true joy, as profound gift and Mystery.

life of pix,, tulips

 

Our Creator does not create with rigid rationing, but, rather, with generosity and full exuberance: 1000 seeds to bear one fruit tree, 1 million spermatozoa to bear one human being, 1 billion rocky planets to bear one earth…

Continue reading

Wisemen Still Seek Him

wise men still seek him

Everybody wants something.  Whether desiring wealth, pleasure, power, health, approval, comfort, freedom, or happy love, very few of us would rest content saying that there is nothing that we want.  Because to want is to lack.  We are all found wanting, because we are all lacking.

The only people that I have heard who sound to be truly content, wanting nothing, are Continue reading

Joyful

A few words about joy.  Well, okay, more than a few…

I used to think that Catholicism was very dour, celebrating solemnities (solemn celebrations?) bemoaning sin and life in this world.  This was a false picture of the Catholic Church, however.  Sadly, I’m not the only one who has had this misconception of Catholicism – probably millions do right now.  The error, I think, comes partly from human attempts to depict the Mysterious Majesty of God and the profound honor, respect, awe, and even submission, due to God.  When contemplating the Immaculate Conception of Mary, for example, we don’t do so with silly giddiness or casual interest.  We must do so with solemn reverence and humble, awestruck gratitude – so, also with joy.

One problem, it seems to me, is that it’s hard to find an ancient image of Mary smiling.  (If you know of one, please share!)  Smiles probably didn’t mean the same thing then as they do now.  But, let us remember that the Bible does speak clearly of joy.  Mary herself cries out to Elizabeth, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”[1] Mary rejoices.  And so should we.

I do like this modern (1873) Greek icon of the Most Holy Mother of God…

Greek icon Mary Mother of God

Today we observe the “Solemnity” of the Immaculate Conception (celebrating the Mystery of Mary being conceived in her mother’s womb without the stain of Original Sin, so that she may truly be The New Eve).  And Gaudete Sunday (the Third Sunday of Advent) is being celebrated this weekend.  So, truly, it’s a fitting time to reflect upon the importance of joy in our lives of faith.  With the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, must also come the gift of joy – for how can we not be joyful when we believe that we are made to know, to love, and to serve God in this life and to be happy with God forever?  With this faith and hope we are free to love – and in the true freedom of loving others and knowing that we are intimately and infinitely love there is true and lasting joy. Continue reading

Gratitude

If you are not a grateful person, then you will never be great.

If you do not appreciate the people in your life, then you cannot receive their amazing value – only their cost.

If you do not say “Thank you” when you didn’t get what you wanted, but, rather, what you needed, then you won’t know true joy if you do get what you want.

Giving thanks is easy when you are surrounded by a delicious feast and a happy family.  But, how easy is it to be thankful if you are sadly without home, without family, or without feasting?  The awesome, powerful thanksgiving that transcends the 4th Thursday of November is experienced by those who do not lack gratitude even when life is hard.  For these are the people who recognize life itself as an eternal gift.crucifix-2-flash

The life of your soul is not a gift that was thoughtlessly or cheaply purchased.

It is given by the Giver with pure love…

Live your Thank You by loving – and let your unconditional loving be your joy.  May God help me as I strive to fully live with gratitude…

 

For more of my posts on Thanksgiving and giving thanks, please click and read

One Year of Blogging – and Still Thankful

Giving Thanks (While Gazing upon the Crucifix)

Giving Thanks – Eucharist

© 2016 Christina Chase

A Prayer before Eating

This is the famous 1918 photograph by Eric Enstrom called “Grace”.

 grace by Enstrom framed

It has hung in the dining room of my parents’ house since before I was born. Interestingly, although my mother was raised by a devout family in a very religious village, her family never said “grace” – a prayer said before eating. It’s hard to say whether or not my father’s family did… probably they didn’t, except, I would guess, on holidays and, then, probably only at his aunt or older sister’s promptings. This helps to explain why my parents never said a prayer at mealtime when they were married. Not until my older sister changed things. Continue reading

Favorite Things: Quotes from Saint Therese

It’s a human inclination to want to be famous, wealthy, or influential in some grand way. I want to be a successful author, with big dreams of making bestseller lists and overcoming my severe disability to support myself and my family. It may happen, God only knows.  But, it won’t start there.  The purpose for which God created me begins here and now, in this moment, as tiny and seemingly insignificant as this moment may be.

Our lives are made up of small moments. What we do in those small moments and how we do them determines how we live – how we live here and now, and how we live forever. Joy is in the loving of each moment of each day – not in amassing.

quote Saint Therese little things with love

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux said it best. Because she lived it. She had big dreams Continue reading

Inside Out

I would like

to have grown

from the inside out.

To know myself,

with my eyes closed,

closed eye

before I explore

the external world

of color, shape, and sound.

To learn, internally,

to hold onto and release

my anger and grief,

before my fists are formed.
baby-fist

As a baby, I instinctively

clutched

the brightly colored toys,

and my hands learned

to handle.

I would rather have learned,

emotionally,

to stack my joys

into a castle precarious,

beautiful,

and when it falls,

to laugh and rebuild.

blocks classic Castle

It seems to me

that we have all grown

from the outside in,

and our construction

has suffered from it.

For think how easy it is to see a light in the midst of darkness,

And yet how difficult to see a hope in the midst of despair.

candle_light_jesus_2_by_hari4u2-d5r1gjs

unpublished work © 2014  Christina Chase
as first posted on ChaseChristina.com

Where Is God in the Midst of My Misery?

There are times when I suffer real physical pain. Given the already extremely weak and crumpled state of my body every day and, then, adding another physical ailment (which I don’t wish to describe here) that causes the intense pain and severe fatigue, well… it’s just really hard to bear sometimes. At the end of last week and over the weekend, I have been going through this. These times are not very pretty and they are not very fun. Sometimes, I find that my mind gets away from me with an increase of adrenaline in my body and I have to try to focus on something else, usually television, in order to get through it. The point is not that I need to be distracted, but, rather, that the pain itself is a distraction: a detraction from normal routines, level thinking, clarity, and peace.

And I know that there are people who go through this every day. When I pray, begging for relief, I cry, feeling so sorry for not being able to handle it better.

But… maybe, pain isn’t something to be handled….

Once, when I was going through one of these temporary bouts, I decided that, if I’m serious in my quest for truth and if I truly believe that God is love, then I should be paying attention to how I, as a person of faith, deal with trials and tribulations. So, in the midst of my woe, hurting, terribly fatigued, and scared, I asked: what is God doing for me right now? Where is this God of love in the midst of my misery?

Two truths of life came to me right there and then:

#1. God creates and sustains my very existence, as God creates and sustains every living thing, the whole universe. That’s first and foremost, never to be forgotten.

#2. There are things in life that we don’t want, that we don’t choose for ourselves: ailments and diseases, weaknesses and losses, faults and failings, terrors and ordeals – sufferings. Sometimes, we can’t do anything to change them or get rid of them. They’re there and that’s that – but this fact can never change truth #1.

Later on in that day, my mind calmed a bit, although my physical pain hadn’t changed a great deal, except, perhaps, my adrenaline was running low and that could have been the reason for the light settling. Whatever the physiological happenings at the time, there came a clarity, kind of like a light, something like peace. Nothing dramatic, no fanfare. In continuing my earlier exploration, it was clear to me that, in the midst of misery, clarity can come. It’s like a gift given to us by God, not because we deserve it, but because we need it.

Clarity came, a sense of peace and that underlying kind of joy, not because pain had ceased, not because I had followed the rules and regulations, but because I was in need and was open to receive it. I was open to receive what God gives freely to me out of love for me, as God loves and gives to everyone. It’s like the joy that I wrote about in my last article: a free gift poured down like rain, and either our little bowls are turned upside-down, in on ourselves, or are right-side-up, and open. It’s the humility of knowing that I am nothing without God; it’s the recognition, acceptance, and gratitude for what only God can give; it’s the raising of a beggar’s bowl in the surrender that is trust.

The beggar’s bowl… this is the human heart, made by God to be filled by God with Divine Love.

The God of love is ever present… the question is, am I present?

Christ tells us in Sacred Scripture, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”[1] As with everything in life, we must remember God’s initiative. It is not our asking that causes the giving of the answer or even our knocking that causes the opening of the door. The answer is there, the gift is there, the treasure is there, and the door is always opened. But it is only if we ask – if we are in that state of humbly needing, lifting our begging bowls – that we are then able to receive. It is only when we open our eyes to seek that we are able to see and only when we go for the door that we are able to enter. I don’t go out and get true clarity on my own initiative or through my own devices, just as I can’t “get” true joy through my own self-centered means.

God initiates always. We are only able to love because God loves us first.[2] Mercy and peace and joy are always available, waiting for us to receive. But, sometimes, we get so distracted. Everything good and beautiful is present for us – if we haven’t blinded and deafened ourselves with the distractions of the world and of selfish pursuits. For, there are many different kinds of pain. It’s not always physical pain that is the worst.

© 2015 Christina Chase

 Similar posts that you may like:

Pain  

Getting over Yourself and Finding Yourself

Joy: Why Are So Happy?   


[1] Matthew 7:7

[2] 1 John 4:19