Sunday, December 25, 2016

December 25, 2016


Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved son
With Mary holy we should pray,
To God with love this Christmas Day
In Bethlehem upon that morn,
There was a blessed Messiah born.

The Wexford Carol
12th century





Window excerpts from the chancel of the Chapel at St. John's Rehab Hospital 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Saturday, December 24, 2016


Saturday, December 24, 2016
1 Corinthians 13: 1 – 8

In 2011 my parish celebrated its 90th anniversary and over the course of the year we highlighted various aspects of our history. In the spring, it was the Sunday School; in the summer, it was all the weddings that had taken place and in the fall we acknowledged all the women’s organizations that have been part of our story. To commemorate the unique ministries of women, we invited 24 different women to each embroider a square that others sewed into a large wall hanging. The blocks depict both words and flowers, done in red embroidery. The words spell out St. Paul’s iconic missive which begins Love is patient, love is kind, and concludes with the bold pronouncement: love never fails. The resulting hanging is stunning and for the last five years it has hung on a large wall in the nave. In our rush to complete it, the layers were tied rather than quilted and we’ve been very pleased with the results, until a quilter joined our congregation. With gentle prodding, she convinced us to actually quilt it for our recent 95th anniversary, and as you can imagine, it is now even more stunning to behold. St. Paul’s poetic lines tell us of the great mystery – and transformational power – that is love. Though often hard work, true love never fails, always believing the effort, however challenging, is worth it. It forever hopes for a better tomorrow, it is never rude or self-serving.

How do we know how to love? Our Advent readings indicate we love because God loved us first. We love because God gave us the best gift possible, born this night in the city of David. “Love came down at Christmas” proclaims Christina Rossetti in her 1885 poem, now a beloved carol.  These Advent days having been preparing the way for us to receive anew the Christ child:  may “love be yours and love be mine.”                


 – Frances Drolet-Smith

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday, December 23, 2016 
Psalm 25: 1 – 14 

Our theme for this week is love so well expressed in the hymn Love Came Down at Christmas (Common Praise 131). The concept of God’s love and forgiveness were already known to the prophets of the Old Testament, but the depth of God’s love and forgiveness didn’t seem to be known by the majority of the people.

For ordinary people, there was still a sense of having to follow the hundreds of rules found in the Torah in order to be “right” with God. There was a sense of having to repent “in sackcloth and ashes” in order to receive God’s forgiveness. The God of unconditional love seemed to be unknown. The God of the Prodigal Son was unheard of: the Father who ran out to embrace the son who had wasted his whole inheritance yet was welcomed home with a celebration—the father who was too impatient even to listen to his son’s words of repentance. What wondrous love is this? (Common Praise 400)

In Psalm 25 the Psalmist pleads with God, “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for I wait all day long. Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.”

In the birth of Jesus, we beheld the face of God, the unconditional love and forgiveness of God, the God who would stoop down to our level in order that we might become like God. For the first time we could “see” the face of God — “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. . .” (Colossians 1:15) Now we are called to mirror God’s love to the world. What an awesome task!

– Sr. Elizabeth Rolfe-Thomas, SSJD



Thursday, December 22, 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Book of Hours, Visitation, Walters Manuscript W.267, fol. 38r 

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb….” Luke 1:39-48a


Elizabeth reveals an intuitive deep listening in her inspired exaltation!  Without uttering words about
cultural and familial complications, her holy burst of joyful recognition cries out ‘Yes’!   She marvels at being present to what God is doing.   She recognizes and receives the ‘Good News’; she simply gets it!

In these Advent days of preparation, might Elizabeth say to us, ‘Do you hear what I hear?’  Might we hear the voices of holy Presence in the midst of all the noise?  How will I receive what I hear?  Will I choose to translate it into obstacles or perhaps join in leaping across thresholds?
Opening the ears of our hearts to mystery doesn’t mean ‘turning a deaf ear’ toward clay-hard circumstances that surround us. But we have a calling to listen with eager expectancy for a sign of God’s working in our daily grit.  Truly hearing involves listening ‘with skin on it’.  It involves our whole selves: feelings, memories, hopes, wisdom, and gut reactions.

In all the sights and sounds may the Holy Spirit grace us with the assurance that all is in God.  And may we answer ‘Yes’!

- Dorothy Dahli


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Luke 1: 46 – 55

O King of the nations, you alone can fulfil their desire; cornerstone, you make opposing nations one.  Come and save the creature you fashioned from clay.

Each night from December 16th the Sisters sing a beautifully haunting plainsong chant using one of
the O Antiphons before and after the Song of Mary, the Magnificat. An antiphon is a short phrase or sentence sung before and after a psalm or canticle.  The antiphon is often taken from within the text it bookends or it may reflect the church season.  If you are familiar with the hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, then you are familiar with these O Antiphons, in which we recite many of the titles of Jesus, the long expected One.  On successive nights we sing; O Wisdom; O Lord; O Branch of Jesse; O King of David; O Morning Star; O King of the nations; and finally, O Emmanuel.  On this night, December 21, we use the antiphon which starts, O King of the nations.  It tugs at our hearts as we sing because Jesus is the one alone who can fulfil our desires.

What desire do we have except to be united with him in love as one, and to have Jesus as our very cornerstone?  In these last few days as we come to the close of Advent our hearts cry out with our eager longing for the one who came to us in love at Christmas, our Emmanuel, our Saviour.

Come, O King of the nations, come and save the creature you fashioned from clay.

- Sr. Elizabeth Ann Eckhert, SSJD




Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Luke 1: 39 - 45


MS 3: Book of Hours (France, post-1450; Latin)
Perhaps you too have had the experience of being in the midst of a discussion with an expectant mother about her hopes, dreams, fears, wishes for the coming weeks or months of her pregnancy.  We recall the Visitation – the encounter between Mary and Elizabeth during which Elizabeth says of
Mary, “Blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  In love, wonderment, and more than likely, in some fear, Mary not only believed, but she embodied the fulfilment of this promise.  We can all do the same, even though we may never experience the realities of expectancy that Mary and Elizabeth lived out.

In Ted Loder’s advent poem, I Am Silent ... and Expectant (1981), he says, “How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given.  I would be silent now, Lord, and expectant ... that I may receive the gift I need, so I may become the gifts others need.”

During these Advent days, we can all ask ourselves:  Have we truly received in our own ways, the promise that Mary and Elizabeth believed in?  What wondrous gifts are we carrying?  How do we nurture their fulfilment in prayerful silence and in gracious actions?  And most importantly, are we ourselves becoming the loving, compassionate gifts others need, not just at Christmas, but all year round?

– Cate McBurney

Monday, December 19, 2016

Monday, December 19, 2016




Monday, December 19, 2016
Luke 1: 46b – 55

Mary's song of praise, commonly known as the Magnificat, is one of three beautiful canticles taken from Luke that have become an integral part of our Anglican liturgies.  It reflects a mood of absolute joy that seems to encompass Mary's entire being - body, mind, soul and spirit.  We also see her humility in response to this act of grace –  that she will bear the Messiah in fulfillment of God's covenant promise to Abraham in Genesis.  And what faith, from a woman who is well aware that she is a simple peasant girl with no social standing, to accept without question the pronouncement from
the Angel Gabriel.

Not only is it incredible that Mary, as a woman, is given the voice in this piece of scripture, but her message in the Magnificat is also counter-cultural.  She speaks of a God who, contrary to expectations, cares for and acts on behalf of the poor and down trodden, not the powerful or the rich. She speaks of a God who shows mercy, righting wrongs, and reversing injustices.  It is a message of social consciousness and concern and it is for us.

This beautiful canticle provides the overtone to the Gospel of Luke, foreshadowing the radical and controversial ministry of Jesus which is to come.  As we prepare for the celebration of the coming of the Christ child, how will you be moved to fully magnify God?  Can any of us even approach the depth of Mary's apparent understanding and faith?  Perhaps not.  But we can at least try.

- Sandi Austin