UNBORN WORD of the day


The heartbeat of Unborn Jesus set to Music
June 24, 2008, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Incarnation, Religion, Unborn Jesus

In our last post, we highlighted Catholic composer, Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992). As we pointed out 2008 is the centenary of his birth and he is being honored all over the world with concerts and symposiums. We went on to highlight one of his works: Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jésus (“Twenty Gazes/Contemplations of the Infant Jesus”) and in particular one composition, ‘Premiere Communion de la Vierge‘. (No. 11, “Virgin’s First Communion”).

This composition represents the Virgin on her knees, worshipping the unborn Jesus within her. Because Messiaen wanted his listeners to be aware of his inspirations and how he constructed various passages, he wrote extensive program notes, which appear as prefaces to his scores or as liner notes for recordings of his music. Here is what Messiaen wrote about the Virgin’s First Communion:

“11. Première communion de la Vierge [First Communion of the Virgin]. A tableau in which the Virgin is shown kneeling, bowed down in the night-a luminous halo around her womb. Eyes closed, she adores the fruit hidden within her. This comes between the Annunciation and the Nativity: it is the first and greatest of all communions. Theme of God, gentle scrolls, in stalactites, in an inner embrace. (Recall of the theme of La Vierge l’Enfant from my Nativity du Seigneur for organ, 1935). Magnificat more enthusiastic. Special chords and durations of two and two in which the weighty pulsations represent the heartbeats of the Infant in the breast of his mother. Disappearance of the Theme of God. After the Annunciation, Mary adores Jesus within her…my God, my son, my Magnificat!-my love without the sound of words.”

These notes with explanations for all 20 gazes/compositions in Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jésus can be found here. If you wish to purchase recordings of his songs or a book on his life here is a link to Amazon. We must mention that he is a modern composer and if you don’t like modern classical music – his compositions may not be your cup of tea.



Olivier Messiaen: “Twenty gazes on the infant Jesus”
June 22, 2008, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Incarnation, Religion, Unborn Jesus

Olivier Messiaen (December 10, 1908 – April 27, 1992) was a devout French Catholic composer. This year marks the centenary of Olivier Messiaen’s birth. From June 20-24 2008 the MESSIAEN 2008 INTERNATIONAL CENTENARY CONFERENCE is being held in Birmingham, England. Another conference entitled ‘Olivier Messiaen: The Musician as Theologian’ will be held at Southern Methodist University/Dallas, September 25-26, 2008 Among the many Messiaen concerts/series around the world is another being held in England this year, the Philharmonia Orchestra Messiaen Celebrations (February 4 – October 23 ) and one in Chicago at the University of Chicago: 2008 MESSIAEN FESTIVAL October 2-11 Ten Concerts.

One of the reasons that we are highlighting Olivier Messiaen during the centenary of his birth is because of Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus, a collection of pieces for solo piano. The French title translates “Twenty gazes/contemplations on the infant Jesus”. It is considered to be one of the greatest piano works of the twentieth century, and the summit of Messiaen’s keyboard writing. The idea of les regards, the spiritual gazes, came from the devotional book Le Christ dans ses Mystères by the Irish-Belgian Benedictine abbot Dom Columba Marmion.

The gaze is a profound moment of passionate contemplation, spiritual communication and two-way recognition: an exchange, to use one of Marmion’s favorite words, in which love and knowledge passed in both directions between God and humanity.

Some of Messiaen’s ‘gazes’ on the Infant Jesus include: Gaze of the Father, Gaze of the Star, The Exchange, Gaze of the Son upon the Son (click here to see all of the pieces)…the piece that touches on our blog’s theme is: ‘Premiere Communion de la Vierge’. (No. 11, “Virgin’s First Communion”) and represents the Virgin on her knees, worshiping the unborn Jesus within her.

Messiaen used his talents to praise God and share through his music his profound enthusiasm for the Truths of his Catholic faith. Many of his pieces were explicitly Catholic: Twenty glances upon the Infant Jesus, Hymn to the Holy Sacrament, The Lord’s Nativity, Three Small Liturgies of the Divine Presence, and the opera St. Francis of Assisi just to name a few.

In an article in the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini writes:

“The dimension of Messiaen’s music that may most set it apart derives from his spiritual life. His faith was innocent, not intellectual. As a child he loved the plays of Shakespeare, especially their “super-fairy-tale” aspects, he said. In the stories of the Catholic faith, as he told Mr. Samuel, he found the “attraction of the marvelous” he had coveted in Shakespeare, but “multiplied a hundredfold, a thousandfold.” For him the Christian stories were not theatrical fiction but true. Messiaen espoused a theology of glory, transcendence and eternity. Religious subjects permeate his works, though not the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus. His embrace of the wondrousness of faith is reflected in the essence of his compositions.”

Our next post will feature Olivier Messaien’s personal notes explaining the “Virgin’s First Communion” with a link where to purchase this recording. We will also have a link to all his personal notes for Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus (Twenty gazes/ contemplations on the infant Jesus” ).



A BABY’S ROYAL ENTRANCE INTO THE CHURCH
March 30, 2008, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Religion

baptism1.jpg

While I live in southern California, yesterday I was in Phoenix, AZ and so on the second Sunday of Easter I went to St. Mary’s Basilica to 9:00 a.m. Mass. During this Mass they baptized three little babies; two boys and a girl. The baptism fount was located in the center of this old beautiful church, and after the three little babies had been baptized the priest led the families in a procession back down to the front of the church. Here’s what really struck me. The three fathers lifted the little babies up in the air, in front of them and elevated above their heads. The babies, in their little white baptismal gowns looked like royalty of some type – all that was missing was a little pillow for them to be seated on as they processed majestically down the center aisle of the church. One father was particularly tall and his baby was raised higher than everyone else in the church, all eyes were on this little one as the child seemed to bob up and down floating through the air towards the front of the church.

The church was honoring these children, newly received into the church, like royalty. It reminded me of St. Peter’s words about the Church: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (I Pet 2:9). There they were, three tiny ambassadors for Christ and His Kingdom! The church broke into jubilant applause!!!

original-sin-tee-shirt.jpg


CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS WAS THE SIXTH & FINAL ATTEMPT ON HIS LIFE
March 11, 2008, 12:12 am
Filed under: Biblical Reflections, Pro-life, Religion

holyinnocents.jpg

Let’s connect some Lenten dots by way of scriptural reflection and trace a sinister sequence of attempts to kill the Son of God, the Word of God – a connecting of black dots, each meant to end the sentence of the Word’s life on earth! Some spontaneous, others devilishly devised.

  • First, and probably the most vicious of all – the crucifixion excepted – is Herod’s concerted effort to destroy the tiny newborn baby Jesus! We are all familiar with the story. The angel of the Lord warned Joseph: “…flee to Egypt …for Herod is about to search for the child to destroy Him” (Mt 2:13). Herod’s plans reach a rancid fruition just after Joseph flees by night with Mary and the newborn Jesus. Herod is “in a furious rage” and ordered the killing of “all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under” (Mt 2:16). These were the “Holy Innocents” killed in the very place of Jesus, because Herod suspected that each one of them might be the newborn King of the Jews. Each of these babies is an innocent martyr – a baby alter Christi. And there was mourning, the first attempt upon His life.

We know now that Herod helped inspire the paranoid “Planned Parenthood” mentality so common today, and that if he had had the opportunity to have Unborn Jesus aborted he would have done so instantly! Unborn Jesus, like any “unwanted” unborn baby, represents a threat to the status quo.

  • We now fast forward about thirty years to the outset of our Lord’s public ministry. After Jesus was baptized by John, the Holy Spirit led Him out into the wilderness where He fasted for forty days. At the end of this period, the devil came to Him and tempted Jesus three times. The third deceitful temptation was a direct attempt upon the life of Jesus by the devil. They were on the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem and the devil challenged Jesus: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here…” (Lk 4:9-12). Christ does not succumb and the devil leaves Him, but Luke observes “he departed from Him until an opportune time”. The second attempt upon His life.
  • A little later Jesus returned to His hometown of Nazareth and went to the synagogue on the sabbath. He read a messianic prophesy from Isaiah and then explained that the text was being fulfilled in their midst. As he continued to speak the crowd became disenchanted: “…all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down headlong. But passing threw the midst of them He went away” (Lk 4:28-30). The third attempt upon His life.
  • One day, during the third year of His public ministry, Jesus was in the Temple in Jerusalem teaching, when things grew controversial. Surprisingly, He got into a debate with “the Jews who had believed in Him” (Jn 8:31). Finally, Jesus says to them: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” What did the Jews “who had believed in Him” do (along with others who didn’t believe in Him)? “So they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple” (Jn 8:57-59). The fourth attempt upon His life.
  • Finally, it was wintertime, the feast of the Dedication and Jesus was in the Temple in Jerusalem at a spot called the portico of Solomon (Jn 10:22-23). He is challenged by the people and He gives a short answer, ending with: “I and the Father are one”. We read: “The Jews took up stones again to stone Him” (Jn 10:31, also 11:7-8), He speaks again, then they try to arrest Him but He “escaped from their hands” (10:39). The fifth attempt upon His life.
  • We are all familiar with the sixth and final attempt upon our Lord’s life; His bloody Passion and crucifixion atop Golgotha! Jesus was targeted from infancy through adulthood. From the devil to His own countrymen, from political leaders to religious leaders, His innocence and authoritative teaching was difficult for sinners to bear. So too today, the innocence of the unborn baby and the “word” each would speak, is attacked by a self-absorbed hypocritical world that falsely champions human rights while daily plotting the deaths of the weakest among us.

crucific.jpg


THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD, I SHALL NOT WANT
November 1, 2007, 9:14 pm
Filed under: Biblical Reflections, Religion

shepherd.jpg

Today, Friday, November 2nd is All Souls Day, and the Psalm for today’s Mass is the one and only Psalm 23. My childhood was not very religious, but my grade two class did memorize Psalm 23 (King James Version, KJV). It left a formative and lasting impression upon my little eight year old mind. I would suggest to parents and teachers alike that this is one of the best religious passages for a child to memorize.

While only six verses in length, it is chock full of positive and healthy images for the childlike. Let’s look at a few (KJV) verses:

“The Lord is my shepherd” – this suggests a one-on-one relationship of simple dependency. But the shepherd is the one who CARES ‘for’ the sheep and ‘about’ the sheep.

He leads me “beside the still waters” and “makes me to lie down in green pastures”. For the childlike mind these are calm and peaceful images of a little innocent sheep being cared for.

“He restoreth my soul” – now we drift into the spiritual ever so gently. The child might wonder what is “my soul” and he is left with a beautiful image to guide his questioning.

“He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake”. Perhaps this is now stretching the child’s moral framework, but that is a good thing. God, my shepherd is leading me somewhere “for His name’s sake”. There is a purpose behind His leading, it is not aimless, it is for my good (whatever that might be).

Even in a dark valley (“the valley of the shadow of death”) He is with me so I need not be afraid. He even comforts me.

He prepares a meal for me and pours mysterious oil upon my head. These are profound images that the child can ponder without fully understanding them. That is a good thing. The child doesn’t need to understand all of this like some dumbed-down cartoon. The child can be left wondering about such mysterious images.

“Goodness and mercy shall follow me” all through my life “and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” – that is, His door is open and He invites me into His house. The Shepherd’s house is a place of safety, refuge and hope for me.

We do not think about God in simple childlike ways often enough. There are passages and stories in the Bible that are especially poignant for children (and the childlike). Let’s cherish them and pass them on.

the-lord-is-my-shepherd-ii.jpg



A Christ-Centered Prayer: The “Hail Mary”
October 6, 2007, 12:09 am
Filed under: Religion, Unborn Jesus

500px-aya_sophia_mosaic.jpg

October 7th is traditionally the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary. Following are a few comments about the “Hail Mary” prayer repeated throughout the rosary.

On our website we have the words to the “Hail Mary” prayer visually formatted to demonstrate the simple reality that the prayer is Christ-centered. At the center of the prayer is one word: JESUS. But it is introduced with these words: “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb…Jesus”. These words, taken from the Gospel of Luke (Lk 1:42), are the words Elizabeth speaks to Mary immediately after her unborn baby John the Baptist leaps in her womb due to the arrival and Presence of Unborn Jesus (in Mary’s womb).

The entire “Hail Mary” prayer revolves around Unborn Jesus! Yet, the prayer, like the life of Jesus, is expansive and inclusive, that is, it points to all of the other realities and experiences of Jesus during His life on this earth. His birth, childhood, public ministry, Passion and death, resurrection, ascension into Heaven are all naturally drawn into the simple message of this prayer: “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb JESUS!”

The word JESUS, is perhaps subtle in this prayer, subtle like an unborn baby in the early months of pregnancy. But the other words of the prayer are anchored by this one word. Like spokes emanating outward from the hub of a wheel, the words of the “Hail Mary” go outward from their quiet centerpoint, the word, the Person: JESUS.

And this is precisely the way Mary would want it. Her comment many years later at Cana “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5) is comparable to the famous comment by John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). Mary does not compete for our attention; no, she simply loves her child, the fruit of her womb, and offers Him, to you, in His meekness, His vulnerability, not as Eve offered forbidden fruit, but lovingly as the one necessary fruit for your salvation and happiness. You can reach out to her and accept this fruit: her baby JESUS, her savior JESUS.



Adoption: Part of God’s plan
September 21, 2007, 12:10 am
Filed under: Adoption, Religion, Unborn Jesus

family2.jpg

Today is the feastday of St. Matthew. St Matthew (Apostle and Evangelist) is the author of the first Gospel. It is in the Gospel of Matthew that we have the most complete account of St. Joseph’s calling to be the adoptive father of Jesus.

Here is a quote from Pope Benedict’s Angelus address on 12/18/2005:

“In these days of Advent, the liturgy invites us to contemplate in a special way the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, who lived with a unique intensity the time of waiting and preparation for the birth of Jesus. Today, I want to direct our gaze toward the figure of St. Joseph… The one who gives the most importance to the adoptive father of Jesus is the Evangelist Matthew, emphasizing that thanks to him, the Child was legally introduced into the lineage of David fulfilling the Scriptures, in which the Messiah was prophesied as the ‘son of David’.”

It seems that adoption was part of God’s plan: Here is an excerpt from Unborn Jesus Our Hope:

“From a legal and social point of view, Joseph would be recognized as the father of the baby Jesus. According to the Israelite understanding of marriage in those days, a child conceived during the time of betrothal was a “legitimate” child, and the reputations of both mother and child were thus protected. “Joseph’s adoption of Jesus is effected in the two acts with which the account (Mt 1:24 25) closes, and which are in fact its most essential elements. ‘He took his wife…. And he called his name Jesus.’” (Jean Cardinal Daniélou, The Infancy Narratives) This constitutes a turning point in the life of Unborn Jesus. His earthly father reaches out to Him, figuratively embracing Him with wholehearted acceptance.

The relationship between Joseph and Unborn Jesus becomes very real. Fr. Faber states that Joseph was “part of the scheme of redemption” and “assists God in keeping the mystery of the Incarnation a secret”. (Rev. Frederick W. Faber, C.O., D.D., The Blessed Sacrament) Joseph begins a secret “adoption” process while Jesus is yet an unborn child (“he took his wife” and her unborn child) and then the process is later completed with Joseph’s naming of the child after birth and registering the child in Bethlehem during the census. Jesus needed to be accepted into a family, adopted into a family, and there existed a vacuum until that day when Joseph stepped forward in obedient faith to lovingly accept his son: “Joseph is the one whom God chose to be the ‘overseer of the Lord’s birth’, the one who has the responsibility to look after the Son of God’s ‘ordained’ entry into the world, in accordance with divine dispositions and human laws.” (Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Guardian of the Redeemer)