Monday, November 29, 2010

"But Israel does not know, my people do not understand."

The ox knows its owner,
and the donkey its master's crib;
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.
Isaiah 1:3

Abbot Leo Schlosser from Holy Trinity Monastery in Butler, Pennsylvania, came recently to give us a short retreat in preparation for the Nativity.  He spoke to us about many things regarding monasticism, prayer and preparing our hearts for the celebration of Christ's birth.  What struck me the most, however, was his definition of the word vigilance.  Vigilance, he said, is "looking for and being aware of God's presence." 

During this Nativity fast, it seems very difficult to be vigilant.  As the darkness of each day lengthens and deepens, as the busyness of the world increases and captures our attention, waiting and seeking for something--someone--who is very silent and very hidden is often the last thing we are thinking about. It must have been the same for the residents of Bethlehem.

Isaiah reproves the people of Israel, long before the coming of Christ, because the animals in the stable recognize Him, but they (we!) do not. 

Bishop John came to the monastery on Saturday to celebrate, in union with Pope Benedict, what the pope named a "Vigil for All Nascent Human Life."  Several people joined us as we prayed the Akathist in honor of the Mother of God followed by Great Vespers.  I felt that we were honoring the Mother of God for her deep faith and vigilance and asking her to teach us!

Bishop John prayed this beautiful prayer which Pope Benedict had just prayed earlier in the day.  We would like to share it with you and ask you to pray it with us.  May we "look for and be aware of God's presence" in each human life we come in contact with and in each moment of our day, so that we will be ready to welcome our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into our world and into our hearts.

Lord Jesus,
You who faithfully visit and fulfill with your Presence
the Church and the history of men;
You who in the miraculous Sacrament of your Body and Blood
render us participants in divine Life
and allow us a foretaste of the joy of eternal Life;
We adore and bless you.

Prostrated before You, source and lover of Life,
truly present and alive among us, we beg you.

Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life,
make us capable of seeing in the fruit of the maternal womb
the miraculous work of the Creator,
open our hearts to generously welcoming every child
that comes into life.

Bless all families,
sanctify the union of spouses,
render fruitful their love.

Accompany the choices of legislative assemblies
with the light of your Spirit,
so that peoples and nations may recognize and respect
the sacred nature of life, of ever human life.

Guide the work of scientists and doctors,
so that all progress contributes to the integral well-being of the person,
and no-one endures suppression or injustice.

Gift creative charity to administrators and economists,
so they may realize and promote sufficient conditions
so that young families can serenely embrace
the birth of new children

Console the married couples who suffer
because they are unable to have children
and in Your goodness provide for them.

Teach us all to care for orphaned or abandoned children,
so they may experience the warmth of your Charity,
the consolation of your divine Heart.

Together with Mary, Your Mother, the great believer,
in whose womb you took on our human nature,
we wait to receive from You, our Only True Good and Savior,
the strength to love and serve life,
in anticipation of living forever in You,
in communion with the Blessed Trinity.

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