Showing posts from December, 2010

The Meaning Of Christmas

I hope you're all having a wonderful Christmas. I say "having" because the Christmas season goes on till the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, this year on Sun. Jan. 9th. I feel it is important to remember this. The Mass readings and Divine Office prayers between now and the Baptism feast help us to put Christ's birth in the context of his Incarnation as God made Man, of his life, death and resurrection. In his birth the Passion is foreshadowed through the feast of the Holy Innocents (children massacred by King Herod in his failed attempt to root out and kill the prophesied threat to his throne) and obviously in the gift of Myrrh which was used for embalming the dead.That's not to say that we should dampen peoples' spirits at this time of year by getting all morbid. But I think that being able to see and celebrate Christmas in its wider liturgical context can help people to overcome the inevitable feeling of let down that follows the "high" of…

Downhere: "How Many Kings"

Last year, one of my favourite bands, Canadian Christian group Downhere, released a Christmas album of original songs and reinterpretations of old classic carols. This song is my favourite on the album and I've listened to it (and sung along) a lot this Advent + Christmas. It's a tremendous song with uplifting music and powerful lyrics... and to cap it all, singer Marc Martel doing his usual Freddie Mercury impersonation.Love this.Hope you do to."How many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Only one did that for meAll for me

The Great "O" Antiphons

Here is some information about antiphons that are sung at this time of year in the Divine Office prayers of religious communities (inc. my own) and monasteries around the world Thanks to friend Richard Emblem for the hat tip.(This sketch of the Seven Antiphons courtesy of Fr. Maurice Gilbert and Sandro Magister of Chiesa.Com) Read more here.
The "O" Antiphons
They're sung one per day, at the Magnificat during vespers from 17 December until the day before Christmas Eve, all of them beginning with an invocation to Jesus, although he is never called by name.The antiphons are very old, going back to the time of Pope Gregory the Great, around the year 600. They are in Latin, and are inspired by the texts of the Old Testament proclaiming the Messiah. At the beginning of each antiphon, in order, Jesus is invoked as Wisdom, Lord, Root, Key, Star, King, Emmanuel. Read starting from the last, the Latin initials of these words form an acrostic: "Ero cras," meaning: "I …

"Of Gods And Men" ("Des Hommes Et Des Dieux")

I at last saw this remarkable film this evening. It is set in and around a real-life French-founded Catholic Cistercian monastery in the Algerian Atlas mountains. It tells the story of 8 monks who lived there and events that took place during the winter of 1996. This was while I was studying in Paris and I remember all too well the news breaking.

MILD SPOILER ALERT (I don't give away much, to be honest)

Having heard all about the film from French confrères over the past few months and having read reviews and French magazine articles interviewing the cast (who all said what a profound effect the making of the film had had on them), I braced for disappointment. And, to be fair, during the predominantly wordless opening 15 mins. which slowly built up a feel for the characters and for their way of life, I feared that it had all been much ado about nothing. Wordless... well, almost. We hear and see the monks in prayer singing the Divine Office, and it is the actors themselves who do the …

Advent and associated events

This is the busiest time of year for Music teachers and probably for teachers in general. In my case as Head of Music it means organising and leading an Advent Festival concert which took place on Dec. 7th (a mixture of religious + secular music + readings performed by an assortment of Choir, Orchestra, rock bands, soloists, etc...) and our official Carol Service (Choir, Orch. + vocal soloists) next Monday.

When you factor in all the rehearsal time for these events, the end of term exams that require marking and then the individual pupil reports, that makes for a very busy + hectic few weeks

Add to that a bout of heavy 'flu that left me in bed for 3 days last week and a cold that has taken 2 weeks to shake off, you can understand how I now feel rather zombified. I'm hoping and praying that Christmas, the trip to Brittany for our annual post-Christmas study session and the few extra days break I will have in France will help me recharge what are very run down batteries.

Really lo…

Fr. Andrew McMahon ofm: friend + film companion

(See previous article)... It didn't take long before I was recommending films to Fr. Andrew and taking him to the cinema to see them, after which we would discuss them over a pint and a bite to eat. He seems genuinely grateful that someone such as myself would want to take the time to open his mind up to new cinematic treats (just don't mention "Inception" or science fiction to him!! ;-) And it wasn't long before he was phoning me up with the latest tale of woe over his computer and asking me to bail him out, which, of course, I gladly agreed to do, in return for food and drink!Bumping into him at work during our pupils' day retreats at Park Place

Last March, he invited me to do a party piece (a couple of Irish drinking songs + a bit on the clarinet) at the Friends of Park Place St. Patrick's Night, amongst a variety of "turns" that included Irish dancing, song, recitation, instrumental music... I also joined Andrew and a longtime friend of his f…

Free will + determinism: God's Divine Providence and finding a new spiritual guide

Oh the joys of enforced school closure due to heavy snow! I can now do a little blogging :-)*****************

When I transferred from our Liverpool community to our Southampton one (in my home town, attached to my old school) 18 months ago, I had as a priority the desire + need to seek out someone whom I felt would be the right kind of spiritual "guide" for me, someone who would also be a friend and with whom I would therefore feel very comfortable talking about the "difficult stuff" of life. I hesitate to use the word "director" because nowadays many spiritual "directors" seem to dislike the term themselves as suggesting too much of a uni-directional relationship. The French talk of "un accompagnateur spirituel", a spiritual "accompanist" and I think this term suits far better the role itself.So. how was I to find such a person? Well, that's just the point... I felt it wasn't really up to me. I was convinced that it w…

"Of Gods And Men" - articles

If you needed any further reasons to go and see this film, read these two articles, especially the second one:

O brother, we're arthouse: the monks taking France by storm | Film |
Of Gods and Men – review | Film | The Guardian"Severe, austere and deeply moving, Xavier Beauvois's film about monks threatened by fundamentalists is one of the year's highlights, says Peter Bradshaw."