Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Holding On to the Joy!


After the noise and drama of the Christmas holidays, we are now met with a kind of pause. We may feel the relief of having fewer tasks to perform and simpler schedules with which to cope. Or, we may experience a kind of depression at the sudden absence of all the celebratory activity and excitement. We may have feelings reflecting a mix of the two, or possibly just a sense of numbness. One thing is certain; this can be a quiet season which provides a rich spiritual pause to engage more deeply with the joys of Christmas. Such a contemplative effort can have rich spiritual rewards.


A Light to Dispel the Darkness
 Connecting more deeply with the meaning of Christmas will enhance one’s ability to hold on to the joy of the Christmas season throughout the entire year! The core of this joy is rooted in appreciation of the great gift of Christmas, which is the experience of Emmanuel, “God with us”. The Word is made Flesh; the grace of God has taken on visible human form; the Light has dissolved the darkness.
        Not only the Scriptures, but also the hymns, carols, and even the popular culture echo the Christmas story over and over, throughout the holiday season. While much of this is superficial, commercialized and unduly noisy, it does not take away from the fact that the best of the Christmas story still strongly permeates the culture, our society, our consciousness and our subconscious. When the Christmas Season ends, it can leave us hanging, especially when we have not gone beyond the superficial and material experience of the Christmas message.
        That message came from the heavenly angels to the lowly shepherds –
"Peace on earth..."
                "Good will to all..."
                                             "To you is born a Savior."
         This last part of the message is recorded in the name, Jesus (He who saves). January 3rd is the Optional Memorial to the Holy Name of Jesus. His name, which we honor above every other name, is a statement of his mission. He does so with the greatest of sacrifices in the ultimate display of agape, perfectly selfless, divine love. We, too, are called to emulate this love to the best of our capability in the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor, keeping the spirit of Christmas alive throughout the year.
The Great Gift of Christmas
 The great Gift of Christmas is God’s only Son, who has come to redeem us once and for all. The readings and celebrations in the Christmas liturgies foreshadow the events and salvation history we will contemplate during Lent and Easter. In His infinite love, the Father has given us His only Son. The preeminent response for this sublime Gift is thanksgiving in the form of our participation in the Eucharist. We kneel at the altar as the shepherds knelt at the manger. It is with great joy and wonder that we join our spiritual Mother, Mary, in contemplating the miracle of Christmas.
        In being born of Mary, Jesus shares in our humanness while we are given the opportunity to share in His divinity. From the Annunciation and her generous Fiat, the Blessed Virgin begins a life-long journey to become Mother of the faithful. During the Christmas Season, we celebrate the Feasts of Mary, Mother of God, the Epiphany of the Lord, and the Baptism of the Lord. With the birth of her Son, and through the years as his most faithful disciple, Mary lived the call to be Mother of God. This role made her, in turn, our own spiritual mother.
Great Joy Is Ours
 The Word has been made flesh and dwells among us. Salvation has been offered to all of humankind. In other words, salvation is being offered to each one of us, again and again, at every moment of our lives. The most appropriate response to this reality can only be a sincere prayer of thanksgiving. We can participate in that prayer of thanksgiving with every Eucharistic celebration. The question is: Do we (I) engage in the mass with enough spiritual depth to feel the joy of receiving, in my very being, the great Christmas gift of God’s Son? Is the joy of the Incarnation renewed in me with every Eucharistic liturgy?
        As members of the Association of Pauline Cooperators, we have the privilege to be a part of the Pauline Family, which provides a daily example to us of how to live perpetually in the joy of Christmas.

 Holding on to our Christmas joy will give us every opportunity to share in the redemption, to become true heirs as brothers and sisters of the Lord, and true sons and daughters of our joyful Mother Mary…

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish, but will have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

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Marie-Louise Handal has been a Pauline Cooperator based in Manhattan, New York City, for 15 years. She has participated in organizing and hosting a number of Pauline Family special events, media presentations, and educational programs in the New York Archdiocese and environs. Her professional work experience encompasses 20 years in international banking and finance, followed by a second career as a mathematics educator in Manhattan. Marie-Louise is a native New Yorker, born and raised in New York City.
        Her advanced degrees include a Master’s Degree in Theology from St. Joseph's Seminary, a Master of Science in the Foreign Service (MSFS) from Georgetown University, and a B.A. in Mathematics & Science from Hunter College. She is currently a candidate for the S.T.L. from the International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton. She also holds a Certificate in Spiritual Direction from the New York Archdiocesan Center for Spiritual Development.

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