Electric Prayer

The Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass, and other things.

Christmas 2018 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 18 December 2018

The last couple of newletters have been quite long. This one will be shorter. Its main purpose is to wish you a happy Christmas.

High Advent

Yesterday was the first day of what you might call ‘high Advent’. It is a time when we no longer count in weeks, as we do for the rest of the year. Instead, like any excited child, we count the days. Yesterday was not Monday of the third week of Advent, and today is not the Tuesday of the third week (this year, there are no such days). Instead, yesterday was simply labelled “December 17” and today is “December 18” – which is to say, “Christmas minus 7” and “Christmas minus 6”. The countdown to the Incarnation has begun.

It seems hardly reasonable, in the rush and last-minute chaos of the coming week, to propose anything extra in the way of spiritual exercises. It is going to be difficult enough to squeeze even what we do normally into this dislocated time. All the same – following a suggestion made by a correspondent – let me commend to you the antiphons to the Magnificat at Vespers, the great and ancient “O Antiphons”. “O Wisdom, come!”, we said yesterday. “O Adonai, come!”, today. “O root of Jesse, come!” is tomorrow. The seven O Antiphons express Israel’s age-old yearning for its Saviour, and they are brought together here, just before Christmas, because they are all signposts to the event which, on Christmas Day, really does happen at last. The New Testament is the fulfilment of the promises and desires of the Old.

So even if you don’t normally do Evening Prayer, try diving in to this page in the coming days. Scroll or flip to the Magnificat, and contemplate its antiphon. You might even (if you have that sort of family, and they let you) use it as a Grace before your evening meal.

The Christmas Gospels

The fact that Christmas Day, alone of all the days of the year, has four complete Masses devoted to it does not mean that we are obliged to go to church four times. That would be madness. But it does give us four Gospels to reflect on, and if you can work some sort of reflection into the shape of the day, you will find that each of them has been cleverly chosen to fit its place. When it gets dark on the evening of the 24th, we remember the Annunciation and the bare fact of Jesus’ birth. At midnight we remember the shepherds who, that night, were the first to hear the good news. At dawn we are still with the shepherds as they visit the stable and find that it was not all a dream. And when it is fully day we change perspective: we see it all from the point of view of heaven, of eternity, in the magnificent and light-filled gospel according to John.

Giving Universalis as a gift

The two safest kinds of present to give at Christmas are the kind that lasts no time at all (it gets eaten or drunk, so it doesn’t add to your burden of possessions and you don’t have to keep on being grateful for it) and the kind that lasts for ever – such as Universalis. Universalis is a present that will be with the recipient for life, through the pious times and the less pious ones, through the dry seasons and the fruitful ones.

Each year, people ask us how to give Universalis, in its apps, programs and e-books, as a gift – whether for a godchild whose tastes and interests are obscure, or for an elderly relative who could do with something easier to handle and read than a book. Here is a web page with details and instructions.

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