Last year in one of my classes, I taught a student, Pavan. He was one of the brightest young men I had ever met. He was hard working, respectful, and always pleasant. One of those students a teacher wished they had a full class of. During the year he left to battle leukemia. He did not return to class. I learned on Tuesday that he lost this battle last week and passed to life eternal.

I was very upset and saddened. I can only imagine what his family must have been feeling as the rest of our culture spoke of joy and happiness of the season. For many this time of year the word joy does not seem to fit. Fears of terror attacks, loved ones serving overseas, unemployment, and the loss of loved ones all conspire to challenge this season of joy for so many.

In our seminary class, we study scriptural hermeneutics, the way to interpret and read scripture using a book from Peter Gomes, from Harvard Divinity. He teaches us, among others things, to look for biblical themes, one of which is joy. Joy is the word for this Solemnity, the joy of the Incarnation. But this only makes sense if we understand what joy really is. It is not happiness in the way our culture experiences this word. Joy is the feeling one has when the veil between the human and divine is momentarily lifted. Joy is the realization of a moment of unity between us and God. It is the feeling of ultimate peace and fulfillment in the complete enrapture of our lives in God’s hands. Thus joy can be felt at moments of happiness, achievement, sadness, and grief.

Just over 10 years ago, I was with my mother, just moments after her life ended in the hospital. I began the prayer from the funeral Mass, Angels of the Lord come to greet her, and I found myself no longer able to speak the words. I was sad, yes, in grief, yes, but also in awe and at peace. I felt my mother’s presence in a new way, I felt as if the angels were there and she was happy. I could not speak from my voice, but my heart was singing. It was a moment of joy.

This feast of the Incarnation is the source of our human joy for it is the gift of God taking our human nature and uniting it with God’s divine existence. God is made flesh and the Word by which all things came to be, is incarnated in our human experience. This feast does not automatically resonate joy just because it happens to be December, but it is a celebration of the faithful fact that God does touch us each at different times in different ways intimately with ultimate life and love. Because God was made human, God himself tore that veil between us and reaches out to us always. Joy is our human realization of these moments. Joy is God’s promise of the life of enraptured love that will be our always in time and the next life.

Our call is to help each other in the times in between and on the journey here and now, times good and bad. By our loving in community and our reaching out to include the marginalized into our community: those who are lonely, those in trauma, those forgotten or abused, we provide the fertile ground for joy to manifest itself. Our call is to help each other remember that our God IS Emmanuel, with us, now and forever.

As we celebrate this liturgy of the Incarnation, may we have the strength of each other and our God with us, to walk one in mind and heart into His love forever.

Christ is born. Glorify Him!

An Augustinian Eucharistic Prayer

 

Below is a Eucharistic Prayer that I wrote to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Order of Augustinians of the Immaculate Heart of Mary's original founding when myself and Bp.Christopher Tobin professed our first vows to the new community in 1993.

 

I had the opportunity to use it last month at our Annual Chapter and First Church Synod(Gathering). I share it here for any to use with appropriate permission from their own ecclesial authorities.

 

 

An Augustinian Eucharistic Prayer

 

 

Holy are you, God, Trinity of persons, source of Love, Love itself, and the fruits of Loving. You call us into being as your children making us in your own image. You enflame our hearts with Your love, burning with desire for union with you.

 

(Sung: Feed us now with the food of that loving desire as we sing to you forever and ever: Amen)

 

God of Abraham and Sarah, in the fullness of time, your Word was incarnate by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. You became the Source of Grace, the Source of Good Counsel, and the Source of Consolation. One like us in all things but sin, and for us in all things bar none.

 

(Sung: By your Grace, flood your Holy Spirit in our midst now and forever: Amen)

 

By the power of that same Holy Spirit, make these simple gifts of bread and wine, symbol of your life giving creation, + the real body and blood of Jesus, Our Christ.

 

On the night Jesus was to initiate your recreation of the world by his supreme act of love and reconciliation, he took bread, gave you thanks and praise, broke the bread saying, “take, eat, all of you, THIS IS MY BODY which will be given up for you.

 

At the end of the meal, he took the wine, again gave you thanks and praise, gave it to his disciples saying, “take, drink, all of you, THIS IS MY BLOOD, the blood of the new covenant, shed for you and for all for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.”

 

Sung: Condemned by justice, but Redeemed by Love, we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

 

Dying you destroyed our death…

 

 

Holy One, by the mystery and power of Jesus’ body and blood here present, make  all who share in it, one in mind and heart on our way to you. Make our community in Jesus’ name a place of faith, hope, and charity. Grant the fullness of life, especially to all who are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, and all who seek your truth with a sincere heart.

 

(Sung: May we be reconciled with each other by the power of your cross and resurrection now and forever. Amen)

 

Loving Father, keep, by your strength and wisdom the Ecumenical Patriarchs strong in faith, and our Bishop, N. a loving shepherd.  Keep us one in mind and heart by prayer and the charity of obedience. Remember all bishops, priests, and deacons who minister in your name by Word and Sacrament. Remember, too, those charged with the service of being called Prior. Give them all, by Grace, what they need to be true examples of your Christ in our communities.

 

Divine Love, remember all those vowed to a life of prophetic prayer and apostolic mission as exampled by Our Holy Father, Augustine. Give them the strength to love as Jesus loved and to pray as Jesus prayed.

 

(Sung: Make us all faithful to our baptismal profession now and forever. Amen.)

 

Womb of eternal life, grant to our confreres, family, friends, and benefactors, who precede us to your heavenly throne, the vision of your glory. (pause) By the reconciliation of Jesus’ paschal mystery may they be judged by their baptismal renewal of faith and join the communion of Saints in your heavenly City with Mary, Our Mother of Grace and Good Counsel, Augustine, Monica, Rita, Nicholas, Thomas of Villanova, and all your Holy Ones given to us as examples of discipleship.

 

May we join them in the praise of your glory as it was, is now, and will be forever,

 

Sung: Through him, with him, in him…

 

Amen