Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: Waxwing

Waxwing
Taken by Remo Savisaar
I really love these beautiful birds and no one photographs them better than Remo.

My Top 2013 Movies

My favorite movies seen in 2013 with descriptions in 10 words or less. In the approximate order in which I saw them.
  1. Looper (2012) directed by Rian Johnson, stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt Bruce Willis
    Time travel, big themes, from a director I love. (my review here)

  2. Searching for Sugar Man (2012 documentary) directed by Malik Bendjelloul
    An American musician, a South African legend, a mystery investigated. (my review here)

  3. Bernie (2011) directed byRichard Linklater, stars: Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, Shirley MacLaine
    A sweet funeral home manager, a possessive and grasping widow ... a true story. (my review here)

  4. Argo (2012) directed by Ben Affleck, stars Ben Affleck and a big cast of "hey, it's that guy!" actors
    Smuggling six Americans out of the Iranian revolution ... a true story (my review here)

  5. Erroll Garner: No One Can Hear You Read (2012 documentary)
    Erroll Garner's genius in improvising, communicating joy, and inspiring others through jazz. (My review here)

  6. Of Gods and Men (2010 French: ‘Des hommes et des dieux’) Directed by Xavier Beauvois
    Trappist monks must decide whether to flee Algeria from terrorists or stay and serve God ... a true story (My review here; the A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast discussion here.)

  7. 12 Angry Men (1957) directed by Sidney Lumet, starring: Henry Fonda
    A classic, "must see" for a reason. Simply wonderful. (My review here.)

  8. Attack the Block  (2011) directed by Joe Cornish
    Solid alien invasion, monster movie set in British council block (a.k.a. "the projects). (my review here)

  9. Gravity  (2013) directed by Alfonso Cuaron, stars Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
    An immersive emergency in outer space ponders gravity on several levels.

  10. Muscle Shoals: The Movie  (2013 documentary) directed by Greg 'Freddy' Camalier
    A man who's lived the blues, the Swampers, shattered stereotypes ... and lots and lots of music. (My review here)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Top 2013 Audiobooks

My favorite audiobooks from 2013 with descriptions in 10 words or less. In the approximate order in which I heard them.
  1. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
    Classic mystery with unexpectedly hilarious characters. Read by B.J. Harrison at The Classic Tales Podcast, my review here.

  2. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Listening to this much-beloved book gave it new depth (Read by Rob Inglis)

  3. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
    I've never enjoyed the last book of the trilogy ... until now. (Read by Rob Inglis. My review of Return of the King here which reflects my experience listening to the entire trilogy.)

  4. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
    Perfect noir listening for our vacation travels together. (Read by William Dufris' whose "fat man" has to be heard to be appreciated.) 

  5. The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
    Enchanting tour of Halloween history with boys on a mission. (Read by Bronson Pinchot.)

  6. The Poison Belt by Arthur Conan Doyle
     The apocalypse in Victorian times told by a master storyteller (Read by Gildart Jackson. My review here)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Best (Print) Books of 2013

Top print books I read in 2013 with descriptions in 10 words or less. In the order I encountered them throughout the year. (Audio books will have a separate post.)
  1. Take Five with Pope Benedict by Mike Aquilina and Kris Stubna
    Wonderful daily resource that refocused me on what really matters. (My review here.)

  2. Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko
    Only Russian novels I've ever enjoyed. (Good Story podcast discussion. My reviews here: Night Watch, Day Watch, Twilight Watch, Last Watch)

  3. The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold
    Fantasy, adventure, romance wrapped in theological science fiction.  (my review here)

  4. King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village by Peggilene Bartels
    The subhead says it all. I've read it twice. (review here)

  5. The Woodcutter by Kate Danley
    A new, yet familiar, fairy story where true love conquers all. (review here)

  6. Galactic Pot-Healer by Philip K. Dick
    Lovecraftian elder god gathers team to benefit mankind. (SFFaudio discussion here. My review here)

  7. Save Send Delete by Danusha Goska
    Catholic and atheist debate faith in emails. Unputdownable. (my review here)

  8. Middlemarch by George Eliot
    Marriage seen through the lens of "What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?" (my review here)

  9. The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
    Why investigate a murder if the world is ending? (my review here)

  10. Countdown City by Ben H. Winters (sequel to The Last Policeman)
    Still asking questions in the face of the apocalypse  (review here)

  11. Kirinyaga by Mike Resnick
    Can utopia be created by one man? Also African folktales.  (review/discussion at A Good Story is Hard to Find)

  12. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
    A contender with Bleak House as my favorite Dickens novel.  (excerpts and comments at Goodreads)
Yep. I cheated on just a few for that 10 word limit, most notably Middlemarch. Had to happen. Be sure to go through and read the reviews of anything that looks interesting. I promise there are a few in there that surprised me by winding up on this list.

ALL THE 2013 BOOKS
Here's my year in books according to Goodreads, where I may not have always written a review but I did keep pretty accurate track of what I read.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Last Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

I'm really surprised I forgot to share my reactions on this book since I was so eager to share the first three. Making up for that now!

The Last Watch (Watch, #4)The Last Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


As with the other books in the series, Last Watch is made up of three novellas. Unlike the other books though, these act as connected pieces in one overall story. Although Anton goes to Edinburgh and then to Uzbekistan, his missions are all in service of solving one big puzzle. What possible plot could cause an alliance between a powerful Inquisitor, a Higher Light One, and a Master Vampire?

I thought I understood what the title Last Watch was about but, as with every other time, Sergei Lukyanenko surprised me. In the end this turned out to be a story about the depths to which love drives us, especially when we feel we have failed it, and the ultimate power of forgiveness.

I eagerly await the translation of the final book in the series, New Watch.

Worth a Thousand Words: Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak
From my favorite nature photographer, Remo Savisaar

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Y'all, You Guys, or Youse? Our Time Waster for This Morning.

We spent a very enjoyable hour going through this word quiz as a group. Then we saw that at the end they will give you their best guess on where you are from. So I went and took it myself. (Warning, the last map with the overall conclusion loads super slowly compared to all the other maps ... be patient or you'll lose the whole thing.)

I wound up with Spokane, Tacoma, Portland which were way off based solely on the word "kitty corner", but the map does show a very high match to Kansas where I grew up and North Texas, where I now live. I could see real connections on certain words to my time in Houston and my parents' Cincinnati / Illinois connections also.

Then I saw you could link to the specific map results and so took it a second time to try to capture the map, was asked a few different questions in the mix. I wound up still with stubborn Spokane but two more realistic cities about my word learning: Des Moines and Wichita.



None of this is as good as the Dictionary of Regional English which would be my wish if a bookish fairy godmother showed up to ask what very expensive books I'd love to read for the next year. But its fun enough and interesting. Enjoy!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Poison Belt by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Poison Belt: Being an account of another adventure of Prof. George E. Challenger, Lord John Roxton, Prof. Summerlee, and Mr. E. D. Malone, the discoverers of The Poison Belt by Arthur Conan Doyle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Strangely enough, I wound up listening to this apocalyptic book while wrapping gifts. Talk about making me grateful for Christmas with my family! This review is from SFFaudio whence came the review book. Needless to say (I hope), this is my uninfluenced opinion. 
What would you do if you had discovered that the planet was about to be engulfed in a belt of poisonous "ether" from outer space? Professor Challenger invites a hand-picked crew of adventurers and scientists to his home outside London.
I like Sherlock Holmes but I am much fonder of Arthur Conan Doyle's other fiction. He was a skilled teller of "weird tales" and I have heard he was proudest of his historical fiction which I really enjoy. The Poison Belt is the second in a series of fantasy and science fiction novels featuring the brilliant and overpowering Professor Challenger.  It functions very well as a stand alone novel.

Having assembled a newsman, big game huntsman, and another scientist to explore South America in their first adventure, The Lost World, it is only logical that Challenger would call upon the same group for this scientific emergency. Professor Challenger puzzles them when he asks each to bring along a cylinder of oxygen. They are well acquainted with Challenger's eccentricities but little do they suspect that he anticipates an apocalyptic event.

I'd say more but I think reading the whole description would have ruined my astonishment and interest in the story as it unfolded in this superb audiobook. In fact, having grabbed this review book solely based on my enjoyment of The Lost World, I hadn't read the description at all. I was stunned to find this was such an apocalyptic novel. It is really well written and thought through. I was frequently surprised as various events occurred because I simply hadn't thought through the consequences of an apocalypse in 1913 England.

Part of the enjoyment of The Poison Belt comes from the adventurers' interactions. Doyle is very good at inserting humor, often through the two scientists' bickering over conclusions, and at other times in hunter Lord John's casual comments as in this instance when Challenger has asked the group to look at an amoeba through a microscope.
Lord John was prepared to take him on trust.

"I'm not troublin' my head whether he's alive or dead," said he. "We don't so much as know each other by sight, so why should I take it to heart? I don't suppose he's worryin' himself over the state of OUR health."

I laughed at this, and Challenger looked in my direction with his coldest and most supercilious stare. It was a most petrifying experience.

"The flippancy of the half-educated is more obstructive to science than the obtuseness of the ignorant," said he. "If Lord John Roxton would condescend----"

"My dear George, don't be so peppery," said his wife, with her hand on the black mane that drooped over the microscope. "What can it matter whether the amoeba is alive or not?"

"It matters a great deal," said Challenger gruffly.

"Well, let's hear about it," said Lord John with a good-humoured smile. "We may as well talk about that as anything else. If you think I've been too off-hand with the thing, or hurt its feelin's in any way, I'll apologize."
Part of the humor comes across thanks to the excellent narration by actor Gildart Jackson. As is often the case with actors, his reading is rife with expressive accents, subtle nuances, and changes of pace. This isn't a very long book and goes along at a rattling pace. I was hooked from the beginning.

I don't know when I've enjoyed an audiobook more and I hope that Dreamscape is considering more of Arthur Conan Doyle's fiction for the future.

O God With Us

The O Antiphons are Magnificat antiphons sung or recited at Vespers from December 17-23. Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture.
   

Emmanuel, our King and our Law-giver, Longing of the Gentiles, yea, and salvation thereof, come to save us, O Lord our God!
My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For He hath regarded the humility of His handmaiden.

For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His Name. And His Mercy is from generation unto generations upon them that fear Him.

He hath shewed might in His arm, He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away.

He hath received Israel, His servant, being mindful of His mercy. As He spoke to our Fathers, Abraham and His seed forever. 
   

Emmanuel, our King and our Law-giver, Longing of the Gentiles, yea, and salvation thereof, come to save us, O Lord our God!
===========

The seven "O Antiphons" (also called the "Greater Antiphons" or "Major Antiphons") are prayers that come from the Breviary's Vespers during the Octave before Christmas Eve, a time which is called the "Golden Nights."

Each Antiphon begins with "O" and addresses Jesus with a unique title which comes from the prophecies of Isaias and Micheas (Micah), and whose initials, when read backwards, form an acrostic for the Latin "Ero Cras" which means "Tomorrow I come." Those titles for Christ are:
Sapientia
Adonai
Radix Jesse
Clavis David
Oriens
Rex Gentium
Emmanuel
=========
More detail about God With Us
Latin: Emmnauel
English: God With Us

Scriptural References:
Isaias 7:14
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel.
This is all via Fisheaters where there is more information, including the prayers sung, Latin, and some tips about how to incorporate praying the O Antiphons as a family.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

O King of the Gentiles

The O Antiphons are Magnificat antiphons sung or recited at Vespers from December 17-23. Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture.
   

King of the Gentiles, yea, and desire thereof! O Corner-stone, that makest of two one, come to save man, whom Thou hast made out of the dust of the earth!
My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For He hath regarded the humility of His handmaiden.

For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His Name. And His Mercy is from generation unto generations upon them that fear Him.

He hath shewed might in His arm, He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away.

He hath received Israel, His servant, being mindful of His mercy. As He spoke to our Fathers, Abraham and His seed forever. 
   

King of the Gentiles, yea, and desire thereof! O Corner-stone, that makest of two one, come to save man, whom Thou hast made out of the dust of the earth!
===========

The seven "O Antiphons" (also called the "Greater Antiphons" or "Major Antiphons") are prayers that come from the Breviary's Vespers during the Octave before Christmas Eve, a time which is called the "Golden Nights."

Each Antiphon begins with "O" and addresses Jesus with a unique title which comes from the prophecies of Isaias and Micheas (Micah), and whose initials, when read backwards, form an acrostic for the Latin "Ero Cras" which means "Tomorrow I come." Those titles for Christ are:
Sapientia
Adonai
Radix Jesse
Clavis David
Oriens
Rex Gentium
Emmanuel
=========
More detail about King of the Gentiles
Latin: Rex Gentium
English: King of the Gentiles

Scriptural References:
Isaias 9:7
His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace: he shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom; to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and for ever: the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Isaias 2:4
And he shall judge the Gentiles, and rebuke many people: and they shall turn their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into sickles: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they be exercised any more to war.
This is all via Fisheaters where there is more information, including the prayers sung, Latin, and some tips about how to incorporate praying the O Antiphons as a family.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

O Dayspring, Radiant Dawn

The O Antiphons are Magnificat antiphons sung or recited at Vespers from December 17-23. Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture.
   

Dayspring, Brightness of the everlasting light, Son of justice, come to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!

My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For He hath regarded the humility of His handmaiden.

For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His Name. And His Mercy is from generation unto generations upon them that fear Him.

He hath shewed might in His arm, He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away.

He hath received Israel, His servant, being mindful of His mercy. As He spoke to our Fathers, Abraham and His seed forever.
   

Dayspring, Brightness of the everlasting light, Son of justice, come to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!
===========
The seven "O Antiphons" (also called the "Greater Antiphons" or "Major Antiphons") are prayers that come from the Breviary's Vespers during the Octave before Christmas Eve, a time which is called the "Golden Nights."

Each Antiphon begins with "O" and addresses Jesus with a unique title which comes from the prophecies of Isaias and Micheas (Micah), and whose initials, when read backwards, form an acrostic for the Latin "Ero Cras" which means "Tomorrow I come." Those titles for Christ are:

Sapientia
Adonai
Radix Jesse
Clavis David
Oriens
Rex Gentium
Emmanuel
=========
More detail about Dayspring

Latin: Oriens
English: Dayspring

Scriptural References:
Isaias 9:2
The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen.
This is all via Fisheaters where there is more information, including the prayers sung, Latin, and some tips about how to incorporate praying the O Antiphons as a family.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: Cosette

Portrait of "Cosette" by Émile Bayard,
from the original edition of Les Misérables (1862).
Via Wikipedia
I have begun reading Les Miserables. Inspired by yesterday's portrait of Tolstoy, I went looking for portraits of Victor Hugo and found this along the way. I was so surprised to see that what I thought was a modern image of Cosette actually had been with the novel from the beginning. As Wikipedia tells us:
French illustrator Émile Bayard drew the sketch of Cosette for the first edition, and this engraving was prepared for an 1886 edition. The image has become emblematic of the entire story, being used in promotional art for various versions of the musical.

O Key of David

The O Antiphons are Magnificat antiphons sung or recited at Vespers from December 17-23. Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture.
   

Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For He hath regarded the humility of His handmaiden.

For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His Name. And His Mercy is from generation unto generations upon them that fear Him.

He hath shewed might in His arm, He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away.

He hath received Israel, His servant, being mindful of His mercy. As He spoke to our Fathers, Abraham and His seed forever.
   

Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.
===========
The seven "O Antiphons" (also called the "Greater Antiphons" or "Major Antiphons") are prayers that come from the Breviary's Vespers during the Octave before Christmas Eve, a time which is called the "Golden Nights."

Each Antiphon begins with "O" and addresses Jesus with a unique title which comes from the prophecies of Isaias and Micheas (Micah), and whose initials, when read backwards, form an acrostic for the Latin "Ero Cras" which means "Tomorrow I come." Those titles for Christ are:

Sapientia
Adonai
Radix Jesse
Clavis David
Oriens
Rex Gentium
Emmanuel
=========
More detail about Key of David

Latin: Clavis David
English: Key of David

Scriptural References:
Isaias 22:22
And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder: and he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut, and none shall open.

Isaias 9:6
For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace.
This is all via Fisheaters where there is more information, including the prayers sung, Latin, and some tips about how to incorporate praying the O Antiphons as a family.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: Leo Tolstoy

Portrait of Leo Tolstoy (1887). Ilya Repin (Russian, 1844-1930).
Via Books and Art.

A Lovely Piece of Advent Fiction: A Shepherd I Will Remain

It is irresistible. We walk to Bethlehem, bells ringing, bringing our sheep. My uncle carries the injured one on his shoulders, and we travel familiar, narrow by-ways that keep us, always, at the margins of the city—away from marketplaces and inns, for we know our place; we are shepherds; we stink of the sheep.

We find the hewn place, like a cave, and again there is light or not light, precisely—oh, how do I tell it? It is a kind of mist of brightness, and it is alive; it contains a hum, a buzz, a fizz that is like pulsing life, and it is everywhere, and it bathes everything and everyone in its warm glow.
From Elizabeth Scalia comes a very good short story, almost just a snapshot really, of the Nativity from a shepherd boy's point of view. Read it at First Things.

What I like about this so much is that Scalia paints the place so vividly. I could hear the fire crackle, feel the rough trails under my feet, and see the young mother's pride. I especially liked the way that details were introduced which followed very logically but which I hadn't thought of before ... such as the fact that shepherds would naturally take their sheep with them.

Scalia is an expert nonfiction writer who often inspires me ... but I think we need more fiction from her. She's good.

In which we go on the carrier's rounds, enjoy a picnic, meet Caleb's daughter, and see an unimaginable sight.

That's right, Chirp the Second of The Cricket on the Hearth is ready for your listening pleasure at Forgotten Classics podcast.

Christmas in the Air


This makes me laugh every time. Many thanks to Doug Savage for sharing his humor with us and allowing me to pass it along to you.

O Root of Jesse

The O Antiphons are Magnificat antiphons sung or recited at Vespers from December 17-23. Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture.
   

Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at Whom the kings shall shut their mouths, Whom the Gentiles shall seek, come to deliver us, do not tarry.

My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For He hath regarded the humility of His handmaiden.

For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His Name. And His Mercy is from generation unto generations upon them that fear Him.

He hath shewed might in His arm, He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away.

He hath received Israel, His servant, being mindful of His mercy. As He spoke to our Fathers, Abraham and His seed forever.
   

Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at Whom the kings shall shut their mouths, Whom the Gentiles shall seek, come to deliver us, do not tarry.
===========
The seven "O Antiphons" (also called the "Greater Antiphons" or "Major Antiphons") are prayers that come from the Breviary's Vespers during the Octave before Christmas Eve, a time which is called the "Golden Nights."

Each Antiphon begins with "O" and addresses Jesus with a unique title which comes from the prophecies of Isaias and Micheas (Micah), and whose initials, when read backwards, form an acrostic for the Latin "Ero Cras" which means "Tomorrow I come." Those titles for Christ are:

Sapientia
Adonai
Radix Jesse
Clavis David
Oriens
Rex Gentium
Emmanuel
=========
More detail about Root of Jesse

Latin: Radix Jesse
English: Root of Jesse

Scriptural References:
Isaias 11:1
And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root.

Isaias 11:10
In that day the root of Jesse, who standeth for an ensign of the people, him the Gentiles shall beseech, and his sepulchre shall be glorious.

Micheas 5:1
Now shalt thou be laid waste, O daughter of the robber: they have laid siege against us, with a rod shall they strike the cheek of the judge of Israel.


Romans 15:8-13
For I say that Christ Jesus was minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers. But that the Gentiles are to glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: Therefore will I confess to thee, O Lord, among the Gentiles, and will sing to thy name. And again he saith: Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again: Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and magnify him, all ye people. And again Isaias saith: There shall be a root of Jesse; and he that shall rise up to rule the Gentiles, in him the Gentiles shall hope. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing; that you may abound in hope, and in the power of the Holy Ghost.

Apocalypse 5:1-5
And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne, a book written within and without, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel, proclaiming with a loud voice: Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man was able, neither in heaven, nor on earth, nor under the earth, to open the book, nor to look on it. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open the book, nor to see it. And one of the ancients said to me: Weep not; behold the lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
This is all via Fisheaters where there is more information, including the prayers sung, Latin, and some tips about how to incorporate praying the O Antiphons as a family.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

O Lord of Israel

The O Antiphons are Magnificat antiphons sung or recited at Vespers from December 17-23. Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture.
   

Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law in Sinai, come to redeem us with an outstretched arm!

My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For He hath regarded the humility of His handmaiden.

For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His Name. And His Mercy is from generation unto generations upon them that fear Him.

He hath shewed might in His arm, He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away.

He hath received Israel, His servant, being mindful of His mercy. As He spoke to our Fathers, Abraham and His seed forever.
   

Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law in Sinai, come to redeem us with an outstretched arm!
===========
The seven "O Antiphons" (also called the "Greater Antiphons" or "Major Antiphons") are prayers that come from the Breviary's Vespers during the Octave before Christmas Eve, a time which is called the "Golden Nights."

Each Antiphon begins with "O" and addresses Jesus with a unique title which comes from the prophecies of Isaias and Micheas (Micah), and whose initials, when read backwards, form an acrostic for the Latin "Ero Cras" which means "Tomorrow I come." Those titles for Christ are:

Sapientia
Adonai
Radix Jesse
Clavis David
Oriens
Rex Gentium
Emmanuel
=========
More detail about Lord of Israel

Latin: Adonai
English: Lord of Israel

Scriptural References:
Isaias 11:4-5
But he shall judge the poor with justice, and shall reprove with equity the meek of the earth: and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. And justice shall be the girdle of his loins: and faith the girdle of his reins.

Isaias 33:22
For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king: he will save us.
This is all via Fisheaters where there is more information, including some tips about how to incorporate praying the O Antiphons as a family.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

No Internet + No Phone + Waiting at Home All Day for AT&T =

a) Getting a lot of Christmas gifts wrapped.

b) Accidentally recording 50 minutes of Leaf By Niggle (for myself because you can't find it on audio) because I thought the AT&T tech was just stepping out for a few minutes so I thought I'd read until she got back.

c) No blogging.

d) All of the above. CORRECT ANSWER

I have to give the AT&T technician credit though. She just didn't give up. She kept trying and trying and finally figured out our problem, even though she showed up at 9:00 and wasn't done until after 3:00. I was really impressed.

O Wisdom

The O Antiphons are Magnificat antiphons sung or recited at Vespers from December 17-23. Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture.

Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end to another, and orderest all things mightily and sweetly, come to teach us the way of prudence!
My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For He hath regarded the humility of His handmaiden.

For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His Name. And His Mercy is from generation unto generations upon them that fear Him.

He hath shewed might in His arm, He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away.

He hath received Israel, His servant, being mindful of His mercy. As He spoke to our Fathers, Abraham and His seed forever.
Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end to another, and orderest all things mightily and sweetly, come to teach us the way of prudence!
 ==========
The seven "O Antiphons" (also called the "Greater Antiphons" or "Major Antiphons") are prayers that come from the Breviary's Vespers during the Octave before Christmas Eve, a time which is called the "Golden Nights."

Each Antiphon begins with "O" and addresses Jesus with a unique title which comes from the prophecies of Isaias and Micheas (Micah), and whose initials, when read backwards, form an acrostic for the Latin "Ero Cras" which means "Tomorrow I come." Those titles for Christ are:

Sapientia
Adonai
Radix Jesse
Clavis David
Oriens
Rex Gentium
Emmanuel
=========
More detail about Wisdom
Latin: Sapientia
English: Wisdom

Scriptural References:
Isaias 11:2-3
And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness. And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord, He shall not judge according to the sight of the eyes, nor reprove according to the hearing of the ears.

Isaias 28:29
This also is come forth from the Lord God of hosts, to make his counsel wonderful, and magnify justice.
This is all via Fisheaters where there is more information, including some tips about how to incorporate praying the O Antiphons as a family.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Following the Cowboys

I like what Stephen Tobolowsky tweeted after the Cowboys' game.
Following the Cowboys is like dating an alcoholic.
Precisely. I had the same lack of expectations, the raised hopes that things would be better, the disbelief at the disintegration which was so familiar to watch, the anger at letting myself get sucked in.

So why do I keep dating them? Aaargh!

I had lunch today with a longtime Cowboys fan who pointed out that if Jerry Jones had a General Manager who hadn't turned up with a playoff team in 17 years ... he'd have fired them long ago.

When I think of the string of coaches who have come and gone in that time, I think of the Cowboys' General Manager and wish someone would fire him for the team's good. Are your ears burning ... again ... Jerry?

Well Said: The Ghost of Christmas Lost

Tis the time of year to celebrate Santa being allowed back in Texas schools. Or to read about schools who insist on having no religious songs in Christmas - excuse me - holiday pageants. Or even, as Tom pointed out the other day, to watch Lexus ads which tell us "winter is the season to buy a new car." (Winter is the season? Really? Are they going to run these in February? Now they can't even say "holiday?" Brother, did we laugh.)

All this made me think fondly back to actor Stephen Tobolowsky's Christmas Reflection, part of which I share with you here.
A few years ago I was driving the carpool to school. It was the day of the Christmas program. I told the kids I was eager to come to the show. I asked what Christmas songs they were singing. There was a lengthy pause followed by the innocent reply, “We’re not singing any Christmas songs. Our teacher says that they are too religious. We are only singing songs about the Winter solstice.

It was one of those moments I wished I carried small caliber weapons. I took a breath and said, “Who is your teacher?”

Alex answered back, “Mr. Webster.”

I said, ”Alex, you know Mr. Webster probably doesn’t know this, but the Winter solstice is religious too. It celebrates Paganism. So if he really wants to cut out religion he should just stick to Beatles songs.”

Alex was silent. He recognized the signs of an adult quietly flipping out while driving. I was too angry. I couldn’t stop. I calmly said, “Alex. I have a question for you to ask Mr. Webster. Tell him that Mr. Tobolowsky wanted to know many songs Johann Sebastian Bach wrote in honor of the Winter solstice? How many paintings of Michelangelo were inspired by the solstice? In fact I would like Mr. Webster to cite one reference to the solstice in the works of Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Jane Austen. Just one.”

The decision to remove Christmas songs from a children’s Christmas show was the definition small-minded. I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was the kind of choice you expect from an expensive private school in Los Angeles.

I dropped the kids off. They ran inside for another date with meaninglessness.
As anyone knows who listens to The Tobolowsky Files, Stephen Tobolowsky is too good a story teller to leave us with just that ending. Go read the whole thing at his blog.

My Interview at Catholic Mom

Sarah Reinhard interviewed me as part of the Catholic Blogger series at Catholic Mom.

Sarah did a very flattering intro and I am always extremely honored that Happy Catholic was an inspiration for her to begin blogging. She's such a dynamo of blogging and book writing that if it wasn't me, it would have been another Catholic blogger who inspired her. But I'm glad it was me. Especially since we are now friends. And that's even better than her blogging and writing.

To be honest, I did this interview some time ago and had forgotten all about it.

So I was interested to read my own answers. And, hey, I held my own interest! (Which says something either about my short memory or my self interest or ... maybe, just maybe ... it means the interview was ok).

Check it out and see for yourself.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: First Communion - Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso. First Communion. 1895-96.
via My Daily Art Display
Of course, the big surprise in this painting is not the subject matter, though I really love the piece. It is the artist. This is from Pablo Picasso's early years. My Daily Art Display has more information about Picasso during that time.

In which we meet the Perrybingles ...

... Boxer, a poor toymaker, a crabby toymaker, an unusual parcel and ... the cricket. Chirp the First for your listening pleasure at Forgotten Classics podcast.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Come Tell Me How You Live - Agatha Christie

I wrote this little review a while back but since I'm rereading it and just recommended it to someone, I thought I'd better share again. It is also unexpectedly funny. I laugh out loud and read bits of it to my husband.

Come, Tell Me How You LiveCome, Tell Me How You Live by Agatha Christie Mallowan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This engaging memoir covers Agatha Christie's time on archaeological digs with her husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan. Having just read They Came to Baghdad, I was struck by how many of the heroine's realizations of what archaeology teaches us were already familiar because they were Christie's own. Her love of the ordinary people and their lives comes through strong and clear. This is a wonderful look at the Middle East in a time gone by from a unique perspective. I can't recommend this highly enough.

Worth a Thousand Words: At the Dressing Table (self portrait)

Zinaida Serebriakova (1884–1967)
At the Dressing-Table (the self-portrait).
Via Lines and Colors and Wikipedia
I'd never heard of Zinaida Serebriakova until Charley Parker at Lines and Colors included her charming self portrait in his continuing series of old fashioned "selfies." I love the whole thing, her sweet yet knowing expression, the clutter of her dressing table, and the way the candlesticks blend into the picture "frame."

Do You Use Wikipedia?

Do you use Wikipedia? Heaven only knows I do. They're fundraising right now. In fact, that was when I realized just how often I casually drop by to get basic tidbits of information. I kept having to ignore their plea for $3.00.

$3.00.

I dropped in a donation that included both Tom and me.

Here's how they put it.
Wikipedia is the #5 site on the web and serves 500 million different people every month – with billions of page views.

Commerce is fine. Advertising is not evil. But it doesn't belong here. Not in Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is something special. It is like a library or a public park. It is like a temple for the mind. It is a place we can all go to think, to learn, to share our knowledge with others.

When I founded Wikipedia, I could have made it into a for-profit company with advertising banners, but I decided to do something different. We’ve worked hard over the years to keep it lean and tight. We fulfill our mission efficiently.

If everyone reading this donated, our fundraiser would be done within an hour. But not everyone can or will donate. And that's fine. Each year just enough people decide to give.

This year, please consider making a donation of $5, $20, $50 or whatever you can to protect and sustain Wikipedia.

Thanks,

Jimmy Wales
Wikipedia Founder
If you use Wikipedia, and I bet you do, then swing by and drop them a few bucks. It's so much cheaper than that encyclopedia I used to long for!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: The Grill

The Grill
painted by Karin Jurick
I love paintings showing the details of ordinary, modern life. No one does it better than Karin Jurick.

Rejoice!

A striking feature of the angel's greeting is that he does not address Mary with the usual Hebrew salutation shalom--peace be with you--but with the Greek greeting formula chaire, which we might well translate with the word "Hail," as in the Church's Marian prayer, pieced together from the words of the annunciation narrative (cf. Lk 1:28, 42). Yet at this point it is only right to draw out the true meaning of the word chaire: rejoice! This exclamation from the angel--we could say--marks the true beginning of the New Testament.
Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI),
Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives
I am reading this, extremely slowly, during Advent. This fell upon me this morning.

It connected me immediately with something I'd read last night in Pope Francis's apostolic letter Evangelii Gaudium, which I am also reading extremely slowly.
There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter.
Was the Holy Father intending to riff on C.S. Lewis? I automatically thought:
When it's always winter but never Christmas.
This famous quote from C.S. Lewis's classic The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe has been singing through my mind ever since. Singing because that line is used by Reliant K in an original song on their Christmas album, which is a favorite of mine.

It all meshed together this morning with thoughts of the Catholics Come Home campaign. Our parish is giving us fliers, handouts, and CDs every Advent Sunday to help invite people to return to church. Spreading the good news or evangelization is also the point of Pope Francis's letter.
We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?
I always have trouble thinking of "evangelizing" in the standard understanding of the term. I know that "Christ died for you" meant absolutely nothing to me before I met Him personally. The "what if" scenario fills me with dread, "So you're in an elevator with one other person who notices you wearing a cross and asks why you are a Christian. You've got 2 minutes. What do you say?"

What do you say indeed?

Since my own conversion was largely internal and very private I really have a hard time knowing how one would "sum up." And yet, I'd hate to have that one shot and not be able to add my mite to what God is telling that person.

Musing on all the above, C.S. Lewis's own conversion came to mind. He was highly influenced by the stories of George MacDonald and G. K. Chesterton. Then there was an all night discussion about the meaning of Myth with J.R.R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson. Through and under it all wound the idea of myth, of story, of True Story.

It occurred to me that story is my answer, whether it makes sense to anyone else or not. It's as if your favorite story, the best story you ever read, the story you wanted to be a part of, came true.

All the hope, the meaning, the magic of living inside a story where the good guys win, where the ugly duckling turns into a swan, where our best hopes and dreams come alive ... it's true. It's real. Your life is full of meaning and love no matter what your circumstances or trials because even the best stories have times of great trial for the heroes.

And I rejoice.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: Benedict Cumberbatch Reads

Benedict Cumberbatch Reads
via Awesome People Reading
It's not just the man. Or the bookshelf. It's the garb that pulls it together somehow.

Hard Magic by Larry Correia

Hard Magic (Grimnoir Chronicles, #1)Hard Magic by Larry Correia

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Jake Sullivan is a war hero, a private eye — and an ex-con. He’s free because he has a magical talent that the Feds need to apprehend criminals with their own magical abilities. ... Jake finds that not only have the Feds been lying to him, but there is a secret war being waged by opposing forces of magic-users. Worse still, he had attracted the attention of one side’s ruthless leaders — who are of the opinion that Jake is far too dangerous to be permitted to live.
This looked like something of a Harry Dresden copycat and I'm also rather tired of novels that insert magic into our world to create an alternate history. Then Jeff Miller gave it five stars and I had to rethink my position. My Audible monthly credit became available and I saw Bronson Pinchot narrates it ... and I was lost. No one narrates like he does.

All descriptions I've seen don't describe my favorite character, Faye, a teenage Okie whose irregular upbringing combines a good Catholic upbringing with puckish unpredictability. The Catholic element is quite light but Faye's story is equal in interest and weight to Jake's.

I was fascinated by the book's complexity, especially as compared to the first Harry Dresden or Joe Ledger novels. This one doesn't spoon feed you but gets the story rolling while providing information for you to pick up on the interesting magical attributes which some people have, how they can be used, and how this affects the struggle between good and evil. The story also examines the origins of the magic which suddenly began appearing in people in the late 1800s. This provides an unexpected story layer which I found interesting and welcome. Certainly it is a part of what made me interested in the trilogy beyond the first book.

In the midst of the action-packed finale, I suddenly saw all the pieces fit into place, just as the author intended. I was also interested to have some of the characters gain a depth I didn't expect which switched my perspective, all in aid of the puzzle pieces fitting neatly. That was nicely done by author Larry Correia.

Hard Magic is more of a guilty pleasure than anything else but it is a roller coaster ride I'm happy I took.

I'm about as smart as Jake Sullivan but, like everyone else, not nearly as clever as Faye (who is a character to fall in love with, especially as narrated here). I can see I'm going to have to read the next book in the series. Dammit. Because I didn't want another trilogy to invest my time in. But I'll be spending an Audible credit on the next book.

Note: I'd have given it another star but the long battle in the middle of the book really slowed things down and made my interest sag.

Friday, December 6, 2013

In which we sample some hors d'oeuvres from a tasty platter of American food writing.

Something tasty for your weekend listening from Forgotten Classics, a sampler of pieces from American Food Writing, edited by Molly O'Neill.

Oh, the weather outside is frightful ...

The view from our front yard
As I mentioned in yesterday's ratting story, we have gone from the 80s to below freezing in two days.

It is beautiful as you can see from the photo Tom snapped this morning.

To watch the news you'd think we had 6 feet of snow or something. The newscasters gravely say, "Now to Bob out in Plano, where a carport collapsed."

Then Bob shows us the collapsed carport on top of the car inside.

Oh the humanity!

It does shut the city down because we just aren't prepared for this sort of weather ... unlike when I moved here 30 years ago and it was very common. But the crazy way the news shows it makes it seem worse.

To be fair, I'm doing everything with the expectation that the power will go out at any time because the lines are covered with ice and we've been hearing transformers blow occasionally. So in my own way, I'm just as "emergency" oriented.

Kaylee, of ratting story fame, feels it is much too cold for a little lady to venture outside as we discovered when we looked behind the couch this morning. (She did have the decorum to hide the evidence. She's not a savage, people.)

Mountain men that we are, we closed the dog door and went outside in robes and slippers to encourage the dogs to romp playfully. And, as we hoped, nature took its course. Good girl!

Tom's going to work but I'm staying home and baking some Christmas cookies for the freezer! YAY!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

10 Books That Have Stayed With You Meme

This began on Facebook, but I know of no reason why we shouldn't bring it into the blogging world which is where all the really good booktalk happens. (Ok, Goodreads excepted, but that is where I have made many good book talkin' pals.)

I knew this would come my way as soon as I saw Jeff Miller did it. Turns out Will Duquette laid it on me. Turns out the first two books on his list are the first I thought of also. Here goes ...

Rules: list 10 books that have stayed with you. Don't take more than a few minutes; don't think too hard. They don't have to be great works, just the ones that have touched you. Here's mine, in no particular order :

  1. The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. The Screwtape Letters - C.S. Lewis
  3. The Curse of Chalion - Lois McMaster Bujold
  4. Death Comes as the End - Agatha Christie
  5. The Franchise Affair - Josephine Tey
  6. Little Dorrit - Charles Dickens
  7. Only You Can Save Mankind - Terry Pratchett
  8. While We Still Live - Helen MacInnes
  9. The Hiding Place - Corrie Ten Boom
  10. One Door Away From Heaven - Dean Koontz

I'm supposed to tag 10 people and I did tag a few on Facebook, but I'm just going to leave it up to whoever wants to join in, whether blogging, on Facebook, or just in the comments box here.

It's Lovely Ratting Weather Outside

Yesterday it was in the 80s.

This morning it was in the 30s and falling.

Normal weather jumps for this time of year in North Texas.

Tom came back where I was reading while feeding the dogs. As usual Kaylee bolted her portion while Wash leisurely munched while taking occasional looks out the window.

I said, "Hey, we forgot to leave the dog door open last night."

"Did Kaylee go out this morning?" he asked.

"Right after breakfast and then she bolted back in, all frisky."

"Ahhh." And he grinned.

I looked at Kaylee, standing there near me. I didn't have my glasses on but she was looking at Tom, wagging her tail, and she seemed to have ... were those branches poking out of her mouth? Dear Lord, those were feet. And there was a tail draping luxuriously past them.

"A rat!"

"That's right," Tom said in soothing, cheerful tones. "And Kaylee's going out, aren't you girl? C'mon out!"

She'd dashed to the bathroom to show him which is quite sweet, actually. She loves Tom as her Alpha while still battling a general fear of men from her rescue dog days.

In a feat of calm I probably couldn't have matched, he coaxed her out and closed the dog door. He then got her to drop the rat. She, understandably, was loathe to leave her treasure out there for anyone to grab when her back was turned. She'd shown us her rats and squirrels before only to have them scooped up. This was staying firmly in her mouth.

Eventually, though, she relaxed. And Tom gave her a nice second breakfast as a reward. Hobbits aren't the only ones who love second breakfasts.

He then went out with the shovel, confirming her worst suspicions that he'd just wanted that tasty morsel for himself.

Notes on Mark: The Millstone

MARK 9:41-42
Think of just how small the kindness is that Jesus is talking about here. And if you want to know how seriously he takes leading people astray, just see what Barclay has to say about the size of that millstone!
Any kindness shown, any help given, to the people of Christ will not lose its reward. The reason for helping is that the person in need belongs to Jesus. Every man in need has a claim upon us because he is dear to Christ. Had Jesus still been here in the flesh he would have helped that man in the most practical way and the duty of help has devolved on us. It is to be noted how simple the help is. The gift is a cup of cold water. We are not asked to do great things for others, things beyond our power. We are asked to give the simple things that any man can give...

But the converse is also true. To help is to win the eternal reward. To cause a weaker brother to stumble is to win the eternal punishment. The passage is deliberately stern. The mill-stone that is mentioned is a great millstone. There were two kinds of mills in Palestine. There was the hand-mill that the women used in the house. And there was the mill whose stone was so great that it took an ass to turn it.

The mill-stone here is literally an ass's mill-stone. To be cast into the sea with that attached was certainly to have no hope of return. This was in fact a punishment and a means of execution both in Rome and Palestine...
The Gospel of Mark
(The Daily Bible Series, rev. ed.)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I didn't know this was a dream of mine until I read it ...

In the future, when Joss Whedon and I are best friends and hanging out together in my tree fort, I hope Neil Gaiman comes over too. Because then the three of us will all play Settlers of Catan together. And I will win, because I'm really great at Settlers of Catan. But I will also be very gracious about it, and apologize for putting the bandit on Gaiman's wheat twice in a row.

Then we will make smores, and I will toast a marshmallow with such deftness and perfection that they will be amazed and realize I am kinda cool. Then we will talk about Battlestar Galactica, and which Doctor is our favorite, and we will tell ghost stories late into the night.

From Patrick Rothfuss's Goodread's review of
The Ocean At The End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Except in my dream we will be playing Baldur's Gate II. Which I am enjoying the heck out of, by the way. Anyway, other than that, exactly the same dream.

This is going into my quote journal. Absolutely.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Well Said: Catholic Readers

From my quote journal.
Catholic readers are forever being scandalized by novels that they don't have the fundamental equipment to read in the first place, and often these are worlds that are permeated with a Christian spirit. It is when an individual's faith is weak, not when it is strong, that he will be afraid of an honest fictional representation of life.
Flannery O'Connor
Needless to say, I completely agree. Not that I myself am always strong enough or fully equipped to understand the sorts of novels of which she speaks. Heck, they don't even have to be that hard for some people to quail. Look at the fuss over the Harry Potter series. But I try. Not being afraid is the key. And that's a start.

Notes on Mark: He That is Not Against Us is For Us

MARK 9:38-40
Isn't that so often the way? If someone isn't doing something just the way that we would then it isn't right, not valid, has to be changed or stopped. I wish I could say that I was immune to this but I'm probably one of the worst about wanting things done "just so" in accordance with my ideas of perfection. Here, Jesus reminds us that our way is not the only way.
Our Lord warns the Apostles, and through them all Christians, against exclusivism in the apostolate -- the notion that "good is not good unless I am the one who does it." We must assimilate this teaching of Christ's: good is good, even if it is not I who do it.

Noah - the movie



You know, it's been a good long time since I've seen an old school Bible movie. This looks as if it might just fill the bill. Crossing my fingers for this one!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Advent

Everybody knows, even those of us who have lived most unadventurously, what it is to plod on for miles, it seems, eagerly straining your eyes toward the lights that, somehow, mean home. How difficult it is, when you are doing that to judge distances! In pitch darkness, it might be a couple of miles to your destination, it might be a few hundred yards. So it was, I think, with the Hebrew prophets, as they looked forward to the redemption of their people. They could not have told you, within a hundred years, within five hundred years, when it was the deliverance would come. They only knew that, some time, the stock of David would burgeon anew; some time, a key would be found to fit the door of their prison house; some time, the light that only shows, now, like a will-o'-the-wisp on the horizon would broaden out, at last into the perfect day.

This attitude of expectation is one which the Church wants to encourage in us, her children, permanently. She sees it as an essential part of our Christian drill that we should still be looking forward; getting on for two thousand years, now, since the first Christmas Day came and went, and we must still be looking forward. So she encourages us, during advent, t take the shepherd-folk for our guides, and imagine ourselves traveling with them at dead of night, straining our eyes towards that chink of light which streams out, we know, from the cave at Bethlehem.
R.A. Knox, Sermon on Advent 1947
quoted in In Conversation with God, Vol. 1, Francis Fernandez
With Advent the liturgical year begins in the Western churches. Before Christmas we spend time in contemplation and preparation for the coming of Christ on three levels: as memorial of his incarnation as the babe in Bethlehem, to his coming with grace in our souls, and in looking forward to when he comes as the Judge at the end of time.

Those who celebrate Advent do so with various private devotions during this time. Some read a specific book to think about, some go to regular adoration, some try to avoid excessive focus on Christmas preparations, and such things.

Me? I'm trying to figure it out. And maybe that's ok too ... just to have a mindfulness of the season and to be listening more and thinking more ... and praying more ... as we look and wait and try to figure it out.