In My Father's House

Poems, Prayers, Inspirations, Photos and Musings about life, love and what it means to be a child of the Father

Friday, December 30, 2005

Losing My Voice

On Christmas day I lost my voice. For two days I have not been able to communicate properly and with ease. I got a nasty pain in my throat which hurt everytime I tried to speak or cough. As a result I had a very quiet Christmas. I wasn't able to shout or comment on anything. I merely listened to conversations. And though I wanted to express an opinion or two, the nasty swelling in my throat prevented me from speaking.

I reserved my yeahs and nays to the most important questions of the day. I suppressed an irrepressible desire to laugh or joke about a funny incident or person. Oh, what a day! But this annoying experience has given me a rare insight into what I might be missing in life: the ability to focus my attention to what's being said without saying anything in return. I have been so used to speaking out loud. I am vocal with my complaints. I sometimes voice out criticisms and strong opinions with little regard to those who hear them.

The two days of quiet have given me an opportunity to hear and listen, to take everything in, to reserve my comments and to tailor my words to the necessary and the called for. I guess the incident is God's way of telling me to shut up because He has a very important thing to say. I just wish that I might give Him not only my two ears but my heart as well.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Watering Down the "Christ" at Christmas

A priest friend remarked in his homily how these days people do not pretend that Christ is no longer the center of Christmas. Many people from all walks of life do not bemoan the fact that Christ has become a sort of extra, a cameo role in what is supposed to be His Story. In trying to be "sensitive" or politically correct, folks don't say Merry Christmas anymore for fear of offending non-Christians or non-practicing Christians. Instead they greet one another "Happy Holidays," or "Enjoy the Yuletide Season!"

Christmas parties have become year-end parties. Christmas exchange gifts are called simply exchange gifts. In a world increasingly becoming secularized, a world caught in the material trappings of a Godless society, what do real Christians ought to do? I say, we insist on emphasizing Christ on Christmas. Let us refuse in reducing the Christ into the abbreviated term X (Xmas for Christmas). Let us continue sending cards with messages of love that speak of the world's first Great Love: that God the Father sent He Son to us and lived amongst us.

Come to think of it, early Christians had to go in hiding when they were celebrating Christmas. Pagans and people of other faiths later on owned the Christmas celebration. Perhaps, it's now time to get back from the secular world the true meaning and spirit of Christmas. It is time that we really have Christ during Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Giver not the Gift

I have always been uneasy with exchange gifts that require people to put a minimum amount to what they should give. While there is an intention that no one should be short-changed or receive less than what he expected, there is a prevailing notion here that "I give this much, so why should I get less?" It is as if the primary reason for giving gifts is to receive something in return. And that something should better be nothing less than what one has given. All is fair and everybody happy. Far from it!

A gift is something that is freely given. And since it is given freely, the giver should not expect anything in return. The receiver of the gift, on the other hand, has no obligation whatsoever to "pay back" the gift she has received. If gift-giving was merely a give and take thing, then we should not bother giving gifts at all. We give gifts precisely because we want the one who receives our gift to be happy. Our happiness does not consist of receiving in return.

God is the perfect example of a great Giver. He gave His only begotten Son not really expecting us to love Him in return or to show our gratitude towards His free Gift. He gave Jesus to us precisely because He loved us so and He wanted to make us happy. Whether we give something to Him in return or not, does not in any way diminish or increase His love for us. God gave without expecting something in return. After all how can the One who has everything ask for more?

For this Christmas we are invited to relish not only the gifts that we receive but the giver as well. And not to forget too, the Giver of the givers.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

And Worse, No Baby Jesus!

The Chinese novices decided to go home early because the day was long and we were all tired. We just had two sets of Christmas parties: one for the parish kids and the other, for parish staff and volunteers. In between these two we had home visits. We, Filipino novices, since we had host families in the apostolate area, decided to stay for a few more hours.

Our Chinese brothers arrived home very exhausted and famished. They went straight to the refectory to partake of their Christmas meal. They found out that our kitchen staff went home to their respective families to celebrate the Christmas eve. While we were feasting with our host families, the Chinese brothers cooked instant noodles to satisfy their hunger and before getting a much needed rest. Having eaten they went up to our chapel to pray.

They decided to spend a few minutes to venerate the Baby Jesus in the creche inside the chapel. To their dismay, they found Him missing! A Chinese novice put it poignantly: "We were so hungry. It was cold and dark and quiet here. While in the neighboring houses in the subdivision they were so happy and noisy. And worse, we have no Baby Jesus!"

Because of our impatience to rush to our Christmas parties we have forgotten to place the Baby Jesus in his crib as we would traditionally on the eve of Christmas. From this sharing we can learn a very simple truth: without Jesus, no matter how many gifts we give or receive, no matter how much we eat, no matter now loud we greet each other, no matter how many lights we put around our house and no matter how warm we embrace each other, our Christmases will be quiet and dark and cold.

The Stupid Sparrow

I was taking a nap in our house one afternoon. I distinctly heard it: mad flapping of wings followed by loud thuds against the glass windowpanes. I went to the living room and saw a poor sparrow desperately trying to get out of the house. It was very insistent to flew right through the glass windows. But everytime it tried to fly against the glass, it would be met by the harsh and cold glass windows.

I opened the door for the poor stupid bird and kept on shooing it out. But it got frightened and flew again and again towards the closed window. In a few seconds, it dropped to the floor. I held it in my hand, blood oozing from its head. It quivered and died in my arms. I felt sorry for the bird.

The sparrow gave me a lesson I won't forget. We, sometimes, are as stupid as it was. We keep on insisting that the only way is through a window, attractive but closed. We stay away from the open door and keep banging our heads against what we think was the only exit. Someone comes to help us but we fly away from him/her. We get scared, suspicious, panicky. We become proud that we don't need help. We fly against the closed window once more, in a last ditch effort to escape. We hurt. We die. We hurt people close to us. They too, die. And it may be too late for us to realize, that the door might be not only the only way but the best as well.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Joyeux Noël

(aka Merry Christmas)

Beguiling in its simplicity yet profoundly moving and honest in its portrayal of the human side of war, Joyeux Noël, is a movie that must be seen by people of all nations and faiths. Wars haves so ravaged us and have made us so cynical about the nature of men as killing machines that we sometimes tend to forget that soldiers, though they may belong to an enemy state, are humans too.

Set during the First World War somewhere between the borders of France and Germany, French, German and Scottish soldiers discovered for themselves the absurdity of war. In just one Christmas night of fellowship and truce they had learned more than they could in their lifetime: the meaning of brotherhood that binds all men and women. When the German tenor Nikolaus Sprink (Benno Fürmann) sang for his troops to lift their spirits up, little did he know that he would start a spontaneous reaction with the opposing camps.

As soon as the Scots heard his beautiful and heart-rending rendition of Silent Night, they joined him with their bagpipe instruments. A little later the French joined the fraternal exchange of singing and they crossed the no man's land to exchange their champagne with chocolates from their enemies. Captains of the three regiments declared the night a night of peace and soldiers of the three camps rejoiced and celebrated Christmas as if they were at home with their own brothers.

Filled with poignant scenes of the anxious and bitter separation of parents with their children, brothers with brothers and of lovers, Joyeux Noel managed not to pander on over-sentimentality. It has touches of light humor and beams with hope and optimism. Towards the end of Christmas night, Fr. Palmer (Gary Lewis) celebrated Mass for all of them. It was very moving to see and hear the battle-scarred and war-hardened soldiers forget their native languages and responded in Latin.

Equally noteworthy in the movie is Ana Sorensen's (Diane Krüger) portrayal of the faithful girlfriend to Sprink. Her haunting voice (I don't know it it is really hers) lent a chilling background to the already freezing temperature of the battlefield.

Joyeux Noël brings home the true message of Christmas: that we can see through the barriers of skin color, nationality and religion if we take to heart the meaning of being all sons and daughters of one God.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Adeste Fideles

Adeste Fideles. O come all you faithful.

This song invites us to temporarily drop everything we are doing or are busy with and gather around the newborn Babe. It asks us to come and rest awhile and set aside all our worries and concerns.

We may not have the riches or power like the Wise Men had but we are also invited to be witnesses once more to the most magnificent and wonderful event in the history of mankind. We may not have gold, frankincense or myrrh in our hands to give to the Baby Jesus but we have wealth greater than these.

All our labors, our trials and sufferings, if they are offered to Him become the greatest treasure we can offer. By the glint of our works, the aroma of our toils and the sweet scent of our collective sacrifices we are giving Christ a treasure worth much more than the whole universe.

So come and adore Him. Come whatever we are doing. Come whoever we are. Come if we are sad or tired or sickened with life. But come escpecially if we are joyful and grateful that we have been blessed with a God who unselfishly gave His own Son to redeem us.

Let us behold, Christ the Lord!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Light of A Million Mornings

I was a first year novice when I first heard this song and I have to admit that I fell instantly in love with its melody and music. The song speaks about the wonderful and often mysterious ways God touches our lives especially when we find ourselves alone and embattled with our many problems. We may not realize it but He brings not only light into our darkened worlds but He takes us to the Light Himself so we may cease groping in the dark.

i couldnt see the sunshine through the shadows
i couldnt seem to find a soul to care
and in my darkest hour
you touch me with your power
and when i looked your light
was everywhere

the light of the million mornings filled my heart
the sound of a million angels sung my song
the warmth of a love so tender
touched my life and suddenly
the light of a million morning starts in me

i never tried to understand the sunrise
i know it takes away the dark
i cant explain your healing or all the joy im feeling
i only know you've come in to my heart

(repeat refrain)

and now that your glory
has come shining through
let my life be a candle, Lord
that shines for you,
shines for you
shines for you...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Dark Night

1. One dark night,
fired with love's urgent longings
- ah, the sheer grace! -
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.

2. In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
- ah, the sheer grace! -
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.

3. On that glad night
in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.

4. This guided me
more surely than the light of noon
to where he was awaiting me
- him I knew so well -
there in a place where no one appeared.

5. O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
the Lover with his beloved,
transforming the beloved in her Lover.

6. Upon my flowering breast,
which I kept wholly for him alone,
there he lay sleeping,
and I caressing him
there in a breeze from the fanning cedars.

7. When the breeze blew from the turret,
as I parted his hair,
it wounded my neck
with its gentle hand,
suspending all my senses.

8. I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.

This beautifully written poem by St. John of the Cross caused quite a stir in the Church when it was first published. Unabashedly sensual, the poem captures a man's longing to be with His beloved. It portrays how the persona would do anything just to be with Him anb be consumed by His passion and burning love.

The accompanying painting is entitled Dark Night of the Soul; created by Ana Pacheco, an Associate Artist at the National Gallery, London.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Words of Wisdom for Growing Up and Letting Go

I stumbled upon this from a fellow pilgrim's site. I believe she won't mind me "stealing" this from her blog my path on this thing called life. To my experience, 99% of what it says here is true.

I Believe:

I believe- That we don't have to change friends if we understand that friends change.

I believe- That no matter how good a friend is, they're going to hurt you every once in a while and, you must forgive them for that.

I believe- That true friendship continues to grow, even over the longest distance. Same goes for true love.

I believe- That you can do something in an instant that will give you heartache for life.

I believe- That it's taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.

I believe- That you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

I believe- That you can keep going long after you can't.

I believe- That we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.

I believe- That either you control your attitude or it controls you.

I believe- That regardless of how hot and steamy a relationship is at first, the passion fades and there had better be something else to take its place.

I believe- That heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.

I believe- That money is a lousy way of keeping score.

I believe- That my best friend and I can do anything or nothing and have the best time.

I believe- That sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you're down, will be the ones to help you get back up.

I believe- That sometimes when I'm angry I have the right to be angry, but that doesn't give me the right to be cruel.

I believe- That just because someone doesn't love you the way you want them to doesn't mean they don't love you with all they have.

I believe- That maturity has more to do with what type of experiences you've had and what you have learned from them and less to do with how many birthdays have passed.

I believe- That it isn't always enough to be forgiven by others. Sometimes you have to learn to forgive yourself.

I believe- That no matter how bad your heart is broken the world doesn't stop for your grief.

I believe- That our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.

I believe- That just because two people argue, it doesn't mean they don't love each other, And just because they don't argue, it doesn't mean they do.

I believe- That you shouldn't be so eager to find out a secret. It could change your life forever.

I believe- That two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.

I believe- That your life can be changed in a very short time by people who don't even know you.

I believe- That even when you think you have no more to give, when a friend cries out to you - you will find the strength to help.

I believe- That credentials on the wall do not make you a decent human being.

I believe- That the people you care about most in life are taken from you too soon.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

What Gift?

When you go to the malls today you will see people busy choosing, buying and wrapping gifts for their friends and families. Many of them complain about the high prices of gifts or the difficulty of finding a suitable present for their loved ones. Magazines and internet sites have found enticing ways to introduce products that hopefully would make people buy. And discount shops seem to provide the best option.

You can go inside a supermarket and forage for Christmas items for hours and still come home unsatisfied with what you buy. This shows that we really exert efforts to make people we love like the things that we give them. Will Bob like this sweater I bought for him? Will Mary appreciate this pair of gloves I saw at the market? Will Dad find use for this set of repair tools?

It's okay to spend money to make people we love happy especially this Christmas season, the season of giving and receiving. Even the Wise Men were dumbfounded as to what gift was appropriate to the Child-God. However, we sometimes forget that it's not the gift, no matter how big or beautifully wrapped, that makes Christmas truly wonderful. We tend to think that if we bought the big, the more and the new, we are truly giving our loved ones what they need.

This Christmas, I'm thinking of finding creative means to express my love to my friends and family. Probably I'll start by remembering all of them in my prayers. By thanking God that I have them as friends and family members. Then I'll tell them how important they are to me and how blessed my life has been because of them.

And then maybe, the gifts can come later.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Message of Hope?

(Or Hope in the Message)

This season television ads will cash in on the message of hope. Priests and ministers will propound on the theme of hope. Greeting cards will banner messages bearing and bringing hope. Hope then becomes a commodity, a surplus value that needs to be peddled to cash-strapped, lonely individuals roaming the planet like ghosts.

But what we keep on forgetting is that hope is in the message itself: That the Son of Man has come to redeem for His Father all those who are lost and have gone astray.