Fra Angelico, Annunciation

 

It is hard not to get swept into Christmas excitement when Christmas songs and Christmas decorations appear earlier every year, when they fill not only department stores but supermarkets as well. But amidst all the tinsel and too early cheer of the secular world, are you preparing your heart for the Lord? The season of Advent is one of waiting and preparation for His coming. Even as we prepare for the joy of His Nativity, we cannot forget that He came to die for us, for our sins. This realization lends sobriety to our preparation amidst all the hustle and bustle that surrounds us. One way to prepare our hearts is to contemplate Blessed John Henry Newman’s lovely poem written for Advent Vespers.

Between the years of 1836-1838, just seven years before he entered the Roman Catholic Church, Newman, inspired by the ancient Latin hymns found in the Roman Breviary, translated and rewrote many of these hymns. Although Newman’s hymns are loosely based on the originals, he changed the words enough so that these can be considered his own poetry.

One such composition of Newman is based on the 7th C Latin hymn, “Conditor alme siderum” traditionally sung during the Advent season. The hymn was first rewritten by Pope Urban VIII in 1632 and used in the Divine Office at Vespers. In 1852, an English translation by J.M. Neale is the well-known Advent hymn “Creator of the Stars of Night” based on Pope Urban’s hymn.

.Newman’s rewriting of this venerable chant has been beautifully and carefully rendered by him into Common Meter, one of his favored meters for hymn composition. Since there are many hymn tunes which have been composed for this hymn meter, this makes Newman’s version highly accessible for congregational singing. The words are straightforward and easily understood, which is typical of Newman’s hymnody. He intended these compositions to be both lovely and instructive. This hymn matches the tune “Winchester Old,” which is used for the familiar carol, “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night.”

 

Creator alme siderum.

 

CREATOR of the starry pole,

   Saviour of all who live,

And light of every faithful soul,

   Jesu, these prayers receive.

 

Who sooner than our foe malign

   Should triumph, from above

Didst come, to be the medicine

   Of a sick world, in love;

 

And the deep wounds to cleanse and cure

   Of a whole race, didst go,

Pure Victim, from a Virgin pure,

   The bitter Cross unto.

 

Who hast a Name, and hast a Power,

   The height and depth to sway,

And Angels bow, and devils cower,

   In transport or dismay;

 

Thou too shalt be our Judge at length;

   Lord, in Thy grace bestow

Thy weapons of celestial strength,

   And snatch us from the foe.

 

Honour and glory, power and praise,

   To Father, and to Son,

And Holy Ghost, be paid always,

   The Eternal Three in One.

 

Newman’s words powerfully remind us of the purpose for Christ’s birth. Some lines in particular are striking in their imagery; for example,  in the second stanza, Newman has Christ coming to be the “medicine” of a “sick world,” which Christ did for love. Newman continues the medicinal imagery when he declares that Christ will “cleanse and cure” the “deep wounds” of the whole human race.

These words are followed by the reminder that Jesus “didst go” “unto The Bitter Cross” a “Pure Victim.”  He became incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary, who was conceived immaculately to be the “Virgin pure.”  

Let us pray, then,  with Newman who beseeches Christ in the first stanza to receive our Advent Prayers, so that we too may be “snatched from the foe.” For this great gift of His son, we can also join in giving “Honour and glory, power and praise” to “the Eternal Three in One.”

Have you paused to remember that this happy birth will lead to the sorrow of His death, His death, for us? Let us watch and pray, preparing our hearts, even as we prepare our physical homes for the excitement and joy of Christmas.

 

____________________________________________

“Creator of the Stars of Night” J.M. Neale 1852

 

Creator of the stars of night,

Thy people’s everlasting light,

Jesu, Redeemer, save us all,

And hear Thy servants when they call.

 

Thou, grieving that the ancient curse

Should doom to death a universe,

Hast found the medicine, full of grace,

To save and heal a ruined race.

 

Thou cam’st, the Bridegroom of the bride,

As drew the world to evening-tide;

Proceeding from a virgin shrine,

The spotless victim all divine.

 

At whose dread name, majestic now,

All knees must bend, all hearts must bow;

And things celestial Thee shall own,

And things terrestrial, Lord alone.

 

O Thou whose coming is with dread

To judge and doom the quick and dead,

Preserve us, while we dwell below,

From every insult of the foe.

 

To God the Father, God the Son,

And God the Spirit, Three in One,

Laud, honor, might, and glory be

From age to age eternally.

 

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There is a clear picture that emerges from these glimpses into life at The Oratory School: Education was in service of man, not the other way around. Play found its proper place, not only as a balance to rigorous academic study, but as an important part of human development.

O most Sacred, most loving Heart of Jesus, Thou art concealed in the Holy Eucharist, and Thou beatest for us still.

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What is the doctrine of the Trinity? The Athanasian Creed, in common use around the sixth century, formulates it this way: "We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son's is another, the Holy Spirit's another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal."

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A Guide to John Henry Newman will interest educated readers and professors alike, and serve as a text for college seminars for the purpose of studying Newman.

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Fr Peter Conley takes us on an exciting journey into the spirituality and inner life of Saint John Henry Newman.
 

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I bought this book for my son and he loved it, he wrote this review and urged my to submitted: “I think this book has a very beautiful message, because it shows how the young Newman was so determined to achieve his dream of becoming a priest, but even after his dream he continued to work in the church with passion until the day he died, it’s so admirable that even Newman so old and so weak still had that urge to continued his work of being a priest. And the book is well written with words not too complicated with very enjoyable texts and well illustrated pictures. I highly recommend this book for a 5th grader.  

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What is a Classical Liberal Arts Education? Why is it so important for the development of a person?

Fr. Juan R. Vélez answers these and more questions you might have about University Education in the 21st century. This book is aimed for parents, prospective University students, and educators. It will help you discern why adding Liberal Arts electives to your education will help it form it better, and help the student learn to reason, and not just learn.

He also explains how many Universities have changed the true meaning of Liberal Arts, and the subjects, and gives advise on how to choose College Campus, Subjects, and Teachers.

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Endorsement by Christopher Moellering (Goodreads, September 14, 2019)
In Passion for Truth Fr. Vélez gave us an outstanding biography of Cardinal Newman. In this work, he provides a concise overview of his thought and his devotion. This is a great work for someone who, perhaps hearing of Newman for the first time because of his beatification 13 October, 2019, wants to know more about this English saint.Vélez is a wonderful writer in his own right, and the frequent quotations from Newman round out the work nicely. I especially appreciated the frequent citing of Newman’s Meditations and Devotions, which show a different side of his spirituality than his more well-known works, Development of Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Assent.

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Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman, endorsement by Illow M. Roque (Amazon, September 3, 2010)
“There is a time to put direct inquiry on hold and give ourselves to prayer and practical duties.” Sound advice from one of the earlier, thought-provoking reminders in this sparkling gem of a book: Take Five | Meditations with John Henry Newman, written by Mike Aquilina and Fr. Juan R. Vélez and published by Our Sunday Visitor. This particular paragraph, referenced above, which begins with a direct quote from soon-to-be canonized priest, cardinal and poet, John Henry Newman: “Study is good, but it gets us only so far . . .” is actually the 15th in a series of 76 concise, logically organized meditations moving from the elementary to the sublime. Each meditation–one per page–is built upon the great man’s writings and remarkably rich spirituality. Whether taken whole in one reading or in part page-by-page over a course of weeks and months, these wonderfully insightful meditations will open up, even to the busiest reader in the midst of the world, a unique pathway into prayer and contemplation. My advice to spiritual inquirers at all levels, from the novice to the spiritually adept, is to follow the authors’ recommendation to use this book as a guide for daily prayer and meditation. The structure of the book itself is ideal: first, the authors introduce us to Cardinal Newman, the man, where we are given the opportunity to get to know him through a brief sketch of his life and spirituality at the beginning of the book. This is something readers will likely find themselves referring to again and again, prompting many, I suspect, to even wider explorations of this most gifted Christian leader. Then comes the meditations, consisting of a short summary of Newman’s thoughts on subjects taken, as the authors explain, from various salient points for which Newman is justly remembered: The pursuit of objective religious truth; Teaching on the Virtues; Defense of the Catholic Church; A devout spiritual and moral life; and Generosity and loyalty in his friendships, which sets the topic and tone for each meditation to follow. Each meditation consists of an excerpt taken from Newman’s thirty-plus volumes of writings and diaries. Next comes three brief and extremely useful sections entitled: “Think About It,” which establishes a prayerfully resonant tone throughout the book; “Just Imagine,” which provides a vivid, prayerful experience of the Scriptures that tie in, and finally, “Remember,” a pithy summation which the authors suggest may be used as a daily aspiration. Each meditation is given its own page, which makes it ideal for daily reflection for readers on the go. This book is a must have for every serious Catholic who wants to take their faith to the next level, which is to respond appropriately to the universal call to holiness and seek interior union with God.
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