The Hill

Franciscan Readings for the Christian Year – gladly hosted by the Franciscan Friars (Holy Spirit Province) in Kedron, Australia. Have you seen the view from The Hill?

“Rejoice! For the Lord Is Now Nigh and Close at Hand!”

It is the season when the “winnowing fork” is in the hand of God and those who do not have the spirit of giving in them will learn deprivation and reap the just desserts that comes with meanness and withholding charity.   There is nothing worse, said Dante Alighieri, than that sin which accompanies injustice to the poor and needy.

Guadete Sunday, a day of rejoicing at the nearness of the Emmanuel – God-with-us – is characterised by the best kind of praise, a release from our vigilance and our anticipation.   But perhaps in these days, the Lord being nigh can take on a much different complexion, given the impending end of the world this week.   I have remarked before about the doomsday, that on the 21st December this year the meso-American calendar terminates, as do the prophecies of Nostradamus and the inexplicable sphinx avenue at the Temple of Carnach.   So, the world is going to end.   What a bummer.

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls the butterfly, said Richard Bach.  All believers should long for the coming of Christ, whether that be in our liturgical season or the impending armageddon of the earth.   It is my belief that one day the dominion of our human race will end, just as in every other epoch throughout history.   I don’t particularly believe that this is going to happen on the 21st but if it does, what of it?  Will be it a zombie invasion?  Will the sun explode?   Will there be a huge tsunami, a meteor, a hail of fire?  Will it be the mysterious fog that killed half of Europe, called the Dust Veil, of 536CE?  Will it be fast-moving contagion such as the Black Death of 1348-1350 which, in only two devastating years, crippled the world’s population, destroying generations of people to an extent that it took the world over a century and a half to recover?  Will it be AIDS?  Will it be swine flu?  Will it a beastly flock of re-animated pterydactyls? Or, as we are commonly told, will Christ appear, rending the heavens, seated upon the throne of grace, dividing the world into those who are to be saved and … the rest?

Perhaps it does us good to think that last Christmas could have been our last, that the one we fought with yesterday may never know our sorrow and repentence, that the opportunity we threw away will now never come our way again, as though that matters.   Standing of the precipice of losing everything, we understand who we truly are without the encumbrances, the accolades, the wealth, the position by which we define this earthly existence.   We might see ourselves in that crucible of fate the way that God sees us and loves us.

On second thoughts, maybe the world should end more often.


SUNDAY, 16th December

A reading from ‘The Life of Saint Francis’, by Thomas of Celano.

Francis who once enjoyed wearing scarlet robes now travelled about half- clothed. Once, while he was singing praises to the Lord in French in a certain forest, thieves suddenly attacked him. When they, savagely demanded who he was, the man of God answered confidently and forcefully, ‘I am the herald of the great King! What is it to you?’ They beat him and threw him into a ditch filled with deep snow, saying, ‘Lie there, you stupid herald of God!’ After they left him, he rolled about to and fro, shook the snow off himself and jumped out of the ditch. Exhilarated with great joy, he began in a loud voice to make the woods resound with praises to the Creator of all.  Eventually, he arrived at a cloister of monks, where he spent several days covered with only a cheap shirt, serving as a scullery boy in the kitchen. He wanted to be fed at least some soup. No mercy was shown him and he was not even able to get some old clothes. Not moved by anger but forced by necessity, he moved on to the city of Gubbio, where he obtained a cheap tunic from an old friend. Shortly, afterwards, when the fame of the man of God had grown far and wide and his name was spread among the people, the prior of that monastery, when he recalled the event and understood what had been done to the man of God, came to him and, out of reverence for the Saviour, begged forgiveness for himself and his monks.

I lift my heart up to you, Lord,
to thank you for the blessings
you shower on me each day.

You are the ‘joy of my soul.’
I know that in your great love,
I am held and protected by you.

I pray and listen to the good news you send;
I ask and feel the healing.
I am freed by you
from the things in this world
that let me hide from you.

I rejoice, I rejoice, down to my soul.
Help me to prepare my heart
to be open and able to receive your immense love.


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