Orthodox Daily Devotional for January 1 – 7
Readings from Catholic St Josemaria Escriva this week…’Christ is Passing By’
Such was their sentiment that the Gospel almost repeats itself: “When they saw the star again they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” Why were they so happy? Because those who never doubted receive proof from the Lord that the star had not disappeared. They had ceased to contemplate it visibly, but they had kept it always in their soul. Such is the Christian’s vocation. If we do not lose faith, if we keep our hope in Jesus Christ who will be with us “until the consummation of the world,” then the star reappears. And with this fresh proof that our vocation is real, we are conscious of a greater joy which increases our faith, hope and love.
“Going into the house they saw the child with Mary, his Mother, and they fell down and worshipped him.” We also kneel down before Jesus, God hidden in humanity. We tell him once more that we do not want to turn our backs on his divine call, that we shall never separate ourselves from him, that we shall remove from our path all that may be an obstacle to our fidelity and that we sincerely wish to be docile to his inspirations. You, in your own heart, and I in mine — because I am praying intimately with deep silent cries — are telling the child Jesus that we desire to fulfil our duties as well as the servants of the parable, so that we too may hear the response: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Prayer: We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.
*Sub Tuum Praesidium
St Josemaria Escriva: “Then opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” Let us pause here a while to understand this passage of the holy Gospel. How is it possible that we, who are nothing and worth nothing, can make an offering to God? We read in the Scriptures: “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above.” Man does not even manage to discover fully the depth and beauty of the Lord’s gifts. “If you knew the gift of God!” Jesus exclaims to the Samaritan woman. Jesus Christ has taught us to expect everything from the Father and to seek first of all the kingdom of God and his justice, and everything else will be given to us in addition, for he knows well what we need.
In the economy of salvation our Father looks after each soul with loving care: “Each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.” It would, therefore, seem useless to be concerned about presenting to the Lord something that he has no need of. As debtors who have nothing with which to pay, our gifts would be like those of the old law that are no longer acceptable to God: “Sacrifices and oblations and holocausts for sin you have not desired: neither are they pleasing to you.”
Prayer: O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of good things and Giver of life: Come and dwell in us, and cleanse us of all impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.
St Josemaria Escriva: But the Lord knows full well that giving is a vital need for those in love, and he himself points out what he desires from us. He does not care for riches, nor for the fruits or the beasts of the earth, nor for the sea or the air, because they all belong to him. He wants something intimate, which we have to give him freely: “My son, give me your heart.” Do you see? God is not satisfied with sharing. He wants it all. It’s not our things he wants. It is ourselves. It is only when we give ourselves that we can offer other gifts to our Lord.
Let us give him gold. The precious gold we receive when in spirit we are detached from money and material goods. Let us not forget that these things are good, for they come from God. But the Lord has laid down that we should use them without allowing our hearts to become attached to them, putting them to good use for the benefit of all mankind.
Prayer: Holy angel of the Lord by guardian, pray to God for me.
St Josemaria Escriva: Earthly goods are not bad, but they are debased when man sets them up as idols, when he adores them. They are ennobled when they are converted into instruments for good, for just and charitable christian undertakings. We cannot seek after material goods as if they were a treasure. Our treasure is here, in a manger. Our treasure is Christ and all our love and desire must be centred on him, “for where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also.”Earthly goods are not bad, but they are debased when man sets them up as idols, when he adores them. They are ennobled when they are converted into instruments for good, for just and charitable christian undertakings. We cannot seek after material goods as if they were a treasure. Our treasure is here, in a manger. Our treasure is Christ and all our love and desire must be centred on him, “for where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also.”
We offer frankincense that rises up to the Lord: our desire to live a noble life which gives off the “aroma of Christ.” To impregnate our words and actions with his aroma is to sow understanding and friendship. We should accompany others so that no one is left, or can feel, abandoned. Our charity has to be affectionate, full of human warmth.
Prayer: Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
St Josemaria Escriva: That is what Jesus Christ teaches us. Mankind awaited the coming of the Saviour for centuries. The prophets had announced his coming in a thousand ways. Even in the farthest corners of the earth, where a great part of God’s revelation to men was perhaps lost through sin or ignorance, the longing for God, the desire to be redeemed, had been kept alive.
When the fullness of time comes, no philosophical genius, no Plato or Socrates appears to fulfil the mission of redemption. Nor does a powerful conqueror, another Alexander, take over the earth. Instead a child is born in Bethlehem. He it is who is to redeem the world. But before he speaks he loves with deeds. It is no magic formula he brings, because he knows that the salvation he offers must pass through human hearts. What does he first do? He laughs and cries and sleeps defenceless, as a baby, though he is God incarnate. And he does this so that we may fall in love with him, so that we may learn to take him in our arms.
Prayer: O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. O Lord, blot out our sins. O Master, pardon our iniquities. O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy name’s sake.
St Josemaria Escriva: We realize once again that this is what Christianity is all about. If a Christian does not love with deeds, he has failed as a Christian, besides failing as a person. You cannot think of others as if they were digits, or rungs on a ladder on which you can rise, or a multitude to be harangued or humiliated, praised or despised, according to circumstances. Be mindful of what others are — and first of all those who are at your side: children of God, with all the dignity that marvellous title entails.
We have to behave as God’s children toward all God’s sons and daughters. Our love has to be a dedicated love, practised every day and made up of a thousand little details of understanding, hidden sacrifice and unnoticed self-giving. This is the “aroma of Christ” that made those who lived among our first brothers in the faith exclaim: See how they love one another!
Prayer: Christ is Baptized in the Jordan! (3X)
St Josemaria Escriva” The ideal is not out of reach. A Christian is no Tartarin of Tarascon, a literary character bent on hunting lions in the corridors of his home, where they were not to be found. I always speak about real daily life, about the sanctification of work, of family bonds, of friendships. If we aren’t christian in these things, where will we be christian? The pleasant smell of incense comes from some small, hidden grains of incense placed upon the burning charcoal. Likewise is the “aroma of Christ” noticed among men — not in a sudden burst of flame, but in the constant red-hot embers of virtues such as justice, loyalty, faithfulness, understanding, generosity and cheerfulness.
Most Holy Mother of God pray for us!