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“Noel” by J.R.R. Tolkein

Grim was the world and grey last night:
The moon and stars were fled,
The hall was dark without song or light,
The fires were fallen dead.
The wind in the trees was like to the sea,
And over the mountains’ teeth
It whistled bitter-cold and free,
As a sword leapt from its sheath.

The lord of snows upreared his head;
His mantle long and pale
Upon the bitter blast was spread
And hung o’er hill and dale.
The world was blind, the boughs were bent,
All ways and paths were wild:
Then the veil of cloud apart was rent,
And here was born a Child.

The ancient dome of heaven sheer
Was pricked with distant light;
A star came shining white and clear
Alone above the night.
In the dale of dark in that hour of birth
One voice on a sudden sang:
Then all the bells in Heaven and Earth
Together at midnight rang.

Mary sang in this world below:
They heard her song arise
O’er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
in Heaven’s towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven’s King.

Glad is the world and fair this night
With stars about its head,
And the hall is filled with laughter and light,
And fires are burning red.
The bells of Paradise now ring
With bells of Christendom,
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing
That God on earth is come.


Originally published by J.R.R. Tolkein in the 1936 Annual of Our Lady’s School, Abingdon.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

One of the most popular Advent and Christmas hymns is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Emmanuel is a Hebrew word meaning “God-with-us.”

The song expresses our longing for God. We are in exile here without Christ; we are lonely and isolated without God. But even today God is with us! We remind ourselves of this every time we pray these words of the Angelus:

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

We don’t have to be alone. God is present here even today. Our God is not distant and unknowable. He is present among us and working in this world even if we do not have him in the flesh anymore.

What an incredible gift that our God did not remain far off but became one of us. Through his mercy and love, God took on our flesh to be one with us. He shows his love for us by offering us his very life and his presence with us today.

Though we cannot see him in the flesh, we can find comfort in knowing that he is not far off. We can experience his presence in prayer or in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. We can recognize his presence and working in the world in each moment of our day. We can meet him in the face of strangers and friends that we encounter each day.

God is here today. God is with us.

Angelus Meditation

As you pray the Angelus today, think of the emotional drive behind the song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Hum the tune in your head. You might even pray the words of the Angelus to that same tune. As you do, consider the hymn’s desperate plea for God to be with us. At the end of your prayer, give thanks that God continues to dwell in you and in your life.

Mary’s Fiat

Mary’s words “May it be done” or “Be it done” are often referred to as her fiat, which is the first of these words in Latin. Mary’s fiat is her submission to God’s will.

When we echo her words during the Angelus, we, too, submit to God’s will in our lives. We model our faith after Mary’s faith by opening ourselves up to the will of God.

Why is Mary such a great model for faith? It all goes back to her fiat. With full trust in God, she set her will aside and let his will be done.

Think about the choices she had. She could have said “Let it be done later,” and she could have downright refused—but she didn’t. Then, God brought redemption into the world through Mary.

God wants to bring life, peace, and goodness into this world through you, too.

Are you willing to let it be done?

Have the courage to echo the words of Mary and live the life God wants you to live.

Angelus Meditation

Is there a fiat you need to make today? Think through your day. When have you needed or will you need to submit to God’s will for your life? Pray for the strength to echo Mary’s words and let it be done.

The Fourth Sunday of Advent: The Angel of the Lord Declared Unto . . . Joseph

Behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,  “Joseph, son of David,  do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:20-21

In the Angelus we remind ourselves of the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary. Here, in this Fourth Sunday of Advent, we are reminded of the angel appearing to Joseph to announce the birth of Jesus.

We sometimes forget about Joseph when contemplating the role of Mary in Salvation History. Joseph was there too, supporting Mary and Jesus and protecting them. God sent an angel to him as well so that all that the Lord had planned would be fulfilled.

The thing I find interesting is that Joseph never answers.

We echo Mary’s response in the Angelus prayer: “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.”

But Joseph is silent. He hears God’s word and he acts upon it.

Like Mary, he operates mostly in the background of the Gospels. We don’t know much about his life or how he helped raise Jesus other than the fact that he was a carpenter.

All we read is that “when Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him” (Mt 1:24).

In this final week of Advent, as we near Christmas Day, let us emulate the response of Joseph. Let us listen for God’s will and act without deliberation on what we know to be right.

Let us silently serve the Lord.

In the Flesh, God Felt Pain

Paper cuts are painful. Biting your tongue can be excruciating. Stubbed toes, a stinging funny bone, chapped lips—our bodies can sustain all sorts of little annoying and painful injuries.

While small, these pains can dominate our days if we let them, distracting us from what is really important in life. We can easily become complainers.

This is the bodily state that our God chose to take on for himself.

God became incarnate (meaning “in the flesh”) and everything that comes with it. He experienced for himself all those little, annoying pains as well as far more serious pains during his passion and death.


To redeem them.

Every pain, no matter how annoying, finds new meaning in Christ.


Christ shared in that pain, too. He felt pain just as we feel pain today, no matter how great or small. Any pain, no matter how annoying, finds new meaning in Christ. Think about it. Every time we experience some bodily pain, we can recall that our God endured it, too.

An Angelus Meditation

Think about your body right now. Are any small wounds or pains bothering you? Try the old practice of “offering it up.” It used to be a common practice among Catholic parents to tell their complaining children to “offer it up,” meaning offer up your pain for the souls in purgatory. This practice helps us and those for whom we offer up our pain because we recognize that our Lord, too, experienced pains just like ours and worse. In this way, we unite our pain with his. We’re not alone in the pain that comes with being fleshly creatures. God became flesh, too, and experienced that pain just like us.

This is an excerpt from Praying the Angelus: Find Joy, Peace, and Purpose in Everyday Life by Jared Dees. 

The Third Sunday of Advent: Great Joy

Today is Gaudete Sunday! Gaudete is a Latin word that means joy, as in: Rejoice, Christmas is almost here!

Where does Joy come from?

On our way to church this morning, my oldest daughter yelled from the back seat to get my attention:”Dad, look, a deer!”

A deer was running through the field beside us leaping over mounds of snow. It was early and quiet. There weren’t many cars around. What a treat to be greeted this morning with such an unexpected surprise. We were smiling amazed by the beauty of the animal.

Today’s first reading proclaims the joy in store for the feeble, weak, and frightened. We hear about the salvation of the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the mute. God promises them and us the crown of everlasting joy.

This is the proof that Jesus gives to John the Baptist in the Gospel reading today that he is the Messiah. Those who are without hope–the blind, deaf, and lame–will be filled with joy.

Joy is always unexpected and undeserved. It comes in a quiet moment like a deer running through a field. It comes through the generosity that someone in great need this Christmas season receives from those who have more to give.

Grace is a free and undeserved gift of God’s life. It gives us joy.

When we pray, “pour forth, we beseech thee O Lord, thy grace into our hearts,” we are asking for a great and undeserved gift. We turn to Mary to pray for us in our unworthiness to be made “worthy of the promises of Christ.”

Today as we celebrate Gaudete Sunday, may we be given the gift of God’s grace so that we too may experience great joy.


The Angelus and the Immaculate Conception

I had so much trouble trying to think of something amazing to offer as a reflection today on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. It is the perfect feast day to pray the Angelus. I do not feel holy enough for the occasion.

So I would like to turn to Saint John Paul II, who spoke truly on December 8, 2002 during his Sunday Angelus address:

Every day when we pray the Angelus, we repeat three times:“And the Word was made flesh.” During the season of Advent, these evangelical words assume a more intense meaning because the liturgy makes us relive the atmosphere of the expectation of the Incarnation of the Word.

For this reason, Advent is the ideal season for the Solemnity of Mary Immaculate. The humble young woman of Nazareth, who with her “yes’ to the angel changed the course of history, was preserved from every stain of sin from the moment of her conception.

John Paul II
Second Sunday of Advent
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
December 8, 2002

Indeed, Advent is the ideal season for the celebration of the Immaculate Conception. It is the ideal season to pray the Angelus.

I invite you, today, to reflect with me on one other comment during that Angelus address in 2002: 

So today, we turn to Mary, conscious of our weakness, but sure of her constant help as our Mother.

John Paul II 

Turn to Mary today.

Her “yes” to the angel is a model for us. She invited the Holy Spirit to come into her life.

She proclaimed that she is God’s humble handmaid. May we have the courage to serve God too.

She shows us how to be accept the Divine will in every circumstance no matter what the situation.

So, we turn to her in prayer today. We as the holy Mother of God, who was the first to experience the benefits of salvation, to pray for us. We are sinners. We are weak. We are in such desperate need of her prayers.

May the Virgin Mary inspire us all today to move closer to God during this Advent season.

Read John Paul II’s entire address from 2002 here.

The Second Sunday of Advent: The Spirit of the Lord

“. . . and she conceived of the Holy Spirit.”

The Spirit is intimately present within the Angelus. The readings from the Second Sunday of Advent make the reason for that presence even more obvious.

The Holy Spirit comes upon Mary and God himself is conceived. Jesus comes into the world and the Spirit become present among us as well.

In the first reading today we hear that familiar passage about the Spirit of the Lord resting upon the Messiah, the descendant of David. We hear about the traditional gifts of the Spirit, so often the focus of our Confirmation preparation today.

The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
a spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.

Isaiah 11:2-3

It is that same Spirit, in union with Christ, with which John the Baptist promises that Jesus will bring to his people.

So, what does this have to do with the Angelus?

In the Angelus we repeat and remember that God is present among us. His flesh may have ascended into heaven, but he remains present here among us through the Spirit with which he baptizes us. Through the Spirit, God’s grace is poured forth into our hearts.

May we, this Advent, recognize the Spirit of God dwelling among us. May we share in the gifts of the Spirit.

Lord, grant us wisdom so that we may discover your Truth.

Lord, grant us understanding so that we may be patience with others this holiday season.

Lord, grant us counsel so that we may provide sound advice to those who need it.

Lord, grant us the strength and courage to do only what is good.

Lord, grant us knowledge to teach others your ways.

Lord, grant us the fear of your goodness so that we may live with piety and humility in your name.

Mary, Mother of God, who conceived of the Holy Spirit, pray for us!

“Let it be done for you according to your faith.”

When he entered the house the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this?”

“Yes, Lord,” they said to him.”

Then he touched their eyes and said, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.”

Matthew 9:28-29

It’s hard not to read today’s daily Advent Gospel reading and think of the Angelus and our prayer to “Be it done unto me according to thy Word.”

By saying this prayer, we express our openness to God’s will in our lives. We stand with Mary as a handmaid seeking to serve the Lord and responding to his Word.

Sometimes, though, we seek out God’s pity. We reach out to the Lord in hopes that he will help us with some specific pain or suffering we are going through. Like the blind men, we can be in desperate need of God’s help.

Think about how the men could have acted. They could have been angry with God. They could have resented the Lord and criticized Jesus for their blindness. Often this is how people respond to suffering.

Instead, they humbly seek out his touch. They have lost everything and turn to him. They rely only on their faith in him.

God responds to our faith. He heals us and helps us because of our openness to his working in our lives. By praying the Angelus every day we express that openness. We prepare ourselves to respond, like the blind men, to Jesus response to our petitions: “Do you believe I can do this?”

Yes, Lord, we do.

Angel Songs and Decorations

“The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.”

Well, Thanksgiving has past and it seems like nearly every other radio station is playing Christmas music right now. Some songs are about Santa Clause others sing about the cold winter nights of December. Others, thankfully, echo the story of Christmas as it was told in the Gospels.

I have a hunch that after praying the Angelus each day during Advent, you will take special note of the Christmas music featuring angels. Each day as you pray the Angelus, you recall that appearance of an angel to Mary from the Gospel of Luke. Gabriel comes to announce some incredible news in his very first words.

He says, “Hail favored one! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28)

Let’s make that our meditation for the day. We say it in the Hail Mary prayer in reference to the Virgin Mother of God. Certainly the Lord is with her. She is full of grace.

And us?

Yes, the Lord is with us too. This we proclaim each day we pray the Angelus:

“The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”

Back to the angels. Even though we may not get a visit from an actual angel during this Advent season, we will see angels in Christmas decorations everywhere. We will hear about them on the radio and in Christmas concerts in the next few weeks.

Those angels can be a reminder for us as we prepare for Christmas:

The Lord is with you.

God is with us right now in this very moment and in this very place.

What a comforting thought. We are not alone. The Lord, our God, is with us now and forever.

St. Gabriel, pray for us!

Mary, holy Mother of God, pray for us!