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Happy New Year

The Catholic Sun

In reference to the previous post regarding the blessing of wine, the following quotation form Hilaire Belloc seemed appropriate:

“Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!”

We wish you all a happy and holy continuation of the Christmas Season.

Four Christmases

The kids were too little and our lives were too hectic to really extend the holiday spirit through the entire month of December. I really tried to pull out all the decorations and make our house a winter wonderland. But all I ended up accomplishing was pulling out some nutcrackers and music boxes that they could play with and getting the tree up and I played Christmas music all day long.

When I was a kid, we were never allowed to touch the decorations so I made it a point to put the music boxes in their reach so they can play with them anytime they wanted. We have three less music boxes now as a result. Oh well.

I'm really looking forward to the years where we can pile them all in the car and go drive around and look at lights, but I don't think they would have gotten it this year. We did get out to see Santa and, again, I dressed them in their Christmas outfits for their pictures. I'm so glad I did this, because it ended up being my only picture of all three dressed up and together. Somehow I never took a picture of them in front of our tree :/

The only other photos of them all decked out were blurry iphone pics that I snapped off before we left for our Santa visit. Oh well. How sweet are the girls' dresses? I was so excited about their little matching outfits. I even found the same shoes for them. I die. Sisters <3

Reese and Ryan had a pajama party at preschool to celebrate the holidays. How hard is it to photograph two toddlers? So hard. But anyway, I got them these cute Santa hats on clearance at Michaels to go along with their "Santa's Helper" pajamas. Ryan still hasn't taken his off over three weeks later. The kid literally sleeps with it on. Christmas in July, anyone?

Our first Christmas was spent in New Jersey with my family. We did our usual traditions. Fish dinner. Lots of people. Dessert that spanned and entire dining room table. Santa came at midnight. 

This is my favorite part of Christmas. It is truly the magic of being a child. Being surrounded by your family -- people that you love more than anything else -- and then Santa Claus. 

Is there anything better than Santa? Our kids were a little hesitant to sit with Santa, but they were more than happy to give him a high five.

Totally unrelated, but funny nonetheless, two of my aunts wore the same shirt to our Christmas celebration. It was completely unplanned, and when one turned the corner and saw the other in the same shirt. Well, the looks on their faces were priceless. Good times. 

On Christmas Day, we woke up and had breakfast with my family and then hit the road to get home to Joe's parents who were waiting for us in New York. We started with stockings, which is Joe's family tradition. Filling those stocking with things that I wouldn't want to throw away in a week was a true challenge. I put three train cars in Ryan's stocking. Christmas could have ended there for him and he wouldn't have cared. He loved those trains. 

I lost Reese once she turned the corner and saw this gift from her Nana and Papa.

It's a singing horse that she can ride. Did I mention it sings? All you have to do is press a button on its ear and sing, sing, sing the horse sings. Reese hit that button at least 467 times on Christmas Day. Lord have mercy. But goodness, that horse makes her happy. 

The kids were spoiled rotten this year. My mom said they weren't spoiled, because they are really, really good kids, they are just well loved. Regardless, they had so many people loving them at Christmas time that we had to extend Christmas by an additional two days just so they could open and enjoy all of their gifts. We even took a few out from under the tree and made them birthday presents because, while Joe and I didn't go overboard, the grandparents did. 

With their birthday being spread over two weekends in January -- a party with just us five and a party with our extended family and friends -- these kids are going to get to February and wonder why no one is celebrating and handing them wrapped boxes. 

Tree Hunt 2012

Before babies, we annually cut down our own tree. We always talked about keeping this tradition once we had kids. This year we headed to the tree farm, and you would've thought we were first time parents. We brought no stroller, no wagon, no extra blankets (it's cold out there, people), no snacks.

Of course, we didn't realize that we were so ill-prepared until we had unloaded all of the kids in the parking lot of the tree farm. So we just rolled with it. We investigated the pre-cut trees first. Decided we weren't sold and hopped on the tractor out to the tree fields. The kids LOVED the tractor. We were dropped off in a turn around where we were able to grab a tree dolly and a saw and off we set, walking roughly a half mile to the fields. With three kids. Under the age of two. I didn't say this plan was well thought out.

I was wearing Lauren and, of course, neither of the twins wanted to walk. So I carried Reese while Joe pulled along a saw and dolly and carried Ryan. We finally got out to the fields and most of the trees were the size of our toddlers. There was a lot of whining and shivering, and that was just from the adults. So we turned around, got back on the tractor and rode back to the main farm stand.

We popped into the country cafe on the farm and Ryan housed four apple cider donuts while Reese guzzled cider like it was nobody's business. Since the twinks were preoccupied, I headed back out to the pre-cuts to reevaluate our options with Lola strapped to my chest. Having a baby strapped to you makes lifting up heavy trees nearly impossible. But I managed to find a few that looked like they had potential.

By the time the kids were done eating donuts for dinner with their snacks we headed back out and lo and behold, one of the trees I picked was a winner.

Everything with three kids takes longer. This trip was no different. Picking one tree took us the better part of three hours from start to finish. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Our tree really was the perfect tree. Perfectly shaped, with no bald spots. Really pretty. Although this wasn't our best decorating job. And one of our light strands burnt out the week before Christmas making the whole tree turn off and really putting a buzz kill on the holly jolly around our house.

That said, the kids were great with the tree. They don't get gifts often enough to know what they are so they left the presents under the tree, untouched. And aside from pointing out "balls", "pretty" (i.e. bows), and "mirrors" (i.e. beads) they didn't really touch the tree itself.

Well, that's a lie. Ryan broke a Christmas ball, but it was my fault. I heard him take a ball off the tree and I whipped around the corner and yelled "what are you doing?!" causing him to throw the ball in the air. It crashed to the floor and shattered into a bunch of pieces. I managed to pick him up and put him in the playroom without anyone getting hurt. Lesson learned. Don't sneak up on a toddler playing with glass and scare the turds out of him. Shame on me.

The poisonous cup, the Sign of the Cross and the blessing of wine.

The Feast of St John,
27th December,
saw us bless wine in his honour.

This blessing is usually bestowed immediately after
the Last Gospel at Mass but it may also be  given
outside of the Mass.
We had it in the refectory before dinner.

In the Roman Ritual there are two blessings
for wine on the feast of St John.

How we came to bless wine in honour of St John.

In his later years and while living at Ephesus, St. John preached the Gospel and “idol-worshippers stirred up a riot among the populace, and they dragged him to the temple of Diana and tried to force him to offer sacrifice to the goddess.
Then the saint proposed this alternative: if by invoking Diana they overturned the church of Christ, he would offer sacrifice to the idols; but if by invoking Christ he destroyed Diana’s temple, they would believe in Christ.
To this proposal the greater number of the people gave their consent. When all had gone out of the building, the apostle prayed, the temple collapsed to the ground, and the statue of Diana was reduced to dust.”

St John holding the poisoned chalice
with the blessing of wine.
In response, the high priest Aristodemus incited the people against the apostle.
He then challenged St. John, saying:
“If you want me to believe in your God, I will give you poison to drink. If it does you no harm, it will be clear that your master is the true God.”
St. John consented. But first Aristodemus had two condemned criminals released from prison and, in the presence of the crowd, gave them the poison to drink so that St. John would have to watch them die and it would fill him with a greater fear for his own life.

“Then the apostle took the cup, 
armed himself with the Sign of the Cross, drained the drink, 
and suffered no harm, and all present began to praise God” 
(Voragine, The Golden Legend. Vol. I., p. 53).

Christmas Night Mass. + Et lux in tenebris lucet... And the light shineth in darkness...

Dum medium silentium tenerent omnia,
et nox in suo cursu medium iter haberet...

While all things were in quiet silence,
and the night was in the midst of her course...

Omnipotens sermo tuus, Domine,
de coelis a regalibus sedibus venit. 

Thy Almighty Word, O Lord, leapt down from heaven
from Thy royal throne.

Silent night, holy night. 
The night continued to dominate us as Mass began,
our little candles bravely faced the darkness
until men with angels sang:

Gloria in excelsis Deo!
The continuous ringing of bells announced
the arrival of the Infant King of Heaven.
The chapel was lit up and the Collect thanked God:
 Who made this most holy night to shine forth
with the brightness of the true light.
 The grace of God our Saviour hath appeared to all men.
announces the Subdeacon as he chants the Epistle.
 I bring you tidings of great joy.
The Holy Gospel is always proclaimed facing the darkness of the North.

Bethlehem ~ House of Bread.
The priest offers the spotless host.

Et verbum caro factum est.
And the Word was made flesh ~ and that flesh is made Bread.

I am the Living Bread which came down from Heaven.
If any man eat of this Bread he shall live for ever;
and the Bread that I shall give
is my flesh for the life of the world.
Amen, amen I say unto you:
Except you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood
you shall not have life in you.
He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath life everlasting
and I will raise him up on the last day.
(Jn. 6: 51-55)

After Mass the image of the Infant was incensed
and the priest blessed each of us with the statue
of the baby Jesus.
Having received the blessing each person 
venerated the representation of the holy Child.

O Holy Night!  
O Holy Mass of Christ! ~ O Christmas!
O Holy House of Bread ~ Sweet Bethlehem so near us!
Sweet Jesus I love Thee, come into my heart!

On Christmas Eve

On December 19th stormy winds set in and dominated Orkney 
making it impossible to cross from Stronsay to Papa Stronsay.
Things looked bleak for Christmas.
Having our outdoor crib looked impossible;
 the wind was too strong.
On the morning of Christmas Eve we awoke to find that 
the tempest had stilled 
("flat calm")
giving a fresh aspect to the Christmas Carol
"all is calm, all is bright!"

The opportunity is seized to erect the Christmas crib.
In last year's storm, the entire roof, although secured by ropes, 
was blown off the crib and over the nearby shed.
We can't have a repeat of last year!
Br Magdala Maria is assessing the shed roof
and calculating how many screws would be needed 
to keep their roof beams from being blown over it ?

A quick bite during work.
Baked Beans from the tin, fried eggs, toast....and salt
fed their bodies,
while the spirit of Christmas Eve 
(...finishing the crib and chapel, revising chant and rubrics) 
fed their souls. 
And so it was.
For the Glory of God the crib was erected.
Blessed little island of Stronsay lost in the North Sea!
You have an outside crib celebrating the Saviour's birth
with shepherds and sheep,
three kings and three camels!
And Christmas comes once more!

The day is done..... or just begun.
At 11.00 p.m. we began the popular vigil devotions
as we awaited the midnight dawning 
of the Daystar from on High.

Veni veni, Emmanuel!
Veni et illumina sedentes in tenebris,
et umbra mortis.

The Holy Father's Christmas Blessing

Completion of the Way of Bethlehem

Christmas Eve


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