Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Friend-of-the-Bridegroom's Joy!

Every Country, every city has its peculiarities and Kyiv, Ukraine is no exception. Among those I have discovered here and which has confirmed itself with our entry into my second winter season here, is that Kyiv natives seem (to me at least) slow to don gloves and mittens. Where I note it especially is on seeing young dads out walking with small sons: cold, hand in hand, without gloves. If Mom were in charge the mittens would be on!

The glove thing has no importance except that it draws my attention and starts me on one of my favorite thankfulness meditations on the beauty of fatherhood and family. This old (me) friend-of-the-bridegroom has occasion to rejoice in one of the glories of life this side of Heaven, promise of the world to come!

These days YouTube has proposed to me in the right-hand column a couple documentaries on Charter Houses: one in Italy and the other in Portugal. Both short films were hopeful, upbeat and faith-filled despite the advanced age and small number of these Carthusian monks.  Theirs is a very hard life: I can't be tempted to join them because I'm already 20 years past the maximum age limit for admittance. Besides, I know from my youth that I'm not made for night vigils or eating just once a day, and for over 20 years now of rheumatism and arthritis, I also know that I could never keep to my cell! I must content myself with the joy which belongs to the friend-of-the-bridegroom. When every tear is wiped away, they and I hopefully will contemplate His Glory in that Day which knows no end.

So they came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him." John answered and said, "No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said (that) I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease."
(John 3:26-30)

Among recent headlines we saw, both cussed and discussed, the decision within the greater Anglican Communion not to admit women as bishops. Many tears were shed and threats were made over what was termed an exclusion. I could not help but think of St. John the Baptist: "He must increase; I must decrease." Whatever happened to recognizing that joy which is indeed special to the friend-of-the-Bridegroom? Not only can't I have everything in life, but hasn't the Lord also willed ... for my joy?

Some more statistics have come out on decreasing numbers of committed Catholics: priests, sisters, brothers, seminarians in America. The anniversary celebration of the great miracle of the evangelization of the Americas by Our Lady at Guadalupe is fast approaching. Pray with me for a little kindness from the Mother of God, that she would smile on us once again and that our people would know the joy of the friend-of-the-Bridegroom. As priests, we image the Bridegroom for His Bride the Church; we do so by radiating the joy of the Baptist, who gladly bore witness to Him.

May this Advent draw us like humble shepherds to the manger to be fed with the only nourishment which can sustain us on life's journey. May we know the joy of the friend-of-the-Bridegroom!


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