Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Present



For the past one month, I've been meeting numerous G.I's at the airport. I had the privilege of buying lunch/dinner for some of them and to dine with them.

After hearing their stories, I felt warm at heart and could see their enthusiasm to get home early for Christmas. To many kids all they wished was their Dad/Mom serving in Iraq to come back home alive and be there for Christmas.

I wish many families were lucky this year.

.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lawyers' Seasonal Greetings




From us ("the wishor") to you ("hereinafter called the wishee"), please accept without obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, politically correct, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all ... and a financially successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2004, but with due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures or sects, and having regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform or dietary preference of the wishee. By accepting this greeting you are bound by these terms that:

This greeting is subject to further clarification or withdrawal

This greeting is freely transferable provided that no alteration shall be made to the original greeting and that the proprietary rights of the wishor are acknowledged.

This greeting implies no promise by the wishor to actually implement any of the wishes.

This greeting may not be enforceable in certain jurisdictions and/or the restrictions herein may not be binding upon certain wishees in certain jurisdictions and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wishor.

This greeting is warranted to perform as reasonably may be expected within the usual application of good tidings, for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first.

The wishor warrants this greeting only for the limited replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wishor

Any references in this greeting to "the Lord", "Father Christmas", "Our Savior", or any other festive figures, whether actual or fictitious, dead or alive, shall not imply any endorsement by or from them in respect of this greeting, and all proprietary rights in any referenced third party names and images are hereby acknowledged.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Choice


Let's not make the eternally fateful error of worshiping a babe in the manager and rejecting the Christ of the Cross. 


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas



"...and she gave birth to her first son. Because there were no rooms left in the inn, she wrapped the baby with pieces of cloth and laid him in a feeding trough." - Luke 2:7

Wish you a Merry Christmas - the birth of Jesus Christ.  May Jesus be born in our hearts today.

.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Walking with Mary - Day 24




"But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart." - Luke 2:19


Mary had numerous miraculous experiences and it was extremely hard for her to explain them or convince anyone.  


When we encounter heavenly experiences, we are in similar situation - it's quite hard to explain it to anyone. Even if we do, hardly anyone would believe us. As a result, we will end up treasuring  those wonderful experience(s) in our hearts like Mary did. 


Have faith like Mary did and believe. 



















Friday, December 23, 2011

Walking with Mary - Day 23



Prayer for the Queen of Peace

Most holy and immaculate Virgin, Mother of Jesus and our loving Mother, being his Mother, you shared in his universal kingship. The prophets and angels proclaimed him King of peace. With loving fervor in our hearts we salute and honor you as Queen of peace.

We pray that your intercession may protect us and all people from hated and discord, and direct our hearts into the ways of peace and justice which your Son taught and exemplified. We ask your maternal care for our Holy Father who works to reconcile the nations in peace. We seek your guidance for our President and other leaders as they strive for world peace.

Glorious Queen of peace, grant us peace in our hearts, harmony in our families and concord throughout the world. Immaculate Mother, watch over us and protect us with your motherly love.

Amen.

.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Caroling - the new wave

The Christmas Truce of 1914

File:Christmas day football WWI 1915.jpg


This is another Christmas miracle - a story of how Christmas managed to bring enemies together as friends for a time during World War I..

On the Christmas Eve of 1914, in the middle of fierce battle, the British and German troop stood face to face in trenches divided by “No Man’s Land.” Soon their hands went out and tightened in the grip of friendship. That night, not a shot was made. All is calm. Violating order, soldiers from both sides put down their weapon, sang Christmas carols together, exchanged gifts and helped bury each other’s dead. It was the most memorable Christmas Eve in history.

The war had been going on for one year and nearly a million had died. The trenches were poorly constructed and in bad winter weather of 1914, it were flooded and turned into mud holes. The soldiers wallowed in freezing mud and decaying bodies. They were miserable and can help but feeling sympathy for each other. As Christmas approached, they started remembering the warmth of their home and love of families. The desire for a break in the fighting increased as well as the festive mood. This finally gave way for temporary peace.

The German troops began singing O Stille Nacht (Silent Night) after they finished decorating their so-called Christmas tree and placing candles on the edge of their trenches. The British troop on the other side of the trenches responded by singing English carols. Applause was heard from both sides. The two sides then began exchanging Christmas greetings and gifts - whiskey, cigarettes, jam, chocolates etc.. The German soon called the British as “comrade” and that night the artillery fell silent.

It was a foggy cold Christmas morning. Songs continuously were sung.  With Christmas spirit on the air, the soldiers were running about on top of the trenches instead of keeping their head down in it. Invitations were made once again to visit the “no man’s land”.  The land soon became a playground. The parties played football. The German won 3-2. Exchange of gifts continued afterwards. Balaclavas, hats, buttons, tunics, smokes and autographs were exchanged. Soldiers who had been barbers before the war gave free haircut. A German juggler gave an impromptu. Many British and German were chatting in no-man’s land. Cigarettes were offered and photographs of family members were shown. Bodies of recently-fallen solders brought back behind their lines for proper burials. Some of the British helped the German bury a sniper. At night, each troop returned to the trenches to have dinner.

With this weird situation, many soldiers started thinking and hoping that the war will be over in no time.

A shudder ran through the high command on either side when the leaders heard this. Here was disaster in the making - soldiers declaring their brotherhood with each other and refusing to fight. Generals on both sides declared this spontaneous peacemaking to be punishable by court marital. The leaders did not like this truce and thus the war stretched out for four more years and claimed the life of another 16 million human lives.


What can we learn from this Christmas miracle? 
May our own hearts answer that question.





A German Christmas card depicting the truce.


------
When I first read about this miracle I was asking myself, "Who was that one German solider - blessed with the Holy Spirit, who had the courage to spark this historic truce in the entire military history of mankind?"

Certainly the Heaven knows who that was! 

.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas program agenda

Here is the preliminary program list I received for Friday, Dec 23rd. Check your program and get ready accordingly.  Work with your program coordinator.  Be ready with your costumes and props.  Achen wants to conduct evening prayers (Sann-dhyaa Nama-ss-kaa-ram) at the beginning of the program and typically would run about 30 minutes. The program is supposed to start at 6:30 PM.

Dress code for the carol song is red tops/shirts, black pant/skirt.  Carry your Santa hat too.

This year, I am not in town during the Christmas program and hence we did not take up any class program.  Instead, work with your respective coordinators. Pray to God and seek blessings from your coordinator so that your program does well. Once the program is over, do not forget to thank all those who helped you stage the program - helper parents teachers, and coordinators. Send them a courtesy email or make a phone call. I know the amount of hard work and dedication Sunday school teachers (not me) put in to make this program a success.

Program Name Participants Name
Prayer Rev.Fr.Wilson Manalethu
Song - O come all ye faithful…. Church choir
Welcome Speech Jaysee Joseph 
Sunday School Christmas Carol All the Students
Old Testament Reading Alveena Jacks
Solo Song - Atlanta Prayer Group Angela Thomas
Group Song Jemaya, Anya, Meiga
Skit Preschool, KG, Grade 1 & 2
New Testament Reading Serin Thomas
Group Song Christina, Kevin & Hannah
Song & Play - Lilburn Prayer Group Lilburn Prayer Group Members
Nativity Play Grades 3, 4, 5
Group Song Grade 7
Solo Song - Lawrenceville Prayer Group Sunil Cherian
Christmas Carol Song Prayer Group
Tableau Grades 6, 8, 9, 10
Christmas Message Guest Speaker - Rev. Fr.Dominic Joseph, Vicar, Knanaya Catholic Church, Atlanta
Recognition of Sunday School teachers
Group Song Aleysha, Riya, Rinu
Christmas Carol Song Martha Maria Samajam
Skit MGOCSM
Vote of Thanks K. K. Mathew
Song - Silent Night….. Church choir
Arrival of Santa Claus


Feast of St. Thomas


Today we are celebrating the feast of St. Thomas. Yesterday, we attended the church service to remember his death on Dec 21, AD 72.

Thanks to Achen for educating us and mentioning those valuable contributions of St. Thomas - we learned a great deal about St. Thomas these past days. We should commemorate this perunnal every year.  

.


Walking with Mary - Day 21



Mary was a just an ordinary girl on earth, but well-known in Heaven. In her daily life, her ears were not inclined to listening to words of praise from anyone, nor ever to any words of applause. All her thoughts were oriented towards the Lord, the Holy, and the Glorious. Yet those same ears heard what nobody has ever heard before, "Hail Mary full of grace. The Lord is with you."

She was spending time at the temple (church) as a maid/assistant. By virtue of her presence at church, she would have certainly observed the priest and administrators running the church and taking part in politics. Mary did not allow herself to be distracted by any happenings in the church, but stayed focused on the Lord and immersed herself in prayers.

Today while we attend church, there are numerous distraction that could divert our attention.  If a character like Mary was present today in our church, what would she do and how would she react?  How would she stay focused in spirituality, rather than listening to opinions of church-goers? How would such a person find favor with God and receive the Holy Spirit?

Staying away from all the worldly talks and instead be focused in spirituality - let's learn and practice that, while continuing our journey with Mary.


.



Christmas Cards




Writing and mailing Christmas cards is a project by itself, and one can get quite involved in it.  We begin that project right after Thanksgiving - after decorating our home, card writing is our next task. We try to mail out cards by early December to 'wake up' and remind people about Christmas.

At home, my wife has a system to track who was mailed a card last year, who responded, who delivered 'by hand' and saved 44c on stamps, who mailed after Christmas, who acknowledged the receipt of the card verbally, who sent the smallest card, who gave the prettiest card, which card had the most meaningful quote, who mailed the religious card with Joseph, Mary and Jesus, who mailed the one with Santa, who mailed the one with 'Happy Holidays' and did not specify Christmas, and so forth.  Then, she also pays attention to whether anyone of those who mailed cards used the Christmas stamps.

Every day we open the Christmas cards in mail first. After careful examination of handwriting, other minute details, and further discussion with my wife about each one, the cards find their place over our fireplace and stay there until New Year.

My wife has not yet asked me to develop a computer program to track all these by category - she knows such a tracking system will never get done (by me). I am not alone, and here is why most of us won't receive Christmas cards from certain people.

A wife was wondering if she could get her husband to write addresses on Christmas cards and she had so much other work to do. She arranged everything they needed then hopefully pulled up a chair and said, "Come on, Dear, let's get these out of the way."

He glanced at the array on the table, turned away and went into the den, only to return moments later with a high stack of cards, stamped, sealed, and addressed.

"They're last year's," he said. "I forgot to mail them. Now let's go out to dinner and relax."

.

Tintin in theaters

File:Adventures of Tintin Cast.png


One of my favorite childhood comic - Tintin, is coming to theaters tonight, and am really excited.  I used to share those comics with my good friends and read them over and over.  I even carry a book in my car - in case I am stuck in traffic, I flip through the pages which takes me to my childhood days.

Few years ago, I introduced Tintin to my son and got him few books - he soon fell in love with the characters and we had another topic to discuss in common. Last month he came and told me about the Tintin movie being worked upon by the legendary Steven Spielberg, that is coming out tonight. I gave him that knowing look, and said in an instant, "Let's go!" I want to go watch it tonight itself, and have lots of lovely memories surrounding Tintin.



As with every movie, I do not want to get my hopes up - reading the book and watching those images is the most wonderful experience; it was and it will stay in my heart forever.  Anyway, I cannot wait till tonight.

Click here to read all about the movie


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Music from the house



On Christmas Eve, the king invited the prime minister to join him for their usual walk together. He enjoyed seeing the decorations in the streets, but since he didn’t want his subjects to spend too much money on these just to please him, the two men always disguised themselves as traders from some far distant land.

They walked through the centre of the city, admiring the lights, the Christmas trees, the candles burning on the steps of the houses, the stalls selling gifts, and the men, women and children hurrying off to celebrate a family Christmas around a table laden with food.

On the way back, they passed through a poorer area, where the atmosphere was quite different. There were no lights, no candles, no delicious smells of food about to be served. There was hardly a soul in the street, and, as he did every year, the king remarked to the prime minister that he really must pay more attention to the poor in his kingdom. The prime minister nodded, knowing that the matter would soon be forgotten again, buried beneath the day-to-day bureaucracy of budgets to be approved and discussions with foreign dignitaries.

Suddenly, they heard music coming from one of the poorest houses. The hut was so ramshackle and the rotten wooden timbers so full of cracks, that they were able to peer through and see what was happening inside. And what they saw was utterly absurd: an old man in a wheelchair apparently crying, a shaven-headed young woman dancing, and a young man with sad eyes shaking a tambourine and singing a folk song.

‘I’m going to find out what they’re up to,’ said the king. He knocked. The music stopped, and the young man came to the door.

‘We are merchants in search of a place to sleep. We heard the music, saw that you were still awake, and wondered if we could spend the night here.’

‘You can find shelter in a hotel in the city. We, alas, cannot help you. Despite the music, this house is full of sadness and suffering.’

‘And may we know why?’

‘It’s all because of me.’ It was the old man in the wheelchair who spoke. ‘I’ve spent my life teaching my son calligraphy, so that he could one day get a job as a palace scribe. But the years have passed and no post has ever come up. And then, last night, I had a stupid dream: an angel appeared to me and asked me to buy a silver goblet because, the angel said, the king would be coming to visit me. He would drink from the goblet and give my son a job.

‘The angel was so persuasive that I decided to do as he said. Since we have no money, my daughter-in-law went to the market this morning to sell her hair so that we could buy that goblet over there. The two of them are doing their best to get me in the Christmas spirit by singing and dancing, but it’s no use.’

The king saw the silver goblet, asked to be given a little water to quench his thirst and, before leaving, said to the family:

‘Do you know, we were talking to the prime minister only today, and he told us that an opening for a palace scribe would be announced next week.’

The old man nodded, not really believing what he was hearing, and bade farewell to the strangers. The following morning, however, a royal proclamation was read out in all the city streets; a new scribe was needed at court. On the appointed day, the audience room at the palace was packed with people eager to compete for that much-sought-after post. The prime minister entered and asked everyone there to prepare their paper and pens:

‘Here is the subject of the composition: Why is an old man weeping, a shaven-headed woman dancing, and a sad young man singing?’

A murmur of disbelief went round the room. No one knew how to tell such a story, apart, that is, from the shabbily dressed young man sitting in one corner, who smiled broadly and began to write.
----------

This is the season of miracles. If you are in a position to pleasantly surprise someone, go ahead and do it - the heaven and the host of angels are on your side.

Believe - in the miracle of Christmas! 



Story Credits: Paulo Coelho
.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Marys boy child

Walking with Mary - Day 19


The sweetness of Mary attracts us in an irresistible way to imitation. Her whole life was filled with service in a humble way, and throughout her life she was humble and walked in God's path.  While travelling with Mary, there are few notable characteristics we can visualize.

According to Paul VI, we can see that Mary was:

(a) Firm in her faith,
(b) Ready in obedience,
(c) Simple in humility,
(d) Exulting in praising the Lord,
(e) Ardent in charity,
(f) Strong and constant in the fulfilment of her mission to the point of sacrificing herself,
(g) In full communion of sentiment with her Son, who gave Himself up, to give new life to men.

Let us imitate some of Mary's qualities during our journey with her.

.



Sunday, December 18, 2011

Don't Panic

 

If a 'Fat Guy' in a red suit grabs and puts you in a bag, 

Don't Panic. 

I told God, "I want a good friend for Christmas."

.

Christmas time



‘Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas time.’
~Laura Ingalls Wilder


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pulkudilil Kalthottiyil

Kaalithozhuthil Pirannavanae

Walking with Mary - Day 17



Continuing our journey with Mary, it certainly is a rough and tough one. If we don't feel so, then we probably are not with Mary. She experienced times of sorrow and despair, but she always trusted in the Lord.

Looking at Mary, she was submitting herself in the hands of our Lord and letting God's plan work.  Mary stays as the symbol of hospitality and the center of Holiness. One of the most valuable strengths Mary possessed was her ability to persevere. She went through many trials in her life, but she never lost sight of the Lord. She used her complete trust in God and her strong will to overcome obstacles and setbacks.

Personally, I am trying my best to please everyone around me - either by talking less, or by maintaining a low profile. The lesser I talk, least are the chance of hurting anyone.

We have Christmas carolers arriving at our house tonight - to announce the birth of Jesus. We are arranging our house for their arrival, and have too many things to accomplish - especially since our's is the last house.  At home we really lack the presence of a responsible person who can help us organize and get ready - but could not find any. This is the first time carolers are coming to our house and about 99% of them have never been here before. My worries ended when I saw Mary's face this morning, and stopped looking any further.  Mother Mary's presence alongside us is a tremendous relief and boosted my energy - I believe she is with us.

This year, we decorated our house in a simple way to create a festive mood, but we consciously skipped one item - the Christmas Tree.  It was to respect the death of a former church member, who passed away last month, and also to remind me about his funeral service. We decided to pay homage to this individual in the midst of our celebrations by skipping the one item and instead having a mini wall tree.



God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus because she possessed traits of holiness, piety, and humbleness. While walking with Mary, let's certainly look forward for the wonderful finale.

.

Christmas gifts



Picking gifts is an art and only the wise can pick them appropriately!

Giving gifts during Christmas is a norm - it started with the 3 wise men bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Gold is the gift for a king, an expensive gift symbolizing belief that Jesus was born to be a king. Frankincense is the gift for a priest, reminding us that Jesus is the ultimate High Priest. Myrrh was an unusual gift for a child. It's a precious spice or perfume used to anoint a body at death. Myrrh was a prophetic gift because Jesus had come to die to be our Savior.

King, Priest, Savior - three appropriate and meaningful gifts which reveal to us, at Christmas, who Jesus is.

.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Love



Here is a miraculous true story of finding the sacred meaning of Christmas, narrated by a parent, that took place during a school's holiday pagent.

-------

Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. I had cut back on nonessential obligations – extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending. Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas.

My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six year old. For weeks, he’d been memorizing songs for his school’s “Winter Pageant.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d be working the night of the production. Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there’d be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then.

Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise. So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats.

As I waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform their song.

Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the holiday as “Christmas,” I didn’t expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer. So, when my son’s class rose to sing, “Christmas Love,” I was slightly taken aback by its bold title.

Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters, and bright snowcaps upon their heads. Those in the front row- center stage – held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song.

As the class would sing “C is for Christmas,” a child would hold up the letter C. Then, “H is for Happy,” and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message, “Christmas Love.”

The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her; a small, quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter “M” upside down – totally unaware her letter “M” appeared as a “W”.

The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at this little one’s mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly holding her “W”. Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together.

A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities.

For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear:

“C H R I S T W A S L O V E”


Credits: Candy Chand

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Miracles do happen


Holiday season is here, as schools and offices are closing down for the celebrations - there was a holiday party before I left to the airport today.  I reached home about an hour ago (usual time), and do not have to travel for work until Jan 9th, next year. That does not mean I can enjoy the holidays - rather will be working and checking my team's work and progress throughout the 'holiday season.'

I noticed is that  I am loosing lots of hair since this assignment started. Irrespective of how my project is turning out, I am going to maintain a smiley face.


It's wonderfully nice to be home for the holidays and be around with family members. This is 'that time of the year' when miracles happen, and yes - I believe in them. Every Christmas, I watch the movie, "Miracle on 34th Street" and tell myself, "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."

Having faith enables us to 'visualize' those miracles. Sometimes, we just cannot explain them - yet we can experience them.

Have faith, and believe.

.

Practice on Saturday

Below are couple of messages I received - one from our Sunday school principal, Jaysee, and another from our Church secretary, K.K. Mathews.

In a nutshell - Schedule your Christmas program practice Saturday morning, and while you are there offer a helping hand to decorate the church if time permits.
-------

Dear teachers,

We received the request from some of the parents to have the pratice session on Saturday morning so that the kids can go for carols in the afternoon. The teachers who were planning to have the practice in afternoon are moving their practice sessions to morning. So lets all plan to have the practice in the morning and give kids the chance to take part in the carols as well.

It will be good if we all can start around 9AM and wrap it by 12 noon.

Thanks,
Jaysee

--------------
Dear all,

Kindly note that this week end's Carol visit is on Dec.17 th Saturday afternoon [ not on Friday.]
We have no Carol visit on this Friday.

We need some volunteers to do  Christmas decorations in our church premises this Saturday morning.
Those who find it convenient please join the team on Saturday at 9:30 AM in the Church Fellowship Hall.

With prayers and regards,

K.K.Mathew ,Secretary

Monday, December 12, 2011

Walking with Mary - Day 12



"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." - Hebrews 11:6

During the original christmas eve, the night when Mary gave birth to Jesus in the manger, there were two group of people who came seeking Jesus - the shephards and the 3 wise kings.

The shepherds were ordinary people - 'social nobodies' with no educational background, fame or riches.  It was purely through their faith they were able to witness the remarkable evening. How lucky those shephards were - to witness that heavenly night. Even today, it's possible to witness Jesus through faith.

The three kings who visited must have started their journey days or even months ago, to witness the night.  They were seekers - seeking the birth of the king.  Even though they were from another religion and belief, they were willing to seek the King. Even today, the wise men seek Jesus.  

When teenage Mary witnessed these guests who arrived to see her child, she must have been thrilled. Especially when she saw the kings bringing them gifts.

.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Facts about Mary


Below are the top 10 facts about Mary

1. Apparitions (supernatural appearances) of Mary have been reported in every era in history and every country in the world.

2. Dante* said that Mary's face is the one that most closely resembles the face of Christ.

3. The early church fathers compared Eve to Mary. As Eve was the mother of humanity who fell into sin, Mary was the mother of a new humanity.

4. The Christian representation of Mary helped early converts from paganism connect with the Church.

5. Mary is regarded as a helper for those who grieve and to those who are in need of comfort. Grieving parents have taken comfort in her because she lost her own child in a tragic way.

6. Despite the widely secular nature of the twenty-first century, pilgrimages to Marian sites seem to be increasing in frequency.

7. Many of the earliest churches devoted to Mary were built on old pagan holy sites.

8. Despite Mary's significant place in the lives of the Christian faithful for centuries, she is mentioned less in the Bible than in the Koran.

9. Many scholars think that Mary may have only been thirteen or fourteen years old when she gave birth to Jesus.

10. Mary has garnered the praise of writers such as Dante, Jack Kerouac, Flannery O'Conner, and Sue Monk Kidd.


----
*Dante - The famous 14th century Italian poet and versatile writer. Certain people in power did not like his writings and therefore exiled him from the society at the age of 36. It was during his exile he wrote the epic poem 'Divine Comedy' - considered as one of the greatest classics in all western literature. In 'Divine Comedy', Dante describes his travel through hell, purgatory and heaven.

.


Walking with Mary - Day 9

Dear Mary,

Give us the strength to travel with you - we look at you to derive the strength and energy necessary to complete our journey. Even though you are filled with worries, you have tremendous faith in our Lord and you  take every single step towards completing our journey.

While walking with you, Mary, we can see the amount of struggles you have in your life. In our day-to-day lives, we recall and remember you only when we are undergoing tremendous sufferings.

When we go to church and see your picture - the one holding your Son, you appear to be so calm and relaxed. You do not show any sign of worries in that picture. Is it because you are solving other's problems more than your's? How do you do this? Were you like this from your childhood days? When I stand closer and look into those graceful eyes, I understand that our sorrows are so insignificant and I almost forget about my troubles - your face radiates that soothing, loving and caring look that I instantly forget all my troubles. There were several occasions I came running to see you, but forgot to read out my long list of troubles - well, you could read my mind, I guess. Being with you in your presence is such a secure feeling that I want to stay with you as long as I can.

Lead us the way and we will follow you - we have absolute faith and belief in you.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Beauty of the soul


Saint Augustine - A Christian theologian, saint, and philosopher, originally wrote this line in Latin,“Quia ipsa charitas est animae pulchritudo.” 

He was speaking of charity, the purest love of all.  


Come stay with us


Dear Mary,

We look at this family portrait of yours - where you are happily standing between your parents - Joachim and Anna.

Today, December 8th, we are celebrating the 'Immaculate Conception of Mary' to remember the day you were conceived in your mother Anna's womb. Since we celebrate your birthday on September 8th, we backdate it to 9 months and remember today as the actual day you were conceived - just like how we remember you conceiving Jesus on March 25th, nine months prior to Christmas.

Your mother Anna is considered as the patron saint of housewives, grandmothers, unmarried women etc, among others.


History tells us that in 1859 you appeared 18 times to a 14 year old peasant girl, Bernadette, in Lourdes, France - in the cave of Massabille. You told her to dig in the dirt of the grotto where you appeared.  When Bernadette dug in the dirt, water seeped up from the ground and you instructed her to drink that water. The water eventually became a small river from which many people drank. We've been told of many healings from those who drank or bathed in the water. Today, Lourdes is a famous shrine visited by over five million people every year.

Mary, we learn that you told Bernadette several times, "I am the immaculate conception."

File:Grotte Massabielle.jpg

Many times, I've seen the grotto of you appearing to Bernadette and have actually stopped by and spent few minutes in meditation near 'Our Lady or Lourdes.'

Mary, we acknowledge that we are sinners. Please hear us - if our hearts are worthy enough for you to come reside, please come stay with us in our hearts - just like how you took birth in your mother's womb today.

People use many measures to define a beautiful woman - but I do not find them attractive enough. Don't you already know - to me, you are THE MOST beautiful woman who ever walked this planet - filled with the Holy Spirit. Stay with us so that we may learn those wonderful qualities you possessed - those which enabled you to find grace and favor with God. Let us experience your presence like how Bernadette did.

Visit us and come stay with us - do not ever leave us; the doors to our hearts and minds are open for you forever!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Discovering Mary

Today, after working half day, I drove down to Atalanta to come attend a 'holiday bash' here - a 4 hr 30 minute drive. After the party, I am planning to return to Charlotte tonight itself. My plan is to return home on Thursday, as usual.  The return drive may make me tried - I will driving alone and get back to my hotel room during early morning hours and get ready for a morning meeting.

During the drive, I was thinking about Mary and her richness in terms of the amount of 'grace' she has. Yes, Mary is one person who found favor with God and is filled with grace. To find grace from God, one must first discover Mary.

That's when it stuck me - Don't we say the prayer, "Hail Mary, full of grace" numerous times? But how much do we think about Mary's grace?

I am going to be thinking about 'Mary's Grace' on my return journey.

Right now, I am stuck here at home. My son has a concert and my wife has gone with him. Our next door neighbor's son, who's the age of my son got locked out of his house and is at our place waiting for his mom. His mom is not reachable by phone and must have got stuck in traffic. I came driving all the way just for this party and it begins at 7:00 PM.

I was ready since 6:00 PM, however the plight of my neighbor's son is not allowing me to leave him alone here. For a moment I thought, "What would Mary do, if she was in my situation" and got the answer right away. Waiting here with this child until him mom arrives is more appropriate, than going and having fun - regardless of the long drive.

Thinking about the drive back makes me sleepy already.




Walking



Walking with Mary - Day 6

File:Virgen de guadalupe1.jpg

Throughout the Bible, we see that God performed numerous miracles in those early days to jump-start people's faith.  Today, many ask, "Why doesn't God perform miracles anymore?"

The truth is that God is still performing miracles everyday.  However, He is neither parting the red sea on a daily basis - it's different every time. If we examine our lives closely, we can see numerous small miracles happening to ourselves - but we have to have the faith and acknowledge it's due to the work of the creator and certainly not because of our smartness, strength or intellect.

Mary has been encountered by many, throughout the centuries, all over the world. Here is one - ever heard about 'Our Lady of Guadalupe?'

In 1531, an Aztec Indian in Mexico named Juan Diego reported encountering a beautiful woman surrounded by a bright light who called herself "Mary, the Virgin." In presenting the information to the local bishop, a great miracle occurred.

The Virgin told Diego to ask the Bishop to build a church where she appeared. The bishop said he would consider the request if the Virgin could supply a sign to prove she was who she said she was. Though it was freezing weather, the Virgin Mary asked Diego to cut roses that were blooming from a bush on top of a hill. He found the roses, cut them, and placed them in his "tilma" (a cape made of cactus fiber). When Diego opened the tilma and presented the roses to the bishop, all saw an image of the Virgin on the tilma, exactly as Diego had described her. This image on a cape of cactus fiber still exists today. In 1977, it was examined with infrared photography and digital enhancement techniques but examiners were not able to determine how it was created, nor how it has been preserved after all these centuries.

Click here to read more on 'Our Lady of Guadalupe'.

Have faith and believe that God is still in the miracle business!

.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Preparing for Jesus' arrival

"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  - Luke 11:13

Anybody observing the Advent Lent?  In other words, anybody preparing themselves for the arrival of Baby Jesus into your life this Christmas?

While there are so many guidelines on lent such as, "No eating meat, but fish is ok; No eating eggs, but milk is ok," etc., I don't treat it that way, and actually find it very funny. In this land, there are so many yummy foods around us that are even better than meat or eggs.

I have a simple equation to observe the lent - identify that "one thing you love doing the most" and do your best to stay away from it. It could be dining on that irresistible '12 oz Royale Ground Steak and lobster,' or drinking that 'Two pump Mocha Blended Cream Frappuccino.' Needless to say, I control my food intake as well. Here is what I am having for lunch these days - salad, soup and water.



Communication with the Lord - prayers during lent will help us accomplish our motive. One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is Self Control and we can ask the Holy Spirit to provide that.

Finally, you are answerable to your own consciousness and not anybody else.

Welcoming Jesus into our lives simply means we are welcoming the Holy Spirit!!




Kannuneer Thaazhvarayil

Walking with Mary - Day 5


The Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit came onto Mary. Certainly in that case, Mary had to possess those 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit: 

Love
Joy
Peace
Patience
Kindness
Goodness
Faithfulness
Gentleness
Self-control

When we pray to receive the Holy Spirit, these are His divine attributes and qualities that will start to move into the core of our personality - like Mary. 

God wants us to share His divine nature by allowing His Holy Spirit to transmit and impart these nine divine qualities right up into our soul and personality - like Mary. 

Dear Mary,
Blessed be your purity,
May it be blessed forever,
For no less than God takes delight,
In such exalted beauty.
To you, heavenly Princess,
Holy Virgin Mary,
We offer on this day
Our whole heart, life and soul.
Look upon us with compassion,
And be with us.


.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Walking with Mary - Day 4


Dear Mary, 
We offer you our soul, our minds
Make of us God's instruments
Give us a penetrating mind to discover, 
Firm to judge,
Open to understand, 
Free to serve the truth; 
An honest mind in telling what it sees 
Rather than what it wants to see, 
A tolerant mind 
Which does not dictate to other people
But which explains what it sees clearly;
A mind infused by the light and truth
Of your son Jesus, 
Patient in faith, 
While waiting for the vision
Of Eternal life. 


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mother Mary


A song I used to listen to, when I was a teenager.  

Walking with Mary - Day 3


Ever faced with a situation wherein you cannot explain or communicate something to your closest friend or the individual who knows you the most?

Felt like no matter how hard you try explaining it or whatever or however you say it, you sense as though your closest friend or individual cannot be made believe?

Mary was in the same boat, two thousand years ago, when She learned that She conceived from the Holy Spirit. She could not even convince Her husband, Joseph about it.  In those days, people would stone a girl to death for getting pregnant prior to wedding. Even today, while medical science is so far advanced, a human virgin birth is a matter of debate and cannot be comprehended by mere human intellect or medical science.

Zoology experts would know better about this. Asexual reproduction, also termed as 'parthenogenesis' occurs naturally in certain female invertebrate animal species such as certain lizards, Komodo dragons, scorpions, water fleas, aphids, etc., where growth and development of embryos occur without fertilization by a male. However, we do not see asexual reproduction in vertebrates.

If we put ourselves into Mary's shoes, we can only imagine the mental agony, fear and frustration Mary had to undergo, after Angel Gabriel's visit. Let's examine that part once again.

--------------- Luke 1: 26 - 38 ----------------

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
-------------

Notice that Mary confronting with Angel Gabriel asking, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" At first, Mary thinks humanly - like all of us and cannot digest it.  That's when Angel Gabriel points Her the nature and power of God.  At that point Mary had the choice of free will, either to accept the offer, or to reject it.  The Holy Spirit came over Mary only after Mary gave Her consent. 

Mary knew about the prevailing custom of marriage, pregnancy and so forth, and within a second, all those risks and social factors could have flashed through her mind. Could it be possible that, at that very moment when Angel Gabriel asked Her, Mary could have agreed to it because She is so used to saying, "Yes" to everything? Even though She did, would it be possible that Mary ever regretted about giving the consent and letting the Holy Spirit come over her while She had to endure so much hardships, at the age of 13? I think Mary accepted it and decided to move forward with strong faith in God.  

Here is how it works - when Mary met Angel Gabriel, she knew exactly that She did not have to convince anybody else - other than herself. The Angel's visit solidified Her faith in the Lord. Once she was fully convinced, she had no fear about anybody. From that point on, all She had to do was to maintain that faith communication with God. We can learn from Mary about not to worry about what others think about us - what mattes most is what God thinks about us, and what we think about ourselves.  

When we cannot fully communicate about something to our closest friend or individual, here is a key - try talking to Mary. She can understand our pain.  

----
Dear Mary, 
Give us the strength to walk with you. Give us hearts aflame with charity and filled with love. 
.

Friday, December 2, 2011

How did Mary look like?

Journey to Nazareth retraces Mary's path from new bride to motherhood.


I don't believe everything the experts say in here about Mary, in the above video.  To me, Mary is the most beautiful woman who ever walked this planet. I am talking about the radiant inner beauty, which I care the most, and certainly not the physical figure - which matters the least and fades away with time.

.

Waking with Mary - Day 2


Dear Mary,

As we walk with you, guide and sustain us so that we may always live as your true children. We look at you for strength to establish peace, truth and love wherever we go, for the Glory of our Lord.  

If Jesus came to your house




If Jesus came to your house, I wonder what you'd do.

Yes if Jesus came to your house, To spend a day or two.
If he came unexpected, Just dropped in on you.

Ahh I know you'd give you nicest room, To such an honored guest.
And all the food you'd serve to him, Would be your very best.

And you would keep reassuring him, That you're glad to have him there.
That serving him in your home, Is joy beyond compare.

But when you saw him coming, Would you meet him at the door,
With arms out stretched in welcome, To your heavenly visitor.

Or would you have to change you clothes, Before you'd let him in.
Or hide some magazines, And put the Bible where they had been.

Would you turn off the radio, And hope he hadn't heard.
And wish you hadn't uttered, That last loud hasty word.

Would you hide your worldly music, And put some hymn books out.
Could you just let Jesus walk right in, Or would you rush about.

And I wonder, If the savior spent a day or two with you.
Would you go right on doing, The things you always do.

Would you go right on saying, The things you always say.
Would life for you continue, As it does from day to day.

Would your family conversations, Keep up its usual pace.
And would you find it hard each meal to say a table grace.

Would you sing the songs you always sing, And read the books you read.
And let him know the things on which you mind and spirit feed.

Would you take Jesus with you everywhere you planned to go.
Or maybe would you change your plans, For just a day or so.

Would you be glad to have him meet your very closest friends.
Or hope that they'd stay away, Until his visit ends.

Would you be glad to have him stay forever on and on.
Or would you sigh with great relief, When he at last was gone.

It might be interesting to know the things that you would do,
If Jesus came in person, to spend some time with you.

If Jesus came to your house, I wonder what you'd do.

Annunciation - Mar 25th



File:Paolo de Matteis - The Annunciation.jpg

Annunciation by Paolo de Matteis, 1712. 
The white lily in Angel Gabriel's hand is symbolic of Mary's purity

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Everything is relative

Today, I took an early flight and arrived home around 4:45 PM and surprised my family.  

Last Saturday, while at a wedding, few teenage boys and girls came to me and said, "Uncle you are so tall - tell us how tall you are." I told them, "I'm just an average person." 

Today at the airport, while heading towards my car with my backpack and roller board, I met this gentleman that proves my point. 

This gentleman is 7'3" tall and here is how I look, relative to him. I shared this picture with my family and they were teasing me about how small I look relative to this gentleman.  

Apart from that, I shook hands with him and we talked about how he shops for his clothes, shoes etc and travels on cars, trains and airplanes. 



Yes, I am aware that I am just an average person, and everything is relative.  

Assisting Mary


Welcome December - the tail end of this calendar year.

December brings us the joy of celebration. Almost everywhere, we observe decorations reminding us of Christmas.. People exchanging giving gifts and other goodies. Eyeing this as an opportunity, stores and malls have commercialized this holiday and turned around into a huge merchandise business. It's a legitimate reason for people to get together and party.

Today, let's take a moment and ask, "Why are we celebrating?"

The original event took place long time ago, and has almost lost it's meaning. We call it Advent - meaning a coming or arrival. When one of our dear family member or friends is coming to our house to spend time with us, we rejoice (a lot) and celebrate that event. Christmas is to remind us about the arrival of Jesus into our lives. Jesus coming to our house - who could be a better guest than Him?

The reason for our celebration should be due to the fact Jesus is coming to spend time with us. We have to prepare ourselves for the arrival of Jesus into our homes and our lives. Don't we prepare ourselves and stock up items when guests arrive? How would we treat Jesus if He arrived?  Will we run to the door and open it wide, or will we pretend as if we never heard Him knocking on our doors?

Do you know about free will that God has given us?  In order to have Jesus come into our lives, we first have to be willing to give Him our direct permission to be able to do so, as God will never force Himself on any of us. He will let us know that He will want to come into our lives and that He will always be knocking on our doors, but we will always be the ones who will decide whether or not we will be willing to open up that door for Jesus to be able to come into our lives. The reason being is that God has given each one of us a full free will and He will never violate that free will that He has given to each and everyone of us. We, as individuals decide whether to let Jesus into our homes and hearts.

Talking about preparation, let's take a moment and think how Mary, a teenage girl, would have felt prior to giving birth.to Baby Jesus. Mary did the best preparation to receive Jesus, and brought Him up - and we saw how Her only Son turned out to be.

Can we spend the next 24 days assisting Mary in helping her, welcoming Jesus? If so, our celebrations this Christmas will have a true and memorable meaning.

.




Loving a person


Sharing a song that I came across this morning:

To love a person is to learn the song
That is in their heart,
And to sing it to them
When they have forgotten.

.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giving Thanks


Being outcast is a terrible feeling. Lepers were considered outcasts at the time of Jesus and during the Old Testament times. Leprosy was a dreaded disease that could not be cured so therefore sufferers were isolated from the rest of society. From the day they were diagnosed, they were to be regarded as "unclean" and excluded permanently from society. They had to live alone outside the city walls, away from family and friends.

Anyone who touched them, even accidentally, was also regarded as temporarily 'unclean', and had to follow a special bathing ritual. Then they had to wait till after sunset, before they could come back inside the city. Since this included a "guilt offering", leprosy was somehow regarded as a "spiritual problem", resulting from sin. The "cleansing ritual" was the one that included a "guilt offering", which implies  - repentance should accompany an offering. Those days, it was the priest who decided whether to allow a certain person back into the society or not.

With this background, let's look at the story of Jesus cleansing 10 lepers.

---------------------Luke 17: 11-19--------------------------
Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.

As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him - and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”

Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
----------------------------

Those nine lepers who were cleansed were extremely busy that they could not contain the joy and excitement of being admitted into the society. There was this one person who took time to say, "Thank you Lord." We should infer from the above passage is that even God loves to hear thanks. Forgetting to thank someone is one of the terrible oversights we always make in our lives.

This thanksgiving, let us thank God for the clean air we breathe, the pure water we drink, the healthy food we eat, and those numerous gifts and blessings He has bestowed upon us. It is an endless list - but still, let us make an effort to (a) find time for Him, and (b) Thank Him for all our gifts and blessings.

Let us find time to thank our friends and loved ones, for the love and joy they have shared with us, and for the support they have provided us during difficult times.

Further, let us also take time to thank anyone who has helped us in anyway along our journey of life.

Thank you readers.

Happy Thanksgiving!!
.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mall

This past weekend, my son and I, we went to the shopping mall.  It was one of it's first kind - just the two of us, shopping for his wardrobe. I took him to every store he wanted to visit by having all my time for him and spend as much time he wanted at every store. Further, I allowed him to grab anything in any quantity at the food court.

Even though we stay under the same roof, it was one of those journeys where we had the chance to get to know each other (better). We got to communicate and understand each other. Kids this age do not open up and do the actual talking, unless they feel bit comfortable with the other person - especially with their parents. After the communication, I felt like, "I should take care of him better than how I do today."

Couple other thoughts went through my mind, while watching him and listen to him talk.

Firstly, other than myself or my wife, who else will take him to those stores he wishes to visit, spend time with him talking, let him browse those things he likes to touch and feel - I looked at his face and wondered. Unfortunately my son is neither privileged with that sort of luck nor has the blessing to go out with his uncles or aunties - mainly because he lives with us in this part of the world. This restriction, which we are aware of,  puts additional necessity on me and my wife to take care of him to the best of our abilities - which we enjoy doing!

Secondly, My son, if he gets into a wrong company or a wrong situation, the emotion I will have is not that of anger. I will be instead disappointed, sad and heart broken. I will constantly be worried about him (day and night) and be concerned about his daily affairs. If he tries to justify the "goodness" of that company or situation to me, I will most likely keep quiet - just so that I do not get into an argument with someone whom I care the most. The more I care, the best I try to avoid a confrontation and stay quiet. During the entire time, I will be praying, 'Dear Holy Spirit, open the eyes of your child and provide the wisdom to pick between what's good and what's not.' If, I talk during that time, my tone may appear to be more that of anger and not show compassion. It is because he just doesn't get it and I have failed to see his viewpoint(s). Again, my emotion is neither anger and is certainly not aimed towards him - instead towards that wrong company which mesmerized him in pulling him in. All because I love and care dearly.

We were being just like two good friends and had a gala time laughing with each other and fooling around!! We took some pictures while at the mall - see below. In the end, I heard him say, "Dada, please don't spend so much on me. I don't want any more items. Please don't buy me whatever I touch - let's just go home now."

I was asking myself, "If I, as an earthly dad, am willing to get my son so many items with an open heart without looking at the price, how much will my Heavenly Father get me those things that I ask for?  If I am willing to spend so much time with my son and enjoy taking to my son, how much would my Heavenly Father enjoy when I communicate with Him during prayers?" That's the moment when I experienced the joy (sort of) my Heavenly Father experiences when I ask Him and communicate with Him.

Yes - my Heavenly Father listens to each any every plea I make to Him. Until this day, my Heavenly Father has granted every single 'sensible wish' I have made - according to His clock, and I am so grateful and thankful to Him!

Yes - I need to talk to Him more often and listen more than I usually talk.