21 December – St Peter Canisius, Priest, Doctor
He was born in Nijmegen (now in Holland) in 1521. He studied at Cologne and joined the Society of Jesus: he was ordained priest in 1546. He was sent to Germany, where for many years he worked hard to defend and strengthen the Catholic faith both by writing and by preaching. He wrote many books, of which The Catechism is particularly noteworthy. He died at Fribourg in Switzerland on 21 November 1597.
Song of Songs 2:8-14
I hear my Beloved.
See how he comes
leaping on the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My Beloved is like a gazelle,
like a young stag.
See where he stands
behind our wall.
He looks in at the window,
he peers through the lattice.
My Beloved lifts up his voice,
he says to me,
‘Come then, my love,
my lovely one, come.
For see, winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth.
The season of glad songs has come,
the cooing of the turtledove is heard
in our land.
The fig tree is forming its first figs
and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.
Come then, my love,
my lovely one, come.
My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock,
in the coverts of the cliff,
show me your face,
let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet
and your face is beautiful.’
Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’
The child in my womb leapt for joy
There is an image of the visitation of Elizabeth by Mary, portrayed in many statues. It shows two women bending forward towards each other, foreheads almost touching, hands joined. Both are with child, and their expression is one of gratitude and joyful anticipation.
It is interesting how this joy came about. The young woman got pregnant before she married, and her much older cousin was also about to have a child, unheard of for a woman her age. Both would have had to deal with a fair amount of external gossip, but in each other, they found the affirmation that comes from another who is in a similar situation. Not only that, they received tangible signs of God’s blessings and graces, and marvelled at the wonder of how the fates of their children will be closely intertwined.
How joyful are you as we approach Christmas? I have to say that presently, I feel besieged by anxiety about my work next year and the uncertainty of my future career. In the midst of such thoughts and feelings, it feels much more comfortable to slip into a state of self-absorbed melancholy. It is hard to feel joy presently, but I shall continue to reflect on Elizabeth’s words in Luke 1:45 – “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)
Prayer: We pray that the joy of the Good News will touch our hearts this Christmas.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the spiritual graces that the Lord has blessed us with.