A star has been born in it.

THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST ~ A MEDITATION

…The greatest mystery of the Incarnation is that, having happened once in history, it recurs  in every person that comes to Christ. In the deep silence of the night the Word of God became incarnate on earth: this is how the Word becomes incarnate in the silent depths of our soul, where our mind lapses into silence, where words run out, where our spirit stands before God.

Christ was born on earth unknown and unrecognized, for only the Magi and the shepherds went out to meet him. In the same way, quietly and unrecognizably to others, Christ is born in a human soul, and it comes out to meet him, because a star has been born in it, leading to the light

We mysteriously recognize Christ in us during prayer, when we discover that our prayer has been accepted and heard, that God ‘came and abode in us’ and filled us with his life-bearing presence. We encounter Christ in the Eucharist, when, having received his body and blood, we feel that our own body is penetrated by his divine energy, and the blood of God runs though our veins.

We encounter Christ in other sacraments of the Church, when through union with him we are renewed and revived unto eternal life. We encounter Christ in our neighbors, when we gain sight of his innermost depth where the image of God shines. We encounter Christ in our everyday life, when amidst its noise we hear his beckoning voice or when we see his manifest intrusion into the course of history.

Precisely so — unexpectedly and suddenly — God intruded into the life of humanity twenty centuries ago, when by his birth he turned the course of history. Precisely so is he born again and again in the souls of thousands of people, changing, transforming and transfiguring their lives, making believers out of non-believers, saints out of sinners, saved out of dying.

When, around two thousand years ago, the Divine Infant was born, the angels sang: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’ (Lk 2:14). In our days the world yearns for peace and good will. In the very place where Christ was born there is war, and Bethlehem itself is under siege. The Christian Church prays for peace in the Holy Land and in other countries for the forces of good to triumph over the forces of evil. May the Divine Child born in Bethlehem grant peace to the entire world, and good will to all its people.

—Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokalamsk

Neapolitans–the cookie

Just a long-ago Christmasy post for this season!

Gladsome Lights

I’ve made these exotic Italian cookies the last two Christmases before this one. Not this year. But they are so pretty, I’m going to post the photos for your enjoyment–and the recipe, too. I got the recipe from a library book ages ago and don’t know where to give credit.

I looked at scads of other Neapolitan recipes on the Internet–I forget why–and they were all dreadfully inferior. This one uses two different doughs, each with many tasty ingredients, whereas the others I saw used just one fairly simple dough that just had different food colorings added. This one also has no food coloring other than what is in the candied fruits.

Neapolitans

These Italian cookies present an interesting way of making icebox cookies. They are dramatic and unusual. You will make two entirely separate recipes for the dough—and it must chill overnight.

DARK DOUGH

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour

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When I looked up, I saw — much beauty.

I heard an unusually big sound of wings between me and the creek this morning, and looked up to see a pair of Bald Eagles!! I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen this bird before ever, and were they actually right here a few steps from my own house?

Yes, they were. They were leaving the branches of a tree as I walked by, and flew low through the creek bed a little farther, lit again briefly, and then lifted up into the blue sky above me where I got a movie with my phone, of them circling around me and the treetops. They are not too high and small in the movie to recognize their markings and confirm who they are. I can’t get over my astonishment, but I don’t mind it hanging on to me longer….

Also down by the creek many of the trees have colonies of mistletoe like this. One day I counted several dozen “decorated” trees, and when I went back in the evening the light was perfect for documenting the clumps that I normally don’t pay attention to.

Much prettier sights are also to be seen looking up:

I heard a lovely choral Christmas concert performed in our church last week. Beforehand all the electric lights were turned on, and looking up there one could see the dome brightly even though it was night! For the winter liturgical services we still only use candles, even at night, so it was different to get this view:

I have started cleaning up the garden in preparation for the dormant season. The sunflowers are still blooming, but I don’t want to wait until a frost hits to try to stuff them all in the bin, so I am filling it with sunflowers weekly. These Delta Sunflowers are the best! The birds adore them, too — Every time I go out the front door, a dozen are under the thicket, where a million seeds must have fallen by now and are still dropping.

 I brought in the last bouquet:

In the back garden, Christmas is more obviously on the way!

Staying with the moon.

Thinking back on what happened early this morning, I’m all at once surprised, pleased, and disappointed, that I didn’t take a picture. The fact that the idea did not occur to me shows how the moon was saturating my soul with its bright reality, leaving no entrance for something as intangible as the future with its theoretical possibilities.

A night or two previous, I had caught a brief glimpse through my bedroom window of the moon waxing gibbous. But it was 4:30 a.m., and my eyes soon closed again in sleep. Last night before climbing in to bed, I saw on the Moon Phases app on my phone that the moon was full! Might I see it again, I wondered? Would I wake at the right time, or would clouds hide it from me? Several times I did wake, and saw only the blank, midnight blue sky.

But around six o’clock, I sat up to find the moon shining in on me, hanging bigger and brighter than a streetlight, right in the middle of my big window that faces west. So I lay on my bed to watch it, and wondered if I might stay with it until it sank below the horizon. Could I actually mark its descent? Well, yes, I could very easily do that, because the blinds over my windows were not drawn up all the way; the slats made lines across the picture, by which I could mark the steady movement of the white moon.

I thought, how sweet, how rich a gift, to be awake at just this moment, to be with the moon in its fullest display, loving it. The moon may be full every 28 days, but I certainly don’t see it every month. To not have to crane my neck, or stand in the cold, but to enjoy its presence from the comfort of my bed – well, who knows if I’ll ever have that chance again.  But this is real: I watched the moon last night until it was just one bright spot above the neighbor’s roof, and then it was gone.

This is what that window looked like at close of day when the sun had gone down:

And because it doesn’t seem right to publish this post without a single photo
of our dear moon, here it is as I once saw it in the evening:

I know some of you were also watching that moon
at some point in its course across the sky;
it is surely a wonder, a regular and familiar, beautiful thing in our world.

Glory to God!