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Swear to God: The Promise and Power of the Sacraments (A Review)

Scott Hahn is a theological powerhouse. My first experience with his writing came with his book Swear to God. In this book, Hahn discusses the significance of the sacraments in relation to our everyday lives and our eternal lives.

I am sure there are many books out there discussing the significance of matrimony, the eucharist, God's covenants with man over time, and their significance. However, I do not think that every book out there is written for the average layman or woman who hasn't had extensive theology backgrounds. The simplicity in which Hahn explores the significance and relevance of the sacraments makes this book an easy read even as you find yourself learning more than you expected about ancient Hebrew, traditions, the history of Christianity (and Judaism), the Old Testament, and quite a few big figures in the Bible. As I was reading this book, I found myself making many connections between the sacraments I have celebrated (baptism, Eucharist, confession, matrimony, and confirmation), the life I have lived, and the life I want to live. Upon reading this book, I have come to look upon the sacraments a bit differently and, as a result, have come to live a richer and more faithful life.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has felt their spiritual life growing a bit dry and find themselves wishing for a richer and fuller encounter with God through the sacraments He has given us. I would also recommend this book to anyone who wishes to explore their faith a bit more deeply. You will not be disappointed by the treasures you will find in this book.

Pax Vobiscum

Disclaimer: I was offered a free copy of this book for review by Blogging for Books. All words and views expressed in this review are entirely my own.

My Nativity Scene

I found this nativity set at a cute mom and pop store last year. I fell in love with it and HAD to have it. I love the hues, the shapes of these statues, and especially how they designed Mary. The baby Jesus is attached to the manger, so I don't have the manger up. I'll put that up once Christmas comes around...after all, it is still advent. We still wait. Still, today is special in the sense that it commemorates the beginning of the end of our wait. The conception of the immaculate mother who will one day give birth to the savior of the world. A very joyous feast of the Immaculate Conception to you all! 

Pax Vobiscum

Waiting Through Advent

Psalm 130*

From the depths, I have cried out to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplication.
If you, Lord, were to mark iniquities, who, O Lord, shall stand?
For with you is forgiveness; and because of your law, I stood by you, Lord.
My soul has stood by his word.
My soul has hoped in the Lord.
From the morning watch, even until night, let Israel hope in the Lord.
For with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.
And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

I am doing a very poor job of keeping with the spirit of advent. I know we are still waiting for Christ and should not be really celebrating Christmas until we've truly learned to appreciate the longing that is associated with Advent...but I've already shopped for Christmas presents. I've got a tree set up. I attended a holiday party today at school, sang an impromptu version "12 Days of Christmas" to my school's dean...while holding a tankard of cider. My lab and I already dressed as the 12 days of Christmas and I somehow was able to turn my "4 calling birds" costume into a Tolkienish getup.

Last night's advent fail began innocently enough. A month or so ago, a kneejerk response to a concert announcement resulted in a ticket to what turned out to be a Christmas-themed show.  On one hand, I definitely failed in accepting a big Advent lesson in anticipation and patience. On the other hand, I crossed something huge off my bucket list last night. 

The bucket list item was seeing Loreena McKennitt** live. 

Don't get me wrong, the fact that the concert was at Carnegie Hall and the fact that the show benefitted the Golden Hat Foundation were big pluses...but the only reason I went out of my way to go to this thing was that this artist very seldom tours in the US....and I am too broke to go to Canada or Europe for one of her shows (were that I could!). Though she sang 4 songs overall, the show was remarkable. It was fantastic not only because I got to see my favorite Canadian songstress, but because there was so much talent on display. The best thing of the entire show was the rendition of Ave Maria by a young girl who was still in 7th grade. It was absolutely beautiful. Perfection, even. And even though I cheated on the spirit of advent by attending a Christmas moved me. 

Have you ever gotten chills hearing music? Have you ever heard something that moved you to tears for an inexplicable reason? Have you ever found yourself marveling a the transcendent nature of a full orchestra or choir ensemble? My goodness, when I hear so many people making music with instruments and/or voices in a synchronized manner...all I can think about is choirs of angels glorifying God through song. Orchestras and choirs are truly amazing reminders of the beauty that can be achieved when people work together toward a common goal.

These past weeks, we have been given hope for the reunification of the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. Pope Francis and the Patriarch Bartholomew are setting in motion something that is certainly bound to bring more glory to God. Reunification. Now that is something I would love to live to see. Like the prophet Simeon, we have been given the gift of a glimpse of the things to come in the future. I am thankful for this small crack of hope that's starting to break away at the walls separating us from our Eastern brothers and sisters. Still, I cannot help but feel a yearning for peace, a yearning for that member of the family to return. 
Papst Franziskus in Istanbul 30.11.2014
Image Credit
All things, I know, are done in God's time. I am working on simply trusting God for things that take longer for completion. Patience is a lesson that I am still learning and I have some way to go before I truly accept it in a way that will allow me to simply be still and know that God will take care of it all in His own time. I may live to see the reunification, but it is also more than possible that it will not occur in my lifetime. I simply have to wait an have faith. I suppose we have to come full circle now in the spirit of Advent...because it is all about waiting, knowing that something great is going to happen a few weeks from now. We aren't supposed to cheat on this wait with holiday parties, etc...but we also should not spend all of Advent simply waiting. We are not a waiting people. We are a people that prepares as we wait. Advent is our chance to prepare ourselves for Christ's coming. We are to renew our faith, to grow in charity, and to cleanse our souls through the sacrament of reconciliation as we wait. 

Advent is a reminder to us of how long our ancestors had to wait for their savior. In some ways we lucked out having been born this age as opposed to several thousand years before the birth of Christ. There's a lesson in the words of longing you come across in the Old Testament, the words of the prophets that were told about a redeemer they would never see during their time on earth. Hopefully one advent I will get it right and simply wait without spoiling myself with pre-Christmas celebrations. This is tough but more than possible.

I just have to try harder. 

Pax Vobiscum


*For the lovers of  Latin, I give you Psalmum 130:

De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine;
Domine, exaudi vocem meam. Fiant aures tuæ intendentes
in vocem deprecationis meæ.
Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine, Domine, quis sustinebit?
Quia apud te propitiatio est; et propter legem tuam sustinui te, Domine.
Sustinuit anima mea in verbo ejus:
Speravit anima mea in Domino.
A custodia matutina usque ad noctem, speret Israël in Domino.
Quia apud Dominum misericordia, et copiosa apud eum redemptio.
Et ipse redimet Israël ex omnibus iniquitatibus ejus.

**Not everyone out there has heard of Loreena McKennitt, but I LOVE her music. I've loved it ever since 1998, when Ever After came out and one of the trailers sampled McKennitt's The Mummer's Dance (see video). I was hooked. I was 13 and these were the days before the internet, but given my ability to remember music I fall in love with, the bit that was sampled in the commercials played in my head off and on over the years until the advent of internet music and Pandora. Pandora allowed me to finally put a name to the song I had heard so many years ago and I have purchased every album since (on sale, of course).