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Weekly Pastoral Reflection

Normand GouinNormand Gouin, Pastoral Minister of Liturgy and Music
December 3, 2023

Love Incarnate, Love Divine

Next weekend our Paulist Center community will come together for the much-anticipated annual Advent-Christmas Concert with two performances scheduled for Saturday, December 9 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, December 10 at 2:00 p.m.  If you haven’t already – and it’s not too late – please make sure to mark your calendar, reach out and invite family and friends, and plan to join us for this joyous and prayerful celebration of community and faith. For those who cannot be with us in person both performances will be live streamed.

This is an invitation for us to pause, to take a break from the frenetic pace of this time of year, to reconnect, to raise our hearts and voices in song, and to reflect upon the words, images, and symbols that illumine God’s limitless and unconditional love for us.

The music, readings, and reflections featured in this year’s program, Love Incarnate, Love Divine, bids us to celebrate and remember the immensity of God’s love enfleshed in the form of a human being, Jesus, the Christ, fully human and fully divine.

Divided into four parts, this year’s concert begins with songs echoing the prophetic witness of John the Baptist, the voice of one crying out in the desert, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

Hearkening back to the parable we heard several weeks ago from Matthew’s gospel, Andre Thomas’ classic setting of the spiritual “Keep Your Lamps” urges us to remain attentive and alert! This haunting freedom song is a call to renewed hope, placing all our trust in Jesus the deliverer, the Anointed One, who came “to bring good news to the afflicted, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.” (Isaiah 61:1, NAB)

Tony Alonso’s bilingual setting “Litany of Mary” opens part two of the program followed by Karen Marriolli’s arrangement “My Heart Shall Sing,” a unique combination of an old Irish Reel combined with the tune “Star of the County Down.” In this setting, based on Rory Cooney’s adaptation of the Magnificat, we acclaim Mary, whose courageous “yes” and steadfast faith reminds us that nothing is impossible for God.

­­­­In part three the ensemble will perform Michael John Trotta’s beautiful arrangement of the well-known Christine Rosetti poem, “In the Bleak Midwinter” as well as his lush and reflective work “Love’s Pure Light.” Though somewhat melancholy and in contrast to a lot of the more upbeat and hopeful carols of the season, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” as author and editor, Jim McDermott, SJ, states “…points us instead to the ordinary: a cold day, a straw bed, a mother’s kiss. It reminds us that Jesus’ story is first and foremost a human story, just like ours. And it reassures us that all we need to offer him is our open, human hearts.” (America Magazine, Arts & Culture, December 18, 2022)

Before ending with Richard Proulx’s rousing arrangement of “Joy to the World” we will sing these words from the carol by Dan Kantor that has become a staple of the Paulist Center Advent-Christmas Concert, “Night of Silence”:  “Frozen in the snow lie roses sleeping, flowers that will echo the sunrise…breathless love awaits darkened souls, soon will we know of the morning.”

During this year’s concert and throughout this season of grace, may all of us be gifted with a spirit of expectant hope and joy. With open hearts and minds, even in the midst of these often dark, uncertain, and challenging times, may we be reminded that we are God’s beloved, part of a good world, stirring with the newness of life.