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Closed Mindedness – Biggest Obstacle :

Starting the Conversation   -  Breaking Through Closed Mindedness

 

Annunciation Icon

First: Explaining how the Annunciation Icon is appropriate for Christmas

Second: Explain the  Spiritual  Significance of the Annunciation Icon
 

Last  Supper  Icon

First:
Explaining how the Last Supper - Crucifix  Icon is appropriate for Christmas

A. The word Christmas,  

B.  Myrrh, or 

C.  Joy

1.  What is true Joy?

2.  What is the meaning of
     Christmas ? 
    Three Questions

a.      From what are we  
         being saved?

b.     For what are we being
        saved?   And

c.      How are we saved?


3.  How does this icon symbolize Joy and Love?

a.  God the Father’s love
     for mankind
b.  Jesus’ love for   
     mankind
c.  Jesus’ love for His
     Father,
     and most importantly
d.  God the Father’s love
     for God the Son.

 

Second : Choose to explain one of the several spiritual meanings of the Last Supper - Crucifixion Icon

Beauty

The Key to Healthy Relationships 

Suffering

Explaining the Mass

How much did Jesus value the Mass?

What is the biggest lie that has ever been told ? 

 

 

 

 

DEFENDING  THE  BRIDE

 

Evangelize the Easy Way -
with  Icons by Msgr. Anthony La Femina

Explaining how the Last Supper - Crucifix  Icon is appropriate for Christmas

There are three ways to explain how this icon is perfect for Christmas.  You can choose

A. The word Christmas,  

B.  Myrrh, or 

C.  Joy

 

A.  Christmas : The derivation of the word “Christmas”  is from two old English words “Christ” and “mass.”  Christmas is the day on which a special Mass is offered to commemorate the birthday of Christ.  This icon depicts Christ’s Mass.

B. Myrrh : At his birth Jesus receives the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  One of the symbolic meanings of the gift of myrrh is to honor how Christ was willing to suffer and die for our salvation.  John 19:39 tells us how Jesus’ body was anointed with myrrh for burial.

St. Thomas Aquinas offers the following commentary on the Magi's gift of myrrh:

“Reply Obj. 4: … the Magi … offer gifts in keeping with Christ’s greatness:
‘gold, as to the great King;
they offer up incense as to God, because it is used in the Divine Sacrifice; and
myrrh, which is used in embalming the bodies of the dead, is offered as to Him who is to die for the salvation of all’ (Gregory, Hom. x in Evang.). …”
[Summa Theologica, Part III,  Q. 36, Art. 8, Reply Obj. 4]

 

God is pure spirit.  A spirit is one simple indivisible part, and therefore it (or he)  is immortal.  When God the Son took on a human nature with a physical body, He took on many parts.  The disadvantage of having many parts is that your parts can become separated.  Your blood can be separated from your flesh, that is, you can die.  So, when Jesus took on our human nature, He could then conceivably die, and in fact did so.  So, the gift of myrrh is appropriate for baby Jesus (Matthew 2:11) as it honors the greatness of his virtue in his willingness to become Man and to be subject to possible death.

 

C.  Joy  -  This section has three parts:

1.  What is true Joy?
2.  What is the meaning of Christmas ?
3.  How does this icon symbolize Love the foundation for our Joy?

 

1.  What is true Joy?

Our modern culture has reduced the meaning of Christmas to a secularized and commercialized Santa Claus.  They have stolen the identity of good saint Nick so they could repackage it to fuel their greed.  Part of the Christmas story is the dedication at the temple, but that doesn't fit our modernized version.   There Simeon had prophesized how a sword would pierce Mary's heart, a prophesy that would be fulfilled at Calvary.  A modernist’s version of Christmas would never have included that part of the story.

Our worldly culture also doesn’t understand what true Joy is really about. Explaining this requires a little work, but it is sorely needed.

Our worldly culture reduces the Christian concepts of Joy or Happiness to simply an emotion or pleasure.  As Matthew Kelly points out pleasure does not last beyond the activity producing it.  He explains for example, eating produces a pleasure.  Some people will keep on eating even though they are full because they want to continue the pleasure, sometimes even to the detriment of their health. 

On the other hand, working out produces joy even though the workout can be strenuous and maybe even somewhat painful.  We have joy because we know that exercise helps us to maintain our physical health, and it thereby honors God who blessed us with our bodies.  This joy last beyond the period of exercise.

Interestingly, God has downloaded into the natural realm something that points us to a mystery in the spiritual realm.  When we exercise endorphins are released.  When we humbly grow in the spiritual realm the Holy Spirit releases powerful graces that change our lives for the better.

This Last Supper -Crucifix Icon is most useful in explaining the difference between true joy and the world’s false substitute, a passing emotion.

One of the best ways of explaining how worldly joy falls so short of Christian Joy is to contrast the worldly concept with what it is not.

1 Peter 4:13
“ … rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.”

Hebrews 12:2
“ … looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross”

The worldly view of joy and happiness tends to focus inward, and is selfish.  It is nothing more than an emotion or passing pleasure.  The Christian view of joy or happiness is focused outward and upward.  It is consistent with the virtue of love. It hopes for something that is greater or beyond itself.  It honestly acknowledges that there is such a thing as sin and our need to be saved from it.  And, Joy is a gift that God gives those who place their faith and hope in the one true savior, Jesus Christ.

One of the fruits of the Spirit is Joy

Because Jesus is always united to the Holy Spirit, He always possesses the fruit of Joy, even while on the cross.  Mary, who also had a unique relationship with the Holy Spirit, Luke 1:35, also always possessed the fruit of Joy even in this most trying of times.  At the crucifix, the prophesy at the temple in Luke 2:35 about a sword piercing her heart, was fulfilled when the Roman centurion pierced Jesus’ side with the sword, John 19:34.

Even when their emotions were crushed they still had an internal fruit of Joy, because Joy is deeper than just an emotion. It comes from a trust and confidence in God that is a product of our faith in Him. We trust in His divine providence in all things, that what He allows to happen will work to our good.  We know His goodness will prevail and we will be blessed if we follow Him.

This Joy comes from knowing that we are in a right relationship with our Father in heaven who is our Creator.  It comes from doing His will.  And it comes from knowing that we fulfilling the life of virtue to which He has called us, and knowing that we will be with Him in heaven when we die.  This Icon is most useful because it helps us show that this Joy - even in the midst of suffering - is greater than any false joy that is just a product of worldly pleasure. 

While worldly happiness is never permanent, heavenly joy is enduring and rewarding.  This Icon is useful in contrasting true Joy with the false joy that comes from sin.  Because this Icon points us to the true meaning of Joy it is most appropriate for a Christmas card. 

Romans 8:28
“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him”  RSVCE

Suffering does not preclude true happiness. It can be an occasion of God’s grace so that true happiness increases.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always,  pray constantly,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”   Also, Philippians 4:4-5

Galatians 5:22-24
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience of Job), gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”   KJV

James 5:11
“Ye have heard of the patience of Job”   KJV

James 5:10-11
“As an example of suffering and patience, brethren, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  Behold, we call those happy who were steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”   RSVCE

See, Happiness: Ancient and Modern Concepts of Happiness,
By Peter Kreeft
 

 

2.   What is the meaning of Christmas ?
      Rejoicing - A Savior has been sent to us

We cannot really appreciate the medicine or antidote unless we first recognize that there is a sickness.

True Christian Joy comes from rejoicing in the coming of our Savior.  However, we cannot fully appreciate having a Savior unless we appreciate our need to be saved.  So, to truly have Christmas Joy we need to know the answers to the following questions. 

Three Questions

  1. From what are we being saved?
  2. For what are we being saved?   And
  3. How are we saved?

However, the answers are unknown to many.  And, if a person is wrong about the answers to these questions, then isn't their celebration of the coming of the Savior atleast incomplete ?  Well, the icon points us in the right direction in how to answer these fundamentally important questions.

 

What is Christmas Joy?   Consider the song, Joy to the World, Verse 3 (optional).   It will point us in the right direction on how to answer these three fundamentally important questions.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

You cannot truly appreciate the coming of Jesus and the blessings He makes flow unless you understand what the curse is about and what He came to cure.  The Letter to the Hebrews reveals what this curse is.

Hebrews 2:14-15 
“Now since the children share in blood and flesh, he
(Jesus) likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life.”

Because of Original Sin Satan had control over us.  We were in his domain. This is why the rite of exorcism is performed over the baby before he is baptized.  Weakened by sin, separated from God and His grace, we were in sin and this caused our choices to be inclined toward selfish and sinful ways of life.  Our condition was further conflicted because we were held in bondage by a fear of death and of dying to ourselves and our sinful desires.  Because Jesus offers us the hope of being eternally happy with Him in heaven and the graces to follow Him we can choose to cooperate with His grace and to be good.  We can choose to die to our sinful ways of believing, thinking, and acting.  And so, we can embrace Jesus' holy way of Life so that we might be saved and go to heaven.  Matthew 25:31-46.  This Icon represents how we are saved from the graces that flow from the side of Christ, from whence the Church was born.  See c2 below.

The world wrongly answers these three questions above as follows:

a.  We should be saved from ALL suffering in this life.

b.  We are saved so that we can live and do whatever we want,
      (even if want we want causes others to suffer a lot.)

c.  The world encourages us to believe that we are saved by following
     whatever our own individual subjective standards happen to be. 
     (For example, by assuming that God will forgive my sins according
     to the standards or methods that seem right to me, even if I don't go to the Sacrament of Confession. 
     Or that I will be saved by rooting for the “good” people on the TV reality(?) shows, etc.)

Christianity says:

a2.  We need to be saved from sin and spiritual corruption.  And
     sometimes we will have to suffer and pick up our cross daily, Luke 9:23.

b2.  We are saved so that we might find the purpose and the dignity for
     which we are made by fulfilling our vocation from God, so that we
     might know, love, and serve Him in this life so that we might be
     eternally happy with Him in the next life.

c2.  We are saved by the graces that flow from His Body, the Church
     He built on Saint Peter, that come to us through the Sacraments, faith,
     and prayer.  The red and white rays coming from the side of Christ’s
     body represent the water and blood that poured forth.  This symbolizes
     the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist.

 

Matthew 26:26-28
“ ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’    Then he took a cup, gave thanks,  and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.’ ”   NAB

Because this Icon points us to the correct answers for these three fundamentally important questions, it is one of the best images to point us to having a Savior being born unto us, to true Christmas Joy.

 

3.  How does this icon symbolize Love, the foundation for our Joy?

See Large Icon

To understand this we need to focus on the following four spiritual messages contained in this icon.  These truths will point us to the hope we can find in believing in the promises of Jesus Christ which is the foundation of our joy. 

a.  God the Father’s love for mankind
b.  Jesus’ love for mankind
c.  Jesus’ love for His Father, and most importantly
d.  God the Father’s love for God the Son.

 

a.  The Father's love for mankind. 

John 3:16-17
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”   

Notice how the Father has his hands outstretched.  He offers to us His Son.This shows how greatly the Father loves us.  No image does a better job of depicting John 3:16 than this Icon.

 

b. Jesus’ love for mankind.

John 15:13
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” 

The crucifix is on the table of the Last Supper.  Jesus is offering his life for our sins and for our redemption as he proclaims at the Last Supper.

 

c.  Jesus’ love for His Father. 

John 14:31
“ ... I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”

Jesus loved His Father by perfectly fulfilling His Father’s will even to the cross.  Jesus redeemed us by paying our debt to the Father not just by suffering in and of itself, but by His love given to the Father, a love that was expressed so completely in the suffering of the cross.  So, when the Father looks down on the human race, He is aware of the sin, but more importantly He also sees the infinite love of His Son.  By uniting His love to the human race we are made worthy to be with the Father in heaven.

The close intimacy between the Father and Son is denoted by the name “ABBA” on the top of the Icon. It means “Daddy.”

 

d.  The Father's Love for the Son

This point is probably harder to perceive, but it is most important.  Many Christians reject the harder moral teachings that God has given to us through His Church.  The key to helping them, IMO, is to help them to understand how this Icon represents the infinite love that God the Father is expressing to His Son.  By calling His Son to Calvary the Father is calling His Son to greatness, to glory, to virtue, to a life lived to its fullest potential – one of perfect love.  See John 12 below.

First, it is important to understand that God the Father did not forsake His Son on Calvary.  God the Son was never more lovable than when He was on the cross doing the will of the Father. (Of course, I am not implying that God the Son changes in this regard. Hebrews 13:8)  

See
Was Jesus Forsaken?

Second, we need to understand what it means to be a Father.

God the Father calls His Son to a path of greatness, to a path of true glory, to a path of love. 

Verses John 7:30 and 8:20 tell us how the Pharisees wanted to arrest Jesus, but could not because His hour had not yet come.  Jesus’ hour therefore,  refers to the time when he is to be arrested, tried, and crucified on the cross. 

John 12:23-33
“And Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.   He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.   If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him.
‘Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.  Father, glorify thy name.” Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing by heard it and said that it had thundered. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’  Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.  Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out;  and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.’  He said this to show by what death he was to die.”

So, we need to ask, “How is Jesus on the cross a sign of God’s greatness?  How so for Jesus?  And, how is it a sign of the Father’s greatness that He would call Jesus to that?”

Our worldly culture says, “If you love me, you will give me whatever I want.”  However, a truly loving father does not just give whatever his son wants, e.g.  He is not going to given him all the candy he wants to eat.  A truly loving father will be more concerned with what is best for the son. 

The world tries to sell us a life of self-indulgence.  Some people want to live like that, but we are not attracted to and we do not admire or respect someone who does live that way.  God does not call us to mediocrity but to greatness.

The highest calling is to live a life of virtue and holiness.  And so, God the Father is inviting the Son to choose a life of greatest possible virtue and holiness, a life of perfect love.

Hebrews 2: 7-10
“ ... you crowned him with glory and honor, subjecting all things under his feet.  ... we do see Jesus 'crowned with glory and honor' because he suffered death ...
For it was fitting that he, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering.”

Thus, we are able to see the glory of the God the Son because of His great love for and obedience to the Father and his great love for us in laying down his life so that we could be saved.  And we are able to see the great love the Father has for the Son because He called His Son to this highest life possible, one of infinite love, which the Son has always fulfilled from all eternity, but now lived out through His human nature.

Many people view God’s moral teachings as a burden.  And, the world tempts us to sin by choosing or settling for a temporary version of false happiness or joy.  These bad choices can only lead to more suffering for both ourselves and those around us.

However, God is calling us to be real men, not wimps.  God’s moral law and its demands are truly a blessing.  He reveals them through His Church.  He gives us these moral teachings because He loves us and He knows what we need and what is truly best for us.  We should not be slow to appreciate the Father’s invitation for us to follow in the footsteps of His Son, even to our own cross.  God the Father is manifesting His glory when He invites us to share and reflect His love that is sometimes magnified and purified in suffering.

When God calls us to carry our cross we are being called to greatness.  When we hear the Church proclaim the moral teachings she has received from our Lord we should rejoice as they did in Acts 15:31.  These teachings are the path to true greatness and happiness.

See Happiness – A Health Self Esteem

 

 

Any dead fish can float downstream, but when faced with adversity it takes a real man, or a real woman, to rise up and to choose a virtuous life and to avoid sin.  This knowledge will not eliminate suffering in our lives, but it will help equip us with the right attitude so that we can persevere to the end.  Matthew 24:13

We are called to persevere with an attitude similar to Jesus and to Mary at Calvary, one that trusts and hopes in God’s divine will.  This hope is the source of our Joy.

Romans 5:2-3
“Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance …”

Philippians 4:4
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Luke 6:22-23
“Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man!  Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven …”

Therefore, this Icon is the perfect image to help explain God the Father's infinite love for God the Son.  It helps to show that He doesn't always take the suffering out of our lives.  Sometimes we need the grace that come from suffering.  Sometimes it helps us to grow in our faith and in our love so that we might attain heaven and, or the ability to help others.  And sometimes, we just don't know why, but we are called grow in our trust in His Divine Providence.  But we do know, that whatever suffering we are asked to bear, that if we are faithful to God and accept it, in heaven He will bless us with a Happiness and Joy that will make the suffering worth enduring.  With this attitude that the Icon helps to convey we recognize the Moral Law as being for our own good.

Romans 8:28
“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”

 

 

In Summary,

This Icon is in stark contrast with the false worldly view of joy, and so it points us to true joy.  It also points us to the true meaning of Christmas – that a Savior has been sent unto us.  And because this Icon also so perfectly represents the love of God it shows that our hope in Him is well placed.  This hope is the source of our joy.  And so, it fits perfectly on a Christmas card.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, when I am confronted with suffering, especially when it is a result of following your teachings, please help me to have grateful heart for the opportunity to grow in greatness – a greatness the world does not and cannot see.

 

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What is joy ?

 

Father Robert Barron explains how according to Thomas Aquinas the crucified Christ points us to true Joy

"Law is not the enemy of freedom but precisely the condition for its possibility.
What is joy but the experience of having attained the true good? Therefore in this more biblical way of looking at things joy (beatitude) is the consequence and not the enemy of law. What Jesus gives us in the Sermon on the Mount, therefore, is that new law that would discipline our desires, our minds, and our bodies so as to make real happiness possible. …

"Thomas Aquinas said that if you want to see the perfect exemplification of the beatitudes, you should look to Christ crucified. The saint specified this observation as follows: if you want beatitude (happiness) despise what Jesus despised on the cross and love what he loved on the cross. What did he despise on the cross but the four classical addictions?

The four worldly addictions of wealth, pleasure, power and honor

"The crucified Jesus was utterly detached from wealth and worldly goods. He was stripped naked, and his hands, fixed to the wood of the cross could grasp at nothing. More to it, he was detached from pleasure. …

"In the most dramatic way possible, therefore, the crucified Jesus demonstrates a liberation from the four principal temptations that lead us away from God. …

"But what did Jesus love on the cross? He loved the will of his Father. His Father had sent him, as we saw, into the farthest reaches of godforsakenness in order to bring the divine love even to that darkest place, and Jesus loved that mission to the very end. And it was precisely his detachment from the four great temptations that enabled him to walk that walk. What he loved and what he despised were in a strange balance on the cross. Poor in spirit, meek, mourning, and persecuted, he was able to be pure of heart, to seek righteousness utterly, to become the ultimate peacemaker, and to be the perfect conduit of the divine mercy to the world.

"Though it is supremely paradoxical to say so, the crucified Jesus is the man of beatitude, a truly happy man. And if we recall our discussion of freedom, we can say that Jesus nailed to the cross is the very icon of liberty, for he is free from those attachments that would prevent him from attaining the true good, which is doing the will of his Father."
 Read more from  Fr. Robert Barron

 

 

 

Agape Bible Study
The writer of the Book of Hebrews records that Jesus "endured the cross", not because He was forced to do so but rather for the joy that was set before Him in winning the victory over sins and death that He had come to achieve  [Hebrews 12:2].   Bible Study

 

More on the Cross