Monday, January 02, 2006

Beginning and ending with God

An old Christian proverb says, beautifully and truthfully, "Begin with God and end with God, and yours will be the happiest life."

St. John Vianney used this passage in a New Year's Eve sermon in 1899 and was talking in the context of how one spends each day: in communion with God. But when I read it recently I immediately thought of a tradition that we have with several friends of ours for New Year's Eve: our progressive dinner.

We began this year with appetizers and drinks at J & E's and were able to take in the newly remodelled kitchen after two plus months of construction. The men retired downstairs to shoot pool for a bit and to polish off a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream before we all headed to L & S's for the soup/salad portion of the evening at 9pm. And finally around 10:30ish or so the crew of six couples journeyed to our home for desserts, coffee, and a new bottle of cognac that I purchased just for the occassion.

How does this tie back to St. Vianney's quote above? Simply this: at ten minutes to midnight each year we do the most solemn and important reason for our gathering each year. At 11:50pm we begin our rosary that will last until approximately ten minutes past the midnight hour. In this manner we "begin with God and end with God" by reciting one of the most beautiful and sacred prayers of the Church. It has always touched me to do this, considering that New Year's Day is also the Solemnity of Mary and one of the most sacred feast days of the year. But also because each year several of our friend's children will join us in this prayer. This year we were joined by three high school boys, two of whom had their teen girlfriends with them. They look like your typical teenager...long hair, baggy clothes, or low-riding jeans. But they also show up on New Year's Eve, rosary in hand, in order to join with their parents (think about that for a minute!) as well as other adults in order to pray in the new year. I love it.

Before we began the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary this year I led the intercessions and responses that were found in the Divine Office's Evening Prayers of December 31. I'll end this post by sharing them below.
In his great love for us, God sent his Son in the likeness of our sinful nature, born of a woman and subject to the law, alleluia.

Blessed by the Lord Jesus, our Peace, who came to unite man with God. Let us pray to him in humility:
Lord, grant your peace to all.

When you were born you showed your kindness and gentleness,
--help us always to be grateful for all your blessings.

You made Mary, your Mother, full of grace,
--give all people the fullness of grace.

You came to announce God's good news to the world,
--increase the number of preachers and hearers of your word.

You desired to become our brother by being born of the Virgin Mary,
--teach men and women to love each other in mutual brotherhood.

You came as the Sun rising over the earth,
--show the light of your countenance to those who have died.

Our Father...

source of light in every age,
the virgin conceived and bore your Son
who is called Wonderful God, Prince of Peace.
May her prayer, the gift of a mother's love,
be your people's joy through all ages.
May her response, born of a humble heart,
draw your Spirit to rest on your people.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.


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