Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Blessings! New Year's Graces!

The Confraternity of Penitents wishes all a Blessed Christmas and a New Year of grace. We would like to share the following reflection on the shepherds, written by St. Anthony of Padua. May it bless you as it has blessed us!

And there were in the same country shepherds watching and keeping the night watches over their flock. [Lk 2.8] Keeping watch may be a matter of sitting up at night, or standing guard by day; that is why the ancient Romans used to divide the night between four 'watches,' who took it in turns to guard the City. The night stands for our present life, and which we walked about as in the deceiving night. We do not see ourselves (our consciences) as one to another. Our feet (our minds' affections) often stumble. The man who wants to keep watch over his city must be on the alert throughout the four watches of the night.

The first watches the uncleanness in which we were born.
The second is the malice of our deliberate wrongdoing.
The third is the misery of our earthly pilgrimage.
The fourth is the remembrance of death.

In the first watch a man must stay alert, so as to have a low opinion of himself; and the second, so as to afflict himself; and the third, so as to weep; in the fourth, so as to fear. Happy those shepherds who keep the night-watches in this way, for they are providing their flock with an excellent defense! Note that the shepherd keeps watch for two reasons: so that the thief may not steal, and so that the wolf may not devour. We are all shepherds, and our flock is the multitude of our good and simple thoughts and desires. We must keep careful watch over this flock, in the way mentioned, so that the thief (the devil)  may not steal by suggesting sin; and the wolf (carnal appetite) may not devour by consent to sin. To all those keeping watch like this, the joy of the Nativity is announced today.

-- St. Anthony of Padua, "The Nativity of the Lord." Sermons for Sundays and Festivals, translated by Paul Spiilsbury. Padova, Italia: Edizoni Messaggero Padova, 2010. vol iv, pp 7-8.

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