The Hail Mary beads are very close in color to the outside packaging. They are also a soft blue, although they are separated by a small silver bead instead of a white bead. These two colors are reminiscent of a quiet walk on a winter afternoon. The sky may be a blue quite close to the blue of the beads, and the shadows under the trees and shrubs are close to this gentle silver.
Or perhaps the beads remind you more of grey skies with a gentle, fresh breeze, the kind of chilly, yet refreshing, breeze that only comes in winter.
Whatever nature is like around you though, let these beads remind you of Mary's presence. Like the soft sky or gentle breeze, she walks with each of us who call upon her. Imagine her life for a moment, as she rested in the stable, gazing upon her Son and her Lord.
The story of Mary's little family was just beginning. Their road ahead was unknown and unsure. Neither Mary nor Joseph knew what would happen next, and they were not a couple of immense means. They had to depend on God, their family and friends as well as the the little they could do with their own hands in order to survive. They would shortly have to leave even their family and friends behind and flee to Egypt to escape King Herod.
As we start a new year, it is natural to want to look ahead and wonder what the year will bring. Will we be okay? How will we find ourselves at the close of this year? This questions can cause feelings of anxiety, even fear. So, lets look at the Hail Mary beads of the Winter Symbols rosary and remind ourselves that we will not journey through this year alone. Our Mother walks with us, and she will guide, protect us and ultimately lead us to her Son.
Ponder: As we begin a new year, what thoughts do you have? Are you feeling confident or fearful? If you have a journal, write these thoughts down. Then, hold the rosary close and imagine the blue and silver beads reflect the peace and tranquility of Mary's heart. Close your eyes and imagine the peaceful scene of the stable. The Holy Family had challenges during their life, but God was with them. Have faith that God, through the intercession of Mary, will be with you and your family, too.
Recall the names of those who are precious to you, the names that you pondered before opening the box. Ask Mary to protect each of them this year. Walk together through 2021.
Although we don't tend to think about it very often, the packaging is really the very first thing we notice about everything - from a person to a present, That doesn't necessarily mean we make a negative or positive judgement, but we certainly do make an observation. Let's pause for a minute today to notice the packaging, the outward, surface exterior of the Winter Symbols rosary.
First, you can see that there are 2 colors on the box, blue and white. Since this rosary is to aid in pondering with Mary through the winter months, it makes sense that the colors reflect winter. The blue is reminiscent of those wonderful blue winter skies, when there are no clouds and the winter sun shines down and sparkles off the glistening snow.
The color white is seen in the snowflakes on the box. We know that somehow, miraculously, each snowflake is unique. How nature can accomplish this feat seems mindboggling, yet it occurs again in nature in people. We see this same ability of the unique and irreplaceable in the creation of each person. For this reason, snowflakes are often used as a symbol of individual persons. Just as no two snowflakes are identical, so also no two people are the same.
Ponder: Before taking the rosary out of the box, pause a moment and imagine one of those calm, even serene, snowy winter days with startling blue skies, and the sun reflecting off of snowy fields. Now move in closer and realize that those fields of snow are all comprised of single, unique, irreplaceable and individual snowflakes. Using the snowflakes on the box as a guide, spend a few moments noticing each individual design of the snowflakes. Which do you like the most? How do they differ? How are they the same?
Next, think of each of the precious, treasured people in your life. What makes each of them unique? What unifies them? If you journal, write down the names of these people, and perhape draw a circle or bubble around them. List all the things that you love about them. Don't forget to include yourself in this list! What do you like about yourself? What do you feel adds to your snowflake sparkle?
Now, you are ready to open the box and ponder with Mary, bringing all these people, including yourself, with all of their gifts and uniqueness, with you on your prayer journey.
The word we chose to focus on for January is "ponder." This seems so appropriate, now that the rush of the holiday season is behind us, the Christmas tree is gone and the all the wrapping paper and decorations are put away.
There is so often a feeling of let down after the holidays. It can be difficult to transition from all the hype and happiness, the bright lights and happy expectations, to the somber, cold and sobering reality of January. But if we can form the habit of pondering, then we can begin to ask ourselves The Serious Question: Did this Christmas make a difference in my life? Did the celebration of the birth of the Messiah change me in some small way? Or did I miss the Incarnation?
The good news is that we can remember the words that Scripture uses to describe Mary after she Jesus' birth. The Gospel of Luke tells us that at the time of Jesus' birth:
There were shepherds residing in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night. 9Just then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord! 12And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there appeared with the angel a great multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and
"Mary treasured up all of these things and pondered them in her heart." This simple statement means that Mary herself did not completely understand all that she was experiencing, even though she knew her son was the Son of God. The important thing to note was her reaction. She treasured these experiences. Then, she pondered them. She reflected on them. She turned the words of the shepherds and her own eperiences over in her head. She thought about how they all fit in with Scripture, which she knew very well. She did not grow impatient but gave herself time and space to sit with what she did not fully understand.
That is the invitation of January. In all the excitement and emotion of modern Christmases (even Christmas during COVID), it is easy to lose sight of the small family who started it all. Our big celebrations are appropriate, to some extent, because in truth, we are not waiting for the Messiah any longer. We know he has already been born, and that is great cause for joy and celebration. We should celebrate at Christmas.
But when we experience that feeling of melancholy in January, instead of dismissing it, we should reflect on it. Although Jesus was born in history, he has not been born in the hearts of all. Our world today is still very similar to the world into which Chrst was born, over 2,000 years ago.
One of the easiest ways to join Mary in pondering is to join with her in the rosary. In January, the Winter Symbols rosary can be especially effective in guiding our reflection. This is the special rosary we have highlighted a couple of times in Januarys past. For the next few weeks, we'll take a symbol or two from this rosary and reflect with it, We'll use it as a doorwary into that holy night so many years ago so that we, too, can "treasure and ponder" the birth of Jesus in our own lives.
It's a fitting tribute to 2020 that we only managed one blog post last year, at the very beginning before the world began to unravel.
However........(here imagine many deep breaths and peaceful thoughts) , time has not stopped, we are still here and ... here we go again - Part 2!
In reality, this is the second New Year that we celebrate, the first being back in December with the first Sunday of Advent, when the church calendar reset. Certainly, 2020 gave us reason to focus more on the liturgical calendar. It was enormously helpful to be able to "look up" or in Biblical terms "to raise our eyes towards the mountains", to remember a greater reality than the one in which we were walking for several months.
Let's hope that we are wiser and not just older in 2021. Let's hope that we take the good experiences from 2020 with us and we heal from the bad. Let's hope that the "new normal" translates into "healthy normal" and "better normal" for our families and community. Let's hope that 2021 really is a Happy New Year.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.