The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Quodlibet 36: What does the celibacy of Christ tell us about the hierarchy of Christian vocations?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012
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Institution of Readers

Friday, January 06, 2012
During the English Dominicans' provincial assembly in Oxford last month, the Provincial instituted two of the Dominican students and members of the Godzdogz team, Brothers Oliver Keenan and Matthew Jarvis, in the ministry of reader (also known as lector). Read more


Wednesday, January 04, 2012
In our last blog post on blessings, we reflected on how blessings may play a bigger role in our daily lives, and how it may strengthen our faith and change our perspective. A blessing draws God into our lives, and puts our activities in front of Him who is the giver of all gifts. As two recently ordained deacons, we wanted to achieve a deeper understanding of the celebration of blessings, and at the same time use the opportunity to bless something that is of interest to us.
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January 1st: Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God

Sunday, January 01, 2012
Readings: Numbers 6: 22-27, Psalm 67, Galatians 4: 4-7, Luke 2: 16-21
According to the Old Testament, the blessing of God leads to flourishing: it gives life. In Moses' final exhortation to the people of Israel in the book of Deuteronomy we read: 'I am offering you life or death, blessing or a curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants might live in the love of the The Lord your God, obeying his voice, holding fast to him; for in this your life consists' (Deuteronomy 30: 19-20). To choose life, then, is to live in friendship with God. To be fully alive is to live in the presence of God, hence the priestly blessing that Aaron is instructed to use in our first reading includes a prayer that God's face might shine upon his people and bring them peace (Numbers 6: 25-6).

To hide from God's face, to hide from his friendship and presence as Adam and Eve did after the fall (Genesis 3:8), is to flee from our own fulfilment. Yet as we read through the Old Testament we find that the fall of Adam is a recurring pattern. Israel's love for God cools, her fidelity to the law slackens: the consequence is disaster, death, and finally repentance and some form of restoration. In her alienation, Israel rediscovers her longing for God and so in today's psalm we cry: 'May God be gracious and bless us, and may his face shed its light upon us' (Psalm 67: 1). This is echoed by the desperate appeal of psalm 80: 'God of hosts bring us back, let your face shine on us and we shall be saved' (Psalm 80: 7).

This alienation between God and Man (though perhaps not always the sense that God is remote) is overcome at the Incarnation, which we celebrated just a few days ago at Christmas. Where at one time, as Hebrews puts it: 'God spoke to man through prophets and in varied ways, in our time, the final days, He has spoken to us in the person of His Son' (Hebrews 1: 1-2). There is a sense in our second reading from St. Paul that this coming of the Son of God 'at the fullness of time' (Galatians 4:4) is the birth, the new life, that the whole of Israel's history has been preparing for. Indeed, in Romans Paul tells us that 'the whole creation, until this time, has been groaning in labour pains' (Romans 8:22). All of history has been a kind of pregnancy, a time of development and growth until nature, human flesh, is able to receive the Word of God so that he might dwell among us (John 1:14).

This Word made flesh, Jesus, is the new life that brings life to the world. Mary was chosen to keep this Word, to bare this Word in her womb, hence she is called theotokos, God-bearer or more loosely: Mother of God. John the Baptist leapt in his Mother's womb upon hearing Mary's greeting, recognising this presence of God, prompting his mother Elizabeth to declare Mary to be 'blessed among women' (Luke 1: 42). Mary herself exclaims in her famous Magnificat that 'henceforth all ages will call me blessed' (Luke 1: 48). Mary is blessed because the fruit of her womb, Jesus, is the source of all blessing and all life.

We celebrate the feast of the Mother of God at the end of the Octave of Christmas, then, not to distract our attention from Christ and the Incarnation, but to draw out its implications for us. Mary is blessed because she has been honoured with an unprecedented intimacy with God. Yet as Paul emphasises in the second reading, this intimacy is also open to us. Because Christ became one of us, became like us, we can become like him: adopted sons and daughters of God (Galatians 4: 4). We would do well, like Mary in today's Gospel, to ponder this in our hearts (Luke 2:19). The Incarnation that we celebrated this Christmas is an awesome gift, a gift that is more precious than perhaps we realise. Read more
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