Taste and See: In the flesh

Man Lying down

The Prayer over the Offerings at Mass yesterday reminds that we are not disembodied souls gathered for worship but sensate, fleshy, emotional creatures. We are apt for sensation, for experiencing changing moods and attitudes and feelings.

Through the Passion of your Only Begotten Son, O Lord,
may our reconciliation with you be near at hand,
so that, though we do not merit it by our own deeds,
yet by this sacrifice made once for all,
we may feel already the effects of your mercy.
Through Christ our Lord.

In this Holy Week we need to be sure to take our senses with us to the Liturgy, our bodies too. We are invited to feel, experience, respond to the mysteries rehearsed and remembered in our worship…

Man lying on a wall. LSLowry. In the collection of the Lowry, Salford Quays. (c) Allen Morris. 2016.

Speak Lord: Faithful one

The Crucified, Liverpool.

The first reading at Mass today speaks to us in the context of Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week, the week that we keep marking the Passion of the Lord, and that culminates in the week’s 8th Day, Easter Day, a Day that lasts 50 days – a week of weeks, stretching to Pentecost.

The first reading today speaks of Jesus as the faithful disciple, whose faithfulness is sustained despite the worst others can do to him.

 

The Lord has given me
a disciple’s tongue.
So that I may know how to reply to the wearied
he provides me with speech.
Each morning he wakes me to hear,
to listen like a disciple.
The Lord has opened my ear.

For my part, I made no resistance,
neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me,
my cheeks to those who tore at my beard;
I did not cover my face
against insult and spittle.

The Lord comes to my help,
so that I am untouched by the insults.
So, too, I set my face like flint;
I know I shall not be shamed.

Isaiah 50:4-7

As we hear the reading express the faithfulness of Jesus, the faithful disciple, servant-King, we are invited surely to wonder how true the sentiments are about ourselves, disciples here and now, and tested in all sorts of ways.

The coming week gives us many opportunities to reflect on our relationship to Jesus and our faithfulness to our vocations and service of the world. Our fault and failines we can bring to the Lord’s cross in sorrow, our successes we can bring to him too, as trophies that he has won in his victory over sin and death, enabling us to do our best.

 

  • What joys and sorrows do you bring to this Holy Week?
  • For what will you ask the Lord? For yourself? For others?

Detail of Crucifixion in Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. Carving by Stephen Foster. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Broken with us

Santa Croce crucifix

The Psalm for Palm Sunday draws us into an articulation of the agony of Christ – a physical, emotional and psychic agony. It is also a psalm that finds its end in a confession of faith and an assurance of community and communion in God.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

All who see me deride me.
They curl their lips, they toss their heads.
‘He trusted in the Lord, let him save him;
let him release him if this is his friend.’

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Many dogs have surrounded me,
a band of the wicked beset me.
They tear holes in my hands and my feet
I can count every one of my bones.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

They divide my clothing among them.
They cast lots for my robe.
O Lord, do not leave me alone,
my strength, make haste to help me!

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

I will tell of your name to my brethren
and praise you where they are assembled.
‘You who fear the Lord give him praise;
all sons of Jacob, give him glory.
Revere him, Israel’s sons.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Psalm 21:8-9,17-20,23-24

The Lord who suffers for us, also serves us as model for dealing with our sufferings.

It is our whole self, and all our experiences, that we are invited to bring to our fellowship with him in this coming week, this Holy Week.

Crucifix based on the image in the Holy Shroud. Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Preparation aid for Catholic weddings

New Orders for the celebration of Confirmation and Matrimony have been published and their use is mandatory from Easter of this year.

Promoting sales of one’s book in Holy Week is probably not a good idea, so let me give it a mention now…

Celebrating your Marriage

I have prepared Celebrating Your Marriage in the Catholic Church (published by McCrimmons – details here) to help couples make the most of the new and richer Order of Celebrating Matrimony now available to them.

Choosing to marry is one of the most important decisions someone makes.

The Church urges careful preparation for marriage, both for married life and for the wedding service itself. In the new edition of the Catholic Order of Celebrating Matrimony, published in January and to be used from Easter 2016, it is made clear that the couple themselves should have an active part in the preparation of their wedding service, choosing for example readings, prayers and music.

Not every couple is familiar with the Church’s Liturgy and its requirements and can find themselves unequal to the task.

Celebrating Your Marriage in the Catholic Church has been prepared to assist them with that preparation. It describes the various forms of the Order of Matrimony, (within and without Mass, forms for Catholics marrying or Catholics marrying another Christian or an unbaptised person, or the convalidation of a civil marriage) and provides a sure guide to the various options which the revised Marriage Rite provides for each part of the Liturgy including all the readings and examples of bidding prayers (Universal Prayer).

  • Guidance is provided also regarding the impact of the Liturgical Year on how marriage is celebrated in the Catholic Church, and on the selection of music and song.
  • A key element of any celebration of Marriage is the Liturgy of the Word. The new edition of the Rite has a revised Lectionary, and requires that the couple choose at least one reading that speaks explicitly of marriage. These readings are clearly identified, and a way in which the couple might use the full selection of readings as a help to a spiritual preparation for their marriage service and for married life.
  • The book contains Planning Grids that the couple can use when meeting with their Priest or Deacon to firm up on the details of their wedding. At all points in the book the importance is noted that the Priest/Deacon will need to be involved in making the final decisions regarding their wedding ceremony.

Celebrating Your Marriage in the Catholic Church will help any couple prepare a celebration that will be personal and fitting for them, and in accord with the expectations of the Church.

Sales pitch over! Have a fruitful Holy Week and a joyful Easter.

Fr Allen Morris

Speak Lord: God – and for us

Station 6

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday, Palm Sunday, is an ancient hymn quoted by St Paul in the Letter to the Philippians.

His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:6-11

It is a hymn that evokes a healthy ‘fear of the Lord’,that responds with awe and wonder at God’s humility in Christ, and at the Father’s response to the faithfulness of the Son, his faithfulness unto death.

The Lord acts with power – in the Son, serving, in the Father saving the Son from death and raising him on high.

That power is for us too. If we will live right with him, and with love for neighbour, then that love will powerfully impact on our lives. It will win us for eternal life, saving us from death. It will save us from sin, and direct us to living love her.

Thanks be to God who saves us in Christ. If we would be saved.

A Station of the Cross. Lourdes. (c) 2008, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: Loving Lord

Way of the Cross. Lincoln

Sunday is Palm Sunday or, as termed in the Missal, Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.

The day marks the Resurrection – as does every Sunday – and this Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, most particularly Jesus’ joyful entry into Jerusalem which began that fateful and saving week in which our salvation was won.

In addition to the opening Gospel which reminds of the entry into Jerusalem, teh hear a longer extract from Luke’s Gospel which treats of the Passion.

There are two versions authorised for use, the shorter, which is given here, and the longer which seems to be the most commonly used.

The elders of the people and the chief priests and scribes rose, and they brought Jesus before Pilate.

They began their accusation by saying, ‘We found this man inciting our people to revolt, opposing payment of the tribute to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a king.’ Pilate put to him this question, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘It is you who say it’ he replied. Pilate then said to the chief priests and the crowd, ‘I find no case against this man.’ But they persisted, ‘He is inflaming the people with his teaching all over Judaea; it has come all the way from Galilee, where he started, down to here.’ When Pilate heard this, he asked if the man were a Galilean; and finding that he came under Herod’s jurisdiction he passed him over to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

Herod was delighted to see Jesus; he had heard about him and had been wanting for a long time to set eyes on him; moreover, he was hoping to see some miracle worked by him. So he questioned him at some length; but without getting any reply. Meanwhile the chief priests and the scribes were there, violently pressing their accusations. Then Herod, together with his guards, treated him with contempt and made fun of him; he put a rich cloak on him and sent him back to Pilate. And though Herod and Pilate had been enemies before, they were reconciled that same day.

Pilate then summoned the chief priests and the leading men and the people. ‘You brought this man before me’ he said ‘as a political agitator. Now I have gone into the matter myself in your presence and found no case against the man in respect of all the charges you bring against him. Nor has Herod either, since is he has sent him back to us. As you can see, the man has done nothing that deserves death, So I shall have him flogged and then let him go.’ But as one man they howled, ‘Away with him! Give us Barabbas!’ (This man had been thrown into prison for causing a riot in the city and for murder.)

Pilate was anxious to set Jesus free and addressed them again, but they shouted back, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ And for the third time he spoke to them, ‘Why? What harm has this man done? I have found no case against him that deserves death, so I shall have him punished and then let him go’ But they kept on shouting at the top of their voices, demanding that he should be crucified. And their shouts were growing louder.

Pilate then gave his verdict: their demand was to be granted. He released the man they asked for, who had been imprisoned for rioting and murder, and handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they pleased.

As they were leading him away they seized on a man, Simon from Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and made him shoulder the cross and carry it behind Jesus. Large numbers of people followed him, and of women too, who mourned and lamented for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep rather for yourselves and for your children. For the days will surely come when people will say, “Happy are those who are barren, the wombs that have never borne, the breasts that have never suckled!” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”; to the hills, “Cover us.” For if men use the green wood like this, what will happen when it is dry?’ Now with him they were also leading out two other criminals to be executed.
When they reached the place called The Skull, they crucified him there and the two criminals also, one on the right, the other on the left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.’ Then they cast lots to share out his clothing.
The people stayed there watching him. As for the leaders, they jeered at him. ‘He saved others,’ they said ‘let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers mocked him too, and when they approached to offer vinegar they said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’ Above him there was an inscription: ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals hanging there abused him. ‘Are you not the Christ?’ he said. ‘Save yourself and us as well.’ But the other spoke up and rebuked him. ‘Have you no fear of God at all?’ he said. ‘You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus,’ he said ‘remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ ‘Indeed, I promise you,’ he replied ‘today you will be with me in paradise.’

It was now about the sixth hour and, with the sun eclipsed, a darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. The veil of the Temple was torn right down the middle; and when Jesus had cried out in a loud voice, he said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit’ With these words he breathed his last.

When the centurion saw what had taken place, he gave praise to God and said, ‘This was a great and good man.’ And when all the people who had gathered for the spectacle saw what had happened, they went home beating their breasts.

All his friends stood at a distance; so also did the women who had accompanied him from Galilee, and they saw all this happen.

Luke 23:1-49

In the Passion Narrative there are many moments that can detain us in meditation, reflection and prayer.

The devotional tradition of the Stations of the Cross lead us in both meditation and a journey ourselves. Our sometimes shuffled, sometimes stately, procession stands in stark contrast to the experience of Jesus. Even when the Stations are expanded into a Passion Play what we do fall far, far short of the reality and its horror. Yet these echoes of what was done and which Jesus endured help us to know afresh the active love of God for us, and the pains to which he goes to win us.

  • What space will we make to keep Holy Week holy?
  • What will help us to attend the liturgies? What might keep us from them?
  • Who else might we encourage to come to the liturgies? Why?
  • What sorrows, what joys will we ourselves bring to the celebrations of suffering and mercy?

Marquetry showing Jesus carrying of the Cross from Lincoln Cathedral. (c) 2011, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: stony hearts…

Commandments, Diss

The Gospel on Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Lent, shows the tragedy of failure in faithfulness in love.

That faithlessness is instanced in the woman taken in adultery. It is instanced in the scribes and Pharisees who objectify and demean this daughter of Israel: the scribes and Pharisees, who knowing their sin slink away, from Jesus, from the Temple, from God.

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them.

The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?’ They asked him this as a test, looking for something to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their question, he looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there. He looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir’ she replied. ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and do not sin any more.’

John 8:1-11

Jesus sets the woman free. There is no condemnation, though the sin is acknowledged and surely regretted by her. Surely she now knows her sin for what it is. But her sin and misery is met by the Lord: she receives from him: there is mercy, compassion and a strong encouragement, help, to the good.

In the Book of Exodus God writes the tablets of Testimony (the ’10 Commandments’) with his finger. Israel is unfaithful and the first tablets are broken.

Here Israel is unfaithful and again neglects what God writes on the stone of the Temple floor – surely, like the 10 Commandments, words to unite us with each other and with him. ple floor.

Well, the Temple is gone. Now the Lord seeks to write his law of love in every human heart.

Will we read it there? And will we do – more generously, bravely, and faithfully – what he writes, commands, and he, himself, does/is.

Commandments Board, Parish church, Diss. (c) 2011, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: the nearness of the Lord

The shroud

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Lent, is one great assurance from Paul that his life finds its entire meaning from Christ – Christ is to be his entire future; the challenge and joy of his present, and the trajectory on which his past – what was good in it and what bad – has launched him.

I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

For him I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish if only I can have Christ and be given a place in him. I am no longer trying for perfection by my own efforts, the perfection that comes from the Law, but I want only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ, and is from God and based on faith.

All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death. That is the way I can hope to take my place in the resurrection of the dead. Not that I have become perfect yet: I have not yet won, but I am still running, trying to capture the prize for which Christ Jesus captured me. I can assure you my brothers, I am far from thinking that I have already won.

All I can say is that I forget the past and I strain ahead for what is still to come; I am racing for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us upwards to receive in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:8-14

Next week – beginning on Palm Sunday – we have the opportunity of spending quality time with the Lord.

Of course the Lord is with us always and everywhere, for nothing can separate us from him. But in the Liturgy of Holy Week we have the privilege of being drawn into extended times of contemplation and adoration of him in the peak moments of his public ministry – in the events of the Last Supper, of the Passion, of the time amongst the dead and in the glory of the Resurrection.

 

Image from the Shroud. (Taken from replica on display at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome). (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: God’s work

Santa Croce marble‘All is grace…’

The saying is familiar, and something of its’ truth finds expression in the (optional) Prayer over People prayed at Mass yesterday, the 5th Sunday of Lent.

Prayer over the People

Bless, O Lord, your people,
who long for the gift of your mercy,
and grant that what, at your prompting, they desire
they may receive by your generous gift.
Through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

We long for God’s gift: our longing is itself his gift; as is the gift. God stirs us to desire his goodness, gives it to us, and helps us to receive it.

‘All is grace…’

As we perhaps wonder at our failing to sustain the Lenten disciplines as we hoped, or at least at how challenging we find even those simple things, there is comfort in remembering that, finally, all is grace.

Marble work, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: who win our hearts…

Gorilla

The First reading at Mass today, the 5th Sunday of Lent, remembers the Lord’s power and glory, manifested in the past, but with its greatest achievement still lying ahead: the winning of a faithful people, a faithful creation even.

Thus says the Lord,
who made a way through the sea,
a path in the great waters;
who put chariots and horse in the field
and a powerful army
which lay there never to rise again,
snuffed out, put out like a wick:

No need to recall the past,
no need to think about what was done before.
See, I am doing a new deed,
even now it comes to light; can you not see it?
Yes, I am making a road in the wilderness,
paths in the wilds.

The wild beasts will honour me,
jackals and ostriches,
because I am putting water in the wilderness
(rivers in the wild)
to give my chosen people drink.
The people I have formed for myself
will sing my praises.

Isaiah 43:16-21

The prophet Isaiah looks forward to the healing of a broken world, the achievement of all that was frustrated by sin.

Wild beats – jackels and ostriches! – will respond gratefully and fully.

Will we? We still have the opportunity to frustrate God’s loving, saving will. How will we respond?

‘Jackels and ostriches? I’m grateful too’. Gorilla in London Zoo. (c) 2010, Allen Morris