Speak Lord: Make us one

Nativity, LiverpoolThe first reading at Mass today offers an inclusive vision of God;’s blessing of Israel – this is a blessing to share with the whole world. Jerusalem may have been asked by its conquerors and its people dispersed. But there will be not restitution but restoration; and the blessing of one people will prove to be blessing for the whole world.

The prophesy made through Isaiah is understood in the Christian tradition as a foretelling of the gift of Christ and the good news of the Kingdom.

The Lord says this: I am coming to gather the nations of every language. They shall come to witness my glory. I will give them a sign and send some of their survivors to the nations: to Tarshish, Put, Lud, Moshech, Rosh, Tubal, and Javan, to the distant islands that have never heard of me or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory to the nations. As an offering to the Lord they will bring all your brothers, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules, on dromedaries, from all the nations to my holy mountain in Jerusalem, says the Lord, like Israelites bringing oblations in clean vessels to the Temple of the Lord. And of some of them I will make priests and Levites, says the Lord.

Isaiah 66:18-21

In part the prophesy is fulfilled in the coming of the Magi to Bethlehem – Jerusalem having been corrupted. In part the prophesy is still to be fulfilled by the faithful Christans and Jews – in each present day witnessing to God and his glory and so allowing them to share in the pure sacrifice of Christ, and be drawn to the heavenly Jerusalem.

Nativity, Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. (c) 2016, Allen Morris. NB Liverpool rather spoils the link by using a Bactrian camel and not a Dromedary!

Speak Lord: Our praise

Creation 6 and 7

The Psalm at Mass tomorrow, the 21st Sunday in Ordinary time, is a delightfully short psalm. It is a model of concision and assurance, both in the call it makes to the people and in its own proclamation of God’s love.

Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News.

O praise the Lord, all you nations,
acclaim him all you peoples!

Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News.

Strong is his love for us;
he is faithful for ever.

Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News.

Psalm 116:1-2

We are all too familiar with bad news and that bad news can often constrain and diminish us. It can depress us and can restrict our ability to be fully human,  respond with unconstructive anger, or to become despondent, cynical, and (seem to) fail to respond at all.

The way of Christ, though sometimes fueled by anger or shaped by sadness, is always to respond, and to respond with love. His way is to join in the work of the Father, in the work of creation and of healing.

  • What bad news do you face today?
  • In what negative and unhelpful ways are you tempted to respond to it?
  • How might you respond with love and healing?

Detail of representation of Days of Creation. Peterborough Cathedral. (c) 20 , Allen Morris

Speak Lord: gently

St Peter getting our of the boat, Peterborough CathedralThe second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, comes from the Letter to the Hebrews.

Have you forgotten that encouraging text in which you are addressed as sons? My son, when the Lord corrects you, do not treat it lightly; but do not get discouraged when he reprimands you. For the Lord trains the ones that he loves and he punishes all those that he acknowledges as his sons. Suffering is part of your training; God is treating you as his sons. Has there ever been any son whose father did not train him? Of course, any punishment is most painful at the time, and far from pleasant; but later, in those on whom it has been used, it bears fruit in peace and goodness. So hold up your limp arms and steady your trembling knees and smooth out the path you tread; then the injured limb will not be wrenched, it will grow strong again.

Hebrews 12:5-7,11-13

Discipline rarely comes easy – whether it is self-discipline, or the discipline imposed by others. We can resent it and seek to resist it in countless ways.

The discipline of God is always for our good., our lasting good. Often though our timescale is rather more short term and we can miss the point of the training the Lord provides.

Experience suggests that, on the whole, our learning to accept his discipline does not come much easier, if any easier, with age.

We are always as children before him, needing his help, often being childish in our resentment and tantrums. But when we know our weakness and repent of our failings we are ever invited to return child-like to the loving Father; to the embrace of the beloved and beloving brother, secure in the Spirit of God.

  • What invitation from the Lord do you resist?
  • What impetuosity are you tempted to?

St Peter getting our of the boat. Peterborough Cathedral. (c) 2011, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: That you might know us better

Gestapo priosoners memorial

The feast of the Assumption interrupted the regular sequence of the Sundays of Ordinary Time.

This coming Sunday is the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, and in the Gospel we enter that part of Luke’s Gospel which leads to Jerusalem and the Passion and Resurrection.

Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.

‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”

‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’

Luke 13:22-30

Jesus preaches salvation, but not ‘cheap grace’.

That phrase, ‘cheap grace’, comes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran Pastor who was executed in consequence of his active opposition to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime.

In The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer wrote:

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

  • How do you cooperate with the grace of God so freely given?
  • How might you help others to do the same?

Memorial to prisoners of the Gestapo. Cracow. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Thanksgiving

Church of Visitation, Ein KeremIn England and Wales this year, Sunday 14th August was kept as the Solemnity of the Assumption, (in other years it is kept on 15th August).

The Gospel of the Mass of the Day was the Gospel of the Visitation. We hear of the meeting between Mary and her cousin, and the thanksgiving each offer in celebration of the graciousness of God.

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’

And Mary said:
‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

Luke 1:39-56

The song is a song of joy, and Elizabeth and Mary are both fully aware of the reasons they have for joy. And they give themselves fully over to joy and thanksgiving.

  • Do you rejoice easily?
  • For what?
  • When?
  • If you do not rejoice easily, why might that be?

Bring your thoughts and feelings to God in prayer.

Church of the Visitation, Ein Kerem. (c) 2012, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: No-one is alone

 

Memorial to the Passion, Cathedral, Aix en ProvenceIn England and Wales this year, Sunday 14th August was kept as the Solemnity of the Assumption, (in other years it is kept on 15th August).

The Second reading at the Mass during the day came from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.

Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him. After that will come the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power. For he must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet.

1 Corinthians 15:20-26

The last phrase of the last sentence of the passage is an encouraging one. We may find ourselves struggling with all sorts of things that would draw us from a godly life, or seek to tempt us to sin. But all these things will end up, defeated, overcome and under his feet.

Wise counsel, generally, is for us not to seek to conquer sin and temptation alone. But to invoke to our aid the prayer and assistance of the Lord, of the angels and saints too. The Lord has won the victory,  and participates in the particular battles still to be fought. We are not alone, left o our own devices. We are cherished and assisted in a multitude of ways.

  • In prayer spend a moment, thanking God for his love and renewing your trust in him.

Shrine to the Passion, Cathedral, Aix en Provence. (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Change

Assumption, Lichfield

In England and Wales yesterday, Sunday 14th August was kept as the Solemnity of the Assumption. Elsewhere (as in England and Wales in in other years) it may be kept today, 15th August).

The Collect for the Mass had us look forward to our sharing in the glory of Mary, her being honoured by her Son, and her receiving from him the benefits of his victory over sin and death and a full share in his resurrection at the end of his life here.

 Collect

Almighty ever-living God,
who assumed the Immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of your Son,
body and soul into heavenly glory,
grant, we pray,
that, always attentive to the things that are above,
we may merit to be sharers of her glory.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Assumption, Lichfield reconstruction

In the prayer we ask that we may be attentive to the things that are above. We ask that we may be ever-mindful of them, focussed on them so that our desire for them might draw us on.

The hope is that in that movement to the things that are above we may be better able to detach from those things – here – that may in the moment be more attractive but in the long run draw us form life and to ever-lasting death.

  • What – above – do you long for?
  • Why?
  • Bring your thoughts to God in prayer.

Pre-Reformation wall painting of the Assumption (and artist’s reconstruction). Lichfield Cathedral. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Saviour.

Our Lady of G, LourdesToday In England and Wales this year, Sunday 14th August is being kept as the Solemnity of the Assumption, (in other years the Solemnity is kept on 15th August).

The first reading is the source of a typical image of Mary, Mother of God.

The imagery may well have its origins in a narrative developed by non-Jewish Christians, drawing aspects of the myth and traditional representations of the Egyptian goddess Isis. l also be lying behind the imagery

But, in this Christian narrative, the woman of Apocalypse 11 is  commonly, and understandably, understood to be a symbolic representation of Mary, Mother of God. and her Son, Jesus.  However other interpretations of the figure too are legitimate too, eg that the woman symbolises the Israel, the heavenly Jerusalem, Wisdom, or the Church. However the passage is read, it is not difficult, and surely appropriate, to relate any or all of these symbolic readings to Our Lady.

The sanctuary of God in heaven opened and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it. Then came flashes of lightning, peals of thunder and an earthquake, and violent hail.

Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown. She was pregnant, and in labour, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth. Then a second sign appeared in the sky, a huge red dragon which had seven heads and ten horns, and each of the seven heads crowned with a coronet. Its tail dragged a third of the stars from the sky and dropped them to the earth, and the dragon stopped in front of the woman as she was having the child, so that he could eat it as soon as it was born from its mother. The woman brought a male child into the world, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron sceptre, and the child was taken straight up to God and to his throne, while the woman escaped into the desert, where God had made a place of safety ready, for her to be looked after in the twelve hundred and sixty days.

Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, ‘Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that the persecutor, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down.’

Apocalypse 11:19,12:1-6,10

The passage is dramatic, and indicates in a powerful way the salvation won for us, and the real dangers from which we are saved.

  • How have you known God’s salvation?
  • What are the threats to spiritual health that you have faced/face?

Our Lady of Guadalupe. Detail of Mosaic, Lourdes. (c) 2016.
(The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe bears some of the features of the image of the Woman of Revelation.)

Speak Lord: our Bridegroom

Crowning, Assumption, Warwick St

In England and Wales this year, Sunday 14th August will be kept as the Solemnity of the Assumption, (in other years it is kept on 15th August).

The Psalm for the Feast’s Day Mass is understood by some to have been a song first used on the occasion of a royal wedding, and this section of it addressed to a queen. Others understand it as a prophetic psalm anticipating the coming of the Messiah and addressing Israel his Bride. It could, of course, be both.

Today, in our liturgy, it is surely to be understood to be addressed both to Mary, being greeted as Queen of Heaven, and to the Church called to be bride of Christ.

On your right stands the queen, in garments of gold.

The daughters of kings are among your loved ones.
On your right stands the queen in gold of Ophir.
Listen, O daughter, give ear to my words:
forget your own people and your father’s house.

On your right stands the queen, in garments of gold.

So will the king desire your beauty:
He is your lord, pay homage to him.
They are escorted amid gladness and joy;
they pass within the palace of the king.

On your right stands the queen, in garments of gold.

Psalm 44:10-12,16

  •  What in you might attract the love and care of the Royal bridegroom?
  • What in Mary would you most like to emulate?

Apse Mosaic, Church of the Assumption, Warwick St, London. (c) 2007, Allen Morris