Speak Lord: Draw us to praise…

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O God, be gracious and bless us.

O God, be gracious and bless us
and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth
and all nations learn your saving help.

Let the nations be glad and exult
for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples,
you guide the nations on earth.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
May God still give us his blessing
till the ends of the earth revere him.

Psalm 66:2-3,5,6,8

Sunday, tomorrow, is the feast of Mary, Mother of God, and the Octave Day of Christmas.

The Psalm we sing at Mass has us ask God’s blessing for us and for all. And the sign of the blessing will be rejoicing.

There will for sure be rejoicing and partying tonight as we pass from 2016  to 2017. But for what will we rejoice? And what will be the inspiration that dfraws us forward into the New Year?

Graphic (c) 2016, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: Born of God, born of a woman

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When the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law and to enable us to be adopted as sons. The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’, and it is this that makes you a son, you are not a slave any more; and if God has made you son, then he has made you heir.

Galatians 4:4-7

Sunday is the feast of Mary, Mother of God and the Octave Day of Christmas.

Paul speaks of Jesus as Son of God, a familiar concept to the Jews, for all God’s faithful (who are men) are seen as Sons of God.

And Paul expands the concept for there is a sense in which no man is fully faithful except Jesus, who is God’s Son in a unique way, Begotten not made, Son from before time not by action in time. He is born of a woman, but not of a man.

If we are to be truly sons of God it can only be through Jesus.

And we who are born of human stock are to be united with him not by law or family bonds, or by race or by religious rite,  but by the Spirit, his Spirit, sent to inspire us, to enable us, to call on God as Father. This work of the Spirit overcomes all distinction: for example, Greek and Jew, Slave and Free, Male and Female.

 

Paul speak of something radically new, that we all are, in all our diversity – male, female, slave, free, Greek, Jew. This we are: and this we are to become in Christ.

Notre Dame de Vacluse, Grasse. (c) 2007, Allen Morris 

Speak Lord: As we praise you

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The shepherds hurried away to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told.

When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception.

Luke 2:16-21

Sunday is the Octave Day of Christmas, and the feast of Mary, Mother of God.

The Gospel on Sunday gives the first account of a sharing of the Gospel, witnessing to the Good News. And the work is done by the shepherds, rejoicing because of what they have seen and heard.

  • When we return to our ordinary lives after the feasts and holiday of Christmas, how will we appear, of what will we speak?

The return of the shepherds. (Mural at Beth Sahour, Shepherd’s Fields, Bethlehem). (c) 2007, Allen Morris. 

Taste and See: a shepherd shepherding

 

dsc00122-nicolas-kings-lynnCaesar Augustus issued a decree for a census of the whole world to be taken. This census – the first – took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to his own town to be registered. So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee and travelled up to Judaea, to the town of David called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s House and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn.

In the countryside close by there were shepherds who lived in the fields and took it in turns to watch their flocks during the night. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly with the angel there was a great throng of the heavenly host, praising God and singing:

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace to men who enjoy his favour.’

Luke 2:1-14

The Gospel at Christmas Day’s Mass during the Night depicts a world being turned upside down. Human’s seek to measure and regulate the world through census and registration, but in th etopsy turvy world a child who is born dedicated to turning it all the right way up.

And the announcement of the birth is made first to shepherds of sheep. Israel’s shepherds, kings and priests have been found lacking. God himself has promised to shpeherd his people and he will.

And he begins his guidance with delicious irony by turning to real shepherds, almost the lowest of the low, so that they might be the first to hear the good news, and the first to give praise to God for it.

  • Where is Good News heard today? And by whom?
  • Who fails to hear it and why?

Annunciation to the shepherds. St Nicolas chapel, Kings Lynn. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: God in flesh

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The Word became flesh, and we have seen his glory.

Jn 1: 14

The Communion Antiphon above, from the Christmas Mass during the Night, reminds us of how in Jesus God’s glory makes itself known in ordinary.

The challenge is for us to continue to see the glory of God in ordinary, or to find ways of living the gloory of God in response ot the ordinary.

St John of the Cross puts it like this:

If
you want
the Virgin will come walking down the road
pregnant with the holy,
and say,
“I need shelter for the night, please take me inside your heart,
my time is so close.”

Then, under the roof of your soul, you will witness the sublime
intimacy, the divine, the Christ
taking birth
forever,

as she grasps your hand for help, for each of us
is the midwife of God, each of us.

Yet there, under the dome of your being does creation
come into existence eternally, through your womb, dear pilgrim—
the sacred womb in your soul,

as God grasps our arms for help; for each of us is
His beloved servant
never far.

If you want, the Virgin will come walking
down the street pregnant
with Light and sing …

  • What in the ordinariness of life reveals or is the opportunity for you to reveal the glory of God?

The Nativity. Rosary Basilica, Lourdes. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Mysteries of light

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Twelve days of Christmas are counted in the old song.

Today is one of them, but even more importantly in the Church’s mind is that today lies in the Octave of Christmas – eight days in which we remain focused on the mystery of God’s love revealed in God made flesh.*

The Collect of Christmas Night has us call on God to help us remain mindful of the Mysteries of revelation, so that we may progress to teh glory they anticipate.

O God, who have made this most sacred night
radiant with the splendour of the true light,
grant, we pray, that we, who have known the mysteries of his light on earth,
may also delight in his gladness in heaven.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

* Eight Days which themselves are part of the season of Christmas that last until the
feast of the Baptism of the Lord – this year being kept on Monday 9th January.

  • Nativity figures by Margaret Rope. Photograph (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Light in the darkness

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The people that walked in darkness
has seen a great light;
on those who live in a land of deep shadow
a light has shone.
You have made their gladness greater,
you have made their joy increase;
they rejoice in your presence
as men rejoice at harvest time,
as men are happy when they are dividing the spoils.

For the yoke that was weighing on him,
the barb across his shoulders,
the rod of his oppressor,
these you break as on the day of Midian.

For all the footgear of battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
is burnt,
and consumed by fire.

For there is a child born for us,
a son given to us
and dominion is laid on his shoulders;
and this is the name they give him:
Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God,
Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace.
Wide is his dominion
in a peace that has no end,
for the throne of David
and for his royal power,
which he establishes and makes secure
in justice and integrity.
From this time onwards and for ever,
the jealous love of the Lord of Hosts will do this.

Isaiah 9:1-7

The reading above was read at Mass last night, and may be heard again today. There are three sets of readings for Mass on Christmas Day itself (plus readings for the afternoon of Christmas Eve). The readings for the Day are allocated to Mass during the Night, Dawn and during the Day: however they can be used at any Mass on Christmas Day.

The reading above perhaps has its greatest power when we hear it during the night, as darkness is pierced by Christmas light. But of course it can also serve well as a sort of ‘morning-after’ reading as we gather during the morning light and reflect at what the Lord has accomplished.

And as we consider what more he seeks to achieve with us.

For many are those who still walk in darkness. And though the Lord comes to them with love and to give them hope, that is not enough. We are called to make up what is evidently lacking, to cooperate and serve our brothers and sisters in need.

The mercy of God now requires us to live in solidarity with others, even as the Lord humbles himself to live in solidarity with us.

Lux Mundi (Light of the World): Holy Name church, Manchester. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.