Speak Lord: Healing Saviour

Adam Cracowa.jpg

Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned. Sin existed in the world long before the Law was given. There was no law and so no one could be accused of the sin of ‘law-breaking’, yet death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, even though their sin, unlike that of Adam, was not a matter of breaking a law.

Adam prefigured the One to come, but the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift.

Romans 5:12-15

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 12th Sunday of the Year, points to a deeper wound to human living than law-breaking, even when that law is Torah, God’s law given through Moses.

The failure of Adam is a failure to live right with God, lovingly. Love goes beyond law, because of its commitment to the person of the other. For Adam the other was God, the Creator, and he failed in his relationship through disobedience and through a self-isolating fear and shame. The result proved to be a lasting alienation.

God never gave up – even dressed Adam for the exile. Underlying the whole of the Old Testament is the tension: might this next person, this next episode be the one where we return to that relationship, even as formalised (cramped?) by the Law. But the answer is always, ‘No’, and Israel waits.

Then begins the New Testament, and Jesus, God’s sustained ‘Yes’ to us and, in his humanity, our sustained response to God.

In him we find life.
Adam. Cracow, Poland. (C) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Our safety and hope

DSC05612

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not be afraid. For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops.

‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.

‘So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.’

Matthew 10:26-33

The Gospel on Sunday, the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time – we are now beyond the sway of the liturgical seasons of Lent and Easter – calls on us ‘not to be afraid’.

Fear is corrosive of our freedom and integrity. It inhibits love and drives us towards addictions and compulsions. Jesus urges us to be free of fear, won from it by the deepest knowledge of the love and mercy of God who is our sure safety.

  • Take a deep breath and know you are loved.

Light in darkness. Quayside, L’Estaque. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: Jesus, source of life for us

Eucharistic Symbol SJW2007

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’

Then the Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’

John 6:51-58

For Christians, and perhaps for Catholics in particular, the Gospel passage heard at Mass on Sunday, the feast of Corpus Christi, speaks especially of the Eucharist. The controversy there presented – ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ – evokes other, later controversies about whether or how this flesh is given in the Eucharist. A variety of Christian attempts at answers maybe recalled – transubstantiation, transignification, a memorial, a ‘mere’ remembrance….

The debates about what/who the Eucharist is continue to be important. From the Catholic perspective the reality of real presence in the Sacraments, and the principle of sacramentality underpins so much of our understanding of God and the world, and our reading of the salvation God continues to offer to us.

However what is prior to our talking about the sacraments is the belief that in Jesus, and expressed in his humanity, the incarnate Son, God is really present. And really present, through the incarnation, God makes free gift of himself for all who would receive him and ‘eat’ of him. Through our communion with him, expressed in many ways, and including now the sacraments, we can in truth enter into life in him and for ever.

The Pelican – sign of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Detail of Eucharistic Screen, Our Lady’s church, St John’s Wood. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

Taste and See: The true Bread

IMG_3785 Lourdes 2008

The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ. The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf.

1 Corinthians 10:16-17

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday, Corpus Christi, was a very brief one. However it is a very important reading, perhaps the Church’s earliest (written) theology of the Eucharist.

Paul stresses that the Eucharist draw us into communion with Christ and into communion with each other. He has learnt this, and certainly teaches is, relying on the authentic symbol of the One Bread shared.

The point is regularly made that this teaching could not be so easily argued from our liturgical practice today. Too often we celebrate not with the one bread, still the ideal promoted in the Roman Missal. The virtue of this is so emphasised that there is insistence that should it be impractical to have one bread consecrated at least some of the faithful should receive communion from the host held/presented by the priest or bishop, and seen by the congregation during the Eucharistic Prayer. Again, sadly this requirement is often neglected. But you might like to read the Instruction – look up paras 319-321 in the Instruction linked to here. We neglect the authenticity of the Church’s liturgical symbols at our peril!

  • Why does it matter that we retain the experience of their being one bread from which we all eat?
  • Why does the Church require that the bread used at Mass should be recently made and truly have the appearance of food?

 

One of the ‘lower’ Stations of the Cross, Lourdes. (c) 2008, Allen Morris

 

Taste and see: Praise the Lord

Project_Lourdes20041208_0016a

On Corpus Christi a Sequence is set to be sung as part of the Liturgy of the Word. A setting of the Latin text can be heard here.

Sing forth, O Zion, sweetly sing
The praises of thy Shepherd-King,
In hymns and canticles divine;
Dare all thou canst, thou hast no song
Worthy his praises to prolong,
So far surpassing powers like thine.

Today no theme of common praise
Forms the sweet burden of thy lays –
The living, life-dispensing food –
That food which at the sacred board
Unto the brethren twelve our Lord
His parting legacy bestowed.

Then be the anthem clear and strong,
Thy fullest note, thy sweetest song,
The very music of the breast:
For now shines forth the day sublime
That brings remembrance of the time
When Jesus first his table blessed.

Within our new King’s banquet-hall
They meet to keep the festival
That closed the ancient paschal rite:
The old is by the new replaced;
The substance hath the shadow chased;
And rising day dispels the night.

Christ willed what he himself had done
Should be renewed while time should run,
In memory of his parting hour:
Thus, tutored in his school divine,
We consecrate the bread and wine;
And lo – a Host of saving power.

This faith to Christian men is given –
Bread is made flesh by words from heaven:
Into his blood the wine is turned:
What though it baffles nature’s powers
Of sense and sight? This faith of ours
Proves more than nature e’er discerned.

Concealed beneath the two-fold sign,
Meet symbols of the gifts divine,
There lie the mysteries adored:
The living body is our food;
Our drink the ever-precious blood;
In each, one undivided Lord.

Not he that eateth it divides
The sacred food, which whole abides
Unbroken still, nor knows decay;
Be one, or be a thousand fed,
They eat alike that living bread
Which, still received, ne’er wastes away.

The good, the guilty share therein,
With sure increase of grace or sin,
The ghostly life, or ghostly death:
Death to the guilty; to the good
Immortal life. See how one food
Man’s joy or woe accomplisheth.

We break the Sacrament, but bold
And firm thy faith shall keep its hold,
Deem not the whole doth more enfold
Than in the fractured part resides
Deem not that Christ doth broken lie,
’Tis but the sign that meets the eye,
The hidden deep reality
In all its fullness still abides.

– – – – – –

*Behold the bread of angels, sent
For pilgrims in their banishment,
The bread for God’s true children meant,
That may not unto dogs be given:
Oft in the olden types foreshowed;
In Isaac on the altar bowed,
And in the ancient paschal food,
And in the manna sent from heaven.

*Come then, good shepherd, bread divine,
Still show to us thy mercy sign;
Oh, feed us still, still keep us thine;
So may we see thy glories shine
In fields of immortality;

*O thou, the wisest, mightiest, best,
Our present food, our future rest,
Come, make us each thy chosen guest,
Co-heirs of thine, and comrades blest
With saints whose dwelling is with thee.
Amen. Alleluia.

The generous length of the song means that there is an alternative briefer form. However regularly the song seems to be omitted completely. This is perhaps understandable, but also a matter of regret.

Often there is a desire to make the Liturgy, and God, fit our needs rather than put ourselves out to rise to the challenges set before us…

Enjoy the song and give thanks to God, and if you did omit the song yesterday wonder why….

Tabernacle. Rosary Basilica, Lourdes. (c) 2004, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Bread of Life

DSC07667manna Lourdes 2016.jpg

Moses said to the people: ‘Remember how the Lord your God led you for forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, to test you and know your inmost heart – whether you would keep his commandments or not. He humbled you, he made you feel hunger, he fed you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known, to make you understand that man does not live on bread alone but that man lives on everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

‘Do not become proud of heart. Do not forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery: who guided you through this vast and dreadful wilderness, a land of fiery serpents, scorpions, thirst; who in this waterless place brought you water from the hardest rock; who in this wilderness fed you with manna that your fathers had not known.’

Deuteronomy 8:2-3,14-16

The First reading at Mass today, the feast of Corpus Christi, refers us to God’s feeding of Israel with manna, during their long journey from enslavement to the Promised Land. The food and the journey are viewed by Christians as types for, anticipations that will be fulfilled by,  the Eucharist and our salvation in Christ.

The gift we receive is greater than that offered to Israel. And yet the fruitfulness of our reception of it lies equally in doubt.

The feast of Corpus Christi provides us with further reason to pause and take stock on how carefully we receive the gifts of God and how we try to live them for our good and the good of all.

Detail from altar and sanctuary in chapel of St Bernadette, Lourdes. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

 

 

 

Speak Lord: Heal the city

IMG_3701 Jerusalem.jpg

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem! or Alleluia!

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem!
Zion, praise your God!
He has strengthened the bars of your gates
he has blessed the children within you.

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem! or Alleluia!

He established peace on your borders,
he feeds you with finest wheat.
He sends out his word to the earth
and swiftly runs his command.

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem! or Alleluia!

He makes his word known to Jacob,
to Israel his laws and decrees.
He has not dealt thus with other nations;
he has not taught them his decrees.

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem! or Alleluia!

Psalm 147:12-15,19-20

The Responsorial Psalm sung at Mass tomorrow celebrates Jerusalem and God’s care for the city and its people.

Etymologically Jerusalem means ‘city of peace’. It is a name sadly belied by its present division and the violence born of occupation and resistance,. The present situation echoes a long history of earlier wars and political settlements with their victors and victims.

And yet Jerusalem remains a place for encounter between God and the faithful (Jew, Christian, Muslim and others), and a place of hope. If in Jerusalem we see the scars of human failings, it is in the mysteries revealed in Jerusalem that we seek the ways of healing for our future here that we hope will prove stepping stones to heaven also.

God helps us to safety, but we may not leave it all to God, taking the psalm at a naively literal level. God helps us also to know that he is God not only of the ‘literal’ Jerusalem but also God of the nations, called to a new unity in Christ.

Jerusalem – Mount Moriah across site of former city of David. (c) 2013, Allen Morris