Taste and See: We’re in…

p1010251-annunciationPour forth, we beseech you, O Lord,
your grace into our hearts,
that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son
was made known by the message of an Angel,
may by his Passion and Cross
be brought to the glory of his Resurrection.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Collect for 4th Sunday of Advent

The Collect at Mass yesterday is one of hte most familiar of the series of opening prayers used at Mass, because of its use also in the Rosary.

When we pray the Rosary we contemplate Mysteries of the life of Mary and Jesus. In the prayer we place ourselves alongside Mary and Jesus and the others whose history is preserved in the Gospels and in the Rosary. The Incarnation was made known not only to Mary but to us, and the Passion, Cross and Resurrection were not events in Jesus life only, but events in whcih we share and hope to share.

  • In what way(s) are you aware of receiving God’s grace in recent days?
  • For what – in the days to come – do you need God’s grace.
  • Maybe in the coming days you can share a praying of the Rosary with family or friends… perhaps focussing on the Joyful Mysteries of the Annunciation and Visitation and Nativity…

Annunciation, Rosary Way. Aylesford Priory. (c) 2012, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: welcome…

p1030832-bethelhem

Let the Lord enter! He is the king of glory.

The Lord’s is the earth and its fullness,
the world and all its peoples.
It is he who set it on the seas;
on the waters he made it firm.

Let the Lord enter! He is the king of glory.

Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?
Who shall stand in his holy place?
The man with clean hands and pure heart,
who desires not worthless things.

Let the Lord enter! He is the king of glory.

He shall receive blessings from the Lord
and reward from the God who saves him.
Such are the men who seek him,
seek the face of the God of Jacob.

Let the Lord enter! He is the king of glory.

Psalm 23:1-6

The Responsorial Psalm at Mass tomorrow, the 4th Sunday of Advent, is a psalm that was perhaps first used to remember David’s bringing the ark of the covenant into the temple; to pray God into the Temple. The song celebrates divine presence, and urges us to holiness.

Christians sing this psalm in our preparation for Christmas, for celebrating the Lord’s entry into a union with us through our human nature, in us a fallen nature, but in him with all its potential achieved. We celebrate not a Temple of stones to which people go to worship but a Temple that is community of living stones – where worship is given, above all, through our daily faithful living enfleshing the love of God for us and all.

The door to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, famously, is mostly bricked in – by tradition to stop people riding in on horseback. We now have to stoop to enter the church, where God humbled himself to enter into irrevocable union with humankind.

May we enter: for the Lord of glory welcomes us…

Entrance to Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Help your servant to listen

dsc03219-joseph

This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son
and they will call him Emmanuel,

a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.

Matthew 1:18-24

The Gospel on the last Sunday of Advent draws us into the drama surrounding the formation of the human family into which Jesus Christ is born.

It is a family beset by cofusions and doubts, by tensions around trust, love, and virtue. But it proves to be a family ready to live obedient to the word of God.

  • What doubts and uncertainties best you?
  • What does the word of God call you too?
  • How do you best assist your faithful listening and responding to God’s word?

8th C Roman mosaic of St Joseph. Pushkin Museum, Moscow. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Waiting

dsc07091-john-barber

John in his prison had heard what Christ was doing and he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?’ Jesus answered, ‘Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor; and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.’

As the messengers were leaving, Jesus began to talk to the people about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the breeze? No? Then what did you go out to see? A man wearing fine clothes? Oh no, those who wear fine clothes are to be found in palaces. Then what did you go out for? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet: he is the one of whom scripture says:

‘Look, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare your way before you.

‘I tell you solemnly, of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.’

Matthew 11:2-11

We heard that Gospel passage of Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, the Sunday of Joy.

And clearly the Gospel helps us to identify reason for joy. But the joy is not unalloyed. John is in prison, conerned, and doubtful. His doubts dispelled he still faces his martyrdom. That death is to his glory, but , still, it is a cruel death and one visitied upon him as a result of scheming and of brutal dictatorship.

We have no one more that we are to wait for, the kingdom is at hand, but sometimes it appears, also, very far off.

  • For what needs  – of yourself and others – do you pray today?

Beheading of John the Baptist. Pierre Puvis De Chavannes. Barber Institute. Photo © 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Wait(ing) for the Lord

dsc09797harvest-tewkesbury

Be patient, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. Think of a farmer: how patiently he waits for the precious fruit of the ground until it has had the autumn rains and the spring rains! You too have to be patient; do not lose heart, because the Lord’s coming will be soon. Do not make complaints against one another, brothers, so as not to be brought to judgement yourselves; the Judge is already to be seen waiting at the gates. For your example, brothers, in submitting with patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

James 5:7-10

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, urges us to patient waiting.

But not to passive waiting. For sure we know that the harvest is the Lord’s harvest, it is he who produces its fruit, and often we not know how.

Yet we are to prepare ourselves, through the discipline of waiting (not anticipating Christmas!), through the discipline of living lovingly ourselves, as far as we can manage it.

Advent is a time of purification and renewal, reading us for the still greater that can only come from God.

  • How do you wait?
  • For what do you long?

Font and Harvest. Tewkesbury Abbey. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: ever present, still longed for

st-james

Be patient, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. Think of a farmer: how patiently he waits for the precious fruit of the ground until it has had the autumn rains and the spring rains! You too have to be patient; do not lose heart, because the Lord’s coming will be soon. Do not make complaints against one another, brothers, so as not to be brought to judgement yourselves; the Judge is already to be seen waiting at the gates. For your example, brothers, in submitting with patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

James 5:7-10

The Second reading on Sunday next, the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, reminds us that we wait still for the Lord’s Second Coming.

We live with hope because of his first coming, but his second coming is still ahead of us.

In this meantime we anticipate that second coming again and again in our sacramental encounters with the Lord in word and in Sacrament.

Already, here and now, we meet with him and experience his saving love. These tokens of what is still come sustain and encourage us.

St James. St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Our Freedom

prison

John in his prison had heard what Christ was doing and he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?’ Jesus answered, ‘Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor; and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.’

As the messengers were leaving, Jesus began to talk to the people about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the breeze? No? Then what did you go out to see? A man wearing fine clothes? Oh no, those who wear fine clothes are to be found in palaces. Then what did you go out for? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet: he is the one of whom scripture says:

‘Look, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare your way before you.

‘I tell you solemnly, of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.’

Matthew 11:2-11

This coming Sunday is the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, a day of joy in the love and workings of God.

The gospel of the day reveals to us something of the doubt and fear that John endures in his imprisonment.

Doubt and fear linger around us too, even on a day of joy.

Remembering and being renewed by the workings of God is our way to freedom – his gift and our response.

Carving. Grasse, France. 2007

Speak Lord: Healing Lord

dsc06581-healing

Let the wilderness and the dry-lands exult,
let the wasteland rejoice and bloom,
let it bring forth flowers like the jonquil,
let it rejoice and sing for joy.

The glory of Lebanon is bestowed on it,
the splendour of Carmel and Sharon;
they shall see the glory of the Lord,
the splendour of our God.

Strengthen all weary hands,
steady all trembling knees
and say to all faint hearts,
‘Courage! Do not be afraid.

‘Look, your God is coming,
vengeance is coming,
the retribution of God;
he is coming to save you.’

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
the ears of the deaf unsealed,
then the lame shall leap like a deer
and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy
for those the Lord has ransomed shall return.

They will come to Zion shouting for joy,
everlasting joy on their faces;
joy and gladness will go with them
and sorrow and lament be ended.

Isaiah 35:1-6,10

Approaching Christmas we may think we know exactly what we are preparing to celebrate. And the horizon of faith may be limited only to the celebration of the Incarnation and the birth of Jesus. (Only?!)

Advent – especially through its readings, reminds us of the newness that is still to come that we are not yet aware of, and that we learn afresh to long for as we listen to the readings.

Today, the 2nd Sunday of Advent the prophet Isaiah speaks of the most wondrous changes, reversals, healings and fulfilments. These are for us, and by God’s grace are to come about even by our cooperation with his grace.

  • Which image grabs you?
  • Which change do you most long for?
  • How will you pray or work for it in the coming hours and days?

Healing. Vatican Museum. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Living Word

the-word-and-the-words

Everything that was written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope from the examples scripture gives of how people who did not give up were helped by God. And may he who helps us when we refuse to give up, help you all to be tolerant with each other, following the example of Christ Jesus, so that united in mind and voice you may give glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It can only be to God’s glory, then, for you to treat each other in the same friendly way as Christ treated you. The reason Christ became the servant of circumcised Jews was not only so that God could faithfully carry out the promises made to the patriarchs, it was also to get the pagans to give glory to God for his mercy, as scripture says in one place: For this I shall praise you among the pagans and sing to your name.

Romans 15:4-9

The reading from Romans that we will hear on Sunday, the 2nd Sunday of Advent, reminds us that the Scriptures were written and are still proclaimed to teach us something!. We need the word of God to help us respond more and more fully to the invitation of God to grow, to the teaching and example and very person of Jesus, the Word made flesh.

We need instruction, and God ensures we have it, through the inspiration of the authors of Scripture; through the discernment of the Church in recognising certain works as indeed inspired; and through God’s continued indwelling in the word so that when we hear these words proclaimed it is Christ himself who speaks to us.

In this season of Advent it is good to examine of our lives for signs of our having heard the word and our having begun to put it into practice. And if we see there is an absence of practice, then it can be helpful to bring that awareness, and that lack, to God in prayer, acknowledging our continued need for the living Word, for mercy, and for encouragement.

‘The Word and the words’. Signage. La Chiesa di S. Maria in Portico in Campitelli, Rome. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Help us to be renewed

john-the-baptist-gavarnieIn due course John the Baptist appeared; he preached in the wilderness of Judaea and this was his message: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’ This was the man the prophet Isaiah spoke of when he said: A voice cries in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.

This man John wore a garment made of camel-hair with a leather belt round his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.

Then Jerusalem and all Judaea and the whole Jordan district made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. But when he saw a number of Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers, who warned you to fly from the retribution that is coming? But if you are repentant, produce the appropriate fruit, and do not presume to tell yourselves, “We have Abraham for our father,” because, I tell you, God can raise children for Abraham from these stones. Even now the axe is laid to the roots of the trees, so that any tree which fails to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire. I baptise you in water for repentance, but the one who follows me is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to carry his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand; he will clear his threshing-floor and gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’

Matthew 3:1-12

The Gospel on the 2nd Sunday of Advent tells of the ministry of John the Baptist.

John assists those who come to him, to penitence and conversion, turning again to what is proper to them as members of the chosen People. assisting people to acknowledge their contrition for sin, baptising them, and helping them to embrace the good.

And he points beyond himself to the Christ, the one who is following him.

Our own use of Advent can make use of those same steps. We look to our own lives seeking to turn from any disorder or corruption. And we turn to Christ to learn the more that we are capable of.

John the Baptist. Gavarnie, France. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.