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 Light

Christ and Apostles, Charlecote

Sunday is the 5th Sunday of Easter. And the Second Reading at its Mass continues our hearing of John’s vision of the New Jerusalem related in the Book of the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation..

In the spirit, the angel took me to the top of an enormous high mountain and showed me Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God out of heaven. It had all the radiant glory of God and glittered like some precious jewel of crystal-clear diamond. The walls of it were of a great height, and had twelve gates; at each of the twelve gates there was an angel, and over the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel; on the east there were three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. The city walls stood on twelve foundation stones, each one of which bore the name of one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

I saw that there was no temple in the city since the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb were themselves the temple, and the city did not need the sun or the moon for light, since it was lit by the radiant glory of God and the Lamb was a lighted torch for it.

Apocalypse 21:10-14,22-23

At the end there is only God and us. Yet so often we live our lives distract by so many things… Their dust obscures the brightness of God and our communion with him.

  • What obscures light and love in your life?
  • What in God draws you to him?

Detail of rose window, St Leonard’s Charlecote, Warwickshire. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: hope present, present hope

Saints Chora Church, Istanbul

The second reading at Mass this coming Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter, comes again from the book of Apocalypse.

I, John, saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. One of the elders said, ‘These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and because they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb, they now stand in front of God’s throne and serve him day and night in his sanctuary; and the One who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. They will never hunger or thirst again; neither the sun nor scorching wind will ever plague them, because the Lamb who is at the throne will be their shepherd and will lead them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away all tears from their eyes.’
Apocalypse 7:9,14-17

The gathering of the faithful, faithful despite persecution and trial, embraced by care, symbolises the Church. The assurance of future bliss offers encouragement in our present trials and stresses.

  • For what do you hunger or thirst?
  • What brings tears to your eyes?
  • What present comfort or encouragement do you find in faith?

Saints of the Church, Chora Church, Istanbul. (c) 2002, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Hear our praise!

Doors at Metropolitan Cathedral

The Second reading on Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Easter, comes from the Book of Revelation, the Book of the Apocalypse. The reading recounts the court of heaven united in a chorus of praise:

In my vision, I, John, heard the sound of an immense number of angels gathered round the throne and the animals and the elders; there were ten thousand times ten thousand of them and thousands upon thousands, shouting, ‘The Lamb that was sacrificed is worthy to be given power, riches, wisdom, strength, honour, glory and blessing.’ Then I heard all the living things in creation – everything that lives in the air, and on the ground, and under the ground, and in the sea, crying, ‘To the One who is sitting on the throne and to the Lamb, be all praise, honour, glory and power, for ever and ever.’ And the four animals said, ‘Amen’; and the elders prostrated themselves to worship.

Apocalypse 5:11-14

The praise is concerted, and despite the huge numbers of diverse creatures present, the overwhelming impression given is one of unity.

It is to that unity we are joined when we gather in our far smaller numbers this Sunday, in our churches. And this unity – sustained across ages and spaces – seeks to draw us into its urgency and passion.

There is some challenge for us in this: can we rise to the occasion?

One thing that helps us to do that is ensuring that we have prepared for our worship.  One simple way is reading this Blog!

Another is considering in advance one thing we want to thank God for; one thing to say sorry for; and one thing we want to ask God for help with. This way we are provided with fresh motives, grounded in our covenantal relationship with God, for coming to prayer and praise.

West Entrance Doors, Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral showing the Four Creatures. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Lord then, now and forever.

St John, Lateran

The first reading on Sunday, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, comes from the Book of the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation.

It begins with a direct address to those who listen, immediately connecting person to person, across the denturies and cultures. It is a powerful witness to the very real unity of the Church in Christ.

My name is John, and through our union in Jesus I am your brother and share your sufferings, your kingdom, and all you endure. I was on the island of Patmos for having preached God’s word and witnessed for Jesus; it was the Lord’s day and the Spirit possessed me, and I heard a voice behind me, shouting like a trumpet, ‘Write down all that you see in a book.’ I turned round to see who had spoken to me, and when I turned I saw seven golden lamp-stands and, surrounded by them, a figure like a Son of man, dressed in a long robe tied at the waist with a golden girdle.

When I saw him, I fell in a dead faint at his feet, but he touched me with his right hand and said, ‘Do not be afraid; it is I, the First and the Last; I am the Living One, I was dead and now I am to live for ever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and of the underworld. Now write down all that you see of present happenings and things that are still to come.’

Apocalypse 1:9-13,17-19

If we read the book the first chapters also offers a real challenge to those who presume and assume unity with Christ, when their life and discipleship contradicts it.

However in the Easter season the compilers of the Lectionary offer us an easier ride.

Here, John assures us he shares our sufferings, kingdom, and all we endure.

  • What are they?
  • How do they reveal to us of our present need for the Good News of Jesus Christ?
  • How might we more faithfully respond to his Lordship?

St John, statue in St John Lateran. (c) 2016, Allen Morris