Taste and See: Newness for real

Chora Harrowing

On Sunday, the 2nd Sunday of Advent the Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer was the first Preface of Advent. The Preface is used daily in the first part of Advent, up to the 16th of December. From the 17th another Preface is provided, for the last days of Advent when our attention shifts from the anticipation of the Second Coming to the celebration of the First, in the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

The day of this post is the first of the Year of Mercy, and is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

The Preface of Sunday gathers something of all these things in its thanksgiving for God’s goodness, and subsumes them under the great plan of God to restore us to the intimacy with Him which Adam and Eve squandered, for which Israel longed but fell short.

 

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God,
through Christ our Lord.

For he assumed at his first coming
the lowliness of human flesh,
and so fulfilled the design you formed long ago,
and opened for us the way to eternal salvation,
that, when he comes again in glory and majesty
and all is at last made manifest,
we who watch for that day
may inherit the great promise
in which now we dare to hope.

And so, with Angels and Archangels,
with Thrones and Dominions,
and with all the hosts and Powers of heaven,
we sing the hymn of your glory,
as without end we acclaim: Holy…

Adam and Eve squandered God’s gift and Israel fell short… And we, reborn in Christ though we are, are still waiting, sometimes striving to be worthy, ready, for the fulfilment of God’s promises.

How often we misjudge, fall, fail, lose interest, lose focus. But we are guarded, guided, shepherded by the love of God. Mercy surrounds and sustains us, that we might live by the gift of love.

  • On this day we celebrate Mary’s faithfulness from Conception to Assumption (and beyond!), and as we embark on a journey to better know God’s mercy let us again give thanks for the opportunity, and bring to God in prayer those probably ingrained challenges to faithfulness particular to us, asking for help.

Image of the liberation of Adam and Even through the Resurrection of Christ. Chora church, Istanbul. (c) 2002, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Even today, speak of the glory of the Resurrection.

Harrowing of Hell

It may feel strange to read a blog on this day of all days that is not dwelling on the mystery of Good Friday, and is have us look forward to Easter Sunday already.

Yet, our every day is the day the Lord has made, and a day for us to meet and better know the risen Lord, even the day kept specifically in memory of the Lord’s Passion and Death.

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
or Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,
for his love has no end.
Let the sons of Israel say:
‘His love has no end.’

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
or Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The Lord’s right hand has triumphed;
his right hand raised me up.
I shall not die, I shall live
and recount his deeds.

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
or Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the corner stone.
This is the work of the Lord,
a marvel in our eyes.

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
or Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Psalm 117:1-2,16-17,22-23

Again to Western Christians the appearance of the ‘A’ word at this time of year, and especially on Good Friday might jar. But the Orthodox do not fast from the word or the joy that it evokes (though there is an appropriate sobriety to even Orthodox joy during Lent!)

As we keep Good Friday the Easter psalm takes on a particular poignancy. The Lord will die, in his humanity, but will be raised and live: the testimony of Jesus to the goodness of the Father may seem to pause for until the third day but silently, hidden from us, in Hell, Jesus continues the liberation of humankind that is the Father’s eternal will.

  • From what ‘death’ do you long for the Lord to set you free?

Image of the harrowing of hell from the Kariye Museum (The Chora Church), Istanbul. (c) 2002, Allen Morris.