Taste and See: Love revealed

Rosary Triptych, Arthur Fleischman. (c) 2011, Allen Morris

Pour 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 the 4th Sunday of Advent

Postings on this blog will recommence on Wednesday, 26th December.

A happy and holy Christmas to you and to all whom you carry in your heart.

Taste and See: Christmas

 

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After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews?’ they asked. ‘We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’ When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. ‘At Bethlehem in Judaea,’ they told him ‘for this is what the prophet wrote: And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah, for out of you will come a leader who will shepherd my people Israel.’

Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them on to Bethlehem. ‘Go and find out all about the child,’ he said ‘and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’ Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward, and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.

Matthew 2:1-12

Yesterday is the feast of the Epiphany. And today is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the last day of the Christmas Season.

Both feast have us look forward. The gifts of the wise men celebrate the divinity of Jesus and honour his mortality, and raise the question, ‘what next?’. The feast of the Baptism gives us the first glimpse of the adult Jesus ready to begin his public ministry.

And as Christmas ends weourselves move back into the more regular rhythms of life – at least until Lent begins (Ash Wednesday is 1st March this year).

  • How has Christmas touched you this year?
  • What have you learnt?
  • What will you do with that new knowledge/understanding?

Christmas Mysteries. Église Saint-Laurent, Paris. (C) 2017, 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: Mysteries of light

dsc00386-nativity-rope

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

DSC04924 light of the world.jpg
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.

Speak Lord: our delight

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Today a saviour has been born to us: he is Christ the Lord.

O sing a new song to the Lord,
sing to the Lord all the earth.
O sing to the Lord, bless his name.

Today a saviour has been born to us: he is Christ the Lord.

Proclaim his help day by day,
tell among the nations his glory
and his wonders among all the peoples.

Today a saviour has been born to us: he is Christ the Lord.

Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad,
let the sea and all within it thunder praise,
let the land and all it bears rejoice,
all the trees of the wood shout for joy
at the presence of the Lord for he comes,
he comes to rule the earth.

Today a saviour has been born to us: he is Christ the Lord.

With justice he will rule the world,
he will judge the peoples with his truth.

Today a saviour has been born to us: he is Christ the Lord.

Psalm 95:1-3,11-13

In just a few hours time, as sunsets, Christmas Day begins and the Church begins her celebrations of Christ’s birth, and at Mass tonight sings the psalm above.

The Christmas feast loom large in our lives. It bears all sorts of significances for us, carries all sorts of memories and associations.

  • For what, tonight, will you rejoice and give thanks?.
  • What will you mourn?
  • And for what will you hope and pray?

Christ child. St Catherine’s church, Bethlehem. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Saviour

cocteau-mural-french-church-leicester-square

God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self-restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world, while we are waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the Appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus. He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.

Titus 2:11-14

The Second reading at Mass during the night, tomorrow, announces salvation and calls us to live ‘saved’ lives, even as we await ‘in hope the blessing which will come with the Appearing in glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus’ – a phrase which lies behind our Communion rite’s ‘(may) we… be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.’

The work is the Lord’s, but we have ours to do, in response to his. – lest all be in vain for us.

Paul’s focus in the Letter is surely on the saving Death of Jesus. But we hear the reading in the context of the saving Birth. Both mysteries are cojoined in the work of Cocteau and Anrep in the French Church in London depicted above.

The whole work of Christ is to love and save us. Let our prayer be that in the whole of our lives we may be more closely untied with him and with each other.

Cocteau Mural of the Crucifixion. Anrep Mosaic of the Nativity. French Church, Leicester Square. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: As we re-start

St Austell font detail

Christmas is ending tonight, but the first reading at Mass today, the feast of the baptism of the Lord comes redolent with intimation of Advent!

‘Console my people, console them’
says your God.
‘Speak to the heart of Jerusalem
and call to her
that her time of service is ended,
that her sin is atoned for,
that she has received from the hand of the Lord
double punishment for all her crimes.’

A voice cries, ‘Prepare in the wilderness
a way for the Lord.
Make a straight highway for our God
across the desert.
Let every valley be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low.
Let every cliff become a plain,
and the ridges a valley;
then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
and all mankind shall see it;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

Go up on a high mountain,
joyful messenger to Zion.
Shout with a loud voice,
joyful messenger to Jerusalem.
Shout without fear,
say to the towns of Judah,
‘Here is your God.’
Here is the Lord coming with power,
his arm subduing all things to him.
The prize of his victory is with him,
his trophies all go before him.
He is like a shepherd feeding his flock,
gathering lambs in his arms,
holding them against his breast
and leading to their rest the mother ewes.

Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11

It is as though Christmas is to Ordinary time what Old Testament is to New and John the Baptists to Jesus: a precursor to the fullness, a voice speaking in expectation of the Word.

Ordinary time: holidays and feasting (and fasting) are over for a while, and now we return to the regular fray. Here and now especially it is that we learn what difference the advent of good news makes in our life, how we respond to the action of God on our behalf.

Detail of font in St Austell Catholic parish church. (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: To your family

Nativity SJW

Christmas is here and today’s posting prepares us for Christmas’s first Sunday, the Feast of the Holy Family.

The are a number of options for the Second reading on Sunday – the following reading, from the first letter of St John is the option provided for the Feast of the Holy Family in year C, the Year of Luke.

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
by letting us be called God’s children;
and that is what we are.
Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
therefore it does not acknowledge us.
My dear people, we are already the children of God
but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;
all we know is, that when it is revealed
we shall be like him
because we shall see him as he really is.
My dear people,
if we cannot be condemned by our own conscience,
we need not be afraid in God’s presence,
and whatever we ask him,
we shall receive,
because we keep his commandments
and live the kind of life that he wants.

His commandments are these:
that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ
and that we love one another
as he told us to.
Whoever keeps his commandments
lives in God and God lives in him.
We know that he lives in us
by the Spirit that he has given us.

1 John 3:1-2,21-24

The season celebrates God’s Son taking flesh and living as one of us in all things but sin.

The purpose of the Incarnation and the season is to help us remember that we too are called to be children of God. It is this that allows us to ‘dare’ to call God Father.

In our culture the Lord’s Prayer is so familiar, so safe…. yet it invites us to something truly remarkable – to be God’s children.

  • What difference does God make to your life?
  • In what way is God your Father?
  • In what way do you show that you are his child?

Photograph of Performers in Nativity Play, St Johns Wood. (c) 2007, Andre Camara.

Taste and See: Looking forward

Annunciation Fleischmann

The Collect for Mass yesterday is familiar as a Prayer used also in praying the Rosary.

It also reminds how Advent/Christmas finds its fullest meaning, and reveals its deepest truth in the mysteries also of Holy Week and Easter.

Pour 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.

Artists have regularly introduced themes of the Passion (at least) into their depictions of the Bethlehem story.

  • Where/how do they feature also in our Christmas devotions and prayer?

In 2016 Lent/Easter follow quickly on the heels of this year’s Advent/Christmas.

It is not too early for us to be thinking what we want to carry from our 2015 experiences into Lent/Easter for our own spiritual development and that of our parishes and communities.

In the days of Christmas and in the days that follow, how do we wish to live out our ‘Yes’ to the Lord?

What resources might we draw on to help our wishes to come to pass.

The Annunication -detail of the Rosary Triptych. Arthur Fleischmann. (c) 2013, Allen Morris