Taste and See: Blessed, happy, lucky…

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In Greek the word is ‘makarios‘.

In English it is translated sometimes as ‘blessed’, sometimes as ‘happy’, at other times ‘lucky’.

‘It’ being the state enjoyed by those who do the good things Jesus singles out in the Beatitudes – heard in the Gospel proclaimed at Mass on Sunday, the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

‘How happy are the poor in spirit;
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:
they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn:
they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:
they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful:
they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart:
they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers:
they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’

Matthew 5:1-12

And why are these ‘blessed’, ‘happy’, or ‘lucky’? Not because they shall be satisfied with some reward in the future – though they will. But because here, now they sahre in the quality of life that is God’s: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Future reward comes because God is king, and these people know it: and more importantly yet, because these people live according to the reign of God, here, now, like Jesus. On earth, as it is in heaven.

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  • Where do you seek to live heaven on earth ?
  • What helps?
  • What hinders?

Photographs: Liverpool. (c) 2006, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Newness promised

Kensal Green memorialThe second reading at Mass yesterday, Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Easter, reminds us of the glory and goodness that lies ahead for us.

I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, and the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, as beautiful as a bride all dressed for her husband.

Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne, ‘You see this city? Here God lives among men. He will make his home among them; they shall be his people, and he will be their God; his name is God-with-them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone.’

Then the One sitting on the throne spoke: ‘Now I am making the whole of creation new.’

Apocalypse 21:1-5

In this present age we will have death to grapple with, and mourning, sadness and tears..

But the word of God, and the sacraments, accompany us and sustain us on the journey to the new Jerusalem.

In heaven these gifts of God cease, there we will see and hear the Word direct, face to face, without need for the mediation of scripture and sacrament. And we will be new. God promises.

 

Grave memorial, Kensal Green Cemetery. (c) 2009, 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.

Taste and See: The best is yet to come

Sundial ChartresThe post Communion Prayer at Mass yesterday, the Solemnity of All Saints, reminds that for all the effort we put into the worthy celebration of Mass, and that we should put into our own worthy participation in the Mass, Mass is a passing thing.

Prayer after Communion

As we adore you, O God, who alone are holy
and wonderful in all your Saints,
we implore your grace,
so that, coming to perfect holiness in the fullness of your love,
we may pass from this pilgrim table
to the banquet of our heavenly homeland.
Through Christ our Lord.

Here we are passing creatures, called on to the heavenly Jerusalem, the home of all saints. Here we stumble, too often: there we are, please God, and by the grace of God, to be raised to glory with all the saints. And in heaven, as the Church teaches, there are no Sacraments for in heaven Christ is there directly without the mediation of sign and (sacramental) symbol. We will behold him face to face.

The Post Communion prayer looks back in gratitude for the table and nourishment that sustains the pilgrim on the journey, but also is part of that propelling us to the mission to love and serve which belongs to each Christian. The life of loving virtue here on earth also has its part in helping us to heaven.

  • What additional good deed might you do today, simply in thanksgiving for the gracious and real gift of Himself that Christ gives us at Mass?
  • How today can you demonstrate (again) that you do not live for this world only, but for the greater that is yet to come?

The sundial at Chartres measures something else that ceases as we enter the glory of heaven. There eternity reigns, there is no time. Photograph (c) 2012, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of new life, eternal life.

Dormition 2013This Sunday, the feast of the Assumption, replaces the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time.

The Second reading speaks of Christ’s Resurrection, the Mystery which prepares the way for our salvation and entrance into the life of God.

The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, of course also establishes the pattern for the Assumption, for how, at the end of her natural life, Mary would enter – body, spirit and soul; entire, living and holy – into the life of glory in heaven.

Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man.

Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him.

After that will come the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power. For he must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet.

1 Corinthians 15:20-26

Paul uses mythic, cosmic, language to express the radical truth of the Gospel and the new life it promises.

  • What are the enemies that remain to be destroyed? In your life, the life of your family and community, of the world?
  • What will help bring about their end, and our fuller enjoyment of salvation?

Shrine of the Dormition of Our Lady, Sion Abbey, Jerusalem. © 2013, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Of Saints and heaven

West Door Arles This Sunday sees the regular sequence of numbered Sundays interrupted by the celebration of the Solemnity of All Saints. The first reading on Sunday will come from the book of the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation.

I, John, saw another angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of the living God; he called in a powerful voice to the four angels whose duty was to devastate land and sea, ‘Wait before you do any damage on land or at sea or to the trees, until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’ Then I heard how many were sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel. After that I 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. They shouted aloud, ‘Victory to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels who were standing in a circle round the throne, surrounding the elders and the four animals, prostrated themselves before the throne, and touched the ground with their foreheads, worshipping God with these words, ‘Amen. Praise and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen.’ One of the elders then spoke, and asked me, ‘Do you know who these people are, dressed in white robes, and where they have come from?’ I answered him, ‘You can tell me, my lord.’ Then he said, ‘These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.’ Apocalypse 7:2-4,9-14

What comes to your mind when you imagine heaven? John sees this community of the faithful, who have sustained their faith (or been sustained by faith in testing circumstances) and who are now free, united in the love and praise of God. We surely get a foretaste of this heaven whenever we are with those who we know to be faithful and whose lives impress by their holiness and love.

  • Who comes to your mind when you consider such people? What do you have in common with them? What do you not?

Bring your thoughts, hopes and fears to God in prayer, thankful for his faithfulness.

The West Door of the church of St Trophime in Arles bears an image of heaven and salvation. I’m not sure that the saints look more cheerful than the sinners! But here they are… West Door Arles Saints   Photograph (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Invited? Welcome?

Fresco of the Last Supper, Lower Basilica Assisi

The first reading at Mass this coming Sunday, the 29th in Ordinary time, is a reading of comfort and hope. The reading is part of the selection in the Lectionary for use at funerals too.

On this mountain,
the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples
a banquet of rich food.
On this mountain he will remove
the mourning veil covering all peoples,
and the shroud enwrapping all nations,
he will destroy Death for ever.
The Lord will wipe away
the tears from every cheek;
he will take away his people’s shame
everywhere on earth,
for the Lord has said so.
That day, it will be said: See, this is our God
in whom we hoped for salvation;
the Lord is the one in whom we hoped.
We exult and we rejoice
that he has saved us.

Isaiah 25:6-10

On Sunday this prophesy of a feast is juxtaposed with a gospel parable about another feast, to which prove unwilling or unfit to attend. How do we stand vis a vis the eschatalogical feast, the heavenly feast on the mountain of God.

Ready to go? Unfit to attend?

In what do we trust? For what do we work? In answering these two questions we might find the answer to other two above.

Fresco of the Last Supper – another meal of choices – Assisi. Photograph (c) Allen Morris, 2014