Taste and See: Our confident hope

Ascension - Burne Jones, BirminghamThere are two alternative Prefaces provided for use in the Eucharistic Prayer from the feast of the Ascension until Pentecost.

The first, given below, gives a bold assurance of a purpose of the Ascension. It is not about separation from us, though there is something of that, or at least a certain space opened between disciples and Master, into which, by grace, they are able to grow and mature. It is about giving the confidence that, where he has gone, we shall follow.

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.

For the Lord Jesus, the King of glory,
conqueror of sin and death,
ascended (today) to the highest heavens,
as the Angels gazed in wonder.

Mediator between God and man,
judge of the world and Lord of hosts,
he ascended, not to distance himself from our lowly state
but that we, his members, might be confident of following
where he, our Head and Founder, has gone before.

Therefore, overcome with paschal joy,
every land, every people exults in your praise
and even the heavenly Powers, with the angelic hosts,
sing together the unending hymn of your glory,
as they acclaim:

Holy, holy, holy…

Preface: Ascension I

The Ascension is not only about the return to heaven of him who came down from heaven. For in his coming to us, the second Person of the Trinity took to himself our human nature, not as temporary disguise or a skin to make himself ‘visible’.  In Jesus God united, irrevocably, with a human person, and in uniting with one person, assumed humanity. God enters into a new and profound communion with all human kind: through Jesus, he is our kin.

The Incarnation is a unique event: from the moment of his conception in the womb of Mary, Jesus alone is fully God and fully Man.

As Jesus, God lived one with us on earth.

As Jesus, humanity lives with God in heaven.

Incarnation, and indeed the sacraments – further gift of God – bridge the separation between heaven and earth.

We are not there yet, but the way is opened for us, and we are enjoined, encouraged, to be ready to join our elder brother.

Give thanks!

The Ascension. Burne Jones, St Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Obedience

Cross, BeziersThe Second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Advent, draws our attention to the intentionality of the Incarnation – the why and wherefore of God taking flesh and becoming in this extraordinary way one-with-us as well as – as Salvation History bears ample evidence – always One who is for us.

This is what Christ said, on coming into the world:

You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation,
prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin;
then I said,
just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book,
‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’

Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 10:5-10

The principal mystery of the Incarnation is God taking flesh, but what we may perhaps miss or underestimate the importance of us, is seeing flesh ‘taking’ God. In his life, Jesus reveals the potential for human beings to live godly lives.

Our potential in this world is not inexhaustible : even Jesus faces his destiny amidst fear and sorrow, and meets with death on the Cross. Yet our potential – as we see with Jesus – is even then met with the power and the glory of God which is able to take the worst of this world and redeem us from it. Jesus, even the humanity of Jesus, is safeguarded and raised to eternal life.

Love wins love and lives love, for ever.

Image from Cathedral of Beziers. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

 

Taste and See: God in flesh for us

Joyful Nativity

The Letter to the Hebrews is the source of the Second reading at Sunday Mass from now (the week of the 27th Sunday in Ordinary TIme) until the last but one Sunday of this liturgical year.

The reading on Sunday offers a meditation on salvation won through the Incarnation of God and the faithful life of Jesus.

We see in Jesus one who was for a short while made lower than the angels and is now crowned with glory and splendour because he submitted to death; by God’s grace he had to experience death for all mankind.

As it was his purpose to bring a great many of his sons into glory, it was appropriate that God, for whom everything exists and through whom everything exists, should make perfect, through suffering, the leader who would take them to their salvation. For the one who sanctifies, and the ones who are sanctified, are of the same stock; that is why he openly calls them brothers.

Hebrews 2:9-11

The suffering of Jesus began, at least with his birth. In the image above there is the sense of excitement at the revelation of the child announced by angels, born in David’s city. Maybe there is also a sense of premonition of the crowds that would gather around Jesus at the end of his earthly life, jeering and mobbing and abusing him.

Jesus endures all for us. There is the wonder. The Incarnation can sometimes be reduced to an intellectual, theological puzzle. How can two into one go? How can God who is no thing and is from before all time take flesh and be constrained in time? This things will always stretch our minds. What stretches our heart: is that this was done for us. (NB Including all those who he calls sisters!)

  • Pray that we might know our dignity as children of God
  • Pray that we may more fully accept the leadership of the only Son of God.

Detail of sculpture of the 3rd Joyful Mystery, Hill of Apparitions, Medjugorje. (c) Allen Morris, 2015.

Taste and See: God made flesh

Fresco detail in Oratory, San Damiano, Assisi

The first of the alternative Gospel Acclamations offered for use on the Sunday just gone, the 28th in Ordinary time,  reminds of the mystery of the Incarnation.

Alleluia, alleluia!
The Word was made flesh and lived among us:
to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God.
Alleluia!

Jn1:14,12

Picking up yesterday’s theme, that of the Prayer over the Gifts, of doing the right thing for the right reason: how little thanks Jesus received. Misunderstood by those closest to him; rejected by many of those further away; thanked for passing things but the eternal truths he ministered overlooked.

And yet he remained faithful, and when the message breaks through our incomprehension and our coldness of heart, what a wonderful, wonderful thing he has done, and still does.

For us.

Bring your gratitude to the Lord in prayer.

Photograph of fresco in convent of San Damiano, Assisi. (c) 2014, Allen Morris