Speak Lord: Call us close(r)

DSC00587 Magi.jpgAll nations shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.

O God, give your judgement to the king,
to a king’s son your justice,
that he may judge your people in justice
and your poor in right judgement.

All nations shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.

In his days justice shall flourish
and peace till the moon fails.
He shall rule from sea to sea,
from the Great River to earth’s bounds.

All nations shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.

The kings of Tarshish and the sea coasts
shall pay him tribute.
The kings of Sheba and Seba
shall bring him gifts.
Before him all kings shall fall prostrate,
all nations shall serve him.

All nations shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.

For he shall save the poor when they cry
and the needy who are helpless.
He will have pity on the weak
and save the lives of the poor.

All nations shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.

Psalm 71:1-2,7-8,10-13

Sunday is the feast of the Epiphany. This year, the feast falls on the last but one day of the Christmas Season. (The season itself ends with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, celebrated this year on Monday 9th January).

The psalm sung at Mass on Sunday tells of the nations response to God’s glory and goodness. The ancient song of Israel anticipates the coming of the Magi of Matthew’s Gospel, which itself anticipates the world’s knowledge and love and prayer and praise of God made manifest in Jesus Christ.

  • What draws you to the Lord?
  • What makes you hold back?
  • How might you share the good news of his coming, and present presence, with others?

Adoration of the Magi. Holy Trinity church, Stratford upon Avon. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Keep us safe

dsc00476-magi

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

Sunday is the feast of the Epiphany. This year, the feast falls on the last but one day of the Christmas Season. (The season itself ends with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, celebrated this year on Monday 9th January).

The feast celebrates the coming of the Magi, an episode told by Matthew and which symbolises the revelation of the Incarnation to the Gentiles. The particular story of evangelisation beyond Israel and its people begins here.

It is a story of events already stained and soiled by the murderous intent of king Herod – who was of Jewish stock from his mother’s side and raised as a Jew. but whose life style betrays the promise of that heritage.

The problem of evil and resistance to God’s gift of his Son, his life and his love, is set to the fore of the Christmas story. The gifts of the Magi acknowledge God’s power and glory manifest in the child, and anticipate his Passion.

The Magi, as Joseph and his family, are kept safe by the promptings of God disclosed in the whispers of dreams.

  • Where do you find you best hear the voice of God addressed to you
  • Where do you best hear his calls to keep you safe?

Visit of the Magi, St Peter the Apostle, Leamington Spa. (C) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Good news for everyone

Magi Vatican MuseumIIThe Gospel reading yesterday – the second Sunday of Christmas, and the feast of the Epiphany – came from Matthew and tells of the wise men’s search for, and finding, of the infant king of the Jews.

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

It told of wise men, number unspecified, and not kings. Later tellings of the Christmas story are rather more specific! ‘Was surely three of them, and definitely they were kings!’

In nativity plays – perhaps for reasons of casting, perhaps for gender inclusivity there are wise women with the wise men, or queens with the kings.

Earlier times than ours also played fast and loose with the Bible narrative, and did so with theological purpose. In renaissance paintings it became common for the wise men to be depicted as kings and three, but one was old, one notably young, and the other middle aged; and one was African, one Asian, one European (from the three continents known in more ancient times).

In their diversity and their all-encompassing qualities these three men were presented in a way that allowed them to represent each and everyone from ‘the nations’. Their image reminded, taught, that the good news of the Incarnation and the mercy of God was for all of us, i.e. including those we think of as ‘them’ too.

  • Who do we exclude from our world view, from ‘us’?
  • How – with God’s grace – might we reach out to them, and with them grow in grace?

 

Detail showing the  wise men from the East. Vatican Museum. (c) 2010, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: open our hearts

Wise man, Notre DameThe responsorial psalm for Mass tomorrow, the feast of the Epiphany, identifies the wise men of Matthew’s Gospel with all the nations,, and associates us with all those nations.

All nations shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.

O God, give your judgement to the king,
to a king’s son your justice,
that he may judge your people in justice
and your poor in right judgement.

All nations shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.

In his days justice shall flourish
and peace till the moon fails.
He shall rule from sea to sea,
from the Great River to earth’s bounds.

All nations shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.

The kings of Tarshish and the sea coasts
shall pay him tribute.
The kings of Sheba and Seba
shall bring him gifts.
Before him all kings shall fall prostrate,
all nations shall serve him.

All nations shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.

For he shall save the poor when they cry
and the needy who are helpless.
He will have pity on the weak
and save the lives of the poor.

All nations shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.

Psalm 71:1-2,7-8,10-13

The nations came in and as the wise men to the stable of Bethlehem; we of the nations come before the Lord in all sorts of ways. Perhaps most evidently and regularly we come before him in the Mass, where he is present for us in the assembly assembled and active in prayer and song; in the word proclaimed and listened to; in the ministry of the priest in its various aspects; and in the Eucharist, bread and wine transformed into Christ’s Body and Blood, offered, received, eaten, drunk, adored.

Were we all to fall prostrate before the Lord at Mass, progressing in its action would be somewhat difficult. But that sort of honour and respect is what we need to approach in order to be properly receptive and properly engaged in what the Mass is and what the Mass is for.

A contemplative Wise Man. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. (c) 2006.

Speak Lord: that we might find you.

Arles Nativity

The Gospel reading for Sunday – the second Sunday of Christmas, and the feast of the Epiphany – comes from Matthew and tells of the wise men’s search for, and finding, of the infant king of the Jews.

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

Wise men travelled from the East, following a star, to know and honour Jesus.

  • What helps lead us closer to him?
  • What helps us to know him?

Detail showing the Nativity and wise men from Sarcophagus in collection of the Musée de l’Arles et de la Provence antiques. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: the glory of the Lord, for us…

Madrid December 2003 247a

The first reading for yesterday’s Mass of the Epiphany came from the prophet Isaiah.

It speaks of new hope for a people who have endured and suffered much. But the new hope is not something insubstantial and vague. It is a new, present reality. The light has come, the glory of the Lord is rising – even in the presence of darkness.

Arise, shine out, Jerusalem, for your light has come,
the glory of the Lord is rising on you,
though night still covers the earth
and darkness the peoples.

Above you the Lord now rises
and above you his glory appears.
The nations come to your light
and kings to your dawning brightness.

Lift up your eyes and look round:
all are assembling and coming towards you,
your sons from far away
and your daughters being tenderly carried.

At this sight you will grow radiant,
your heart throbbing and full;
since the riches of the sea will flow to you,
the wealth of the nations come to you;

camels in throngs will cover you,
and dromedaries of Midian and Ephah;
everyone in Sheba will come,
bringing gold and incense
and singing the praise of the Lord.

Isaiah 60:1-6

What is asked of us is that we see this and respond. Pope Leo the Great said God made us without us, but will not save us without us. And why? Because salvation is about relationship, about our turning to and being engaged by the Lord, Jesus, who walks with us each day. It is through our being with him that we can grow radiant, with hearts throbbing and full (remember the disciples on the road to Emmaus.)

Photograph of crib scene, Madrid. (C) 2003, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Help us to help others…

Crib2014

The Psalm at Sunday’s Mass of the Epiphany has the assembly pray for the son of the king. In this we find ourselves not only witnessing the Magi in their honouring of Jesus, but joining them in their adoration and praise.

All nations shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.

O God, give your judgement to the king,
to a king’s son your justice,
that he may judge your people in justice
and your poor in right judgement.

In his days justice shall flourish
and peace till the moon fails.
He shall rule from sea to sea,
from the Great River to earth’s bounds.

The kings of Tarshish and the sea coasts
shall pay him tribute.
The kings of Sheba and Seba
shall bring him gifts.
Before him all kings shall fall prostrate,
all nations shall serve him.

For he shall save the poor when they cry
and the needy who are helpless.
He will have pity on the weak
and save the lives of the poor.

All nations shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.

Psalm 71:1-2,7-8,10-13

To adore and praise is one thing.  Disciples are invited to become like their master.

At the beginning of this new year let us especially consider how we imitate the Lord in his care for the poor and needy and weak.

May he who is our strength help us to be strength for others.

Photograph of 2014-15 Christmas Crib, Church of Our Lady, St John’s Wood. (C) 2015, Allen Morris.