Taste and See: Fresh beginnings

dsc00863-our-lady-cracowO God,
who in your kindness begin all good things
and bring them to fulfilment,
grant to us,
who find joy in the Solemnity of the holy Mother of God,
that, just as we glory in the beginnings of your grace,
so one day we may rejoice in its completion.
Through Christ our Lord.

Prayer over the Offerings for the feast of Mary Mother of God

 

Sunday was a day of multiple celebrations and commemorations. It was first and foremost the feast of Mary, Mother of God, and the Octave Day of Christmas. It was also the the World Day for Peace and, according to our secular Calendar, the first day of the New Year.

The Prayer prayed as the Bread and Wine to be used in the Eucharist were placed on the altar reminds that we are ever at the point of a new beginning. By God’s grace all that would hold us back from progressing in the life of love and faith is subject to his power. If we will receive and participate in his grace then we shall see all things made new, and indeed ourselves be part of that newness.

Graffiti/Street Art, Cracow, Poland. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Taste and See : Family, by God..

aix-2-062When the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law and to enable us to be adopted as sons. The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’, and it is this that makes you a son, you are not a slave any more; and if God has made you son, then he has made you heir.

Galatians 4:4-7

Sunday was the feast of Mary, Mother of God and the Octave Day of Christmas. It was also the first day of the secular year, and a Day of prayer for peace.

Although again and again the Bible tells stories of families riven by tensions of all sorts, it is to ‘family’ that the Bible again and again has recourse in trying to describe how we might live God’s blessing and our salvation. Paul, here; Jesus in his characterisitic use of ‘Abba’, ‘ Father’ to speak of God.

And subsequently hte use of Mary as Mother of God and Mother of Church extends that usage.

  • At the begining of this New Year, invoke our Lady’s prayer and protection for you and all of God’s family.

Alma Redemptóris Mater, quæ pérvia cæli
Porta manes, et stella maris, succúrre cadénti,
Súrgere qui curat pópulo: tu quæ genuísti,
Natúra miránte, tuum sanctum Genitórem
Virgo prius ac postérius, Gabriélis ab ore
Sumens illud Ave, peccatórum miserére.

Loving mother of the Redeemer,
gate of heaven, star of the sea,
assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again,
To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator,
yet remained a virgin after as before,
You who received Gabriel’s joyful greeting,
have pity on us poor sinners

You might like to hear it sung

Our Lady, Mougins, France. (c) 2006, Allen Morris 

Speak Lord: Born of God, born of a woman

141-nd-de-vacluse-grasse

When the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law and to enable us to be adopted as sons. The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’, and it is this that makes you a son, you are not a slave any more; and if God has made you son, then he has made you heir.

Galatians 4:4-7

Sunday is the feast of Mary, Mother of God and the Octave Day of Christmas.

Paul speaks of Jesus as Son of God, a familiar concept to the Jews, for all God’s faithful (who are men) are seen as Sons of God.

And Paul expands the concept for there is a sense in which no man is fully faithful except Jesus, who is God’s Son in a unique way, Begotten not made, Son from before time not by action in time. He is born of a woman, but not of a man.

If we are to be truly sons of God it can only be through Jesus.

And we who are born of human stock are to be united with him not by law or family bonds, or by race or by religious rite,  but by the Spirit, his Spirit, sent to inspire us, to enable us, to call on God as Father. This work of the Spirit overcomes all distinction: for example, Greek and Jew, Slave and Free, Male and Female.

 

Paul speak of something radically new, that we all are, in all our diversity – male, female, slave, free, Greek, Jew. This we are: and this we are to become in Christ.

Notre Dame de Vacluse, Grasse. (c) 2007, Allen Morris 

Speak Lord: Saviour.

Our Lady of G, LourdesToday In England and Wales this year, Sunday 14th August is being kept as the Solemnity of the Assumption, (in other years the Solemnity is kept on 15th August).

The first reading is the source of a typical image of Mary, Mother of God.

The imagery may well have its origins in a narrative developed by non-Jewish Christians, drawing aspects of the myth and traditional representations of the Egyptian goddess Isis. l also be lying behind the imagery

But, in this Christian narrative, the woman of Apocalypse 11 is  commonly, and understandably, understood to be a symbolic representation of Mary, Mother of God. and her Son, Jesus.  However other interpretations of the figure too are legitimate too, eg that the woman symbolises the Israel, the heavenly Jerusalem, Wisdom, or the Church. However the passage is read, it is not difficult, and surely appropriate, to relate any or all of these symbolic readings to Our Lady.

The sanctuary of God in heaven opened and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it. Then came flashes of lightning, peals of thunder and an earthquake, and violent hail.

Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown. She was pregnant, and in labour, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth. Then a second sign appeared in the sky, a huge red dragon which had seven heads and ten horns, and each of the seven heads crowned with a coronet. Its tail dragged a third of the stars from the sky and dropped them to the earth, and the dragon stopped in front of the woman as she was having the child, so that he could eat it as soon as it was born from its mother. The woman brought a male child into the world, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron sceptre, and the child was taken straight up to God and to his throne, while the woman escaped into the desert, where God had made a place of safety ready, for her to be looked after in the twelve hundred and sixty days.

Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, ‘Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that the persecutor, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down.’

Apocalypse 11:19,12:1-6,10

The passage is dramatic, and indicates in a powerful way the salvation won for us, and the real dangers from which we are saved.

  • How have you known God’s salvation?
  • What are the threats to spiritual health that you have faced/face?

Our Lady of Guadalupe. Detail of Mosaic, Lourdes. (c) 2016.
(The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe bears some of the features of the image of the Woman of Revelation.)

Speak Lord: as we try to listen

Bethany

The Gospel on Sunday, the 16th in Ordinary Time, has Jesus in Bethany, and – for the Gospels – in an unusual setting. He is not on public display, but a guest in a private home. And he is, seemingly not with the usual band of disciples, but alone, with two women.

And in this domestic setting, confronting seemingly minor irritations, resentments, and maybe jealousy, Jesus offers the simple teaching that what is most important is not our service of him (still less our attempting to impress by our service of him!) but our making time and space to allow him to serve us.

Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered: ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’

Luke 10:38-42

This service of us, his service of us continues still, of course. In the Liturgy Jesus visits us still, offering ministry of presence and word, personally inviting us to ever deeper, ever more fruitful communion with him.

We are invited to lay our distractions, if we can; and, if not, to bring them to him. Either way, any way, we are invited to learn by being attentive to him.

  • What do I hear Jesus say today?
  • What distracts me from listening to him?

Church at Bethany, by tradition built over the house of Martha and Mary. (c) 2012, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: The Visitation

VisitationaOn the 4th Sunday of Advent we hear a section of Luke’s narrative of the visit of Mary, mother of Jesus, to Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist.

The mothers greet one another, and in Elizabeth’s womb, the as yet unborn John greets and honours the recently conceived Jesus.

Elizabeth is graced by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and herself ‘knows’ the wondrous fruit of Mary’s womb.

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.

Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’

Luke 1:39-44

The Lukan tradition of John the Baptist kicking in his mother’s womb to welcome the newly conceived Christ in the womb of Mary is something precious…  In a world that places such low estimate on foetal life there is something to ponder there.

  • Pray for all mothers.
  • Pray for children – born and unborn.
  • Pray for a deeper respect for all human beings, at all stages of their lives.

Image of the Visitation: detail of Rosary Triptych by Arthur Fleischmann. (c) 2011, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Faithful One.

Mary and Jesus, WolverhamptonThe second reading on Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent, is a rejoicing in the faithfulness of the Church and her members.

The Church and her members are tarnished by sin, and sometimes we members fail, and yet the Good News continues to spread and we play our part. The Good News spreads down the generations and among the nations, and this is something to give thanks for, even as we find we ourselves need more encouragement to be more faithful and to better serve our neighbours by the witness we give.

Every time I pray for all of you, I pray with joy, remembering how you have helped to spread the Good News from the day you first heard it right up to the present.

I am quite certain that the One who began this good work in you will see that it is finished when the Day of Christ Jesus comes; and God knows how much I miss you all, loving you as Christ Jesus loves you.

My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception so that you can always recognise what is best. This will help you to become pure and blameless, and prepare you for the Day of Christ, when you will reach the perfect goodness which Jesus Christ produces in us for the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 1:4-6,8-11

Where are you most aware of the lack of the Good News in situations around you?

In what way, even what very small way, can you introduce the the Good News there?

The lyrics of Stephen Sondheim’s song Everyone Says Don’t puts it this way.

Make just a ripple, come on be brave.
This time a ripple, next time a wave.
Sometimes you have to start small…

Taste and See: Safe because of God

Our Lady, BoldmereThe first reading at Mass yesterday, the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time came from the prophet Isaiah.

It sets before us words of hope and confidence.

Say to all faint hearts,
‘Courage! Do not be afraid.
Look, your God is coming,
vengeance is coming,
the retribution of God;
he is coming to save you.’

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
the ears of the deaf unsealed,
then the lame shall leap like a deer
and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy;
for water gushes in the desert,
streams in the wasteland,
the scorched earth becomes a lake,
the parched land springs of water.

Isaiah 35:4-7

The image above comes from the image of Our Lady, in  the Lady Chapel in hte Catholic church in Boldmere, Sutton Coldfield. The image seems to show Mary aware of all the reasons for worry and concern, but confident in the promises of God, and certain in her own ability to love and care for her son, that he might grow secure, cared for.

That same confidence and certainty informs the life of the Church – it is not accidental that one of the title under which Mary is honoured is ‘Mother of the Church’. She sets a pattern the Church and each Christian strives to follow.

In some sense Mary is the fulfilment of those promises – by the grace of God, secure in the redemption won by her Son.

  • Today how might we fulfil the promises of God in our own lives?
  • And the life of those around us?

Our Lady and the child Jesus. St Nicholas church, Boldmere. (c) 2015, 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

Taste and See: Be happy

Immaculate Conception

The second reading at Sunday’s Mass, the third Sunday of Advent came from St Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.

Why re-visit the reading again today? Well perhaps because we mat not have really believed it at the time. Perhaps  we need to hear the urging of Paul one more time to take the message to our hearts and learn to live it in our daily life.

Returning several times to the same text helps us deepen our personal response to it, even to have a personal response to it – rather than a merely intellectual response. The latter may merely be a recognition of what the reading says. The former, the personal response, is hearing what the reading says to me, and beginning to enter into dialogue with the text, perhaps with its author, but especially with the Lord, its divine inspirer.

Take the time to today to hear again the encouragement Paul offers you. Take time to consider what helps you to believe and trust in what he asks. Take time to consider what it may be that holds you back from believing and trusting.

Be happy at all times; pray constantly; and for all things give thanks to God, because this is what God expects you to do in Christ Jesus.

Never try to suppress the Spirit or treat the gift of prophecy with contempt; think before you do anything – hold on to what is good and avoid every form of evil.

May the God of peace make you perfect and holy; and may you all be kept safe and blameless, spirit, soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has called you and he will not fail you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Mary is a sure guide to the spirituality of Advent, a joyful waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Present the fruits of your prayer to her, and ask her to intercede for you with our loving Father in heaven.

Photograph is of image used by Diocese of Madrid for celebration of the Immaculate Conception, 2003. (c) 2003, Allen Morris.