Taste and See: God in flesh

DSC07691 Nativity Lourdes.jpg

The Word became flesh, and we have seen his glory.

Jn 1: 14

The Communion Antiphon above, from the Christmas Mass during the Night, reminds us of how in Jesus God’s glory makes itself known in ordinary.

The challenge is for us to continue to see the glory of God in ordinary, or to find ways of living the gloory of God in response ot the ordinary.

St John of the Cross puts it like this:

If
you want
the Virgin will come walking down the road
pregnant with the holy,
and say,
“I need shelter for the night, please take me inside your heart,
my time is so close.”

Then, under the roof of your soul, you will witness the sublime
intimacy, the divine, the Christ
taking birth
forever,

as she grasps your hand for help, for each of us
is the midwife of God, each of us.

Yet there, under the dome of your being does creation
come into existence eternally, through your womb, dear pilgrim—
the sacred womb in your soul,

as God grasps our arms for help; for each of us is
His beloved servant
never far.

If you want, the Virgin will come walking
down the street pregnant
with Light and sing …

  • What in the ordinariness of life reveals or is the opportunity for you to reveal the glory of God?

The Nativity. Rosary Basilica, Lourdes. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Make us one

Nativity, LiverpoolThe first reading at Mass today offers an inclusive vision of God;’s blessing of Israel – this is a blessing to share with the whole world. Jerusalem may have been asked by its conquerors and its people dispersed. But there will be not restitution but restoration; and the blessing of one people will prove to be blessing for the whole world.

The prophesy made through Isaiah is understood in the Christian tradition as a foretelling of the gift of Christ and the good news of the Kingdom.

The Lord says this: I am coming to gather the nations of every language. They shall come to witness my glory. I will give them a sign and send some of their survivors to the nations: to Tarshish, Put, Lud, Moshech, Rosh, Tubal, and Javan, to the distant islands that have never heard of me or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory to the nations. As an offering to the Lord they will bring all your brothers, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules, on dromedaries, from all the nations to my holy mountain in Jerusalem, says the Lord, like Israelites bringing oblations in clean vessels to the Temple of the Lord. And of some of them I will make priests and Levites, says the Lord.

Isaiah 66:18-21

In part the prophesy is fulfilled in the coming of the Magi to Bethlehem – Jerusalem having been corrupted. In part the prophesy is still to be fulfilled by the faithful Christans and Jews – in each present day witnessing to God and his glory and so allowing them to share in the pure sacrifice of Christ, and be drawn to the heavenly Jerusalem.

Nativity, Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. (c) 2016, Allen Morris. NB Liverpool rather spoils the link by using a Bactrian camel and not a Dromedary!

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: 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: Your kingdom come

Nativity VeniceTwo alternative Psalms were offered in the Lectionary for yesterday, Holy Family Sunday – the first Sunday of Christmas.

The psalm offered especially for use in Year C – this year, the Year of Luke, and the Year of Mercy – speaks of communion with God. It speaks of the courts of the Lord: back to backs often had courts, but maybe here the idea is that of a grander set of courtyards, fitting to a king. It speaks, rather  more domestically perhaps, of God’s ‘house’… but in these days we hear a lot of the House of David…. It speaks of Zion, Jerusalem, seat of king and God, and a place of pilgrimage for the people…

The psalm speaks of communion, and of the psalmist’s longing and yearning for this communion.

They are happy who dwell in your house, O Lord.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
Lord, God of hosts.
My soul is longing and yearning,
is yearning for the courts of the Lord.
My heart and my soul ring out their joy
to God, the living God.

They are happy, who dwell in your house,
for ever singing your praise.
They are happy, whose strength is in you,
in whose hearts are the roads to Zion.

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer,
give ear, O God of Jacob.
Turn your eyes, O God, our shield,
look on the face of your anointed.

Psalm 83:2-3,5-6,9-10

 

We heard in yesterday’s Gospel how Jesus, Son of David, makes himself at home in the courts of the Temple.

Yet in his discourse he offers a more familial image to consider God – simply as Father. The head of the domestic family – as well as head of people and nation and King of kings.

When we pray, as Jesus teaches, ‘ your kingdom come’, we may have in mind the kingdom of heaven, and God’s dominion here and now over the nations of the world. But it starts – at least for us, existentially, it starts – with our self, our home, our family…

  • How evident is the Father’s leadership, his rule, there?
  • In me?
  • My home?
  • My family?
  • How would anyone know?

As the civic year draws to a close, take stock and speak to God with gratitude for his care and ask for his help where you seem further from him.

Bethlehem in Venice. (c) 2013, 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: Spiritual health crisis?

Madrid December 2003 267

The Gospel on Sunday, the feast of the Epiphany, broadened our perspective regarding the nativity. No longer a family or town event, (albeit involving Angels and God!), It now involves kings, people’s from afar and issues of national order and regime change. The new birth is about to provoke murder.

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

The goodness of God draws homage and love from the wise men but duplicity and vileness from Herod, and complicity from his counsellors.

The spiritual sicknesses recently numbered by Pope Francis are nothing new.

  • What makes you susceptible to sickness of the spirit? And to which in particular?
  • What helps you recover or keep healthy? And how do you know?

Photograph of Crib in Madrid. (c) 2003, Allen Morris.