Speak Lord: Living Word

MezuzahThe Psalm for the 3rd Sunday of the Year assures us of where we find truth, certainty, goodness. It is in the law of the Lord, his rule and command.

 

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
it revives the soul.
The rule of the Lord is to be trusted,
it gives wisdom to the simple.

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

The precepts of the Lord are right,
they gladden the heart.
The command of the Lord is clear,
it gives light to the eyes.

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

The fear of the Lord is holy,
abiding for ever.
The decrees of the Lord are truth
and all of them just.

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

May the spoken words of my mouth,
the thoughts of my heart,
win favour in your sight, O Lord,
my rescuer, my rock!

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

Psalm 18:8-10,15

Christians, Jews, Muslims each in their way find the spirit and life in the words of Scripture. Christians  are distinctive though in not being a ‘people of the Book’ but a people who find the fulfilment of the words in the Word, God incarnate, Jesus Christ.

The words of Scripture, Old and New Testament, are alive and active but most so when heard in him and from him.

  • What ways of engaging with Scripture do you find most helpful?
  • What least?
  • What opportunities might you take up to deepen your knowledge of the Lord in and through scripture: and scripture in and through the Lord?

 

Mezuzah, Kazmierz, Carcow, Poland. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Peace and wholeness

Eternal Peace IvanovThe Psalm on Sunday last, the First Sunday of Advent, gives expression to the personal relationship between the Lord and psalmist, a relationship that is extended to those who stray, who are humble, who are poor.

To our need the Lord responds. He offers friendship and wholeness, and when we accept these gifts we are at one with him, united in the covenant of love, the family of God.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

Lord, make me know your ways.
Lord, teach me your paths.
Make me walk in your truth, and teach me:
for you are God my saviour.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

The Lord is good and upright.
He shows the path to those who stray,
He guides the humble in the right path,
He teaches his way to the poor.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

His ways are faithfulness and love
for those who keep his covenant and law.
The Lord’s friendship is for those who revere him;
to them he reveals his covenant.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

Psalm 24:4-5,8-9,10,14

In Advent we are called deeper into that relationship. It is not that we start from nowhere, but every new beginning does have us on the brink of what we do not know yet.

In Advent, but also in any time, on any day, and in every situation, we are provided with the opportunity of knowing more of the Lord’s compassion and love, his steadfastness. That which gives life and is love surrounds us is for us. These precious days of Advent give a fresh chance of entering the newness of God.

  • Pray for the journey
  • Pray for peace

 

I.I. Levitan, Eternal Peace. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: King to your subjects…

CHrist the KingAt Mass tomorrow we sing part of Psalm 92. This Sunday is the feast of Christ the King and the psalm lauds the Lord as King.

The Lord is king, with majesty enrobed.

The Lord is king, with majesty enrobed;
the Lord has robed himself with might,
he has girded himself with power.

The world you made firm, not to be moved;
your throne has stood firm from of old.
From all eternity, O Lord, you are.

Truly your decrees are to be trusted.
Holiness is fitting to your house,
O Lord, until the end of time.

Psalm 92:1-2,5

Praising the kingship of Christ is one thing: words can come easy. Living as ‘subjects’ is not so straightforward.

Where do we show trust of the Lord’s decrees? Where does God’s law take precedence over…. Well, take precedence over what? Our preferences? Our judgements? Our conscience?

Words can come easy, but to help sustain our seeking after Christ’s kingdom, and our praying for God’s will to be done (which made Jesus sweat blood!), we need to take note of the grist we bring to the mill.

Figure of Christ the King. Limoges, c1200. VIctoria and Albert Museum. Photograph (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Warm us by your words.

St Johns Wood wet

At Mass  tomorrow, the last but one Sunday of the Church’s Year, the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, the psalm reminds of the Lord’s love and protection.

At a time when the world grows darker and colder, when the readings speak of the end-times, the psalm reminds of where rests our hope.

Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.

O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup;
it is you yourself who are my prize.
I keep the Lord ever in my sight:
since he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm.

And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;
even my body shall rest in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead,
nor let your beloved know decay.

You will show me the path of life,
the fullness of joy in your presence,
at your right hand happiness for ever.

Psalm 15:5,8-11

  • What is it about the Lord’s love that at th is present time gives comfort and encouragement? Why, now, do you need his love and care?
  • Who else needs that love, that care? How might you help them know of it, and learn to trust in it still better?

Photograph of wet St Johns’s Wood. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: that we might hear you again

Picasso detail of young acrobat with a ball, PushkinThe psalm at Mass tomorrow, the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, engages us afresh with the ups and downs of life, with the experience of progress and reverses.

But it is most fundamentally a song of faith, a thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness and love.

What marvels the Lord worked for us! Indeed we were glad.

When the Lord delivered Zion from bondage,
it seemed like a dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter,
on our lips there were songs.

The heathens themselves said: ‘What marvels
the Lord worked for them!’
What marvels the Lord worked for us!
Indeed we were glad.

Deliver us, O Lord, from our bondage
as streams in dry land.
Those who are sowing in tears
will sing when they reap.

They go out, they go out, full of tears,
carrying seed for the sowing:
they come back, they come back, full of song,
carrying their sheaves.

Psalm 125:1-6

Often, probably too often, we can be so preoccupied with what is changing in life – for example, the ups and downs – that we do not recognise the constant.

One of the functions of the Liturgy, including the Mass, is to restore a proper perspective to us. Our turning to God helps us know afresh how steadily and constantly our God is turned to us.

  • What are the ups and downs that have led you from God?
  • And which have led you to God?
  • And where are you now?

Bring your thoughts to God in prayer.

Detail of Young Acrobat on a ball by Picasso, in collection of Pushkin Museum, Moscow. Photograph (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Of courage and trust

Delacroix Crucifixion

The Psalm on Sunday puts in context the way that Jesus faces his enemies, the way we face our challenges. ‘The Lord upholds my life.’

To a society that so often sees life as worthwhile in terms of quality of health and physical well-being, the psalm shows us, reminds us, that the moral quality of life also matters. It is not only how we enjoy and draw goodness from the easier things in life, it is how we enter into challenges and dangers too.

We who know ourselves to be creatures, created, need to put our greater trust in the Creator than in ourselves. We who know the Creator to have revealed his love especially by entering into the experience of challenge and danger, suffering, pain and even death, so as to lead us into the glory of his Resurrection. To pick and choose which parts we will live, and allow others to live, is to refuse to be ourselves, to learn to live. To use Gerald Manley Hopkins word – is to miss the great ‘achieve’ of it.

The Lord upholds my life.

O God, save me by your name;
by your power, uphold my cause.
O God, hear my prayer;
listen to the words of my mouth.

The Lord upholds my life.

For proud men have risen against me,
ruthless men seek my life.
They have no regard for God.

The Lord upholds my life.

But I have God for my help.
The Lord upholds my life.
I will sacrifice to you with willing heart
and praise your name for it is good.

The Lord upholds my life.

Psalm 53:3-6,8

  • Where do I need the Lord’s help?
  • What do I fear? And why?
  • How does the Gospel and the example of Jesus speak to my fear?

The Crucifixion by Delacroix. In the collection of the National Gallery, London. 

Speak Lord: Of Justice and life with you for ever.

Judgement Autun

The Responsorial Psalm on Sunday, the 22nd in Ordinary Time, draws us into contemplation of the consequences of good and faithful living.

The just will live in the presence of the Lord.

Lord, who shall dwell on your holy mountain?
He who walks without fault;
he who acts with justice
and speaks the truth from his heart;
he who does not slander with his tongue.

The just will live in the presence of the Lord.

He who does no wrong to his brother,
who casts no slur on his neighbour,
who holds the godless in disdain,
but honours those who fear the Lord.

The just will live in the presence of the Lord.

He who keeps his pledge, come what may;
who takes no interest on a loan
and accepts no bribes against the innocent.
Such a man will stand firm for ever.

The just will live in the presence of the Lord.

Psalm 14:2-5

There could be something self-satisfied and smug about the psalmist, who it seems has accomplished all these things. Though perhaps he only acknowledges what it must be like to have achieved this way of life.

Yet either way – achieving it or pondering the potential of achieving it – the psalmist seems in proper awe of virtuous, faithful, living. These good things are real, true, and can be realised, are not beyond us, however challenging they will always be,

The psalmist is clear that to live in the presence of the Lord is the most desirable thing.

How wonderful it is that God allows us this privilege, always, everywhere, when we raise our minds and hearts to him. Even when we live lives fogged by ambiguity and weakness, he does not leave us to our own devices. He is close offering encouragement, healing, hope – through the presence of the Lord even the unjust can learn to live.

In God’s love for us is our hope, now and always.

Last Judgement from Cathedral of Saint-Lazare, Autun. Plaster cast in the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, Paris. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: that we may thank you.

thanks

The Psalm for Mass on the 11th Sunday of the Year, in Cycle B, reminds us of thankfulness. It is an attitude that is at the centre of Christian faith and living.

It is good to give you thanks, O Lord.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to make music to your name, O Most High,
to proclaim your love in the morning
and your truth in the watches of the night.

It is good to give you thanks, O Lord.

The just will flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a Lebanon cedar.

It is good to give you thanks, O Lord.

Planted in the house of the Lord
they will flourish in the courts of our God,
still bearing fruit when they are old,
still full of sap, still green,
to proclaim that the Lord is just.
In him, my rock, there is no wrong.

It is good to give you thanks, O Lord.

Psalm 91:2-3,13-16

The thankfulness of the Christian is not so much for good fortune in this or that – health, wealth, family. Its reason is deeper yet, still more fundamental. It is for the gift of life – God’s free gift, lovingly bestowed and sustained. It is for a gift that endures through vicissitudes and triumphs.

Wordle created 13/6/15 (www.wordle.net)

Speak Lord: Of new opportunities, new challenges.

Lindisfarne dawn

The Responsorial Psalm on Sunday, the 6th Sunday of Easter, is a psalm in praise of the Lord’s salvation of his people.

The Lord has shown his salvation to the nations. or Alleluia!

Sing a new song to the Lord
for he has worked wonders.
His right hand and his holy arm
have brought salvation.

The Lord has shown his salvation to the nations. or Alleluia!

The Lord has made known his salvation;
has shown his justice to the nations.
He has remembered his truth and love
for the house of Israel.

The Lord has shown his salvation to the nations. or Alleluia!

All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
Shout to the Lord, all the earth,
ring out your joy.

The Lord has shown his salvation to the nations. or Alleluia!

Psalm 97:1-4

Salvation is of course not merely shown to the nations, but made available to them, is something given freely and lovingly by God. A new opportunity for a new way of life is set before them.

The fact of the gift is a wake-up moment for them, and requires of them a choice – to make the most of the opportunity, or lose it.

The same sort of choice faces us as each new day begins: even if we rarely see it in such a stark form as it is put in the psalm. Do we respond to the reality, the deep reality of things, underpinned by the truth, goodness and love of God? Or do we hesitate in shadows, responding to this chimera or that; this figment, fantasy, of fear?

  • Where does God open a door to newness today?
  • What are you invited to welcome and cooperate with ?
  • What are you invited to relinquish?

Dawn at Lindisfarne. (c) 2008, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Even today, speak of the glory of the Resurrection.

Harrowing of Hell

It may feel strange to read a blog on this day of all days that is not dwelling on the mystery of Good Friday, and is have us look forward to Easter Sunday already.

Yet, our every day is the day the Lord has made, and a day for us to meet and better know the risen Lord, even the day kept specifically in memory of the Lord’s Passion and Death.

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
or Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,
for his love has no end.
Let the sons of Israel say:
‘His love has no end.’

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
or Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The Lord’s right hand has triumphed;
his right hand raised me up.
I shall not die, I shall live
and recount his deeds.

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
or Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the corner stone.
This is the work of the Lord,
a marvel in our eyes.

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
or Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Psalm 117:1-2,16-17,22-23

Again to Western Christians the appearance of the ‘A’ word at this time of year, and especially on Good Friday might jar. But the Orthodox do not fast from the word or the joy that it evokes (though there is an appropriate sobriety to even Orthodox joy during Lent!)

As we keep Good Friday the Easter psalm takes on a particular poignancy. The Lord will die, in his humanity, but will be raised and live: the testimony of Jesus to the goodness of the Father may seem to pause for until the third day but silently, hidden from us, in Hell, Jesus continues the liberation of humankind that is the Father’s eternal will.

  • From what ‘death’ do you long for the Lord to set you free?

Image of the harrowing of hell from the Kariye Museum (The Chora Church), Istanbul. (c) 2002, Allen Morris.