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: Our Light

Christ and Apostles, Charlecote

Sunday is the 5th Sunday of Easter. And the Second Reading at its Mass continues our hearing of John’s vision of the New Jerusalem related in the Book of the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation..

In the spirit, the angel took me to the top of an enormous high mountain and showed me Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God out of heaven. It had all the radiant glory of God and glittered like some precious jewel of crystal-clear diamond. The walls of it were of a great height, and had twelve gates; at each of the twelve gates there was an angel, and over the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel; on the east there were three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. The city walls stood on twelve foundation stones, each one of which bore the name of one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

I saw that there was no temple in the city since the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb were themselves the temple, and the city did not need the sun or the moon for light, since it was lit by the radiant glory of God and the Lamb was a lighted torch for it.

Apocalypse 21:10-14,22-23

At the end there is only God and us. Yet so often we live our lives distract by so many things… Their dust obscures the brightness of God and our communion with him.

  • What obscures light and love in your life?
  • What in God draws you to him?

Detail of rose window, St Leonard’s Charlecote, Warwickshire. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Hear our praise!

Doors at Metropolitan Cathedral

The Second reading on Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Easter, comes from the Book of Revelation, the Book of the Apocalypse. The reading recounts the court of heaven united in a chorus of praise:

In my vision, I, John, heard the sound of an immense number of angels gathered round the throne and the animals and the elders; there were ten thousand times ten thousand of them and thousands upon thousands, shouting, ‘The Lamb that was sacrificed is worthy to be given power, riches, wisdom, strength, honour, glory and blessing.’ Then I heard all the living things in creation – everything that lives in the air, and on the ground, and under the ground, and in the sea, crying, ‘To the One who is sitting on the throne and to the Lamb, be all praise, honour, glory and power, for ever and ever.’ And the four animals said, ‘Amen’; and the elders prostrated themselves to worship.

Apocalypse 5:11-14

The praise is concerted, and despite the huge numbers of diverse creatures present, the overwhelming impression given is one of unity.

It is to that unity we are joined when we gather in our far smaller numbers this Sunday, in our churches. And this unity – sustained across ages and spaces – seeks to draw us into its urgency and passion.

There is some challenge for us in this: can we rise to the occasion?

One thing that helps us to do that is ensuring that we have prepared for our worship.  One simple way is reading this Blog!

Another is considering in advance one thing we want to thank God for; one thing to say sorry for; and one thing we want to ask God for help with. This way we are provided with fresh motives, grounded in our covenantal relationship with God, for coming to prayer and praise.

West Entrance Doors, Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral showing the Four Creatures. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Lord then, now and forever.

St John, Lateran

The first reading on Sunday, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, comes from the Book of the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation.

It begins with a direct address to those who listen, immediately connecting person to person, across the denturies and cultures. It is a powerful witness to the very real unity of the Church in Christ.

My name is John, and through our union in Jesus I am your brother and share your sufferings, your kingdom, and all you endure. I was on the island of Patmos for having preached God’s word and witnessed for Jesus; it was the Lord’s day and the Spirit possessed me, and I heard a voice behind me, shouting like a trumpet, ‘Write down all that you see in a book.’ I turned round to see who had spoken to me, and when I turned I saw seven golden lamp-stands and, surrounded by them, a figure like a Son of man, dressed in a long robe tied at the waist with a golden girdle.

When I saw him, I fell in a dead faint at his feet, but he touched me with his right hand and said, ‘Do not be afraid; it is I, the First and the Last; I am the Living One, I was dead and now I am to live for ever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and of the underworld. Now write down all that you see of present happenings and things that are still to come.’

Apocalypse 1:9-13,17-19

If we read the book the first chapters also offers a real challenge to those who presume and assume unity with Christ, when their life and discipleship contradicts it.

However in the Easter season the compilers of the Lectionary offer us an easier ride.

Here, John assures us he shares our sufferings, kingdom, and all we endure.

  • What are they?
  • How do they reveal to us of our present need for the Good News of Jesus Christ?
  • How might we more faithfully respond to his Lordship?

St John, statue in St John Lateran. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Call again, call to us

Mystery of Revelation of God

The first reading at Mass today comes from the prophet Isaiah, and speaks of the fulfilment of the promises to Israel in the whole world turning and coming to the one true God.

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

On the feast of the Epiphany we remember the nations coming in the person of the Kings.

We also must acknowledge the way in which faithlessness also manifests itself in our history, including our religious history.

The feast of the Epiphany looks forward to what is still to come as well as commemorating what has been.

The Christ child still calls us all to be one.

Images of revelation. Cathedral of Spilled Blood, St Petersburg. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: Speak, God of love.

Revelation John Reinhardt

The Gospel at today’s Mass – the Exaltation of the Holy Cross – recapitulates themes from the first and second readings and puts them in the context of God’s love. Salvation on a cosmic scale happens because of God’s love.

 Jesus said to Nicodemus:
‘No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven;
and the Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.’

John 3:13-17

If God did all this to save the world, then how much indeed did and how much God still does love the world.

If God loves the world, that too is surely our call, as God’s people called to share in his holiness.

  • How much do you love the world?
  • How do you show it?
  • What challenges do you face? And helps you in facing down those challenges?

Photograph is of a work, Revelation by John Reinhardt, displayed in St Trôphime, Arles. The symbols of the Light, Cross, World, Word – pages from scripture and paint signifying blood – play out against one another. Photograph (c) Allen Morris, 2014