Taste and See: The word of life

Sayers Common 033a.jpg

The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves.

But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.

Gospel for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 6:30-34

Over the next few weeks the readings take on a particular Eucharistic theme – we segue from Mark’s narrative to that of John in chapter 6 of his Gospel, beginning with the feeding of the 5000 and then continuing over the following four weeks, readings from the Bread of Life discourse.

These readings will have a particular resonance in parishes in England and Wales as we continue to prepare for Adoremus, the Eucharistic Congress being held in Liverpool in early September.

Before we move to reflections on how Jesus feeds us with Bread and with his Body, we note how Jesus feeds us with his word. It is the word that gathers the people to him, and holds them through the long day.

And for us too, the word brings us to the Lord. In the Liturgy we are shaped and focused by the word, indeed it is only after the word has been ministered to us that we dare to approach the Sacraments. The living word is the gateway to the Sacraments, and the food that allows us better to receive the Lord there and more fruitfully respond to him in our lives.

Lectern and lectionary. Sayers Common. © 2005, Allen Morris

Taste and See: The Lord present

IMG_6189 Bienealle Venice 2008

When Elijah reached Horeb, the mountain of the Lord, he went into the cave and spent the night in it. Then he was told, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’

Then the Lord himself went by. There came a mighty wind, so strong it tore the mountains and shattered the rocks before the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake. But the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire. But the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there came the sound of a gentle breeze. And when Elijah heard this, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

1 Kings 19:9,11-13
First reading for 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

St Irenaeus spoke of the Sacraments as loud silences in the mystery of God.

Often enough the heart of the Sacrament  is surrounded by all sorts of activity – that of the Liturgy, and that of our daily lives. That activity is not without its importance – not least the proclamation of the word that most immediately prepares us for the sacramental encounter with the Lord in the washing with water, anointing with oil, tasting of Bread broken and Wine poured out and shared.

But there needs to be the opportunity to enter into the silence, and depth, of that sacramental encounter… Sometimes the liturgy presents us with that opportunity, sometimes life… but when it does not come to us so easily we need to make time to seek it out, lest we have the experience and miss the meaning… receive the gift, but still lack the giver.

Installation, Venice Bienealle, 2008. (c) Allen Morris, 2018

Taste and See: The lasting good

Pilate On Sunday, the feast of Christ the King, the Gospel presented the encounter between Jesus and Pontius Pilate, between King of Kings, Son and Servant of God the Father,  and the Prefect governing on behalf of the Emperor of Rome.

The relics of Pilate are few and far between. The one extant contemporary record of his existence is a carving reproduced above of his name on a building in Caesarea Maritima, on the Mediterranean costs, recording this building (now lost) been constructed in  honour of Caesar (himself also lost?)

Of course the direct relics of Jesus are maybe even rarer (purported venerated foreskins not-withstanding). And Church, like Empire, is often evidenced in its ruins.

Caesarea MaritimaYet Christ has no need of relics, for he is risen and lives, is personally present to Church and world, in Church and aspects of world caught up in him and made sacrament of his presence. In these those with eyes to see and ears to hear are drawn into ever-new Communion with him

‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked.

Jesus replied, ‘Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?’

Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?’

Jesus replied, ‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.’

‘So you are a king then?’ said Pilate.

‘It is you who say it’ answered Jesus. ‘Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’

John 18:33-37

  • How do you most regularly find yourself invited to deeper communion with Christ?
  • What in your life is passing, and what enduring? What difference does distinguishing between the two make, on a day to day basis?
  • Bring your thoughts and feelings to the Lord in reflection and then in prayer.

Images from Caesarea Maritima. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: The best is yet to come

Sundial ChartresThe post Communion Prayer at Mass yesterday, the Solemnity of All Saints, reminds that for all the effort we put into the worthy celebration of Mass, and that we should put into our own worthy participation in the Mass, Mass is a passing thing.

Prayer after Communion

As we adore you, O God, who alone are holy
and wonderful in all your Saints,
we implore your grace,
so that, coming to perfect holiness in the fullness of your love,
we may pass from this pilgrim table
to the banquet of our heavenly homeland.
Through Christ our Lord.

Here we are passing creatures, called on to the heavenly Jerusalem, the home of all saints. Here we stumble, too often: there we are, please God, and by the grace of God, to be raised to glory with all the saints. And in heaven, as the Church teaches, there are no Sacraments for in heaven Christ is there directly without the mediation of sign and (sacramental) symbol. We will behold him face to face.

The Post Communion prayer looks back in gratitude for the table and nourishment that sustains the pilgrim on the journey, but also is part of that propelling us to the mission to love and serve which belongs to each Christian. The life of loving virtue here on earth also has its part in helping us to heaven.

  • What additional good deed might you do today, simply in thanksgiving for the gracious and real gift of Himself that Christ gives us at Mass?
  • How today can you demonstrate (again) that you do not live for this world only, but for the greater that is yet to come?

The sundial at Chartres measures something else that ceases as we enter the glory of heaven. There eternity reigns, there is no time. Photograph (c) 2012, Allen Morris.