Taste and See: Love in action

eindhoven-august-2003-010-lamb

Grant us, O Lord, we pray,
that we may participate worthily in these mysteries,
for whenever the memorial of this sacrifice is celebrated
the work of our redemption is accomplished.
Through Christ our Lord.

Prayer over the Offerings

On the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time the we use the same Prayer over the Offerings as we use at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the beginning of the Triduum.

It is a prayer that points to the sublime beauty and importance of the Eucharist we celebrate. Our Eucharist is our praise of God but it is also what wins our salvation. It is this in part because of what we do, but mostly because of what is done for us, and which, in celebrating this Mass worthily and well, we join ourselves to. And that is the Sacrifice of Christ – a sacrifice that is perfect love for the Father and which wins us freedom from sin and death.

It is a mighty powerful prayer to set before us as we move on from the seasons of Advent and Christmas, in quieter days before we begin to keep Lent and Easter. They may be quieter days for us, but we are surrounded, supported, sustained by such great and powerful love.

  • Give thanks
  • Pray that we may participate worthily in the adventure of life.

Picture: Eindhoven, Netherlands. (c) 2003, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: This matters… it really matters.

Altar Bethlehem

The Collect on Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Advent, acknowledged the joy of the Sunday, Gaudete Sunday. It also reminded that this joy is not a frivolous joy: it is joy generated by the gift of life, hard won for us by Christ.

O God, who see how your people
faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity,
enable us, we pray,
to attain the joys of so great a salvation
and to celebrate them always
with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Rejoicing and solemnity do not always go together well. But in our best Christmas carols the wonder and joy at the birth of Christ is tempered by the memory of the sacrifice that he offers. A sacrifice we welcome, but a sacrifice won at such agony by the loving Lord.

  • What place does reality have in your preparation for Christmas? Your looking forward to the New Year?
  • Bring your hopes and fears to the Lord in prayer.

Altar over the place of the Nativity. Bethlehem. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: All is (for)given

Crucifix, Saint Gervais ParisThe 2nd reading on Sunday, the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, spoke of the entirely exceptional ministry of Jesus. He alone, a non-priest according to the Jewish law, was able to achieve everything that the priests of Judaism hoped and prayed for, but could not deliver:

All the priests stand at their duties every day, offering over and over again the same sacrifices which are quite incapable of taking sins away. He, on the other hand, has offered one single sacrifice for sins, and then taken his place forever, at the right hand of God, where he is now waiting until his enemies are made into a footstool for him. By virtue of that one single offering, he has achieved the eternal perfection of all whom he is sanctifying. When all sins have been forgiven, there can be no more sin offerings.

Hebrews 10:11-14,18

The Christian liturgy is about the offering of sacrifice. But it is about the re-presenting of that once and for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In our Mass and in all the Sacraments, and in our daily prayer, we present ourselves and our needs along with the remembrance of him.

That remembrance is something deep, alive, active, real, for it is Christ himself alive, active, real – in and for the Church and for the world.

We have nothing else to offer apart from him, for apart from him, even the best we have to offer is puny and passing. But offered in and with him how even our meagre achievements are rendered pleasing to God.

Christ alone is what God offers us.

St John of the Cross put it well, and provocatively:

In giving us his Son, his only Word (for he possesses no other), he spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word – and he has no more to say. . . because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son. Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behaviour but also of offending him, by not fixing his eyes entirely upon Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 65.

The Father gave us his Word, and that Word spoke love, mercy, forgiveness. The Word offers to restore us to the fullness of life.

What an offer to take to our life today.

  • Where do you need healing?
  • Or hope?
  • Or help?

Crucifix, St Gervais, Paris. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of our littleness make much

ElijahThe first reading at Mass today speaks of another woman ready to give of her little in an act of generosity and love for God. In the Gospel today, the widow offers her gift at the Temple; here she offers succour to God’s prophet:

Elijah the Prophet went off to Sidon. And when he reached the city gate, there was a widow gathering sticks; addressing her he said, ‘Please bring me a little water in a vessel for me to drink.’ She was setting off to bring it when he called after her. ‘Please’ he said ‘bring me a scrap of bread in your hand.’ ‘As the Lord your God lives,’ she replied ‘I have no baked bread, but only a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug; I am just gathering a stick or two to go and prepare this for myself and my son to eat, and then we shall die.’ But Elijah said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, go and do as you have said; but first make a little scone of it for me and bring it to me, and then make some for yourself and for your son. For thus the Lord speaks, the God of Israel:

“Jar of meal shall not be spent,
jug of oil shall not be emptied,
before the day when the Lord sends
rain on the face of the earth.”’

The woman went and did as Elijah told her and they ate the food, she, himself and her son. The jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied, just as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.

1 Kings 17:10-16

The goodness of these women is recorded in Scripture for our guidance and encouragement. It is also helps us to know any selfishness in ourselves.

The modesty and self-giving of the women can help us better embrace the life of loving sacrifice that should characterise the Christian.

The author Joseph Donders wondered whether Jesus was still mindful of this widow when he made offering of all he was and had in the gift of himself at the Last Supper.

Will we remember here as we accept the charge to go and do the same…

Image of stained glass window depicting Elijah. St Martin’s in the Bullring, Birmingham. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Broken Lord, speak of love

Gethsemane 2The first reading at Mass today comes from one of the ‘servant songs’ of Isaiah, widely read as prophetic anticipations of the sufferings of Christ, particularly in his Passion.

The Lord has been pleased to crush his servant with suffering.

If he offers his life in atonement,
he shall see his heirs, he shall have a long life
and through him what the Lord wishes will be done.
His soul’s anguish over,
he shall see the light and be content.
By his sufferings shall my servant justify many,
taking their faults on himself.

Isaiah 53:10-11

We need to be careful though. The reading responds to an experience of suffering, even a suffering that proves beneficial for others: so a direct correlation with the suffering of Christ can legitimately be made. Likewise the servant’s offering of his life in atonement: in himself achieving what others have failed to do, and doing so to honour the Lord his Father, our Father – there is direct comparison there, and it is fruitful for our understanding of Jesus and how he lived and died.

But it is a step too far to transpose the first line of this prophecy to the situation of Jesus. For itt has not pleased God to crush his Servant-Son. It has pleased God, indeed was his will, that Jesus be true to love, true to the covenant, true to his Sonship and Service. And Jesus agonised over this in Gethsemane, and triumphed over his fears.

But the crushing was achieved by man, not God: God overcomes the crushing when the Father raises the Son to the glory of the Resurrection, and then extends the offer of that gift to all humankind, even those debased by their sin against the innocent Son.

God in Jesus allows himself to be crushed by suffering, in solidarity, in communion, with us. That part of the prophecy is fulfilled. But fulfilled at a slant, and with divine irony.

  • What do you suffer for love?
  • Why?
  • What would be the alternative? Would it be better?

Olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: All for me?

Tabernacle, Leeds The second reading at Mass on Sunday, the feast of Corpus Christi, came from the Letter to the Hebrews. In that letter the salvation won by Christ is related, compared and contrasted, to the rites of the Temple cult of Judaism.

Now Christ has come, as the high priest of all the blessings which were to come. He has passed through the greater, the more perfect tent, which is better than the one made by men’s hands because it is not of this created order; and he has entered the sanctuary once and for all, taking with him not the blood of goats and bull calves, but his own blood, having won an eternal redemption for us. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer are sprinkled on those who have incurred defilement and they restore the holiness of their outward lives; how much more effectively the blood of Christ, who offered himself as the perfect sacrifice to God through the eternal Spirit, can purify our inner self from dead actions so that we do our service to the living God. He brings a new covenant, as the mediator, only so that the people who were called to an eternal inheritance may actually receive what was promised: his death took place to cancel the sins that infringed the earlier covenant. Hebrews 9:11-15

Sometimes consideration of great themes of Christain faith – such as salvation – can be very abstract and theoretical. Yet, consider, Christ shed his blood for you. True, he shed it for countless others too but also for you and me, personally. Jesus who lived and served so lovingly as we read in the scriptures. He served so faithfully, so perfectly, and this for me and you personally.

  • How – in the particular, unique circumstances of our lives might we live more humanly, more lovingly, more like Jesus today.

Tabernacle, Chapel of Reservation, Hinsley Hall, Leeds. (c) 2003, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: That we may better serve you

Lamb of sacrifice

The Gospel for Sunday, Corpus Christi, reminds us of the Passover context in which Eucharist was, from the first, understood and interpreted. Scholars offer their various ‘takes’ on which account is most historically accurate – that of John or of the Synoptics. But in both accounts the Passover looms large. The Eucharist is about freedom, it is about being saved from slavery.

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, his disciples said to Jesus, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him, and say to the owner of the house which he enters, “The Master says: Where is my dining room in which I can eat the passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large upper room furnished with couches, all prepared. Make the preparations for us there,’ The disciples set out and went to the city and found everything as he had told them, and prepared the Passover.

And as they were eating he took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to them. ‘Take it,’ he said ‘this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them, and all drank from it, and he said to them, ‘This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many. I tell you solemnly, I shall not drink any more wine until the day I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God.’

After psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives.

Mark 14:12-16,22-26

Passover is an annual feast. Eucharist from the beginning seems to have been especially a once a week event, the Lord’s Supper on the Lord’s Day. Now the Eucharist is a spiritual accompaniment to most any day, to most any occasion.

There is a virtue in that, but also a responsibility. We need to raise to the occasion and allow the Eucharist to be food for our mission. We are set free for a purpose, and that purpose is not only our own well-being. We live to help recover the Kingdom and to help our brothers and sisters to enter in.

Mosaic of the Glorified Lamb of Sacrifice, Abbey of the Dormition, Jerusalem. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.