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Posts Tagged ‘Christ’


Thursday, October 14, 2021

John 19:38-42

descent from the cross

Roger van der Weyden: The Descent from the Cross

Burial

In this time of harvest when the northern hemisphere gives up her gifts of summer to prepare us for the cold darkness of winter, I cannot quite let go of the images and sounds of last week’s memorial Mass in which we celebrated the life of a young woman who died much too early. The gift of her life still rides with me as I journey back and forth to the school where she and I smiled at one another in the hallways and classroom. The wisdom of her youth still whispers to me as I greet and teach her grieving friends. The grace of her dying still accompanies me as I prepare lessons in the quiet evenings of the gathering autumn. Looking to meet the significance of this persistent presence, I go in search of a painting that soothes grief. As always, it reminds me of the wondrous sacrificial love that descends from the cross to offer itself when all else fails. And I come across this reflection written on September 25, 2008. I share it today with you.

Descent from the Cross

Detail frm Roger van der Weyden: The Descent from the Cross

Detail from Roger van der Weyden: The Descent from the Cross

One of my favorite paintings is Van der Weyden’s “Descent from the Cross”.  It lives in the Prado museum in Madrid, and when I travel there I like to spend as much time with it as possible.  It hangs alone on a large, pale wall . . . where the downward movement from the cross moves through Jesus . . . through his fainting mother . . . past Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea and John, the Beloved Apostle to whom Jesus commends his mother . . . lingering with the brokenhearted women . . . hesitating with the grieving men . . . off of the canvas . . . and out of the room. 

Detail from Roger Van Der Weyden: The Descent From the Cross

Detail from Roger van der Weyden: The Descent from the Cross

It is as if all of the sorrow of the world falls away from us and into the pale, dead body of the Christ.  We can sense his downward journey into hell for the redemption of souls.  We can anticipate his return. 

St. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 6:16: What agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God; as God said: “I will live with them and move among them, and I will be their God and they will be my people”. 

St. John reminds us in 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

Through this Descent from the Cross we feel an abiding compassion that persists through the most difficult of circumstances.  We see an enduring passion that remains beyond all imaginings.  We experience a love that knows only intimate union through mercy and justice.  We sense that something will swing back through the red and blue and white of the canvas to leap out into us . . . to bring us in . . . to sweep us up into the arms now outstretched in death.  We gaze upon the hope that tells us we are redeemable and worth fighting for.

Detail from Roger van der Weyden: The descent from the Cross

Detail from Roger van der Weyden: The Descent from the Cross

And with faith . . . we know with certainty that this saver of souls lives.  We know that he acts in us and through us.  We know that he has returned to complete his mission of bringing fire and love to consume the world.  We only need open our hearts . . . and trust him to act in our lives. 

Amen.

Tomorrow . . . Resurrection


For more information about this masterpiece, visit: https://www.museodelprado.es/en/visit-the-museum/15-masterpieces/work-card/obra/descent-from-the-cross/ or http://hubpages.com/hub/Rogier-Van-Der-Weyden-Descent-From-The-Cross or http://hubpages.com/hub/Rogier-Van-Der-Weyden-Descent-From-The-Cross

 

To discover who is who in this painting and to learn about the symbolism used by the artist, visit: http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/famous-paintings/descent-from-the-cross-weyden.htm

To learn about the connection with Belgian crossbowmen, visit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Descent_from_the_Cross_(van_der_Weyden) 

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bible and candleFriday, May 21, 2021

1 John 2

Ideal and Real – Part I: Treatise

Most scholars agree that this treatise on Christ’s love was not written as a letter but rather as a discourse on “certain false ideas, especially about Jesus, and to deepen the spiritual and social awareness of the Christian community”. (Senior 387)

We too, are presented with false teachings about deeply held beliefs. We too, are in need of a deepening spiritual and social awareness. We too, are called to nourish and tend to our community.

“1 John lends itself . . . readily to every time and place. For a document generated by bitter conflict, it is amazingly positive and loving in tone . . . What is stated positively is sometimes denied a short time later. The reason for this alteration of ideal and real lies in the circumstances being addressed . . . First John’s apparent indecisiveness reflects the chastened perspective caused by the trauma of division. The symbols need reshaping. The author urges his readers away from a smug sense of their own perfection, to an awareness of their need to repent. Not only ‘those who went out from us’ have sinned. All have sinned and need the expiation offered by Jesus”.   (Senior RG 563)

When we face a bitter conflict, we might follow John’s example of adopting an amazing and loving tone.

When we experience indecisiveness, we might want to find out if the wavering comes from a real or perceived trauma.

When we feel smugly superior to others because of our assumed perfection, we might repent and ask forgiveness of those whom we have slighted.

I am writing to you, children, because your sins have been forgiven for his name’s sake.

What is real? What is imagined? What is perfect? What is flawed? Spend a bit of time today with 1 John 2 to consider the challenge this loving apostle lays out before us. Reflect on what is real, on what is ideal, and on what we do with our own flawed and accurate perceptions.

Tomorrow – Part II: Connecting


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.387 & RG 563. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on Sunday, January 10, 2010.

Image from: http://www.catholicmarriageprep.com/resources/wedding-readings

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john3Wednesday, May 19, 2021

1 John 1:1-4

A Prayer to Love

The Apostle John tells us today . . .

What we have seen from the beginning . . .

What we have heard . . .

What we have seen with our eyes . . .

What we looked upon . . .

What we touched with our hands . . .

Was visible . . .

Is still visible . . .

And we proclaim to you now . . .

We are writing this so that your joy may be complete . . .

This is our anthem of love . . .

Sing it often . . .

Proclaim it aloud . . .

So that others may know this joy. Amen.

Spend some time today with the opening of John’s first letter of love to us by clicking on the scripture link above or here in this paragraph. Explore the four versions of these verses that have been selected. Choose another version by using the drop-down menus and examine the meaning of love in your life and where it is present in an unusual way. Say the prayer above or write your own prayer. Consider sending your Prayer to Love to another . . .


For an interesting prayer to St. John from The Feast Day Cookbook by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger, David McKay Company, Inc., New York, 1951, click on the image above or go to: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/prayers/view.cfm?id=965

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020: Sirach 8 & 9Part III

A Prayer for Friends and Friendship

friendship013[1]The wisdom of Proverbs and Sirach may be dismissed as childish or old-fashioned, but this week we have seen the depth and breadth of their astuteness and their keen understanding of human nature.  Today we see these verses as a welcome counterpoint to the material world and its headlong rush to acquire all that is new; we strive to keep all things in balance: Spurn not the discourse of the wise, but acquaint yourself with their proverbs; from them you will acquire the training to serve you in the presence of princes.  Reject not the wisdom of the old ones which they have learned from their elders; from it you will obtain the knowledge how to answer in time of need. (Sirach 8:8-9)

In our modern age of hyper-communication we might draw into ourselves in fear as we hear constant news of conflict and violence.  We may be tempted to look at all that is wrong and forget to look for all that is right with the world.  Anxiety may outweigh optimism.  Fear may trump trust.  Self-protection and avoidance of vulnerability may outweigh our courage to enter into friendship with sincerity and integrity.  If this is so, and if the familiar stories in scripture do not inspire us, we will want to return to the wisdom captured by Jesus ben Sirach, for he has much to offer us.

And so we pray in gratefulness for our true friends and in thanksgiving for the presence of Christ in our lives . . .

Good and gracious God, I thank you for the true friendship you have shared with me in the person of my friends.  Keep me ever aware of their value.  Remind me to thank them often.  Guide me in returning their nurturing care of my humanity.  Help me to recognize their divinity, just as these true friends affirm my divinity when I reflect you to them.  Thank you for adopting me as your daughter.  Remind me often that I am a citizen of the next world rather than one of this.  Give me the patience to wait while the wine of relationships ages.  I ask this in Jesus’ name, together with the friendship of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Let us give thanks today for the gift of friendship.


Image from: http://www.cherrybam.com/friendship-quotes.php

For more wisdom from this text, type the “Sirach” into the blog search box and choose a reflection.   

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Hebrews 7: Melchizedek

Monday, December 2, 2019

Reubens: The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek

The writer of this letter tells us today that with the arrival of one such as Jesus the old way of living in doubt and fear is ended.  From the resurrection forward we live by a new order, a new covenant, a new intercession.  Jesus has arrived to liberate all – no matter creed or race or origin.  Jesus supersedes all – no matter nationality or ethnicity or orientation.  Jesus fulfills all – no matter doubt or rejection or fear.  This is wonderful news for us for it means that all that is good that we might possibly hope for is now guaranteed to each of us – and this promise is foreshadowed in humanity’s earliest stories.

From the CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE: “Why is so much attention paid to a figure who appears only twice in Scripture?  Because both appearances point toward Christ.  In Genesis 14,7-20, Melchizedek is named a priest of God [although he was a Gentile!], whom even Abraham acknowledged.  Logically, then, a priest descended from him would be superior to one descended from Abraham!  And Melchizedek’s second scriptural appearance is in verse 4 of that very Psalm 110 which Christians regarded as a literal prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection.  Melchizedek’s being ‘without beginning or end’ (because Scripture records neither his birth nor his death) is therefore an anticipation of the Son of God whose priesthood is eternally valid; conversely, Jesus is a priest ‘according to the order (rank) of Melchizedek’ (Ps 110,4).  In his resurrection, Jesus became priest “by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed” (7,16).  He ‘remains forever’ (7,24).  His sacrifice is ‘once for all’ (7,27). He ‘lives forever to make intercession’ (7,25).  The Jewish priesthood descended from Abraham cannot compete.  God’s revelation in Jesus does not merely continue the former story, it raises it to a new plane.  Jesus’ death and resurrection mark an absolute beginning”. (Senior RG 545)

Melchizedek comes to us as a unique figure; we know so little about him and yet he holds so much importance.  In a way, he mirrors many of us.  History will record little about us and yet we each make an important contribution to the collective human story.  Many will argue that we are far different from Melchizedek in that he was a priest and we are not.  Yet others will reply that each of us – as followers of Christ – has the potential to sanctify, to bless and anoint.

This reflection does not present a theological argument but rather it posits a thought for us to mull and turn over.  What do we know about Melchizedek?  What does his relationship with Abraham and Jesus have to say to us today?  How will our lives – and the lives of those we touch each day – improve as a result of our reflection on this mysterious man from the distant past?  What and whom do we sanctify with our belief in the Living God?  Why and when do we make our relationships holy – even with our enemies?  How and why do we bless and anoint others with our words and actions?

What does the man Melchizedek mean to us today?  And how do we show the world what we have learned from him?


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. RG 545. Print.   

A re-post from November 11, 2012.

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Ezekiel 25: Against the Nations

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Bridge over the Drina in Mostar, Bosnia

As we read this chapter of Ezekiel we might be lured into what Richard Rohr – and many others – calls dualistic thinking.  Decisions are made in a yes/no, black/white, off/on world.  If we are able to step outside of our small perspective and move into a greater view of the world we understand that this kind of reasoning is dangerous in that it limits our vision . . . and therefore limits us.  Rohr examines how life is a paradox in his blog posts at http://richardrohr.wordpress.com They are worth visiting as are his CD lectures, the webcasts and other resources on his Rohr Institute site at http://www.cac.org/ as we reflect on the way we think, the way we respond to conflict, and the way we seek resolutions to the difficult passages in our lives.

The portion of Ezekiel that we read today may be used as fuel for the fire of prejudice . . . if we allow the voice of revenge and conquest to go unchecked.  As the recent events in our global community unfold, we are reminded that fanaticism can never be good. As my siblings and I grew, my Dad intoned to us regularly: Anything is a bad thing when taken to extremes . . . even a good thing.  He understood that words like the ones we read today can be taken out of context, can be blown out of context and morphed in importance. Any single verse, Dad would say, when taken in isolation does not tell the whole story. Read the story.  When my father and grandfather told us to read the whole story what they meant was this: stop, think, pray, listen, think, read, think, pray, share ideas, pray, think, pray . . . and act.  We want to take this method with us as we plunge into Ezekiel’s words against the nations.  To what does he call us?

The Old Testament Yahweh can be seen here as a god of vengeance and when we read these verses with anger in our hearts we might believe that God himself justifies the revenge we feel against those who have injured us; but we are also reminded that Yahweh’s love for creation knows no bounds.

The Old Testament Yahweh can be seen here as a god who exacts precise payment for wrongs committed; but we know that Yahweh’s generosity and compassion cannot be outdone when we remember his care for the enslaved and powerless.

The New Testament Jesus fulfills the promise of reunion and union first uttered by Yahweh.

The New Testament Jesus brings human hands and feet and voice to the mercy and compassion first shown by Yahweh.

When we find ourselves in turmoil and wishing to take revenge against the people who have injured us we must not let dualistic thinking close off possibilities of healing, reconciliation and union.

When we find ourselves in deep sorrow over a loss we have suffered we must not let simplistic rule-following to replace decision-making by a well-formed conscience.

When we feel ourselves being pulled into the vortex of darkness that would have us chant slogans that condemn, that would lead us to take an eye for an eye, that would ask us to rail against the nations . . . we must first stop to think and to pray, and to seek so that we might find . . . the forgiving, open, healing way of Christ.  For it is Christ who embodies all that is good.  It is Christ who brings us the outrageous hope that even the most dire circumstances may be righted. It is Christ who will help us to build bridges to the nations.


A re-post from September 15, 2012.

The name “Mostar” means “the city of bridges”.  To read more about what happened to the bridges in Bosnia during the most recent Balkan wars, click on the image above or go to: http://balkansnet.org/mostar.html  Follow more links on that page to read and reflect on reconciliation and revenge.

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The Catholic Letters: Universality

Friday, October 4, 2019

The New American Bible explains the inclusion of the letters of James, Peter, John and Jude in the canon of the New Testament saying that “early Christians saw the New Testament as the depository of apostolic figures to whom they are attributed”.  That being said, there is ambiguity about the authorship of some of these letters; however, they were all written during the early “apostolic age” and as such are important to us – the apostles of the twenty-first century.  What lessons can we take from them?

Scholars tell us that these letters demonstrate the true meaning of the word catholic.  They underscore the idea that Christ came for all.  Christ heals all who seek him.  Christ loves allChrist answers all who call upon him.  So it follows that if we are Christ we, too, must have a universal view of humankind.

When I think of James, I love that he reminds us to be doers of the word and not sayers only.  We cannot be saved by faith alone.

When I think of Peter, I remember that his letters did not make much sense to me until I had suffered greatly.  Peter, Cephas the Rock, writes so beautifully of the way to suffer properly, of how to make our suffering holy and thus unite ourselves with Christ through the cross so that we become co-redeemers with Christ.

John’s letters, and in particular the first two, are beautiful anthems to love.  They are surfacing as first readings at Mass this week and I am always struck by how they amplify the message of John’s lyrical Gospel, and how they give us a clear understanding that God is love and that love is God.

Jude’s one simple letter tells us how to live in a Christian community, how to beware of false teachers, and how to admonish one another properly.

Taken together or separately, there is much to be gained by sitting with a commentary and an epistle or two on a quiet afternoon to understand the allegory and the message meant for us . . . the modern apostles.

We seek God.  We seek union and intimacy with God.  This cannot be done unless we follow in the footsteps of those who shared bread with the Master.  Jesus came as God’s expression of love to us, his creatures.  He comes to us each day in the persons with whom we interact.  He calls us to be the universal church.

God seeks us.  He seeks union and intimacy with us.  This cannot be done unless we allow our hearts to be open to the potential planted in us.  We go to Jesus each day as we demonstrate our faith by loving God our creator fully.  We go out to Christ each day as we unite with Christ, becoming co-creators of love.  We become the universal church.

Jesus, breath of God, abide with us as we rise, become us as we go about our day, dream with us as we put our head upon the pillow at night.  Jesus, we seek you even as you seek us.  Amen.


Adapted from a reflection written on January 11, 2008.

Image from: https://jooinn.com/old-letter-rolls.html

Investigate the Letters of the New Testament at: http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/SFS/an0400.asp

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Matthew 22:1-14: The Wedding Feast

Sunday, August 4, 2019 

Tintoretto: The Wedding Feast

When I was a child, each time I heard this parable I thought the king to be a bit harsh.  How was the man tossed into the night to know that he should have dressed up for the party?  Hadn’t he been halted on his way down the road of life and invited suddenly to the Wedding?  Now as an adult I understand that the point of this story is about being prepared always.    It is about going about life as if each day holds an invitation for the Wedding.  It is about rising each morning knowing that we are called.  It is about taking the time each morning to put on the wedding garment before I step across my threshold into the world.  It is about checking the garment for readiness several times a day.  It is about laying out that garment each night as I go to my bed . . . in preparation for dinning the next day.

Christ is constantly prepared to receive us.  God the Father is constantly guiding and protecting us.  The Holy Spirit is constantly abiding and comforting us.  Can I not be constantly mindful of these great gifts of being called . . . being protected . . . being loved?

May we never be reduced to silence as is the guest in today’s parable.

May we always be ready and willing to go to the feast.

May we always strive for constancy . . . just as our God is always constant with us.


Image from: http://abcdfinnestad.blogspot.com/2010/06/parable-of-wedding-feast.html

Written on July 14, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.  For more on The Wedding Feast, click on the image above or go to: http://abcdfinnestad.blogspot.com/2010/06/parable-of-wedding-feast.html

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Song of Songs 6:4-12: The Charms of the Beloved

Pentecost Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Tirzah Valley

Tirzah is a probable reference to the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel and most likely means pleasantThe following descriptions use pastoral allusions, creating images that would certainly be pleasant to the people in the first century before Christ.  The other marriage imagery is familiar to New Testament readers who are accustomed to hearing Christ describe his own union with us, his church, his bride, his beloved.  Footnotes send us to Matthew 9:15; 25:1-13; John 3:29; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:23-32 and Revelation 19:7; 21:9.  The portion of the Song of Songs we focus on today is a description of the charming characteristics of the groom’s beloved – – – a description of us, the bride.

We see here that Christ is centered on wooing us, drawing us into his ways.  Do we consider Christ to be the center of our own lives?

We read here that Christ seeks us out no matter where we are.  Do we seek Christ in the same way?

We reflect on the fact that Christ sacrifices all he has – himself – for his beloved.  Do we sacrifice all that we are and have in the same way for Christ?

This is how we acquire the charming inner beauty of the Beloved we read about today: through our constancy, preparedness, fidelity, and trust.  This inner beauty radiates outward, calling to the groom, echoing his own faithful love.  Nothing else matters.  No other union is more real.  No other love is more secure.

This Song is accredited to Solomon yet was most likely written at the end of the Exile (around 538 B.C.E.).  It describes the intimacy of a conjugal relationship; the same relationship we are to have with Christ.  In such a close bond there in nothing hidden, there is no illusion, no deception.  We must put all of that aside if we are to find the happiness we seek.

In this sublime description of abiding, ardent and even passionate love, we find the meaning otherwise hidden from us by a material life full of itself with its alluring deceits, waywardness and trickery.  If we are to be both serene and passionate in our love for God, if we are to find peace that holds us faithful, we must put all worldly ways aside because . . . my lover belongs to me and I to him . . . Before I know it, my heart makes me the blessed one of my kinswoman.

Pomegranate Trees

The invitation to union with the beloved is open to each of us.  So let us go down to the garden to look at the fresh growth of the valley, to see if the vines are in bloom, if the pomegranates have blossomed . . . let us set a little time apart each day . . . for it is in this serene and peace-filled place that we encounter a love we have only otherwise imagined . . . the love of Christ.


A re-post from May 26, 2012. Originally written on April 21, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

For a Bible Walk through the Tirzah Valley click on the image above or go to: http://www.biblewalks.com/sites/Makhruk.html

For some interesting history, and a few tips on how to eat a pomegranate, click on the fruit image or go to: http://blog.craftzine.com/archive/2009/10/how-to_eat_a_pomegranate.html

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