Tag Archives: Abraham Sarah

February 21: Inter-galactic Discoveries XXIV, It’s cold outside.

 

It was cold, too cold for pseudo-Chihuahuas to do more than put their noses outside the door but they were enjoying people watching from the bay window.

 

‘Look down there! It’s little Abel on the sands. What is he doing?’ Alfie was half wrapped in his blanket which had become a shared blanket, as so much was shared, freely, by the Ossyrians in dogs’ clothing, almost without their realising it was happening.

T got out his binoculars and soon focussed on the toddler, clad in blue wellington boots and a warm all-in-one suit. ‘Very interesting. We should go join them.’

‘But what is he doing?’ demanded Ajax, who could read the amusement shaking T’s shoulders, but not the reason for it.

‘Come and see,’ said T, shaking the dog leads, and off they went, past the Waste Land shelter and along the prom. Just by the Jubilee Clock, the dogs yanked their leads from T’s hand, turned tail with one accord and refused to go on to greet Will, Abel and his mother. T had to follow. When something made Will look up he just caught a glimpse of the dogs mounting the steps to their front door, with the Director some yards in the rear. He did not realise they were avoiding Abel, and T never told him.

Indoors, Alfie shivered: ‘Abel was wading about in that cold water at the edge of the sea and splashing rocks and laughing! I’ll never understand humans. He was enjoying it and his mother and Will were letting him do it, and they were laughing too.’

‘They can’t help sharing his fun, and they aren’t the sort to stop him doing it completely. Sun, Sand and Sea. That’s why we came to Margate.’

‘But not Sun, Sand, Sea and Splash!’ grumbled Alfie.

‘Lighten up boys,’ said T. ‘Laughter is part of being human. Why the wife of Abraham, mother of the great religions, even laughed at God and called her son ‘laughter’ or Isaac. But I don’t think the humans totally understand it themselves.’

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Sunset over T and Alfie and Ajax’s house, Margate, January 2017.

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10 February: From Canterbury to Dallas

From Canterbury to Dallas (event)

As I left the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral today, I was drawn into the treasury room. Often there is one precious, ancient object to gaze upon. Today it was something old, something new.

The Church of the Incarnation in Dallas has commissioned from the Canterbury Cathedral glaziers, new windows taken from old – eight hundred years  old – windows in Canterbury. A selection is now on display including this panel of the sacrifice of Isaac, the angel risking his hand and wing to withstand the blow Abraham is about to deliver.

The new windows, made using mediaeval techniques, are vibrant and unmarked by the centuries of weather and pollution that have damaged the originals. Unlike the old monks of Canterbury, the ministers at Dallas will be able to bring every detail of the windows to the scrutiny of viewers using modern IT. The monks would have embraced IT, of course, as an aid to spreading the Good News – as Agnellus Mirror does in our own small way.

I shall return more than once before the windows are parcelled up and dispatched to Texas: they are on display here until 22 February, closing at 16.00 each day.

MMB.

 

Read and watch more at these links:

Canterbury to Dallas 1

Canterbury to Dallas 2

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November 8: Saint Winifride and the Crutches.

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Plowden Church, Shropshire: Saint Winifride with her Holy Well and pilgrims’ crutches.
  • ‘… Why then, do you want a photograph of our Saint Winifride?’
  • ‘Because she has her crutches. I wanted to show them as part of a blog about sacrifice.’
  • ‘I’m still not following you.’

I was at an unfamiliar church in the Border country, Saint Walburga’s in Plowden, discussing the theology of sacrifice and of art with a new acquaintance. Such encounters help to clarify the mind:

  • ‘I was also thinking of Saint Omer, where the tomb of Saint Erkembolde[1] is covered with children’s shoes. He was a missionary who tramped around Northern France and so became patron for people with foot problems. They leave a token of their child as a sign of their prayer. And so with the crutches and Winifride. I wanted to get away from the image of Abraham raising the knife to Isaac, and look at sacrifice in the everyday.’
  • ‘Now you are making sense. I like the idea of the everyday sacrifices.’

The crutches at Saint Winifride’s well represent real, if not everyday events: not everyone is cured at Holywell; nor was everyone cured at Bethesda (John 5). But the crutches represent realities: each of us will need crutches, physical or mental, from time to time; each will need help to walk in the way of the Lord (Psalm 116). For the one who offered a crutch at Holywell it maybe represented a concrete prayer of thanksgiving; for us today it is a sign of everyday needs, physical and spiritual, that we can admit to and offer to the Lord.

For thou hast delivered my soul from death,
mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.
I will walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.

Ps 116: 8-9.

Winifride, of course, was one of those remarkable women leaders of the Church in these Islands in the allegedly ‘Dark Ages’, like Walburga herself, and Eanswythe of Folkestone.[1]

[1] See Blog posts for 22 April 2016, 4 July 2016, 7 July 2016.

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12 September Eid-ul-Adha: The Holy Day of the Sacrifice.

sourate2-196-98b75 Surah II, 196. Al-Baqarah (The Cow)
‘Perform the pilgrimage and the visit (to Mecca) for Allah. And if ye are prevented, then send such gifts as can be obtained with ease, and shave not your heads until the first have reached their destination.

And whoever among you is sick or hath an ailment of the head must pay a ransom of fasting or almsgiving or offering. And if ye are in safety, then whosoever contenteth himself with the visit for the pilgrimage (shall give) such gifts as can be had with ease. And whosoever cannot find (such gifts) then a fast of three days while on the pilgrimage, and of seven when ye have returned, that is, ten in all.

That is for him whose folk are not present at the Inviolable Place of Worship. Observe your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is severe in punishment.’

The Holy Day of the Sacrifice: Aïd al Adha or Aïd el Kébir

Commonly called the ‘Eid-ul-Kabir’ (the Great Festival) in North Africa, it is also called ‘Tabaski’ in West Africa, ‘Tafaska’ among the Berber and ‘Kurban Bayrami’ in Turkey.
Eid-ul-Adha (the Festival of the Sacrifice) is one of the most important Muslim Festivals. Each year, it marks the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca and takes place on the 10th day of the month of Dou Al Hijja, the last month of the Muslim calendar. This year, the Festival is celebrated on the 12th September 2016 (in France). We are in the 1437th year since the Hegira of Mohammed to Medina. It lasts 4 days and is celebrated throughout the world. It is the Great (kabir) Festival of the Muslim world.

This Festival commemorates the submission to God of the Patriarch Abraham, who was ready to sacrifice his son at his command (Ishmael, according to Muslim tradition, or Isaac according to the Bible; the Koran does not make the name of the son explicit.)

On the eve of Eid-ul-Kabir, everything is purified; houses are cleaned from top to bottom; every cloth, down to the smallest duster, is conscientiously laundered.

Every Muslim family according to their means, sacrifice an animal (a ewe, goat, sheep, cow or camel) by slitting its throat while laid on its left flank, the head towards Mecca. A portion of the meat from this sacrifice will benefit the most destitute among the Muslims, thus asserting the solidarity and mutual assistance prescribed by Allah.

It is a day of reconciliation, where each one is invited to pardon whoever wronged him.

THE CALENDAR OF MUSLIM FESTIVALS

The dates listed are subject to a variation of one or two days according to the visibility of the moon in different regions. These festivities may provide the opportunity to our Christian communities to offer their good wishes for the festival to our Muslim neighbours, especially if there is a Muslim place of worship in the same locality.

This post is copied from the Missionaries of Africa’s website , where you can learn more about Islam and Christianity.                                                                                                                                                   MMB.

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April 18, Jerusalem II: No Tame God.

The prophets insisted that the Temple was the place of God’s presence, not just the national shrine of Israel or Judah. Before a stone could be laid upon a stone, Nathan was sent to forbid David from building a house for the Lord (2 Samuel 7). God wanted it clear that he was the one God, and not to be tamed like a Canaanite god by offering sacrifices to force blessings from his hand; nor was he open to trickery like Zeus, who was taken in by Prometheus’ theft of fire;[1] no, he was:

‘Exodus’ terrifying concept of unbearable beauty and power, God known in the thunderstorm on Mount Sinai, God who warns Aaron not to come within the Holy of Holies improperly dressed, lest he die.’[2]

 

            This God sustained a Covenant relationship with Israel. He it was who took the initiative and sent down fire upon the landmark sacrifices of Abraham’s vigil or Elijah’s watch on Mount Carmel (Genesis 15; 1Kings 18). He would do the same for his fledgling Church at Pentecost, when the disciples were transformed, not destroyed, by fire (Acts 2:3); a few years later the fire of the Spirit was passed to Paul’s ordinand, Timothy, bringing him into the eternal life of the Trinity (2Timothy 1:6–11) .

May our light burn brightly so that our lives may point those we love and those we meet to that eternal life.

           MMB.

[1]    Paul Cartledge: ‘Olympic Self-Sacrifice’, in  ‘History Today’, 50, 10; October 2000,
Paul Cartledge, Olympic Self Sacrifice .
[2]    Mary Douglas: ‘Leviticus as Literature’, Oxford University Press, 1999; p 34.

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April 17: Jerusalem I: Melchizedek and Abraham

peterhouseabraham (473x640)

Jewish tradition holds that the Temple in Jerusalem was built where Abraham once made ready to sacrifice his son, Isaac – or as Muslims believe, Ishmael – to the Lord (Genesis 22). So Jerusalem was already a place of sacrifice before a great city grew up there.

Yet before this event, Melchizedek, who met Abraham after one of his battles with bread and wine to share (Genesis 14: 18-20), was already established as the ‘Peaceful King of Salem’ at, tradition insists, Jerusalem.

The bread and wine he shared with Abraham suggests that this was already an agricultural centre. I ask myself, therefore: where was Melchizedek, Priest and King of Salem, when his esteemed neighbour came to the hill behind his town in order to kill his own son?

Perhaps he had already sat down with Abraham and Isaac, talked through their plan. Perhaps, as High Priest of the Lord and King of Peace (Hebrews 7:1-7), he was the ‘Angel of the Lord’ who stayed Abraham’s hand, restored Isaac to his father (and mother – Sarah seems to have had no part in this), and provided the ram for the offering (Genesis 22:11-14).

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The Angel of the Lord who intervenes in people’s lives is more likely to be a flesh and blood human than a being from another universe. Perhaps by sitting down over a cup of tea or a glass of wine, there will be an occasion for you to en-courage a friend or a stranger today.

On the Monday morning I wrote this I was greeted at the railway station by a smiling supporter of the Samaritans. ‘We don’t just hear you, we listen.’ A good motto for each one of us, on Monday or any other day!

The Samaritans

MMB

Max Emanuel Ainmiller, Claudius Schraudolph, Heinrich von Hess; Royal School of Glass Painting, Munich,  c1850: chapel window, Peterhouse, Cambridge. ‘Abraham  Sacrificing Isaac’. Photograph  by MMB.

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*22/12 – This Little Light of Mine – II

nasaM81galaxy

NASA

‘I AM’s stars and galaxies were more clearly to be seen before street lights bathed us in what the astronomers call light pollution: the lesser, man-made light overshadowing the great, created glory in the sky.

And so it happened that, far away and long ago, one night under the stars, Abraham heard the word of the Lord (Genesis 15:5-6) and believed that he was to become the father of a great nation, countless as the stars in the sky.

And today indeed, the children of Abraham, Muslims and Christians as well as Jews, are beyond counting.

Jesus proclaimed, ‘I am the Light of the World’ (John 8:12) and called us to let our light shine so brightly that people might see our good worksadentwreath (684x800) and glorify our father in Heaven. Clearly Jesus was speaking about the inner light of grace which should be shining out from within us.

As a concrete reminder of this, and following Jewish tradition, the Church has long used light in worship: the oil lamp burning perpetually before the tabernacle or aumbry; the Paschal candle, symbolic of the risen Jesus; the candles on the altar during the Eucharist; the votive lights before Mary’s ikon; the four or five candles on the Advent Wreath.

Let us allow the little light of a candle to still us during Advent, and make room for our little light to shine with His Light.

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Showered with Gifts

After a meeting at the Franciscan International Study Centre, I detoured past the chestnut trees on my ride home. A neighbour and his dog chestnuts (640x606)were already foraging, and he was happy to leave her with me and climb up to shake the tree. A great many more nuts cascaded down.

We went home well-laden with totally unearned gifts.

Once Zaccheus climbed a tree and came down to a totally unearned gift – the visit of the Good Lord to his home:

But Zacheus standing, said to the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have wronged any man of any thing, I restore him fourfold.

Jesus said to him: This day is salvation come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.    Luke 19:8-10

At least some of my foragings will feed the welcome guests at Christmas, but I found an unexpected challenge in chestnuts: who is my neighbour? Whose house am I to bring salvation to?

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Chad of Lichfield

sheeporchard

Chad was a missionary monk from Lindisfarne, who after assorted misadventures became Bishop of Lichfield in 669. His feast has been moved here from 2nd March, his death day, or heavenly birthday. He was a shepherd with the smell of his sheep who was tremendously respected by the people of the Saxon Kingdom of Mercia which formed his diocese. He avoided the luxury his position could have commanded, travelling on foot, not horseback. He would pray for hours at the well that bears his name. The area around his church in Lichfield has many springs which feed the Minster Pool near the Cathedral.

Saint Bede tells how Chad depended on his community life:

He had built himself a retired habitation not far from the church, wherein he was wont to pray and read in private, with a few, it might be seven or eight of the brethren, as often as he had any spare time from the labour and ministry of the Word.

Bede: Ecclesiastical History, IV.3. at  http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/38326?msg=welcome_stranger

Together with his well, Lichfield has another precious reminder of Chad – a carved angel from his vandalised tomb. Birmingham’s St Chad’s Cathedral houses his relics, preserved through difficult times by recusant Catholics.

Through Chad we have a line from the earliest missionary monks forward to the Church of today, and as Bede reminds us, when Chad and his flock died of the plague, God translated the living stones of the Church from their earthly places to the heavenly building. May we be living stones and build each other up!

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Abraham and the JWs

dunes

Abraham was still on my mind, when I met our Jehovah’s Witness Missionary. I wanted to suggest that Abraham was not a spotless paragon, but that God still worked out his will through him. Not that I was trying to paint the Patriarch as wicked.

When I mentioned Abraham’s deceit, letting the Kings think Sarah was not his wife, my spiritual sparring partner countered: ‘But he had to do this because Sarah was so attractive, she could get from the Kings what they had and Abraham did not, and Abraham would not lose his head’.

As ever, I came away frustrated that discussion did not happen at all. The uncertainty factor implicit in discussion – neither of us may be completely right, both of us could learn from our conversation – was unwelcome.

Indeed uncertainty can be hard to live with. But Abraham surely lived with it:

Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. (Genesis 12:1-2)

Abram’s leaving home to cross the desert, was a true act of faith, I agreed, but God is the most active one in this whole story.

My encounter did one good thing: my wife was sleeping after her night shift and was not disturbed by the rappiest knock our door ever undergoes!

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