Tag Archives: Angels

25 March:The Annunciation.

We are told (Luke 1.29) that, at the Annunciation, Mary ‘was troubled at his (the angel’s) saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be.’ The troubles did not end there, as Simeon foretold: (Luke 2:35) ‘And thy own soul a sword shall pierce.’

I would like to take a sideways look at this story with a passage from Father Andrew SDC, writing to a woman recently bereaved in World War II.

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable,’ (1 Corinthians 15:19) because, indeed, as S. Paul knew so well from his own experiences, our Christian hope brings us all sorts of pains which we only have because of it; I mean the pain that comes from the failure to live up to it, and the pain of sacrifices made because of it, and also as it deepens and enriches our relationships and makes our friendships much more deep and sacred, so our partings are made more poignant as each beloved one is taken from us. But it is not in this life only that we have hope in Christ, and so we can smile through our tears and be sure that our dear ones are with Christ, and nearer to him are not farther from us.

Life and Letters of Fr Andrew, p 162.

How much pain Mary took on trust when she agreed to the angel’s request!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

14 January: Robin and Angel keeping watch.

robinangel-2

Here is Robin, watching the back door from our old Welsh angel. This stone came from St Tydfil’s churchyard in Wales. I was working on the clearing of this ground some years ago and rescued this slab of forest stone from the bulldozer and the skip.

The angel has guarded our comings and our goings since we moved to this house. If we don’t make a daily conscious prayer of thanks for God’s protection on our home, we once and for all made a concrete prayer when we put the stone on the wall.

And robin is welcome to our protection too, in the shape of a few crumbs but also a dense ivy hedge that offers protection for nesting and for roosting – and a few insects and slugs for food.

Visit, we beseech thee, O Lord, this place, and drive from it all the snares of the enemy; let thy holy angels dwell herein to preserve us in peace; and may thy blessing be upon us evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

MMB

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Laudato si'

6 January: Epiphany

 

moon-bow

Even those of little faith are predisposed

on Christmas Eve for wonder, I suppose,

as night grows late and great with child.

Those shepherds of so long ago had trained their eyes

on earth: too much of gazing up at skies

and sheep go missing in the wild.

 

Thus shepherds don’t discourse with angels as a rule.

Nor I.  But I am keen on tidings yule

and probably disqualified.

Still, hear me out: I went about my routine tasks

with eyes on earth before the midnight mass,

expecting bread and wine to hide

 

not less – or more – than mystery.  Outside the door

the night was lit.  I stopped.  I’d not before

known midnight give a bird its note

as though at dawn, but softly as a lullaby –

and earth become all ear, with no reply

but something catching in the throat.

 

But if you think the wonder of the bird and song

the marvellous epiphany, you’re wrong.

It was the sky – no other place.

Susceptibility in me won’t sink so low

as claim a real miracle – oh no.

Yet, as I gazed at outer space,

 

I saw full mother-moon and off-spring aura bright,

and a second aura capture light from light –

with light-years singing in between:

Hosannas heaved.  I heard them.  Not with day-time ears,

but night-ears heard their music, calming fears

of aeons. So: epiphany.

 

I took it back inside with me as I returned

to routine tasks with thoughts of heaven.  I’d learned

to train my eyes on high surprises.

SJC

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry

6 December: Christ knows Mercy is not always easy.

Mercy is not always an easy virtue to live out. Masefield recognises this in The Coming of Christ. He portrays a foretelling of Jesus’s Agony in the Garden (Luke 22:43) when ‘there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony, he prayed the longer.’

Masefield’s words could apply to Christ’s thoughts in Gethsemane as well as to his reason for coming to earth in the first place:

I stand here at the gate

I quake as I enter in;

Life with its griefs and sin,

Earth with its death and Fate,

Man with his love and hate. (p6)

The Gate of Life, the Gate of Death: two fearsome Gates of Mercy through which Christ entered this world and the next.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry

5 December: Mercy for those with neither hope nor peace.

hlaes-pla-single-star

The Angel of Mercy joins the other angels to explain why mercy is needed:

We see the world of men seizing and slaying,

            Lusting for wealth, destroying and betraying,

With neither hope nor peace,

Save greed, between their darkness and decaying.

They come out of a darkness; they awaken

To the Blood’s storms, they tremble, they are shaken,

With neither hope nor peace,

They war in bloody blindness until taken. (pp 4-5)

Seizing and slaying – what changes? Greed is encouraged, consumption to keep the economy growing, so that we can earn more money and lust for more wealth. And whether it is people or the environment, we go on slaying or others do so in our name.

We need God’s mercy to live, and our sisters and brothers need us to live God’s mercy in hope and peace, whatever bloody blindness infects our society.

WT

Star from the walls of Hales Place Jesuit Chapel, Canterbury. MMB.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry

December 4: Mercy is a star to steer by.

polaris-640x314

There is an angel  called ‘The Mercy’ in Masefield’s play, who says:

I bring the Mercy of God as peace, as balm,

            As loving–kindness between soul and soul.

In the world’s storm I am the central calm,

            In the world’s sky my brightness is the Pole. (p4)

 

God’s Mercy as the fixed, dependable Pole Star that helps us find the way; our loving-kindness to each other as the day-to-day expression of Mercy; here are two ideas worth holding onto. We need Mercy as a star to steer by: Mercy needs us to bring it to where it has to be.

As Masefield wrote elsewhere:

All I ask is a tall ship

And a Star to steer her by.

‘Sea Fever’.

WT

Polaris is the bright start to the left of this NASA image.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry

October 21: Emptiness without him

. . .  What resource have I

other than the emptiness without him of my whole

being, a vacuum he may not abhor?[1]

R.S. Thomas makes us aware of the winter of the soul, waiting for one flower to open within. Is this vacuum a sign that we are doing something wrong? Wrong question: doing is secondary to listening, to loving; these will point us to the right course of action.

We have no resources to offer God, other than emptiness: a quiet place with room for him.

In her personal life, the poet Christina Rossetti knew bleak and empty heartache; her most well-known hymn is more than sentimentality:

 In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, 
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; 
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, 
in the bleak midwinter, long ago. 

Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain; 
heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign. 
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed 
the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ. 

Angels and archangels may have gathered there, 
cherubim and seraphim thronged the air; 
but his mother only, in her maiden bliss, 
worshipped the beloved with a kiss. 

What can I give him, poor as I am? 
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; 
if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; 
yet what I can I give him: give my heart. 

 

[1] The Absence, SP p133

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry

2 October: Guardian Angels

If it were not Sunday, this would be the feast of the Guardian Angels.

People who are sceptical about angels should bear in mind scientists’ speculation about parallel – or is it intersecting universes? Talk of angels as ‘pure spirits’ and I’m lost; if they exist in some parallel universe, they are almost completely different to us. Almost, but not quite. If, as Jesus tells his disciples, children have guardian angels, they must have ways to relate to their charges.

See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 18:10

Fr Gerald Scriven M.Afr. wrote a series of children’s books, now very dated, about an apprentice guardian angel nicknamed Wopsy. His first posting was to a small boy somewhere in Africa. One sentence struck me as worth sharing today:

Wopsy wasn’t a bit afraid of devils, for whom he had a great contempt, quite out of proportion to his size.

From: Wopsy, Adventures of a Guardian Angel, at http://www.thepelicans.co.uk/mc11.htm

Whether you believe you have a guardian angel or not, pray for the courage to face evil or sin, however it presents itself, and the wisdom to know what to do about it. And thank God for the times you’ve been kept safe in body, mind or spirit, perhaps well against the odds, as humans see things.

For he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways. In their hands they shall bear thee up: lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt walk upon the asp and the basilisk: and thou shalt trample under foot the lion and the dragon.

Psalm 90.

And pray that, unlike Cain, (Genesis 4:9) we may be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers or indeed guardians.

MMB.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

30 September – William Blake’s ‘The Agony in the Garden’

The Agony in the Garden c.1799-1800 William Blake 1757-1827 Presented by the executors of W. Graham Robertson through the Art Fund 1949 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N05894

William Blake, The Agony in the Garden, c.1799-1800. Tempera on iron. Tate Britain. Image released under a Creative Commons license.

 

Blake’s The Agony in the Garden is a highly original take on this scene from Luke’s Gospel. According to Luke 22:41-45, Christ kneels, praying to the Father to ‘remove this cup from me’; an angel appears to strengthen him, and as he continues to pray, ‘his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground’. Artists depicting this subject are usually faithful to the details of Christ’s kneeling and the presence of an angel (sometimes more than one is included), often holding a cup.

In Blake’s version, Christ is kneeling and his eyes are open, but he is falling backwards and being caught by an angel swooping down from above. There is a strong sense of intimacy in the interaction between Christ and the angel – the direct alignment of their faces creates a mirroring, and the embracing reach of the angel and Christ’s open arms are offers of union.

Our eyes may not immediately tune in to notice the sleeping disciples in the shadows among the trees in the background. They have been relegated to this place of semi-darkness in stark contrast to the angel who appears in answer to Jesus’ prayers.

The strangeness of Blake’s interpretation of this scene might emphasise the question of how we are to read the angel in this story? I wonder if Blake has presented us with a (rather unorthodox) depiction of the Trinity, with the angel representing the Father, responding to Jesus’ prayer, and the strange blast of red light above it as the Holy Spirit.

What we certainly have is a powerful image of an angel as a positive, sustaining presence in answer to a prayer.

NAIB

1 Comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

29 September – William Blake’s ‘Angel Appearing to Zacharias’

William Blake, The Angel Appearing to Zacharias. c.1799-1800. Pen, ink, tempera and glue on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image released under the Metropolitan Museum’s Open Access for Scholarly Comment scheme.

 

The pictures posted today and tomorrow are from another series of pictures of biblical subjects painted by William Blake for the civil servant Thomas Butts. Before Blake made Butts the watercolours of which we saw one yesterday, he painted fifty small temperas of biblical subjects.

Within this group of paintings, Blake’s Nativity pictures seem to act as a distinctive sub-group with a strong sense of series – an unfolding narrative which reflects the artist’s conception of Christ’s identity as the source of Vision and prophecy. Christ’s advent in Jesus is part of an ongoing process of revelation.

The New Testament sequence in Blake’s biblical paintings opens with The Angel Gabriel appearing to Zacharias. This is an unusual subject: I have not come across other examples by Blake’s contemporaries, but it is possible that Blake had seen prints of Old Master versions such as Ghirlandaio’s fresco in the Tornabuoni chapel, Florence.

The angel is bringing news of the birth of John the Baptist, the prophet of Christ and a figure with whom Blake himself identified (because Blake saw himself as a prophet).

Blake strips away the temple architecture which tends to dominate images of this subject and contrasts the priestly trappings of Zacharias and the temple with the simple white garment of the angel – the herald of the prophet who points to the blast of light coming from above.

Zacharias doubts Gabriel’s prophecy and is struck dumb in punishment until the child is born (Luke 1:18-20), demonstrating that doubt hinders prophecy, although this blast of light outshines the menorah (the seven branched candle-stick) and the fire on the altar. Blake, who saw angels in a tree on Peckham Rye, and on the beach at Felpham uses this story to encourage his viewer to trust in the messages of angels.

NAIB

1 Comment

Filed under Daily Reflections