The VisionIn the busy tongues of spring
There’s an angel carolling.
Kneeling low in any place,
We may see the Father’s face;
Standing quiet anywhere,
Hear our Lady speaking fair;
And in daily marketings
Feel the rush of beating wings.
Watching always, wonderingly,
All the faces passing by,
There we see through pain and wrong
Christ look out, serene and strong.
Tag Archives: Angels
It was still dark when John came,
Tho’ the women had already gone,
With their bowls and their cloths,
Their herbs and oils,
Their spices and ointments.
Fit for the King, they said.
John met them on the way,
Fearful their strength would not move the great stone
Enclosing their Lord.
John came with news of Mary,
Protected in his home.
John said, she had kept vigil
All the long hours,
Taking only a little water.
Until, as dawn approached
She stood, at last.
Facing the death of the night,
The birth of the day.
John was exhausted,
He too had kept vigil
His charge – his mother.
We made him rest,
Take some food.
And so we sat,
Until, the darkness broken by the dawn,
The silence broken by the women.
Breathing their unbelievable tale
Of an open, empty tomb,
All tidy and neat,
And of a young man in white
Waiting for them.
He must have been an angel, surely?
He had a message,
From the Lord, he said,
The Lord, Our Lord! would see us soon.
I heard John, beside me, breathe so softly …
“He promised, oh, he promised,
We must go to him, now, now.”
And gathering us like chickens,
we ran to him,
Ran to our Lord.
Angel from Wreay, Cumbria.
Yesterday we walked with him,
talked with him.
Tho’ he was quiet,
Wanting us there.
So much to tell us,
So much we could not understand.
He spoke often of his Father.
How could we know?
– fishermen –
Caught within the rapture of their presence.
Unable to comprehend,
Held by the comfort of their closeness.
For it was, it was, … closeness.
More than himself,
But what love, what love!
It touched us all,
– Tax-collectors –
He told us that he would die,
When all within was caught in that love.
What could we do?
We ate with him.
Oh! He wanted that!
We wanted that!
“… with desire…”
He spoke of his Father
With us, wondering men,
Not knowing how we should respond.
Embraced in such love.
I mean, people do not love like that,
As if this was the last time.
And it was.
He told us
But we didn’t understand.
So we walked in the quietness of the evening,
Walked with him …
what words can tell you?
If there were tears they did not flow,
Instead we, all of us,
Bore the weight of his leaving.
We came to the garden, deserted,
Full of dark shadows,
The lingering scent of thesun-filled day.
He went on alone to speak with his Father.
We were left,
Chosen by the Son of God,
Each weighed down by his own self’s grief.
He came back to us and found us sleeping,
Such gentle reproach …
‘Could you not …
Even one hour … ?’
And once again
Our hearts’ heaviness
Forbade his comfort.
One of the others said later,
An angel had come to him.
I did not see.
I was asleep.
But when he stood
Facing the mob in their torchlight
His features were beaded with blood.
We could have fallen back into the shadows,
And we did,
We could have run,
And we did.
We could leave him
And we did.
But that Love!
Who are you?
Who are we?
So we fell back into the shadows.
And he went on, alone,
With the mob.
Did it Rain that Morning ?
How did the sun rise that morning?
Did it roar into the sky?
Did it dance, throwing its flames across the void?
Did it rain?
Surely it rained?
A penetrating April deluge,
Short, sweet, cleansing.
Penetrating like grief,
Did the wind blow?
With no-one to feel it lift the dirt, the dust,
Prepare the way.
The sun at darkness’ end.
The lightning, thunder.
Fit entrance to a forgiven world.
Fit entrance for a Prince, a Lord.
Did the birds and the creatures rejoice together?
The flowers tremble,
Their perfume astonish?
Till all ablaze,
You stepped forth
Accompanied by Angels,
And went your way, about your world.
Until the women came,
All was calm again by then,
Except that you had gone to Galilee
And left a message with an Angel.
Sister Johanna insisted, underlined and insisted, that we should publish this today. Of course she was right. Thanks, Mum! Maurice. (And it was raining on Wednesday in Holy Week at Canterbury Cathedral.)
Saint Francis was very conscious of himself as a sinner: perhaps I should be more so. The trouble is that dwelling on personal sinfulness can be crippling: ‘I’ll never get out of this mess!’ Of course, on my own, I won’t. So who can get me out of the mess?
Canterbury’s Father Daniel Weatherley challenges us to ponder the last times in preparation for our death and resurrection, when the secrets of hearts will be laid bare. He offers us three steps on our journey through Lent.
The Cosmic Courtroom is a truly awesome scene. When Jesus comes in glory every single one of us – and everyone who has already passed through the first death – will stand before Him as one great sea of humanity. Each one willed into being by God, each one loved totally and uniquely by Him. But this is a courtroom with a difference. Not only are there no attorneys, no advocates, but there is no trial! The verdict upon each has already been decided. The proceedings consist only of the sentencing. And the pronouncement, comes as a surprise for everyone: whether it be punishment or paradise. Only then is the summing-up offered.
There are, however, witnesses. Firstly, each of us will witness the judgement of each other, as our hidden motives and acts of love (or otherwise) are laid bare. And then there is the vast array of angels, all of whom made their decision to serve, to love (or not), in the first instant of their creation. Since that moment those angels who rejected God have persistently laboured to tempt men and women to do the same – usually so subtly that it goes unnoticed. And then there are the holy angels – thankfully in the majority – who have spent their existence urging us on to lives of perfect love and selfless service, to conform ourselves to Jesus Christ. And at the same moment each of us will behold that angel which has been given to us alone as our guardian.
Jesus’ own account of how this scene will unfold is, in Matthew’s Gospel, magnificently constructed. The Lord’s authority is depicted in a rapid succession of 6 action verbs: He comes; He sits; He separates, He sets on His right and left; He speaks out and declares blessed; He commands to approach and inherit. And then comes the stunning revelation: 6 conditions of wretchedness in which He has been anonymously present with us all the time, just as He promised: hungry; thirsty; stranger; naked; sick; in prison.
I think Angels are pretty scary aliens – just go back and read Sister Johanna’s posts about Zechariah’s experience! When we look Through Angel’s Eyes we may wonder who are the aliens – the Angels or us?
The winter night knows many a star,
But the Angels have found one brighter far
Than any that ever has shone before;
They float and fall through the silent snow
Like birds of God, to settle below;
To find our earth the Angels go.
A poor little planet, a poor little town,
A poor little cradle, not lined with down,
A particular absence of all renown;
Angels must be peculiar things,
Who float and fall with wheeling wings
To seek in such for the King of kings.
If we were heaven-taught we should know
That what we think high God might yet think low,
And straight to Bethlehem singing go;
For this earth of ours is still the Star
Whither the Angels flew from far,
Where the Christ-child and His Mother are.
More bright than the star that Wisdom led,
To Angels’ eyes shone the cattle-shed,
Where the little Christ once laid His head;
And ‘twixt the tapers, just the same
As when to Bethlehem once they came,
To Angels’ eyes must the altar flame.
Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh preached at Christmas about the Holy Family . He invited his congregation to look through four windows in the life of the Holy Family, including these two: The escape to Egypt and Mary reflecting on life with her Son.
Through the third window I see the Holy Family once more in peril. Herod has chosen to slaughter the innocent children in his selfish determination to kill the Heavenly King! Joseph and Mary are refugees, fleeing for their lives to Egypt with the child Jesus. Even in their fear and uncertainty they have faith: God is with us, come to save us …
The fourth window opens to a time much later in the life of the Holy Family. Twelve years later, at Nazareth. The family have just returned from a visit to Jerusalem where things took a serious turn for the worse when the boy Jesus went missing. Joseph and Mary were worried sick, searching for Him everywhere … their relief when they found Him in the temple sitting among the teachers, talking about God the Father… and His strange words to them: “didn’t you know I would be about my Father’s business?” Now, safely back at home, through the window I see Mary pondering all these things in her heart … recalling the day the angel appeared to tell her she was to give birth to a son, who shall be called Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.
The link takes you to the full text at Independent Catholic News.
First picture from CD.
More from Fr Andrew’s Introduction to his book of Carols.
The Mystery of the Incarnate Love has brought to us, first of all, a revelation of simplicity. Theology teaches us that the life of God is a simple act, and, since God is Love, that act must surely be, however expressed, an act of love; and here in the little Babe laid in the midst of the straw of our human poverty is the simple appeal and revelation of the love of God.
The second note is sympathy, and that in the direct meaning of the word – ‘suffering with.’ We cannot understand the mystery of suffering, and really there is no particular reason why we should, since God has suffered with us, and one of the sufferings of God was this very mystery of suffering, for did not He take upon His lips the great classic words of the twenty-second Psalm and cry in His own darkness, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’
The third note is joy. These poems and carols all have in them a note of joy and a note of pain. Laughter and tears are mingled in these Christmas songs.
The fourth is the sacredness of human nature. God joined together flesh and spirit. Sin put these asunder, and by the fall of man the flesh, which was only lower than spirit in condition and degree, became lower also in quality, and by the taint and twist of original sin this human nature of ours was made to seem a bad thing, as though the flesh were, in God’s intention, the enemy of spirit. In the coming of the Holy Child, when the angels sang their Gloria, once more flesh and spirit were united in perfect oblation.
The fifth note, which contains in it all else, is love. Over the cross, over the manger, over the altar, one can write the golden words, ‘God is Love.’
Jesus brought a structural change into the foundations of the world, and he called it the Kingdom. A very grand statement for one who ended up isolated and abandoned, nailed to a cross – with “My God, why have you deserted me?” on his lips.
After three days a most unexpected and unheard of event happened. God raised him up. He came to his disciples, not as one back from biological death, but as one who, though obviously Jesus, showed himself fully transfigured, in whom all the possibilities for the human and the divine were now fully realised. Not the revitalisation of a corpse but a radical transformation of the earthly reality of Jesus, this is what we mean by Resurrection.
Jesus is revealed in a life no longer under threat. The Resurrection is the realisation of his message of total freedom. It is direct evidence of what the Kingdom is meant to be: “Death is swallowed up… Death, where is your sting now?” If Jesus is not risen: “your believing is useless… we are the most unfortunate of people”. But a door has been opened for us into an absolute future, hope is real: God really does have the power to achieve in us what was always promised [this is what Hope means]. Faith cannot be sustained without this, for this is the only foundation of Christian faith.
Historians cannot help much at this level. The Resurrection is not an ordinary historical fact [though it is an historical fact]; since it is a fact available only to faith. No one saw the Resurrection actually happen. What we have are appearances and an empty tomb. On the basis of all these, the disciples came to the conclusion: “The Lord is risen and has appeared to Simon“. If we are to do what Peter recommended: “Have your answer ready for people who ask the reason for your hope“, we should have a brief look at what is involved.
The Gospel does not present the empty tomb as evidence of the Resurrection. Instead of giving rise to faith it caused fear and fright. Mary Magdalene saw it as evidence of theft. For the apostles it was simply rumour. By itself the empty tomb is an ambiguous sign, capable of various interpretations, only one of which might have been Resurrection. It is only with the apparitions that the ambiguity is resolved, and the empty tomb can now become a sign of the Resurrection of Jesus. As such, the empty tomb makes people think, it is no more than an invitation to faith, it is not yet faith, and something more is required.
The “something more” is provided by an angel: “Jesus of Nazareth is risen, he is not here. See, here is the place where they laid him…” The sepulchre is empty, not because someone has stolen the body, but because he is Risen. This interpretation by the women is held to be a revelation from God. It is expressed in the language of the day as being a message from an angel [God].
What finally got rid of the ambiguity once and for all was the fact that the disciples saw Jesus, spoke with him; they spent time with him and he ate with them. The oldest Resurrection formulation, Chapter 15 of First Corinthians and Acts 2-5., with marked absence of pathos, suggest that these accounts are more than subjective visions, products of the faith of the community, but real and trans-subjective, a witness to something imposed from without and not conjured up from within.
How many apparitions were there? 1Corinthians 15.5. contains 5 apparitions. Mark.16.1. has none, but says that Jesus will be seen in Galilee. Matthew.28.16. refers to one. Luke.24.13. refers to two. John relates three, and all of them happen in Jerusalem! There are two tendencies evident: Mark and Matthew are interested in Galilee; Luke and John concentrate on Jerusalem, emphasising the bodily reality of Jesus and the identity between the Risen Christ and Jesus of Nazareth.
Exegesis tends to show the appearances in Galilee as being historically certain. The appearances in Jerusalem are the same as those in Galilee but transferred for theological reasons to Jerusalem, for in Scripture Jerusalem possesses a unique place in salvation history: “Salvation comes from Sion [Jerusalem]“. Jesus’ death, Easter and Pentecost occurred there.
Details of the appearances: they are described as a real experience of the Jesus they knew. He eats, walks and talks with them, allows himself to be touched. It is so normal that he is confused with a gardener or a stranger on the shore. Alongside this there are strange phenomena too: He appears and disappears; he goes through walls, the bruised and battered state of Friday has gone.
Eventually it was asked: Is the Jesus of glory the same person as Jesus of Nazareth? Assertions are made: Christ is totally transfigured, he is not a spirit, nor an angel. The one who died and was buried is the one who is risen. This is why there is preoccupation with, as well as emphasis on the wounds, and the fact that he ate and drank with them.
This helps clarify things a little: The Resurrection is not a theological treatise put together by an enthusiastic follower. Faith in the Resurrection is the direct consequence of the impact on the apostles of the apparitions of Jesus Risen. Without this they could never even dream of preaching a crucified Lord, itself an abomination to a faithful Jew, without this event there could be no church, no worship in the name of Jesus.
What is being asserted through faith like this is not just that Jesus is risen, but that this says something about the possibility of the total realisation of the whole of creation. This is a scandal to many. The early church proclaimed the significance of the Resurrection for us as hope of a future life; what is now for Christ will be the now for us. The Resurrection makes it possible to read reality very differently: the past, present and future take on a new significance.
Christ told the apostles that they would all lose faith in him. Now all this is changed: they return to faith in him, this time no longer as the Nationalist liberator, but as the “Son of Man”. They believed that the Resurrection began the end times. The language is deliberately Apocalyptic. The end will be the Resurrection of the rest of the human race. The very same Spirit by which Jesus was resurrected is now given to everyone.