Tag Archives: Book of Revelation

November 2: Solitude

sjc. solitude hanging

The room is still but for the ticking clock
and like a snowfall stillness settles round,
and in come presences that needn’t knock,
familiar, homing souls, without a sound.

It isn’t always so – so calm, so quiet,
but now the gentle spirits take their ease
as afternoon melts into shadowed night
and birds seek shelter in the darkening trees.

As night advances, sky turns indigo
and slate-grey clouds in bundles fill the east.
I watch. I seem alone, but I’m with you –
my brothers, sisters summoned to the feast.

In solitude I know that we are one.
In solitude I hear the bridegroom come.

SJC

Definitely a poem for All Saints’ Tide. Thank you Sister Johanna! 

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26 March. Before the Cross XII: the beatific vision.

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Rood, Our Lady and English Martyrs, Cambridge.

This Crucifix is like that of Tignes a couple of days ago in one respect: it is a representation of the Risen Christ, but in a different context, and equally valid.

This Victorian Rood, full of symbolism, is in the Catholic Church of Or Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge, England. It is challenging in a different way to some of the other images we have seen this Lent, but like the Welcoming Christ, it is essentially an image of resurrection. No way is this Christ dead or in agony!

So what is the Rood telling us?

Let’s start with the Christ figure. We see a man in the prime of life, vigorously alive, not hanging naked on the cross but standing tall and robed in majesty. No-one could say of him, he cannot save himself! The crown on his head is of royal gold, not thorns; the nails in his hands and feet are in gold also, but lest we forget the earthly reality of the cross, we see red blood on his palms and insteps. As well as a King’s crown, he wears the long white alb and the red scarf or stole of a priest vested for Mass.

The white scarf around his neck is called a pallium. These are woven from lambs’ wool and given to archbishops by the pope. One appears on the coat of arms of Canterbury Anglican diocese and that of Westminster Catholic diocese. As well as announcing Christ as high priest, the pallium is associated with the idea of the Good Shepherd who brings home the lost sheep, and with the sacrificial Lamb of God.

The alb is a symbol of purity – we see in the Book of Revelation all the saints in white garments. Christ’s here has red trimmings; together with the red stole they tell of blood shed in martyrdom or persecution. The priest celebrating Mass today wears an alb to show that he is representing Christ, the High Priest, and seeks to be as saintly as the white garment implies. Christ, of course, has every right to wear the white garment, and each baptised Christian is given a white garment at Baptism: so we are crucified and risen with Christ: a thought to sustain us in times of hardship.

At the foot of the Cross stand Mary – the dedicatee of the Church, and John the Apostle and Evangelist. They are not mourning in this Resurrection Crucifixion but are absorbed in the beatific vision: this cross presents the artist’s interpretation of the true meaning of the Crucifixion.

Angels adore the Lord from around the Cross: again sending us to Revelation and pointing out the one-ness of Creation, of our world of time and space where Jesus died in Jerusalem with the heavenly Jerusalem where he is Priest and King; King of All Creation, not just of the Jews.

At the foot of the Cross and along its trunk and arms are stylised leaves and grapes: in John’s Gospel Jesus says, I am the Vine, make your home in me as I make mine in you. The wine pressed from the fruit of the Cross brings relief from our spiritual thirst and joy to our hearts. Take up your Cross daily and follow me – to the Crucifixion, yes, in smaller and bigger ways each day, but to the risen life each day as well, even before we die and go to meet the Good Shepherd.

Finally, at the feet of Jesus we see a chalice – for the cup at every Eucharist is indeed the Holy Grail, the cup of the Last Supper – and above the cup, marked with a Cross and radiant in gold, is a round of white unleavened bread; the ‘forms of bread and wine’ that make present in our day all that this Crucifix sets out to tell us.

If, like me, silence does not always come easily to your heart in church or in prayer, maybe sitting with this image can help direct your thoughts to the eternal reality which it professes. The whole story of Jesus is symbolised here from his birth to Mary, up to John running to the empty tomb and seeing and believing – and witnessing to what he believed. May we be ever more faithful witnesses to what we believe.

MMB

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6 September. Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXXV: Getting into the Habit 1.

 

A VERY noble and tender youth entered the Order of Saint Francis; the which after some days, through the prompting of the devil, began to hold the habit that he bore in such hate, that it seemed unto him he wore a sack most vile; the sleeves he abhorred, he hated the hood, and the length and the roughness thereof were unto him as a load unbearable, A mislike of the religious life increasing more and more, he was purposed to put off the habit and return to the world.

Now already it was his wont, according as his master had taught him, so often as he passed before the altar of the convent, whereon was kept the Body of Christ, to kneel with great reverence, and draw back his hood, and with arms crossed bow himself down. It befell that on the night whereon he was to go away and leave the Order, he must needs pass before the altar of the convent; and as he passed, he kneeled him down as was his wont and did reverence.

And forthwith he was rapt in spirit and God showed unto him a wondrous vision: in that he saw before him as it were a countless multitude of saints, like a procession, two and two, clad in beauteous robes of precious stuffs, and their faces and their hands shone like the sun, and they marched to the songs and chants of angels. Among these saints were twain more nobly clad and adorned than all the rest; and they were wrapt around with so much brightness that they wrought exceeding great amazement in whoso looked on them; and nigh to the end of the procession he saw one adorned with great glory that he seemed a new-made knight, more honoured than they all. The youth beholding the vision aforesaid, marvelled exceedingly and knew not what this procession might portend, and dared not ask, but stood all mazed for very sweetness.

The Blessed Sacrament reserved at Greyfriars, Canterbury.

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Thank you and Happy New Year!

awelcomefire

All Blessings for 2018

and thank you to all our followers and readers for your continuing support.

Will and the team at Agnellus.Mirror.

 

 I John saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them. And they shall be his people; and God himself with them shall be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away. And he that sat on the throne, said:

Behold, I make all things new. 

Revelation 21

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11 November: Sacrifice in War II: Dehumanising the Enemy-Victim

 

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Neither war comics, nor old films nor computer games could remotely be described as subtle: the enemy does not appear as a fellow human being. The Great War poet Wilfred Owen’s describes a dream encounter in a Western Front tunnel:his  dawning realisation of the humanity of his visitant in ‘Strange Meeting‘ illustrates the dehumanising that allows industrial slaughter to take control.

It is not clear whether this enemy, the man he had recently killed, was a German or perhaps his peaceable true self:

With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,

Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.

Wilfred Owen,  Strange Meeting

That ‘slaughter’ should be personified as taking control shows how war de-personalises, de-humanises people. War, conflict and death are seen as irresistible, superhuman powers, sweeping away combatant and civilian alike, powers that were indeed personified by the ancients, like John’s four horsemen (Revelation 6), or in Shakespeare’s play:

… Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge,

With Atë by his side come hot from Hell,

Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice

Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war …  Julius Caesar III.i. 270-273.

While War and Death are personified, the enemy is depersonalised. But for the industrialist selling arms to his own or any other country’s forces is a source of profit. The individuals whose lives are at risk do not enter his mind or heart.

MMB.

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November 7: Sacrifice in War II.

 

 

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Saint Helen’s, Brant Broughton, Lincolnshire, MMB.

Neither war comics, nor 1950s films nor computer games could remotely be described as subtle: the enemy does not appear as a fellow human being. The Great War poet Wilfred Owen’s dawning realisation of the humanity of his visitant in ‘Strange Meeting’ illustrates the dehumanising of the other that allows industrial slaughter to proceed.  It is not clear whether his loathly opposite, the man he had recently killed was a German, or perhaps his own true self:

With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,

Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.[1]

That ‘slaughter’ should be personified as the subject of a sentence shows how war de-personalises, de-humanises people. War, conflict and death are seen as a conjunction of irresistible, superhuman powers, sweeping away combatant and civilian alike, powers that were indeed personified by the ancients, like John’s four horsemen (Revelation 6), or in Shakespeare’s play:

… Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge,

With Atë by his side come hot from Hell,

Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice

Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war …  Julius Caesar III.i. 270-273.

While War and Death are personified, the enemy is depersonalised; he can then be sacrificed to Atë and Mammon and all false gods of War.

MMB.

[1]              Wilfred Owen, ‘Strange Meeting’ in ‘Poems’, Ed. Siegfried  Sassoon, 1920. The Project Gutenberg EBook of Poems, by Wilfred Owen, Produced by Alan R. Light, Gary M. Johnson, and David Widger, [EBook #1034] Release Date: August 10, 2008.

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April 21: Jerusalem V: Centre of Creation

 

 

413px-Hereford-Karte

William Blake saw angels where others saw none, in and around London. He wrote of mercylogo‘Heaven’s Gate Set in Jerusalem’s Wall’, an image from the Revelation of John, chapter 21, where the New Jerusalem comes down from Heaven, a heavenly city, where God is so palpably present that no temple is needed.

In this world of sin, a Church building can be a place to concentrate awareness of God’s presence alone or in company; to hear God’s Word, to enter his mercy.

Heaven’s gate can be set in any wall, but Jerusalem has always held the imagination. People around 1300 considered it the centre of the whole round world, and if a visitor to Hereford could see this drawn on vellum in the Mappa Mundi. The Christian world saw Jerusalem as the place where salvation happened, but even the far-flung British Isles (at bottom left) were part of the picture. They still are, along with all that Terra Incognita – unknown to those who did not live there, at least: the Americas and Antipodes.

Blake may have been wary of organised religion, but still he resolved to persevere:

‘Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.’

And so should we persevere, building Jerusalem wherever we find ourselves. Maybe you or I will be an angel – a messenger of God – to someone we meet today. Let’s pray that we rise to that challenge when it comes, even if we are not aware of it at the time – or indeed, ever afterwards.

MMB.

http://www.themappamundi.co.uk/

By Unknown – unesco.org.uk, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41201813

 

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February 18th: The Wedding Feast: II.

Grandma and Grandad got married.

26th June 1948

The reason why marriage is so important to God is apparent when considering the salvation history present in the Holy Bible, which begins and ends with a joyous marriage.  In Genesis, we read of woman being brought to man by the Creator, and in Revelation we hear of the Wedding Supper of the Lamb.  These references to marriage, appearing in both the first and last books of the Canon of Holy Scripture, tell of the promise to come, and the promise fulfilled, respectively.

So, it is also especially fitting that in the High Christology presented in the Gospel of John, the public ministry of Jesus begins at a celebration of marriage, which also serves as the venue for the first of seven signs that this Jesus, who would claim to be the Son of God, was God.  After all, just as an earthly wedding celebrates the lifelong communion of man and woman, the wedding supper of Christ and his bride (the Church) celebrates their eternal communion.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “The Church attaches great importance to Jesus’ presence at the wedding at Cana.  She sees in it the confirmation of goodness of marriage and the proclamation that thenceforth marriage will be an efficacious sign of Christ’s presence.”

Therefore, let man and woman take great joy at their wedding, not just in anticipation of a long loving life together, but in the joy of the promised day when they will live in love with Christ forever and ever.

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All Souls

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Telford’s Menai Bridge from Anglesey, April 2015.

To become saints, John Paul I reminds us, means living in solidarity with family, co-workers and all our sisters and brothers. Today’s celebration opens a giddying perspective of co-responsibility for those who come after us but also to ‘those who have gone before us, marked with the sign of faith’.

The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in [the city], and his servants shall serve him. And they shall see his face: and his name shall be on their foreheads.                                                                                                                                Revelation 22:3-4.

John does not tell us when in history any of these servants of God died; all are together in one place, all carry his name on their foreheads, once they enter the eternal, heavenly city. And so we are one with our children’s children, but also with those of our ancestors who were far from perfect. The ‘sign of faith’ might have been very faint on their brows.

If we have inherited a tendency to sin  – a great-grandparent’s crippling self-pity for example – we can strive and pray to overcome it for them as well as ourselves. If an infamous sinner yet had a gift to share with us, our using it is a way of praying for them; therefore I trust that each time I use Eric Gill’s beautiful typefaces, my gratitude weighs in his favour at the judgement seat.

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A New Heaven, A new Earth

Yesterday we had St Francis and GKC together. Time to look into Chesterton’s life of the Saint.Early on, Chesterton scans the world into which Francis was born. It could almost be our own:

It was no metaphor to say that [pagan Romans and Greeks] needed a new heaven and a new earth; [Revelation 21:1] for they had really defiled their own earth and even their own heaven …  It was no good telling such people to have a natural religion full of stars and flowers; there was not a flower or even a star that had not been stained. They had to go into the desert where they could find no flowers or even into the cavern where they could see no stars. Into that desert and that cavern the highest human intellect entered for some four centuries; and it was the very wisest thing it could do. Nothing but the stark supernatural stood up for its salvation; if God could not save it, certainly the gods could not.

http://www.gkc.org.uk/gkc/books/St_Francis.html

Francis, Chesterton suggests, was able to contribute to a new understanding of nature as God’s creation. He can sing of Brother Sun, Sister Water, Sister Mother Earth, and even Sister Death.

We have certainly defiled our earth and our atmosphere and our street lamps blot out the stars.

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