Tag Archives: Cross

23 May, Synod Newsletter: Mary, and the Synod way

This edition of the synod newsletter highlights Mary, Mother of the Lord, as an example of someone with a synodal attitude. She accompanied Jesus all the way to the Cross; she was part of the decision-making of the early Church, and lived with the Beloved Disciple as his mother, bequeathed by Jesus. There are stories from around the world. Follow this link.


Good morning, everyone. Here we are again with a new edition of our Newsletter.
Listening and discernment are perhaps the two words that have been most used in this first phase of the synod process. But how does one listen and discern correctly?  I believe that a model and a true method is given to us by the One whom we want to celebrate in this Newsletter: Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church; Mary, Via Synodalis
READ THE FULL EDITORIAL
Mary,Via synodalis

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 20 April: The Forgotten Grave.

This very chapel and its graveyard are all but forgotten as the village it served has moved three kilometres away.
After a hundred years 
Nobody knows the place, — 
Agony, that enacted there, 
Motionless as peace. 

Weeds triumphant ranged, 
Strangers strolled and spelled 
At the lone orthography 
Of the elder dead. 

Winds of summer fields 
Recollect the way, — 
Instinct picking up the key 
Dropped by memory.
 
From Poems by Emily Dickinson, Three Series, Complete, via Kindle.

Two thousand years on, and people know the place of Christ’s agony in the garden, his further agony and death on Calvary; the place of his tomb; they visit them in their thousands every year.

But did Mary Magdalene return to the tomb – or Peter or John – after Easter? Mary took the Lord’s message to the Apostles: they were to take themselves to Galilee, they knew the way. Before long Peter was leading them out to the boats for a fishing expedition. But the winds of summer seas would take most of them far away, to where people were waiting to hear the Good News from the fishers of men and women. No need for the disciples to revisit the empty tomb, but James and his church in Jerusalem surely remembered and marked the spot.

We cannot all hope to visit the Holy Land, but we can go to Mass this Easter time, or slip into the back of any church, acknowledge the ever-present risen Lord, and then … go back home, back to our daily lives, to glorify the Lord by our life. To share the Good News, mostly without words, but living as other Christs in today’s world, letting the Spirit speak through our instinct.

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15 April, Good Friday: a Compassionate Presence.

Strasbourg Cathedral

Here is an extract from last year’s Good Friday homily of Archbishop John Wilson of Southwark. Every day is somebody’s Good Friday. Let us pray for the grace to respond if it falls to us to be beside them in an hour of need, like Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene and John, silent beside the Cross.

Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ

A few years ago I read an account of medics working on the border between Cambodia and Thailand in the midst of dreadful warfare. With bombs falling uncomfortably near, two doctors, one older, the other younger, attended to wounded refugees. Their first patient was a young woman. She was barely alive, her body almost severed in two by a mortar fragment. The older doctor made a quick diagnosis: ‘I thought there was nothing to be done, he said, ‘and went to another victim. When he looked back, the other younger doctor had knelt down. He was cradling the woman’s head and caressing her hair. In the older doctor’s words, ‘He was helping her to die. He did it very naturally. There was no public, no cameras, no one looking. The bombing continued, and he did this as if he was all alone in his humanity.’ 

Certain events render us speechless. They may or may not be overly dramatic or especially tragic. But some experiences are literally beyond words. There is nothing that can be said to make any sense. There is no difference to be made by talking. The only possible response to some situations is to be present to them: a compassionate presence, a loving presence, a silent presence.

+ John Wilson, Archbishop of Southwark, Good Friday 2021

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April: 13 A Lenten Litany.

For you were slain and by your blood you ransomed men for God …….

For you were rejected, and through that rejection
You ransomed men for God,
           Lord have mercy.

For you were betrayed, and by that betrayal
You ransomed men for God,
          Christ have Mercy.

For you were mocked, and by that mockery
You ransomed men for God,
          Dear Lord have mercy.

For you were scourged, and by that brutality
You ransomed me for God,
          Dear Lord have mercy.

For you were clothed in purple and insulted
And by those insults you ransomed men for God,
          Christ have mercy.

For you were crowned, not with gold, but thorns.
And with that crown you ransomed men for God.
          Dear Lord have mercy.

For you were stripped and spat upon,
And by your humiliation you redeemed me for God.
          Christ have mercy.

You stood alone and heard the cry of 'Crucify',
And by that cry you have redeemed men for God,
          Lord have mercy.

For you were abandoned and in your abandonment
You redeemed me for God.
          Lord have mercy.

You embraced the wood of your cross,
Embracing the death that you would die
          To ransom men for God.
          Dear Lord have mercy.

In blood and dirt from the road and pain
You met your Mother.
In that shared pain you ransomed men for God.
          Christ have mercy.

You had compassion on the thief who sought your peace,
Your compassion is the ransom of all men for God.
          Christ have mercy.

I drank water to refresh my mouth.
They gave you vinegar to drink.
You drank the searing bitterness of sin
          And by your thirst you ransomed men for God.

You died . . . as all men die . . . alone.
And by your loneliness you ransomed men for God.
          Dear Lord have mercy.

How long those hours, so dark, until your 'hour' was done.
But through the darkness you redeemed us all.#

Christ obedient,
Christ victorious,
Christ wounded,
Christ our brother,
Offered to our Father.

Sheila Billingsley, March 2022

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12 April: The Love of Christ Which Passeth Knowledge

” I bore with thee long weary days and nights,
  Through many pangs of heart, through many tears;
I bore with thee, thy hardness, coldness, slights,
    For three and thirty years.
 Who else had dared for thee what I have dared?
  I plunged the depth most deep from bliss above;
I not My flesh, I not My spirit spared:
    Give thou Me love for love.
 For thee I thirsted in the daily drouth,
  For thee I trembled in the nightly frost:
Much sweeter thou than honey to My mouth:
    Why wilt thou still be lost?
 I bore thee on My shoulders and rejoiced:
  Men only marked upon My shoulders borne
The branding cross; and shouted hungry-voiced,
    Or wagged their heads in scorn.
 Thee did nails grave upon My hands, thy name
  Did thorns for frontlets stamp between Mine eyes:
I, Holy One, put on thy guilt and shame;
    I, God, Priest, Sacrifice.
 A thief upon My right hand and My left;
  Six hours alone, athirst, in misery:
At length in death one smote My heart and cleft
    A hiding-place for thee.
 Nailed to the racking cross, than bed of down
  More dear, whereon to stretch Myself and sleep:
So did I win a kingdom,—share my crown;
    A harvest,—come and reap.
Christina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti’s reflection challenges her readers to look through Jesus’ eyes and heart, to acknowledge our betrayals and falling short, but to put ourselves in that cleft heart and share his crown, share his harvest.

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9 April: The Tree of Life.

Tree of Life window by Dom Charles Norris at the former Franciscan Study Centre, Canterbury.

Saint Thomas’ Parish, Canterbury invites readers to ‘please share’ items from their website. As we approach Holy Week, here are reflections by Canon Anthony Charlton on the Tree of Life as found in Psalm 1 and the events we remember on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day.

There is a small stained glass window within the Church of the Good Shepherd, New Addington, created by a Buckfast Abbey monk, Dom Charles Norris. It depicts the image that is presented to us in Psalm 1. “Happy the man who has placed his trust in the Lord. He is like a tree that is planted beside the flowing waters, that yields its fruit in due season and whose leaves shall never fade; and all that he does shall prosper.”

Dom Charles employed a technique known as dalles-de-verre in which ‘tiles’ of coloured glass are chipped into shape and laid, mosaic-fashion, in a matrix of resin. As I sat in the presidential chair during Mass I was able to gaze on it while listening to the readings at Mass. The tree planted near running water reminded me of the only way to live my life fruitfully is to have deep roots that receive nourishment from the living water which is the Holy Spirit given to all of us.

In our life we can either trust in our own position, what others think of us, our status, our wealth, what we own or acquire in order to experience happiness or we listen to the way of Jesus. He shows us an alternative way of happiness. Yet this way will lead to a clash of values that will lead us to suffer for our commitment of bringing about God’s kingdom.

What Jesus is presenting to us is a radical choice that will put us at odds with the society in which we live. The extraordinary thing about the way of Christ is that is will lead to happiness but it will be by means of the Cross. We choose this way every time we come together to celebrate Mass and unite ourselves with the death and resurrection of Jesus. As the poor, the hungry, the sorrowing, the despised and the excluded, we embrace this way of happiness. We do this because we trust in the Lord. We are like a tree that is planted beside flowing water.

O God, 
who alone can satisfy our deepest hungers,  
protect us from the lure of wealth and power; 
move our hearts to seek first your kingdom,  
that ours may be the security and joy of those  
who place their trust in you. AMEN.

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7 April: what do they see?

Not many Canterbury citizens would pause for a photograph here! I have cropped away some of the street furniture on this corner, but there are still bollards, a bin, contradictory road signs and a public toilet block. Oh, and a cherry tree.

A cherry tree so laden with blossom that these Japanese people have stopped to take each other’s photographs, despite the clutter. They see something we pass by on the other side.

There is beauty in places where we’d never look; sometimes it breaks out and hits us between the eyes. Sometimes we can be shown beauty by a friend, or as here, by complete strangers.

We will soon be celebrating the Man of Sorrows, ‘so disfigured that he seemed no longer human’.(Isaiah 52:14). Let’s cut away the clutter and stand beneath the Tree of Life. Cherry blossom will not take away the horror and evil in this world, and it seems that all we can offer to help is the wiping with a face cloth, the cup of water or vinegar, the money in the collecting bucket.

Let’s not scorn to offer such support, the Works of Mercy; it makes a difference, reminds people that we are one family, sharing one earthly home. There’s something about cherry blossom that touches the Japanese soul: my nephew saw Japanese people photographing each other beneath cherry trees; my wife saw the same in Rome some years ago. It’s a deep sign of home.

The Cross is a deep sign of home, in Heaven for Eternity; through suffering we can be one with the Man of Sorrows who will be lifted up; with him we shall see the light and be content.

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31 March or Mars: The God of War

War Memorial, Leominster RM.694

This post was composed before the invasion of Ukraine last month, when I was wondering how to close the month of March for this year. Even before a tank rolled across the border, before a shot was fired, the thought had occurred to me: why do we celebrate the Roman god of war for 31 days each year? Remember that Mars is the French name for the month, and other European languages share the same root.

You might argue that we don’t really celebrate Mars in his month, indeed we never give him a thought, even when eating the eponymous chocolate bar, and that would be quite true. Yet his grey presence still irritates the back of my mind.

What particularly came back to me was this hymn by the Conservative MP John Arkwright, which I first saw carved into the war memorial in Leominster, Herefordshire.

O valiant hearts, who to your glory came

1. O valiant hearts who to your glory came
Through dust of conflict and through battle flame;
Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved,
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.

2. Proudly you gathered, rank on rank, to war
As who had heard God’s message from afar;
All you had hoped for, all you had, you gave,
To save mankind—yourselves you scorned to save.

3. Splendid you passed, the great surrender made;
Into the light that nevermore shall fade;
Deep your contentment in that blest abode,
Who wait the last clear trumpet call of God.

4. Long years ago, as earth lay dark and still,
Rose a loud cry upon a lonely hill,
While in the frailty of our human clay,
Christ, our Redeemer, passed the self same way.

5. Still stands His cross from that dread hour to this,
Like some bright star above the dark abyss;
Still, through the veil, the Victor’s pitying eyes
Look down to bless our lesser Calvaries.

It seems to me that Arkwright is confusing the god of War, calling men to fight and die – he does not mention the fact that they will be ordered to kill other men – with the Creator who will send out the angels for that last clear trumpet call. And to say that Christ, our Redeemer, passed the self-same way – well, the conscripted soldier, too, went where he was forced to go, even unto death. John 21:18. But Jesus refused to take up arms for his Kingdom.

There is no need to be a total pacifist to feel uneasy about conscripting God as recruiting officer for war, nor to deplore the glorifying of conflict and battle.

Let’s pray for peace, and an end to conflicts between nations and civil wars and terrorism.

Let us pray, too, for the grace to resolve our own personal conflicts and disagreements without escalating them.

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14 March: People in their thousands, III.

After the massacre.

To you, my friends, I say: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more (cf. Lk 12:4).

Jesus’ words here are bold words. I imagined myself there, at the scene, part of that huge crowd of thousands. I am hungry for Jesus’ truth. How would I have reacted to his words? Sure, I would have liked well enough being included among those whom Jesus calls his ‘friends’. But I must confess that I would also have felt a subtle resistance to the rest of that sentence, I think. He says, Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but after that can do no more. I don’t think I would have wanted to hear about killing and being killed.

But Jesus, in this passage, is determined to challenge us, and to make his audience face the deepest of mysteries. He is going straight for what we most fear, straight for the most horrific thing we can imagine: our death. The very subject of death touches the rawest of raw nerves. In the face of death, if we are honest about our feelings, our sense of bewilderment, horror, loss, grief, disorientation, fear and even injustice and outrage surfaces – usually overwhelmingly. And this is the subject Jesus raises. Then, with simplicity, and without a hint of melodrama, he says that we have no reason to fear death, or to fear those who, out of malice, may cause our death. Recall: there are thousands listening to this speech. He wants everybody to know.

Why is Jesus talking about death? It now comes home to me that he does this because he alone, as Son of the Living God, is the only human being – ever – with authoritative knowledge of death. His teaching about death, therefore, is an integral part of his mission – it is his mission. It is even the Good News. Jesus is, I realise with a new clarity, about death. Or that’s one way of looking at it. Granted, perhaps it is far better to say it the other way round: that Jesus is about eternal life. But this way of putting it is extremely difficult to maintain at every moment of our existence because eternal life can only be fully experienced once we have died. And dying, despite everything Jesus teaches, looks exactly the same as it ever did. Moreover, the human species, by God’s design, is hard-wired to perpetuate its existence on earth; it therefore has a God-given, spontaneous recoil from death in the workings of every human instinct, appetite, and mental process.

But Jesus cannot NOT talk about death to us – not only because he knows that he will be put to death, but most importantly because death is our most fearsome enemy. He must tell us what he knows to be true about death. And he must give the example. How? By speaking the truth, even if it enrages the religious establishment to the point of wanting to kill him. And then by going courageously toward his own death on the Cross.

What are my personal feelings now as I ponder this episode from Luke? I am lingering over the idea of Jesus’ authoritative knowledge of death, trying to trust it. I want to trust it, but it is hard. My brain keeps thinking of arguments against this being true. How does he have this knowledge of death? Then I realise that we will never have the full answer to the question of Jesus’ knowledge – of anything. That is not information to which we have any access. Nevertheless, the gospels record that Jesus does know about death. He even foretells both his death and his resurrection long before it happens. We cannot know how he knows, but we can deduce from the things he does and the miracles he works that he is Lord, and that he speaks the truth.

Shall we stop for today, leaving these deep ponderings in the hands of the Holy Spirit, asking that we may be led to a new understanding? We will continue tomorrow.

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13 March: People in their thousands II

Crowds overcome fear to gather in Wenceslas Square, Prague, shortly before the Communist regime collapsed.

It would be a good idea to read yesterday’s post if you haven’t already done so – today’s reflection builds on it. We began yesterday by saying that Jesus is doing more than one thing in Luke 12: 1-2. Today we’ll continue by pointing out that in addition to issuing a warning against the Pharisees, Jesus is also dangerously sealing his fate – and he knows it. His public criticism of the Pharisees will not endear him to them; on the contrary, it will eventually result in his execution. Therefore, Jesus takes this conversation way out into deep waters, and he takes his thousands with him. Jesus is talking about death.

Jesus never had any illusions about the risk he was taking in his preaching. He knew before he even began his public ministry that he would be killed. What the crowd thought of him at this point in his career is difficult to fathom. It is unlikely that they were aware of the danger he was in. But certainly to us, who have access to more than two thousand years of Christian history, it should be clear: Jesus is saying to those who have ears to hear, both then and now, that although the religious authorities will want him dead, he is not afraid to criticise them. Then, he goes on to tell us not to be afraid of them either. He is saying this to an extremely large audience – he wants as many people to know this as possible. It is vital information. This is how he puts it:

To you, my friends, I say: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more (Lk 12:4).

We are doing lectio divina in these posts – and lectio is traditionally the very slow reading and praying over sacred scripture. We are not trying to find out what happens next, we are pondering each word of our scripture passage, giving it time to yield up its meaning in relation to our personal life. Let’s give this line twenty-four hours to work on our hearts and return tomorrow to continue this meditation.

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