Tag Archives: Genesis

Review: The Methodist Art Collection comes to town.

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When we were first married we worshipped in a village Methodist Church near Margate; an austere little chapel it was, whitewashed walls and uncomfortable benches. Thank God we did not have to sit under hour long nineteenth century non-conformist sermons, but were fed with wise words from Fr Martin Symonds, of Ramsgate Abbey.

That was more than a few years ago, but the austere image of Methodism is fixed in my mind, which expects churches to be bathed in coloured light from stained glass windows and peopled by statues of the saints who have gone before us.

Not all windows or statues in English Catholic churches would merit inclusion in a travelling art exhibition.

The Methodist Church has built up a collection of modern art, largely looking at Jesus, in one way or another. You can view the works here: http://www.methodist.org.uk/prayer-and-worship/mmac/index . The website will lead you to videos and other resources around these images.

Instead of hanging on church walls, the collection is sent out to proclaim the Good News in its own way; through exhibitions around the UK and in the future to Dublin, Rome and beyond. Until Saint George’s Day 2017 it is in Canterbury’s Beaney Museum.

Not all the images inspire me to ‘prayer and worship’, but I am hard-wired to David Jones, represented here by a delicate woodblock of The Three Kings, passing a David Jones signature passion-resurrection image: a war-blasted tree-cum-cross, sprouting new growth. The Magi approach a starlit Bethlehem amid Welsh hills that bring to mind a woman’s torso and raised knees at the moment of childbirth: the star’s rays beam down like a searchlight upon the haven where the Child lies, under the hill within his Mother’s womb.

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Next to Jones’s tiny, monochrome image hangs The Dalit Madonna, a big, bright work by Jyoti Sahi. While this glorious work picks up themes from Eastern and Western European tradition, such as the sun and moon in the sky, and the Babe blessing from the womb, the artist integrates these with his own Indian culture. The sun is represented by a marigold; the moon by a crescent, including Hinduism and Islam in this birth. Then the Infant is seated within an oval reminiscent of the traditional mandala of Eastern icons, yet despite his foetal position and naturalistic drawing, he is clearly blessing the viewer; he is strong but clearly dependent on his mother, who bends her body in worship and protection, her breast ready to comfort and nurture. Many Catholic preachers would tell you that Mary, who conceived Jesus before her marriage, would have been considered an outcast; an untouchable like this Dalit mother, a radiant human being who clearly loves her son, the centre of her world and being. And how many unwed mothers were condemned by the Catholic Church in recent times?

The one Old Testament story on view here is that of Cain and Abel. We could be among Jones’s Welsh hills, or the Lake District, or even the Downs of the Isle of Wight where John Reilly lived and worked. Cain is a stocky, almost Calibanesque figure, at work within the pale he has set around his neat, well-ordered, smallholding. He pauses in his digging to stare up at his brother, a slim, radiant type of the Good Shepherd, who like Abel would be killed by his own. Suddenly that spade looks menacing: a ploughshare about to become a sword. And yet one cannot help a twinge of sympathy for one who wants his world to be under control, without any disturbing incursions from his brother’s nomadic flocks; that brother who stands nearby with eyes for the far horizon, not for him.

The Lord’s eyes, too, are on a far horizon in Christ writes in the dust – the woman taken in adultery by Clive Hicks Jenkins. In a nightmare of blues, Jesus is almost cartwheeling as, with arms outstretched as on the Cross, he looks away from the scene, away from the woman and her accusers, away from us bystanders looking on. The woman, with her Magdalenesque red hair, high heels and little black dress, is bound, as Christ soon would be, a halter around her throat.The light that glows upon her skin is reflected from Christ, apart from the tiny white triangle of her underwear, visible beneath her skirt which she cannot pull down with her hands tied behind her back. It takes a few moments to see that her accusers already have rocks in their hands, awaiting the moment when Christ’s assent to her killing is given. A moment that never comes. Would we back these men up, if we were there? Were these the men who stoned Stephen? Was Paul among them? Was this the first step on the road to Damascus?

Go and sin no more, Jesus told that woman. A good motto for the Christian life.

Even in the first two pictures reviewed here, the effects of sin creep in: the tree from Flanders, the outcast mother. We see the sin in Cain’s illusory self-sufficiency and his inherent jealousy; loud and clear in those shadowy, self-righteous stones, poised for murder. But like Jones’s three kings, each of us can follow the star, which leads us to a fleshly, humble place. The damage of our sinfulness will not prevent the Cross from being the tree of Life.

If you get the chance to see this exhibition on its travels, do spend some time with a few of the works. Others among them may speak to you louder than these four have done to me. Stop, look, listen.

MMB

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Just Say No!

Adam&Eve (391x640)

A homily worth reading!

Just say No

Follow the link to Fr Christopher Shorrock’s wake-up call as we start Lent.

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Faith, Science and Teenagers

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Another gem from the Vatican Observatory’s blog site. Constance L. Martin-Trembley teaches science to teenagers, and has to help her students with the challenges posed when science meets rigidly held beliefs in the literal truth of the Bible. She has panache! Follow the link to read her

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Musings

WT

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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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7 February: God’s work of art

 

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Today is Tuesday in the Fifth week in Ordinary time.

Our first reading from the Book of Genesis (1:20-2:4) is the story of how God created the heavens and earth. After his work, God rested to enjoy his creation. The story tells us of how good and beautiful the work of God is. I invite you to now to look at how beautiful the flowers are; and how beautiful you are yourself. This will give you an idea of how beautiful God is because he created you and I in his own image and likeness. If all that God had created is good, are you not good? Or do you see yourself as one who is not good and for that reason, nothing good can come out of you? Your Creator, who made you in his own image said that all He created is good, And for that reason, you are very good. You have been blessed by God, so you are fruitful, you will multiply and you will conquer.
The teaching of God for you and me in the Gospel of Mark 7: 1-13 is to put first the law of God and not our human traditions. So, as God told us in the first reading: subdue the earth, fulfil and multiply.
Let us thank God for the wonder of our being and for the whole of creation, for we are wonderfully and beautifully made and blessed by God.

FMSL

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5 February: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A. Let it shine!

 

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Today, God is teaching me that an effective way to deal with the causes of sin in myself is to do good.

If I turn towards others and set about serving their needs instead of punishing or controlling them:

‘Then will your light shine like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over.’                                                                                                                    (Isaiah 58:8)

What is negative in me will be shone away without my having to focus on it, as light naturally dispels darkness:

‘your light will rise in the darkness and your shadows become like noon.’                                                                                                                                                                       (Isaiah 58:10)

As St. Bonaventure taught, ‘Goodness diffuses itself’.  In other words, it is the nature of goodness to spread itself around.  The Book of Genesis, Chapter One tells us that everything God created is good, including humans.  This means it is our nature to share with the rest of creation all that we are and have by divine gift.  Jesus’ illustrates this truth with the examples of salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16).  It is the nature of light to illuminate the space around it and the nature of salt to flavour the food to which it is added.  Light which is completely covered over and salt which is tasteless are useless, absurd and unnatural. So am I, when I am self-centred and lacking generosity.  But whenever I act with love, God’s light dispels my shadows.

And here is a link to an ideal soundtrack for this Sunday’s Gospel reading and blog post. 

FMSL

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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.

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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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8 June, Year of Mercy: Compassion has everything to do with God.

The compassion of Francis: he prays for water for his thirsty guide and a spring wells up.

mercylogoReligion and mercy have often spearheaded protests against injustice and violence as well as providing the impetus for social action. Seeking to get rid of misfortune and innocent suffering by force [as Marxism] did not just fail but caused intense suffering and persecution for millions, it became Lenin’s world, with the death of God paving the way for superman. It is reported that on his deathbed Lenin regretted the cruelty and bloodshed of his well-intentioned revolution: I have deluded myself. Without doubt, it was necessary to free the oppressed masses. However, our methods resulted in other oppressions and gruesome massacres. You know I am deathly ill; I feel lost in an ocean of blood formed by countless victims. This was necessary to save our Russia, but it is too late to turn back. We would need ten Francis of Assisi.”

Germany’s National Socialism praised whatever made you strong; lauding I did it my way! The impact of this was self-centred living, marginalising and excluding. Words like mercy and pity were no longer fashionable. Pity took on a negative connotation – and yet, experiences of compassion and pity remained strong and evident; with many choosing to follow such ways.

The cries for sympathy are by no means always unheard – even though the actual words mercy and pity are not much used. We are disturbed and alarmed by so much inhumanity and cruelty; natural disasters like earthquakes and floods evoke a response, when charity giving is most generous. Compassion, entering by choice into the sufferings of others, is doing well and temporarily, brings us more together – compassion is still around, though under new names.

There is much more than sentiment here; we are moved by the passion in compassion; hearing the cry of the poor enough to be determined to respond. Perfeopen handct [universal] justice is not achievable in this world, which is why Genesis tells us that it is not for us to decide what is good – not a prohibition, but we are not big enough to do it. When we decide what is good for us, there will always be exceptions, whereas God’s justice is universal mercy: The father of mercy… 2 Corinthians 1.3.

There are numerous victims of natural disasters where support depends entirely on compassion – thankfully such compassion is not in short supply. The presence of God, the father of mercy, is readily detected here.
pain and innocent suffering are as old as humankind, and all religions ask why and try to answer; asking for deliverance from pain and the strength to endure. How can we believe in a merciful God in the heart of this? Can suffering and mercy live together in a positive way? What does the sermon on the Mount mean by blessed are the merciful?

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