Tag Archives: King David

19 June, Heart VIII: Psalm 17

Let’s go back to our search for the meaning of heart in the Bible. As we’ve seen, Scripture says more about the human heart than about God’s, but then, we need to be careful with our metaphors, lest they diminish God to what the atheists deplore: a product of human imagination and need. But here we have King David, of all people, claiming that there is no wickedness in his heart!

Well, I know that I’ve not held fast to God’s paths, my feet have indeed slipped; even if I examine my conscience carefully, I’m well able to deceive myself. Maybe that’s the spirit in which to pray this Psalm: dear Lord, this is an aspiration!

Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry;
    give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit.
From you let my vindication come;
    let your eyes see the right.

If you try my heart, if you visit me by night,
    if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me;
    my mouth does not transgress.
As for what others do, by the word of your lips
    I have avoided the ways of the violent.
My steps have held fast to your paths;
    my feet have not slipped.

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1 July: Into the forest

IMGP4697 - Copy

I don’t think the ancient Israelites were altogether fond of the forest. One of the most vivid forest stories tells how Absalom, David’s rebel son, was caught by the hair as he rode under an oak tree while his mule galloped on without him. Absalom was a sitting duck for Joab and his men, who killed him, bringing David to tears. (2 Samuel 18, 19). Earlier, in Joshua 17, we read how the tribe of Joseph cleared away the forest to have room to settle and farm, a process that continues around the world to this day.

But something is lost as we clear the forest and then build suburbs over the resulting fields. Closeness to creation and the creator. Abel, at 3¾ years has found it at Forest School: he spends a day a week in the woods with his nursery school, getting muddy and enjoying himself among the trees. We would wait forever for him to tell us what he gets up to, but my teachers’ magazine ‘Educate’ tells how children are equal partners in learning and can take over the leadership of such sessions, under the guidance of their teachers.

One teacher, Jen Hawkes, says, ‘It’s about shared experiences and making friendships. They build a bond in the forest that helps them in the classroom. We’ve had lots of children making friendships who have previously struggled with that – which is so important, especially for mental health.’ So what the children do is by no means all that they learn out of doors. They learn to trust each other.

Perhaps the Missionaries of Africa were prophetic in sending us schoolboys into the woods on half-holidays. There would be one or two at least in July; the priest-teachers were probably as sick of lessons as we were, and whatever we may have fancied they were up to in our absence, they no doubt had meetings to discuss our progress and all the routine matters that arise in any school. But we were free for the day. Note the seven pound jam tins, blackened from being used to cook a shared meal on the open fire to the left.  Glamping this was not!

Fifty-odd years after this photograph captured the moment, I am in touch with three of the lads shown. That says something for the bonds built in the forest and other parts of our shared life. Perhaps the Missionaries of Africa were prophetic!

MMB

 

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December 20: Come, David’s Key

light in dark rainy window

Young Abel takes note of which keys fit in which lock to his grandparents’ house; no doubt it’s the same at home. Keys are important in our daily lives in England. Our ancestors felt the same way of course, and they addressed Jesus as the key of keys: you open what no one can shut, and close what no one can open.

Let’s open our hearts to Sister Johanna’s reflection on the Key of David. click on the link:  Dec 20 – O Clavis David.

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December 19: O Root of Jesse, you who stand firm

trellis

Sister Johanna invites us to reflect on Jesus, the root of Jesse; Jesse being the father of King David, and so the ancestor of Jesus. I like to go a couple of generations back from Jesse, to remember one of Jesus’ ancestors who was a homeless refugee:

Boaz was the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.

Matthew 1:5

Let’s join Sister : Dec 19 – O Radix Jesse 

And pray that he may come quickly.

 

 

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27 January: I am a stranger with thee

chidavidwindow (585x800)Do you remember Sister Johanna writing about praying the Psalms, and how the difficult prayers that we do not agree with have a place in our own prayer life? ‘This is not pretty’, we might say, ‘but I need to tell it to someone.’ Here David wants to guard his mouth, but what comes out is the sort of confusion that springs from deep hurt as we have been touching on these last days. But ‘surely in vain is any man disquieted.’ Easier said than felt or acted upon. But saying it is  a start.

Psalm 38 (39) A canticle of David.

I said: I will take heed to my ways: that I sin not with my tongue. I have set guard to my mouth, when the sinner stood against me.

I was dumb, and was humbled, and kept silence from good things: and my sorrow was renewed.

My heart grew hot within me: and in my meditation a fire shall flame out.

I spoke with my tongue: O Lord, make me know my end. And what is the number of my days: that I may know what is wanting to me.

Behold thou hast made my days measurable: and my substance is as nothing before thee. And indeed all things are vanity: every man living.

Surely man passeth as an image: yea, and he is disquieted in vain. He storeth up: and he knoweth not for whom he shall gather these things.

And now what is my hope? is it not the Lord? and my substance is with thee.

Deliver thou me from all my iniquities: thou hast made me a reproach to the fool.

I was dumb, and I opened not my mouth, because thou hast done it.

Remove thy scourges from me. The strength of thy hand hath made me faint in rebukes:

Thou hast corrected man for iniquity. And thou hast made his soul to waste away like a spider: surely in vain is any man disquieted.

Hear my prayer, O Lord, and my supplication: give ear to my tears. Be not silent: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner as all my fathers were.

O forgive me, that I may be refreshed, before I go hence, and be no more.

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2 January: Mary, Queen, Mother of Mercy

Mary Queen of Africa at Bobo diolasso from MAfr W Africa

Picture from Missionaries of Africa, West Africa Province.

This statue of Mary is at Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso, a modern, West African expression of the crowned statue of Our Lady of Africa in Algiers.

We pray, ‘hail, holy  Queen, mother of mercy.’ Here we see a queen crowned and wearing the gold collar-necklace associated with West African Kings. That crown would be impossibly heavy in real life, but she is erect, neck straight. The serene half-smile suggests that Shakespeare’s words ‘uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’ do not apply to this Lady, Our Lady.

And why is she a queen at all? True, she was of David’s line, but the crown, like the British crown, bears the Cross as its crest – not a serpent as in ancient Egypt, the only African country we know she lived in. She is under her Son’s protection but she knows suffering and it does not weigh her down.

Those open hands could be welcoming a child running home from the playground or school (a place that sometimes can feel like an exile from home). Her hands are open, a gesture of peace.

Mary’s eyes are looking down at whoever is approaching her, but her whole being is under the sign of the Cross. What does she tell us?

‘Do whatever He tells you.’

And if you do, signs of his Kingdom will be seen. (John 2).

Mary was the catalyst for a great sign at Cana; what will people discern when they listen to us and observe us this year? Will they see us, or will they see him, or perhaps, like the wedding planner at Cana, they will see something marvellous but not take it in. But we are children of Eve, not glorious unless by reflection: non nobis Domine!

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12 December: ‘Lord, make me know your ways.’

monday-12th

Image from stmaryslakeport.com

Today is Monday 12th in the third week of Advent and we also celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

In the first reading from the book of Numbers 24: 2-7, 15-17, the prophet Balaam said that “a star from Jacob takes the leadership, a sceptre arises from Israel”. Jesus is the prophet and Leader of Israelites, whose sceptre is a sceptre of power and authority. This is seen in the Gospel reading from Matthew 21: 23-27. Here Jesus is teaching in the temple with authority but the priests and elders who have closed their minds and hearts come to ask him a question. “And who gave you the authority for acting like this?” Because Jesus is full of wisdom and authority, He also asks them a question which they are not able to answer. They only say, “we do not know”.

So for me today, how do I react to authority? Do I welcome true authority, power and wisdom or do I try to trap them like these elders and priests that want to trap Jesus by asking Him questions, simply because they have closed their minds and hearts to the change and freedom that Christ has come to give us?

My prayer today and always is what the Psalmist said in today’s Psalm 24: ‘Lord, make me know your ways. In your Love and Mercy, remember me. Teach me your wisdom, guide me in the right path and give me humility of heart.’ Our Lady of Guadalupe, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us. Amen!

FMSL

 

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May 22: A pure heart

raincloudsCaernarfon

Our David has returned to his Welsh roots, translating two hymns well-known in the Principality of Heaven. Here is Calon Lan, which I have set alongside verses from Psalm 51, which must have been playing somewhere in Gwyrosydd’s (Daniel James) the original writer’s head, as the verses flowed from his pen.

King David is making his peace with God after the miserable affair of his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. And this is the great hero of Israel …

These pieces beautifully introduce a series of reflections from Sister Joanna Caton of Minster Abbey, on what it is to be a person.

WT.

Calon Lân – A Pure Heart.

I’m not asking for a luxurious life, the gold of the world or its pearls,

I’m asking for a happy heart, an honest heart and a pure heart.

Refrain: A pure heart full of goodness is lovelier than the lily,
Only a pure heart can sing day and night.

 

If we wish for the world’s wealth: it’s got fast wings,

But the wealth of a virtuous, pure heart brings everlasting profit.

Refrain:

 

My wish in the late morning is to ascend on wings of song

So God, for the sake of my soul, give me a pure heart.

Refrain:

Translated DBP.

Katherine Jenkins sings Calon Lan

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

15 O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

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April 18, Jerusalem II: No Tame God.

The prophets insisted that the Temple was the place of God’s presence, not just the national shrine of Israel or Judah. Before a stone could be laid upon a stone, Nathan was sent to forbid David from building a house for the Lord (2 Samuel 7). God wanted it clear that he was the one God, and not to be tamed like a Canaanite god by offering sacrifices to force blessings from his hand; nor was he open to trickery like Zeus, who was taken in by Prometheus’ theft of fire;[1] no, he was:

‘Exodus’ terrifying concept of unbearable beauty and power, God known in the thunderstorm on Mount Sinai, God who warns Aaron not to come within the Holy of Holies improperly dressed, lest he die.’[2]

 

            This God sustained a Covenant relationship with Israel. He it was who took the initiative and sent down fire upon the landmark sacrifices of Abraham’s vigil or Elijah’s watch on Mount Carmel (Genesis 15; 1Kings 18). He would do the same for his fledgling Church at Pentecost, when the disciples were transformed, not destroyed, by fire (Acts 2:3); a few years later the fire of the Spirit was passed to Paul’s ordinand, Timothy, bringing him into the eternal life of the Trinity (2Timothy 1:6–11) .

May our light burn brightly so that our lives may point those we love and those we meet to that eternal life.

           MMB.

[1]    Paul Cartledge: ‘Olympic Self-Sacrifice’, in  ‘History Today’, 50, 10; October 2000,
Paul Cartledge, Olympic Self Sacrifice .
[2]    Mary Douglas: ‘Leviticus as Literature’, Oxford University Press, 1999; p 34.

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24 March: Bread and the Word.

RoodEngMartyrsCamb2 

Christ himself told us that he is “the bread of life”, and scripture attests he is the Word who was with God, and who was God. 

These two claims that are the basis of our faith are statements woven throughout scripture and our theological beliefs.  They echo from Advent, when God’s salvation plan for His people is foretold by the prophets with the promise that the Messiah would come from the City of David, and continue through the earthly ministry of Christ from his birth, death, and resurrection.

Christ’s existence as the bread of life and the Word come together, in identical words, twice in scripture.  First in the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy (8:3) : “…man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord”, which the Evangelists Matthew (4:4) and Luke (4:4) both tell us Jesus quotes, verbatim, to his tempter after 40 days of fasting in the Judean wilderness.

More significantly, the two synonymic terms for Christ come together in the Holy Eucharist.  In the Blessed Sacrament, proclaimed by Blessed Pope Paul VI and the Council Fathers in Lumen Gentium 11 as “the source and summit of our faith” where through the mystery of transubstantiation, bread becomes the body of Christ, and the faithful receive the Word as this life giving bread.

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Indeed, prophecy was fulfilled with the birth of Christ in the City of David.  Even more amazingly, the Hebrew name of that town where Jesus was born, bêt-leḥem, means House of Bread!

DW.

The Rood at Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge. Note at the feet of Christ the host and chalice of the Eucharist. There are many scripture references in this portrayal, even though it does not show a ‘realistic’ crucifixion in earthly terms. This could be a meditation on Hebrews: notice the pallium on the Lord’s shoulders: a sign that he is the Lamb as well as the Good Shepherd; he is also priest and King … look on, and see more.

A different festive bread to that of Passover, the traditional English harvest loaf expresses thanks for the crops safely gathered in, and the offering of ourselves and all that sustains us in God’s earth. 

MMB.

 

 

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