Tag Archives: King

20 May: About an Icon.

Croix Rousse large

This is my last blog of the week and I would like to write a little about an icon I have written.

This Croix Rousse was written as a gift for Bishop Chad in Harare, in response to a talk I heard on the persecution of the Christian church there. It took a good eight months to complete and I had never written an icon of the crucifixion before.

There are elements to working with icons that are unexpected – insights; deep feelings; new ways of seeing and in one case, a continual stream of quantum physics (when writing an icon of Elijah!)

Christ’s emaciated body hangs on the cross in a pose of absolute peace and composure. He bears the wounds of the nails and the spear. The vinegar dipped sponge is being hoisted to his lips. Jerusalem is in the background by the bar at his feet and the cross rests on ground where Adam was purported to have been buried. Golgotha, the Place of the Skull.

Mary, Mother of God, weeps by his right hand and John, his favourite, stands at his left. Above his head is the inscription INRI and above that an empty throne with an open Bible and angels around it, awaiting his Resurrection. The Sun and Moon are symbols of the Old and New Testaments and the circle of the cosmos is at the very top. The power of Almighty God.

Iconographers work form dark to light and each pass of the icon is a level of refinement from rough to smooth and more exquisite detail.

During one profound moment before I parted with this gift I looked at the holes in Christ’s hands and for a nanosecond I seemed to be able to travel across the whole of space through a deep black pinprick of emptiness. The holes in his hands have now become a symbol for me as a gateway leading to Christ. Our Franciscan habit of adoring Christ Crucified has taken on a deeper meaning.

CW.

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22 December: This birth was hard

 

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It’s easy to feel smugly indignant at the commercialisation of Christmas and attempts to create an official Winter Holiday instead. I wonder whether that is a greater threat to the truth of Christmas than sentimental carols, sung unheedingly? Christmas is, as Mary herself said when she met Elizabeth before their sons were born:

He casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly;

He fills the starving with good things, sends the rich away empty.

Luke 1: 52-53.

Here is one mighty one, years later, most uneasy on his throne, cast down even:

 … this birth

Was hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to  our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people, clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.

T.S. Eliot, Journey of the Magi.

Clutching their gods? We are tattooed on God’s hand (Isaiah 49:15); he hold us, gently. May we know his presence  every day, seeing him in the eyes of every person we meet.

MMB.

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December 3, Jacopone da Todi 7: A Host of Pardons

water-stone-chapel

Jacopone’s exhilarating phrases about his great attraction to the tremendous graciousness of God are tied in with other, simpler phrases about how humbly he waits to experience the bubbling spring of God’s forgiveness. This alone can free him from punishment he has had to undergo, for being so outspoken on behalf of Christ.

“Almost paralysed, I lie at the pool near Solomon’s Portico;

The waters have been moved with a host of pardons.,

And now the season has drawn to a close. When shall I be told

That I should rise, take my bed and go home?”                  (Laud/Letter 52)

(John 5:10)

“Why did you leave the golden throne resplendent with gems,

Why did you put aside the dazzling crown?…

Were these the actions of someone drunk, or out of his senses?

I know that all knowledge and power were yours

Even when still a child; how could so much be contained

In such a tiny frame, made of common clay?

What can a creature offer you, O Highest Goodness,

In exchange for your gift of yourself?

Your love, I think, brought you no gain.

Does gold need tin for its splendour to be seen?

For love of man you seem to have gone mad!

Myself and all my riches,

The treasure I brought with me when I exchanged

The glorious life of heaven for a cruel death.”                     (Laud  65)

 

This quietly bubbling fountain in a slab of stone is inside the Portiuncula Hermitage retreat centre at Clay Cross, Derbyshire. It is run by the Minoress Franciscan Sisters. Follow the link to learn more.

 

Chris D.

October 2016.

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25 November: Inter-Galactic Discoveries: XVIII The Galloping Dik-Dik

dik-dik

 

‘T’ and the Chihuahuas continued to listen raptly to bits and pieces of the story of the Lady Domneva and her dik-dik and, in doing so, were transported back to the vanished world of the wild and woolly seventh century.

It seemed that every monastic foundation required a kind of demesne, or endowment; enough land to ensure peace and quiet and also to raise some hard cash for bee’s wax candles, mason’s wages for the carving, and subsequent maintenance, of gargoyles and stone arabesques, lentils for the nun’s soup, ducks for their eggs and down to stuff the duvets in the guest quarters (the nuns themselves, having taken a vow of poverty, did not use duvets), some cattle for Feast days (as well as a sip of wine) and parchment, and, of course, lots and lots of sheep for lamb chops, mutton stew and wool to make their distinctive black habits (not to mention a large quantity of the rare and expensive beetle carapace used to make the dye). Well, let it simply be said that running a large monastic foundation could be expensive. Land was also needed for orchards of apples, pears, and apricots, wild flowers, and the oddly placed fisherman’s cot. In fact, back in the seventh century, as feudalism came into its first virile wind, well, land meant just about everything.

The Kentish king, encamped with his vast court on the site of the future monastery, was both vexed and perplexed. Since the king was new at founding monasteries, he wasn’t quite sure how much land might be required and the Lady Domneva was also of little help since she had only been a nun for a very short time. It was then that one of the scullery people, noticing the frisk of the Lady’s dik-dik on a particularly cold day, came up with an idea that delighted everyone.

‘Why not leave it up to God?’ the young maid said, rather enigmatically. And when all agreed that that must be a fine idea…another question immediately sprang forward – ‘but how?’ It was then that a wizened hermit emerged from a nearby wood and, approaching the diminutive dik-dik, began to stroke the lovely creature while spoon feeding it some black currant jam. In tones of deepest respect, he asked a beaming Lady Domneva if the tiny deer-like creature had a name. ‘Indeed, he does,’ she cooed, ‘Boanerges.’ And at the sound of his name the tiny dik-dik licked a spot of jam from his nose and rolled a triple somersault on the emerald lawn to everyone’s delight. ‘Surely,’ the hermit intoned, ‘God can speak through a Son of Thunder?’ And, so, it came to be.

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The little dik-dik ran and ran…and ran. Throughout the Isle of Thanet from dawn until dusk. The brisk, late-November chill served as both motivation…and inspiration…as the near-magical creature raced the howling east wind. By royal decree, everywhere it traversed would become the endowment of the monastery and, some say, that if it hadn’t been for the watery barrier of the mighty Wansum, well, the dik-dik might have galloped all the way to Scotland.

TJH

 

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Wednesday 22nd June: I will search for the lost

Traveler

Traveler

Ezekiel 34:16 ‘I will search for the lost and bring back the strays’

Today’s Feast, commemorating the martyrdom of Saints Thomas More and John Fisher, causes us to think of a time when kings had almost unlimited power and would let nothing and no one stand in the way of what they wanted.

mercylogoThe Gospel presents us with a different view of a king, a king who called himself the ‘Good Shepherd’, whom he spoke of as putting himself in danger and enduring hunger, cold, etc. to hunt for and bring back – without chastising them – his lost sheep, by whom he meant his subjects.  Jesus was a King who cared about his subjects and their wellbeing, which he put before his own comfort.

With God in charge, we can rest secure – as the Psalmist said: ‘I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.’ (Psalm 3)

It is the responsibility of a king to show integrity, and of a human being to be true to the bond of friendship.  Christ the King is the model of human integrity, and even goes so far as to call us his friends.  Although we have sinned, gone astray, sought happiness elsewhere, God never stops seeking us, longing to show us His great mercy.  Following His example, may we have the grace to extend mercy and friendship to our fellow men and women, as God has shown mercy to us.

 

FMSL

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Tuesday June 21st: I will sing for ever the mercies of the Lord.

Tues 21st

Saint of the Day: Saint Aloysius

Readings: 2 Kings (19: 9-11, 14 – 21, 31- 36) Matthew (7: 6, 12- 41)

 

St Aloysius Gonzaga was born of a noble family, and when he discovered the mercies of God, he gave up everything and joined the Society of Jesus.

mercylogoAs we continue to reflect on MERCY with our Holy Father Pope Francis, we can read in the letter of Aloysius to his mother: ‘I will sing for ever the mercies of the Lord.’  It is only when I, like Aloysius, allow the mercy of God to reach me that I can show others mercy.  Do I need to be more attentive in listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in my life?  It is the Spirit who assures us that God is our Father (Romans 8:15) and, as Saint Aloysius said, “it is better to be a child of God, than king of the whole world”.  In the reading of today, we see King Hezekiah pleading for mercy from God.  The King of Assyria has sent him a letter threatening to destroy him.  Only because Hezekiah knows himself as a child of God, not as a king, does he take his problems to God, and God has mercy on him.

So let us listen to the Spirit today and, as Pope Francis has said, ‘Let us cast aside all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved’ (Pope Francis, Homily for the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy).

Saint Paul the Apostle:           Pray for us.

Saint Aloysius:                        Pray for us.

 

FMS

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May 7: Kingship

chich.starceiling (785x800)

In Chesterton’s Ballad of the White Horse,  the fugitive King Alfred enters the Danish King Guthrum’s camp, and takes a turn with the harp – as a Ninth Century Rapper – and addresses the assembled war lords:

“Your lord sits high in the saddle,
A broken-hearted king,
But our king Alfred, lost from fame,
Fallen among foes or bonds of shame,
In I know not what mean trade or name,
Has still some song to sing;

“Our monks go robed in rain and snow,
But the heart of flame therein,
But you go clothed in feasts and flames,
When all is ice within;

“Nor shall all iron dooms make dumb
Men wondering ceaselessly,
If it be not better to fast for joy
Than feast for misery.

mercylogoAlfred is called the Great, a thousand and more years on, because he had a song to sing, a warm heart prepared to live and die for his people, and a sense of his own role as a servant of his people through the bad times as well as the good. A King whose reign was rooted in God’s Mercy.

May we have hearts of flame burning within us on the road (Luke 24:32), may we recognise the Lord in each other.

MMB.

Flaming colours on the radiant Cross, Chichester. MMB.

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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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Saints at Play II

alfWe count David as the human source of Christ’s Kingship. That sounds solemn. Even to be King of a scrap of a Kingdom – as Israel was then, in terms of population – is a heavy responsibility. Even to be father or mother of a family is a heavy responsibility, but we find time to play with our children  and discover that the burden can be light as well.

David danced in front of the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6) as it was processed into Jerusalem. Saul’s daughter Michal, watching from the window, was disgusted with his performance.

It is too easy to despise play, but I am convinced that creation is God at play. There was no need for any of it, it is all gift: gift from God to himself, gift from God to each one of his creatures. And so we are called to give to each other, and playing is one sure way of giving our talents to one another, of giving time to one another, and indeed of helping each other to discover the talents we have been given.

And perhaps the dogs who eat on the floor beneath our tables can also teach us something about playing; not just throwing sticks, but also throwing ourselves into our relationships with other people – and with God.

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Good King Wenceslas

28th September     Saint Wenceslas

How on earth does a King become a Saint? It seems to me the least likely position from which a man might attain salvation, which probably says more about me than about Wenceslas, whose equestrian statue appears in so many photographs of the Prague Spring and the Velvet Revolution that eventually brought down the Communist Regime in 1989 -1990.

Prague_Demonstration_April_1990 (640x442)

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e6/Prague_Demonstration_April_1990.jpg

By Lklundin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

W. S. Gilbert wrote of kingship:

The culminating pleasure,

Which we treasure beyond measure,

Is the sense of satisfaction that our duty has been done.

With his statue the focus for demonstrations large and small, Wenceslas seems to have been doing his duty by his people centuries after his death. Perhaps this bears out the prophecy that he would return to lead his people in their hour of greatest need. Though Wenceslas spent much of his life fighting, his people in the 20th Century worked peacefully together and freed their country from Soviet oppression.

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