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…
A further reflection on the working out of Blessed Pauline Jaricot’s vocation. To find out more about Pauline Jaricot, visit: missio.org.uk/Pauline
Every missionary disciple walks in the footsteps of Jesus. Pauline Jaricot developed the spirituality of the laity; not in founding a Religious community, but a Marian association of women at the service of the poor. Pauline invites us to value the vocation of each baptised person. God’s plan for Pauline was to follow Christ step- by-step: ‘As the Father sent me, so I am sending you too!’ Let us pray that we, baptised and sent, fulfill our calling as missionary disciples.
This Month Pope Francis urges us missionaries to pray for faith-filled young people. The Polish Pope, St John-Paul II, was well-known for his devotion to the Mother of Jesus. The Argentinian Pope spells out the practical virtues that the real-life Mary embodied. May all young people receive and exercise the gift of these virtues for themselves and all around them.
We pray for all young people, called to live life to the fullest; may they see in Mary’s life the way to listen, the depth of discernment, the courage that faith generates, and the dedication to service. AMEN.
Am I a stone and not a sheep
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy Cross,
To number drop by drop Thy Blood's slow loss,
And yet not weep?
Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;
Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon,--
I, only I.
Yet give not o'er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.
This post card was sent home by a man who himself never came home from the Great War. Ironically, it was produced in Munich, sent home to Manchester from Poperinghe in Belgium, and saved by the recipient and her descendants.
Christina Rossetti puts herself with Mary, Jesus’ mother, Mary Magdalene and other women who stood weeping, next to the Cross, owning a lack of tears on her own part. Poetic licence, I feel. Her heart in this poem is full of sorrow and self-accusation, but she is also repentant, asking God to strike her stony heart, as he commanded Moses to strike to rock in the desert:
“Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” (Exodus 17:1-7).
If the Lord makes our hearts run with tears, whether physical or inner tears, will we give the people living water to drink?
I came across this poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins at an Advent service at Canterbury Cathedral. Hopkins’ final verse is all the commentary we need. Enjoy a feastday to break up Lent!
Angelus ad virginem
1. Gabriel, from heaven's king
Sent to the maiden sweet,
Brought to her blissful tiding
And fair 'gan her to greet.
'Hail be thou, full of grace aright!
For so God's Son, the heaven's light,
Loves man, that He
A man will be and take
Flesh of thee, maiden bright,
Mankind free for to make
Of sin and devil's might.'
2. Gently to him gave answer
The gentle maiden then:
'And in what wise should I bear
Child, that know not man?'
The angel said: 'O dread thee nought.
'Tis through the Holy Ghost that wrought
Shall be this thing whereof tidings I bring:
Lost mankind shall be bought
By thy sweet childbearing,
And back from sorrow brought.'
3. When the maiden understood And the angel's words had heard, Mildly, of her own mild mood, The angel she answered: 'Our Lord His handmaiden, I wis, I am, that here above us is: And touching me |fulfilled be | thy saw; That I, since His will is, Be, out of nature's law A maid with mother's bliss.'
4. The angel went away thereon
And parted from her sight
And straightway she conceived a Son
Through th' Holy Ghost His might.
In her was Christ contained anon,
True God, true man, in flesh and bone;
Born of her too
When time was due; who then
Redeemed us for His own,
And bought us out of pain,
And died for us t'atone.
5. Filled full of charity,
Thou matchless maiden-mother,
Pray for us to him that He
For thy love above other,
Away our sin and guilt should take,
And clean of every stain us make
And heaven's bliss, when our time is to die,
Would give us for thy sake;
With grace to serve him by
Till He us to him take. Amen.
Today is the Feast of the Presentation of baby Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, and traditionally the last day of Christmas. It is also known as Candlemas, because candles are lit during the Scripture readings at Mass and sometimes there is a procession with the candles. Here is the Church of England collect for the day. ‘Substance of our flesh’: in other words Jesus was a real human being, not a pretend body inhabited by an angel. Like us in all things but sin.
Almighty and ever-living God,
clothed in majesty,
whose beloved Son was this day presented in the Temple,
in substance of our flesh:
grant that we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts,
by your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever. AMEN
I dwell amid the city, And hear the flow of souls in act and speech, For pomp or trade, for merrymake or folly: I hear the confluence and sum of each, And that is melancholy! Thy voice is a complaint, O crownèd city, The blue sky covering thee like God’s great pity.
. From The Soul’s Travelling by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
The City of God is a common theme in the Bible, Zion or Jerusalem, the earthly place where he lives among his people, or the Heavenly Jerusalem of the Book of Revelation. A city was, and remains, a convenient setting for a more cultured life that would not have been possible in the hinterlands. Although the airwaves bring us radio, television and the internet – and of course internet shopping – the city remains a magnet for entertainment, dining out, medical care, employment. What is Elizabeth’s problem?
Perhaps it is the flow of souls looking for pomp, trade, merriment or folly: self indulgence in other words. But whether in her 19th Century London as in the first picture, or the 21st Century city, by no means all arrivals flock there for the extras London has to offer, at a price. The city may be a relatively safe haven from war or other troubles but people still have to find a welcome; somewhere affordable to live, familiar food or the sound of their mother tongue.
“I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.
Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?”
The sky in both of our pictures is more iron cope than blue cloak; we can well believe that it grows darker yet as the sea indeed rises higher. It is for each one of us to have joy without any apparent cause, and faith in God when all comfort is taken away from ourselves or the people we meet. Lead kindly light amid the encircling gloom!
Mary, O luminous Mother, Holy healing art! Eve brought sorrow to the soul, But you by your holy Son You pour balm On death’s wounds and travail.
You have indeed conquered death!
You have established life!
Ask for us life. Ask for us radiant joy. Ask us the sweet, delicious ecstasy That is forever yours.
Hildegard of Bingen 12th Century
With thanks to Fr Anthony Charlton who shared this. Note that Mary is seen in relation to her Son, and is asked to pray for us, in the words: ‘Ask for us …’If we can pray for each other, and if we believe in eternal life, we can ask Mary to pray for us.
The present moment terminates our sight;
Clouds thick as those on doomsday, drown the next;
We penetrate, we prophesy in vain.
Time is dealt out by particles; and each,
Ere mingled with the streaming sands of life,
By fate’s inviolable oath is sworn
Deep silence, “where eternity begins.”
By nature’s law, what may be, may be now;
There’s no prerogative in human hours.
In human hearts what bolder thought can rise,
Than man’s presumption on to-morrow’s dawn!
Where is to-morrow? In another world.
From Night Thoughts by Edward Young.
Tomorrow is in another world. One man who saw the dawn of the new world was Simeon, who met the Holy Family in Jerusalem’s Temple.
He had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. And he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he also took him into his arms, and blessed God, and said:
Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; because my eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
And his father and mother were wondering at those things which were spoken concerning him. And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.
It was never going to be all sweetness and sleigh-bells, but there were those who were given a broader vision, including:
Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser; she was far advanced in years, and had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity. And she was a widow until fourscore and four years; who departed not from the temple, by fastings and prayers serving night and day.Now she, at the same hour, coming in, confessed to the Lord; and spoke of him to all that looked for the redemption of Israel.
As latter-day gentiles, let us pray that our eyes and hearts may see and recognise Jesus in the child next door and the cold infant in Syria or Belarus, as well as in our own family members.
Continuing the theme of the Holy Family, I’ve chosen for today and tomorrow this extended reflection from our friend, Sister Johanna OSB.
They said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? This is the carpenter’s son, surely?” …And they would not accept him. (Matthew 13:54,57; New Jerusalem Bible).
The non-acceptance of Jesus by the people of his own home town of Nazareth seemed extremely sad to me as I pondered this passage for my lectio recently. It also seemed strange. And in the end it even seemed scary. I wondered why was there no sense of local pride in Jesus. I kept turning this over in my mind. When one of ‘our own’ boys becomes famous it reflects well on everyone, I thought. Here was Jesus; everybody knew he had notoriety as a preacher and healer. His reputation was well-established; he was not a beginner still trying to prove himself. Jesus’ ministry had been developing and his following had been growing for some time. He had chosen the Twelve, he had worked marvels. He was, in short, a sensation. Why didn’t the people of his village greet him with excitement and open arms? His name was a name they could have casually dropped to impress their cousins in the next village. It would have been only natural for some of them to brag a bit about, say, knowing Jesus when he was a small boy. Or would it?
It suddenly hits me that we are looking at a different set of natural reactions that surfaced in the town of Nazareth. It seems that the people who knew Jesus from boyhood must have pigeon-holed him long before he showed up in Nazareth that day. According to the text, the people were saying, “This is the carpenter’s son.” In other words, Jesus is only a carpenter. Nothing more. We know his mother and his other relatives, they claimed. They are all ordinary people.
But did they know his mother and his other relatives? I wondered. Certainly his mother Mary was the greatest woman ever to have walked the earth. In saying her ‘fiat’ to the Angel Gabriel, she bore the very son of God. What immense treasures of wisdom and spirituality she must have possessed in her mind and heart. If anyone had had a heart-to-heart talk with her they’d have been bowled over. Did anyone bother to talk to her deeply? Probably not. They were blind to her greatness as they were blind to the greatness of Jesus. And Joseph. His courage in accepting Mary’s miraculous conception, and his docility to the message he received from an angel in a dream makes him too an exceptional human being in every sense. But no one seems to have recognised his greatness either.
It seems to me that this says something important about the life and character of Jesus and the Holy Family. Namely, that they seemed fairly unremarkable, unless you were a person of prayer and faith. Unless you made an effort to relate to them deeply. When the newly pregnant Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, Elizabeth alone knew, through her communion with God, that Mary was carrying the Messiah. But, otherwise, Jesus, Mary and Joseph were not recognised. So they were superb at blending in. They did not draw attention to themselves.
As I continue my reflection, it occurs to me that this is still the case. Jesus, Mary and Joseph will abundantly reward our efforts to relate to them deeply through prayer and an active
spiritual life. But if we do not try to know them, they will remain only discreet presences in the background of our lives. Is that where I want them to be?
I would like to pause this meditation here and continue tomorrow.