The Beehive Nebula
Reading for None:
Let your spirits be renewed so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:23-24)
Renewal is a central truth in our fellowship with Christ. Daily we have the opportunity for renewal. In the text above the word ’Let’ is the first. We can choose to be renewed or not. How can we do this? How do we know we have been renewed?
When I am weary, I desire an early night. Before I venture upstairs I am in the habit of going into my garden to see if there is a clear night sky with a good sprinkling of stars and a few planets to gaze upon. If there are, I will get out my Makutsov telescope with the battered azimuth cog that makes it judder and begin my astronomical observations. What joy and happiness I feel at such times. I see my old friends, Jupiter and four of his moons: Callisto, Ganymede, Europa and Io; then there is bright Arcturus; the baleful red giant Betelgeuse and if the atmosphere is clear I can see the nebula in Orion’s sword. I pay especial attention to the Seven Sisters and once I have tracked down my other familiar friends I start looking in earnest for something I have not found before.
Most recently, I discerned the Beehive Nebula, so named because it looks like a hive of busy bees.
It is also called the Manger, as, with some imagination, it does seem like two donkeys munching from a manger. Once you know where to look it is easier to find the next time. It took me months to find the Andromeda galaxy. She had been hidden by an overgrown apple tree but I found her eventually. A blurry smudge in the blackness. So distant, yet now present in my humble back garden. What is far is so, so near!
My joy is made complete when looking at the stars in the sky. It has been a lifelong interest but only recently have I been able to indulge in a good telescope. After stargazing I am renewed, refreshed, not tired and filled with a lightness both spiritually and physically. The universe visits my humble garden, impinges on my consciousness and refreshes my soul. I am renewed with love for all creation.
Holy Name Church, Manchester
Water is everywhere at the Easter Vigil, from Creation (Genesis 1) to the Exodus (Chapter 14) and the rain making the land fertile in Isaiah (35:1-11) to Paul’s ‘When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death … so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life. (Romans 6:3-11)
The water is blessed by immersing the Paschal Candle in it, as we pray that all who are buried with Christ in the death of baptism may rise to new life with him. New Christians are baptised; we are all sprinkled with holy water.
The Church is serious about death, the church is serious about the Resurrection. As you enter the Holy Name church in Manchester you cannot avoid their magnificent holy water fonts: this particular church is very serious about the death of baptism.
If we are to be raised from the dead, then despite all our trials and troubles, everything is basically all right. All will be well, all manner of things will be well. If you cannot quite believe in Easter and everlasting life, ask yourself, if this story were indeed true, what difference would it make to me today? How would it change my life? Then try starting that change in behaviour, and see if it makes sense.
We are told (Luke 1.29) that, at the Annunciation, Mary ‘was troubled at his (the angel’s) saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be.’ The troubles did not end there, as Simeon foretold: (Luke 2:35) ‘And thy own soul a sword shall pierce.’
I would like to take a sideways look at this story with a passage from Father Andrew SDC, writing to a woman recently bereaved in World War II.
‘If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable,’ (1 Corinthians 15:19) because, indeed, as S. Paul knew so well from his own experiences, our Christian hope brings us all sorts of pains which we only have because of it; I mean the pain that comes from the failure to live up to it, and the pain of sacrifices made because of it, and also as it deepens and enriches our relationships and makes our friendships much more deep and sacred, so our partings are made more poignant as each beloved one is taken from us. But it is not in this life only that we have hope in Christ, and so we can smile through our tears and be sure that our dear ones are with Christ, and nearer to him are not farther from us.
Life and Letters of Fr Andrew, p 162.
How much pain Mary took on trust when she agreed to the angel’s request!
Ex Corde Lectures
Johannine Dimensions of ‘The Word of the Cross’ in Bonaventure’s Thought.
Wednesday 8 March, 7.00 p.m. to 9.30 p.m.
at the Franciscan International Study Centre, Giles Lane, Canterbury, CT2 7NA.
The famous passage from 1 Corinthians 1:18 – ‘For the Word of the Cross is to those who are perishing, foolishness but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ – speaks eloquently of the salvific nature of Christ’s death in the thought of Saint Paul. The same is true for the great Franciscan mystic, Saint Bonaventure, who links that action of the second Person of the Trinity to the personalised experience of Francis’s stigmata and a perception of a Cross that ‘illuminates’ and is the source and summit of Christian contemplation. In this Ex Corde lecture, Father Tom Herbst OFM will relate Bonaventure’s treatment of the Pauline theme of the ‘Word of the Cross’ to his exegesis of the Gospel of John.
Father Thomas J. Herbst received a BA in History at the University of California at Santa Barbara, an M.Div. from the Franciscan School of Theology?Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He obtained a D. Phil. in Theology from the University of Oxford in 2001.
All are welcome. An opportunity to ask questions will follow the lecture. We ask for a small donation to cover costs.
‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love…’ 1 Corinthians. 13:13
St. Paul pointed out the three enduring virtues in Christian life. Mary is full of these virtues.
Mary is a model of faith. When the angel appeared and gave her the news of God’s plan for her, she accepted without knowing what would happen in the future.
She is a model of hope. Mary knew that Jesus came down from heaven. When he died on the Cross she stayed beside him and hoped until the end. Even after His death, she continued to hope in God’s promises, which were fulfilled when he rose again.
Mary is the model of charity. It was at the foot of the Cross that Jesus instructed John, his beloved disciple, to take care of his mother Mary as his own mother. Mary followed him and the other apostles to live their common life: sharing things, praying, fasting, praising God. So, she is found with them at Pentecost. She did not give up her vocation after Jesus went back to heaven. She went on loving as a mother.
As Mary is full of these three enduring Christian values, so she is a model for all Christians.
Mary full of grace, pray for us.
The cross shines into the stable in Blake’s Nativity
There is something ridiculous from a human point of view about the whole Christian story. It’s not as though we need Richard Dawkins to point that out to us. Saint Paul got there first and what he says about Christ crucified applies equally to Christ new-born:
We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness: But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Over at the Vatican Observatory website, Fr James Kurzynski has been grappling with new research that suggests there are two trillion galaxies – galaxies, not stars – in the Universe. He concludes with these words:
According to the definition of the Sacred Name, God IS, God’s understanding of creation is not limited to the musing of the human person. Therefore, it very well might be that to God every microorganism is a universe and every universe is a microorganism. The God who Is, the God who is Being, can at the same time be present to the grandeur of the totality of all creation, both known and unknown, seen and unseen, while at the same time be present to the smallest singularity in which the potential of a two trillion galaxy universe resides. In short, God transcends our limited language of small and big, helping us understand that the God who brought all things into existence is also aware of the smallest of things in existence, even, to quote Scripture, the hairs on our head and the sparrows of the sky.
Reflection: How do you perceive your place in God’s creation? Does it fill you with awe and wonder or do you feel a bit deflated, feeling small and insignificant? In [this] season, let us remember that we believe in a God who both brought into existence an unthinkably big creation, but also entered into our smallness in the womb of Mary. And may we open our hearts to God [at] Christmas and allow God’s infinite love to enliven our soul through the intimacy of Christ’s love for us and the stirrings of the Holy Spirit.
Do find time over the next few days to read Fr Kurzynski’s essay in full HERE.
Let’s take another snapshot from Masefield’s Coming of Christ.
And also there was Paul, receiving mercy, proclaiming mercy:
A tentmaker of Tarsus,
Who will deny you and denounce your followers
To torment and to death; and then will see
Your truth by sudden lightning of the mind,
And then go through the world, telling your truth,
Through scourgings, stoning, bonds, beating with rods,
The wild beasts in the ring, worse beasts in men;
To the sharp sword outside the city gates,
Glad beyond words to drink of your sweet cup,
Lifted and lit by you, christened by you,
Made spirit by you, I who slew your saints.
Jesus told James and John: My chalice indeed you shall drink; but to sit on my right or left hand, is not mine to give to you, but to them for whom it is prepared by my Father. Matthew (20:23) We shall drink of his cup – whether sweet or bitter; we will be lifted and lit by him and strengthened to be tellers of his truth and sharers of his mercy.
When we aim to understand ourselves in a deeper way, and spend time focussing inwards, the dark impressions which we recover at first are not reassuring. We may experience our soul’s troubled waters as a shadowy pool. What light we find there feels moody, insubstantial and even riddled with foreboding.
When St. Paul said ‘we see as through a glass darkly’, (1 Corinthians 13:12) it was surely the kind of seeing we attempt to enjoy as the character and creative traits of others. But at first we are not skilled in reading these correctly. We meet the mistrust and suspicion of others, or display to them more of our own suspicion than we would have wished them to notice. Jacopone tackles this clash well.
“Draw yourself up to your full stature
And thunder me a sermon for the mote in my eye.
You scorn me, oblivious of the beam in your own.
Tend your own wounds, so wide and deep they cannot heal.
“Students of Scripture, you want to preach,
And point out the darkness in my life, ignoring yours;
You make a show of your exterior, and have little love
For anyone who would search your heart instead.”
We sometimes wonder, when we lock horns, who will back down first? But as Christians we each have reserves of humility in our shady, glassy inner pool. We have to trust these and plunge into them as we would plunge into God, for the sake of a genuine friendship.
Fr Austin McCormack will be speaking on Thursday evenings this term. I recommend these lectures to any Christian, including those from Reformation traditions who may wonder what we Catholics are all about. Please feel free to come to as many of these lectures as interest you.
Start time 19.00. You are asked to make a donation to cover expenses.
The subject of the course is:
“What is theology saying?”
6. 17/11: What difference does Grace make?
7. 24/11: What about Original Sin?
8. 01/12: What morality did Jesus teach?
9. 08/12: Should we renounce the world or change it?
10. 15/12: Is there salvation in other religions?
(Image from Polyvore.com)
Saul of Tarsus/ St. Paul was a person who engaged with life and his faith and quickly came to terms with them. As a Jew, he responded with wholehearted zeal to God’s will as he saw it, persecuting the Christians. As a Christian, he was equally as wholehearted and zealous in travelling around preaching the Good News. As he said in today’s reading: “I am ”.
How was he able to confidently proclaim this, considering the insecurity of his lifestyle: hunger, cold, accidents, thieves, and so on? The reason for his confidence was his faith: “There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength”. Paul was speaking of God, the One Who will help us in all our difficulties if only we turn to Him and trust Him. He was ready to put up with anything to attain his goal of making Christ known and loved, to help others to grow in relationship with God. He knew that, as the Psalmist said, God was “a shield about Him”.
Although Paul knew that he was dependent on God for everything, he also knew that God works through people. It has been said that on this earth He has no hands but ours, no feet but ours. The Philippians had helped Paul with their gifts. Paul was delighted at their generosity, not only because it would help him, but also because, in his words, it would be “interest mounting up in their account” with God. They were learning that, as Jesus had said, the way to love God whom one could not see was to show love to one’s brothers and sisters.
Paul’s attitudes challenge us: have we got faith enough to face whatever situations we encounter with complete trust? And do we show our faith by our actions?