Tag Archives: Simeon

17 August: The Virgin Mary to the Child Jesus, III.

Simeon prophesied sorrow and salvation to Mary.
VIII.
Art Thou a King, then? 
Come, His universe,
Come, crown me Him a King!
Pluck rays from all such stars as never fling
Their light where fell a curse,
And make a crowning for this kingly brow!—
What is my word? Each empyreal star
Sits in a sphere afar
In shining ambuscade:
The child-brow, crowned by none,
Keeps its unchildlike shade.
Sleep, sleep, my crownless One!
IX.
Unchildlike shade! No other babe doth wear
An aspect very sorrowful, as Thou.
No small babe-smiles my watching heart has seen
To float like speech the speechless lips between,
No dovelike cooing in the golden air,
No quick short joys of leaping babyhood.
Alas, our earthly good
In heaven thought evil, seems too good for Thee;
Yet, sleep, my weary One!
X.
And then the drear sharp tongue of prophecy,
With the dread sense of things which shall be done,
Doth smite me inly, like a sword: a sword?
That "smites the Shepherd." Then, I think aloud
The words "despised,"—"rejected,"—every word
Recoiling into darkness as I view
The Darling on my knee.
Bright angels,—move not—lest ye stir the cloud
Betwixt my soul and His futurity!
I must not die, with mother's work to do,
And could not live-and see.

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23 March, Gates VI: Wisdom, watching and waiting

Gate to Jesus Hospital, Canterbury by CD

This passage comes at the end of a poem in which Wisdom tells how she was with the Creator as he made the heavens and earth.

I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times; Playing in the world: and my delights were to be with the children of men.

Now therefore, ye children, hear me: Blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates, and waiteth at the posts of my doors. He that shall find me, shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord: but he that shall sin against me, shall hurt his own soul. All that hate me love death.

Proverbs 8: 32-36.

The gate in Brother Chris’s picture above is well set up for watching and waiting, with its benches on either side. The residents of the Hospital – almshouses in fact – could sit watching here and chat to their ordinary, decent neighbours passing by. Wisdom surely belongs, in part, with the old people and their experience of life.

Simeon and Anna, two old people, waited near the Temple gate, and recognised the wisdom of God in a tiny, fragile baby. The ordinary, decent people of Jerusalem recognised the wisdom of God in a man, riding to the city gate on a donkey. Do we recognise the wisdom of God in what is described as an invasion against an evil empire, or in the unarmed arrival of an old man representing the Prince of Peace?

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2 February: in the house of Mary.

Image from FMSL

On the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus, or Candlemas, some thoughts about Mary, the obedient, subversive woman who said ‘yes’ to great personal sorrow, as Simeon warned her on this day, because that was part of her vocation as mother of God. This reflection by Father Gerry McFlynn is reblogged from the London Irish Chaplaincy website.

It took a bit of adjusting, coming in from the bright sunlight to the small, dark, one-roomed house.  It was the House of Mary in the ruins of Ephesus, in Turkey, where Mary is supposed to have lived out the last years of her life.  The only light was provided by an array of candles, some in front of a darkened icon of the Virgin holding her Son.  And I remember that there was only one other person there, an old Muslim woman who, unlike me, was praying.

Read on. Recommended by Christina Chase, with whom I shared the article as soon as I read it.

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2 February: A meeting in the Cloister

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Anna and Simeon, the old people forever in the Temple cloister, were blessed to see and to caress the Baby who was the Salvation of the Lord, the Light of the nations and the Glory of Israel.

Simeon knew this, and he was at peace. But he broke off his song of praise, lapsing into prose to warn Mary of the sword that would pierce her heart; as sharp a sword as any parent feels who sees a child die early or run off the rails through addiction, avarice or broken relationships.

But every child should be a sign of hope. By now, 40 days old, Jesus would be taking notice of the world he is being carried through by his loving parents. He will have felt safe in Simeon’s hands, but he would have registered the sudden emotional switch between the old man’s prayer and his warning advice to Mary; he would have been glad to return to her. She, too, would have been disturbed, but she surely made the effort to be positive for her son.

flight.egypt

She stored all these things in her heart; Joseph, meanwhile, was about to receive another dream, pick up his tools, and lead the family to safety in Cairo, because this child was a sign of hope in dark times.

2nd Image from Missionaries of Africa.

 

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2 February: The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

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The Nunc Dimittis Canticle is recited every night in the Catholic Church; in Anglican churches, such as Canterbury Cathedral, it is sung during Vespers. It is originally the Song of Simeon; the old man was overcome with joy and peace when he met the little scrap of humanity that was ‘the Salvation which you have prepared before the face of all peoples.’

That was the easy bit when I was asked to play Simeon in a mystery play at Canterbury Cathedral three years ago. My grandson was already too big for the part but the doll we borrowed did not steal the scene. I could concentrate on the Baby, the Father -and then Mary.

It is a massive shift of key as the prophetic revelation finds utterance, and yet we know it is true: a sword will pierce her heart – indeed there is a tradition of the seven sorrows of Mary. I had to come down from my great joy in an instant and look into Mary’s eyes with an overwhelming compassion that was neither mine, nor yet Simeon’s, but the Father’s.

Thirty years after the Presentation that compassion would be brought to practical life by John.

beholdthymother.small,rye

This window from Saint Mary’s in Rye, Sussex shows Mary, almost blind with grief, following her adoptive son by the hand. She turns her back on the apple tree of temptation and stumbles trustingly towards the Vine.

The empty Cross is a point of light against the night sky: sorrow will be replaced by joy, overturning the order of Simeon’s vision. This is a John’s Gospel window. We also see the Great Bear in the stars. If a star told of his coming, this constellation points to the North Star by which we can find our way to him.

I am the way.

Anyone who wants to follow me must take up their cross daily and follow me.

 

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December 31: A hero all the world wants.

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Mary Mother from Hales Place Jesuit Chapel, Canterbury

We have been listening to the poets over Christmas; now here is another of them, Gerard Manly Hopkins, this time a paragraph or two from his sermon for Sunday evening, November 23 1879. It is a poet’s sermon! The full text is on pp136ff of the Penguin edition of his poems and prose, edited by W.H. Gardner; worth seeking out.

 

St Joseph though he often carried our Lord Jesus Christ in his arms and the Blessed Virgin though she gave him birth and suckled him at her breast, though they seldom either of them had the holy child out of their sight and knew more of him far than all others, yet when they heard what holy Simeon a stranger had to say of him, the Scripture says they wondered.

Not indeed that they were surprised and had thought to hear something different but that they gave their minds up to admiration and dwelt with reverent wonder on all God’s doings about the child their sacred charge. Brethren, see what a thing it is to hear about our Lord Jesus Christ, to think of him and dwell upon him; it did good to these two holiest people, the Blessed Virgin and Saint Joseph, even with him in the house God thought good to give them lights by the mouth of strangers. It cannot but do good to us, who have more need of holiness, who easily forget Christ, who have not got him before our eyes to look at . . .

Our Lord Jesus Christ, my brethren, is our hero, a hero all the world wants.

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15 September: Holy Cross, All Coming together.

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It was Maundy Thursday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper was over, and we awaited our turn to proceed to the Altar of Repose. The man who had caught my eye and smiled at the Sign of Peace came across and shook my hand.

‘Hello Simeon, I was Caiaphas.’

A few years before we had taken those parts in a mystery play in Canterbury Cathedral, put on by the Franciscan Study Centre under Walter Lippi from Florence.

To come together that night! The play had mostly been about the trial and judicial assassination of Jesus, and its effects on Mary.

Caiaphas: It is better for one man to die for the nation.

Simeon: My eyes have seen thy Salvation which you have prepared before all peoples. A sword will pierce your heart.

Which of them had more evidence about Jesus? Simeon saw the Messiah in a little child; Caiaphas could weigh up the political situation caused by Jesus’ ministry, but had no vision, Eyes that did not see.

When I survey the wondrous Cross

On which the Prince of Glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss

And pour contempt on all my pride.

 

Simeon, foreground, with Friar Stefan to our left and Caiaphas to our right.

Yesterday was the feast of the Holy Cross, today of Mary as Queen of Sorrows. Father Anthony Charlton at St Thomas’s Church, Canterbury, has invited us to pray especially at this time for all those affected by abuse of children and vulnerable people in the Church. May we have the vision to survey the Cross on which the Prince of Glory’s brothers and sisters are tortured in our day, and the wisdom to take the first steps to helping them.

 

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2 February 2018: Good Grief!

SONY DSC

Simeon

Today we recall the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.

Around Easter time in 2017 Princes William and Harry spoke about the time when their mother died. For Harry, just twelve at the time, it was a traumatic period, and had repercussions for many years to come.

The princes rightly called for less fear around mental illness; I’ve known plenty of young and older people who perceived themselves as rejected by friends and family on account of their mental illness.

Yet, talking this over with my daughter and son-in-law, we felt a bit uneasy. Emotions such as grief or anger or remorse may be totally appropriate reactions to events or the consequences of our own actions. They are not in themselves medical conditions. Simeon told Mary to expect a sword of sorrow through her heart (Luke 2:34); we would ask what was wrong if a mother did not feel great hurt when her child was killed.

She loved; she was hurt.

That is not mental illness, it is a question to ask of God and oneself, ‘Why?’

Mary’s ‘Fiat’ – ‘Let it be done according to your word’ – at least begins to answer it. Her words, of course, are echoed by her son at his life’s end: indeed at the Presentation she is like the parents and godparents of an infant at the baptismal font. We make the promises to believe in God and reject all sin, whatever the consequences, knowing the baby may be hurt on the way through life. And here is Jesus: Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. (Luke 22:42) It must all have felt meaningless: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46).

Grief happens because we love and because we are human.

MMB.

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3 January: Feast of the Holy Family

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth

Just recently I watched a video which truly melted my heart. The story was of a married Christian couple in the US who, unable to conceive naturally, and desperately wanting to raise a child, enquired as to the possibility of adopting one of the many thousands of babies (‘embryos’) frozen in time as a result of IVF procedures. The video was in fact narrated by their daughter – now 15 years old – who movingly described her happy childhood and the gradual process of coming to know her early history, beginning with her conception in a laboratory and her being suspended in storage for more than ten years. As she spoke she was radiant with healthy self-love and self-knowledge. She refers to herself as a ‘Snowflake’ child – and her witness and that of others in her situation is giving added momentum to the Snowflake movement, raising awareness of this wonderful way to welcome life previously unwanted.
Adoption is extremely beautiful. For a husband and wife to choose a child as their own with the overriding motivation of showering them with love, of creating a home with them, a place of safety and refuge, peace and joy, is to be celebrated. In a sense, we are all adopted. All adopted into the faith of Abraham, and into the great Reward that was being prepared through his earthly descendants: that reward being Jesus Christ. The true Gift of Christmas, Who comes to raise our earthly identity to that of a heavenly identity.
We all yearn to belong. Whatever our state of life, our duties, gifts and responsibilities, we all need to know and experience that we belong somewhere – and with others.
Today the value of independence and of ‘doing it my way’ is more than ever promoted as the ideal state of life. But the reality of our need to belong cannot simply be brushed aside: because no individual, unique human person is brushed aside by God. God who honours every conception by breathing His own Image into the tiny developing life – even if conceived in a way outside His plan.
Family: is the place, above all, where the growing child knows without question their intrinsic worth; their identity as beloved child of God. Where they hopefully discover that they have, in fact, a heavenly Father and heavenly Mother as well as their earthly parent or parents.
Family is where the Gift of Bethlehem and Nazareth takes flesh here and now. Jesus Christ chose to be born into a family because the family was – and remains – at the heart of His Saving Plan for Humanity. He wanted to belong in a human family – so that in receiving Him into our own hearts and homes we would know our worth, our true identity. God’s taking on our humanity in the infant Jesus not only confirms the goodness of the human family, it directs it to its fulfilment and perfection: that the human family might take-on godliness!
We live, however, and despite our best efforts, in an imperfect world – and Almighty God is well aware of it! He chose to be born into a human family knowing that ‘the family’ would one day suffer the attacks and trials that it is going through right now. Simeon prophesied to Mary and Joseph that their Son Jesus was destined to be rejected – and so it is to be expected that his greatest gifts would also in time be rejected – the priesthood, the family, the Church itself. The answer to the attack against the family is not to abandon it but to deepen our commitment to it. God gives a very special grace and strength to those who do their best to enshrine Jesus Christ in their homes, marriages, and families, especially when circumstances are less than ideal. And in this our models are Mary and Joseph.
At the heart of the Holy Family’s hidden life in Nazareth was Purity, self-sacrifice, hard work, simplicity, joy, humble service, perseverance (and, above all…) prayer and worship.
Although Jesus was God, and so totally incapable of anything other than perfect love, He had to be taught and guided as He learned to show forth that Love in His words, gestures and actions. Imagine: the Son of God being taught to pray, sing and worship God by a humble carpenter and His young wife!
It is the privilege of every Christian parent to endeavour to form their children, over time, to grow in the likeness of Christ. And so prayer and worship have to be at the heart of life if a child’s true destiny is to be fulfilled. Pope Francis has confirmed the Tradition of 2,000 yrs by calling the family the ‘Domestic Church’. And rightly so. We come to Church each Sunday so that Christ’s sacrifice of perfect Love – made present in the Mass – is then made manifest in the home. And the family alive in the love of Jesus is the answer to a society so quickly losing its heart – and is the building-block of the New World of true peace and love.
It is a joyful but not at all easy duty to speak about the family. So many of us are from broken homes, or had traumatic childhoods, or, find ourselves separated or widowed, perhaps with few or no family members. In truth, wherever Jesus Christ is welcomed into a human heart there is family, because there He makes His home, with His Father and the Holy Spirit. In God’s loving plan the Parish and the Home were always meant to reflect and feed each other…whether the home is made up of one soul or a dozen or more.
Abraham’s openness to God resulted in the promise of countless offspring. In a life of prayer and communion with Jesus Christ, He will reveal to each of us our unique call to become generators of spiritual life. For those who live alone that might mean contributing to the life of the parish in a more active way than would otherwise have been possible, or in a life of profound prayer on behalf of the parish family and, indeed, the world. Simeon and Anna are forever held before us as an example to emulate.
Abraham did not live on earth long enough to see the fulfilment of God’s promise in all its glory – but from heaven he rejoices every time a soul comes to discover – or re-discover – God’s love for them.
Whatever our circumstances, let us resolve to welcome the Living Jesus into our hearts, and do all we can to bring his Love to life – at home, in the Parish and in the world.

DW, Fr Daniel Weatherley.

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25 March:The Annunciation.

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!

 

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