Friday Thoughts: Le Madras Rouge

by Howard Hain

Henri Matisse Red Madras Headdress Le Madras rouge 1907

Henri Matisse, French, 1869-1954
Red Madras Headdress (Le Madras rouge)
1907, Oil on canvas, The Barnes Foundation


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Rosy cheeks

Crimson lips

A funky handkerchief upon your head

Taking a break from cleaning?

Or just pretending?

Ah!

Perhaps a gypsy?

No, perhaps all three.

———

Yes

More to be seen

A portrait from the past

A figure of old

A testament

Of what’s redeemed

A harlot

No more

Seven demons

Cast away

Setting sail

Completely freed

Eyes on distant shores

Flag full staff

Bones properly buried

A pirate turned parakeet

Pastels all a flutter

Colors abound

Novelty renewed

A romance for sure

Mysterious winds

Exotic islands

Far off lands

Yet so close

Milk and honey

Set before

Within arm’s reach

Right and just

An adopted child

Now full heir

———

Innocence discovered

Virginity returns

Chastity on full display

Fact as fiction

Stories unfold

Promises foretold

A man and then a woman

A rib and a garden

A paradise and nothing to do

A lie and a sneaky snake

A revolving sword

Set a fire

Brother against brother

An ark that floats

Sent off in twos

A raven and a dove

A father in faith

Journey unknown

A far-flung place

Boys will be boys

Brotherly mischief

Here we go again

Slavery and sphinx

Mercy tries once more

Thru the red gate

Chariots and legions

Encased in sea

Wandering and wandering

“Listen to me!”

Bread from heaven

Fowl falling from the skies

Striking rocks

Water shoots forth

Time to settle down

Conquer some giants

Crisscross a river

An ark on two poles

A new occupied land

Vineyards and fields

Laws and oaths

Judges and kings

Forgetting and forgetting

Just who it is

Who gives them life

What is God to do with such a man?

The shepherd boy

Last in line

One more try

Singing psalms

Prophecy

He fits the mold

The mind of Christ

We are told

———

A tiny young woman

A just upright man

Stables and sages

Stars and circumcision

“The carpenter’s son?”

Yes, crafting a table

To stand upheld

Shape of a cross

Used too as a crib

A born-again bed

For those about to die

Back to a table

A kingdom spread

A feast to behold

The Son not spared

The Bread of Life

Broken and blessed

“Father forgive them…”

“They know not what they do…”

———

Mary of Magdala

First to the tomb

Her and the gardener

Alone and renewed

“Mary”

“Rabboni!”

“Don’t yet cling to me”

“But what then shall I do?”

Sit and stare

Inwardly explore

Externally ignore

Signs of the past

Others still may see

But within your chamber

Mine all mine

Extra virgin

The Garden of Eve

Betrothed and beautified

Originality set free

No trace of sin to fall

Now cover your hair

You are my bride!

For you I shall return

A dove within a cleft

Won’t be left alone

———

A handmaid

A wife

A disciple

A model

A muse

Positioned in a cane-back chair

Awaiting the Word

To open the door

Now

Yes now

An acceptable time

Behold

“I stand”

“I knock”

“I AM”

Open the door:

“Lift high your heads…”

“Grow higher, ancient doors…”

“Let him enter, the king of glory!”

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Henri Matisse Red Madras Headdress Le Madras rouge 1907

Henri Matisse, French, 1869-1954
Red Madras Headdress (Le Madras rouge)
1907, Oil on canvas, The Barnes Foundation


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http://www.barnesfoundation.org/collections/art-collection/object/6365/red-madras-headdress-le-madras-rouge

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The Landscape Where Jesus Lived

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We live in a changing church and a changing world. Was it that way always?

Traveling from one part of the Holy Land to another you notice  great changes in the land. If you stand  on the roof of the Passionist house in Bethany, as I did some years ago, you can still see olive trees growing beneath you. The Mount of Olives is just west of us.

Then, looking eastward to Jericho and the Dead Sea, it’s barren desert. Then, as you go from Jericho to Galilee the land turns from desert to lush farmland. A changing landscape.

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Jesus experienced a changing landscape as he left Nazareth for the Jordan River and then the Sea of Galilee;  it influenced him and the way he spoke. His parables are rich with the language of the sower and the seed. Like us, he was influenced by the place were he lived.

In a book written in the 1930s Gustaf Dalman, an expert on the geography and environment of Palestine, observed that Jesus was from the highlands and entered a different world when he left the mountains of Nazareth, 1,100 feet above sea level,  for the fishing towns along the Sea of Galilee, 680 feet below sea level.

For one thing, he ate better – more fish and nuts and fruits were available than in the hill town where he grew up. He looked out at the Sea of Galilee instead of the distant hills and valleys of his mountain village. He saw a great variety of birds, like the white pelicans and black cormorants that challenged the fishermen on the lake. He saw trees and plants and flowers that grew abundantly around the lake, but not around Nazareth.

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Instead of the chalky limestone of Nazareth, Jesus walked on the hard black basalt around the lake. Basalt was the building material for houses and synagogues there. It made for sturdy structures, but they were dark and drab inside. They needed light.

Basalt also made for a rich soil in which everything could grow. “… here plants shoot up more exuberantly than in the limestone district. Where there are fields, they yield a produce greater than anyone has any notion of in the highlands.” (Dalman, p123)

fields

Accumulating on the rocky land around the lake, the volcanic soil produced a rich harvest. Josephus, the ancient Jewish historian, praised the land for its fruitfulness, its palm trees, fruit trees, walnut trees, vines, wheat. But thistles, wild mustard, wild fennel grew quickly too and choked anything else that was sown. The land around the Sea of Galilee was fertile then; even today it has some of the best farmland in Palestine.

The weather in the low lying lands was not the same as in the mountains, warmer in winter, much hotter and humid in summer, which begins in May. “It is difficult for anyone used to living in the mountains to work by day and sleep by night…Out of doors one misses the refreshing breeze, which the mountains along the lake cut off…one is tempted to think that Jesus, who had settled there, must often have made occasion to escape from this pitiless climate to his beloved mountains.” (Dalman, p. 124)

These observations aren’t found in the gospels, of course, but they help us appreciate the world in which Jesus lived. He was human as well as divine, and in his humanity he was influenced by where he lived, as we are.

And what about us? How are we influenced by our time and place? Doesn’t change affect us too?

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Feast of the Sacred Heart

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The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus falls on the Friday after the Feast of Corpus Christi because  the Eucharist comes from the loving heart of Jesus.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart, promoted especially by the Jesuits, was a favorite devotion of generations of Catholics. I think today of the beautiful church of the Sacred Heart in Springfield, Mass, where Father Theodore Foley, the saintly Passionist whose cause for canonization was recently introduced, grew up. That church surely had a profound influence on him.

The devotion was strong in the pre-Vatican II church, but perhaps is not so strong today. How do I know? I was listening on the internet to a little segment on church music from Vatican Radio featuring popular hymns to the Sacred Heart. Most of them you don’t hear today.

The devotion, however,  transcends popularity. Here’s an excerpt from St. Bonaventure for today’s Office of Readings:
“Take thought now, you who are redeemed, and consider how great and worthy is he who hangs on the cross for you. His death brings the dead to life, but at his passing heaven and earth are plunged into mourning and hard rocks are split asunder.
“By divine decree, one of the soldiers opened his sacred side with a lance. This was done so that the Church might be formed from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death on the cross, and so that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘They shall look on him whom they pierced’.
“The blood and water which poured out at that moment were the price of our salvation. Flowing from the secret abyss of our Lord’s heart as from a fountain, this stream gave the sacraments of the Church the power to confer the life of grace, while for those already living in Christ it became a spring of living water welling up to life everlasting.”

“Sweet Savior, bless us ere we go
thy words into our minds instill
and make our lukewarm hearts aglow
with lowly love and fervent will.
Through life’s long day and death’s dark night,
O gentle Jesus be our light.”

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What’s the Right Way to Pray?

By Orlando Hernandez

This Wednesday’s Gospel (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18) continues the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. This same Gospel is read at the beginning of the Lenten Season, when we resolve to give alms, fast, and pray. Of course, our love of God should lead us to do this all year round. However, our Lord warns us not to be “ show-offs” when we do good for others or when we fast from so many things that we have too much of. He warns us, “ do not blow a trumpet before you” nor “neglect your appearance” so people might admire your kindness and piety.
The part about prayer, though, is the section that has captivated my attention:

“ When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. ( Mt 6: 5-6 )

Jesus says that we will be rewarded. I believe that God’s repayment for our attempts at prayer happens then and there, at the moment of true connection. The increase in faith that our efforts and His grace give us, the consolation and joy that His luminous Presence gives us, the love we feel, from Him and for Him, are great rewards indeed. And during those dry, frustrating days, when prayer does not seem to “ work “ and we don’t get any of those consolations, the faith He endows us with gives us the hope that He, in His love and goodness will eventually “ repay “ us, perhaps for all eternity. Either way, something powerful always happens because we return and try again and again.

Our Lord seems to say, that, rather than a public display of piety, prayer is a very private activity. In the end, it has to be an intimate one-on-one encounter with the loving God, in that “ inner room“, within our inmost selves, where I know the Lord lives. The less  “babbling”, the better. The essence, it seems to me, is the knowledge of a being together, a silent mutual awareness of loving intentions, a union, all initiated by Him.

And yet, I have to say something in defense of those “ who love to stand and pray “ loudly and boisterously in churches and prayer groups, even in street corners! Nine years ago my Lord beckoned me back into the faith through His Body, His people: peasants on their knees, advancing painfully towards the Blessed Mother’s Shrine at Fatima, Portugal; hundreds of people singing and moving toward the altar to receive Communion during Mass in Miami, Florida;  women loudly praying the Rosary in perfect synchrony in a church in Puerto Rico; people full of devotion, with eyes closed and arms raised, praising God at he top of their voices in a Charismatic Meeting in Queens, N.Y.  They were all shining examples to me ( and to many others I am sure ), bringing the Presence of the Living God into my life. Of course, I believe that during those moments each one of them, at some point or another, were totally lost in the power and love of their God, in that place where He sees us all in secret. Private and communal prayer in the end must merge, because our Lord loves us, each and every one of us, together and individually, and calls us to communion with Him and community with each other.

In the end the mystery of prayer is beyond me. My spiritual director, Fr. Richard Schiner, used to say that the only right way to pray is to just pray, trying again and again. And so I push on and on, alone and with others. All I can say is that I feel so much cherished by this God who lovingly created each one of us. He calls me to love, and to work for His people, each one a shining light where He lives and loves.
Thank You Lord!

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By Faith, Not By Sight

At Mass today we hear St. Paul reflecting on his life in his Second Letter to the Corinthians. “We walk by faith and not by sight,” he says. You can look at yourself by faith or by sight. Obviously, some at Corinth are looking at Paul “by sight,” what they think he is, but Paul sees himself in another way, by faith.

“We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful;
as unrecognized and yet acknowledged;
as dying and behold we live;
as chastised and yet not put to death;
as sorrowful yet always rejoicing;
as poor yet enriching many;
as having nothing and yet possessing all things.”   ( 2 Corinthians 5,1-16)

Some in Corinth see Paul as a deceiver, a nobody, on his way out, beaten, sorrowful, poor, having nothing. Paul sees himself by another light. The NAB commentary on 2 Corinthians says that, though Paul speaks personally he assumes his experience is shared by other people of faith. We’re all called to walk by faith and not by sight.

And so, how do we see ourselves today?

Today, the 58th year of my priestly ordination, I’m beginning a Mission at St. Mary’s Church in Kingston, New York at 7 PM. It’s the last of the Revive Missions sponsored by the Archdiocese of New York that I’m taking part in.

Some would say the church is responsible for the ills of our world, it’s passing away, beaten, a sad thing, having nothing to say any more. But, Paul begins his reflections proclaiming “Now is an acceptable time. Now is the way to salvation.” So, “We walk by faith, not by sight.”

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Feast of Corpus Christi

For today’s homily, please play the video below:

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Friday Thoughts: Adolescent Cardinals

by Howard Hain

northern_cardinal_8

Adolescent Cardinal

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Brilliant Red?

Not quite yet.

The color of martyrs?

That remains to be seen.

A touch of green?

Yes, that’s for sure.

It’s the obscurity of ordinary time.

But what about the shade of gray?

An undyed robe.

One way or another, the ascetic life.

They have to learn to let go.

But they seem so unaware?

Certainly the case.

Too busy with growth.

No time to kill.

Branch to branch.

Tree to tree.

Upward.

Onward.

“Let’s find a new field!”

Though they always follow the lead.

Willingly or not.

Of the one bright red.

Hot on his heels.

They tweet and swipe:

“Let me in.”

“I’m ready to fly.”

“Let me lead the way.”

But maybe not yet?

Thinking they’re ready.

Sure sign they’re not.

Blood orange.

The bitter color.

Right before red.

A shade.

A difference.

A single feather.

Off the top of the head.

But avoid the cat.

And their day shall come.

Red.

Like the exhausted sun.

About to explode.

End of a hot August day.

Crushing the horizon.

Making it almost disappear.

But there on the cusp.

Just before another world.

We see the spectrum.

All yellow now gone.

The orange too has disappeared.

And the green?

Vanquished for eternity.

Even purple is held at bay.

Only the sincerity of red can sustain.

A pure offering.

A humble heart.

The undyed pigment.

Of a completely different sort.

The deepest kind of red.

Almost a shade of blue.

Blinding even the sun.

For Justice is duly at hand.

And a small bird of mercy.

White as white can be.

Flies incredibly low.

In friendship.

With him who bowed down.

Hand in hand.

A cardinal and a dove.

Into the jaws of death.

Though ever so certain.

There will be at least one more.

Yes, certainly another.

An heir, an offspring, a sturdy new branch.

At least one more.

For the young one watches.

Witnesses the entire display.

He sees the fully mature.

Return to their mother’s nest.

And lo and behold.

Dusk becomes dawn.

The newest day of all.

Rising from the west.

For the brightest color.

Has none at all.

What a display.

Life outdoing death.

The power of meekness.

Gaining the upper outstretched hand.

And with a gentle gesture.

Breaking the gates of hell.

Opening wide.

Heaven’s once narrow door.

Red all a flutter.

Now only joy and peace.

A cardinal is no more.


 

red-cardinal

Mature Cardinal

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