Monthly Archives: June 2017

Friday Thoughts: School of Athens

by Howard Hain
Raphael School of Athens Vatican Museum

Raphael, “School of Athens”, 1509-11, Vatican Museums, Raphael’s Rooms, Room of the Segnatura


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I see you there

Somewhere near the back

Hiding

Thinking no one can see

A priest

A prophet

A king to be

———

Socrates?

A profile

Like the head on a coin

Another good man

Snubbed for what he knows

Can’t see your face

Not fully

Say the least

Though perhaps

We too would die

A drop of hemlock

Is hard to swallow

———

Like that fine-feathered friend

All philosophers are

Little birds

Not too fat to fly

Aerial feeders

Circumventing the globe

Following truth

Wherever it go

———

Plato?

Yes

Now you

We see for sure

After all

Like a son

You and Socrates

Your father figure

Setting up shop

Hanging out

A common shingle

Hard to distinguish

In fact

The fiction

Son from Pop

One generation

Stumbles upon truth

The next

All about father’s business

Selling sovereignty

The sovereignty of Good

Not by peddling answers

By asking simple questions

———

Aristotle?

Yes

He made the frame

The third person

The younger brother of sorts

In some sense

Stealing the show

A third amigo

A sort of philosophic trinity

Aristotle the great

Teaching emperors to be

A bright bronze star

Mentioned last

Never least

A meta-physician

Looking not to the past

He expanded business

Once Plato left the scene

Pointing the way

He thought it should go

Down to earth

Keep it real

Hover low

Eyes on substance

On the truth below

———

Quite a team

These three musketeers

Sharp whiskers

Well-trained tongues

Doubled-edged swords

Wielded about

In universal hands

Yet many others

Names we might know

The great wall of knowledge

An army

To remain

The great unknown

———

Truth

Beauty

The noble pursuit

Lady Wisdom

Her many lovers

And each takes her as his own

A cloud of witnesses

Testifying one truth

The Communion of Saints

Under a different kind of roof

———

Look at that structure

Who built the arch?

It overrides

Every branch of the tree

If colored

It’d be a rainbow

Yes

That once great sign

Now brought so low

Meant so much

Primary color

Fragmented light

Quite a choice

Magic marker

Cross the sky

God’s endless love of life

A sacrament

One might say

A sign

As natural as natural can be

The offspring of union

A pledge

A covenant

A promise

The kind that brings new life

Adam

Then Eve

Woman created

From the lonely side of man

To lovers

Of such wisdom

Truth is clear

The rainbow redeemed

It will once more

Point to the sun

After yet another storm

The fullness of noon

Its rightful place

Where nothing disordered

Continues to loom

———

Welcome home

Child of wonder

Come on in

The water’s warm

Jump high

Up over the frame

Roman columns

Marble floor

Robes in many shades

Your heart

Away from home

Bring nothing more

Leave your sandals

At the door

A burning bush

Holy ground

Children at play

A clubhouse of truth

Safe and sound

Slides and swings

Monkey bars

Hang on tight

Hold on loose

No possessions

Got to share

Acts

Appreciation

Sons of liberty

Daughters of revolution

The mulberry tree

What’s that?

Your degree?

Of such things

We just don’t care

———

Poetry

Completely still

Motion

In dialogue

Statues

Alive

Silent features

Arch

And texture

Every detail

All one view

Did you hear?

Have you seen?

The latest

No not the news

What’s truly new

Not the fleeting

Nor the slice

Not cutting edge

What’s new is old

All under the sun

Originality

Yesterday

Genesis just begun

Just a few rules

Keep perspective

A frame

If you will

A type of kind

Boundless

Creativity

Yes

But not for sale

Bring what’s prized

Not the least

Only one item

The book of life

———

God became man

Truly human

Not veneer

Truth among us

Not to abolish

Bring to fullness

Humanistic pursuit

The glory of God

Made manifest

In man’s pursuit

Of God Himself

———

Jesus

In disguise

The philosopher’s cloak

Reaching upward

To shake His own hand

At the right side

God the Father


Raphael School of Athens 1509-1511.jpg

Raphael, “School of Athens”, 1509-11, Vatican Museums, Raphael’s Rooms, Room of the Segnatura

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http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/collezioni/musei/stanze-di-raffaello/stanza-della-segnatura/scuola-di-atene.html

 

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The First Martyrs of Rome

June 30th, the day after the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, we remember the Christians  martyred with them in Nero’s persecution in the mid 60s, a persecution that shook the early  church of Rome.

It began with an early morning fire that broke out on July 19, 64 in a small shop by the Circus Maximus and spread rapidly to other parts of the city, raging nine days through Rome’s narrow street and alleyways where more than a million people lived in apartment blocks of flimsy wooden construction.

Only two areas escaped the fire; one of them, Trastevere, across the Tiber River, had a large Jewish population.

Nero, at his seaside villa in Anzio when the blaze began, delayed returning to the city. Not a good move for a politician, even an emperor. Angered by his absence,  people began believing that he  set the fire himself so he could rebuild the city on grand plans of his own.

To stop the rumors, Nero looked for someone to blame. He chose a group of renegade Jews called Christians, whose reputation was tarnished by incidents years earlier when the Emperor Claudius banished some of them from Rome after rioting occurred in the synagogues over Jesus Christ.

“Nero was the first to rage with Caesar’s sword against this sect,” the early-Christian writer Tertullian wrote. “To suppress the rumor,” the Roman historian Tacitus says, “Nero created scapegoats. He punished with every kind of cruelty the notoriously depraved group known as Christians.”

We don’t know their names,  how long the process went on or how many were killed: the Roman historians do not say. Possibly  60,000 Jewish merchants and slaves lived in the Rome then; some followed Jesus, even before Peter and Paul arrived in the city. Before the great fire these Christians had broken with the Jewish community.

Following usual procedure, the Roman  authorities seized some of them and forced them by torture to give the names of others. “First, Nero had some of the members of this sect arrested. Then, on their information, large numbers were condemned — not so much for arson, but for their hatred of the human race. Their deaths were made a farce.” (Tacitus)

The Christians were killed with exceptional cruelty in Nero’s gardens and in public places like the race course on Vatican Hill. “Mockery of every sort accompanied their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.” (Tacitus)

Nero went too far, even for Romans used to barbaric cruelty. “There arose in the people a sense of pity. For it was felt that they (the Christians) were being sacrificed for one man’s brutality rather than to the public interest.” (Tacitus)

You can imagine how those Roman Christians reacted as victims of this absurd, unjust tragedy. Did they ask where God was, why this happened, why didn’t God stop it?  What about their fellow  believers who  turned them in?

The Gospel of Mark, written shortly after this tragedy in Rome, was likely written to answer these questions.  Jesus, innocent and good, experienced death at the hands of wicked men, that gospel insists. He suffered a brutal, absurd death. Mark’s gospel gives  no answer to the question of suffering except to say that God saved his Son from death.

The Gospel of Mark also presents an unsparing account of Peter’s denial of Jesus in his Passion and offers no excusing words for his failure as a church’s leader. Was it calling the Roman church experiencing betrayals to forgive as God forgave his fallen apostle?

Finally, the Christians of Rome would surely ask: should they stay in this city, this Babylon, a city where they found so much evil? Should they go to a safer, better place?

In spite of it all, they stayed in the city to work for its good. Is the “Quo Vadis?” story an answer to that question?

May God strengthen us through the prayers of the martyrs of Rome to understand the evil we face in the light of the Passion of Jesus. Grant through them too, the patience to do God’s will where we are.

There’s a  video about the persecution at the beginning of this blog.

Here’s a video about Peter’s encounter with Jesus as he flees from the city during this same persecution: “Quo Vadis?”

Here are Stations of the Cross in  the gardens of Ss.Giovanni e Paolo in Rome, once the gardens of the Emperor Nero. Were some of the early Roman martyrs put to death here?

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The Feast of Peter and Paul

The church of Rome considers Peter and Paul her founders. They came to the city and preached and died  there during the persecution by Nero in the early 60s. Their burial places, marked by great churches, St. Peter at the Vatican and St. Paul Outside the Walls, are among the treasures of the city.

They could not be more unlike: Paul, the educated Pharisee from Tarsus, who came late to Christianity and like a runner raced from place to place in the Roman world to plant the faith. In the end, he believed God would give him “a crown of righteousness”  for his mighty efforts.

Peter,  the fisherman from Galilee, was named by Jesus  the Rock on whom he would build his church. He denied Jesus three times and then was called by Jesus  three times  to shepherd the flock. Warily, he went to Caesarea to baptize a Roman soldier, Cornelius. Then, he went to the gentile cities of Antioch and Rome to tell the story of the One he had seen with his own eyes.

We ask for Paul’s zealous faith to bring the gospel to the world before us, and Peter’s deep love for Jesus Christ which he voiced at the Sea of Galilee and at his preaching and death.

St. Augustine commented on this feast and on the threefold call Jesus made to Peter. Jesus called three times to conquer the apostle’s “self-assurance.”

“Quite rightly, too, did the Lord after his resurrection entrust his sheep to Peter to be fed. Not that he alone  was fit to feed the Lord’s sheep, but when Christ speaks to one, he calls us to be one. And he first speaks to Peter, because Peter is the first among the apostles.

“Do not be sad, Peter. Answer once, answer again, answer a third time. Let confession conquer three times with love, because your self-assurance was conquered three times by fear. What you had bound three times must be loosed three times. Loose through love what you had bound through fear. And for all that, the Lord once, and again, and a third time, entrusted his sheep to Peter.”

“Today we celebrate the  the passion of two apostles. These two  were as one; although they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, Paul followed. We are celebrating a feast day consecrated for us by the blood of the apostles. Let us love their faith, their lives, their labors, their sufferings, their confession of faith, their preaching.”

“May your church in all things

follow the teaching of those

through whom she has received

the beginning of right religion.”

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Genesis: 11-50

We might call the section of the Book of Genesis we’re reading the next two weeks at Mass (Genesis 11-50) its Jewish phase. The first 10 chapters of Genesis describe the origins of the world and the beginnings of the human race. Chapter 11 begins with the call of Abram. At morning prayer today our reading from the Book of Judith tells us to recall how God dealt with Abraham and how he put him to the test. (Judith 8, 25-27) For the Jews living after the exile (the time the books of the bible seem to have been finally assembled) Abraham was someone to look to as they made their way in uncertain times, when the road ahead was unclear.

The road ahead doesn’t seem clear for us either.

The Commentary from the New American Bible describes these chapters from Genesis as a book exiles can learn from:

Genesis 1150. One Jewish tradition suggests that God, having been rebuffed in the attempt to forge a relationship with the nations, decided to concentrate on one nation in the hope that it would eventually bring in all the nations. The migration of Abraham’s family (11:2631) is part of the general movement of the human race to take possession of their lands (see 10:3211:9). Abraham, however, must come into possession of his land in a manner different from the nations, for he will not immediately possess it nor will he have descendants in the manner of the nations, for he is old and his wife is childless (12:19). Abraham and Sarah have to live with their God in trust and obedience until at last Isaac is born to them and they manage to buy a sliver of the land (the burial cave at Machpelah, chap. 23). Abraham’s humanity and faith offer a wonderful example to the exilic generation.”

I like Jesssica Power’s poem on the great patriarch:

“I love Abraham, that old weather-beaten
unwavering nomad; when God called to him
no tender hand wedged time into his stay.
His faith erupted him into a way
far-off and strange. How many miles are there
from Ur to Haran? Where does Canaan lie,
or slow mysterious Egypt sit and wait?
How could he think his ancient thigh would bear
nations, or how consent that Isaac die,
with never an outcry nor an anguished prayer?

I think, alas, how I manipulate
dates and decisions, pull apart the dark
dally with doubts here and with counsel there,
take out old maps and stare.
Was there a call after all, my fears remark.
I cry out: Abraham, old nomad you,
are you my father? Come to me in pity.
Mine is a far and lonely journey, too.

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12th Sunday A

 

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

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Birth of John the Baptist

birth john
Jesus himself praised John the Baptist for his holiness; one reason the church celebrates John’s birth and death in its liturgy. Luke’s gospel recalls John’s birth in detail, ending with the words:“The hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.”

Like Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah are recognized in Luke’s gospel for their role in the birth and raising of the child. However lonely and independent John appears in the gospels, he was influenced by them and the extended family he belonged to. They all left their mark on him. “The hand of the Lord was with him,” but human hands were on him  as well.

He had faith like his mother Elizabeth who recognized the Spirit’s presence in her pregnant cousin Mary visiting her from Nazareth. John would point out the Lamb of God among all those who came to the Jordan River for baptism.

He had faith like his father Zechariah who devoutly celebrated the mysteries of God in the temple of Jerusalem as a priest. At the Jordan River,John called pilgrims on their way to the Holy City to prepare the way of the Lord in their own hearts.

Undoubtedly, John was a unique figure, a messenger from God, a voice in the desert preparing the Lord’s way. But there were  faithful people behind him, as they are behind us.

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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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