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

 

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.

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.

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

photo

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.

IMG_0467

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.

DSC00027

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?

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!