Category Archives: art

The Mary Garden

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On the Feast of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, May 31, we began our Mary Garden at Immaculate Conception Monastery in Jamaica, New York.

Mary Gardens, dedicated to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, appeared in 14th century Europe following the Black Death, a pandemic that caused millions to die in that part of the world. The gardens, usually found in monasteries and religious shrines, brought hope to people who feared the earth was bringing them death.

God gave Adam and Eve a garden, the Book of Genesis says. (Genesis 2, 8-28) Rising from the dead, Jesus proclaimed eternal life in a garden. (John 20,11-18) For early and medieval Christians, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was like a garden enclosed, flowers, plants and trees surrounded her, “our life, our sweetness and our hope.” As the “Mother of the living” she brought the promise of life to our world, Jesus, her Son.

Can a Mary Garden bring hope today to our world that faces climate change and environmental degradation? Mary reminds us creation is a gift of God’s love. A Mary Garden teaches reverence for creation, for the soil, for plants that feed and bring us healing, for flowers that nourish our sense of beauty.

Yes, science and technology play their part in an environmental crisis, but faith has a part to play. We’re planting a Mary Garden!

A Reading from the Book of Genesis
This is the story of the heavens and the earth at their creation. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens there were no plants on the earth, no grass on the fields, for the LORD God had sent no rain and there were no human beings to till the ground, but a stream was welling up out of the earth and watering all the surface of the ground and the LORD God formed a human being out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and he came to life.
The LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east,* and placed there the one whom he had formed… to cultivate and care for it. (Gen 2, 4-15)

Let us Pray

Praise the Lord who is good,
Sing to our God who is loving,
To the Lord our praise is due.

Who covers the heavens with clouds
and prepares the rain for the earth.
And makes mountains sprout with grain
and plants to serve our needs

You know the number of the stars
and call each one by name.
Bless the earth we break open today
O Lord,
to be a garden in praise of your name,
where we honor Mary, the mother of your Son.

We remember your blessings here
which you never cease to send
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Journey to Jerusalem

We’re reading about the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem from the 10th chapter of Mark’s gospel these days at Mass. Matthew offers a similar account in the 19th and 20th chapters of his gospel.

Jesus doesn’t go to Jerusalem alone, he invites others to go with him. The journey’s more than a couple of days, it’s a journey to life, to resurrection. But human beings make the journey, and they react like human beings do, especially as they hear the warnings Jesus gives and his call to follow him unreservedly.

You can’t miss human weakness in the journey stories of Mark’s and Matthew’s gospel, beginning with the Pharisees who dispute with Jesus. I suppose they represent human doubt and questioning that’s always there. The disciples rebuked the women bringing their children forJesus’ blessing, and Jesus rebukes them. They need to be like children to make the journey, but they’re not. The rich young man wants to hold on to what he has, so he goes away sad. Peter says proudly he’ s given up everything to follow Jesus, but we know how inconstant he is. The story of the brothers, James and John, which we read tomorrow, is obviously a story of human ambition.

We have the Feast of the Visitation Thursday, so we won’t hear the important conclusion of Mark’s 10th Chapter, when Jesus, leaving Jericho “with his disciples and a sizable crowd” meets a blind man. He cures the blind man and all of them go up to Jerusalem. God’s grace is greater than human weakness.

1 Hundred Guilder Print

Rembrandt Hundred Guilder Print

Matthew offers Mark’s stories in chapter 19 and 20 of his gospel. The artist Rembrandt drew a remarkable picture of the 19th and 20th chapter of Matthew called the Hundred Guilder Print.

Jesus stands at the center of Rembrandt’s work, bathed in light, his hands outstretched to the crowds before him.

Peter stands at Jesus right, close by. Other disciples, probably James and John, are next to him. Women and their children, whom the disciples told to go away, are next to them. The rich young man is also there in the crowd. He seems to be reconsidering.

Some of the enemies of Jesus who plotted against him and argued with him are also there, talking among themselves, but they’re still in the picture. Rembrandt even pictures the camel, back by the city gates.

Jesus sheds his light on them all. His arms are open to them all. Rembrandt has it right. Grace is more powerful than human weakness. It’s everywhere.

Venerable Bede


The Venerable Bede (672-735), whose feast day is May 25th, was destined from his birth to be a monk. Born near Wearmouth Abby in England,, he spent his life in that monastery, as a scholar, teacher and spiritual guide. His commentaries on scripture and the history of England were known far beyond the place where he lived.

“It’s ever been my delight to learn, to teach and to write,” he said, and he shared his learning with those he lived with; his wisdom inspires us today. Besides the scriptures and historical studies, Bede delighted in music, mathematics and learning about the natural world. He’s honored as a Doctor of the Church.

You can see from Cuthbert’s account of his life that his brothers in the monastery liked him and held him in esteem. And he liked them. Until the day of his death he continued to think and teach and write. On the day he died he was finishing up one of his studies, a commentary on the scriptures. When it was done “on the floor of his cell, he sat and sang “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit”; and as he named the Spirit, the Breath of God, he breathed the last breath from his own body. With all the labour that he had given to the praise of God, there can be no doubt that he went into the joys of heaven that he had always longed for.”

Lord, give us a love of learning and a delight in your wisdom and truth.

The Ethiopian Eunuch

Philip eunuch

Readings
Rembrandt’s biblical subjects are always interesting. They say as a child he used to sit with his mother while she prayed and look at the illustrations in her prayerbook. All his life the painter was attracted to the bible. Even without a commission, he’d sketch a biblical story that caught his eye.

Here’s the Ethiopian eunuch–our reading from Acts for today– kneeling and looking intently at the stream of water, waiting to be baptized by Philip the deacon. He’s been profoundly moved by the story he’s been told.

His servant stands behind him holding his rich outer garments. He’s the queen’s treasurer, don’t forget. An imposing guard on horseback, armed to the teeth, maybe an Ethiopian security agent, looks on. The rest of his retinue stand back, maybe puzzled by it all and anxious to get on their way on the long trip home from Jerusalem.

Like Zacchaeus, another rich man Luke recalls, the Ethiopian sees something greater than riches in Jesus and the water that promises life.

Though visibly absent, the Holy Spirit who orchestrated this scene is here too. .

How does it all turn out, we wonder? When they get home, does the eunuch get sacked because the security agent turns him in for foolish behavior? Does the servant who watched the baptism become a follower of Jesus too? Did the eunuch tell the Queen the story of Jesus? Did he ever get back to Jerusalem again?

Luke is a wonderful story-teller. Rembrandt is too.