Tag Archives: mystery

Still Wondering

 

We don’t stop wondering at the Christmas crib. Christmas is over for most people today. The tree’s taken down, decorations put away. But the Christmas mystery is too big for a one day celebration; that’s why the church prepares for this celebration through the four weeks of Advent and continues through the days of the Christmas season till the Feast of the Epiphany. Christmas Day may be over, but our celebration and reflection on the Christmas mystery is not over.

This mystery raises questions and has consequences, which the feasts that follow Christmas Day explore. Since ancient times churches of the east and west have celebrated the feast of Stephen, one of the first disciples of Jesus and the first to die giving witness to him. (Acts 6,8 ff) on December 26.

When Jesus was born “all who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.” (Luke 2,18) But Stephen would be stoned to death when he told about the One who was sent. The message will not always be heard, yet still must be told. 

“The love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven,” St. Fulgentius says of the martyr Stephen.

December 28th is the feast of the Holy Innocents;  little children from Bethlehem put to death by Herod the Great so no rivals would challenge his power and throne. (Matthew 2, 13-18) When Jesus was born “all who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.” (Luke 2,18) Yet Herod the Great heard the message and tried to end it. The birth of Jesus does not bring an end to evil in the world. The Child is born “for to die for poor orn’ry creatures like you and like I.”  

December 27th is the feast of St. John, the apostle. This is another feast celebrated along with the Christmas feast by all the churches of the east and west from earliest times. It explores the great question: Who is this Child born of Mary? Writings identified with John the Apostle– the 4th Gospel and letters–  are read at Mass on Christmas Day and days that follow the feast. 

Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, is true God and true man, “the Word made flesh, the Word of God who made all things, dwells among us.”

Like the shepherds who watched in the darkness we need to keep our eyes on this sign of light:  “the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” Like Mary, we need to keep reflecting on this mystery in our heart to appreciate what it means for the world and for us. Like Joseph we don’t stop wondering.

 

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Ignatius of Antioch

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Ignatius, bishop of Antioch in Syria, a large early Christian center, was put to death in the third century in the Colosseum where he was devoured by wild animals, during the reign of the Emperor Trajan. His death is vividly portrayed in the picture (above) in the church of San Stefano Rotondo in Rome. We celebrate his feast October 17th..

On the way to Rome, Ignatius wrote seven letters to important Christian churches. The letters show him to be a skillful  teacher and writer; he must have been an eloquent preacher.

In his letter to the Christians at Ephesus,  however, you sense his days for words are coming to an end. He’s entering the silence of death where words are not important, Ignatius writes–  faith and “ being faithful to the end,” are what count. “It is better to remain silent and to be than to talk and not be. Teaching is good if the teacher also acts. One teacher ‘spoke, and it was done,’ yet what he did in silence was worthy of the Father. He who has the word of Jesus can also listen to his silence…”

What does Ignatius mean? The Word of God silent? True, in his early years at Nazareth, Jesus is silent. Before his baptism in the Jordan by John he’s  silent, until the voice of the Father says, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”

Jesus taught during his public ministry, yet many didn’t hear him at all. Finally, when he’s arrested and taken to the cross to die, the evangelists say  Jesus was silent.

Silence is part of facing the mystery of God. Here and now, some things can’t be known or explained. Like terrorism, natural disasters, the suffering of children. Why? God is silent. Again,  Ignatius:

“He who has the word of Jesus can truly listen also to his silence.”

Friday Thoughts: The Height Of Stars

by Howard Hain

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My constant companion.

My acting partner, my motivational coach.

Sometimes I forget you’re there.

Such lack of gratitude, such empty graciousness.

But you remind me, lest I forget.

There you are once again.

Right beside me.

Center stage.

All the world to see.

Hard to imagine you any other way.

My constant companion.

My antagonist. My adversary.

Middle of the night, just you and me.

Another standoff. Another scene.

Good or bad, there’s always drama.

One day we’ll part ways I suppose.

But for today, this hour, you continue to goad.

Pestering and probing.

A reaction, any, is what you want.

Like a needle in my hay stack

Pricking my limbs.

Especially my heart.

Weakness.

That’s who you are.

You play your role.

Upstaging the stronger, more noble parts of man.

Clever, cunning, looking for the upper hand.

Curtain up or curtain down.

You’re a character for sure.

Smile or frown.

Jester or clown.

Your disguise is basically the same.

Some sort of wise man, a plot all your own.

But you, Sir Weakness, you are important.

Like tragedy.

Like divine comedy.

You give good measure.

You give the chorus something to say.

And despite your best intentions.

You help establish strength.

You remind people the height of stars.

Without you, my dear Weakness, no hero could ever be.


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Friday Thoughts: Short and Simple

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Tintoretto, “Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet”, 1548-49

 


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Pray, brothers and sisters,

that my sacrifice and yours

may be acceptable to God,

the almighty Father.”


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Tall and handsome.

Big and powerful.

Profound and exciting.

A great adventure starring a great hero.

Doing the dishes.

Just the right combination of hot and cold.

Mostly hot of course.

And the cold, that splash of sobriety is so we don’t get burned.

In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ crucified, I commence the dishes…

———

The sponge is important.

It need be clean and effective.

For how can one wash with something dirty?

And yet, even the best is hardly perfect.

After a single use it’s bound to show signs of deterioration.

So you add more soap and hope for the best.

Our Father, who art in heaven…

———

The circular motion of water, upon and around each dish.

Turn, turn, turn…

Rinse, rinse, rinse…

Like the axis of the earth.

The equator slightly tilting back and forth.

Side to side, to ensure proper runoff.

Such a delicate balance.

Then put aside to dry.

Sunlight works best.

Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…”

———

The drain cannot be ignored.

The little netting, catching all sorts of iniquities.

Now very clean hands.

Cleansed thru humility.

The dignity of work.

Reach down.

To grab what has been left below.

The rejected, the unwanted, the forgotten food.

A Eucharistic portion.

Not washed into the drain.

Yet separated from what is considered clean.

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

———

I find two towels work the best.

One, somewhat clean, to wipe down the faucets and the edge of the sink.

The other to dry shriveled-up hands.

And to be hung, upon the little bar.

The one that crosses the oven door.

Awaiting the warmth.

The warmth that bakes our daily bread.

May the Body of Christ keep me safe for eternal life.”

———

It is all really very simple.

Short and simple.

He died. We live.

We die. He lives.

One dirty dish at a time.

One Eucharistic encounter at a time.

Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”


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Thanks be to God.”

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—Howard Hain

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