Thursday, 25 October 2007

IV. Jesus meets his mother

Is there anything more bitter sweet than meeting your mother when you are beaten up and in deep trouble? Who comforts who in this picture? I had a big black eye once, a result of a quite outrageous evening in Birmingham and quite completely self inflicted. The worst thing about the entire event was the thought of what my mother would say, I had arranged to meet her and it was unavoidable. What she did say was this: 'You bring someone you love into the world, love them and care for them, give them everything they need...and then they go and do that to themselves. It's heartbreaking.' The need to reassure those you love that you are alright is a natural instinct, and the hardest task of a parent is to let you go your own way.

Is this picture very different? Who lets go of who? Jesus and Mary probably had many prayers in common, but one in particular comes to my mind. On hearing that she was to bear the child Jesus, God - Incarnate, young, unmarried and vulnerable Mary replied: 'Be it done unto me according to your word' (Luke 1: 38). In his vulnerability in the garden of Gethsemane, when the reality of his future suffering had become very plain, Jesus prayed: 'Let not my will, but yours be done' (Luke 22: 43). Mary and her son both let go of themselves, and placed themselves confidently into the hands of God. There they remained even when the going got tough, and it is there that salvation is found.

Monday, 22 October 2007

IV. Jesus meets his mother

IV. Jesus meets his mother
Illustration: Juanita Yoder

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, 'Look, he is destined for the fall and rise of many in Isreal, destined to be a sign that is opposed - and a sword will pierce your soul too - so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.

Luke 2: 34 - 35

III. Jesus falls for the first time

My beloved Jesus, it is not the weight of the Cross, but my sins, which have made you suffer so much pain. Ah, by the merits of this first fall, deliver me from the misfortune of falling into mortal sin. I love you, O my Jesus, with my whole heart; I repent of having offended you. Never permit me to separate myself from you again. Grant that I may love you always; and then do with me what you will.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

III. Jesus falls for the first time

Those who study pain are struck by its inexpressibility and its incommunicaility. Those in great pain are reduced to inarticulate screams and moans, or words which convey little of the actual experience of pain ('throbbing, stabbing, burning'). Pain does not merely resist language, but actively destroys it, in extreme cases reducing the sufferer to the sounds he used before he could speak. ... From the time a person begins to make sounds and words, language is a means of self expansion, the way in which a person moves beyond the confines of her body. In language a person learns to name the world, to become a larger part of the world, to gain a larger self. For a person in pain, the process is reversed. The immediacy of pain, its monopoly of attention and its incommunicability, reduces the world of the sufferer down again to the limits of the body itself. In older people, bodily fragility often brings the world down to within a few feet of their physical bodies. Their world becomes a ceaseless preoccupation with sitting comfortably, the room temperature, their aches and pains...Pain is often called 'blinding' because it eliminates all but itself from the field of vision.

Torture and the Eucharist - William T Cavanaugh

When Jesus falls he succumbs to human pain. The temptation would be to retreat inside himself and find no language with which to start again, no reason to look beyond the boundaries of his physical self. In order to begin again Jesus raises his head to speak the Word to his mother.

I think that we want to look good all the time, even when things are tough and we are in pain. People are ashamed to admit it when things become too much, they want to be brave, be strong and cope. Invariably I tend to look away from weakness, people crying makes me squirm. But often it is through our own experiences of weakness we are enabled to recognise the pain of others and begin to speak words of compassion. And it is through realising that everyone travels together that people get the courage to keep going. Jesus looked out from himself when most people would look in, and it was from this that he gained his strength to move forward in compassion and in love, bringing with him the hearts of those who loved and cared for him.

III. Jesus falls for the first time

It is one thing to rise quickly from a fall, another not to fall at all
St. Augustine

Vladimir: (sententious.) To every man his little cross. (He sighs.) Till he dies. (Afterthought.) And is forgotten.

Vladimir: Let us not waste our time in idle discourse! (Pause. Vehemently.) Let us do something while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. Not indeed that we personally are needed. Others would meet the case equally well, if not better. To all mankind they were addressed, those cries for help still ringing in our ears! But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late! Let us represent worthily for once the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned us!

Estragon: (aphoristic for once). We are all born mad. Some remain so.

Pozzo: I woke up one fine day as blind as Fortune. (Pause.) Sometimes I wonder if I'm not still asleep.

Pozzo: The blind have no notion of time. The things of time are hidden from them too.

Pozzo: (suddenly furious). Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time! It's abominable! When! When! One day, is that not enough for you, one day he went dumb, one day I went blind, one day we'll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you? (Calmer.) They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more.

Vladimir: Was I sleeping, while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now? Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today? That with Estragon my friend, at this place, until the fall of night, I waited for Godot? That Pozzo passed, with his carrier, and that he spoke to us? Probably. But in all that what truth will there be? (Estragon, having struggled with his boots in vain, is dozing off again. Vladimir looks at him.) He'll know nothing. He'll tell me about the blows he received and I'll give him a carrot. (Pause.) Astride of a grave and a difficult birth. Down in the hole, lingeringly, the grave digger puts on the forceps. We have time to grow old. The air is full of our cries. (He listens.) But habit is a great deadener. (He looks again at Estragon.) At me too someone is looking, of me too someone is saying, He is sleeping, he knows nothing, let him sleep on. (Pause.) I can't go on! (Pause.) What have I said?

Estragon: I can't go on like this.
Vladimir: That's what you think.

Samuel Beckett
Waiting for Godot

Augustine tells us that it would be vainglorious to think that we would never fall. Beckett warns us of the dangers of not being able to get up. Christ demonstrates that getting up when you have fallen is the work of love and hope.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
Samuel Becket
Westward Ho (1983)

Sunday, 7 October 2007

III. Jesus falls for the first time

The Third Station

III. Jesus falls for the first time
Illustration: Shrill

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you,
Because by your holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

As scripture says: I am going to destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the understanding of any who understand. Where are the philosophers? Where are the experts? And where are the debaters of this age? Do you not see how God has shown up human wisdom as folly? Since in the wisdom of God the world was unable to recognise God through wisdom, it was God's own pleasure to save unbelievers through the folly of the Gospel. While the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, we are preaching the crucified Christ: to the Jews an obstacle they cannot get over, to the Gentiles foolishness, but to those who have been called, whether they be Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is both the power of god and the wisdom of God. God's folly is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.
I Corinthians 1: 19 - 26

Saturday, 6 October 2007

II. Jesus carries his cross

My most beloved Jesus, I embrace all the tribulations you have destined for me until death. I beseech you, by the merits of the pain you did suffer in carrying your Cross, to give me the necessary help to carry mine with perfect patience and resignation. I love you, Jesus my love; I repent of having offended you. Never permit me to separate myself from you again. Grant that I may love you always; and then do with me what you will.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.

II. Jesus carries his cross

The Martyrs of Atlas
Left to Right Back: Christian, Amedee, Jean Pierre, Luc, Philippe
Front: Christophe, Celestin, Michel

'Let's talk about the cross,' the Sufi said.
'Which one?' I asked him 'The cross of Jesus, obviously.' 'Yes, but which? When you look at the cross, you see an image of Jesus - but how many crosses do you see?' 'Perhaps three, certainly two,' The Sufi replied, thinking a bit. 'There is one in front and one behind.' 'Which one comes from God?' I asked him 'The one in front,' he said. 'Which comes from men?' 'The one behind' 'Which is the oldest?' 'The one in front...God had to create the first one before man could make the second one.' 'What is the meaning of the cross in front, of the man with his arms extended?' 'When I extend my arms,' he said, 'it is for embracing, for loving.' 'And the other?' 'The other cross is an instrument of hatred, for disfiguring love.' 'My Sufi friend had said, 'Perhaps three.' This third cross - isn't it perhaps he and I and this common effort to loosen ourselves from the cross of evil and sin behind, so we can bind ourselves to the cross of love in front?

From a homily for 14th September (The Triumph of the Cross), by Christian de Cherge, Martyr of Atlas

The third cross - the struggle of moving from hatred to love.
Jesus takes up his cross, and invites others to do the same. He invites others to struggle and move hatred to love. Christian de Cherge was a member of the Trappist community in Tibhurine, Algeria. He and 6 of his brethren were kidnapped and killed in the Spring of 1996, pawns in a murky negotiation to free imprisoned terrorists. Brother Christian made his journey from hatred to love through his determination to help Muslims and Christians recognise each others greatness. He completed his mission through his final letter in which he forgives his killer.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Faith and Food

I am going to put a new button on the blog to direct people to my favourite recipes and the occasions on which to gobble them! I link most food with particular feasts and fasts in the Church year, or with the passing of the seasons. I hope people will enjoy this new little series on the blog. Food, cooking it, eating it and growing it - is one of my passions. I am very happy to share it.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

II. Jesus carries his cross

If those who practise the mysticism of the passion were to regard the crucified Christ only as the archetype of their own pain and humiliation, they would indeed be maintaining the memory of his humanity and abasement, and would be making it a present reality in their own consciousness of abasement. But they would then be destroying what is distinctive about the person of Jesus and what is special about his suffering and dying. They would then be understanding his cross only in the general sense of 'cross and misery', as the passive suffering of an uncomprehended fate, like a miscarriage, an illness, a plague, an immature death, or suffering from the deep rooted evil of other people, as social suffering, and suffering from the society which humiliates them. But these would not be the sufferings of Christ. There is no mention in the Gospels of his suffering from nature and fate, and his economic sufferings as a 'carpenter's son'. Rather, his sufferings and humiliation came from his actions, from his preaching of the imminence of the kingdom as a kingdom of unconditional grace, from his freedom towards the law, and from his table fellowship with 'sinners and tax collectors'. Jesus did not suffer passively from the world in which he lived, but incited it against himself by his message and the life he lived. Nor did his crucifixion in Jerusalem come upon him as an act of evil destiny, so that one could speak of heroic failure, as heroes have often failed and yet remained heroes to posterity. According to the gospels, Jesus himself set out for Jerusalem and actively took the expected suffering upon himself. By proclaiming the righteousness of God as the right of those who were rejected and without grace to receive grace, he provoked the hostility of the guardians of the law.

The Crucified God - Jurgen Moltmann

The concept of Jesus taking up his cross has become synonymous with the idea that people should suffer in silence and accept their fate in life. Yet this is, to my mind, a complete injustice to the sacrifice of Christ, who in the taking up of his cross, rebelled against the prevailing authorities because he saw the truth of God's justice and was going to play a vital part in bringing it about.

Jesus chose to take up the cross on our account, no doubt about that. Key to this is that he shoulders his burden to bring peace to others, not to himself. The death he offered was a death of protest against all that is wrong with the world. In modelling ourselves on Christ, and taking up the cross, we are called to protest against that which we still find to be unjust, in our own communities and in communities around the world. This is not submissive, but active suffering. The cross is 'taken up', not passively 'recieved' .