Wednesday, 14 September 2016

A Better Resurrection

My life is like a broken bowl, 
A broken bowl that cannot hold 
One drop of water for my soul 
Or cordial in the searching cold; 
Cast in the fire the perish'd thing; 
Melt and remould it, till it be 
A royal cup for Him, my King: 
O Jesus, drink of me. 
(Christina Rossetti)

It stood among the tumbledown, discarded jumble of the family in a rarely visited room at the back of the house. Every now and again someone would come in to add new junk to the pile of unwanted things. More rarely a servant would seek to retrieve something useful from the mass or a child would look for an unusual object with which to play, allowing her imagination to make up for the deficiencies and blemishes of the unwanted-by-grown-ups item chosen.

The broken bowl sat upon a shelf and she was a sad sight to behold. At some time in the long, long distant past careless hands had let her slip from a great height and she had fallen hard upon the tessellated floor. The favourite of her mistress an attempt had been made to put her back together but it had not been a success. Great gaps were left in her fabric and long cracks, visible and ugly, criss-crossed her face. For sentiment's sake she had not been cast out into the darkness but had been allowed to remain, if only just, within the family home.

Yet what use was a broken bowl? However perfect she had been when leaving the hand of her maker now she was marred and unable to fulfil the purposes for which she had been created. Yet she waited, patiently she waited. Who knew but that at some point her time would come. Perhaps the accident would turn out to be a happy fault and a new and better destiny awaited her. No one could see what good she could ever be but many things that seemed impossible to men nonetheless were true.

Night had long fallen after a pleasant day in early spring. Still she sat on her shelf. Still she waited. Still she was patient. Suddenly the room was infused with a transcendent light. A tongue, as it were of fire, descended upon her and a fierce heat penetrated every fibre of her. She was melting and being transformed from above. Every molecule, every atom danced and moved and changed. Broken no more, dullness and dust banished and clear brightness shining from her.

The next day Kyrios the Greek servant came into the lumber room grumbling to himself as was his way when made to work harder than he liked.
"Quickly he says. We need another cup he says or we will not have enough for all the guests. Where does he think I can find another cup at this time? Am I a miracle wor..."
Suddenly he stopped. He had seen the reforged bowl. His jaw dropped and his face, never handsome at the best of times, acquired a gaping, stupid ugliness. Picking the bowl-turned-chalice up almost reverentially he appraised it with expert eyes.
"The gods must highly favour this banquet" he said (his Judaism being only skin deep) "they have left us this golden thing which will perfectly suit the Principle Guest." Kyrios then hurried away with the reforged bowl to add it to the table setting for the newly arrived party of pilgrim guests,

The meal proceeded, in turns solemn and merry as often happens when friends gather together to celebrate their friendship and recall their shared sufferings. Finally the Principal Guest took up the reforged bowl. After thanking God He raised it saying
"This is my blood"


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The painting is The Grail Damsel by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Thursday, 8 September 2016

The Birthday of Our Lady

One is my dove, 
my perfect one is but one, 
she is the only one of her mother, 
the chosen of her that bore her. 
The daughters saw her, and declared her most blessed:
the queens and concubines, and they praised her.
(Song of Songs 6:8)

Since ancient times Christians have understood the mystical sense of the Song of Songs (also known as the Canticle of Canticles) to refer to the relationship between Jesus and His Bride the Church. Generally what can be said of the Church can also be said of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as the first and for a time only Christian Mary literally was the Church of which she is also mother. So, as we celebrate her nativity, what can this verse teach us about our Lady?

Sacred Tradition tells us that Mary was the first child of St Anne but not, perhaps, the only one. She was, however, in a unique sense the Daughter of Zion. The Chosen people of God, as a people, gave birth to only one daughter and that was Mary. Through her the fulfilment of the Covenant relationship between God and Israel would enter the world. She was therefore both the only one and the chosen one of the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It could also be said that she was the only pure child of the human race since Mary, uniquely among us all, was through the merits of her Son, conceived fee from the taint of original Sin. This makes her, in Wordsworth's evocative expression, 'Our tainted nature's solitary boast'. (Jesus, of course, was perfect by nature not by grace.) We can also think of Mother Earth as rejoicing in the birth of Mary ' for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God' (Romans 8:20-21)

The daughters who call her most blessed, as St Elizabeth did, are all the children of God who have received the Spirit with gladness and see in Mary the light before the dawn, the one whose faithfulness and love will bring heaven down to earth. Mary is she in whom the Father delights, to whom the Holy Spirit is espoused and from whom the Son is born. The word 'most' is a superlative which means that no one ever was or ever shall be more blessed than Mary. None more blessed with joy as the mother of Jesus. None more blessed with the Cross as witness on Calvary of the Passion and Death of her beloved Christ.

The Queens who praise her stand for all who are involved in the world, the workers, students, parents, homemakers who find time each day to turn to God with thanks and prayers. For who can praise God without also remembering beloved Mary full of grace who has found favour with God?(Luke 1:30).

The concubines who praise her stand for all those deeply sunk in sin who have been or are being led from vice to virtue through our Lady. As a model and icon she stands without rival in inspiring us to change our ways, to conform ourselves to her and through her to Christ our Lord. As our Advocate she stands before the just judge, her Son, who can refuse her nothing. As mediatrix of all grace she sends to us the Holy Spirit who revives us and leads us via repentance, contrition and conversion to the Father.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is gentle as a dove. She is also like the dove of Genesis 8:11 who brought to Noah the bough of an olive tree with green leaves on it. Its coming was a sign of hope, the bough symbolised the Cross, the leaves the new life in Christ and all of these can be found in our Lady. She is perfect in her response to the grace of God which fills her so completely and so is without sin or stain. And she is but one, the only one, Mother of God, Mother of the Church, Mother of Christians, Queen of Heaven. Our beloved Mary, let us rejoice in her and with her as we celebrate her birthday.

Appare, dulcis filia,
nitesce iam virguncula,
florem latura nobilem,
Christum Deum et hominem.

(Appear, sweet daughter,
Grow verdant, little branch.
You will bear the noble flower:
Christ, God and man.)
From the Morning Prayer of the Nativity of Mary


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The painting is St Anne with the Virgin and Child by Michael Wolgemut