Monday, February 29, 2016

I am who am (Hans Urs von Balthasar)

   God defines himself as I am who am
which also means:  
My being is such that I shall always be present  
in every moment of becoming. 

--Hans Urs von Balthasar, Unless You Become Like This Child

Image source:  Marc Chagall, Mo├»se devant le buisson ardent (1966)
Quote source

Saturday, February 27, 2016

We stand before a burning bush (Margaret Silf)

  We stand before a burning bush whenever other human beings share with us something of their relationship with God or something of the movements of their hearts.  In such moments, may we always realize that we stand on holy ground.
 --Margaret Silf

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sunday Gospel Reflection, February 28, 2016: Remove the sandals from your feet...

  Are you ready for intimacy with God?  

   When, in the Book of Exodus, Moses heads over to check out the burning bush, he is stopped by the voice of God:  Come no nearer!  Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.  Remember that Moses is unfamiliar with God, having grown up with the Egyptian royal family and thus unacquainted with the traditions of his Hebrew ancestors.  Yet when Moses encounters God for the first time, in a shoeless state of utter vulnerability, God immediately invites him to intimacy through direct contact with the sacred, offering him a name for God to share with the people:  I AM.  Moses recognizes this charge as a sacred call, and will go forth to lead God's people from their enslavement in Egypt, and back to intimate relationship with God.

   Prayer is another form of intimacy with God.  When, in Psalm 103, the psalmist sings, Bless the Lord, o my soul, he is voicing an interior invitation to enter fully into prayer, to speak with God from a place of vulnerability.  It is a posture that has become unfamiliar to the Corinthians, who, according to Paul, think they have reached their pinnacle as a community, and can thus stand secure.  To the contrary, Paul tells them:  like the community that will travel with Moses through the desert, the Corinthians fail to trust in God, grumbling, complaining against the God who has saved them.  If they do not repent and change their ways, seeking God in prayer, if they do not accept the vulnerability inherent in the cross, Paul says, they will never find the intimacy to which God invites them.

   Lent is a time of repentence; we are reminded of this in the Gospel of Luke, when the gardener in the story of the unfruitful fig tree asks to be allowed to continue to cultivate that tree; like Moses and Paul, he will care for his charge, tending the tree until it bears fruit.  Are the people of Jesus' time ready for intimacy?  Perhaps not.  But God continues to offer us the opportunity to repent, to remove the sandals from our feet, to take away all that is dead in our lives -- and thereby prepare ourselves for the intimacy of relationship, and the eventual joy of salvation in Christ.

This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.
Image source:  Wordle

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Dream of the Rood

   Hear while I tell about the best of dreams 
Which came to me the middle of one night 
While humankind were sleeping in their beds. 
It was as though I saw a wondrous tree 
Towering in the sky suffused with light, 
Brightest of beams; and all that beacon was 
Covered with gold.  The corners of the earth 
Gleamed with fair jewels, just as there were five 
Upon the cross-beam.  Many bands of angels, 
Fair throughout all eternity, looked on. 
No felon's gallows that, but holy spirits, 
Mankind, and all this marvellous creation, 
Gazed on the glorious tree of victory. 
And I with sins was stained, wounded with guilt. 
I saw the tree of glory brightly shine 
In gorgeous clothing, all bedecked with gold. 
The Ruler's tree was worthily adorned 
With gems; yet I could see beyond that gold 
The ancient strife of wretched me, when first 
Upon its right side it began to bleed. [...] 

The Dream of the Rood is a poem dating back to at least the 8th century.  In it, the narrator dreams of a tree encrusted with stones, upon which, he realizes, is the blood of Christ.  In the second part of the poem, the Crucifixion story is told from the perspective of the Cross; later, the poet reflects on all that he has seen.  To continue reading Richard Hamer's translation of this poem from Old English, click here.

Image source
Text source (trans. R. Hamer)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Embrace the Cross (St. Bernard)

   Those who are beginning in the school of fear, carry the cross of Christ with patient submission; those who are progressing in hope, bear it willingly and readily; but those who are consumed with love, embrace it with ardor.  

  --St. Bernard, Sermo de Andrea  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Sunday Gospel Reflection, February 21, 2016: Stand firm in the Lord...

  From what posture might we best encounter God?  

   In Genesis, the Lord takes Abram outside and invites him to look to the stars as a measure of the number of descendents he will bear, descendents who will take possession of a land alien to Abram at some future time.  Abram has no evidence that what God promises will come to pass, yet he puts his trust in the Lord, accepting the new covenant offered by God in spite of the deep darkness that first enfolds him. Abram thus enters into right relationship with God, and will henceforth live from God's promise; his posture is one of absolute faith in the Lord.  Psalm 27 likewise tells of an encounter of complete trust:  the psalmist sees God as his goal, the purpose of his life; his heart tells him that God is what he needs.  Like Abram and the psalmist, our hearts drive us to encounter God from a posture of trust, knowing that God will illumine our existence:  The Lord is my light and my salvation.

   In Luke's version of the Transfiguration, Peter's posture is not as well grounded as that of Abram or the psalmist.  Confronted with the presence of Moses and Elijah on the mountain with Jesus, Peter wants to hold on to old traditions, building tents for the prophets as his ancestors would have done.  Instead, God intervenes, pointing him to a new posture:  Listen to him, God tells Peter.  In other words, stay open, stay firm, and trust.  Only after Jesus' death and rising will Peter come to a full understanding of this experience on the mountain; only then will he come to understand the cross of Christ of which Paul speaks to the Philippians; only once he embraces that cross will Peter know, as we might one day know, the transformation of our lowly body into one glorified like that of Christ.

   To stand firm in the Lord is to encounter Jesus from a posture of openness and trust, with faith in God's promise of salvation.  It is, in short, a posture of love, calling us to absolute faith in God's power, a power grounded in God's love for humanity and his willingness to send his Son to die for us on the cross, arms open, embracing the world.

This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.
Image source:  Wordle