Saturday, March 31, 2018

No lodging for thee, but a cold hard stone? (George Herbert)

  O blessed body!  Whither art thou thrown? 
No lodging for thee, but a cold hard stone? 
So many hearts on heart, and yet not one 
Receive thee? 
Sure there is room within our hearts good store; 
For they can lodge transgressions by the score:  
Thousands of toys dwell there, yet out of door 
They leave thee. 
But that which shows them large, shows them unfit. 
Whatever sin did this pure rock commit, 
Which holds thee now?  Who hath indicted it 
Of murder? 
Where our hard hearts have took up stones to brain thee, 
And missing this, most falsely did arraign thee; 
Only these stones in quiet entertain thee, 
And order. 
And as of old, the law by heav’nly art, 
Was writ in stone; so thou, which also art 
The letter of the word, find’st no fit heart 
To hold thee. 
Yet do we still persist as we began, 
And so should perish, but that nothing can, 
Though it be cold, hard, foul, from loving man 
Withhold thee. 

--George Herbert, Sepulchre                   

We are called to wait (Fr. James Martin)

   We are called to the wait of the Christian, which is called hope.  It is an active waiting; it knows that, even in the worst of situations, even in the darkest times, God is powerfully at work, even if we cannot see it clearly right now.  The disciples’ fear after Good Friday was understandable.  But we, who know how the story turned out, who know that Jesus will rise from the dead, who know that God is with us, who know that nothing is impossible for God, are called to wait in faithful hope.  And to look carefully for signs of the new life that are always right around the corner – to look, just like a few of the disciples were doing on Holy Saturday.

   Because change is always possible, renewal is always waiting, and hope is never dead.

--Fr.  James Martin, 
America Magazine 2017

Image source:  James Tissot, The Two Marys Watch the Tomb of Jesus,

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Starved Man hung upon the Cross (Edith Sitwell)

   Still falls the Rain – 
Dark as the world of man, black as our loss – 
Blind as the nineteen hundred and forty nails 
Upon the Cross. 

Still falls the Rain 
With a sound like the pulse of the heart that is changed to the hammer-beat 
In the Potter’s Field, and the sound of the impious feet 

On the Tomb: 
Still falls the Rain 

In the Field of Blood where the small hopes breed and the human brain 
Nurtures its greed, that worm with the brow of Cain. 

Still falls the Rain 
At the feet of the Starved Man hung upon the Cross. 
Christ that each day, each night, nails there, have mercy on us – 
On Dives and on Lazarus: 
Under the Rain the sore and the gold are as one. 

Still falls the Rain – 
Still falls the Blood from the Starved Man’s wounded Side: 
He bears in His Heart all wounds,--those of the light that died, 
The last faint spark 
In the self-murdered heart, the wounds of the sad uncomprehending dark, 
The wounds of the baited bear— 
The blind and weeping bear whom the keepers beat 
On his helpless flesh… the tears of the hunted hare.  

Still falls the Rain— 
Then—O Ile leape up to my God:  who pulles me doune— 
See, see where Christ’s blood streames in the firmament: 
It flows from the Brow we nailed upon the tree 

Deep to the dying, to the thirsting heart 
That holds the fires of the world,--dark-smirched with pain 
As Caesar’s laurel crown. 

Then sounds the voice of One who like the heart of man 
Was once a child who among beasts has lain— 
Still do I love, still shed my innocent light, my Blood, for thee. 

--Edith Sitwell, Still Falls the Rain

To hear Dame Edith Sitwell read this poem, written during the London Blitz in 1940, click here.

So vulnerable (Wm. Barry/Sieger Köder)

   In Jesus, God saves us by becoming so vulnerable that we are able to kill him in a vile and humiliating way.  The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus assure us that God’s offer of friendship will never be withdrawn, no matter what we do.  If the cross did not result in the withdrawal of the offer, then nothing we do will lead to a change of God’s  heart.  We can, however, refuse the offer.  Friendship is a mutual relationship, and a person has to accept the offer; he or she cannot be coerced or tricked into it.  And any human being’s final refusal of God’s friendship breaks God’s heart.  Still, God does not turn away from such a person in anger and rage.  God lives eternally with a broken heart.  That’s how vulnerable God wants to be. 

--William A. Barry, S.J., 
Lenten Meditations:  
Growing in Friendship with God

To view Sieger Köder’s complete set of extraordinary paintings of the Stations of the Cross (shown in miniature below), click here, or click on the images below to enlarge them:

Image source (top):  Sieger Köder, Holocaust, from the Stations of the Cross series entitled, The Folly of God,
Köder's Stations of the Cross:

Thursday, March 29, 2018

In that darkness (Fr. Ron Rolheiser)

   Countless times in our daily interactions with others, we suffer moments of coldness, misunderstanding, and unfairness, from the indifference of a family member to our enthusiasm, to a sarcastic comment that is intended to hurt us, to a gross unfairness in our workplace, to being the victim of a prejudice or abuse; our kitchen tables, our workplaces, our meeting rooms, and the streets we share with others are all places where we daily experience, in small and big ways, what Jesus felt in the garden of Gethsemane.

   In that darkness will we let go of our light?  In the face of hatred will we let go of love?

--Fr. Ron Rolheiser OMI
Facebook, March 29, 2017

Image source:  Michael D. O'Brien, Christ in Gethsemane,

The bowl of dirty water (N. Mitchell/L. Santucci)

   Novelist Luigi Santucci once wrote that if he could have some relic of Christ’s passion, he’d choose the bowl of dirty water (which Jesus used to wash the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper).  He’d take it to the streets, he tells us, passing from person to person, looking only at their feet and never at their faces – so he couldn’t tell friend from foe.  Popes and presidents, drug dealers and arms merchants, gurgling babies and adoring grandparents, petty thieves and scam artists, prom queens and disc jockeys:  he’d wash the feet of everyone – and keep on washing until they understood.  Jesus’ example suggests that we should be absolutely indiscriminate in our judgment.  Look at feet, not faces.

--Nathan D. Mitchell, Daybreaks (2010)

Image source:  Tom White, detail, Wash My Feet, Lord, bronze sculpture at the Spirit of Joy Church, Arizona 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Triduum II (Alfonse Borysewicz)

  In 2009, the Catholic artist Alfonse Borysewicz was inspired to create a series of three paintings representing the Triduum, that period of three days that commemorates Jesus’ last moments, from the Last Supper to the Resurrection.   The genesis of the resulting work is fascinating in its expression and exploration of the artist’s deep faith, in particular as he tackled the task of representing Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

   Borysewicz’s trademark image is a deflated hexagon, related to the shape of a honeycomb.  To create this particular work, Borysewicz chose to represent the tomb with such a hexagon, yet painted Jesus’ face over the entrance.  Coming back to the work a few months later, Borysewicz decided, he says, to efface the face, replacing it with a red Pièta and softening the outline of the face to an oval, which, over time, was transformed into the shape of a skull.

   Fully a year later, Borysewicz removed the canvas from the wall and reintroduced the body of Jesus, though not, for the most part, the Virgin Mary.  The skull was transformed into a representation of the sacred heart of Jesus, albeit black, swathed in a honeycomb, what David Van Biema has called, Borysewicz’s personal symbol of community and hope.  A cross in the upper left corner has now become two angels.  And voilà:  as Van Biema notes, It is no longer a Holy Saturday painting.  It is Borysewicz’s own variation on life out of death through Jesus, untethered from the specifics of the sacred calendar.

    Evolution is at the heart of the Triduum.  Join us this week and see where your reflections on Jesus’ Last Supper, Passion, Entombment and Rising take you…

To see all of the different stages of this painting, 
and to read David Van Biema’s complete article 
(on which this post is based), click here.

To see the three paintings together – 
Holy Thursday, Good Friday/Holy Saturday, and Easter,