we stand on the periphery

We should weep as we watch our society regress into the pre-Christian Greco-Roman/pagan
view of the world.

David Roberston

(Laocoön and his sons, also known as the Laocoön Group. Marble,
copy after an Hellenistic original from ca. 200 BC.
Found in the Baths of Trajan, 1506.)

It’s no secret that I ardently follow and read the words and observations of two very
different, yet actually very similar, clerics who both happen to live in the UK.
One is a Free Church Presbyterian Pastor in Scotland the other is a former Chaplin
to the Queen and former Anglican priest,
who now happens to be Bishop of the Christian Episcopal Chruch.

They are evangelical, conservative, orthodox, traditional–clerics of two vastly
different denominations yet both are much more similar than they are different.

I’m not sure as to whether either man is familiar with the other but I would suspect
that they have some sort of knowledge of one another as each man has had his
fair share of attacks by a more liberal press for holding to and freely voicing a
strong Biblically rooted Christian faith.

When it comes to defending the Christian teachings, neither man is afraid to
take on MPs, authors, professors, reporters or other clergy members.
They are each, in their own right, true defenders of the faith.

They are both very learned men and well read.
And they can certainly hold their own and not think twice nor bat an eye when
it comes to professing the Truth as it is met with every form of attack and or assault.

I admire that in them.

They do not buy into the feel-good dribble being passed off in so many churches these days
as a modern take on Christianity—that when stripped and pared down to the bare bones,
it is nothing more than the self-proclaimed gospel of the individual verses
the Gospel of the Risen Christ.

In Christianity, there are some very hard truths.
Truths that we in this 21st century of ours have grown unable to stomach as we find them
difficult as well as uncomfortable and therefore intolerable to acknowledge or accept.

Jesus did not come into this world to pat us on our heads and tell us of the marvelous
job we are doing.
He did not come to applaud our half-hearted efforts nor the notion of ‘if it feels good,
it is good’ nonsense.

Jesus came to save the sinner.
And the sinner is each one of us.
Each of us is at fault.
If you don’t believe that then your ego is bigger than your very soul.

Each one of us falls short.
Each one of us needs a savior…if not saving from the world…saving rather, from our
very selves.

The fact that our culture is not progressing, as we so often quip with our labels of post
modern progressivism… but rather, in actuality, we are regressing…
Regressing back to a time of self-absorption and intolerant barbarism as we live
our lives preferring the paganism of a myriad of self-created demi-gods to the One True God.

We are slowly becoming what we so smugly deemed of those in the past as primitive,
ignorant, egotistical, ancient and primal.

Hedonistic is the better description.

I am encouraged knowing that there remains those who continue to speak the Truth despite
the world’s desire to dispel it.

Whereas those of us who hold steadfast to the Christian faith know that the battles
continue to rage, the war has already been indeed won—
Yet we may still weep as we take stock of the battles we are beginning to fight.
As fight, we must.



In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead,
and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct,
rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.
Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of
teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist,
discharge all the duties of your ministry.

2 Timothy 4:1-5

It’s simple really…

“It is not that I want merely to be called a Christian, but to actually be one.
Yes, if I prove to be one, then I can have the name.”

— St. Ignatius of Antioch

(painting attributed to Cesare Fracanzano (1605-1651) Galleria Borghese, Rome)

This morning when I read today’s quote by St Ignatius of Antioch,
it was as if I had been hit upside the head.
How simple yet so profound—

It begs the question…
does being dubbed, labelled, branded a Christian…
claiming, professing, proclaiming to be a Chrisitan necessarily make one…a Christian??

The answer, in a nutshell, is a resounding no!!!…it most certainly does not!

Ignatius follows up this thought with the novel idea of then having to prove oneself as a Christian.
Meaning that if one can live it, share it, show it, prove it…
then one may lay claim to the name!

This is not to be an in-name-only sort of affair…

The back story of our friend…

Born in Syria in the year 50AD, Ignatius converted to Christianity and eventually became
bishop of Antioch.

It is believed that it was actually St Peter who appointed Ignatius as bishop of Antioch and
the surrounding region.

“The saint was called “God-Bearer” (Theophoros),
because he bore God in his heart and prayed unceasingly to Him.
He also had this name because he was held in the arms of Christ, the incarnate Son of God.”

And as the outspoken Chrisitan, he was, Ignatius was eventually arrested by the local Roman
authorities on grounds of “atheism” against the Roman gods.

In the year 107, Emperor Trajan visited Antioch and forced the Christians there to
choose between death and apostasy.
Ignatius would not deny Christ and thus was condemned to be put to death in Rome.

“In the year 106 the emperor Trajan (98-117), after his victory over the Scythians,
ordered everyone to give thanks to the pagan gods,
and to put to death any Christians who refused to worship the idols.
In the year 107, Trajan happened to pass through Antioch.
Here they told him that Bishop Ignatius openly confessed Christ,
and taught people to scorn riches, to lead a virtuous life, and preserve their virginity.
Saint Ignatius came voluntarily before the emperor,
so as to avert persecution of the Christians in Antioch.
Saint Ignatius rejected the persistent requests of the emperor Trajan to sacrifice to the idols.
The emperor then decided to send him to Rome to be thrown to the wild beasts.
Saint Ignatius joyfully accepted the sentence imposed upon him.
His readiness for martyrdom was attested to by eyewitnesses,
who accompanied Saint Ignatius from Antioch to Rome.

Ignatius bravely met the lions in the Circus Maximus.

On December 20, the day of a pagan festival, they led Saint Ignatius into the arena,
and he turned to the people: “Men of Rome,
you know that I am sentenced to death, not because of any crime,
but because of my love for God, by Whose love I am embraced.
I long to be with Him,
and offer myself to him as a pure loaf,
made of fine wheat ground fine by the teeth of wild beasts.”

After this the lions were released and tore him to pieces,
leaving only his heart and a few bones.
Tradition says that on his way to execution,
Saint Ignatius unceasingly repeated the name of Jesus Christ.
When they asked him why he was doing this,
Saint Ignatius answered that this Name was written in his heart,
and that he confessed with his lips Him Whom he always carried within.
When the saint was devoured by the lions, his heart was not touched.
When they cut open the heart, the pagans saw an inscription in gold letters:
“Jesus Christ.” After his execution, Saint Ignatius appeared to many of the faithful
in their sleep to comfort them, and some saw him at prayer for the city of Rome.

Hearing of the saint’s great courage,
Trajan thought well of him and stopped the persecution against the Christians.
The relics of Saint Ignatius were transferred to Antioch (January 29),
and on February 1, 637 were returned to Rome and placed in the church of San Clemente.

Ignatius is well known for the seven letters he wrote on the long journey from
Antioch to Rome.
Five of these letters are to churches in Asia Minor;
they urge the Christians there to remain faithful to God and to obey their superiors.
He warns them against heretical doctrines,
providing them with the solid truths of the Christian faith.

The sixth letter was to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who was later martyred for the faith.
The final letter begs the Christians in Rome not to try to stop his martyrdom.
“The only thing I ask of you is to allow me to offer the libation of my blood to God.
I am the wheat of the Lord;
may I be ground by the teeth of the beasts to become the immaculate bread of Christ.”

Despite the story about Ignatius’ life being considered ancient history,
it would be wise for those of us who claim the name of ‘Christian’ to actually follow
the example of Ignatius.
…that we could / would not only claim to be a Christian… but that we could / would actually
live out being a Chrisitan.
Not just the worldly notion of Chrisitan but actually that of Christ’s true intention.

Imagine the change in this world if we each claimed the act behind the label of faith.
It now seems so simple really…

‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you,
for I am your God I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

Isaiah 41:10

Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
Ephesians 6:11 NIV

Did the world stop spinning?

Stop the earth from spinning, I want to get off

(big sister Alice does believe her world has indeed stopped spinning / Julie Cook/ 2018)

I think it was last Tuesday…
I started a new post and suddenly…life just spiralled away…

It has been spiralling since Friday, February 16th.

That Friday began with a frantic phone call followed by a frantic race to the big city…
racing 65 miles along a busy interstate to a busy metro hospital…
as a first-time pregnant mom felt no movement from her soon to be baby.

Was there a heartbeat…we did not yet know.

The doctors ordered them to the hospital immediately.
The dreaded word “stillborn” was quietly uttered and cautiously mentioned by a
somber doctor.

Tears, prayers and shouting flowed freely…while racing on a busy interstate.

Finally and thankfully the call came…there was a heartbeat.
But I kept racing none the less.
The voice of my own, now grown father-to-be, son was frightened.

And there was a call for urgency for a delivery.

4:15 PM, a week ago Saturday, a loud exhale could be heard rising up from a lone labour
and delivery room.

A week has since passed in what seems to be a gauze veiled haze of weary relief.

A new mom is now ill with fever…
A new dad is a walking zombie…
A new big sister dog is depressed
A new odd inherited aunt of a cat is still an independent nut job
A new tiny princess has been jaundiced and has had to visit the local Children’s hospital
all the while a new grandmother is still on ‘new-life’ duty while toothpicks prop
open her eyes…

So yes, it does feel as if the world has indeed stopped spinning for a myriad of reasons…
reasons which I haven’t even listed…reasons we’ve been living with but matter not much here…

For us, as exhausting as it all has been, it has been a privilege of wonderment to behold.

The post I attempted last week touched on the fact that the world was obviously still
churning onward without me.

All the current worldly worries and woes have not changed.
The News outlets are still rambling on about the same ol same ol.
Russia is still being Russia.
The Olympics have come and gone.
Politics are still a hot miserable mess.
And today is the first day I’ve looked at a computer.

Truth be told, I’ve not missed any of it!

Tending and caring for a new life seems so much more important than any and everything else.

Caring and tending—a focus of caring, nurturing, tending and servicing the needs of another.
What a novel concept.

No fussing and cussing of opposing sides.
No worries about fake news or animosity.
The self-centred world has been refreshingly removed.
The weight from this heavy and angry painfilled world lifts
as the reality of what is real settles in.

I have, however, missed reading and learning…
learning and sharing with and from all of you my learned friends…
yet there has been no time.
And there is very little if any energy.

I did, however, manage to briefly read snippets, in the wee hours,
of those posts offered by our clerical friends from across the pond
regarding the death of Billy Graham.

I am obviously of the age to clearly remember the televised Billy Graham crusades.
However, I never did attend one in person…
Being an Episcopalian and a committed Christian, I never felt called to
attend a crusade, but I did enjoy watching his televised “sermons.”

In college, I worked at a Christain girl’s summer camp.
The camp was the neighbour to Billy Graham’s North Carolina home.
We never saw him…but his presence was always felt.

Both our friend the Wee Flea, David Robertson,
the pastor of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in Dundee and our loving renegade
Anglican Bishop Gavin Ashenden each made note of the famous Evangelist’s passing.

Bishop Ashenden, in his post concerning Billy Graham,
noted the mixed reviews regarding the death of this 99-year-old soldier of Christ…
comments expressing both sorrow as well as sarcastic vehemence.

The good bishop actually cited a rather nasty comment by a contributing editor for Teen Vogue.

“The big news today is that Billy Graham was still alive this whole time.
Anyway, have fun in hell, bitch.”

Lauren Duca

As a very exhausted new grandmother…
who has experienced some rather low lows and some soaring high highs in the past 10 days…
a grandmother who is marvelling in the life of this new granddaughter—
a little girl who will one day find herself exposed to such things as Teen Vogue…
I am left absolutely baffled by such a caustic comment.

Running out to Target, in order to pick up some baby necessities…
I actually caught a glimpse of the most recent cover of the latest edition of Teen Vogue…

Is this the type of message we want to offer our young girls???–
“resist we must”

Resist what?

The world?
Our society?
Our history?
Resist who we were meant to be?

meaning…we must be rebellious vs peace giving,
we must be defiant vs compromising, yielding, giving, offering…
we must be obstinate vs diplomatic…
we must be hate-filled vs kind and loving…
we must be militant vs confident
we must be all that is opposing what God originally intended…

My son, during the course of these past 10 days we’ve spent together, has voiced his anguish
for this new daughter of his…
his anguish over the future of a young woman caught in the growing maelstrom of worldly confusion.
What is to be her future—
A world where Christianity is condemed while secularism rules?
A world where the word Conservative or Orthodox or Tradition is scorned, ridiculed and even
hunted down…???

I echo his concern…

May we continue to hold onto the promise we have been given…

So do not fear,
for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

A study in the contrast between Political and Pneumatic Christianity in the light of the life and death of Billy Graham.


“Intelligence and love are not in separate compartments:
love is rich in intelligence and intelligence is full of love.”

Pope Benedict XVI, Charity in Truth: Caritas in Veritate

(a modern day icon depicting Saints Benedict and his sister Scholastica)

Ok so if the truth be told, I have about 6 or so posts in the making just sitting in
the draft pile waiting for expansion and or completion.
Much like the pile of books that I keep accumulating…
the must-reads that must be prioritized…
add a heavy and liberal dose of life…
and thus so many good things are simply left hanging and or waiting…

But as I am a strong believer in the power of the Holy Spirit,
there will always be a good nudging or even a shove into the direction I need to go.

So since today (yesterday for those reading this as intended on Sunday)
February 10th is the feast day of St Scholastica.

“Who??” you’re probably asking…
We’ll get to her in a minute.

Sometimes I am so tired or weary when putting the finishing touches on a post
that in my strained eyed state, I’ll push publish rather than preview well before it’s time…
In turn, sending myself into a fit of near hysteria as I try to undo what I have
erroneously done lest anyone pop onto a half-finished and more ill edited post
than they should.

Add to my posting troubles that my favorite clerics,
all who oddly are each located on the Isle of Great Britain…
those being that delightfully rouge Anglican Bishop, that no-fuss,
no holds barred free Presbyterian Pastor and that rather conservative Orthodox Australian
Catholic monk stuck in the middle of the UK…
each has been serving up more than the ample plate of refreshing and deeply
heartening truths—all of which is making me run around like some sort of chicken
with my head cut off as I’m finding myself hard pressed just trying to keep up—
Trying to discern and pick what I must in turn digest and later share…

Father, or rather Dom, Hugh offers a most intriguing Latin-based themed post entitled
Contemplatio, Consideratio & Caritas—
or for us laymen, contemplation, consideration, and love, or charity,
whichever word you’d like to use.

Fr Hugh focuses in on St Benedict of Nursia and Benedict’s sister St Scholastica,
along with the power of prayer and what is the true nature of our actions and prayers.

St Benedict is considered to be the father of Western Monasticism and is the patron
Saint of Europe. A saint whose current job,
I would suspect, is quite busy given the growing secularism sweeping
across Europe but that’s a post for another day…
like I say, waiting in the queue.

This saintly brother-sister duo was born and raised in Itlay,
in what is modern-day Norcia, sometime
in the 5th century. Some historians believe the two had been twins,
others merely note them being merely brother and sister.

Benedict is probably best known for his Rule of Benedict.
A playbook of how to live…in a monastery….
but whereas it is most a relevant and practical book for those living a cloistered life,
it is also a book most relevant for those of us outside of the monastery.

This little book is still in huge demand and is widely read today.
In fact, many businesses have adopted Benedict’s Rule as part of a guiding
and directional tool for their employees.

The good Father relays the teaching found in the homily offered on the feast day
of St Scholastica during their morning mass.
Where the notion of Contemplatio, Consideratio & Caritas was put before the gathered monks.

The abbot offering the homily tries to explain the balance between body and soul,
prayer and our often misguided practicalities…

“Put another way, it is to apply the primacy of love to any situation;
not the schmaltzy love favoured in muzak, but the love of God and of our neighbour
as ourselves, seen in one harmonious whole.
A good example would be Our Lord’s healing on the Sabbath:
he did not devalue the sabbath but put it in a proper sense of proportion,
as being made for man not man for it.

The abbot shared a story about Benedict’s sister the nun coming for a visit to
her brother the monk.
Her brother met her at the gate. Benedict and a few of the brothers left the
walls of the monastery in order to visit and share a meal with Scholastica.

Scholastica was keen to spend the day with Benedict and his brothers,
sharing stories about God’s power and grace.

As evening fell, Benedict told his sister that he and his fellow brothers
needed to be getting back to their abbey as she must hers.
She implored him to stay that they still had much to share.
But he insisted that he must leave her.
At this point, Scholastica took her brother’s hands within her own and began to
earnestly beseech God to impress upon her brother the importance that he should stay,
even throughout the night, in order that they may share in God’s good word.

And so a storm suddenly ensued.
Benedict reprimands his sister “What have you done?”.
Scholastica replied, “I asked you and you would not listen;
so I asked my God and he did listen.
So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery.”
The storm was beating down too hard for Benedict or his companions to return to
his monastery, and they spent the night in discussion.”


The storm had made it impossible for Benedict to take his leave back to the
abbey and in turn, he had to spend the remainder of the evening in his sister’s
company discussing God’s glory and wonderment.

Benedict felt that the rules of his order, that he and the others were bound to follow,
that their return to the abbey was far more important
then talking about God all night long with his sister.

Finally, as daylight arrived and the storm had abated, Scholastica bid her brother farewell
as they each retreated and made their individual ways back to their respective abbeys.

Three days later Scholastica died, and Benedict had a vision of Scholastica’s soul
ascending to heaven in the form of a dove.
He sent his fellow monks to retrieve her body to his monastery and they laid it
in his own tomb.
She died about the year 543.
Her feast day is February 10th.


Benedict later reflected that because his sister “loved” more in her prayer of pure
earnestness, her will prevailed over his idealism of practicality.
Think Martha and Mary.
For her prayer that night was one of the pureness of charity and of a deep abiding love
as she most likely realized that her time death was imminent—
and that to spend what time was remaining together was most important.

Dom Hugh notes that “if we truly have charity for even those who disagree with us,
who peddle a line that reeks of error,
then we will achieve far more by persuasion than intimidation.
The achievement might come in God’s good time rather than our own,
a salutary reminder that instant gratification is not of the Gospel.
A sense of proportion, a healthy discretion, will keep us to this way.
It is all there in the Tradition.

It is interesting to note that when dealing with sinners Jesus was mildness itself.
His more strident tone was reserved for those who should have known better
or thought they knew better.

Caritas indeed.

Contemplatio, consideratio & caritas

animal or angel

“To love at all is to be vulnerable.
Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.
If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one,
not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries;
avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change.
It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
To love is to be vulnerable.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

(Marc Chagall / Cow with a Parasol / 1944)

In his Second Sunday before Lent homily, Bishop Ashenden puts before us the notion
of the identity of Jesus.

Who Jesus really is.

He notes that no one—not Buddha, not Mohammad, not Abraham, nor Moses…
none of these individuals ever professed to be God…

But that Jesus was different.

He did claim to be the Son of God…and in turn God.
That He was in the Father and the Father was in Him.
(John 14:11)

Yet Bishop Ashenden notes that our culture does not teach that Jesus is or was any
different from anyone else.
And also notes that none of us can actually prove what Jesus did.
We only have the written word…no tangible proof that shows the world definitive proof
of this or that.

And so we are left asking ourselves…
why were these things done the way that they were done and
why had these things been done and said even in the first place?

The good Bishop notes the words of C.S. Lewis when Lewis referenced man and choice…
that the choice of man is to be either animal or angel—or more aptly, animal or saint.

For in animals we are all similar in that we are born of both male and female.
And from that… man is then born of consciousness/ brain/mind…
with his conscious being the separator between man and animal…
as some may even dispute that…

So thus, by the conscious being of his conscience, man (us) has the capacity to
become children of God.
The choice between dust or to live eternally.

And so comes Jesus to show how humanly conscious choice is put into practice.

For the Children of God are born not only from man and woman but also from
the Holy Spirit.

And yet even worse than the animals…man, with his consciousness, can, therefore,
choose to become demonic…
because man can consciously choose malice, anger, rage, hatred, damage…all things which
are demonic versus that of The Spirit.

And so Jesus, as God made man…demonstrated that Love was never designed to be kept
to self…but to be freely offered and given…that which counters the demonic…

“Humans are amphibians…half spirit and half animal…as spirits they belong to the eternal world,
but as animals they inhabit time.
This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object,
their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time,
means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation–
the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back,
a series of troughs and peaks.”

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

A beating heart

What does love look like?
It has the hands to help others.
It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.
It has eyes to see misery and want.
It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.
That is what love looks like.

St Augustine

(sunrise as soon peeking through the trees / Julie Cook / 2018)

Consider the heart.
A muscle that beats, according to the Mayo Clinic, approximately 60 to 100 beats per minute.

That’s every minute of every hour, of every day,
of every year over the course of one’s lifetime…

According to Gizmodo:
Humans and chickens are outliers in that we get 2.21 billion and chicken
gets 2.17 billion beats (I wonder how many actually see that much).
But a lot of other animals teeter the 1 billion line:
horses, pigs, rabbits, elephants, cats, whales, etc.
Animals big or small, fat or strong,
fast or slow—it seems like there is a magic number for us all.
Other than small dogs. They got the short end of the stick.

According to Runner’s World
First of all, for the record, let’s just do some simple math.
Let’s say you’re a sedentary dude with a resting pulse of 60.
Each day, your heart beats 24*60*60 = 86,400 times.
Now let’s say you’re a real nut who takes up running and works up until you can go
for an hour every day with a pulse of 160
(which is likely an overestimate).
As you get fitter, your resting pulse drops to 50.
Now, in any given day, your heart beats 23*60*50 + 60*160 = 78,600 times.
So in fact, by running, you’re saving 7,800 beats every day!

I say all of this today about hearts as I’m off for a stress test.
I’ve never thought much about something that is actually working nonstop 24/7
never skipping a beat.
Like most everyone else, I take things like beating hearts, breathing lungs, digesting guts
all for granted until something goes awry.
Then suddenly their amazingness comes flooding to the forefront of consciousness as we
are immediately awed, annoyed and panicked all at once in the span of a split second.

Well, I have a thing called premature atrial contractions, so sometimes my heart gets
a little erratic…but I’ve had it for oh so many years and have gotten pretty much use to
the occasional catching of breath and fluttering deep within.
My doctor hasn’t fretted, nor have I…
More nuisance than worry.

And that’s not the reason for the stress test, but we’ll talk about that little reason later once
I get the good word following the results.

Seeing the sun peeking, glowing and pulsating through the trees the other morning made
me immediately think of that most sacred heart of Jesus…

The image of the Sacred Heart came racing to clarity in my mind.

An amazing image captured by man of a beating heart in a man, yet beating
for the Divine.

A crushingly humbling yet overwhelmingly moving image that leaves me awed…
remembering that in each of us remains a tiny piece of that very divine organ…

No matter our purposeful or flippant life choices…
our willingness or our refusal
our kindness or our selfishness
our openness or our disagreement
our love or our hate…

We each have a tiny beating pulsating piece of the Divine deep within our being–
a remaining, functioning and existing saving piece of Grace…

May our life’s prayer, our life’s purpose, be that we not only yearn to feel His heart beating
within us—much like a mother-to-be can hear the heartbeat of her unborn child via an ultrasound—
but that we will allow it to inspire our approach to a purposeful and Divinely inspired
Grace-filled living of life…

The Latin phrase at the bottom of this 18th-century painting by an unknown artist
is a verse from John–
For God So Loved The World…..
John 3:16

And so we are saved by the loving Grace found within that heart…
A heart that we, in turn, must act as a living example to and for a world in need.

“Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, of its very nature,
is a worship of the love with which God, through Jesus, loved us,
and at the same time,
an exercise of our own love by which we are related to God and to other men.”

Pope Pius XII

there’s a shadow…..

“There is strong shadow where there is much light.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

(Lorenzo Costa / 1490 / Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, France)

Birth usually brings with it a great deal of joy, expectation as well as a fair share
of anticipation…
Yet in some rare instances, there is sadly a presence of foreboding.
As in something troublesome is looming while the expected state of gladness is not
entirely free of worry.

A feeling of something, yet not quite known or understood….just a sense.

For it is both anticipation and foreboding to which we, the faithful, must now look.

Never mind that as much as we may prefer to simply bask in the glory of the news of
this happy and tender moment, we are reminded that a shadow is constantly present.

Anticipation: a prior action that takes into account or forestalls a later action
b the act of looking forward; especially : pleasurable expectation

Forbode: to have an inward conviction of (something, such as a coming ill or misfortune)

Looking at this particular image of the Nativity, painted by the Italian artist Lorenzo Costa, I am drawn to the expression on Joseph’s face.
Should there not be a smile?
What of an assumed expression of happiness and even pride
in the birth of this new child?

Yet instead of exultation and happiness,
those emotions are replaced by an expression of sadness, perhaps even sorrow.
There is a resignation of something greater than….
greater than we the viewer are privy to.

Mary’s eyes also allude to something other than jubilation over the birth of this
child of hers.
There is a feeling of the resolute hiding behind a prayerful countenance.

And even the child himself…resigned.

And where we have spent the past month or longer reveling in all things Christmas…
with the culmination of jubilation coming about on Christmas Day…
as the faithful marked, once again, the birth of the Christ Child….
there remains a shadow….an ominous foreboding shadow.

For this particular birth brings with it more than the joy to be experienced at the birth of a child….for this child, this glad tiding, is no mere child….

Eight day’s following the birth and the mysterious visits of strangers, both meek and
grand, the child was brought to the Temple, as religious custom dictated, to be
circumcised. And following which, also with custom, the time of the presentation, purification and sacrifice as required.

At this time a strange old man approached the young family.
Mary drew the child close to her breast as the stranger continued coming closer, arms open wide, babbling and now reaching for the babe.

But there was something oddly familiar in the way this man was speaking, something that
moved Mary to volunteer the baby, with now her own outstretched arms,
giving up her child just as she would eventually have to offer up her son for
the salvation of all mankind…

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
I have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him.
Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother,
“This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise.
He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him.
As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Luke 2:29-35

A shadow draws across the jubilation…..