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…..

no distinction

“There may be a time in life when one is tired of everything
and feels as if all one does is wrong,
and there maybe some truth in it-
do you think this is a feeling one must try to forget and to banish,
or is it ‘the longing for God,’ which one must not fear,
but cherish to see if it may bring us some good?
Is it ‘the longing for God’ which leads us to make a choice which we never regret?
Let us keep courage and try to be patient and gentle.
And not mind being eccentric, and make distinction between good and evil.”

Vincent van Gogh

“No people is fully civilized where a distinction is drawn between stealing an office
and stealing a purse”

Theodore Roosevelt

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(turban squash / Julie Cook / 2016)

God does not draw a distinction between the beautiful verses the plain
The haughty verses the lowly…
the well to do verses the insufficient…

We are the ones who have drawn the line between inviting verses common
extravagant verses meek…
slick verse slow,
powerful verses humble…

Preferring always the greater verses the lesser
the influential to the simple
the rich to the poor…

As we are left to wonder who is the better for this distinction of choice….

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought,
but rather think of yourself with sober judgment,
in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Romans 12:3

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The pleasure of your company is requested

“Never open the door to a lesser evil, for other and greater ones invariably slink in after it.”
― Baltasar Gracián

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(Compliments of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the UK Dailymail / Windsor Castle State dinner preparation)

The table has been lovingly set
The finest linen and china are on hand.
Your invitation was printed eons ago.
It’s an open invitation of sorts.
There’s no RSVP so no worries as to your response.
Nor is there any particular dress code, no black tie or formal wear required.
Come as you are. . .
It’s one of those sorts of events that will go on with or without you,
Yet the hope is that you will indeed attend.

It isn’t a fancy sort of fete.
Not a jovial or raucous party, but rather a somber sort of affair.
It’s a yearly gathering, a remembrance, of a time long ago.
The yearly marking of hardships and struggles of a different era.
A special dinner to recall what was with a slight nod to what may be. . .

Yet on one such annual occasion,
One of the yearly gatherings, something was unnervingly different.
There was a deeper heaviness than usual.
There was a sense that things would never really be the same.
Year in and year out the words, the ceremony, the food, had always been the same. . .
But not so on this one particular evening.

Everyone had gathered as requested.
All were present and accounted for.
The food and beverages were to be the same,
The ceremony the same,
The words, the prayers all the same. . .and yet, this time, it was different,
It was all very different.

Sorrow had already taken his seat at the table,
along with Betrayal who was dressed to the nines.
Whereas Sorrow was often mentioned as a past participant, this year,
he had actually arrived earlier than expected.
Betrayal seemed almost excited to be included this year.
Sitting off to the side, Denial and Questioning were in deep conversation.
Thankfulness took his rightful seat.

Humility arrived fashionably late, as he had been detained washing up.
Kindness, Graciousness and Empathy sat together, offering a gentle smile to all who entered.
Anxiousness paced around the table, as Doubt visited with each guest.
Greed rubbed his hands while Treachery made excuses for an early departure.
Love’s warmth filled the room
Sadness began to sing.

Each guest was offered new bread and wine,
as a parting gift before departing—
It was a taste of the labors and fruits that had been gathered by both Glory and Hope. . .

Only the Wise,
The Needy,
The Poor,
The Castaway,
The Forgotten,
The Humble,
The Mournful,
The Peacemakers,
The Hungry,
The Meek,
The Penitent,
The Sinful,
The Lonely,
The Obedient,
The Hopeful,
reached in to take the Gift. . .
as the others hurriedly raced off to the shadows. . .

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered, “You have said so.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Matthew 26:17-30