Yes and No

Just as Eve brought death into the world through her fall,
and through her succumbing to Satan,
so too Mary becomes the new Eve who brings life into the world through her ‘yes’ to God.
This imagery of Mary as the new Eve goes all the way back to the Old Testament.
She is the new woman, who will overcome the serpent through her ‘yes’ to God and through
the coming of her Son, the Messiah.

Dr. Michael Barber
from What Every Catholic Needs to Know About Mary


(image of Mary from The Passion of the Christ looking upon the foot of her dead son)

My aim today is not to debate the importance or lack of importance of Mary in our
collective faiths.
Be that in the Catholic Faith or be that that within the Protestant faiths…

Bless Mary…for she has become such a pivotal, and dare I say, a contentious image within the
collective Christian Chruch.

I for one find that to be a truly sad factor for us all of the collective Christian faith
as we have allowed Mary’s significance or insignificance to become divisive.

Yet that topic is not my focus today.

Not being Catholic, I was not raised with a strong sense of a Marian devotion.
Yet I do not hold that against my Catholic kinsmen.
Mary is important to our Catholic kin, just as she is important to all of us of the Fatih
for she bore willingly a most heavy burden…a burden she bore willingly for all of us.

She does not surpass the importance of her Son.
Yet that is often lost in the accusations and fussing.
No Catholic puts the mother above her Son
but her role as a universal mother does not go ignored.

Yet all of that is neither here nor there today.

Yesterday morning I read the quote I’ve added above by Dr. Barber regarding both Mary and Eve.
Two very pivotal women within the Christian Fatih.

Eve is blamed for all of our current state of affairs while Mary is the quintessential image
of willingness, sacrifice, and selflessness.

Darkness and shame versus selfless light.

After reading the quote and knowing I wanted to use it in a post, I actually noticed that
several folks had viewed a previous post that I had offered on Christmas Eve…
it was a post based on a homily offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden.

And as I don’t believe in coincidence but rather the prompting of the Spirit, I will
again offer that same post here…as it seems to be calling out…

The post is titled “Eve’s no verses Mary’s yes…”

“i imagine that yes is the only living thing.”
E.E. Cummings


(Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden / Masaccio / 1425 / Florence )


(Bicci di Lorenzo / 1433-1434 / The Annunciation panels / private collection)

Please enjoy the Christmas Eve Homily offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden.
Bishop Ashenden raises an interesting observation…

That in Eve’s having said “no” to God—in her refusal to His obedience,
man in turn then fell victim to the addiction to sin and disobedience.

Mary then counters that sinfulness no by offering her simple “yes”….

And in Mary’s yes…she brings us all to God’s saving Grace.
Of which brings to all of humankind, through the birth of her son Yeshua,
the freedom from this never-ending cycle of disobedient addiction…

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2017/12/24/eves-no-verses-marys-yes/

Waiting and arrivals

“Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life”
Simone Weil

boucicaut-meister
(Illuminated manuscript from the Book of Hours, the Annunciation 1410)

We have entered a new season within our faith…
Those seasonal cycles of the Church.
For we have now entered the season of waiting…
Otherwise known as Advent.
Taken from the Greek word, parousia, meaning arrival.

As in we are waiting for an arrival.

Yet do we not seem to spend our lives waiting?

Waiting on things to take place, to happen, to hurry up, to change, to come or to go….

However Father Henri Nouwen, in his essay Waiting For God, reminds us that
“for many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go.
And people do not like such a place.
They want to get out of it by doing something.”

So waiting seems to be something we are relegated to suffer.

But Father Nouwen continues…
“Most of us think of waiting as something very passive, a hopeless state
determined by events totally out of our hands.”

“But there is none this passivity in scripture.
Those who are waiting are waiting very actively.”

“Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction
that somethings happening where you are and that you want to be present to it.
A waitng person is someone who is present to the moment, who believes that this moment is the moment.”

“A waiting person is a patient person.

The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and to live the situation
out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.
Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and
therefore want to go elsewhere.

“Waiting, then is not passive.”

“To wait open-endedly is an enormous attitude toward life.”

So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that
God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear.
The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment,
trusting that new things will happen to us,
new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction.

“That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.”

And so we begin to wait…
actively and radically waiting….

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.
You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

James 5:7-8

(Father Henri Nouwen’s words taken from Watch for the Light
Readings for Advent and Christmas
/ Plough Publishing House

Candlelight Carol

“I shall light a candle of understanding in thine heart, which shall not be put out”
The Apocrypha II Esdras 14:25

DSCN2700
(sunset out of Julie’s back door / 2013)

Years ago, 1987 to be exact, I bought a little CD, (yes they had them back them), that I have actually worn out. I had to buy a new copy last year. I think I just saw it in a music store, intrigued by the cover, I wanted to give it a try. If you’ve been a reader of this little blog of mine, you most likely know how much I love Illuminated Manuscripts and the art of Medieval Europe as well as the Renaissance. The cover jacket of the CD is a reproduction of the Adoration of the Magi taken from the Book of Hours by Boucicaut which was the initial draw for me to reach for this soon to be tiny treasure in my world.

The CD is entitled the Christmas Night – Carols of the Nativity / The Cambridge Singers / The City of London Sinfonia / conducted by John Rutter. The theme of this album is centered around the birth of Christ. The words and music of the 22 carols span more than six centuries. The music is pure joy to my heart. It echoes of a different time, harkening to a time of innocence that is both ancient and magical—despite a few of the songs more current inception, all maintain the style which is based on Gregorian chants, early French organum and courtly music of long ago.

The voices of those singing is what I think of when I think of the adoration offered by the cherubim and seraphim—tender, otherworldly, reverent, and of a holiness that goes beyond comprehension.
The lyrics of many of these songs, when read, then heard, are so painfully profound and yet tenderly sweet.

When I was in college, studying Italian Renaissance Art History, I was always deeply moved when studying Bernini’s statue of the Ecstasy of St Teresa (Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome). I’ve written about this statue before. St Teresa had written very vividly about the visions she had received from God:
Beside me, on the left, appeared an angel in bodily form…. He was not tall but short, and very beautiful; and his face was so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest rank of angels, who seem to be all on fire…. In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he pulled it out I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one cannot possibly wish it to cease, nor is one’s soul content with anything but God. This is not a physical but a spiritual pain, though the body has some share in it—even a considerable share.

bernini_st_teresa_avila

Teresa’s mystical words were beautifully and vividly captured by Bernini in such a powerfully visual, as well as visceral sculptural marvel. Bernini’s massive work appears lighter than air as Teresa appears to almost levitate, as the Angel gently takes hold of her cloak. Bernini captures the very moment the angel pierces Teresa’s heart. To gaze upon the statue is to be afforded a glimpse of something beyond words. The pain and yet utter and complete ecstasy captured in the expression of Teresa’s face is both consuming as well as tremendously immense, as we, the viewer, feel as if we are witnessing something that perhaps we should not be privy to as it is almost too private, too intimate and entirely too personal.

The music of this CD is, to me, similar to witnessing the consuming flame of Teresa’s heart. Something that goes almost beyond me and of my mere earthly comprehension. There are several songs, hymns, arrangements on the CD that pull at my heart, transporting me to somewhere else. One of the many tracts of the CD that I find to be so moving is tract 10, the Candlelight Carol. To read the words is moving yes, but coupled by the musical arrangement and heavenly voices—it is simply beautifully overwhelming:
Candlelight carol
This was written in response to a commission
from the Church of the Assumption,
Pittsburgh, in 1984. Originally for the organ, the
accompaniment was later scored by the
composer for flute, oboe, harp and strings,
in which version it is performed here.

How do you capture the wind on the
water?
How do you count all the stars in the sky?
How can you measure the love of a
mother,
Or how can you write down a baby’s first
cry?

Candlelight, angel light, firelight and starglow
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn.
Gloria, gloria in excelsis Deo!
Angels are singing; the Christ child is born.

Shepherds and wise men will kneel and
adore him,
Seraphim round him their vigil will keep;
Nations proclaim him their Lord and their
Saviour,
But Mary will hold him and sing him to sleep.

Candlelight, angel light, firelight and starglow
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn.
Gloria, gloria in excelsis Deo!
Angels are singing; the Christ child is born.

Find him at Bethlehem laid in a manger:
Christ our Redeemer asleep in the hay.
Godhead incarnate and hope of salvation:
A child with his mother that first Christmas
Day.

Words and music: John Rutter

The words are tender and sweet as they depict the intimate connection between new born and mother–and yet we, the listener, already know that there is a weight of an unseen heavy burden which lies upon this tiny little figure held gently by a loving mother. Mary, no doubt, pushes deep down and away those words proclaimed to her by the Angel who had visited her 9 months prior–“that she would give birth to a son who she is to name Yeshua (Jesus) who will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” Troubling words for any young mother.

How could such a burden ever be for this tiny and most vulnerable new being who Mary now holds so close to her breast? How does one measure the love of a mother, how can one write down a baby’s first cry? How can words ever describe such? Mary must think that perhaps, if she holds him close enough and tight enough, she can always protect him, shielding him from this “proclamation.” How Mary’s heart must have been so conflicted on that particular night so long ago which witnessed a World forever changed.

To think of Mary as any new young mother who meets the small “burden” she has carried, loved, nurtured in utero, and now delivered for the first time, is something I think we often don’t consider in realistic terms. Imagine having the knowledge that your child, your very first newborn, has something about him that is not like other babies. Those who have given birth to children with special physical needs do understand this weight of worry. The joy of meeting someone you have loved and nurtured yet never met for the past nine months, knowing that the life ahead is to marked with hardship and difficulty can be overwhelming– and yet, the very first moment of meeting and of holding overshadows that worry and dread. It is pushed aside momentarily as you cradle, holding and loving, something so terribly sweet that the moment is almost too painful to your heart. Overflowing with a deluge of emotion.

It is such thoughts and emotions, as well as others, that the music of this CD helps to bring to a level of conciseness that, I personally, do not often have when I think of the holy little family so very long ago. I tend to put them—Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus, on a level other than my own–that somehow the burden of carrying and delivering a child for Mary, was not as it is for us today. But the truth of the matter is that is was much more difficult for Mary. It’s just that I don’t think we often think about Mary in those terms. The words from this tract help me to ponder more of the reality verses the often perceived fairy tale of that life changing event.

May you, during this time of Advent, find through song or visual image, a connection that perhaps you never realized before, to that magical and yet life changing night so very long ago. May you ponder the mysteries that a young family were burdened by which, down through the ages, have come to touch both you and I. Mystery, wonder, and awe. . .lay ahead for all of us as we are all connected to that first moment when Mary held her tiny new born son in her arms. We are all present, then and now.
This is your true Christmas gift.