Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Eve

Have you noticed how Luke tells of the Nativity giving us stories that are filled with light & joy, of angels and the Holy Spirit...of Mary cared for by Elizabeth and then by Joseph and his family in Bethlehem.


Shepherds & Angels

"...and suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God,
and saying
'Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace..."

Nativity :

"For most of us, there is only the unattended 
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The wild thyme unseen...
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That is is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses...
The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation. "

 T S Eliot : The Dry Salvages

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Advent 4

Annunciation : Antonello da Messina

The angel has just left Mary...
...the direction of her gaze...
...her outstretched hand...
and the fluttering pages, as though disturbed by a slight breeze of fluttering wings,
and Mary is left pondering what this might mean.

And then the next thing Luke tells us is that Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to visit Elizabeth...weaving together again these two families...these two women, with the underlying hint that they are very supportive of one another.
       It sounds so natural to me that Mary was keen to go and share with Elizabeth as soon as she hears the surprising news that she is pregnant.

Luke wastes no time on the journey, and I imagined her walking / hiking, enjoying a few days to think things through...

"the Hill Country of Judah"

...but at the Church of the Visitation, this artist imagines Mary travelling by donkey...

The important thing is not how she managed to get there,
 but the joy of this meeting between Mary & Elizabeth:  Luke 1 v 39f.
The Visitation

Mary & Elizabeth

celebrating the naming of John ...and Zechariah regains his voice

Friday, 11 December 2015

Advent 3

Continuing with the narrative in the first chapter of St Luke, we move from the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem and an elderly priestly couple longing for a child, to almost the direct opposite... this time the same Angel visits a young woman, presumably at her parental home in Nazareth.
The Annunciation : Henry Tanner
At first I found this painting moving in its different from the painting of Zechariah in
 the Temple, and yet the more I look at it the more I begin to see ...
Mary, looking & listening intently, described by Luke as "deeply disturbed..." but not, like Zechariah, "overcome by fear", but instead Mary "asked herself what this greeting could mean"
 ... puzzled... but more accepting than afraid...

"....Who, me?"

for further reflection....poem by Edwin Muir : The Annunciation
  • * my painting "Who me?" was originally part of a series based on John 20 v 1-18 :  the account of Mary of Magdala finding the empty tomb...and eventually recognizing the Risen Christ...
  • if you wish to see why it is here as an Annunciation painting...please read my blog from December 2014: "How can this be ?"

however you wish to interpret the painting, maybe it can speak of anyone's sense of calling today...  "Who " can often be an initial response... a pause, before saying "Yes" !
  • ... you might like to read this unusual story of Amy Peake, a Yoga Teacher who was so shocked by a photo of crowds of people queuing up for aid in a bombed out street in Damascus, she suddenly realised.....                 

 [dont be put off by the on further, she is clearly being called to answer a vital problem whilst asking now & then "who me?"  ! 

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Advent 2

Families love to pass on stories about something unusual happening at the time of a child's birth,
and I can just imagine the story about the birth of John the Baptist being repeated by all the relatives, especially once he became well known as the

"Voice crying in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord..."   ( Luke 3 v 4 ) 

and people all flocked to this man who was not afraid to speak his mind.

 Zecharia's Vision : Alexandr Ivanov
Right at the beginning of  Luke's Gospel we are introduced to his parents, Elizabeth & Zechariah, a childless couple, who have hoped & prayed for children... & now Zechariah believes they are too old.

I searched the internet & found this painting which seems to express the shimmering awe & wonder of Angel Gabriel, together with the fear & disbelief of Zechariah who is struck dumb...

...but I have found no painting which portrays Zechariah's 'nightmare' of having to face the congregation awaiting him in the Temple, knowing that he cannot say a word... and yet the crowd are very understanding.

Mary's story is then closely woven into this narrative, like warp & weft together, as the same Angel  Gabriel visits Mary when Elizabeth is in her sixth month of pregnancy...

  • to reflect further... see Trevor Dennis : The Christmas Stories [SPCK ]                                p.67 : An Angel, a priest, and a woman who loses her 'disgrace'