Saturday, 22 December 2018

Advent: Visiting Bethlehem

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Travelling with a group of fellow students, it must be just over fifty years ago now since I visited Bethlehem. 
Entering the church of the Nativity by the low little door felt very odd, and I suppose rather humbling as we each bent down and stumbled under the lintel...By contrast, the sense of space inside seemed quite amazing. 
But soon a guide began his practiced babble at wonder only a handful chose to follow towards the steps leading down to “ye traditional cave, discovered centuries ago as the true birthplace of Jesus...yes, ancient tradition...go slowly, slowly ...steps worn down by pilgrims back to time of Jesus... yes, yes... blessed be he...” two or three of us began slowly down into semi darkness, the only light from intermittent flickering oil lamps, and our hands guided by the cold rough rock-face...
... until we heard the slight echoing slap of sandals coming up from below & paused to allow an Orthodox monk to pass...
he stopped and smiled in greeting...and his whole face seemed to be shining with joy...something I vividly remember, even half a century later!
As small group slowly gathered in the traditional cave of Jesus birth, now hung with tapestries, and lit by oil lamps flickering before icons... and somehow, amidst the never-ending babble of strange fables from our guide, there was an underlying silence...
...a profound sense of going back in time... no longer mattered whether Jesus was born in a cave deep below ground, in a stable, the back room of an inn, or a distant relative’s animal byre...maybe this marble slab did mark the spot, who knows? But a sense of peace and deep inner thankfulness that we were part of hundreds and thousands of people from all over the world who through the centuries had come to pray in this cave...this became for me one of those profound points in life where prayer has been valid.
This was before the constricting walls were built...and now I pray for another miracle of reconciliation...

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Advent : Mary Visits Elizabeth

Advent.    Mary Visits Elizabeth

I wonder how you envisage these stories in the first chapter of St Luke’s Gospel ?
 Maybe these paintings by artists from the Cameroon, China and USA will help you imagine Luke1v 39 f

from Jesusmafa, Cameroun 

He Qi

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Advent ... Annunciation

‘Annunciation’  etched glass panel : Janet Driver

“I love the way the sun shines through this glass !  But why call it Annunciation? ...Where is the Angel ?

The questioner was quite perplexed...and certainly St Luke describes this as a conversation between Mary and an Angel: ‘...the Angel Gabriel was sent from God...’ [St Luke ch 1 v26 f ]  I have read this many times, and even had to take the part of the Angel in  Nativity plays as a child because I was tall & could shoulder the large heavy wings! 

I don't think I left out the angel... but wanted to portray a much more etherial indication of both angel and message...of the angel as an emanation of spiritual power...of light...of joy...of new  life...vitality...of something both seen and do you describe or portray visually something so powerful and deeply spiritual ?   

Hence the spiral of flaming light...the shimmering sense of wings half seen, half understood... and the sense of Mary’s “yes” with echoing flames of the Spirit throughout her being...
 “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you...”

Whenever I see the sunlight  pouring through this glass...the deep reds dancing with flickering yellows, reflecting across the floor or lighting up someone’s hair with a halo of coloured light, I am reminded of  glimpses of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people I have met...