What a year it has been!
2012 had it all. The year kicked off with the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II beginning, ironically perhaps, on Waitangi Day. The brinkmanship between Iran and, frankly, the rest of the world continued with the UK and US placing an embargo on the Middle Eastern nation for their pursuit of uranium and Iran blocked supply of oil in response, sending petrol prices through the roof … again. The Greek economy went down the τουαλέτα which was not related to Encyclopaedia Britannica’s decision to cease printing their world-famous collection of reference books, ending a 244 year tradition and, in defiance of any economic troubles in Europe, a pastel copy of Munch’s The Scream sold for $120 million in New York. Coup d’etats were successfullly held in Guinea-Bissau and Mali and Charles Taylor, the despotic President of Liberia, is found guilty of war crimes. “Never in our lifetime” resounded in June with the last transit of Venus occurring for this century, the next one to happen between 2117 and 2124. Lonesome George, the last surviving Pinta Island Tortoise would have witnessed this astrological feat but then shortly died leaving his subspecies of tortoise extinct. The Higgs boson particle was discovered at CERN which renewed questions about the relevance of God to the origin of the universe but then it was off to London for the spectacular Summer Olympics. During this absolute fiesta, the worst power outage in history occurred in India which left 620 million people without power, possibly as a result of a massive drain on the power grid caused by the Opening Ceremony. Armenia and Hungary parted company as did Canada and Iran, the Canadian embassy in Tehran shutting down shop in protest over nuclear armament. The first implanted bionic eye may have caught a glimpse of YouTube’s moderately uninteresting clip entitled Innocence of Muslims which sparked terrorist attacks on US embassies across Europe. Hurricane Sandy terrorised the Caribbean, killing 209 and washing out the Eastern seaboard of the United States with its associated storm surge. But this was nothing compared to Typhoon Bopha (nicknamed Pablo) which killed 1,067 people in the Philippines. 838 people are still missing around the island of Mindanao. Finally, the Kyoto Protocol was extended to 2020.
What will become of us in the next twelve months? The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune strike wherever they will but the best we can hope for is to be happy and held in God’s loving care.
Have a great New Year!!
Tueday, 1 January – MARY MOTHER OF GOD
Reflection on Mary, Mother of God.
The one chosen from before the world began to bear the Saviour and to open for us the possibility for eternal salvation, Mary, Mother of God, is ageless in her help of us in our every need. Today, we remember her …
Mother of God (theotokos): the bearer of God, the one who carried the hope of the world in her Virgin womb, the one who carried Christ to a world that knew him not. May we bear Christ within us, nurturing his likeness within our hearts.
Daughter of the Father: faithful woman of Israel, obedient servant of the God of Abraham, she is truly our sister as we are truly all the children of the God-with-us now and always. May we be faithful children to the God who saves.
Mother of the Redeemer: in a timeless hope that echoes throughout the ages, foretold by the prophets seven centuries before her birth, a waiting people are saved and released from their sins by this woman who gives birth to a King who, like her, shares our humanity. May we be open to the redemption and grace freely offered to us.
Spouse of the Spirit: in her annunciation, Mary is subject to a mystery and a wonder beyond our understanding. Wed to the Spirit of God and infused with the joy of motherhood, Mary is a source of our inspiration. May we, in turn, inspire others to give everything for the life that is promised to us.
Mother of the Church: only a mother could love such a Church that is wounded, in trouble and in so need of unconditional love and the sort of healing that only a mother can bring. We turn to our mother in our hour when we need her most and, like a mother, she is always there for us.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us who have recourse to you.
Wednesday, 2 January – Sts Gregory and Basil.
After his baptism at 30, Gregory gladly accepted his friend Basil’s invitation to join him in a newly founded monastery. The solitude was broken when Gregory’s father, a bishop, needed help in his diocese and estate. It seems that Gregory was ordained a priest practically by force, and only reluctantly accepted the responsibility. He skillfully avoided a schism that threatened when his own father made compromises with Arianism. At 41, Gregory was chosen as bishop of a diocese near Caesarea and at once came into conflict with Valens, the emperor, who supported the Arians. An unfortunate by-product of the battle was the cooling of the friendship of two saints. Basil, his archbishop, sent him to a miserable and unhealthy town on the border of unjustly created divisions in his diocese. Basil reproached Gregory for not going to his see. These two men were great carers of their people – Basil set up hospitals and places of refuge for the poor where Gregory was the “Theologian” who encouraged others to understand more closely their belief in God.
A reading from ‘The Lauds’, by Jacopone da Todi.
Honour and praise to the Love made flesh, who came to give himself to us!
Honour him, 0 my soul, for he comes to save you. Come, hasten to greet him!
He does not hold back – all of himself he gives in his desire to be one with you.
Will you not give all of yourself to him?
Will you not hasten to embrace him?
Think of what he gives you, and what he demands – that you be as generous as he.
Leaving heaven behind, all alone,
without the trappings of wealth or glory,
no servants to minister to him, no palace to house him, he manifested himself on earth in a stable.
‘Why did you leave the golden throne resplendent with gems, why did you put aside the dazzling crown?
Why did you leave the order of cherubim,
the seraphim, that joyous court of ardent love,
the honoured servants and courtiers you loved as brothers – why did you leave them all, 0 Lord?
‘In place of your glorious throne,
a manger and a little straw;
in place of a starry crown,
poor swaddling clothes
and the warm breath of an ox and an ass;
in place of a glorious court, Mary and Joseph.
‘Were these the actions of someone drunk, or out of his senses? How could you abdicate kingdom and riches,
a renunciation promise that verges on madness?
Did someone promise you other and greater treasure?
O measureless love that would cede
such glory as yours for such humble estate!’
Lord, in the mystery of the incarnation, show us the beauty of faith and the glory of our humanity made blessed in you. Amen.
Lord, make us teachers of your story by our lives and witness. Amen.
Thursday, 3 January – The Holy Name of Jesus
The feast has been celebrated in the Roman Catholic calendar of saints, at least at local levels, since the end of the fifteenth century. The veneration of the Holy Name was extended to the entire Roman Catholic Church on 20 December 1721, during the pontificate of Pope Innocent XIII. The celebration has been held on different dates, usually in January, because 1 January, eight days after Christmas, commemorates the circumcision of the child Jesus; as recounted in the Gospel read on that day, “at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.“ Medieval Catholicism, and many other Christian churches to the present day, therefore celebrated both events as the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, usually on 1 January. Bernardino of Siena placed great emphasis on the Holy Name, which he associated with the IHS Christogram, and may be responsible for the coupling of the two elements. It is observed on 3 January by Catholics following the present General Roman Calendar, and on the Sunday between the Octave of Christmas and Epiphany (or 2 January) by Catholics following calendars of the 1914-1969 period.
A reading from ‘The Lauds’, by Jacopone da Todi.
‘High-born Love, who is it you love
so deeply and tenaciously and wildly?
Love holds you bound so tightly
you give all of yourself – this you can hardly deny. And this love will lead you to your death, for it gives no signs of diminishing or cooling.
‘Such disproportionate love has never been known, so powerful from the moment of birth!
You sold yourself for us even before you were born;
it was Love that purchased you, and you held back nothing. The decision was made – you would die of love,
suffer death in agony on the cross.
‘Love imposed these terms when first it wounded you; it struck with such force, it stripped you of all –
stripped you of wisdom, life and strength,
drawing them to itself as a magnet draws iron.
From such heights, you were drawn to such wretched depths, to a stable, not repelled by stench or poverty.
‘It was almost as if you did not grasp or sense
the depth of the descent, when you came among us. it was almost as if your understanding was darkened, your power and insight lost.
Wounded by Love, you did nothing to defend yourself
surrendering to Love, you gave it your strength.
‘I know that all knowledge and power were yours
even when still a child; how could so much be contained in such a tiny frame, made of common clay?
There is no limit to your charity,
for your wisdom, strength and worth
you kept concealed within you.
‘Wrapped in poor swaddling clothes, you were utterly dependent.
Dear humble cloth, in which the Most High God was wound and bound, as if he had nothing-
humble cloth which enfolded treasure that puts to shame all gems and gold!’
Friday, 4 January
A reading from ‘The Tree of Life’, by Saint Bonaventure.
You soul devoted to God,
whoever you are,
with living desire
to this Fountain of life and light
and with the innermost power of your heart
cry out to him,
‘O inaccessible beauty of the Most High God
and the pure brightness of the eternal light,
life vivifying all life,
light illuming every light
and keeping in perpetual splendour
a thousand times a thousand lights
before the throne of your Divinity
since the primeval dawn!
0 eternal and inaccessible,
clear and sweet stream from the fountain
hidden from the eyes of all mortals,
whose depth is without a floor,
whose height is without limit,
whose breadth cannot be bounded,
whose purity cannot be disturbed.
From this Fountain
flows the stream of the oil of gladness,
which gladdens the city of God,
and the powerful fiery torrent,
the torrent, I say, of the pleasure of God,
from which the guests at the, heavenly banquet
drink to joyful inebriation
and sing without ceasing
hymns of jubilation.
with this sacred oil
with the longed-for waters of this torrent
the thirsting throat of our parched hearts
so that amid shouts of joy and thanksgiving
we may sing to you
a canticle of praise,
proving by experience that
is the fountain of life,
and in your light
we shall see
Saturday, 5 January
A reading from ‘The Five Feasts of the Child Jesus’, by Saint Bonaventure.
We come now to the fourth feast, the Adoration of the Magi. After the soul by God’s grace has spiritually conceived, brought forth and named this dear child, the three kings, understood here as the three powers of the soul, resolve to go in search of the child already revealed to them in the royal city, that is, in the structure of the created universe. The powers of the soul, [memory, understanding and will,] are rightly described as ‘kings’, because now they rule the flesh, have dominion over the senses, and are taken up entirely, as is fitting, with the pursuit of divine things.
They seek the child through meditation, go in search of him in heartfelt longings and inquire about him in prayerful reflections, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? We have seen his star in the East.’ We have seen his splendour shining in thedevout mind, we have seen his radiance lighting up the inner recesses of the soul. We have heard his voice and it is soft and tender; we have tasted his sweetness and it is delightful; we have caught his fragrance and it is alluring; we have felt his embrace and it is irresistible. Now, Herod, give us the answer, tell us where the Beloved is to be found, show us the little child we are yearning to see. He is the one we seek and long for. Where are you? We are looking for you. Where are you? We are searching for you in all things and above all else. Where are you who have been born king of the Jews, law of believers, light of the blind, leader of the poor, life of the dead, eternal salvation of all who live forever? Scripture gives us the true answer: ‘In Bethlehem of Judah.’ Bethlehem means ‘house of bread’ and Judah ‘one who praises’.
Christ is found when we have confessed our sins and listened attentively to the teaching of the gospel, the bread of everlasting life, meditated upon it and rooted it firmly in our hearts, so that we may fulfil it by good works and proclaim it to others that they may observe it also.
Lord, may we be your true House of Bread, part of the Eucharist and destined to be one with you always. Amen.