Archive for the ‘Incarnation’ Tag

Lent 2014 Reflections – Introduction   Leave a comment

Today is the Sunday before Lent, which then starts with Ash Wednesday this week. I propose to try and do a blog post each day through Lent this year reflecting on what I read and think that day. This blog post is an introduction to that series.

Parish Mass Today

I went to the 10:15 Parish Mass today at my church: St. Matthew’s Northampton. The Anglican Lectionary set two readings about mountain top experiences; one from the Old and one from the New Testament – the giving of the Law and the Transfiguration.  The Vicar said in his introduction that we all know mountain top experiences but then have to come down to face everyday life again.

In Exodus we read the following:

Exodus 24:12-18

New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

12 The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.’

13 Then Moses set out with Joshua his assistant, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. 14 He said to the elders, ‘Wait here for us until we come back to you. Aaron and Hur are with you, and anyone involved in a dispute can go to them.’

15 When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, 16 and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. 17 To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. 18 Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

I smiled at that reading because I had not remembered that Joshua accompanied Moses up the mountain in this story. A dear spiritual friend, Brother Nicholas of Alton Abbey, always used to call me Joshua because he thought I faced life bravely.

Then from the Gospel of St. Matthew we heard the following:

Matthew 17:1-9

New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

The transfiguration

17 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

4 Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’

5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’

6 When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid.’ 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, ‘Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’

There was not a formal sermon but a question and answer session between Fr. Peter (retired priest) and the children and teens about the below icon.

Image

It is an Egyptian ancient icon rediscovered in the C19th see: http://stephintaize.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/the-icon-of-friendship.html. The key lesson for me from this icon was that Jesus puts his arm around us but gives us space.

So that summarises my preparation for Lent. I have a lot of reading lined up and if you wish you would be welcome to follow me on this blog as I journey through Lent towards Holy Week and Easter.

Advent Sunday 2011 – The World’s End   1 comment

One reason for establishing this blog at this time is that I had resolved to follow a set of Advent reflections given out at the church I on/off attend. I am awful at any form of self-discipline and that includes sustaining spiritual exercises. However I thought if I set to writing a blog each day I might just sustain a series of short reflection for 28 days.

Advent, by the way, is the period in the church calendar that leads up until Christmas. Different parts of the church use the season to think on different themes.

The material given out for these daily Advent reflections is not one that I would have chosen for myself. [“Your Journey to Christmas” published by Redemptorist Publications]. However countless times on my spiritual journey I have experienced growth when I have yielded to a suggestion to read something I would never have chosen for myself.

I must admit the theme set for today made me groan: “Rapture” in its end of the world sense! I am not enraptured with the rapture. Confining my comments to Christian history alone in every generation there has been some individuals or some part of the church who have felt “the end is nigh”. The much publicised example of Harold Camping in 2011 was cited in the notes. Why this fixation with “the end of times”?

We all face our personal end of the world: death.

Mark’s Gospel quotes Jesus as follows:

31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

The Day and Hour Unknown

32“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.
[Mark 13:31-33 NIV]

If I am honest I set aside thinking about the end of the world. However I think that message of not knowing the day or the hour is one that is so central to thinking about our own death. You don’t have to be religious to gain benefit from thinking about it. Look how popular lists such as “100 things to do before I die” are in magazines and on the internet.

While on retreat in a much-loved place, an Anglican Franciscan Monastery called Glasshampton, probably nearly 20 years ago now. I was working though some meditation exercises on my own in the chapel. I can’t remember now whether they were Ignatian exercises, or those of Anthony de Mello, in fact this is such an obvious one I would expect most spiritual guides of whatever faith or none to have it in their repertoire. After stilling myself, I was encouraged to make a deep sense aware imagining of my own death, not the means of it but the reality of it, and then the funeral. Seeing my coffin lowered into the grave.

I don’t remember much of the detail of the experience, the pictures that came to mind. However I do remember the deep sense of peace I had when I returned to awareness of my surroundings. I am going to die, and it is all right that I am going to die.

Similarly, thinking of the end of the world in the sense of life on this planet. Life here is going to end at some point. Assuming man’s own foolishness does not render the place uninhabitable in the next century or so, it is going to become so eventually. The current scientific view is that the sun will, in its own death throws, swell to possibly swallow the earth it in about 5 billion years. Life would have become impossible here long before that, and there are plenty of other possible events such as asteroid collisions that could result in the same. The scientific consensus about how the universe will die is less clear with various theories of Heat Death (it expands so far and in doing so its temperature tends towards absolute zero) and Big Crunch (it at some point will start to collapse under its own gravitational pull which will eventually result in the reverse of the Big Bang – the universe will disappear up its own singularity). With so many possible causes (I have not mentioned pandemics, food webs becoming unsustainable, collapse of the Earth’s magnetic field, ….), we know not the day we know not the hour when life will end. However it seems very reasonable indeed to assume it will.

In conclusion I come to what I can only call a personal statement of faith. I believe in a God who creates (present continuous deliberately) and sustains the universe. Indeed in my imagining of that I envisage Him/Her entwined with, even innate to every sub-atomic particle and unfolding as the universe unfolds. He/She was there in some way at my conception and my birth and will be there at my death. Somehow God weaves on the whole loom of existence the minuscule thread that is my life. (If that analogy implies a God who pulls the strings it was not meant to.) I have no idea if I will have any conscious existence after death. But in the words of the much-loved English mystic Julian of Norwich: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well“.