Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Mary Alphabet in the Month of May


Lady Altar ~ Basilica of the Assumption ~ Zwolle, Netherlands

A is for Ave Mater ~ Greetings Mary, in your maternity!
B is for Saint Bernard ~ called the Harp of Mary.
C is for Cherubim Choir ~ Jesus' heavenly escort.
D is for Discipleship ~ Mary its first-flowering.
E is for Everywhere ~ Her sightings and apparitions.
F is for Mary's Flowers ~ Her earrings, slippers and gloves.
G is for Guadalupe ~ Aztec Mary in a golden mist.
H is for Hill Country ~ Pregnant Mary hastening on foot.
I is for Iris ~ Mary's light-receiving eye.
J is for Joseph ~ attentive to his dreams.
K is for Mary's Kitchen ~ finding God in pots and pans.
L is for Lourdes ~ Mary smiling from the grotto.
M is for Maris Stella ~ o'er life's tempestuous sea.
N is for Numinous ~ God's bright shining; can you feel it?
O is for Oak ~ sacred tree of Jesus' cross.
P is for Pro Populo ~ Mary's prayers for the people.
Q is for Quince ~ fruit of Jesus' rising.
R is for Resonance ~ the happy sound of Her name.
S is for Shhh ~ Nursing Holy Infant.
T is for Temple ~ Mary and Joseph presenting the Child.
U is for Untangling ~ knots of fear and scorn.
V is for Vogue ~ Mary in and out of fashion (but not for me).
W is for the Wine ~ running out at Cana's wedding.
X is for Exclaim ~ Mary singing of God's marvels.
Y is for Yellow Bedstraw ~ covering manger's floor.
Z is for Zwolle ~ Her Netherland church with its fifty-one bells!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Intercessions ~ Sixth Sunday in the Easter Time


English Daisy ~ Mary Love

Today is Orthodox Easter./ For the safeguarding of Eastern Christians/ and for their growth in Christ./ And for our divisions to heal well by love./ We pray to the Lord.

May is Mary's Month./ We ask for the gift of her pride-defeating humility/ and that our prayer would be bold and confident,/ as was hers./ We pray to the Lord.

Especially mindful of the children who have been robbed of safety and joy,/ we pray for the strengthening of all who are losing hope/ and consolation for those who are heart-sick./ We pray to the Lord.

As Earth Day was observed last week,/ we pray for our stressed planet,/ and that we might follow more closely Christ's mandate to own little./ We pray to the Lord. 

As May begins we pray for those who keep birthdays,/ anniversaries and other days of remembrance./ We pray for those who will receive their First Communion,/ or who will be confirmed, / ordained or married./ We pray to the Lord.

For the poor who are unable to pull themselves up./ For those whose lives are ruined by fighting,/ hatred or disaster./ We ask endurance for peacemakers and healers./ We pray to the Lord. 

We pray for those who are overwhelmed by sickness or special needs./ For travelers,/ care-providers and the unemployed./ And for those who have died to see Jesus/ in the brightness of his Resurrection./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Mother of God Intercessor ~ and the Sunday Prayers



This gold and blue mosaic, created in the year 1000, is titled Virgin Orans and is found in the Church of Saint Sophia, Kiev. Orans means ~ interceding in prayer.

Mary's arms are stretched up and out, as if in her prayer she is uniting heaven and earth. Indeed, her gesture forms a kind of cup or vessel. Mixtures take place in vessels, here: visible and invisible, earthly and spiritual, seen and unseen. Sometimes the icon is called: Mother of God ~ Broader than the Heavens - that the prayers of the Mother of God know no limit, are as vast as the longings that fill human hearts.

And this is the method of the Intercessions that are posted here each Thursday in anticipation of Sunday. Those intercessions seek to pray about everything that's truly needful, including the things some people would say are just impossible. So the question is not, Do these prayers work but rather, In my own prayer does my vessel-like-heart hold the life of this planet?

Notice that while Mary interfaces with us in the great mosaic, her eyes don't meet ours. Perhaps she is looking over the great crowd of humanity all the way to the back where the most forsaken people are found, like the little Publican in the gospel who keeps his eyes to the ground, praying from the back of the temple (Luke 18:9-14). Mary sees humanity burdened and degraded - all the living things of the planet greedily exploited. She models the disposition of our own prayer.

Have we read it mindfully? Mary's Magnificat prayer is bold (Luke 1:46-55) and so the Sunday intercessions are bold - like any mother's heart-requests on behalf of her child, especially when that child is sick, leftout, ridiculed, fearful, falling behind, lost, threatened or abused. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Searcher of the Perishing ~ And Her Highlights




This icon is titled Mother of God ~ Searcher of the Perishing. Icons are painted on wooden boards using multiple layers of translucent egg tempera paint. The darkest layers are applied first with the light, lighter, lightest colors building up until the final bright highlights are applied. The entire process reflects humanity coming up and out of darkness, evolving into light. Can you see these last divine sparks under Mary's decorated collar and on her veil and on the Holy Child's sash?

The light doesn't come from an outside source: a lamp, a candle, a sunny window, but from her interiority, where God dwells. Remember the Genesis story where God breathes or exhales into Adam God's own animating divine life (Genesis 2:7). And the wind of Pentecost echoes that divine gift, but now it is Christ-Spirit blown into us so to create a new kind of human person. (Acts 2:2)   This should even shock us! We were told at our Baptism: "You have become a new creation..." What does that mean? What does that look like? 

Never just walk on by an icon. Megan McKenna writes in her foreword to The Bride: Images of the Church by Daniel Berrigan, that the icon calls us to stop. 


These faces of the friends of God question us: and question us in such a way that what is posed, proposed to us, is at root unanswerable. Do you know who you are? Do you know who you belong to? Do you know what you were made for? Do you know how to live, to suffer, to die? Do you want communion, holiness, and ultimate freedom from death? You see - all these images sound us out silently. They are truth-tellers, revelations and confessors intent on laying bare our raw and well-concealed places of spirit and soul that hide and refuse to grow gracefully.

As I'm gathering and writing about these things, I'm sitting in the doctor's office waiting room. People are staring blankly at the large television screen hanging on the wall. There is no escaping the full-volume sound. The  contestants have to guess the right price for the items on display: a snow cone maker, an electric can opener, a weather alert radio, a nail care system, a food chopper, a snow blower and a "brrrraaaand new car."

The TV audience screams out the prices they think are closest; the show's host works everyone into a shopping frenzy. And for all the noise and energy, rather than being summoned into the experience of a transformed humanity, with our own translucent highlights, we're lured into a very deep coma.

I feel the contrast. Last week Pope Francis traveled to an immigrant camp on the island of Lesbos in Greece where thousands of Syrian and Afghani refugees are presently living, hoping to be allowed to re-settle in safety. Francis shook hundreds of hands, ate lunch with refugees, and listened to their stories.

One woman told of days at sea clutching her two year old son: the terrifying, total cold-blackness at night and the awareness that thousands have drown attempting the same voyage in flimsy rubber rafts. 

Then, like the highlights suffusing the Mother of God's veil, the pope had the idea (ideas can be like divine sparks) of offering to take a dozen refugees back to the Vatican with him. Three families boarded the pope's return flight to Rome: six adults and six children.

"Forgive society's fearful, closed-mindedness and indifference," Francis said. Then when the plane landed, the pope got off first, not for prestige, but so he could greet each of the refugees personally as they descended the stairs: "Welcome, you are not alone."

The Searcher of the Perishing icon: Highlighted Mary and Her equally bright Child - is an image of us too. Robert Lax (friend to Thomas Merton) wrote:
"We are all meant to shine  as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."