Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mother of God Milk~Giver

Galaktotrophousa ~ Mother of God Nursing 

MANY ICONS COME TO US with tales of their creation, their wondrous discovery or transport, how miracles were wrought by their presence or  monasteries and convents grew up around them. 

Saint Sabbas the Sanctified (+532) predicted on his death bed that another monk, also named Sabbas, would appear one day as a visitor to their monastery outside Jerusalem and that the Milk~Giver icon at that time should be given to him.

The story continues "the next six centuries rushed by" (perhaps a poetic way of saying that time means nothing to good monks) and in the 13th century, Saint Sabbas the Archbishop of Serbia arrived in Palestine. The monks related to Sabbas the story that had been handed down for centuries, fulfilling the holy founders prophecy entrusting the Milk~Giver icon to his care. 

Along his return trip to Serbia, Sabbas stopped in Greece where he visited the Hilander Monastery, evidently giving the icon to the monks there. Eight centuries later the icon still resides in a kellion there (a sub-community of six or seven monks) attached to that  monastic community. But I believe there is more!

The ancient Greeks believed there were four libations (liquid gifts offered to the gods: oil, water, honey and milk). But now in Christ, there is a great reversal as God offers us - humankind - the milk of God's wisdom and truth. 

Like new-born babies all your longing should be for milk - the unadulterated spiritual milk - which will help you to grow up to salvation, at any rate if you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:2)

Wisdom is not at all the same as being smart, or being able to solve problems or give good advice, or being old and having good sense solutions drawn from long life experience.

Wisdom is having insights into God's mind. And God has gone to a great deal of trouble to share God's mind with us in Christ. And truth is closely linked to this wisdom. But truth is not trends and fads, advertisements and the newly elected, the top ten list, the winners, what's in, what the experts say, what the guarantees promise. 

God's truth first has to do with my becoming a newly conscious person. It is bigger than simply nodding my head to dogma
"But let the complete renewal of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God ~ what is good and acceptable and mature." (Romans 12:2) 
Another translation says: "But let God re-make you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed."

And this re-making and renewal of our minds might express itself first of all in a radical embracing of the truth of the Incarnation - the abandonment of the limiting separations we create between God and us, and the abandonment of  the destructive separations we create between and among humans. 

Over the door of a friend's church there is a stained glass window of angels holding an open scroll which reads: Porta Caeli (Door of Heaven). I don't deny it, but I would suggest that the same sign could appear over the door leading into the doctor's waiting room, or the door leading into the Motor Vehicle office! YIKES! 

Instead of flipping through old issues of People or watching the awful and too loud TV suspended from the wall, could I imagine personal prayers for each of the people waiting along with me. There's the renewed (re-made) mind!

Lord, that woman looks so tired...
Lord, that man is so crabby towards his wife...
Lord, that mom looks so worried about her child...

Instead of worry, fear and demonizing complaints I can send blessings and prayers of help, healing and strengthening to the ISIS militants, the Ebola sufferers and helpers, the President whose job is unspeakably difficult, the pro-democracy students of Hong Kong and the police who drive them back, the homeless teens in Ocean Beach, California. The new mind is a kind of waking up - no more separations, no more dividing distinctions between humans.

And Saint Benedict says in his monastic rule, "Treat the garden and kitchen tools as carefully as you treat the sacred chalice used at Mass." No more separations between God and humankind.

Your icon, O Lady
in the kellion at Athos
where monks alone admire you ~
fly now on techno-wings
around our dry world 
nourishing us all with the
abundant milk of divine
wisdom and truth.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Lilium Candidum

These curious bulbs arrived this week from Holland. They are Lilium Candidum, also known as Madonna Lily. We've noted before that until the Protestant Reformation, very many flowers had names with Marian connotations. I imagine Madonna Lily survived that time of cultural and religious upheaval..

Madonna Lily is planted in the fall, but with a covering of only one to two inches of soil. Unlike tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and crocuses, Madonna Lily will put out a tuft of low-to-the-ground leaves and then in the spring begin to develop a stem, budding and flowering in the later summer. The flowers, facing outward, are waxy, brilliant white and highly fragrant. 

Often in Medieval paintings of the Annunciation (the Angel Gabriel announcing to Mary her pregnancy and Mary's ascent) either the angel holds a Madonna Lily or there is a vase holding a stem or two nearby. This 15th century Annunciation by Martin Schongauer illustrates this. Lilium Candidum aptly symbolizes Mary's Beatitude Heart: Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

But to return to the first idea of fall planting ~ it is an invitation to deeper living. We can:

  • Plant ourselves in a good book that helps us to grow
  • Plant ourselves in a new company ~ less combative, negative or divisive
  • Plant ourselves in a discipline of  Gospel-study or prayer
  • Plant ourselves in new thinking that makes us better spouses or parents
  • Plant ourselves in a time of silence
  • Plant ourselves in a community or group of support for the  healing of addiction
  • Plant ourselves in professional therapy and not run away  when it gets difficult
  • Plant ourselves in a new job or new home
  • Plant ourselves in a parish through the ups and downs
  • Plant ourselves in a new life after a significant loss

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Intercessions ~ Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Enitrean Orthodox Icon ~  Mother of God

We ask that our Mass-prayer would reach into the farthest and deepest places of human suffering/ where people are lost,/ disappeared,/ imprisoned,/ trapped or threatened by the abuses of power./ We pray to the Lord.

As we enter an election season/ we pray for our nation,/ asking for the healing of polarization,/ dishonesty and bitterness./ We pray to the Lord.

In Respect Life Month/ we pray in solidarity with the poor,/ the elderly,/ the baby in the womb and those who live in lands of conflict and war./ For the softening of human hearts./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for Pope Francis as the time of synod comes to a close in Rome./ We ask blessings for him of health,/ safety and courage./ We pray to the Lord.

This Monday is the Feast of Saint Paul of the Cross who generously served the sick-poor in 17th century Northern Italy./ We pray for those who care for the sick all around the world/ mindful of the great suffering of Ebola victims/ especially in West Africa./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask God to heal and bless our own families/ and families throughout the world/ in all their need and diversity./ And for persons without family or friend/ who suffer in anxiety and loneliness./ We pray to the Lord.

For the deceased persons we have known and loved over the years/ and for all the departed,/ we ask the fullness of life in the joy of God's mercy./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

His Holy and Venerable Hands

Detail Jairus' Daughter Raised ~ Gabriel von Max

AT THE CONSECRATION of the bread and wine in the First Eucharistic Prayer (also called The Roman Canon) at Mass,  the hands of Jesus are described as holy and venerable.

On the night before he was to suffer he took bread in his holy and venerable hands...
In a similar way when supper was ended, he took this precious chalice in his holy and venerable hands.

That the little phrase of five words appearing twice within moments of each other, suggests we might be be sure to pay attention to the hands of Jesus. They are called holy hands because they are God's hands, reaching into our troubled and burdened world.

We don't use the word venerable often. The word's Latin origin means commanding respect and admiration because of an impressive dignity or noble character.What a lovely thought: the holy and venerable hands of Jesus. We might consider in silence the painting detail above taken from a larger image of Jesus raising the daughter of Jairus.

There are dozens of references to the hands of Jesus in the Gospels. Here are some verses from Matthew alone which might invite us to  deep meditations and joy:

Suddenly a man with a virulent skin-disease came up and bowed low in front of Jesus saying, "Lord, if you are willing, you can cleanse me." Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him saying, "I am willing. Be cleansed." And his skin-disease was cleansed at once. (8:2,3) 
And going into Peter's house Jesus found Peter's mother-in-law in bed and feverish. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. (8:14,15) 
When Jesus reached the official's house and saw the flute-players, with the crowd making a commotion, he said, "Get out of here; the little girl is not dead; she is asleep." And they ridiculed him.  But when the people had been turned out he went inside and took her by the hand; and she stood up. (9:23-26) 
Then Jesus instructed  the crowd to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves and the fish, and after giving thanks he broke them and began handing them to the disciples, who gave them to the crowds. (15:36)
At the Transfiguration of Jesus in brilliant light, Peter, James and John fell down on their faces. Saint Matthew tells us: But Jesus came up and touched them, saying, "Stand up, do not be afraid." And when they raised their eyes they saw no one but Jesus. (17:7,8)
Now there were two blind men sitting at the side of the road...Jesus felt pity for them and touched their eyes, and at once their sight returned and they followed him. (20: 30,34)

His Holy and Venerable Hands