Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gospel Praises ~ the Christ-Center ~ Wedding Feast

 IN SEPTEMBER OF 2008 I WROTE  Gospel Praises while staying  in a hermitage at the edge of a forest on the property of the Monastic Community of Bethlehem on Monte Corona in Umbertide, Italy.

Gospel Praises are short poem-like verses that grow out of a meditative reading of the gospels. The little verses are called megalynaria - Greek for praises. In Latin we'd call them laudifications. I suspect that when composed in middle-eastern languages they could be chanted easily. Not knowing what those melodies might be,  I've chosen instead to compose the verses, following the four line pattern, with only a rough or suggested sense of rhythm.

The first two lines focus on some happy aspect of the gospel, while the second two lines share my own sense of the more or what's underneath for us.

The new pope is speaking to us in unvarnished language. It is clear that he sees we are losing our Christ-Center as a Church - that parochial concerns and religious polemic are holding center stage. At times he has laid the problem at the feet of the clergy who he says can become "collectors of antiques and novelties" and who need to "get out of the sacristy." He has even used startling language, as when he told the priests of Rome to get out and "smell the sheep." This suggests that he sees priests as largely disconnected from people, using arcane language and having lost their sense of Christ-mission.

Everything the priest offers should help people to pray contemplatively. There are three supports to that end here: The gospel accounts themselves which will require that we pick up a bible and look again at the text, though we may swear on the proverbial stack of bibles that we are already sufficiently familiar with the story. Then we are invited  to consider the icon which accompanies each text. We're reminded again that it is said of Saint Kateri Tekawitha, "She prayed more with her eyes than with her lips."  And then lastly, the little verses themselves, read slowly enough to understand but also to feel some sense of rhythm or movement.

When we enter a room which is totally dark, we often fumble around, anxiously searching for a wall switch, or even worse, we bump around in the dark gingerly  feeling our way for a lamp. These gospel praises are not like that at all. They are simply humble attempts to peak under the veil which surrounds the accounts of Jesus' teaching and wonders. We might each compose our own.

The Marriage at Cana
John 2: 1-11




Here we see Jesus seated quite comfortably at the wedding table. Mary is on her feet, perhaps whispering into Jesus' ear, "They've run out of wine." The bride and groom are seated at the head of the table. Icons often condense several aspects of the event into one, and so even as Mary speaks to Jesus, the server is busy filling the large, clay, purification jars with the water that will become wine. The other two older men at the table represent the many other guests. Perhaps one or both of them is a religious official who won't be happy about the coming miracle, as it will indicate that somehow the religion which requires the jars has run dry. Saint John doesn't call this changing of water to wine at Cana  a miracle, but a sign.

Though the Savior's hour had not yet come,
he revealed his power, changing water into wine.
And through the intercession of his all-good Mother,
the disciples accepted Christ:  God become man.


The Lord and Savior changed water into wine,
gladdening the guests of the wedding feast at Cana.
Now Jesus changes lives through baptismal waters,
to be like wine, bringing Christ-joy to others.


On the third day, among invited guests,
Christ displayed his glory, changing water into wine.
On the third day he'll be Resurrected over darkness and death.
Lord God, my mouth is full of your praise. (Psalm 71:8)


The Mother of Jesus: in attendance when her Son
first revealed his glory in the working of this sign.
She'll be present again, at the end, beneath the cross.
First disciple of humility and love.


The old method of ablutions is shown to be lacking
as the jars are empty and one short of seven.
Now in Christ we encounter God's purifying forgiveness:
let us praise him who changes scarlet-sins to white-as-snow.


Let us see in Christ the missing seventh jar of water,
Jesus, who quenches the human thirst for God.
Joy in Christ, breeze of love,
who gladdened  Cana-guests with so marvelous a gift.


Let us be obedient servants and follow the Lord's command,
presenting ourselves to Jesus in need of transformation.
Let us praise him and be thankful,
for he takes us from what is below to what is above.


When the waiter-in-charge tasted the water made wine,
he had no idea where it had come from.
But we, recognizing the source of wonder and gift in our lives,
praise Christ who bestows God's abundant mercies!


Let us emulate those privileged servants
and obey Christ at once:
Now, fill the jar of my life to the brim, Lord:
recreating me in joy, dignity and hope.


When Jesus arrived as a guest at Cana,
he gave a sign of God's wedding-intimacy with us.
Now praise Christ the groom and guest of humankind
whose presence and power dispel emptiness and fear.

1 comment:

  1. What a different way to examine the Gospel readings. An icon to call attention to the scene and the verses to help us deeply think. I sing praises to the Gospel Praises.

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