Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

"I like your Christ, but..."



This is Pauca Verba's 500th post!
Thanks be to God!
Thanks to followers everywhere!

This 13th or 14th century Byzantine icon of the Mother of God is of the Eleousa type, which means Mother of God ~ Tenderness. Of course, the angels (top left and right) carry the tools which foreshadow his passion, and so we might say the Infant has fled to his Mother in fear.

That fear is often quite evident in icons of this type, but not here - the Mother of God is smiling softly and lacks the pensive, faraway look exhibited in other Eleousa icons. The Holy Child isn't looking skyward in fear of the cross and nail-bearing angels but is clearly fixed on his Mother's face in a very deep and affectionate intimacy.

Mary hugs Jesus dearly to herself. The Holy Child is comfortable in his mother's arms, perhaps pulling himself close before kissing her cheek. To be sure, the icon expresses the intensity of relationship between the Mother and Christ child. 

~ ~ ~

But there is more, as Mary is not divine but she is one of us. And in this marvelous and en-spirited icon, we see God-in-Christ looking into humanity's eyes while dancing in our arms, cheek to cheek, covering us with kisses and embraces, though the worst we can do appears in the sky. 

This is the heart of our believing - the enduring and unchanging dogma. How then could Gandhi have said this of us: "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

Gandhi said this because the Christians he encountered were the Christians of a ruling empire. And empire, as with any institution, has as its first purpose the preservation of itself at all costs. Often the themes of empire are: disrespect, disregard, plunder, murder and massacre, oppression, condescension, exploitation, superiority and subservience. The shame of Christ's Church is very great indeed.


O Christ our Light,
let us begin again,
with you,
only you ~
who, dancing in our arms,
covers us with
kisses and caresses.


16 comments:

  1. This is a beautiful prayer Father. Thank you for it and for giving explanation to the icon and as always, your Christian food for thought.

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  2. Thank you for writing this Father Stephen. You have taught me well over these first 500 posts. Congratulations and please keep them coming.

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  3. Congratulations on your 500th post, Father Stephen! Pauca Verba has come a long way from small articles printed in church bulletins, to a blog with WORLD-WIDE viewers! Thanks be to God! "Your Christians are so UNLIKE your Christ." That statement from Gandhi made me very sad. May my early morning Pauca Verba devotions be one way to open the door of my heart and soften it. I pray that when people look at my life, they see Christ reflected back.

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    1. It is a sad remark, isn't it? But we must not land there - but yes, pick up and "follow Christ more dearly."

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  4. It seems like only a few months ago that you were with us and doesn't seem possible that more than two years and five hundred Pauca Verba posts have come to pass. Thank you Father Stephen for keeping this going. It makes it feel as though you are with us. I hope you look back and remember your time on Long Island with some fondness as we do.

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    1. I look back on my Long Island time only with fondness and with a profound gratitude to God for the people I met and the experiences I had which brought me joy and I pray, growth.

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  5. I understand Gandhi's statement. If we look at how we as Christians act towards each other, even within our own families whom we should love above all, we certainly do not set a good example. But we as individuals can change that one at a time if we all keep the light of Christ burning. I know my flame flickers and dims quite often, but it always finds a way to keep alight even in the darkest times, it casts a light. I will try to keep it brighter in the times ahead.

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    1. We are so familiar, even to exhaustion, with the term orthodoxy - right teaching. So many people invoke it today - as a proof of their right-ness and a way of assessing others. But there is another term, orthopraxis. Right practice. To our shame, we pay it scant attention. I dare say most Christians have never even heard of it, let alone know what it means. We might start with a new depth-understanding of what it means to be kind to people.

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  6. Congratulations on your 500th post Father Morris. The blog has progressed amazingly since its inception. I love all the things you have done here to spread God's message of love and to empower us to be better Christians and better people in general. The pictures, the videos, the music and above all your words of wisdom and prayers are much appreciated.

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    1. Well all of this gives me great joy and a sense of priest-evolution - being able to reach people far away or people who are not being spiritually fed, or people who have little exposure to the rich Catholic expression of faith. Stay tuned: there are two May posts that I am so eager to share with folks.

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  7. I can understand Gandhi's point of view. If we would only follow the way set by Jesus, we would be in a better place, but instead we have let so many other things get in the way of this.

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    1. Once when I had some vacation time in early August, I attended Mass in another parish on the Feast of the Transfiguration which fell on a Sunday that year. What an opportunity for the priest. But the young priest who was preaching spoke for 30 minutes about the sins of Hollywood to a congregation which averaged age 65-70. I felt so discouraged. And I am aware there there is more than a little of that kind of thing going on in the Church today - all this contentious fighting about problems, debates, who's in - who's out, and ideological Church divides. The worst offenders are often the clergy. It's all a way of not having to stand before Christ in vulnerability and our inner poverty. So the creating of these posts restores encouragement and keeps me pretty happy. God be with you!

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  8. Congratulations on this milestone of 500 posts and may you be blessed with 500 times 70 more posts! They are truly unending messages of truth, love, compassion, joy, hope, sorrows, sacred art, nature's gifts, and on and on. Every Icon and photos and their messages are so awesome to look at and digest all the heart and soul food that you serve to us.A heart that feels, bleeds, empathizes, and encourages, as your's does, is such a treasure going out from this blog. Jesus keeps telling us to, "Watch and Pray", we can do that for all the errors and horrors going on. We can be faithful to that command, it is something we can do, or else He would not have commanded it. Prayers being sent to you in your vocation to us. Bless you, bless you, bless you!

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  9. You already have such nice comments here, but I'd like to add one more. I want you to know that you touch my heart with your words and truly do encourage my spiritual growth. If I can be moved by this, I know there are countless others who must read your blog and feel the same way. Yes Father, your reach is far and wide and I assure you that you are making a difference out there.

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  10. We all make or hope to make a difference somewhere/somehow. When I started this blog a couple of years ago my sister said, "Remember, you're just a pointer." That was advice I try to heed.

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  11. We all make or hope to make a difference somewhere/somehow. When I started this blog a couple of years ago my sister said, "Remember, you're just a pointer." That was advice I try to heed.

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