The icon shown here is of Our Lady of Kazan. A magnificent riza (ree-za) of stones and pearls has been created and placed over the image as a heart-gift. We might take a few moments to consider the tender face of the Mother of God; Jesus gazing out at us from a blanket of pearls. The holy Mother's crown is placed by golden angels.
Now there is news about a group of devil worshipers who are scheduled to hold a "black mass" on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, at the Oklahoma Civic Center and Music Hall in Oklahoma City. This will be the second time the group has been able to secure the spot, despite over 100,000 signatures petitioning the mayor to prevent it.
But there are First Amendment rights that make it legal to hold a "black mass" as no one is being threatened with physical harm.
Not only is there going to a "black mass" (which often includes the desecration of a stolen host) but following, there will be a ritual called the "Consumption of the Virgin Mary", in which her statue is covered with blood, sulphur, insults and whatever else. Catholics could enter into all kinds of outrage and threat, but Jesus has told us what to do.
You have heard that it used to be said "An eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth", but I tell you, don't resist evil. If a man hits your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If a man wants to sue you for your coat, let him have it and your cloak as well. If anybody forces you to go a mile with him, do more - go two miles with him. Give to the man who asks anything from you, and don't turn away from the man who wants to borrow.
You have heard that it used to be said "Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy", but I tell you, "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Heavenly Father. For he makes his sun rise upon evil men as well as good, and he sends his rain upon honest and dishonest men alike."
"For if you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even tax-collectors do that? And if you exchange greetings only with your own circle, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do that much. No, you will be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5: 38-48
This is a stunning and completely new teaching, yet how many Christians really apply it to their lives? We hear it, but do we do it?
So here the Mother of God and the Holy Infant are decorated with pearls and stones, but all the more with love, tender-mercy, compassion and forgiveness for humanity in its folly, toxic hatred, ignorance and stupidity.
Here's a Prayer to Forgive Enemies found in the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer. We might make it part of our morning prayer between now and the Feast of the Assumption.
O God, the Father of all,
whose Son commanded us to love our enemies:
lead them and us from prejudice to truth;
deliver them and us from hatred,
cruelty and revenge;
and in your good time enable us all to stand
reconciled before you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.