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St Ignatius and the Passion of the World in the 21st Century

March 27th, 2018

St Ignatius and the Passion of the World in the 21st Century

St Ignatius and the Passion of the World in the 21st Century (2002)
St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) was perhaps one of the most influential saints in the history of Christianity. He founded the Society of Jesus (or Jesuits) and they alone have influenced and shaped civilization in their commitment to education among other postulates.
In many ways Ignatius pre-dated modern psychology with his development of the Spiritual Exercises. The latter is a retreat that is divided into four segments or ‘weeks’. Each week is designed to help the retreatant to discern major decisions in his or her life. Particularly in the third week one contemplates the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ passion and crucifixion. Through constant periods of prayer and visual meditation one enters into a powerful personal communion with Jesus crucified. This is not a morbid reflection but the pivotal moment and existential contemplation on the transformation of evil into good.
In this image of Ignatius, Bill emphasizes the contemporary relevance of Ignatian spirituality. Ignatius, garbed in the habit of his time, offers an image of the contemporary world to the crucified Christ. The world is in turmoil and reflects the possibility of global annihilation reflective of our age. Blood from the wounds drips down on the world echoing Christ’s response as he gazes on it with compassion. There is hope that the blood of the crucified will be able to transform the world in all its violence.
BY John D. Dadosky, S.T.D., Ph.D.
Professor, Theology and Philosophy
Regis College/University of Toronto
From "Image to Insight" Book Available on Amazon

A Meditation On Jesus -1969- By Daniel Berrigan SJ

March 8th, 2018

A Meditation On Jesus -1969- By Daniel Berrigan SJ

A Meditation On Jesus (1969)
By Daniel Berrigan, SJ
9 May 1921 - 30 April 2016

1. The gospel of Jesus is spoken in a world
intoxicated with death
mesmerized by death
convinced of the necessary rule of death
technologizing death
acceding to the omnipresence of death

2. And Jesus says No
to this omnivorous power.
So his word makes the slight
all but imperceptible difference
(which is finally the only difference).
A good man, himself powerless,
stands at the side of powerless men
and says to death No
for them for himself.

3. Can any of you
place before you a single child, smiling
squirming in your arms; and say
The death of this child is a fact of modern war; I accede
to that death. I regret it of course
but what can one do? We have to destroy
in order to save; villages, women, children,
The system traps us all...

4. The system; horrible word! Can the system
trap the conscience of a free man?
Traps are for animals; freedom is for men.
I cannot speak for you
but I will not wait upon Caesar
to instruct me in God's word.
I am a man. I can read:
If a man will save his life, let him lose it.
I say to you love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you.
Whatever you do to the least of these
my brothers, you do to me.
Blessed are you who suffer persecution
for justice's sake.

5. Jesus had nothing to say to "systems",
except to deny their power over him.
He said in effect, violence stops here (pointing to his body)
He said in effect, it is better to die for others
than to live (live?) in a trap.

6. Be concrete, be immediate!
Imagine the world!
If you embrace a child, can you consent
to the death of a child? each human face
leads you (follow!) to every human face.

7. I can only tell you what I believe.
I believe I cannot be saved by foreign policies.
I cannot be saved by sexual revolutions.
I cannot be saved by the gross national product.
I cannot be save by nuclear deterrents.
I cannot be saved by aldermen, priests, artists,
plumbers, city planners, social engineers,
nor by the Vatican,
nor by the World Buddhist Association
nor by Hitler nor by Joan of Arc
nor by angels and archangels,
nor by powers and dominations

8. I can be saved only by Jesus Christ.

9. Take this book with you, please
into the midst of children old men and women
the poor, the defeated, the innocent.
Carry it about with you, let it speak
wherever men struggle, suffer, abandon hope,
Let the book happen to you.
It has no other reason for being,
A man
very like yourself
first spoke the words of these pages,
"a man acquainted with grief,
like us in everything, save sin alone."
He is as near to you/ as your next drawn breath.

10. I do not know
where my life leads.
Do you know where your life leads?
The next note is not struck.
The hands (foul, cleansed) hover
over the instrument.
My friends ask me: After jail, what?
You too (my friends) start awake at midnight,
question the silent lover beside,
the dream-wrapped child;
where? what next?

11. Lover, child, in the immense dignity of birth or death refuse an answer.
There is no answer.
The genius of the gospel is in the name of man
to refuse an answer.
We had best go forward/ as those in love go
Exulting in the breadth of the swath love opens
the sound of a scythe at harvest
the soundlessness of children sleeping a universe
of unanswerable grandeur!

12. If we have awakened to the world
it is probable that our salvation is near.
If we abide in love
we shall be greatly loved.

13. I believe that twelve just men, believing
against all evidence,
may stir the soil or sea
with toilers' hands, bring up intact
something flowerlike, something —

Jesus,
that direct and life-giving man
waits on you.
The world waits on you.
The two statements
are quite simply verified.
Close then open your eyes.

El Lucero Radiante del Alba -Jesus Christ Radiant Light of the Dawn- Teenage Christ

February 19th, 2018

El Lucero Radiante del Alba -Jesus Christ Radiant Light of the Dawn- Teenage Christ

El Lucero Radiante del Alba (Jesus Christ Radiant Light of the Dawn) : Teenage Christ.
This icon was originally painted (written) for an exhibit in Taos, New Mexico called “Sobre Muerte” (About Death) for the annual honoring of the Day of the Dead, November 2, traditionally called All Souls’ Day. I have written about this image often and John Dadosky has written about it, beautifully, in the newly released book from University of New Mexico Press, “Image to Insight.” It was after the Colorado Columbine High School murders that I wanted to paint Jesus as a contemporary teenager, fatally wounded, amidst a cemetery, yet very much Resurrected.
When I was a college student I went to Boston College for philosophy (a Jesuit requirement) and Boston University for Art. I’ve always been enthralled with the everlasting-Puritan influences on the United States. I read into Nathaniel Hawthorne to see what happened to us. It’s all there. I had an incredibly insightful,intelligent teacher for a course in education (before I became a teacher) she told us “You will never understand the United States unless you read “The Scarlet Letter” by Hawthorne. This has never left me. As a young student I would wander in the old graveyards of Boston and Salem and continually see these winged skulls on the tombstones. They spoke of the finality of death but the wings spoke of life after death. My dear friend, Master woodworker, Roberto Lavadie carved the frame for this Young Christ. Just today I read that the teenagers in Florida who survived the latest onslaught of terrifying murders are going to have a march in Washington DC to ask us to protect them, on March 24. Whatever political position you hold, they tell us they are the victims of our moral somnambulant/numbness. I offer this icon of Jesus as the awakening of the children who have seen the Skull-With-Wings , way way way too often.
This is a part of a litany I wrote for this icon...
Jesus Christ
Lamb of God,
Lamp of the Heavenly City.
Jesus Christ
Shepherd of the despised
and rejected,
Lamb led to slaughter.
Jesus Christ
Word of God, Eyes of Fire,
Prophet in exile,
Garment of Blood.
Jesus Christ
Eternal Bridegroom,
Faithful and True.
Jesus Christ
Morning and Evening Star,
Firstborn of the Dead,
Alpha and Omega,
Beginning and the End...
Dear Lord Jesus, we beg you ,please continue to inspire our youth to wake us up with their anguished prophetic cries.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols
Second week of Lent 2018
(You can read more about this icon in Professor John Dadosky’s new book.)

Holy New Martyr Nestor Savchuk 1960 - 1993

December 30th, 2017

Holy New Martyr Nestor Savchuk 1960 - 1993

Holy New Martyr Nestor Savchuk 1960 - 1993
Nestor Savchuk was born in the province of Crimea, southern Russia, as Nikolai Savchuk, in 1960. As a youth he excelled in boxing, wrestling, martial arts, and painting. In his twenties he began to work as an apprentice painting religious murals in Odessa. There, the older artists told him the stories of the Russian saints. Inspired by the saints with a love for God, Nestor set out for the 13th century monastery of Pochaev to become a monk. This love grew naturally and expressed itself through his devotion and prayer with the holy icons, which one day would become the source of his martyrdom. After his ordination his spiritual father advised him to go to an isolated village in the Ukraine, by the name of Zharky. There he found a church dedicated to the Nativity of the Mother of God, which had many ancient icons and from that church he felt a deep mystical feeling and an invitation. There he also found many blocks and difficulties. The church caught fire once and also became the target of an icon stealing ring connected to the Russian mafia. He was warned by the mafia that if he continued to keep the icons from them, he would be killed. Nestor would stay up all night guarding the church. He was then touched with a desire to ask for the grace of martyrdom. He began to pray for long hours. A friend warned him of this prayer and told him he ought to be asking for a long life of suffering for God instead. Nestor replied, “Yes, I understand that, but maybe if I will pray for martyrdom, perhaps I will be able to pray it out.” Late in the dark morning of December 31, 1993, the friend was awakened by a dream of St John the Baptist who told him to, “ Go immediately to Father Nestor.” But he did not go until that morning where he found Nestor murdered, outside his rectory in Zharky.
Adapted from a brief biography in the book “Youth of the Apocalypse” by Monks John Marier and Andrew Wermuth
I was blessed to be asked by the late Archbishop Hurley of Anchorage, Alaska to paint an icon of Our Lady of Magadan, (a former concentration camp from 1938-1955) which is in the Far East of Russia, four hours flight from Anchorage. When I visited there in October 1995, I went to the Lavra (monastery) of St Sergius of Radonezh. The monks there asked me to paint Our Lady of Pochaev for them. I asked if they knew of Nestor and his martyrdom. They said, “No, there are so many new martyrs in Russia.” I was stunned into silence by their answer. Months later I received a picture of Archbishop Hurley giving Our Lady of Pochaev to the monks and one was bending down to kiss the icon. That’s a picture I treasure and a great honor from the Russian Orthodox Church. We are all aware of the great suffering today in Russia and their need to continue to worship God freely. Our Lady of Fatima asked the three children she appeared to in Portugal, in 1917, to pray for the conversion of Russia. This was just months before the bloody Bolshevik Revolution, which Russia recently celebrated in November 2017. St Padre Pio prophesied, “Yes, Russia will be converted as the Blessed Virgin said She would. However, Russia will teach the United States a lesson in conversion.”
In this year of 2018, O Mother of God, Immaculate Heart of Fatima, Magadan, Pochaev, Mother of All Nations, and Holy New Martyr Nestor, help us all move quickly toward the conversion you both desire for us and the entire World.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols
30 December 2017

The Nursing Icon of the Mother of God

December 24th, 2017

The Nursing Icon of the Mother of God

The Nursing Icon of the Mother of God (Feastday, along with St Stephen , December 26)
After my Mother died in August 2006, as Advent approached I was still in grief inside and couldn’t feel the usual intensity of the beautiful four weeks before Christmas. I never realized how much (for me) the Mother is Christmas, in that she teaches the whole story to her children and creates the atmosphere inside the house that really begins your understanding of the entire season. This includes the Nativity set (which also contained figures from her childhood) the tree, the lights, the decorations, the candles, the Advent wreath, food, music, and magical presence around the house. So that Advent of 2006 I painted the Nursing Icon as a living memory of Mom. There are hundreds of great Christmas poems, here are a few lines from my favorite one, by St Robert, who had a truly childlike innocence and yet always manages to dazzle you with his theological insights into very deep Christian mysteries.
“Behold the Father is His daughter’s son,
The bird that built the nest is hatc’d therein,
...Might feeble is and force doth faintly creep,
...Up heavy hearts, with joy your joy embrace!
From death, from dark, from deafness, from despairs,
This life, this light, this world, this joy repairs...”
St Robert Southwell, SJ
English Martyr
1561-1595
A most beautiful, Spiritfilled, and joyful Christmas!
Fr Bill McNichols
24 December 2017

St Peter Canisius - Doctor of the Church 1521-1597

December 21st, 2017

St Peter Canisius - Doctor of the Church 1521-1597

St Peter Canisius : Doctor of the Church 1521-1597
My friend Fr Paul Begheyn, SJ commissioned this icon for the Dutch Province of the Jesuits in 1996. The first image I had for the icon was Peter wading through a thick,foggy, ominous, Grimm’s German fairy tale-dark-forest, holding a lantern, as in the painting of Christ knocking at the (your) door, (The Light of the World) by William Holman Hunt. This was my image of the dangerous journey Peter Canisius had to manage during the Reformation. God, through the Church, has always produced men and women with what the late Cardinal von Balthasar has called “church souls.” These souls have been given a gift of a profoundly inspired knowledge of what is necessary and what is superfluous. They are not tied to their own times, but seem to have an ancient love for the church, going back centuries before them. Some are very prickly and irascible, ready to fight, and quite up to the task. But I am attracted to the ones who have a supernatural gift of being compassionate in the midst of incredible tempers flying at them while they serenely preach the truth. I think of these Master Apologists as almost “inhumanly human” and yet very much human at their core. Living in this, our time, of great anger and divisions about religion and politics, it’s not hard to imagine these furious battles of opinion, but to imagine the serene preaching and converse of St Dominic, St Catherine of Siena, Blessed Cardinal Newman, or the late Daniel Berrigan, SJ, is obviously miraculous. St Peter Canisius had this gift. There are many more in our history but those saints and prophets, always come to mind first for me. Peter could stand before his enemies and bear the flying rage coming toward him, then simply speak back to them with the truth. He was well aware of the need for a Reformation but saw it coming in a less violent/schismatic way. Today, I think Fr Jim Martin, SJ also has this Apologist’s gift and I admire him so much, with the Internet age, he gets twice, ten times, a hundred times, actually, the irrational, scurrilous rage thrown at him but he manages to remain inside his Lord Jesus who is our way, our truth and our life.
A key to St Peter’s spiritual depth is his devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was a gradual transformation within him, or mystical exchange of hearts, that created the heart and soul of Peter. On the day of his final vows Our Lord allowed him to see his Sacred Heart. This of course changed the way he saw and spoke to everyone. He could say no, and create what we call boundaries, or teach someone the depths he had received with an incredible care for them, because his own heart had been transformed. Peter said, “Again, it is a mistaken policy to behave in a contentious fashion and to start disputes about matters of belief with argumentative people who are disposed by their very natures to wrangling. Indeed, the fact of their being so constituted is a reason the more why such people should be attracted and won to the simplicity of the faith as much by example as by argument.” So in this icon I finally decided to show him with Holy Wisdom gently whispering on his shoulder into his “inner ear”. She alone could teach him the countenance and the extremely practical, daily ways of Wisdom. Normally only St John the Evangelist is shown with Holy Wisdom (Sophia) but at the time I painted (wrote) this icon, I saw an icon with St Gregory the Great being similarly instructed by Sophia, so knew I had to portray St Peter with her too. He is prayerfully contemplating the book on his lap, the Prologue to St John’s Gospel, about the Light coming into the darkness and the darkness unable to receive or allow the Light in. If you’re looking for an example of getting through these times, I cannot think of anyone better than St Peter Canisius whom we celebrate, not accidentally, on the Solstice...Light returning.
“Let my eyes take their sleep, but may my heart always keep watch for you. May your right hand bless your servants who love you. May I be united with the praise that flies from you, Lord Jesus, to all your saints; united with gratitude drawn from your heart good Jesus, that causes your saints to thank you; united with your passion, good Jesus, by which you took away our guilt; united with divine longing that you had on earth for our salvation; united with every prayer that welled up from your divine heart, good Jesus, and flowed into the hearts of your saints. Amen”
St Peter Canisius

Fr Bill McNichols
21 December 2017

Our Lady of the New Advent The Gate of Heaven

December 14th, 2017

Our Lady of the New Advent  The Gate of Heaven

Our Lady of the New Advent : The Gate of Heaven
The commissioning of this icon of the Archdiocese of Denver by Cardinal Stafford in 1991, was, unbeknownst to me at the time, an Annunciation of not only the New Advent , but an entirely new life for me as well.
The Sisters of St Walburga’s Benedictine Abbey, in Virginia Dale, Colorado wrote one of the most beautiful, evocative and prophetic prayers I have ever read - to Our Lady of the New Advent in 1992, which you can read below. Her feastday is December 16th.
“ In 1 Corinthians 15 : 24-25 St Paul depicts the enemies of Christ as battling against Christ, reigning on high. In reality, however, these enemies are only able to persecute the members of Christ’s body still on earth. They battle against the Head, but can only inflict harm on the Body. A clear case is Acts 9: 4 f, where the risen Jesus states that Saul is persecuting him, whereas Saul was bent on the murder of the disciples of the Lord (v 1)
‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?
And he said, who are you Lord?
And he said , I am Jesus ,whom you are persecuting...’
Saul persecuted Jesus in person when he persecutes the members of Jesus...
Does the same hold for Mary? Is there a similar (though not identical) unity between Mary and the Church as between Christ and his members? In speaking of Mary, the sacred writer would also have the church in mind. And, in parallel to the above passage concerning Christ, the battle of Satan would rage ( in Revelation 12) against the person of Mary, although in actuality affecting the Church on earth.”
The Woman Clothed With The Sun by Bernard Le Frois,SVD

Prayer To Our Lady of the New Advent ***
O Lady and Mother
of the One who was and is and is to come,
Dawn of the New Jerusalem,
we earnestly beseech you,
bring us by your intercession
so to live in love
that the Church, The Body of Christ ,
may stand in this world’s dark
as a fiery icon of the New Jerusalem.
We ask you to obtain for us this mercy
through Jesus Christ, your Son and Lord,
who lives and reigns
with the Father in the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Amen
(Composed by the Sisters of St Walburga Abbey)
Fr Bill McNichols
December 2017

St Andrew the First Called

November 29th, 2017

St Andrew the First Called

St Andrew the First Called
(for St. Andrew Christmas Novena - starts on 30 November)
“Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
In which the Son of God was born of the
Most pure Virgin Mary,
At midnight, in Bethlehem,
In the piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee
O my God, to hear my prayer, and
grant my desires, through the merits of
Our Lord Jesus Christ and of His
Blessed Mother . Amen”
This Novena is said to be at least 100 years old, and you feel it, the way it’s is written.
The mention of the piercing cold at midnight, really brings the “real” Christmas to you.
When I was a theology student in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1976-79) we had to take on some kind of outside apostolate or learning experience that would somehow, prepare us for the priesthood. I chose to work on a suicide hotline and walk in service called “The Samaritans” originally founded in London by an Episcopal priest. He was apparently a great counselor and people sat in his office waiting to talk with him. One day someone came in and said, “Its okay Father, I don’t need to talk, the lady sitting next to me in your office really helped me.” After that, he decided to train people to listen and speak with one another, that was the beginning of The Samaritans. In the training we were told that you cannot proselytize, you have to find something inside yourself that can reach the one on the other end. We could not use our last name, but if a person wanted to talk with you on your shift, they could ask for Bill 249 (my number). The great thing for me was listening to the other volunteers and the way they helped people, some were incredibly funny, some deeply serious - in other words, it’s the “real You” that heals. The worst nights of the year were all around the holidays. Everyone thinks that people are all having a “Currier and Ives” or a “Norman Rockwell Christmas,” and they alone, are in darkness and depression. One Christmas Eve I did an overnight and the phones rang non-stop from dark until the first glimpse of light on Christmas Day. But listen to the prayer, “...at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold.” The prayer is to be said 15 times a day which you can break up by saying it 5 times in the morning, 5 times around noon, and 5 times at night.
Recently I read that Pope Francis asked priests to respect people’s devotions, and not get too intellectual or snobbish about simple longing- prayers from the heart.
This icon was a present to my great author-friend, Andrew Krivak from his wife Amelia.
I was really aware while painting (writing) the icon that it’s the Child Jesus (in icons called Christ Emmanuel) who is present above St Andrew, who was one of the first called by Jesus in the Gospel narrative...something to think about or contemplate in this Advent Season.
Abundant Blessings...........and I know the Child will call (is calling) you too!
“Unpleasant though it may be, the sense of personal sin is precisely that which keeps our sin from getting out of hand. It is quite painful at times, but it is a very great blessing because it is our one and only effective safeguard against our own proclivity for evil.
St Therese of Lisieux put it so nicely in her gentle way:
“If you are willing to serenely bear the trial of being displeasing to yourself, then you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter.”
From “People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil” 1983,
by M.Scott Peck, MD (1936-2005)
Fr Bill McNichols
Advent 2017

Holy Poet-Martyr St Robert Southwell and The Burning Babe

November 28th, 2017

Holy Poet-Martyr St Robert Southwell and The Burning Babe

Holy Poet-Martyr St Robert Southwell and The Burning Babe
In an essay on the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, Roland Barthes, the brilliant writer of linguistics, comments that this small book which was long supposed to be of little literary value, is actually one which creates a whole new language. In its painstaking attention to sensory and contemplative detail, it is a school for writers and image makers. Many schools of prayer would warn the students about visions and the use of images. Luther and the Reformation cried out, “The ear, the ear alone is the Christian organ.” The Flemish and Spanish mystics would further caution against the praying imagination, pointing to the cloud of unknowing, the dazzling darkness, the void en route to God. Barthes claims that “...to these mistrustings of the image Ignatius responded with a radical imperialism of the image: product of the guided imagination, the image is the abiding material of the Exercises...It can be said that Ignatius takes as much trouble filling the spirit with images as the mystics (Christian and Buddhist) do in emptying them out ...” Enter, St Robert Southwell (1561-1595) poet, martyr, genius image-maker and gifted “graduate of the school of Ignatian Exercises.” He delights in turning a phrase to make us see a new side of the mystery he is contemplating; taking us by the hand into a scene to share in his amazement. For example, he takes a kind of Ignatian “aerial view” from the cosmos, over the Nativity of the Lord calling us to: “Behold, the Father is his daughter’s son. The bird that built the nest is hatched therein...Might feeble is, and Force doth faintly creep.” In a brief poem to the Child Jesus called “A Childe My Choyse” are found these beautiful, unforgettable lines: “First friend He was, best friend He is, all times will try Him true.” Robert’s 19th century spiritual descendant, Gerard Manley Hopkins (the father of modern poetry) would later contemplate these lines and almost echo them in his poem “The Lantern Out of Doors” speaking also of the Savior as “...first, fast, last friend.” There is no one like St Robert. His poetry evolved from a somewhat stiff neo-classical style to a vivid,playful devotional praise of God. There is so much adoration in Robert. He loves and adores the Holy Family , the Child Jesus, the saints he sees closest to Jesus in the Gospels ,like Sts Peter and Mary Magdalen. Robert’s most famous poem, “The Burning Babe”actually anticipates the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus by almost a hundred years. He has been termed a minor poet of the Elizabethan Renaissance, but I think this has more to do with his pure and devotional subject matter than with his gifts as a poet. The English poet and dramatist, Ben Jonson said he would have given anything to have written “The Burning Babe,” and there is scholarly talk of Robert Southwell’s influence on the art of William Shakespeare. Robert was betrayed by a family friend , Anne Bellamy, and captured in June of 1592 by the sadistic monster, Richard Topcliffe who led him, bound in chains, to his residence next to the Gatehouse prison at Westminster , where he had his private torture chamber. On February 21 , 1595 Robert was taken to Tyburn to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The crowd was hushed and reverent as he prayed three times including a prayer for England and Queen Elizabeth. He begged Our Lady and all the saints and angels to intercede for him, ending with Jesus last words, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” The cart that he was standing on slowly pulled away and left Robert hanging. Ordinarily prisoners were taken down while still alive and then dismembered. As the hangman moved to take him down the crowd growled, “He prayed for the Queen!” Then, mercifully the hangman pulled his legs breaking his neck. The long years of horrific suffering came to an end. Afterwards his heart was said to have leaped from his body at the touch of the knife.
His head was cut off and placed on a spike on London Bridge; his body cut into four parts and exhibited around the city as a warning. It is said that two collections of Roberts devotional poems fell into the hands of Elizabeth after his death; upon encountering his beautiful soul in the poems, she deeply regretted his murder. Tragically, three hundred Protestants were also murdered under Elizabeth’s sister, Queen Mary. St Robert Southwell, along with Edmund Campion, Margaret Clitherow and forty other English and Welsh martyrs, out of three hundred Catholics, were canonized by Pope Paul IV in 1970. Their feast is December 1st.
Fr Bill McNichols
27 November 2017
In his 2014 Christmas CD “If On A Winter’s Night” - the British singer-songwriter Sting put St Robert Southwell’s poem “The Burning Babe” to music.

Christ the King The Bridegroom

November 21st, 2017

Christ the King  The Bridegroom

Christ the King : The Bridegroom
(O Nymphios - in Greek)
“The Lord comes out before the people, attired in the signs of his nonfulfilled kingship. In this nonfulfillment of his rule, his entire mission is contained. For if it had been fulfilled on earth, it would have been limited in space and time and thus would not be his mission...in all areas, he only made starts, only sowed beginnings...on some hearts, he engraved the sign of the Divine Always-More, the sign of what is unfulfillable in this world. To be a Christian means this: to close nothing off as completed, but to open oneself up into the always-more of the Son’s love for the Father...As the nonfulfilled and thus, for the world, the contemptible-he is displayed to all. In himself, he wants never to be fulfilled, but only to live in the ever-greater fullness of the Father. And thus he is presented to the world.”
Adrienne von Speyr
Commentary on the Gospel of St John, volume 4.
“Christ the Bridegroom is the central figure in the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13); Christ is the divine Bridegroom of the Church as described in the Book of Isaiah, chapter 54, as well as the primary image of Bridegroom Matins. The title is suggestive of his divine presence and watchfulness, ‘Behold the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night...’ “
Orthodoxwiki.org
As a child our familiy’s first parish home was Christ the King, and later, St John the Evangelist (now renamed Good Shepherd) and Mother of God Church-all three in Denver, Colorado. The theology of the Sisters of the Precious Blood who taught at Christ the King is very evident to me when I look back at one of my first drawings of the Crucifixion, “colored and drawn” at age 5. You can see it if you go to the “drawings, illustrations ,images” gallery on the website. Although the Crucified King is right there in that early drawing, I have to say my understanding of Him has grown over the years through the writings of William Stringfellow, Jim Douglass, Dan and Phil Berrigan, Dorothy Day, Pope Benedict and Adrienne von Speyr... to name just a few...as well as a host of scripture scholars. Listen to this: “...God did not intend Israel to have a kingdom. The kingdom was a result of Israel’s rebellion against God...The law was to be Israel’s king, and through the law, God himself...God yielded to Israel’s obstinacy and so devised a new kind of kingship for them. The King is Jesus; in him God entered humanity and espoused it to himself...The feast of Christ the King is therefore not a feast of those who are subjugated, but a feast of those who know that they are in the hands of the one who writes straight on crooked lines.” Pope Benedict XVI . The story the Pope refers to can be read in the Book of Samuel (1 Samuel 8:5-22). This is one of the most chilling passages in all of scripture, and lays bare our lust for nationalism and war. The people demand from the prophet a human king. Samuel is disgusted with their request and warns them, “...If you have a king he’ll make an army and take your sons. He will enslave your daughters, maidservants and manservants. He will take your property, your vineyards, your livestock.”...nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel...”we will have a king over us; that we may be like all the nations.” And the Lord said, “they have not rejected you Samuel, but they have rejected me that I should not reign over them.” When a child (or adult) is Baptized the deacon or priest says I Baptize you as a priest, prophet and king (or queen). This is not just a quaint or complimentary designation, but the absolute truth. We are destined to be Kings and Queens in the only kingdom that will last forever, as we say in the Nicene Creed on Sunday’s , “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.”
Here is a beautiful Orthodox exaposteilarion hymn from Holy Tuesday:
“I see Thy Bridal Chamber adorned, O my Savior, but have no wedding garment that I may enter. O Giver of Light, enlighten the vesture of my soul, and save me.”
Our desire to be with God even though we often feel unworthy, reminds me of the death of St Thomas More in the play/film “A Man For All Seasons” by Robert Bolt. More tells the executioner to do his duty because he will send More to God. Then Archbishop Cranmer says how can you be so sure? More replies because, “ He will not refuse one who is so blithe to go to him.”
Christ the King Sunday is the last Sunday in the church year, this year, November 26. On the following Sunday, December 3 ,Advent begins...O Come, O Come Emmanuel...and Christ the King, the true Desire of All Nations.
Fr Bill McNichols
November 2017
For the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

 

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