Benedictine Spirituality Christmastide Gospel Lectio Divina Presentation Prophetic voices Scripture Uncategorized

Light in the shadows

Photo by Marie Couffon de Trevros on Unsplash

As we celebrate the feast of the Presentation I’m finding myself drawn to the prophetess Anna. She captures something of the essence of this feast which always seems to me to be a combination of shadow and light. In many ways Anna is a very shadowy figure. An older woman and a widow it’s easy to see how she might be overlooked, pushed into the background by people with more importance or louder voices. Yet that’s not the picture Luke paints for us.

She is a woman grounded in the faith of her people, a prophetess who has spent her life in the Temple worshipping and praising God. Like Simeon she recognises that the child being presented is no ordinary child, but the long awaited Messiah:

“She came up just at that moment and began to praise God; and to speak about the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.”

Far from a shadowy figure Luke presents a wise woman, who is able to recognise and proclaim the presence of God with confidence. She is no stranger to suffering and loss, having experienced both in her long life. She knew what it meant to keep on hoping even when hope seemed lost in the long shadows of hopelessness. It is out of these shadowy and sometimes painful experiences that she is able to recognise the presence of Christ, the promise light of the world in the most unlikely of circumstances.

As we celebrate the feast of the Presentation how does the light of Christ break through the shadows in your life?

Baptism Benedictine Spirituality Christmastide Gospel Lectio Divina Scripture Uncategorized

The call of the Spirit

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Today we’re celebrating the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the feast that brings the Christmas season to an end. As it celebrates the first public appearance of Jesus it refocuses our attention in a new way. The humility and openness of John the Baptist turns our attention towards Jesus:

“Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals.”

His action takes an already growing sense of expectancy in the crowd and points it towards its source and hope. He shows us the one we are to follow, to imitate, to grow into. Reflecting on the Luke’s account Sr Verna Holyhead writes:

“It is Jesus’ prayer that tears open the heavens for the descent of the Holy Spirit and the revelation of his true identity that acclaims him as the Beloved Son on whom God’s favour rests. It is the same for us…At prayer we struggle to hear what God is calling us to be, to know who we are in our deepest truth, at the still point where the Spirit has descended into our depths and anointed us for mission.”

Her words suggest that our following of Christ begins with prayer, with the listening “with the ear of the heart” that St Benedict calls us to. It is in prayer that we discover who we truly are and can respond to the life changing call of the Spirit.

What enables you to open the ear of your heart to the God who calls you into new life?

Benedictine Spirituality Christmastide Epiphany Gospel Lectio Divina Scripture Uncategorized

Touched by wonder

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Today we’re celebrating the feast of the Epiphany. It’s beautiful story of the three kings difficult and dangerous journey gives us one last chance to allow the wonder and mystery of the nativity to touch our hearts before we return to “normal” life.

Like so many of our feasts it can get smothered by the practicalities and bustles of daily life. It can end up being no more than the day we pack away the Christmas decorations. If we’re able to take a little time to pause allow the wonder of the Christ child to touch us again it can give us the hope and courage we need to face life’s challenges. Today I’m reflecting on these words form one of our Christmastide hymns:

“Strange kings come riding, treasure laden,
Called from the East, a world unknown:
Let your dull hearts be touched to wonder,
Zion, city of God, his own.”

It captures the essence of Epiphany for me. The strange kings, bringing unexpected treasures and insights calls us to be open to welcoming Christ in the stranger and in the unexpected. But the words that resonate most are:

“Let your dull hearts be touched to wonder.”

It seems to me that the challenges and uncertainties of daily life can cause our hearts to become dull and heavy. That, in turn, makes it hard for us to reflect the light and wonder of Christ. Epiphany gives us a space to allow that wonder to lodge in our hearts and to shed light and hope in our lives.

What is touching your heart to wonder today?

Christmastide Gospel Lectio Divina Scripture Uncategorized

Pondering treasures.

Photo by Naganath Chiluveru on Unsplash

Every year on 1 January we celebrate the solemnity of Mary, the mother of God. I’m always struck Mary pondering the strange and marvellous events of the nativity:

“As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

She reminds me that these dark days at the end of the year are a time for reflecting and pondering as well as celebrating. It seems to me that that gets easily forgotten in the rush and preparation that surrounds both Christmas and New Year.

Much as I enjoy all of the preparation and celebration I am aware that we also need still, quiet times to reflect on the year that has past. We need a still moment to look back and grieve for what we’ve lost and to give thanks for all we’ve received during the year. We need some space to think about the things that we’d like to carry forward, those we’d prefer to leave behind, and those we have no control over.

That seems to be especially important this year as we leave behind one challenging and hard year to face the prospect of more another that could be equally challenging and uncertain. Moving into a new year we will need those treasures stored in our hearts to give us courage and hope to accept its gifts and challenges.

What treasures will you carry with you into 2022?

Benedictine Spirituality Christmastide Lectio Divina Uncategorized

The inclusivity of Christmas

Image ©Turvey Abbey

A Christmas reflection from the archives:

At the vigil Office for the feast of the Nativity the 2nd reading is from the writings of Pope St Leo the Great. These words resonated with me and I’m still reflecting on them:

“Nobody is an outsider to this happiness. The same cause for joy is common to all, for as our Lord found nobody free from guilt when he came to bring an end to death and to sin, so he came with redemption for all. Let the saints rejoice, for they hasten to their crowns; let the sinners be filled with joy, for pardon is offered them; let the Gentiles be emboldened for they are called to life.”

As we face another unusual Christmas at the end of a second challenging of years it’s helpful to reflect on the complete inclusivity of the Incarnation. The pandemic has taught us much about the people pushed to the margins of our society, turned into outsiders for a whole variety of reasons. We’ve discovered how costly this can be, not just for the people who are pushed out, but for all of us, who are left impoverished by the lack of their presence. We’ve also found out that, in the crisis created by the pandemic it’s often been those people who have kept our society functioning and essential services going.

This brings me back to St Leo’s words and the very centre of the Christmas mystery. There are no outsiders in the generous love of the Incarnation. The coming of Christ is open to everyone, includes everyone. There can be all sorts of differences and disagreements, but no exclusivity, Christ’s coming into the world is for everyone…And that is the source of the joy that fills us at Christmas, even in these hard times.

What joy is Christ bringing into your life this Christmas?