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How would you portray the face of Jesus?

Once again we find the intersection of art and faith to be both interesting and challenging. Watch this short video of one priest’s quest over the years to seek the face of Jesus:

The video is part of a story on Religion News Service: The Many Faces of Jesus. What do you think?

Work at being ordinary

Paul Kowalewski publishes a daily essay on his blog Desert Retreat House. In the post for Monday, February 22nd he writes:

On this ordinary Monday, plenty of people are off to work or school or off to the market or perhaps off to the gym, off to accomplish the everyday tasks of their routine lives. This sure doesn’t sound very exciting, but in fact if we just pay attention to the seemingly uneventful moments in life and work at being ordinary, a whole world of miracles unfolds without end.

The essay is an extended invitation and a meditation to “pay attention” as we move along the Way into our week. Read the entire post.

What do you hear the Spirit saying?

Women’s Christmas 2015 – A Gift for You from Jan Richardson

Image: Wise Women Also Came © Jan L. RichardsonSpread the word about this (lesser known) feast and Jan Richardson’s gift:

Quote . . .Happy New Year and Merry (almost) Epiphany! In celebration, these three wise women are stopping by with a gift for you. You might know that some folks celebrate Epiphany (January 6) as Women’s Christmas. Originating in Ireland, where it is known as Nollaig na mBan, Women’s Christmas began as a day when the women set aside time to enjoy a break and celebrate together at the end of the holidays.

It’s become a tradition for me to create a new retreat each year that you can use on Women’s Christmas or whenever you need a space of respite and reflection. The retreat, which you can download as a PDF, offers readings, art, and blessings that invite you to listen to your life. Read Jan’s whole post (and download the retreat) here: Women’s Christmas 2015 – A Gift for You « The Painted Prayerbook.

O Antiphons (Dec 17-23)

The exact origin of the “O Antiphons” is not known. Boethius (c. 480-524) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time. At the Benedictine abbey of Fleury (now Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire), these antiphons were recited by the abbot and other abbey leaders in descending rank, and then a gift was given to each member of the community. By the eighth century, they are in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome. The usage of the “O Antiphons” was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrases, “Keep your O” and “The Great O Antiphons” were common parlance. One may thereby conclude that in some fashion the “O Antiphons” have been part of our liturgical tradition since the very early Church. Read more: What are the O Antiphons from Catholic Education Resource Center

Sr. Joan Chittister has provided an entire page to help you pray the O Antiphons (from December 17th through December 23rd). Each meditation is accompanied by a women’s choir chanting the Antiphon in English. Use this online meditation to deepen your prayers as Advent comes to a close and the Nativity arrives.

In the digital age …

… we sometimes lose sight of the passion, dedication, sacrifices, and practical challenges of information sharing in previous ages. Here is a reminder: Let Bidding Begin for the Bay Psalm Book From 1640 (Religion in the New York Times).

Detail. Title Page of the Bay Psalm Book, 1640

From the article:

David N. Redden recited the opening of the 23rd Psalm the way he had memorized it as a child: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”

Then he opened a weathered little book and read the version it contained: “The Lord to mee a shepheard is, want therefore shall not I. Hee in the folds of tender-grasse, doth cause mee downe to lie.”

Those lines were in a volume published in Massachusetts in 1640 that amounted to the Puritans’ religious and cultural manifesto. It was the first book printed in the colonies, and the first book printed in English in the New World. The locksmith who ran the hand-operated press turned out roughly 1,700 copies. The one in Mr. Redden’s hands is one of only 11 known to exist.

Read the article online

Read more about the Bay Psalm Book on Wikipedia

Image: Janneman on Wikipedia

“Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons …”

2013 Pope Francis embracing, blessing, and kissing a man with a skin diseaseOn so many levels this story and the accompanying picture has challenged me and others to wonder about our own ministry and our willingness to embrace “Christ in distressing disguise” (a saying of Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

Are you among the ones challenged by the example of Francis, Bishop of Rome?

Fr. James Martin, SJ, succinctly writes about why this example so moves us. Read his essay Why the Pope’s embrace of the disfigured man is so powerful on CNN.

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Image: La Stampa Media

The Cross

Mosaic."Transfiguration Cross" in St Apolinare in Ravenna, ItalyIn the last two days Marcus Borg, teacher and scholar, posted a two-part essay on the Meaning of the Cross for Christians. Part 1 described the understanding of the cross held by many (most?) 21st century Christians in the United States (Jesus “paid” for our sins). Part 2 described ancient understandings of the Cross (understandings lost when the currently dominant theme of payment ascended in the 12th century). How is the Spirit speaking to the Church through this scholar? How is the meaning of the Cross (and Resurrection)  expanded or narrowed for you? I commend the two essays to you:

Part 1. Christianity Divided by the Cross

For Christianity from its beginning, the cross has always mattered. The crucial question is: what does it mean? Why does it matter? What is its significance?

Part 2. The Real Meanings of the Cross

In earliest Christianity, the cross of Jesus (always also including his resurrection) was utterly central. Central as revelation of God’s passion and Jesus’s passion for the transformation of this world; and as revelation of the way, the path, of personal transformation.

I invite your comments as we continue the conversation.

Another voice for renewal

From the first moment on the balcony overlooking Piazza San Pietro Pope Francis initiated a renewal in the Roman Catholic church. This renewal will (because we are all connected) influence the lives of all Christians, no matter their denominational affiliation.
In celebrating the 50th year of the Vatican II document on the Liturgy (titled Sacrosanctum Concilium) one of the speakers, Archbishop Piero Marini indicated that “The reforms launched by the Second Vatican Council are not behind us but ahead of us.”

An image of  Vatican II posted by http://calnewman.org/vatican-ii/

Given all that has happened so far in the pontificate of Francis, I agree with the Archbishop. I believe (and I hope) that the reforms envisioned by the Second Vatican Council may begin to see the light of day—to the glory of God and for the welfare of all God’s people, and indeed, of all creation.

The full report of the Archbishop’s remarks (and others, too) is made by The Catholic Herald.co.ukVatican II’s reforms are still ahead of us, says Archbishop Marini.

Here are some other points to consider from this report:

  • The ongoing reform of the liturgy and sacraments will continue to impact all areas of ministry done by the church, inspiring hope
  • There is (apparently) a growing voice within Roman Catholicism to restore the ‘Sacraments of Initiation’ to a more ancient order: baptism-confirmation-eucharist (in contrast to the current order of baptism-eucharist-confirmation)
  • A hope was expressed (in so many words) that the church follow the lead of the Pope and understand that there are no “outsiders.”

As we listen to the Spirit and share with each other, this will certainly become a theme to explore. What do you think?

Recreated by Christ’s love

The cross in the church of San DamianoWhere did Francis’s journey to Christ begin? It began with the gaze of the crucified Jesus. With letting Jesus look at us at the very moment that he gives his life for us and draws us to himself. Francis experienced this in a special way in the Church of San Damiano, as he prayed before the cross …

Today, October 4th, the Church remembers Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis traveled to Assisi and celebrated the Eucharist with thousands. His homily, at least the prepared text ( we know he often ad libs), is available for our consideration.

The Pope asks, “What does Saint Francis’s witness tell us today? What does he have to say to us, not merely with words – that is easy enough – but by his life?” He sets before us three answers beginning with:

His first and most essential witness is this: that being a Christian means having a living relationship with the person of Jesus; it means putting on Christ, being conformed to him. […]

On that cross, Jesus is depicted not as dead, but alive! Blood is flowing from his wounded hands, feet and side, but that blood speaks of life. Jesus’ eyes are not closed but open, wide open: he looks at us in a way that touches our hearts. The cross does not speak to us about defeat and failure; paradoxically, it speaks to us about a death which is life, a death which gives life, for it speaks to us of love, the love of God incarnate, a love which does not die, but triumphs over evil and death.

He proceeds to offer two other answers:

… the second witness that Francis gives us: that everyone who follows Christ receives true peace, the peace that Christ alone can give, a peace which the world cannot give.

… [third] Saint Francis of Assisi bears witness to the need to respect all that God has created, and that men and women are called to safeguard and protect, but above all he bears witness to respect and love for every human being.

Read the text of his homily. Understand the Pope’s prayers for us. I also encourage you to be attentive to reports of his ad lib comments and find trusted commentators (like Fr. James Martin, SJ, or the writers on Religion News Service or the folks at America Magazine) who have access to even more information and anecdotal material.

A matter of emphasis

The perspective of age

A new eCourse is being offered by Spirituality and Practice. The course (which begins October 7) will offer us opportunities to explore ‘the view’ as we pause in our ascent and look out.

About the course:

Aging is a great adventure, an opportunity to deepen and enrich our spirituality. In this e-course in Spirituality & Practice’s Elder Spirituality Project, Joan Chittister discovers blessings behind every aspect of growing older. There is a difference, she notes, between age, aging, aged, ag’ed, and ripened. Through this month-long program, she reframes aging and encourages us to discover through reflection and practice what new perceptions and attitudes about growing older can mean for our own lives.

More information about The Blessings of Aging with Joan Chittister