Be still and know that I am God – having a still pool of water at the center of your being

Psalm 46 – 10 Be still and know that I am God, I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.

What is the difference between meditation and contemplation?

If I might put it simply meditation describes the efforts we make to approach God whereas contemplation is more of an engagement with God. If we describe prayer as talking to God then there comes a point when we have to listen to God. Being still is an important part of this.

And the still pool of water? This I would describe as a use of the imagination in prayer.

For instance I might approach God through the use of a scripture such as Psalm 86 – 11, Teach me your way, O Lord , that I may walk in your truth.

Then I would wait for the Holy Spirit to talk to my spirit/soul. Spirit being a way of describing the deepest part of my being as it says in Psalm 43 -7 Deep calls unto deep. Romans 8 – 16 says The Spirit himself and our spirit bear united witness that we are children of God.

If I imagine a still pool of water at the center of my being then I am waiting for God to drop something into this pool. I may not be aware of what this is but I may be aware of the ripples and that in some way I am changed.

During this exercise a number of things might happen;

  1. Nothing – but I will at least have gained from the exercise of the prayer discipline which will stand me in good stead for another time.
  2. God has dropped something into this pool and I am aware of the ripples.
  3. I have a greater sense of what God has dropped into this pool. I may have heard him with my own thinking voice but in a way that seems rather different from my own thinking.

What is the test of whether or not God has spoken? It is that the Spirit of God brings consolation and not desolation and that is the test. God builds, he does not destroy.

Why is it so important to be still? So that we can hear the still small voice of God as it says in the hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind. That still small voice that Elijah hears in 1 Kings 19 – 12.

When I a say hear the voice of God, I have to say that at no time have I heard God speak to me in a distinct human voice. What has happened to me is that a thought arises which I hear with my own thinking voice, the same thinking voice I use when I read to myself, but the thought is rather left-field of my own thoughts at that time.

For instance, a few years ago I was in work doing a routine task and my thoughts were very much about how I was going to continue working when I knew why wife was struggling when I wasn’t there as she hadn’t been well for some years. Suddenly within all these thoughts about continuing to work another thought came and it said ‘Why don’t you just go?’. It was a thought which drew me up quite sharply and I thought if that is of You Lord, You will have to make it possible. Now I was at an age where early retirement was possible, with my firm’s permission, and I began to look into this and everything worked out so I could retire early. If I had ignored this left-field thought an opportunity, a divine opportunity, would have been lost.

Because I am not super spiritual I also wondered how many times something like this might have happened before and I had missed it.

As well as God dropping something into the still pool there is another possibility that God might cause something, a thought, an image, a picture or even a dream or vision to rise up out of this pool. If the Lady of the Lake holding up excalibur for King Arthur to receive springs to mind, that isn’t a bad analogy. Even if a little corny.

Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Being Still but not Empty Many non-Christian forms of meditation involve someone emptying themselves or being empty or emptying their mind. Scripture tells us this is dangerous because when we do that anything can come in.

Luke 11: 24-26, ‘when an unclean spirit comes out of a man it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest and not finding one it says, “I will go back to the home I came from“. But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and set up house there, so that the man ends up by being worse than he was before.’

This internal house must be filled with God or it will be filled with something else. This could be as innocent as a hobby, an obsessive interest or even a football team.

As St Augustine says, “Our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in You.”

And as Blaise Pascal says, “There is a God created vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”

So in Christian meditation we try to be still and focused. We may use a line of scripture, light a candle, or come before the Blessed Sacrament. We listen for God to speak to us, in a thought, or a picture, an impression or an assurance within. This may be just a sense of being held in His hands. Remember, what comes from God is always constructive and builds. Even when God tells us off it is gentle and to build us up.

A good book to read is “The Interior Castle” by St Theresa of Avila. In it she says; “I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle made of a single diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in heaven there are many mansions………..Let us now imagine that this castle, as I have said, contains many mansions, some above, others below, others at each side; and in the centre and midst of them all is the chiefest mansion where the most secret things pass between God and the soul.

Meditation, therefore, is only the beginning of entering into a closer relationship with God, of contemplation or engagement with God. Something which is both cooperation with the Holy Spirit and active surrender or submission to God.

Apologies if this has all got into a bit of a muddle, but the doing of it, the being still before God, is much easier than the description. Be still, let God’s Spirit speak to your spirit and see what God drops into your pool of still water.

Alleluia.

When was Jesus Born?

This is one of those questions to which the simple answer is – We don’t know?

Tradition has it that it was on the 25th of December. Some say that this was to Christianise a pagan festival, which is perhaps a cynical view, and others say that this was the adoption of a date which was already widely accepted and celebrated.

We might say that this is a fitting celebration of the birth of the “Light of the World” during the dark days of winter bringing some cheer to an otherwise cold and gloomy time of the year.

On looking in the Catholic Answers website a number of other dates are also mentioned;

-200AD Clement of Alexandria noted that Christians in Egypt believed Jesus was born on May 20.

-De Paschae computus, 243AD, notes that some Christians celebrated Jesus’ birth on March 28th and others on April 19/20th.

-Theophilus and Hippolytus (2nd and 3rd centuries respectively) mention December 25th.

-4th and 5th Century writings mention December 25th as an ancient and widespread feast of Christ’s birth.

-Many ancient writings, especially in the east, place the celebration on January 6th.

-The Church chose December 25th due to its ancient origin and widespread acceptance but is not declaring de fide that it is the literal date he was born.

https://www.catholic.com/qa/when-was-jesus-born

Do we have any biblical clues?

Luke 2:8-11 – In the countryside close by there were shepherds who lived in the fields and took it in turns to watch their flocks during the night. The angel of the Lord appeared to them……..”Today in the town a David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord,”

If this was on the 25th of December, winter, would the sheep have been out in the fields?

In Luke Chapter 1 we have some other clues. Zechariah is serving in the temple according to a rota as a priest of the Abijah section of the priesthood. This section is the eighth out of a total of 24 listed in 1 Chronicles chapter 24. The angel of the Lord appears to him and says that he and his wife Elizabeth will have a son whom they must name John (John the Baptist – cousin of Jesus). When his turn on the rota was over he went home to his wife and she conceived. If we knew when his turn on the rota finished we would be able to fix the approximate time of year, month, when Mary visited Elizabeth after the annunciation and her yes to God, because the angel told Mary that her kinswoman Elizabeth was six months pregnant. Luke 1:39 tells us that Mary set out to see Elizabeth with little delay.

When Mary and Elizabeth meet Elizabeth confirms that Mary is pregnant – Luke 1:39-45.

So if we knew when this was by the guidance of Zechariah’s temple service rota we would be able to project forward six months and then nine months for an approximate date for Jesus’ birth.

Another website,

https://www.jewishroots.net/library/messianic/was-the-birth-of-christ-during-tabernacles.html

claims this has been worked out putting Zechariah’s temple service during the Hebrew month of Sivan (May June overlap) meaning John was conceived towards the end of Sivan or in the following month of Tammuz (June – July overlap). Six months from here takes us to Kislev (Nov-Dec overlap) and a date for the Immaculate Conception. Nine months from here brings us to Tishrei (Sept – Oct overlap) and Jesus being born in the Autumn round about the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles (Succoth), which is being celebrated now – October 2nd to 9th 2020.

What is the significance of this?

John 1:14 – The Word was made flesh and dwelt (was tabernacled) among us.

I have come across this in other Christian sources but so far have not found it in a Catholic source. So I only raise it as something of interest.

For myself it gives me an opportunity to reflect on Jesus’ birth “being tabernacled among us” away from all the commercial hype of Christmas and I will celebrate Christmas in December in spite of all these trappings.

Isaiah 7:14 – Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and she will call Him Immanuel.

Matthew 1:23 – “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

The Eschatology of Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again”

The singer Vera Lynn died on the 18th June 2020 at the age of 103.  She was important in boosting British morale during WW2 with her songs which looked forward to a better time when the dark days of war were over.  They captured the essence of soldiers leaving their families to fight so there could be future peace.  Her most famous song is “We’ll Meet Again”  within which it is easy to see that departure of soldiers from their loved ones and all those teary farewells which must have taken place at railway stations and docks all over Britain at that time.

Speaking as someone who has been recently bereaved, my wife died on the 3rd March, this song has a particular resonance in a Christian sense as one day we will meet again.

The when of this is unknown as it says in Matthew 24:36 – But as for that day and hour , nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, no one but the Father only.

When I speak of eschatology, that is the study of the end times, that part of theology concerned with death, judgement and the final destination of the soul and of human kind.

The New Testament tells us that we are living in the last days.  Hebrews 1:1-2 puts it like this, “At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets, but in our own time, the last days, He has spoken to us through His Son.

This interval then, this two thousand years so far, from Jesus’ first coming, the church age, and looking forward to his second coming, is the last days.

Why such a long interval?  To provide a precious time to be saved.  As John 3:16 says “Yes, God loved the world so much that He gave his only Son, so that everyone that believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life.”  And in Romans 10:13 it says “For everyone, without exception, who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

This gives us a confidence that, being in Christ, We will meet again.

To the bereaved St Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13  “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve, like the rest of mankind who have no hope.”

(There must have been some anxiety in that Church about those have died.  Maybe because they were expecting Christ to return soon they thought you had to be alive when he returned.)

Paul continues (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18)  “We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him.  We can tell you this from the Lord’s own teaching, that any of us who are left alive until the Lord’s coming will not have any advantage over those who have died.  At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them, to meet the Lord in the air.  So we shall stay with the Lord for ever. With such thoughts as these comfort one another.

We Will Meet Again!

 

The Gifts of the Spirit in Isaiah – Chapter 11

With it being Pentecost (or thereabouts) I decided to do something on the Holy Spirit.  But then I found my blog going off at a tangent, so here it is for what it’s worth.

Isaiah 11: 1-2  A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse, a scion from his roots: on him the spirit of the Lord rests, a spirit of wisdom and insight, a spirit of counsel and power, a spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. (Jerusalem Bible)

The Catholic church says there are seven gifts of the spirit in Isaiah, but if you count above you will find six.  This is because there are seven in the Old Testament Greek translation called the Septuagint dating from the 3rd century BC.  This translation was made from the Hebrew by 70 Hebrew scholars (Septuagint – got it?) in Alexandria and commissioned during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus in 285-247 BC.

Isaiah 11:1-2  And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a blossom shall come up from his root: and the Spirit of God shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and Godliness shall fall on him.  The spirit of the fear of God.  (Septuagint)

Does it matter?  Perhaps not, but it is important to remember that Hebrew often has nuances which are lost in translation.  Hence seven gifts of the Spirit in the Greek conveying what was expressed in six in the Hebrew.  Also there is often a preference for sevens, amongst theologians and bible scholars, as seven  is God’s number of holiness and completeness, as in seven days of creation.

The Septuagint was regarded as a very good translation in the lingua franca of the ancient world.  It may also be that it was present in those times in a more portable form than the Hebrew scrolls which were kept in the synagogues.  When Jesus quotes from the scriptures he is quoting from the Septuagint most of the time.

Nowadays modern translations pay more attention to the Hebrew but the Catholic church also makes use of the Septuagint.  This is particularly noticeable in the book of Esther.  In a non-Catholic bible there is no mention of God in this book.  In a Catholic bible – there is.  It is worth doing a study with both bibles open side by side to see this.

Back to the Gifts of the Spirit.  Here they are listed;

From the Greek (Septuagint)                                 From the Hebrew (Jerusalem Bible)

Wisdom                                                                                   Wisdom

Insight                                                                                      Knowledge

Counsel                                                                                    Counsel

Power                                                                                       Strength

Knowledge                                                                              Knowledge

Godliness

The fear of the Lord                                                              The fear of the Lord

When the gifts of the Spirit are referred to the Catholic church often refers to these gifts in Isaiah 11.  It is important to remember that there is another list of gifts in the First Letter of St Paul to the Corinthians.

1 Cor 12:7-11  The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.  One may have the gift of preaching with wisdom given him by the Spirit; another may have the gift of preaching instruction given him by the same Spirit; and another the gift of faith given him by the same Spirit; another again the gift of healing, through this one Spirit; one, the power of miracles; another, prophecy; another the gift of recognising spirits; another the gift of tongues and another the ability to interpret them.  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, who distributes different gifts to different people as he chooses.

In summary these could be listed as;

Wisdom

Knowledge

Faith

Healing

Miracles

Prophecy

Discernment of spirits (very Ignatian)

Tongues

Interpretation of Tongues

 

I would suggest that the list from Isaiah is a comfortable one and the list from Corinthians is more challenging.  (e.g. Send me any gift Lord except tongues.)

The other thing to remember about the list in Isaiah is that these gifts are exhibited by a particular person described as a shoot from the stock of Jesse.  Who might this be?

Jesse (1 Samuel 16;1-13) was the father of David who is anointed by Samuel to be King of Israel.  David later receives the promise, through the prophet Nathan, of a descendent who will have an everlasting Kingdom. (2 Samuel 7:1-17).

Who is this person?  Jesus, of course!  Have a look at the lineage of Jesus given in the Gospel of St Matthew 1:1-16 and the Gospel of St Luke 3:23-38 and find the names of Jesse and David.  Note – There are differences in the 2 lineages thought now to be because Matthew gives Joseph’s lineage and Luke gives Mary’s.  Both lineages are royal lines of the House of David and the tribe of Judah.

“A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse”

What Jesus is he shows us and what he has he shares with us.  Being in Christ we can see how those gifts of the Spirit were poured out at Pentecost over the Apostles and the baby church  (Acts chapter 2) including those particular gifts mentioned by Paul in First Corinthians.  These gifts are still being poured out to this day.

Additionally we can see the great comfort of the Fruits of the Spirit listed by St Paul in the letter to the Galatians 6:22  “Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfullness, Gentleness, Self-control.”

We can see how the gifts and fruits of the Spirit are given to build up the church and transformed the apostles from frightened men hiding in the upper room, into bold witnesses for Christ.

We can also see those gifts in Jesus the “author and perfector of our faith”.  Hebrews 12:2.

 

 

 

The John 3:16, or thereabouts, game

As originally set down the Bible texts did not have chapter and verse divisions.  These were added later, around the twelfth century for the Chapters and the sixteenth century for the verses, for convenience of reference.

The drawback to this is that we get used to pulling out verses with no reference to their context, i.e. what went before and what came after.  The Baptist preacher and teacher David Pawson speaks of our bibles being ‘damaged’ by being divided up into chapters and verses.  He has a point.

I did notice recently some coincidences thrown up by the chapter and verse system.  My starting point is this famous verse in John’s Gospel;

John 3:16 – For, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.

When it comes to memorising verses this is a good one to memorise.

I began to notice that there a number of other 3:16(ish) verses in other books of the bible which also say very important things.  Could this be a useful way of memorising verses and opening up the bible?

For example:

Genesis 3:15 – I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offsping and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.

In this verse God pronounces a curse on the serpent for deceiving Eve and also promises a  future saviour.  This is called the Protoevangelium or First Gospel.  This is also a good verse to memorise.

Exodus 3:14-15 – God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”  He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘ I AM has sent me to you.’  God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to you’; This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.”

God reveals His name to Moses.  This name is regarded as so Holy that it shouldn’t be said and Lord is substituted for it.  For a time us Catholics said the name as Yahweh, but we are now told to use Lord out of respect for the Jews.  Some bibles put Lord in capital letters so that we know that it is God’s revealed name that is referred to.  My Jerusalem Bible has Yahweh and I substitute Lord both when I read it and speak it, but I appreciate that I am being pointed to God’s revealed name.  For memorising I would stick to Exodus 3:14 – God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM,”

Judges 3:15 – But when the Israelites cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man.  The Israelites sent tribute by him to King Eglon of Moab.

The LORD raised up for them a deliverer.  This principle, of a deliverer, runs throughout the Old Testament and finds it’s ultimate fulfillment in Jesus.

Matthew 3:16-17 – And when Jesus had been baptised, just as He came up from the water, suddenly the heavens opened to Him and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is My Son, the Beloved, with Whom I am well pleased.”

John 3:16 – John (the Baptist) answered all of them saying, “I baptise you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to to untie the thong of his sandals.  He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 – For no one can lay any other foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw – the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done.  If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward.  If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.

Methinks there is something of purgatory in these verses.

Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.

2 Timothy 3:16 – All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

1 Peter 3:15 – Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone that asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

2 Peter 3:15-18 – Think of our Lord’s patience as your opportunity to be saved: our brother Paul, who is so dear to us, told you this when he wrote to you with the wisdom that is his special gift.  He always writes like this when he deals with this sort of subject, and this makes some points in his letter hard to understand; these are the points that uneducated and unbalanced people distort, in the same way as they distort the rest of scripture – a fatal think for them to do.  You have been warned about this, my friends; be careful not to get carried away by the errors of unprincipled people, from the firm ground you are standing on.  Instead, go on growing in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  To Him be glory, in time and eternity.  Amen.

 

 

So there you are, a number of verses on the theme of John 3:16 or thereabouts.  If a particular verse jumps out at you have a look at it and what came before and what comes afterwards.  The verse then becomes a springboard for personal bible study.

 

 

All our righteous deeds are as filthy rags before the Lord. (My own paraphrase on Isaiah 64:6)

Every so often I come across a verse in the bible which is deeply disturbing.  Isaiah 64:6 is one of those.

Let’s have a look at a number of English translations of this verse courtesy of Bible Hub.

New International Version
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

New Living Translation
We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.

English Standard Version
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

King James Bible
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Douay-Rheims Bible
And we are all become as one unclean, and all our justices as the rag of a menstruous woman: and we have all fallen as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Jerusalem Bible                                                                                                                                 We are all like men unclean, all that integrity of ours like filthy clothing.  We have all withered like leaves and our sin blew us away like the wind.

 

Now, when I go to confession and make an examination of conscience I am concentrating on the things I have done wrong, my sins; bad thoughts, bad words, bad actions.

According to this verse I should also say I am sorry for the good that I do and that runs contrary to everything I have been taught right back to when I was a child when I was encouraged to be “good”.

What exactly is the problem with being good and doing good?  After all we want to do this and be this rather than be bad.

So here’s my take on it, for what it’s worth, and I’ll stick to talking in the first person so as not to make any assumptions about the reader.

Because of the good I have done a number of things have happened;

People have patted me on the back and said what a fine fellow I was.

I may have patted myself on the back and thought I was a fine fellow as well.  That is to say that I have believed my own press.

I may have acquired a status in society, because of the good I have done, which I didn’t truly deserve.

All my good deeds are tainted with self.  (There is a solution to this which I will cover in a footnote at the end.)

For Scripture says;

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Romans 3:23

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  1 John 1:8

A good illustration of this is found in Luke 18: 9-14;

He (Jesus) spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else, ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you God, that I am not grasping , unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here.  I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.”  The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God be merciful to me, a sinner”.  This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.

Over the years every time this reading crops up we see the pompous, arrogant, self-righteousness of the Pharisee and identify with the humility of the tax collector.  But being the Pharisee, who believes his own press, is an easy trap to fall into.

So this Easter we might say to the Lord that we apologise for the good that we have done, the status we have gained, and the times when we were like the Pharisee and forgot about the tax collector.

I’m not necessarily saying we should incorporate this into our confession in the sacrament of reconciliation.  If we do the poor priest will never get out of the box and it is possible to beat ourselves up a little too much.  It’s just something to bear in mind and rejoice we have a great Saviour who;

Died for us while we were yet sinners.  (my paraphrase)

Romans 5:8 – what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.

Useful Website – Bible Hub

https://biblehub.com/

If you search a verse using this website you will get a number of different translations of that verse.  Then you can look at the original Hebrew or Greek for that verse and without being able to read either language you can access a lexicon (Strong’s) to get a fuller meaning in English.  It’s never been easier to do an in-depth bible study.

 

Footnote – The Resolution of the Problem of Self and Good Deeds

At the back of Church (Holy Souls) I found this booklet.

marianconsecration (2)

On pages 8 and 9 of this book there are two Marian prayers of Louis De Montfort which get over the problem of self and good deeds.

Prayer 1 – “I, (name), a faithless sinner, renew and ratify today in thy hands the vows of my Baptism; I renounce forever Satan, his pomps and works; and I give myself entirely to Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, to carry my cross after Him all the days of my life, and to be more faithful to Him than I have ever been before.”

Prayer 2 – “In the presence of all the heavenly court, I choose you this day for my Mother and Queen.  I deliver and consecrate to you, as your slave, my body and soul, my goods, both interior and exterior, and even the value of all my good actions, past, present, and future; leaving to you the entire and full right of disposing of me, and all that belongs to me, without exception, according to your good pleasure, for the greater glory of God, in time and eternity.”

There is also this note about De Montfort’s consecration to Our Blessed Lady;

“This devotion consists, then, in giving ourselves entirely to Our Lady, in order to belong entirely to Jesus through her.  We must give her (1) our body, with all its senses and its members; (2) our soul, with all its powers; (3) our exterior goods of fortune, whether present or to come; (4) our interior and spiritual goods, which are our merits and our virtues,  and our good works, past, present, and future.”

The problem of self is dealt with if the “good works” no longer belong to you.

I have to admit to often struggling with things Marian, probably because of many years of association with non-Catholic Christians, but I am arriving at a better understanding of what is meant here.  Although the prayers are essentially Marian, the purpose is to draw nearer to Christ.  When we come to the foot of the cross and see what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us, who do we find there? – Our Blessed Lady.

So, come to the cross this Easter;

 

If you are reading this and not a Catholic and don’t understand the whole Marian thing you could just address this prayer, the Totus Tuus prayer of St Louis de Montfort, to Jesus Christ, our Lord.

‘I am totally yours and all I have is yours.’

Laudato Si – for Lent

Laudato Si – Care for our common home (a letter from Pope Francis)

Pope Francis refers to the following verses and how ‘have dominion and subdue’ fed into the days of empire.

Genesis 1: 26-28

26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

28And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (English Standard Version)

We seem to have gotten hung up on ‘have dominion and subdue’ and have forgotten what comes next.

Genesis 2: 15

The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. (New Living Translation)

Then the LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard it. (Good News Translation)

The Lord god took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it.  (Jerusalem Bible)

Here the instruction is to tend and protect the environment.

 

If I then combine these, then the instruction to ‘have dominion and subdue’ is in order to ‘tend and protect’. 

 Why does the Lord God put these terms in this order?  Because the Lord God in his foreknowledge knows that Adam and Eve will fall, and the whole human race with them, and will then be sent out into a fallen world capable of biting them back.  They will need to ‘have dominion and subdue it’ in order to ‘tend and protect it’ and their model will be the Garden of Eden.

Perhaps this is why we like creating beautiful gardens and then enjoying them. 

 If we fail in this, as we do in pursuit of short-term gain, then the environment will bite us back and this seems to be what is happening with climate change.

As Greta Thunberg said in Bristol ‘The world is on fire’.  Even if in Britain at the moment it looks more like it is drowning.

Pope Francis points out in Laudato Si that it is the poor that suffer disproportionately because of climate change and environmental exploitation.

So, this Lent we have a lot to take on board and repent of.

We have a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, let’s work to save the world.

 

Let us pray.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

A Prayer for our earth from Laudato Si.

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.

You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.

Pour out upon us the power of your love,

that we may protect life and beauty.

Fill us with peace, that we may live

as brothers and sisters, harming no one.

O God of the poor,

help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes.

Bring healing to our lives,

that we may protect the world and not prey on it,

that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.

Touch the hearts

of those who look only for gain

at the expense of the poor and the earth.

Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,

to be filled with awe and contemplation,

to recognise that we are profoundly united

with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light.

We thank you for being with us each day.

Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle

for justice, love and peace.

This we ask through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

 

 

Year of the Word – Bible Study

1)  Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:105 (KJB) (some bibles as Psalm 118)

 Let’s see how this verse can open the bible for us by looking at the words; word, light and path.

 Word

God creates with words;

2) Gen 1:3 – God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light. (JB)

The formula is repeated, God said, “Let….”, 7 more times culminating in;

3) Gen 1:26 – God said, “Let us make man in our own image”, (JB)

Jesus, the Living Word

4) John 1:1 – In the beginning was the Word; the Word was with God and the word was God. (JB)

5) John 1:9 – The Word was the true light that enlightens all men, and he was coming into the world. (JB)

6) John 1:14 – And the Word became flesh and lived among us,… (NRSV)

7) 1 John 1:1 – Something which has existed from the beginning, that we have heard, and we have seen with our own eyes; that we have watched and touched with our hands: the Word, who is life- this is our subject. (CTSNCB)

The word of God achieves its purpose.

8) Isaiah 55:10-11 – Yes, as the rain and snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what is was sent to do. (JB)

9) John 19:30 – After Jesus had taken the vinegar he said, “It is accomplished”, and bowing his head he gave up his spirit. (JB)

10) Mark 10:45 – “For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (JB)

Jesus, our Blessed Lord, the Word made flesh, succeeds in what he was sent to do.

An active word;

11) Hebrews 4:12 – The word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any double-edged sword but more finely: it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit, or joints from the marrow; it can judge the secret emotions and thoughts. (JB)

12) Ephesians 6:17 …and receive the word of God from the Spirit to use as a sword. (JB)

13) Revelation 1:13&16 – I saw…. a figure like a Son of Man….out of his mouth there came a sharp sword, double edged, and his face was shining like the sun with all its force. (JB)

 

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:105 (KJB)

Light

We’ve already seen in Gen 1:2 that God created light, a supernatural one in verse 2 and then the natural ones, the sun, moon and stars, in verse 14-16.

14) John 8:12 – “I am the light of the world, anyone who follows will me will not be walking in the dark, he will have the light of life.” (JB)

15) Isaiah 2:5 – O House of Jacob come, let us walk in the light of the Lord. (JB)

16) 1 John 1:7 – But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (NIV)

17) Colossians 1:12-13 – thanking the Father who has made it possible for you to join the saints and with them to inherit the light.  Because that is what he has done: he has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in the kingdom of the Son that he loves, and in him we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins. (JB)

18) Isaiah 9:2 – The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. (JB)

19) Isaiah 9:6 – For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (NRSV)

 

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:105 (KJB)

Path or Way or Walk

20) Psalm 23:3 – He restoreth my soul, he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (KJB)

In the Bible there are a number of people who were said to have walked with God;

21) Gen 5:21-24 – When Enoch was sixty-five years old, he became the Father of Methuselah.  Enoch walked with God.  After the birth of Methuselah, he lived for three hundred years and he became the Father of other sons and daughters.  In all, Enoch lived for three hundred and sixty-five years, Enoch walked with God.  Then he vanished because God took him. (JB)

22) Gen 6:9 – Noah was a good man, a man of integrity amongst his contemporaries, and he walked with God. (JB)

23) Isaiah 30:21 – Whether you turn to right or left, your ears will hear these words behind you, “This is the way, follow it”. (JB)

24) John 14:6 – “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” (JB)

25) Acts 9:2 – He had gone to the high priest and asked for letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, that would authorise him to arrest and take to Jerusalem any followers of the Way, men or women, that he could find. (JB)

26) Acts 11: 26 – …. It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians’. (JB)

27) Galatians 5:25 – If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (KJB)

28) Micah 6:8 – This is what the Lord asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God. (JB)

Useful Exercise – Write the Bible reference on a strip of paper.  Find the reference in your bible and put the strip of paper in as a marker.  Your bible will have a decidedly hedgehog appearance as well as a visual show of how much of the bible you have looked at.

For further study;

Seven “I am” statements of Jesus

John 6:35 – “I am the bread of life.”

John 8:12 – “I am the light of the world.”

John 10:9 – “I am the door.”

John 10:11 – “I am the Good Shepherd.”

John 11:25 – “I am the resurrection and the life.”

John 14:6 – “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

John 15:5 – “I am the vine.”

 

A bit more about Enoch.

Hebrews 11:5 – It was because of his faith that Enoch was taken up and did not have to experience death: he was not to be found because God had taken him.  This was because before his assumption it is attested that he had pleased God. (JB)

Someone else who was taken up to heaven was Elijah.

2 Kings 2:1 – When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were traveling from Gilgal. (NLT)

2 Kings 2:11 – As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven. (NLT)

As Catholics we believe, by sacred tradition, that our Blessed Lady was also taken up into heaven, though this is not mentioned in the bible there are precedents for it.

Abbreviations

KJB – King James Bible, JB – Jerusalem Bible,  

NRSV – New Revised Standard Version,

CTSNCB – Catholic Truth Society New Catholic Bible

NLT – New Living Translation, NIV – New International Version

 

Why are Catholics so fond of the word “Mystery”?

Mystery (notes from an RCIA course)

A Reading from the letter of St Paul to the Ephesians Ch 3:2 – 3:5-6

You have probably heard how I have been entrusted by God with the grace he meant for you, and that it was by a revelation that I was given the knowledge of the mystery.

This mystery has now been revealed through the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in past generations; it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Christ Jesus, through the gospel.

Definitions

Mystery – something beyond human understanding.

Mystery – something which is hidden until God chooses to reveal it.

Mystery – As used in Catholic theology, a mystery is a divinely revealed truth whose existence cannot be known without revelation by God and whose inner existence cannot be understood by the human mind even after revelation; for example, the mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of the Eucharist.   A mystery, in this sense, is said to be above reason but not contrary to reason; even though it cannot be fully understood, it can be understood to some degree, and for that reason the Church encourages all to reflect upon and study the mysteries God has revealed.  (The Essential Catholic Handbook)

A very Catholic word

Mystery is a very popular word with Catholics.  During mass we profess the Mystery of Faith.

  1. We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.
  2. When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death O Lord, until you come again.
  3. Save, us Saviour of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection you have set us free.

When I was looking up the use of the word mystery in the bible, my Young’s Concordance gave me the following references and they are all New Testament.mystery

As can be seen the use of the word mystery is particularly popular with St. Paul, from whom most of our theology comes, and is also used by Jesus and by St John in the Book of Revelation.

 

Who do you say that I am? (A mystery revealed)

Matthew 16:15-17 –  Jesus said, “Who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.

When we come across things in the Old Testament which relate to Jesus, we find something hidden (secret) now revealed. E.G. Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.

Have a look at page 4-5 from the book How to Survive being married to a Catholic for more about mystery (MrE).

 

A Mystery is something to be entered into

The Church does not say “It’s a Mystery so don’t worry your little head about it”, though it can give this impression, for this would make God out to be a great patroniser.  The Church, rather, says “It’s a Mystery come and enter into it” even if we only get glimpses of these deeper and greater realities.  Mass becomes a window into the heavenlies.

“Further up and further in”, as C.S.Lewis says in his book The Last Battle.

By way of some light relief here’s Toyal singing “It’s a Mystery”.

 

A Little Christmas Bible Study

Christmas in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah

Isaiah 1:3  The ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib

Luke 2:6-7  While they (Mary and Joseph) were there (Bethlehem) the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first born.  She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn.   Full passage – Luke 2:1-26

 

Isaiah 7:14 – Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Luke 1:31-34  ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour.  Listen!  You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.                    Full passage Luke 1:26-38

 

Isaiah 9:5-7  For there is a child born for us, a son given to us and dominion is laid on his shoulders; and this is the name they give him: Wonder Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.   Wide is his dominion in a peace that has no end, for the throne of David and for his royal power, which he establishes and makes secure in justice and integrity.  From this time onwards and for ever.

2 Samuel 7:12  (God speaks through the prophet Nathan to King David)  ‘And when your days are ended and you are laid to rest with your ancestors, I will preserve the offspring of your body and make his sovereignty secure.’  Verse 16 – ‘Your house and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me

 

Isaiah 11: 1-9  A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse, a scion thrusts from his roots: on him the Spirit of the Lord rests, a spirit of wisdom and insight, a spirit of counsel and power, a spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord……

Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus (after Joseph his guardian) – Mt 1:1-17.

Luke’s genealogy of Jesus (after Mary his mother) – Luke 3:23-38

(Have a look for David and Jesse in these long lists of names.)

Mark 10:47  When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

 

Isaiah 60:6 -Vast caravans of camels will converge on you, the camels of Midian and Ephah. The people of Sheba will bring gold and frankincense and will come worshiping the LORD.

Matthew 2:11  They (the wise men) saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage.  Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.   Full passage Mt 2:1-12

 

We can also see John the Baptist in the book of Isaiah;

Isaiah 40:3  A voice cries, ‘Prepare in the wilderness a way for the Lord.’

Matthew 3:1-3  In due course John the Baptist appeared: he preached in the wilderness of Judaea and this was his message: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand’.  This was the man Isaiah spoke of when he said:  ‘A voice cries in the wilderness: prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.

Luke 1:5-25 and 57-66 –  The birth of John the Baptist

 

We can also see Easter in the book of Isaiah:

Isaiah 53: 5 – But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.    Full passage Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12.

 

To finish then, the Nativity story is given in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.  John’s Gospel gives a very good Nativity summary when he says:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  John 1:14