Sacred Seeing: Entry into Jerusalem

A few years ago, the Community of Jesus published a little book, Sacred Seeing: Praying with the Frescoes in the Church of the Transfiguration. As we approached the New Year, it seemed like a good opportunity to share this simple guide to praying with the art here in the church, especially for those of you who aren’t able to come and see it for yourselves. Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing the meditations from the book. We hope that it helps to enrich your prayer life in 2017!

Entry into Jerusalem

TriumphalEntry

Spend a few moments looking at the fresco image.
What do you find unusual about this image?
Describe any specific things in this fresco that strike you.

Read the Scripture: John 12:12-16
12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
    the King of Israel!”

14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:

15 “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
    sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.

Some thoughts and questions to ponder
One of the first things we notice about this fresco is the color…or, rather, the lack of color. What is this image telling you?

Where is the source of light in this image? How might Isaiah 9:2 inform this particular interpretation of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem?

John’s record of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is the simplest of the four Gospels and lacks some of the details contained in the other accounts (see Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-10, Luke 19:28-40). Why might to John’s Gospel have been chosen as the inspiration for this fresco panel?

The quotation in verse 15 is from Zachariah 9:9. What kind of kingdom is the prophet describing?

The other quotation (verse 13) is from Psalm 118:26. Read verse 27 as well. What more do these verses suggest is happening in this “triumphant procession”?

There are palms being waved in the air. But there’s also something else being waved in the air. What is it? How has the artist included it, and why?

Prayer
Lord, I know that there are places of shadow in my life – places that I would rather keep hidden away; places that I’m afraid to look at; and, places that I do not even know about yet. I also know that there is no place too dark for you – no place is beyond your reach; no place is stronger than your love; and, no place is a secret to you. I have asked you to enter into my life – my whole life. So, when you start riding into the those dark places, like the one you were writing into today, give me the courage to welcome you, and the faith to pray, “Lord, save me.”

Lord, we are told that you made your way steadfastly to Jerusalem. No detours, no distractions, no diversions. I can hardly imagine. It seems that I am regularly tempted to turn back, or at least to veer off course, or to just stop and…well, to just stop. Whatever Jerusalem awaits me today, or tomorrow, or the next, I have no hope of getting there unless I stay with you. Matthew tells us that you used to beasts to enter the city. Could one be for you, and one for me, so I can stay by your side, and you can stay by mine?

A Word from the Tradition
In his humility, Christ entered the dark regions of our fallen world and he is glad that he became so humble for our sake, glad that he came and lived among us and shared in our nature in order to raise us up again to himself. His love for us will never rest until he has raised our earthbound nature from glory to glory, and made it one with his own in heaven. So let us read before his feet, not garments or Solis all of branches, but ourselves… We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him. —From a sermon by Andrew of Crete (8th century)

Image: © Entry into Jerusalem by Silvestro Pistolesi at the Church of the Transfiguration

Back in Cameroon!

By Sister Victoria

SrVic2.3.17bUpon returning to Cameroon, Br. Dan, Sr. Hannah and I had the pleasure of visiting a Cistercian Monastery founded by monks from Leicester, England 50 years ago.
Our journey there was very dusty and bumpy as we are in the middle of the dry season.  The foliage on the side of the road matched the reddy brown color of the roads, with a thick layer of dust settled on them. So arriving at the Monastery was like entering an oasis, with flowering trees, green grass and practically spotless buildings. Their wonderful hospitality included showing us their lovely chapel, woodshop, candleshop and flourishing vegetable gardens followed by a delicious meal.  What an unexpected blessing, and what a difference gracious hospitality makes!
SrVic2.3.17a

Feast of the Presentation

by Sister Fidelis

Tomorrow, February 2, we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation. One of the best-known pieces from this feast is Lumen ad revelationem gentium, (“A light to enlighten the Gentiles”), a very simple mode VII antiphon, paired up with the verses of the Nunc dimittis.

This is one of my favorite Gregorian chant antiphons and brings back two very clear memories. My first introduction was in a class with Dr. Mary Berry at age 10. Dr. Berry herself created an indelible impression — a stately white-haired woman, arms gesturing, as she peered over her glasses and led us in song. We were caught up in the stories and history she told — a magical world to 10-year-olds. She had us all happily marching up and down the church, arms up and down in patterns of 2s and 3s, and the piece and the moment and the stories were all burned into our childhood memories….

Years later in a church in Italy some of our Brothers were asked to chant on the Feast of the Presentation. In a small ancient church in Tuscany we watched as they joined the procession of priests, deacons, acolytes, and various children, following the cross to the altar and chanting. The Brothers stood in their robes front of the altar with billows of incense rising around them…Lumen ad revelationem gentium…another moment out of time.

And then we come to the true moment for this piece and the story is even more wonderful — a man named Simeon and a prophetess meeting the Messiah and his parents in the temple. Ancient prophecies fulfilled and new prophesies spoken, mysteries, prayers, praises…

The simplicity of this music is interesting for such a special moment — a narrow range and almost completely syllabic. Sometimes it seems that mysteries bring us to a simple and childlike frame of mind. We come like a baby, simply being carried into this moment of God meeting man. May we each take a moment to remember our child-likeness on this Feast of the Presentation.

Lumen ad revelationem gentium, Feast of the Presentation, Community of Jesus

Tolling

by Faithful Friar

While reading her favorite book to a blind, elderly friend of mine, I came across this description of bell ringing in their little town of Church Enstone in England in the early 1900’s. It seemed especially appropriate as we approach the time of All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints’ Day…..

As soon as anybody died the family ‘ud send for Thomas to toll the church bell. Our St. Kenelm’s has six bells. They was recast in 1831 but some retain their original inscriptions. Thomas’s favourite was ‘I to the church the living call, and to the grave do summon all.’ It were widely believed in the old days that the sound of bells ‘broke the power of lightnings’ and ‘drove away thunder’, and that the air were the Great Highway of evil spirits waiting to snatch the soul of a dead person before it could reach the haven of heaven. Thomas’ tolling kept ‘em all at bay. He’d let you know which soul had fled by giving three lone knells before tolling regular for a man, two lone knells before tolling for a woman, and one for a child. How long he went on tolling ‘ud tell everybody the status of the dead person in the parish. Thomas were a proper ringer, tolling full-bell, ringing on the sally. If he warn’t able to ring, swinging the whole bell, he’d tie the rope on the clapper for a volunteer toller to hit the clapper against the bell, waiting a whole minute between claps for the note to die away. I done that for him many a time.

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The Parish Church of St. Kenelm’s, Enstone

(If you’d like to read more, see Lifting the Latch by Sheila Stewart, Oxford University Press, 1987)

Waves

by Sr. Spero
I have been feeling dry and distracted lately, but this quote from Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer I read in Daily Bread that gives me hope.

“It is really not surprising that this one whose own desire is that I desire and need Him will work in my life like huge waves striking rocks.”*

“Huge waves striking rocks.” No matter how rock hard I may feel inside, he’s going to keep pounding me with huge waves, reminding me he’s there, he’s working and he’s urging. Living Water comes in many forms. What a comfort to know that when we’re not choosing the gentle stream, he comes after us in huge waves, for the sake of love.

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*—Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer, The Mystery of Faith-Meditations on the Eucharist, Paraclete Press

God Hears the Heart

by Sr. Spero

The reading from Lauds this morning was from a sermon of Cyprian (d. 258). He told his listeners not to shout their prayers, because “God doesn’t hear our voices, he hears the heart.” That started me wondering what God hears when He listens to hearts. Is it words, or “groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26), or could it be music — harmony or dissonance depending on the state of our hearts? To me, it would be a terrible burden to hear the sounds of billions of hearts and never know silence. But God is not like me.  He is Love.

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New Ringers!

by Faithful Friar

A couple of weeks ago, we had a bell workshop for two and a half days. Ringers joined us from Boston, Nantucket, and Washington, D.C. We have a number of new ringers that have recently joined. The following is a brief interview with our youngest bell ringer (11 years old).

Q-  What made you want to ring bells?

A- It looked fun and I thought it was an opportunity a lot of kids don’t have.

Q- Was it what you were expecting it to be like?

A- No! It was a lot harder!

Q- What did it feel like?

A- It was scary at first. It’s not so much now. The first night, I went home and was so tired, I just crashed. My stomach and shoulder muscles were sore.

Q- What would you tell a friend who was thinking about ringing?

A- I would tell them to try it. It’s really fun!

Q- What’s the best part?

A- The best part is being with people. There are people of all different ages and they teach you all about the bells.

AlanaSrSeanaBells

Light in the Cracks

by Sunset Septuagint
Are you a “cracked pot”?  Does a cracked pot have value?  If we have a valuable item that gets broken, do we try to mend it so that the crack shows as little as possible?  Most of us would answer yes to these questions BUT some of us learned a whole different appreciation of “cracked pots” from Gabrielle Wilpers who gave an art retreat here in April. We were introduced to the Japanese Kintsugi technique which illuminates “cracks” often with brilliant gold highlights. This is similar to the philosophy of wabi-sabi which values rather than hides the marks of broken-ness.

Most of us would say we want the light of Jesus to shine through us, but we have difficulty accepting that light can only come through the “cracks”, and we do our best to hide the cracks from others and mostly from ourselves.

The value of being willing to appreciate our cracks really hit home with me the other day in a daily reading from Oswald Chambers which says, “The saint is hilarious when he is crushed with difficulties because the thing is so ludicrously impossible to anyone but God.”

Let us welcome being “cracked pots”. We have the assurance that Jesus will mend our cracks with the balm of Gilead and that they will shine as bright as the noon day sun.

Cloudswithlight

Compassion and the Cross

By Faithful Finch

Recently, I’ve been struggling with my lack of compassion for others. I’ve been frustrated with myself, and have been talking to the Lord about it. He told me that I also have a lack of compassion for myself, and if I begin there, it may be easier to have compassion for others. He told me if I really knew how much He loved me and accepted me, my problems in the area of lack of compassion would quickly clear up.

I recently read that in the Hindu tradition, they find it important to behold the Divine and allow themselves to be fully seen. Many Hindus visit the temples not to see God, but to allow God to gaze upon them, warts and all, and then to join how God sees us, which is always with unconditional love and compassion.

The scripture about taking the log out of my own eye before trying to help remove the speck out of my neighbors always has bothered me, but after letting the concept of allowing myself to be seen and loved for just “me”, the log turns into just my weakness, my sin, my need for Christ, which morphs it from a log to a cross.

QueenAnnesLace

Dirt

By Sr. Spero

When we were weeding, a friend said, “Too bad when you weed there’s more dirt exposed so more weeds can get in.” That was a new thought for me, but I agree that there’s nothing better for an airborne seed than a fresh patch of dirt. It reminds me of that Scripture I never understood—the parable of the unclean spirit who finds a house all swept clean and goes and brings in seven more unclean spirits, making the condition worse (Luke 11:24–26). Does this mean we don’t weed? I don’t think so. But it means that when I’m making my garden beautiful, I’m also making it vulnerable.

Beauty and vulnerability go together. And this is true for the spiritual life. As we get rid of our own weeds (selfishness, hate, jealousy), we becomes more beautiful, but also more vulnerable. What’s the solution? There’s only one. Prayer.

Weed