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Talk about striking visuals at the beginning of Advent!

Talk about the artist’s imagination that juxtaposed these items in front of the main altar at St. Gerard Majella’s Church. The display engulfs worshipers in pregnant silence: simultaneous emptiness and fullness, a fitting manner to prepare for the Christ mysteries.

Each item speaks of rich symbolism. The sheepskin, positioned in the shape of a newborn, evokes the Israelites’ Passover lamb; its blood, smeared over their doorposts, directed the avenging angel’s slaughter of the Egyptians’ firstborn.

In the Christian tradition, Jesus of Nazareth was recognized as the Lamb of God (John 1:29), his bloody crucifixion and death resonating with the Passover Lamb; both wrought salvation: Israelites from Pharaoh’s enslavement and Christians from the bondage of sin.

In the gospel of John, Jesus dies at the precise moment that the unblemished Passover lamb is sacrificed in the Temple at Jerusalem.

Within the outline of the sheepskin, the blue fabric suggests the mantel of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the woman who knew life, its joys and vicissitudes. The cruel crown of thorn and the jeweled one speak of Jesus as Suffering Servant and as King, frequent themes found in both Old and New Testaments.

And the straw-filled manger speaks of humility, critical to entering the Christ mysteries with their teachings; the rumpled white fabric, freed from swaddling clothes.

A simple arrangement in the sanctuary of this church, but one that nudges surrender to peace and joy—such happens within prayer.  

The timbered great door stands ajar. Silence infiltrates the light brilliancing the hardwood floor with its intrusion into darkness: So unexpected, so frightening, an irritant to eyes accustomed to living within the grip of shadows.

No one seems around.

The urge to explore this new realm discomforts. A response is called for, despite fears similar to nail guns securing tiles to tar-papered roofs—It’s safer to remain with the familiar, however outworn—That’s what everyone says. Yet, the light persists, the light beckons, the light warms. 

How many times have I stood upon such a threshold? Let go of opportunities for growth? Settled for less rather than embracing the necessary sacrifice to forge ahead? For too many years have I chosen the half-light, but no more. since living with terminal illness. Each morning’s challenge is to approach the opened door through study of my dreams, blogging, and listening, despite chronic fatigue and hourglass-like wasting of physical and mental faculties.

The paradox of this diminishment opens me to the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, the opened door to the fulness of Light.  “Whoever enters through me shall be saved,” He said. This, alone, satisfies, even now as I await full admittance.

An antidote to noxious noise roiling around the psyche is the Psalmist’s command: Be still and know that I am God. (46:10). When enslaved by obsessive thoughts, the ego has total control, and unless curtailed by a more powerful source, the hall of monstrous mirrors blackens, issuing despair or other addictive behaviors. Distractions and pills don’t help nor jags of self-pity.

When such disorders yelp for attention like puppies pulling at a toy, I pray for willingness to begin meditative breathing on each word of the command; over and over, I cycle them until they slow down and plunge me into deeper prayer. Then, I stroke each word with light.

BE

suggests the critical invitation to accept my tattered psyche with all its contents, known and unknown, to deepen the spiritual practice of awareness, and to be grateful for the psychic growth I’ve achieved; its uniqueness is like none other.

STILL

sets in play a dynamic that soothes the wounded psyche, that recalls past experiences of stillness—especially along the Atlantic Coast—and that quickens additional spiritual efforts. The Sacred is rarely found in commotion.

KNOW

speaks of the cumulative lessons internalized from suffering, colors the present moment, and co-creates with Creator God. Such knowing also expands psyche to be of maximum help to others.

I AM

echoes Yahweh’s burning bush revelation to Moses in the book of Exodus, and clarifies the identity of Jesus, used seven times, in the gospel of John. Life-long meditation on these texts have borne fruit in abundance.

GOD

names the ultimate of mysteries, the Ground of our Being to whom we transition in the afterlife. I’m humbled …

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