DAILY LITURGY PREPARATION

SUNDAY, JANUARY 28, 2018           FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Lectionary 71: 1) Deuteronomy 18:15-20; 2) Ps 95:1-2, 6-9; 3) 1 Corinthians 7:32-35;4) Mark 1:21-28.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/012818.cfm

FOCUS:          God’s desire is to liberate his people so that they fulfill their holy destiny. Liberation is at the heart of our Scriptures – a freedom that will liberate us from worldly anxieties and concerns, and from all that might hinder us in fulfilling our holy mission. Listening to and obeying God’s Word prevents us from hardening our hearts and distancing ourselves from his presence in our lives.  As Moses challenged the Israelites to listen to God’s voice (1, Ps), so we are called to hear the voice of Jesus and live out his teachings (3) by what we say and do, whatever our vocation in life may be (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

In the first reading, the Lord promises Israel that he will raise up a new prophet, one who will speak with his authority. Paul urges the Corinthians to remain free of worldly anxieties. In Mark’s Gospel, it is the unclean spirit that recognizes Jesus’ true identity and responds to his commands.

 

 

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Monday, January 29, 2018            MONDAY OF FOURTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Lectionary 323: 1) 2 Samuel 15:13-14, 30; 16:5-13: 2) Ps 3:2-7; 3) Mark 5:1-20.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/012918.cfm

FOCUS:          God’s graces are abundant, even in the face of difficulties. Both subjects in our readings today – David and the man with the unclean spirit – are miserable. As Christians, we wonder why there is suffering. It is not something inflicted on us by a vengeful God; rather it is a result of sin entering the world. It can be a means by which we draw closer to God as we seek his aid in enduring the many difficulties we encounter in this life. David seeks deliverance from his enemies (Ps) as the revolt by his son, Absalom, spreads (1). Jesus offers salvation to the Gentiles as he frees the demoniac (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

In the first reading from Samuel, David flees Jerusalem because his son seeks to overthrow him. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus frees a man who is possessed by many demons and instructs him to return home and tell his family of God’s mercy.

 

 

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018            TUESDAY OF FOURTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Lectionary 324: 1) 2 Samuel 18:9-10, 14b, 24-25a, 30–19:3; 2) Ps 86:1-6;                          3) Mark 5:21-43.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/013018.cfm

FOCUS:          God gives us the freedom to choose between life and death. We experience the gift of life in many forms: through the birth of a child or in the daily graces we are given, such as the friendships we share. We experience the brokenness of death in our own physical mortality, but also as a result of poor choices that diminish our growth or damage relationships. God desires for us to choose life over death, and to live it to the fullest in Christ Jesus. David weeps (Ps) over the death of his son (1). Jairus appeals to Jesus on behalf of his critically ill daughter (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

Our first reading is the historical account of the death of Absalom by King David’s own warriors. David mourns the loss of his son who had rebelled against him. The Gospel provides us with two parables: bringing Jairus’ daughter back to life and the healing of the woman with hemorrhages.

 

 

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018             WEDNESDAY OF FOURTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

OBLIGATORY MEMORIAL: Saint John Bosco, Priest

Lectionary 325: 1) 2 Samuel 24:2, 9-17; 2) Ps 32:1-2, 5-17; 3) Mark 6:1-6.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/013118.cfm

FOCUS:          A prophet is not without honor except . . . in his own house. Saddened that the crowd had no faith in his words or miracles, Jesus left them to the jealousy or stubbornness that veiled their hope and diminished their faith. He traveled on. Do we find ourselves to be like some of the Nazoreans or are we more like those of faith in the nearby towns? David seeks forgiveness (Ps) for his lack of faith in the Lord’s power (1). Jesus’ kindred put little faith in him (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

The first reading tells of David choosing pestilence as punishment for numbering the people. He prays to be struck instead of the innocent people. Mark’s Gospel relates how the people at Nazareth reject the words and miracles of Jesus.

John Bosco,  † 1888 at Turin; founded (1859) the Salesians [S.D.B .], today numbering over 15,270 members; dedicated to educating youth; with St. Mary Mazzarello (14 May), founded the Salesian Sisters; a pioneer in vocational training; first saint in history to submit to a press interview; forty thousand people filed past his body at his death; first canonized saint in whose honor a national holiday was declared in Italy; patron of editors.

 

 

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Thursday, February 1, 2018           THURSDAY OF FOURTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Lectionary 326: 1) 1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12; 2) (Ps) 1 Chr 29:10-11b, 11d-12d ; 3) Mark 6:7-13.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/020118.cfm

FOCUS:          Jesus is with us each day as we strive to walk in his ways. When Jesus sent his disciples out to preach and heal, he sent them in pairs. This meant that his disciples had each other for encouragement, and were able to strengthen one another when the journey was arduous. Although Jesus is always with us on our path, do we have a spiritual companion who can help to keep us walking in the way of the Lord? David tells Solomon: be faithful to the Lord (Ps) and you will be blessed (1). Jesus sends the Twelve to preach repentance and God’s love (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

In today’s first reading, a dying King David reminds his son, Solomon, of God’s promise to make his family reign over Israel forever. In the Gospel, Jesus sends out the Apostles to continue his work of healing and sanctifying. They are to go humbly, relying on God and the people for whatever they need.

 

 

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Friday, February 2, 2018         THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD – FEAST

Lectionary 524: 1) Malachi 3:1-4; 2) Ps 24:7-10; 2) Hebrews 2:14-18; 3) Luke 2:22-40 or 2:22-32.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/020218.cfm

FOCUS:          Let us rejoice in the presence of the Lord. Today we celebrate the Presentation of the Lord. Simeon and Anna in the Temple recognize Jesus as the one who will carry out God’s plan of salvation. Jesus is likewise in our midst today. Do we recognize his presence among us? Do we rejoice in the light of this presence? Jesus, the King of glory (Ps), yet like us in all things (2), comes to his temple (1) to be a light for all the nations (3).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

The Prophet Malachi writes of the Lord sending a messenger who will refine and purify. In Hebrews, we hear that Jesus had to take on our human nature to expiate the sins of the people. In the Gospel, Simeon and Anna speak about the child destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel.                                                           This feast, originating in 4th c. Jerusalem, came to be celebrated in Rome by the middle of the 5th c. under its Greek title, Ynanavrei or, “Feast of the Meeting”; known also as Candlemas Day.

Beginning tonight, the final anthem at Compline may be Ave, Regina coelorum, through the season of Lent.

PN Today is observed as World Day for Consecrated Life. Its purpose is “to help the entire Church to esteem ever more greatly the witness of those persons who have chosen to follow Christ by means of the practice of the evangelical counsels” as well as “to be a suitable occasion for consecrated persons to renew their commitment and rekindle the fervor which should inspire their offering of themselves to the Lord” (St. John Paul II, 1997).

 

 

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Saturday, February 3, 2018             SATURDAY OF FOURTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Optional Memorials: Saint Blaise, Bishop and Martyr;                                                                                                         Saint Ansgar, Bishop; Saturday in Honor of BVM.

Lectionary 328: 1) 1 Kings 3:4-13; 2) Ps 119:9-14; 3) Mark 6:30-34.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/020318.cfm

FOCUS:          We pray to the Lord for wisdom and healing. Today, we have the opportunity to carry out one of the traditions of the Church in the blessing of throats. Following the example of Jesus, we carry out the ministry of healing to all in need. By the prayer and blessing with candles, through the intercession of Saint Blaise, we call on God to heal all afflictions of the throat. Solomon prays for wisdom (1), to know the Lord’s will (Ps). Jesus nourishes us with the word of life (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

God appeared in a dream to King Solomon telling him to ask whatever he wished. In his wisdom, Solomon prayed for an understanding heart to be able to govern his people. Following the initial mission of the Apostles, Jesus instructs them in the Gospel to get away and rest. The crowds, however, seek them out.

Blaise, believed martyred in the persecution of Licinius, early 4th c.; bishop of Sebaste in Armenia; associated with the healing of throats (see PN below); venerated as well by the Eastern Church.

Ansgar, † 865 at Bremen; O.S.B. missionary to Denmark and Sweden; bishop of Hamburg; great preacher and administrator; known as the “Apostle of the North”; patron of Denmark, Germany, and Iceland.

PN In memory of St. Blaise, the blessing of throats may be given today by a priest, deacon, or lay minister who follows the rites and prayers designated for a lay minister. During Mass, the blessing follows the homily and general intercessions, or, for pastoral reasons, it may take the place of the final blessing of the Mass.

See BB, nos. 1622-1655 for the complete rite. The formula of blessing is:                                                         Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness:        In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

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SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 201           FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Lectionary 74: 1) Job 7:1-4, 6-7; 2) Ps 147:1-6; 3) 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23; 4) Mark 1:29-39.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/020418.cfm

FOCUS:          Let us strive to proclaim the Gospel by our everyday words and actions. In the Gospel, we hear that the Good News of Jesus is spreading to many towns and villages. Jesus tells his disciples that he has come for the purpose of preaching and teaching. That is our purpose as well. Let us strive to spread the Gospel in our everyday lives.  Job’s cry of hopelessness (1) stands in marked contrast to the hope of those who put their trust in Jesus (3), who “heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps). Such are the blessings of the good news.

LITURGY OF THE WORD

Our first reading relates the suffering and despair of Job. In the second reading, Saint Paul tells us we must not keep the Good News to ourselves, but we are called to share it with those we meet. In the Gospel, we hear that Jesus comes to bring healing and peace to all those he encounters.

 

 

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Reflection – Sunday, January 28, 2018        Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Every generation of TV viewers is familiar with the Andy Griffith Show. A notable contrast between Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife was their view of authority. Deputy Fife was all about “law and order,” eager to jail anyone for what he perceived as legal violations. Sheriff Taylor, however, preferred the use of understanding, per­suasion, and common sense. The people in today’s Gospel passage were “amazed” because Jesus taught with “authority.” He did not employ edicts, but told stories. He didn’t just “say prayers”; he actually prayed and com­muned with God in a personal way. Don’t we, too, crave authority rather than authoritarianism?                 Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 57.


 

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 Reflection – Monday, January 29, 2018          Weekday

King David is in trouble. His son, Absa­lom, has usurped power over Israel. At the same time, David is cursed by Saul, a relative of his predecessor, for blood­shed against his family. One foresees here the pattern of the future son of David, Jesus. There will be betrayal by those closest to him and make vulgar physical attacks. In this scene, David does not reply in kind. Instead he trusts that this is part of God’s plan. The path to God’s will is not always straight or pleasant.   Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 58.

 

 

 

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Reflection – Tuesday, January 30, 2018 Weekday

When I was a young boy, my maternal grandmother died a few days before Thanksgiving. We had a modified Thanksgiving in the midst of the three-day wake. Then, just before Christmas, my mother’s sister died unexpectedly. Christmas, too, was somber. No doubt most of us have experienced conflicted joy and sorrow just as King David did. He won a battle but lost a son. As emo­tional creatures, we might prefer our joys to be joys and our sorrows to be sorrows. We should remember that the Cross and the Resurrection are two dimensions of one saving mystery.                                                  Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 59.

 

 

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Reflection – Wednesday, January 31, 2018        Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest

St. John Bosco is one of many saints and founders who encountered opposi­tion. A nineteenth-century minister to disadvantaged youth, Bosco made great efforts to educate them and apprentice them to trades. In the Italy of his time, child exploitation was common, disci­pline was corporal, housing was abys­mal, and public authorities were indifferent. Many didn’t want noisy or delinquent boys in their neighborhood. Despite opponents, Bosco founded the Salesians and adopted teaching methods based on love instead of punishment. Enemies called him a “wheeler-dealer” to get funds for his works and tried to prevent his canonization. “In the world, you will have trouble” (John 16:33).   Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 60.

 

 

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Reflection – Thursday, February 1, 2018        Weekday

God’s anointed ones appear to know when their end is near, and they do not fight death. King David, in today’s read­ing, prepares his son, Solomon, to be his successor. Jesus prepared his Apos­tles for his departure at the Last Supper. Saints often gather their disciples around their deathbed for final encour­agement. Some people are afraid to sur­render to death because their loved ones are clinging or they have unfinished busi­ness. It is best to follow St. Benedict’s counsel: “Keep death before your eyes daily,” so that we are prepared to sur­render peacefully when the time comes. Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 61.

 

 

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Reflection – Friday, February 2, 2018            Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

Today’s feast is an echo of the past Christmas season and the completion of the mystery. Jesus—born, revealed to Israel, manifested to the nations—is now encountered by the Church in the person of Simeon. Indeed, Greek Chris­tians call today’s feast “The Meeting” or “The Encountering.” The Church embraces Christ, the Light of the World, in her arms. The Mass begins with the blessing of candles for liturgical and home use, reminding the faithful of the Baptism that enlightened them. Hence, the Roman Church calls this Candlemas Day. Let us embrace Christ more ten­derly by living our baptismal vocation each day.         Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 62.

 

 

 

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Reflection – Saturday, February 3, 2018 Weekday

Solomon, at the beginning of his reign, models the humility that should mark a believer’s prayer life. First, he focuses on worshipping God. Worship is the heart of a creature’s relationship to the Creator. Secondly, Solomon offers thanks to God for the favor of placing him on the throne. Thirdly, when God offers to answer a request, Solomon prays for the wisdom and justice that will make him a good king and servantof the Lord. Prayer that is not self-seek­ing, but directed toward God’s will, is the purest prayer and leads to a deepen­ing relationship with God.                                                              Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 63.

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Reflection – Sunday, February 4, 2018              Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

   No doubt you and I sometimes feel like Simon in this Gospel: “Everyone is looking for you!” We might have a cri­sis, a concern, a need, or a longing, but we cannot feel God’s presence. Where is God? Jesus, off in a lonely place in the desert, perhaps suggests that God is already at work even when we cannot find him. Indeed, God is always with us. The seeking must be our work.       Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 64.

 

 

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                                      Faith Catholic (Online), February 2018                                                                                                         Give Us This Day, Liturgical Press,   February 2018
    Magnificat, February 2018
                         Paulist Ordo

 

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Ordinary Time

Wasted time is not a prized commodity in American society. We are a people ruled by the clock. Time is money because time is to be filled with purposeful controlled activity which is productive of things which can be sold. We are convinced that we must be in control of time. The last thing the productive American would want to do is waste time playing around with realities that do not produce a saleable commodity.

But the Creator of heaven and earth is described by the scriptures as the original and the best of players. Creative activity is playful, and creative people do not feel that what they do is a job. Creative people also have a sense that their creativity and all that they fashion in the creative spirit are gifts they have received. The Christian can speak of this and the contemplative vision which sees all reality as gift or grace. Our thankful response we call worship or Eucharist.

We cannot speak of Ordinary Time without speaking of Sunday. The every seven-day celebration of the Lord’s Day is the basic struc­ture upon which the Church Year is built. The great liturgical seasons of Advent-Christmas and Lent-Easter are more expansive celebrations of particular aspects of the one paschal mystery which we celebrate every Lord’s Day. These special seasons focus our attention upon crit­ical dimensions of one mystery, a mystery so overwhelming that we are compelled to separate out its various elements for particular attention. These seasons in no way minimize the critical importance of the Sunday celebration throughout the rest of the year. Ordinary Time is not very ordinary at all. Ordinary Time, the celebration of Sunday, is the identifying mark of the Christian community which comes together, remembering that on this first day of the week the Lord of Life was raised up and creation came at last to completion.

All nations are invited to sing the Lord’s praises (1, Ps) for they have been called to hear the good news (2) and worship the long-awaited Messiah and King (3) with the gift of their lives.

ORDINARY TIME

“Besides the times of the year that have their own distinctive character, there remains in the yearly cycle thirty-three or thirty-four weeks in which no particular aspect of the mystery of Christ is celebrated, but rather the mystery of Christ himself is honored in its fullness, especially on Sundays. This period is known as Ordinary Time” (Universal Norms, 43).

  • Ordinary Time begins on Tuesday, 9 January, and continues through Tuesday, 13 February, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season. It will resume when the Easter season ends, that is, on Monday, 21 May, the day following Pentecost.
  • Vol. III of the Liturgy of the Hours is used until Ash Wednesday.
  • In the weekday Lectionary, the first reading is chosen from Cycle II.
  • Six forms of the solemn blessing (nos. 9-14) are provided in the Roman Missal (after the Order of Mass) for optional use during Ordinary Time, especially on Sundays.

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The Prophecy Fulfilled before Our Eyes  —         Pierre-Marie Dumont, Who still reads the great French prophets of the 201h century? Who still reads Peguy, Claudel, Bernanos, Saint-Exupery? Each, from his viewpoint, railed against the coming of the same abomi­nation: “their” civilization was dying. While this civilization ought to have been perfected, so that the Kingdom of God on earth could truly grow, all that had constituted its genius was soon to vanish. Materialism, hedonism, self-preoccupation (today it would be called “personal development”) was about to submerge beauty, goodness, and truth, along with the true Faith and the ancient virtues. The sign of the coming of the end of this world was that terrifying metropolises were already reducing rural, pastoral civili­zation to objects fit to fill their museums. Since then, this prophecy has been fulfilled. The fertile ground that nurtured our civilization has gone. Villages have been deserted. Human relationships have been virtualized. Faith and devotion are fading. The moral com­pass that, far from constraining free men, once guided them, has been distorted. The poor, humble and proud, with that magnificent nobility celebrated by Thornton Wilder, have disappeared from the social landscape.. . . .the Word of God would no longer immediately touch hearts and minds. He who, directly or indirectly, has never worked the good earth by the sweat of his brow, never experienced seedtimes and harvests, never tended sheep or saved a stray lamb, finds himself de facto distanced from the Gospel and its parables. Let us not be saddened: we find ourselves spurred on to deepen our understanding of the Word of God, to improve our prayerful reading of it—and let us not forget that our Lord Jesus Christ remains present to the world even until his return in glory. But why not take advantage of our vacations in the countryside to rediscover, with a touch of nostalgia, a drop of the sap that nourished the fervor of our fathers in faith?    Magnificat, July 2016, page 432. PurpleConeFlower_7(24)2009_IMG_0985

 

 

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An Independence Day Prayer     We pray you, 0 God of might, wisdom, and justice, through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with your Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to your people, over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality.Let the light of your divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.We pray for the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare,that they may be enabled, by your powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.We recommend likewise, to your unbounded mercy, all our fellow citizens throughout the United States, that we may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of your most holy law; that we may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.Grant this, we beseech you, 0 Lord of mercy, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.ARCHBISHOP JOHN CARROLLArchbishop Carroll (†1815) was a priest for the Society of Jesus, and the first bishop of the United States.Magnificat, July 2016, pages 62-63.

 

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What can I do to fast in communion with others?       Prayer is always joined to fasting. Fasting triggers in this season a remembrance to pray for those being brought to the font, to full communion or to reconciliation. Only after we have shared the absence can we come with full hearts to the paschal banquet.Nine things that Pope Francis called upon Vatican Employees to do:They apply to us all…

  • “Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, because this is the backbone of everything we do and everything we are.”
  • “Take care of your family life, giving your children and loved ones not just money, but most of all your time, attention, and love.”
  • “Take care of your relationships with others, transforming your faith into life and your words into good works, especially on behalf of the needy.”
  • “Be careful how you speak, purify your tongue of offensive words, vulgarity, and worldly decadence.”
  • “Heal wounds of the heart with the oil of forgiveness, forgiving those who have hurt us and medicating the wounds we have caused others.”
  • “Look after your work, doing it with enthusiasm, humility, competence, passion and with a spirit that knows how to thank the Lord.”
  • “Be careful of envy, lust, hatred, and negative feelings that devour our interior peace and transform us into destroyed and destructive people.
  • “Watch out for anger that can lead to vengeance; for laziness that leads to existential euthanasia; for pointing the finger at others, which leads to pride; and for complaining continually, which leads to desperation.”
  • “Take care of brothers and sisters who are weaker… the elderly, the sick, the hungry, the homeless and strangers, because we will be judged on this.”

It is a good list: It’s clearly rooted in Catholic teaching, but presented in a way that other Christian denominations can embrace as well. I am reasonably sure that all of us can find on this list at least one or two resolutions that speak to areas in which we really need to grow during this Lent.Have a good week and I’ll see you in church!Monsignor Jack 1-3-5


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  HOW THE CHURCH HAS CHANGED THE WORLD              

A Universe in a Grain   —          Anthony Esolen

A MAN SITS HUNCHED OVER A LONG OAK TABLE,              his eyes peering at a flat square of stretched and treated sheepskin before him. Scattered over the table are small pots of colors, the whites of eggs, and some glue rendered from the bones of fish. There are also quills of all sizes, and reeds, some sharp­ened to an almost invisible point. And herbs, berries, petals, stones crushed to powder, tiny flakes of gold and silver, and the oily soot from lamps—lampblack.

“Master,” says a boy coming into the room, “the tide is out and the merchant is on his way. He says to tell you that the mountains have given up their jewels. What does he mean?”

Only at low tide can a man cross on foot from the coast to the holy island.

“Ah, that is good news, good news indeed!” cries the artist, looking up from his work and smiling. He is speckled with colors upon his fingers and wrists and even his face, and though most of it he can wash away at nightfall, he will take a little of it happily to the grave with him. “It means that the lapis has come from India. Now will my Virgin wear her finest blue.”

“What is India?” says the boy, now leaning over the sheepskin. What he sees there is astonishing. Birds, branches, leaves, strange animals, interlacing shapes, in russet, saffron, rose, cornflower, wheaten, so involved, so woven in and among one another in such a bewildering tracery of graceful curves, it seemed that if you straightened them out from a single page you could string them out two miles from the island to the shore and back again.

“India is a land on the other side of the world,” says the man. “The mountains bear a rock called lapis lazuli, as blue as the twilight before the dawn, with sometimes a kiss of clear green in it. I have been waiting a whole year for that color.”

“Will it be heavy, this rock?” asks the boy.

“Heavy?” says Bishop Eadfrith. “No, not heavy. You could hold it in your hand.”

 DO NOT DESPISE THE SMALL

“Master,” asks the boy, “it seems a far distance to travel for something I could hold. Wouldn’t some crushed violets have done as well?”

Eadfrith was pricking out a flourish of red dots that even under a microscope, which of course he did not have, would appear like—a flourish of red dots. “No, not at all, my boy. The violets are dull. The lapis is filled with light.”

“Does God care for things so small?”

“Does he care for you and me? We are to him less than one of these red dots is to us.”

“Then how,” said the boy, now leaning upon the table and laying his head close to the master’s, studying each tiny stroke of the pen, “can God dwell within us?”

“He dwelt in the womb of the Virgin and was no bigger than the tip of this quill.”

“I cannot understand that, Master.”

Eadfrith continued to work, with a patience that seemed outside of time itself. The boy too absorbed the patience, so that whether the answer came in a moment or an hour, he could not tell.

“You are too small to understand it, and so am I.”

“Master,” said the boy, “are the words of God also small, the words that you write on the page?”

“Every jot and tittle,” said the master.

CHRIST OUR LIGHT

The boy cocked his head and looked back from the page. “These are letters,” he said. “I see it! All these birds and blades of grass and twigs and funny animals make up letters. But I don’t understand. What is an X and a P?”

The bishop laughed. “Oh, those are Greek letters. The Greeks, they lived far away also, sometimes on islands just like our Lindisfarne. The letter is called a chi,” he said, pro­nouncing it like key, “and the other is a rho. They are the first two letters of the name of honor borne by our Lord: Christos. That means He Who Has Been Anointed.”

“Because he was a king?”

“King and priest and Son of God.” “Have you also been anointed, Master?”

“Yes, I have been anointed bishop.” He then turned to a reed with a flat tip, and dipped it into the fish glue, with the lightest touch, then applied it to a flake of gold not a thousandth the part of a snowflake. He smiled but did not take his eyes from the work. “And you have been anointed.”

“I am a bishop?”

“You are a Christian. You are a little Christ. All Christians are.”

“But how can Christ who is the Son of God be in me?” “How indeed,” said the bishop.

THEY BRING GOOD TIDINGS

The boy gazed upon the manuscript as the bishop worked. They stayed so for a long time, like a father and son in a workshop.

“It is beautiful, Master,” said the boy.

“I am happy that it pleases you.”

“Why do we make the first page so beautiful?”

“I do not understand your question, my son,” said Eadfrith.

“I mean that the words are the words, whether they are decorated or not.”

“Ah yes, the words are the words.” Eadfrith smiled and thought about an argument he had had with a sort of vag­abond monk from the East, who wanted to rub out every image of Christ or Mary he could find. The man’s order had driven him out, and now he wandered around the world like Satan, looking for jobs to spoil.

“Imagine you are bringing good news to a village, that the Danes have been wrecked on the sea, and the peo­ple’s houses and farms will not be burned down, and their womenfolk and children will be safe. Would you bring that news with a frown?”

“No!” said the boy, laughing.

“Would you dress in black,” said Eadfrith, turning from his work with a mock-grimace, “and mumble your news like this,” and he did a wonderful impersonation of a tragedian, groaning.

“I would dress in red and gold, and I’d come in danc­ing!” said the boy.

“So we dress the Good News in red and gold, and come in dancing,” said the bishop.

HE VERY STONES DO SPEAK

Suddenly there was a bustle at the door, and in came a big bearded man with a sack over his shoulder. “Greetings, my lord!” he said. “All they from Saba and who knows where shall come bearing gifts.” He put the sack on the floor and loosened the strings, while the boy leaped from his bench and peered inside.

“Oswald my friend, God has brought you back to us safe and sound!” The bishop embraced him, ink and all.

“I have the deep blue lapis, and a kind that I have never seen,” said Oswald, and brought out of the sack what looked like a mass of light green shafts of ice frozen together, their edges and corners glinting. “Will you be able to make use of this, my lord of the quill and the reed?”

“Praise be to God,” said Eadfrith. “Two years have I worked on my Gospels, and now I see the completion drawing near.’ Then he turned to the boy. “Son, these precious stones come from a pagan land, and we will crush the stones and use their light to bring light to the pagans themselves.”

“Even the Danes?”

“The Danes most of all. What Danish king on his throne, surrounded by thanes with their swords adorned in worm forms and monster-forms, will not gaze in wonder at this book for the King of kings? Even if he doesn’t understand the words, the very stones will speak to him—the glory of the world that God has made, and the beauty of the Word that shines in it.”

 WHY HIDE THE LIGHT UNDER A BASKET?

Bishop Eadfrith (†721) is considered to be the artist who gave to the world perhaps the most remarkable work of book-art ever executed, the Lindisfarne Gospels. The book itself, now in the British Museum, survived an attack by the Danes and being lost in the sea for several days; it is something of a miracle that we still have it. It is perhaps a greater miracle that it was made in the first place. We could learn much from the man whose love brought it to the light.

Christians should take the lead in all of the arts, because we have the consummate artist to imitate and a subject for our art that cannot be surpassed: the God made Man, to raise small and sinful man to the house of God. And why should we be hesitant to call upon the arts in the work of bringing the Good News to an old and weary world? Glorious things of thee are spoken, 0 Sion, city of our God.

(Anthony Esolen is professor and writer-in-residence at Thomas More College in N.H., translator and editor of Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House), and author of The Beauty of the Word: A Running Commentary on the Roman Missal (MAGNIFICAT).          Magnificat, January 2018, pages 211-216.

 

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