A Meditation on “Bread” in Matthew’s Gospel

February 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Lord’s Prayer.  And the enigmatic phrase related to “daily bread”.  Enigmatic because the prayer uses a word for “bread” which apparently was so little used in Greek (and nobody knows the presumed Aramaic equivalent used by Jesus) – that now nobody knows exactly how to interpret that part of a prayer so well known to all of us.

So, here goes…  Based on the petition for bread from the Lord’s Prayer – as the theme of bread resonates  across Matthew’s Gospel – and possibly dovetails with another theme close to my heart – that of God’s Rest.  (I’m thinking of the beloved quote:  “Come to me all you…  and I will give you rest.”)  Let me anticipate by adding that another title for this post might have been:  Jesus – Source of Sabbath Rest. 

Let’s start with the first reference to “bread” in Matthew’s Gospel.  Maybe this will surprise you:  “Jesus was born in Bethlehem…”  Bethlehem means House of Bread.  Now, recall that only two gospels provide information on  Christ’s birth… but in two different locations.  So if Matthew states he was born in Bethlehem, should we see meaning in that?  You can choose not to, but I’m going to entertain the idea that Matthew (or his tradition) had reason to flag House of Bread as the earthly origin of Emmanuel (God with us) .  

Doesn’t that just start your neurons tingling???

Moving right along…  Our next meeting with the word bread comes in the desert when the Tempter says to Jesus:  “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  Once again, two gospels (the same two) reference such a temptation.  Luke words it slightly differently and has Jesus answer only that “one does not live by bread alone” while Matthew extends that by adding “but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  And Matthew also tells us that Jesus is quoting scripture when he uses that reply – in a quote from Deuteronomy:

He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Wow!  Now we’ve got humility, hunger, and a mysterious kind of feeding – from the Lord’s mouth to ours.  Word = Bread.  Bread of Life.  Word of Life.  And a connection to the Torah, specifically to the book which constitutes Moses relaying God’s teachings – akin to Matthew’s portrayal of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount – a teaching centered around the Lord’s Prayer.  Which is itself centered around the request for bread.

And if we look closely at the Sermon on the Mount, we find it bracketed at its beginning and end by allusions to bread:  a reference to “hungering and thirsting” smack in the middle of the Beatitudes which begin the Sermon in Chapter 5; and the command in Chapter 7 to “ask… search… knock” with the promise that “the door will be opened” – illustrated by the very image of a child asking for bread and God’s gifts being akin to a parent granting her child’s request.  So we again have a connection with bread – as the image of God’s goodness and graciousness, blessing us for hungering and thirsting (for righteousness/justice, etc.), where prayer and action on behalf of the Kingdom  are somehow linked in meaning with images of  “word” and “bread”.   To stretch the image even further, one could imagine the kneading of dough – water and wheat, salt and yeast – as putting the Sermon into practice, following the recipe, so to speak.  Prayer and the Holy Spirit – being perhaps the condition of dough becoming bread.  (Ok, yes, it’s a stretch – but this is meditation, not a proof!)

I could practically rest my case here.  But indulge me a bit longer…

Scripture is so rich!  As I’ve said before, it’s like a symphony, a harmonic whole, conversing with itself.

So now we take what may appear to be a bit of side trip, where I’m going to present a quote and then comment upon its placement, because it’s the placement, I think, that will help us connect this quote with the theme of bread that I’ve been following.  Like a trail of breadcrumbs…  here’s the next bit:

 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

Now rest concerns the Sabbath.  (God rested on the 7th day.)  And immediately following Jesus invitation to take his yoke (recall that Yoke for a Jew suggests the Yoke of the Torah =  God’s Teaching, his Word of Life)…  Immediately (!) we have a story where Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath.  And Matthew has Jesus justify his disciples’ plucking heads of grain and eating them by reminding the Pharisees that David and his men, when hungry “entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence.”  Among other important things, Jesus also tells them (us):  “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”

Wow!  Lord of the SabbathImmediately following the promise of rest – if we will just take his yoke, learn from him, God-with-us, “gentle and humble of heart.”  And Matthew soon provides this wonderful quote from Isaiah:

‘Here is my servant, whom I have chosen,
my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not wrangle or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
He will not break a bruised reed
or quench a smouldering wick
until he brings justice to victory.
   And in his name the Gentiles will hope.’

So many allusions in that quote.  Reminds us of the recent Baptism story (just before the desert fasting and temptations), the Gospel message – even to the Gentiles – and the gentle invitation to us all in the quote promising rest, that Jesus’ yoke is one that “will not break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick…”

But let’s back up just a minute.  For I’ve given you part of the context for the quote promising rest (which is what follows in the Sabbath story).  But I need to provide what exactly precedes the invitation, which is a quote more reminiscent of John’s Gospel than of Matthew’s.  A quote which appears in John’s Gospel at the Last Supper (umm…. think bread!) just prior to the footwashing (an action which stands, in John’s Gospel, where the Eucharistic event is recalled by the synoptics).  I’m going to give the whole of the quote, for its seems to be part of a prayer – but I will flag in bold the words which most interest me (and match those prior to the footwashing):

At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Followed by “Come to me….  and I will give you rest.”  Rest…  the Sabbath.  Given by God as a time and a commandment.  Now entrusted to Jesus, who offers us both companionship and rest.

Ok, I know this is getting really long.  Long story short:  Matthew’s Gospel offers two miraculous feedings.  Should we take special note of that?  Yes!  One in Chapter 14.  Another in Chapter 15.  Smack in the middle of this Gospel.  Both in the context of crowds who’ve come out to listen to his teaching, to follow this man whose words and deeds are so powerful.  Unlike John there is no lengthy mystical preaching on Jesus as the Bread of Life.  But we know that already:  Jesus comes from Bethlehem; he offers God’s rest (with all its biblical implications of wholeness, healing, eternal Life).

Finally, as we all know, Jesus, at the Last Supper, identifies himself with bread that has been blessed and broken to feed his disciples.

I end with a reference to the monastic view of reading and internalizing scripture.  There is an image of meditating upon it as one would chew bread.  Ruminating.  (Think of a cow chewing its cud.)

There’s a huge amount of commentary on whether the Lord’s Prayer asks only for physical breadThere’s nothing wrong, of course, in praying the prayer that way.  But somehow I’m not convinced, that Matthew wants to limit our understanding of the prayer that way.  Bread is just too rich a symbol.  To waste.  S0  …  Go for the mystical!


A Ruler Who Is To Shepherd

January 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

God is a Verb:  “A ruler who is to Shepherd.”  This, I think, is a crucial meaning of Christ’s proclamation:  “The Kingdom of God has come near.”

God is not a Taskmaster, sitting on the sidelines, ready to dole out standards or exact vengeance – even if sometimes scripture might appear to point this way.  We humans, at times trapped more in our childhood issues than steeped in the Gospel, are in constant need of pruning when it comes to such images of God.

Last week the words in the title above leaped out at me.  They come from the second chapter of Matthew in a quote which is a composite from several verses in Micah – a prophecy about the Messiah.

I had a flood of allusions.  A blog I wrote a while back about a true shepherd.  The connection with Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God or God’s Rule, as it is sometimes translated.  The Loving Kindness of our God – Imaged in Jesus:  Someone who comes among us as both Lamb of God and Shepherd – with all the exquisite images of protecting, feeding, leading, watching out for, rescuing, healing which Micah describes so eloquently.  God as a Verb – creating, speaking, ever seeking, acting.  Always Reaching Out – in Love.  Finally sending his Son to show us what our dense minds refuse to believe or trust.

Why is it so hard for us?

Well, the blessing is that Jesus knows this too:  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Our Shepherd knows the experience of a lamb – at a time of ultimate trial.  Just like our own experience – in times of trouble, confusion, anguish, anxiety, hurt, anger – all those negative emotions trapping us inside our own heads, leading us to forget that – even if trapped – our Shepherd is with us – God is with us – “as a Mother cannot forget her child”.

So when we come upon all those authors, including Matthew, who urge us to discipline (abandon) ourselves, and be docile, obedient servants, we mustn’t lose sight of what even Matthew reminds us in his second chapter:  The Rule of God entails a Mystery.  A Ruler who is To Shepherd and a Shepherd who is simultaneously God’s Lamb.  The Spirit testifies to this.

Holy Mystery.  Mind-blowing!

Pondering the Perplexing Personality of Paul

January 19, 2013 § 2 Comments

I’ll confess from the outset:  For a long time, I had trouble appreciating St. Paul.  Eventually I came to really treasure Paul’s mystical side, his lyrical, poetic passages and prayers.   But even then, Preachy Paul, who could be something of a scold, sorely tried my patience. 

I am no scholar of Paul.  Nor am I any kind of expert on scripture.  But lately I’ve gained some compassion for Paul’s tendency to be judgmental and scolding. How or why this change of perspective on Paul came about I can’t explain.  It’s a good feeling when God changes your heart.  And that’s what this feels like.

God’s mercy is never-ending.  And it often comes when (and how) we least expect it.  Even at times when we may least deserve it.  I can attest to that – from my own experience.  And Paul is a perfect example!

This Mercy of God, so Undeserved, so Relentless in its pursuit of people.  Well, to me it’s one of the greatest proofs of God’s unique care for each of us, God’s stunning willingness to upend things and prod us to rethink and change direction.

So I think of Paul.  A scholar of Jewish law.  A zealot, by his own admission.  A party to persecution.  A witness to martyrdom.  A tent-maker.  A man who kept the Commandments.  Was zealous about prayer, scrupulous about performing the duties of a pious Jew.  And who, for a time, felt deputized to scour the countryside in search  of wayward Jews… new followers of a strange prophet, who’d been crucified and was rumored to have been raised from the dead.

We know very little about Paul before his conversion.  But from the little we know, we have to assume, I think, that he was a passionate man.  That he had a passion for God.  A passion for Torah.  A passion to take matters into his own hands?  It would appear so.  A bit prideful?  That too.  Hasty at times?  He was definitely a man on a mission.   Judgmental?  Yes, indeedy!

Now we know even less about God’s choice of Paul.  But from the disciples Jesus chose, we can make some assumptions.  We can think of Moses and Abraham and Jacob – all chosen as well.  We can think of prophetsso many of whom tried to decline the Divine intervention in their lives, viewing themselves as sinful or not up to the task.

But Paul is unique in a sense.  An intellectual.  A zealot on a self-chosen mission.  A man versed in Torah.  Venerating Torah.  So dedicated to Torah he was willing to exterminate those he viewed as veering off the Torah path.  But a man who turned on a dime, so to speak.  Becoming one with those he was persecuting.  Because Jesus’ appearance, especially his words – “Why are you persecuting me?” – made it clear that Jesus was ONE with them.

It seems to me that Paul’s mystical side relates especially to this encounter with Jesus.  To the moment when his whole life was turned inside out and upside down.  When Holy Mystery took hold of him and, suddenly, he knew this Mystery – to be the Risen Christ.  And his judgmental side?  I wonder if that is the thorn in his flesh, which bothered (and humbled) him.  We all have these limitations.  Yet God pursues us and bids us welcome… nonetheless.  I find that very comforting.

The Divine Symphony

July 9, 2012 § 3 Comments

Scripture is like a symphony.  One does not listen to just one note or one measure or one chord or one theme.  Scripture vibrates and resonates.  There are echoes one can hear.  One musical instrument answering another.  Or questioning.  Cymbals clashing.  Silences.  Conversations.  The sounds of water.  Of trees rustling.  If you listen closely.  If you read with heart tuned.  Scripture arose through such a process.  And it remains alive for those who steep themselves (in it) as one steeps tea.

This morning I was reading Psalm 39 (40) – depending upon how one counts the psalms.  And I heard it speaking, not just to me, but to the end of John’s Gospel.   Or you could say I understood that the end of John’s Gospel was like an echo/commentary on verses of that psalm.  And hearing the melody gave me new insight into what the writer of John was doing.  For when one hears such a melody it is like a cue to await further reverberations hidden in both texts.

Origin was a master at this way of reading scripture.  Like someone weaving an exquisite tapestry, he moves back and forth throughout the entire Bible – using vibrant colored threads to create images and metaphors as he brings to life a text – through other texts.   He is both breathtaking and charming.  And I’ve only just begun to drink deeply at the wells he’s opened up, whose waters have seeped into much of spiritual and theological writing (in spite of his being martyred as a heretic).

But I digress…

Let’s start with the end of John’s Gospel.  Which is probably familiar to many.  Its final verse [John 21:25] reads:

But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

And now listen to this verse from Psalm 40 (Grail Version):

6 How many, O LORD my God,

are the wonders and designs

that you have worked for us;

you have no equal.

Should I wish to proclaim or speak of them,

they would be more than I can tell!

Now, whether or not this is the real ending to John is not our concern here.  But this resonance between the Old and New Testaments, between prayer (the psalm) and announcing the Good News (the Gospel) is just one example of what occurs all over the place in scripture.  It is exactly the method the resurrected Christ taught the disciples on the Road to Emmaus.  A method clearly understood and practiced by Origin. 

John’s Gospel can usefully be read as a call to decision.  As a witness to events, which prompts a response.  Indeed its penultimate verse hints at a community which seems to endorse the Gospel writer as:  “the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true.”  A community of converts one has to assume.  Perhaps even a community whose members might have experienced conversion in the manner of psalm 40 [NRSV]:

1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2 He drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.

4 Happy are those who make
the Lord their trust,
who do not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after false gods.
5 You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts towards us;
none can compare with you.
Were I to proclaim and tell of them,
they would be more than can be counted.

6 Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt-offering and sin-offering
you have not required.
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
8 I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.’

9 I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.

11 Do not, O Lord, withhold
your mercy from me;
let your steadfast love and your faithfulness
keep me safe for ever.
12 For evils have encompassed me
without number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
until I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails me.

13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me;
O Lord, make haste to help me.
14 Let all those be put to shame and confusion
who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonour
who desire my hurt.
15 Let those be appalled because of their shame
who say to me, ‘Aha, Aha!’

16 But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’
17 As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God.

I hope perhaps this psalm may be your guide to a closer reading of John’s Gospel (and its impact on you).  Just as Luke’s story of the disciples on the Road to Emmaus (and their subsequent carrying of Jesus’ message back to Jerusalem) resonates like an opening theme or interpretive key – for the Gospel it immediately precedes.   Opening our eyes to the fact that nothing in scripture stands by itself.

This is just one tiny example of the power of the Divine Symphony which plays in Scripture.  And of which we ourselves are a part.  We too are words spoken by our Creator.  Notes in the cosmic symphony.  Like musical instruments awaiting the Spirit’s breath to come to life.   Exactly as the psalmist did in the words above.

3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.

“And I will give you Rest”

May 21, 2012 § 2 Comments

Do you have one quote from Scripture that has stayed with you for decades?  Something you’ve pondered deeply?  Which runs, like a refrain, through your life?  Lives within you?

Here’s mine:

28 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

(from Matthew 11: 25-30)

Now the link above actually gives you both the quote and its the foregoing context.  (A context that links to the foot-washing in John 13.)  But from my childhood, when I first heard the words, nearly 60 years ago, the “come to me” has resonated so deeply.  And through the years individual words and phrases, ones you find all over the Bible, these too, I’ve pondered again and again:  ComeRestMercy in a gentle, caring God.  Offering peace and rest.  A personal call.  The sense of mission – which actually scared me as a child of 8 or 9.  (What would God ask of me?)

I love that quote.

But now I know more.  Now I see that Jesus is revealing Divinity.  And sharing it.  Offering a share in Himself.   Offering more than YHWH offers Moses:

14He said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’

(Exodus 33:14)

Presence.  Rest.  Indwelling.  The spiritual reality we are given at Baptism.  The summit of our spiritual journey – if we live into it.

There’s so much here.  This is enough for now.

More Musing on the Footwashing

April 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s very interesting how liturgical dates affect us, even if they are out of sync, so to speak.  Ash Wednesday did that to me (a liturgical date that is not marked within Orthodoxy, but surely happened in my heart).  And now it’s Holy Thursday, one week early (in terms of the Orthodox celebration this year).  Nonetheless, here I am, musing on the Foot Washing, and feeling the need to write up some thoughts I’ve been pondering for a while.

The icon above shows us the disciples taking off their sandals.  Which reminds me of the Burning Bush and the words to Moses:  Take off your shoes.  For this is Holy Ground.”  And since icons are part of Tradition, one has to wonder if the Icon itself is intended to remind us of Moses’ first encounter with Holy Mystery  (YHWH).  We certainly cannot discount that.

But actually we have no description of this in John’s Gospel.  Instead, I think, we are (perhaps) reminded of the First Chapter of John, where John himself assures us, “Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.

So I wonder…  as Jesus went from disciple to disciple, even as Peter tried to stop him, did Jesus not only wash feet but untie sandals to do so?  For if untying sandals is a lowly task, how much more lowly the task of washing feet?  We are left to ponder this as well, for John provides no clues.

Two things have struck me of late.  The first one is a link between the Foot Washing (John, Chapter 13) and  the discourse on the Vine and the Branches (John, Chapter 15).   And the second relates to the kind of humility asked of us, not the kind we usually think of (to follow the example of the foot-washing in terms of our brothers and sisters), but the very command that to receive a share in the Divine Life we must hand ourselves over to the one who seeks to wash our feet, something we, like Peter, shrink from.  For it is almost inconceivable to what lengths the Holy One will go in search of us, in a desire to heal and cleanse us, in an insistent yearning to unite with us, as the very Holy Ground upon which we walk and out of which we grow:  An inner and outer Abiding, which is our very Life.  To which we must freely submit.  For it is not something we can do on our own.

So where do I get this idea that the Foot Washing (Chapter 13) connects to the Vine and Branches (Chapter 15) in John’s Gospel?  Once again, while I have no command of Greek, I am told in various sources that the Greek word for “cleanse, make clean” is the same word as “prune, take away, cut off” – a term which appears only in these two chapters of John, only in reference to the foot-washing (the interchange with Peter) and the pruning of branches.  Hmmm….

In Chapter 15, we are told that the pruning of the branches is the work of the Father.  And that the cleansing occurs through the action of the Word:

bear fruit

15 ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.

Compare this to Chapter 13 where Peter at first refuses to have his feet washed:

6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ 7Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ 8Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ 9Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ 10Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’

And what is this share we receive through the washing?  I think Chapter 15 provides a clue:

4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.

7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. 9As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.

12 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Once again, the “LOVE Command” (in relation to the Vine and Branches) – already stated in Chapter 13 after the Foot Washing (following an announcement of Jesus’ coming glorification):

34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

And underlying all of this, I think, the singular and amazing point, underscored in Chapter 15, in connection with the Love Command:

16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last…

The foot-washing, it seems to me, emphasizes an almost maternal care and love, including even the description of the Beloved Disciple resting on Jesus’ breast, together with an insistence that we, too, beloved disciples, must accept this painstaking, attentive care, turning ourselves over (in an almost childlike dependency) to an indwelling and personal intimacy, wherein the Divine Life permeates and transforms us.  And I think that the allusions (within the foot-washing) to the Vine and the Branches, together with the command to go and bear fruit, suggests our spiritual priesthood, where the pressed fruit is at times spoken of in Hebrew as the blood of the grape.

So, yes, I’ve been pondering….

But there is yet one more aspect to the Foot Washing, which complements and extends what I’ve already said.  (And by no means have I exhausted the meaning of this Chapter!)  For the foot-washing is preceded by an interesting comment:

3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

Now the wonderful thing about scripture, to my mind, is how words, phrases, verses, whole stories in one place resonate with other parts of scripture.  (Like the ringing of a bell I once heard as if I my whole self was also resonating.)  And while I cannot assure you that the quote I am about to make really does fit with the words in bold above, nevertheless, given the connections between Jesus as Word (present at the Creation we are assured from John’s Prologue) and Old Testament descriptions of Wisdom‘s power and role within creation itself, there is something cosmic going on here – at this banquet:

1 All wisdom is from the Lord,
and with him it remains for ever.
2 The sand of the sea, the drops of rain,
and the days of eternity—who can count them?
3 The height of heaven, the breadth of the earth,
the abyss, and wisdom—who can search them out?
4 Wisdom was created before all other things,
and prudent understanding from eternity.
6 The root of wisdom—to whom has it been revealed?
Her subtleties—who knows them?
8 There is but one who is wise, greatly to be feared,
seated upon his throne—the Lord.
9 It is he who created her;
he saw her and took her measure;
he poured her out upon all his works,
10 upon all the living according to his gift;
 he lavished her upon those who love him.         (Sirach 1: 1-10)

Everything She is Called to, We are Called to

April 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mary, Theotokos and so much more!  God-Bearer.  Disciple.  Priesthood Personified.  Divinization.   Spirit Bearer.    Not necessarily in that order.

In the post which precedes this post, I laid the groundwork for what I hope to do here.  I provided a scriptural underpinning for our common humanity with both Mary and her son (who receives his humanity from her and wants to share his Divinity with us).

Instead of just putting my comments into words, I hope to do so through images.  For it is not just a saying that “one picture is worth a thousand words” but indeed our right hemisphere codes meaning in “flashes” you might say, in imagery, packing “wholeness” for us, which pages and pages of words can only try to unpack.

So without further ado, I want to present several images.  Images which “show” what I hope to say here, images which tell us theological truths about Mary, the Theotokos, and also about our own calling, to be transformed into God-Bearers ~ in order to exercise a Priestly Callingto bring all things into Christ.

First, the Burning Bush.  The image par excellence of God’s fiery Love and Presence – in our hearts:



We are all called.

As Moses was called.

As Mary was called.


We live into it.

As best we can.

Most HOLY Theotokos

Mary, Theotokos, tells us everything

I’m trying to say.


Life-Giving Spring

Heart Streams:

Our hearts and Mary’s heart.

Streams of Life running through us.

The Gift of Tears.

The Sacred in the Ordinary.

Inner Liturgy of the Heart.

A Heart crushed and broken!

On Fire with Love!


Mary’s Calling and our Calling.  The inner priesthood of the heart.  Note Mary’s upturned hands in the orans or priestly position.  The inner Christ.  Presiding in Temple of our Heart.  The flame of the Spirit within our hearts.

See Alexander Golitzin’s wonderful paper (in two parts) on Liturgy and Mysticism, which does a far better job than I could ever do in putting all this together.  See also this wonderful description by him of the Place of the Presence of God – in the living presence of a divinized holy person.  (These articles require time and attention, but yield much fruit!)

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