Pictures of Christ

I always find pictures of Jesus fascinating. Some I like, some I don't - but they always seem to touch a deep interest in me. I am intrigued by what Jesus may have looked like.

{Quote here removed - see comments for explanation}

Here are two paintings by Heinrich Hofmann. Do you like them?
Picture from www.allposters.co.uk

Picture from www.allposters.co.uk

Here is another one of St Ignatius' famous prayers. I remember this from my school days - it made quite an impression on me and always triggers emotion in me whenever I hear it - a feeling like something is expanding in my chest!

Do any prayers make you feel this way? Picture from www.allposters.co.uk Item #: 927500


St. Ignatius' Prayer for Generosity

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.


I would so love to have a one-to-one with Ignatius!

A stunning truth from the father of Methodism:

Beware you are not swallowed up in books!
An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.

John Wesley


I suppose we could also now retranslate that as:

Beware you are not swallowed up by the Internet!
An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge/Facebook.

John Wesley for the twenty-first century!


I am, of course, largely speaking to myself here!

From Psalm 63:

O God, you are my God,
early will I seek you.
My flesh longs for you,
my soul thirsts for you,
in a barren and dry land where there is no water


Picture from www.allposters.co.uk - St. Augustine in His Studio - Botticelli
St Augustine - one of the early Latin church fathers - was brought up in the Christian faith by his mother, Monica, but in his early adult years chose to go his own way and lived a dissipated and wild life-style. From about age 30, he was influenced by St Ambrose but it took him a few years of struggle to come to a point of baptism and commitment. (Many of us know that feeling).

He was ordained priest a few years after his baptism, became bishop of Hippo in 395 and he became ascetic and frugal in his habits. Confessions is one of his most famous written works - these works have influenced the Christian church greatly through the centuries. He has both critics and fans!

This is his famous prayer Late have I love you:
Late have I loved you,
O Beauty so ancient and so new,
late have I loved you!
You were within me, but I was outside,
and it was there that I searched for you.
In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
Created things kept me from you;
yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all.
You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.
You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness.
You breathed your fragrance on me;
I drew in breath and now I pant for you.
I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.
You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

The Examen - on youtube!

The examen on youtube

More information on the Examen here.

The Examen - The Review of the Day

The examen is a way of praying each day (usually towards the end of the day) to try to discern where the spirit of God has been moving throughout the day and to discern your response. St Ignatius of Loyola described this way of praying in the sixteenth century and it is a fundamental part of Ignatian (Jesuit) spirituality. There are a few different ways of describing how to do the examen but this is one method I find helpful. Why not try it for ten or fifteen minutes tonight?


1. Relax in God's presence - find a quiet spot, turn your thoughts and your feelings towards God.


2. Think back over all the good things of today - be specific - the lovely early morning cup of tea, the meeting with a friend, the sunshine, the kind word...
If it's been a lousy day, then remember your strengths that have helped you through it.
Say 'Thank you' to God with your mind and in your emotions.


3. Now ask for the Holy Spirit's enlightenment to reveal to you more deeply what the day has brought for you. Let yourself open to God - I like to imagine a flower opening its petals in the sunshine. You might want to express this physically by opening your arms.


4. This next step takes the most time. Review the day and examine, in the light of God's love, what you have felt through this day - your moods, your emotions, your ups and downs, and your responses. How has what has happened today impacted on you? How have you impacted on events and on others?


This is not a time for self-flaggelation. Simply run through the happenings of the day, recalling your responses and noting them. Then take some time to ask yourself for each thing you bring to mind:

- Did my response to this help me or hinder me in my spiritual life and growth?
- Did my response allow Christ to be seen in me or was I distracted by other things?


Do not beat yourself up. The idea of this is to become more self-aware and, in becoming more self-aware, to become more open to God and God's promptings. Allow God to challenge you but also to encourage you and lead you forward.


If you are short of time, then choose just one or two of the significant happenings of the day and concentrate on those during this review.


5. Now take a few minutes to have a conversation with God about your understanding of the day. Put it into words.
I like to imagine, at this point, that Jesus is sitting beside me and that we have a talk together about the day. This might be the time to say sorry for those mistakes!
Then turn your conversation to tomorrow and ask for God's help and for an awareness of God's perception of the events of the next day.


Finish by saying the prayer that Jesus taught us to say:
Our Father...


If done regularly, the examen can be a way of growing in understanding of ourselves and of God's actions both in the world and in/through us. It can enable us to become more open to the Spirit's promptings and to point us in the way of becoming more Christ-like.


Other methods for the examen:

From New Orleans Province Jesuits website

From St Beuno's website

A less structured examen from Comtemplative Christian blog

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said some amazing things.

This is one of my favourites:

For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder.
Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth.
Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate.
Darkness cannot put out darkness. Only light can do that.

Picture from www.allposters.co.uk Item #: 1750915

Only a spark
Picture from www.allposters.co.uk Item #: 2058401
I am only a spark;
make me a fire.
I am only a string;
make me a lyre.
I am only a drop;
make me a fountain.
I am only an ant hill;
make me a mountain.
I am only a feather;
make me a wing.
I am only a rag;
make me a king.


Taken from A Prayer Treasury - Lion Publishing

New Reflections Facebook Group

I have created a new group on Facebook called Reflections - Exploring Christian Spritiuality for people to share thoughts about their prayer life, types of spirituality they prefer etc.

You can use the Facebook link on the top toolbar to get there.


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Now that Holy Week has ended, I will be returning to adding two or three posts a week to this site rather than daily posts.

Thank you all for your support.

ReJesus Labyrinth

Take your time...

Have your sound switched on...

Enjoy - the labyrinth

Easter Day 2009

Jesus said to her, “Mary!”

Easter Day can be a time of new hope, of joy, of renewal and transformation. I nearly wrote 'is' there instead of 'can be' but I thought back to other Easters in my life which have been bleak, lonely and depressing. Maybe for some of you reading this, this Easter is a time of trouble and struggle.

But it can be a time of new hope, of joy, of renewal and transformation. I'd like to suggest a little exercise today - even if you are in the middle of difficult times. Sometimes, we have to hasten the transformation - allow it to gain a little toe-hold in our lives - allow God a little room for manoeuvre. So, here goes:

Make a special moment today to be by yourself to pray.
Have some paper and a pencil or pen with you.
Find a quiet spot and settle yourself comfortably...

Now, write down five positive things about yourself...

Remember - God can see many more than five –
but you write down five of those positive things...

Then in a moment of quiet...
        read them aloud,
        give thanks for them,
        allow our risen Lord to come to you,
                to speak your name and say ‘Well done’.

Now rest in God's love for you.

And the blessing of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit be with you and remain with you and with those whom you love - this day and forevermore.
Amen

He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

On this day of waiting - pausing - before our great day of celebration, I would like to share with you this meditation from Creighton University in Nabraska, USA.

We are fortunate - for we know the whole story - but those followers of Jesus must have found this day almost unendurable.

Meditating with the mother of James and John

Good Friday

From Allposters.co.uk - Item #: 2541625Crucifixion, British Museum, London
Artist: Michelangelo

Allposters.co.uk
Item #: 2541625
See link on right

This is the last of four posts during Holy Week, 2009, featuring peoms by R S Thomas. During our Holy Week services, our own local poet - Andrew Rudd - has been guiding us with his choices of Thomas's poems and some reflective thoughts.

The poems that Andrew Rudd has chosen for today - Maundy Thursday, 2009 - are below.

Would anyone like to share their thoughts on them?

Counterpoint

When we are weak, we are
strong. When our eyes close
on the world, then somewhere
within us the bush

burns. When we are poor
and aware of the inadequacy
of our table, it is to that
uninvited, the guest comes


Gift

Some ask the world
and are diminished
in the receiving
of it. You gave me

only this small pool
that the more I drink
from, the more overflows
me with sourceless light.

This is the third of four posts during Holy Week 2009 featuring peoms by R S Thomas.

The poem that Andrew Rudd has chosen for today - Wednesday in Holy Week, 2009 - is one called 'The Hand'.

The Hand

It was a hand. God looked at it
and looked away. There was a coldness
about his heart, as though the hand
clasped it. As at the end
of a dark tunnel, he saw cities
the hand would build, engines
that it would raze them with. His sight
dimmed. Tempted to undo the joints
of the fingers, he picked it up.
But the hand wrestled with him. "Tell
me your name," it cried, "and I will write it
in bright gold. Are there not deeds
to be done, children to make, poems
to be written. The world
is without meaning, awaiting
my coming." But God, feeling the nails
in his side, the unnerving warmth
of the contact, fought on in
silence. This was the long war with himself
always foreseen, the question not
to be answered. What is the hand
for? The immaculate conception
preceding the delivery
of the first tool? “I let you go,”
he said, “but without blessing.
Messenger to the mixed things
Of your making, tell them I am.”


Some of you, like me, may find this a difficult poem. I suggest you read it again before reading my thoughts below. Once more, I was unable to make the service in Holy Week where Andrew led the thoughts on this poem, so I am unable to summarise his words. But here are some of mine.

I had to read this poem a few times before, in any way, getting to grips with it. I then continued to reflect on it during yesterday. The progress of my thoughts followed this pattern:

  1. Incomprehension. Struggle. What is the hand?
  2. The hand signifies mankind (I am supposed to say 'humankind' here!). God is struggling with knowing the consequences of creation.
  3. The hand signifies God's own creative instinct. God struggles with the consequences of God's own creativity, which is leading towards the creation of a being in God's image and, therefore, with a creative instinct of its own.

Perhaps you have other thoughts? And what about 'without blessing'. I wonder what was going through Thomas's mind when he wrote that?

Enjoy your reflections.


This is the second of four posts during Holy Week 2009.

The poem that Andrew Rudd had chosen for today - Tuesday in Holy Week, 2009 - is one called 'The Coming'. I was unable to attend the service where he gave his reflection so I cannot share the gist of his thoughts with you. However, I can share mine!

I find this an amazing poem - one that causes an intake of my breath whenever I read it. Probably because, each time that I do read it, I get another small glimpse into the nature of divine love. Sometimes those glimpses are fleeting - just when you think you have grasped something, it slips from your understanding. But you are always left with the memory of that revelation - the revelation that there is something greater, more encompassing, far more incomprehensible that we can ever imagine.

So I leave you with the poem by R S Thomas:

The Coming

And God held in his hand
A small globe. Look he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows: a bright
Serpent, a river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
With slime.

On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky. Many people
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said.


Many blessings.

Monday in Holy Week

From Monday to Thursday of this special week, the church I attend - St Laurence, Frodsham - will be having a communion service at 7.30pm each evening. During these services we will be reflecting on Holy Week, helped by the poetry of R S Thomas. Our own local poet - Andrew Rudd - is guiding us with his choices of Thomas's poems and some reflective thoughts.

Tonight Andrew chose the following poem:

The Bright Field

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receeding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

From Allposters.co.uk - Item #: 4797354

Andrew spoke of the importance of the present moment - rather than the past or the future - and the wonder of those occasional transcendent moments when we experience something of 'the other' - of God. It was a very moving reflection, touching all those present very deeply and we are very grateful to Andrew - who is also a Reader at St Laurence - for his thoughtfulness and wisdom.

These services are quiet, reflective Eucharists with no singing. If you are in the Frodsham area during Holy Week 2009, you would be most welcome to join us.

Have any 'transcendent' moments been particularly important to you?

Quote from Day 38 of the 2009Tearfund Carbon Fast:

'Aspire not to have more, but to be more.'

Archbishop Oscar Romero

This was part of a Quiet Morning in church amongst the 'Nets' - Wendy Rudd's textile project in the Lady Chapel.

John 10:27-30Part of the Nets Exhibition
My sheep know my voice, and I know them. They follow me, and I give them eternal life, so that they will never be lost. No one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father gave them to me, and he is greater than all others. No one can snatch them from his hands, and I am one with the Father.
Deuteronomy 33:27
The eternal God is your dwelling place and underneath are the everlasting arms.

Imagine an acrobat in a circus...

Beneath her she has a large safety net. If she makes a mistake, if she slips, if she makes a misjudgement – her fall is broken by the gentleness of the safety net.

God’s grace is our safety net.

When we hurt others – we are caught by God’s mercy.
When we ourselves are hurt – we are caught by God’s love.
We are ultimately safe in God’s hand.

From Allposters.co.uk - Item #: 914540

Amen, loving God.

Further resource

Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr

Always lovely - it's a shame that we see it so often that its loveliness can be overlooked.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him in the next.
Amen

I love the word 'serenity'. It embodies much of what I long for in life. And its something that increases with age - unlike most other things which decrease with age!