O Key of David! Opening Wide to the Thrill of Hope

prison

We're all prisoners, every damn one of us. The more free we declare ourselves to be, the more restraints we chafe at and goads we prick against, the tighter we're bound. You're not the boss of me! we shout---at the Church, the government, each other, God---but inside, we know better. All our running and rebelling and freak-flag waving and commitment phobia is just distraction from the shadows the bars cast over our lonely lives. Guess what? That's GOOD news. Because it's only when we … [Read more...]

O Root of Jesse! Grant Us Patience, and Step On It!

tree of jesse

Time. This time of year, we're obsessed with it, because there's never enough of it. Counting down the days, opening the doors of the Advent calendar, frantically checking the last-date-for-Christmas-delivery schedule. Weaving holiday parties and extra baking and penitential services and the kids' concerts and the trips to the airport into the already tightly stretched fabric of our daily schedules. Trying to squeeze a little peaceful anticipation from the 24/7 carols and jingling and very … [Read more...]

O Wisdom! Pile on the Prudence, Please!

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Tonight they begin, the seven prophetic antiphons chanted before and after the Magnificat at Vespers. Each invokes the Messiah by one of his scriptural titles, and each calls on us to prepare a place for him--at his coming now and at his Final Coming--with an attitude that demonstrates our readiness. So, for December 17, O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodidisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviter disponensque omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.  O Wisdom, … [Read more...]

Something New, Something Other: An Annunciation Diptych

garofolo

Today we celebrated the Solemnity of the Annunciation, liturgically transferred from March 25 this year because Holy Week and the Octave of Easter take precedence over any other feast. I love the art of the Annunciation, from its earliest Byzantine expressions through the many beautiful and thought-provoking contemporary depictions of the angelic greeting to Mary. It's only right that this moment when the Word becomes flesh has inspired so much iconography. I usually celebrate this solemnity … [Read more...]

“The whole earth is our hospital”: Good Friday in Painting and Poetry

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Some reflections on the Passion in art and poetry, from last year's Good Friday post. I find myself longing for the respectful quiet of the earlier Good Fridays in my life. I know that Church and State were, if anything, even more clearly separated when I was a child, but in the Catholic (with occasional threads of Bulgarian Orthodoxy) ghetto of our little neighborhood on the seamy side of Hollywood, you wouldn't have known it. The TV, the radio were shut off for the day. We could play, but … [Read more...]

Songs of Innocents and Expedience–UPDATED

Duccio, "Slaughter of the Innocents"

Remembering the Slaughter of the Innocents means mourning them all . . . or none of them. Herod, the king, in his raging, Charged he hath this day His men of might, in his own sight, All young children to slay. (The Coventry Carol) On December 28, the Church recalls the massacre of infants and toddlers recounted in the Gospel of Matthew. Having heard from the Magi of the birth of a great king, the tetrarch Herod, anxious to hold on to his precarious puppet rule of Judea under his … [Read more...]

It’s Always Apocalypse, Now

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One more midnight gone, but for Christians---especially in Advent---we live always in the end-times. And that's good. As a small, fearful child with a galloping case of scruples, I was terrified of the End of the World. Those were apocalyptic times for Catholic school kids, the late fifties and early sixties. There were the weekly drop drills intended to prepare us for the nuclear annihilation that was always thisclose; Sister Maria Consuelo, our Cuban refugee third-grade teacher, was always … [Read more...]

Picturing the Destination: Egregious Twaddle on Pilgrimage

Tears in the eyes of Mary of Clopas (van der Weyden, Deposition, detail)

  On the walls of a museum, we come face-to-face with two views of life. Both have the power to shake us to our roots. Both look like madness. And both are roadmaps of the human journey. But only one is true, and you can tell it by the tears. Pilgrimage 2012, Day 6: Madrid [A note to the patient pilgrims: After wrestling with jetlag and some personal baggage---not the kind subject to customs inspections, but carried with me on the pilgrimage no less, and seriously over the … [Read more...]


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