Monday, December 22, 2014

THE MOTHER OF ALL PEOPLES

J. Kirk Richards

The fifth and final woman listed in Matthew's genealogy is Jesus' mother, MARY. She is depicted as a young woman, a virgin, who was engaged to Joseph. Engagements were serious contracts between two families usually lasting about a year before the couple was formally married and began to live together. The penalty for sexual misconduct was anywhere from being stoned to death to annulling the engagement (divorcing her, Matthew 1:19) and sending the woman back to her family in disgrace.

The genealogy of Jesus is a description of the descent of Jesus. The New Testament provides two: one in the Gospel of Luke and another in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew's starts with Abraham, through King David and his son Solomon, down the legal line of the kings via Jeconiah to Joseph. Luke gives a different genealogy, starting with Adam, through Nathan, a minor son of David, and again to Joseph.


St. Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, made the astute observation that Mary and Joseph belonged to the same clan and so would have common descendents. Her genealogy is given in Luke 3 . She was of the tribe of Judah and the lineage of David. She was connected by marriage with her cousin Elisabeth, who was of the lineage of Aaron (Luke 1:36).

Joseph was clearly the son of Jacob (Matthew 1:16), Thus, the genealogy of Christ in Luke is actually the genealogy of Mary, while Matthew gives that of Joseph.

Arcabas

 The two genealogies show that both parents were descendants of David: Joseph through Solomon (Matthew 1:7-15), thus inheriting the legal right to the throne of David, and Mary through Nathan (Luke 3:23-31), her line thus carrying the seed of David, since Solomon’s line had been refused the throne because of Jechoniah’s sin.

Matthew inserts four women into the long list of men. The women are included early in the genealogy, as we have mentioned in past Blogs, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and  Bathsheba. Why Matthew chose to include these particular women, while passing over others such as the matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah, has been much discussed.

There may be a common thread among these four women, to which Matthew wishes to draw attention. He sees God working through Tamar's seduction of her father-in-law, through the collusion of Rahab the harlot with Joshua's spies, through Ruth the Moabite's unexpected marriage with Boaz, and through David and Bathsheba's adultery.

It has been suggested that Matthew may be preparing future generations for the inclusion of the Gentiles in Christ's mission. Others point out an apparent element of sinfulness, emphasizing God's grace in response to sin.

Matthew gives us the story of Joseph's struggle with Mary's virgin conception. He is described as a good man who did not want to bring disgrace or death on Mary, but struggled with believing that she had not been unfaithful to him. Joseph does believe Mary after an angel appears to him in a dream and confirms what Mary told him.

Left unsaid is how Mary had the courage to tell Joseph that she was pregnant. But that courage and willingness to be the servant of the Lord (Luke 1:38) enabled her to bear the shame of a pregnancy before marriage and to be the mother of the Messiah.

Our first four women in Jesus genealogy were in the Old Testament, His Mother Mary is the "new Eve", entering into the salvation history of her Son, our Redeemer, the King not only of the Jews, but all peoples.

Nativity- Brian Kershisnik

Saturday, December 13, 2014

FAITHFUL WOMAN (RUTH)

Naomi with her Two Daughters-in-Law-Chagall

Perhaps no woman is more “immortalized” in the Old Testament than RUTH, a widow and a Moabite who became the daughter-in-law of Rahab. Ruth's story is a beautiful one of loyalty. She is one of the few women in the Bible who have a whole book named after her. Her vow to the mother of her dead husband has become a classic quote, often used in weddings to indicate the bride's and/or groom's intentions of loyalty.


Ruth Gleaning- Chagall
Ruth remains loyal to her mother-in-law Naomi after the death of her husband and in-laws. Naomi decides to return to her home land of Bethlehem alone, however, Ruth insists on staying with her and adopting Naomi’s God as her own. “But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God” (1:16).

We then see Ruth gleaning in the fields of Naomi’s relative Boaz. Boaz out of compassion and obedience to the law allows Ruth to glean but also leaves extra grain for her purposely. Shrewdly, Naomi advised the young woman how to catch her man. Ruth approached Boaz during the night, at the threshing floor. The next morning, Ruth suggested that they marry, reminding Boaz of his obligation to her as her nearest male kin. Boaz promised to do all he could. Ruth's loyalty was rewarded and she became his wife. She had a son called Obed, and Naomi cared for the child, who would grow up to be the grandfather of King David.
Ruth at the Feet of Boaz- Chagall


Ruth's loyalty to Naomi, led to a faith in and loyalty to the God of the Jews. In the tradition of her new mother-in-law, Rahab, Ruth became a part of the lineage of Jesus because of her faith.

Even Ruth, a foreigner from the despised Moabites, could move God's plan towards fulfillment. Its purpose was to demonstrate the kind of love, and faithfulness that God desires for us. It shows the difference between what happens when a nation does not follow in obedience to the covenant of God (Judges), and when God’s people follow in faithfulness within the covenant (Ruth).



Ruth     Thomas Hood (1799–1845)

She stood breast high amid the corn,
Clasped by the golden light of morn,
Like the sweetheart of the sun,
Who many a glowing kiss had won.

On her cheek an autumn flush,
Deeply ripened;—such a blush
In the midst of brown was born,
Like red poppies grown with corn.

Round her eyes her tresses fell,
Which were blackest none could tell,
But long lashes veiled a light,
That had else been all too bright.


Ruth & Boaz- Chagall
And her hat, with shady brim,
Made her tressy forehead dim;—
Thus she stood amid the stooks,
Praising God with sweetest looks:—

Sure, I said, heaven did not mean,
Where I reap thou shouldst but glean,
Lay thy sheaf adown and come,
Share my harvest and my home.

(STOLEN LAMB - BATHSHEBA)



Bathsheba- Paul Cezanne
Another woman mentioned in Jesus' genealogy is only referred to as "Uriah's wife" (Matthew 1:6), emphasizing the fact that BATHSHEBA became King David's wife only after committing adultery with David, who then arranged for her husband to be killed in battle to cover up their shame (2 Samuel 11-12). Again, shame is often assigned to Bathsheba because she was bathing on the roof of her house when her beauty happened to catch the king's eye.

Bathsheba was from David's own tribe and the granddaughter of one of David's closest advisers. She was the mother of Solomon, who succeeded David as king, making her the Queen Mother.
The story is told that David, while walking on the roof of his palace, saw Bathsheba, who was then the wife of Uriah, having a bath. He immediately desired her and later made her pregnant.

In an effort to conceal his sin, David summoned Uriah from the army (with whom he was on campaign) in the hope that Uriah would re-consummate his marriage and think that the child was his. Uriah was unwilling to violate the ancient kingdom rule applying to warriors in active service. Rather than go home to his own bed, he preferred to remain with the palace troops.

After repeated efforts to convince Uriah to have sex with Bathsheba, the king gave the order to his general, Joab, that Uriah should be placed in the front lines of the battle, where it was the most dangerous, and left to the hands of the enemy where he was more likely to die. David had Uriah himself carry the message that ordered his death. At the news of his death, we are told that Bathsheba mourned for Uriah, which makes us wonder what her part in the whole affair really was.

David & Bathsheba- Chagall
David's action was displeasing to the Lord, so He sent David's close friend  Nathan the prophet to reproved him for his actions.The king at once confessed his sin and expressed sincere repentance. Bathsheba's child by David was struck with a severe illness and died a few days after birth, which the king accepted as his punishment.

David made the now widowed Bathsheba his wife. David is clearly the one in control. The difference in status and power would have made it impossible for Bathsheba to resist David's advances. What we learn from this sordid affair is that God can transform situations and bring about newness and hope. David repented of his sin and had a genuine marriage with Bathsheba, resulting in the birth of Solomon, known for his wisdom.

Even where society did not encourage the inclusion of females in genealogies, the faith of these four women of the Old testament  was so strong they burst out of the confines of the socially accepted norm. God is able to take those who appear insignificant and unlikely to succeed and transform them into important witnesses to the power of God! An Advent lesson for us all!

David & Bathsheba- Chagall

Sunday, December 7, 2014

FEASTS AND BIRTHDAYS



Immaculate Conception- Peru- 1700s
This week we have in the middle of Advent, two great feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and birthdays for two of us in the monastery.  This first is December 8, the IMMACULATE CONCEPTION of Virgin Mary and Mother Mary Grace's birthday.  While there are many famous paintings of the Immaculate Conception, most notably Murillo's, I have chosen two lesser known works for this day.

Few doctrines of the Catholic Church are as misunderstood as the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Many people, including many Catholics, think that it refers to the conception of Christ through the action of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That event, though, is celebrated at the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord (March 25, nine months before Christmas).


The Immaculate Conception refers to the condition that the Blessed Virgin Mary was free from Original Sin from the very moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne.
Imm. Conception- Cuzco (Peru) School- 1700s

In teaching that Mary was conceived immaculate, the Catholic Church teaches that from the very moment of her conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary was free from all stain of original sin. This simply means that from the beginning, she was in a state of grace, sharing in God's own life, and that she was free from the sinful inclinations which have beset human nature after the fall.
She is patoness of  The United States.


The second great day, December 12,  is my birthday and the feast of OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE, patroness of the Americas.  Here I offer two modern depictions of her, one by my dear santero friend, Br. Arturo Olivas, SFO.

He says of her:
Mary, the Mother of Christ bears many titles, which witness to her enormous appeal as a heavenly advocate for all people. As the Mother of the Redeemer she is especially effective in drawing her Divine Son to those who are in particular need of His love and compassion. Such was the case when she appeared to Juan Diego, an Aztec convert, on Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City in December of 1531.

Arturo Olivas
Stephen Whatley- England
The native people of Mexico were devastated by the Spanish conquest. Hundreds of thousands died in warfare, disease, and slavery. Their culture was shattered and their spirits were leveled by the onslaught of an alien worldview. Mary appeared as an Indian woman on a site formerly dedicated to Tonantzin, the Aztec mother goddess, and spoke to Juan Diego in his native Nahua. She assured her motherly love and concern to the Indian people of the New World and to all people who suffer and are oppressed. As proof of her appearance she left her image on Juan Diego’s tilma or cloak which hangs today in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

Mexican settlers brought devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe to New Mexico as early as 1598. New Mexican artists called santeros painted her image on pine panels with natural pigments and sealed with pinon sap varnish. She is always shown with her hands clasped in prayer and wearing a rose-colored robe and a blue or green mantle while standing on a crescent moon supported by a cherub and surrounded by a golden mandorla.



Saturday, December 6, 2014

JESUS' HOSPITABLE GRANDMOTHER

Rahab- Michael Dudosh
We continue our journey through Advent with the five women mentioned in Jesus' genealogy. We can ponder why some of the more "famous" gallant women, such as Esther, Deborah and Judith are not mentioned in that direct lineage to Christ, but God has His ways, as we shall see. "The genealogy with its light and dark figures, its successes and failures, shows us that God can write straight even on the crooked lines of our history." (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI)

The next woman mentioned is RAHAB, (better known by her occupation: Rahab the Harlot) the wife of Salmon, who was a Gentile living in Jericho. Her story is found in Joshua 2 and 6. She  assisted the Israelites in capturing the city. She became a figure of fascination to the writers of the New Testament, where she is reckoned among the ancestors of Jesus, and is lauded as an example of living by faith, while being justified by her works.

She gave hospitality to the Jewish spies who came to Jericho and hid them from the king of Jericho when he wanted to kill them. Her confession of faith is one of the great ones in the Old Testament: "the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below."

According to the book of Joshua , when the Hebrews were encamped at Shittim, in the  Jordan valley opposite Jericho, ready to cross the river, Joshua, as a final preparation, sent out two spies to investigate the military strength of Jericho. The spies stayed in Rahab's house, which was built into the city wall. The soldiers sent to capture the spies asked Rahab to bring out the spies. Instead, she hid them under bundles of flax on the roof. It was the time of the barley harvest, and flax and barley are ripe at the same time in the Jordan valley, so that the bundles of flax stalks might have been expected to be drying just then.
Rahab & the Spies- F.R. Pickersgill


After escaping, the spies promised to spare Rahab and her family after taking the city, even if there should be a massacre, if she would mark her house by hanging a red cord out the window.
When the city of Jericho fell , Rahab and her whole family were spared according to the promise of the spies, and were incorporated among the Jewish people

Rahab turns her life around, joins Israel and has a son by an Israelite man. That son grows up and becomes very important  to the family of Jesus.


What a transformation must have taken place in her life for her to be listed in this lineage. Since Salmon was considered noble among the children of Israel and was of the tribe of Judah and the son of the prince, he saw the faithful Rahab thus converted to goodness and beloved by God and led from Jericho at God's command and counted among the daughters of Israel. Her story certainly affirmed the power of God to transform a life from both ignorance of God and a sinful lifestyle to a woman who was beloved by God and praised for her goodness.

Rahab- Catherine Mcintyre
Rahab is seen as a model of hospitality, mercy, faith, patience, and repentance in her interaction with Joshua's spies. Thus the harlot of Jericho became a paragon of virtue.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

WOMEN IN JESUS' GENEALOGY- TAMAR

ADVENT  is a preparatory season. It is a season of looking forward and waiting for something wonderful- for the annual celebration of Christ's birth, and for the time when Christ will come again.


At Christmas we read the very long genealogy of Jesus and since I was very young, I always anticipate the naming of the five women mentioned. Ordinarily, women were not included in the genealogies of the first century, so Matthew is unique in his identification of these women as significant in Jesus' lineage.

Like all of us, Jesus had some real characters, who on the surface, maybe should not have been linked with the Savior. Perhaps by adding them to His lineage ( rather than the holy Rebecca or Esther) the Lord is telling us we can all be redeemed.

The first woman named is TAMAR  (Genesis 38)  who bore Perez and Zerah by Judah. Due to the shenanigans of her dead husband's family, she resorted to some wiles of her own. Tamar was the widowed daughter-in-law of Judah who disguised herself as a prostitute in order to trick Judah into impregnating her and giving her a son who would tie her to her dead husband's family. Under Jewish law, Judah and his sons had sinned against Tamar, so she was seeking what was hers by right.

Tamar & Onan- Tiarini

Tamar is first described as marrying Judah's eldest son, Er. Because of his wickedness, Er was killed by God. Thus according to the law, Judah asked his second son, Onan, to provide offspring for Tamar so that the family line might continue. Because Onan practiced a form of contraception, Tamar did not become pregnant. For a Jewish woman this meant disgrace, because people thought that being childless was a punishment from God. 

Onan's actions were deemed wicked by God and so, like his older brother, he died prematurely.  (Would you want to stay in this family??) At this point, Judah is portrayed as viewing Tamar to be cursed, and is therefore reluctant to give his remaining and youngest son Shelah, to her. He told Tamar to wait for Shelah, but even after he grew up, Judah did not give him to Tamar in marriage.

At the time Shelah grew up, Judah became a widower. After Judah mourned the death of his wife, he planned on going to Timnah to shear his sheep. Upon hearing this news, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and immediately went to Enaim which was en route to Judah's destination. Upon arriving at Enaim, Judah saw the woman but did not recognize her as Tamar because of the veil she wore over her face.

Tamar & Judah- Jacopo Tintoretto

 Thinking she was a prostitute, he requested her services. Tamar's plan was to become pregnant by this ruse in order to bear a child in Judah's line, because Judah had not given her to his son Shelah. So she played the part of a prostitute and struck a deal with Judah for a goat with a security deposit of his staff, seal, and cord. The seal, cord and staff were symbols of a man's identity, items of great personal worth, and it is astonishing that Judah gave them up.
What was the man thinking of ??

When Judah was able to have a goat sent to Enaim, in order to collect his staff and seal, the woman was nowhere to be found and no one knew of any prostitute in Enaim.

Three months later, Tamar was accused of prostitution on account of her pregnancy. Upon hearing this news, Judah ordered that she be burned to death. Tamar sent the staff, seal, and cord to Judah with a message declaring that the owner of these items was the man who had made her pregnant. Upon recognizing his security deposit, Judah released Tamar from her sentence. Tamar's place in the family and Judah's posterity secured, she gives birth to twins, Perez and Zerah. The midwife marks Zerah's hand with a scarlet cord when it emerges from the womb first but it slips back into the womb and Perez is born first. Perez is the ancestor of King David.

Tamar- A. Bouguereau
While Tamar’s actions were certainly unorthodox, in a way she ‘redeemed’ Judah. She saved him from wrong-doing, thus becoming a pre-figure of Jesus, who was one of her descendents. 

What we discover from the genealogy of Jesus is not just that He was indeed human, as well as divine, but that He descended from a line of people which included very strong, resilient, loyal, and faithful women.  Women we would be proud of in our own lineage.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

THANKSGIVING FOR OUR KING- TRIPLE CELEBRATION

Christ the Pantocrator- Hagia Sophia
Tomorrow as we celebrate the SOLEMNITY of CHRIST the KING, we also look forward to Thursday, and the celebration of THANKSGIVING DAY. Sunday is also a special day for new saints in the Church.

The Feast of Christ the King is a relatively recent addition to the Church's liturgical calendar, having been instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical letter Quas Primas, in response to growing nationalism and secularism.

In 1969 Pope Paul VI gave the celebration a new title: "Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe". He also gave it a new date: the last Sunday in the liturgical year, before a new year begins with the First Sunday in Advent.

"He must reign in our minds...He must reign in our wills... He must reign in our hearts, so that we love God above all things, and cleave to Him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God." (Pope Pius XI)

For us Christians, we do not see Christ as a tyrant, ruling over us, but rather as our Savior, our teacher, our God who became our King by reigning in our daily lives. In Christ we find our path to holiness.                   .

But we ask how are these two great feast days connected? Perhaps it is no coincidence that the Feast of Christ the King and the last week of the year pass through the “secular” Feast of Thanksgiving. The word “Eucharist” means Thanksgiving and should be a reminder to us of the greatest gift we have been given as we are able to daily partake of the Body of Christ.

Also giving thanks  tomorrow will be at least 4,000 Indians at the Vatican today to see Pope Francis officially declare Blessed Chavara Elias Kuriakose (1805-1871) and Blessed Euphraisa of Sacred Heart of Jesus (1877-1952) saints.  The canonizations come six years after the canonization of India's first woman saint, Sister Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception. Both new saints are credited with spearheading a better spiritual and social awareness that have become the foundations of present-day Catholic life in Kerala, where our Father Mathew Thelly is from.

Rumen Spasov- Bulgaria

As we go through this last week of the year, with much hustle and bustle, as we prepare an earthly banquet, joining with those whom we love around the table in Thanksgiving, may we take the time to ponder how we will approach the new Liturgical season, Advent, preparing ourselves and the world  for the  coming of the King. On this last week of the Church Year, let us remember that in Christ the King, Thanksgiving and Advent become a way of life for us all.

                               BLESSED FEASTS