Saturday, November 29, 2014


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


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

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


This month starts a year long celebration of CONSECRATED LIFE within the Church.
The Holy Father said the year-long celebration “will be an important moment for 'evangelizing' our vocation and for bearing witness to the beauty of the following of Christ in the many ways in which our lives are expressed.”

According to Vatican statistics, there are nearly one million people living religious, consecrated life within the church.

“The consecrated take up the witness that has been left them by their respective founders and foundresses. They want to 'awaken the world' with their prophetic witness, particularly with their presence at the existential margins of poverty and thought.”

The purpose of this celebration is threefold:
             renewal for men and women in consecrated life
             thanksgiving among the faithful for the service of sisters, brothers, priests, and nuns
             invitation to young Catholics to consider a religious vocation

The Year's official inauguration is planned with a solemn celebration in St. Peter's Basilica, which will take place on 29 November, the World Day 'Pro orantibus'.  This will be followed by an assembly of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the theme of which would be “The 'Novum' in Consecrated Life beginning from Vatican II”.

Jan. 22-24, 2015 will see meetings of Catholic consecrated men and women as well as consecrated religious from other Christian traditions, to be held during the week of Christian unity.

Every four months throughout the year, a newsletter will be published on themes related to consecrated life, the first of which will come out on 2 February of next year, entitled “Be Glad”.

Second week of April, 2015 there will be a Conference on religious formation around the world. Sept. 23-26, 2015  will be events for young men and women in discernment and in the process of joining religious orders.

For the conclusion of the Year for Consecrated Life another con-celebration presided by Pope Francis is planned, probably for 21 November 2015, 50 years after the decree “Perfecta caritatis”.

Finally, during the Year of Consecrated Life, it is hoped that the Holy Father will promulgate a new apostolic constitution on contemplative life in place of “Sponsa Christi”, which was promulgated by Pope Pius XII in 1950.

“I want to say one word to you and this word is “joy”. Wherever there are consecrated people, seminarians, men and women religious, young people, there is joy, there is always joy! It is the joy of freshness, the joy of following Jesus; the joy that the Holy Spirit gives us, not the joy of the world… Joy is not a useless ornament. It is a necessity, the foundation of human life. In their daily struggles, every man and woman tries to attain joy and abide in it with the totality of their being...
In the world there is often a lack of joy. We are not called to accomplish epic feats or to proclaim high-sounding words, but to give witness to the joy that arises from the certainty of knowing we are loved, from the confidence that we are saved." Pope Francis, 2014

Saturday, November 8, 2014


The past few Blogs have presented some art in our Seattle Cathedral, but there is much more to see and people come from all over to gaze and pray.

Perhaps the most "controversial" is also the oldest. No one knows how it came to be in Seattle. Art historians, church administrators and amateur sleuths have all taken their shots at solving the puzzle, but none has succeeded. It is clear the masterpiece is not listed on any stolen-art registry

After the work was discovered in a crate in the cathedral basement in 1950, it hung for decades in the chapel. In 1991, it came to the attention of  University of Washington student, Elizabeth Darrow, who recognized its worth.  For decades, the 55-by-64-inch painting got little fanfare or care.

It suffered from poor handling and crude retouching efforts over the past 500 years. It was painted on four poplar planks, the top one of which was, at one point, out of alignment. Gluing it back during some past amateurish effort at restoration warped the panel. Finally, it was sent to a local hospital for x rays  which found that most of the original colors were still in place beneath layers of yellow-brown varnish and past retouching. The saints' faces had been poorly repainted.

In 2005, after careful restoration,  it was finally hung in a place worthy of its grandeur. The Virgin and Child with Six Saints is a  15th-century altar painting by Florentine artist Neri di Bicci.  It is the most important Renaissance artwork in the Northwest.


It depicts the Madonna and Child, flanked by  Saints  Luke, Bartholomew and Lawrence on the left; John the Baptist, Martin, and Sebastian on the right.  This subject, a very familiar one in Renaissance art, is known as a sacra conversazione, (a “holy conversation,”) as saints of many different times and places are imagined in “conversation” with Mary and Jesus.

A much more modern depiction of Madonna and Child is THE SEATTLE MADONNA by the German artist, Hans Gottfried von Stockhausen, who also created the three East Apse windows in the Cathedral. This colorful piece depicts Mary holding Jesus, surrounded by rich foliage and flowers, recalling the words of the prophet Isaiah: A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom (Is.11:1)

Inscribed in German around the figures  are words from a poem by St. Hildegard of Bingen: “O leafing branch, abiding in your noble state, just as the dawn light grows, now rejoice and be glad, and see fit to deliver us from our weakened way of life. Stretch forth your hand to strengthen us.”

 From 1907 to 1916, the Cathedral had no stained glass – all the windows were clear glass.  But when these windows were destroyed in the collapse of the dome, the Cathedral’s pastor at the time, Father William Noonan, commissioned the Boston firm of Charles Connick to create stained glass for the Cathedral.  The windows were blessed in 1918.

St. James

 Before one even enters the Cathedral, you encounter the ceremonial BRONZE DOORS, the work of sculptor Ulrich Henn, which depicts the journey of humanity towards the heavenly city.  The story begins with Adam and Eve's first faltering steps as they leave the garden.  The angel sends them forth, but one hand is raised in blessing:  already we know how this "divine comedy" will end - in a new paradise.

The beauty and intensity of these doors reminds me of the ones by Manzu at St. Peters in Rome.  Photos do not do them justice.
Palm Procession

The Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one of the best-loved places in the Cathedral.  The Chapel, which dates from 1994, was designed by architect Susan Jones.  The dark floor, the rich, warm tones of the wall, and the light of dozens of beeswax candles create an intimate place where the faithful kneel at the feet of Mary, who is Christ’s mother and ours.

The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus is inspired by a 15th-century image from the monastery church of Blaubeuren in Germany.  Jesus holds an apple, a reminder of the fall of Adam and Eve.  Jesus, the new Adam, offers grace and life.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


I was so captivated by the Cathedral stations of Seattle artist JOAN BRAND- LANDKRAMER that I decided to root through the air and see if I could find more of her art. Low and behold, before the very modern stations, she did some lovely, very traditional icons, for the Cathedral.

Despite her prolific output, Joan calls herself a late bloomer. Icons are steeped in mysticism, she says, and she is “just getting the hang of it.”

The icons, based on traditional Russian iconography, represent the central mysteries of faith and the feasts of the Church year.  

People and things she loves and is moved by make their way into her creative process. Other parishioners and family members appear. Joan hopes these images may one day serve history as records of St. James Cathedral and its community at the turn of the twenty-first century.
The first icon Joan “wrote” for the Cathedral was the Icon of the Annunciation of the Lord.  Mary turns from her work (she holds a spindle) to receive the message of the angel.  Local details are incorporated into the classic style of the icon:  an image of St. James, the Cathedral’s patron, and of the Cathedral towers, in the upper right-hand corner.

Joan' s Pentecost icon shows some familiar faces among the assembled apostles.  Archbishop Thomas Murphy, Father Ryan (Cathedral pastor) who sits among the apostles, and Dr. James Savage (music director) are all pictured.

Other icons incorporate portraits of parishioners at St. James and leaders of the Church in Seattle and beyond.  In this icon of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, you can find Bl. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta, St. Frances Cabrini, and St.John Paul II, as well as some of our past bishops: Archbishop Brunett, Bishop George Thomas, Archbishop Murphy. Father Ryan is Constantine, with his real-life mother next to him.

Holy Cross

Each Sunday, one of the icons is carried in procession at the Cathedral, and placed on a stand for viewing by the faithful.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


Why do we commemorate ALL SAINTS DAY and ALL SOULS DAY?
To remind us that we are all called to be saints and to be encouraged by their lives.

All Souls' Day is a day of prayer for the dead. In Western Christianity the annual celebration is now held on 2 November and is associated with All Saints' Day (1 November) and its vigil, Halloween (31 October).

Prayer for the dead is a documented practice in Judaism and in early Christianity. The setting aside of a particular day for praying not for certain named individuals but for whole classes of the departed or for the dead in was well established by the end of the first millennium.

Prayers for the deceased members of Benedictine monasteries were offered in the week after Pentecost and the practice of praying for the dead at a date near Pentecost was also followed in Spain in the 7th century. Other dates chosen were Epiphany and the anniversary of the death of some well-known saint, as shown by evidence from the beginning of the 9th century.

All Souls Day- Aladar K. Korosfoi, 1910 Hungary
 By about 980, 1 October was an established date in Germany. The 11th century saw the introduction of a liturgical commemoration in diocesan calendars. In Milan the date was 16 October until changed in the second half of the 16th century to 2 November. This date, the day after All Saints' Day, was that which Saint Odilo of Cluny chose in the 11th century for all the monasteries dependent on the Abbey of Cluny. From these the 2 November custom spread to other Benedictine monasteries and then to the Western Church in general.

The importance of All Souls Day was made clear by Pope Benedict XV (1914-22), when he granted all priests the privilege of celebrating three Masses on All Souls Day: one for the faithful departed; one for the priest's intentions; and one for the intentions of the Holy Father. Only on a handful of other very important feast days are priests allowed to celebrate more than two Masses.

All Souls Day- Joza Uprka -Czech 1897

There are two plenary indulgences attached to All Souls Day, one for visiting a church and another for visiting a cemetery.