Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Twelth Day of Christmas: The Journey


The Journey Of The Magi

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Eleventh Day of Christmas: Chalk Up A Blessing

In case you miss the opportunity for another great Christmas custom you have a coiple of days to go out and buy the chalk you left off your Christmas shopping list.

One of the lost customs of the season is the "Chalking of the Door" at Epiphany. The ever reliable Wikipedia tells us:
Either on Twelfth Night (January 5), the twelfth day of Christmastide and eve of the feast of the Epiphany, or on Epiphany Day (January 6) itself, many Christians chalk their doors with a pattern such as this, "20 † C † M † B † 17", with the numbers referring "to the calendar year (20 and 17, for instance, for the year 2017); the crosses stand for Christ; and the letters have a two-fold significance: C, M, and B are the initials for the traditional names of the Magi (CasparMelchior, and Balthasar), but they are also an abbreviation of the Latin blessing Christus mansionem benedicat, which means, May Christ bless this house."[1] In some localities, but not in all, the chalk used to write the Epiphanytide pattern is blessed by a Christian priest or minister on Epiphany Day; Christians then take the chalk home and use it to write the pattern. The reason families chalk their front door is because it represents the hospitality of the Holy Family to the Magi.


Blessing the Chalk
V. Our help is the name of the Lord:
R. The maker of heaven and earth.
V. The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in:
R. From this time forth for evermore.

Let us pray.Loving God, bless this chalk which you have created, that it may be helpful to your people; and grant that through the invocation of your most Holy Name that we who use it in faith to write upon the door of our home the names of your holy ones Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, may receive health of body and protection of soul for all who dwell in or visit our home; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Instructions for Blessing the Home
Using the blessed chalk mark the lintel of your front door (or front porch step) as follows:
20 + C + M + B + 17 while saying:

The three Wise Men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar followed the star of God’s Son who became human two thousand and seventeen years ago. May Christ bless our home and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen.
Then offer the following prayer: Visit, O blessed Lord, this home with the gladness of your presence. Bless all who live or visit here with the gift of your love; and grant that we may manifest your love to each other and to all whose lives we touch. May we grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of you; guide, comfort, and strengthen us in peace, O Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen
“Chalking the door” is a way to celebrate and literally mark the occasion of the Epiphany and God’s blessing of our lives and home. With time the chalk will fade. As it does we let the meaning of the symbols written sink into the depths of our heart and be manifest in our words and actions the Latin words, Christus mansionem benedictat, “May Christ bless the house.” (Source)
One of my favourite Liturgy sites  from Aotearoa-New Zealand includes more prayer choices for this ritual. And for the more visual there is even a youtube tutorial:


Of course for the more adventurous there is the Greek custom of the dive for the Cross which is much more challenging in the Northern Hemisphere while our locals get to take advatage of a decent summer dive.

2017 Religious Events and Holidays



Religion has a rhythm that respects the human need for rest and ritual. It challenges the capitalist doctrine that denies community values and social identity. To identify as religious means I honour and celebrate diversity as common ground in the human quest for peace and just relationships with each other and the planet.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Tenth Day of Christmas: Light that Shines Through The Cracks

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Five years ago the funeral  for Daniel Morecombe' was a public ritual of grief that spoke of light breaking the darkness in our community and culture. Out of the dark tragic story of Daniel's abduction and death, Bruce and Denise Morcombe have forged a commitment to the care and protection of children. Daniel's light will shine on in the way  he has brought a community together in the Daniel Morecombe Foundation.




Our challenge in  2017 is to find the crack and break the darkness:

  • Manus Island, 
  • Nauru,
  • Deaths in Custody
  • Domestic Violence
  • Homlessness
  • Exploitation of the Environment




Sunday, January 01, 2017

Ninth Day of Christmas: Commit to Non Violence


Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace Message for 2017, Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace celebrates the 50th anniversary of this series of Papal Statements  This call is one that challenges deep seated attitudes and values among people of good will. 
Pope Francis writes from a pastoral perspective and grounds his religious approach in a language that does not alienate the general reader. The World Day of Peace message challenges all of us and our relationships in the global village. Thanks to Sandie Cornish and  John Dear S for providing a framework that helps us engage with the text

http://avecmumbaidbys.blogspot.com/2011/09/prayer-service-non-violence-gandhi.html .
In 2011 Dear published a reflection that has not dated and cannot be read too often:  Christmas challenge for a nonviolent Australia  

"I hope people of faith in Australia will speak out with renewed vigour against the US military and pursue the Christmas vision of peace. I hope they will organise and build a nonviolent movement to turn away the US military presence and herald the coming of a new nonviolent Australia."


In his 2012 New Year's Day  reflection Dear offers one way into this nonviolent movement. He invites people of Christian Faith to Vow of Non Violence as a religious act. The Vow of Nonviolence was composed by Eileen Egan and Rev. John Dear.  Tens of thousands of people have taken the Vow. The Vow of Nonviolence can be pronounced privately, with a local peace community, as part of a parish liturgy, or any other way that suits you. Many profess the Vow each year as part of their New Year observance


Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Hymn for 2017



By gracious powers so wonderfully sheltered,
And confidently waiting come what may,
we know that God is with us night and morning,
and never fails to greet us each new day.
Yet is this heart by its old foe tormented,
Still evil days bring burdens hard to bear;
Oh, give our frightened souls the sure salvation
for which, O Lord, You taught us to prepare.
And when this cup You give is filled to brimming
With bitter suffering, hard to understand,
we take it thankfully and without trembling,
out of so good and so beloved a hand.
Yet when again in this same world You give us
The joy we had, the brightness of Your Sun,
we shall remember all the days we lived through,
and our whole life shall then be Yours alone.
By gracious powers so faithfully protected,
so quietly, so wonderfully near,
I'll live each day in hope, with you beside me
and go with you through every coming year.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, tr. Fred Pratt Green

World Day of Peace Message 2017



Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace Message for 2017, Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace celebrates the 50th anniversary of this series of Papal Statements. 

This call is one that challenges deep seated attitudes and values among people of good will. 

Pope Francis writes from a pastoral perspective and grounds his religious approach in a language that does not alienate the general reader. This is stuff you won't find in the mainstream media or even on a lot of religious media.The World Day of Peace message challenges all of us and our relationships in the global village.John Dear SJ  reflelcts on the writing of this first statement on nonviolence, in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—in history.

Here is some solid reading for the long weekend that will usher in a New Year. Thanks to Sandie Cornish for providing a framework that helps us engage with the text.


Eighth Day of Christmas: Beware of the Cutters

http://emmock.com/2011/01/01/bible-blog-335/
Welcome to January 1st. In the "Land of the Long Weekend" this is the day to recover from the NYE parties and celebrations. It\s a day at the beach or home with a 'Barby".

In good old Catholic Tradition this day was known as the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord. Yes, it is the only Catholic feast for a medical procedure. As with all great Biblical accounts there is a picture gallery available on google.

Circumcision gets some pretty good press in the Scriptures as a popular practice and metaphor. By the time you have worked through the Hebrew Scriptures and made your way to some of Paul's letters you get to the most cutting of his statements:  "Beware of the cutters,"  (Ph.3:2).  So, there you have it, time to stop infant circumcision!! If Paul was around today he would probably join one of the Facebook pages against infant circumcision.

Circumcision has made its way into the public forum. SBS Insight had a public forum: The First Cut. Two of my good friends appeared as guests Elwyn Moir and Sharon Orapeleng. By strange coincidence they were seated next to each other for the recording.

Thanks to this feast we also have a great new word for scrabble: prepuce.  The Holy Prepuce or the story of the foreskin relics is another contribution of Catholicism to the religious entertainment industry. It seems that we can also learn a bit from Michelangelo about this practice.

And so a new year is upon us. May it bring you blessings of peace and happiness. May we work together to build a community of hope and justice in our neighbourhoods and on our planet.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Seventh Day of Christmas: Day to Take Stock


It hasn't taken long for the "Christmas Sales" signs to be replaced by "Stocktake Sales" in the major stores around our cities.These sales are basically incentives to add to our consumer appetite at bargain prices.

Today can also be a great day to "take stock" of life as the year draws to a close. Our new year resolutions are best informed by the reflection of the previous year.

Today is a day to take stock of core values and commitments. It means I place my commitment in small communities such as L'Arche, in the activism of groups like Amnesty International and Oxfam, in the commitment of NGOs like Micah Projects and Palms Australia to bring about social change.

December 31 also provides opportunities for media outlets and commentators (like me) to review the year. The following offer some of the best of the 2016 reviews:
And if you need something a bit more interactive you can take the ABC Quiz of the Week. and for the more adventurous the USA  Quiz of the Year ( you might need to google some of the answers)

When I take stock of my core values I recognize my duty to use social networking tools for raising awareness of justice and peace concerns and building solidarity with those who occupy our cities for the cause of justice.

I invite you to share the story of your "stocktake" of 2016

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Sixth Day of Christmas: Holy Family Day




This year the sixth day of Christmas in the amazing world of Catholicism falls on a day celebrated as the Feast of the Holy Family. 

The  history of the Feast can be traced back to Canada in the 17th Century. Since that time various "Confraternities of the Holy Family" have been founded and you will even find a slightly off beat version available via Facebook  In his Pulitzer Prize winning memoir Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt writes of his experience in the Confraternity in Limerick, Ireland as a schoolboy.

The Feast eventually made into into the Liturgical Calendar  listed for the Sunday in the Octave of the Epiphany. In 1969 just after the release of Humanae Vitae it was moved to the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas. Howver this year it is overwhelmed by the fact that Christmas Day and the 1st January both fall on a Sunday so it has been bumped to a mere weekday event.

Long before the feast was added to the liturgical calendar images of the Holy Family were a popular theme  of European art history More recently in 2012 he US Postal Services issued a Holy Family stamp. There is also a new and exciting tradition of queering the image of the Holy Family to embrace the diversity of sexuality and spirituality that is evident in theinage I have used here from the collection of Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin.

As a single gay man with no children of my own  I belong to those who are usually overlooked in the preaching of today's celebration. So here are a couple of challenging readings I discovered that make this day inclusive and joyful for those who cannot 'fit into" the image of the traditional "Holy Family":