Saturday, January 15, 2011
I pray and sing the "Lamb of God" at Mass and hardly ever think of its full significance. In John 1:29 John the Baptist points out Jesus by saying, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." In John's Gospel, after the Crucifixion, the soldiers are breaking the legs of those crucified, a common Roman practice. The shock would kill them if the crucifixion didn't. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they didn't break his legs. John says this fulfilled the Scripture, "None of his bones shall be broken."
This is from the Old Testament book of Exodus where it refers to the lamb that the Israelites killed and ate the night before their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. On that night each Israelite family was told to smear some blood of that lamb on the outside of their door frame. The angel of death would come through the city killing the oldest son of each Egyptian family, but he would "pass over" the homes marked with the blood of the lamb.
Every year after that the Israelites celebrated a meal to remember their deliverance from Egypt. They called it the Passover. Jesus was crucified while the Jews were celebrating Passover. The early Christians came to see Jesus as the new Passover Lamb whose sacrifice saved the world from the death of sin. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
On our pilgrimage to the Holy Land we went to the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized. From where the bus parked we walked back a long, hot, dusty path to a sturdy pavilion with steps going down into the water. I stepped down to the water level, stooped down and scooped water up over my head three times in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. I felt very close to Jesus and to the early Christians who had remembered this site.
We know that they were already celebrating a feast of the Baptism of Jesus in the 2nd century. It may have been even before the end of the first century. This event was precious to them because it revealed that Jesus was God. It is easy for us to forget that for the people of his time Jesus looked every bit a man like every other man. The Baptism revealed that this ordinary looking man was also God.
Through Jesus God moves into our world and becomes one of us. I find it helpful to think that the membrane between the divine and human dimensions was ruptured. Matthew says heaven opens up, the Spirit of God moves dove-like into our world, and we can hear God's voice saying that this is his Son whom he loves. The hymn puts it, "God in flesh made manifest."
Friday, January 7, 2011
Yesterday was a day of light snow flurries that didn't amount to much. During the night we got about five inches of fresh, light, snow; and it is still snowing. It made my morning walk even more enjoyable. Scrub pines, like this, hold the snow differently from other pines. They sort of cup the light snow in little balls. (Clicking on the picture enlarges it.)
It occurred to me that God was providing some natural beauty at a time when, after the Twelve Days of Christmas, I was beginning reluctantly to take down my Christmas decorations.
These days have not been as quiet and reflective as I like. It's partly that I haven't been guarding my stillness very well, but it's mainly that other demands have required my time and energy. When I stepped outside last night before going up to bed, the snow had made a completely silent night. The snow encourages stillness in me as well.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
"Magi from the East" is all Matthew tells us about them in his 2nd chapter. Originally Magi were Persian priests with a reputation for interpreting dreams. Matthew is content to say "from the East." In his commentary on Matthew Harrington says that their name points to Persia, present day Iran. Their studying the stars points to Babylonia, roughly present day Iraq. Their gifts of frankincense and myrrh point to Arabia or the Syrian desert. All Matthew really wants to say is that they are not "from here." They are foreigners, they are not Jews.
Matthew is writing for a community of Jews who have become Christian. By the time of his writing they are seeing a lot more non-Jews than Jews becoming Christian. These Magi from the East represent all the non-Jews of the world. They will benefit, along with the Jews, in the salvation brought by the Jewish Messiah.
God moves through dimensions that we cannot imagine to become, not only one of us, but all of us. God now lives in every human being who ever lived or who will ever live. The Divine becomes human so that the human can become Divine.
Thursday evening's sunset and afterglow had a kind of pink/peach shade that this picture barely captures. I couldn't help but think of it as a bit of God showing through from some other dimension.