O King Of Nations Sixth O Antiphon Reflection 2011

"O King of all the nations,
the only joy of every human heart;

O Keystone of the mighty arch of humankind:
come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust."

As a biologist I was intrigued by the phrase : 

"O Keystone of the mighty arch of humankind", because the arch of the human foot plays a unique role in the course of human evolution and the shape of the bones of the feet are used to indicate whether or not our ancestors were bipedal, capable of walking upright on two feet. The higher the arch the more spring in the feet.
It's a nice way of reminding me of the link between the Incarnation and divinity of Christ. The feet of Christ walked on this earth and God was the ultimate creator of all life.

“So it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 

The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.

As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.”  ( 1 Corinthians 15:45-48 )

Isaiah prophesied, “ For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder.  

They name him Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Is 9:5).

 “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. 

"And it shall come to pass" ....... how long O Lord How long ??

They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (2:4) .

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind

In one the hearts of all mankind; 

Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,

And be yourself our King of Peace. 

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to you, O Israel!

There is a great reflection on swords into plougshares here
which begins :

“A lot of Christians wear crosses around their necks. You think when Jesus comes back he’s gonna want to see a cross?”........... 
The incongruity has always been there.  A method of extreme torture and humiliating execution has become the most prominent religious symbol in the world.  And when you understand who is hanging on the cross, the fact that it has become the world’s greatest devotional symbol is astonishing.  How can the butchering of the Lord of Glory be a universal symbol of hope?  It’s an incredible redemption of an abysmal horror.
And that’s what “swords into ploughshares” is all about."

There is always a certain sadness in me that lies parallel to the manger of Christmas because of the knowledge that foreshadows the Cross.

The Christmas paradox presents us with innocent beautiful life and God's love for us, and the potential for a new existence in Him with the brutality of what humans do to life with fresh evidence of that still in our world with every day that passes.

This is a video that uses a reading by the writer Max Lucado of  "Mary's Prayer." This is a great new poem I have not heard before.
Video clips are taken from "The Passion of The Christ".

In his book Kissing The Dark, Dom Mark Patrick Hederman picks up on the dangers of preoccupation with the cross which he says can become a projection of our own pathology. He quotes this passage from Rainer Maria Rilke:

"I cannot conceive that the cross should remain, which was after all, only a crossroads. It certainly should not be stamped on us on all occasions like a brand mark. For is the situation not this;  He intended simply to provide the loftier tree, on which we could ripen better. He, on the cross is this new tree in God, and we were to be warm happy fruit at the top of it.

We should not always talk of what was formerly, but the afterwards should have begun. This tree should have become so one with us, or we with it, and by it, that we should not need to occupy ourselves continually with it, but simply and quietly with God, for His aim was to lift us up into God more purely....

Instead of setting out from the place of the crossroads where this sign was high and lifted up into the night of his sacrifice, instead of proceeding onwards from this place of the cross, Christianity has settled down there and claims that it is living there in Christ."

So the seasons cycle again and again and we return to the beginning. There is a tantalising fusion of past, present and future at Christmas. 
We sit with the idea that Christ will come and that He has already come and is still in the here and now.

One of my favourite poems is by T.S Eliot: Little Gidding No 4 from the Four Quartets and this extract fits well to my thoughts this Christmas:

"So, while the light fails.............
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

Perhaps we spend too much time in the church uncritically stewarding and guarding the inheritance from the past, and too little on the church as an imaginative and daring anticipation of the future. 

Maybe then people would sit up and listen as if the Incarnation was indeed bearing fruit.
Crown him the Lord of peace; his kingdom is at hand.
From pole to pole let warfare cease and Christ rule every land!
All hail, Redeemer, hail, for you have died for me.
Your praise shall never, never fail throughout eternity.

Sometimes I do get stuck with Christmas - all the hope and optimism embodied in it is always blurred by the frenzied cliches and crassness that fragment the lens through which I see;  the endless global conflicts, injustices and hardships we face are so depressing.

Image from here

Still, somewhere in all of this are opportunities to be moved and surprised by small gestures of generosity, encouraged by hope and uplifted by the love of others.

These are all signs that Christ's love is here and now acting in the real world, and I am full of gratitude, but at other times the vision and the dream of the fulfillment of the Beatitudes becomes a fragmented and living nightmare. C'est la vie !!

The Christmas story is the story of a human family that lives on a extremely beautiful and tiny blue marble planet surrounded by a universe with an immensity of trillions of stars.

I always hope that Christmas Day will mean waking up to see that God has come to dwell in every heart. 

Ultimately, humanity is one and this small planet is our only home. If we are to protect this home and each other, each of us needs to experience a vivid sense of compassion for each other and for the created world.

We may be of different tribes, clans, nations,languages, cultural identities, traditions, customs: but there is is only one human race present on this planet: Homo sapiens sapiens-  We all belong to one species.

The Creator God, The Cosmic Christ came for all of us. 
Maybe we just are not evolved enough yet to realise that the divine nature is in all of us.

                  I came across this lovely prayer from a book on Advent that says :
"This Christmas, when you have the need for new hope or encouragement, 
look to one of your 1.5 trillion stars and let its immensity wash over you. 
Above you are the stars. 
 Beneath you is the earth. 

Within you is the light of life.  

Like the stars may your love be constant.

Like the earth, may your life be grounded. 

Like the light within, may your spirit shine" 

(Ian Lawton)

Image from here

Sometime back at the start of Advent I posted a piece via Brother Dan at Dating God which was from an essay by Thomas Merton titled Advent Hope or Delusion and I have managed to get hold of the book it came from : Seasons of Celebration: Meditations on the Cycle of Liturgical Feasts. 

It is a fine book and this is the final part of the chapter on Advent Hope or Delusion which is fitting to reflect on in these last few days before Christmas Day :

" The mystery of Advent centres in the fact that GOD is now present in Man and men will be judged according to their acceptance of this crucial truth, in all its consequences.
What we do to Man, we do to Christ, the God- Man..
Hence the tragedy of contemporary disorders and injustice.

It is not only that they prevent men from becoming One in Christ, but rather that they rend mankind in pieces, when in the Advent mystery, Man already is, at least inchoately, One in Christ. In the light of current events, this is a sobering if not a frightening doctrine. Who of us does not fail in this faith ?

But there is hope in St Paul's famous text."Whether well, or badly we all build on one foundation, Christ Jesus. No other foundation stone can be laid down. We can build on this foundation with gold,or stone, or wood or straw. In the Day of the Lord ( the day, that is of His "Advent "), each one's work will be tried by fire.

"If any Man's work remain, which he has built on the foundation, he will receive a reward. If a man's work burns, he suffers loss.he himself shall be saved : saved, however, as though by fire." (I Cor.3:14-15).

This is the "tragic" aspect of the Advent mystery for sincere and faithful Christians. We do, indeed, love Christ. We love His coming. We work for Him, and for His Kingdom. 
But we are also blind, confused, weak and fallible. We have resisted, perhaps sometimes even extinguished His Spirit, and done so perhaps when we thought we were most zealous for His truth.

There have been great mistakes. Heroic efforts have been sometimes made and wasted. When times of crisis come to shake us out of our complacency, this all becomes sadly evident. What then shall we say ?

Advent, in these sombre years "of wars and rumours of wars" reminds us that though our work may be judged, and found wanting, even totally consumed by fire, it is in the fire that destroys our imperfect works that we ourselves can be saved."

Thomas Merton.  Seasons of Celebration Meditations on The Cycle of Liturgical Feasts 

I'll finish with the last stanza from the T.S Eliot poem
to remind me of what the birth of Christ means:  
From the Greek Kénōsis :
the 'self-emptying' of one's own will and becoming entirely receptive to God's divine will.

Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

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