|Pen and Ink Reflections||
Today's baptism was delayed from the end of June by the lockdown this year. It is therefore long awaited. In another way however, it is especially appropriate to take place at this particular time: as we celebrate hope and the embodiment of love, especially with Mary and her extraordinary cry of liberation, typically known as the Magnificat. For the person we baptise is, in my view, a truly remarkable person, and a wonderful embodiment of love: both gentle and fearless, just like Mary, the mother of Jesus. Like each of us, she is a truly special creation of God. In her case, I am deeply humbled and enriched by the love and kindness of her presence, by the deep courage of their journey in life to join us; and by the possibilities and dreams she bears. For, like Mary, in her life and baptism today, she helps birth divine love anew among us. Like Mary, but in her own particular way, she thereby encourages us to magnify God’s love and help make it real among us…
Let’s meditate a little on Mary from these four words. For we live in very unsettled times. Times when everything we have known is being overthrown. And in such times. we need Mary – not just as an archetype of womanhood, but as a living, breathing example of the approach we need to life and faith....
As you may be aware, there is a tradition in more Catholic Christian circles of using rose pink as a colour for this Sunday. For the third Sunday of Advent has often been known as “Gaudete’ – or ‘Rejoice’ – Sunday, and rose pink, became linked to it, as rose pink is also associated with Mary the Mother of Jesus. So, being a bit into colours at the moment, especially pink ones, I thought I’d do a little investigation into the subject. The first thing I came across was the Readers Digest guide to rose colour meanings It begins very interestingly. The red rose is said to symbolise love, and, I quote, is ‘Perfect for: freaking out your first date; covering beer stains; wooing a hunky bishop.’ So, something to bear in mind there? In contrast, according to Readers Digest, the pink rose is said to express grace and elegance, as well as sweetness and sympathy: and thus: ‘Perfect for: sick secretaries, (and) the platinum blonde in your life.’ Again, is there something useful for us to remember there? Well, maybe just a teens-weensy bit of gender stereotyping in that, don’t you think?! It is a little like many approaches to Mary, the Mother of Jesus …
Do you have a womb? - literally, or spiritually? Most females are literally born with a womb, but not all. It is just one of those aspects of life which point to gender and sexuality being slightly more complex than some might think. This can be quite distressing, as we know in the lives of others who are not able to bear children literally. Yet it can be the source of amazing grace. One of my own close female blood relatives for instance was born without a womb. She has been, and very much still is, a wonderful woman in so many respects. Yet, literally speaking, she has never had the biological capacity to bear children. By the grace of God however, she does have two children, both of them fully genetically those of herself and her husband. That was a kind of miracle, assisted by the miracle of modern science. So, perhaps, when we reflect on the doctrine of the virgin birth at this time, such diversity in our lives and families may give us pause to wonder about the marvellous complexity of human gender, sexuality, and creativity. For what the Catholic Church calls the Joyful Mysteries of Mary are much more than ancient accounts of the participation of one remarkable woman in the creativity of God. They are also profound and immensely fertile symbols for us: grace-filled invitations to bring Christ to birth in our own bodies and lives. Not least this is the case with today’s Gospel story of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. Indeed, this is a story of two wombs, one of them, which was formerly barren, actually jumping with joy. It is also a story which encourages us to discover our own womb-like capacities, and to participate, in our different ways, in the bearing of God’s new life. So let me offer three pointers on the way…
by Jon Inkpin for Advent Sunday 2014
Keep awake – keep alert – again and again we hear this message repeated in the Gospels, especially around this Advent season. Keep awake: like an alarm clock, this message challenges us to rise from our slumbers and get living. It calls on us to open our eyes, open our ears, and open our hearts, to the love of God coming afresh in, and among and beyond us. What a vital message this is for a Christian new year, as well as a preparation for Christmas. Are we awake? Are we alert? Are we expecting God to live and grow and come to birth in and among us?
In many ways, the best response to the Advent challenge is that which we see in Mary, the mother of Jesus. That is why we have taken Mary’s song, the Magnificat, as our Advent theme this year. ‘Give Thanks – Give Life’: that is the refrain. For giving thanks and giving life are two major elements of Mary’s song, the Magnificat, which we also can share in. Just as Mary gives thanks for the Holy Spirit whom she sees and hears God in and around her, so we too can open our eyes and ears to that same Spirit among us. Just as Mary opened her heart, and her very being, to the love and power of God, so we too can open our hearts, and our very selves, to the love of God in Christ Jesus. Giving thanks and giving life: these things can be symbolised or embodied in ordinary Christmas presents. Yet they are most fully embodied in the giving of of our whole human lives…