|Pen and Ink Reflections||
One of the puzzles Christians have sometimes set themselves is to work out what light is being referred to in the first few verses of the Bible. For, apart from modern light forms, we are so used to thinking of light from the sun and moon, which, in the Genesis account, are only created later. Various possibilities have therefore been suggested by the great theologians. Some (such as Ephrem of Syria) have thus suggested the light was a pillar of fire, or (like Basil of Caesarea) that the essence of the sun without its actual substance, or even that the light came for the angels (in the case of Augustine of Hippo). However, in so far as we might respond, I think I would go with the Orthodox Church’s understanding of ‘the uncreated light’ of God in Godself. For, when we come to the first chapter of Genesis. we are speaking here of divine mystery, depth, purpose and ultimate meaning, not literal or even limited symbolic explanation of Creation. Rather, like our second reading today (For Light by John O’Donohue), the nature of Genesis chapter 1 is poetic and prayerful, seeking to lead us into sacredness. For above all, such texts are designed to renew our sense of wonder and participation in divine creation and our role as priests of God’s Creation…
How do we picture transfiguration? Do you like the transfiguration mandala of Jack Haas for example? It is better than many as a prompt for reflection today. For the story, symbol, and spirituality of Christian transfiguration is rich and profound. Yet it can be a puzzle and portrayed in very limited dimensions, and can then seem quite distant to some of us. Let me therefore offer four pathways into the reality and meaning of Christ’s Transfiguration: four pathways on the model of the spirituality wheel of which Penny Jones spoke to us a few months ago, and to our Ministers Retreat this week. For transfiguration, as Jack Haas suggests, is like a biblical mandala, of enriching colour and creativity for our lives: a kaleidoscope revealing divine transforming love…
When you see an egg, do you see the risen Jesus? This is what Christians have done from the earliest times. There is an Armenian picture from the eleventh century that shows the angel and the women at the tomb with a huge egg inscribed with the words ‘He is not here. He is risen.’
So why an egg. Well firstly eggs are elliptical in shape – they are infinite, having no beginning or end, and so are symbolic for God. There is no end to God’s creativity, God’s love, God’s compassion.
Secondly an egg symbolizes the potential of new life. In some sense it is a microcosm, a miniature version of everything that is. It reminds us of the potential that each of us has for new life and a new beginning, today on Easter Day and every day.
Thirdly, for a chick to emerge from an egg, the shell must be broken. This symbolizes for Christians the rolling away of the stone from the front of the tomb, so that the risen Christ could emerge. It reminds us that for the new to come, the old has to be fractured and let go – an important message in these days, where so much of what is familiar to us has to be left behind.
Eggs tell us that God cannot be contained; that resurrection is possible and life is stronger than death. In recent memory Christians living under the severely repressive Albanian government, used to dye eggs red for the blood of Christ in the Orthodox fashion, and then take them out in the dark of Holy Saturday night and place them on the steps of town halls and places of government. By doing so they asserted the power of love over hate.
So, what do you see when you see an egg? Take a little time today to contemplate an egg and ask God to help you see there the reality of new life even in the midst of death. And look twice – for it can be a messenger of hope and resurrection to you today.
Penny Jones, for Easter Sunday 12 April 2020
What are your experiences of nativity plays? They can be extraordinary events, can’t they? At times they are full of bathos, clumsy and comic. At other moments they can be wondrous and moving, full of pathos. These days of course all kinds of characters can sometimes be found in them: space folk, aliens, rocket ships, and even Harry Potter. Mostly however we have the traditional cast: with the so-called ‘three kings’ perhaps the most striking of all. What do you make of them, I wonder? As we mark the feast of Epiphany, perhaps it is worth a closer look, not least at the often passed over gift of myrrh. For, in my view, much more than gold or frankincense, myrrh takes us to the heart of Christian discipleship and the love of God in Jesus, and certainly beyond 'conventional' gender, and other, nativity norms…
I’ve been in two minds the last couple of days about which of the two sets of Australian Anglican lectionary readings for today to use. In the end I‘ve gone for marking the feast of the Holy Cross, for which incidentally there is no alternative in the Church of England’s lectionary for today. Does this perhaps perhaps a stronger Reformed emphasis in the Australian Anglican Church? If so, I have some sympathy. For there is a danger that the cross can become objectified, even venerated as an artefact, rather than being at the existential, metaphysical heart of Christian faith. The feast of the Holy Cross, in my view, is certainly one of those adiaphora, or non-essential, elements which are neither commanded nor proscribed by a healthy reading of holy Scripture. Yet, to that extent, it any yet assist us more deeply into the paschal mystery at the centre of our Faith. After my own theological wrestling with this, let me therefore briefly offer three, good Anglican, reasons for marking the feast today…
It is said that the poet Alfred Tennyson was walking one day in a beautiful garden where many flowers were blooming. Someone stopped him and asked: ‘Mr. Tennyson, you speak so often of Jesus. Will you tell me what Christ really means to you?’ Tennyson thought for a moment, and then, pointing down to a beautiful flower, he said: ‘what the sun is to that flower, Jesus Christ is to my soul.’ That, my friends, is at the heart of the feast of Transfiguration...