Sunday, 28 February 2010

Foxes, hens and the divine motherhood found in Christ (via Anselm)

Living in an area with quite a bit of wildlife, today's Gospel reading about the fox and the hen always rings a bell for me. And I love the way the imagery of the hen's care for her chicks is drawn out in St. Anselm's Canticle, " A Song of Christ's Goodness," not least because the modern form it has in Common Worship - Daily Prayer was composed by my Litugy Lecturer and College Tutor, Michael Vasey. You can read what I had to say when preaching by clicking here. This is a taster (from the middle of the homily):

.... “How often I have desired to gather your children as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…” says Jesus. We find these words in St. Matthew’s Gospel too – but in a different context. It’s Luke – in today’s Gospel reading – who makes the connection between Jesus, acting like a hen, and Herod, the fox. It’s the hen who has most to lose when the fox is on the prowl. But this one is not fearful – this one wants to gather the brood of chicks beneath her wings… and this is an image of warmth and safety.

There’s a marvellous drawing out of this image in some words of St. Anselm of Canterbury which were translated into a modern canticle by the man who taught me liturgy, Michael Vasey – they’re words now used in daily prayer by those who use the books “Celebrating Common Prayer “ and “Common Worship”. With the title, “A Song of Christ’s Goodness,” it has the refrain:

Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

And it looks to a divine motherhood in Christ:

Jesus, as a mother you gather your people to you,
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.

Often you weep over our sins and our pride,
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgment.

You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds,
in sickness you nurse us and with pure milk you feed us.

Jesus, by your dying, we are born to new life;
by your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.

Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

Could there be a better image for describing the costliness of a mother’s love, the warmth and tenderness which at the same time require sorrow and sacrifice? And isn’t this also a call to see the feminine side of God, whom so easily we depict as a divine male autocrat upon his throne?

It may seem a world away from the Old Testament story of God’s covenant with Abraham. But there is a connection. If our Gospel reading shows us something of the Motherhood of God in Christ, then the story of Abram tells us of the yearning of a father who is without children...

As ever, after clicking on the homily link and waiting for it to load, you'll probably need to use the scroll button to make the text appear. The same is true for Paul Heatherington's sermon for last week, the 1st Sunday of Lent.

But I had success first time in getting into our newly uploaded Parish Magazine for March, online here. You can read it in all its colourful glory online. And we hope the hard copy will be out in a day or two.

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