Sunday, 8 April 2012

Christ is risen

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

A time to shine the lamps and acknowledge the light...

Monday, 2 April 2012

The hands that build can also tear down

"Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whome he raised from the dead..."

In today's Gospel reading, St. John goes on to tell how - at dinner - Lazarus's sister, Mary, came in to anoint Jesus' feet with costly ointment and to wipe them with her hair. "The house was full of the scent of the ointment..."

Yesterday's Gospel of the Palms, read in St. Mark's account, tells how Jesus began approach to Jerusalem "at Bethpage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives." The two villages of Bethphage and Bethany are only a short distance apart - it would take minutes to walk between them. But now they are divided by the euphemistically-named "Security Wall." In Bethany it cuts literally across the main street. To travel from Bethany into Jerusalem now requires a diversion of several miles around an illegally-built huge Jewish settlement - and then its Palestinian residents would still have to negotiate the Israeli checkpoint.

In Bethany the church depicts Christ's start of his journey down the Mount of Olives. Inside there's a large rock which he's said to have used to get on the donkey - so large it would probably be easier to get straight on!

But the sense of his Passion continued into our own day is still more graphically depicted by the adjacent Palestinian house, demolished by the Israeli authorities - and the other side of the wall.

"For those who still make Jerusalem a battleground, let us pray to the Lord."

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Faith and Fruitfulness

Having returned from pilgrimage to the Holy Land before the beginning of Lent, I still haven’t sorted out the pictures that I took while I was there. I know there’s over a thousand of them. About 200 are on my phone - so I sometimes find myself scrolling through them, generally in an odd moment when I’m waiting to do something else.

I see that the final picture I took is of a man squeezing pomegranates. He’d set up his stall outside the church where we’d held our final Eucharist. And he’d chosen his location wisely. Having had no refreshments since breakfast and nearing lunch, we were a large group of thirsty pilgrims, ready to buy his coffee, orange juice and the juice of pomegranates.

The pomegranate is a delicious fruit. And it has special symbolism in a number of different religions. For the Jews they represented the fertility of the Promised Land. Wikipedia tells us: “It is traditional to consume pomegranates on Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) because the pomegranate, with its numerous seeds, symbolizes fruitfulness. Also, it is said to have 613 seeds, which corresponds with the 613 mitzvot or commandments of the Torah. And they’re a frequent decoration - in the Temple, on the hem of the High Priest’s robe, perhaps a model for Solomon’s crown.

They’re symbolic also in Christianity, often woven into the fabric of vestments and liturgical hangings. They’re found in the paintings of Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci amongst others, and placed in the hands of the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus. The fruit, broken or bursting open, is a symbol of the fullness of Jesus' suffering and resurrection.

It’s significant that this was the last picture I took - the place was Abu Ghosh, the likeliest location of Emmaus, the village to which two disciples walked on Easter Day when they were joined by Jesus. They failed to recognise him until they had invited this stranger encountered on the road into their house - and there he broke bread. Then it was they knew him to be the Risen Christ.

At Easter we are called to recognise the fruits of Christ’s work for us, his love shown upon the Cross, his sacrificial death - and the power of the Resurrection. I was glad that our pilgrimage ended in Emmaus - the place where the risen Jesus was seen and known. Let’s pray that his love for us may be a reality which we find at work in our lives.

And meanwhile our Parish Website - with details of Holy Week and Easter - has been updated.