Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Woman with the Twelve Stars


The Book of Revelation describes a woman with a crown of twelve stars: "A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars." (Revelations 12:1) Historically, the Catholic Church has interpreted the woman to be a reference to the Virgin Mary, who is often depicted with either a crown of twelve stars upon her head, or a circle of twelve stars around her head.

Full passage from Revelation.

More information at Wikipedia: Woman of the Apocalypse.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Edi beo thu hevene quene - Beautiful Middle English Poem About the Virgin Mary

A beautiful 13th century Middle English poem about the Virgin Mary, in two musical versions:





The text of the poem can be found at CPDL. (Note that the website erroneously describes the poem as Old English, but it is really Middle English. The text is on the cusp of intelligibility for a modern native speaker of English, whereas an Old English poem would not be comprehensible at all for the same person without study.)

A good translation can be found at a Swedish website.

Monday, May 1, 2017

May Magnificat - a Magnificent Poem in Honor of the Virgin Mary

In the Catholic Church, the month of May is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Throughout the month, I'll be posting some of my favorite poems, songs, and images associated with Mary. I'll start with a reflection by the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins on why May was designated as the month of Mary:


May Magnificat
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

May is Mary's month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season—

Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May,
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honour?

Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?
Is it opportunest
And flowers finds soonest?

Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring?—
Growth in every thing—

Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and greenworld all together;
Star-eyed strawberry-breasted
Throstle above her nested

Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.

All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathising
With that world of good,
Nature's motherhood.

Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord.

Well but there was more than this:
Spring's universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May.

When drop-of-blood-and-foam-dapple
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
And thicket and thorp are merry
With silver-surfed cherry

And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
And magic cuckoocall
Caps, clears, and clinches all—

This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ's birth
To remember and exultation
In God who was her salvation

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Praying at the Cave of the Annunciation in Nazareth

March 25 is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord in the Catholic Church, commemorating the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel in Nazareth to the Virgin Mary, as narrated in Luke 1:26-38, to reveal to her that she would become the Mother of God. Today, a magnificent two story basilica stands at the site. The bottom layer encloses the cave that, according to tradition, was the house of Mary, where the apparition and the Annunciation took place. The basilica is adorned with images of Our Lady from different parts of the world.








































Visiting the House of St. Joseph in Nazareth

March 19 is the Solemnity of St. Joseph's (though this year the celebration was transferred to Monday, March 20, because March 19 fell on a Sunday). Next to the magnificent Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth in the Holy Land stands the Church of St. Joseph, under which pilgrims can visit the excavated ruins of ancient homes dating back to the small community of Nazareth at the time of Jesus. One of these homes is believed to be the house of St. Joseph, where the Holy Family lived. The last picture shows a sign at the foot of the altar saying: "Hic erat subditus illis," meaning "He became obedient to them," a reference to the story of the young Jesus at the temple, told in Luke 2-41-51.






























Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Beautiful Town of Lourdes

February 11 is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Below are some pictures of the enchanting town of Lourdes, France, from my visit there in October of 2015. Situated at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains, Lourdes is a beautiful little town, complete with a Medieval castle overlooking the area. Lourdes is the site of a series of 18 apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Bernadette Soubirous in 1958, over the course of several months. During one of the apparitions, Mary directed Bernadette to find a spring in the grotto, instructing people to drink from the water and to wash themselves with it.

The grotto of the apparition has been well preserved. Pilgrims are able to enter, touch the walls, and view the location, now behind Plexiglass, where Bernadette found the spring. A beautiful church complex was built over the rock formation in which the grotto is located. More recently, under the promenade leading to the grotto, a huge, modern-style basilica was built, large enough to accommodate 25,000 people, making it the third largest basilica in the world. This underground church might initially strike visitors more as a backup parking garage rather than as a church, but the space has a power of its own in its aggressive starkness. Ironically, the basilica is named after St. Pius X, who was not exactly a fan of modernity.

5 million people visit Lourdes every year. Pilgrims can drink from the water and are able to bathe in it through an elaborate, stream-lined process. Visitors can also tour the buildings where Bernadette lived while she was at Lourdes. From March through October, thousands of people participate in a nightly candle light procession, involving multi-lingual prayers. A nightly Eucharistic procession is also held in the underground basilica. Close to the grotto, a life-sized set of the Stations of the Cross winds up the side of a wooded hill, inviting pilgrims to a prayerful walk, with a stunning view of the surrounding area.

Lourdes has a profound spiritual power, and from a spiritual perspective, the experience of this shrine was an amazing spiritual highlight. On the other hand, the rows and rows of shops selling all kinds of articles of commercialized religion can be disturbing and spiritually deflating. God and mammon are both present in this place - it is our choice which we embrace.