Second Wednesday in Advent

"The Holy Thing" by Bruce Manwaring
“The Holy Thing” by Bruce Manwaring

“Everyone should open their heart very wide to joy, should welcome it and let it be buried very deeply in them; and they should wait the flowering with patience. Of course, the first ecstasy will pass, but because in real joy Christ grows in us, the time will come when joy will put forth shoots and the richness and sweetness of the person who rejoiced will be Christ’s flowering.”Caryll Houselander, woodcarver and mystic

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, ‘Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.’”Luke 1:26-28

The eight-day Jewish “Festival of Lights” called Hanukkah starts next week. It commemorates the victory of the Maccabees in reclaiming the temple in Jerusalem’s from the Greek-Syrian ruler Antiochus IV. As the people prepared to dedicate the temple, they realized they only had enough purified oil to kindle the menorah for a single day. Miraculously, the light continued to burn for eight days. Each evening of Hanukkah one more menorah candle is lit with a special blessing. The candles are not to be “used” for light, but only for enjoyment, savoring their beauty.

“We will prevail through the dark night,” sings Rabbi Shefa Gold in her Hanukkah song from Zechariah, “but not by might, and not by power, but by Your Spirit. These are the words of God.”

Jewish midrash tells an interesting story on how the first menorah was made. Apparently, Moses had a difficulty remembering God’s instructions on menorah making. Every time Moses left the mountain he would forget the pattern, so God engraved the design into the flesh of Moses palm. Torah scholar Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg says that after this experience Moses’ hands took on new power. Later, when Moses instructs Joshua to lead the Israelite force against Amalek, Moses does not direct with his staff but only his open hands. “In this gesture, according to one midrash,” writes Zornberg, “ Moses models prayer to his people fighting below. In a surrealistic description, their involvement in battle is refigured as a miming of Moses’ prayerful gestures: ‘they saw Moses kneeling down, and they knelt down, falling upon his face and they fell upon their faces, spreading their hands to heaven.’” Whenever the people modeled Moses, they prevailed.

What a powerful image of nonviolent resistance! In the midst of a battle, all the Israelites knelt down to pray as Moses instructed them. “As long as the Israelites gazed upwards and submitted their hearts to God in heaven, they would prevail,” says the Mishna Rosh Hashana, “and if not, they would fail.”

What healing of the masculine to you need in your life?

Ad … vent. A d v e n t (slowly breathe in on the “Ad” part and out on the “vent” part)…There! You prayed today. Keep it up!

With gratitude to Pax Christi USA where some of these reflections first appeared in print..

Order Now: Daily Advent Reflections for Radical Discipleship Communities

Order you Advent 2017 chapbook from RadicalDiscipleship.org to get deep and timely Christian reflections from the grassroots and beyond. Listening in the Dark: Daily Advent Reflections for Radical Discipleship Communities is limited-edition and self-published in Detroit, with original art, and voices that include Rose Berger, Lydia Wylie-Kellermann, Timothy Jones, Ched Myers, Tim Nafziger, Wesley Morris, Jeanie Wylie-Kellermann, and more. Churches, communities, and book groups are making this their companion for the season. You can order them at www.radicaldiscipleship.net/store.

Belle Fox-Martin’s Marks of Lent

Belle Fox-Martin sent me this lovely Lenten icon today.

I’m finding myself tossed and tumbled in the Lenten scriptures — at one time dry bones, another the shouting crowd, another the grieving sister, then the befuddled disciple or perhaps just an onlooker. Belle’s art centers me in my particular incarnation of God’s breath and helps be exhale through my wounds and the wounds of the world that find their way into my heart.

Video: ‘Start Music, End War’ Say Young Syrians

Young Syrian musicians are performing on the streets of war-torn Damascus to engage passersby, despite the security crackdowns.

When people ask, What can be done against ISIS or in the midst of a civil war? Artists always have an answer. Whether it is Vedran Smailovic with his cello in Sarajevo during the 1992 siege or the Syrian youth flash performers, Meet Us On the Road (seen here), peace finds its way.

With a motto, “Start Music, End War,” the organization Meet Us On The Road (find them on FB), whose members appear unexpectedly on the street with their instruments to recite their “musical” prayers, only to disappear suddenly, sees art as the only way to motivate Syrians to put aside differences and pursue peace.

This is what protest looks like in the middle of war: reclaiming space from violence. This is what church should look like every day. This is the kind of evangelization that undercuts the brutal coercion practiced by ISIS and the others with a habit toward violence.–Rose Berger

Read more here.

Power Art – Tracking an Image #Ferguson

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This image from Ferguson has become known as “The Man With the Chips” who was throwing a tear gas canister fired by the police. The original photo (lower) was taken by Robert Cohen for the St. Louis Dispatch newspaper. It’s gone around the world and been transformed into iconographic art (above).

Some interpret the photo as a young man throwing a fire-bomb at the police. Some interpret it as a young man throwing a tear-gas canister back at the police. Eye-witnesses say he picked up a tear-gas canister that had been lobbed by the police and threw it in a direction to get it away from the children who were on the sidewalk nearby. Read the story here.

Video: Who’s Sucking Dry the Teat of State? #GlobalPOV

“Narrator: And all this time I thought the world was round. The world is not round. It has edges we can fall from and faces staring in entirely different directions. And I thought the world was huge, but it is not. It’s in our hands. We can hold it, change it, turn it, shake it. We can solve it, but not by share, luck, or chance. We must be taught the way.

Ananya Roy: Each year, I teach a large class on global poverty at the University of California Berkeley. As is befitting a great public university the students represent a diversity of social class, advantage, and privilege. Some are first generation students. Some are the sons and daughters of working class of global California, others comes from the fortresses of wealth. Yet others belong to that newly precarious social group, the American middle class. …”

The #GlobalPOV Project combines critical social theory, improv art, and digital media to explore innovative ways of thinking about poverty, inequality, and undertaking poverty action.

Leaping Pointy-Headed Clerics in a Single Bound?

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“Pope Francis as superman, flying through the air with his white cape billowing out behind him, the image graffitied by an anonymous artist onto a wall in Rome was tweeted by the Vatican today.

Speeding forwards with his fist raised, the heroic pontiff – crucifix swinging in the wind – carries his trademark black bag, with the word “values” written across it, in Spanish, in white letters.

“We share with you graffiti found in a Roman street near the Vatican,” the Pontifical Council for Social Communications from the Holy See said on its official Twitter page.”

Read Pope as superman: Vatican tweets graffiti of hero pontiff

National Sculpture Garden in Winter

Today I walked through the Sculpture Garden. Snow on the ground. Temperatures in the 20s. Here’s my message for the day from the work of Robert Indiana:

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Washington, DC—Robert Indiana’s AMOR (conceived 1998, executed 2006) is now on view in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. A play on Indiana’s famous LOVE sculpture, AMOR is constructed from red and yellow polychrome aluminum. This is the first sculpture by Indiana (American, b. 1928) to enter the Gallery’s collection, and it significantly advances the Gallery’s holdings of monumental modern sculpture. The sculpture was given to the Gallery in May 2012 by Simon and Gillian Salama-Caro in memory of Ruth Klausner.

Indiana originally conceived the familiar “Love” graphic in drawings, paintings, and sculptures between 1964 and 1966. The first sculptural version was displayed at an exhibition at the Stable Gallery in Manhattan in 1966, and the artist has continued working with the motif since. The image became most widely known through a commission for a Museum of Modern Art card in 1965 and the 8-cent “Love” stamp issued in 1973 by the United States Postal Service. The graphic became an emblem of the 1970s in the U.S., associated with the relaxation of social strictures. The monumental AMOR made its first appearance in the center of Madrid in 2006. With its inclined “O” and vibrant colors, it extends the spirit of “Love” into several languages and cultures.

Video: Zoe Keating & Jim Wallis at Davos

“Skills are not the most important attribute. Sacrifice is. Nelson Mandela taught us that.”–Jim Wallis

“We here are the most included people in the world, let’s include the most excluded.”–Jim Wallis

And more about amazing DIY cellist Zoe Keating in the January 2014 issue of Strad. She performs “Leap.”