A Visual Prayer

 

This icon, whose prototype originates from the Syrian/Turkish border, has historically been linked to prayers to Our Lord for protection, and for victory over evil and death.

I have been so saddened by the martyrdom of the 21 Egyptian Christians recently in Libya, as well as the thousands of others who have been murdered and persecuted by Muslim extremists.  I painted this icon as a prayerful response to the news of their courage and faith, and that of their grieving families.  (See more about the origin of this icon on my previous post.)

The names of these 21 have been entered into the Coptic book of martyrs, and they have been declared saints.

Hani Abdel Messihah

Yousef Shoukry

Towadros Yousef

Maged Suleiman Shahata

Milad Makeen Zaky

 Abanub Ayad Atiya

Kirollos Shokry Fawzy

Bishoy Astafanus Kamel

Girgis Milad Sinweet

Mina Fayez Aziz

Samuel Alham Wilson

Samuel Astafanus Kamel

Ezat Bishri Naseef

Loqa Nagaty Anees

Munir Gaber Adly

Esam Badir Samir

Malak Farag Abram

Sameh Salah (Sameh Salah Farug)

Girgis Sameer Maglee

Mathew Ayairga (from Ghana)

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Beshir Kamel, the brother of two of the martyrs said that he would forgive the killers if he met them.  He said this of his mother:  “My mother, an uneducated woman in her sixties, said she would ask [the killer] to enter her house and ask God to open his eyes because he was the reason her sons entered the kingdom of heaven.”

“This only makes us stronger in our faith.”

(photo of martyrs from indiegogo.com)

(names and interview posts from the Huffington Post, article by Sophia Jones)

 

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Image Not Made With Human Hands

Abgar, the King of Edessa, was very ill.  He had heard rumors of a healer in Galilea to the south that had performed miraculous cures.  He sent an ambassador to invite the healer to his court, in the hopes of being healed himself.

Jesus declined the offer, remaining with His ministry in His homeland.  Abgar, noting that an picture of Caesar was often used to stand in for the emperor in his absence and thus make decisions official, then sent an artist to make an image of Jesus.  He reasoned that an image would represent Jesus, and thus he might be healed through the Lord’s power.  And so the artist set out.

He sat and tried to draw Jesus as he preached, but he just couldn’t get it right.  Jesus saw the man struggling there, and had pity on him.  He went up to the hapless artist, and held the linen cloth that was being used for the painting to His own face.  He handed it back. The image of His Holy Face was imprinted on the cloth.  The artist hurried back to Edessa and the King, who prayed to Jesus while standing before it, and was cured.

Abgarwithimageofedessa10thcentury

King Abgar and all of his kingdom became believers and followers of the teachings of Jesus–some of the earliest Christians. The cloth with the miraculous image was hung on the city gates.  For many years it was venerated there by the people, and there were numerous cures and prayers granted.

One day, the kingdom was besieged by foreign armies.  To protect the precious image, the Christians of Edessa made a niche in the walls of the city, and hid the cloth inside, leaving a lamp burning before it, then sealing it up with clay bricks.  The kingdom was overrun.  The cloth remained hidden, its existence unsuspected by the conquerors.  Centuries later, it was remembered by the Bishop of Edessa, and he searched for and found the secret compartment in the walls.  To the amazement of all, the cloth was intact, and the lamp was still burning.  In addition, the same image that was on the cloth had been imprinted onto the interior of the bricks as well.

 

During the reign of Constantine, these relics were brought to Byzantium for veneration.  They remained there until Crusaders looted and sacked the empire.  Then the relics disappeared. No one knows for sure what happened to them.

One story says that the cloth was brought to Gaul (France) where it was called “vera ikon“–a true image.  Perhaps this title is the origin of the story of Veronica wiping the face of Jesus during His Passion with her veil.  Eventually the cloth was sent by ship to Italy, when there was a great storm and the ship sank to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, never to be seen again.

This the story of the icon of the Holy Face,  which is also called the Mandilion (in the Western church), as well as Christ-Not-Made-With-Human-Hands (in the Eastern church).  At least, that is the story as I recall it. There are many versions with differing details. The icon itself is most often seen with the image on a cloth, but there are also versions of it painted as if on the clay tiles.  The traditional role of either version  has been to protect, and to give victory over evil. 

Edessa was a city state kingdom near the border of Syria in present-day Turkey.  It is called Sanliurfa today. The Agbar dynasty did exist, and the people of the kingdom were staunchly Christian from the ancient times.  During a war with the Persians long ago, the king of Edessa carried the holy cloth as his banner into battle, and the victory was credited to Jesus’ image.

(The first image above is a 10th century painting of King Abgar holding the sacred image.  The second two are my own work, showing the 2 different types of The Holy Face icon.   IC XC  are the Greek abbreviations for Jesus Christ. The inscriptions in His halo are abbreviations for the words:  I Am.  In the second version of this icon, the letters IC XC are in the top circles, and NI KA are in the lower circles.  These letters stand for “victorious” or “conqueror” –similar to the word nike).

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Sad Questions

04 06 graffiti&flowers2 rip e

I took these photographs almost a year ago, while walking my dogs on a city bike path.  At the time I was pleased by the colors.  I mused about the contrast between city decay and the vigorous growth and life force of the wildflowers. Nature taking back its own.  The  triumph of life over death.

 

Today I walked that bike path again, seeing it all without the softening effect of the flowers.  There was even more graffiti on the battered fences and sidewalks.  Trash littered the ground in place of wildflowers.  Broken glass sparkled in the dirt.

Today I thought about the lost and desperate souls who created this, carried out the vandalism.  Mostly young. Roaming without purpose, without meaning in their lives beyond the moment.  Unloved.  Unwanted.  Shunned and invisible.  Banding together for safety, comfort, a feeling of belonging.  Pushed aside by the rest of society, left out for a myriad of reasons.  Asserting themselves with a paint can, communicating,  making their mark so that they cannot be ignored.

As Catholics, as Christians, what do we do about these armies of troubled teens? Every town has them.  Not in school, not employed.  In trouble with the law, unparented and unwanted, using drugs, drinking, sleeping in alleyways, selling themselves.  It seems an overwhelming problem.  There are so many of them.  They are so unpleasant to deal with, dangerous even.  Yet, they are children.

Our parish once made a try:  teaming up with a small Catholic Worker group, they formed a foundation, bought a house.  The intent was to offer shelter to boys and girls, a safe place to live and rejoin society.  The house was staffed and made ready.  The invitation went out on the street.  And no one came.

Not one taker for meals and a free place to live.  The teens were not interested in a place with rules, with adult supervision.  (Eventually, the house morphed into a home for single mothers, recently released from rehab, who wanted to regain custody of their very young children.   It has been very successful with this demographic. It’s been in operation for 16 years now, and still going strong.)

But still, the original problem remains.  What do we do with those hostile older children, those lost and wandering on the streets?  Is there any solution to this problem?  How can they be reached? Any thoughts?

 

 

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Full circle

It’s hard to believe that Christmas Day was more than a month ago.  I enjoyed celebrating the entire season, and attended daily Mass on the last Friday before entering Ordinary Time.  It was beautiful, and I savored my last glimpses of the beautiful Nativity set and all of the decor.

Arriving early to Mass, I had time to reflect on what I saw before me.  Regretfully, I didn’t have my camera, but I did have my phone, and took a photograph to share.

There I saw the story of salvation concretely before me:  God Incarnate, lying in the manger.  Behind was the crucifix, with Jesus our God and Savior dying for our sins.  And soon, there were the priests celebrating the Liturgy of the Eucharist, bringing God’s gift of Himself to us right then and there.

 

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A Sense of a Goose

reinkat:

So much for dismissing these creatures as “silly geese”. There is much to be learned here.

Originally posted on Morning Story and Dilbert:

Morning Story and Dilbert Vintage Dilbert
January 28, 2015

Next Autumn, when you see geese heading south for the winter, flying in a “V” formation, you might consider what science has discovered as to why they fly that way. As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.
People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going more quickly and easily, because they are travelling on the thrust of one another.

When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front.
If we have the sense of a…

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Emmanuel

The inconceivable is conceived

in the womb of a virgin.

 The unmeasurable became 3 cubits high;

the unqualifiable acquires a quality;

the undefinable stands up, sits down and lies down;

He who is everywhere is put into a crib. 

He who is above time

gradually reaches the age of 12;

He who is formless appears with the shape of a man;

and the incorporeal enters into a body. 

from the writings of St. Theodore the Studite 

 

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Christmas Blessings

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The Good Tidings to “Men of Good Will”

reinkat:

A truly thoughtprovoking essay, and so pertinent. I love the line about needing to follow the Babe of Bethlehem into adulthood.

Originally posted on Catholicism Pure & Simple:

shepherds

In these secular times we are living through today in the West, there are those who at Christmas time still hang onto some long-forgotten remnant of their forefathers’ Christianity (although this may lie markedly dormant for the rest of the year). However, as Christmas approaches, it bubbles up to the surface again in the form of catchy Christmas carols, school nativity plays, Bethlehem scenes on Christmas cards, and even a few dotted cribs, prettily displayed in shop windows  – yes, there are still a few around – all to sweeten the merry Christmas festivities!  There is no doubt about it, Christmas is a beautiful poignant feast (if one can overlook the overindulgence and materialism so prevalent), usually bringing out a ‘Christmas spirit’ of joy, sharing and giving that appears to reflect the angel’s joyous message of good tidings at Bethlehem to the shepherds, announcing Christ’s Birth “to men of…

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The Truth About Ivan

By the world’s reckoning, Ivan isn’t of much value.  Perhaps he is even a Bad Dog.

Ivan

Ivan

Ivan is stout. His skin is polka-dotted pink and brown. His hair is scraggly and sparse, with an interesting mohawk thing going on along the top of his skull.  He is covered with lipid tumors.  Not a real looker by too many people’s standards.

He has epilepsy, has suffered from it going on 8 years now.  The seizures come in clusters, lasting from hours to days:  Ivan screaming, disrupting the whole family.  “Put him down”, some have advised us.  We have had to readjust our lives to meet his medical needs.

He’s not welcome in the dog park–he picks fights with other dogs.

He chases cats and squirrels.  He is very protective of his personal space–woe to anyone who reaches into his car or enters his backyard uninvited.

He does have a cute face, though, to those who like terrier faces.  But call him over to you for a pat and he will give you a stony stare and stalk coldly away.  Ivan is a one-family dog. Exclusively.  He doesn’t care what the world thinks of him.  He lives only for us.

Ivan is a rescue dog, found on a rural highway as a “teenager”. He has seen the world, and he knows where he wants to be, safe in the arms of his family.

We are the only ones who know the real Ivan.  In his heart he is loyal, loving, brave, protective, and playful. He is extremely affectionate and a great snuggler. He hugs back, with a shoulder lean and warm head pressed gently against you. He cries when he needs help and runs to us with trust. He is as forgiving as any dog is.   He loves us deeply and totally, would die for any of us.  We love him, cherish him.  We enjoy his good days, and are with him through his bad days.  He is growing elderly now, slowly losing sight and hearing,  but still full of fun, mischief and spunky terrier contrariness.

Ivan makes off with the ball

Ivan makes off with the ball

In  Ivan’s story, despite his flaws, I learn a great deal of our relationship with our heavenly Father.  Ivan knows he belongs only to us.  We alone know what is in his heart, even as the rest of the world judges and rejects.  With us, he can be himself without pretense, dropping his fears and masks.  In trust, he knows his problems will be cared for, and that love is all that matters.  In return, he gives us himself, all he has, vulnerable and dependent.  He cares nothing for the opinion of the world, but lives for his family, wanting to please and be by our side.

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Multiculturalism

I read some words of Pope Francis today about multiculturalism, and the challenge it poses for our Church and the New Evangelism–as well as for our country.  Language. Traditions. Our own comfort zones.  What would Jesus do?  Some modern issues are unclear, or at least unmentioned in Scripture, but multiculturalism is not.

He demonstrated for us exactly what He wants us to do:

He interacted with His own people, the Jews, those who were receptive to Him, and those who were not.  The wealthy and the poor, the educated and the illiterate, the elite and the outcast.  He treated each one with love and compassion.

He healed and He taught and He welcomed one and all.

He welcomed those outside of His own tradition.  Samaritans. Syrians.  Canaanites. Greeks.   Again, he interacted lovingly with them. He taught them. He healed their ills and blessed them.

He did not turn away from the oppressors of His people either.  He welcomed them with dignity and respect.  He accepted their expressions of belief in Him, and healed and blessed them as well.  His teachings were for one and all.

And so should we be, as Church and the hands of Jesus today, to all that we meet, our own folks and the “others”  We are all the children of God.

 

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