Saturday, 29 December 2012


What a wonderful, what an exciting, Christmas it has been for me – a preacher! Having proclaimed the Christian message for over fifty years, I could be excused, you might think, if I wearily complained that I’m running out of ideas. …that the theme has become stale to me.
Not a bit of it! God has inspired me to scour  the Internet  in the quest to discover how  people of different races and cultures celebrate the birth of Jesus through their cribs. This has been a revelation to me.  I’m not now thinking of the cribs mass- produced in some factory and distributed throughout the world. I have been fascinated by the hand-made cribs intended for the family or for the local church community.

It has been brought home me that when the Son of God became man He made His home with the peoples of the world, where each one of them was and He became one of them - just as they were.

 I came across Jesus lying in a crib, Joseph and Mary wearing thick hide hats, garments, and gloves - all with fur trimmings. In the background was an igloo ‘ice-box.’  In attendance were not an ox and an ass but polar bears and seals – in real life not the closest of friends!

In another corner of the globe Jesus is welcomed into the world by Joseph and Mary, wearing Peruvian clothes and with the features of the local people. With them are elegant llamas gazing with serene reverence at the child in the crib.
 Since I’ve spent all my priestly life in the Caribbean I was much attracted to Jesus being sheltered under palm-branch roofing, supported by bamboo poles.
I simply love the carvings of the crib figures – in stone, wood of the olive tree of the Holy Land, or some other wood; beautiful carvings in soap, ice or the ivory of elephant  tusks.  I came across rag-doll figures and a superb sea-shore Nativity tableau fashioned in sand.
 Whether the Nativity has been depicted in ceramics or paintings, the figures in the cribs represented the peoples, the cultures of the world -  Chinese, Indian, African, Aboriginal, European, and so on. Particular cultures and life-styles were reflected in the cut and brilliant colours of the garments – as well as by brief grass  skirts and even total nakedness.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph were totally identified with the particular culture of these people who made and cherished their own vision of the Incarnation.  The Son of God had become man in their world. And they had welcomed Him as one of their own.
 For me reflecting on this, praying about this was profoundly moving. It came home to me vividly that the Son of God, in taking flesh, belongs to every individual human being, and that, through this galaxy of cribs is shown to be a member of each and every nation, tribe and culture. Each one can of Jesus, ‘My Lord, my God, my Brother!’  All together we can say ‘Our Lord, our God, our Brother!’
And Jesus can say to each one of us, ‘My brother or My sister.’  To the global family of mankind Jesus with pride and joy can exclaim ‘My Family!’ 
Each of us, as individuals with our own brand of humanity with its language or dialect, is celebrating Christmas with this single, shared, theme: ‘Unto Me, unto you, unto us together…a child is born…who is Lord and Saviour of us all.’  As all of us acclaim Jesus as our brother WE ARE OF MARVELOUS NECESSITY THROUGH JESUS SIBLINGS TO ONE ANOTHER.
All these cribs, each in its own way, and all of them together, are telling me that the Son of God was born into and raised within a family such as is recognized throughout the Christian world and is accepted by other religions and people of no religion.

These cribs are together making a statement that the family of man and woman bonded together by the exchange of promises made in public is what we mean by marriage. It is within their loving togetherness children are born and raised.  This is what the  Church considers to be the bedrock of society: the Family based on a man, a woman and their children.

Mywaygodsway for me this Christmas is that through this multitude of cribs God has been telling me that there is a message that needs to be spoken loud and clear:  this is how God intends families to be. The Holy Family of Jesus, Joseph and Mary is telling me: love the family, love the community in which we live, love the families, the people of the world. 
Peter Clarke OP           

Peter and Isidore wish you and your family every blessing for the New Year



Thursday, 20 December 2012


'Immanuel' – a pleasant sounding name, isn’t it? But, more than that, it has a great meaning….’GOD-IS-WITH-US.’ Anyone carrying this name should reflect that whenever his name is called this is a reminder to him that God is with him. Lucky fellow! This Christmas I want us to see ourselves as being Immanuel-People. God is with us. He loves us. Surely this must bring a new complexion to our lives.

How wonderful for us to have close to us other Immanuel-People – people who, by their very presence, their life-style, make us realize that God is in the district, our district. Let us now pause to drink in the words the angel spoke to Joseph about Mary,
She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.'Now all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: Look! the virgin is with child and will give birth to a son whom they will call ‘Immanuel,’ a name which means 'God-is-with-us' (Mtt.1.21-23).

Mary’s child was most certainly a godly person, a godly child; but to say that is to say far, far too little.  Mary’s child was more than godly. IN TRUTH AND IN FACT, MARY’S CHILD WAS ACTUALLY GOD.  In the words of  St John, 
 Something which has existed since the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our own eyes, which we have watched and touched with our own hands, THE WORD OF LIFE -- this is our theme.
 That life was made visible; we saw it and are giving our testimony, declaring to you the eternal life, which was present to the Father and has been revealed to us. We are declaring to you what we have seen and heard, so that you too may share our life. Our life is shared with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.  We are writing this to you so that our joy may be complete,”
(1 Jn.1.1-4).

St. John was so obviously tingling with excitement as he reflected on the great privilege for him to have encountered Jesus ‘in the flesh.’ His letter was written after Jesus had been crucified, had risen from the dead and had entered into glory. In his letter St. John was not simply reflecting on a remembered experience, the wonderful intimacy of day-to-day friendship with Jesus. Yet more wonderfully, he was thrilled that the risen and glorified Christ was the very heart, the fullness, the fulfillment of his life!
No matter what his trials and tribulations, his disappointments, frustrations and failures  - and these are  surely part of the lives of us all – nothing could quench his on-going joy in his Lord Jesus Christ.  He was bubbling over with a joy that could not be contained. It had to be shared. For St. John, MY JOY IN IMMANUEL had to become YOUR JOY IN IMMANUEL and by this it had to become OUR JOY IN IMMANUEL. A shared joy finds itself multiplied over-and-over again.

I would like to think that what I have unearthed about the IMMANUEL-SPIRITUALITY of St. John has helped me to understand my own spirituality this Christmas. I would like to think you would here find your own spirituality. Then together we would have the highly-charged joy of it being OUR IMMANUEL-SPIRITUALITY.

Were you surprised that I spoke of unearthing the spirituality of St. John? Let me tell you, it did not come easily to me. I had to dig deeply into own self, ponder, reflect and muse in silence to discover what the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ meant to me personally. Eventually I came to see with a great intensity that the birth of My Lord Jesus Christ, meant He IS MY IMMANUEL….JESUS CHRIST IS THE SON OF GOD, THE SON OF MARY. He IS WITH ME…HE IS MY IMMANUEL!

I am overjoyed to be sharing this with you now.  I urge you to take time off to dig deep into yourselves, take nothing for granted, and discover afresh the meaning of the babe-in-the-manger, Immanuel, has for you…so that you may be overjoyed.  Share this with others and your joy will be complete!
Your Twin-Bloggers,
Isidore and Peter Clarke, OP,
Wish abundant Christmas blessings
To you and those nearest and dearest to you.
Peter O.P.

Thursday, 13 December 2012


What should we do on such an important occasion?  The bishop had come to our priory to ordain some of our fellow Dominicans.  Peter and I were the acolytes. And my brother had to kneel, holding a large book, before the seated bishop. 
All was going smoothly as planned -until a buzzing bee made a beeline for a resting place and   decided to settle on Peter’s face.  ‘Why on his face,’ we wondered? ‘Surely, on such an occasion, a bishop’s face would have been the far more deserving!’ Peter looked as though he was bracing himself for a divine visitation of the not so consoling brand.
 As the insect explored Peter’s face I’m ashamed to admit we watched with deliciously tingling fascination and apprehension. All of us, including his Lordship, froze into absolute stillness. All things considered, none of us wanted to provoke the bee into stinging Peter.  The only movement came from the rabbit-like twitch of the Petrine nose as the bee walked over it.  What should we do?  If we tried to shoo the bee away it might panic and sting Peter.  Any way the bee solved the matter for us by flying away.  Obviously Peter was not a good source of pollen!
This incident reminds me of other occasions when various beasties became involved in the liturgy.  When I was working in a country parish in the W. Indies I had to contend with a bleating goat tethered under a chapel resting on stilts…perhaps it thought the voice of the choir needed reinforcing! And there was a nearby donkey which seemed to have been trained to bray loudly whenever the priest started to preach. Which voice should have been given the chance to be heard?
As for birds in church, once one enters the church every eye follows it and the preacher loses the attention of his congregation. The same was true when a frenzied hen dashed across the sanctuary as an acolyte stalked it with a six foot long stick with a brass candle snuffer on its end.  And I always delighted in the evening solemn procession of bats entering the church through one window and making an orderly exit through another.  But then there’s the myriads of termites, silently munching away at any piece of timber, craftily starting from the inside, until it’s held together only by a lick of paint? Then, unexpectedly, your seat collapses or the roof falls in!
What am I to make of the liturgical involvement of these beasties?  Well, the Bible tells us that simply by being themselves they proclaim the glory of God, their maker. So, when Daniel was spared from the flames of the fiery furnace, he sang, “…All you birds of the air, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever,” (Dan. 3. 80-81).   It is for us people to put into words the worship they give to their maker, simply by being themselves.
Tertullian (160-225) expresses this beautifully in his Treatise on Prayer, “All the angels pray. Every creature prays. Cattle and wild beasts pray and bend the knee. As they come from their barns and caves they look out to heaven and call out, lifting up their spirit in their own fashion. The birds too rise and lift themselves up to heaven: they open out their wings, instead of hands, in the form of a cross, and give voice to what seems to be a prayer. What more need be said on the duty of prayer? Even the Lord himself prayed. To him be honour and power forever and ever. Amen.”
So what right have I to consider the Lord’s creatures intruders when the Psalmist tells us the Lord makes them welcome, Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.”  (Psalm 84.3).  Surely I’m meant to welcome all God’s creatures in His house –provided they don’t make a mess and threaten to sting me!
A final, sardonic thought.  With all these beasties coming to church, making it their home, where are the People of God?
Isidore O.P.