Sunday, 21 December 2014


I saw them only  a few days ago. Daddy was holding his infant child close his chest and Mummy was gazing at the two of them.  Their three pairs of twinkling eyes spoke the language of love, so innocent, so joyful, so uncomplicated. Eyes were speaking to eyes, hearts to hearts, as they shared peace with each other.  Nothing needed to be said, nothing needed to be done.    That precious moment  was  its own perfection,  its own  fulfillment, with even a glimmer of eternity.                                                                                                                                    

As my eyes rested on the ‘love circle’ of this young family  the  phrase, taken from the musical “Les Miserables,’ ‘TO LOVE ANOTHER PERSON IS TO SEE THE FACE OF GOD’ ()  for  me assumed  a life of its own….GOD IS LOVE…nothing more, nothing less,  GOD IS LOVE (1 Jn. 4.8)…LOVE - AN OUT-POURING OF SELF into the very being of another; to be loved is TO TAKE UNTO ONESELF a tidal-wave of love surging towards us from another. It is the wondrous being  together with each other, for each other. 

What I have just described probably takes place a million-fold, every moment of every day.  As I put together these few thoughts  for you  I have before me the simplest of Nativity scenes depicting Mary and Joseph gazing lovingly at the infant Jesus, and He gazing lovingly at them.                                       

St. John, the person described as the ‘Disciple Jesus Loved,’ wrote  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.3 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, ’(1 Jn.1.1).                                                                                                                                                     
In other words, after Jesus had risen from the dead and had appeared to the disciples John was given the Faith to believe that he had actually come into immediate contact with God  whenever  he had encountered Jesus. For John this was the awesome, literal truth.                                                               
St. Paul in his Letter to the Colossians helps us to understand how this could be so, ‘In Christ, in bodily form, lives divinity in all its fullness, in Him you too find your own fulfilment,’ (Col. 2.9). From this we must conclude that even the most minute, most insignificant, gesture of Jesus from the moment He was conceived in the womb of Mary, was of infinite divine  worth, because it was performed by the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity – the Son of God, the Son of Mary.                                                                                                                                                    Mary and Joseph, from the moment they responded to the message of the Archangel Gabriel, would have believed everything I have just described to you. This was what the birth of Jesus meant to them and everything they did for Jesus, everything Jesus did with them, for them. I dare to suggest that it must have taken a special grace from God that their  hearts did not burst at the joyful immensity of what they were experiencing in parenting Jesus.                                                                    

Can you believe me when I tell you I am emotionally and spiritually exhausted after composing this reflection.   I simply need to gaze at, gaze into, the beautiful Nativity picture I have before me and allow it to speak to me and to engulf  me.
My brother Isidore OP  and I send you this Christmas Message, with our love and blessing.

Peter Clarke, O.P.

Friday, 5 December 2014


I bet the Holy Family kept hens! Like any young lad Jesus would have been fascinated by them, collected their eggs, watched the mother hen with her chicks. He may even have chased them. In fact Jesus seems to have had the curiosity and sense of wonder of any child. For Him, as for them, everything was new. Like any other child He may well have driven His parents to distraction with His constantly asking, "Why? What is this? How does this work?" The child, Jesus, was discovering the world in which, He, the Son of God, was growing up, the world which through Him, the Word, came into being. He was learning what it meant for Him to be human, what it meant for the Word to become flesh and dwell among us. He, the creator of heaven and earth, was seeing the world afresh, through the eyes of a child. He was filled with a sense of wonder.
Although I’ve been aware of such ideas for many, many years they have become especially vivid during my present Advent preparation for celebrating the birthday of our saviour. A beautiful book, entitled "Jesus –A Portrait," by Gerald O’Collins S.J. has become a spring-board for these present musings. He is helping me appreciate what it meant for the Son of God to join the human race –to become one of us.
I’m fascinated by the way Jesus was so interest in the world in which He was growing up -in His world, our world. As a child He may well have planted some seeds and marvelled as shoots sprang from the ground while He was tucked up in bed. I can remember my own excitement when I woke up and first saw the tiny shoots of the lettuces I had planted. Jesus observed and noted what was going on around Him –the farmers sowing seed, people losing and finding a sheep, a coin, even a son. He would have seen joyful weddings followed by a banquet; He would have heard of high-way robberies, of people anxiously waiting to be employed, domestic quarrels and industrial disputes, dishonest labourers, and employers exploiting their workers. He probably watched His mother Mary bake bread and marvelled at the way a little yeast could expand a large lump of dough.
All these and so many more experiences formed the rhythm of Jesus’ life from His infancy to His death. Though common-place, because they are shared by people of every generation and culture, they are of immense significance to each individual child. They go to make up what it means for us to become world-alert human beings. The very same applied to Jesus Himself. These experiences are so normal, so much a part of the fabric of our daily lives, that they hardly seem worth mentioning.
The wonderful thing is that Jesus used His experience of our human world to help us understand His experience of God’s world. He had a foot in both camps, and so knew what He was talking about! With the authority of personal knowledge He could say, "the Kingdom of Heaven is like this or that. Or God is like…" He would then use what He’d learnt during His childhood to illustrate what He meant. His ‘hidden life’ certainly wasn’t wasted; it had furnished His mind with a wealth of experiences, which He could put to good use in His preaching.
As I reflect on the stories He told, the imagery He used, I’m struck by how down to earth Jesus is. Fr. O’Collins points out that the Old Testament compares God with a magnificent eagle supporting its young on its wings and uses this as a glorious parable of God rescuing His people from slavery, (Duet. 32. 11; Exod. 19. 4). But instead of being like the majestic eagle Jesus likens Himself to a mother hen trying to protect her chicks under her wings –but they wouldn’t come, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!" (Lk. 13. 34).
The Son of God has descended from the lofty heights of heaven to the level of the farmyard -to our level! He Himself has said He’s like a mother hen. We wouldn’t dare make such a comparison. The contrast between the regal eagle and the common yard-fowl sums much of what it meant for the Son of God to become man –while still remaining God. Especially during Advent let us make sure that we’re not like those rebellious chicks, which refused to seek the saving sanctuary of the wings of mother hen –Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the saviour of the world!
Isidore Clarke O.P.