“Only from the heart can you touch the sky.” Rumi
My Special Guest Writer for February is
Abbie Johnson Taylor.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner
here’s a poem about love that endures through difficult times.
This poem was inspired by a song from a movie that was released in the late 1990’s. I never heard of the song or the movie until 2005.
this was after my late husband Bill proposed to me.
He was living in Fowler, Colorado, at the time, and I was here in Sheridan, Wyoming. We met through a magazine, and after a long-distance friendship during which we communicated regularly by e-mail and phone and met face to face twice, he sent me a letter, out of the blue, asking me to marry him. This was in January.
A month later, Bill sent me a Valentine care package that included, among other things, a cassette tape of love songs he downloaded from the Internet.
One of these songs was “I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You”
from The Mask of Zorro.
It became one of our songs.
Even now, after caring for him at home for six years when two strokes partially paralyzed him, and after I lost him three years ago, I still marvel that a man wanted to spend his lifetime loving me.
To hear this song, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yo4AWDELNiY . To hear me read the poem, visit https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/rise%20fal%20of%20zorro.mp3 .
THE RISE AND FALL OF MY ZORRO
With cape, hat, mask, rapier,
he rode out of the darkness.
“Take my hand. Dance with me,” he said,
“I want to spend my lifetime loving you,”
but happily-ever-after was not to be.
My hero fell and rose many times.
I felt the glory
until he fell for the last time.
Where there’s love, life begins again.
When life dies, love goes on.
Abbie Johnson Taylor. Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved.
Abbie Johnson Taylor is the author of a novel and two poetry collections and is working on a memoir. Her work has appeared in Magnets and Ladders and Serendipity Poets Journal. She is visually impaired and lives in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, she cared for her late husband, totally blind and partially paralyzed as a result of two strokes. Please visit her blog at http://abbiescornere.wordpress.com and Website at http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com .
Below are links to Abbie’s books:
To hear this song, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yo4AWDELNiY .
To hear me read the poem, visit https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/rise%20fal%20of%20zorro.mp3 .
this post is presented in much appreciation by Lynda McKinney Lambert.
Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved.
Below: Lynda Lambert, Photo by Bob Lambert: “My Pink Scarf”
Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright 2016.. All Rights Reserved.
Lynda’s 2 blogs:
If you would like a signed copy of my book, contact me for information.
Symbols of Advent
Part 4- Week 4
The Angel Candle is purple!
Also known as the Candle of Love
by Lynda McKinney Lambert
LIGHT the 3rd candle of ADVENT
A miraculous world-changing event will take place.
For a Christmas delight, click on the link: Angels we have heard on high
It is nearly Christmas once again.
I am listening to Christmas music as I write. I love to listen to the great songs that are a celebration of a miraculous event – the birth of Jesus.
Christmas celebrations of past years linger in little snippets, layered and overlapped like Christmas melodies playing one by one. Each Christmas carol I listen to brings forth more memories and more pictures of a family member, friends, and neighbors. It also brings forth memories and pictures of our walk with the Lord over the years. The miracle of his coming into our own hearts as we turned around one day, and answered his call to “come.” I answered that call to come, forty-two years ago. My life turned around, never to be the same again. How about you?
Matthew 11:28-29New American Standard Bible (NASB)
28 “Come to Me, all [a]who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
“I Believe in Angels”
Folks often say Christmas is for children,
skating on ice, building castles of snow.
Oh, I believe Christmas is a holy birthday!
a time to sit by a warm fire, sing holiday songs.
I believe in shepherds! and angels!
and Three Kings who delivered priceless gifts.
It’s a joy to be with friends, to give gifts.
Adults once again become like children,
who look out the window to see the first snow.
The Ancients anticipated this birthday
the celebration that began with heavenly songs
when the birth of Messiah was announced by angels.
The holy birth was shared with shepherds and angels,
long before mass marketing, tinsel, and glitzy gifts,
The promised Child would heal earth’s children.
Perhaps the plains were deep with snow
on the night of His miraculous birth.
Yes, I believe in angel songs!
In the darkest winter night, listen for the songs
sung by a choir of angels.
The greatest heavenly gift
came to walk with earth’s children.
As I light the Advent wreath I look out at falling snow-
and remember the reason behind this ancient birthday.
On bleak December days, consider His birthday.
Listen in the quiet night for angel songs.
The birth of Messiah, announced by the angels,
is the reason for exchanging gifts.
I believe Christ’s birthday is truly for children
like me and you who walk in a world of wintry snow.
Every child knows the delight of playing in snow
the joy of receiving gifts in celebration of a birthday-
I believe in birthday songs!
I’m a child once again as I listen for angels
songs and remember the wise men who brought gifts.
the Anointed Gift from God – I believe in children!
*** by Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright 1991, 2015. All Rights Reserved.
I wrote the poem, “I Believe in Angels” during a difficult time in my life. I wrote it as a Christmas message and sent it out to friends and family. Even in the darkest moments of our life, when we seem to be alone, lost, or confused, Jesus is with us. I can tell you that for sure because I made a decision to follow Jesus in October 1973. I’ve had a lifetime of encounters with the Divine since that day.
May you find the truth of the Angels announcement in your own life.
Luke 2:10-11King James Version (KJV)
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
*** Link to Week 1 – The Candle of Hope at this link:
*** Link to Week 2 – The Candle of Preparation (The Bethlehem Candle)
Lynda’s 2 blogs:
Skip to Walking by Inner Vision Journal:
In 2015, Lynda wrote 30 Writing Assignments and Lessons to help you begin to write your own life sotry.
Symbols of Advent
Part 3- Week 3
The Candle of Joy
Also known as the Shepherd Candle
by Lynda McKinney Lambert
LIGHT the 3rd candle of ADVENT
A miraculous world-changing event will take place.
For a Christmas delight, click on the link below to listen to a Christmas song. JOY to you today.
Listen to _While Shepherds Watched Their Flock by Night”
One thing I know for sure is this:
God comes us in ordinary and everyday events.
We can be visited in unexpected times and in unique ways. I have experiences visitations and deliverance many times in my seventy-two years of life. I bet you have, too! Pay attention to how God comes to YOU in the mundane activities of your life.
Begin to have a consciousness of God’s presence in the ordinary!
For the birth of Jesus, historical documents and texts show that God prepared this event in advance. We saw that preparation in last weeks Symbol of Advent – the Candle of Preparation. Week 2 _Candle of Preparation
For Week 3 of Advent, we see that sent ANGELS to make an announcement to LOCAL SHEPHERDS as they were working at night in the fields near Bethlehem. Just another silent night in the fields! An ORDINARY night, so they believed. But then, the MIRACULOUS came to visit them. It would become a night that the entire world would remember. Even now, over 2,000 years after the event people all over the world stop to remember it.
A miraculous visitation of ANGELS, sent from the Divine, happened without warning. The humble shepherds were summoned to leave their fields. The destination of their God-directed trip was a stable in Bethlehem where the shepherds would see a newborn baby.
My extensive background in art and art history leads me to look for a connecting thread from one event in history to another. Historical context is what I seek to understand contemporary events and life in the 21st Century.
The one thread connecting every character in this ADVENT story is that each person was required to make an unexpected, unplanned, trip from one place to another. Every single one!
I feel the underlying loneliness that underlies this miraculous story – everyone had to give up something that was familiar and travel to an unfamiliar place to do unfamiliar things, with unfamiliar people.
Travel – Journey – Go – Trip – Excursion – Passage – Flight
Mary and Joseph had to leave their home at a time when no pregnant woman would choose to be going anywhere on a trip – especially by foot and by donkey. Yet, the trip was mandated by the LAW and they had no choice but to go.
When I was nineteen, I gave birth to my first child. Eighteen months later, the second daughter was born. At age twenty-five, our third daughter was born. For all of those births, I was living in a comfortable home with my husband. I had a local doctor, and when the time came, he delivered our daughters in our local hospital just 2 miles from our home. And, I remember how frightening it was – every time – when the pains of labor were intense enough that I was bent over double, unable to even stand up straight and I knew it was time to leave for the hospital and give birth.
OH, how did young Mary bear the long days of rugged travels when her body was heavy with her baby boy?
How did Mary straddle the back of a donkey and ride those many miles with her bones and her muscles aching and cramping?
How did Joseph bear it to see her pain during the long journey to Bethlehem?
Oh, Mary! As a mother living in the comfort of my own time in history, my heart is sad when I remember that you did not even have a warm bed or the comfort of your family that night in a barn, in a city that had no room for you. You must have been so frightened – your first birth, your unfamiliar circumstances, your willingness to be obedient to the visitation you had from the Divine.
Mary, you knew you were carrying God in your womb, but how you must have wondered “why” you had to be so far from h home, so lonely, and in such a strange place as a barn that night.
Mary, when I need strength to meet the demands of my ordinary life, I remember you. Your courage, your love, and your obedience to God are more than enough to bring me through in victory from very inconvenience, every strange journey, every lonely day, and night. Mary, I hold you in my heart today as I write this letter to you, across the centuries.
I know that in art through the ages, in songs, and now, in contemporary depictions of the Nativity, we see Angels, the Holy Family, Shepherds, and Three Kings all there together with the animals. Yet, when I read the ancient scriptures that record this event, what we see in the depictions of it are not at all accurate.
The nostalgic Christmas card scene has been pieced together over the years into a fantasy world that never existed in that way. The centuries of lore have put together a very odd mixture of Christian history mingled with pagan practices, ideas, superstitions, and myths. And, then add to this mixture, the cultural and racial confusion that exists to add to the fantasy.
One evening in October 1997, I heard Him whisper to me, “Come away, my beloved!” I turned, and walked towards Him, and as I walked, I remembered the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “When Christ calls a man (woman); he bids him (her) to come and die.” Like one of the shepherd’s in the fields near Bethlehem, I too became a shepherd who came to see, the infant who would one day be known as “The Good Shepherd.”
There were only a very few worshippers around the manger in Bethlehem – just a handful of shepherds. Oh, yes, the Three Kings were on the way, most likely, but it would be quite a long time before they traveled the distance and bowed before the little boy.
“[Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
A lonely birth. There were no midwives, no assistance to Mary at all. The Bible doesn’t even mention that Joseph was present. Perhaps he was, but if he was typical of first-time fathers, he would have been of little help to Mary. She was basically on her own.
Luke 2:8-20 describes the experience of the shepherds when Jesus was born. Think about that for a moment. Out of the whole of Jerusalem society, God picked a band of shepherds to hear the news of Jesus’ birth. That’s intriguing because shepherds were among the lowest and most despised social groups.
The very nature of shepherds’ work kept them from entering into the mainstream of Israel’s society. They couldn’t maintain the ceremonial washings and observe all the religious festivals and feasts, yet these shepherds, just a few miles from Jerusalem, were undoubtedly caring for sheep that someday would be used as sacrifices in the temple. How fitting it is that they were the first to know of the Lamb of God!
More significant, they came to see Him the night he was born. No one else did. Though the shepherds went back and told everyone what they had seen and heard, and though “all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds” (v. 18), not one other person came to see firsthand.
We are left to wonder when we search the historical, scripture accounts – about the shepherds. We don’t how they knew where to go. I imagine they just came into Bethlehem and began walking about, asking, “Do you know where a baby has been born tonight?” The important thing for us to know is that they came! They came because angels had visited them while they were taking care of their flocks at night. They had a visit from God, and they left their fields and followed the direction of the angels to go find the baby. The shepherds became that night, the first Christian evangelists. They went out from the manger, and they told others what they had found.
Well, now that I have talked my way through the meaning of the shepherds, I can better understand Psalm 28. (NIV) and, here is where I find the connection between “joy” and the journey of the shepherds. I wish you a joyous journey to the Christ Child tonight, too.
My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise him.
8 The Lord is the strength of his people,
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
9 Save your people and bless your inheritance;
be their shepherd and carry them forever.
As you complete this essay, you will LOVE the music and video I have placed here for you today – Check here!
Link to Week 1 – The Candle of Hope at this link:
Link to Week 2 – The Candle of Preparation (The Bethlehem Candle)
Note: Photos by Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright 2015. All Rights Reserved.
This essay was written by Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.
Please share it with your friends! Thanks!
Look for Week 4 – The Candle of Love (The Angel Candle).
Meet October’s Guest Blogger
Donna W. Hill
The Cryptic Calling: an author’s journey
Along an Unmarked Path
This photo of Donna W. Hill with her guide dog, Hunter in ” Glowing Mist in the Redwoods” is by Rich Hill
It was 1954. A four-year-old girl with blond banana curls was in the living room. The house was quiet. Her parents were at work; her brother and grandmother in the backyard. She felt relieved to be alone. She didn’t know, nor would she for 14 years, that she was already legally blind.
The voice startled her. She stopped breathing, her ears scanning the house. But, it wasn’t necessary. She had felt the message settle into her spirit.
“You are here to do something important involving music.”
What did it mean? She instinctively took it as an anointing from God, though one with a disquieting lack of detail.
That four-year-old was yours truly, and at sixty-five, that message still puzzles, intrigues and guides me. Initially, I assumed it meant that I was to become famous for my music. I didn’t share the experience, but I begged my parents to get me an accordion.
“You’re too small.”
Always a literalist, I was amused in second grade when — instead of the “massively-huge” accordion” — they bought me a piano . I progressed quickly, my nose on the brightly lit book, developing my memorization skills.
A Rude Awakening
Later that fall, I was selected for the Christmas concert. I was sure my ship had arrived. I was, however, wildly mistaken. I soon realized that there would be major obstacles.
“Go up to the top row of the risers.”
I was in the auditorium for our first rehearsal. I didn’t know what risers were, but I was soon on a contraption that shook and rattled with no way to steady myself. I didn’t understand how tunnel vision impacted my balance, and neither did anyone else.
Almost instantly, the director ordered me down, dismissing me from the group. She wouldn’t give me a few minutes to work it out or let me stand on the floor. The lesson wasn’t lost on me; although my voice was good enough, something more important about me wasn’t.
That spring, my teacher took my workbook away, despite my above average grades. She wasn’t comfortable watching me struggle to read. The other shoe dropped the following fall. I was placed in “Special Class,” where only first-grade large-print books awaited me. The thrust of my education was to fulfill the tiniest assignments, after which I was encouraged to play with pre-school toys.
My ophthalmologist was outraged. I was removed from “Special Class” and placed into a normal third grade class. The teacher, displeased with the placement, delighted in allowing open bullying of me and punished the girl who read me the questions from the board.
A Mission Slipping Away
By sixth grade, my vision was worsening, and piano music was far more complicated. My ability to memorize it was at a breaking point. I did what I thought any self-respecting twelve-year-old would do. I quit.
How was I supposed to interpret what I had heard in the living room? For the first (and far from the last) time, I considered the possibility that it could have merely been the ravings of a deranged mind.
In Search of a Miracle
Had God changed His mind? Or, perhaps, I needed to do something else first. If so, I knew what that was — get normal sight. It was obviously impossible to be successful without it.
Years before hearing televangelists discuss healing, I somehow knew I had to believe it would happen. Every morning for months, before I opened my eyes, I thanked God for restoring my sight, imagining the bright and detailed world that awaited me. My eyes, however, opened to dimness and confusion.
Progress and Compromise
At fourteen, I was devastated without music in my life. I asked for and received a guitar. Though I was too shy to share them, I started writing songs, beginning the inexorable link in my life between music and language.
In Junior High and High School, the bullying became more physical. The increase in work coupled with declining central vision necessitated a prioritizing of my work — literature and science were in; history and math out. Braille and recorded books were never discussed. I was legally blind in a world where it was more important to read and navigate with your eyes, regardless of how many mistakes you made, how much time it took, how sick you got or how many other things fell by the wayside, than to learn nonvisual skills.
The overt bullying stopped when I entered college. Nevertheless, I had lost the reading vision in my better eye that summer and was ill-equipped to take full advantage of the college experience. For the first time, however, I used recorded books and readers.
Reawakening the Dream
After graduation, I tried to make up the deficit. I trained with my first guide dog and learned Braille. I would pursue my dream of being a self-supporting musician — initially, as a street performer in Philadelphia’s Suburban Station.
I had my own apartment, kept an organic garden complete with a compost pile, baked whole grain bread and made everything from soup and tomato sauce to pesto and spanakopita. I started performing at schools, churches and other venues. I wanted my audiences to have a comfortable experience with a blind person and learn a bit about how we do things. I released two albums — “Rainbow Colors” and “Harvest.”
“If I had healed you back then,” said the same voice, “You would have never known that blindness didn’t have to limit you.”
While recording my third album, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After treatment, Rich and I married, and I finished the project. Just as “The Last Straw” was coming out, I found another cancerous lump. The drain on our energy and finances prompted a change in plans.
What about my mission? Had I done what I was supposed to do? Perhaps it had something to do with the many small contacts I’d had over the years. Maybe it was the man who wore out his copy of “Rainbow Colors” while recovering from an auto accident. Maybe it was one of the thousands of kids who had seen my school programs. I was well aware by then that we are all here to do something important. putting forth our best efforts and walking in love is the greatest, most difficult and most rewarding mission.
I didn’t give up. Blind people still aren’t being welcomed with open arms. Education, digital accessibility and unemployment remain major problems. I learned to use a computer with text-to-speech software to pursue another dream. In an effort to promote acceptance among the general public, my novel The Heart of Applebutter Hill was designed to allow the reader an intimate look into the mind of a blind teenager, embroiled in an exciting adventure. And, the music angle? Abigail’s a shy songwriter.
Donna’s novel The Heart of Applebutter Hill, an educator-recommended diversity and anti-bullying classroom resource for middle school and older readers, is available in print, eBook versions and accessible formats for readers with print disabilities. For more information and to follow Donna’s blog, visit:
Photo by Rich Hill. Photos used with permission of the photographer. Thanks so much!
Donna is a singer and songwriter. Click on the LINK below to enjoy listening to Donn as she sings, “Love of my Life.”
Special THANKS to Rich and Donna W. Hill for allowing me feature this story on the blog today!
Copyright 2015. All Rights Reserved.
You can click on this link and listen to The Moldau as you read my poem, Nine Postcards from Prague today:
Nine Post Cards From Prague
Sapphire light mingles with deep red violet
Rolled out behind the spiky black twin spires
Like a futuristic vision.
My neck aches from bending backwards
My soul leaps forward to embrace them.
Evening comes to Prague
Like a dark, warm wool blanket
That wraps a weary traveler’s body
At the end of a long journey.
Tonight, walking along hard stone paths
The dark Moldau sang to me.
Her voice lifted me up from the street
Like a duet of a finely tuned violin
And a velvet throated cello
As we crossed the wide bridge
Keeping inside the dark shadows.
I watched a long gray pigeon
Quietly fly through the last ray of light
Coming home for rest
We continued searching
For the way back
To where the night begins.
Here in Prague.
Store windows dazzle
With ample treasures of amber,
Garnets and Bohemian glass.
They bulge with heavy burdens of color
And ask me to return again tomorrow.
Come. Walk inside of me.
Touch. Hold. Buy.
I ask “what is the price?”
How will I carry the large glass flowers home?
How will they look when I place them
In a thick orange vase
From West Virginia?
A small ink drawing hangs
On the wall in room 428.
This familiar artist’s style
Catches my eye again.
His drawings hang
In my Pennsylvania home.
Last year, in Prague
The artist stood alone
Displaying his drawings
On Sunday morning.
A proud businessman.
I bought several.
The price was too low.
I sit alone
On the edge of the spiral tide
In the center of this night
My thoughts turn like a labyrinth
Made of ocean waves.
Soon you will embrace me
And we will walk away together.
One by one
He looked at each passport
He wears two stars on each shoulder
An Eight-pointed star on his chest
A gun on his right hip.
Foolish students giggle in the back of the bus
One asks if he speaks English
He asks if they speak Czech
All laugh at his joke
He is thin and young
And departs with an English “Good Bye.”
We occupied seven minutes of his day.
It rains now
as we get our final glimpse of Prague
the translucent gray sky
softens the deep golden fields to mauve.
distant trees turn from yellow-green
to blue wine mist.
Prostitutes take their places along the
road to Prague
they kneel down on the grass
wave at the tourists
arrange their few possessions.
The late summer rains
swept away all our dreams.
Published in the book, “Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage,” by Lynda McKinney Lambert. Kota Press, 2002.Published in “Kudzu Literary Review,” 2003.
You can listen to one of my favorite compositions by the Czech composer Bedrich Smetana by clicking on this link.
Photo by Lynda McKinney Lambert – Changing of the guard at the Palace in Prague.
Essay and photo, Copyright 2015. Lynda McKinney Lambert. All rights reserved.
Published on SCANdalous- Reflections Blog, August 8, 2015.
On Christmas Day the Believers throughout the entire world celebrate the BIRTH of Jesus, the MESSIAH. Let’s not forget, this is a JEWISH story, and the entire world received the invitation to be grafted into this story through Jesus. Contemporary popular culture has almost forgotten that Jesus is a Jew, and he is the long awaited Messiah who was promised hundreds of years before the day of His miraculous birth.
In the essay I am including below, we can see the traditional Christian thought on the birth of God, that night in Bethlehem. Mary was carrying God in her womb. This is called “The Incarnation.” I am also including a link to my essay _I Believe in Shepherds_ if you want to read what I had to say about the lighting of the Shepherd’s Candle you can go there for more information.
You can find this essay on my blog, I Believe in shepherds at: https://llambert363.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/i-believe-in-shepherds/
Today’s essay is the final one on my series, ADVENT. Today’s topic is the Jesus Candle. There are a tremendous amount of scripture references to Jesus as God, but I chose to include the essay by Father William Saunders because I think it covers this question quite accurately and provides details that are in the historic records regarding this matter.
In the 5th century of Christian history, long after the actual birth of Jesus, we find a new idea being developed and preached. This was the first time that the idea that Jesus is God was challenged. You can read about this in the following essay, by Father William Saunders. From the beginning of the Christian church, Mary was known to be the _Mother of God_ because of the birth of Jesus Christ. I find that many believers today are often ignorant about the scriptures and the history of the miraculous birth.
You may be surprised to learn that Martin Luther was devoted to Mary as the Mother of God and even though many of his declarations of discontent with The Church, this was not one of them. Throughout his life, he held the opinion that Mary was the Mother of God and he did not “throw the baby out with the bath water” in his preaching and writing. This was a delightful surprise to me as I did my research for this essay!
Mary, Mother of God
by Father William Saunders
I was visiting an inner-city Church one day and in the vestibule some graffiti was written on the wall which said, “Catholics, God has no mother,” obviously referring to Mary’s title as “Mother of God.” How does one respond to such an objection? — A reader in Springfield
As Catholics, we firmly believe in the incarnation of our Lord: Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Lk 1:26-38 and Mt 1:18-25) Through her, Jesus Christ–second person of the Holy Trinity, one-in-being (consubstantial) with the Father, and true God from true God–entered this world, taking on human flesh and a human soul. Jesus is true God and true man. In His person are united both a divine nature and a human nature.
Mary did not create the divine person of Jesus, who existed with the Father from all eternity. “In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly ‘Mother of God’ (Theotokos)” (CCC, No. 495). As St. John wrote, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we have seen His glory: The glory of an only Son coming from the Father filled with enduring love” (Jn 1:14).
For this reason, sometime in the early history of the Church, our Blessed Mother was given the title “Mother of God.” St. John Chrysostom (d. 407), for example, composed in his Eucharistic Prayer for the Mass an anthem in honor of her: “It is truly just to proclaim you blessed, O Mother of God, who are most blessed, all pure and Mother of our God. We magnify you who are more honorable than the Cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim. You who, without losing your virginity, gave birth to the Word of God. You who are truly the Mother of God.”
However, objection to the title “Mother of God” arose in the fifth century, due to confusion concerning the mystery of the incarnation. Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople (428-431), incited a major controversy. He stated that Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ, a regular human person, period. To this human person was united the person of the Word of God (the divine Jesus). This union of two persons–the human Christ and the divine Word– was “sublime and unique” but merely accidental. The divine person dwelt in the human person “as in a temple.” Following his own reasoning, Nestorius asserted that the human Jesus died on the cross, not the divine Jesus. As such, Mary is not “Mother of God,” but simply “Mother of Christ”–the human Jesus. Sound confusing? It is, but the result is the splitting of Christ into two persons and the denial of the incarnation.
St. Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria (d. 440) refuted Nestorius, asserting, “It was not that an ordinary man was born first of the Holy Virgin, on whom afterwards the Word descended; what we say is that, being united with the flesh from the womb, (the Word) has undergone birth in the flesh, making the birth in the flesh His own…” This statement affirms the belief asserted in the first paragraph.
On June 22, 431, the Council of Ephesus convened to settle this argument. The Council declared, “If anyone does not confess that the Emmanuel is truly God and therefore that the holy Virgin is the Mother of God (Theotokos) (since she begot according to the flesh the Word of God made flesh),anathema sit.” Therefore, the Council officially recognized that Jesus is one person, with two natures–human and divine–united in a true union. Second, Ephesus affirmed that our Blessed Mother can rightfully be called the Mother of God. Mary is not Mother of God, the Father, or Mother of God, the Holy Spirit; rather, she is Mother of God, the Son–Jesus Christ. The Council of Ephesus declared Nestorius a heretic, and the Emperor Theodosius ordered him deposed and exiled. (Interestingly, a small Nestorian Church still exists in Iraq, Iran and Syria.)
The incarnation is indeed a profound mystery. The Church uses very precise–albeit philosophical–language to prevent confusion and error. Nevertheless, as we celebrate Christmas, we must ponder this great mystery of how our divine Savior entered this world, taking on our human flesh, to free us from sin. We must also ponder and emulate the great example of our Blessed Mother, who said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Thy word.” May we turn to her always as our own Mother, pleading, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
Fr. Saunders is president of Notre Dame Institute and associate pastor of Queen of Apostles Parish, both in Alexandria.
This article appeared in the December 22, 1994 issue of The Arlington Catholic Herald.
Electronic text (c) Copyright EWTN 1996. All rights reserved.
Let me add a Christmas Carol to end this post! Clilck on the link below to listen to a contemporary group singing, Mary, did you know? Merry Christmas to all my followers and my family and friends.
The Advent Candle for Week ONE: Hope
I sat quietly in my living room as I watched a Christmas program on television. The focus of the program was on Advent since this day marked the first day of Advent in the Christian calendar. A priest lit the first candle. “This first candle stands for hope,” he said. Traditionally, one candle will be lighted for each of the four Sundays preceding Christmas Day. There will be one candle that is different in color than the other four. That one candle will be lit last – it will symbolize the arrival of Christmas.
We know that the German Lutheran’s were using a wreath with candles to celebrate each day of Advent at least 300 years ago. However, in northern Germany, long before the Christians began using this symbol, the early northern Germanic people thought of the ring, wheel, and evergreens as part of rituals that signified the love of God. The circle or wheel has no beginning and no end. This is a cyclical world view embraced by pre-Christian people. In this way, they symbolized their HOPE of survival through the long, difficult and dark winter months. This hope pointed their attention to the coming of Spring, life, and light. And, even before this time, the Greco-Romans celebrated this season as well, looking forward to the light of spring. It was a reminder that life is fleeting and flows by quickly and so they marked the passing seasons.
The old, round table in the dining room has listened in on family conversations and provided a comfortable, familiar gathering place for talking and eating. The warm, spicy aroma of fresh coffee drifted from the kitchen. As the late autumn light outside the northern window was nearing its lowest indigo hue, we drank coffee from sturdy pottery mugs. Our hands clasped around the steaming cups and we forgot about anything beyond the room we were in as we laughed together and shared family gossip and our passing thoughts.
I gave Ilsa a small present. It was two new chapbooks of poetry, wrapped carefully in thin white translucent paper. Ilsa unwrapped the books, looked them over and she began turning the pages slowly. She read a few poems from each book. She read them aloud to me, and we enjoyed them together – we spoke about some images in the poems. we discovered unexpected humor and profound sadness; the poems held life and death on the pages. How good it felt to negotiate the poems together! We both love literature and books and have enjoyable conversations about the things we love.
When the first Christians wanted to depict faith and hope in the next world, Paradise, they chose to use the symbol of flowers; the most depicted flower was the rose, and, sometimes lilies. A rose has been a symbol that leads us to think about love.
The rose is an elegant flower, so soft to the touch, ;ike the most delicate velvet and exquisite symmetry. Rose petals form around a center, in a tight bud. As it grows, a rose bud expands and opens eventually to expose a halo of tiny, delicate flowers that encircle a center ring. When one looks deeply into the center of a rose, mystery is there to be found – like a hidden treasure. The most precious and spectacular part of the rose, lies in the center.
A rose has sparked the imagination of poets, writers, artists, and lovers. In 1913, the avantgarde poet, Gertrude Stein wrote this sentence, “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.”The line appears in her 1922 book Mention of a Rose.
Clearly, Gertrude Stein realized there is simply no other word that can describe a rose, except that it is a rose. Everything else fails miserably in our attempts to portray the most recognized flower in the world, and it carries a universal message to people of all cultures. Research will disclose that the garden variety of roses have been cultivated for over 5,000 years. One can find roses in the gardens that were tended by the people who lived in the Roman Empire. Today, visitors to Italy can walk in glorious rose gardens that were created during the days of the Empire.
Every year my sister, Patti, tends her flower gardens from early spring to the first frosts of late autumn. As she took me on a tour of her flower beds one afternoon, she grinned with pride when she pointed out her roses. Every flower gardener I have ever known has loved their rose bushes and each one has shown tremendous pride in the beauty of the flowers on a rose bush. Last August, Patti brought me a birthday bouquet she had created from her flower beds – and the prize flower in the bouquet was a very stunning pink rose! I think no matter how much a gardener loves all the flowers they have blooming, it is the rose bushes that seem to elicit the most pride and happiness to them. Roses are the dazzling queens of the flower bids. They seems to be the proverbial “icing on the cake.”
Ah, yes, I contend that the rose is Queen of all Flowers! I am certain of it! As you begin doing some research on the “rose” as an iconic image, you will soon find references to Mary, the Queen of Heaven and Earth. She is often depicted with a rose in her hand, or surrounded by roses. Roses are used as garlands in art and sculpture and roses are used to encircle the Queen of Heaven. Roses are a halo at times in Christian lore as well as in pre-Christian mythology. Mary’s son, Jesus Christ, is symbolized as a rose. King Solomon described Jesus as “the rose of Sharon.” You can find this particular reference in The Song of Solomon, 2:1. There are many other such references as well.
In a popular German Christmas song, these words are from an Eighteenth Century poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; “es ist ein Ros entsprungen.” This can be translated in English to “A Rose has sprung.”
You may recognize this Christmas song as “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” or “A Spotless Rose.” This song is a Protestant Christmas Carol and a Catholic Marian hymn that originated in Germany. I remember it from my childhood when we all stood to sing carols together at the small Methodist Church in my village.
Cllick here to listen to this song in English:
Click here to hear the song in German: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xA4pBDNZDx0
I sat down to consider the pleasure of a visit with my daughter. Below you will read a poem about her visit and something we did together. Sometimes, it is unusual when we think of a child teaching a parent a lesson of some sort. But, here in my poem, a daughter teaches me a lesson in a unique way.
This poem, “When My Daughter Cuts the Roses,” marks the beginning of Advent in our home. The bouquet of flowers on my dining room table today reminds me that now is the Season of Hope. As I listen to the latest news from around the world, it feels like the whole world is longing for hope right now – Oh, I know! It does appear the the entire planet is in deep distress. The EARTH could be laboring for the birth of HOPE. Perhaps there is a longing for hope in the souls of Earth’s people and all of NATURE.
On this First Week of Advent we can choose to keep our thoughts and our eyes focused on HOPE as we light that first candle. There is great beauty in the symbols of the weekly lighting of the Advent candles. This week, we pause to embrace the message of the ROSE and the coming of the LIGHT, who is promised from ancient times. Ah, yes! As I complete the writing of this essay, I am hearing a tune in my mind.
” This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.” (Final stanza of “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”
“When my Daughter Cuts the Roses”
My daughter looked
At the bouquet of fresh roses
noticed two of them were drooping.
“Let me show you how to trim the roses
so they stay fresh and strong.” she said.
Her hands held the roses firmly
one-by-one, trimmed off extra leaves
“These will make the water stink,” she said.
She found scissors in the drawer
put the roses in a bowl of tepid water
held each stem under water
sliced them all, diagonally –
“As I cut the rose under the water,
little bubbles of air come to the surface.
Now, when the rose inhales
it will only breathe water into it,
it won’t fill up with air.
The living water inside the stems
gives longer life to each rose.”
She carried the freshened flowers
In the tall glass vase
back to the center of the dining room table
darkest crimson buds, sunny yellow petals,
deep green fern leaves
and a frilly white carnation.
Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.
I put the morning coffee on to brew and then reached for a CD of Mozart’s Violin Sonata in B flat. After I carefully placed it in the CD player. pushed the “play” button on the remote and my Bose player began filling the kitchen with music. The soft, slow opening lines of the Largo – Allegro began. I listened. A piano and a violin began to gracefully move me to listen closely to this composition, written centuries ago. The lyrical melody begins and I close my eyes awhile before I continue writing my essay. There is something compelling about Mozart’s music; it gently urges me to stop whatever I am doing. The music takes me back in time – but not the time in the Eighteenth century when the music was first performed for a royal audience. It is my own time, near the end of the Twentieth century when the music of Mozart became a core element in my personal life. While listening to this music, my mind is taken on a journey far away from this present chilly, gray November day. My musings create layers of memories.
As I begin writing the opening thoughts of this essay, I enjoy my cup of fresh coffee. I spiced it up with some hazelnut creamer. The days and years of past times come visiting me once again as I slowly recall my first exciting days in Austria. Yes! It was just Mozart and me.
When Mozart first performed this original composition on April 29, 1784, in Vienna, there was a surprising bit of information that came out of the original performance. It’s a unique story that lies behind the music I am listening to today. In the audience, that day was Emperor Joseph II. As Mozart played the piano, the Emperor made a shocking discovery. He had eventually noticed that Mozart was actually looking at blank sheets of “music” instead of the traditional written music that a musician would use. It turns out that Mozart did not have time to copy the composition that was in his mind. He had to play it from his memory and did not want the audience to know he had no actual sheet music. Therefore, He put the blank sheets on the piano and began to play that day. You can read about this and other interesting facts about Mozart by visiting this link
My first trip to Europe was in the summer of 1991. The trip was a gift I gave myself to celebrate a goal I had completed in May. I finished my MFA degree at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV. Soon after my graduation, I arrived in Salzburg, Austria at the beginning. My arrival was just in time to join in the celebration festivities for the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death. My month-long visit was filled with special art exhibitions in palaces and museums, all focused on some aspect of Mozart’s life or his music. I attended as many concerts as I could, and viewed special exhibits of art that month. OH, I was hooked on Mozart! I walked through his birth house, and death house, and stood inside the churches where he performed for masses. I attended the Mozart Mass at the Dom du Salzburg and basked in the sweet aroma of swirling, smoky incense as the priests entered the sanctuary. I even found the grave sites of his family members and his wife, Costanza. Like most tourists, I purchased the famous Mozart candy, Mozart t-shirts and sent out lots of Mozart post cards to all my friends and family.
I know you must want to know what took me there that month. I had enrolled in a drawing class that was taught by a former professor. We students were in classes Monday through Thursday mornings. I was so excited to be there and was prolific in my art adventure. I created a body of work on the theme of Mozart’s death and music. I wrote continuously as I traveled and viewed exhibitions and listened to concerts. I made many ink sketches on white paper. I chose to do all the artworks black and white. The works on paper would make it easier for me to transport them back to the US. After I returned back home, I put my work together and it became a traveling art exhibition. The mixed-media works on paper appeared in museums and galleries. I called my show,“Memory of a Requiem.”
Ten years after my first trip, some of my poems, sketches, and reflections from that experience were crafted into a book, “Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage.” The book was published by KotaPress.
Prior to the trip to Austria, I was in graduate school pursuing my MFA degree. I worked diligently during those two intense years doing research, creating art, and teaching. At times, I was so exhausted from working days and nights. When I went back to my apartment for a rest and some meals, I often refreshed my mind by listening to Mozart’s music. I was particularly drawn to his Requiem Mass because it echoed my own weariness. My visit to the city of Mozart’s birth and death was a natural choice.
While in Austria, I made an intention for my own life. I realized that I fell in love with Austria, the artworks, architecture, the people I met, and the music of the masterful composers who lived in Austria over the centuries. I intended to order my life in such a way that I would spend my summers there every year. Of course, I had no idea how that would happen, or if it could happen, but I knew it would be the life I would choose to live.
Eventually, my own professional teaching career began when I accepted a tenure-track position at Geneva College, a private college in western Pennsylvania. This was just five years after I had visited Austria for the first time as a student myself. As a new Professor of Fine Arts and Humanities, I quickly realized there was no study program for students that provided the opportunity to study in Austria or Germany. I proposed to create such a course and the following year I was back in the city I love, with students of my own. This was the first of many years that I would have the joy of bringing students to Austria every summer. I taught a course called, “Drawing and Writing in Salzburg.”
My students came from across America
to work in a studio in a small village in the Alps.
Most days, we met early in the morning and then traveled somewhere to draw and write at the different places we explored. It was a dream that became my reality. I had the joy of sharing this magnificent country with my students every summer for a month-long sojourn. On long weekends, we traveled together through Germany, Czech Republic, and Italy. We climbed mountains; we stood on a mountain peak and gazed down in amazement at the eagles lying beneath us. On one such sunny afternoon, I locked arms with one of the students and we skipped down a high Alpine path. We stopped only when we ran out of energy and we bent over double, laughing together, gasping for breath. We wrote poems and stories in our journals; we wrote about our own experiences. Art was the focus of all we did. We created drawings and paintings in our morning studio and took our sketchbooks and journals to the streets and mountain pathways. Together, we trekked our way through the new places we found. Later, our sketchbooks and journals would provide us with information and memories to work with once we were back home and working on new projects.
Gradually, over the years, I began to realize that the seeds of what we love become the life we live when we set our intentions in that direction. On that first visit, I had set something in motion that would become my life journey at a later time. It would be years, though, before I would understand it all.
Now, sitting here in my office typing up this essay, I listen closely as the final piece of music comes to a conclusion. The piano and the violin have been playing together as I write. Each instrument is strong and one never overpowers the other – they are a good match!
If you would like to enjoy this lovely work of art by Mozart, you can listen to it here:
The Violin Sonata continues and I listen to the rapid notes of the piano moving of playfully through the house in what seems like a race with the violin. I can envision a spring afternoon in an Alpine meadow. At other moments, the violin and piano seem to me to be romping in the sunshine, chasing each other about on the lawn of a Bavarian castle, or around a formal rose garden in the city. . At times, if sounds like the piano takes the lead, yet, this is not the case. The violin weaves through the many notes and in the end they are one. I listen as applause breaks out immediately as the piano and violin strike the final note together.
This day will take me on other, more mundane journeys as I walk my dogs, care for my cats, take my husband to the hospital for a check-up, and edit this essay tonight. At special moments throughout my day, I just might hear a few bars of Mozart’s Violin Sonata in B flat Oh, . I hope so! Oh, I hope…at the end of this day the music and I are on the same note.