Mother of Sheshan

We continue our May series of images of Mary from recent times

OL_SheshanImages of Our Lady often relate to the culture in which they are found, they can also have political significance. The Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan is close to the great city of Shanghai, a city which has known many significant changes. The Shrine dates from the 19th century when a Jesuit community bought land there and built a retreat house. The site, with wonderful views, soon became a place of pilgrimage and prayer.

Events in China through the twentieth century brought great political changes and the Christian Church was viewed with suspicion, especially because of what was seen as its pro western and authoritarian stance. Church leaders began to see the great wisdom in depicting the story of the incarnation, and the gospel as a whole, in art forms of the indigenous Chinese culture. A highly respected Christian working in China said the Chinese church should follow “..methods both of a pacific nature and of cultural adaptation. Europeanism is to be shunned.”

The image of Our Lady of Sheshan was originally based on western images of Mary but through the years a more distinctive form has developed in both popular Chinese devotional art and in the shrine itself.

Mary is seen holding Jesus high above her head. The red and yellow colours used are notably different from the blues and whites of western art. Although the child Jesus holds out his arms in the form of the cross the image conveys serenity and joy.

St John Chrysostom is the first person on record to have referred to Mary as ‘Help of Christians’ – a title particularly popular at the shrine at Sheshan. May 24th is the day dedicated to Mary, Help of Christians. It is a day of great celebration at Sheshan. It is a day too when Christians the world over are called to pray in solidarity with their Chinese sister and brother Christians.

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Stations of the Resurrection 8. Pentecost

Stations of the Resurrection (Via Lucis) at St Chrysostom’s 2015

We are following the Easter story through Eastertide in a Way of Light (Via Lucis). Each Sunday in Eastertide we offer a  stopping place – a Station of the Resurrection (based on those found in the Church of England’s Common Worship), for personal prayer and reflection.

Modern Stained Glass from St Aloysius, Somers Town

Modern Stained Glass from St Aloysius, Somers Town

8  Pentecost (Acts 2: 1-11)

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.

Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs – in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’

Prayer

We praise you and we bless you, our risen Lord Jesus, King of glory,
for you promised that your disciples would be baptized with the Holy Spirit
and now we see the fulfilment of your promise.
Fill us afresh with your Spirit today,
revive your Church, and renew the face of the earth.
To you, Lord Jesus, giving to your people the greatest gift of all,
be honour and glory, now and for ever.
Amen.

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No place for it is found

Noel continues his reflections on hymns – a Hymn for Pentecost:

When God of old“No place for it is found” these words from John Keble’s beautiful poem When God of old came down from heaven appears to have been taken out of context by the compilers of many modern hymn-books.   Although the poem was included in most hymn books of the early 1900s, it rarely “finds a place” in recent publications.

There seem to be no grounds for omitting it by reason of outdated sentiment.   John Keble, referring to “the Spirit of our God”, writes that

“Only in stubborn hearts and wills, No place for it is found.”

Surely, those lines are no less true today than when he wrote them.

“When God of old” has usually been set to a 16th century tune ‘Winchester Old’ which is still popular when used for the Christmas carol “While shepherds watched their flocks by night”  –  for which the tune is well suited.

But the structure of Keble’s poetry in “When God of old” is such that ‘Winchester Old’ is quite inappropriate.   It puts undue emphasis on syllables that would be said lightly in normal speech:  softer, only, open, as, when.   (This is simply because long notes and high notes, and the first beat in a bar, place a natural stress on the words to which they are sung.)

BeaitSing Keble’s hymn to John Dykes’s tune BEATITUDO and these false emphases disappear!   After all, there’s more to choosing a suitable tune than merely looking in the Index for a favourite melody of the right metre.

As a bonus, ‘Beatitudo’ (unlike ‘Winchester Old’) gets us off to a good start by bringing “God of old … down from heaven”.

Keble’s story of Pentecost shows us how the God of the Old Testament (of power and wrath, of awe and fear) contrasts with the New (still of power, but also of gentleness, wisdom and love).   It deserves to be restored to the repertoire:  maybe Dykes’s tune ‘Beatitudo’ would help.

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La Guadalupana

We continue our May series of modern images of Mary…

La Guadalupana, Delilah Montoya

La Guadalupana, Delilah Montoya

Tattoos, and other body art, are often used to express identity – be it expressing one’s loves, or family or ‘tribe.’

In this striking photograph by the American photographic printmaker Delilah Montaya, a prisoner kneels before iron bars. On his back is a large tattoo of Our Lady of Guadalupe, an image popular with Mexicans and with the Latinos of the United States.

For many peoples of Nuhuatl (Aztec) culture such an image is seen as a protective skin. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe brought, and continues to bring, comfort and protection to indigenous Mexican peoples.

In this provoking print the image of Mary is taken out of church, away from popular piety. The image speaks of both ancient and modern protections. Here we are challenged to see Mary as the protector and comforter of those who are on the margins, the lowly, the imprisoned – the mother of liberation. As we look at the prisoner the image of Our Lady is placed firmly before us, causing us to reflect upon Mary’s compassion before making judgement.

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Celebrating our Faith

We had a fantastic celebration of Easter Faith on Sunday evening (10th May) . Bishop Mark led us with enthusiasm and joy, and in differing ways members of our church ‘stood up for what they believe’ and  we affirmed together our joy in our Christian faith. Allanah, Rosie and Sarah were baptised, and then confirmed. James, Krystal, Natasha and Sonia were confirmed. Fliss, Rose, Ollie, Valerie, Horel and Vinnie publicly affirmed their faith, and we welcomed Pippa, Catherine, Abate, Kenna, Alice and Patrick into the fellowship of the Anglican church. Congratulations to them all.

C B W R

Here are comments from some who were there:

I was so encouraged to see so many celebrating their faith, and what an age range and diversity!

The Bishop was a delight! He put us all at ease and made my baptism and confirmation fun and meaningful. I would say I would do it again!

Beautiful, it was so nice to see so many people celebrating their faith and Benediction was as special as ever.

…..a wonderful evening.

‘A memorable day, remarkable in its tranquil, relaxed but prayerful atmosphere that calmed all the nervous candidates (especially my daughter Natasha!)’

A wonderful experience. I felt a deep connection with both God and those around me and it’s an important and meaningful milestone on my personal spiritual journey. Bishop Mark was both funny and inspiring and it was fantastic to have an opportunity to meet him.

and what did Bishop Mark have to say? Here is his comment:

Everyone seemed so wonderfully happy and so S. Chrysostom’s! It is such an amazing place in so many ways and being with you all there is always a joy and blessing.

We’ll add more comments below in the coming days

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The Ascension: Stations of the Resurrection 7

Stations of the Resurrection (Via Lucis) at St Chrysostom’s 2015

We are following the Easter story through Eastertide in a Way of Light (Via Lucis). Each Sunday in Eastertide we offer a  stopping place – a Station of the Resurrection (based on those found in the Church of England’s Common Worship), for personal prayer and reflection.

The Ascension of Christ from the Laudario of Sant’Agnese, c. 1340

The Ascension of Christ from the Laudario of Sant’Agnese, c. 1340

7. The Ascension (Acts 1: 3-11)

After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over the course of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This’, he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’

When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.

Prayer

We praise you and we bless you, our risen Lord Jesus, King of glory,
for in your ascension you are crowned King of kings and Lord of lords.
As we worship you on your heavenly throne,
prepare our hearts for the coming of your Spirit.
To you, Lord Jesus,
who will come back in the same way you went up into heaven,
be honour and glory, now and for ever.
Amen.

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Mama Mary

A painting from the Philippinnes, Nuestra Senora del Carmen, continues our series of modern images of Mary for Our Lady’s month, May.

Mario Parial

Mario Parial “Nuestra Senora del Carmen” (1985)

Many of the images, and statues of Mary seen in the different homes of people around the world reflect the piety and popular art forms of the culture in which they are found. This encouraging phenomenon celebrates the inclusive nature of faith which can speak to all peoples  where they are, and can be articulated and celebrated in popular art.

The subtleties and symbolism of the popular art forms of Mary in one culture may not easily be appreciated by peoples of other cultures, but it is clear that Our Lady inspires much art and popular devotion all around the world. Mary, the mother, is often represented in the form of an indigenous mother, nourishing and nurturing her Son.

In this painting the Filipino artist Mario Parial (b.1945) presents Our Lady with the colour and extravagance found in the devotion of many of the peoples in the Philippines. Surrounded by bright flowers and luxuriant vegetation the crowned Mary is represented as a woman of the people who draws creation and people together. She is the Mother to be honoured and loved, who shows her son to us. Mama Mary is the simple way Christians in the Philippines refer to Mary. She is the mother of all, and as Mama Mary  she loves and prays for us in God’s presence.

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