A Painting by Duccio (c1255 to c1319)
A poem by Lawrence Sail
Music by The Voice Squad, Patty Griffin and Emmylou Harris
Our Nativity painting today is by a great Master from Sienna, Duccio Di Buoninsegna.
Since I first discovered the work of Duccio as a teenager I have been in thrall to the luminous beauty of his works.
His paintings seem to me to have been deeply pondered in his heart which gives them qualities of stillness and humility which I find overwhelmingly moving.
In particular, something about, ‘Duccio Blue’ sets my heart aflame.
For music to take you away from the daily tumult I offer you a precious work of the heart.
‘A Stor mo Chroi’ as performed by The Voice Squad (Phil Callery, Fran McPhail and Gerry Cullen) insists that we each attend to what is truly important in all our lives; the love we offer and the love we share.
Where else is your treasure to be found?
We are nearing the end of our journey now with our Sleigh still moving forward following a star.
As you approach the end of any journey there is space for reflection on the path already traveled and anticipation of the welcome to be found at the destination.
The Holy Family, weary and anxious about the straitened circumstances surrounding the impending birth of Jesus had to hold on and have faith that somehow all would be well and they would be a family.
Above all Mary had to have faith that her encounter with the heavenly realm at the annunciation and the event foretold by the Angel Gabriel was miraculously true and that she would indeed be a mother to a saviour (though one she would have to nurse and nurture like any other human child).
There would have been no Christmas birth without Mary’s assent at the Annunciation. From that leap of faith heaven and earth became joined and history eternally altered.
Mary was in a very real sense the first disciple: accepting God’s call and following it never knowing the joys and sorrows it would entail as her son too accepted his destiny.
I was an altar server from the age of seven and I can still recite the responses to the Latin mass if I close my eyes.
I can also recall the way certain prayers had a profound impact on me that was probably based more on their literary and musical cadences than any theological understanding given my youth.
The prayer that always moved me the most was the Loreto Litany Of Mary, the reciting of which even in an almost empty church seemed to set up a palpable spiritual vibration in my being.
‘Mother most admirable, Mother of good Counsel, Mother of our Creator, Mother of our Saviour, ….
Mirror of Justice, Seat of wisdom, Cause of our joy, Spiritual vessel, vessel of honour …..
Mystical rose, Tower of David, Tower of ivory, House of gold ……. ‘
Those flowing phrases will never leave me.
Now a music choice which shares the Litany’s hypnotic attraction.
From Patty Griffin, one of the brim full jars of American song, ‘Mary’.
I spoke earlier about nursing and nurturing and I can think of no more apposite artist to express those qualities than Emmylou Harris as she invokes in, ‘Light Of The Stable’ the glorious mystery which kindled a light which still burns bright today some two thousand years and more since it first shone in Bethlehem.
The poem today is, ‘Christmas Night’ by a contemporary English poet, Lawrence Sail.
‘On the wind, a drifting echo
Of simple songs. In the city
the streetlamps, haloed innocents,
click into instant sleep.
The darkness at last breathes.
In dreams of wholeness, irony
is a train melting to distance;
and the word, a delighted child
Gazing in safety at
a star solid as flesh.