Friday, 8 July 2011

The Burning Bush [*]

[*see a new icon of Our Lady at the bottom of this posting]

Most Holy Moses and the Burning Bush, drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011
One of the most wonderful stories from the Old Testament (the Jewish Scriptures) is that which tells us of the encounter of Moses with a burning bush from which God speaks His eternal Name.  He does this as He gives Moses the mission of bringing the Jewish people out of Egypt back to the land of their ancestors.  This is how the story begins in the Book of Exodus (3:1ff):

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked and the bush was blazing, yet is was not consumed.  Then Moses said: "I must turn aside and look at this great sight and see why the bush is not burned up."  When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!"  And he said, "Here I am."  Then God said, "Come no closer!  Remove the sandals from your feet for the place on which you are standing is holy ground."  He said further, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob."  And Moses hid his face for he was afraid to look at God.

God then gives Moses his commission.  He is to go to Egypt, convince the Pharaoh to let the thousands of Israelite slaves just up and leave and then lead this crowd from Egypt up to the land of their ancestors!  Moses, like anyone of us, was overwhelmed by this mission and tried to find ways to get out of it -- trying to get God to choose someone else!

Here is what we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

"I Am who I Am"
Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you', and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you'. . . this is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations."
In revealing his mysterious name, YHWH ("I AM HE WHO IS", "I AM WHO AM" or "I AM WHO I AM"), God says who he is and by what name he is to be called. This divine name is mysterious just as God is mystery. It is at once a name revealed and something like the refusal of a name, and hence it better expresses God as what he is - infinitely above everything that we can understand or say: he is the "hidden God", his name is ineffable, and he is the God who makes himself close to men.

By revealing his name God at the same time reveals his faithfulness which is from everlasting to everlasting, valid for the past ("I am the God of your father"), as for the future ("I will be with you").  God, who reveals his name as "I AM", reveals himself as the God who is always there, present to his people in order to save them.
Faced with God's fascinating and mysterious presence, man discovers his own insignificance. Before the burning bush, Moses takes off his sandals and veils his face in the presence of God's holiness. Before the glory of the thrice-holy God, Isaiah cries out: "Woe is me! I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips." Before the divine signs wrought by Jesus, Peter exclaims: "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."  But because God is holy, he can forgive the man who realizes that he is a sinner before him: "I will not execute my fierce anger. . . for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst." The apostle John says likewise: "We shall. . . reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything."
Out of respect for the holiness of God, the people of Israel do not pronounce his name. In the reading of Sacred Scripture, the revealed name (YHWH) is replaced by the divine title "LORD" (in Hebrew Adonai, in Greek Kyrios). It is under this title that the divinity of Jesus will be acclaimed: "Jesus is LORD."

In the icon above, we see Moses in the act of removing his sandals after God has told him to remove them because he is standing on holy ground.  Hidden within the burning bush I have drawn is the holy Name of God -- the name the Jewish people do not even pronounce.  I decided to hide it rather than show it because I realized that this name should be treated with deep respect.  In fact, one of the reasons I have never liked The Jerusalem Bible translation is that the editors wrote out what they thought the name of God actually is (taking YHWH and putting vowels in) so that when people read from that translation, they are actually trying to pronounce the holy name.  I agree with the Jewish people that the actual name is better left alone, especially since there are plenty of names for God for us to use.  We especially have the "I AM" phrase to use in trying to understand something of the mystery of God.

the name of God.  I always use the Greek letters "o, v, h" inside the arms and top of the cross which is inserted inside the circular "halo".  If you want to take a look at what I mean, go to the bottom of this posting where you will see a new drawing of Our Lady with her holy Child.  Although the letters are not that easy to see, you can make them out.  The one that looks like a "w" with something on top is actually a Greek "v" while the one that looks like an English "n" with a long tail on one side is actually a Greek "h".  These three letters are the Greek abbreviation for I AM who I AM.

If you search "Moses and the burning bush" on the web, you will find all sorts of strange ideas and comments.  A number of modern scholars do a great deal of work trying to prove that there actually was never a burning bush at all -- the word used, they say, was most like a misprint!  These scholars do with Moses and the burning bush just what they tried to do with Moses and the Red Sea, i.e. there was a misprint and the writer meant to say "Sea of Reeds" and what really happened was that a strong wind blew the reeds apart and dried the earth just enough for the Israelites to cross over while the earth was not dry enough for the chariots of the Egyptians!  I do not understand why it is so difficult for some people to accept the idea that God can do miracles -- even amazing miracles!  I mean, He is God after all!!


Well, enough of that.  Perhaps I will get some comments about what I have presented above, but for the mean time, let's go ahead and move on to something else -- cats.

I have so many cute photos of cats and dogs so I decided that today I would show a few cute cat photos and next time show a few cute dog photos.  My "catalogue" of photos just keeps growing and over time I start to forget which ones I have shown you and which ones I haven't.  So, if I show you something I have shown you previously, try to be patient and remember that I am an old lady after all!

Cat on a towel rack
This first photo shows a cat resting on a towel rack.  How the cat can be comfortable on a towel rack is beyond me.  However, knowing cats as I do, I should know better than to be surprised by anything they do!  I recall that miz k.d., my previous cat, liked to sit in my dining chairs which have mid to low backs on them and hang her front legs over the chair back so that they were fully extended.  She would often sit this way for long periods of time.  I can only assume that she was meditating and found this to be a good posture for the practice!

Here is an old photo of miz k.d. sitting in the position I described above only this time she is using the arm of an upholstered, living room chair.  As you can see, she appears quite comfortable in what I would consider to be a very uncomfortable position!

Cat in a sack
Every cat person knows how some cats love to play with paper bags.  I remember years ago while I was still living in the U.S., the cat I lived with then was a big, black tomcat by the name of Furfur.  As many of you know, the grocery stores in the U.S. tended to use only paper bags for a much longer time than was done in Canada.  So, every weekly shopping day, Furfur would be waiting by the door as we came home -- waiting impatiently for us to throw the first paper bag on the floor.  Then he became "attack cat" and set about destroying the "enemy" (all the paper shopping bags).  I, of course, was left to clean up as Furfur licked his fur and prepared for the rest after battle!

Cat in a hat
 Where is Dr. Seuss when you need him?!

"Look at me!
Look at me!
Look at me NOW!
It is fun to have fun
But you have to know how."
— Dr. Seuss (The Cat in the Hat (Deluxe Edition)

Some photos need no further comments!


Suki and I continue to carry on in our usual way.  There is nothing new to report.  At the moment Suki is in the closet sound asleep. 

I, on the other hand, have just returned from doing some errands and enjoying the beautiful day.  One errand was more than a couple of blocks distant so I had to use my wheelchair.  Although the streets were crowded with lunch time shoppers, there were only a few times when I was stopped by people standing and talking in the middle of the sidewalk.  In most cases a simple "excuse me" was sufficient to get them to open a passageway for me and my chair.  Actually, the worst offenders are people walking and texting at the same time.  They appear to be oblivious to their surroundings and, as well, they wander back and forth across the sidewalk.  Often they have their ear buds in their ears so they can't even hear me when I shout "excuse me" very loudly.  Often, some other pedestrian has to tap their shoulder before they finally move out of the way.  However, I had none of those offenders today.  So I most had a very pleasant ride and, of course, the sunshine was glorious!
Finally today, I want to show you one of my recent icons.  To me the most beautiful icons are those of Our Lady -- which is why I have drawn so many of them and will continue to draw many more.  This one was of particular interest to me because of Our Lady's hair.  I have never before, not in all my years of looking at and attempting to draw icons, seen an icon in which Our Lady's hair is shown.  As you can see, her curls are showing in this one just as they were in the Russian icon I worked from while doing this drawing.  I don't know what the real name of this icon would be in English so I just called it "Our Lady of the Curls".

Icon, Our Lady of the Curls, drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011

May the peace of God and the prayers of our Blessed Mother be with us all.

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