Sunday, 14 April 2013

Good and Faithful Servant


Icon "Christ, the Just Judge -- The Book of the Gospels is Closed",
by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013

The passage below from St. Matthew's Gospel, Chapter 25:31-46 (RSV-CE) is one I thought of frequently as I was working on this new icon of Christ the Judge, ready of the final judgement.  

“When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 

Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ 

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

This statement by Our Lord is both good news and bad news.  It reminds us very directly that Christians must seek to always remember that in serving others they are really serving Christ.  This means that all our acts of kindness, mercy and love have eternal consequences -- as do our failures to act.  This alone should not be our motivation for doing them, of course.  Our motivation should be love -- that mature love which is not a feeling but is a decision made anew each day.  The bad news, obviously, is that if we are content to always focus on ourselves and ignore others unless they can benefit us in some way, then we would never even want to be in a place like Heaven where people are always reaching out in love to others, forgetting themselves.  

I am sure that many of you have heard the Chinese version of Heaven and Hell:  in both all the participants are seated at a sumptuous banquet; however, the chopsticks they must use are too long so even if they pick something up, they cannot get it to their mouths!  In Hell, all those seated at the table are starving to death as they foolishly attempt over and over again to get their chopsticks to their mouths. In Heaven, meanwhile, there is only happiness and joy at the banquet table as each person, upon arriving at the table, immediately assumes the task of feeding his brother or sister sitting nearby while they, in turn, feed him. 

I love the thought that each time I do a kind act for another, I am doing it for and to Jesus.  And, this is what I thought of often as I worked on the icon, trying to draw both love and joy into His face.  The icon which I used as my model has a face whose expression is much more loving than mine, but I felt a strong desire to try to "write" this icon anyway and so I present you with "Christ the Just Judge".

By the way, this icon is in the tradition of those called Pantocrator:

The word Pantocrator is of Greek origin meaning "ruler of all". Christ Pantocrator is an icon of Christ represented full or half-length and full-faced. He holds the book of the Gospels in his left hand and blesses with his right hand. The icon portrays Christ as the Righteous Judge and the Lover of Mankind, both at the same time. The Gospel is the book by which we are judged, and the blessing proclaims God's loving kindness toward us, showing us that he is giving us his forgiveness. Although ruler of all, Christ is not pictured with a crown or scepter as other kings of this world. The large open eyes look directly into the soul of the viewer. The high curved forehead shows wisdom. The long slender nose is a look of nobility, the small closed mouth, the silence of contemplation. It is the tradition of the Church to depict "God is with us" by having the a large Pantocrator icon inside of the central dome, or ceiling of the church. The oldest known Pantocrator icon was written in the sixth century. It remains at the monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai.   

As I have mentioned in the past, when the Book of Gospels is shown in an open position in the icon, it makes the statement that "there is still time".  However, when the book is closed in the icon, as it is in the one shown above, this means that there is no time left and it is, in fact, time for the Last Judgement!


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BRADEN IS ALWAYS LEARNING NEW THINGS

Young children are amazing.  If you observe them, they appear to be living simple lives of eating, playing, sleeping and crying when they are ready to eat again.  However, we know that, actually, they are in the process of taking in and processing a tremendous amount of information each day as they learn about themselves and the world around them.  It is obvious that this is the process that Braden is involved in as he eats and plays and plays some more!

In this first photo, his mom has given him three different kinds of fruit and he has to decide which one he wants to eat first!  I would go for the mango, but those are my taste buds, not his.  I will have to ask his mom which piece he decided to eat first after this photo was taken!



"Mango, grape or watermelon -- which do I eat first and which do I save until last?"




"I like playing with my truck 'cause I get to make funny noises that make Mom laugh!"




"Soon I will be walking -- then 'World watch out!'"



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SUKI AND SALLIE


This look always leads to some something unexpected!
I have decided that I must do some research and find out the photographer's trick that enables them to get good photos of cats without having all sorts of distorted pupils or glassy eyes.  

Anyway, here is Suki watching me very carefully  so that when I give the slightest indication of moving from where I am sitting, she will know that it is time to begin her "please feed me; I am starving" routine!  She knows that it rarely works unless it is time for her to be fed, but just in case a miracle might occur, she always tries to convince me anyway.

I am just returning to writing this section after about an hour's break.  During that time Suki was fed and is now happily asleep.  However, I did not stop on her account; rather, I stopped to meet the Lord in Holy Communion.  It is such a blessing to have such dedicated people come to me each Sunday bringing the Lord,  I cannot even begin to express how grateful I am to them.

At the time they arrived, Suki had not yet been fed and so she was still very much awake.  She was reasonably well behaved, but did show that she is a truly Canadian cat!  What do I mean by that?  Well, it is part of Canadian culture that the moment you enter a person's front door, you immediately remove your shoes or boots and leave them in the designated place in the entry way.  If you don't do this then you must at least ask the host or hostess whether they mind your keeping your shoes on.  If you do not remove your shoes and do not ask, you are considered to be very rude and run the risk of being asked by the host to please remove your shoes -- very embarrassing.  What does this have to do with Suki being a very Canadian cat?

Well, Suki has observed this practice ever since I brought her home from the Humane Society.  So, as soon as she hears people arriving, she rushes to sit quietly near the front door watching them remove their footwear.  Once they have all left the area, Suki then proceeds to carefully sniff each pair of shoes or boots until she is satisfied.  Then she slowly makes her way to the living room where she unobtrusively makes the rounds of all the people, carefully sniffing their feet.  I can only assume that she is matching the footwear with the person.  

After all this is done, often with no one even noticing other than myself, she makes a decision about which pair of feet she prefers and sits herself down beside them for a while.  One interesting note is that if there is anyone in the group who doesn't like cats or is somewhat fearful of cats, it is always that person to whom Suki attaches herself -- sometimes even going so far as to climb up on the sofa beside them!  How does she know?  Can she tell from the smell of their feet?  I do not know but I do know that all of this can sometimes be very embarrassing for me.  Occasionally a guest will notice Suki sniffing their shoes or their feet and become quite uncomfortable.  The reason, it often turn out, is that they are very self-conscious about foot odour!  I try to reassure them that cats don't think in terms of good and bad smells, just smells, but too frequently I can tell they are not convinced!

Of course, if the person is a regular visitor, Suki will just take a quick whiff of their shoes and then ignore them -- except for a couple of my friends who are afraid of cats.  These poor souls have to endure friendly overturns from Suki until I remove her and dump her quite unceremoniously in the bedroom!

There is really nothing new to add about myself as far as my health is concerned as nothing has changed is my Wednesday posting.  The big news concerns the fact that I have decided to cancel my planned trip to the States in late May (sorry, Gene).  I finally had to admit to myself that I am just too overwhelmed with health matters at the moment to try to make a whirlwind trip through Tennessee and Alabama.  I will still be recovering from this most recent surgery and be very aware that I will be facing another surgical procedure as soon as I return -- plus all the other health issues I would be taking with me.

So, instead, I now plan to try to go and visit my sister and her family in early October by which time it will have been almost a year since this whole process started with the first operation.  Surely, by then I will be doing better!  Anyway, I can only hope.

And so I come to the end of another posting.  
May the peace of God be with us all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is the best caught photo of Suki's eyes! I think you made the right decision about your trip. Love & prayers.
Amra