The simple truth: if you are ‘high’ all the while you must be snorting coke!

Here is the simple truth; No one is on a ‘high’ twenty four seven and if you are ‘high’ all the while you must be snorting coke!   I write this with a sense of irony because our world has now come to seek these peak moments constantly, every hour if not every day.

No one really has these constant euphoric moments and exhilarating days and the absence of them should not lead one to fallaciously conclude that they are ‘depressed’. Sadly the term ‘depression’ is very widely used by people who are not actually depressed but temporarily unhappy. And to be honest, I take umbrage to the glib use of the word ‘depressed’ by some flippant teeny boppers  and those who don’t really understand what people who truly suffer from depression go through.

Most people have ordinary days but that does not mean they have ordinary lives. Our lives are filled with beautiful tasks that have been made to sound mundane and we have foolishly come to believe it to be true. As a consequence we have come to accept that the acts we perform each day are no more than boring routine actions.

So let me give you an example.  If Master Chef told you that today for breakfast  you would be served piping hot fermented batter of ground rice  steamed in circular moulds and served with a dip of spicy coconut shavings  you would end up eating nothing more than  our humble ‘idli’ made to sound like it was being named dish of the year.

So why then have we come to believe that the routine is mundane? Why have we come to believe that feeding our family, cleaning our home, working a nine to five job, celebrating a birthday in the confines of our home or walking in the park is boring? These actions of ours bring life to others and there is nothing mundane in life giving actions.

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The 24 Hours for the Lord initiative was first launched in 2014 by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. This year’s theme is ‘Compassion’, taken from Psalm 103:13: “As a father has compassion for his children, so the LORD has compassion for those who fear him.”

Join us in prayer

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NOT YOUR AVERAGE JOE: ‘Childhood of Christ’ by Gerrit van Honthorst (c 1620)

Gerrit van Honthorst is one of the leading masters of the 17th century Dutch painting. He was born in Utrecht in 1592 to a painter of tapestry cartoons. Essentially trained in the studio of Abraham Bloemaert, in 1610-12 he set for Rome and embraced the Baroque boom. Greatly influenced by the art of Caravaggio, he subscribed to the artist’s radical vision and adopted his revolutionary idiom. His great devotion to darkness and light earned him the title ‘Gherardo delle Notti’ or ‘Gerard of the nights’.

The play of light and darkness is very prominent in all of Honthorst’s paintings. Their function is not purely artistic as it is analytical in character. It penetrates into one’s intellectual, cultural, philosophical and spiritual being and arouses much speculation and contemplation. Unlike the gold flooded backgrounds of Medieval art, Honthrost’s baroque paintings stressed on ‘Divine Darkness’ as a mysterious medium of enlightening and strengthening faith. Darkness, according to his art, is fundamental for the attainment of spiritual perfection.

The absolute beauty of the play of light and shadow is gracefully expressed through today’s painting titled ‘The Childhood of Christ.’ To our extreme right stand two child-like angels with flowing drapery and fluffy wings. Their dreamy demeanour allures us to a higher realm while their little fingers direct us to the scene set before them.  

Engulfed by shadows, to our left, stands the elderly Joseph. His wavy silver-white hair and lined forehead maps the journey of his life. And yet his gleaming eyes and sturdy hands waver not from work. With rolled up sleeves, Joseph dwells deep into midnight memories as he carves new ones with his robust tools. 

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FROM GOLGOTHA TO GLORY: ‘Transfiguration’ by Fra Angelico (1442)

The essence of today’s Gospel finds a deep rooted expression through the painting in consideration. It is titled ‘Transfiguration’ and executed by the fabulous Fra Angelico. The honorary epithet ‘Fra Angelico’ or ‘the Angelic Brother’ was attributed to the painter after his death in 1455. Baptised Guido di Piero, his love for Christ led him to enter the religious order of the Dominicans in 1420.

Vasari, the great author of the ‘Lives of Artists’ (1550), describes Angelico as a ‘simple and most holy man who painted with facility and piety.’ Vasari goes on to describe his saintly life stating, ‘Fra Angelico never set his hand to a brush without first saying a prayer. He never painted a crucifix without tears streaming down his cheeks. He befriended the poor and now is befriended by Heaven.’ Truth as these words hold, in 1982, Pope John Paul II proclaimed the beatification of this ‘Blessed’ painter, recognising him as the ‘Saint of all Artists.’

But where and when did it all begin? In 1435 Cosimo de Medici, the rich banker and Gonfalonier of Florence, donated a sumptuous amount to renovate the Dominican convent and the Church of San Marco. Fra Angelico was given the task to paint the altar piece and decorate the walls of the Church and of the Convent.

Of all the religious orders, the Dominicans attributed great consideration to visual images as mediums of prayers, meditation and study. The cell of each friar was furnished with not only a bed, desk and kneeler but also a contemplative fresco representing an episode from the Life of Christ.  These paintings often depicted the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Dominic as prayerful and powerful witnesses to the Divine source of action.

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Lent: Jump into the deep end

You can’t learn swimming in shallow water, much less on land; you have to get into the deep end. The same can be said for the Holy season of Lent, you have to immerse yourself entirely to experience the fruits of this ‘joyful’ season. You could flirt with the season at its fringe, you could pick and choose some days in the season to fit into your schedule but the Lenten season will not return your affection if you merely flirt with it. This season demands your every attention.

Lent is intense! It requires a bit of pre preparation and the sacrament of reconciliation is one of them. I am not a big fan of the timing of this sacrament which is traditionally organized in preparation merely for Easter. It is my belief that if the season of Lent is a time to turn from sin and return to God (both movements are essential) then we ought to begin the season with the sacrament of reconciliation. Then you truly throw yourself into the deep end! Then you are immersed into the season of Lent. No wading into it, just jump in.

Lent is intense! It requires solitude to take in all that God wants to say to us. That’s why we abstain from stuff, in order to devote more time to God. For all our chatter we have with God the whole year long, this is one time of the year when God speaks louder than He ever does. His mission is clear; for us to sit up and take heed to what He wants to say.

His message is like that of a lover whose gramophone needle has slipped and repeatedly plays the same tune on the vinyl record; He loves us and wants us to come back. He speaks to use the loudest during the daily mass readings in the season of Lent. Listening is one part, being silent is the second and the more essential part. That’s when we move from listening to His Word to be hearing his message.

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