The fowler’s snare

Today’s Christmas art is from my dear friend, Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. O.S.B., painter, gardener, and author of three books.  You can find more of her arresting art work here; and I want to return to her art at a later date.

But today is a hard feast day, the feast of the Holy Innocents. They are the first martyrs, whose blood became that terrible red carpet to lay before the coming king.

Here is the responsorial psalm for today, the feast of the Holy Innocents:

R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.

Had not the LORD been with us—
When men rose up against us,
then would they have swallowed us alive,
When their fury was inflamed against us.

R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us;
The torrent would have swept over us;
over us then would have swept the raging waters.

R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.

Broken was the snare,
and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.”

I don’t know what to make of this. So many of my friends are so ensnared, so longing for rescue, so overwhelmed by the waters. What is the answer? What kind of rescue is that?

The answer does not come from Christ, our brother, who somehow allowed Himself to be ensnared:

christmas-art-margaret-realy

 

The answer is Christ.

What this entirely means, I do not know. When Christ is the answer, I don’t always understand the answer. But I do stop looking elsewhere, when that is the answer I get.

Not long ago I found myself caught in an old, painful memory, feeling once again some wounds and gashes that I thought had been healed. They opened again because I saw a woman going through what I had gone through many years ago — but for her, there was rescue, there were sympathetic people rushing to her aid, there was help. I survived, yes, because here I am today; but I saw myself hanging there alone at that time, and I was angry. As I walked and remembered, I cried out to the Lord, “Where was my rescue?”

He answered, “Nobody rescued Me, either.”

And He had a choice. He didn’t have to be there, but He put Himself there, His sacred head surrounded by those thorns, that snare, that unspeakable trap of wood and nails. And that was what He was offering me: A chance to willingly be snared with Him. He is the answer. I don’t know what it means, but there is no other answer. I had no choice but to suffer, at the time; but now I do have the choice to place my suffering with His.

I stop looking somewhere outside that ring of thorns. There, caught, pierced, His heart bleeds for the brokenhearted, innocent and otherwise. I place the suffering hearts of my friends inside that snare of thorns with Christ.

Remember Syria on the feast of Stephen

 

Today is the feast of St. Stephen, first martyr of the Church. That’s what kind of faith it is: One day we celebrate the birth of the Savior, and the very next day, we celebrate the death of a man who died for that Savior’s sake. It’s an especially poignant feast to remember as we see the images of Syrian Christians celebrating Mass in a church half-filled with rubble, the roof blasted away.

Imagine if this were your church?

This is your Church.

This is the Catholic Church, and these are your brothers and sisters. After this footage was taken, the Catholics remaining celebrated Mass on Christmas eve, in a roofless, blasted structure that’s safer than it’s been for a long time. Christians have not been able to enter for years, but they came back to Christmas to find it still standing, still waiting for them to come and worship God. They brought in flowers and candles from God only knows where, and they assembled a nativity scene out of scraps of rubble, covering it with branches from the trees that are still putting out green leaves.

Do not forget Syria. Catholics suffering around the world don’t want to take away the joy of us Christians who enjoy peace and plenty on Christmas. But do not forget them. Do not forget what kind of faith this is. The Savior does not promise to keep our bodies safe; but He does promise that the Church will always prevail against evil.

The ornament featured above was painted by Erica Ploucha (more of her work is here). Her husband Nick sent me the photo, saying “I can’t see this ornament and not think of Syria.” God has not forgotten the people of Syria, and neither should we.