Sunday, 23 November 2014

St. Ronàn the Silent

"Icon -- St. Ronàn the Silent", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014



Today I am featuring an icon that I have been working on for some time now -- actually, ever since I learned that Ronàn might be chosen for one of the names of Braden's new brother.  I decided that I wanted to feature this work today because I have learned over the past few days that dear, little Ronàn is in need of our prayers.  I am not going to try to explain the situation to you at this time, but am simply asking that you please pray for Ronàn's health and well-being and the well-being of his family. 

Now, let me tell you what I have discovered about St. Ronàn of Locronàn or, as I prefer, St. Ronàn the Silent.

While doing my research, I discovered that there were at least twelve Irish/Celtic saints called Ronàn -- a list which includes the following: 
• Saint Ronàn of Ulster who died 11th January 535. 
• Saint Ronàn, first Abbot of Drumshallon in Ireland. He died 8th November 665. 
• Saint Ronàn of Iveagh in Scotland. Feast day is the 22nd May. 
• Saint Ronàn of Lismore. His feast is celebrated on 9 February. 
• Saint Ronàn of Iona. August 18th is the day designated on which to honour him; and finally...
• Saint Ronàn the Silent. He preached throughout Devon/ Cornwall and Brittany. He is venerated particularly in the village of Locronàn in Brittany, which is named after him, and which has his relics. Although not on the official calendar of Saints, St. Ronàn of Locronàn has been venerated on June 1st for centuries.  

Ronán is a Irish-language, masculine, given name meaning "little seal" (Rón meaning "seal", and -án being a diminutive suffix). Legend tells of "seal children" who are warned never to stray too close to the land. For, they are told, if a “seal child” is swept ashore by heavy seas, such a child can become trapped in a human form, known as a “Selkie” (Silkie). If you are interested in finding out more about the legends of such "seal-humans" take a look at the poem/song: “The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry”.  But let's return to St. Ronán.

The Vita S. Ronani,
the life of the saint, was finally written sometime during the 1200s. According to this source, St. Ronàn was born in Ireland in the sixth century of pagan parents. He was well-educated, became a Christian and eventually became a bishop. His good works as a bishop brought him great renown in Ireland; however, he longed to have a quieter, more hidden life which, he hoped, would lead him to closer communion with God. So at the height of his career, he chose voluntary exile; severing all ties with kin and country and embarking on a voyage to Brittany. 

Having landed "in the region of Léon", St. Ronàn continued his journey southwards to the kingdom of Cornouaille (Latin Cornubia) and set up a hermitage at what would become known as Locronàn (the place of Ronàn). Here he devoted himself to prayer and an ascetic way of life. Even though he tried to live a hidden life, he soon attracted a multitude of admirers from the region who gradually formed a religious community around him. The hours that St. Ronàn spent in silent prayer and contemplation led to his name of Ronàn the Silent.  Eventually, St. Ronàn died in his cell surrounded by his community. 

The second part of the Vita S. Ronani focuses on events after St. Ronàn's death -- the miracles attributed to his intercession, the growth of his cult and the fate of his relics.  The first reported miracle following his death came about due to a dispute over where the saint should be buried. After asking the saint for guidance, a couple of oxen led the people to a burial spot, indicating that this was where St. Ronàn desired to be buried. Once the body was placed at this site, healings and miracles of all sorts begin to occur and the cult of St. Ronàn grew

To this very day in Locronàn (Cornwall) Brittany, St. Ronàn's feast day is the subject of an annual pilgrimage and celebration known, locally, as the "Forgiveness" of St. Ronàn.

St. Ronàn, pray for us.  


Much of the above  information was taken from various Internet sources.

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MORE PHOTOS OF RONÀN AND BRADEN 




Ronàn ready for his 3 a.m. feeding!




Brothers -- Ronàn and Braden






Dad is up early!


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SUKI AND SALLIE

"There had better be a good reason for waking me!"
Well, after a couple of weeks of allowing me to "sleep in" until between 5:30 - 5:45 in the morning, Suki has gone back to her old ways of trying to awaken me when she first feels those hunger pangs -- around 5 a.m.! 

 Of course, it may not be entirely her fault. After all, I was the one who placed temptation in her way and so I guess I must accept some responsibility. However, it seems to me that just because someone is tempted, it doesn't necessarily follow that they have to give in to that temptation. But, then, we all know what Suki is like! Let me explain... 

 Due to the fact that the weather has now turned so cold, I felt I could no longer leave the blinds, covering the balcony door, tied back at night. You may recall that I had originally tied them back so that Suki would not be able to rattle them, noisily, whenever she felt it was time for me to get up in the morning and feed her. I mean -- even I can't sleep with the Venetian blinds clacking together, over and over again! 

 Thus, earlier this past week, I left the blinds untied at bedtime so that the balcony door was covered. The result of doing this was that a good amount of cold air was no longer able to "draft" into the apartment during the night which meant that I didn't have to have the thermostat up quite so high in order to remain comfortable while I was sleeping. 

 The first night the blinds were untied, Suki did not seem to notice -- maybe she was just so used to them being unavailable that she simply paid no attention. However, by the second night, she had quite obviously become aware that the blinds were no longer tied back as evidenced by her attempt on Wednesday morning to awaken me about 4:45 by pushing those blessed blinds back and forth so that they made that annoying clackety-clack sound! 

I cannot post what I said to Suki when I was jerked awake by this most unpleasant noise. Let's just say that my comments included lots of rude words -- the kind they still bleep out in TV programs! Anyway, as any of my faithful Suki followers know, yelling at Suki has no effect other than to, perhaps, make me feel a bit better for a moment or two. 

 So, I did what was required -- I got up, grabbed the cat, shut her up in the bathroom, turned on the Baroque music channel on the TV (to muffle the sounds of Suki meowing) and painfully crawled back into bed. Of course, by this time I was too wide awake to go back to sleep so, instead, I just lay there for a while, trying to let the sounds of Vivaldi and friends soothe my troubled mind. After a while, I gave in, got up, released poor Suki from her "prison" and let her lead me to the kitchen where her food was waiting to be prepared. 

Since then, I have once more been tying the blinds back at bedtime; however, I am also turning down the thermostat so that it doesn't try to heat up the place during the night and simply adding an extra heavy blanket to my bedclothes. When I awaken now, I feel rather like I am back on the farm -- all warm under a pile of blankets except for my cold nose and a purring kitty cat under the blankets with me. Maybe this was her plan all along! 

As for my other concerns, I remain much the same. I did have a medical visit this past week -- a follow-up appointment at Mt. Sinai Hospital regarding my TMJ replacements. It was such a waste of time. Not only did I have to endure terrible pain as they tried to push my twisted neck and back into position for a panoramic x-ray, but then they charged me $80 for the privilege! I have no plans to ever return to that doctor again. 

 BTW, just a note to those of you on my Christmas calendar list -- you know who you are. Please let me know if you would be willing to receive a desk calendar this year rather than a wall one. Thanks.


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FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING



"Icon--Christ the King", by the  hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014


Jesus said to his disciples: 'When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate people one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."     Matt. 25:31-46 [only 31- 34 posted above] 

This is the beginning of the passage that speaks about the sheep being those who, having fed the hungry, clothed the naked etc. during their lifetimes, will now realize that in doing this for others, they really did it to Christ -- whether they knew it or not! Since most of us do kind things for others during our lives -- regardless of our motives -- I think we can take comfort in knowing that He sees it as though we "[are doing] it for Him".

It seems to me, then, that only those who have knowingly shut themselves off from love and loving would be excluded from the sheep and included with the goats.   

Of course, I ask myself, then, if there are really any such people who don't, deep down, desire to be loved.  It seems almost impossible to me that there would be. Wouldn't even the worst of people, once you have stripped away the surface anger, hatred and the desperate need to control, reveal, underneath it all, a small, frightened child yearning to be loved and accepted?  Perhaps not, but I, personally, cannot imagine it -- maybe because I see that small, frightened child so clearly within myself.

And, so I pray that we may all continue to try to love our neighbours as ourselves so that we, too, may some day hear the words: "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these..., you did it to me. Come, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."

Grant us the grace to be kind.

Amen.  

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora

"Kalanchoe thyrsiflora", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014


Today's drawing is the fourth one I have done over the years of flowering plants of the genus, Kalanchoe, family, Crassulaceae [see postings for October 5 and 9, 2010, if interested].  

Kalanchoe is a genus of about 125 species of tropical, succulent flowering plants from southern and eastern Africa, Madagascar and parts of south-eastern Asia. Only one species of the genus originated in the Americas. (This is Kalanchoe pinnata, also called the Air Plant. It is found in South America and well known for it medicinal uses.) 


Typical leaves of
Kalanchoe thyrsiflora
Like most of the southern African Kalanchoe species, Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, featured in today's drawing, forms a basal rosette of large rounded, fleshy leaves, which are grayish green with red margins. [There is a variety found in Hawaii -- probably a cultivar since it is not native to Hawaii -- which has multi-coloured leaves. This is the one that I have tried to depict in today's drawing.] The plants can grow to about 60 cm. The erect, upward- facing, tightly arranged leaves are stemless. These leafy rosettes send up stalks of dense flowers which are coated with a white powder. The flowers are greenish with yellow re-curved lobes and appear from February to June along the Cape region of South Africa.

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora and other Kalanchoe species found in southern Africa are known locally as Paddle Plant, Flapjacks or Meelplakkie, an Afrikaans name for flour. Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, first described by Harvey, is one of 6 species of Kalanchoe listed in Flora Capensis which was published in 1861. It was also the first Kalanchoe to be illustrated in "The Flowering Plants of South Africa". 

The species name thyrsiflora refers to the flowering of the plant which is a “thryse” or many-flowered kind of blooming. Kalanchoe evidently comes from an unknown Chinese epithet. The name was assigned by the botanist, Adanson, who first described the genus Kalanchoe in 1763.

Apart from being used by the Sothos in South Africa as a charm to ease difficulties, no other cultural or traditional uses have been recorded for 
Kalanchoe thyrsiflora.  Horticulturally, the plants are very popular in rock gardens, on rocky embankments and as perennial container plants.

Much of the above information was taken from various Internet sources.

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SUKI AND SALLIE

Suki are you smiling?
There is really nothing to report on either of us this week.

Suki has been reasonably well behaved.  She did get a bit antsy on Friday when some workmen were making lots of noise on the floor above us; however, the noise soon ceased and Suki able to return to her napping.

I did have an medical appointment this past week, also on Friday; however, it was relatively uneventful as it was simply a yearly follow-up.  After a quick check-over, I was told that the particular part of my anatomy in question was in fine shape and that I did not need to return for another two years!  I said, "Fine.  If I'm still around in two years, I'll come and see you!"  And with that I left and took a taxi home.

So, I am grateful to have had a quiet week and am hoping that the coming one will be similar.  The pain levels haven't gotten any worse and Suki and I both are sleeping well.

It is rather strange to think that I have reached a point in my life when I consider a week where I: stayed at home every day tending to my quiet activities, was able to keep my pain levels from increasing and experienced relatively decent behaviour from Suki to have been a really good week!  Who would have thought....


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33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time



"Icon -- Holy Mary, Mother of God",
by the hand of Sarah "Sallie"
Thayer, 2011
Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and  gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matt. 25:24-30
"St. Joseph and the Christ Child",
by the hand of Sarah "Sallie"
Thayer, 2012

I decided to use two drawings today -- drawings of the two people who not only doubled the "talents" they were given, but who actually "double-quadrupled" their "talents":  Our Lady and St. Joseph.

Now, as to the Gospel, itself, I have posted only the latter half of today's reading.  Most of us know the story of the "talents" so well that simply a few words from the passage will bring the entire story to mind.

It's a story that I have always had a bit of difficulty with -- not just because I feel that I, too, have probably wasted my "talents", but also because I feel so sorry, each time I read or hear the story. We read that the man, who went and buried his "talent" until the Master returned out of fear of losing what he had been given, ended up losing everything -- and I mean everything.  For when he returns the one "talent" to the Master, he not only loses his one "talent", but he is also "cast into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth"! Doesn't that sound like fun?

I always wonder what will be done with someone who not only buries their "talent", but then refuses to even dig it up and return it to the Master.  This is often how I feel about the way I have lived my life. So I have to wonder just what even more terrible things might be in store for me!

BTW, "talent" was a term used in that time for something of actual monetary value, but the Church has come to see "talent" not just as money, but as all the "stuff" we are born with and acquire during our lifetimes as well -- both natural abilities and acquired ones, including skills, wealth and power.  So, that is why I have to ask myself:  "what have I done with my "talents'?  What a scary question!

Well, as Fr. Benedict always used to say:  "when I come before God, all I am going to do is to fall on my knees (or whatever I have at that point to fall on) and loudly cry 'mercy', 'mercy', 'mercy'."  I think that's a plan!  Meanwhile, I pray for the grace to just keep trying to get it right.

I pray that I will never forget that God, who is Love, never ceases loving me or any of us. May we never cease loving in return.

Amen.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Aeschynanthus 'Thai Pink'

"Aeschynanthus 'Thai Pink' ", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014


"Thai Pink" is a cultivar (a plant variety produced by selective breeding) of the genus Aeschynanthus in the family Gesneriaceae

I did a drawing last year of another Aeschynanthus (A. radicans --better known as the Lipstick Plant) which I posted back on May 8, 2013.  You may be familiar with these plants as various species of the so-called "Lipstick Plant" are frequently available wherever house plants are sold.
  
"Aeschynanthus radicans, Lipstick Plant"
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013

Aeschynanthus is a large genus of Old World tropical plants native primarily to Southeast Asia (think Malaysia, Java, Thailand, etc.). They are often trailing epiphytes (a plant that grows upon another plant, non-parasitically, or upon some other object -- such as a tree or a building -- and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air and rain). Most have fairly large and showy flowers which are frequently pollinated by birds.

Aeschynanthus comes from the Greek aischyno, meaning “ashamed” and anthos, meaning “flowers”. This combination refers to the usual colour of the flowers – a reddish-pink color similar to that seen when someone is blushing.

I am not really satisfied with many aspects of this most recent drawing of Aeschynanthus so you may well see another drawing of one or another of the species of Aeschynanthus in the near future!




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UPDATE ON RONÀN (AND BRADEN)



Well, I certainly have two wonderful "great-nephews": Ronàn and Braden. (I'm not really their great-aunt, but they call me "Auntie Sallie" anyway). Their maternal grandmother was a very dear friend who did me the honour of asking me to be the godmother of one of her children.  This godmother/godson relationship has been one of the most precious relationships of my life and now I am getting to share in the joy of my godson's children.  What a great blessing.

As you can see from the photos below, the brothers appear to be doing well and enjoying getting to know one another. Rest assured, you will be seeing lots more photos of these lovely lads in the days ahead!




Ronàn says: "Am I ever glad to be home!"






Braden with his baby brother, Ronàn.  
Braden says:  "I'm glad to have my baby brother home -- even if he is a little noisy at times!" 




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SUKI AND SALLIE


Suki settling down for a snooze with her
favourite teddy bear!
Suki had another visit this week from the "flush of plumbers".  This time they noisily arrived with all the equipment need to "clean the kitchen stacks" -- whatever that means.

All I know is that after this, their third or fourth visit, I still have a hole in my wall covered with plastic sheeting and tape.  All Suki knows is that the "monster" keeps returning which means she has had to spend quite a bit of time these past weeks hiding in the back of the bedroom closet!

Each time this (or any other) monster arrives, Suki makes a mad dash for the bedroom (thankfully for her I always leave the door slightly ajar).  I hear her as she quickly makes her way to the back of the closet and then all is silent.  That monster is not going to catch her for she is, now, safely in her bolt hole for the duration plus. What I mean by "duration plus" is that she will not only stay in her hiding place for however long the workmen are here, but she will remain there for a good two hours after they have left -- just in case the monster hasn't really gone and is waiting to grab her just outside the closet door!

What is interesting to me is that Suki seems to know almost immediately, from the moment I open the door of my apartment, whether the people coming in are friends/acquaintances or workmen.  Maybe its the way they knock or walk or how noisy they are -- I can't figure it out.  Just as many people arrive when certain of my friends bring their family with them for a visit or when the people come from the Cathedral each Sunday with Holy Communion.  

It remains a mystery as to how Suki knows instantly which is which.  When the workmen arrive, she is into that bedroom closet in a flash, but when friends or acquaintances arrive, Suki hangs around, investigating them and, in particular, smelling their shoes! I have no idea why she is so keen on shoes -- unlike a dog, she has no interest in chewing on them -- but it's to the shoes she goes once everyone is seated and shoe-less. 

I have told Suki that the plumbers will not be back and she seems relieved; however, I have not yet told her that other workmen will be arriving sometime during the next couple of weeks in order to repair the hole in the wall!  No sense in giving her anything extra to worry about, poor kitty.

As for me, I had a doctor's appointment this past week.  It was just a regular visit to my family doctor so that I could have routine blood work done and get my flu shot.  It has been a couple of months now since I have had to do anything so strenuous and I was not really prepared for how painful the experience was going to be. 

In fact, I am still rather shocked at how difficult the entire experience was.  It was so difficult that by the time I arrived back home, I had to head straight for the most powerful pain meds and take to my bed, staying their until the next day! I'm thinking now that it may be time for me to make the necessary arrangements for home nursing and medical visits rather than trying to go out to the lab and the doctor's offices.

So, as you can see, I experienced a couple of significant events this past week what with the visit to the doctor and a visit from Suki's "monster".  The week ahead includes a visit to one of my medical specialists so I am going to do everything I can to make the trip there and back as easy on myself as possible.  I will let you know how I manage.

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FEAST OF THE DEDICATION OF THE LATERAN BASILICA 



"Icon--Our Lady, Protectress of the Church", by the hand of
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009 rev.

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He told those who were selling ....  ..............................................................................................“Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
John 2.13,16-22



The temple of stones is a symbol of the Living Church


"Today the liturgy celebrates the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, called “mother and head of all the churches of the city and the world.” In fact, this basilica was the first to be built after Emperor Constantine’s edict (313 A.D.) granted Christians freedom to practice their religion. In fact, at the time of the edict, Constantine gave Pope Miltiades the ancient palace of the Laterani family. The basilica, the baptistery, and the patriarchate -- the Bishop of Rome’s residence where the Popes lived until 1309 -- were all built there. The basilica’s dedication was celebrated by Pope Sylvester around the year 324 A.D.

On today's solemnity, the Word of God recalls an essential truth: the temple of stones is a symbol of the living Church, the Christian community. In their letters, the Apostles Peter and Paul already understood the Church as a “spiritual edifice,” built by God with “living stones,” namely, Christians themselves, upon the one foundation of Jesus Christ, who is called the “cornerstone” (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17; 1 Peter 2:4-8; Ephesians 2:20-22). “Brothers (and Sisters), you are God’s building,” St. Paul wrote, and added: “holy is God’s temple, which you are” (1 Corinthians 3:9c, 17)."

The two paragraphs above were taken from CatholicCulture.org

May today's feast help me to remember that I am called to be a "living stone" in the Body of Christ, the Church.

May we all know the joy and peace that comes from being a support for others and from allowing others to support us -- like stones in a building -- as we make our journey through life.

Amen.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Young Girl with Pomegranate

"Young Girl with Pomegranate", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014


This week's drawing was inspired by a painting entitled, "Girl with a Pomegranate" by the French traditionalist artist, W-A. Bouguereau.  When I saw his painting, I immediately thought to myself: "this is how Our Lady might have looked as a young girl -- dressed for the ceremony that would betroth her to St. Joseph."  

I particularly liked the idea of her holding a pomegranate. Bouguereau probably used it because of its rich symbolism in classical works of art.  I wanted to use it in my drawing, however, because of its rich Jewish and Scriptural symbolism. Jewish tradition, for example, teaches that the pomegranate is a symbol of righteousness because it is said to have 613 seeds, which corresponds with the 613 mitzvot, or commandments, of the Torah. As well, many Jewish scholars believe that the pomegranate was the “forbidden fruit” of the Garden of Eden which would make it the perfect fruit for Our Lady, the new Eve, to be holding.  

Now for a bit of information about the artist whose work, "Girl with a Pomegranate", inspired me... 
William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825–1905) was a French academic painter and traditionalist. In his realistic genre paintings he used mythological themes, making modern interpretations of classical subjects, with an emphasis on the female body.  


Bouguereau was born at La Rochelle, France in 1825, into a family of wine and olive oil merchants. When he showed artistic talent early on, his father was convinced by a client to send him to the École des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux. Young Bouguereau found ways to earn money with his art and with this money plus some from his aunt, he was able to go to Paris and became a student at the École des Beaux-Arts. To supplement his formal training in drawing, he attended anatomical dissections and studied historical costumes and archaeology.  In 1856, he married Marie-Nelly Monchablon and subsequently had five children. 


Bouguereau self-portrait
(1879)
During his life he enjoyed significant popularity in France and the United States, was given numerous official honours and received top prices for his work. However, as the quintessential salon painter of his generation, he was reviled by the Impressionists such as Claude Monet, Édouard Manet and Henri Matisse. 

By the early twentieth century, Bouguereau and his art begin to fall out of favour with the public, due, in part, to changing tastes although his paintings of goddesses, nymphs, bathers, shepherdesses and the Madonna continued to appeal to wealthy art patrons of the era. Interestingly, in the 1980s, a revival of interest in figure painting led to renewed interest in Bouguereau and his work.  
In 1905, William-Adolphe Bouguereau died from heart disease at his home in La Rochelle.  He was 79 years old. 


*Much of the above information was taken from various Internet sources.



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WONDERFUL NEWS!


Braden's little brother, Ronàn, arrived on October 31st. Both mother and baby are doing fine!

There are about 12 Irish saints with the name of Ronàn with the best known being St. Ronàn of Locronàn (also known as St. Ronàn the Silent).  The young Master Ronàn should be well looked after, indeed, by all these heavenly friends!

Also, his middle name is Declan so I am sure that St. Declan of Ardmore will be praying for him too.

Here are a couple of photos.  Rest assured that I will be sharing more photos of Ronàn (and Braden) in the days ahead. Now, please rejoice with me and give thanks for the gift of this new life.



Ronàn asleep in the hospital nursery





Braden with his new baby brother (Ronàn is being held by his grandmother)
I cropped this rather closely so please forgive the excessive graininess and 

blurring of the images.






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SUKI AND SALLIE


If Suki had to go on a car ride...!










Something really strange has been going on this past week... every morning, this crazy cat, with whom I share my home, has been trying to get me to wake up and feed her at 4:30 instead of her usual 5:30!  As you can imagine, this has not been pleasant for either of us -- especially for me.

I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out why on earth Suki should suddenly start her wake-up procedure an hour earlier than usual. Then, last night, as I was setting all the clocks back an hour, the thought struck me:  "It's almost like Suki knew we were going back on "real" time instead of this artificial stuff called Daylight Savings Time!  So, you won't be surprised to learn that when Suki woke me up this morning, the clock read 5:30 once again!

How did Suki know?  What made her insist on setting the clocks back a week before the rest of Canada and the USA?  Truly, I find this very strange.  It makes me realize, even more clearly, that in spite of the fact that I think I am so knowledgeable about so many things, I really know so little and understand even less! 

Otherwise, things at my home continue much as usual.  The pain levels remain about the same and my pain management techniques continue to be fairly effective about 80% of the time -- especially the distraction technique.  By "distraction technique", I mean the few remaining things I am able to do that usually can absorb my attention so completely that I can enter into a space, for a period of time, where I am less aware of the pain. Such things include, especially, my art work as well as watching advertisement-free films or TV shows that really interest me and keep my attention.

I have discovered that pain management is really a full-time job. Thank goodness, I'm a retired person!  



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COMMEMORATION OF ALL THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED


"Icon, Mother of God of Magadan", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011 rev.


Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour. John 12:23-26


"...unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies..."  This icon shows us what that grain of wheat looks like in the dying -- both in Christ's laying down of His life and in the Blessed Mother's gift of letting go of, not clinging to, her Son's life so that He might freely lay it down.  

For did not Christ also say:  "Greater love has no one than to lay down their life for another"?  
I seek not to be alarmed at the prospect of laying down my life for others through those small, daily sacrifices involved in putting others first for we are promised that if we but die to ourselves, we will share in a huge harvest -- a harvest of love -- that might, one day, cover the whole earth.

May this kind of love set us free so that peace may fill our hearts and minds today and always.  

Amen.



Sunday, 26 October 2014

Gigasiphon macrosiphon

"Gigasiphon macrosiphon Flower", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014





The seeds of the Gigasiphon macrosiphon tree
Today's drawing is of a very beautiful flower produced by the Gigasiphon macrosiphon tree in East Africa. Gigasiphon macrosiphon is a medium-sized tree, one of three species in the genus Gigasiphon (family Fabiaceae [legumes]).
It produces large, very striking, white flowers striped with yellow. The tree grows to about 20 meters in height. The seeds are hard, smooth and button-shaped, with a light stripe around the perimeter.  [see photo above -- the seeds look so satiny as though they would be a pleasure to hold and rub]. 

G. macrosiphon grows in moist lowland and coastal forests in Kenya and Tanzania where continual destruction of coastal forests, combined with use of this tree for firewood, tools, charcoal and lumber, has reduced the G. macrosiphon population to less than 50 known mature trees in the wild. These are to be found in four forest reserves in Kenya and two forest reserves as well as the Kihansi Gorge and Rondo plateau in Tanzania.  Even though it seems such a shame that this beautiful tree would be destroyed for firewood and charcoal, it is understandable that the poor people in these countries desperately need these items in order to cook their food and keep warm. 

I have been unable, thus far, to find out what common names have been given to this tree by the local people; however, the "proper" names have fairly well known Greek roots! Gigasiphone comes from the Greek "gigas" meaning "giant" and "siphon" meaning "a tube". Macrosiphon comes from the Greek "macro" meaning "large" and "siphon" (see above).  We are left with a name which means, basically, a"large, giant tube".  Of course, I am not really sure to which part of the tree this designation refers -- maybe the tubular-like branches that hold the flowers. (If anyone out there knows why this tree was so defined, please let me know by either posting a comment to the blog or writing me at sallie@ican.net.)

Gigasiphon macrosiphon was designated as endangered in 1997. A report, issued in conjunction with the Zoological Society of London in 2012, placed this species on the list of the 100 most endangered species on the planet.  What a sad thought that this tree may disappear from its native setting on the planet in the not too distant future.



Sections of the above paragraphs were taken from various Internet sources.

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SUKI AND SALLIE


"Big-Eyed Suki", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014
Poor Suki met a new monster this week... a man from one of the City departments who was going throughout our building checking on all the fire and smoke alarms in each apartment -- including the one where Suki lives!

Suki and I were having a nice, quiet, ordinary morning when, all of a sudden, I saw Suki's ears go back and watched as her fur bristled up around her neck.  At that point, even though Suki was obviously concerned about something, I had no idea what she was hearing.  Soon, however, I, too, could hear the unmistakable noise of fire and smoke alarms going off in the distance and appearing to get ever closer to us.

As the sounds grew louder and louder, Suki appeared to become larger and larger (she soon looked rather like a porcupine) as cats do when a threat is perceived.  As well, I began to hear that low growl coming from her which says:  "you had better not mess with me!" Of course, all of this was simply a bluff evidenced by the fact that the moment we heard someone banging on the front door of the apartment, brave Suki "deflated" and with her ears flat against her head, made a mad dash for the bedroom closet.

It only took about five, very unpleasant, minutes for the man to test both the smoke and fire alarms in my place; however, Suki remained safely hidden in the back of the bedroom closet for the next hour and half.  I guess she didn't want to take any chances that this new "monster" might return.  

As for me, I didn't like having to put up with the noise in the building and in my apartment, but I fully understand the necessity for such testing .... and once they had finished on my floor, things became relatively quiet again in my home.

As for the rest of my week, I did receive that expected visit from my dear friend and it was lovely to see her again.  As well, another friend, who is a professional hair stylist, came by for a visit and gave me a haircut while she was here.  Now I no longer look like a shaggy sheep dog with hair hanging down over my eyes!

Otherwise, things have been quiet, thankfully, as the pain has actually been a bit worse this week.  In fact, I am saddened to report that some really serious pain has now moved from my neck and into my right shoulder and arm.  Once again, this is nerve pain caused by the pressure of my spinal cord.

I am hoping that these new pains will subside somewhat, but, if not, I am concerned as to what this may mean concerning my future art work.  As you can imagine, it will be very distressing for me should I lose my ability to express myself through art .... And should I find myself unable to continue drawing, then I will lose the express purpose for which my blog, "salliesart", was established.  I may have to rename it, calling it something like "Suki's Page"! I will keep you informed, of course.



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THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME



"Icon, Christ Healer -- Let the Children Come", by the hand of
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009, rev.



When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’  Matt 22:34-40


As you can see, I am using an one of my older icons showing Christ the healer.  It is also the icon of the passage "let the little children come unto me for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven."  I decided to use it to express the second great law mentioned in today's Gospel:  "love you neighbour as yourself".

Even though so many of us do not really keep the first great law of loving God above all else, a great many people do keep the second law of loving their neighbours.  We only have to look around us to see the evidence of this.  Everywhere we turn there are people doing kind things for others whether as part of their vocation, as volunteers or simply because they want to be kind to others.

True, our motives are usually mixed with everything from altruism to that desire to be seen by others as "good people".  Whatever the motivation, however, many of us do end up putting others first occasionally.  Thank goodness for that as this life can be so difficult and it is so often only love that makes it bearable.

I pray for the ability to be really kind to others -- the ability to be really generous with my gifts ... however limited they may be -- and the grace to love when being loving means putting my neighbour before myself.

May we all experience the joy and peace found in loving others and in allowing others to love us.

Amen.


Sunday, 19 October 2014

Lady in the Garden

"Lady in the Garden", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014


Today's drawing was inspired by an undated portrait painted by E. J. Poynter and entitled "Portrait of Lady Markham".  As usual, what I ended up with by the time I finished bears no resemblance to my model other than the pose!

Sir Edward John Poynter was an English painter in the Neo-classical tradition as well as a designer and draughtsman. He became best known for his large historical paintings and established his fame with his immense painting, Israel and Egypt, 1867. 

Poynter was the son of the architect, Ambrose Poynter. Although he was born in Paris, his parents returned to Britain soon afterwards. In 1853 he met Frederick Leighton in Rome, who made a great impression on the 17-year-old Poynter. On his return to London he studied at Leigh's academy in Newman Street and the Royal Academy Schools before going to Paris to study in the studio of the classicist painter, Charles Gleyre, where James McNeill Whistler and George du Maurier were fellow-students.

In 1866 Poynter married the famous beauty Agnes MacDonald, daughter of the Rev G. B. MacDonald of Wolverhampton, and they had three children. Her sister Georgiana married the artist Edward Burne-Jones; her sister Alice was the mother of writer Rudyard Kipling; and her sister Louisa was the mother of three-times-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Stanley Baldwin. 



Painting of Sir Edward J. Poynter
Poynter held a number of official posts: he was the first Slade Professor at University College London from 1871 to 1875, principal of the National Art Training School from 1875 to 1881 and director of the National Gallery from 1894 to 1904 (overseeing the opening of the Tate Gallery). In 1896, Poynter was elected President of the Royal Academy – a post he held until 1918. He received a knighthood in 1896 and was made a baronet in 1902. Poynter died in London on the 26th of July 1919. 


What really intrigued me about this painting of Poynter's were the placement of the hands.  Hands, as I am sure you know, are the most difficult parts of the body to draw and I am always on the lookout for hands that present a challenge -- and these certainly do. 


Of course, as you can guess, I am still not satisfied with the results, but will leave this drawing for now and, perhaps, try again another day.


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FAMILY STUFF

Daniel with his father, and my nephew, David...
So many photos of Daniel are taken by his father so he
is behind the camera and not in the picture.
I cropped this one out of a family photo.


Daniel with his father on a holiday trip 
a few years ago.


Recently, my nephew, David, did something wonderful for his son and for other autistic children -- as you can see from the first paragraph of a news article from the Knoxville (Tennessee) Sentinel, dated the 25th of September, 2014.

OAK RIDGE — His solitary, self-imposed physical ordeal began at 4 a.m. Friday morning in downtown Oak Ridge. It shouldn't conclude until about 10 Friday night at a North Ridge trailhead on the outskirts of the city. He's doing it for the love of his son. After months of intensive training, Oak Ridge High School girls' basketball coach David Scott is pushing himself through a one-man triathlon to raise money and awareness about autism. It's personal. While it's a fundraiser, it's also a tribute to his 9-year-old son, Daniel, who is autistic. "He is a true joy in our life and though he is developmentally delayed and nonverbal, we consider ourselves so blessed," Scott said. During his triathlon Friday, Scott is planning to swim three miles, bike 130 miles and run and walk 30 miles. That's more than a traditional triathlon — which is a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run....
For the entire article, go to http://www.knoxnews.com/news/local-news/coachs-triathlon-today-for-autism-awareness-love-of-son_72792286 

[Above paragraph used with permission of the Knoxville Sentinel e-news.]




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SUKI AND SALLIE

Suki looking very concerned just
prior to making a mad dash
for her closet hiding place!
Suki had a Friday like you wouldn't believe!  The plumbers returned -- or, as Suki describes it:  the Monster came back.

They arrived at my place around 9:30 a.m. Friday and the banging, clanging and general disorder continued until a little past 11 a.m.

With the first bang, Suki ran for cover and did not venture forth from her hiding place until almost 1 p.m.!  If I had been able, I would gladly have joined her in the back of the bedroom closet -- but once in there, I would have had to call the emergency services in order to be extricated.  

I am not really sure what all the noise was about; however, I do know that at one point the drill the guy was using was so smoking hot that it set off my apartment smoke alarms.  This caused me to hobble as quickly as possible to the front hallway (where the work was going on) and yell loudly until the man finally stopped his drill.  It turned out that the noise he was making was so loud that he had not even heard the alarms going off.

So what was his response when I told him that he had set off the fire alarms?  "Oh, don't worry," he said, "we contacted the Fire Department before we started today so that they know what is going on and know they don't need to respond!" 

Saying this, he quickly returned to his work.  I stood there thinking to myself that this was really rather upsetting.  I mean, what was the Fire Department going to do if there really was a fire in the building? Just ignore it because these guys said to?

Fortunately, there was no more smoke after that and all remained relatively calm -- other than the noises of the drill and the occasional complaints of the workman to himself when things were not going as easily as he had hoped.

Finally the work was finished.  The guy cleaned things up as well as most workmen do, apologized for taking so long and making so much noise and then he left.  What a relief it was as the normal silence and privacy of my home returned once again.  The next visit from these guys is not scheduled yet but it could be as early as this coming week.  One day, I pray, they will be finished.

As I said earlier, Suki did not show herself until about an hour and a half after the guy left.  I think she wanted to make absolutely certain that the Monster was really gone.  Poor thing, she doesn't know that the Monster may return as early as next Friday for another round.

As for me, I continue as usual with about the same amount of pain and suffering as last week!  

Nothing is scheduled for this coming week other than the possible visit of a dear friend.  This is the same friend who was supposed to come for a visit last month; however, she and her family all came down with the flu. Thankfully, they all seem to have fully recovered and so the visit is re-scheduled for this Thursday.



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TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME


"Icon, Christ the Teacher", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’   Matt. 22:15-21 MRSV



For today's Gospel illustration, I choose one of the original Rosary icons from 2009 -- "The Proclamation of the Gospel".  Here we see Christ teaching to all sorts of people. Even though I was just learning how to draw on the computer at the time, I think I did mange to draw a few faces showing some amount of questioning, dislike, unhappiness and even anger.

This passage from Matthew is one of a number which indicate the strife between those who rigidly interpreted the teachings of God and those who felt that God just might not be quite so rigid after all. Of course, we must not allow ourselves to think that we are that different from the Pharisees and Herodians of the first century! I know I don't like change anymore than those Pharisees did and I can certainly feel just a bit of irritation when my beliefs are challenged!

As always, it is love that makes the difference.  If we enter into dialogue with truly loving hearts, then we will eventually find a way to bring people together rather than driving them apart.

Let us pray for the wisdom we need to be able to really listen to others without seeing them as the enemy.  For only then can we hope to find that Truth which will lead us to the fullness of Love.

May peace be with you today and always.

Amen.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

"Kakabeak" Clianthus puniceus

"'Kakabeak' Clianthus puniceus", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Clianthus puniceus, most commonly known as Kakabeak, is a stunning shrub known for its dense clusters of brilliant red, claw-like flowers, which hang from arching branches in the New Zealand summer (September-December).  This evergreen shrub is native to New Zealand's North Island where, sadly, it is critically endangered with only about 200 plants still to be found in the wild. 


Clianthus puniceus seed pods
The names of this plant allude to the splendour of its brightly-coloured flowers with the genus name, Clianthus, being derived from two Greek words:  kleos, meaning glory, and anthos, meaning flower.  The species name, puniceus, is derived from the Latin and refers to the particular bright reddish colour of the flowers. 


Kaka bird of New Zealand
Its common name, Kakabeak (Kaka-Beak), comes from the perceived resemblance of the flowers to the beak of the Kaka -- a large species of parrot that used to be common in New Zealand forests. Other common names for Clianthus puniceus are "lobster claw" and "parrot’s-bill". 

Plants can grow up to 2-3 m. tall, producing long, trailing stems that form new plants when they come into contact with soil. In this way, one parent plant can cover a large area. It is an obvious member of the pea family, Leguminosae, evidenced by its long green leaves made up of smaller, opposing leaflets. The flowers, are succeeded by large, dangling "pea pods". 

No one is certain as to the primeval distribution of Kakabeak, of course. However, the Maori are thought to have transported it extensively around the land mass now known as New Zealand. It was used by the Maori to feed caged Tui birds. These beautiful, native birds, able to imitate even complex speech better than any parrot, were kept in captivity in order to help the Maori attract and capture other birds. The flowers and edible seedpods of the Kakabeak were also used by Maori for gifting and trading. Its seeds remain viable for a long time and could, therefore, be stored and easily transported. 

As this shrub is still commonly found in New Zealand plant centres, gardeners are often surprised to hear it is endangered. This very nutritious plant has no defences against browsing by deer, goats, pigs, hares, stock or introduced garden snails (many of which have now escaped into the wild).  As well, introduced plants, such as the Mexican daisy, gorse and Buddleja, also threaten the survival of Kakabeak as these hardy invaders seek out similar habitats.

I was, of course, immediately attracted to the brilliant colour of the Kakabeak flowers when I just happened across a photo of them on the Internet. Prompted by this photo to further searching, I found several more photos.  Fortunately, a few of these provided enough detail for me to use them as models for my drawing. 

Of course, the problem with photos is that they don't always provide me with the proper colour balance.  As I have continued my research on these "red" flowers, I have come to learn that the Latin, puniceus, actually refers to a colour which is described as "reddish-purple"!  The red I used in today's drawing, as you can see above, is certainly more reddish-orange instead of reddish purple. So, after even more searching, I have finally found a few photos which appear to show a red with more purple and less orange. 

Thus, I am already thinking of doing a new drawing of these beautiful flowers in which I will re-mix the red on my palette and see if I can come up with a colour a bit closer to that colour intended by the Latin term "puniceus" and meaning "reddish-purple".  Meanwhile, I do hope you enjoy these bright, reddish-orange flowers -- it is one of my favourite shades of red!



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SUKI AND SALLIE

Suki considering her next activity!
I am uncertain as to what actually happened last night -- after all, I was asleep at the time -- but for some unfathomable reason, Suki allowed me to "sleep-in"!  

I was actually awakened this morning by sunlight shining in my window rather than by rattling Venetian blinds and plaintive meows from Suki. 

When I realized that the bright light bothering my eyes was not a lamp I had failed to turn off before going to bed, I quickly glanced at the clock which appeared to reveal that it was almost 8 a.m.  As that amazing information sank in, I could feel a sense of confusion followed by panic.  This led to the following thoughts -- tumbling across my mind, almost one on top of the other:
"Oh, no, what has happened to Suki?"  
"Have her joints finally given out on her?"
"Is she ill?"
"Please, God, she isn't dead!"

Fortunately, that same bright sunlight allowed me to quickly locate Suki lying in her favourite chair, looking at me with very alive but very accusatory eyes!  Maybe it was only my guilty feelings caused by the knowledge that it was almost two hours past Suki's breakfast time, but I am sure I could hear her thinking:
"How could  you do this to me?"
"What have I done to deserve such treatment?"
"Shame, shame."

In response, I quickly cried out my apologies to Suki as I began the arduous effort, now required, to get myself out of bed and into a standing position.  This necessitates making myself move, joint after joint, in spite of the pain. These movements are combined with all necessary precautions to keep myself from falling over as I struggle to reach a standing position, rarely making it on the first try.  

Suki simply sat there and watched -- she knows better than to get in my way at such times as I occasionally have to let myself fall back into bed due to discomfort. I, then, start the process all over again. In the early days of my current problems, Suki would frequently come close to getting squashed on occasion because she wanted to do the "rubbing-purring-cat-thing" in hopes that this would enable her to get fed more quickly.  Now, she knows better than to take such dangerous risks.  Finally, I was up and mobile and on my shuffling way to the kitchen.  

Once I had Suki's food in front of her, she devoted herself to the eating of it with that absolute, "living-in-the-moment" attention that our fellow creatures possess.  Thus, I was finally able, for the first time since awakening, to reflect on all that had just happened and to begin the process of trying to figure out why.  As I said at the beginning of this column, I have no idea why I was allowed to sleep in (as the Canadians say), but I simply cannot believe that Suki decided to do me a favour this morning.  I mean, she is a sweet kitty-cat, but we all know how she is about her mealtimes! 

I can only assume that she tried all her usual methods for waking me up at the "proper" time, but, for some reason, these failed -- maybe I was more tired than I realized.  Perhaps -- and this is a big perhaps -- Suki simply decided this morning that she was tired to making such an effort to awaken me at 5:30 a.m. every day. Or, maybe her techniques just didn't seem to be working very well and she didn't feel like devising new ones.  So, growing tired of trying, she gave up, ate some of her "crunchies" (even though it is her least favourite food) and then simply went back to sleep to wait for me to finally get up on my own.  Knowing Suki as I do, this argument just doesn't sound very logical to me! What do you think?

So, here I am after having a bit more sleep than usual and, unfortunately, I do not feel any better for it.  In fact, I sense what could be the beginnings of a migraine -- migraine sufferers are cautioned to never sleep-in as that is a known migraine trigger. We, who are prone to migraines, are told over and over again to establish a sleep schedule and stick to it -- weekdays and weekends -- and we will, thereby, help ourselves to prevent migraines.  

I find it interesting that so many of the ailments from which I suffer are, in some way or another, related to sleep. Combined with this information is the awareness of just how dangerous sleep times were for me during those first 18 years of my life when I lived in my parents' house.  I wonder if the "mind doctors" will ever figure out how these things are connected and how to treat the medical issues which result.

Finally, Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow to all my Canadian readers!


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TWENTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME



"Icon, Wedding at Cana", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009


Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”   Matthew 22:1-14

 I used the "Wedding at Cana" icon today simply because I do not have any other icon that relates to weddings.  As well, I thought that seeing Christ as He: 

  • lovingly set aside His own agenda by taking Himself and His small group of early followers to a village wedding; 
  • sat with His Mother, relatives and friends as they spoke of mundane things, and; 
  • performed His first public miracle in this out-of-the-way place;
might shed some light on today's parable from Matthew's Gospel -- a parable which I find to be extremely demanding.


Of course, I, personally, have always struggled with this passage from the 22nd Chapter of Matthew as I really do not like parties of any kind -- never have.  I enjoy meals and good conversation with a few close family and friends, but anything bigger causes me to normally find excuses for staying home by myself!  Perhaps this has to do with the need to be hyper-vigilant which I needed to acquire early in life.

I can see myself in this parable as one of those people who were invited by the King, but who made excuses about why they unable to attend. Although, if I really loved the King's Son, then I would probably have agreed to attend.  Throughout my life, I have said yes to invitations to large gatherings only out of love -- weddings, baptisms, birthday parties, etc. -- if I am there, you know it is simply because my love for those being honoured is great enough so that I am willing to set aside my own preferences and desires.

So, once again, we come back to love -- always love -- setting aside our likes and dislikes because love requires that we put the other first. When we do that, we don't just say "yes" halfheartedly -- rather, we do all that love requires, including putting on the proper garments for the occasion, participating joyfully and, in fact, laying down our lives -- our preferences -- for the other.  The teachings of Christ always come back to love.  And, so I pray...

May I continue to be willing to learn to love -- now when life seems so often to be almost unbearably difficult for me -- now when putting the other first so often seems almost impossible for me -- especially now.

May we all know the peace and joy that comes when we love enough to lay down our lives -- our own desires and preferences -- for the other.

Amen.