An Ever-Unfolding Purpose – Br. Keith Nelson

Br. Keith Nelson

St. Gregory of Nyssa

John 14:23-26

In John’s gospel we hear Jesus say: “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”

What does it mean for us as followers of Jesus to be taught by the guidance of the Holy Spirit? How might that guidance be felt and known in new ways during our journey through the season of Lent?

The Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner wrote: “We are pressured from within to become more. The Spirit invites us to evolve; to respond graciously to the changes that God may be inviting us to embrace.”

In this vision, the Spirit is intimately present to who and what we are in this moment. At the same time, the Spirit exerts a dynamic force – a pressure – urging each creature forward into God’s future, a further unfolding of its purpose. Unlike the day-to-day economic or social pressures that bear down upon us from the world; or even the internal pressures of our own psyche; the pressure exerted upon us by the Holy Spirit is always creative, generative, and life-giving beyond what we can anticipate or imagine. Read More

O Root of Jesse – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Br. Geoffrey TristramIsaiah 11:1-3 / Matthew 1:1-17

Well, I managed to get through that long Gospel reading!  Why on earth did Matthew start his Gospel with a long, tedious list of names? Because for Matthew the gospel, (the Good News he was proclaiming), was entirely dependent on who Jesus is. The identity of Jesus is everything. And central to his identity is that he is a branch, stemming from the root of Jesse.  O root, O radix Jesse, as today’s Advent antiphon puts it.

Identity is central to the whole prophetic tradition in the Old Testament.  That tradition became more and more focused on the hope that one day, God would save his people by sending them a Savior – an anointed one—a Messiah.  But who would he be?  How will we know who it is?  People were always asking “who are you?”  “Where are you from?”  Well, Isaiah tells us in our reading today: “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.  The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him….”  He will be the one.  We will recognize the Messiah when he comes, because he will come from the root of Jesse.

Well, the long genealogical list at the beginning of Matthew is pretty dreary – but the image of a tree, a family tree, is much more appealing to the imagination.  And that was certainly true for the medieval imagination.  So over the centuries, artists have created some of the most beautiful and imaginative trees to teach and to celebrate Jesus’ genealogical identity.  They are called Jesse Trees.  We see them in stained glass windows.  (The oldest piece of stained glass in England is the Jesse Tree at York Minster.)  We see them in stone casings (like the wonderful Jesse Tree greeting pilgrims at the entrance to the cathedral of St. James Santiago de Compostela.)  And we see them in illuminated manuscripts, such as the one you have before you.  It is taken from the famous Winchester Psalter from the 12th century. Read More