I am the Great Sun
From a Normandy crucifix of 1632
I am the great sun, but you do not see me,
I am your husband, but you turn away.
I am the captive, but you do not free me,
I am the captain but you will not obey.
I am the truth, but you will not believe me,
I am the city where you will not stay.
I am your wife, your child, but you will leave me,
I am that God to whom you will not pray.
I am your counsel, but you will not hear me,
I am your lover whom you will betray.
I am the victor, but you do not cheer me,
I am the holy dove whom you will slay.
I am your life, but if you will not name me,
Seal up your soul with tears, and never blame me.
The OtherThere are nights that are so still
I can hear the small owl calling
far off and a fox barking
miles away. It is then that I lie
the lean hours awake listening
to the swell born somewhere in the Atlantic,
rising and falling, rising and falling,
wave on wave on the long shore
by the village, that is without light
and companionless. And the thought comes
of that other being who is awake, too,
letting our prayers break on him,
not like this for a few hours,
but for days, years, for eternity.
R. S. Thomas
The Peasant Wedding, Pieter Breughel the Elder, 1567
The painting is called The Peasant Wedding, and it shows a summer party set in a barn. We can see the bride sitting in front of a green hanging, wearing a crown, but she is sitting there passively, not participating in the eating or drinking taking place around her. She is almost statuesque, like a sculpture of Our Lady. The wooden tables and chairs are roughly fashioned and the food on offer appears to be bread, porridge and soup. Humble food is being served in a humble setting. Like all of Breughel’s paintings, scholars identify symbolic references and clear moralistic undertones to them. Here it has been suggested that the painting serves as a warning against the deadly sin of gluttony, as almost every guest (except the bride), seem to be preoccupied with eating. Even one of the two musicians stares in the direction of the food servers, keen to eat.
Certainly no one appears to be interested in the spiritual nature of the occasion. The largest figure in the whole painting, is the servant in his light blue shirt and white apron who is the focal point. It isn’t the bride or the officials, but the servant that is celebrated here by Breughel. The feast seems sumptuous but there is not much food on the plates and with the bride being reserved, the painting depicts humility versus the gluttony it is surrounded by.
God is inviting everyone to the wedding with great generosity. All we have to do is accept the invitation and take our place. It is an invitation to the Kingdom of Heaven which is sent out to everyone. But like with any invitation, we are free to accept it or not. We are free to say yes or no. But as generous and all-inviting as God’s invitation is, it is not to be taken for granted. We should feel privileged that we are invited and love God all the more for it.
O God of earth and altar
Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride.
From all that terror teaches,
From lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches
That comfort cruel men,
From sale and profanation
Of honour and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation,
Deliver us, good Lord!
Tie in a living tether
The prince and priest and thrall,
Bind all our lives together,
Smite us and save us all;
In ire and exultation
Aflame with faith, and free,
Lift up a living nation,
A single sword to thee.
Father Alex McAllister SDS