Winter Landscape with Bird Trap,
Painted by Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564-1638),
First half 17th century
Oil on panel
© National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

Winter Landscape with Bird Trap,
Painted by Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564-1638),
First half 17th century
Oil on panel
© National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

Gospel of 3 December 2023

Be on your guard, stay awake

Mark 13:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. It is like a man travelling abroad: he has gone from home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own task; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!’

Reflection on the painting

We have moved into a new Liturgical year now. We have entered the month of December, as we pass from Autumn to Winter weather. The trees have lost most of their leaves by now. In our streets here has been much sweeping up of leaves in recent weeks. Trees are beautiful when they are in full leaf, but they have a different kind of beauty when they have shed all their leaves. Stripped back, with only the branches showing, they have a different beauty. Intricate, unique shapes can be seen against the mid-afternoon wintery sunsets. Birds can now more clearly be seen sitting on the branches. Indeed, the loss of leaves reveals other attractive qualities and features of nature that are not so evident when everything is in full bloom.

Just as nature has its seasons, our own lives have seasonal  moments, too. What could be termed as a winter of the spirit can come over us at times. We experience moments of grief, loss, anxiety, failure, or simply feeling somewhat lonely in this world. This ‘winter of our spirit’ can however create a unique opening for God to work within us in new and creative ways. That is why the words in our Gospel reading today, which call us to stay awake at all times, are so hopeful. We are to be awake, alert, to the Lord’s coming. We are to be like the doorkeeper in the parable in today’s  reading, attentive to the familiar footsteps of the returning beloved. We always live in hope, however dark the nights may get in Winter.

Our painting by Pieter Breughel the Younger depicts a Winter landscape, with leafless trees revealing their barren shapes. The present composition derives from a composition by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, dated 1565. It has been suggested that the underlying subject of this picture is the precariousness of life, which is marked by the birds’ total ignorance to the threat of the trap that awaits them. This notion is furthered by the image of the carefree skaters playing upon the fragile ice, seemingly unconcerned about the potential danger of it cracking. The exact meaning of this popular scene is not entirely clear although the deliberate allusions to the brevity and transience of life would surely have been an intentional moralising reference.

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Elvira
Member
Elvira
2 months ago

What you say is beautiful 🧡

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
2 months ago

Just got back from the Pensioners’ lunch. Great ‘craic’ and a nice meal with wine! Served by attractive young mums from the school – Spanish, Italian, South American. Then the DJ arrived and people were on the floor a lot of them ‘refreshed’.
God’s disparate bunch of beloved children. I really got that feeling which makes me feel quite emotional 🥹. A great parish occasion…

Anthony
Member
Anthony
2 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

And you helped to make it so. God bless you for that.

Elvira
Member
Elvira
2 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

What a nice time! I’m so happy for you. 🥂✅

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
2 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Sounds like quite a hop – not at all the sort of pensioners lunch I picture😁

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
2 months ago

That’s wonderful to hear Janey.

Jamie Cardinal
Member
Jamie Cardinal
2 months ago

3 December is the feast day of St. Francis Xavier. Happy Feast Day.

Today is the First Sunday of Advent…..the days are very gloomy and dark, but we go on. ….
Christmas is about hope!
When I was a child, I loved this time of year………but the older I get, the more I prefer Easter.
Need to listen to some cheery and merry Christmas songs to brighten up! 🙂

Elvira
Member
Elvira
2 months ago
Reply to  Jamie Cardinal

Francisco Javier was a Spanish saint. Many in my family have his name

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
2 months ago
Reply to  Elvira

A great missionary. He is buried in Goa and we have been to visit his tomb. Today millions of Catholic pilgrims visit Goa to honour him.
St Francis Xavier pray for us.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
2 months ago

Whether it’s bridesmaids and lamps, talents, or here, the master going away…the same message week after week – stay awake!
But awake to what, I have been wondering? He will return and is clearly going to expect me to be doing something.
I came to the decision that for me it means being ‘awake to opportunities’ to serve Him. I realised had an opportunity this morning which cost in terms of time and effort, but I knew it was what I should be about. Therefore, that helped me to be open and willing instead of grudging. The opportunity is there – but it’s the Holy Spirit that digs you in the ribs to act.

George K
George K
2 months ago

Here’s a Youtube link. I posted it because it presents a work of Advent art and a includes a description of the spiritual artwork.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-LxjkOipdE

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