This week has been the annual Week of Christian Unity. We have been asked to pray for this cause. I must admit that I found it a bit difficult at first, because the term ‘Christian Unity’ was rather abstract for me, and to pray properly, in a focused way, I needed more understanding and structure.
I prayed for guidance, and sure enough, the next day an answer was presented to me! It was in the form of day-to-day prayers, readings, reflections, questions and go-and-dos. I found this link when looking for something else in the newsletter of my former church, Our Lady Queen of Peace RC, where I used to attend when living in London (I have since been living in Cordova for the last 33 years). So I would just like to share the link of this day-to-day prayer pamphlet with you which you can access here — it really is worth a browse!
Another site mentioned in the text is the Ecumenical PrayerCycle. This is also interesting and eye-opening — one which “takes us through every region of the world over the course of a year.
Praying for each place on earth and its people at least once a year, we affirm our solidarity with Christians all over the world, brothers and sisters living in diverse situations, experiencing diverse problems and sharing diverse gifts. Pray with us!”— World Council of Churches.
Every week, prayer is dedicated to different countries in the world. This week (starting on the 23rd of January) the prayers are for Cyprus, Greece and Turkey. See here for the following weeks and countries. (Last week it was the turn of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.)
(As I am not using this blog for commercial purposes, I am not infringing any copyrights, but I did want to provide an example of the important and interesting work that the World Council of Churches are doing.)
the 2,000-year presence and witness of the church in Asia Minor (now Turkey, Cyprus, and Greece) – the region in which St Paul and other apostles first planted the seeds of the Christian faith – and for how Greek culture influenced the early church
the Church Fathers who came from this area, along with many men and women who were Christian martyrs, and where seven ecumenical councils were convened
the pioneering work of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in quest of Christian unity and for protection of the environment
those who have reached out to assist people who have fled to, and through, these lands.
We pray for:
the healing of memories and wounds inflicted by early 20th century genocides of Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian communities, and for current tensions in these lands
enhanced respect for all minority groups and their claims,
those who work for justice and reconciliation
the people who struggle because of economic and political crises in these countries
more stable democratic governments that further the good of all.
A morning prayer
Our spirit seeks you in the early dawn, O God, for your commandments are light. Teach us, O Master, your righteousness and make us worthy to follow your commandments with all our strength. Take away from our hearts every darkness. Grant to us the Sun of righteousness and protect our lives from any bad influence with the seal of your most Holy Spirit. Direct our steps to the way of peace and grant to us that this present morning may be peaceful so that we may send up the morning hymns to you the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the only God, who is more than without beginning and creator of all. Amen.
(Excerpt from a morning prayer to the Holy Trinity, St. Basil the Great, 4th century, from Let us pray to the Lord, p. 58, WCC Publications)
I just wanted to share with you this photo of the beautiful Passion Flower I photographed when I was in England; it was just gracefully hanging over the neighbour’s fence, and the decorative, orange fruits languidly dripped from the verdant, intertwining branches.
The symbolic meaning of this flower is interesting and goes something like this:
The Passion flower (Passiflora) was named by Roman Catholic missionary priests who encountered the flower while on their journey in South America in the late 1500’s. They named it after the Passion of Jesus Christ, believing that several parts of the plant symbolized features of His suffering and death.
The symbolic parts of the plant are:
the filaments that represent the crown of thorns that Jesus wore before His crucifixion,
the three stigmas on the passion flower which represent the three nails that held Jesus to the cross
the ten “petals”, His ten faithful apostles, and
the five anthers symbolise the five wounds that Jesus suffered when he was crucified.
The passion flower started to become widely known, and many used the flower to teach about the crucifixion.
The flower can also be used for medicinal purposes to treat such cases as: anxiety, insomnia, stress, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used for flavouring in foods.
To end this blog, here is a poem about the Passion Flower, written by Christopher Ifekandu Okigbo, a highly-acclaimed poet of Nigeria. He was also “a teacher, and librarian, who died fighting for the independence of Biafra. He is today widely acknowledged as an outstanding postcolonial English-language African poet and one of the major modernist writers of the 20th century… Despite his father’s devout Christianity (he was a teacher in Catholic missionary schools), Okigbo had an affinity, and came to believe later in his life, that in him was reincarnated the soul of his maternal grandfather, a priest of Idoto, (the water goddess of the Idoto River in his hometown), an Igbo deity (Igbo, the people of south-east Nigeria). — Wikipedia
Passion Flower — Christopher Ifekandu Okigbo (British Nigeria, 16 August 1932 – 1967)
And the flower weeps
For him who was silenced;
dumb bells1 in the dim light celebrate
with wine song;
Messiah2 will come again,
After the argument in heaven3;
Messiah will come again,
Fingers of penitence
to a palm grove5
fingers of chalk7.
Explanation of the poem:
1 — «dumb bell» referred to the practice in the Roman Catholic Church where bells are not rung between Maundy Thursday and the first Mass on Easter Sunday
2 — Messiah pointed at the expected King and Saviour (Jesus Christ).
3 —»after the argument in heaven» looks at the shaking of the powers of heaven referred to in The Gospel According to St. Luke, Chapter 21, verse 26, prior to the coming of the Son of Man, described in verse 27.
4 — “Lumen mundi”, the Light of the World (Jesus Christ)
5 — “Palm grove”, the place of sacrifice
6 — «vegetable offering», the fruits of the earth that are being sacrificed, that is, palm oil, kola nuts, alligator pepper and eggs of white hens
7 — «five fingers of chalk», the sacrificial chalk which is sold in «fingers».
Hello again everyone! Sorry for the break, but as I explained previously I’ve been rather busy translating lately and couldn’t spend more time with my eyes glues to the screen.
However, today I took advantage of the cooler (28 °C) windier weather to go for a long drive up to the local sierra of Hornachuelos to visit a convent, Nuestra Señora de la Sierra in the area of San Calixto, lying almost in the middle of nowhere.
It’s surrounded by vegetation that ranges from open fields, olive groves, shrubs such as wild cistus, pistacia mastic and terebinthus, as well as old holm oak trees and cork oaks that have recently been stripped of their bark. (For more about the vegetation of the Hornachuelos Nature Reserve and its haunted monastery you can see my previous blog.)
The story of this particular convent goes back to the 16th century. It is said to have been founded by two monks who, after wandering the Sierra looking for a suitable place to make their sanctuary, finally came to rest in a hilly area full of thistles (cardos), high above the flood zone of the Bembézar River. Knowledge of their fervorous, holy pursuit spread, and they were soon joined by other hermits.
For shelter, they made a hut out of rockrose branches where they placed their image of Saint Michael. Eventually, in 1543, they founded the Monastery of San Basilio del Tardón. (It is said that Tardon derives from Cardón, which was the name given to this area by the monks. It is a derivative of cardo, or ‘thistle’, and refers to the thistle-covered hill where they lived.)
The monastery was inhabited by monks until 1808. A few years later, Francisco Sánchez, a Knight of the Order of Charles III was granted permission to build a hamlet on all the surrounding (thistly) land of Cardón/Tardón. He named the areaSan Calixto. Over the years the hamlet grew in size, and by the mid-19th century its population rose to a hundred and fifty. The village now boasted its own town hall, prison, communal oven and a posada (an inn). (San Calixto lies at about eleven miles above Hornachuelos, passing the visitor centre, Huerta del Rey.)
However, bit by bit the area and monastery fell into abandonment, perhaps due to its isolated location. It was not until 1940 that the hamlet and all the surrounding areas were bought by the marquis. As a result, the desolated, spiritual ground was resuscitated. This time though, a convent was constructed over the ruins of the ancient monastery, and was baptised Convento de las Carmelitas Descalzas de Nuestra Señora de la Sierra(Convent of the Barefoot Carmelites of Our Lady of the Sierra—a bit of a mouthful!).
Today, the convent serves as a spiritual retreat and tourist attraction, alluring many visitors with its fascinating charm and beauty. Two important guests included the former Belgium monarchs, King Balduino y Queen Fabiola. (They were related to the marquises via Fabiola, who was originally a Madrid-born Spanish aristocrat). The royal couple spent their honeymoon there in 1960.
Additionally, another attraction of this convent is the handiwork products that you can purchase, which are made by the nuns. These ladies-of-the-cloth are extremely talented in needlework and other crafts, employing local materials such as cork from the indigenous alcornoque oak trees, as well as wool, fur and antlers from the animals that inhabit the land. They also grow their own vegetables.
(A little word of advice here: if you do ring at the door of this convent wanting to have a look at their products, don’t be surprised when you are answered by a thin, delicate voice that glides out from the holes in the iron-grate window; it greets the visitor while at the same time pays homage to the Virgin Mary, murmuring piously, ‘Ave María Purissima’, to which the knowledgeable visitor is expected to reply, ‘sin pecado concebida’, meaning ‘conceived without sin’. However, if you are not so well-versed in devotional greetings—like I wasn’t—then you might just reply with an irreverent ‘¡Buenos días!’ So be warned!)
Well, that’s all for now folks! Thanks for bearing with me and my fabulous photography (ha ha!).
What an artistic village Posadas is! As I have mentioned before in my earlier blogs, there is a lot of art and craftwork, needlework, basket weaving, lace-making and crochet going on here (among other creative activities that I might have forgotten to mention). Some of theartwork, can be seen here; and earlier crochet projects (not including the Christmas work because it is out of season), here. Oh — for my crochet and lace-making classes to start once again!
However, in the photo below you can see the most recent example of the group’s crochet work: it is a large cross honouring Our Lady and Her month of May. In fact you can find many crosses that are on display for several days decorating the plazas, streets and shop windows all over Cordova; they are made up of a myriad of sweet-smelling flowers.
I remember often singing Bring flowers of the rarest hymn when I was living in England, since both my primary and secondary schools were catholic. (I also remember dear old Sister Carmela who used to nod off during our history class as she steadily munched her way through her McVitie’s digestives!).
Anyway, I have included the hymn below, for old times’ sake. I wonder how many of you remember it…
Happy month of May to all of you, even if it coming to a close!
It’s an intense week here in Spain being Easter week. Unfortunately the numerous processions which take place every day in almost every city, town and village have been cancelled for the second year running due to Covid. However, there is a lot that the church has organised that you can take part in, in a controlled, safe way, complying with all the regulations — meditations, contemplation, talks, prayers, retreats, expositions, just to name a few.
So for now I would just like to share with you some photos of the statues and floats that are usually paraded along the streets; these are typically accompanied by the brass band and rows of hooded penitents that quietly shuffle along. To see more photos and read about the processions you can visitmy previous blog which I wrote last Easter Sunday.
This huge poster hangs from the façade of the parish church,Santa María de las Flores in Posadas. It reads:
‘Padre en tus manos enconmiendo mi espiritú…Yo soy la resurrección, la vida: el que cree en mi aunque haya muerto, vivirá… El que quiera siguirme, que se niegue a sí mismo, tome su cruz y me siga…’
which translates as:
‘Father into your hands I commend my spirit… I am the resurrection and the life: he who believes in me although having died, will live again… Whoever wants to follow me, let him renounce himself, carry his cross and follow me…’
The above photo is a representation of the Last Supper table. This is inside the parish church,Santa María de Las Flores in Posadas.
The following impressive statue of Mary, La Virgen de la Misericordia is in San Pedro church of Cordova.
I understand that all this might not be your cup of tea, but one just can’t help but appreciate the amount of artistic work and total devotion and dedication that these processions involve — take, for example, Mary’s cloak which is richly hand-embroidered — and that’s nothing to say about the woodwork, flower arrangements and craftsmanship in precious metals. Nor does it involve just this outward expression: it is accompanied by a quiet strength of faith, prayer, reflection and interiorism. It is a week of living and breathing the Word — a poignant and emotive time which culminates and comes to fruition on Easter Sunday.
Well, this just leaves me to early wish you all a Happy Easter and to wish you well.
Today is the 13th and this reminds me of the legend of the mystical arch — el Arquito — that we have here in our local village of Posadas. This Little Arch, dating back to the Gothic 13th century was also known as Puerta del Levante, The Eastern Gate of the castle that once stood on this land. It is located in the Morería neighbourhood of Posadas village, which dates back to 500 AD, and was an area formerly occupied by the Jews and Moors. In 2006 it was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC), also forming the stage set of many films such as Guerreras Verdes (Green Warriors) starring Carmen Sevilla and Sancho Gracia.
Below this medieval archway lie the remains of an old door of the former medieval castle, the last towers of which fell in 1791. There was also a window with a turntable where, in more recent years, abandoned children destined for the Charity Hospital were placed. They were either adopted or left to suffer a worse fate…
Above The Arch there is a balcony with a railing behind which is a little shrine presided over by the Virgen de los Remedios(The Virgen of Remedies).
The statue dates back to the 16th century, and the shrine adjoins an old former chapel also of the same antiquity, La Capilla de la Caridad (Charity Chapel). This now houses the beautifully-kept, whitewashed, rustic, wooden-beamed tourist office. (I wonder if I’ve got my adjectives in the right order?…)
Certain mystical qualities are attributed to this Arquito and many fervent prayers are offered to The Virgin Mary by devotees asking for cures and protection from bad luck.
The special day to make such supplications is any Tuesday that coincides with the 13th, on which day the devotee will pass under the archway three times, each time reciting the Hail Mary before making their petition. If their prayer is answered, then they hang a green ribbon from the balcony railings in acknowledgement and gratitude. (Sure enough there are numerous little strips of green material fluttering from the balcony!) Flowers are also deposited before her on her saint’s day, and on each second Sunday of October she is paid a visit.
There still exists the saying in Posadas: ‘Ese es más viejo que el Arquito’, which means ‘Him — he is older than the Arch’.
For a more detailed and very interesting account of the Arquito and its intriguing history based on authentic documents from the early 19th century (as well as more on the history of Posadas village) see the blog of Gabriel Martín entitled The Abandoned Infants of the Foundling Home of Posadas in the 19th Century. (Good practise for your Spanish but I think you can use Google translate. The black and white photos do summarise its sad story.)
There are other mystical legends pertaining to the neighbouring villages of which I have already written about in previous blogs: Hornachuelos (the enchanted convent of Santa Maria de los Ángeles) and Almodovar del Río (the haunted medieval castle). However, suffice to say that these villages (as well as Cordova town) have their share of intrigue and certainly a lot to offer, be it in the way of nature, sport, culture, history and tales. The people — a very interesting mix of Latin-Iberian with strong Arabic roots (seen also in their cuisine) are warm, friendly, welcoming, laid-back, though at the same time hard-working.
However, to finish on a similar spiritual note, I just wanted to share with you the effects of gold leaf behind glass painting, such as a religious-themed one I did yonks ago and am thinking of repeating (this technique — that is, if my glass paints haven’t all dried out over the long, hot 45°C summers!).
I stuck the gold leaf with mixtion behind the glass once I had finished the painting (using glass paints applied via a pipette, and lead contour paste). I then sealed the gold leaf with a couple of coats of shellac varnish. The gold leaf has the beautiful effect of illuminating the jewel-coloured paints when the light or sun falls on it and is reminiscent of the golden letters in theIlluminated Manuscripts which were produced in monasteries between 500 AD and 1600 AD, and the highly-decorated Book of Hours — a devotional book ‘crucial to the development of Gothic illumination’, produced in the 13th century. Really worth a peruse and serving as an inspiration for colours, gold and intricacy!