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Showing posts from August, 2008

God is in the details: A Pictorial Meditation

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Mary, Mary Everywhere*

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I’ve started this post in my head several times in the last few days, but it keeps changing before I get an opportunity to sit down and write. At first it was simply going to be a “Where’s Waldo” reflection on looking for statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary on street corners (they’re everywhere here in Belgium; statues, that is, not just street corners). But then I started worrying about what this profusion of Marys might mean. A day or so ago, I hit my Protestant wall: I was no longer tickled to spot yet another Virgin peeking out over the doorway or under a spangled canopy overlooking the street, but rather almost disgusted at the near idolatry of it all. Then I started getting depressed. Was I the only one even paying attention to the fact that the Virgin Mother of God was supposedly watching over every street? Many of the statues are chipped and apparently uncared for. Perhaps Belgians notice them only when tourists clutter up the sidewalk taking pictures of them. I started…

Belgium is...

Chocolate (but you knew that!)

Diamonds (80% of all world trade in rough diamonds comes through Antwerp)

Waffles (with or without chocolate)

Fritjes (a.k.a. frites or fries, usually with mayonnaise, but in many different flavors)

Lace

Tapestries (and now cushion covers and handbags)

Printing (Plantin, Moretus and Brepols)

Black & white Baroque churches

Beer (try Chimay, brewed by Trappists)

Cheese

Mussels

Comic strip books (Tintin and Asterix are only the beginning!)

Paintings by Jan Van Eyck, Quentin Matsys, the Brueghels (Elder and Younger), Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, and Rene Magritte

The Atomium

Still lifes (shared with the Netherlands, but look closely for Mary)

Eurocrats and tourists

Bicycles

Rain every day at 9am and 3pm

Suburban houses that could be in England

Babel (linguistically)

Green fields with cows and flowers

Manneken Pis

Beguinages and guild halls

Statues of the BVM on every street corner

Closed on Mondays

Nutella

Grafitti

Old World, New World

I can't quite explain it, but somehow the magic has gone out of travel for me. When I was younger--which may be all the explanation one needs--every journey was an adventure, and coming to Europe was the greatest adventure of all. Here was where everything that I had been learning about in the history books happened: right there was the place where the great painter lived; right there was the church where the king was crowned; right there was the place where the great battle was fought. Every building was the setting for innumerable stories; every museum a great treasury of wonderful things. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm still impressed. I have found myself more than once on this trip standing almost hypnotized by the beauty of the paintings I am seeing, and there is nothing that can compare with the manuscripts I have read. Likewise, I have greatly enjoyed visiting the churches and other monuments that I have been able to. The problem is that I no longer seem to hav…

Prayer at Lauds

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Deus, qui de beatae Mariae Virginis utero Verbum tuum, angelo nuntiante, carnem suscipere voluisti; praesta supplicibus tuis, ut qui vere eam Genitricem Dei credimus, ejus apud te intercessionibus adjuvemur. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.


O God, who wast pleased that thy Word, at the message of an angel, should take flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary; grant to us, thy humble servants, that, as we believe her to be truly the Mother of God, we may be assisted also by her intercessions with thee. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.*

*From The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Latin and English (London: Baronius Press, 2007), p. 37.

Sprakeloos in België

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Yesterday started with a great adventure: I went to the grocery store. Nothing terribly remarkable in that, do you say? Well, there were some things on the shelves that I don’t usually see—little waffle cakes and giant jars of Nutella—but, okay, otherwise most everything was just as I am used to it at home. There were sections for produce and baked goods and aisles of yoghurts and cookies, shampoos and teas. There were not as many varieties of herbal teas as I had hoped, but there were more than enough different kinds of yoghurt, including several varieties of my favorite—Greek. I even found the shampoo brand I was looking for.

So what, you will ask, was the adventure? Was it the packaging? The brands? The arrangement of the items on the aisles? Ah, but as you know, I am a well-travelled bear, fresh off the train from England. I know how to navigate unfamiliar store layouts. The few times I went grocery shopping in London, I was able to find everything I wanted relatively ea…