in soul pursuit

in soul pursuit

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Third Sunday of Lent - The Blue Virgin of Chartres

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her,
“Give me a drink.”
His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him,
“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—
Jesus answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep;
where then can you get this living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob,
who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself
with his children and his flocks?”
Jesus answered and said to her,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Yesterday I had the joy of visiting Chartres Cathedral for the first time. It was well worth waiting nearly fifty years for the experience and it certainly didn't disappoint! - the extraordinary labyrinth upon entering - reflecting the great West Window above, the stunning location in the centre of France, the outstanding sculpture and of course the stained glass - all combine to produce an almost overwhelming effect on the pilgrim. But as I reflect on today's beautiful readings one image stays in my mind - the woman to whom the whole edifice is dedicated and whose presence pervades the shrine - the Blessed Virgin Mary. We are reminded in today's Gospel reading of the special role that women played in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ - the woman taken in adultery (we shall meet her later in Lent), the Magdalene and of course Christ's mother and the Samaritan woman at the well. What is striking about today's encounter is the way that the woman challenges preconceptions and prejudices as she draws from Christ his first full admission of his true nature. Similarly Mary is able to bring out the depth of Christ's ministry beginning with the first miracle at Cana. The great cycle of sculptures at Chartres, as with most medieval conceptions of the world, begins with the Annunciation to the Virgin: God speaks in the depths of unknowing and brings to birth the  Divine Word. This moment traditionally happens on 25th March (which is why our tax year to this day begins at the end of March) so we celebrate today the renewal of all Creation through the return of the Spirit to the feminine within. This is symbolised in Chartres by the haunting image of the Blue Virgin - my poor photograph of which I attach . Like our Samaritan woman, she arises from the blue depths of the water and unconscious to initiate the process that will culminate, as at Chartres, with not only our salvation but the salvation of all Creation. Happy Lent and if you have never visited Chartres start saving up now! Love Peter

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