Everything Is Honey
artist: Julie Forsyth
Winnie the Pooh Collection
In this sweet little ornament, one of my favorite bears is dressed up like a bee, sitting in a pool of honey. He is ecstatic. And why shouldn’t he be? He has achieved his life dream of being united to the thing he loves best – honey! This ornament depicts a scene from Disney's 2011 movie "Winnie the Pooh," in which the Hundred Acre gang goes in search of Christopher Robin. Rabbit's forced marching results in a very hungry Pooh, who fantasizes about "everything being honey."
Honey is mentioned frequently in the Old Testament. You’ve probably heard of the land “flowing with milk and honey.” In fact, it was an Old Testament tradition to link honey and milk to the land in a very literal manner, because it represented the blessings of a merciful God.
Milk, honey and greenery (symbolizing the land) are still used today in the Jewish Feast of Weeks. In this festival, the greenery points to the land, but the milk and honey signify the Law. In fact, this festival celebrates and recalls the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Milk and honey point to the Law because “the Torah is sweet as honey and nourishing as milk to those who study it and live according to its teachings,” says Jewish author Ben Edidin. * The remembrance of the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai is recalled as a great mercy of the Lord, for it enabled the Jews to learn the ways of the God. Keeping the laws of the Lord would in turn lead to this great land. Recall the covenant promise between God and the people “If you will keep my laws, then I will bring you to a new land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
As Christians, we remember the words of Jesus, who said, “I have not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.” He also went up a mountain, and gave the new Law – the Beatitudes. Yet the same sentiment holds true. All those who follow the Law of God, who keep his ways and are faithful to him, will inherit the new land – the Promised Land, the Land of the Living.
Old Pooh Bear seems to know something we easily forget. Following the Laws of God can easily be compared to the life of a bee -unglamorous, often tedious, entirely consisting of being one of a large pack of drones that all look the same and do the same. Yet paradoxically, it is this very faithfulness to the Law that leads to our greatest happiness. This ornament depicts that if we are willing to live the life of a bee, so to speak, following the commands of a just but merciful God, then we too, will inherit the Promised Land and enjoy happiness beyond our wildest dreams. The “bear of little brain” has once again showed the wisdom of humility.
* Jewish Holidays and Festivals. By Ben Edin, Hebrew Publishing Company
artist: Terri Steiger
This lovely ornament is Hallmark's annual adoption ornament. The eschatological (referring to the "last things") meaning here is clear: the promise made to us at Baptism is binding. We are incorporated into God's family through water and the spirit - through adoption. We most commonly think of adoption in terms of children, which is most frequently the case, but adoption can happen at any time in life. I know of grown adults who were adopted by senior citizens as their legal children, after they grew to know and care for each other. And the sentiment expressed here is particularly powerful- what makes us family is the joining of our hearts. When we are speaking of the family of God, could there be anything more true than this statement? Membership in God's family begins with Baptism, but then we are called to a lifetime of continuing conversion. We have to lead lives of other-focused service, in order to overcome ourselves. In the ornament, the hands next to the hearts captures this understanding perfectly. And of course, the goal of continuing conversion is to form our own hearts into little miniatures of the mighty furnace that is the Sacred Heart of Jesus, around which we all gather, just as the hearts and hands in the ornament are clustered around the bright red heart in the ornament. In fact, earthly adoption is an imitation of our heavenly adoption.
artist: Joanne Eschrick
With the memorial day for Guardian Angels on October 2, this ornament is the perfect fall complement. I like to put her out as a reminder to have an attitude of Thanksgiving, to reflect on the gifts of the last 12 months, especially as the year is beginning to draw to a close. Her colors of gold and cream, combined with her prayerful, subdued attitude, inspire reflection and contemplation.
Guardian Angels are rather the unsung heroes of the angelic sphere, aren’t they? The Bible mentions by name the mighty archangels. There's Michael, with his fiery sword, whose name (and being) translates to “Who is like God?” Then there’s the enormously helpful Raphael who protects Tobit’s son, not to mention guiding him to a wife and healing her by sending a nasty demon away. Even Gabriel, so closely linked to the Christmas nativity, comes to announce truly earth-shattering news - that the virgin will bear a son.
In fact, traditional thinking holds that there are 9 levels, or choirs, of angels. Guardian angels are assumed to be from the lowest level (although its difficult to think of any angel as being “low”), the level that is most concerned with governing the affairs of living things. Most people believe that each person is assigned their own guardian angel, and it is the duty - and the delight - of the guardian angel to safely shepherd their soul home to Heaven.
This is what the Guardian Angel ornament seems to signify, at any rate. She is holding one single heart, one soul. She is protecting it, and sheltering it, as well. Although angels don’t strictly have a body, and thus are not really “he” or “she” this angel definitely portrays the feminine. That is so appropriate, though, as it’s the feminine that we associate with the idea of “mercy.” The feminine represents the creative, nurturing side of things, like a mother who nurtures a child inside of her for nine months, and then outside for the rest of the child’s life! The feminine sees the growth and development through - first, to birth, then to crawling, then to walking, then to school, then to reading, and on and on and on. Guiding, praying, hoping, continually aiding in the creative process of the person so that he or she becomes the person they were created to be. And in the fall of our lives, just like the fields in fall, is certainly when we hope to finally see some fruitfulness, some true becoming.
So, on October 2, why not start off the day by first being thankful that we each have a Guardian Angel? And maybe think about how we can listen to our Guardian Angel a little more closely, and follow her inspiration a little more often.
the Collect from the Mass for Oct. 2 - Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels
O God, who in your unfathomable providence
are pleased to send your holy Angels to guard us,
hear our supplication as we cry to you,
that we may always be defended by their protection
and rejoice eternally in their company.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
"Light of Love" Ornament
artist: Becky Hottel
"I came to bring fire to the earth,
and how I wish it were already kindled!"
The 8 words of this ornament present a dilemma: namely which word to focus on?
"He?" - at who's name every knee must bend?
"Came?" - God stooped to be one of us, the incarnation?
"To light?" - an action word, asking how, when, where, what is to be lit?
"The world?" - all inclusive for sure, leaving out no one, but always dependent on our response
"with?" - God is three in one
"Love?" - the most mysterious word of all. God revealed he is Love. How is it to be expressed?
Of all these words, I'll pick "to light." Jesus came to light the world, yes, indeed, with the light of his own presence. He and Love are the same thing. Love flows from his being and returns to him, it alone will last forever. He invites us to participate in his light - and lighting- by joining our lives to his in service and prayer, especially through the Liturgy. In this way, his light flows into us, and we then continue to spread his light through the world.
artist: Tracy Larsen
Winnie the Pooh Collection
Isn't Pooh Bear delightful? He is that rare and true friend who is ever faithful, ever loyal, never criticizes or judges, and always finds your company the best part of his day, particularly when enjoyed with "a bit of something sweet." Is it any wonder his endearing personality has fostered a following for so many years?
This 2012 ornament shows the old Pooh Bear on top of a life-size cuckoo clock, watching a mini version of himself pop out each hour. This is a reference to the Disney movie where Eeyore loses his tail and his friends pin? glue? tack? somehow manage to get a (much smaller sized) cuckoo clock mounted onto his posterior, where the clock's swinging pendulum acts as his new tail.
So this ornament brings to mind the famous passage from Ecclesiastes 3:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Pooh, bear "of Very Little Brain" though he may be, would agree. He watches and waits as each hour passes. But here's the thing - how do you know what it is the right time for? How do you know when its a time to "seek" or a time "to lose?" I think in this way we all feel much like Pooh - life is a mystery and time is quite beyond us. But time is also one of the constants in our lives, and that in itself can be a comfort. That giant cuckoo clock does not depend on us to keep ticking. So to use time well, properly and fully, isn't that the thing? To use time to gather for birthday picnics on the river, and expeditions to the North Pole. To use time to mediate, to dream and wonder and hang out in our own "thoughtful place." The time to notice the bumblebees and dream up the heffalumps. Maybe then, true wisdom lies in recognizing what is most important in the time we find ourselves, and doing the best with it, moment to moment. That bear of "Very Little Brain" seems to live quite a deep wisdom after all.
The Greatest Gift
artist: Edythe Kegrize and Orville Wilson
This is one of the coolest Hallmark ornaments I've seen. It's so simple, yet has such a profound message. When you press the button on the side, the words "The greatest gift" begin to glow in the background. A few seconds later, the words "His love" also begin to glow. It's like listening to the words being read aloud, but with lights instead of sound. And of course, the words speak the truth. The greatest gift we all are ever given is the love of God, not just at Christmas time but from the moment we are created. As Julian of Norwich famously said, God holds all of creation in his hands, and it continues to exist simply because he loves it. He wills it to continue from moment to moment. Quite an overwhelming thought, really. And at Christmas, as I've said before, all the gift giving doesn't HAVE to be seen in a materialistic, "gimme, gimme, gimme" light. We can also choose to take seriously the realization that we are to take care of each other - we are to gift each other with what we need and a little bit of what we want. That giving gifts and giving of ourselves is related. I don't know many people who just buy "anything" to give as a gift, most people put thought and effort into thinking about someone else. What does the person NEED? What will make them happy? These thoughts and actions are in imitation of the original giver - God. Clearly that's not an excuse to indulge children or accumulate massive debt, but at the same time we can agree that a mature gift giver doesn't need an excuse, or even a reason, to be thoughtful and show love to the beloved, since "it's in giving that we receive."
The Road Home
artist: Ruth Donikowski and Char Faccilongo
materials: glass and glitter
The words on this ornament reveal one of the basic realities of the festive season, namely that "all roads lead home at Christmas." This statement can be read on two levels. The first level is that of our own personal, lived experience. For the most part, we can relate to the journey home at Christmas, the Karen Carpenter-esque need to gather together with those we love, because there's "no place like home for the holidays!"
And this is certainly a truth of human nature: we are social beings who need the company of others. The drive to celebrate significant moments is not a small one, nor even "just human," to avoid loneliness, anxiety or separation. The second level expresses this reality.
Rather, the need to gather is hardwired into our human nature. It is a reflection and expression of the ultimate truth - the Holy Trinity. God does not exist alone, he is a community of three people who are nevertheless one. To fully understand this mystery is beyond the capabilities of humans. It is a mystery reserved for heaven. Yet, from the moment God descended in human form, the human race turned towards home, setting their feet onto the long journey home - to our final home, heaven. This was historically represented in the great census that took place at Jesus' birth. Called by Ceasar, this movement of peoples towards their ancestral home symbolized the spiritual movement now available to all.
Looking at this ornament, the deep snow drifts suggest snuggling into a warm nest of safety and security, after a long day of hard work. The animals are tucked into the barn, there's a fire glowing in the hearth at home. The cold wind may be howling outside, but there's a beautiful full moon hanging in the night sky, and the white snow is shining so brightly it is almost as light as day. This ornament reminds us that there is indeed a home for us, we just have to travel the road home long enough to actually get there.
artist: Edythe Kegrize
materials: porcelain and metal
This ornament is based on a view of parks similar to those found in England. The space is somewhat cultivated, but mostly consists of large, open green spaces, with lots of shade and naturally occurring trees and vegetation. This is a different view of our interaction with nature, say than the famous French gardens of the royal palaces, that are images of man's power over nature, of our ability to control and form it. Both perspectives have their pros and cons. What this particular ornament conveys, however, is the winter version of a summer desert. "Winter Park" called also be called "Stark Reality." There is a stillness and a clarity in this landscape, just as a dry desert, a revealing of how things truly are. For example, it doesn't take a very long walk in a cold winter landscape to come the realization that one cannot survive alone. Cold toes and cheeks remind the walker of the frailty of life, and the need for warmth, a fire, other people. Even the hardiest survivalist relies on regular deliveries of food, of someone who knows where they live. There is a terrific beauty and peace to be found in a "Winter Park," even though at the same time, we can't remain too long in it. These are the moments wherein we might glimpse, "the whiteness of the whale, " and like Pequod in Melvile's Moby Dick, if we can incorporate it into ourselves, we are changed forever.
artist: Julie Forsyth
To me, this ornament is a tribute to Old Age. In fact, the ornament called really be called "Winter Wisdom." This is the place where we hope to arrive one day. Picture the snowman as an old person, a compilation of many years journeying, many snowflakes joined together over time, gazing at a spark of fire - the cardinal. In Life Terms, winter represents the final stage of life, the time before death and the rebirth of spring, ie. the resurrection and new life we anticipate. As the Spring draws closer, the snow will gently, bit by bit, melt away, seeping into the earth, becoming part of the new life of Spring. In an old person who has achieved wisdom after a life of experience, formation and prayer, it is right and fitting that their thoughts will be less and less of this earth and more and more of the time to come. This is what the gaze between the snowman and the cardinal represents. But the deer in the background also represents the "backward glance," the recalling of old memories, the final distancing and separation of the old life before the advent of the new. This, in fact, is how Jesus approached his own death. As his crucifixion grew nearer, he spoke and acted less and less. He became more passive, more still, as he became aware of what was approaching and gathered himself to meet it. Truly, the stillness and clarity of winter offers its own wisdom.