Again, we can see a masterful composition in today’s two readings. The Book of Samuel (1:8) is concerned with ‘big’ history. The people of Israel decide to have a king over them in the fashion of other nations. With this, they hurt God, whose pain is recorded: ‘They have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.’
In contrast to this wider history, James’ letter focuses on the ‘smallest particle’ of big history: the human tongue. We tend to think that the big decisions are made at the top levels of this vast edifice. No. The Spirit makes us refocus on where the big waves of history start their movement: the human lips. ‘Even so the tongue is a little member…Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is fire, a world of iniquity: so is the toungue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. … But the tongue no man can tame; it is unruly evil, full of deadly poison.’ The tongue, this sub-atomic particle of history, indeed can set on fire ‘the whole body of history.’
In our icon of the Loving Tenderness (I have never paid attention to it before), the centre of the icon is, actually, the lips of the child Jesus and Mary. There is a holy silence between them. It is a sacred silence of Love. It is silence to us, but there is a full conversation of Love going on, continuously, ‘invisible’ to our perception. We humans, with our wounded human history, are invited to enter into this healing silence. We can learn from this hidden centre of the cosmos to imitate the ‘proper functioning of the tongue.’ We can learn the language of no-harming, forgiveness, reconciliation and compassion. (In the Vladimirskaja icon, in the assist-golden-rays on the Child’s cloth, we can contemplate how this healing flow enfolds and grows, wishing to encompass the whole of human history.)
These lips can become the centre of history. When it happens, history (uncontrolled, constantly in flux) becomes salvation history. What a privilege, to have this revelation in our churches, in front of our eyes, in this holy icon!
(The Christian tradition says, that the Church was born from the side of Jesus, from his wounds. Salvation history is born from these lips, between Mother and divine Child.)
When we bring our bruised personal histories before God, these two lips are also the hidden centre of our personal being healed. It is possible to go back to the origin of our words-personal history. We can re-embrace our truer, genuine self, intended by God by contemplating Mary’s and Jesus’ healing conversation.
And back to the wider picture, our Church, our fragmented churches, are also invited to go back to this very source of the ‘Catholick’, the wholeness of the community Christ intended for (and out of) his disciples.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..