a priest's musings on the journey
Monday, April 30, 2007
Feast of Philip and James, Apostles
Almighty God, who gave to your apostles Philip and James grace and strength to bear witness to the truth: Grant that we, being mindful of their victory of faith, may glorify in life and death the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Keiffer's Hagiography here.
Perspectives: A Letter from the Vicar of St George's Anglican Church Baghdad
St. George's Day
A Report from Canon Andrew White
Because he lives we can face tomorrow...
Happy St George's Day!
Today is St George's Day. The Patron Saint of England and the Patronal Festival of our church in Baghdad. St George was a man of great faith and character, who rebelled against Diocletian, the cruelest persecutor of Christians at that time. When he appeared before Diocletian, he bravely denounced the Emperor for his unnecessary cruelty and injustice, stirred the populace with his powerful rhetoric against the Imperial Decree to persecute Christians. As a result the Emperor consigned St George to prison with instructions that he be tortured until he denied his faith in Christ. St George, having defended his faith, was beheaded at Nicomedia near Lyddia in Palestine on the 23rd of April in the year 303 AD.
Children at St. George's
I have said it many times before but St George's Baghdad is a truly exceptional Church like I have never
experienced before, and it truly lives up to the character of its patron saint. The relationship I have with our many members is indeed one of love. Our lay leaders are wonderful as are our members, and our children are quite exceptional. We have a little routine when I arrive with my body guards; I enter the church to cheering and clapping and I say I can't start the service until my children are there. They then bring them in from Sunday school and we start with the children leading worship.
The worship is always exceptional. Here the only release from the pain of life in Baghdad is to worship the living G-d. We hear stories that Christians are too scared to go to church any more but our people still come and yes, for them it is still dangerous but they come in their masses. Often hungry, always frightened, often despairing but still with hope in Jesus.
St. George's Church
I attach a picture of our church surrounded by concrete barricades and razor wire. It is undoubtedly the most protected church in the world.Known as the English Church it is the only coalition-linked church in
Iraq. G-d is there; in his power we know that they are there for a purpose and that will be fulfilled in G-d's own time.
The cost of running the church is immense not just because of security but because we have to meet the humanitarian needs of the people. Yet at a recent church council meeting the church was adamant that it
wanted to tithe it's money to the Diocese. The Diocese has asked nothing of the Church and only gives to it, yet in Arab culture when somebody offers you something you have to take it. So our church with
nothing will be giving back to the Diocese it's monthly tithe. It is a real story of the widow's mite.
The other day at Church I told them about a little girl called Megan from Dorchester Abbey. She wanted to help our Church in Iraq so she organised a sale at her Church and raised over £1200. The people
cheered and clapped and were so excited to hear that a little girl in England cared about them.
If any of you would like to give to St George's this St George's day your help would be so appreciated.
Grace, Peace and Blessings,
Canon Andrew White is the Rector (pastor for my non-Anglican friends) of St George's Anglican Church, the only surviving Anglican Church in Baghdad. He is also the CEO of the Foundation for Reconciliation in the Middle East.
Since the war began, all of Father White's staff have been killed, and many of his parishioners live in danger for living as Christians- since it is seen as a Western Religion. You can read more about the dangers Iraqi Christians face here.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Perspectives: Darfur- Time is Running Out
SaveDarfur.org has a post called "Global Day for Darfur III – A Critical Initiative Now!" that's worth checking out...
Cross-posted at Globe for Darfur Amb. (ret.) Lawrence Rossin, Senior International Coordinator at the Save Darfur Coalition, is responsible for designing and leading implementation of the Coalition’s outreach…
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Perspectives: Vlog: Hometown Baghdad
I have embedded three episodes below: The first is one of the most light hearted episodes, Forbidden Salad, which offers a glimpse into family life and one peaceful way to stand against oppression. The second is called Symphony of Bullets; it records the sounds of bullets being shot day and night in a cacophony of terror aqnd a cadence of a procession of Death. The third is the one published yesterday, Liberation- or, not. It tells the experience of the American presence in Iraq from the perspective of these three young men.
Thanks to my Episco-buddy, Billie for pointing me to this website. It will take you about a half hour to get caught up on all of the posted episodes and to spend some time reading the profiles of the subjects of the vlog-umentary. Please take a look and pass this on to your circle of friend.
I consult You as You are all Knowing,
and I seek ability from Your power and I ask you for Your great favor,
for You have power,
but I do not,
and You have knowledge,
but I do not,
and You know all hidden matters.
If You know that this matter is good for me in my religion,
my livelihood and my life in the Hereafter,
then make it easy and bless it;
and if You know that this matter is evil for me in my religion,
my livelihood and my life in the Hereafter,
then keep it away from me and keep me away from it,
and choose what is good for me wherever it is,
and make me pleased with it.
prophet muhammad - peace be upon him - 7th century
Circle me, Lord.
Keep protection near
And danger afar.
Circle me, Lord
Keep hope within.
Keep doubt without.
Circle me, Lord.
Keep light near
And darkness afar.
Circle me, Lord.
Keep peace within.
Keep evil out.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Rostropovich, rest in peace in the mercies of God
Thank you for all you gave us during your time among us.
A Bit of Silliness
Smoking or Non Smoking
It made me chuckle (not its intention ;) )because it reminded me of the quip the rector of a parish where I was an assistant gave to Protestant parishioners who complained about the use of incense at Sunday Eucharist. (Yes, Fr Rob was known to get carried away, having been trained that the end goal is to hide the altar in a hazy cloud of smoke). To their complaints he would reply:
"Wherever we end up in the world to come, there will be smoke. But, God always gives us a choice of aromas. Would you prefer frankincense or sulfer?" :)
Well, since I'm in the mood, here's a silly joke.
Tellulah Bankhead was at Midnight Mass at St Swithin's Episcopal Church, and as the priest passed by in the procession, she leaned over and whispered to him, "Sweety, the dress is fabulous, but your handbag is on fire."
And one more
The Work of the Parish Priest
During a Eucharistic Congress, a number of priests from different orders are gathered in a church for Vespers. While they are praying, a fuse blows and all the lights go out.
The Benedictines continue praying from memory, without missing a beat.
The Jesuits begin to discuss whether the blown fuse means they are dispensed from the obligation to pray Vespers.
The Franciscans compose a song of praise for God's gift of darkness.
The Dominicans revisit their ongoing debate on light as a signification of the transmission of divine knowledge.
The Carmelites fall into silence and slow, steady breathing.
The parish priest, who is hosting the others, goes to the basement and replaces the fuse.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Feast of St Mark
Today is the Feast of St Mark the Evangelist. I'll post a few icons and images that I like to use in prayer, but, because I'm lazy and it's already past 7 PM, I'll just refer to some other sources to gather information about St Mark. Jane's blog, Acts of Hope has some good information and links concerning St Mark and the Coptic Church, who believe to have been founded by him.
An oline book about St Mark and his ministry in Egypt can be found on the Coptic Church's website.
If you want to read the Roman Church's perspective, go here.
(ok, so I *really* like Coptic iconography)
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Perspectives: Save the Waterfowl in NC's Pocosin Lakes Refuge: NO Navy OFL Here!
Six miles south of Columbia, NC lies the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. It was established in June 1990 when the Conservation Fund donated 93,000 acres of wetlands in northeastern North Carolina to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It was established to preserve and protect a unique wetland habitat type - the pocosin -a native american word meaning swamp-on-a-hill, which is characterized by poorly drained soils high in organic material. Along with the adjacent Pungo National Wildlife Refuge, over 114,000 acres of wetlands offer sanctuary to thousands of migratory waterfowl. The refuge shelters endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers and bald eagles and provides a home for the endangered red wolf, raccoons, gray squirrels, cotton-tail rabbits, marsh rabbits, bobcats, gray foxes, red foxes, and coyote. Venomous snakes, including timber rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, pygmy rattlesnakes and copperheads; and numerous species of turtles, such as yellow-bellied slider, painted, spotted, snapping, box, mud, and musk turtles, also reside in the wetlands. There are also a variety of frogs and toads on the refuge including southern leopard frogs, American toads, cricket frogs, green tree frogs, eastern narrowmouths, spade foot toads, squirrel tree frogs, carpenter's frogs and bullfrogs.
Over 200 species of birds and waterfowl find sanctuary here throughout the year. After the first full moon of winter, tens of thousands of ducks, tundra swans, and snow geese take up winter residence in the refuge. During the Spring and Fall, the forests are filled with the brilliant colors and lilting melodies of neotropical migratory songbirds. It is a picturesque haven for waterfowl and endangered species.
In September 2004, the Navy proposed the construction of a new outlying landing field in eastern North Carolina, 3.5 miles away from the Pocosin Lakes Refuge. The Navy proposed this location because it is "in the middle of nowhere" and would reduce the noise pollution in Virginia Beach, where residents have long complained about the noise produced by the Navy's training flights. The OLF would be designed as the deck of an aircraft carrier, and training pilots would practice ‘touch-and-go’ landings day and night. The Navy estimates that the OLF would see thousands of such landings throughout the year, about one every fifteen minutes. Building an OLF so close to the refuge would have a serious impact on local wildlife and migratory waterfowl. The 30,000 acres the Navy would need to build the OLF would take away critical food resources for wildlife. Furthermore, this site is in the heart of the Atlantic Migratory Flyway, where thousands of birds, such as tundra swans who weigh between 10-20 pounds with 6 feet wing spans, risk colliding with aircraft. The Sierra Club reports that, "The Navy plans to use “lethal and nonlethal” means to exclude waterfowl from lands surrounding the landing field. Noise from constant aircraft landings and take-offs and low altitude flights surrounding the proposed OLF will disturb resting and feeding waterfowl, and affect the birds’ overall fitness. “Attempts to control the birds would require the devastation of the refuge, a globally significant natural resource,” according to Chris Canfield, executive director of the NC Audubon Society."
In addition to the impact on wildlife, this OLF would also negatively affect the community. At least 74 families would be displaced by the OLF, the tax base would be reduced, and farmers who will lose thier farmland as it is purchased by the Navy will receive no compenation for the loss of machinery and equipment.
Locals have been outspoken in their opposition to the OLF. However, a recent poll by Elon University researchers showed that half of North Carolinians are not even aware of the Navy's plans. Nonetheless, 55% of those who were aware expressed opposition to the Navy's proposition. Navy officials defend their proposition because they believe it best serves pilots at military bases in Virginia and North Carolina who need to practice at-sea landings before aircraft carriers are deployed. However, the Navy has not convinced state politicians. The proposal has drawn opposition from Democratic Gov. Mike Easley, and now from Republican U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr. In a recent letter, Sen. Dole wrote that the Navy's plan was not feasible and that it must withdraw its reccomendation to build an OLF near the Pocosin Lakes Refuge. (Her April 19th letter to Secretary Winter can be found at Jack Bett's blog.
What can be done? First, educate yourself on this issue and help raise awareness of this proposal and its implications on the economy of Washington County and the wildlife who find sanctuary in the Pocosin Lakes Refuge. Check out this short doucmentary, produced by filmsouth, to learn more.
Secondly, call or write elected officials and voice your opposition. Contact information can be found here.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Loss and Longing in Lord of the Rings...
Sell all your possessions, and give them to the poor.....
St George, Defend us from evil
Today is the feast day of St George. He has been venerated since the 4th century, and is one of the most popular saints in both the East and the West. The story of St George slaying the dragon probably adds to his attraction: who doesn't like a good action story? and with swords and dragons? Bring it on!! It's one of those stories of faith that my son never tires of hearing (we even have an icon of St George slaying the dragon over his bed for protection- and it seems to be keeping the ghosties, ghoulies and things that go bump in the night away). :)
But, St George was much more than the original dragonslayer. Although we know virtually nothing of his life, an Eastern Orthodox hymn hails him as a defender of the poor and a physician of the sick. In 495 George was canonized by Pope Gelasius I with others who were remembered as "good men, justly remembered, whose good deeds are known only to God."
In the Coptic Tradition, it is believed that George was engaged to be married, but was forbidden to do so by Christ,who "was keeping him as a pure virginal bridegroom for himself". When George finally was received into heaven (after having been killed and resurrected several times, according to his mythology), Jesus greeted him with these words:
And the Lord said to the blessed George, Hail, My George! Hail beloved of myself and of My Angels...I swear by My right hand, Oh my beloved one that I will establish a covenant with thee that when thou shalt bow thyself upon thy spiritual face in heaven and shall come with all they congregation to worship the holy Trinity, all the saints know thee by reason of the honour which I will show thee, O My beloved
Of course even the New Testament uses bridal imagery to explain Christ's relationship with the Church. However, George is the only male saint where same sex marital imagery is used to describe his relationship with Jesus Christ. Consequently, it has been suggested that George become the patron of same sex marriages. That seems like an obvious choice for me, the same sex marital imagery notwithsatnding. Gay couples can identify with George's experience of being denied full participation in the sacrament of marriage. By using them as a political agenda, and by refusing to offer them the sacramental grace that God offers them, the Church demands that they forsake their beloved spouses and live lives of celibacy. I happen to believe that celibacy is a holy and worthy station of life, and I honor and admire the religious, and others, who embrace this gift and live it faithfully. However, most of us are not called to this way of life. Most of us are called to experience the love of God in the context of marital love and union- that's what makes us human, and unites our humanity to the Divinity of the Christ who unites us to God. The Church has no right to force gay couples to follow this path. The Church has no right to deny grace to faithful disciples who need and desire sacramental grace to assist them along their journeys to holiness. In fact, the Church is turning away from God when it chooses to turn gays away; in dehumanizing gays by denying them full participation in the life of the Church (and by refusing to bless, clebrate, and support thier families) they dehunamize Christ, and make him a God far removed from us, who does not experience the full human condition.
So, on this day, I offer a prayer to St George, that he would defend us all from the evil one, slay the dragons of hatred, exclusion, and prejudice, and that through his intercessions, the cries of the gay oppressed would be heard by God, and that justice would reign in the Church and the world.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Hat Tip: Joshua. I just discovered his blog this evening. He is a lay Orthodox 30-something, and there are some beautiful icons and reflections on his blog. I loved this Philo quote so much I had to steal it to share with you. (Thanks Joshua)
Earth Day Comedy:
Happy Earth Day
I miss writing. One reason I started blogging was to give myself a forum for writing down my thoughts on faith, spirituality, and the holiness of mundane living. Today, as we celebrate Earth Day, I am given a perfect opportunity to reflect upon the theological and spiritual implications of being (or refusing to be) good stewards of "our fragile island home" (as the 1979 BCP puts it). However, I am too busy these days to do more than organize links to the thoughts and ponderings of others. So, here you go, some green blogs that I think may be of some interest.
Tree Hugger- a green lifestyle blog
Great Green Good- a blog about how to shop green
greenLAgirl- one of the few female green bloggers,
Common Ground: The Red,the Blue, and the Green
Climate Ark- a blog about global warming and climate change.
I just saw this one on Jane's Blog: and I love food too, this blog on eating sustainably, organically, and delicously looks very interesting: cookin in the 'Cuse
Go here for liturgical and spiritual sources:
National Council of Churches in Christ
Episcopal Diocese of Orgegon: Environmental Resources
Episcopal Ecological Network
I've Been Tagged: Six Weird Things
1. I am a progressive-Orthodox (I guess that should that be little 'o' orthodox)Episcopal priest. I affirm the faith expressed in the Nicene Creed and generally give authority and respect to the ecumenical councils. I read the Patristic writers and cite them as authorities; I venerate the saints and invoke them daily; I pray with icons and prayer beads. I prefer high Mass with smells, bells, and chant. I love the Most Blessed Theotokos. (I think you get the idea)... Yet, I think the church has been wrong in its treatment of women and homosexuals. I support women's ordination, and I do not think one's sexual orientation alone should be an impediment to holy orders or other sacraments. The Right wing of the Episcopal Church rejects me as a heretic, and the Left just doesn't know what to do with me.
2. I love bananna sandwiches on white bread. However, since I have taken white, processed flour out of my diet, I only get to have one when I want to treat myself (yes, everything in moderation, and by the way, it just isn't the same on Ezekiel Bread). Ok, now for the weird bit. I could never decide whether or not to use mayo or peanut butter on the sandwich... so, one day I decided put mayo on one piece of bread and peanut butter on the other. Problem solved. YUM!!!
3. I hate math, and numbers in general. Numbers give me a headache. In fact I've been known to completly zone out during the treasurer's report at vestry meetings (shhh- that's our little secret). Yet, I am addicted to Sudoku. Go figure.
4. I don't think this is weird at all, but I have been told this can be treated with medication or therapy, LOL. I am a little OCD with how I arrange items in my cupboards and how I place them in my shopping cart (buggy for my fellow Souherners). The cans and jars have to be arranged small/short to large/tall and by type (all veggies together, all soups together, all canned tuna together, etc.) Well, I do the same with my pencils and pens at my desk... all lined up short to tall. (Lord, am I really sharing this) LOL
5. I hate chocolate ice cream. I guess that wouldn't be so weird, except I LOVE chocolate.
6. I was a good little boy all of my life (yes, as hard as it is to believe, this is true). I waited until I got to seminary to "be a little bad" (ok and even my "bad" wasn't so bad- just remember I was raised in a Holiness Church). I had never stepped foot in a bar until I went to seminary. I never smoked tobacco (and still think it is a revolting behavior) until I went to a Cigar bar while at seminary (by the way, it made me sick as a dog). It was while I was in seminary that I decided to get my ear pierced. LOL I suppose it's a little wierd that I'm so lame at being bad. HA HA.
Ok, some of my blog buddies have already been tagged.... hmmmm.... so, I'll Tag:
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Canadian Woman Bishop Is Anglican Church Nominee
Toronto - The Anglican Church of Canada could elect its first woman leader during a national assembly this summer.
Edmonton Bishop Victoria Matthews is among four nominees for archbishop, or primate, who were chosen Thursday by Canada's Anglican bishops during a private meeting in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The election is set for June 22 in Winnipeg, Ontario.
If Matthews wins, she will be the second woman elected to lead a national Anglican church in the nearly 500-year-old Anglican Communion.
Last year, U.S. Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori became the first woman elected to head an Anglican province. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. wing of the communion, a 77 million-member fellowship of churches that trace their roots to the Church of England.
The other nominees for Canadian archbishop are Ontario Bishop George Bruce; Huron Bishop Bruce Howe; and Bishop Fred Hiltz of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
Matthews had been nominated during the 2004 election, but withdrew her name and went on medical leave after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She returned to work the next year.
The winner of this summer's balloting will succeed Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, who is retiring. Canadian primates serve until age 70.
"We Are Virginia Tech" by Nikki Giovanni
We are Virginia Tech
We are sad today
And we will be sad for quite a while
We are not moving on
We are embracing our mourning
We are Virginia Tech
We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly
We are brave enough to bend to cry
And sad enough to know we must laugh again
We are Virginia Tech
We do not understand this tragedy
We know we did nothing to deserve it
But neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS
Neither do the invisible children walking the night away
To avoid being captured by a rogue army
Neither does the baby elephant watching his community be devastated for
Neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water
Neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of night in
In the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a
Because the land was destabilized
No one deserves a tragedy
We are Virginia Tech
The Hokie nation embraces our own and reaches out with open heart and
To those who offer their hearts and minds
We are strong and brave and innocent and unafraid
We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be
We are alive to the imagination and the possibility
We will continue to invent the future
Through our blood and tears
Through all this sadness
We are the Hokies
We will prevail
We will prevail
We will prevail
We are... Virginia Tech.
by: Nikki Giovanni
Friday, April 20, 2007
Feast Day of St Maelrubha, St Anslem, and Peter Abelard
An Anglican friend in Scotland sent me an email to tell me that today is the Feast Day of St Maelrubha. I love Scotland and Celtic Christianity, so I was happy to learn of this holy one, also known as St Rufus, who I have come to learn was venerated by many in the celtic world. He was an abbott who founded Abercrossan, where he built a church and a monastary. He wandered as a missionary, planting churches amongst the Picts, and it is said that he cured the mentally ill. He died on 21 April, and was buried outside of his cell by the Naver River. A rough cross-marked stone still marks his grave. To learn more about him go here and here. You can read about Abercrossan
Today is also the Feast Day for St Anselm and Peter Abelard. As it is after midnight, I'll just give you a link to thier hagiogrpahies.
The Roman Church Rejects the Doctrine of Limbo
During my junior year of seminary, I spent my summer at West Virginia University Hospital in Morgantown, WV, doing a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. I normally worked on the cardiology floor; however, we rotated on call nights. I dreaded my on call rotation- "something" always happened. I witnessed more deaths during those weeks than I have in all of my years as a priest combined. One of the hardest moments for me occurred mid-way through the summer. I had been a quiet evening and I was contemplating going to my apartment to sleep. It was in walking distance, and I could get to the hospital quickly if I was needed. Just when I was ready to leave, I received a call from neo-natal. An infant had died and the parents were asking for a chaplain. I grabbed my Prayer Book and headed upstairs. I entered the room to see the mother rocking this beautiful boy who looked as if he were sweetly sleeping. I introduced myself and we talked for a moment and I asked if I could say some prayers and read a passage from the Scriptures. They agreed, wanting to turn to their faith for some comfort. When we were finished, the father asked me if I would baptize their son. I knew baptism was a Sacrament for the Living; I knew every theological reason why I should deny their request. Yet, I heard myself asking for a bowl filled with water. I did not hesitate to offer the pastoral care these grieving parents needed. This was not the time for a lesson on sacramental theology or for a solteriological debate. These parents were concerned that their child would not go to Heaven unless I baptized him. All I could do was offer whatever comfort I could give. So, I baptized the child.
One could write this entire episode off as the superstitious ignorance of Appalachian Hillbillies, except for the factthat the Doctors of the Church have wrestled for centuries with the question of the fate and eternal abode of unbaptized children. St Augustine taught in his On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins; the Baptism of Infants that they went to hell since they had not recieved the grace of justification and the cleansing from the stain of original sin (which can only be received through the Sacrament of water baptism, baptism by desire- like the baptism of one who dies as a catechuman preparing for baptism, or baptism by blood- like the baptism of the Holy Innocents). Other theologians agreed that they could not go to Heaven, but because they had not committed any personal sins, it was reasonable to believe that they would rest in some peaceful place apart from heaven and hell, much like the place where the Just who died before Christ rested before Christ descended to the place of the dead to free them.
St Thomas Aquinas taught that the unbaptized children could not behold the beatific vision of God because they were still in sin. Nonetheless, they lived in an intermediary place of joy and peace, not knowing that an even greater joy existed in Heaven with God. Although this was never an official dogma, this place was commonly referred to as limbo, and became an unofficial teaching of the Church.
In 1442 at the Council of Florence, the Roman Church affirmed the teaching that batism was neccesary for salvation. However, in 1547 the Council of Trent taught that one's desire to be batized could make it possible for one to be saved without water baptism if they died before receiving the sacrament. The Council of Trent also refused to condemn as heretical the teachings of Thomas Cardinal Cajetan who reasoned that a mother's desire for her child to be baptized would save the infant who had died in her womb.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, theologians continued to write about how unbaptized infants could be saved from hell. However, it was not until 1952 that a theologian would suggest that the possibility that unbaptized infants could be saved for Heaven. Ludwig Ott wrote:
"Other emergency means of baptism for children dying without sacramental baptism, such as prayer and the desire of the parents or the Church (vicarious baptism of desire - Cajetan), or the attainment of the use of reason in the moment of death, so that the dying child can decide for or against God (baptism of desire - H. Klee), or suffering and death of the child as quasi-Sacrament (baptism of suffering - H. Schell), are indeed possible, but their actuality cannot be proved from Revelation. Cf. D 712." Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Book 2, Section 2, § 25 (p. 114 of the 1963 edition)
In 1984 Joseph Ratzinger wrote in The Ratzinger Report that he rejected the idea that unbaptized infants could not be saved. In 1992 the Catechism of the Catholic Church was changed to read:
As regards children who have died without baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God, who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children, which caused him to say, 'Let the children come to me, do not hinder them' [Mark 10:14, cf. 1 Tim. 2:4], allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy baptism.
Today the Roman Church's International Theological Commission published a report which argued that the teaching of limbo was never a part of the official teaching of the Church and should be rejected because of its "unduly restrictive view of salvation". Go here for the entire story.
Sister Joan Chittester "It's time to hunt the words."
There's an old monastic quatrain that fascinates me. It reads:
I and Pangur Ban my cat,
T'is a like task we are at.
Hunting mice is his delight.
Hunting words I sit all night.
What intrigues me about the little rhyme is that it was written around the year 800 by a monk who lived on Skellig Michael. I'm not surprised that he wrote it; I'm surprised by its implications -- for both then and now.
You see, Skellig Michael, a pyramid of needle-pointed rock totally unredeemed by beaches or fields at its base, juts out of the Atlantic Ocean 714 feet above the sea that froths at its jagged edges. It stands bare and forbidding, not a piece of flat land on it till you get to a ledge below the summit. Up there, a group of sixth century Celtic monks began what historians say was the first monastic settlement in Europe.
(the rest is here.
You can learn more about Sister Joan and read more of her articles at beliefnet.com.
Sister Joan is a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, and she is the founder of BenetVision.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Comfort "food" for us all
Turn off your F*%!!ng TV!!!
Type: Common Interest - Current Events
Description: Ok, I am having flashbacks to 9/11. I hit the wall a couple of days into that tragedy where I was watching the TV non-stop.
When I saw a video last night of Cho pointing a gun at his head, I suddenly began to feel exploited. Our pain on display.
Endless news has become a BAD thing. It's easy to obsess, but in the end it's NOT helpful.
I've already been with some of you out there and saw that same look in your eyes. We can only take so much.
Turn the damn thing off and watch "The Sound of Music" or "The Wizard of Oz" or something...just like comfort food, it's time for a few "comfort archetypes."
Better yet, get some SLEEP!
Bravo! We all need some comfort. One way we try to do that is through food and communal meals. If I were in Blacksburg I'd be baking a dessert and preparing a salad or casserole to give to someone as a token of love and comfort... it's just what we do, at least here in the South, and I imagine it happens elsewhere. Since I can't do that, I offer these small tokens for whatever comfort they may give...
St Paul's Cathedral: The Lord Bless You and Keep You
And since they asked:
The Sound of Music
The Wizard of Oz: Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Because she always makes me laugh: I Love Lucy: Vitametavegamin Commercial
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Rabbi Michael Rothbaum of the Jewish Peace Fellowships Reflects on the VT Tragedy
And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
This killing is the first recorded murder in Scripture. And from that day to this one, when we mark the murders of 32 innocents in Virginia , we still can't understand. What is the appropriate response? What can we say that does not wither under the burning of 32 souls who met in pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, only to be torn apart in violence.
They were in the field, Abel and his brother Cain. It was the openness, the vulnerable expanse of the field - away from the watchful eye of Adam and Eve, Mom and Dad - that allowed Cain the space to take his brother's life. To go out, to go forth, is dangerous. It is in the going forth that we make our mark in this world. It is also where we take the greatest risk.
A college campus is an open field, a wide pasture. When so many come together from so far, the potential rewards are great, and the potential tragedy unthinkable.
But, of course, the whole world is like this, really. Every time we enter a shop, ride a bus, meet a stranger or even, sometimes, a friend, we find ourselves in an open field. Unsure of the beauty - or the danger - that may lie just beyond the horizon. We recall, as well, the horrific reality that in Iraq , the death of 32 people in one day is wholly unremarkable?
What, then, can be done? To come together to live and learn means that tomorrow may bring boundless love, an unexpected exaltation of the heart, an exhilarating discovery - or we may discover that there is no tomorrow.
This week, we learned yet again that we do not know how many tomorrows we are to be allotted. This is a frightening realization. Many will use that fear in the coming days to rouse anger, suspicion, hate - to fence off the pasture, to close the gate to the heart, to secure the perimeter around their souls. In doing so, they will obscure the beauty of G-d and the power G-d has given us.
Let us show the world another way. Our scripture tells us that G-d created this world with speech. "Let there be light," G-d said. And there was light. And so on, until each element of creation of creation is stamped with the mark of divine light. Every part of creation. Even Cain. And his descendants.
Cain, befitting the cliché of the killer, was a loner. Separation and solitude set the breeding ground for despair and rage and death. The antidote is within us. We are given powerful tools to work the field. Intellect. Compassion. Hands to reach out to those next to us. All the love that our hearts can hold. Given the finite time granted to us, let us use these powers to reach out to those we love, to create anew the pasture we want to call home, to affirm the Divine in ALL those around us - even those who we might just as soon avoid. The power is within each of us to reach out to the gloomy, the sullen, the dejected- to reach out a hand and invite him to tend the field together, and bring in the harvest for all the community to share.
May we face these days of despair with a resolve to bring uplift, to restore the spark of the divine in even the darkest of corners, to cultivate a pasture of holiness and wholeness.
In the Talmud, a story is told of R. Yeshevav and his disciples. Faced with the threat of annihilation by the Romans, his disciples huddled close, and asked, "Our master, what will become of us?" R. Yeshevav replied, "Strengthen one another. Love peace and justice. There may be hope."
May G-d grant us the strength to cultivate that hope. Soon. In our days.
More at Jewish Peace Fellowship.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Hagia Hesychia written by Fr Wm Hart McNichols.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Prayers for Virginia Tech
When in the hour of utmost need
We know not where to look for aid,
When days and nights of anxious thought
Nor help nor counsel yet have brought.
Then this our comfort is alone,
That we may meet before Thy throne,
And cry, O faithful God, to Thee
For rescue from our misery.
That so with all our hearts we may
Once more our glad thanksgivings pay,
And walk obedient to Thy Word,
And now and ever praise the Lord.
Paul Eber- 1566
Compassionate God, you weep with us in our sorrow and despair. You mourn with mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, lovers and friends who do not even know where help may be found for their grieving hearts. Comfort us in our anguish, and lead us again to resurrection.
Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison. Kyrie Eleison.
May the souls of the Departed through the mercies of God rest in peace + and rise in glory.
Kirkin of the Tartans... Orthodox Style
An Orthodox Priest in Massachusettes writes about his experience officiating at a Kirking of the Tartans yesterday. Check it out here.
The blessing he prayed is here.
Easter Vigil at St Gregory Nyssa
Ok, I'm one of those Sarum Anglocatholics, and to be sure, you will never see me dancing in church (I left that behind when I left the Pentecostal Church); but, I love the Easter Joy that is giving life to this liturgy. It is infectious. I imagine I might have even shouted out "He is Risen Indeed!" (ok, I might have danced too ;) )
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Perspectives: Faith Without Fear: The Struggles of a Muslim Feminist and Reformer
My apologies, but you'll have to visit his page to see the interview. But, I am posting here 2 clips from "Faith Without Fear." I think her message is relevant for this particular day in the Christian Church calendar, but I also believe she has wisdom to offer us Anglicans as we struggle for reformation, integrity, and unity in our own Communion.
Her website is here. You can see other interviews and learn more about her struggle there.
I'm a Doubting Thomas
(sorry, this one had the best audio)...
Happy St Thomas Day
"Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have come to believe"- The Risen Christ
Happy St Thomas Day- the Eigth Day of the New Creation, when we by faith behold Thomas' vision of the Risen Christ, and with him enter into the Kingdom of God that is emerging among us in time of space. I like Thomas; he's a bit like me most of the time. I'm always asking God for signs and assurances. I don't like being like Abraham, and taking steps and journeys without knowing where the road will end. I am grateful for Thomas, who is human enough to demand that he see the wounds in Jesus hands and feet before he can believe- and yet humble enough to tell the Christ he wished he didn't have to feel the scars when confronted with them. In the end it didnt matter, because Thomas the doubter was embraced and loved by the Risen Christ in the same way as the others were. In the end, even the doubter was able to proclaim, "My Lord and My God." In the end, there will be hope for this doubter as well.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Come unto me, and I will give you rest
But, so very often we are succumbed by the enticements of the world. Bodily comfort, sensual delight, anything and everything we believe will bring happiness, but as soon as we have become satiated, we are left disillusioned; how sad. We are so easily hurled into ecstasy or into depression. We search for that calm center in the midst of outward chaos. We know we must withdraw from this restlessness of external activities that consume our energies. We know we should flee away and hide from the turmoil of senseless outward occupations and vain inward thoughts, for they create nothing but discord. Deep within, we are afraid. Somehow we need to feel that the outer world is not going to swallow us up in its endless turmoil. “If God is to speak His word in the soul, she must be at rest and peace.” (Meister Eckhart)
A Virtual space of solitude for Jane and all other weary pilgrims who need to stop and rest.
PS on Banished
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Racial Reconciliation: Apologies, Documentaries, and Dialogue
Let's pray that this will be more than a gesture and will lead to meaningful racial reconciliation amongst the rich diversity of ethnic groups in North Carolina.
One venue to open up dialogue for racial reconciliation is the Full Frame Documentary Film Fest in Durham, NC from April 12-15. This year there will be a Southern Sidebar featuring several documentaries either set in North Carolina and centered around racial issues, or directed by North Carolinians.
Banished, directed by Marco Williams, plays Saturday 14, at 3:45 pm at the Civic Center Two. The film tells the story of a group of people who are forcibly removed from their homeland. This isn’t the Middle East or ethnic cleansing in Eastern Europe, but good old racism in the American South. Banished tells the story of African-American landowners in the early 20th century who were denied their right to live on land that they rightfully owned, and how the descendants of those people seek closure only to be rebuffed by those who claim to want reconciliation. The film finds redemption though, in its belief that the desire for racial harmony and the pursuit of social justice prove much more compelling than the hate found in Harrison, Arkansas, Pierce City, Missouri and Forsyth County (Georgia) a century ago.
The film Greensboro: Closer to the Truth, directed by Adam Zucker, plays Sunday afternoon at 4:00 PM in Fletcher Hall. In 1979 members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazis opened fire on a Communist Workers Party rally, killing five protesters and injuring many others in Greensboro, North Carolina. Police assigned to the rally were far away from the scene, and despite damning television footage, no one involved in the 1979 Greensboro Massacre was ever convicted. Twenty-five years later, a variety of witnesses tell their stories, from the Klan Imperial Wizard to the bereaved spouses of the murdered activists. For the survivors, the damage remained all consuming, and in an effort to move forward they shape the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2004-2006). In the midst of many who would prefer to ignore the tragic events that happened that day, the commission cultivates new hope for authentic resolution.
Following the screening, a Panel from the Truth and Reconciliation Commisison will lead viewers in a discussion.
Moving Midway tells the story of Film critic and North Carolina native Godfrey Cheshire’s cousin Charlie (aka Pooh) decision to transport the family’s historic Midway Plantation. The monumental decision sparks an engaging reflection on the intricate and vexed relationships to land, home, and heritage. The plantation as icon, myth, and symbol of both Southern gentility and national shame is also a place of beloved family tradition that Cheshire’s mother used to call, “down home.” Not all members of the family necessarily agree with Pooh’s fateful decision and most of them—both alive and dead—have something to say about it. Cheshire’s interest in Midway’s retreat from Raleigh’s urban sprawl becomes sheer fascination with the family story, which winds its way back to British settlers and on through this nation’s most defining period in the antebellum South. By complete chance, Cheshire discovers that only a few degrees of separation link NYU historian Robert Hinton to Midway and the Cheshire family. The unearthed family connections and uprooted Plantation buildings acutely expose the foundations of an exemplary Southern story with particularly local resonance. Directed by Cheshire, the film is screened on Saturday at 12:15 PM at Civic Center One.
I am also interested in seeing For the Bible Tells Me So. Five families struggle with the tension between faith, cultural expectations, and sexual orientation in this illuminating documentary. The filmmaker has crafted an emotional quilt stitched with voices as varied as Dr. James Dobson, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Anita Bryant, Dr. Laurence C. Keene, and Andrew Sullivan. A fascinating cinematic exploration, this film sheds new light on the mercurial nature of biblical interpretations and the diverse philosophies of homosexuality they engender. Prepare for intimate and intensely moving stories that illustrate one of the most highly charged issues of the day. (screening at Noon) and The Monastary, a story of a Danish Castle which was given to the Russian Orthodox Church and transformed into a monastary. It shows Friday at 12:30 in Fletcher Hall.
(check out the full frame website for venue locations and as well as a full schedule).
Monday, April 09, 2007
Sol Lewitt Dies
Sol Lewitt, American minimalist and conceptual artist, died Saturday from complications with cancer. You can read his obituary here
Some of his Sentences on Conceptual Art seem eerily fitting on this Monday after the Resurrection of our Lord. Take a look:
Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.
Rational judgements repeat rational judgements.
Irrational judgements lead to new experience.
Ideas can be works of art; they are in a chain of development that may eventually find some form. All ideas need not be made physical.
The artist cannot imagine his art, and cannot perceive it until it is complete.
The artist may misperceive (understand it differently from the artist) a work of art but still be set off in his own chain of thought by that misconstrual.
Perception is subjective.
The artist may not necessarily understand his own art. His perception is neither better nor worse than that of others.
An artist may perceive the art of others better than his own.
The concept of a work of art may involve the matter of the piece or the process in which it is made.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
An Easter Homily by John Chrysostem
Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Is there anyone who is a grateful servant?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!
Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hades when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
Friday, April 06, 2007
Holy Saturday: Day of Silence: Christ Reposes in the Tomb
Joseph with Nicodemus,
took You down from the cross,
Your body clothed in glory as with a robe
but seeing You lifeless, naked, and unburied,
began to weep and lament, saying:
"Great is my sorrow, O Sweet Jesus!"
The sun, seeing You hanging upon the cross, was clothed in darkness,
the earth quaked in fear,
and the curtain of the temple was torn asunder.
But, behold! I now see You as accepting death for my sake.
How, O my God, shall I bury You?
With what type of shroud shall I wrap You?
With what hands shall I touch Your body not subject to decay?
O Gracious Lord, with what songs shall I hymn Your departure?
I exalt Your suffering.
I extol in song Your burial and resurrection, calling out:
"O Lord, glory to You."
- Byzantibe Catholic Vespers
Today Hades cries out groaning:
"I should not have accepted the Man born of Mary.
"He came and destroyed my power.
"He shattered the gates of brass.
"As God, He raised the souls I had held captive."
Glory to Thy cross and resurrection, O Lord
- Holy Saturday Vespers Orthodox Church
Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began... ..He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him -- He who is both their God and the son of Eve.. "I am your God, who for your sake have become your son... ...I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead."
- Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday
Holy Saturday is perhaps the most neglected of all days in the liturgical year. On this day Jesus body reposed in the tomb- the Son of God, the Lord of Life, dead and lifeless. In the face of the mystery of God in Jesus being dead- really dead- we stand in silence. Who can comprehend it? In the midst of the silence, the Church gathers only for solemn prayer and silent reflection in the empty dark chancel that echoes the bleakness of Christ's cold, dark tomb. On this day the Mass is not offered; there is no Eucharistic thanks-giving. We only wait and be with the sorrow.
The quiet of the day is lost on most however. Children are scurrying to Easter egg hunts. Parents are making last minute shopping trips so their children will be beautiful for the Easter Mass. The altar guild is busy preparing for the Vigil and the Easter Mass. Acolytes and choirs rehearse once more before the Vigil. The silence is lost. While all these things are needful; they rob us of an even more needful experience. Without Holy Saturday, Good Friday sorrow is merely replaced with Easter joy. Without the silent, wrestless waiting of Holy Saturday, we miss the moment when God tranforms the sorrow to joy.
We are so familiar with how the Story ends that we forget what this day was like for Blessed Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Beloved John. Their hearts were filled with grief and sorrow. They had no idea that as the body of Jesus slept in repose, that the Christ was bursting through the gates of hades, and overthrowing the powers of darkness. These are experiences with which I can identify. I often have moments of despair when I feel lost, when it is as if God is a million miles away from me. Holy Saturday hallows those kinds of experiences and feelings. The angst of this day sanctifies the anxieties that we face, when we are stuck between loss and new birth. And this day is neccessary, because it is through the messiness and uncertainty of this day, that the Holy Spirit nurtures the seeds of transformation that grow out of our chaos and yield to a new resurrected reality.
For now, we wait in that silence that settled upon us on Thurdsay night- the fertile silence from which will burst the Festal Shout, "He is Risen".
On God alone my soul in stillness waits;
from him comes my salvation. Psalm 62:1
The Harrowing of Hell (from the Gospel of Nicodemus)
The Harrowing of Hell
Chapter 6 (22).
Immediately Hades cried out: We have been conquered: woe to us! But who art thou, that hast such power and might? and what art thou, who comest here without sin who art seen to be small and yet of great power, lowly and exalted, the slave and the master, the soldier and the king, who hast power over the dead and the living? Thou wast nailed on the cross, and placed in the tomb; and now thou art free, and hast destroyed all our power. Art thou then the Jesus about whom the chief satrap Satan told us, that through cross and death thou art to inherit the whole world?
Then the King of glory seized the chief satrap Satan by the head, and delivered him to His angels, and said: With iron chains bind his hands and his feet, and his neck, and his mouth. Then He delivered him to Hades, and said: Take him, and keep him secure till my second appearing.
Chapter 7 (23).
And Hades receiving Satan, said to him: Beelzebul, heir of fire and punishment, enemy of the saints, through what necessity didst thou bring about that the King of glory should be crucified, so that he should come here and deprive us of our power? Turn and see that not one of the dead has been left in me, but all that thou hast gained through the tree of knowledge, all hast thou lost through the tree of the cross: and all thy joy has been turned into grief; and wishing to put to death the King of glory, thou hast put thyself to death. For, since I have received thee to keep thee safe, by experience shall thou learn how many evils I shall do unto thee. O arch-devil, the beginning of death, root of sin, end of all evil, what evil didst thou find in Jesus, that thou shouldst compass his destruction? how hast thou dared to do such evil? how hast thou busied thyself to bring down such a man into this darkness, through whom thou hast been deprived of all who have died from eternity?
Chapter 8 (24).
While Hades was thus discoursing to Satan, the King of glory stretched out His right hand, and took hold of our forefather Adam, and raised him. Then turning also to the rest, He said: Come all with me, as many as have died through the tree which he touched: for, behold, I again raise you all up through the tree of the cross. Thereupon He brought them all out, and our forefather Adam seemed to be filled with joy, and said: I thank Thy majesty, O Lord, that Thou hast brought me up out of the lowest Hades.19 Likewise also all the prophets and the saints said: We thank Thee, O Christ, Saviour of the world, that Thou hast brought our life up out of destruction.20
And after they had thus spoken, the Saviour blessed Adam with the sign of the cross on his forehead, and did this also to tire patriarchs, and prophets, and martyrs, and forefathers; and He took them, and sprang up out of Hades. And while He was going, the holy fathers accompanying Him sang praises, saying: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord:21 Alleluia; to Him be the glory of oil the saints.
Chapter 9 (25).
And setting out to paradise, He took hold of our forefather Adam by the hand, and delivered him, and all the just, to the archangel Michael. And as they were going into the door of paradise, there met them two old men, to whom the holy fathers said: Who are you, who have not seen death, and have not come down into Hades, but who dwell in paradise in your bodies and your souls? One of them answered, and said: I am Enoch, who was well-pleasing to God, and who was translated hither by Him; and this is Helias the Thesbite; and we are also to live until the end of the world; and then we are to be sent by God to withstand Antichrist, and to be slain by him, and after three days to rise again, and to be snatched up in clouds to meet the Lord.22
- from the Gospel of Nicodemus (Acts of Pilate)
Go here to read the entire story of Christ's descent into hell.
Christ is Buried
The burial of the Christ, our King,
Became life for humanity.
Had He not been put in the tomb,
The high gates of Paradise would not have been opened.
Grant, O my Lord, the souls of Your departed servants,
Who have slept trusting in You,
To dwell and have rest in Your Paradise.
- Syriac Orthodox Liturgy for the Friday of the Crucifixion (`arubto d-hasho)
When the Arimathean lowered You from the Cross, O Christ, the life of all, now dead, he ministered to You with myrrh and linen. Profoundly moved in heart and speech, he hastened to enshroud You, while himself enshrouded in awe yet rejoicing he cried out to You: "Glory to Your condescension, loving God!"
When for the sake of all, You the Redeemer of all, were laid in a new tomb, Hades the scornful cowered at sight of You. The bolts were broken, the gates shattered, graves opened up, the dead were raised. Then Adam, rejoicing with thanks, cried out to You, "Glory to Your condescension, loving God!"
When by Your free will You were closed up bodily in the tomb, yet remained in Your divine nature beyond confining or defining, You closed down the chambers of death and rendered Hades utterly empty, Christ the King. Then did You render the Sabbath worthy of divine blessing and glory, and of Your own splendor.
When the heavenly Powers saw You falsely accused as an imposter, and the tombstone sealed by the very hands that lanced Your pure breast, they shuddered at Your indescribable forebearance. yet rejoicing over our salvation, they cried out to You," Glory to Your condescension, loving God!"
- from the Greek Orthodox Church
Thursday, April 05, 2007
The Compassionate Friends: Grief Support for Grieving Parents
This day elicits many theological reflections about the mystery of Christ's Passion and its implications for humanity. Yet, on the most basic human level this day is about the pain and suffering of a mother who has lost her son. On this Good Friday many who have lost their children stand in solidarity with the Mother of God, who holds in her arms the lifeless fruit of her womb. They feel the pain that no human being should have to bear as they bury their own children.
As you reflect on the mysteries of this day, say a prayer for all parents who grieve the deaths of their children. Consider visiting The Compassionate Friends website and sit with Blessed Mary and all grieving parents as she rocks her son in her arms. Perhaps you will find a way to support the ministry of the Compassionate Friends and walk with grieving parents as the journey towards that helaing that can only come from the Resurrected Christ.
The noble Joseph, when he had taken down Thy most pure Body from the tree, wrapped it in fine linen, and anointed it with spices, and placed it in a new tomb.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
The angel came to the myrrh-bearing women at the tomb and said:
Myrrh is fitting for the dead, but Christ has shown Himself a stranger to corruption.
GOOD-FRIDAY, 1613, RIDING WESTWARD.
by John Donne
LET man's soul be a sphere, and then, in this,
Th' intelligence that moves, devotion is ;
And as the other spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motion, lose their own,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a year their natural form obey ;
Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit
For their first mover, and are whirl'd by it.
Hence is't, that I am carried towards the west,
This day, when my soul's form bends to the East.
There I should see a Sun by rising set,
And by that setting endless day beget.
But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for me.
Who sees Gods face, that is self-life, must die ;
What a death were it then to see God die ?
It made His own lieutenant, Nature, shrink,
It made His footstool crack, and the sun wink.
Could I behold those hands, which span the poles
And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes ?
Could I behold that endless height, which is
Zenith to us and our antipodes,
Humbled below us ? or that blood, which is
The seat of all our soul's, if not of His,
Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn
By God for His apparel, ragg'd and torn ?
If on these things I durst not look, durst I
On His distressed Mother cast mine eye,
Who was God's partner here, and furnish'd thus
Half of that sacrifice which ransom'd us ?
Though these things as I ride be from mine eye,
They're present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them ; and Thou look'st towards me,
O Saviour, as Thou hang'st upon the tree.
I turn my back to thee but to receive
Corrections till Thy mercies bid Thee leave.
O think me worth Thine anger, punish me,
Burn off my rust, and my deformity ;
Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,
That Thou mayst know me, and I'll turn my face.
Behold the wood of the Cross
On which hung the Savior of the world
Come, let us adore.
Faithful Cross above all others,
One and only noble Tree,
None in foliage, none in blossom,
None in fruit thy peer may be;
Sweetest wood and sweetest iron,
Sweetest weight is hung on thee.
Perspectives: Stripping the Altar
But as the drama of the evening unfolds, our celebration quickly turns to sorrow and despair. We remember that even as Christ was giving the gift of the Holy Eucharist to the church, that the Evil One was entering the heart of one who would betray Christ and refuse the love that He offered. Before that night had ended, the betrayer delivered Jesus into the hands of the authorities who arrested him and led him to be interrigated as a criminal. The Maundy Thursday liturgy ends with a ritual re-membrance of this event. The altar and sanctuary is stripped of all ornamentation. The Reserved Sacrament has already been removed, and the Fire, representing the Presence of God, has been extinguished. The crosses which can not be removed are veiled in black. The words from Psalm 22 are read, and we are faced with the image of Jesus, stripped and vulnerable; betrayed and rejected.
Tonight I knelt in the darkness, taking in the silent emptiness. With the Reserved Sacrament removed and the Presence Light extinguished, I was overwhelmed with a sense of void and lonliness. For a moment I allowed myself to be aware of how it would feel to be separated from God's Presence. Christ had been taken away: here I knelt alone. My thoughts turned inward, and I contemplated my culpability in the stripping of Jesus. How many times had I been the betrayer? How many times had I placed myself in an empty darkness by turning away from the Love of God and refusing to walk in the way of servanthood? How many times had I oppressed Christ by turning a deaf ear to the cries of the poor and suffering? What do I need to strip away from own heart in order to be able to more fully experience the coming resurrection?
Tommorow is a day of fasting; a day to allow the Holy Spirit to complete the work that was begun on Ash Wednesday; a day to allow those parts of me which need to die, to die on the Cross with Christ, and to be laid in the tomb with him, in the hopes of being transformed and raised to new life on Easter.
But in this moment, we wait in the silent darkness.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Perspectives: Br Jude Smith, N/SSJE Preaches His First Sermon
Maundy Thursday Reflection
The Monastery – Our Lady Chapel
Br. Jude Smith, N/SSJE
The New Commandment: Love
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
As many of you know, I hail from the South – more regionally from New Orleans. The South is known for great stories with funny characters. New Orleans is made up of many and I do mean many colorful characters one of them being a man known as Buddy.
Imagine if you will, a tall black man with thick rimmed Buddy Holly glasses, a megaphone in one hand, an opened Bible in the other and the piece de’ resistance was his rainbow colored umbrella hat. At the foot of Canal and St. Peter Streets – just in front of the US Customs House – one of the most prominent places in downtown New Orleans – Buddy was normally pacing back and forth amongst the tourists and natives along the sidewalk. No matter how hot it was outside Buddy always had on a tweed sports jacket, long sleeve shirt and bow-tie. Buddy preached the Word to all the passersby. It should be noted that even when Buddy grew tired from preaching he’d simply lie down on the sidewalk and take a nap and then return to preaching. When I first saw him after I had moved to New Orleans I thought “Wow – he’s got some nerve.” I don’t know too many people that would spend their whole day on the street corner screaming to people that their lives and ‘the world’ are in horrible condition, the end of the world is near and that they should consider getting their ‘houses’ in order. But, for today’s reflection I’d like to focus on two people who preached these similar ideas – one of them being the One who gave the greatest gift of all – His Love to us through death on a Cross for Salvation. And the other being a young prophet like Buddy who preached the Word of God – refusing to be quieted – even at the hands of his tormentors.
When I think of Jeremiah who heard his call two words come to mind vocation and obedience. In their Latin forms, these words are vocare and audire. Vocare meaning ‘to call’ and audire meaning ‘to hear.’
When Jeremiah heard his call to be a prophet, like a timid child with no confidence Jeremiah replied to God “Ah, Lord God, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” (Jeremiah 1.6, The New Oxford Annotated Bible, RSV). God promptly rebuked him – don’t say that, you can speak and wherever I send you – you shall go and speak whatever I command of you (para Jer. 1.7). And, then we are told God touches Jeremiah’s mouth and the words were given to him. Jeremiah, heard his call and was obedient.
I suspect that the people Jeremiah preached to during his ministry of 40 years were much like the world today: selfish, driven by their pride and egos, enjoying the busyness of their own lives while those around them suffered. Jeremiah preached that the ways of the world were not those of God. That the children of Israel needed to be more attentive to those who suffered especially - to one another. In the office readings this morning Jeremiah’s lament is heard. Anger and despair with God are abundant as Jeremiah cries out: “O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived” or as another translation says – “you duped me and I was duped.” Jeremiah is angry at God because he has preached against the people of Israel announcing the fall of Jerusalem as a result of their straying from God. Yet no one believed him. No one listened to Jeremiah. As a matter of fact, because they didn’t listen or believe him it caused Jeremiah great mental anguish, torture and eventually caused his death. Jeremiah was so angry with God, that as much as he wanted to turn and run from his vocation as a prophet – he couldn’t. Again, he cries: “For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say I will not mention him or speak anymore in his name, there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones and I am weary with holding it in, and can not.” (Jer. 20.8-9).
Buddy too, like a young Jeremiah, heard God calling him to preach Love and attentiveness to those around him. One could certainly see that in New Orleans this is definitely needed. IN a city, where even in 2007 racial tensions are alarming (not just within racial ethnicities but across racial lines as well), the abuse of those on the margin of society are evident and murder rates are alarming with violence on the rise. The children even suffer at the hands of an ever failing school board where political appointments are more important than a child’s education. And all of this being underscored, by the fact that the hundreds of poor who couldn’t afford to evacuate in the wake of a natural disaster, were left to suffer, while our own governments sat idly by and watched. I’d say that no one listened to Buddy as well.
This brings us to today, Maundy Thursday, trying to make sense of what this is about – vocation, obedience and Love. Today begins the most solemn part of holy week when we receive the new commandment. Maundy comes from the Latin – ‘mandautum’ which means ‘mandate.’ So today in some sense, is about putting ourselves into the picture of the Last Supper when we’re told that Jesus “rose from Supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel.” (John 13.4) And we know that what follows is Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. In this one act, Jesus gives us not only a foretaste of the greatest act of Love, but it is also symbolism for this ‘new commandment’ of mutual love. It might be helpful to think in terms of this not being so much as a ‘new commandment for Jesus although it could be for his followers. Moses told the Children of Israel to love one another. What is new is that we are called to love as deeply and sacrificially as Jesus loved in washing his disciples’ feet, being prepared to die, submitting to the will of the Father. It is this level and deepness of love that is ‘new’ i.e., to love as he loved – completely. Love for one another regardless of our status in society, skin color, gender, sexual orientation, sickness or even if their happens to be a traitor in our midst. Remember, Jesus did eat with Judas before he went out to do the dirty work of Satan (John 13.21-30). “Love is the Soul of Justice and Justice is the body, the flesh of Love.” (The Last Week, p.215, Borg, Marcus J. and Crossan, John Dominic)
Jesus doesn’t give us stipulations how to Love – no he only asks us to Love one another; “even as I have loved you, that you love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13.34-35) and I fully believe that we are all disciples in this context. We are all followers, on that road to Calvary with Christ, working out our Salvation. Dying with him and rising with him in new life.
So here we are, in our own little corner of the Kingdom of God, known as Cambridge Massachusetts, receiving our vocation – our calling if you will, to be obedient and listen to Christ’s new commandment - to Love one another as he loved us. We hear it all the time preached in the gospel and in church. But, I’d ask you this day, as we prepare to participate in the humble act of washing each other’s feet later in the evening – that you would slow down, and think about how you are loving in your life. Are you loving everyone around you the way Christ calls us to love one another? Are you allowing Christ to love you – the way you need to be loved? Are you loving yourself the way you should? Regardless of what you’ve done, where you’ve been, or the fact, that you’re just showing up, that’s the voice of God, deep within you, yearning to allow yourself the desire to Love better and to be Loved by God. Trust me, I know nothing about the perfect way to Love and be Loved – each day is a struggle for me – just like it is I’m quite certain for everyone of you. But, I would say that this desire we feel within us to love without judgment, without hesitation, that is the voice of God within us – calling us to our vocation to Love. A love that fires us with the same passion to be vulnerable and foolish for Christ’s sake, maybe not washing feet, not even, unless we wanted to wear an umbrella hat in downtown New Orleans, preaching to all who pass by, but risking ourselves to share the meaning of that limitless love with others that is too good and abundant to keep to ourselves.
Grace and Peace to you, brothers and sisters, from our Lord Jesus Christ.