a priest's musings on the journey
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Then fearless Zac decided he's like to do a summersault. The first time he attempted the dive he did it perfectly. So, with more confidence, he tried again. This time he didn't go out far enough and he bumped his head on the board- scaring bejeezus out of Daddy.
Thank God he was not seriously injured. He has a goose-egg on the back of his head, but no concussion. It's a bit tender, but he is ready to go try again (thank God). So, join me in a prayer of thanksgiving, for Zac's courage, tenacity, and those guardian angels who were looking out for him today.
Friday, June 29, 2007
Deisis (Ss. Peter & Paul Chapel)
Blessed Feast of SS Peter and Paul. If they could kiss and make up after all of their squabbling, then there should be some hope for the rest of us to let go of our petty differences and seek the unity that is ours in Christ.
Remember the wisdom of Mark Twain, "Sacred cows make the best hamburger."
Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified you by their martyrdom: Grant that your Church, instructed by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by your Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever
Let me also point you to a blog that does what I wish I had the time to do; At episcoblog you can find a brief reflection on the Gospel reading for each day of trhe year, feast day and feria alike. Go check it out.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Blogs You Would Like to Read
How about this for a meme? (That means you pick it up and answer the question on your own blog).
Which three blogs which don’t already exist would you like to read?
William Law (who has become a patron to me lately)
St Aelred's Love Letters
So what are yours? Answer in the comments and/or in your own blog.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Holy Darkness: the God of Silence
Our Gospel reading introduces us to a Gentile man who is described by Luke as a demoniac who lived as a wild man, naked and often chained, among the tombs outside of the city. In today’s world he might be diagnosed with schitzophrenia or manic-depressive paranoia; at any rate, his behaviors and perceptions of the world made him a danger to others and to himself. So, he lived a life of alienation and isolation. His only companions were the delusions he saw and the voices he heard in his head. He was so afraid of everyone was out to get him, that he begged Jesus to leave him alone and not to harm him as he approached the tombs where this man lived. His manner of life is not very much different from the way many of the homeless mentally ill live in our own society- faceless, nameless, invisible- sleeping in a cardboard box under some bridge, alone and alienated from society. We pass them by and don’t even notice they are there until we see them dart across our path and in fear, we turn our faces and hasten our steps so that we can get away from the dangers that we fear they will bring us. They live their lives day after day as unloved, excluded, and expendable members of a society that long ago decided they were worthless.
It’s easy for us to judge these people and to form the opinion that somehow they deserve the condition that they are in; that somehow their laziness or their ineptitude landed them on the streets, exactly where they belong until they decide to help themselves. Some in the church even go so far as to say they are reaping the fruit of their sins, and that they deserve the judgment that God has given them. Even those of us with a more sophisticated read of the Scriptures often forget that feelings of isolation, loneliness and despair can overtake even the most faithful and devoted follower of Jesus Christ.
Listen again to the cries of the Prophet Elijah from this morning’s Old Testament reading:
“I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” Elijah had narrowly escaped Jezebel’s attempts to kill him; he had fled to the hills to hide, afraid for his life, depressed, dejected and in despair. He felt alone and abandoned; he felt like a failure and he had walked away from the mission to which God had called him. His heart was broken, his spirit was crushed, and he had lost all sense of purpose and meaning in his life.
Somewhere that First grade Sunday School image of the Christian journey being one filled with happiness and peace and smiles and laughs has so formed our understanding of how life- and in particular the Christian life is experienced, that we feel that loneliness and sorrow is a sign of some spiritual issue in our life. We forget that many of the saints, and even Jesus himself experienced periods of depression, alienation and despair.
Henri Nouwen describes his bout with depressions and despair in The Inner Voice of Love. "The anguish completely paralyzed me," he wrote, "I could no longer sleep. I cried uncontrollably for hours. I could not be reached by consoling words or arguments ... All had become darkness. Within me there was one long scream coming from a place I didn't know existed, a place full of demons."
No matter what our understandings of why and how we experience depression and despair are, we all can relate to the feelings that Nouwen described and we in some ways can identify with the exclusion of the prophet and the demoniac. Sometimes despair is created by some traumatic event in our life: a divorce, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the onset of a debilitating disease. Sometimes it is the result of being mistreated and rejected because of our gender, age, race or sexual orientation. Sometimes there is no reason at all for the onset of depression; sometimes life is suddenly meaningless and the simplest tasks become Herculean endeavors. Our life becomes enshrouded with gloom and sadness, and we have no idea why.
St John of the Cross described this as the dark night of the soul- a time when we can not find any comfort in the Scriptures or art or music or even in our prayers. Like Elijah and the demoniac, we feel as if even God has abandoned us. When we do muster up enough strength to say a prayer or enough courage to rail against God for not rescuing us from our plight, we feel as if we are praying into the air; it seems that God is silent and unconcerned.
Yet, God is there; it’s just we can not perceive the Divine presence in the silence and darkness of the night of our soul. Elijah had the same problem; he looked for God in the lightning, and the earthquake and the wind… but he kept missing God, because God was in the silence- speaking to Elijah in a still, small voice. And when we become still enough to hear it, and blind enough to see, we will see the God in the darkness who comes to us, not as some magician ready to make all of our problems go away, but as a God who suffers with us, as a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, bearing in his flesh the scars from the whips and the nail holes in his hands and feet. He will take us by the hand and walk with us through our shadowlands into such a bright dawn as we cannot yet even imagine." (Clark Oler)
Those are nice words, but when we are wallowing in the pits of despair, how do we find the God of darkness? How do we hear that still, small voice? Or as the Hebrew more aptly describes it in today’s reading, how do we hear the voice of God in sheer silence, in that heavy, deep, frightening silence that tempts us, as it did Elijah, to cover our faces from the God that is revealed to us on the holy ground of our sorrows.
The Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop Anthony Bloom wrote about hearing God in the deep silence in his book, Beginning to Pray. He writes tells the story of a visit to an elderly parishioner at a nursing home shortly after his ordination to the priesthood. The woman asked his advice on prayer. She explained how she had been faithful to say her prayers, she had sought advice from other Christians and she had tried zealously to follow others advice on prayer; yet, she had never perceived God’s presence.
Bishop Bloom gave her this advice: “Go to your room after breakfast, put it right…and first of all take stock of the room. Just sit, look round, and try to see where you live….And then take your knitting and for fifteen minutes knit before the face of God, but I forbid you to say one word of prayer. You just knit and try to enjoy the peace of your room.” The woman followed his unconventional advice and later told him, “You know, it works.” She went on to say that as she knitted a while she increasingly noticed the silence. She told Bloom she realized “this silence was not simply the absence of noise, but the silence had substance. It was not the absence of something, but the presence of something. The silence had a density, a richness, and it began to pervade me. The silence around began to come and meet the silence in me.”
She discovered the God in her knitting, who had eluded her in years of fervent prayer. The thing that matters most is to realize that you are always in God’s presence. Always. No matter what life throws at you, you are always in God’s presence if you will open yourself up to that deeper reality.
Sometimes my holiest moments with God are long, silent walks in the woods, when I walk and walk and allow myself to let all of the pain and stress go into the silence surrounding me; or sometimes I’ll sit with my favorite icon of Our Lady of Tenderness, and just gaze, hoping that some of that compassion and love will find a way to shatter the barriers over my heart. Sometimes I can hear God speaking in a warm embrace or a caring touch on the shoulder, or thoughtful note. It is in those quiet, ordinary, mundane moments that God reveals the Divine Presence to us. But we have to open up ourselves to the possibility of finding God there; and we have to let go of the idea that God will come to “fix us” and hold on to the idea that instead, God is there to journey with us, to suffer with us, and to keep us from being alone.
Bishop Marc Andrus tells the story of a visit he once made to an elderly clergyman who had served in the area where he was, but who was dying in Florida. He said something to him about how lonely he must be being so far from the area he loved, and away from his friends. The man replied, "the holy spirit is always with me, Marc."
This priest had developed the capacity to be still and to hear God in the deep silence, to feel God’s presence in paralyzing loneliness, and to see the Light of God in the darkest night. He learned to recognize the Spirit guiding him through the darkness, and leading him to discover the Holiness of the God who is beyond Darkness and Light. And more than that, he heard and embraced the invitation from God to walk through the path of darkness in order to nurture a deeper relationship with God. When we are in the darkness, we are disoriented and lost; and it’s in this uncertainty that we are forced to let go of our preconceived notions of God, and allow God to be reveal new things to us about God and the world, and ourselves. It is in the darkness that we realize we don’t have all of the answers and may not even know how to ask the right questions. In the darkness- as my Pentecostal grandfather would say- we learn how to let go and let God- we learn to allow God to have control over our lives, and we stop trying to control God.
In a sermon titled The Dark Night, Rowan Williams’ puts it like this,
“If you think devotional practices, theological insights, even charitable actions give you some sort of a purchase of God, you are still playing games. On the other hand, if you can accept and even rejoice in the experience of darkness, if you can accept that God is more than an idea that keeps your religion or philosophy or politics tidy—then you may find a way back to religion, philosophy, or politics, to an engagement with them that is more creative because you are more aware of the oddity, the uncontrollable quality of truth at the heart of all things.”
And what we discover, is that this uncontrollable God doesn’t show up the way we always want or expect Him to. He rarely comes in power and mighty strength; more often he comes as a helpless infant, or a dying man on a cross, or hungry homeless woman, or a pregnant teenage girl, or a frightened teenage boy who is lost in alcohol addiction… When we are open to knowing God in the darkness and suffering of our lives and in the lives of others, then we will be ready to begin the path of transformation- that in God’s time, leads to Light and wholeness.
St. Gregory Nazianzus
The breath of life, O Lord, seems spent. My body is tense, my mind filled with anxiety, yet I have no zest, no energy. I am helpless to allay my fears. I am incapable of relaxing my limbs. Dark thoughts constantly invade my head ....Lord, raise up my soul, revive my body.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
S Alban Protomartyr
St. Alban was a pagan inhabitant of Verulam in central England. In the mid-3rd c., but others say the beginning of the 4th c., he accepted and sheltered a Christian priest fleeing the Roman persecution. The priest was found out, but St. Alban arranged a swap of clothing allowing the priest to escape. Brought before the judge, St. Alban confessed Our Lord Jesus Christ and was condemned to be beheaded. On the way to execution, when the crowd that was following to see his death came to the river Ver, he prayed and the waters parted so all could cross. His executioner, Heraclius, was converted and suffered with St. Alban. Just before his earthly end St. Alban prayed and a spring arose from the spot. Verulam is now called St. Alban's, the site of a magnificent Benedictine monastery in earlier times.
Bede tells several legends associated with the story of Alban's execution. On his way to the execution, Alban had to cross a river, and finding the bridge full of people, he made the waters part and crossed over on dry land. And the executioner was so impressed with Alban's faith that he also converted to Christianity on the spot, and refused to kill him. Another executioner was quickly found (whose eyes dropped out of his head when he did the deed), and the first was killed after Alban, becoming the second British martyr for Christ.
Some details added to St. Alban's tradition come from confusing him with another St. Alban, or Albinus, who was martyred at Mainz.
Troparion (Tone 4)
In his struggle your holy martyr Alban,
Gained the crown of life, O Christ our God.
For strengthened by you and in purity of heart,
He spoke boldly before the judges of this world,
Offering up his head to you, the Judge of all!
In celebration of Midsummer
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Billie Holiday Strange Fruit
Though the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued on September 22, 1862, with an effective date of January 1, 1863, it had little immediate effect on most slaves’ day-to-day lives, particularly in Texas, which was almost entirely under Confederate control. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived on Galveston Island to take possession of the state and enforce the emancipation of its slaves. Standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, Granger read the contents of “General Order No. 3”:
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Today the Eastern Church commemorates St Jude, the cousin of Jesus who is said to have bore a remarkable likeness to Jesus. He is the patron of lost causes, and, I must mention, he is the patron of Clube de Regatas do Flamengo (a popular soccer team in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
On his day I ask your prayers for
+ those suffering with HIV/AIDS
+ those oppressed because of their sexuality
+ those afraid to live openly and truthfully because of fear of rejection and
+ those who seek God who are continually turned away by the Church
+ those who suffer depression and mental distress
+ those who have died at the hands of homophobic hatred
+ those who wish to end their lives to escape their pain
+ those who bear the Mark of Christ and yet are forbidden the grace of koinonia
+ the oppressed, the sick, the lonely, the sorrowful, the desparate, the forgotten
Check out this Eastern Orthodox Gay Affirming Site
Some of you are familiar with my ongoing struggle to affirm may sexuality as a gay priest with my love for and desire to be rooted in the "orthodox tradition". I have recently discovered a source which has nurtured me and given me hope and even a sense of community with others who share a similar path. Syntheosis commented on a few of my posts a while back, and I have found their blog and website to be a valuable contribution to gay Christian spiritual development. They are rooted in the Eastern Christian Tradition, but are inclusive and compassionate. This is a quote from their blogger profile:
"Today the Creator renews the creature and creation. Today the unseen Godhead is manifest in the flesh of God's people. Today the assembly of God's gods regains syntheosis for all and in all." Gay Orthodox Christian communicants receive neither ecclesiastical resources nor hierarchic compassion. Many choose to leave the Orthodox fold but they will always bear the Seal of the Holy Spirit. For those remaining they search out private often insular hesychastic-like prayer and Sacramental lives disconnected from koinonia diakonia liturgia and martyria. Without empowering their interiority as lil'gods gay Orthdox communicants are denied the sacred panultimate human right: To-love-and-to-be-loved. We provide theological materials for private reflection and use for the millions of unseen martyred gay members of the Holy Orthodox Church despite cacodox ecclesiarchs. Economia overrides canon law; Christ conquers all anthropocentric standards. Not only is there hope for gay Orthodox Christians but also this hope is revealed by the Father in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. "YOU ARE GODS" - John 10:34.
Some of the language related to theosis and deification may be foriegn to Western Christians, outside of some Holiness and Methodist groups. However, it is worth a quick read about it here.
You can access the Syntheosis blog here.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
The Bible meme
well, its late and Ive still got to finish a sermon.... but here goes.. maybe I'll revisit and offer more profound answers later.
1 What I know about the Bible?
2 How does what I know impact what I believe?
3 So does scholarship influence my faith?
The Bible.... well, I was raised in a church that encouraged memorization of biblical verses, complete with "Sword Drills" where we would see who could look up a given citation the fastest. (yes, I was good lol). I was taught that this Book WAS the word of God, infallible, unchangeable, and historically accurate. I'm not sure I 'know' any of that to be true about the Bible now. I am more comfortable honoring Jesus Christ as the Word of God, and it seems idolatrous for me to give this name to a book- albeit the holiest of books. It was written by humans, so, there are inevitably errors (duh)- althought having been inspired by the Holy Spirit, these words are a conduit for Holy Wisdom. I believe God is still speaking, and that if the Bible is alive and living, it must be flexible enought to speak to a new culture and time.... I am not sure how to always hold the tension between seeing the Bible as a literary book and as a holy book... but
I do know that when I read the Bible I encounter God; I can read the same story over and over and each time see a new insight.
2. I know that I encounter God in the Stories of the Bible. That really has no effect on what/how I believe. In some regards I remain a biblical literalist (I really do believe Jesus physically rose from the dead, for example); in other places I see things 'metaphorical' (creation, Jonah) or contextual and not for all times (levitical holiness code, Pauls thoughts on homosexuality). Whether or not I know the stories are 'historical record' or 'psychologically or scientifically accurate' I still believe that these words connect me to the communion of saints, whose story is told there, and to the God into whom we all are united.
3. It doesn't. It effects how I study Scripture, but it does not effect my faith. The very idea is even a bit offensive to me- so enslaved to modernity and the enlightenment.
ok i tag:
Jane (although I know you're busy writing, so you may be excused for now) ;)
An Afro-Anglican Journey
an afro-anglican journey
Sunday, June 10, 2007
St Barnabas and the Librarian
and in honor of the Apostle, a classic Vicar of Dibley episode from St Barnabas' Parish, Dibley. This entire episode is brilliant; but around minute 8 is the relevant bit about St Barnabas... and the Librarian (enjoy John) ;)
A Muslim Friend's Letter to Slain Father Ragheed
Hat tip: Fr. Peter
Lord Have Mercy
Christ Have Mercy
Lord Have Mercy
May those who have suffered for Christ rest from the labors in the peace of Christ. May Light perpetual shine upon them.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Sermon: Pentecost 3, 10 June 2007 St Andrew's, Haw River, NC
2 Pentecost Year C 10 June, 2007
Our Compassionate, Healing Lord
In 2004 Bobbie Sheranko wrote these words after the death of her child:
I cried hot burning tears...
That stung my soul as they stung my cheeks.
I closed my eyes wishing I could close my ears
As those awful words were said...
Those evil cruel words that no one wanted to say...
Your child is gone....your child is no more.
But you are not gone, don't they know, for you are here
Right here in my broken aching heart.
And I cry hot burning tears...
That sting my soul as they sting my cheek
According to The Psychiatric Diagnostic Statistical Manual , the most catastrophic even that can happen in the life of person is the loss of a child. It is a grief and pain unlike any other known or experienced. It is an emptiness that never goes away; when a child dies, a part of the parent’s very own heart dies as well. When a parent loses a child, those who have never experienced such a devastating loss often have no idea how to respond to their pain and agony. What do you say? What can you say? Every word that comes to mind seems trite and meaningless: and even those phrases that one thinks are helpful, such as “your child is a sweet angel in heaven now”, “God must have needed your baby in Heaven” cut deep, and cause even more pain. In reality, a grieving parent doesn’t want their son or daughter to be an angel in heaven: they want their child in their arms until the natural course takes the parent to Heaven first. After all, that is the way it is supposed to be.
The lessons for today tell the stories of two widows who had lost their sons. It would have been tragic enough to tell the story of a parent who had lost their child; but these stories introduce us to two widows, who we are led to believe were left all alone with no spouse, other children, or family to care for them. A widow in this condition was among the most vulnerable of all people in that society. These women were alone in their grief, and they faced a life of dark despair and poverty. Any inheritance that might have been theirs was given to the eldest male relative, who was supposed to use the inheritance to care for the widow. However, in reality, this never happened, and the widow had no recourse for justice. So, she had to rely on the mercy of others, which was not always given because despite provisions made for the care of widows in the Mosaic Law, the popular consensus was that widowhood was a sign of God’s disfavor- much like barrenness. Widows were held in such contempt, that they were viewed on the same level as a prostitute. A childless widow was seen as the property of her dead husband, and the law required her brother-in-law to marry her and produce offspring for his dead brother. If the brother was too young to marry, the woman would have to wait for him to come of age; and she could not refuse the marriage.
Our Gospel story tells us that Jesus had just entered the village of Nain, when a funeral procession of a young man passed by. Jesus learned that this young man was the only child of the grieving mother, who had also lost her husband. Jesus was moved with the reality that he knew would exist for this woman. He had compassion for and felt moved to help her. I don’t always talk about the greek words in the Gospel text, but the word that is translated as compassion here is a powerful one, only used in the New Testament for Jesus and the Good Samaritan. The word, σπλαγχνίζομαι (splagchnizomai), used by Luke, was primarily used by the Greeks before the time of Jesus to refer to great courage. The root of this word comes from the word for one’s inner parts, the viscera- it literally means to yearn from one’s bowels; to be moved down to one’s bowels- which in that time were thought to be the center of one’s being. It was from ones bowels that one would find the inward strength to do a difficult or terrifying task. Luke uses it to show a deep compassion and mercy; a mercy that flows from the inner most being of Jesus. Jesus did not merely feel sorry for this woman; he felt her pain’ he shared her suffering, his heart overflowed with compassion for her, and he was moved to action. He was moved to changed her plight and to save her from the life that would have been hers. So, Jesus touches the bier- even though the Law of Moses said that would make him unclean, and tells the young man to arise. He sits up and is restored to his mother.
What is important about this miraculous healing, is that Jesus did not perform this mighty act in order to impress the crowds or to prove that he had the power over death itself. He healed the young man because of his compassion towards this woman. Jesus wanted her to know that she was indeed a beloved daughter of God. Jesus wanted her to know that she was important to God- that God was with her.
This message that Luke is communicating here in this story gets to the root of who Jesus is and why he came among us. God is love, writes the beloved Apostle, and the consequence of God’s love is God’s self-giving of Himself to us. In Jesus Christ, God became one of us and walked among us. That same love empowered Jesus to offer himself on the hard wood of the cross in order to reconcile a broken world to God. God can do nothing but love; and when God sees us in our suffering, despair, and even in our sin, God’s heart overflows with compassion and love for us. God’s love moves the Divine heart to action- to self-giving. This morning many in the Church celebrate the self-giving of Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament in the Feast of Corpus Christi- the Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Through the Holy Eucharist, we are reminded, every time we celebrate it, that God love us and is present with us. Every time we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we hear God saying to us again that we are invited to have a place in the community of Love that exists in the Holy Trinity.
But more than that, the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist calls us to be like our Lord of Love. We are fed with the Body and Blood of Christ so that we might become the Body of Christ in the world. We are given the Body of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar so that we might become the hands and feet of Jesus in the world- hands and feet that are called and moved to action by hearts overflowing with love and mercy. We are nurtured by Christ Himself so that we can nurture and offer healing to others.
And the mystery of our ministry of compassion and healing, is that we receive the strength to love and heal others from those wounds that we carry in those deep places in our own hearts. Σπλαγχνίζομαι - being moved from our bowels to show compassion to others- is the gift the Holy Spirit gives us that both deepens our own healing and leads others in pain on towards their on paths of healing. This gift empowers us to have the courage to grow from our woundedness, and to raise others up with us. From our own personal pain, we allow the Holy Spirit to show us how to love and heal others.
Imagine how transformed our lives would be if we could tap into that healing grace that God offers through our own pain and suffering. Imagine how your family, parish, and community could be transformed if we allowed the Holy Spirit to fashion us a people of wounded healers. What might our ministries look like? What would become the priorities in our daily living and in the goals we set for our common life together in our parish?
Bobbie Sheranko, whose poem I read earlier, has allowed her pain to be the source of her compassionate action for others who are drowning in their grief. She writes poetry that expresses the feelings that many can not articulate, but find comfort in reading. She has posted helpful resources and encouragement on websites created to offer healing to grieving parents. Others like her have formed groups, such as the Compassionate Friends, which meets monthly to offer mutual support and to offer a safe place to share one’s experience as a parent who has lost a child.
There are many other examples of people who have allowed God to strengthen them in their love towards others. A former parishioner of mine discovered that her son had AIDS- and this was years ago when it was much more of a death sentence than it is now. Her heart was crushed; the pain unbearable. She felt helpless, overwhelmed- even angry. But she didn’t stay there. She opened her heart to God’s healing grace, and she was open to the possibility that she could share that healing grace with others. That led her to create a new ministry in her parish, called The Unseen Guest. This ministry meets weekly to cook dinners for people affected with HIV/AIDS. She could have easily wallowed in her pain forever- and make no mistake, the pain is still there; but she found the courage to allow God to transform her pain, so that she could be an agent of transformation and healing for others.
The road to discipleship is a way fraught with pain and suffering. Of course even though Jesus warned us that we would suffer because of him, we all know that suffering is a part of life, whether or not we follow the path of Jesus. What makes suffering different for us who are in Christ, is that the Holy Spirit enables our suffering to participate in the redemptive actions of God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that when we are baptized into Christ, Christ takes form in us, as Christ lives his ongoing life in and through us, and since God is a suffering God who bears our pain and sorrows, when we suffer, it is God who is suffering in us, taking form in a community of compassion through which God reconciles, saves and heals.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. (II Corinthians 1:3-4)
Today is my Name Day: St Robert of Newminster
Saint Robert, described as "gentle in companionship, merciful in judgment," studied in Paris and wrote a commentary--since lost--on the Psalms.
After being ordained and serving as a parish priest in his native place, he was made rector of Gargrave. He then became a Benedictine at Whitby and joined a band of monks from Saint Mary's Abbey, York, to establish a monastery in which the strict Benedictine Rule would be revived. They settled, in the middle of winter in 1132, in the valley of Skeldale on land given to them by Archbishop Thurston.
The monastery became known at Fountains Abbey due to the presence of springs within its borders. The group became affiliated with the Cistercian reform, and the house became famous for the holiness and austerity of its members and its way of life. Robert was one of its most devout monks. The abbey became one of the centers of the White Monks in north England.
Impressed by the establishment, Ralph de Merly, Lord of Morpeth, built a Cistercian monastery on his own land, the Abbey of Newminster. In 1137 he brought 12 monks from Fountains Abbey and appointed Robert abbot. The monastery flourished under Robert's rule, and he established a house at Pipewell in Northamptonshire in 1143, one at Sawley and another at Roche in the West Riding.
He is said to have had supernatural gifts, and visions and encounters with demons have been attributed to him. He fasted so rigorously during Lent that a brother asked him in concern why he would not eat. He responded that he might eat some buttered oatcake, but once it was placed before him, fearing gluttony, he asked that it be given to the poor. A beautiful stranger at the gate took it--and the dish. While a brother was explaining the loss, the dish suddenly appeared on the table before the abbot. It was thought that the stranger was an angel.
Robert travelled to France again to see Saint Bernard, after he was slandered by some monks about his relations with a pious woman. Saint Bernard appears to have decided that the accusations were false. As a symbol of his belief in Robert's innocence, he gave him a girdle, which was kept at Newminster for performing cures.
Before he returned home, Robert had an interview with Pope Eugenius III, who asked the bishop of Durham to give Robert some land at Wolsingham. Robert frequently visited his close friend the hermit Saint Godric. The night Robert died, Godric is said to have seen his soul ascending to Heaven like a ball of fire.
His relics were translated to the church at Newminster. Miracles were reported at his tomb, including one in which a monk is said to have fallen unhurt from a ladder while whitewashing the dormitory. His tomb became a center of pilgrimage. He is depicted in art holding a church (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, White).
(I needed a saint praying for me today.)
Robert’s biographer relates how on one occasion Abbot Robert saw the devil in the abbey church at Newminster, in the guise of a bare-legged peasant carrying a basket on his back. The devil appeared outside the choir during the night Office and, rolling his eyes, scrutinised the monks, looking to see which of them was susceptible to temptation. Realising his intentions, Robert prayed earnestly and urged the community to stand firm against temptation. After some time, the devil gave up and went instead to the lay-brothers’ choir and here he struck gold, for he saw a recent recruit, who was already planning his escape from the abbey. The devil, with his three-pronged fork, made off with this man. It was later heard that this former brother of Newminster had been beheaded, as a common thief, a grave warning to any other such recruits that might consider hot-footing it from the abbey.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
O Christ, You are the Resurrection, the Life, and the Repose of your servant, Isaac, departed this life...
Today Isaac would have been 5 years old. May Blessed Mary protect him under the mantle of her love, and may the Compassionate Christ who gathered the children in his arms hold him in the hallow of his hand.
O Lord who watches over children in the present life and in the world to come because of their simplicity and innocence of mind, abundantly satisfying them with a place in Abraham's bosom, bringing them to live in radiantly shining places where the spirits of the righteous dwell: receive in peace the soul of Your little servant Isaac, for You Yourself have said, "Let the little children come to Me, for such is the Kingdom of Heaven." Amen.
The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Reflections a day early)
The Word is all to the child, both father and mother and tutor and nurse. "Eat ye my flesh," He says, "and drink my blood." Such is the suitable food which the Lord ministers, and He offers His flesh and pours forth His blood, and nothing is wanting for the children's growth. O amazing mystery. Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, AD 200
"The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Love; It signifies Love, it produces Love," St. Thomas Aquinas
Since the 13th century the Church has paused on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday to reflect upon the mystery of the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar and to adore the presence of Christ in the Sacrament that transforms us to be the Body of Christ in the world. The Church also commemorates the Gift of the Holy Eucharist on Maundy Thursday, when we recall Christ's command to love one another; however, on this day we are so focused on the Passion of our Lord, that we can not celebrate the joy if the gift. The Solemnity of Corpus Christi allows us to celebrate the gift of Christ's Body and Blood with unfettered joy.
The feast was insituted by Pope Urban IV after two mystical visions that were reported to him. The first is the Miracle of Bolsena, which happened in A.D. 1263. Peter of Prague was a holy, devout German priest; however, he had some doubts about the Real Presence. During a pilgrimage to Rome, he stopped at the Church of St. Christina to offer Mass, and as he elevated the Host, it began to bleed. Not only was he convinced of the Real Presence, but he rushed to meet Pope Urban IV in Orvieto, bringing the Host with him. The miracle was declared, and the Host is still on display at the Cathedral of Orvieto today.
The second vision was given to St. Juliana of Mont Cornillon (A.D. 1193-1258), an Augustinian nun who saw a vision of a full and beautiful Moon marked by a black spot. The black spot was a sign of sorrow that there was no joyous celebration of the Eucharist in the entire Church calendar.
In response to both of the above, Pope Urban IV eventually published a Bull, Transiturus, in A.D. 1264, which made this Feast a part of the calendar. )
Part of the traditional celebration has included the Corpus Christi Procession, which developped later than the creation of the feast, as a means of encouraging the faithful to adore and gaze upon the Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. In York, England, the Corpus Christi Procession included a series of mystery plays that in the course of a day, re-presented the history of salvation from the Creation to the Final Judgement. Throughout medieval Europe, the Corpus Christi Procession often overtook the town, evolving into grand parades with floats depicting scenes from the life of Christ. People would- and still do in many Catholic countires, decorate their homes with greens and wreaths to honor the passing of the Blessed Sacrament.
The feast is a public holiday in many countries, including Brazil, Chile, Croatia, Germany, Austria, Poland, and Portugal.
This feast day is especially significant to me because it was the Blessed Sacrament that led me out of the Pentecostal Church into the Episcopal Church. I still remember the first Mass I attended. It was an anglocatholic Mass, and I was hooked from the moment the thurifer entered the nave and I smelled that sweet aroma of incense. But I was transfixed as the priest elevated the Host at the consecration. I had no sacramental theological instruction at that point, so I could not articulate a belief in the Real Presence; but intuitively, I felt Jesus Christ. I felt as close to God as I ever had. Later, I began to read the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, who gave some theological framework to what my heart already knew in experience. I still sneak into the church and kneel before the Reserved Sacrament whenever I get a chance; I still feel a closeness to Jesus there that I do not experience in any other way. In my moments of sorrow, grief,and loneliness, I only need to spend a few minutes alone with Jesus present in the Sacrament of the Altar, and I am refreshed and at peace; only a moment's gaze at the beauty of Christ, hidden in the bread, but seen in my heart, takes me to those outstretched arms that are eager to embrace my soul with the invitation, "Come unto me... and I will give you rest."
"My eyes, I have filled with Jesus upon Whom I have fixed them at the Elevation of the Host at Holy Mass and I do not wish to replace Him with any other image," - St. Colette
"He who made thee is made in thee. He is made in thee through whom you were made.... Give milk, O mother, to him who is our food; give milk to the bread that comes down from heaven." - St. Augustine
A homily for Corpus Christi by Pope John Paul II here.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Mass Grave discovered in Kiev: May the Great Name of G-D be exalted and sanctified. Amen.
The grave was found by chance last month when workers were laying gas pipelines in the village of Gvozdavka-1, near Odessa, said Roman Shvartsman, a spokesman for the regional Jewish community. He said that Nazis established a concentration camp near the village in November 1941 killed about 5,000 Jews at or near the site.
"Several thousand Jews executed by the Nazis lie there," Shvartsman told The Associated Press.
Ukraine's Jewish population was devastated during the Holocaust. Babi Yar, a ravine outside the capital Kiev where the Nazis slaughtered some 34,000 Jews over two days in September 1941, is a powerful symbol of the tragedy.
Hat tip: Huw
No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A drop sheer as a crude gravestone.
I am afraid.
Today I am as old in years
as all the Jewish people.
Now I seem to be
Here I plod through ancient Egypt.
Here I perish crucified, on the cross,
and to this day I bear the scars of nails.
I seem to be
is both informer and judge.
I am behind bars.
Beset on every side.
Squealing, dainty ladies in flounced Brussels lace
stick their parasols into my face.
I seem to be then
a young boy in Byelostok.
Blood runs, spilling over the floors.
The barroom rabble-rousers
give off a stench of vodka and onion.
A boot kicks me aside, helpless.
In vain I plead with these pogrom bullies.
While they jeer and shout,
"Beat the Yids. Save Russia!"
some grain-marketeer beats up my mother.
0 my Russian people!
are international to the core.
But those with unclean hands
have often made a jingle of your purest name.
I know the goodness of my land.
How vile these anti-Semites-
without a qualm
they pompously called themselves
the Union of the Russian People!
I seem to be
as a branch in April.
And I love.
And have no need of phrases.
is that we gaze into each other.
How little we can see
We are denied the leaves,
we are denied the sky.
Yet we can do so much --
embrace each other in a darkened room.
They're coming here?
Be not afraid. Those are the booming
sounds of spring:
spring is coming here.
Come then to me.
Quick, give me your lips.
Are they smashing down the door?
No, it's the ice breaking ...
The wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar.
The trees look ominous,
Here all things scream silently,
and, baring my head,
slowly I feel myself
And I myself
am one massive, soundless scream
above the thousand thousand buried here.
each old man
here shot dead.
here shot dead.
Nothing in me
shall ever forget!
The "Internationale," let it
when the last anti-Semite on earth
is buried forever.
In my blood there is no Jewish blood.
In their callous rage, all anti-Semites
must hate me now as a Jew.
For that reason
I am a true Russian!
St Boniface, Apostle of Germany, Monk of the English Church
Preface for the Liturgy of St. Boniface's Day
It is truly meet and just, right and availing to salvation, that we should always and in all places give thanks to Thee, O Holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God, Whose grace chose blessed Boniface to the episcopate, Whose teaching made him wise in preaching, Whose power strengthened him to persevere, that by way of the priestly mitre he might reach the palm of martyrdom, both teaching his subjects by preaching, and instructing them how to live by his example, and confirming them by suffering, that he might come to Thee to be crowned, who had fearlessly overcome the threats of his persecutors. By his intercession, we beseech Thee, may he cleanse us of our misdeeds who pleased Thee with such choice manifestations of Thy gifts, through Christ our Lord. By Whom Angels praise Thy majesty, Dominions worship, the Powers tremble. The heavens, and the heavenly Virtues, and the blessed Seraphim, concelebrate in one exultation, with whom command our voices also to have entrance, we beseech Thee, humbly confessing Thee, and saying: Holy, Holy, Holy, etc.
From Old Sarum Rite Missal, (c) 1998 St. Hilarion Press, Austin, Texas
Boniface, then known as Wynfrith, was born in Crediton, Devon, in about 680AD. He went to study at the Benedictine Monastery at Nursling, near Southampton. So able and respected did he prove to be, that when the old Abbot died, Wynfrith was offered his place: but he felt called to the life of a missionary and in 716 set sail to convert the heathen tribes in Frisia (now Friesland, The Netherlands). Although his first mission was not a success, his subsequent work in Frisia and Hesse, this time backed by papal authority, gained him the reputation of being an outstanding missionary and administrator. It was at this time that the Pope gave him the name of Boniface. In 722, Pope Gregory II made him Bishop of all Germany east of the Rhine, and Boniface embarked on 30 years of missionary work in Hesse and Thuringia.
He boldly tackled superstition, including the felling of Thor's sacred Oak at Geismar by his own hand in front of hostile tribesmen, and laid the foundation of a flourishing new church. In 738, he was made Archbishop, and crowned Pepin King of all the Franks at Soissons in 751 - an act which ensured the alliance between the Frankish crown and the Papacy which was to be the foundation of Charlemagne's Holy Roman Empire 50 years later. At the age of 70, he set out again to tame the wild tribes of Frisia. On 5 June 754/5, he and his companions were surprised at dawn by a band of heathen warriors near Dokkum. Boniface was struck down by a sword which pierced the holy book he raised to shield his head. His body was taken to Fulda for burial in accordance with his wishes.
A pleasant tradition credits Boniface with the invention of the Christmas Tree.
The Oak of Thor at Geismar was chopped down by Boniface in a stage-managed confrontation with the old gods and local heathen tribes. A fir tree growing in the roots of the Oak was claimed by Boniface as a new symbol. "This humble tree's wood is used to build your homes: let Christ be at the centre of your households. Its leaves remain evergreen in the darkest days: let Christ be your constant light. Its boughs reach out to embrace and its top points to heaven: let Christ be your Comfort and Guide". The tree became a sign of Christ in the world for the German peoples, and nowadays it is a universal reminder of Christmas.
A Prayer of Saint Boniface
Eternal God, the refuge and help of all your children,
we praise you for all you have given us,
for all you have done for us,
for all that you are to us.
In our weakness, you are strength,
in our darkness, you are light,
in our sorrow, you are comfort and peace.
We cannot number your blessings,
we cannot declare your love:
For all your blessings we bless you.
May we live as in your presence,
and love the things that you love,
and serve you in our daily lives;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Monday, June 04, 2007
+ James Kelsey: Servant of God, now resting from his labors
MARQUETTE — Rt. Rev. James A. Kelsey, age 51, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan, died Sunday afternoon from injuries sustained in an automobile accident. Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to the Canale-Tonella Funeral Home, which will release a complete obituary notice later.
Thoughts from Bishop Marc Andrus here.
Give rest, O our Savior, with the Just, to Thy servants, and set them in Thy courts, as it is written. And overlook in Thy goodness their sins, voluntary and involuntary, and all they committed knowingly and unknowingly, O Lover of men.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen. Christ our God, Who didst shine on the world from the Virgin, trough her making us children of light, have mercy on us.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Feast of SS Martha and Mary
Today the East remembers the SS Martha and Mary, who according to Holy Tradition were among the myrrh-bearing women who went to prepare Jesus's body for burial on Sunday after his crucifixion.
Troparion of Ss Martha and Mary
You fervently believed in Christ and His marvellous acts,O Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus. You were adorned with radiant virtues and were found worthy to be numbered with the Saints; together with holy Lazarus pray to God for us.
Here is an exerpt from S Augustine. You may also read a sermon by Fr Thomas Keating on the active and contemplative lifestyles represented by Martha and Mary here.
Homily by St. Augustine, d. 371
The words of our Lord Jesus Christ which have just been read from the Gospel, give us to wit that there is one thing toward the which we are making our way, all the while that we are striving amid the divers cares of this world. Thitherward we make our way, whileas we are still strangers and pilgrims, unpossessed as yet of any abiding city, still on the journey, not yet come home, still hoping, not yet enjoying. Still thitherward let us make our way, not slothfully nor by fits and starts, but so that some day we may arrive thither. Martha and Mary were sisters, not in the flesh only, but also in godliness; together, they clave unto the Lord; together, with one heart they served the Lord present in the Flesh.
Martha received Him into her house. It was just as strangers are received, but it was the handmaiden receiving her Lord, the sick receiving her Saviour, the creature receiving her Creator. She received Him, to give bodily meat unto Him by Whom she herself was to be fed unto eternal life. It had been the Lord's will to take upon Him the form of a servant, to be fed by servants (still out of his good pleasure, not of necessity), and in that form of a servant which He had taken upon Him. This was His good pleasure, to offer Himself as a subject for hospitality. He had Flesh, wherein He was somewhiles an-hungered and athirst, but know ye not how that, when He was in the desert and was an-hungered, angels came and ministered unto Him. Himself it was therefore, that gave unto them of whom He was fain to be fed, the wherewithal. And what wonder is this, if we consider how that holy Elias, coming from being fed by the ministry of ravens, asked bread of the widow of Zarephath, and himself gave her the wherewithal to feed him? Had God failed to feed Elias when He sent him unto the widow? God forbid. He did so that He might bless that godly widow for a service rendered unto His servant.
Thus was that same Lord received as a guest, Who came unto His own, and His own received him not, but as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, adopting servants and making them children, redeeming prisoners and appointing them co-heirs. Perchance some of you will say: O how blessed were they who were worthy to receive Christ as a guest into their own home! but mourn not, neither murmur, for that thou hast been born in an age wherein thou canst no more see Christ in the flesh. He hath not put the honour of receiving Him beyond thy reach. Inasmuch, saith He, as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Community of Love: Blessed Trinity Sunday
The Blessed Objector-Franz Jägerstätter
Huw has directed me to a blog written by Rocco Palmo on the Martyrdom and upcoming beaitification of Franz Jägerstätter, a young man who refused to fight for the Nazi's when drafted. Huw is kinder in his assessment of the irony that Venerable Franz will be beatified by a man who did not resist. However, as I am not God (duh) and can't judge the motives of the youthful Ratzinger/the Pontiff- (and God knows I dont know what if I'd have the courage to resist either) and since my southern momma taught me to keep my mouth shut if I can't say anything nice about someone; I'll just let this pass without comment.
You can read "Blessed Objector" here
Venerable Franz is already commemorated in the calendar of the Episcopal Church, on 9 August.
Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of your Love in the heart of your holy martyr Franz Jagerstatter: Grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigsh with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. (collect written by James Keiffer)
Friday, June 01, 2007
St Blandina and the Martyr's of Lyon
Grant, O Lord, that we who keep the feast of the holy martyrs Blandina and her companions may be rooted and grounded in love of you, and may endure the sufferings of this life for the glory that shall be revealed in us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The memory of Blandina, a slave, has been preserved in a letter from the survivors of the persecution of the Church at Lyons (Lugdunum) to the Church in Asia Minor, which Eusebius recorded in his history. The letter reports that the official persecutions began with a popular boycott that prevented Christians from entering enter private houses, baths, and markets. Many Christian masters were accused to the officials by their slaves who thereby hoped to escape suspicion themselves.
Through Blandina, ". . . Christ showed that those who in the eyes of men appear cheap, ugly and contemptible, are treated by God with great honor because of their love for Him, which displays itself in power and now mere outward boasting. For while we were all of us trembling and her earthly mistress . . . was in torment lest Blandina, so frail in body, should not be strong enough to acknowledge her faith frankly, the child was filled with such strength that the torturers, who followed one another in relays and tormented her from morning to night with every kind of torture, acknowledged that they were beaten and had nothing more that they could do to her." She repeatedly said, while being tortured, "I am a Christian, and nothing vile is done amongst us." She said this because they were accused of incest and cannibalism (a literal interpretation of Christians' consuming the Body and Blood of Christ).
Blandina's steadfast faith inspired Sanctus, a quite recent convert, and strengthened him.
After a time the Emperor said the apostates should be released; the obstinate executed. Blandina was taken to the amphitheater and "fastened to a stake as though to a cross; she prayed aloud, giving much courage to the others, who beheld with their very eyes, by means of this their sister, Him who had been crucified for them!"
The wild beasts would not touch Blandina, so they put her back in prison. On the last day, she and Ponticus--a 15 year old, were brought out (after having watched the others being tortured daily). Ponticus died first. She was then scourged, burned, tied up in a net and thrown to a savage bull to be tossed and finally she was killed. After the bodies rotted for a week, they were cremated, and the ashes thrown into the Rhone. This occurred under the reign of Marcus Aurelius.
Belief-O-matic Religion Quiz
1. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (100%)
2. Orthodox Quaker (96%)
3. Eastern Orthodox (80%)
4. Roman Catholic (80%)
5. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (80%)
6. Seventh Day Adventist (76%)
7. Liberal Quakers (75%)
8. Hinduism (66%)
9. Unitarian Universalism (65%)
10. Theravada Buddhism (58%)
Anglicanism is not an option in this quiz... I guess my results show why I am an Anglican *grins*
St Justin's eyewitness to the liturgical life of early Christians
John from the UK asked whether or not St Justin was important for liturgical studies, having given ac account of early Christian worship, and John is correct. St Justin writes about the Baptism and the Eucharist in his First Apology, which you can read here. Of course the entire text is an interesting read, but scroll down to the last few chapters to read about Baptrism and Eucharist.
Thanks, John for mentioning this.