a priest's musings on the journey

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Month of Mary: :)

One Happy anglo-catholic boi
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 9:31 PM | link | 0 comments |

N.T. Wright on the Ascension and Second Coming of Jesus. (Give it a try- it's actually pretty good stuff)

Lord knows I do not agree with everything that Bishop NT Wright nor the quoted blogger below says... and some things Wright has said deeply grieve my heart. However, I like these thoughts on the ascension- very useful for preaching/teaching. Give it a read... Blessings to you all on this holy day.

(quoted from the kibitzer
In chapter seven of Surprised by Hope, “Jesus, Heaven, and New Creation,” N.T. Wright emphasizes that the ascension of Jesus, which he describes as a (until recently) relatively ignored doctrine, must be understood before we can properly understand the second coming.

The ascension thus speaks of the Jesus who remains truly human and hence in an important sense absent from us while in another equally important sense present to us in a new way. At this point the Holy Spirit and the sacraments become enormously important since they are precisely the means by which Jesus is present.

Additionally, early Christians were not, as is commonly assumed, bound to a three-tier vision of the universe, i.e., heaven, hell, and earth.

[W]hen the Bible speaks of heaven and earth it is not talking about two localities related to each other within the same space-time continuum or about a nonphysical world contrasted with a physical one but about two different kinds of what we call space, two different kinds of what we call matter, and also quite possibly (though this does not necessarily follow from the other two) two different kinds of what we call time.

So heaven and earth, understood in this way, are two dimensions of the same reality. They “interlock and intersect in a whole variety of ways even while they retain, for the moment at least, their separate identities and roles.” Combine this with the doctrine of the ascension and we do not have a Jesus who floats up into a heaven “up there” but disappears into a reality we cannot yet see. Because heaven and earth are not yet joined Jesus is physically absent from us. At the same time he is present with us through the Holy Spirit and the sacraments, linkages where the two realities meet in the present age.

Now that this is established he moves on to the question of the second coming in chapter eight, “When He Appears.” First, he says, Jesus never himself talked about his second coming. Here he appears to be advocating a form of partial preterism, though I’m not familiar enough with preterism to say this with certainty. The second coming was a doctrine worked out among the earliest Christians (before the time of Paul) as a conclusion drawn from the doctrines of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Wright defines parousia, the word used by Paul to describe the second coming, not as “coming,” but as “presence.” The word was in common use as meaning either the “mysterious presence of a god” or the visit of a person of high rank – like the emperor – to a subject state; it is obvious why Paul would have used the word to describe the second coming.

This “presence” then does not mean that Jesus is going to literally descend from the heaven “up there” at his coming. Since heaven and earth are both two dimensions of the same reality what the second coming means is that those two dimensions will be joined – think of the New Jerusalem of Rev. 21 - and Jesus will be truly present with us. And this appearance will make all things new.

There will come a time, which might indeed come at any time, when, in the great renewal of the world that Easter itself foreshadowed, Jesus himself will be personally present and will be the agent and model of the transformation that will happen both to the whole world and also to believers.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 9:31 PM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Muslims and Jews ask for an Inclusive National Day of Prayer on 01 May

Read here

Write your representatives and ask for a day of prayer that represents all people.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 9:16 PM | link | 0 comments |

End of the School Year

It is hard for me to believe that the semester at the University of Mary Washington is coming to an end. Classes ended last week and students are taking final exams this week. All is not quite over with the Canterbury Club, however. We celebrated Canterbury Sunday at the 11 a.m. Mass on Sunday at Trinity Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, VA. Students read the lessons, served as Chalice bearers, led the Prayers of the People and Eliza Diliberti preached an excellent (and powerful) sermon. (Be looking for the text of her sermon in a few days).

This week, the Canterbury House is open in the mornings and afternoons as a stress free zone, where students can come hang out, watch movies, play games or take a nap. In the evenings, it becomes a Study Hall for those who need a quiet space to study. The Prince of Peace Chapel is also open at all times for those who need to light a candle before the icons and say a prayer. Here are some prayers that one might like to use during Finals (I don't know the sources for all of these)



The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not flunk;
He keepeth me from lying down when I should be studying.
He leadeth me beside the water cooler for a study break.
He restoreth my faith in study guides.
He leads me to better study habits
For my grade's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of borderline grades,
I will not have a nervous breakdown For Thou art with me.
My prayers and my friends, they comfort me.
Thou givest me answers in moments of blankness;
Thou anointest my head with understanding.
My test paper runneth over with questions I recognize.
Surely passing grades and flying colors shall follow me.
All the days of my examination,
And I shall not have to dwell in this university forever,

St Ursula, patron saint of students
A prayer for those taking final exams
(Inspired by seeing so many students on AIM tonight studying for finals, which for us start tomorrow.)

Dear Lord:
Let those who are filling the library right now with their bodies and their thoughts
Study hard, but also eventually rest.
Let them realize that success on their exams comes
Not from pulling allnighters
Not from cramming
Not from losing sleep
But as the sweet fruits of a long semester
Of diligence, patience, humility, and sweat
Of losing themselves in the laborious doing
That comes when a long-held dream is finally pursued.
Let them know that their final exams not only measure their knowledge
But also, in the ending of the term, show how faithful You have been to them.
They know more now than they did in August.
They are better students, better stewards, of Your blessing of intellect.
Their thoughts are more like Your thoughts.
And no matter what happens, this cannot be taken away.
In that, let them rest
And tomorrow, Tuesday, and Wednesday, let them learn and be satisfied.
In Your Name: Amen.
(from the blog "castingoutnines")

St Gregory the Great, patron saint of students)

My God, enable me to trust in the good outcome
of the test I am about to take;
help me to contribute my own share
of optimism and confidence.
With your grace, my God,
I hope to crown my efforts with success.
Keep far from me at this moment
any presumption that it all depends
exclusively on me.
You are next to me, my God,
the necessary and welcome presence
in all the moments of my life.
I will take this test, my God,
because it is important
for my personal development.
My God, be the source of my inspiration
in my doubts and uncertainties,
supporting me with your blessing.

An Act of Hope
"O my God, relying on Thy almighty power and infinite mercy and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of Thy grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer. Amen."

Because love casts out all fear, I won’t let fear cloud or block my thinking. (from Prayers that Avail Much for Teens
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 7:51 AM | link | 3 comments |

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I Miss Those School Days....

Zachary had a long weekend because of a school holiday, so he was with me from Friday afternoon until Tuesday morning. His mother had to work Monday and Tuesday at the hospital, and her husband was out of town, so I had to drive him to school on Tuesday morning. It was a long morning driving the 4 hour round trip to Maryland- but I loved every moment of it. I really do miss the morning routine of preparing breakfast for him and getitng him ready to go to school. I miss preparing his lunch and the chats in the car (I always learned very useful information during those chats). Sigh....

At least I had one more morning, and for that gift I am grateful.

Zac before heading off to school 22 April, 2008
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 6:31 PM | link | 3 comments |

Monday, April 21, 2008

Letters to Pope Benedict XVI From 2 Gay Catholics

Gregory Maguire
Presentation for "A Few Minutes with the Pope: Lesbian/Gay Catholics Speak About
Their Church" -- a press conference sponsored by New Ways Ministry
National Press Club, Washington, DC
April 10, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI

Your Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, and ladies and gentlemen:

It may seem artificial to address Your Holiness this morning when I know you won't be in attendance at this press conference. Yet I write as an act of the imagination as well as a exercise of hope that your news bureau might signal to you this message of welcome.

I come from a family of writers. I am a professional novelist. I joke that anyone who publishes novels with titles like WICKED and CONFESSIONS OF AN UGLY
STEPSISTER and LOST must be, by definition, a Catholic novelist, and indeed, I am.
All my fictions are essentially about lost individuals in search of a home. An act of the imagination, an act of sympathy, can be the beginning of understanding.

My family taught me to pray as well as to write. My father and mother, now both
deceased, and the aging stepmother who raised me from infancy, and my six siblings—
they remind me that all will be well if I compose these remarks with courage and caritas.

I write in respect for the traditions of the Church, which is my home and my family as solidly as my biological and adoptive parents are, and as my husband and my adopted children are.

I present three things to you today: a blessing, a hope, an invitation.

I bless you for your work in the troubled world, your work for reconciliation among
troubled peoples, and for reconciliation within the hearts of troubled souls. Such work takes courage and caritas.

I name this hope for you: That you will be inspired by your visit to the United States. We Americans hardly invented the human failings of greed, solipsism, and hedonism, nor do we own exclusive rights to the virtues of generosity and sympathy that we sometimes practice. Still, our moment in history does make us visible exemplars of virtues and also of their counterparts.

Pope Benedict, my husband and I, married under the laws of the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts, are Catholics. We have three children adopted from overseas, ages 10, 8, and 6. They have all been baptized and the middle child will make his First Communion in ten days. We do this in the full and adult belief in the statements of the Creed, especially in the lines "we believe in one holy Catholic Church, in the communion of saints, in the forgiveness of sins." So doing, we struggle with certain statements from the Vatican that suggest as two married men raising orphans from overseas we are doing the equivalent of grave damage to our children. I won't air the details of my children's initial years to suggest what their lives might have been like had we not come along to adopt these children and bring them home. But an act of the imagination can well picture what those horrific realities. "Grave damage" doesn't begin to cover it. Infants are capable of suffering.

All three of our children were abandoned by their parents, who lived in situations of poverty, illness, and want of every sort. We have taken these children to our hearts, to our home, and to the baptismal font for the blessings that may follow.

But perhaps you shouldn't be asked to accept on faith my rosy portrayal of our family life. I am a storyteller, after all, and any schoolchild can tell you that another definition of a storyteller is a professional liar. Once, teaching writing to a group of seven year olds, I asked the students if they understood what was meant, in the outline of a story, by the 2 term "crisis." A second grade boy raised his hand and said, "It's when things get so bad that you have to say 'Christ!'"

The boy may have been parroting his parents' questionable language choices, or he may have understood somehow, deeply, one of the enduring prompts to prayer. When times get so bad, sometimes you have to speak to name of the eternal: Christ. Christ.

So my third message to you is an invitation. I am known for being almost criminally
earnest, but mind, now, I do mean what I write. My husband, Andy Newman, and I invite you to visit us in our home in Massachusetts. We invite you to spend a day, a meal, a weekend with us. We make the promise that, other than wearing slightly cleaner clothes, we won't put on a special Catholic show for you. We will live life with you as we live it ordinarily. Our children will say grace with you. Luke will race through it, mumbling, and Helen will declaim it with theatrical piety, and Alex will mime it through his stuffed monkey. It will be grace nonetheless. The children will recite their evening prayers at their bedsides. They will go to church on Sunday and try to remember during the homily not to do breaststroke competitions in two adjacent pews. We don't want to serve as a poster-family for gay Catholics, nor could we possibly manage it. We will just be ourselves, in all our confusion, aspiration, need, and joy. Remembering to attempt some measure of the corporal works of mercy among the obligations of homework, soccer, ballet, bath-time, piano, reading, and religious instruction. Andy, who was raised in Europe, speaks excellent French and his Italian is pretty good, too. We have room for an interpreter, an assistant or two. Our dining room table sits twelve. You will not need a taster.

If you look for us to be perfect Catholics, you will have to look elsewhere. If you look for us to be practicing Catholics, you will recognize us. We practice a lot.

A few weeks ago, I took my family to my original parish in upstate New York. My
stepmother is 91 this spring, and sickly, so we decided to attend as much of the Triduum as we could while visiting her for Easter. At the Good Friday service, the sacristans had gathered the chairs in a loose circle around the center of the room. There, the rude heavy Cross, no image of the suffering Jesus upon it, was raised to be venerated. From where we sat we could see people streaming from four corners of the room in turn, as if from all four corners of the world. It was like a stage set as organized by Caravaggio. Now the evening light fell now on someone's brow, now on this bowed back, now on a baby's forehead, now on a bent and greying head. When the frail came forward, acolytes lifted the Cross down to them since they couldn't lift themselves up. All comers to the Cross are welcome; we know this.

As the Cross stood in the half-light, and we contemplated it. I thought to myself: At the age of 53, dare I pray for a new level of understanding of Christ's suffering?

I tried to picture Jesus's holy form on the Cross, but I couldn't. My anticipation of the resurrection serves as a kind of inoculation, a stay against the apprehension of His true human suffering.

So I tried for a moment to imagine that someone else I knew was strung up on the Cross. My stepmother. My parish priest. My husband. My sister. One of my friends. Or
someone I was aware only distantly. Someone I'd never seen. One of those prisoners-of- war in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo. A resident in the Concord penitentiary a mile from my home. Anyone alive today. Anyone. Any single person. Even one of my own

The horror of the image was almost too much to bear. I thought: Christ. For an instant I Christ. For an instant I knew the feeling of wanting to throw myself up as a shield against the next aiming spear. I would clamor to take the lash, if I could spare my daughter or my sons.

That imaginative moment was a devotional exercise, a prayer that I might receive the
blessing of more courage, more caritas, for when it is most sorely needed: and a prayer of gratitude for Christ, who shared in the suffering of humans through His own trials.

Dear Pope Benedict XVI, I ask you to venture imaginatively into the suffering of your gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ. I ask you to contemplate the burden of those who feel chastised by the Church for a human condition they have neither requested nor, because they accept themselves as God has made them, rejected. I know this suffering is not of the same order as torture on the Cross, death on a battlefield, incarceration in a prison, dread in a hospital ICU ward, or abandonment by a sickly or impoverished mother. Nevertheless, it is a real suffering. I ask you and I ask the Church to enter imaginatively in understanding the needs and gifts of the faithful, to find out what we require for sustenance and to accept what we give to the Church and its people in return.

I believe this can happen, and I live in faith.

To imagine something is to approach understanding—well, it is one of the ways. To
experience it is another. So come to dinner. As Christ sat with the suffering, come sit with us. Chicken or fish? Red wine or white? Simple bread and local cheese. Courage and caritas. We'll wash the napkins. You are welcome any time, and you can take us as you find us, though a little advance notice would allow us to clear the bikes out of the driveway and tidy up the living room. We will try to help you feel at home.


Gregory Maguire and Andy Newman
Luke, Alex, and Helen Maguire Newman

Heather Mizeur
Presentation for "A Few Minutes with the Pope: Lesbian/Gay Catholics Speak About
Their Church" -- a press conference sponsored by New Ways Ministry
National Press Club, Washington, DC
April 10, 2008

If I were fortunate enough to meet with the Pope during his visit to the United States, I would use it as an opportunity to explain why I love Christ so deeply; why I love the Catholic Church so deeply; and why I love my wife so deeply. And how, with his help, this trinity of love can and should be encouraged, recognized, and valued.

From a very early age, I was blessed with an awareness of many things about myself –
what my professional, spiritual, and emotional callings were. I knew I wanted to be a public servant through elected politics to use government and community service as a vehicle for improving lives. I knew that my passion for helping others was connected to my love for Christ and the social justice teachings of my Church. And I knew that if I were to be honest about who I would want to share my life with, it would be another girl.

A politician. A Catholic. A lesbian.

That was a lot to shoulder in elementary school. I knew there were some people that
hated each one of those things. Some people hated them all.

So I chose first to focus on the thing I already was practicing: Catholicism. I figured if I got to know Jesus real good, I would be better guided on how to deal with other two.

It's probably worth mentioning at this point how "organic" my connection to Christ was at that time in my life. My family was not particularly religious. My parents believed in God but certainly never subscribed to the notion that one must go to Church to know God or be a good person. My father is Catholic. My mother converted prior to their marriage. We attended church as a family until I was in elementary school. Then, like many families, the burdens of holding everything together meant that some things slipped.

We often spent Saturdays doing fun family outings like packing picnics in the park,
wading and skipping rocks in the local river, going fishing, and riding on bails of hay in the back of the truck.

Sundays were spent meeting all of our relatives at Grandma's house for dinner and family time. Going to church regularly became one of those "optional" time sucks that my parents just couldn't seem to swing any longer – mostly because the time we spent in silence in our pews didn't seem as valuable to them as the time we were spending together in other activity.

The Church experience was something entirely different for me, though. I NEEDED to
be there. I hungered for the Eucharist – the physical presence of Christ. And my parents respected that. At my initial begging, my father would get up on Sundays to continue taking me to church. I would encourage my little sister to come with us. In that phase of our life, my father's presence at the mass was more as a chauffeur, less as a congregant.

When I turned sixteen, I was able to relieve him of that duty by driving myself and my sister. We attended mass by ourselves. Though only a teen, I was respected as an adult by other elders at the church because it was clear that I was choosing to be there of my own accord (many of my peers were still being dragged unwillingly to mass by their parents). I was given leadership roles as a Eucharistic minister and lector; chair of the Alter and Rosary Society; and a member of the Parish Council. My personal commitment to my faith and to my God grew deeply during those years.

I carried that commitment to college, where I attended daily mass and served on
Koinonia retreat leadership teams and was the Catholic confirmation course instructor at the Newman Center at the University of Illinois.

Faith wasn't the only thing I further explored in college. It was fairly easy to deny my lesbianism to myself and everyone else I knew while I was in high school. I spent all of my time and energy on academics and athletics. Being the high school valedictorian and MVP on the basketball team was more important to me at that time than dealing with my sexual orientation. That would have been too complicated in small town, rural Illinois. Rather, I had determined to spend my life giving of myself to others through community service and/or elected politics and to embrace a celibate life.

Of course, my faith was also tangled up in that decision. But in college, I began to try to figure out how the two could co-exist peacefully: how could I be a good Catholic lesbian?

The more time I spent in discernment, the more I realized I needed to let Jesus' voice on this issue come through to me, and not the Church's voice attempting to speak on His behalf. I put to work my own knowledge of theology and began to particularly appreciate our doctrine that supports the primacy of one's own conscience.

The Catholic Catechism, Part III, Chapter One, Article 6, is about the moral conscience: "Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths." Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. "He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters."

Over the course of years of discernment and prayer, I realized that my conscience has been bee telling me this: That being a lesbian is just who I am; who God created me to be. It is how I am to love and be loved. It is God's intention. It is but one strand in the entire web of my complex humanity, and everything in that circle of creation is meant to be glorified and honored.

With that realization, I determined to no longer deny a part of me to myself or the world.

Therefore, dear Pope, I ask that you, too, no longer deny me or my relationship the honor and respect it deserves.

Three years ago, my spouse, Deborah, and I exchanged eternal vows at a large public
ceremony with our closest family and friends. Our marriage is made of the stuff you
dream of when counseling young couples during Pre-Cana classes: our relationship is
humble, loving, caring, honest, and kind; it is built on mutual respect, admiration, and
fidelity; weekly church goers, we are keepers of the faith through regular prayer, fasting,
abstinence, and alms giving.

Pope Benedict, I would challenge you to get to know us and our love for each other; for
our Lord; and for our Church – and compare our relationship against any other you
consider as a role model. Honest reflection could lead you to only one conclusion: ours
is a marriage blessed by God.

And while we seek no Papal blessing or formal recognition for our own sake, we do
believe an improved progressive outlook on the Church's teachings regarding
homosexuality would be a welcomed change for others.

The Church has given us many reasons to want to leave, but Deborah and I believe in
working for change within an institution. There would never be any catalyst for change within the Church if all of us who sometimes disagree with Her were to leave.

For us, love of our faith is stronger than the hate we sometimes encounter. But,
unfortunately, that is not true for everyone. We have hemorrhaged many of our GLBT
brothers and sisters. They call themselves, "recovering Catholics." There is much you can do as our Pope to bring them home.

Let us refocus our time, talent, and energy on building a Church based on love, peace, and economic and social justice. A Church with open doors, not folded arms. A Church that is as enlightened as its Creator. A Church whose greatest commandment is to love thy neighbor as thyself.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 7:19 AM | link | 1 comments |

Friday, April 18, 2008

5th Anniversary of Isaac's Death 04/19/2008

Today is the 5th anniversary of my youngest sons death. He died on 19 April 2003 just moments after returning home from the Great Easter Vigil. One of the last things we shared together was the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ at the First Mass of Easter. In thanksgiving for the time God allowed him to be with me, and in gratitiude that through the Holy Eucharist we continue to be bound together through our communion in Christ, I offer the follwing words of his name saint, St Isaac of Syria. This reading will be read tommorrow at a Memorial Mass in Rio de Janeiro, celebrated by the Rev. Josi Saldanha, the rector of the Anglican Church of the Mediator and the Anglican Church of Good Jesus. My heart is filled with joy and peace at her kindness to Zac and me, in remembering our Isaac before God at Mass. Thank you all for your prayers. May Isaac continue to grow in grace until he beholds God face to face in eternal Glory.

Let yourself be persecuted, but do not persecute others.

Be crucified, but do not crucify others.

Se slandered, but do not slander others.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep: such is the sign of purity.

Suffer with the sick.

Be afflicted with sinners.

Exult with those who repent.

Be the friend of all, but in your spirit remain alone.

Be a partaker of the sufferings of all, but keep your body distant from all.

Rebuke no one, revile no one, not even those who live very wickedly.

Spread your cloak over those who fall into sin, each and every one, and shield them.

And if you cannot take the fault on yourself and accept punishment in their place, do not destroy their character.

What is a merciful heart? It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons, and for all that exists. By the recollection of them the eyes of a merciful person pour forth tears in abundance. By the strong and vehement mercy that grips such a person’s heart, and by such great compassion, the heart is humbled and one cannot bear to hear or to see any injury or slight sorrow in any in creation. For this reason, such a person offers up tearful prayer continually even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth, and for those who harm her or him, that they be protected and receive mercy. And in like manner such a person prays for the family of reptiles because of the great compassion that burns without measure in a heart that is in the likeness of God.

The person who is genuinely charitable not only gives charity out of his own possessions, but gladly tolerates injustice from others and forgives them. Whoever lays down his soul for his brother acts generously, rather than the person who demonstrates his generosity by his gifts.

God is not One who requites evil, but who sets evil right.

Paradise is the love of God, wherein is the enjoyment of all blessedness.

The person who lives in love reaps the fruit of life from God, and while yet in this world, even now breathes the air of the resurrection.

In love did God bring the world into existence; in love is God going to bring it to that wondrous transformed state, and in love will the world be swallowed up in the great mystery of the One who has performed all these things; in love will the whole course of the governance of creation be finally comprised.

Question: When is a person sure of having arrived at purity?

Answer: When that person considers all human beings are good, and no created thing appears impure or defiled. Then a person is truly pure in heart.

Love is sweeter than life.

Sweeter still, sweeter than honey and the honeycomb is the awareness of God whence love is born.

Love is not loath to accept the hardest of deaths for those it loves.

Love is the child of knowledge.

Lord, fill my heart with eternal life.

As for me I say that those who are tormented in hell are tormented by the invasion of love. What is there more bitter and violent than the pains of love? Those who feel they have sinned against love bear in themselves a damnation much heavier than the most dreaded punishments. The suffering with which sinning against love afflicts the heart is more keenly felt than any other torment. It is absurd to assume that the sinners in hell are deprived of God’s love. Love is offered impartially. But by its very power it acts in two ways. It torments sinners, as happens here on earth when we are tormented by the presence of a friend to whom we have been unfaithful. And it gives joy to those who have been faithful.

That is what the torment of hell is in my opinion: remorse. But love inebriates the souls of the sons and daughters of heaven by its delectability.

If zeal had been appropriate for putting humanity right, why did God the Word clothe himself in the body, using gentleness and humility in order to bring the world back to his Father?

Sin is the fruit of free will. There was a time when sin did not exist, and there will be a time when it will not exist.

God’s recompense to sinners is that, instead of a just recompense, God rewards them with resurrection.

O wonder! The Creator clothed in a human being enters the house of tax collectors and prostitutes. Thus the entire universe, through the beauty of the sight of him, was drawn by his love to the single confession of God, the Lord of all.

“Will God, if I ask, forgive me these things by which I am pained and by whose memory I am tormented, things by which, though I abhor them, I go on backsliding? Yet after they have taken place the pain they give me is even greater than that of a scorpion’s sting. Though I abhor them, I am still in the middle of them, and when I repent of them with suffering I wretchedly return to them again.”

This is how many God-fearing people think, people who foster virtue and are pricked with the suffering of compunction, who mourn over their sin; They live between sin and repentance all the time. Let us not be in doubt, O fellow humanity, concerning the hope of our salvation, seeing that the One who bore sufferings for our sakes is very concerned about our salvation; God’s mercifulness is far more extensive than we can conceive, God’s grace is greater than what we ask for.

When we find love, we partake of heavenly bread and are made strong without labor and toil. The heavenly bread is Christ, who came down from heaven and gave life to the world. This is the nourishment of angels. The person who has found love eats and drinks Christ every day and every hour and is thereby made immortal. …When we hear Jesus say, “Ye shall eat and drink at the table of my kingdom,” what do we suppose we shall eat, if not love? Love, rather than food and drink, is sufficient to nourish a person. This is the wine “which maketh glad the heart.” Blessed is the one who partakes of this wine! Licentious people have drunk this wine and become chaste; sinners have drunk it and have forgotten the pathways of stumbling; drunkards have drunk this wine and become fasters; the rich have drunk it and desired poverty, the poor have drunk it and been enriched with hope; the sick have drunk it and become strong; the unlearned have taken it and become wise.

Repentance is given us as grace after grace, for repentance is a second regeneration by God. That of which we have received an earnest by baptism, we receive as a gift by means of repentance. Repentance is the door of mercy, opened to those who seek it. By this door we enter into the mercy of God, and apart from this entrance we shall not find mercy.

Blessed is God who uses corporeal objects continually to draw us close in a symbolic way to a knowledge of God’s invisible nature. O name of Jesus, key to all gifts, open up for me the great door to your treasure-house, that I may enter and praise you with the praise that comes from the heart.

O my Hope, pour into my heart the inebriation that consists in the hope of you. O Jesus Christ, the resurrection and light of all worlds, place upon my soul’s head the crown of knowledge of you; open before me all of a sudden the door of mercies, cause the rays of your grace to shine out in my heart.

O Christ, who are covered with light as though with a garment, who for my sake stood naked in front of Pilate, clothe me with that might which you caused to overshadow the saints, whereby they conquered this world of struggle. May your Divinity, Lord, take pleasure in me, and lead me above the world to be with you.

I give praise to your holy Nature, Lord, for you have made my nature a sanctuary for your hiddenness and a tabernacle for your holy mysteries, a place where you can dwell, and a holy temple for your Divinity.

:: posted by Padre Rob+, 9:36 PM | link | 5 comments |

Thursday, April 17, 2008

ancient-future liturgy for pentecost

So, the head rector wants us to be creative for Pentecost. His vision is an ancient-future, emergent liturgy in which the experiecne of worship is itself the sermon. He envisions something Rite 3-ish (and since this is the third Mass of the day that's permitted by the rubrics). We will have Baptisms on that day- and so I have suggested we baptize by immersion. My other thought has been to project images of icons and symbols of the Holy Spirit and the Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit on the wall throughout the liturgy. But that's all I have... and even that, I am sure, will unsettle the ECW. I am after all a good Anglo Catholic boy... The very idea of Rite 3 on Sunday unsettles me. Nonetheless, I will be a dutiful assistant and try and create a liturgy that is both creative- as the rector desires (in praise of the Creative Spirit) and transcendant. I would ask for help from you all, though, because I really have no idea what I am doing. It is not my nature to *create and innovate liturgy*... So, what are your ideas? What does liturgical, creative, experiential worship for Pentecost look like? Share your ideas pelase!!!


Come to us, Creative Spirit
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 1:58 PM | link | 3 comments |

ancient-future liturgy for

:: posted by Padre Rob+, 1:58 PM | link | 0 comments |

Mystagogical Sermon on Holy Orders

Ok, here's sermon number 2 in the parish series on the Sacraments. The next- and last one- from me will be on Reconciliation and Unction. Peace.

For the past few weeks, we have heard readings from the Book of Acts which tell us the Story of the earliest days of the Church. From those stories we learn that the Apostles’ were faithful and fervent in their proclamation of the Gospel message that Jesus, who had been crucified, died and buried, had risen, and as the Christ had been seated at God’s right hand in Glory, and that all who believed on His name would find salvation. Many heard the gospel message, believed and were baptized- thousands at a time, as a few of the stories tell us.

These earliest believers met daily for prayer and the breaking of the bread, and shared their resources so that no member would be in need. It didn’t take long, however, for a problem to arise among the members of this newly formed community. It seemed the needs of the Hellenistic Jewish widows were not being met as promptly or as adequately as the needs of the Hebrew Jewish widows- and those being slighted began to ask for justice. The Apostles felt that their call to ministry was one rooted in the proclamation of the Gospel- and they could not leave that ministry in order to distribute food. So, in a pastoral response to their request for equality, the Apostles asked the community to select 7 men, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, to serve the needs of the community and to oversee the distribution of food to the widows in order to insure all the needs were being met. 7 Hellenistic Jewish men were chosen, including Stephen -of whose martyrdom we heard about today. The 7 were approved by the apostles, who laid their hands on them and prayed, thereby setting them apart for their special ministries in the community.

Although some contemporary scholarship argues that these 7 were set aside as presbyters, the traditional view sees this moment ion the life of the Church as the beginning of the Diaconate: or the order of deacons- that special order of ministry dedicated to ministering to the sick, the poor, and the needy, and committed to assisting bishops and priests in proclaiming the Gospel and administering the Sacraments. It is too the order of deacons that priests are first ordained and it is the charism of service that the Spirit gives to a deacon that continues to form and shape the ministry of a man or woman once s/he is priested and/or consecrated as a bishop. “Once a deacon, always a deacon.”

Some men and women are called to a permanent diaconal ministry. Others, at the discretion of the bishop, but usually after a 6 month to one year curacy, are called by God to serve the Church as ministers of word and sacrament, and are ordained as priests in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. Priests are called to preach the Gospel, administer the Sacraments, declare God’s blessing, pastor the people of God and equip them for service in the world.

Both the diaconal and priestly orders, however, share in the authority and ministry of the bishop, who as the successor of the Apostles, serves as the chief priest and pastor of the diocese, guards the faith and unity of the church, proclaims the word of God, lives a life which participates in Christ’s ministry of reconciliation, and ordains others to carry on the ministry of Christ.

The Sacrament of Holy Orders (Ordination) takes its name from the fact that bishops,
priests, and deacons give order to the Church. They guarantee the continuity and unity of the Church from age to age and from place to place from the time of Christ and the apostles until the establishment of God’s kingdom in eternity. In the Sacrament of Holy orders, the gift of the Holy Spirit is imparted through the laying on of hands by a bishop and the invocation or epiclesis of the Holy Spirit, thereby setting a person apart for service in the Church. For some there is the concern as to whether or not our Anglican orders are valid. Rome has said that they are not. Personally, I do not need the approval of Rome because I know that my ordination is valid, because I have been ordained by a bishop in apostolic succession who has laid hands on me and has invoked the Holy Spirit to fill me with the grace that I need to be a priest in the Church of God. This form of the sacrament is the valid form which has evolved from apostolic times- and I trust the Holy Spirit to work through this action, just as the Spirit does in all sacramental acts. But, if you do need the validation of Anglican orders from another jurisdiction in the church, your heart can rest in knowing that many in the Eastern Orthodox Churches have concluded that our Anglican orders are valid, including the Patriarch of Constantinople, Meletios, who in 1922 issued an Encyclical on the Validity of Anglican Orders, in which he wrote that in Anglican ordinations “…there are found in their fullness those orthodox and indispensable, visible and sensible elements of valid episcopal ordination - viz. the laying on of hands, the Epiclesis of the All-Holy Spirit and also the purpose to transmit the charisma of the Episcopal ministry.”

This action, that we as Anglicans continue to perform as successors to the Apostolic tradition, is specifically done to set apart bishops, priests, and deacons- but generally speaking all of the people of God are set apart as priests with the laying on of hands by the bishop in Holy Baptism. (As a side note, bishops no longer lay hands and anoint every baptized person with chrism, but chrism is blessed by the bishop and priests anoint the newly baptized with chrism in the name of and on behalf of the bishop, and the newly baptized are sealed by the Holy Spirit and made Christ’s own forever.) It is this being set apart in baptism that unites all of us to Christ’s priesthood and calls each of us to participate in some way in Christ’s mission in the world. Holy Orders only sets apart those already called to share in Christ’s eternal priesthood to exercise special ministries of oversight, leadership, teaching and pastoral care. These men and women are called to serve, empower, equip and bless the baptized so that they can exercise the ministries to which they have been called. One of the primary ways that the ordained equip the baptized is through preaching and the administration of the Sacraments. But we ordained clergy are also called to live lives worthy of the Gospel, so that, as St Francis put it, we are able to preach the Gospel at all times, sometimes without words.

But then, all of the baptized are called to live lives worthy of the Gospel, and we all are called to proclaim the Good news of God in Christ in word and deed. This calling is particularly clear in the Epistle reading appointed for today from 1 Peter 2. These words come from the early Christian community’s instruction for the baptized- and may contain parts of an ancient baptismal hymn- which describe for the catechumen- that is the one awaiting baptism- what this community in Christ is like. This instruction in 1 Peter teaches that the baptized are members of a royal priesthood, a holy nation- a people set a part by God as living stones that are built upon Jesus Christ the Cornerstone and joined together by the Holy Spirit to be a Temple where God’s presence may be found. As priests we share in Christ’s priesthood and offer sacrifices of praise to God- not only as we offer the Holy Eucharist- but also as we offer the sacrifice of a holy life which bears witness to the love of God in Christ.

The catechism in the Prayer Book asks:

Q. Who are the ministers of the Church?
A. The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops,
priests, and deacons.
Q. What is the ministry of the laity?
A. The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his
Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be;
and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on
Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take
their place in the life, worship, and governance of the

Each of us, whether we are set apart for service to the world in Baptism, or set apart to equip and nurture the faith of the baptized in Holy Orders, are called to participate in the priesthood and ministry of Jesus Christ, according to the gifts which the Holy Spirit has given us. Being an ordained clergy person does not make one closer to God or holier than other Christians. Yes, because of our training we are often better equipped to interpret scripture and preach the Gospel, and only the ordained may administer the Sacraments- other than baptism, which is valid if any baptized person administers it. But those distinctions are only differences of calling and ministry. The ministry of presence and compassion, the ministry of hospitality, the ministry of teaching and spiritual nurture, the ministry of music and artistic prayer, the ministry of healing and love, the ministry of the stewardship of this house of prayer and all other ministries in which we are involved are as important as what we priests do when we proclaim the Gospel and administer the sacraments. All that we do is rooted in the work that Jesus Christ has done to reconcile all to God, and to bring about God’s Reign of Peace and Justice. All of our ministries proclaim the Love of God and make visible the Body of Christ and the life of God in the world. So, be thankful for those God has called and will call to holy orders. Pray that God would call faithful men and women to the service of the Church- and pray for us who are already ordained- Lord knows we need your prayers. But also be thankful that you have been gifted by the Spirit and called to share in Christ’s priesthood. Pray that God will show you how to best use your gifts in the church and in the world- so that all might come to know the loving embrace of God
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 8:58 AM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, April 11, 2008

In the Midst of Life We Are In Death

This has been an emotionally, physically, and spiritually draining week- a week of wrestling with a young person struggling with issues of life that have overwhelmed him and led him to hoplessness and suicidal thoughts; a week of celebrating the life of a godly servant of God and the Church who died yesterday; and a week of helping an elderly man who has come to end of his journey prepare to let go of the life in this world and to be ready to greet the Holy Angels summoned to carry his soul to the bosom of God.

I was feeling a bit conflicted and overwhelmed about my week with Death, especially in the middle of Eastertide- until this morning when I realized that the Resurrected Christ has been present in each of these situations (You'd think I'd have figured that out before now, since I'm a priest-) Suddenly, I am feeling peace with the potential for new life that the Holy Spirit is birthing in this young man as he seeks professional help for his troubles. I am feeling joyful that two servants of God have entered into the glories of the beatific vision are at rest from their labors.

In the midst of life we are in death, says the anthem at the beginning of the Burial Mass in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. But it's a good death- a holy death-a death to our false self and to those things that separate us from the love of God and from community with others. It is a death that leads to true life in God, enjoyed not only in the life to come, but even today if we can but open our eyes to see the Risen Christ at work around us, breathing the life-giving Spirit into our dead corpses and raising us to new life. And so I rest, remembering again the joy of Easter morning, when bells were rung, the organ shouted in joy, and the people of God rejoiced to hear that the Lord is Risen! Alelluia! Alelluia!

I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction? (Hosea 13:14)

"DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:54ff)
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 7:27 AM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, April 07, 2008

Death be not proud.......

Death wanders through our lives at will, sweet Death
Is busy with each intake of our breath.
Why do you fear her? Lo, her laughing face
All rosy with the light of jocund grace !
A kind and lovely maiden culling flowers
In a sweet garden fresh with vernal showers,
This is the thing you fear, young portress bright
Who opens to our souls the worlds of light.
Is it because the twisted stem must feel
Pain when the tenderest hands its glory steal?
Is it because the flowerless stalk droops dull
And ghastly now that was so beautiful ?
Or is it the opening portal's horrid jar
That shakes you, feeble souls of courage bare?
Death is but changing of our robes to wait
In wedding garments at the Eternal's gate.

- Sri Aurobindo

Have you ever seen Death? I don't mean a dead person or creature or the consequences of death. Have you seen Death? A parishioner once told me the story of his grandfather's passing. He had been ill and they knew he only had days to live. One afternoon, all of the family had gathered around him. Some were talking to him; some were singing hymns and reading Bible verses. Others prayed. Then suddenly and dark chill entered the room- he could see the death angel move through the air, and he said to himself, "Death is here. Grandpa's time has come."

I haven't seen Death or the "death angel", but I've felt its presence plenty of times in my ministry as a priest. I once witnessed the death of a saintly woman who had lived almost 100 years. She had lived a holy life- if anyone had followed the way of Jesus, she had. I was called to her bedside because she was going to be removed from life support, at the request of the family, and her death was imminent. We said a prayer, the Litany in the Prayer Book and a few Hail Mary's, and then she the tubes were removed. I anointed her with oil and asked that the Presence of Christ would be with her and that she would be taken to Heaven by the angels. Of course her children were sad and devastated; but when Death came, there was a joyous serenity that filled the room. We all knew she was going to be with God.

I have witnessed other deaths that weren't as hopeful or peaceful. I have witnessed men cursing God with their last breath; I've seen others fight and struggle to gain one more breath. I've seen children taken from their families before their life had even begun. Once I was even asked to baptize a child that had died. (I know there are theological issues with that, but my pastor's heart told me to do it anyway... and so I did). In almost all of these occasions, one could feel the air change as the a chill filled the room just moments before Death's departure with the soul of the one whose time to take their journey across the waters of the Jordan.

It must seem odd that as we enter the middle of the celebration of our Lord's Resurrection that I would write about death; after all, aren't we celebrating Christ's victory over Death? I agree it's an odd subject for Eastertide... and I wouldn't contemplate anything other than Death's annihilation by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ if it weren't for the fact that I feel Death lurking about this night. No, I am fine. I am not in any danger- as far as I know. But I fear someone that I know is. This evening I saw this person and I also saw Death- or at least I felt Death- I felt the fear of Death and that same chill that I had felt in the hospital rooms before. As I looked at this person this afternoon, I could see nothing but utter darkness; the darkness of Death enveloped them totally. This person is not ill; but s/he is suicidal. And this night I fear Death is courting. I've talked with this person on several occasions about their suicidal thoughts. I hear them and I take them seriously. I don't see this person's life so tragic or problematic that suicide seems like a solution- in fact s/he has a wonderful life- as I see it... And then, as I see it isn't really the point. S/he must be feeling so trapped and hopeless. I just wish s/he could find a spark of hope that would will him/her to live.

S/he is sleeping at the moment- When s/he sleeps s/he can escape the suicidal thoughts. S/he sleeps and I am keeping watch with them... praying, praying, praying to Our Lord, the Holy Mother of God and all the saints... and yet, I feel so powerless. I can listen; I can offer my compassion and love; I can weep and pray- but I can do nothing more. I can not make her/him will to live- and yet, I can not just let it happen. I stand and fight- I pray to the Lord of Life and hope that He will rescue His Servant from the gates of Death and lead him back to the paths of Life. I ask God to send Death away this Night- I am not willing to see this beloved child of God leave this night. I can't believe his/her journey is finished. S/he has so many talents and so much potential- s/he has so much beauty in her/his heart... She has the potential to change the world......

I feel death near.... but Death can't be stopping here tonight..........

O God make speed to save us
O Lord make haste to help us.


Suicide is very often caused by depression. In fact an ongoing sense of sadness and depression can be a sign of suicidal tendencies, especially if accompanied with other signs like:

# Withdrawing from family and friends.

# Sleeping too much or too little.

# Feeling tired most of the time.

# Gaining or losing a significant amount of weight.

# Making statements such as these:

# I can't go on any longer."

# "I hate this life."

# "There's no point to this stupid life."

# "Everyone would be better off without me."

# "Life is not worth living."

# "Nothing matters anymore."

Other signs for suicide may be found here

More information on suicide prevention may be found here.

if you observe any of these signs- or even suspect that a person might be suicidal- take it seriously. Get help.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 5:08 PM | link | 2 comments |

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Mystagogical Sermon on the Holy Eucharist

The head rector has decided that for Eastertide we will preach a mystagogical sermon series on the sacraments. Last week he preached on Baptism; this week I will preach on the Most Blessed sacrament of the Altar. I post it here, not because I think it is a great sermon, but because I've never preached a mystagogical sermon before- so I'd like to see your thoughts and comments about it before I preach on Sunday (don't be too harsh though, padrerob bleeds easily) ;)

thanks! Christos Anesti!!

Mystagogical Sermon Series: On the Sacraments
The Holy Eucharist
Third Easter, Year A 2008

In the Name of God by whose Spirit Christ is Risen +. Amen.

In the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, we renounce the world, the flesh and the devil- as the old prayer book put it- turn towards God in repentance of our sins, accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and are buried in the waters of baptism in the name of the Most Holy Trinity. In the waters of baptism we die to ourselves and to sin. By the power of the Holy Spirit we are raised to newness of life into the Risen Life of Jesus Christ, granted the forgiveness of sin, adopted as God’s children, and incorporated into the body of Christ. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism is the sacrament of new birth: the font is the womb of the Holy Spirit, by which we are born again as children of God. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism is the door through which we enter into the Household of Faith and find a place in the Communion of saints. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism is one of the two dominical sacraments- that is the sacraments instituted by our Lord himself. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism was instituted by our Lord when he commissioned the apostles to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

The second dominical sacrament is the Most Blessed Sacrament- the Holy Eucharist- sometimes called Holy Communion and the Lord’s Supper. It is the sacrament that Christ instituted on the night before he suffered and commanded us to do as often as we could in remembrance of his life, death and resurrection, until his coming again. In the Holy Eucharist, we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, by giving of ourselves, and by offering to God bread and wine, in obedience to Christ’s command. In return, God receives the gifts that we offer, and by the power of the Holy Spirit they are transformed and become conduits through which we are united to Christ’s all sufficient offering of himself for us on the Cross. In union with him, we become partakers of the self-giving love of God , and we are given life through the life of Christ. Through the Holy Eucharist we are fed by Christ with his own body and blood- nourished and strengthened to live as children of God in the world. This spiritual food is the ‘medicine of immortality’- by which we are made more and more to be like Christ. This happens because our remembrance of Christ’s life, death and resurrection makes Christ present in the bread and the wine, and in the assembly of his gathered body. Our remembrance of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, however, is not a mere recollection of his story; it isn’t recalling to mind favorite scenes from his life’s story: much like we did in the Pentecostal Church of my youth, when we, seeing the bread and wine only as symbols of Christ’s body and blood, wept at the altar as we recalled visions of the Cross and Christ’s sufferings for our sins. No, this kind of remembering is best expressed by the Greek term anamnesis… anamnesis means to bring the past to the present and the present to the past. In the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, we truly experience Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, and Christ is made present to us… and we are made present to him.

In classical Anglican theology- rooted in the faith of the church catholic- not meaning Roman Catholic, but to the catholic, universal faith believed by all people in all times and places- this is called the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Since the times of the earliest Christians, it has been believed that Christ is truly present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. We believe in the Real Presence not only because in the words of Institution our Lord said of the bread. “this is my body” and of the wine, “this is my blood,” but also because the apostles experienced the Risen Christ in the breaking of the bread, as we heard in today’s Gospel reading, and because Jesus taught in other places that we could only receive the life of God and become members of God’s emerging Kingdom by eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Take for example the words of Jesus in the 6th chapter of the Gospel of St John:

"I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever."

Of course there are some who interpret these sayings figuratively and want to say that Jesus is using symbolic language. But the Greek is pretty clear that Jesus LITERALLY means that his body is the food that offers us the life of God. I could translate this as “my body is real food; my blood is real drink, indeed.” And when Jesus is challenged by the Pharisees who are offended by his comment, he does not clarify his words by saying, “O, sorry, you didn’t get my point, I was speaking metaphorically.” No, instead Jesus intensifies the offense by reiterating four times that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have eternal life. This was too hard a saying for some of his disciples, and because of this teaching they walked away.

“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you have no life within you…“: that’s a hard saying for us as well- but like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, many of us have also experienced the Risen Christ in the breaking of the bread- and many have before us. The witness of the Early Fathers strongly testifies to the real presence of Jesus Christ in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote: “I have no taste for corruptible food… I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ… and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible.” St Cyril of Jerusalem preached in his own mystagogical sermon on the Eucharist in the 4th century, “Do not, therefore, regard the Bread and the Wine as simply that; for they are, according to the Master's declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ. Even though the senses suggest to you the other, let faith make you firm. Do not judge in this matter by taste, but -- be fully assured by the faith, not doubting that you have been deemed worthy of the Body and Blood of Christ. And Tertullian wrote: “The flesh feeds on THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST, so that the SOUL TOO may fatten on God. ”

As Anglicans we believe that Christ is truly present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist: In the First Book of Common Prayer, issued in 1549, the rubric in the prayer book instructed priests to communicate the baptized with these word: “the body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life.” These words were, of course, not Protestant enough for some of the Reformers in England, and Cranmer removed them in the 1552 Book of Common Prayer and inserted the words: “Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving.” However, by 1558, Queen Elizabeth I wanted the original words reinstated. She is credited with having said: “Christ Jesus took the bread and brake it. He was the Word that spake it. And what that Word doth make it, that I believe, and take it.” There were, however, some bishops who objected to a return to the more catholic theology of the 1549 prayer book. In the end, in classical Anglican Via media fashion, a compromise was reached that would enable all to embrace the idea of the Real presence. The compromise merged the two together, creating an ambiguity and a sense of holy mystery that has come to define us as people fervent in our belief in the real presence, but not needing to know exactly how it is that Christ becomes present. We Anglicans do not have theologies that explain how it is that Christ is present in the bread, and what happens to the bread after it becomes the body of Christ. We do not need to explain at which moment the bread and wine becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ. We are comfortable with the assurance alone that he is present in the consecrated bread and wine- and we are comfortable to live within the mystery of how that can be possible. In fact, towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign, Anglican devotion for and adoration of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic mystery was already beginning to emerge. Richard Hooker would write: “what these elements are in themselves it skilleth not: It is enough that to me which takes them they are the body and blood of Christ… Why should any cogitation possess the mind of a faithful communicant than this, O my God, thou art true; O my soul, thou art happy?”

By the 17th century, the Caroline Divines would further develop an Anglican Eucharistic theology which taught, in agreement with the teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, that our participation in the mysteries of the Holy Eucharist enables us to partake in the divinity of Christ- since Christ has deified our humanity by his Incarnation. In other words, when we receive the body and blood of Christ, the Holy Spirit deepens the sanctification of our souls and we are made to be more like Christ. Which is what Paul was getting at in his instruction to the Corinthian Church about “discerning the Lord’s Body” when we eat this bread and drink this cup. Yes, there is something in that phrase about recognizing that we are receiving Christ himself when we receive the Blessed Sacrament of the altar- and that’s why some of us genuflect or bow deeply to reverence the Blessed Sacrament- but there is more. Discerning the Lord’s Body also means recognizing Christ present in others; discerning the body of Christ is seeking and serving Christ in those who gather at the table with us; discerning the body of Christ is recognizing that we ourselves are members of the Body of Christ- and as members of the Body of Christ, we are called to carry on the mission of Christ in the world- to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world- to offer to God and others the same sacrificial, self-giving love that enabled Jesus Christ to offer Himself for us on the Cross and to make himself ever present to us in the Eucharistic feast. We receive the body of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament so that we may become the Body of Christ. “If then,” as St Augustine of Hippo wrote, “you are the body of Christ and his members, it is your sacrament that reposes on the altar of the Lord… be what you see and receive who you are.”” There you are on the table, and there you are in the chalice.”

The miracle of transformation is not only in the bread and the wine: in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist we too are transformed by the Holy Spirit; the real presence of Christ also becomes manifest in us. This transformation is an echo and a continuation of the Incarnation - of God putting on flesh and dwelling among us and showing us the path of life. Christ feeds us his body and blood so that he might be present in us, and so that we might be the presence of Christ in the world and participants in God’s work of reconciliation in the world.

So, since the Holy Eucharist unites us all to Christ, transforms us all into members of Christ’s body and unites us to one another so that we can serve the world in self-giving love, it is also a conduit for unity. As we share the one bread and drink from the one cup, we receive grace from the one Spirit who is brooding over us and joining us together into one body and one united presence of Christ offering itself for the world. Of course unity does not mean uniformity: There is one body, but there are many members, St. Paul teaches. There is one Spirit, but a diversity of gifts. Through the Holy Eucharist we are made one body in Christ, and yet, the most casual observation of the Church shows that we are not united. Not only are we divided between various sects and denominations, but in our own Episcopal Church we grieve over divisions that undermine our unity and threaten to separate us from each other. Amid these divisions, the Holy Spirit calls us to gather around this holy table more and more in order to share more often the one bread and the one cup through which our bonds of affection and our unity in Christ is strengthened . Each time we share this Eucharistic meal, each time we experience the real presence of Christ among us, each time we receive the grace of this holy sacrament, we become closer to the dream God has for us to be agents of reconciliation in the world, and to the desire that Christ has that we would be one as he and the Father are one. Consequently, during times of disagreement and distress, we are not permitted to separate ourselves from the rest of the body, nor are we allowed to excise those with whom we disagree. Again St Paul writes:

As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

We are all a part of one another; we are bound to each other, because we all are bound to Christ. I like the dictum, “In essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty; in all things love.” It is this Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist that enables us to live together according to the rule of love- and since God is love, that’s the only rule by which we can live and remain united to the life which God offers us. Hear again the words of St. Augustine, “There you are on the table, and there you are in the chalice.” “Be what you see and receive who you are.”

:: posted by Padre Rob+, 2:45 PM | link | 9 comments |

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Day 6: On to Lindisfarne

So, today we realized how stupid we Americans can be regarding using public transportation. Who knew that we had to tell the conductor that we intended to get off the train at Berwick-upon-Tweed. There we were standing at the doors ready to get off, and they did not open. Everyone was very understanding, however, and we were told we could ride on to Newcastle then board a train back to Berwick. The mistake turned out to be fortuitous, because the English countryside was stunning- as was the view of the Holy Island from the train.

Finally, we arrived in Berwick, and after a short taxi ride, we were on the Holy Island Lindisfarne. For me it lacked the mystical "thin-ness" of Iona; Lindisfarne bordered upon being nothing more than a museum. And yet, the presence of the holiness of St. Aidan and others who served there somehow lingered. We spent some time, even though the winds were fierce, exploring the ruins and imagining what life must have been like for the monks there. After lunch in the pub we walked down to the beach and I sat; I gazed over the waters that had isolated us from the mainland and I contemplated the greatness of God and the inconsequential nature of my own being. It was a humbling moment: and then again a moment in which I felt totally loved by God. It was a moment in which I felt an immense trust in God and knew deep down in my heart that "all shall be well."

The wind really was fierce, and it was bitterly cold, so we eventually sought warmth and protection in St Mary's Church. We spent the rest of afternoon there in prayer, until the priest came to officiate at Evening Prayer. After the Office the causway was open once more and we returned to Berwick to catch the train back to Glasgow in hopes of a good night sleep before our trek back to the US on the morrow.

:: posted by Padre Rob+, 1:29 PM | link | 3 comments |