24 April 2017

Except you ravish me.


Today's readings:
And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness...
Acts 4:29

At this time there were about 3,000 Christians in the whole world. Some Protestants would have us imagine that, essentially, those 3,000 would be the entire population of Heaven. I'm not going to wager a Universalism that I won't win because of free will, but I will wager the divine economy is a bit more lenient that some want to imagine. Those 3,000 Christians had a job to do: to witness to the Kingdom of Jesus and as they set about their business they met little opposition. Yet what they met was real enough. So they prayed one kick-butt prayer:
Sovereign Lord, maker of heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them, you said by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of our father David, your servant: Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples entertain folly? The kings of the earth took their stand and the princes gathered together against the Lord and against his anointed. Indeed they gathered in this city against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, Herod and Pontius Pilate, together with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do what your hand and your will had long ago planned to take place. And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness, as you stretch forth your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.
The Douay is even better:
Lord, thou art he that didst make heaven and earth, the sea and all things that are in them. Who, by the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of our father David, thy servant, hast said: Why did the Gentiles rage: and the people meditate vain things? The kings of the earth stood up: and the princes assembled together against the Lord and his Christ. For of a truth there assembled together in this city against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, To do what thy hand and thy counsel decreed to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants that with all confidence they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thy hand to cures and signs and wonders, to be done by the name of thy holy Son, Jesus. 
There are two things that I find awesome about this prayer: first although they recount the history of Jesus' passion, there is no blame. Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and the Jews all conspired To do what thy hand and thy counsel decreed to be done. Everything was sucky, yes: but it was only what God wanted. In fact, in God's mercy, that's all that ever really happens. (All things work for the good of those who love the Lord.) So, the Church prays, "Here in Jerusalem everyone assembled against Jesus to do exactly what you planned anyway. Caiaphas, Pilate, Herod, even mighty Augustus obeys God's plans." Now that the local authorities, though, are getting wise - and telling the Church to stop being the Church - the reaction is praising God.

How different is that from us today? On the one hand some act as if we cannot do the work the Church is called to do if the law does not allow us to. Some are afraid of losing tax benefits, or other practicalities. Some are convinced that the very end of Christianity in America is upon us. And some who have us hide away, to protect ourselves from the world: locked in a perpetual Upper Room Option, for fear of the world.

To this cringing, the Early Church - all 3,000 of them - who are about to change the spiritual, sexual, relational, financial, and political shape of the known world, all say: fiddlesticks. This is them saying fiddlesticks:
That's the second thing that's awesome about this prayer - all in verse 29 - "Take note of their threats and give us the cojones to not care." (It's in the Greek...ok, maybe not.) Most importantly, and actually in the Greek, the Church asks for the grace to proclaim God's Logos. That's Jesus, brothers and sisters: the logic by which all of everything is understood and, without whom you may have all the facts in the world, but not the Truth.

Being told "Don't do anything in the name of Jesus ever again" the Church did not run away and hide but rather trusted in God's divine mercy and said, "God's got this and we're just going to keep going." This, my friends, is the Pascha Option. Life has won. #GodWins It doesn't matter how the state changes definitions, or how far the world goes to kill us off. In fact, we know that when the world does that, we're doing something right! When the Church kneels down and says, "Just give us the grace to do what you told us to do..." God's divine Boo-yah! shakes the house.

I know I'm preaching to the choir, so I will just admit how I fail all the time. I'm scared a lot. I need this prayer every moment of the day. I need to remember the Pascha Option. It's deceptively simple: We're a mess. God came - himself - to fix us and transformed the very fabric of the universe. Now, even the sucky things are God restoring us to his glory. The Jesus Psalter would have us pray "Jesus, send me here my purgatory." Send me here all the tribulations and pains I can handle to prune off my pride, my impatience, my lack of charity, my lust. That way I can be more-fit for the society of angels. Send me here the pains I deserve, the sharp corners I must turn. Put me here in the rock tumbler and make me into the Christian you want me to be.

John Donne prays:
Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me. 
None of those pains are designed to make me shut up proclaiming the divine Logos: rather, in grace, I have to breath deep of the Divine Light and shout, all the louder, from the root-top.


23 April 2017

Peregrinations

Some will know my birth-name was Bill.
Billy as my Mom calls me.
And some will know my spiritual path looks like this.
And some will just have to keep praying.
How I get there is not as important as getting there at all.

This post is made in ironic self-defense.
And sort of a sub-blog.

The Thomas Option


Today's Readings:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews... Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
John 20:19a, 24

Where was Thomas that first night and why was he not locked up for fear with all the others?

Fear of the Parties in Power does not mean there was any real danger. For all we know from our point in history, perhaps literally every Jew is Jerusalem was home enjoying a family meal and avoiding leavened products. Maybe they thought they'd finally done away with this trouble-maker and his disciples were only so much dust. The Romans didn't care: they did their job and killed the guy, albeit a bit unwillingly. I don't think they would want to risk much trouble on the feast either.
In the lessons from Acts this week at Mass, it would seem that Peter has to remind Caiaphas about the guy he had killed.  I don't think anyone cared. Yet the disciples had seen their master slain.  I don't think they were illogically afraid. Yet we can never know how in sync they were with what was actually going on in Jerusalem at that time. It seems possible that their emotions were getting away from them. That crazy woman was getting annoying about her gardener. Matthew says when they saw him, "they worshipped him" but, even then, "some doubted".

So where was Thomas?

The Church Fathers posit the "earthliness" or, if you will, "carnal" nature of Thomas' lack of faith. And I'm ok with that. But let me read that same claim a bit further.

Would not the same man who says "Unless I see and touch him" also say "Unless I see a soldier coming at me, I'm not going to worry about it"?  When the Apostles were hiding out, is it not possible that, seeing how scared they were, Thomas did the manly (maybe brash and stupid as well) thing and went out to grab some food? Later, when Luke and Cleopus get back from Emmaus, "The Eleven" are all there, so he was only out for a short while. "We need food: someone has to get it and I'm not going to let my fear run away with me..." sounds like the same bro who would later say, "I'm not going to let my false hopes run away with me."

This is the Thomas Option then: to not hide out for fear of Jews or Romans. To get out and do something in the service of the Community that might get you killed and know that Jesus was talking to us when he said "blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe."






17 April 2017

Third Petition - Jesus Psalter


To see all the other notes in this series, click on "Jesus Psalter" or in the labels below. To see the first post click here.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus strengthen me. (x10)

Jesus strengthen me in soul and body to the performance of all virtue for thy pleasure, whereby I may attain to thy everlasting joy and felicity.
Mercifully grant me firm purpose to amend my life, doing penance for all the years I have misspent to thy displeasure in the practices of impious thoughts, enjoyments, words, deeds, and evil customs; in breaking thy commandments for which I deserve damnation and thine enmity.
Make my heart obedient to thy will and ready, for love of thee, to perform all the works of mercy.
Grant me the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the eight Beatitudes, the four Cardinal virtues; and, by the frequent and pious reception of thy Holy Sacraments, dispose me to thy devotion.

Have mercy on all sinners, O Jesus, I beseech Thee; turn their vices into virtues and, making them true observers of Thy law and lovers of Thee, bring them to bliss in everlasting glory.
Have mercy also on the souls in Purgatory, for Thy bitter passion, I beseech Thee, and for Thy glorious name, Jesus.

O blessed Trinity, one true God, have mercy on me.

Our Father (or Pater Noster). Hail Mary (or Ave Maria)


These petitions engage in one of the best pious customs of the period: making lists. This one is actually a meta-list, a list of lists! Contra the "impious thoughts, enjoyments, words, deeds, and evil customs; in breaking thy commandments" the writer posits the 14 Works of Mercy (7 corporeal, 7 spiritual),  the seven fruit of the Holy Spirit, the Eight Beatitudes, and the 4 Cardinal Virtues. Then the prayer invokes the Seven Sacraments. This pray asks for a lot! Again there is the realization that what went before Grace was sinful, take away my stoney heart and give me a heart of flesh set on fire for love of you.

16 April 2017

This happened...


Preparing to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ on Saturday Night, gathered in one room, not knowing it about each other, were:

  1. A Fraternity Brother whom I've known for 30 years.
  2. A Coworker whom I hadn't met yet.
  3. A Goddaughter from the Orthodox Church, and her husband, now returned home.
  4. A musician with enough Anglican History to pick all the right sort of music and keep me singing most of the night.
  5. Two people with whom I've spoken maybe 20 words? Who had a gift for me I wasn't expecting.
  6. A man with a bad pun on my name.
  7. A whole lot of new friends I didn't know I had.
  8. Quite a lot I already knew.



That, in a nutshell, has been my experience of the Catholic Church. "Here comes everybody." The Anglican, Prot, Eastern, Benedictine, Marian... all meet here. And some new things: the Courage Apostolate, the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, the Jesus Psalter. I used to be afraid of Dominicans... cuz of the Inquisition, you know. I didn't know my family included a Catholic martyr. The number of Lapsed Catholics - or as my friend, Bernardo says, "Collapsed Catholics" - that are in my life is astounding. Everything is here.

There are good places and bad places in the Church. There are good and bad people. There are corners of Mother Church that are nuttier than the darkest pools of Orthodox Converts on the internet; there are folks more triumphalist and sectarian than the bazillion Holy Remnant "True Churches" of Orthodoxy. Yet there is a wideness in God's Mercy, and a depth in the Church that cannot be obscured by the shallow bywaters. For every Saint Maria of Paris there is a Dorothy Day, for every Czar Martyr Nicholas, there is a St Louis. There's something else as well: I can't put my finger on it. Only half-jokingly it seems, Tu Es Petros really is a thing, after all.

Maybe it's just sheer numbers for in Russia or Greece it must be the same for the Eastern Church. Orthodoxy preaches the same divinely revealed moral teachings as the Roman Church. Yet in this country she rarely gets accused (other than by her own members) of interfering in modern secular "values" and "moral choices". Orthodoxy is "Mystical" whereas the Catholic Church is political and scary. Those politics can be viewed as isolated from the Church's Doctrines and thus as "Left" or "Right". Or they can be taken as an integral whole and seen as transcending earthly partisanship. But these political actions can (nearly) never be confused with "mystical" and "spiritual but not religious", therefore, "safe" for the modern world.

Perhaps in Russia or Greece, she does hospitals and orphanages and food for the poor. I say "perhaps" but I'm reasonably certain of it. Were I in Russia, it's Catholicism that would be the Boutique. Here, it's hard for a member of the Orthodox Parish Council to donate a sign to hang outside with service times for fear the wrong sort of people will come in the door.

Some would say I've left the Boutique and gone to Wal*Mart. But the grace is no less dearly given, nor the piety less deeply prayed, the teachings no less strongly struggled for or lived. The podcasts tend to be about beer, politics, and birthin' babies. The priests tend to sound rather like Bros and Bubbas. Or - and I'm hella lucky here - Surfer Dudes.

I'm on Aisle 42, near the avocados, hunting camo, and inflatable pools. I'm trying to engage the culture and learn New Evangelism, Theology of the Body, and Rosary-based-but-not-the-Rosary forms of prayer.

Also I'm in love.

Christ is Risen!


The Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom 

If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast.
If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.
If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived thereof.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing.
If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.

And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts.
And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering.
Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second.
You rich and poor together, hold high festival.
You sober and you heedless, honor the day.
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.

Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.
By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.

And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions.
It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory?

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown.
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen.
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice.
Christ is risen, and life reigns.
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.

For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.

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A desktop image, based on the Resurrection Icon by Mark Dukes for St Gregory of Nyssa Parish in San Francisco. At one time this Icon was given to all new members of the parish.  Click on it to embiggen and save to use as a desktop if you wish.

14 April 2017

Sonnet for Friday's Dawn


X - Peter
Now Peter, liar, rock, Apostle, friend
Here come I carefully to you: for pot
& kettle are both black. May we be not
That far by prayer each from the other's end.

The Priceless One betray’d by campfire hot:
Your Galilean drawl just cant. Yet I
Without a legal threat will try
To hide by options crafty, Christ forgot.

Dear Peter, priests through you our Christ did buy.
But watching here in pity & with fear
We hear betrayal as the dawn grows near:
Despair not lest away you trod & die.

Lo e’en the very Church's rock will bend
Until unfailing grace God to him send.