24 May 2017

An Offering to the Holy Family of Nazareth


Holy Family of Nazareth, hear the prayers of a prodigal. I have sinned before heaven and against you. Take me as one of your hired servants.


Chaste Heart of Joseph, I beg thy prayers. Like thee may I be chaste and stable. May my work be diligent and ever ordered only to the provision, safety, and advance of God's Kingdom, the Church. Bless my skills and talents, that, like thee, I may ever use them to God's glory and not my own. Let me never be idle, or sloth; let not the noonday demon find me ready to make a mockery of God's labor and my own. Fix me in chastity in action, word, and thought.

Pray for me, St Joseph, together with thy Most Immaculate Spouse, that I may work out my salvation with fear and trembling; that having thee as my father and she as my mother, I may truly have Jesus as my brother and may be a devoted servant of the Holy Family of Nazareth.


Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg thy prayers. Like thee may I be open to the will of God, and every ready in whatever state of life I find myself, to keep silent save only to say "Do whatever he tells you". Cause me, by thy prayers, through pious devotion and faithful adherence to the divine precepts, to yield a fruitful harvest of Faith, Hope, and Charity.

Pray for me, Holy Mary, Mother of God, together with thy Most Chaste Spouse, that I may be constantly bringing forth the Word of God to the Joy of all the World; that having thee as my mother and he as my father, I may truly have Jesus as my brother and may be a devoted servant of the Holy Family of Nazareth.


Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in thee! Hear the prayers of thy Most Immaculate Mother and thy Most Chaste Foster Father on my behalf. May the fount of mercy from thy side wash me. Set up thy Cross in my soul. Nail my flesh to the fear of thee. Undo my slavery to my own reasonings. Take away my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh like yours, on fire with love for the world, wounded with compassion for the weak and lost, especially for those that you send daily to me.

May I truly have Mary as my Mother and Joseph as my Father, and be thou my Brother, Saviour, and Friend; that in service to the Holy Family of Nazareth, I may find, stability, safety, and peace. May thy Church be my only home, thy Word my only teacher, and thy Eucharist my only food.

Dearest Jesus, after the example of the Chaste Heart of Joseph and through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer thee all of my plans, dreams, and intentions, all of my thoughts, words, and deeds, and all of my joys and sufferings, my crosses and crowns of this day, all for the intentions of thy Sacred heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, for the salvation of souls, the reparation of sins, the reunion of all Christians, and the intentions of our Holy Father, the Pope.

Amen.

Paul on the Hill of Athens


Today's Readings:
{The Spirit} will guide you to all truth. John 16:13
What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you. Acts 16:23

I love that these two readings are a set, coming as we ramp up to Pentecost. The entire mystery of Passover is about to be revealed to the entire world: What was for the Jews the "Liberation from Egypt" was only a sign, a type of liberation for all the world. What happened in Holy Week broke that open like a sealed scroll and handed it on to all the world, no longer revealed only to initiates, but common to all. What was, at Pentecost, the giving of the Law to those same initiates, prepared now to evangelize the world, becomes the Keys of Heaven for whole world. God's farmers, God's shepherds, God's workmen sent out into the Vineyard to gather all in. And what do they find - Peter, Paul, John, and the other Apostles - when they get out into the world?

They find that God has been sowing seeds in all cultures, in all places: not only Israel, but all places are prepared for the Gospel! Athens, Rome, India, all are ready to be freed in the Liberation from Demons by the world's Passover; brought out of Egypt, with the law inscribed on their hearts, to the Glory of a land flowing with milk and honey.

Pope St Gregory the Great realized this, as did so many others: the Jesuits in China, the Franciscans in the Americas, the Virgin Mary at Tepeyac... we stand not in a world empty of God, but in a world made by God, through His Logos. Jesus is the very warp and weft of the universe. We will never go anywhere he has not been first.

Not even grief, or joy:

Imagine the man you call "Daddy" died and you get to see him, finally, in heaven... and Jesus has done that.  Our Lord has done even that: lost a parent, and been reunited with him. And I can't but imagine  how much more heaven must have been filled with Joy at that meeting. When Jesus says, "Daddy."

Anything that is, is for us now: for our salvation, for our uncovering, for the Passover of God has redeemed it all.

Still we push it back into darkness sometimes.

And in fear we hide from it, we slay children in the womb and on the street, we bomb music venues, we bomb villages. Islam has done nowhere half as much damage to the world as Wal*Mart, and for every girl kidnapped and freed by Boko Haram, there are 11,575 children enslaved in China making our t-shirts and electronics.

We struggle to hide in a darkness of our own making from the very light God uses to make everything.

And yet God cries out: what you worship unknowingly, I proclaim to you. Hear me and I will guide you into all Truth: the only truth that is or can ever be. Jesus.

23 May 2017

Serve'n'Wash'n'Serve


Today's Readings:
He took them in at that hour of the night and bathed their wounds; then he and all his family were baptized at once. He brought them up into his house and provided a meal and with his household rejoiced at having come to faith in God.
Acts 16:33b-34

The Jailer (like Lydia yesterday) swings into service without asking questions. In fact, he does so before he's baptized. His whole family converts and then they all celebrate.

A friend asked me what I was doing each morning at Church (Mass, a Rosary, Morning Office) and seemed a little taken aback at my practice but I had no justification for it. Another friend, doing the same things, asked for his own information "what am I doing this for?" and I said, "It's only two hours. It's a tithe. Not even." And suddenly it all made sense.  To the God who asks for your all, you can, at least, give 10%? The Sabbath day, alone, in the old law would be 15%. If you're worried about burn out, maybe you're thinking about it wrong: burning out is not as bad as burning up.

But seriously think about how many thing you would devote 2 hours a day to: classes, work, watching TV, clicking on the internets, pr0n, Baseball, a good day at the mall would be 6-8 hours in my youth. I'll sit in the park for 3 or 4 hours doing nothing. Hobbies get a whole lot of time.

Why not God? Why are we worried about "burnout" in the one place that should be giving us more joy over and over?

22 May 2017

Wash'n'Serve


Today's readings:
After Lydia and her household had been baptized, she offered us an invitation, "If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home." 
Acts 16:15a

What's the first thing the new believer wants to do?

Serve.

The natural sense of the clergy is to wait a bit... the text says she had to work at getting them to come stay with her. They know the problem of burn-out, but she also knows the best way to learn it all is to have the clergy come over and stay with her. Sure, it's a couple of extra mouths to feed, a bit more cleaning, and, finally, it's that sense of "always 'on'" when there's someone in the house. My Grandfather had a saying that guests, like fish, start to smell after 3 or 4 days. But for St Lydia and St Paul - for anyone in their day - hospitality was a commitment. As long as the guest was there, the host was there as well. St Paul may have had people over for prayer and counselling. He may have used Lydia's house as the Temple for the community growing there. Still, Lydia put herself forward for service, not knowing what it might have entailed.

Alternatively (at least for us) the New Believer can go on the Internet and find out how to do it all right. I did that when I became Orthodox. There are so many ways to be right! And most of them hate the other ways (or at least think the other ways are not good enough). Also, none of them have anything to do with the reality of even the writer. I was shocked to learn from my priest that the author of one of the most Archly Trad Orthodox websites was a member of what his own website would have called a "Modernist" New-Calendar parish in a "Modernist" jurisdiction that even lets women preach!

What St Lydia knows is that it is in the the Face-to-Face, in the Relationship that one finds the Christian Life. Sure, there are facts to learn. I had to learn how to say a thing or two, several months of classes, and had to put a phrase (well, two really) back into the Creed. I don't know why, but the Byzantine Creed doesn't say "God from God, Light from light, very God from very God."  The Byz Rite says only, "Light of Light, true God of true God."  But all those facts and all those words are meaningless without my Monday Morning 6AM faith sharing group: five of my Brothers in Christ, and myself, praying our way through parts of the Scriptures. That group has become one of three hinges on which my faith swings.(the other two being daily mass and the daily office) and it is the one with the most face-to-face time. And the most dialogue. It's the one where my faith is shaping up into something.

Our time online also holds no one accountable for the stupidity we accumulate: least of of all, ourselves. We end up collecting things we like and judging others for not liking the same things. Being in relationship with others is messy, but we are constantly held accountable, held in check.

What Lydia gets in exchange for heroic service (and I'm sure that Paul stopped at her place whenever, as, most likely, did any other passing brethren) is an on-going dialogue with her spiritual elder(s), a continuing education project that is worth far more than any list of facts, or book of texts, or - for us - any Google. This, alone, prevents her burnout: that she can turn to the Apostle who brought her into the faith to continue her growth in Christ. It's ironic that our Google-God-Facts time takes away from the thing we really need to grow. But the Evil One will work that way, cutting us off from the very people we need.

Remember: no one is saved alone.

21 May 2017

Sanctify in Y'all's Hearts.


Today's Readings:


Dominum autem Christum sanctificate in cordibus vestris, parati semper ad satisfactionem omni poscenti vos rationem de ea, quæ in vobis est, spe. Sed cum modestia, et timore, conscientiam habentes bonam.
Sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you. But with modesty and fear, having a good conscience.
1 Peter 3:15-16a

Whenever this verse was quoted to me, it was always part "B": "being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you" but you can't be ready always without part "A", that "Sanctify the Lord Christ" portion.  I'm not sure why the KJV says "Sanctify the Lord God" when the Greek says "Sanctify the Lord Christ" but a number of more recent translations seem to hearken back to the nearly-arian reading of the KJV. No: Peter tells us to sanctify Christ.  That's important. Now, forgive me a little of what, in my deep Protestant past, used to be called a "Word Study".

That word "Sanctify" at the beginning of verse 15 has an interesting context for Judaism.  It references a practice in Hebrew Liturgy, "to Sanctify the Name" and it goes back to a prayer in Aramaic (still in the Synagogue liturgy) called the "Kaddish".  That this word in the Greek NT is that same Kaddish (at least in the mind of a Jewish writer - St Peter - to other Jews) is easy to trace through the OT, using the LXX. In Greek the word is ἁγιάζω and we find it all over the LXX, including in the book of Sirach 36:3 (LXX) or 36:4 (in the Vulgate and translations that follow it) we find it in a text called "The Canticle of Sirach".  ἁγιάζω is rendered into the same Latin word sanctificate/sanctificatus

Sicut enim in conspectu eorum sanctificatus es in nobis, sic in conspectu nostro magnificaberis in eis:
For as thou hast been sanctified in us in their sight, so thou shalt be magnified among them in our presence...

The "Sanctification of the Name" in our Hearts, the Aramaic prayer begins:
יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּשׁ שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא
Yitgaddal veyitqaddash shmeh rabba
May his great name be exalted and sanctified.

So: how do we Sanctify the Lord Christ in our Hearts? And how does this get us to having a good answer for those who ask us about our faith? It's right there in the Gospel:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments... Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.

We sanctify Jesus in our hearts by the keeping of his commandments.  Which are only love. My failures in this area arise always when I forget that I am not the first person to Love God.  The function of the Church is to draw the boundaries of love as surely as our vows draw the boundaries of marriage. I imagine that I can love Christ in the abstract - that his body is not the Church, that his voice is private and not corporate, that I am the first person he's ever spoken to and so I can feel my way through to new things, new ideas, discarding ones that don't feel good, "to me".

That's not sanctifying Jesus in my heart.

The secret to the Gospel and nearly all of the Epistles is to read them in - as written in the Greek - in the Second Person plural.  I cannot - I must not - read the Gospel this way:

If Huw loves me, Huw will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give Huw another Advocate to be with Huw always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But Huw knows him, because he remains with Huw,
and will be in Huw.

(My name rhymes really well there - but put you're name in instead!)

The real text is this:
If y'all love me, all y'all will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give y'all another Advocate to be with y'all always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But y'all know him, because he remains with y'all,
and will be in all y'all.
It's not me. It's us.  It's not "my feelings", it's The Church - Christ himself.  In playing within the bounds described by the Church for 2,000 years we sanctify Christ in our hearts.

Modern Culture wants us to practice a sort of Cafeteria Consumption of everything. We get to pick and choose. The problem, of course, is that picking a bit from here and a bit from there, some of my feelings, some random bits of CHinese mysticism, some Marxist political theory, and some new junk invented in a "Consciousness Raising" coffee klach, c. 1967, only gives us an incoherent pile of junk. The Church's teaching, God's revelation, is a seamless garment, a unified whole. We cannot give an answer for the "hope that's in us" (if we have any) if we insist on using a Toss Salad to embody our "logic".

We sanctify Christ in our hearts when we limit our diet, and exercise custody of our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds. And, when we have grown strong on that diet, we can begin to see the other patterns in the world, not as true in themselves, but because they reflect Christ - the only Truth there is. We can give an answer for the hope that is in us using the language of the culture around us, only then: when Christ becomes the filter through which we view everything. When the Spirit opens our eyes, we see Christ the Logos - the logic God has woven into everything. Then we can show him to others.

07 May 2017

If Found: Send me Back to Barbary Lane


Sometimes there's a sort of frisson around SF, that I belong here, that this is home in ways I can't explain, that - as Anna Madrigal says to Mary Ann, "You're one of us."  She means Atlantean because it was a good HippieSF idea that when all the Atlantean souls reincarnate they will all move back here and the whole thing will fall into the Sea again.  But... ok.  One of us. This week, however... well, really, in the three weeks since the Easter Vigil, it's been more like a whirlwind or earthquake, the latter being, perhaps, a better choice given the locale.

When I first visited SF in October of 1996, I craved to be here. It was love at first sight. In April 1997 I lived here, having quit a job of ten years and sold nearly everything I owned. I moved in with Patrick, a friend from college, and started to find a life. By May I had one: a job. An apartment followed shortly. And boom.

I left in 2003 for a number of reasons I won't go into. But I had the blessing of my priest (Fr V) and thought I was done. But I wasn't. When she came with me to SF on Easter 2010, Sarah said that all the things I make fun of Buffalonians for in Buffalo are true for me here. And I thought she was silly. Less than six months later, I was back. And two months after that I had a job and an apartment. Boombidy boom. As Jay pointed out being able to live on your own in SF is evidence of success. I've done it twice. I don't credit that to myself, save that I have a low bar for where I'll live. But it is a great thing to have.

When the Job ended in Jan of 2015, it felt as though I should do something else, and, although I won't say I messed up - b/c a lot of things have been learned - I did make a wrong choice. Everything was sold or given away, and off to the Benedictines I went. And six months later, that ended. So... where to? Mom and Dad for a short while (and for a man over 50 that's an odd place to be) and suddenly Sejal made it possible to come back here.



Then I decided I was going to say: that this time I was here for good, making my vow of Stability here. Am I the only person who loses a job and moves 3,000 miles? How about, the only person who does it repeatedly? And then things happened again. A job. Boom. A place to live. Boom. A church community. BOOM. (Bigger Boom.  A huge boom, really: an 8 megaton, Dominican BOOM.) And all kinds of Atlantean awesomeness.

I feel like Sally Field. I mean I know I have friends who love me, but I have a home too, a real home. That is SUCH a blessing for a man over 50 to have.


PS: The header shot is Mary Ann Singleton coming down the steps at Barbary Lane. Once there was a scavenger hunt at my office and I sent the entire company there. When I left here, in 2015, saying goodbye to those steps made me cry. So.

Thanks, God. Thanks. I really mean it.

03 May 2017

According to Hoyle


Today's readings:


For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4

Baseball and Mixed Martial Arts are very different sports. One can play both, of course, but not at the same time and not on the same field. One cannot play baseball by MMA rules, nor vice versa. Neither can one crossweave the two sets of rules into something new and call it by either name. The rules of baseball are the rules of baseball. The rules of football, of America football, of rugby, of hurling, of all sports are each unique and their own thing. You can't make them up as you go along, and, should someone do so, they are in fact playing another game. Equally fun, perhaps, but it's not Cricket.

As Easter rolled closer this year I was reminded of how many of my friends do not believe in the Resurrection of Christ and I do not speak of the Atheists or others for whom this is laughable. Rather I am thinking of those who would take the name Christian, even saying that they are "reclaiming" it or defending it from people who believe silly things like Virgin Births and Risings.

What has me mystified is why? What's the point? I mean, seriously: the Jesus you're left with is laughable, powerless, and without purpose. In fact you have to make up stuff - politics and social justice - and fill his mouth with words he never said in order to have any religion at all. You have to make palatable myths out of the doctrine, to say "this isn't really true" even while you profess it. You have to yell "Christ is Risen" while you cross your fingers and say, "well, it's really just a symbol, or historical artefact..."

I don't see the point. There are social justice groups that do that, there are political movements that do that, there are even other religions that already do that. Most of these folks strike me as a cross between the Humanist Society of New York and Reconstructionist Judaism, to be honest, but not really either of those, either. It's better, somehow, to corrupt one that has historical boundaries and turn out from their communities people who are faithful to God whilst making claims against them of "h8" and "bigotry". It's better to make up new doctrines and call real Christians "sticks in the mud" and other names less charitable; to make the claim you're being inclusive whilst undermining and destroying both the structure and the foundation. You cannot say something has evolved when you've torn it down; when you've jury-rigged a "worship space" in the ruble of your theological deconstructions.

Somehow this is all good, I guess.

Yet, following the Apostles, I shall take my home in Christ who is Way, Truth, and Life; and in the Church he founded. I will rest in his light and eat his bread. Increasingly I find there that I have more in common with the pious and respectful faithful of other religions than I do with those who would destroy my own; with those who follow a different path and name it such rather than with those who follow a different path and masquerade it about as mine. I will pray for his mercies on those within and without his fold and I will not confuse the two in the name of politeness. It is neither mercy or charity to say someone is right when they are wrong. Nor is it grace. But the Truth of the Apostolic Preaching (who is always and only the Risen Christ) can always and only be spoken in love.

In love, therefore, with the very salvation of your soul: baseball is baseball.