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.




02 May 2017

All the Dang Time


Today's readings:


Dixit autem eis Jesus: Ego sum panis vitæ: qui venit ad me, non esuriet, et qui credit in me, non sitiet umquam.
Jesus said, I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
John 6:35

We've reached that part of the scriptures that Jesus didn't mean literally. So let's all take a deep breath and realize he's speaking figuratively here, or maybe mystically. Perhaps he's only speaking symbolically. Or, likely, this is interpolated text from some liturgical meditation in the, oh, I don't know, 3rd century that they made up and read backwards into John. I'm sure the Jesus Seminar can save us here.

You'd best skip the rest of Chapter 6. Orthodoxy and Catholicism agree here. Body and Blood. Not symbol, not sign, not sorta, but actual. Real. Solid. Flesh. And blood.

I asked Catholic Celebrities on Twitter... (ok, sorry... I asked Catholics in my twittersphere anyway) if they had advice for a Catholic n00b such as myself. They all agreed on three points - the first one, ably expressed by @SteveMissionary is where I'll stop today:

go to mass all the dang time!

This is the secret, I think, of Catholic Piety. In a parish of 1800 like mine, give or take, it's the 30-50 people at Daily Mass that make or break it. They're there every day. They know you. They miss you when you're gone. And each mass has its own style or flavor of community: 6:30 followed by Morning Prayer, 8:00 with a Rosary, 5:30 with its healing prayers and veneration of the relic of St Jude.  There's probably more than 50 at the 5:30 Mass. I don't know. But it's amazing that so many people will stop their day (or start it, as it were) with 30-45 mins or more at Church. At NYU, at the Catholic Center, there were 4 or 5 people who made the Noon Mass their own. St Agnes parish in NYC was the same way - although there they were the office workers on lunch. St Christopher's Chapel near Grand Central was my favorite. I was not Catholic, but something was there that just wasn't anywhere else.

Tolkien calls Caras Galadhon, the city at the center of Wood Elves' realm of Lothlorien, the "heart of Elvendom on earth". That's what daily mass is just now in my book: the Heart of Christendom on Earth.

Words fail me. This is God saving us.

I find myself daily praying these prayers from the Anglican Use and also the Byzantine Rite:
We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen. 
I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Who camest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. I believe also that this is truly Thine own pure Body, and that this is truly Thine own precious Blood. Therefore I pray Thee: have mercy upon me and forgive my transgressions both voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, committed in knowledge or in ignorance. And make me worthy to partake without condemnation of Thy most pure Mysteries, for the remission of my sins, and unto life everlasting. Amen. 
Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies, neither like Judas will I give Thee a kiss; but like the thief will I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord in Thy Kingdom. 
May the communion of Thy Holy Mysteries be neither to my judgment, nor to my condemnation, O Lord, but to the healing of soul and body. Amen.
This is love: God giving himself for us, daily, before us and to us, freely, humbly, meekly. And in silence.

This is love: Body and blood, soul and divinity. Mercy and grace in the forms of bread and wine, the most simplest of foodstuffs. The most holy of foods.

Go all the dang time.

VIII - Eucharist
He wash'd their feet & now would make them free:
a mundane miracle will now combine.
The God-Man bids that man on God will dine
& daily service now makes unity.

These common building blocks of bread & wine
our Saviour takes into his holy hands
& those, around him sat, his love commands
in mystic rites to make all men divine.

The Apostolic preaching in all lands
will be enliven'd by this bread. God gives
to Church her dancing food. She moves & lives
By sacraments now altar'd by Christ's hands.

Salt, flour, water, grapes, & yeast we see
yet very flesh & blood of God they be.

01 May 2017

Who will help us escape?


Today's readings:

Respondit eis Jesus, et dixit: Amen, amen dico vobis: quæritis me non quia vidistis signa, sed quia manducastis ex panibus et saturati estis.
Jesus answered them, Believe me, if you are looking for me now, it is not because of the miracles you have seen; it is because you were fed with the loaves, and had your fill. (Knox)
John 6:26

You're looking for me, not because of the things that prove me to be the Messiah, but rather because you got food. In the Golden Chain, the Patristic Commentary on the Gospels compiled by St Thomas Aquinas, we find this:
Augustine. As if He said, you seek Me to satisfy the flesh, not the Spirit. Chrysostom. After the rebuke, however, He proceeds to teach them: Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures to everlasting life; meaning, you seek for temporal food, whereas I only fed your bodies, that you might seek the more diligently for that food, which is not temporary, but contains eternal life. Alcuin. Bodily food only supports the flesh of the outward man, and must be taken not once for all, but daily; whereas spiritual food remains for ever, imparting perpetual fullness, and immortality. Augustine. Under the figure of food He alludes to Himself you seek Me, He said, for the sake of something else; seek Me for My own sake.
Seeking him for his own sake.

We hear a lot about the Prosperity Gospel these days - both in the preaching of it and the preaching against it. Some have even found it in the Catholic Church, noting that the "Jesus has a plan/spouse/job for you" can be read as more of the same.  As an Orthodox priest once said to me: we know God's will, "That all should come to a saving knowledge of God." After that it's all trivia.  My two friends, Steve, have done podcasts and videos about God not having a plan for you or me beyond willing our salvation. (Steves: I love you guys.) Reading this passage, I'm mindful of a thing my friend Pietro said one Easter in a Bible Class on John: Are we running to God or away from Hell? And I am reminded of the Act of Contrition, where we say we "Dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell" but most of all we're sorry because we've offended God who is "all good and deserving of all my love." We want God not for himself, but because we don't want to die.

I would venture that it is better to love Jesus for his own sake, because he is the Truth, the very light, the Second Person of the Trinity, he is love, itself... it is far better to love Jesus thus, than to seek him out of "Salvation".  For the latter is objectification. It's turning Jesus into a tool.  It's making Jesus into a Fire Escape, we love the Fire Escape when we're in a towering inferno. But - to Love Jesus for himself, to Love him as he himself is, is salvation. To fall in love with Love himself, is to become saved, to be heaven here on earth to those around us, to become Salvation to those with whom we journey. As St Seraphim of Sarov rather famously said, "Acquire the Holy Spirit and thousands around you will be saved."

Today is 1 May, the beginning of the Marian Month par excellence. Mary opened her heart to God without equivocation, saying "Yes" to the incarnation without ever knowing what it would mean in full. That is the level of trust needed here. To Love God fully as himself, to know that he wills nothing but your good, and so to follow him, not because "whatever you ask in my name" or "pressed down, over-flowing, full measure", Name it and Claim it, or "God has a plan for you..." but to walk in his light because he is light, and to love fully because he is love.

Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Love God.

Love.


30 April 2017

Supper at Emmaus

Today's Readings:


And he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.
Luke 24:25-27

There's this movie floating around the internet, and I just can't find it, but it is so very good: searching for the shape of Christ's story in the Old Testament. It records how from the Messianic Prophecy to Eve, Noah's ark, the Binding of Isaac, and the story of Joseph, all in Genesis, to the Cleansing of the Temple in the books of the Maccabees, every important thing in the Scriptures finds its fullest Expression in Jesus, and in the Body of Christ, his Church continuing today. That is what Jesus revealed to his disciples and apostles after the Resurrection: he is the Logos, the very logic, the pattern God has woven into the universe. Anything that is true cannot help but speak of him.

Yesterday (Saturday) after Mass as some friends were gathered over coffee, we were discussing how the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous echo Christian spirituality. And that led us on an excursus of how many other movements echo the same. Really, though, how can they not be: after the coming of the incarnate Logos, the pattern which God has woven into everything, we cannot help but make that pattern over and over again. Even non-Christian religions that come after Christ are, functionally, Christian Heresies because they have to make statements about the Person of Jesus.  (Dante puts Mohammed in with the sowers of discord.) Most modern "spiritual movements" are also Christian heresies: usually emphasising "love" and "peace" (at least as they imagine it to be) over the rest of the Tradition. 

He was known before the foundation of the world but revealed in the final time for you, says St Peter. The very shape of human spirituality has been irrevocably changed by the incarnation of God as one us.

We know that God spoke his fullness in Jesus, and that Jesus emptied himself to become one of us; Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured him forth... it's that pouring forth, of the Father into the Son, of the Son back to the Father, of the Spirit from the Son poured out on us. We know it is this self-emptying, this pouring forth that is the most Godlike action we can perform. Not mere self-abnegation, nor self-destruction, but self-emptying: the line from the Gospel of John heard at yesterday's Mass of St Catherine of Sienna, teaching that streams of living water will flow from each believer (John 7:38) that's our calling to self-emptying as well.  

This outpouring of Love is the very pattern of God woven into the fabric of the Universe.

27 April 2017

Iesu, Iesu, Iesu, esto mihi Iesu.


Today's Readings:
Obedire oportet Deo magis quam hominibus.
We must obey God rather than men. 
Acts 5:29b

First off I suck at this. I try to get better. But I suck at it.

This is my brief meditation today: The Martyrs of England are a better model for us today than any other category of martyr, saint, or blessed. Why? Because their killers thought they were being Christian. I don't think we have to worry about the Gov't ending all Churches. I'm not worried about the army showing up (yet, anyway) at the door of my Church and saying "we're here to shoot your priest."


But, in England, a group of people bought into the Political Fads of the day and also bought into new moralities, new cultural forms, and new religions. Then they killed off all the ones that disagreed. The nominalists did, that is, killing off the Catholics. Killing may be out of the question for the time being. But, face it, a long, slow, painful defeat is much harder to withstand. Anyone can be a martyr if they will but kill you fast enough.

The Martyrs of England followed the law of the land until they could not follow it any more. Most of them died praying for their Queen and her salvation. And she was still their Queen. But they also had a higher calling, one that couldn't cave into current fads or moralities even though thos fads had the political upper hand. They said their Mass in secret, but they didn't hide away, going about their daily lives, keeping the faith alive in a land and time full of hate. And they obeyed the law of God rather than of men (or of a woman, in this case).

That's it. My #PaschaOption for today: a devotion to the Martyrs of England.





26 April 2017

Tikkun Olam.


Today's Readings:

For God sent not his Son into the world, to judge the world, but that the world may be saved by him. He that believeth in him is not judged. But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:17-18 (Douay)

This sounds like Jesus is speaking riddles, doesn't it? Or even contradicting himself within a few words: God didn't send Jesus into the world to Judge, but if you reject Jesus you're already judged. There is subtle world play going on in the Greek as well - so don't worry. Set that over there and we'll get back to it.

We know the world is broken. If you don't think the world is broken, step away from the computer: you're not going to get much out of this posting. But if you do think it's broken - or, maybe, even a just a bit too messy, read on. You don't have to be a Christian, or religious, or even a theist to see this. The world is broken. There are wars and greed and violence, injustice, evil everywhere. I don't really care what your theological point on this might be, all we need to do is admit the brokenness. 

To Christians, this is sin and it is evidence of humanity's participation in sin that - seemingly - no matter what we do to try and fix it, we mess it up more. Gypsy moths and kudzu are both wonderful examples of this: we brought Kudzu to the USA from Japan to keep soil in place during a severe drought in the early 20th Century. Now - it covers the South better than veils cover a bride. We accidentally brought it to a place where it had no predators (bugs and animals) nor were Americans ready to start eating it as they do in Japan; and it came to a perfect temperature/humidity for growth. Boom. Kudzu everywhere. We did the same thing to Gypsy moths: bringing them here to cross-breed with our native silk producers in the 19th Century, but they escaped... and boom. They eat everything now. (I remember walking through the forest once, in High School. All you could hear was the munching of leaves - a very spooky sound!) In Byzantine piety (Catholic and Orthodox) there are prayers that we say asking God to forgive us our sins "voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, committed in knowledge or in ignorance."  It's important to realize: just being here, doing something... things happen.

The world is broken. This is where the word play comes in! You'll need to know two Greek words. Forgive the lesson: 
  • κρίνω (krino) "to judge" or "to divide". You krino the chaff from the grain.
  • σῴζω (sozo) "to save" or "to make whole". Jesus always says "your faith has made you whole" which equally means "your faith has saved you".
Now, our verse might make a little more sense if we parse the scary words like this:

For God sent not his Son into the world, to break the world apart, but that the world may be made whole by him... He that doth not believe, is already broken apart...

What it means is "If you're not working with Jesus for the Healing of the World, you're participating in the breaking apart of it. You're already on the wrong side of the equation. Jesus doesn't have to condemn you - to cut you off. You've already done so to yourself."

There is, really, several more layers of theology there to go though (indeed, in Hebrew, Jesus' name is the same as the Greek Sozo: healer, whole-maker, savior). To be broken most apart is eternal hell. Yet this is enough for now: to know that God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world (break it apart) but that the world through him by be saved (made whole).

This is the #PaschaOption for us today then: to participate in that healing. I know that there are reasons to worry about the state of the world. But I am not convinced we can run away. There are those who don't want to hear about Jesus. There are those who don't want to know about sexual morality, about economic justice, about welcoming the stranger, but the Church needs to be out there doing it anyway. There are those who feel threatened by pro life activities like food distribution, opposing unjust war, ending the death penalty, ending abortion - but the Church must do it anyway. She cannot, however, do it by force - and that includes enacting laws. She must do it like Jesus: by sozo. Indeed, that's how she did it in the Roman Empire. It was our way of life that won the day. "See how these Christians love one another."

What can you do to live the #PaschaOption? There is a tradition among all denominations of Judaism called "Tikkun Olam" - the repair of the world. I was surprised to find it the subject of a Children's song - from Sesame Street no less! It well makes the point: any act of mercy, of kindness, of love is a participation in that process of healing. Again, I'll not bet on universalism - a wager I'd lose because of free will - but I will wager on this quote from Robert Kennedy: 
"Give me a place to stand," said Archimedes, "and I will move the world." These men moved the world, and so can we all. Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. Thousands of Peace Corps volunteers are making a difference in isolated villages and city slums in dozens of countries. Thousands of unknown men and women in Europe resisted the occupation of the Nazis and many died, but all added to the ultimate strength and freedom of their countries. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
        "If Athens shall appear great to you," said Pericles, "consider then that her glories were purchased by valiant men, and by men who learned their duty." That is the source of all greatness in all societies, and it is the key to progress in our time.
I don't think we can (or should) try to "rebuild Christendom". But I will settle for taking that moment of the Mass when heaven strikes earth and God is here, now, and bringing it with me to work. If we each did that, just once, for each Mass, once for each Divine Liturgy, one point of Sozo in the midst of all the krino, by God's grace we could change everything.



25 April 2017

Resist!


Today's Readings:


Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith.
1 Peter 5:8

These words are the opening of Benedictine Compline (and the traditional Roman Compline), an office I sang for a long time before entering the Monastery using the English text in the Monastic Diurnal from Lancelot Andrewes Press. In the Latin in the video below, it's the brief chant right after the loud "Amen!"

Fratres : Sóbrii estóte, et vigiláte : quia adversárius vester diábolus tamquam leo rúgiens círcuit, qućrens quem dévoret : cui resístite fortes in fide.  Tu autem, Dómine, miserére nobis.
R.  Deo grátias. 

It's so important to be both sober and vigilant! What the Latin does in four word, Sóbrii estóte, et vigiláte, the Greek does in two: Νήψατε γρηγορήσατε.  The first word, "nepsate", caries with it the general idea of "don't be drunk" but, in the context of hellenic thinking, that "drunkenness" can come from the passions, from the weaknesses and faults that we carry in our very being. A glutton who will eat anything is the last person you want to ask about tasty food. A drunkard is the last person to recommend a tasty liqueur. A sinner will be full of ideas about how to keep sinning - but not about stopping. When the first papal encyclical letter says "Be Sober" what it means is, "be untainted by the world, the flesh, and the devil." And that last is so important: because he is a person, and crafty. He can use the other two against you.

Once we are sober (detached from our sinful pleasures and desires), then and only then are we ready to begin our night watch. I think of how many times drunkenness has lead to sin on my part, but even exhaustion, "letting my guard down". It's such a commonplace that it can be shorthanded in scripts: an imagine of a couple walking into a bar... and then waking up together the next day. A few empty beer cans on the beach, and a pile of clothes. We all know what it means... most of us have been there now.

One of the things I found so very interesting coming into the Catholic Church is the idea of the "well-formed conscience": one that is trained up in the mind of the church. This idea is found in Orthodoxy too, but it often comes attached to some spookiness. This is the sober and watchful mind. This is the brain that is alert to the wiles of him who like "roaring lion walketh about seeking whom he may devour." And we are counselled to "resist, steadfast in the faith."

We have our own lion: St Mark, whose feast is today, and he will intercede for us.  His is the shortest Gospel, and the easiest to navigate. He is known as the abridger of St Matthew - often times telling the same story, sometimes with the very same words - but in a shorter, more succinct mode. I've been told that St Mark more often uses the word "immediately."  As in "When that had happened, immediately this other thing happened." St Mark is a good Gospel to keep on hand for reading spurts (like standing in line at the bank or riding the train to work). It does well in short chunks, easy to digest: unlike St John's Gospel or even the Epistles.  St Mark is almost intended for "Snippets" that you can then take away and chew on.  This is the best way to begin well-forming a conscience: meditation on the scriptures in a slow and daily practice Snippets. It could take 3 or 4 months to get through St Mark's, done right. Maybe by journaling.

It's the only way to resist Satan. So that's my challenge today, brothers and sisters: pick up St Mark and meditate your way through it.  You'll find no where suggesting that we're supposed to hide, by the way. When Satan's out there roaming around, we're supposed to resist - not hide.

A blessed feast!


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.

13 April 2017

For late Thursday night


IX - The Garden
In lunar brilliancy they walking show
mid leafy branches' budding scented bloom
& grasses warmed in vernal sun now groom
Gethsemane, in paschal light aglow.

We waiting here, he forward goes for room
To falling, praying, moaning, sighing, bled
To sobbing, straining, weeping, sweating, red
Till far away is heard the tramp of doom

Apostles wake upon their grassy bed
To find the traitor with the temple guards
Is come. And boldly striding cross the yards
Afore Messiah stop’d he smiling said

Hail Master! Teacher surly me you know.

With both lips with no words the nails in go.

12 April 2017

A 2nd Sonnet for Thursday

VIII - Eucharist
He wash'd their feet & now would make them free:
a mundane miracle will now combine.
The God-Man bids that man on God will dine
& daily service now makes unity.

These common building blocks of bread & wine
our Saviour takes into his holy hands
& those, around him sat, his love commands
in mystic rites to make all men divine.

The Apostolic preaching in all lands
will be enliven'd by this bread. God gives
to Church  her dancing food. She moves & lives
By sacraments now altar'd by Christ's hands.

Salt, flour, water, grapes, & yeast we see
yet very flesh & blood of God they be.

First Sonnet for Thursday


VII - The Washing
At Table: Christ Mandatum Novum do
to us that we in love should brothers hold
as He embodies love for us. Thus bold
in love the nations seeing might him know.

Example: washing feet in servant's mold!
To each apostle come in turn: St Pete
refuses God now kneeling at his feet.
"An not I wash you then be gone" is told.

Yet even strengthen'd well this night unmeet
you will deny me thrice. Belov'd take heart:
you show how human weakness plays its part
til providential saving plan's complete

Reshod thus Peter savéd, wash'd did go
to felling by a maid at sunrise crow.