30 March 2018

Sonnet XIV Via Dolorosa


He's walking, Jesus walking. Bloody stain
upon the ground. He's falling, Jesus falls.
& up. He's walking, falling. Soldier calls
St Simon out of Crowds to help attain

Golgotha's lofty height. Once more he stalls
But rising rushes on the Masses' need
To fill and bakers dough to bend and knead
fo serve beneath the cross that crushes all.

We're walking people walking, souls to lead
Golgotha-ward to Jesus bleeding feet
it's upwards still and onwards angels beat
their wings in glory as our souls we feed.

If Jesus cross our pathways do maintain
Like him for God our Ego's greed is slain

Sonnet XIII Barabbas


Barabbas, Father's Son, your story's end
unknown your Genesis unsaid. You mark
at Jesus side the choice twixt life and stark
and nameless death. Are even you a friend?

You saw how Life Himself for you the Dark
Descending brav'd, the raving mob endur'd
the pillory the cross the spear assur'd
that you could freely fly from Pilate's clark

and yet aren't you by sacrifice allur'd
a bit? this quiet man who deathward goes
ne'er fending for himself nor pain nor woes
addressing. 'Til at last your death is cur'd

and does a saintly name your story close
your name unwrit by holy waters' flows?

Sonnet XII Lashing and Mocking


Crack Forty times & more the lashes sting
The flesh of God which breaded now we eat
is turned at pillory to bloody meat
as Roman biceps leaded whips make sing

Cut loose exhausted falle he at their feet
awaiting his awakening a game
the Romans play, arranging him the same
as Caesar Mock'd upon a bloody seat

In purple robes & thornèd crown his name
the very name of Love they jeer as hate
& truth Himself is by their lies made wait
his going to the last salvific game

but what for all the world seems cruel fate
is but divinely plotted switch & bait.

Sonnet XI Pilate


To Pilate sent to Herod then and back
A hot political potato pass'd
Unwantedly between them til at last
The cock crow raises dawn which secrets lack

To Pilate sent the final die to cast
Here Jesus stands awaiting human call
alignment with the will divine as all
Things will for those that won't won't last

To Pilate sent the Mater's Plan won't stall
he's here at last confirm'd to death. & life
Can see its hope as demons join the strife
Mistak'd that God at last himself shall fall

This Criminal of Love at Dawn's first crack
From Pilate sent for scourges' lashing hack

Sonnet X - Friday Before Dawn


Come Brethren here in darkness let us meet
Transparency and light we can't abide
The people's sleeping dreams our secrets hide
this man will stand before our anger's heat

Aside my friends here comes he now aside!
And say, Reb Jesus, what will you today?
Did not your words blaspheming bend and sway
to shake our people off the Torah's hide?

Adjure you now I 'fore these men! Display
if you Messiah be then manfully
declare it here where all may hear in the
be-custom'd way of you to clearly say

one word. If you but dare to claim his seat.
Are you the Christ? The high priest did repeat.

Sonnet IX - Peter


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

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

Dear Peter, threats make you our Christ belie.
and 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.

29 March 2018

Sonnet VIII - 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.
by words and kissing both the nails in go.

Sonnet VII Eucharist


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

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.

Sonnet VI 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.

28 March 2018

Holy Week Sonnets: Interlude


The actors all are here in place, our play
is set! The curtain ready rises now:
Apostles, Traitor, Priests, & King all bow.
Let us kneel down to watch the passion fray.

Here Pharisees assembled make a vow.
Here Judas strides with kiss through garden's night.
Here Pilate waits for judging by his light.
Here Christ the Lamb of God all disavow.

Foul Clergy here will mock & slay a blight.
Confus'd Apostles here lost to a man.
Great Romans here made tools in God’s own plan.
Poor Women here will, mourning, get it right.

Tiz God's victor'ous Coronation Day
when death itself our God by death shall slay!

Sonnet V Judas


Now Judas thief & liar, devil, friend
Here come I carefully to you: for pot
& kettle are both black & we are not
That far I think each from the other's end.

The Priceless One you sold for not a lot:
the price of one escapéd slave. Yet I
just any petty lust or care will buy
with love I owe to him; his love forgot.

Dear Judas, priests through you the Christ did buy
I understand & pity for I fear
That I your course can eas'ly find quite near:
Your steps for hunger's slake I trod & die.

Lord Christ forbid that I my feet will wend
on damning ways that Satan to me sends.

27 March 2018

Sonnet IV The Harlot


When trapp'd in sins the night without a moon
is dark: no hope nor freedom found in lust
that fills this moment's craving only. Trust
Alone in God can make his lovers swoon.

To Christ so now she comes. As come she must
for rest, to whom men come for passions' fall.
So she whose empt'ing man can't fill can call
to him whose emptying salvation thrust

to hell and every time of Terra's ball.
His feet that soundéd first in Eden's glen
she bathes in tears. She dries with hair & then
anointing them: her love repairs her fall.

Yet Judas fails to see this grace who soon
is damnt as dances she to Jesus' tune.

26 March 2018

Sonnet III - Pharisees


Ye scribes & lawyers, hypocrites ye brood
of vipers: pharisees who twirl the law
to lure a proselyte into your maw
then spit out worse; within your precepts stewed!

The Torah's words from out your crooked craw
draw obligations far too hard to bear.
Our God's Revealéd words for making fair
you twist in ways that Moses never saw.

But turn ye now from that corrupted fare
& belly up to God's reforming grace
Which calls the people of another race
to make both one in his redeeming care

The Jews & Gentiles both hath God pursu'd
Would at his table both by Christ include.

25 March 2018

Annunciation Palms


JMJ

For quite some time in the Western Church no feast is allowed to coincide with Holy Week or Bright Week (as it is called in the East), so, from today until the Sunday after Easter any feast that shows up gets either ignored or moved. Thus the Liturgical Celebration of Annunciation is, this year, on 9 April.

But, today is 25 March, the Annunciation of Our Lord to Mary. It is also Palm Sunday. And so we are permitted an odd confluence of images in meditation. Of the Angel coming to Mary announcing  Liberation from Sin on the one hand and, on the other, of the Crowds coming to Jesus announcing liberation from Rome; of Mary's humble acceptance by her human fiat of God's plan, and of the Crowd's rejection of that plan when they realized Jesus wasn't going to do anything political, in fact, he implicated them in the politics of oppression as well.

For humans don't want to see political oppression as the result of human sin. It is a symptom, not the disease.

The Annunciation to Mary that God was going to act in this backwood country, in the life of this unwed teenager was a profoundly political act, sure. It is only accidentally so. But to cure the disease you have to start at the roots, if not below them. The human race needed to be restarted, a human mother, God acting, this could not be done in a place where Emperors walk. But kings must be brought low to worship Divinity. And all raised together. If you miss the glory of God acting, the politics are only a shell, an idol, an icon of only more sin.

Yet bread and circuses win the race in the short term. And crowds seeing no kingdom by Wednesday will walk away, or turn angry and what was a mob of cheers will be come a basket of deplorables, easily led by their own anger. They follow the idol of Rome, even when they hate it. They do God's will even when they think they reject it.

Humble submission to God's plan is required, but even the mob can be part of it.

So Angels hail full of Grace and Cry on the same day for human blindness. We hail our king (and his mother) only to betray them both in a short while. How often that happens every day, when morning prayers are done and we walk out into the world.

Hail full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. We were going to tak him a way, and we said we're going to make him king, but we're going to take him away to crucify him.
This is our secret plot.
But it is the divine plan from the beginning.
And you see us cheer
You know the jeers
Help us come to sing
Eventually.
Alleluia.

Sonnet II Palm Sunday


All glory laud & honor children sing:
to thee hosanna, Lord, hosanna! Praise
we thee with them, our olive branches raise.
Thy train in triumph through the gate we bring

With garments strewn the road to glory lays:
what ails the crowd that soon they'll turn away?
Here where we hear hosanna cried today
great hearts will fail as darkness on them preys.

O Lord prevent our hearts that make essay
of crowning Thee as Israel's King & God
from dancing to temptation's tunes that prod
like cattle us, thine image thus to slay.

Let us not join them as thy hands they sting
with nails & in our name they kill their king.

24 March 2018

Sonnet I Lazarus Saturday


Tiz better to have lov'd & lost: so said
the Bard when speaking of the heart's romance.
What would he say if God & man did dance
As friends til mortal man is stoppéd dead?

Then God can weeping fall in mourner's trance
While sisters, neighbors, pharisees, & all
will wonder at his healing advent's stall:
when but one touch restor'd the blind man's glance.

But God has come prophetic'ly to fall
the gates of death. Our Lover's voice will part
hell's ramparts! Raising Laz'rus by God's art:
The tyrant soon will rule an empty hall.

Here he whom four days dead in darkness tread
Rejoices now and rests in his own bed

22 March 2018

Prelude. Holy Week Sonnets

JMJ


I try to get through a little more every year. So, once again, I will try to make the Holy Week Sonnet Cycle complete.

Prelude
My Lord, always majestic is thy name.
No man may sing thy praises worthily
& mould'ring - wanting words to hear & see
is often in believers' hearts thy fame.

Still yet we try with prose & harmony
to render mysteries in physic's space:
depicting love as icons show thy face
to offer latria enfleshedly.

If Donne like saints, though sleeping, lend his grace
unlettered, I make done with pages ink'd
to build in classic form of couplets link'd
& structured verses, thus thy praises trace.

Lest Onan's songs on formless pride I frame
Creator God the Word my words enflame.

The days of Holy Week have traditional associations in the Byzantine and Western Liturgical traditions. I've parsed the Sonnets out according to a hybrid to make the pattern: Saturday before Palm Sunday is Lazarus Saturday in the East. Then Palm Sunday, Holy Monday lectionary in the East is about the Pharisees, then the Harlot who washes Jesus' Feet on Tuesday. Spy Wednesday in the West is assigned to Judas, and the the Holy Triduum begins with an Interlude, and multiple sonnets for Thursday and Friday. I have finally gotten the sketches of a first Sonnet for Saturday. Three or four are needed! And also a bucket full for Sunday. And one for Thomas Sunday.


Who knows? I might get it done this year. Maybe.

20 March 2018

Croquet in Eqypt.

JMJ
The Readings for Tuesday in Passion Week (B2)
Cur eduxisti nos de Aegypto, ut moreremur in solitudine?
Why didst thou bring us out of Egypt, to die in the wilderness?

In the Fathers, Egypt is seen as a symbol of our human bondage to sin. The Passover is a glorious sign of liberation, a foreshadowing of  Jesus work. The Red Sea is baptism (our initiation into Jesus work) and the Promised Land is the final consummation of that work in this life/in the next life. The Forty Years though (and, by extension the 40 Days of Lent) usually get assigned to catechesis. Yet, while all the other signs are in order, this one is not. Would it not make more sense to view the 40 years of Wandering in the Wilderness as a true mark of the Christian Life?  Easter is Passover. The Baptism in the Red Sea. Pentecost is the Giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, and the giving of the Spirit to the Church in Confirmation. The wandering comes after Passover, after Pentecost.

The newly Baptized is freed from sin and then left (not alone, but still left) to Wander in the World. For, about, 40 years...

If that description "clicks" at all for you, then the passage we have today will make sense.

How many times does one say to oneself over morning coffee alone (or over Breakfast, Second Breakfast, Elevensies, Lunch, Tea, Dinner, Supper, or grocery shopping, or maybe in the shower, or cleaning the litter box...) Why did I ever leave Egypt?

Even though the very Idea of Egypt, often, makes us nauseous when we are sane, in these moments of insanity, when it's enough to remember the food was good, or mercy, but a swim in the Nile felt good on a hot evening. There are no Niles in this desert. There are Oases, sure, and miracles and daily manna from heaven, but we'll spend all day on our feet in the hot sun and every day its manna bread and the morning and tiny birds at night. There were games in Egypt, and pastimes that could while away the hours on those Sunday afternoons while the Bottomless Mimosas wear off, the long dark Brunch Hangovers of the Soul. Let's go!

This is why God's serpents don't seem to rough to me: but rather merciful. When I am sane, I know that a return to what was killing my soul and warping the reward pathways in my brain would be beyond foolish. But in my insanity, nearly nothing can distract me from committing spiritual suicide. My cat has taken to jumping on my lap and clawing my hands. A serpent seems merciful. (The Fathers say God allows death because it keeps us from continuing to sin...)

Monday afternoon on the 38R Geary Rapid bus, I hesitated to cross myself as we passed the Cathedral because someone might see and I yelled at myself because, What are you going to do, date someone on this bus? Egypt is so real.

The 40 Years are a perfect sign of the Christian journey from Pentecost to Death. Stay in the tribe, daily Manna from Heaven (Mass), be the Church in place, Keep a can of Whoopin' Spray on hand for the Amalekites,  rejoice when God stomps your enemies, mourn when your people fall, get wowed by the occasional miracle, put up with things happening, and stop complaining about wanting to go back to Egypt, diddle darn it all: Hush!





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19 March 2018

The Strong, Silent Type.


JMJ
The Readings for the Solemnity of St Joseph
Monday in Passion Week (B2)
For this Just Man was given by you a spouse to the Virgin Mother of God and set a s a wise and faithful servant in charge of your household and to watch like a father over your Only Begotten Son. - From the Preface for this Feast

Following the advice of a wise Benedictine Prior to "preach the propers", I'll write about one today: even the non-scriptural propers such as the collects and prefaces are the condensed teachings of the Church and, so, inspired by God. 

Joseph is entirely silent in the Scriptures. This is important: his words are implied in a few places, but never recorded. Jesus' Father speaks a few times in the New Testament, but Joseph never once.

When Mary was too weak after giving birth to do much of anything, it was Joseph who held the Baby, looking into his face, kissed his forehead, and looked heavenword saying "What now?" And yet, when the Child Jesus first learned to speak it was Joseph that was called Abba. When Jesus came running home crying Abba, it was Joseph that helped.  When Jesus was 13 and was Bar Mitzvahed, it was Joseph who stood by him. When Jesus learned to work with his hands it was Joseph who taught him. When Jesus learned all the things a Jewish man learns - into which mysteries a woman is not initiated - he, God in the Flesh, who taught these mysteries to men in the first place, learned them from Joseph. And when Joseph died it was Jesus who comforted his mother, and his half brother, James, at the loss of the only father that family had other than God. 

So when we say a Child learns about God the Father from her Father, Joseph is the model. 

And yet Joseph - who is named the Pillar of Families and Protector of Holy Church - is entirely silent. That silence is one not of speechlessness, but of contemplation. He is daily in the presence of God, and is a true model for an ascetic, contemplative man living in the world.

My birth father left when I was 1. I never knew him. Mom's second husband was an ass who physically abused kids. Mom left him when he threw a candy dish at my head. Mom's third husband, whom I call Dad, learned about being a father as we all do - by suddenly having kids. He's done a good job. In my early years the father I knew was my grandfather who was, himself, a bit of a scoundrel and a rogue, although not abusive in any way.  

So once, when leaving a confessional, as the priest called me back (You're not in trouble... don't worry...) it was with some trepidation that I followed his advice:  just, go to Joseph he said. Fathers have not been a very good experience in my life.

What is true of Jesus is true of you if you are a member of his Body. Joseph is your Foster Father as well, as Mary is our Mother. Joseph is the head of the house, the breadwinner, the protector; all the things our Fathers were intended to be albeit with varying degrees of success. St Joseph is that for us as Members of Christ's Body, the Church.

When I struggle with Vocation, Joseph is my model, for he was not of a priestly tribe or family. He was a laborer and yet he lived a priestly life in the service of the Church as it was then: the holy household of Nazareth. If ordained ministry is not for me, let me at least have this life of working for and providing for the Church, of daily seeing Jesus, of hearing the wise counsel of Mary, of living and dying in that service.

Increasingly I find in Joseph great comfort, blessing, and strength.  My Daily Offering to the Holy Family, in part, says:
Chaste Heart of Joseph, I beg thy prayers. Like thee may I be chaste and stable. May my work be done with all due speed and diligence; ever be 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. By thy prayers, may my work be crowned with the virtues of fortitude, prudence, and temperance. Let me be neither greedy nor sloth; let not the noonday demon find me ready to make a mockery of God's labor or 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 in fear and trembling; that having thee as my father and Mary as my mother, I may truly have Jesus as my brother and may be a devoted servant of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
As an ascetic, contemplative living in the world, and yet daily in the presence of God, Joseph is our model, our leader, even. The first fruit of this way of life in the world.

18 March 2018

Sacramentum Oboedientiae


JMJ
The Readings for Passion Sunday (B2)
Nunc anima mea turbata est. Et quid dicam? Pater, salvifica me ex hac hora. Sed propterea veni in horam hanc : Pater, clarifica nomen tuum. 

Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause I came unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name.

The title of this post is the "Sacrament of Obedience". In the Pagan Roman world, the "Sacramentum" is the Oath one makes giving oneself to the gods in military service. The oath made on sacer or sacred. This use of "sacramentum" is carried into Christian thinking around Baptism: which Tertullian said in De Corona was the only sacramentum a Christian should swear. Sacrament gets linked to the Greek "Mysterion" or "Mystery" in the "Mystery Religions". Another title might be Mysterium Oboedientiae, as long as one isn't thinking about a Detective Story! 

At a few points in the Gospels either Jesus or the Narrator will say that Jesus "hour had not yet come". Then, suddenly, here in verse 23, Jesus says, Venit hora, The Hour is Come ut clarificetur Filius hominis. And then, almost the very next thought, Nunc anima mea turbata est. Now my soul is troubled. Jesus can see ahead: this story takes place after Palm Sunday, it's maybe Tuesday or Wednesday of Holy Week. Death is literally just beyond the next bend in the Space-Time continuum. Jesus admits this is causing some concern. "My soul is seriously churned up about this..." is more like the Greek and the Latin than "troubled". 

I have panic attacks when I'm not paying attention. The cycle runs something like a Nightmare on Elm Street movie. You know the young woman in the fuzzy white sweater will die... because that fuzzy white sweater needs blood on it. But when? When will she die? Around and around the house with the lights out, listening for a sound that maybe shouldn't be there. And then not even a proper scream, just a bloody sweater. Except a panic attack can last days. You know what? Now is my soul troubled resonates with me. It helps me to know that Jesus can feel this, that God, himself, can feel this. I say, "When I'm not paying attention" because panic attacks seem to be triggered by the illusion that I'm in control. When I'm not paying attention, it's easy to convince me that I should be in control. Panic follows shortly when I honestly admit I'm not - although, says the illusion, I should be.

Jesus' solution, though, is rather different than mine. Jesus knows that nothing can come at him or to him which is not sent by God. Jesus trusts in that fully. He abandons his own will surrendering himself into the will of the Father. His soul is troubled, but he is at peace. Now, my solution is let the grinding rocks in my soul keep me up at night, passing from one mental space to the other and then back again, until none of this makes any sense. How much better is Jesus' way! In this Jesus is modeling what should be the approach of all Christians. Yeah, this bothers me, but God be glorified in my life.

Paying attention here, is opening one's eyes to God's leading in the dance. One does not have to be in control. One need only to follow the next step in God's lead. How to do that, though? How to dance and guard your inner peace?

In the Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales said that, "To be perfect in our vocation is nothing else than to fulfill the duties which our state of life obliges us to perform, and to accomplish them well, and only for the honor and love of God." Each of us, in our state of life, have different duties. Notice he says duties, not choices that make us feel happy, or following our bliss, or our passions. He says, "perform your obligations." At the same time, he does not give out new ones. Francis, a Bishop, is writing to Jane de Chantal, a widow who is seriously overworked! He lays no new obligation on her: only that she do what needs to be done in the course of her daily life, to do it in love for God and in prayer. This little way she follows until her death, "Asking nothing and refusing nothing"; only abandoning herself to God's will more and more in the course of her life. 

This, then, is our dance, following Christ as he is submitting to God's will in his own sacrificial death. He is Lord of the Dance, showing us the way to do the same. This is the Sacrament, the Mystery of Obedience: the act of obedience that is, itself, making us sacred to God. It's not easy. It can be troubling. But it is the way to heaven.

For support in this practice, I commend to your use, the Litany of Divine Providence. I've only just begun using this at night, before reading Night Prayer. 

17 March 2018

Where you from?


JMJ
The Readings for Saturday in the 4th Week of Lent (B2)
The Commemoration of St Patrick, Apostle to Ireland
Numquid et tu Galilaeus es?
Art thou also a Galilean?

An Anglican clergyman once told me that whenever he heard a Southern Drawl he immediately assumed he was talking to someone unlearned. I tend to feel the same way about anyone who has a "Lon Guyland" accent, to be honest, or someone with an "oh, now, dere ya go" upper midwest twang. I can't fault him for it, but I can decry it in myself. We are all parochialists - and we stay that way now, perhaps even more so in our divided country, sussing out where someone is from while trying not to racially or culturally profile them. But still, doing so. We like folks to be like us. 

The term "Galilean" stayed pejorative until the 4th Century AD. For all I know it is, once again, a Hebrew way of saying "hick" or "redneck". They may really despise the Samaritans, but those twangy, redneck sailors are a fish basket of deplorables.

In point of fact, this is classism. We make assumptions about learning and earning, potential and actualized, based on simple cultural clues. It is as insidious as racism, but because it is a secret tool of all of us, it is rarely decried.

We see the same regional classism at several points in the Gospels: it starts with can any good thing come from Nazareth? and continues up to today's readings (and will go beyond). Folks in the Gospel - even good folks - are worried about what will happen when we let in those others and they start to run things their way.

This continues in the Body of Christ to this day: be it the odd liturgical warring between the Slavs and the Greeks in the east or the Irish and the Italians in the west, or the liturgical music wars: Eagle's Wings vrs Palestrina. (I'm only just now making peace with the idea that the Boomers should be able to die in peace and take their vernacular, emo music with them untrammeled.) But even within these camps, do we sing a Godspell Mass or a U2Charist? Do we do Haydn or Missa Luba? If you've never heard the latter, Congolese masterwork, please, give a listen at the end of this post!

As humorous as all this is, it's filled with two sets of assumptions: 
1) They are different and wrong.
2) We're doing things right.

When these are over even liturgical adiaphora like music, ultimately these are merely matters of humor and I might want to write out a story for the Reader's Digest. When these are over the person, however, these are anything but funny. If I make assumptions about you based on cultural clues I'm reading, I'm detracting from the image of God in you. If I'm making racist assumptions, that something many of my friends understand and can call me out on. But if I'm making classist assumptions,most all of my friends are in the same class. We all do make the same assumptions. It is much harder to navigate around that - because we all have the same blinders.

Earlier this week I said a couple of things: if this is true of Christ it is true of you; and also, where are you sent? These gifts that you have that no one else has? The same Giver of all Good Things has given all these gift. To despise any one is belittle the image of God. To react to anyone - especially an enemy - with anything other than an active veneration of that image, that icon of the divine in them - be it a coworker, a stranger on the street, a homeless person, a clerk in the store, whatever - is to fail in love and to again crucify the Archetype of that icon.





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16 March 2018

His Ways are Very Different

JMJ
The Readings for Friday in the 4th Week of Lent (B2) 
Factus est nobis in traductionem cogitationum nostrarum. Gravis est nobis etiam ad videndum, quoniam dissimilis est aliis vita illius, et immutatae sunt viae ejus.
He is become a censurer of our thoughts. He is grievous unto us, even to behold: for his life is not like other men's, and his ways are very different.

I keep wondering if the Righteous Man really is like this or if the Others actually feel this way about him. I do not legitimately know. I know how the elders of Israel felt about Our Lord, even though he'd done little more than make discomfiting claims. Stephen annoyed them as well. The issue seemed to be that both Jesus and those who came after him riled up the people. But no one gets riled anymore. As a late Archbishop of Canterbury once said, "When St Paul preached they had riots. When I preach, they have tea."

When Billy Graham passed away I heard only a very few people get cranky: most who remembered him at all just fondly remembered America's pastor (or the Queen's favourite preacher). Many of the cranky seemed to confuse him with his son who does more politics than his father ever did.

Yet I know that from the White House to Hollywood neither our political leaders nor our cultural ones are any more moral than Nero's Rome. St Paul would have lots to say to us, but nothing new. The author of the Book of Wisdom was writing about pagans around Israel, but also about sinners inside Israel. So there's nothing new to say there, either.

Did meeting St John Paul or St Teresa of Calcutta have any effect on either the Reagans or the Clintons? I doubt it. When (ECUSA) Presiding Bishop Ed Browning called President GHW Bush before the war on Iraq, President Bush said "Talk to Barbara, she's the religious one" and slammed the phone down. That's about the gruffest thing I've ever heard from a politician  to a religious leader, but it's an outlier as far as data points go. For most political leaders (including the current crop, around the world) it's a scoop of ice cream to be seen with a religious leader: an afternoon of platitudinous mummery leading nowhere.  

Did the righteous ever make the unrighteous feel as described in this passage? Were the righteous ever ever righteous enough to annoy by their mere presence? Knowing that they killed Jesus, I guess it is to be expected if anyone should get that far along in the path but, apart from all the priest and nuns killed by Reagan-supported troops in Latin America in the 80s, there seems to be no attempt to undo the righteous. (To be clear, I'm not including myself at all. I doubt I could discomfit anyone.)

But, I wonder: what the heck are the righteous doing wrong?

3

15 March 2018

There's gotta be an easier way...


JMJ
The Readings for Thursday in the 4th Week of Lent (B2)
Locutus est autem Dominus ad Moysen, dicens : Vade, descende : peccavit populus tuus, quem eduxisti de terra Aegypti.
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Go, get thee down: thy people, which thou hast brought out of the land of Egypt, hath sinned. 

The Latin says they "have sinned". But the Hebrew says, "They have corrupted themselves." Yes, worshipping an idol is a sin... but more, it ruins one. It corrupts you.  The Hebrew word is not pretty at allThis is what sin does to you (all the ways this word is translated into English):
act corruptly (4), act...corruptly (1), acted corruptly (3), acted...corruptly (1), acting corruptly (1), blemished animal (1), corrupt (8), corrupted (4), depravity (1), destroy (69), destroyed (14), destroyer (4), destroyers (1), destroying (7), destroys (5), destruction (2), devastate (1), felled (2), go to ruin (1), harm (2), jeopardize (1), laid waste (1), polluted (1), raiders (2), ravage (1), ravaged (1), ruin (1), ruined (4), set (1), spoiled (1), stifled (1), waste (1), wasted (1), wreaking destruction (1).
And, at heart, all sin is Idolatry. 

It's easy to make fun of the Israelites: they've just witnessed the Ten Plagues, they've crossed the red sea, they watch a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night talk to their leader and keep them safe, and yet, they decide maybe a golden calf would be good. If you'll remember the story well, Aaron (whose last name was Martin, SJ) who knew the whole truth about this God, decided the People couldn't quite handle the truth and thought it would be ok to give them something a little easier to swallow. So, misled by their religious leader, they forget, because of fear, everything they've seen and decide some gold is a better choice for themselves.

Yeah, it's kind of easy to make fun of them, except that's all of us, right?

We've seen God act. We've felt the power of God at Mass, in the Confessional, at Confirmation. We've seen God change lives, we know the story of the saints, we may even have deeply experienced Mystical insights. And yet, let someone (maybe named Martin, SJ) tell us there's an easier way... and we're all on it like so many flies around so many cows. We will make an idol out of any easier way we can find. And we destroy ourselves. Or maybe it's politics, and we think the latest craze from prohibition to Trump is the way the Gospel's gonna come to pass. And before we know it, we're making the Gospel fit our new golden god, or at least his tiny fingers. And we destroy ourselves.

So yeah, it's fun to make fun of the Israelites. But really: that's us, there.

What's got you idoling today?

14 March 2018

Like a Swiss Army Knife

JMJ
The Readings for Wednesday in the 4th Week of Lent (B2)
Dedi te in foedus populi, ut suscitares terram, et possideres haereditates dissipatas; ut diceres his qui vincti sunt : Exite; et his qui in tenebris : Revelamini. Super vias pascentur, et in omnibus planis pascua eorum.
[I have] given thee to be a covenant of the people, that thou mightest raise up the earth, and possess the inheritances that were destroyed: That thou mightest say to them that are bound: Come forth: and to them that are in darkness: shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in every plain. 

I looked at these verses long and hard last night. In fact, after drafting a couple of paragraphs that sounded really angry, I fell asleep on the sofa. And woke up and said... nope.

But tonight at Mass, as the reader said "I have given thee..." it came to me, like a punch. A pow.

This prophecy of Christ.
Must be true of his body.
Where has God given you?
If you are a member of Christ's body, this must be true of you.
Where has God given you?

What people's language do you speak that no one else speaks?
What unreached tribe have you been sent to?
Where can you - and only you - say "Come forth. Shew yourselves"?

Some of us are called like St Ignatius to travel to China to save the souls of the lost in a far corner.
Some of us are called to the bodega down the street.
Some of us are sent like St Dominic to release a tribe of heretics from the chains they forged for themselves.
Some of us are sent to our family of Episcopalians at Christmas.
Some of us are called like Blessed Stanley Rother to translate the Liturgy into a Language never used before.
Some of us are called to speak the language of the Gospel at a union local, or even a local bar.

We are all called to be apostles. If this prophecy is true of Christ, it is true of you.
What set of tools do only you have?
What book of the Gospel has been written for you to read only to those who are trained up to hear it?

“This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”  - Corrie ten Boom.

Where are you set for? How finely tuned are you to be the voice of God in that one place that you are where no one else can speak?

Ready!
Sent!
Gospel.

13 March 2018

In the Vision-Time

JMJ
The Readings for Tuesday in the 4th Week of Lent (B2)
Certe vidisti, fili hominis?
Have you seen this, Son of Man?
הֲרָאִ֣יתָ בֶן־אָדָ֑ם

Son of Man in the Latin and English. In Hebrew it's Son of Adam, like in Narnia. Yes, Adam means "man" and also "earth creature", or even "earthling". But both of those are the meanings of the Name of the First Man. Calling Jesus "Son of Man" is calling him the Son of Adam. That is an important tag here!

In the movie, Contact, Jodie Foster plays a scientist who (she thinks) has been contacted by aliens. All the clues come encoded in, as it were, micro-dot forms: a cold-war era spy trick where a secret message was photographed and compressed, over and over, until it was just a full stop at the end of a sentence. But the right microscope and a knowing eye could discern what was really there. So also Jodie Foster digs into every clue to discover the depth and content, eventually building a huge machine which people imagine will teleport her, somehow, to a distant galaxy. Instead, her travel pod falls to earth in moments. But in those moments, Foster meets with the aliens who - as with all their clues - found a way to compress so much data into the meeting: that one second in space stretched into an eternity as they passed info through her to the other Earthlings.

It's an amazing plot device that the author, Carl Sagan, stole from CS Lewis and every story about Faerie abductions out there. No matter how long you are in Narnia, no time seems to have passed in this world at all. The Doctor says, "People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually — from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint — it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly... timey-wimey... stuff."

Dreams seem to function this way as well: they say that a dream, in real time, only lasts for a second, a brief moment. But in that moment time changes for the dreamer. You're on a roller coaster having tea with Elizabeth the First and Donald Duck and then the coaster goes over a waterfall and you're in Shanghai before the War wondering why the Giants never played baseball here (it's so lovely in the Spring) but then you remember that the Giants have not yet moved to San Francisco. And you wake up.

A couple of seconds, they say, is all that took, but in Dream Time it stretched out into eternity and all made sense.

So I wonder if it was that was the Prophets. I say that because the Angel's Comment, "Have you seen this, Son of Adam?" reads like a trigger phrase that will suddenly call the whole vision back to mind.

And what a vision it was! A trickle from the door of the temple of Jerusalem grows as it leads away from the temple until it fills the whole world. If that trickle of water represents the faith and teachings of Israel, imagine the odd arrogance of it being just a story the writer made up. There is a tribe of enslaved persons, captured and living in Babylon (about 600 years before Messiah comes). A priest of that tribe who has, himself, no temple or sacrifice and no country of his own, envisions his faith spreading through all the world; imagines that his faith is intended to flow away from the temple and that it will deepen and expand as it does so, until all the world is filled with its Truth!

God was setting things up and we will see this river again, in the book of the Apocalypse. 

The Jews, in their Exile, spread throughout the world paving the way for the Apostles who bring the news of Messiah. They pre-evangelize every corner of Babylon, then of Persia, of Alexander's kingdom, of the Successor Kingdoms, and of the Roman Empire. Everywhere they go the Apostles preach to Jews and Gentiles, at first in synagogues planted around the known world by this Diaspora. There are Jews even in Roman Britain. And then there were Christians. (The first Roman Jew from Britain on trial for an "Alien Superstition" was in 57 AD.)

The river grows and deepens. Have you seen this Son of Adam? In an instant it can be clear. Do not forget this, and, if you do, you only need to remember, Have you seen this Son of Adam?

11 March 2018

A Journey of All Sorts and Conditions


When my Grandfather, Kenneth Richardson, passed away in 2002 he had left a request that I sing a song at the funeral. I had sung at funerals for my late Brother and my late Grandmother. I had sung at my sister’s wedding. So, this was not a surprise. Grandpa had an odd sense of humor though. And so his request was at once both moving and also, for folks who know me, humorous as all get out. For he asked me to sing a song by Miss Patsy Cline.

(Honestly, I prefer this one by Johnny Cash.. so...)

The song was Life’s Railway to Heaven.

Life is like a mountain railway
With an engineer that’s brave
You must make the run successful
From the cradle to the grave
Watch the curves, the fills, the tunnels;
Never falter, never quail;
Keep your hand upon the throttle,
And your eye upon the rail.

Blessed Savior
Thou wilt guide us
Til we reach that blissful shore
Where the angels wait to join us
In God’s praise for ever more.

The song goes on (for several other verses) to talk about troubles with tracks and storms and hairpin turns. In the end there’s a trestle across the River Jordan and the Union Depot in heaven where the Conductor, God the Father and Jesus say, weary pilgrim welcome home. And I kinda choked up there at the funeral and all Grandpa’s Baptist friends said, “Amen” and the song ended.  

The problem is the song is too linear. Grandpa was rootless: born in Manitoba, moved to Michigan, lived in San Francisco, served in Panama, and was a hobo riding the rails during the Great Depression. He never really stayed in any one place very long. He didn’t even start going to church until after my Grandmother died in 1984. Knowing that, and knowing that I’m Grandpa’s spiritual son as well as blood relative. My presentation is called


Life’s Tilt-a-whirl to heaven

I was born on 29 August 1964 in Atlanta, Georgia. My name at birth was William Earl Bailey. That is, Bill Bailey. I had 35 years of people singing to me (including Patsy Cline) before I ditched the moniker in 2000. Grandpa approved of my choice saying, "He got tired of people singing tt him!" I had been named for my father, whom I never knew (he left when I was 1), and my mother’s Grandfather, who - being dead - I also never knew. Grandpa Richardson was really my father is as many ways as I can think of until my Mom married my stepfather in 1974.


If you’ll picture the states of Georgia, Alabama and Florida there are there 10 different street addresses I had before 5th grade. In my entire life there have been 48 different street addresses. I’m 53, so... the level of change is pretty consistent.


Generic Protestant (1964 - 1978) 
My spiritual journey was just as crazy. When we were growing up Mom always took us to the closest (protestant) Church.  My first religious memory is singing “Jesus loves me” in the Presbyterian Church in Fort Gaines, GA. This would be about 1967 or so. My second one is in Warner Robbins, GA, listening to a TV preacher on Saturday Morning in that devotional moment that used to come on the air right after the national anthem. And he was telling me (age 6) I’d go to hell if I didn’t pray this prayer... so... I did. I remember that deeply and profoundly, asking Jesus into my life, more out of fear than anything else, but still, sincerely doing so. My third religious memory is a Sunday school class where we were building a model of Solomon's Temple out of sugar cubes and royal icing. I wanted to eat the thing when we were done. We did everything from Southern Baptist, Presbyterian, Church of God, to Free Will Baptist, non-Denominational, etc

After I stopped needing Mom to drive me to sunday school, my religious life became a little bit more predictable, but only just.

Methodist (1978 - 1981)
I was baptized in the Methodist Church in 1978 by Pastor Jim Lowery. My stepfather was my Godfather. (He and Mom have been married nearly 45 years now...) Pastor Jim and I began to explore ideas of ministry and, like a lot of pastors dealing with a young man in that projected line of work" the question was "do you want to work with the youth group/"

Episcopalian (1981 - 2002)
I discovered the Episcopal Church in High School, 1981. It was pretty. And it was glorious. I discovered monasteries, Mass, Mary and all the things that High Church Anglicans have that Catholics (at that point) seemed to be giving up. 

My first year in College I went to a non-denominational Christian college. Here my increasingly Catholic-minded faith was often attacked. Day One involved the RA asking why I had a crucifix over the door... the result of this attack was that I become rather far more “high church” that I might otherwise have become. This was furthered by the local Episcopal priest giving me a key to the church to come in and hang out any time with my friends: I did study halls, and that turned into Bible Classes, and hymn sings... it was an odd Freshman year.


There was some discussion of ministry here, and I ended up working with the Youth Group again, in the parish and on the diocesan level, finally on the provincial and even national level. I did diocesan Summer camp every year for nearly 10 years: two weeks out of every summer working with kids caught between childhood and a faith crisis. There were romances and educational moments, death, illnesses, and all the drama you can imagine. It was also wonderful to run down the hill every morning and ring the Angelus to call folks to Morning Prayer. I spent most of those years as default sacristan and church geek as well.

I had a falling out with the Episcopal Church in College so I ran away. I did so over sex and “not really believing any of this”. And I became a Newagey Pagan. When I came back to church about 10 years later, I was rather shocked to find out no one else believed any of this either and we are all just Newagey Pagans together, albeit more liturgical and we did talk about Jesus more than your average pagans. This was hard on me, coming back to Faith as an adult, to find out I was the odd guy for actually believing things like Resurrection and Incarnation.

Orthodox (2002 - 2016)
A lot of more-conservative Episcopalians, deciding we needed to go be really Christian somewhere, left and became Orthodox. A lot of folks were doing so: Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants, etc. When I left the Episcopal Parish on Potrero Hill in 2002 and went to the Orthodox Parish on Russian Hill, I honestly didn’t look at the Catholic Church. I would have seen that many of the things that “Catholics seemed to be giving up” after Vatican 2 were actually very present. I missed that cue, though, and became Orthodox.

(I also ran away from the Orthodox Church a little while over sex. And then came back. Because “you have the words of life... where else can I go?”)

Two things happened to me in Orthodoxy. I began to take my faith very seriously: discovering that this guy, Jesus, wants the whole shebang. He doesn’t want a pious hellion who can go to church, teach bible, and then go home. He wants everything: my politics, my sex life, my diet, my prayer life, my work life, my social life, my social media (this became a thing by this point). Somehow, in all of that take-over, I ended up serving on the Parish Council and then being President of the Parish... an honor I was in nowise worthy of. And discovering that I could pray by singing (in the choir) and that I was ok as a layman.

The second thing that happened was I went to a monastery. In January of 2016, after 6 years at a job I was laid off and, discovering that I was debt free and had no obligations (other than my cat), I went to an Orthodox, Benedictine monastery in Colorado.

That didn’t last, and, although I like to say I “discerned out” the real issue was I needed to be serving people and hiding in a monastery praying the office, as wonderful as it was, was not the answer. I mayhap have been able to deal with the internecine incivilities of monastery life if I had been also serving folks, but we were brutally, starkly alone, at nearly 8,000 feet above sea level. And cold.  So I came back into the world.

Catholic (2016)
One of the novices last year (Br John) commented on the Benedictine Vow of Stability, which I would have had to take: a Benedictine Monk is expected to die in the monastery where he takes his vows. Dominicans, to the contrary, are rooted in the brotherhood and very mobile. Although it was a good-natured jab from a Dominican Novice to a former Benedictine Novice, I nearly started to cry remembering the terror that made me feel in Colorado.

When I left the Monastery in August 2016, I knew where I had to go. And I was in a Catholic Parish (in Columbus, GA, near my Parents) before the month was out. The sermon that Sunday was about praying a daily rosary and going to daily mass.


According to the Catholic Church, the Orthodox are a strange species of Catholic, just not in communion with the Pope. So I could have taken communion quietly and gone to confession as needed, and never had an issue. But I needed a commitment to a community so, after I found a job (back here, thank God), I was standing at St Dominic’s within 24 hours of getting off the airplane. Tim says, that three days later I had moved in.

The tilt-a-whirl finally stopped, I pray. And I got off. My confessor knows I’m prone to a mental spin every now and again, but all in all, though stuff spins from time to time, the cross stands still and, by God’s Grace, I always reach out and hold on.

And now, as Paul Harvey used to say, you know the rest of the story.