Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Self Is More Distant Than Any Star

“We have all read in scientific books, and, indeed, in all romances, the story of the man who has forgotten his name. This man walks about the streets and can see and appreciate everything; only he cannot remember who he is. Well, every man is that man in the story. Every man has forgotten who he is. One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God; but thou shalt not know thyself. We are all under the same mental calamity; we have all forgotten our names. We have all forgotten what we really are. All that we call common sense and rationality and practicality and positivism only means that for certain dead levels of our life we forget that we have forgotten. All that we call spirit and art and ecstasy only means that for one awful instant we remember that we forget.”
~G. K. Chesterton

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Long Night Of Oppression Will End

“Now think of the cross and resurrection of Jesus as breaking the power of sin. But if the power of sin, death and evil has been broken, how can we make sense of the fact that it still continues to plague us? Human history and Christian experience tell us of a constant struggle against sin and evil in our own lives, even as Christians. There is a real danger, it would seem, that talking about ‘the victory of faith’ will become nothing more than empty words, masking a contradiction between faith and experience. How can we handle this problem?

A helpful way of understanding this difficulty was developed by a group of distinguished writers, such as C. S. Lewis in England and Anders Nygren in Sweden. They noticed important parallels between the New Testament and the situation during the Second World War. The victory won over sin through the death of Christ was like the liberation of an occupied country from Nazi rule. We need to allow our imaginations to take in the sinister and menacing idea of an occupying power. Life has to be lived under the shadow of this foreign presence. And part of the poignancy of the situation is its utter hopelessness. Nothing can be done about it. No one can defeat it.

Then comes the electrifying news. There has been a far-off battle. And somehow, it has turned the tide of the war. A new phase has developed, and the occupying power is in disarray. Its backbone has been broken. In the course of time, the Nazis will be driven out of every corner of Europe. But they are still present in the occupied country.

In one sense, the situation has not changed, but in another, more important sense, the situation has changed totally. The scent of victory and liberation is in the air. A total change in the psychological climate results. I remember once meeting a man who had been held prisoner in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Singapore. He told me of the astonishing change in the camp atmosphere which came about when one of the prisoners (who owned a shortwave radio) learned of the collapse of the Japanese war effort in the middle of 1945. Although all in the camp still remained prisoners, they knew that their enemy had been beaten. It would only be a matter of time before they were released. And those prisoners, I was told, began to laugh and cry, as if they were free already.

... And so with us now. In one sense, victory has not come; in another, it has. The resurrection declares in advance of the event God’s total victory over all evil and oppressive forces -- such as death, evil and sin. Their backbone has been broken, and we may begin to live now in the light of that victory, knowing that the long night of their oppression will end.”

~Alister McGrath

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Hebrews 10:12-14

Jesus offered one sacrifice for sins and took His seat forever at the right hand of God; now He waits until His enemies are placed beneath His feet. By one offering He has forever perfected those who are being sanctified.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Christ as a Gardener

The boxwoods planted in the park spell LIVE.
I never noticed it until they died.
Before, the entwined green had smudged the word
unreadable. And when they take their own advice
again – come spring, come Easter – no one will know
a word is buried in the leaves. I love the way
that Mary thought her resurrected Lord
a gardener. It wasn’t just the broad-brimmed hat
and muddy robe that fooled her: he was that changed.
He looks across the unturned field, the riot
Of unscythed grass, the smattering of wildflowers.
Before he can stop himself, he’s on his knees.
He roots up stubborn weeds, pinches the suckers,
deciding order here – what lives, what dies,
and how. But it goes deeper even than that.
His hands burn and his bare feet smolder. He longs
To lie down inside the long, dew-moist furrows
and press his pierced side and his broken forehead
into the dirt. But he’s already done it –
passed through one death and out the other side.
He laughs. He kicks his bright spade in the earth
and turns it over. Spring flashes by, then harvest.
Beneath his feet, seeds dance into the air.
They rise, and he, not noticing, ascends
on midair steppingstones of dandelion,
of milkweed, thistle, cattail, and goldenrod.

~Andrew Hudgins

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter!

God raised up Jesus on the third day and granted that He be seen, not by all, but only by such witnesses as had been chosen beforehand by God—by us who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and to bear witness that He is the one set apart by God as judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets testify, saying that everyone who believes in Him has forgiveness of sins through His name.
~Acts 10:40-43

God Walked Again In The Garden

“On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.”
~G. K. Chesterton

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Our Master Lies Asleep

Mary Magdalene and The Other Mary; A Song For All Maries

Our Master lies asleep and is at rest:
His Heart has ceased to bleed, His Eye to weep:
The sun ashamed has dropt down in the west:
Our Master lies asleep.
Now we are they who weep, and trembling keep
Vigil, with wrung heart in a sighing breast,
While slow time creeps, and slow the shadows creep.

Renew Thy youth, as eagle from the nest;
O Master, who hast sown, arise to reap: –
No cock-crow yet, no flush on eastern crest:
Our Master lies asleep.

~Christina Rossetti

The Power Of Christ’s Blood

“If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood, we should go back to the ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt. Sacrifice a lamb without blemish, commanded Moses, and sprinkle its blood on your doors. If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.

If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side. The gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy eucharist. The soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own. So also with the lamb: the Jews sacrificed the victim and I have been saved by it.

There flowed from his side water and blood. Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought...”

~St. John Chrysostom

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday


(Picture found here)
Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
            That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss,
            And yet not weep?
Not so those women loved
            Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
            Not so the thief was moved;
Not so the Sun and Moon
            Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon –
            I, only I.
Yet give not o’er,
            But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
            And smite a rock.

~Christina Rossetti
   

Thursday, March 24, 2016

From an Easter Homily

“There was much proclaimed by the prophets about the mystery of the Passover: that mystery is Christ, and to Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

For the sake of suffering humanity He came down from heaven to earth, clothed Himself in that humanity in the Virgin’s womb, and was born a man. Having then a body capable of suffering, He took the pain of fallen man upon Himself; He triumphed over the diseases of soul and body that were its cause, and by His Spirit, which was incapable of dying, He dealt man’s destroyer, death, a fatal blow.

He was led forth like a lamb; He was slaughtered like a sheep. He ransomed us from our servitude to the world, as He had ransomed Israel from the land of Egypt; He freed us from our slavery to the devil, as He had freed Israel from the hand of Pharaoh. He sealed our souls with His own Spirit, and the members of our body with His own blood.

He is the One who covered death with shame and cast the devil into mourning, as Moses cast Pharaoh into mourning. He is the One who smote sin and robbed iniquity of offspring. He is the One who brought us out of slavery into freedom, out of darkness into light, out of death into life, out of tyranny into an eternal kingdom; who made us a new priesthood, a people chosen to be His own for ever. He is the Passover that is our salvation.

It is He who endured every kind of suffering in all those who foreshadowed Him. In Abel He was slain, in Isaac bound, in Jacob exiled, in Joseph sold, in Moses exposed to die. He was sacrificed in the Passover lamb, persecuted in David, dishonored in the prophets.

It is He who was made man of the Virgin, He who was hung on the tree; it is He who was buried in the earth, raised from the dead, and taken up to the heights of heaven. He is the mute lamb, the slain lamb, the lamb born of Mary, the fair ewe. He was seized from the flock, dragged off to be slaughtered, sacrificed in the evening, and buried at night. On the tree no bone of His was broken; in the earth His body knew no decay. He is the One who rose from the dead, and who raised man from the depths of the tomb.”

~St. Melito of Sardis (died 180 AD)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Ballad of Mary’s Son

It was in the Spring
The Passover had come.
There was feasting in the streets and joy.
But an awful thing
Happened in the Spring –
Men who knew not what they did
Killed Mary’s Boy.
He was Mary’s Son,
And the Son of God was He –
Sent to bring the whole world joy.
There were some who could not hear,
And some were filled with fear –
So they built a cross
For Mary’s Boy.

~Langston Hughes

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Still Falls the Rain


(Picture by Michael O'Brien - found here)
       (The Raids, 1940. Night and Dawn)

Still falls the Rain –
Dark as the world of man, black as our loss –
Blind as the nineteen hundred and forty nails
Upon the Cross.

Still falls the Rain
With a sound like the pulse of the heart that is changed to the hammer-beat
In the Potters’ Field, and the sound of the impious feet
On the Tomb:
                      Still falls the Rain
In the Field of Blood where the small hopes breed and the human brain
Nurtures its greed, that worm with the brow of Cain.

Still falls the Rain
At the feet of the Starved Man hung upon the Cross.
Christ that each day, each night, nails there, have mercy on us –
On Dives and on Lazarus:
Under the Rain the sore and the gold are as one.

Still falls the Rain –
Still falls the Blood from the Starved Man’s wounded Side
He bears in his Heart all wounds, – those of the light that died,
The last faint spark
In the self-murdered heart, the wounds of the sad uncomprehending dark,
The wounds of the baited bear, –
The blind and weeping bear whom the keepers beat
On his helpless flesh ... the tears of the hunted hare.

Still falls the Rain –
Then – O Ile leape up to my God: who pulles me doune –
See, see where Christ’s blood streames in the firmament:
It flows from the Brow we nailed upon the tree
Deep to the dying, to the thirsting heart
That holds the fires of the world, – dark-smirched with pain
As Caesar’s laurel crown.

Then sounds the voice of One who like the heart of man
Was once a child who among beasts has lain –
“Still do I love, still shed my innocent light, my Blood, for thee.”

~Dame Edith Sitwell

1942

Monday, March 21, 2016

Sayings of the Desert Fathers

  
“A man who keeps death before his eyes
will at all times overcome his cowardice.”

~A Desert Elder
 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Blessed is He

Let us go together to meet Christ on the Mount of Olives. Today he returns from Bethany and proceeds of his own free will toward his holy and blessed passion, to consummate the mystery of our salvation. He who came down from heaven to raise us from the depths of sin, to raise us with himself, we are told in Scripture, above every sovereignty, authority, and power, and every other name that can be named, now comes of his own free will to make his journey to Jerusalem. He comes without pomp or ostentation. As the psalmist says: He will not dispute or raise his voice to make it heard in the streets. He will be meek and humble, and he will make his entry in simplicity.

Let us run to accompany him as he hastens toward Jerusalem, and imitate those who met him then, not by covering his path with garments, olive branches or palms, but by doing all we can to prostrate ourselves before him by being humble and by trying to live as he would wish. Then we shall be able to receive the Word at his coming, and God, whom no limits can contain, will be within us.

In his humility Christ entered the dark regions of our fallen world and he is glad that he became so humble for our sake, glad that he came and lived among us and shared in our nature in order to raise us up again to himself. And even though we are told that he has now ascended above the highest heavens—the proof, surely, of his power and godhead—his love for man will never rest until he has raised our earthbound nature from glory to glory, and made it one with his own in heaven.

So let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him. We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him. Now that the crimson stains of our sins have been washed away in the saving waters of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of his victory. Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children’s holy song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the king of Israel.
~From a sermon by St. Andrew of Crete

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Prayer Over The People - Palm Sunday

Look, we pray, O Lord, on this your family,
for whom our Lord Jesus Christ
did not hesitate to be delivered into the hands of the wicked
and submit to the agony of the Cross.
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Amen.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Cui Servire Regnare Est

“There is no need to fear that living in Christ and working for him would be consigning ourselves to a drab, colorless life. The life stories of the saints are a refutation of that worry. As a general rule, the saints who lived and worked for God are seen to have highly interesting lives. There is an ancient Latin phrase that runs: cui servire regnare est — to serve him is perfect freedom — a freedom, one might add, that is not devoid of joy.”
~James Turro

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Sabbath Poem X, 1979

Whatever is foreseen in joy
Must be lived out from day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.

And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we’re asleep.

When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.

~Wendell Berry

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Hammock

When I lay my head in my mother’s lap
I think how day hides the star,
the way I lay hidden once, waiting
inside my mother’s singing to herself. And I remember
how she carried me on her back
between home and the kindergarten,
once each morning and once each afternoon.

I don’t know what my mother’s thinking.

When my son lays his head in my lap, I wonder:
Do his father’s kisses keep his father’s worries
from becoming his? I think, Dear God, and remember
there are stars we haven’t heard from yet:
They have so far to arrive. Amen,
I think, and I feel almost comforted.

I’ve no idea what my child is thinking.

Between two unknowns, I live my life.
Between my mother’s hopes, older than I am
by coming before me. And my child’s wishes, older than I am
by outliving me. And what’s it like?
Is it a door, and a good-bye on either side?
A window, and eternity on either side?
Yes, and a little singing between two great rests.

~Li-Young Lee

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Systems of Government

“An honest man falls in love with an honest woman; he wishes, therefore to marry her, to be the father of her children, to secure her and himself. All systems of government should be tested by whether he can do this. If any system—feudal, servile, or barbaric—does, in fact, give him so large a cabbage-field that he can do it, there is the essence of liberty and justice. If any system—Republican, mercantile, or Eugenist—does, in fact, give him so small a salary that he can’t do it, there is the essence of eternal tyranny and shame.”
~G. K. Chesterton

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Brethren, We Have Met To Worship

Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God;
Will you pray with all your power, while we try to preach the Word?
All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

Sisters, will you join and help us? Moses’ sister aided him;
Will you help the trembling mourners who are struggling hard with sin?
Tell them all about the Savior, tell them that He will be found;
Sisters, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

Is there here a trembling jailer, seeking grace, and filled with tears?
Is there here a weeping Mary, pouring forth a flood of tears?
Brethren, join your cries to help them; sisters, let your prayers abound;
Pray, Oh pray that holy manna may be scattered all around.

Let us love our God supremely, let us love each other, too;
Let us love and pray for sinners, till our God makes all things new.
Then He’ll call us home to Heaven, at His table we’ll sit down;
Christ will gird Himself and serve us with sweet manna all around.

~Words: George Atkins & Music: William Moore

Saturday, March 12, 2016

What Does Such Love Mean?

“A verse from Psalm 18 proclaims the agony of Jesus: ‘The waves of death rose about me; the pains of the nether world surrounded me. In my anguish I called to the Lord and from His holy temple He heard my voice.’ (Ps 18: 5, 7)

This anguish and all that accompanied it is redemptive love and every single part of it is for our sake...for the sake of all people whether they believe it or not. How incomprehensible, how passionate is His love for you, for me, for all. This is our God who desires us to spend our eternity in Him. What follows from all this? What does this mean for our lives?

The answer is very, very personal and no one can make it for you, for me! What does such love mean for me, you?”
~John Denburger

Friday, March 11, 2016

Contemplating The Lord’s Passion

“True reverence for the Lord’s passion means fixing the eyes of our heart on Jesus crucified and recognizing in Him our own humanity.

The earth—our earthly nature—should tremble at the suffering of its Redeemer. The rocks—the hearts of unbelievers—should burst asunder. The dead, imprisoned in the tombs of their mortality, should come forth, the massive stones now ripped apart. Foreshadowings of the future resurrection should appear in the holy city, the Church of God: what is to happen to our bodies should now take place in our hearts.

No one, however weak, is denied a share in the victory of the cross. No one is beyond the help of the prayer of Christ. His prayer brought benefit to the multitude that raged against Him. How much more does it bring to those who turn to Him in repentance...”
~St. Leo the Great

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Imperatives

  
Look at the birds
Consider the lilies
Drink ye all of it

Ask
Seek
Knock
Enter by the narrow gate

Do not be anxious
Judge not; do not give dogs what is holy

Go: be it done for you
Do not be afraid
Maiden, arise
Young man, I say, arise

Stretch out your hand
Stand up, be still
Rise, let us be going ...

Love
Forgive
Remember me

~Kathleen Norris (finds poetry in Jesus’s commands to His followers)
  

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Freedom

“Freedom isn’t about being able to do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it. Freedom is about being able to choose and then act toward what is good. It is about the opportunity to grow toward one’s telos—the Greek word which means ‘purpose’ or ‘maturity’ or ‘goal’—for which you’ve been created. Freedom means both a lack of external coercion that prevents you from moving toward your telos, but also a lack of internal coercion that prevents you from moving toward your telos as well.”
~Excerpt from The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski

“It should be accepted as a most elementary human and moral truth that no man can live a fully sane and decent life unless he is able to say ‘no’ on occasion to his natural bodily appetites. No man who simply eats and drinks whenever he feels like eating and drinking, who smokes whenever he feels the urge to light a cigarette, who gratifies his curiosity and sensuality whenever they are stimulated, can consider himself a free person. He has renounced his spiritual freedom and become the servant of bodily impulse. Therefore his mind and his will are not fully his own. They are under the power of his appetites.”
~Thomas Merton

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Brier

Because, dear Christ, your tender, wounded arm
Bends back the brier that edges life’s long way,
That no hurt comes to heart, to soul no harm,
I do not feel the thorns so much to-day.

Because I never knew your care to tire,
Your hand to weary guiding me aright,
Because you walk before and crush the brier,
It does not pierce my feet so much to-night.

Because so often you have hearkened to
My selfish prayers, I ask but one thing now,
That these harsh hands of mine add not unto
The crown of thorns upon your bleeding brow.

~E. Pauline Johnson

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Sands

The soul for comfort holds herself to be
Inviolate; but like the blowing sands
That sift in shuttered houses, Christ’s demands
Intrude and sting, deny her to be free

She twists and turns but finds it vain to flee,
The living Word is in the very air,
She can’t escape a wound that’s everywhere,
She can but stand or yield—to ecstasy

Her Lord is seeking entrance; she must choose.
A thickening callous can withstand the pain
Of this rough irritant, the sands that swirl
Against her thus defied. But if she lose
Her self, Christ enters in—the sharp-edged grain
Of sand embedded grows a shining pearl

~Sheldon Vanauken

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Nehemiah 8:9-12

9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Lent 2001

The cosmos dreams in me
while I wait in stillness,
ready to lean a little further
into the heart of the Holy.

I, a little blip of life,
a wisp of unassuming love,
a quickly passing breeze,
come once more into Lent.

No need to sign me
with the black bleeding ash
of palms, fried and baked.
I know my humus place.

This Lent I will sail
on the graced wings of desire,
yearning to go deeper
to the place where
I am one in the One.

Oh, may I go there soon,
in the same breath
that takes me to the stars
when the cosmos dreams in me.

~Joyce Rupp

Friday, March 4, 2016

Cultivate

“But this work of nurturing, of digging the earth and tending the soil, of practicing resurrection, isn’t ‘good’ enough for many people.

A friend of mine, an accomplished financier and real-estate developer, was once chided by a family member for his love of cultivating his garden.

‘Let someone else do that,’ he was told. ‘Your time is far too valuable to be mucking about in the dirt.’

This is an age-old sentiment, and all the more lamentable for its antiquity. The evidence of its longstanding existence is evident in everything from industrial agriculture to the history of the English language. Despite the fact that the word Adam means ‘red clay,’ despite the fact that we grow our food in it and live on the basis of its health, despite the fact that we will one day be buried in it, to many ‘civilized’ people, dirt is ‘dirty,’ and by association, so are those who work with it. Take the word villain for example. Villain and villa and village are all related words, originating from the Latin word for farmvillaticum. And the farm, of course, is the polar opposite of the city—civitas—where everyone is ‘civilized’ and where ‘civility’ is paramount.

Thus do the civilized critics and financiers and industrialists alike point out that we should relegate the menial task of the cultivation of our food or the baking of our bread to the migrant workers or the minorities or the machines so that the rest ‘can get on toward more important tasks,’ like amassing wealth or weapons or even ‘changing our world.’

But I’m no longer convinced by this logic, seductive and ‘liberated’ as it seems. Cultivating a garden, baking bread, feasting with friends—these are all extraordinary acts of enormous particularity, of stewardship, of attentiveness, of care. And if the resurrection is anything at all, it is an act of great particularity, stewardship, attentiveness, and care, and I’m rather inclined to herald and participate in it in any way I can.”

~Excerpt from The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski

Thursday, March 3, 2016

To Discover God...

“To discover God in the smallest and most ordinary things, as well as in the greatest, is to possess a rare and sublime faith. To find contentment in the present moment is to relish and adore the divine will in the succession of all the things to be done and suffered which make up the duty to the present moment.”
~Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Four Rooms

“There is an Indian proverb that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.”
~Rumer Godden

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Avoiding Suffering

“The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.”
~Thomas Merton