Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Advent: More than Dust

A meditation I wrote for our Diocesan Executive Meeting December 9, 2014

Comet 67P (Churyumov-Gerasimenko) was all the rage in the news recently.  The European Space Agency out-did themselves by rendezvousing the Rosetta Satellite with the comet and then executing a landing on it.   The lander had a more difficult surface to land upon than anticipated – it was thick with dust and the ice was more like concrete.  Looking at pictures from the space agency one could see that the comet was comprised of two balls of ice and dust, held together by a miniscule amount of gravity.  It was covered with dust, but yet they hoped to find the building blocks of life.  It reminded me of the fact that we are made of stardust.  As one astronomer wrote:
“The amazing thing is that every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements - the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution - weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way they could get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode. So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today.”
Lawrence M. Krauss, A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing
We are but dust!  Nothing new here; nothing new there – just dust.  There might be things of interest in dust, but there is no meaning in dust, or colliding balls of dust, or complicated gatherings of dust.  It is just dust.  Interesting dust.
But God has spoken into the dust
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103.14
 “…the dust of death.”  Psalm 22.15
“What profit is there in my blood,
When I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise You?
Will it declare Your truth?  Psalm 30.9
All the prosperous of the earth
Shall eat and worship;
All those who go down to the dust
Shall bow before Him,
Even he who cannot keep himself alive.  Psalm 22.29
The Lord has breathed life into the dust, He has shone His light from above, as it were, and we are thus.  This is the story of our faith.  But it is more than a story, more than a mere philosophical meta-narrative of human thought and imagination, created to construct meaning out of the stardust.  It is the story of revelation, of the divine creation and restoration, to lift us from the ‘dust of death’ to the life of God.
Into the darkness of dust and dead stars the Lord breathed life, and thus meaning into existence. 
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
4              What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?  Psalm 8.3,4
The advent of Christ restored meaning, purpose, and hope, to help us to live as we are meant to live: truly human, in love and union with God, and in love and union with each other.
The Star over Bethlehem is for the whole world.  The Breath of Pentecost is for the whole world.  They call us out of the dust of death, darkness, and meaninglessness.  They call us to truth, goodness, and beauty.  They call us to peace with God and each other.
The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.  Isaiah 9.2

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
77             To give knowledge of salvation to His people
By the remission of their sins,
78             Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
79             To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”  Luke 1.76-79

"So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today?” says the philosopher and physicist.  No, never!  Let us forever proclaim the Gospel of Peace on earth, goodwill to all.  Let us forever remember Jesus, our light and life, indeed the light and life of the world.

O Morning Star, splendour of the light eternal and bright Sun
of righteousness: come and enlighten all who dwell in darkness
and in the shadow of death.
Lord Jesus, come soon!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Get Up Again

A monk came to Abba Sisoes and said:
“What should I do, Abba, for I have fallen from grace?”
And he replied, Get up again.”
The monk came back shortly after and said:
“What shall I do now, for I have fallen again?”
And the old man said to him,
“Just get up again. Never cease getting back up again!”
-  Sayings of the Elders
We fall – into sin, fear, sorrow, despair…. We can all name the many places and ways in which we have fallen. Sometimes we fall through our own doing, other times through the actions or words of another, and still other times simply by the changes and chances of life. For most of us the real question is not whether we will fall but whether we will get up again. The spiritual journey is one of continually getting back up again.

From the Blog "Interrupting the Silence," found HERE

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Refashioned into that Ancient Beauty of Your Likeness

I recently discovered this beautiful canticle from the Funeral Service of the Greek Orthodox Church.  It contains so very many beautiful, poetic, and truth-filled phrases.

A chanting of the Memorial can be found on Youtube HERE

Memorial for the Dead
Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me Your statutes.

The Choir of the Saints has found the Fountain of Life, and the Door of Paradise. May I also find the way through repentance: the sheep that was lost am I; call me up to You, O Savior,and save me.

Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me Your statutes.

You Who of old did fashion me out of nothingness, and with Your Image divine did honor me; but because of transgression of Your commandments did return me again to the earth where I was taken; lead me back to 
be refashioned into that ancient beauty of Your Likeness.

Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me Your statutes.

Image am I of Your unutterable glory, though I bear the scars of my stumblings. Have compassion on me, the work of Your hands, O Sovereign Lord, and cleanse me through Your loving-kindness; and the homeland of my heart's desire bestow on me by making me a citizen of Paradise.

Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me Your statutes.

Give rest, O God, unto Your servant, and appoint for him (her) a place in Paradise; where the choirs of the Saints, O Lord, and the just will shine forth like stars; to Your servant that is sleeping now do You give rest, overlooking all his (her) offenses.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
The Trinal Radiance of One Godhead with reverent song acclaiming let us cry; Holy are You, O Eternal Father, and Son also Eternal, and Spirit Divine; shine with Your light on us who with faith adore You; and from the fire eternal rescue us.
Both now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Hail, O Gracious Lady, that in the flesh bears God for salvation of all; and through whom the human race has found salvation: through You may we find Paradise, Theotokos, our Lady pure and blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia; Glory to You, O God.

With the Saints give rest, O Christ, to the soul of servant where there is not pain, nor any sorrow, nor any sighing, but Life everlasting.
Composed by St. John of Damascus

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Justice does not belong to the Christian way of life!

Sit amid lepers rather than amid the proud.
Be persecuted, but persecute not.
Be crucified, but crucify not.
Be wronged, but wrong not.
Be slandered, but slander not.
Have clemency, not zeal, with respect to evil.
Lay hold of goodness, not justice.
Justice does not belong to the Christian way of life, and there is no mention of it in Christ’s teaching. Rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep; for this is the sign of limpid purity. Suffer with the sick, and mourn with sinners; with those who repent, rejoice.

~From Homily 51 of St. Isaac the Syrian
This a puzzling quote.  "Lay hold of goodness, not justice. Justice does not belong to the Christian way of life, and there is no mention of it in Christ’s teaching."  I am familiar with "mercy triumphs over judgment."How does this square up with all the justice talk that has saturated the Church.  Perhaps we are entirely misguided in using justice talk.   I know this, that if I have to face the justice of the Judge, I am lost.  I can only plead "Mercy."  What if we were to have "Goodness Camps" instead of Justice Camps.  What would that look like?  Or a 'Mercy Camp?'

O Lord, send Thy grace to my help, that I may glorify Thy holy name… O Lord my God, even though I have done nothing good in Thy sight, yet grant me by Thy grace to make a good beginning. O Lord, sprinkle into my heart the dew of Thy grace. O Lord of Heaven and Earth, remember me Thy sinful servant, shameful and unclean, in Thy Kingdom. Amen

St. John Chrysostom, from evening prayers
Both quotes are from the blog Nothing but Orthodoxy

Lord have Mercy,  Brian+

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Don’t give offense. Don’t take offense. Forgive everybody everything right away.

Don’t give offense.
Don’t take offense.
Forgive everybody everything right away.
I recently came across this statement while exploring a spiritual blog on the internet.  The blogger was unaware of the author of the quote, so it must have been the famous author of many a quote, Mr. Anonymous. It struck me as a profoundly simple but accurate description of the Christian life.  Despite its succinct simplicity it is frustratingly difficult to live out.  It would require exacting humility and earnest attentiveness to live this very spiritual axiom.  But why bother?

The easiest answer to that question is that it is how Jesus lived.  At first glance that might be difficult to swallow.  Did not Jesus give offense?   Were not many of those who heard the words of the itinerant Galilean prophet offended?  Did not they plot His death because of His proclamations.  Indeed they did take offense!  But this was not because Jesus intentions were to offend others.  Rather they took offense because the words He spoke were a direct challenge to their self-conceived or culturally-shaped sensibilities.   It is difficult to say that Jesus went about to be deliberately in-your-face provocative.  Simply being who He was was enough to offend, enough so to result in the Cross.  As St. Anthony of old said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, "You are mad, you are not like us." 

The second and third lines of the quote strongly resonate with our perceptions of Jesus: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23.32)  These words are powerful reminders of the way of Jesus, and it points to His witness of what true humanity is like.  It is the clarion call of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that as Christ has overcome our sin and death, that He also invites, even commands us to enter into His life which is to say both His being, and His way of being.  (This is to embrace the mystery of who I am, and the wonder of living it out: being who I am.)  When we stand on the solid rock of personal identity, which is revealed in the person of Jesus, then we are able to ignore remarks or actions that might otherwise be offensive personal attacks.  To take no offense is possible when we are intensely ‘other’ focused, knowing that the other person who has said something that in our brokenness would be offensive, is a person who has not embraced their own personhood..  Thus we readily willing and able to forgive them.

So it is then: “Don’t give offense. Don’t take offense. Forgive everybody everything right away.”  These truth-ladened words, succinctly state a Christian mantra of how we should attempt to live out our life in Christ.  So write it down somewhere, memorize it, take it up, and before long you shall realize that you will desperately need the Holy Spirit to live it.  But with eyes firmly focused upon Jesus, with daily prayer, reflection, and repentance, we shall find in it the joy of the abundant life, renewed hope in the fullness of the life to come, and best of all we shall find Christ’s love deepening in our hearts, and Christ’s love flowing from our hearts to all others.

LORD have mercy,  Brian+

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Easter Sermon of St. John Chrysostom

Does more need to be said???  A Blessed Easter to all,  Brian+

If any be a devout lover of God,
  let him partake with gladness from this fair and radiant feast.
If any be a faithful servant,
  let him enter rejoicing into the joy of his Lord.
If any have wearied himself with fasting,
  let him now enjoy his reward.
If any have laboured from the first hour,
  let him receive today his rightful due.
If any have come after the third,
  let him celebrate the feast with thankfulness.
If any have come after the sixth,
  let him not be in doubt, for he will suffer no loss.
If any have delayed until the ninth,
  let him not hesitate but draw near.
If any have arrived only at the eleventh,
  let him not be afraid because he comes so late.
For the Master is generous and accepts the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him who comes at the eleventh hour
  in the same was as him who has laboured from the first.
He accepts the deed, and commends the intention.
Enter then, all of you, into the joy of our Lord.
First and last, receive alike your reward.
Rich and poor, dance together.
You who fasted and you who have not fasted, rejoice together.
The table is fully laden: let all enjoy it.
The calf is fatted: let none go away hungry.
Let none lament his poverty;
  for the universal Kingdom is revealed.
Let none bewail his transgressions;
  for the light of forgiveness has risen from the tomb.
Let none fear death;
  for death of the Saviour has set us free.
He has destroyed death by undergoing death.
He has despoiled hell by descending into hell.
He vexed it even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he cried:
Hell was filled with bitterness when it met Thee face to face below;
  filled with bitterness, for it was brought to nothing;
  filled with bitterness, for it was mocked;
  filled with bitterness, for it was overthrown;
  filled with bitterness, for it was put in chains.
Hell received a body, and encountered God. It received earth, and confronted heaven.
O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
Christ is risen! And you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is risen! And the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is risen! And the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen! And life is liberated!
Christ is risen! And the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power, now and forever, and from all ages to all ages.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Annunciation

A Feast Day forgotten in our parts. 

And the part of St. Mary seemingly forgotten in the BCP.

Collect for the Annunciation from the BCP:

WE beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into
our hearts; that, as we have known the incarnation
of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message
of an angel, so by his cross and passion we may
be brought unto the glory of his resurrection;
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

A couple of prayers from  Parish Prayers,  Compiled and edited by Frank Colquhoun

We beseech thee, O God, pour thy grace into our hearts; that, as at the message of an angel, Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, and became the mother of the Lord and the most blessed among women, so we, believing thy word, may receive Christ to dwell in our hearts, and by our life make manifest the mystery of his incarnation; who hath exalted our manhood into the glory of his Godhead, even Jesus Christ our Lord.  Gregorian Sacramentary

O Christ our God incarnate, whose Virgin Mother was blessed in bearing thee, but still more blessed in keeping thy word: Grant us, who honour the exaltation of her lowliness, to follow the example of her devotion to thy will; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.  William Bright