Friday, April 30, 2010

Saying Grace

Oh Lord
take this food
for the nourishment of our bodies
and us
for the nourishment of Yours.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I choose hope

I read St. Paul talking to the Thessalonians about caring for them the way a mother nurses her own children, and my heart aches at being separated from mine.

He describes care so deep that his companions shared not only the gospel, but also their very selves, because the people had become so dear to them.

That's what mothers do; share their very selves with their dear ones.

The would give -all- if they could. Most try to.

I know that I tried to.

For now I share in Paul's pain at separation, and join him in praying for their peace and protection and goodness and holiness.

I thank the Father that He is a God of restoration. And I choose hope.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Not only water

I've been thinking about Peter, walking across the water to Jesus who called to him during a terrible storm.

The waves and lightening and wind must have been terrifying, even while sitting in the relative safety of the boat. Imagine the courage it would take to step out.


Most people would call it insane.

In addition to the terror of heaving his frame over the edge and taking step after step forward, I wonder what he could see under the surface. I picture the sea teeming with leviathans of all shapes and sizes, trying to stop his act of faith, just as the first one did in the garden. I picture all forms of ugliness threatening him, trying to catch his gaze, to make him take his eyes off Christ, and sink.

But as He always does, Jesus called. And saved. Again.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Feed me?

Yesterday it struck me for the first time that Christ is both lamb and shepherd. Not sure why I didn't think about it before; it is such a strange contradiction.

He also calls -us- both. He tells us that we are either sheep or goats (neither particularly flattering), but also tells us to feed His lambs.


Monday, April 26, 2010

I was in NYC this week, playing tourist. The two highlights were St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Cloisters.

I have frequently heard the complaint that the Roman Catholic church has too much money, as illustrated by the lavishness of the Vatican and cathedrals around the world. Visiting St. Patrick's reminded me of why these places should not be stripped bare, with contents sold to the highest bidder and the proceeds going to the hungry.

St. Patrick's is in the heart of mid-town Manhattan; the busiest city I have experienced. (Haven't been to Asia, but it's the most frentically crammed of cities I've visited in the US and a few other countries.) You walk in to a relative hush from the crowded sidewalk, and while the traffic noises are still audible, the difference is immediate. The space is huge, so while there are plenty of tourists wandering around trying unsucessfully to be quiet and respectful, it still manages to feel like a church rather than simply a tourist stop.

The beauty is everywhere, on floor and ceiling, in carved wooden arches, marble pulpits, soaring stained glass windows, statues... The scent of incense is present but not prominent. Small chapels encircle the primary sanctuary and nave, each one centering on a particular saint. The Pieta awaits contemplation of a mother's sorrow. Eucharistic adoration takes place in Mary's chapel.

But what caught me most were the people in the pews.

I didn't look extensively at them, there was so much else to look at. But now I wish that I had. One woman was clearly a street person. She was surrounded by suitcases, so many that I wondered how she managed to get from place to place. She must have a system. She sat on the end of a pew looking over some papers in her lap, and I'm guessing she had been there for hours. It made me wonder how warm such a huge space would get in the cold of winter, and how it must be lusciously cool in the summer heat.

Another man sat with his forehead resting on an arm on the pew in front of him. He looked like he might have stopped in during a lunch break from a custodial job in one of the nearby skyscrapers; tidy dark blue pants and shirt, sturdy shoes. Strong and capable, from what could be seen of his back. I never did see his face. But pain washed off him in waves as I walked past. He wasn't crying, or at least I don't think he was. There were no sounds, no heaving chest. Just a steady stillness, and pain you could feel in the pit of your heart.

I walked around this place of beauty and history and drama and pain, and thought of what a treasure it is. What a priceless thing to have such a place to enter without cost, no matter if you are a hotshot investor, gawking tourist, heartbroken wife and mother, homeless beggar, or anyone else from any walk of life from anywhere in the world.

A place of sanctuary and rest.

A place of solace and contemplation.

A place of beauty and dignity.

All free for all who enter.

The Cloisters cost $20, at the end of a long journey uptown, offering soundbyte-esque glimpses of Christian art out of context. Don't get me wrong, it was lovely in a 3D sacramental crazy quilt kind of way.

But St. Patrick's is Christian art in situ and in practice. A place where all can come to experience the transcendance and immanence of God. I thank Him for establishing a church which provides such treasures for His children.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

No need to leave

You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer
itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

-- Franz Kafka

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The point of stories

From The Night is Far Spent:

The point of stories is enjoyment--even Oedipus and War and Peace. But stories do, in fact, echo our real-life situations. One way or another, everything does come down, in the end, to a very few issues: humility versus pride; peaceableness versus strife; generosity versus parsimony; fidelity versus perfidiousness; good cheer versus wrath; purity versus squalor in the inner man. And of course even that list can be boiled down to one contrast: love versus unlove. Heaven versus hell.

--Thomas Howard

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I do not want spiritual cream

Reminds me of previous posts on peaches.

From The Night is Far Spent:

...suppose the honey-colored stone we see in Costwold manor houses is only a sketchy hint of the real, solid thing awaiting us in the new heavens and the new earth. Or suppose the sweet tang of wild raspeberries is itself the thinned-down, subdued hint, given to us here temporarily, until we reach the state of being known as sanctity, where we will be able to sustain the hitherto insupportable bliss of real raspberries. (I myself hope there will be double cream from Jersy cows to flood our raspberries with, and I must say, I do not want spiritual cream.)

--Thomas Howard

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pale, diluted earthly metaphor

From The Night is Far Spent:

What if we don't marry in heaven because we will have won through, via the kindergarten lessons of marital fidelity, or of consecrated chastity, here in this realm, to that unimaginably blissful state of affairs where we will know all other selves with an ecstasy far, far outstripping the pale, diluted earthly metaphor of sex? What if sex is the hint--the metaphor--and its fulfillment in paradise, far from being an attenuation, is a great raising of the stakes, so that our elementary experiences down here in marital union will turn out to be just that: elementary?

--Thomas Howard

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It is not as a child that I believe and confess...

It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt.

-- Fyodor Dostoevsky

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bye bye

I've given up an idol.

A few days ago I cut my hair.

I'd worn it the same way for about 30 years, since I was 16.

Until now the thought of cutting my hair was terrifying. It was long, and mouse brown, and I'd somehow interconnected it with my personhood.

Now it is neither long (by the previous standard) nor brown. I don't think the new color is particularly flattering, and the cut is just ok. But it doesn't matter. I'm not traumatized.

Who I am is not in long hair, nor in any of the other things I've defined myself to be over the past years of coping.

An idol is gone, and in discovering that I survived the loss, it has become easier to breathe.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

153 kinds exalt Him

John 21 recounts Jesus making His posse breakfast on the shore. As part of the story, He gifts them with a superabundant catch of fish, after a night in which they had caught nothing.

Once the boys reach the shore, Jesus asks Peter to run back to the net and get more fish for the fire, on which some is already cooking.

Such homely tasks; making a fire ahead of time so that the coals are at the perfect stage for cooking. Preparing bread. Cleaning fish.

Amazing that the creator of the universe would do such things for us...

Today in thinking about this passage (one of my favorite demonstrations of His immanence), I wondered about the fish Peter brought back.

They must have been alive, fresh out of the water, still wriggling from the shock of capture and oxygen deprivation.

I wonder if they calmed at His touch. I wonder if they experienced some sort of fishly ecstasy.

If even the rocks cry out, could a fish exalt to be in the hand of God?

May I be happy to be so consumed.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Where were you Mother?

This week's readings led me to various gospel accounts of women coming to the empty tomb. I found it interesting that the Blessed Mother was not included in any of the lists.

Think about what it would have been like to go there that morning... The linen strips which had been hurriedly wrapped by the men when He was taken down must have been stuck on the wounds. The blood would have seeped through, congealed, and then dried.

Can you imagine going to one you loved so deeply a day or two after such a brutal death, and having to peel away the cloth from flesh already brutalized?

I've never spent time with the body of a loved one who has passed, let alone had to attend to their body and prepare them for interment. The thought of doing that for my child, and doing further damage to their battered body in the process, is incomprehensible.

And so I thought of Mary, His mother. Was it custom for the mother to do such a task?

I can think of two possible reasons for her absence.

Either it was just too painful and she was overcome with grief, so much so that she couldn't make herself go.

Or her Spouse told her that it was not necessary to go because He was risen.

The latter seems to make more sense. What do you think?

You have given us rule over the works of your hands

Quick follow up on the April 3, 2010 post, discussing our judgement of angels:

Psalm 8:4-7

When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place--What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them rule over the works of your hands, put all things at their feet...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Particle by particle

Sacramental traditions typically institute a fast to be held prior to reception of the Eucharist, so that your body receives Him directly.

In receiving such a gift, it is hard not to want more. Particularly for the precious blood. When taking the chalice, it is hard not to want to gulp Him in.

(I don't do it, mind you, but Iwant to.)

The other day I wondered what would happen if you went to the service after drinking a glass or two of wine at home, having eaten nothing else for some hours. I imagine His precious blood entering and mixing with the wine, transforming it as it swirls, transubstantiation occurring particle by particle.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Judges of angels

During one of this week's services, I had some thoughts about evil spirits which I am going to tell you, despite knowing that some readers will print copies as proof of delusion.

Luckily, I believe the beatitudes, so damn the torpedos.

Darkness has been very apparent to me in recent weeks. I used to think it was just a product of nature and nurture, but over time, the personal particularity of evil has become more apparent. As a result, spiritual warfare has become an increasingly significant part of my prayer life.

While praying recently, I thought about 1 Cor 6:3, which says that we will be the judges of angels.

Think about what this means. Not only are we given the authority to cast out through the power of Christ. We are also to be judges.

Judges determine the outcome of the accused.

My understanding is that unlike humans, angelic beings are no longer being created. (Can't remember the biblical foundation for this, will have to dig it up.) Their numbers are therefore limited.

Imagine what would happen if all Christians began not only to pray against the evil working against their friends and family, but also to consign forces of evil to perpetual incarceration.

Would this help bring the kingdom to earth as it is in heaven?

Over time there would be fewer and fewer to wreck havoc in the world, and more and more people would be able to recognize the beauty and truth and light of God. Eventually there would be nothing left but beauty and life.

Like many of my thoughts, this is just a theory. But I like it, and am going to give it a try.