Christianity

PILGRIMAGE: Rue de Sèvres, Paris—Putting Faith Into Action by Albert Holtz

February 17, 2018

From: Pilgrim Road Number 95, rue de Sèvres, is a charming rabbit warren of buildings.  Since 1817 it has been the mother house of Les Pères de la Mission (the Vincentians), founded in 1625 by Saint Vincent de Paul.  The order has since spread around the world, bringing the Good News to the poor.  Vincentians of all ages come and go in the hallways, speaking French, Spanish, English, or any of a number of other languages.  Many are here for ongoing refresher courses in the theology of their order. Vincent was born in 1581 into a peasant family in a village of southwestern France.  As a young priest, he arrived in Paris and became chaplain to the rich and influential Gondi family.  Then one day he was called to the bedside of a [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: What Life? by Raniero Cantalamessa

February 16, 2018

From: Come, Creator Spirit But now it is time to ask ourselves about what kind of life are we speaking when we say that the Spirit gives life.  The faith of the church has never had any hesitation or doubt in answering this question.  We are talking of divine life, that is to say, the life that has its source in God the Father, which in Christ “was made visible,” (1 John 1:2), and in baptism is given to the believer.  Between this life and the natural life that we have from our human birth there is no real opposition (both come from God who is the absolute master of all life, physical as well as spiritual); yet the two are diverse and in contrast on the moral level, as we see in the well-known antitheses: nature / grace, flesh / [...]

PILGRIMAGE: La Paz Witches’ Market, Bolivia—Trusting In God Alone by Albert Holtz

February 16, 2018

From: Pilgrim Road La Paz, Bolivia, sits in a bowl-shaped valley 12,000 feet up in the Andes.  Hundreds of tiny brick houses climb the steep slopes like a tattered blanket of brown ivy. Iris, our private guide, is escorting three of us on an afternoon tour of La Paz, the world’s highest capital.  With me are a young Chilean couple, Carlos and Elena.  We’ve left our hired taxi for a few minutes to stroll up a cobblestone street in an old quarter of town.  Its official name is Calle Linares, but everyone calls it, “el Mercado de las Brujas,” (“the Witches’ Market”).  The street is lined with little shops and sidewalk stalls displaying love potions, magic charms, animal skins, medicines, and folk remedies.  Iris explains [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: 1 Jesus Is Condemned To Death by Caryll Houselander

February 15, 2018

From The Way of the Cross  “Behold the man!” He is a man of sorrows.  He is covered in bruises and stripes.  He is made a laughing stock.  He is crowned with a crown of thorns.  A reed is put into his hand for a scepter, a tattered soldier’s cloak is thrown over his naked shoulders.  His eyes are blind-folded.  His face is covered with spittings.  He is bound like a dangerous criminal.  His own people have chosen a murderer before him.  His friends have forsaken him.  The kiss of treason burns on his cheek. “He has no comeliness whereby we shall desire him!” “He is a worm and no man, the reproach of men and the outcast of the people.” And he is condemned to death. “Away with him!  Away with him!  Crucify [...]

LENT: Into The Wilderness by Aaron Damiani

February 15, 2018

From The Good of Giving Up We are not ready for Easter.  Not emotionally, not spiritually.  But we always seem to be ready for the trappings of Easter. For most Christians, Easter Sunday is a polite and happy occasion.  Families, including mine, dress up in pastels and bow ties for the after-church picture.  Children paint eggs, hunt for eggs, and consume Peeps and chocolate bunnies.  We eat brunch, including delicious ham, and then move on with our lives. Meanwhile, church leaders see Easter Sunday as an opportunity unlike any other to reach out to the community.  Easter is still one of the highest-attended services of the year.  As a local church pastor, I appreciate that people are open in a unique way on Easter Sunday.  And I [...]

PILGRIMAGE: The Channel Tunnel, England—Waiting For The Lord by Albert Holtz

February 15, 2018

From: Pilgrim Road 8:09 a.m.  Ping-pong-ping!  The electronic chimes sound their warning.  The shiny silver doors of the Eurostar train slide closed, and we roll smoothly out of Paris’s Gare du Nord.  On its second day of regular operation, the train smells of new carpeting and upholstery.  Everything around me is sparkling and high-tech.  This streamlined train, specially designed to run through the new tunnel under the English Channel, will whisk me to Waterloo Station, London, in three hours and six minutes.  The sooty slate-blue of the November morning glides past my window as the train hums through suburban Paris. 8:20 a.m.  We’re now in high gear – 186 miles an hour.  The farm fields are pouring past like a river of [...]

WILDERNESS: The Wilderness—Everyone Has One by Brian & Candice Simmons

February 14, 2018

From The Wilderness When you see the word miracles paired with wilderness in the title of this book, you might think, Are you kidding?  We all love the word miracle, but wilderness – not so much!  We’ve all experienced difficult seasons at one time or another and have hoped for that instantaneous miracle to appear.  Over and over you can hear the cry of our hearts through the psalmist, King David, as he says: How long, O Lord? When will you answer my cry? Why must I wait so long for your promise to be fulfilled? We can all identify with those words, for we’ve all had unresolved issues surface in our journey with Christ.  So in spite of what others may tell you, the Christian journey is not a life of endless bliss, with a perfect [...]

PILGRIMAGE: Canterbury, England—Patrons For The Journey by Albert Holtz

February 14, 2018

From: Pilgrim Road Canterbury is lively and welcoming this November afternoon.  Her streets, lined with pubs and souvenir shops, are noisy with the tongues of a dozen different lands.  People still flock to visit the magnificent Gothic cathedral and its tomb of Thomas Becket, just as they’ve been doing since the late 1100s.  Along these bustling lanes once walked the Wife of Bath, the bawdy Miller, the courtly Knight, the Pardoner, and the other colorful pilgrims in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, who told each other stories to pass the time on the road. But if Canterbury breathes welcome and warmth, she also has an air of Saxon solidity, thanks to her cobblestone pavements, granite fences, moss-covered church walls, and grumpy [...]

PILGRIMAGE: The Days After Ash Wednesday by Albert Holtz

February 13, 2018

From: Pilgrim Road SETTING OUT Imagine that we are in a church in Le Puy, up in the rugged central mountains of medieval France.  The group has been gathering for an hour already and there is a growing feeling of festivity and excitement in the air; we are about to set off on a pilgrimage to the great shrine of Saint James, Santiago de Compostela, in northwest Spain.  Many of the people in the church are carrying the walking stick and drinking gourd that mark them as pilgrims; some are wearing a scallop shell, the traditional badge of pilgrims on the difficult and dangerous 800-mile journey over mountains and across desolate uplands to Compostela.  There is a spirit of joyful anticipation as we greet friends and check our supplies while [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Via Crucis by Caryll Houselander

February 13, 2018

From The Way of the Cross  Three o’clock on a grey afternoon.  Outside, a steady drizzle of rain; inside the church, an odd motley of people. A smartly dressed woman, side by side with one who is shabby and threadbare.  A boy and girl who appear to be in love.  A very old man, so bowed that he is permanently in an attitude of adoration.  A stalwart young soldier whose polished buttons glitter like gems in the candlelight.  A couple of students, shabbily but elegantly dressed in corduroys and bright scarves, rubbing shoulders with a gaunt, round-shouldered man who looks like a tramp.  A sprinkle of small children.  And behind them all, as if he felt himself to be the modern Publican, though there is no reason why he should, a [...]

POETRY: Station Island XI by Seamus Heaney / John of the Cross

February 13, 2018

As if the prisms of the kaleidoscope I plunged once in a butt of muddied water Surfaced like a marvelous lightship And out of its silted crystals a monk’s face That had spoken years ago from behind a grille Spoke again about the need and chance To salvage everything, to re-envisage The zenith and glimpsed jewels of any gift Mistakenly abased …. What came to nothing could always be replenished. “Read poems as prayers,” he said, “and for your penance Translate me something by Juan de la Cruz.” Returned from Spain to our chapped wilderness, His consonants aspirate, his forehead shining, He had made me feel there was nothing to confess. Now his sandaled passage stirred me on to this: How well I know that fountain, filling, running, [...]

PRAYER: Love—A “Yes” To Belonging (Part One) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

February 12, 2018

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Belonging In the two preceding chapters we have seen that faith and hope are always there when one is grateful.  We saw that one must have trust in the giver before one can give thanks.  But trust of this kind is the very core of faith.  And we recognized also that one must be open for surprise before one can be grateful.  Deep down, every gift is a surprise.  But openness for surprise is the essence of hope.  Faith and hope, in this sense, are two aspects of the divine life within us.  The third one, often mentioned in the same breath, is love.  It, too, is intimately tied in with giving thanks.  The ties between love and gratefulness are what we shall explore in this chapter. In getting at [...]

LENT: Preparing For Lent

February 12, 2018

From Full Homely Divinity “The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting.” (The Book of Common Prayer). By the middle of the fifth century, the church had taken a similar approach to preparing for Advent, then known as “Saint Martin’s Lent.” Much of what follows may also be profitably applied to Advent. Since Lent is itself a season of preparation, it may seem like overkill to have to prepare for Lent. Yet, how will we take full advantage of the opportunity of Lent if we wait until the last minute to decide how to keep it? Both the Eastern and Western [...]

PRAYER: The Prayer Of Saint Ephrem The Syrian

February 12, 2018

(To be used daily through Lent.) O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despondency, lust of power, and idle talk; But grant rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother; For blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. [...]

UNITY: Spiritual Warfare, or, The reason the church was created in the first place

February 12, 2018

Let us begin with an exercise in imagination. I want you to picture a pie chart. At first, when you look at it, it looks like it is all one color. Let’s say, white. But as you study it, even use a magnifying glass on it, you are able to see one very fine, black line. As you pull away from the chart, the black line blends into all the white. This is the pie chart of sin. The white represents sins for which a person can atone, ask for forgiveness, and receive it. That very fine, black line represents the one sin for which a person cannot atone or receive forgiveness. One sin. So if the overwhelming majority of sins can be forgiven, why do so many churches spend so much time on justifying judgment and condemnation? One of the very [...]

THE CHURCH YEAR: Gesima Sundays by Gregory Wassen

February 11, 2018

From The Anglican Breviary The three Sundays before Lent begin with Septuagesima, continue with Sexgesima, and conclude with Quinquagesima. They each put us in orbit around the theme of Easter. Septuagesima places us 70 days away from Easter, Sexagesima, 60, and Quinquagesima 50 days. The numbers don’t add up precisely, but that is besides the point. This is not about mathematics so much as about theology. The Lord said unto Adam, Of the tree which is in midst of paradise thou shalt not eat, * for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die. The Lord said unto Noah: The end of all flesh is come before me: * make thee an ark of wood, that thereby the seed of all flesh may be saved. Mighty Abraham, the father of our faith, * [...]

POETRY: Eleven Addresses To The Lord — 11 by John Berryman

February 9, 2018

Germanicus leapt upon the wild lion in Smyrna, wishing to pass quickly from a lawless life. The crowd shook the stadium. The proconsul marveled. “Eighty & six years have I been his servant, and he has done me no harm. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” Polycarp, John’s pupil, facing the fire. Make too me acceptable at the end of time in my degree, which then Thou wilt award. Cancer, senility, mania, I pray I may be ready with my [...]

UNITY: The Art Of Quilting

February 8, 2018

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture [...]

SURRENDER: Especially For Us by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

February 8, 2018

From The Joy of Full Surrender We can be truly instructed only by the words that God speaks to us personally. No one grows in knowledge of God either by reading books or by curious historical research. These means give us only a vain and empty knowledge, which serves only to confuse us and inflate us with pride. That which truly instructs us is what comes to us by the will of God from moment to moment. This is the knowledge gained through experience, which Christ himself was pleased to acquire before teaching others. In fact, this was the only knowledge in which he could grow, according to the expression of the holy gospel, (Luke 2:52). This is because, being God, there was no degree of speculative knowledge that he did not already [...]

SIMPLICITY: Jesus Of Nazareth by Philip Harnden

February 8, 2018

From Journeys of Simplicity Jewish carpenter whose life and teachings inspire the Christian faith. “And what I say unto you, I say unto all: Watch.” JESUS SENDS FORTH THE TWELVE Take nothing for your journey save a staff no knapsack no bread no money not two coats be shod with sandals Go, preach Heaven is at hand heal the sick cleanse the lepers raise the dead cast out [...]

POETRY: Eleven Addresses To The Lord — 10 by John Berryman

February 7, 2018

Fearful I peer upon the mountain path where once Your shadow passed, Limner of the clouds up their phantastic guesses. I am afraid, I never until now confessed. I fell back in love with you, Father, for two reasons: You were good to me, & a delicious author, rational & passionate. Come on me again, as twice you came to Azarias & Misael. President of the brethren, our mild assemblies inspire, & bother the priest not to be dull; keep us week-long in order; love my children, my mother far & ill, far brother, my spouse. Oil all my turbulence as at Thy dictation I sweat out my wayward works. Father Hopkins said the only true literary critic is Christ. Let me lie down exhausted, content with [...]

POETRY: Matins by George Herbert

February 7, 2018

I cannot ope mine eyes, But thou art ready there to catch My morning-soul and sacrifice: Then we must needs for that day make a match. My God, what is a heart? Silver, or gold, or precious stone, Or star, or rainbow, or a part Of all these things, or all of them in one? My God, what is a heart, That thou shouldst it so eye, and woo, Pouring upon it all thy art, As if that thou hadst nothing else to do? Indeed man’s whole estate Amounts (and richly) to serve thee: He did not heav’n and earth create, Yet studies them, not him by whom they be. Teach me thy love to know; That this new light, which now I see, May both the work and workman show: Then by a sunbeam I will climb to [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 68 by W. Robert Godfrey

February 6, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 68 is at once one of the most solemn and most exuberant psalms in the Psalter.  It unites a key moment of communal celebration with very personal reflections and assurance about the character of God.  It is a psalm filled with joy and encouragement. Formally, this psalm is part of a great procession into the temple: “Your procession is seen, O God, the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary – the singers in front, the musicians last, between them virgins playing tambourines: Bless God in the great congregation,” (vv. 24-26a).  The exact occasion of this triumphal procession cannot be determined.  The psalm may have been written for use at more than one victory or even for some [...]

MEDITATION: Psalm 8:2 by Alan J. Hommerding

February 6, 2018

From Everyday Psalms From the mouths of babes and infants you have raised a fortress, a defense to silence your enemies and avengers. It is easy to read this verse as a mere sentimental statement about how much God loves children.  But here the psalmist is using an extreme paradox to illustrate God’s power and God’s ability to wield power everywhere.  In Israel’s society, babes and infants were not only physically weak and helpless, their social standing was zero, since their future was not assured, given the high mortality rate.  Yet God can use even them to build up a defense, and can vanquish enemies through them.  How often do we think we are too insignificant or helpless to be a source for God’s power in [...]

MUSIC: Rehearsing For An Epiphany by Thomas H. Troeger

February 5, 2018

From: Music As Prayer Advent and Christmas: ‘Tis the season of extra rehearsals, the season of getting ready for special concerts and services.  When you are a church musician hauling music stands into the organ loft, trying to arrange them in a very cramped space, finding time to rehearse with a soloist, penciling cues into a musical score, and phoning a publisher to express-mail you some instrumental parts, you may begin to wonder: is it worth all this madness?  It takes such immense amounts of time and energy.  But when the moment of performance arrives, whether in a church or a school or a concert hall, there may be an epiphany: a manifestation of the divine, a disclosure of the spirit of a timeless musical work, a revelation that [...]

PRAYER: An Epiphany Prayer

February 5, 2018

From The Voice  Father, we thank you for revealing yourself to us in Jesus the Christ, we who once were not your people but whom you chose to adopt as your people. As ancient Israel confessed long ago, we realize that it was not because of our own righteousness, or our own superior wisdom, or strength, or power, or numbers. It was simply because you loved us, and chose to show us that love in Jesus. As you have accepted us when we did not deserve your love, will you help us to accept those whom we find it hard to love? Forgive us, O Lord, for any attitude that we harbor that on any level sees ourselves as better or more righteous than others.  Will you help us to remove the barriers of prejudice and to tear down the walls of bigotry, [...]

PARABLES: The Tares by Richard Chenevix Trench

February 4, 2018

From Notes on the Parables of our Lord Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: Water, Life, And The Spirit by Raniero Cantalamessa

February 3, 2018

From: Come, Creator Spirit If we can say, by analogy, that the whole of creation is sacrament, that is, sign of God, we can also see that certain elements of creation have become sacramental signs of the Holy Spirit also in a stricter sense: water in baptism as a sign of rebirth in the Spirit; oil and chrism in confirmation as signs of the Spirit anointing.  Water, then, is more than a mere symbol of the Spirit; it is an efficacious sign of the Spirit: it not only calls the Spirit to mind, but renders the Spirit present and active. From what source is the title of the Holy Spirit, “living fountain,” derived, and what does it signify?  The author of the hymn tells us, in another of his writings: The Holy Spirit was called water in the [...]

THE CHURCH: A Rant About The Job Description Of Shepherds by Allen Martin Bair

February 3, 2018

From The Rambles of a Wandering Priest I usually ramble.  Right now, I want to rant.  I feel like ranting and raving and making large gestures in the air with my hands and arms to the effect of, “What the…?  Are you kidding me?  How can you… Ughhhhhh!”  Yeah, something like that sounds about right. I used to work in a children’s home in a house full of teenage girls with emotional and psychological issues.  It’s not the only dorm on the campus, but it is the only one with girls in it.  On Sundays, a group from a local church came in and set up shop to do services with the boys on campus who want to go, but nothing is made available for the girls.  I was told that they used to do something for the girls, but they [...]

POETRY: Eleven Addresses To The Lord — 9 by John Berryman

February 2, 2018

Surprise me on some ordinary day with a blessing gratuitous. Even I’ve done good beyond their expectations. What count we then upon Your bounty? Interminable: an old theologian asserts that even to say You exist is misleading. Uh-huh. I buy that Second-century fellow. I press his withered glorifying hand. You certainly do not as I exist, impersonating as well the meteorite & flaring in your sun your waterfall or blind in caves pallid fishes. Bear in mind me, Who have forgotten nothing, & Who continues. I may not foreknow & fail much to remember. You sustain imperial desuetudes, at the kerb a [...]