Friday, January 31, 2003

Thomas Merton on meeting the enemy

Do not be too quick to assume that your enemy is an enemy of God just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy precisely because he can find nothing in you that gives glory to God. Perhaps he fears you because he can find nothing in you of God's love and God's kindness and God's patience and mercy and understanding of the weaknesses of men.

Do not be too quick to condemn the man who no longer believes in God, for it is perhaps your own coldness and avarice, your mediocrity and materialism, your sensuality and selfishness that have killed his faith.

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from the desert: another story from Palladius' Historia Lausiaca

Piamoun was a virgin who lived with her mother spinning flax and eating only every other day at evening. She was deemed worthy of the gift of prophecy, a case in point being the time the river overflowed Egypt and one village attacked another about water distribution. This resulted in blows and even murder. A more powerful town attacked her village, and a crowd of men was coming with spears and cudgels to devastate her village.

An angel appeared to her and revealed their attack. So she sent for the elders of the village and said to them, "Go out and talk with those who are coming here from that village, lest you all die with the populace, and tell them to put an end to their hatred."

Now the elders were afraid, and they fell at her feet, begging her, and said, "We cannot come to an agreement with them, for we know their drunkenness and frenzy. But if you have mercy on the whole town and your own home, go out and make peace with them yourself."

She did not agree to this, but she did go to her own abode and she stood all night praying, never bending her knees. She besought the Lord, praying, "Lord, who judges the world, whom nothing unjust pleases, now when this prayer reaches You, may Your power fix them immovable to the place wherever it may find them."

And along about the first hour, when they were about three miles away, they were fixed to the spot and could not budge. It was made known to them that this hindrance was due to her intercession. So they sent to the village, suing for peace, making it clear that this was "because of God and the prayers of Piamoun, for they stopped us."

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Wednesday, January 29, 2003

A Story about St. Ephrem the Syrian from Palladius' Historia Lausiaca

Surely you have heard about Ephrem, the deacon of the church at Edessa. He happens to be one of those worthy to be commemorated by holy men. He had accomplished the journey of the Spirit in a right and worthy manner, never deviating from the straight path, and he was deemed worthy of the gift of natural knowledge. The knowledge of God followed this, and finally blessedness. He always practiced the quiet life and edified those whom he met for many years, but finally he left his cell for the following reason:

When a great famine befell the city of Edessa, he had compassion for the whole countryside which was being ravaged, and he went to those who were well-to-do and spoke to them, "Why do you not have pity on the people who are perishing, instead of letting your wealth rot for the condemnation of your own souls?"

They looked about and said, "We have no one whom we should trust to care for those suffering from famine, for all of them make it into a business."

He asked, "How do I seem to you?" For he had a great reputation among them, not for evil, but for good.

They said, "We know that you are a man of God."

"Why not then trust me?" he asked. "Look, I will appoint myself as your guestmaster."

And he took the money and divided up the porticoes, and he put up about three hundred beds, and cared for the famished ones. The dead he buried, and he took care of those who had hope of life, and as a matter of fact he daily provided refreshment and help to all those who came to him each day because of the famine. And this he did with the money allotted to him.

When the year was over and prosperity followed and they had all gone back home, he had no more to do. He went back to his cell and died within the month. God had given him this chance for a crown at the very end. He left some writings too, most of which are worthy of attention.

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Monday, January 27, 2003

New Catechumenal Blogs!

There are two new blogs to be acknowledged:

First, Jerry has entered St. Blog's RCIA with his blog, Touched by Grace.

Second, Christopher of The Directed Path has begun a second blog, Toward a Catholic Biblical Worldview.
So now there are eight catechumens to be remembered in prayer, with nine blogs:

Sean --- Swimming the Tiber
Will --- Mysterium Crucis
Katherine --- Not for Sheep
Christopher --- The Directed Path and Toward a Catholic Biblical Worldview
Heidi --- Photini's Well
"Joe" --- Meet Joe Convert
Jim --- Metanoia
Jerry --- Touched by Grace
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Sunday, January 26, 2003

On Expurgating the Archives

Over the last month or so, several of the bloggers that I read regularly and appreciate have deleted various stuff from their archives, or even killed off the past of their blogs altogether. And I got to the really slow thinking that seems to be all I can muster these days: why did I decide, and declare, back in the summer, that I would never delete stuff from my archive?

I mean, some of it is embarrassing. The first few weeks of the blog I knew absolutely no html, not even enough to bold or italic or make a link that actually worked. It took me a couple of months to get up enough courage to actually touch my template and try to form real sidebar links; and I wrote about the cowardice. I've said things that would be sensitive to dicastery ears, and other things that cited in half-sentences without context would make fodder for my dear Church's faction fighters, if I wasn't too obscure to care about.

But embarrassment never killed anyone; actually it liberates in the long term. It's secrets that bind and kill.

Just one example: Back on June the single digits sometime I proposed the return to public Reconciliation. Oh, well. If I went back and erased it, I might feel better, but it wouldn't change that on that night in June it looked like a good idea. And it wouldn't get rid of the same musings mused in other bloggers' comment systems and in blog-related emails about the same time. And real human memories would still remember, it's been cached at Google, and interested faction fighters could have already done their nasty snipping and clipping. Best that it be kept, then I can go back and see where I've been. Then, if some sound bite of it shows up somewhere being parsed, I still have access to the whole thing, in context, with timestamp. And saying "yes I said that" is a decent way to stay humble.

Embarrassment liberates, secrets kill. My archives are staying.
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Saturday, January 25, 2003

Tomorrow is the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time; but behind that title, it's also the memorial day of St. Timothy and St. Titus, so

Happy Name Day, Archbishop Dolan!

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Thursday, January 23, 2003

The War Prayer, by Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and sputtering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spreads of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country and invoked the God of Battles, beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpouring of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.

It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came-next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their faces alight with material dreams -- visions of a stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender!-then home from the war, bronzed heros, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation -- "God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest, Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!"

Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was that an ever--merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory ---

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness.

With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there, waiting.

With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in
fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne-bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of His Who hearth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned by God to put into words the other part of it -- that
part which the pastor, and also you in your hearts, fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory -- must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

The prayer, as translated by the stranger:

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them, in spirit, we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee.

"Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause)

"Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits."

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said..
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The time draws nearer: we must prepare our hearts

It appears to be nearly time for the next war to begin. The reservists and the national guard has been called up and sent away to undisclosed places "in the CentCom area of responsibility." Certain officials are creating a causus belli over some other peoples' refusal to be forcibly expatriated from their home and native land; it's supposed to be evidence of things to hide, that they do not wish to leave their country. The atmosphere becomes more and more tense, and some of us remember that this coming war started a decade ago, televised and cheered on as though it was a video game and the dead people just so many blips on a display. Death is supposed to have been conquered. Yet the culture of death, the reign of death, tries to be manifest yet again and again. We must continue to say: Love life. Respect life. All of us, children of Adam and Eve, created in the very image and likeness of God, are siblings and entitled to life until we are Called, and life eternal after that.

A prayer from my friends at the Oscar Romero House in Oklahoma City, who keep the Access to Catholic Social Justice Teachings website linked in the sidebar:

Daily Prayers in Time of War

Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us according as we hope in thee.

Our Lady of Sorrows,
we pray for those who will die today
because of war, economic chaos, injustice, and exploitation,
especially the children.

Prepare them for the agony, despair,
and terror of the violence that is upon them.
Comfort them and hold them close to the
bosom of thy Wounded Heart as they drink deeply
of the bitter cup which is forced upon them.

Wipe their tears, calm their fears,
welcome them to peace and safety.
Eternal rest grant to them,
and may perpetual light shine upon them.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, help the helpless,
strengthen the fearful, comfort the sorrowful,
bring justice to the poor, peace to all nations,
and solidarity among all peoples.

Overturn the thrones of tyranny and scatter the unjust.
Cast down the bloody rulers who make the cry of
the widow and orphan rise to heaven.
Open our eyes to see the beauty, joy,
redemption, and goodness which comes
through obedience to the Gospel of your Son our Lord.

Teach us to be a refuge of hope for all
who are oppressed by injustice and violence.
Give us strength to stand against the
demonic powers which prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

O Christ God, Lord of Glory,
who gave us joy and blessing from your Mother's womb,
have mercy on us and save us.

Remember, St. Joseph, most humble and loving protector of the poor,
that no one ever had recourse to your protection
or asked your aid without obtaining relief.
Confiding therefore in your goodness,
we come before you and pray to you
on behalf of all those at risk today of war, economic catastrophe, and injustice..
Holy Joseph, help the helpless, comfort the dying,
bring justice to the poor, and peace to all nations.
Bless our enemies with reconciliation,
and bless our nation by removing from us the temptations of
empire, wealth, violence, and greed,
so that we might realize the promise of our ancestors and
be a blessing to all the peoples of this good earth.

O Christ God, Lord of Glory,
who gave us joy and blessing from your Mother's womb,
have mercy on us and save us.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our shield against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou,
O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God thrust into hell Satan
and all the evil spirits which prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

O Christ God, Lord of Glory,
who gave us joy and blessing from your Mother's womb,
have mercy on us and save us.

O Mary, bright dawn of the new world,
Mother of the living, to you do we entrust the cause of life:

Look down, O Mother,
upon the vast numbers of babies not allowed to be born,
of the poor whose lives are made difficult,
of men and women who are victims of brutal violence,
of the elderly and the sick killed by indifference or out of misguided mercy.

Grant that all who believe in your Son may
proclaim the Gospel of life with honesty and love to the people of our time.

Obtain for them the grace to accept that Gospel as a gift ever new,
the joy of celebrating it with gratitude throughout their lives
and the courage to bear witness to it resolutely,
in order to build, together with all people of good will,
the civilization of truth and love,
to the praise and glory of God, the Creator and lover of life. Amen.

O Christ God, Lord of Glory,
who gave us joy and blessing from your Mother's womb,
have mercy on us and save us.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Thirty long years since the Supreme Court rulings that made abortion legal in the USA. Just to remind us, from "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles", the earliest post-biblical Christian text we have, written in the first century, probably while some of the apostles were still living. The culture of death is no new problem, and we must always oppose it, wherever and however it manifests.

1:1 There are two paths, one of life and one of death, and the difference is great between the two paths.
[snip]
2:1 But the second commandment of the teaching is this.
2:2 Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not corrupt youth; thou shalt not commit fornication; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not use soothsaying; thou shalt not practise sorcery; thou shalt not kill a child by abortion, neither shalt thou slay it when born; thou shalt not covet the goods of thy neighbour;
2:3 thou shalt not commit perjury; thou shalt not bear false witness; thou shalt not speak evil; thou shalt not bear malice;
2:4 thou shalt not be double-minded or double-tongued, for to be double tongued is the snare of death.
2:5 Thy speech shall not be false or empty, but concerned with action.
2:6 Thou shalt not be covetous, or rapacious, or hypocritical, or malicious, or proud; thou shalt not take up an evil design against thy neighbour;
2:7 thou shalt not hate any man, but some thou shalt confute, concerning some thou shalt pray, and some thou shalt love beyond thine own soul.

[snip]
4:8 Thou shalt not turn away from him that is in need, but shalt share with thy brother in all things, and shalt not say that things are thine own; for if ye are partners in what is immortal, how much more in what is mortal?
4:9 Thou shalt not remove thine heart from thy son or from thy daughter, but from their youth shalt teach them the fear of God.
4:10 Thou shalt not command with bitterness thy servant or thy handmaid, who hope in the same God as thyself, lest they fear not in consequence the God who is over both; for he cometh not to call with respect of persons, but those whom the Spirit hath prepared.

[snip]
5:1 But the path of death is this. First of all, it is evil, and full of cursing; there are found murders, adulteries, lusts, fornication, thefts, idolatries, soothsaying, sorceries, robberies, false witnessings, hypocrisies, double-mindedness, craft, pride, malice, self-will, covetousness, filthy talking, jealousy, audacity, pride, arrogance;
5:2 there are they who persecute the good -- lovers of a lie, not knowing the reward of righteousness, not cleaving to the good nor to righteous judgment, watching not for the good but for the bad, from whom meekness and patience are afar off, loving things that are vain, following after recompense, having no compassion on the needy, nor labouring for him that is in trouble, not knowing him that made them, murderers of children, corrupters of the image of God, who turn away from him that is in need, who oppress him that is in trouble, unjust judges of the poor, erring in all things. From all these, children, may ye be delivered.

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Monday, January 20, 2003

from the desert: the humility of knowing one's place

There was an old man who had a good devoted disciple. One day the old man got annoyed and drove the disciple out of their place. Yet the disciple sat down outside of the cell and waited. When the old man opened the door, he found his disciple sitting quietly there outside, and he repented, saying: You are my father, for your humility and patience have overcome my narrow-mindedness. Come on inside! From now on, you are the old man and the father, and I am the younger and the disciple; for your good actions have surpassed my old age.
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Sunday, January 19, 2003

Just a general update; mostly for my friends and kin who check on my welfare by seeing if I post.......

Hope to be back in gear tomorrow sometime. Totally uninspired to write, sniffly, achey (spring cannot come too soon!). went out last night to help the Milwaukee Repeater Club elect new officers, and that was too much really. Spent most of today resting and have to do the bills before the postal carrier comes tomorrow.

A little good news, though. I've got a ride to church on Wednesday for the Mass for Life, and because it's a weekday, I'll be able to go to Confession! I'm horribly overdue; my parish has two hours of confession time every day --- but not Sundays or Holy Days, which are the times I manage to get there. Thumbs up, keep praying, and see you again tomorrow after I write out checks to all my creditors.
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Friday, January 17, 2003

from the desert: a few sayings from Abba Anthony on his feast day

Abba Anthony said: "From our neighbor is life and death. If we gain our brother, we gain God, but if we cause our brother to stumble, we sin against Christ."

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Abba Anthony said, "I saw the snares that the enemy spread out over the world and I said groaning, "What can get through from such snares?" Then I heard a voice saying to me, "Humility."

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The brothers praised a monk in the presence of Abba Anthony. When the monk came to see him, Anthony wanted to know how he would bear insults; and seeing that he could not bear them at all, he said to him, "You are like a village magnificently decorated on the outside, but destroyed from within by robbers."
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Thursday, January 16, 2003

from St. Athanasius' Life of St. Anthony, for Abba Anthony's feast tomorrow (Friday)

And so for nearly twenty years he continued training himself in solitude, never going forth, and but seldom seen by any. After this when many were eager and wishful to imitate his discipline, and his acquaintances came and began to cast down and wrench off the door by force, Anthony, as from a shrine, came forth initiated in the mysteries and filled with ye Spirit of God. Then for the first time he was seen outside the fort by those who came to see him. And they, when they saw him, wondered at the sight, for he had the same habit of body as before, and was neither fat, like a man without exercise, nor lean from fasting and striving with the demons, but he was just the same as they had known him before his retirement, And again his soul was free from blemish, for it was neither contracted as if by grief, nor relaxed by pleasure, nor possessed by laughter or dejection, for he was not troubled when he beheld the crowd, nor overjoyed at being saluted by so many. But he was altogether even as being guided by reason, and abiding in a natural state. Through him the Lord healed the bodily ailments of many present, and cleansed others from evil spirits. And He gave grace to Anthony in speaking, so that he consoled many that were sorrowful, and set those at variance at one, exhorting all to prefer the love of Christ before all that is in the world. And while he exhorted and advised them to remember the good things to come, and the loving-kindness of God towards us, 'Who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all,' he persuaded many to embrace the solitary life. And thus it happened in the end that cells arose even in the mountains, and the desert was colonized by monks, who came forth from their own people, and enrolled themselves for the citizenship in the heavens.

But when he was obliged to cross the Arsenoitic Canal --- and the occasion of it was the visitation of the brethren --- the canal was full of crocodiles. And by simply praying, he entered it, and all they with him, and passed over in safety. And having returned to his ceil, he applied himself to the same noble and valiant exercises; and by frequent conversation he increased the eagerness of those already monks, stirred up in most of the rest the love of the discipline, and speedily by the attraction of his words, cells multiplied, and he directed them all as a father.

With those who suffered he sympathized and prayed. And oft-times the Lord heard him on behalf of many: yet he boasted not because he was heard, nor did he murmur if he were not. But always he gave the Lord thanks and besought the sufferer to be patient, and to know that healing belonged neither to him nor to man at all, but only to the Lord, who doeth good when and to whom He will. The sufferers therefore used to receive the words of the old man as though they were a cure, learning not to be downhearted but rather to be long-suffering. And those who were healed were taught not to give thanks to Anthony but to God alone.

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The Crucifixion Secret: another meditation from Pavel Chichikov

Sit still for a moment, let me tell you
The crucifixion secret --
A seed grows
The broad leafed tree,
Seeds of grass spread the yellow rye,
Seeds of frugal cypresses
Dark pickets of the borderlands
Make rows, frontiers --
Black-hearted seeds of flowers
Soon bend bowing to respect the sun,
Seeds that love the shade
Grow violet delicate

There is another seed
Fertile in the crevices
Crystalline and sharp
Fertile, virile, potent to infect
In breath and blow
The smallest pore of love
The nostril and the turbine of the ear
The back, the face, the head
The tumor spot of Man's unfeeling deed

It was for this that Christ became a tortured thing
Submitting to a cross of cruelty
Encysting death within Himself
And by His self-abandonment
Secreted walls around a viral madness

But still the seeds spread outward from the source
Crystals of the pleasures of the lost -
Slander, and the whip
The hill, the skull, the prophylactic cross


. . . . . . Pavel Chichikov
. . . . . . January 14, 2003
. . . . . . http://www.greyowlpress.com.
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Wednesday, January 15, 2003

The Passion and the Eucharist

From the Bible Geek at Cruciform Chronicle, a meditation on the relationship of the Passion and the Eucharist. [And, can you believe, he's not even Catholic!]
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Abba Macarius' life story on his memorial day from Kathy R's For All the Saints website:

Born in Upper Egypt c. 300; died 390.

"Receive from the hand of God poverty as cheerfully as riches, hunger and want as plenty, and you will conquer the devil and subdue all your passions." --Saint Macarius.

Saint Macarius was a cattle herder in his youth but early became a hermit who was known for his great austerities. In his childhood he stole a few figs and ate one of them, and from his conversion to his death he never ceased to weep bitterly for this sin. He retired to a solitary hut, where he combined assiduous prayer with the tending of sheep and the plaiting of baskets.
He was accused of assaulting a woman but proved his innocence and became somewhat of a hero for his patience and humility during the ordeal. He even provided for her with his paltry earnings. She went into labor and could not be delivered until she named the true father of her child. To escape the adulation of those whose rage was turned to admiration, he retired to the desert of Skete (Scetis) when he was 30.

Macarius knew and followed the teachings of Saint Antony. Like Antony, Macarius attracted many others, because of his spiritual wisdom, who became anchorites under his rule. The bishop compelled him to receive ordination to the priesthood about 340, so that he could say daily Mass for the several thousand members of the monastic colony.

Macarius's austerities, like those of so many of the desert fathers, were excessive. He generally ate but once a week. To deny his own will, he did not refuse a little wine when others desired him to drink, but then he would punish himself by abstaining several days from drinking anything, even under the intense sun of the desert.

During his lifetime, he was highly esteemed in monastic circles, and his counsel was sought out by such as Saint Evagrius. He delivered his instructions in few words and generally stressed silence, humility, mortification, retirement, and continual prayer. He taught, "In prayer you need not use many or lofty words. You can often repeat with a sincere heart, Lord, show me mercy as You know best! or, Assist me, O God!"

The devil told him once, "I can surpass you in watching, fasting, and many other things, but humility conquers and disarms me!"

Like so many who practice extreme austerity, God humbled Macarius by showing him that he had not attained the perfection of two married women in the nearby town. In visiting them he learned that they sanctified themselves by carefully guarding their tongues and living in the constant practice of humility, patience, meekness, charity, resignation, mortification of their own will, and conformity to the moods of the husbands and family, where God's law didn't contradict. In a spirit of recollection, they sanctified all their actions by ardent ejaculations praising God, and most fervently consecrating their entire beings to the divine glory.

A young man seeking spiritual direction from Macarius was told to go to the cemetery and upbraid the dead. Then to return and flatter them. Of course, he reported to Macarius that they were unmoved by either injuries or praise. Macarius then told him, "The go, and learn neither to be moved with injuries or flatteries. If you die to the world and to yourself, you will begin to live in Christ."

In order to counter the Hieracite heresy denying the Resurrection, Macarius raised a dead man to life.

He was exiled for a time on a small island in the Nile with Macarius the Younger, Isidore, and other monks when the Arian Lucius of Alexandria tried to drive out the desert monks. Later, Macarius was allowed to return. During their exile, they converted all the inhabitants of the island. He died after living in Skete for 60 years and is believed to have been the first hermit to live there.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2003

A prayer from St. Symeon the New Theologian

I give You thanks,
to me You are a light that knows no evening,
a sun that never sets.
You cannot remain hidden,
for You fill all things with your glory.
You never hide Yourself from anyone,
but we are always hiding from You,
not wishing to come near You.
For where could You hide Yourself,
since You have no place
in which to take Your rest?
Or why should You hide,
since You turn away from no one
and are afraid of none?

Pitch Your tent within me,
gracious Master;
Take up Your dwelling in me now
and remain in Your servant unceasingly,
inseparably, to the end.
At my departure from this life
and afterwards,
may I be found in You and reign with You,
who are God over all.

Stay with me, Master, do not leave me alone.
When they find You dwelling within me,
my enemies who seek always to devour my soul,
will be put to flight;
They will have no more power against me,
when they see You,
who are more powerful than all,
lodging in the house of my humble soul.

You did not forget me, Master,
when I was in the world
and sunk in ignorance,
but You chose me
and separated me from the world
and set me up in the presence of Your glory.
Keep me constant and unshaken
in the interior dwelling-place
that You have made within me.

Though dead,
I live when I gaze on You;
Possessing You, though poor,
I am forever rich,
More wealthy than any ruler.

Eating and drinking You,
clothing myself in You from day to day,
I shall be filled with blessings and delight
beyond all telling.

For You are every blessing
and all splendor and joy,
and to You is due glory,
to the Holy, Consubstantial and Life-giving Trinity,
worshipped and confessed by all the faithful
and adored in Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
now and ever, and to the ages of ages.
Amen.

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The Pope on the State of the World

Courtesy of the CINJustAnn mailing list, yesterday's speech by the Pope to the assembled ambassadors:


Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. This meeting at the beginning of the New Year is a happy tradition which affords me the joy of welcoming you and in some way of embracing all the peoples whom you represent! For it is through you and thanks to you that I come to know their hopes and aspirations, their successes and their setbacks. Today I wish to offer your countries my fervent good wishes of happiness, peace and prosperity.

At the threshold of the New Year I am also pleased to offer all of you my best wishes, as I invoke upon you, your families and your fellow citizens an abundance of divine blessings.

Before sharing with you some reflections inspired by the present situation in the world and in the Church, I must thank your Dean, Ambassador Giovanni Galassi, for his kind words and for the good wishes which he has thoughtfully expressed, in the name of all present, for my person and for my ministry. Please accept my deep gratitude!

Mr Ambassador, you have also pointed to the legitimate expectations of modern men and women, all too often frustrated by political crises, by armed violence, by social conflicts, by poverty or by natural catastrophes. Never as at the beginning of this millennium has humanity felt how precarious is the world which it has shaped.

2. I have been personally struck by the feeling of fear which often dwells in the hearts of our contemporaries. An insidious terrorism capable of striking at any time and anywhere; the unresolved problem of the Middle East, with the Holy Land and Iraq; the turmoil disrupting South America, particularly Argentina, Colombia and Venezuela; the conflicts preventing numerous African countries from focusing on their development; the diseases spreading contagion and death; the grave problem of famine, especially in Africa; the irresponsible behavior contributing to the depletion of the planet's resources: all these are so many plagues threatening the survival of humanity, the peace of individuals and the security of societies.

3. Yet everything can change. It depends on each of us. Everyone can develop within himself his potential for faith, for honesty, for respect of others and for commitment to the service of others.

It also depends, quite obviously, on political leaders, who are called to serve the common good. You will not be surprised if before an assembly of diplomats I state in this regard certain requirements which I believe must be met if entire peoples, perhaps even humanity itself, are not to sink into the abyss.

First, a "YES TO LIFE"! Respect life itself and individual lives: everything starts here, for the most fundamental of human rights is certainly the right to life. Abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, for example, risk reducing the human person to a mere object: life and death to order, as it were! When all moral criteria are removed, scientific research involving the sources of life becomes a denial of the being and the dignity of the person. War itself is an attack on human life since it brings in its wake suffering and death. The battle for peace is always a battle for life!

Next, RESPECT FOR LAW. Life within society -- particularly international life -- presupposes common and inviolable principles whose goal is to guarantee the security and the freedom of individual citizens and of nations. These rules of conduct are the foundation of national and international stability. Today political leaders have at hand highly relevant texts and institutions. It is enough simply to put them into practice. The world would be totally different if people began to apply in a straightforward manner the agreements already signed!

Finally, the DUTY OF SOLIDARITY. In a world with a superabundance of information, but which paradoxically finds it so difficult to communicate and where living conditions are scandalously unequal, it is important to spare no effort to ensure that everyone feels responsible for the growth and happiness of all. Our future is at stake. An unemployed young person, a handicapped person who is marginalized, elderly people who are uncared for, countries which are captives of hunger and poverty: these situations all too often make people despair and fall prey to the temptation either of closing in on themselves or of resorting to violence.

4. This is why choices need to be made so that humanity can still have a future. Therefore, the peoples of the earth and their leaders must sometimes have the courage to say "No".

"NO TO DEATH"! That is to say, no to all that attacks the incomparable dignity of every human being, beginning with that of unborn children. If life is truly a treasure, we need to be able to preserve it and to make it bear fruit without distorting it. "No" to all that weakens the family, the basic cell of society. "No" to all that destroys in children the sense of striving, their respect for themselves and others, the sense of service.

"NO TO SELFISHNESS"! In other words, to all that impels man to protect himself inside the cocoon of a privileged social class or a cultural comfort which excludes others. The life-style of the prosperous, their patterns of consumption, must be reviewed in the light of their repercussions on other countries. Let us mention for example the problem of water resources, which the United Nations Organization has asked us all to consider during this year 2003. Selfishness is also the indifference of prosperous nations towards nations left out in the cold. All peoples are entitled to receive a fair share of the goods of this world and of the know-how of the more advanced countries. How can we fail to think here, for example, of the access of everyone to generic medicines, needed to continue the fight against current pandemics, an access --- alas --- often thwarted by short-term economic considerations?

"NO TO WAR"! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity. International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between States, the noble exercise of diplomacy: these are methods worthy of individuals and nations in resolving their differences. I say this as I think of those who still place their trust in nuclear weapons and of the all-too-numerous conflicts which continue to hold hostage our brothers and sisters in humanity. At Christmas, Bethlehem reminded us of the unresolved crisis in the Middle East, where two peoples, Israeli and Palestinian, are called to live side-by-side, equally free and sovereign, in mutual respect. Without needing to repeat what I said to you last year on this occasion, I will simply add today, faced with the constant degeneration of the crisis in the Middle East, that the solution will never be imposed by recourse to terrorism or armed conflict, as if military victories could be the solution. And what are we to say of the threat of a war which could strike the people of Iraq, the land of the Prophets, a people already sorely tried by more than twelve years of embargo? War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations. As the Charter of the United Nations Organization and international law itself remind us, war cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military operations.

5. It is therefore possible to change the course of events, once good will, trust in others, fidelity to commitments and cooperation between responsible partners are allowed to prevail. I shall give two examples.

Today's Europe, which is at once united and enlarged. Europe has succeeded in tearing down the walls which disfigured her. She has committed herself to planning and creating a new reality capable of combining unity and diversity, national sovereignty and joint activity, economic progress and social justice. This new Europe is the bearer of the values which have borne fruit for two thousand years in an "art" of thinking and living from which the whole world has benefited. Among these values Christianity holds a privileged position, inasmuch as it gave birth to a humanism which has permeated Europe's history and institutions. In recalling this patrimony, the Holy See and all the Christian Churches have urged those drawing up the future Constitutional Treaty of the European Union to include a reference to Churches and religious institutions. We believe it desirable that, in full respect of the secular state, three complementary elements should be recognized: religious freedom not only in its individual and ritual aspects, but also in its social and corporative dimensions; the appropriateness of structures for dialogue and consultation between the Governing Bodies and communities of believers; respect for the juridical status already enjoyed by Churches and religious institutions in the Member States of the Union. A Europe which disavowed its past, which denied the fact of religion, and which had no spiritual dimension would be extremely impoverished in the face of the ambitious project which calls upon all its energies: constructing a Europe for all!

Africa too gives us today an occasion to rejoice: Angola has begun its rebuilding; Burundi has taken the path which could lead to peace and expects from the international community understanding and financial aid; the Democratic Republic of Congo is seriously engaged in a national dialogue which should lead to democracy. The Sudan has likewise shown good will, even if the path to peace remains long and arduous. We should of course be grateful for these signs of progress and we should encourage political leaders to spare no effort in ensuring that, little by little, the peoples of Africa experience the beginnings of pacification and thus of prosperity, safe from ethnic struggles, caprice and corruption. For this reason we can only deplore the grave incidents which have rocked Cote-d'Ivoire and the Central African Republic, while inviting the people of those countries to lay down their arms, to respect their respective constitutions and to lay the foundations for national dialogue. It will then be easy to involve all the elements of the national community in planning a society in which everyone finds a place. Furthermore, we do well to note that Africans are increasingly trying to find the solutions best suited to their problems, thanks to the activity of the African Union and effective forms of regional mediation.

6. Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is vital to note that the independence of States can no longer be understood apart from the concept of interdependence. All States are interconnected both for better and for worse. For this reason, and rightly so, we must be able to distinguish good from evil and call them by their proper names. As history has taught us time and time again, it is when doubt or confusion about what is right and wrong prevails that the greatest evils are to be feared.

If we are to avoid descending into chaos, it seems to me that two conditions must be met. First, we must rediscover within States and between States the paramount value of the natural law, which was the source of inspiration for the rights of nations and for the first formulations of international law. Even if today some people question its validity, I am convinced that its general and universal principles can still help us to understand more clearly the unity of the human race and to foster the development of the consciences both of those who govern and of those who are governed. Second, we need the persevering work of Statesmen who are honest and selfless. In effect, the indispensable professional competence of political leaders can find no legitimacy unless it is connected to strong moral convictions. How can one claim to deal with world affairs without reference to this set of principles which is the basis of the "universal common good" spoken of so eloquently by Pope John XXIII in his Encyclical Pacem in Terris? It will always be possible for a leader who acts in accordance with his convictions to reject situations of injustice or of institutional corruption, or to put an end to them. It is precisely in this, I believe, that we rediscover what is today commonly called "good governance". The material and spiritual well-being of humanity, the protection of the freedom and rights of the human person, selfless public service, closeness to concrete conditions: all of these take precedence over every political project and constitute a moral necessity which in itself is the best guarantee of peace within nations and peace between States.

7. It is clear that, for a believer, these motivations are enriched by faith in a God who is the Creator and Father of all, who has entrusted man with stewardship of the earth and with the duty of brotherly love. This shows how it is in a State's own interest to ensure that religious freedom --- which is a natural right, that is, at one and the same time both an individual and social right --- is effectively guaranteed for all. As I have had occasion to remark in the past, believers who feel that their faith is respected and whose communities enjoy juridical recognition will work with ever greater conviction in the common project of building up the civil society to which they belong. You will understand then why I speak out on behalf of all Christians who, from Asia to Europe, continue to be victims of violence and intolerance, such as happened recently during the celebration of Christmas. Ecumenical dialogue between Christians and respectful contact with other religions, in particular with Islam, are the best remedy for sectarian rifts, fanaticism or religious terrorism. As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, I will mention but one situation which is a cause of great suffering for me: the plight of Catholic communities in the Russian Federation, which for months now have seen some of their Pastors prevented from returning to them for administrative reasons. The Holy See expects from the Government authorities concrete decisions which will put an end to this crisis, and which are in keeping with the international agreements subscribed to by the modern and democratic Russia. Russian Catholics wish to live as their brethren do in the rest of the world, enjoying the same freedom and the same dignity.

8. Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, may all of us who have gathered in this place, which is a symbol of spirituality, dialogue and peace, contribute by our daily actions to the advancement of all the peoples of the earth, in justice and harmony, to their progress towards conditions of greater happiness and greater justice, far from poverty, violence and threats of war! May God pour out his abundant blessings upon you and all those whom you represent. A Happy New Year to everyone!

[Translation of French original issued by the Vatican Press Office]
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Monday, January 13, 2003

An unanswered question of beauty

Instigated by Steven of Flos Carmeli, I've gotten myself in a puzzlement over the nature of beauty. Namely, just what is the relationship, if any, between beauty and prettiness?

We use the same word to indicate the opposite of both, ugly. There are lots of examples of things that are both beautiful and pretty, like the paintings of Monet or Vivaldi's Four Seasons. But, Steven made a list of artworks to be rated, whether they were beautiful or not, and on that list was Picasso's "Guernica."

Now, "Guernica" is not pretty at all. But then, the Guernican Massacre was not at all pretty either, it was a horror. The painting, in all its un-prettiness, does truly re-present that incident to us in all its horror and terror. Is it possible to say something is beautiful when there is no prettiness at all? Even when there is power and truth? I seem to have always believed so, since I've always held "Guernica" as a great and beautiful work --- but, is beauty really the right word?
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Sunday, January 12, 2003

St. Gregory Nazienzen on the Baptism of our Lord from today's Office of Readings

Christ is bathed in light; let us also be bathed in light. Christ is baptised; let us also go down with him, and rise with him.

John is baptising when Jesus draws near. Perhaps he comes to sanctify his baptiser; certainly he comes to bury sinful humanity in the waters. He comes to sanctify the Jordan for our sake and in readiness for us; he who is spirit and flesh comes to begin a new creation through the Spirit and water.

The Baptist protests; Jesus insists. Then John says: I ought to be baptised by you. He is the lamp in the presence of the sun, the voice in the presence of the Word, the friend in the presence of the Bridegroom, the greatest of all born of woman in the presence of the firstborn of all creation, the one who leapt in his mother’s womb in the presence of him who was adored in the womb, the forerunner and future forerunner in the presence of him who has already come and is to come again. I ought to be baptised by you: we should also add, “and for you”, for John is to be baptised in blood, washed clean like Peter, not only by the washing of his feet.

Jesus rises from the waters; the world rises with him. The heavens like Paradise with its flaming sword, closed by Adam for himself and his descendants, are rent open. The Spirit comes to him as to an equal, bearing witness to his Godhead. A voice bears witness to him from heaven, his place of origin. The Spirit descends in bodily form like the dove that so long ago announced the ending of the flood and so gives honour to the body that is one with God.

Today let us do honour to Christ’s baptism and celebrate this feast in holiness. Be cleansed entirely and continue to be cleansed. Nothing gives such pleasure to God as the conversion and salvation of men, for whom his every word and every revelation exist. He wants you to become a living force for all mankind, lights shining in the world. You are to be radiant lights as you stand beside Christ, the great light, bathed in the glory of him who is the light of heaven. You are to enjoy more and more the pure and dazzling light of the Trinity, as now you have received --- though not in its fullness --- a ray of its splendour, proceeding from the one God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

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Saturday, January 11, 2003

Two of this day's saints: acceptance and success are not necessary

Today is the memorial day of two holy men who proved that acceptance and success are not necessary to become heroically virtuous.

First, there's St. Marcian of Constantinople, who was treasurer of Hagia Sophia, and then a bishop. He modeled his life after St. John the Baptist, with great asceticism. He suffered greatly from repeated false accusations of being a Novatian heretic. He also was one of those "giveaway" saints, like St. Bride and St. Pius X. As Kathy R writes about one of St. Marcian's incidents in her saints index:
One day when he was hurrying to the consecration of a new church, he passed a miserable, nearly naked beggar. Saint Marcian gave him all his clothing. All he had left was a chasuble. The congregation, however, seemed to see a fine golden robe under Marcian's chasuble. Afterwards Patriarch Gennadius even rebuked the saint for dressing so ostentatiously. Marcian plucked off the chasuble and revealed that he was wearing nothing else

And today we also remember St. Gregory X, the pope who called the Council of Lyons and attempted, with minimal success, to heal the Church's stupidest schism (with which we still suffer a thousand years after Umberto the Rude and the pope who didn't read him the riot act....), and also called for a crusade that never came off, to deliver the Churches of the East from the attacks of the Muslims.

We do not have to succeed; we do not have to be accepted; we only have to know, love, and serve the One who made us.
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Thursday, January 09, 2003

"....grant me to see my own sins, and not to judge my brother....": from the desert

A brother questioned Abba Poemen in this way, "My thoughts trouble me, making me put my sins aside, and concern myself with my brother's faults." The old man told him the following story about Abba Dioscorus: In his cell he wept over himself, while his disciple was sitting in another cell. When the latter came to see the old man he asked him, "Father, why are you weeping" "I am weeping over my sins," the old man replied. Then his disciple said, "You do not have any sins, Father." The old man answered, "Truly, my child, if I were allowed to see my sins, three or four men would not be enough to weep for them."
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Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Our catechumenal bloggers bless us

Katherine, the lady who loves Suscipe, has posted her testimony today. Go to her place, be lifted up and encouraged, then pray for her and for all our other catechumenal bloggers and very recent reverts:

Swimming the Tiber
The Directed Path
Mysterium Crucis
Photini's Well
Meet Joe Convert
Metanoia
Not for Sheep
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On Light and darkness, ineffable joys and sorrows deeper than words

at Sean Gallagher's Nota Bene, a site there's no reason to aviod!
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Coping with the professionally outraged

The other day I visited a site that, in perfect hindsight, I had no business being at. Now generally, if it's written, I'll read it; I try to read every blog on Gerard's Giant Catholic Blog List at least once or twice a week. So, that site is on the list, so it got read --- and there was a posting calling certain other Catholics who had organized a prayer vigil "pagan" and also claimed that they were antilife and hadn't read anything on the Church's position on warfare. So I posted, mentioning that among Catholics, prayer vigils are not a pagan activity. Oh me, oh my! I finally have come to the conclusion that I just have to shake off my shoes and wipe down my wheels and stay out of there.

Why don't I learn to recognise the professionally outraged _before_ I get in hot water with them? I'm always presuming everybody else is speaking in good faith, and getting burned; but I can't live suspiciously presuming the worst of everybody, that's only crazy-making, not sanctifying at all. Oh, well. Live and learn.
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Monday, January 06, 2003

Taking good care of our theologians

If you click on the headline, you will be taken to an article by Bishop Richard Sklba that came to mind while listening to the discussion going on at Flos Carmeli, at Disputations, and at Dappled Things about theologians suspect and non, and the joys and dangers of the hobby of heresy hunting. Hoping that it adds a little.....
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Sunday, January 05, 2003

Epiphany means Manifestation: St Leo the Great from today's Office of Readings

Dear friends, now that we have received instruction in this revelation of God’s grace, let us celebrate with spiritual joy the day of our first harvesting, of the first calling of the Gentiles. Let us give thanks to the merciful God, who has made us worthy, in the words of the Apostle, to share the position of the saints in light, who has rescued us from the power of darkness, and brought us into the kingdom of his beloved Son. As Isaiah prophesied: the people of the Gentiles, who sat in darkness, have seen a great light, and for those who dwelt in the region of the shadow of death a light has dawned. He spoke of them to the Lord: The Gentiles, who do not know you, will invoke you, and the peoples, who knew you not, will take refuge in you.

This is the day that Abraham saw, and rejoiced to see, when he knew that the sons born of his faith would be blessed in his seed, that is, in Christ. Believing that he would be the father of the nations, he looked into the future, giving glory to God, in full awareness that God is able to do what he has promised.

This is the day that David prophesied in the psalms, when he said: All the nations that you have brought into being will come and fall down in adoration in your presence, Lord, and glorify your name. Again, the Lord has made known his salvation; in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.

This came to be fulfilled, as we know, from the time when the star beckoned the three wise men out of their distant country and led them to recognise and adore the King of heaven and earth. The obedience of the star calls us to imitate its humble service: to be servants, as best we can, of the grace that invites all men to find Christ.

Dear friends, you must have the same zeal to be of help to one another; then, in the kingdom of God, to which faith and good works are the way, you will shine as children of the light: through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with God the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

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Saturday, January 04, 2003

from the desert: how can we pray?

Abba Macarius was asked, "How should one pray?" The old man said: "There is no need at all to make long discourses. It is enough to stretch out one's hands and say, `Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy.' And if the conflict grows fiercer say, `Lord, help!' He knows very well what we need and He shows us His mercy."
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Friday, January 03, 2003

The Nubs

A leper looked for Jesus but found me
Such things happen, such things happen
He was a beggar, lacked good eyes
I had two, but none to spare
His left hand had four fingers, thumb
Worn to nubs and they were numb
This is no parable, it happened here
Not in ancient Palestine
In Maryland, in Maryland
The nubs were bleeding from the ends

Cure me, cure me, heal my sight
Heal my fingers light from light -
I have no power to restore
What was before, or not before
Money, filthy crumpled bills
Was what I had to heal his ills
And not too many

And I too have been worn away
Jesus come without delay
Here I am, here I am

. . . . . Pavel Chichikov
. . . . . January 2, 2003
. . . . . http://www.greyowlpress.com
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Thursday, January 02, 2003

to be both saints and friends

Today we celebrate St. Basil the Great, also known as Basil of Caesarea, and St. Gregory Nazianzen. They were both bishops, doctors of the Church, very close friends, and, some sources say, cousins. Here is what St. Gregory in his Oration 43 had to say about St. Basil......

Of his [St. Basil's] care for and protection of the Church, there are many other tokens; his boldness towards the governors and other most powerful men in the city: the decisions of disputes, accepted without hesitation, and made effective by his simple word, his inclination being held to be decisive: his support of the needy, most of them in spiritual, not a few also in physical distress: for this also often influences the soul and reduces it to subjection by its kindness; the support of the poor, the entertainment of strangers, the care of maidens; legislation written and unwritten for the monastic life: arrangements of prayers, adornments of the sanctuary, and other ways in which the true man of God, working for God, would benefit the people: one being especially important and noteworthy.

There was a famine, the most severe one ever recorded. The city was in distress, and there was no source of assistance, or relief for the calamity. For maritime cities are able to bear such times of need without difficulty, by an exchange of their own products for what is imported: but an inland city like ours can neither turn its superfluity to profit, nor supply its need, by either disposing of what we have, or importing what we have not: but the hardest part of all such distress is, the insensibility and insatiability of those who possess supplies. For they watch their opportunities, and turn the distress to profit, and thrive upon misfortune: heeding not that he who shows mercy to the poor, lendeth to the Lord, nor that he that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: nor any other of the promises to the philanthropic, and threats against the inhuman. But they are too insatiate, in their ill-judged policy; for while they shut up their bowels against their fellows, they shut up those of God against themselves, forgetting that their need of Him is greater than others' need of them. Such are the buyers and sellers of corn, who neither respect their fellows, nor are thankful to God, from Whom comes what they have, while others are straitened.

He indeed could neither rain bread from heaven by prayer, to nourish an escaped people in the wilderness, nor supply fountains of food without cost from the depth of vessels which are filled by being emptied, and so, by an amazing return for her hospitality, support one who supported him; nor feed thousands of men with five loaves whose very fragments were a further supply for many tables. These were the works of Moses and Elijah, and my God, from Whom they too derived their power. Perhaps also they were characteristic of their time and its circumstances: since signs are for unbelievers not for those who believe. But he did devise and execute with the same faith things which correspond to them, and tend in the same direction. For by his word and advice he opened the stores of those who possessed them, and so, according to the Scripture dealt food to the hungry, and satisfied the poor with bread, and fed them in the time of dearth, and filled the hungry souls with good things. And in what way? for this is no slight addition to his praise. He gathered together the victims of the famine with some who were but slightly recovering from it, men and women, infants, old men, every age which was in distress, and obtaining contributions of all sorts of food which can relieve famine, set before them basins of soup and such meat as was found preserved among us, on which the poor live. Then, imitating the ministry of Christ, Who, girded with a towel, did not disdain to wash the disciples' feet, using for this purpose the aid of his own servants, and also of his fellow servants, he attended to the bodies and souls of those who needed it, combining personal respect with the supply of their necessity, and so giving them a double relief.

Such was our young furnisher of corn, and second Joseph: though of him we can say somewhat more. For the one made a gain from the famine, and bought up Egypt in his philanthropy, by managing the time of plenty with a view to the time of famine, turning to account the dreams of others for that purpose. But the other's services were gratuitous, and his succour of the famine gained no profit, having only one object, to win kindly feelings by kindly treatment, and to gain by his rations of corn the heavenly blessings. Further he provided the nourishment of the Word, and that more perfect bounty and distribution, which is really heavenly and from on high--if the word be that bread of angels, wherewith souls are fed and given to drink, who are a hungered for God, and seek for a food which does not pass away or fail, but abides forever. This food he, who was the poorest and most needy man whom I have known, supplied in rich abundance to the relief not of a famine of bread, nor of a thirst for water, but a longing for that Word which is really lifegiving and nourishing, and causes to grow to spiritual manhood him who is duly fed thereon.

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Wednesday, January 01, 2003

...to be in the hands of the Living God....

At a group blog called Connexions, Bene Diction posted a meditation. Since I can't figure out how to link to that specific item, I'm importing it over here.

Says Bene Diction:

Has God ever frightened you?
Have you ever been blown into the path of His Power and Might in a way that stops the world?

God is scaring me.

I don't 'serve' God with fuzzy feelings.
My conversion experience wasn't emotional.
I rarely 'feel' Him.
I serve Him because of Who He is.
Every once in awhile, rarely, He reveals Himself in ways that goes so far beyond my knowing or understanding I cannot comprehend what is happening. I cannot handle my humaness before Him. I only know I am in the presence of Holiness so terrible, so gripping, so complete, I am lost. I am found.

God and I wrestled a few weeks ago. He wanted me to let go of something. I didn't want to. Really? And just who am I to wrestle with God?
To make a long story short, God won.
I was not thrilled about it.
A lot has happened since.
I was praying for a blogger today.
And God entered the room. Just. Like. That.
He saw my heart and I cried out:

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of a Living God.
I just went to spend time in the Word. I'm still shaking. I've been pierced. I've been blinded. The scripture:
Psalm 139
Around me is this swell of laughter. Universal peels of Joy.

My favorite hymn is O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go

I cannot speak before this.
I know Richard is the minister here. He does the scripture reading and the teaching and the hymns.
He can take over. I don't know what to do.

God is scaring me.

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a little Dolanism: on the television a couple of nights ago, taking a few journalists on a tour of the Cathedral Center construction zones (Cathedral Center is the final phase of the "Cathedral Project" that was made such a fuss over, and will be a shelter for homeless women and children): "Yes, money is tight, but we can't put this off, it's central to who we are as a Church. After all, right now we're celebrating when a young woman had a very hard time finding a place to have her baby --- who was the Savior of the world."
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A resolution about resolutions

January first --- the day that we make all the big glorious promises to ourselves, that by mid-February we've either forgotten all about or we're sunk in the guilties over having failed at.

But promising great huge things, them giving up on them, or getting depressed over them, is no good for us. Why not, for this year, only resolve little things; little things, but things that are possible to keep, and which can grow to bigger things with time and grace?

Then, we won't need to start Lent by cleaning up after our broken resolutions, but we can spend our Lent getting even stronger to fulfill our little, but still intact, promises to ourselves.
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Proper behavior in the family of God

Fr. Jim of Dappled Things rides again! he's posted an expanded version of his Sunday homily on the Holy Family and the family of faith that should not be missed.

This reminded me of two other essays on the same that could stand repetition: On Being a Family of Faith and Disgraces: a parable.
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