Trembling joy

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.

(Hymn Imortal, Ivisible
Welsh Melody 1839 John Roberts / Lyrics Walter C. Smith 1876

1460francesco_di_giorgio_martini_illumination
(Birth of Jesus, Francesco di Giorgio Martini 1460)

So far we have been reminded that we have entered a new season.
A season of waiting and watching.

And somehow, somewhere within our trepidation of the arrival of this unknown,
we sense that as we wait and watch, we are to remain hopeful…
Because curiously we are inwardly reassured that what we are waiting for
and watching for…
is good.

And not only is it to be good,
it is to be actually grand.
As in life changing, world altering…
GRAND.

And almost within the same breath of waiting and watching,
we are reminded that what we wait for and watch for
is actually something quite intimate.
Something dear and something even tenderly precious.

Perplexed we wonder, how can this trepidation, which is so full of anticipation
and perceived to be not only good but Grand,
how can it be sweetly intimate, tender and close…?

So many good Christians are dumbfounded or tremble in fear when something of Christ’s
future is told to them.

As Christoph Blumhardt notes in his essay The Wise Men’s Star…

If we would only look forward to the Last Day with a trembling joy, as the Savior said:
“When these things begin to take place,
stand up and lift up your heads because your redemption
is drawing near (Luke 21:28)

But now, when people hear of it, they are afraid and shake and tremble.
They fail to rejoice in the reality that redemption is drawing near.

And so we are left to we wait,
and watch…
Watching and waiting for a most intimate moment…
Yet we are now told to be ready…
Ready to rejoice…
While at the same time, being filled with
trembling joy…

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zachariah 9:9

Intimate affair

O, Star of wonder, star of night
Star of royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Lyrics from the Christmas Carol
“We Three Kings of Orient Are…”

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(image of the Adoration of the Magi by Giotto / Cappella Scrovegni / Padova. Pad ova, Italy / 1305)

“Not everyone sees the star”

Observes Christoph Blumhardt in his Advent reflection The Wisemen’s Star.

If everyone had seen the star,
would not all of ancient Palestine been turned upside down from such
an extraordinary sighting of a brilliant light illuminating the eastern sky?

Has not history shown us that the sighting, and subsequent gathering,
was not intended as a major crowd massing phenomenon…

but rather a more intimate affair…

Gathered were a host of angels, a handful of shepherds, three wisemen,
along with a sundry menagerie.

Not exactly the breaking news, front page headline sort of event…

But rather a quiet tender affair…
Intimate,
private,
personal…
and closely gathered.

The birth of a child…

Yet not just any child…

Blumhardt surmises that “it is necessary to have an upright, sincere heart.
Whoever is not filled with longing but is only inspired by egoism,
only interested in his own salvation, with no feeling for sighing creation—
he will not see a star even when it is there; he does not see the glory of the Lord.

So we must ask ourselves….
as we enter this new season of waiting….

Will we see the star?

Are we filled with desire and longing?

Is our heart sincere?

For if that is indeed so, that our hearts are indeed ready…both longing and looking…
we must remember not to be late,
for we have been invited to an amazingly intimate affair.

After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
Matthew 2:9-10

Waiting and arrivals

“Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life”
Simone Weil

boucicaut-meister
(Illuminated manuscript from the Book of Hours, the Annunciation 1410)

We have entered a new season within our faith…
Those seasonal cycles of the Church.
For we have now entered the season of waiting…
Otherwise known as Advent.
Taken from the Greek word, parousia, meaning arrival.

As in we are waiting for an arrival.

Yet do we not seem to spend our lives waiting?

Waiting on things to take place, to happen, to hurry up, to change, to come or to go….

However Father Henri Nouwen, in his essay Waiting For God, reminds us that
“for many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go.
And people do not like such a place.
They want to get out of it by doing something.”

So waiting seems to be something we are relegated to suffer.

But Father Nouwen continues…
“Most of us think of waiting as something very passive, a hopeless state
determined by events totally out of our hands.”

“But there is none this passivity in scripture.
Those who are waiting are waiting very actively.”

“Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction
that somethings happening where you are and that you want to be present to it.
A waitng person is someone who is present to the moment, who believes that this moment is the moment.”

“A waiting person is a patient person.

The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and to live the situation
out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.
Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and
therefore want to go elsewhere.

“Waiting, then is not passive.”

“To wait open-endedly is an enormous attitude toward life.”

So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that
God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear.
The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment,
trusting that new things will happen to us,
new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction.

“That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.”

And so we begin to wait…
actively and radically waiting….

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.
You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

James 5:7-8

(Father Henri Nouwen’s words taken from Watch for the Light
Readings for Advent and Christmas
/ Plough Publishing House

Prayer of the heart

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(my mom’s tiny rose bush musters on 30 years after her death / Julie Cook / 2016)

O Lord my God.
Teach my heart this day
where and how to find you.

You have made me and re-made me,
and you have bestowed on me
all the good things I possess,
and still I do not know you.
I have not yet done
that for which I was made.

Teach me to seek you,
for I cannot seek you
unless you teach me,
or find you
unless you show yourself to me.

Let me seek you in my desire;
let me desire you in my seeking.
Let me find you by loving you;
let me love you when I find you.

St. Anselm

Dear future mom….

Yesterday as I was reading over a few of my favorite blogs, I came across a video clip under the title of “Slouching toward tyranny” on the blog Dover Beach.

My curiosity was piqued as I wondered what slouching, as in drooping, toward tyranny
and a smiling young lady with Down Syndrome had in common with one another.

It was soon very evident what brought these two seemingly polar opposite entities
catastrophically crashing into one another.

I’ll let you click on the brief French Television advert that never was…
before I continue our conversation….

“Slouching toward tyranny.
25 NOVEMBER 2016

“This is how a free people slouch toward tyranny. Here is an excerpt from a Catholic News Agency article. The short commercial mentioned in the article is below.

“On Nov. 10, the French Council of State, a body of the French government, ruled that the short video was inappropriate for broadcast on French television as a commercial.

In a decision upholding the French Broadcasting Council’s earlier ban of the video, the Council of State said it failed to meet the criteria for a public service announcement. In its reasoning, it pointed out that the happiness of the children shown in the video was “likely to disturb the conscience of women who had lawfully made different personal life choices.””

If you are like me, after watching this clip, there are probably tears flowing down your cheeks.
Tears of joy and tenderness and hope…
always hope…

I taught high school art for 31 years before retiring 4 years ago.
During the course of three decades, I had the pleasure of working with all kinds of kids.
I taught in a public city school system for my entire tenure.
I worked with every color of kid you can imagine and a myriad of nationalities–
and yes, even illegal immigrants…
I taught kids with all levels of intellect…
those who were considered and tested gifted as well as those kids with both
physical and cognitive disabilities and deficiencies.
All mixed in within one class…
no separation, no division, no segregating, no distinction.
Simply kids…

This is not the first encounter I’ve had in recent weeks with an article or
video clip highlighting Down Syndrome children and the alarmingly and rapidly
growing cultural clamoring over the rising questions of should such pregnancies,
where by various testings an at risk child in utero has been identified,
should that pregnancy be allowed to come to term or should such a pregnancy be terminated,
as in aborted…

Sally Phillips is a British actress and a woman of deep Christian Faith.
She is featured in a documentary on the BBC raising the question about a world without Down Syndrome.

If you do not already know, I am the product of adoption.
I was adopted during a time when abortions, all though preformed were done so very clandestinely.
It was a very taboo back ally sort of affair…so adoption was much more prevalent,
as homes for unwed mothers were numerous.

There are those who would then take that notion and use it as a rallying cry for the legality of such, keeping it from being back ally clandestine.
But I would disagree.
There is no justification for itemized death.

I have very strong feelings about pregnancies and the bigger picture that far transcends
that initial act of sex–
For you see I don’t look at sex as merely sex,
as an act of satisfaction…
but rather always as, depending upon age and health,
the potential act of procreation.

And how our culture has disregarded such an intimate union of two individuals as something as trite,
the fulfilling of the physical, something causal or even wanton is beyond my soul.

And now we enter a new arena—where man enters the realm of God—
deeming who may live and who may not…

I have problems with that.

Shame on the French for deciding not run that advert letting both women and men
know that it’s ok to see the pregnancy of a child with Down Syndrome to completion.
The fact that they felt the showing of such an ad would trouble the conscious of those
women who had opted to “lawfully” abort their babies,
is one more reminder that we have ferried ourselves across the river Styx as we have
left the realm of the living opting to cross the river while embracing the realm of death…

“Choices once unanimously considered criminal and rejected by the common moral sense are gradually becoming socially acceptable,”
Pope John Paul II

“Many people are concerned with children of India, with the children of Africa where quite a few die of hunger, and so on. Many people are also concerned about the violence in this great country of the United States. These concerns are very good. But often these same people are not concerned with the millions being killed by the deliberate decision of their own mothers. And this is the greatest destroyer of peace today- abortion which brings people to such blindness.”
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta

prophetic spirit….

“I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me”
Jeremiah 33:8

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(image of the prophet Jeremiah by Michelangelo, the Sistine Chapel)

Despite the distress of our time, we have lost touch with this prophetic spirit.
In fact, the inmost nature of prophecy has become an enigma to us.
We no longer grasp its primary source anymore.

Eberhard Arnold

Where are the voices…
those strong, confident and defiant voices that portend the fate of man?
Those ancient distant voices which proclaimed, declared, lamented, warned and foretold…
Those quixotic ones, from the days of old, whose words spoke of both power and truth …

In this oh so modernly smug time of man, believers are left to silently wonder,
as the non believer ridicules and scoffs.
Taunting the faithful while arrogantly puffing their chests.
For modern man has declared himself his own deity and god.

As Eberhard Arnold pragamatically observes, we have lost touch with that part
within ourselves which allowed us to hear those prophetic voices.
We have grown cold to our spiritual nature…
As we have distanced ourselves to the point of total disregard,
For that innate piece of the Divine that was once very attuned…
Allowing rather the void to be filled by our haughty sense of self.

Those voices however have never been silenced…
Never stopped or cut short over the windswept history of time…
they have not grown cold as the hard stones of earth…
but rather it is man who has grown cold, having lost his ability to hear them.
For man has turned a deaf ear to the apocalyptical.

Yet it is in that same breath of disheartened resignation that
Arnold offers us a bit of hope…

“The attitude is [still] possible only when a different heart beats within us,
different from that which has been in us so far, and when God’s spirit dwells in us,
as Ezekiel promises for these last days (Ezek.11:19).

If the earth is to be filled with the glory of God,
then the triune Spirit must fill and pervade the people who dwell on it.
Only when the Spirit gains influence over us, a sovereignty thus
far completely unknown,
can we expect the social and moral transformation that Mary sings about…”

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

The Magnificat
Luke 1:46-55

“Maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always”
Hosea 12:6

Happy Thanksgiving

Dear Lord; we beg but one boon more:
Peace in the hearts of all men living,
peace in the whole world this Thanksgiving.

Joseph Auslander

vintageturkeywishes
(vintage Thanksgiving card)

For, after all, put it as we may to ourselves,
we are all of us from birth to death guests at a table which we did not spread.
The sun, the earth, love, friends, our very breath are parts of the banquet….
Shall we think of the day as a chance to come nearer to our Host,
and to find out something of Him who has fed us so long?

Rebecca Harding Davis

For everything God created is good,
and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,
because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

1 Timothy 4:4-5