the Christian Paradox

“We live in an age when unnecessary things are our
only necessities.”

Oscar Wilde


(the sad little cherub birdbath has seen better days / Julie Cook / 2017)

Reflecting back over this past and most chaotic year—chaotic on so many levels….
As it has been chaotic, yes, personally but perhaps the correct word there
would be difficult….

Yet chaotic is what it has been, none the less and more importantly, on
a National and Global level….
thus making it more acute because its a sort of chaotic which affects us all.

It has been a year which has seen its fair share of words and acronyms,
some tried and true, some new and biting…each having left us changed.

Words and letters such as BREXIT, Tweet, Trump, Merkel, May,
Hillary, Russia, Putin, LBTGQ, ISIS, snowflakes, cupcakes, harassment,
sexual, misogynist, tolerance, intolerance, conservative, media, fake news,
liberal, Socialist, Nazi, Communist, accept, Democrats, Homophobic, Republicans, e-mails,
leaks, white supremacist, racist, walls, migrants….

On and on the list has grown….
so perhaps the ending of this particular year is coming none too soon.

It has certainly been perplexing watching the shift in dynamics within our Nation
as well as within the world at large.

It has been disconcerting watching this shift in Culture—
particularly in and with what we thought we knew.

It is maddening to be called “phobic” when one simply disagrees with a sinful
lifestyle.

In the latest posting of Anglican Unscripted, Bishop Ashenden was also opining
the same sorts of issues but with a more keen eye on the shift within Christian
Culture and the Church….

The good Bishop notes that there are all sorts of calls emanating from various pulpits,
all the way to Canterbury itself, the ancient seat of the Anglican Church—

Calls are being made for a total acceptance, absolute tolerance and drastic change….
Coupled by the actual accusations towards those who opt not to get on board with the
acceptance, the tolerance and the change….
Actually accusing those who cling to Scriptural Authority as being outdated,
out numbered and flat out wrong.

I can remember when words from various pulpits were words of God, Salvation, Fatih, Sacrifice, Obedience, Jesus, Love, Grace—
not this modern mantra of jumping on the culture train or else…….

Bishop Ashenden notes that it seems as if the majority of the English Clergy,
(and I would include their kissing cousins of the Episcopal Church), are
either outright socialists or of socialist leanings.
While frustratingly the more Orthodox remain silent for fear of reprisals.

As it appears that the majority of both clergy and laity have lost confidence in the Spiritual message of Salvation, that which calls for all humans to repent,
having rather “transferred their allegiance to a political solution.”
Because who wants to be told to repent from a lifestyle that society has
deemed worthy as God has succinctly and resoundingly deemed as sinful?

And what we the Faithful must note….is that within that notion of all things
of a political solution, there is absolutely no call to or for repentance.

Anglican unscripted:

And now we look to the paradoxical…

We look to the counter balance to all of the liberal heavy handed hullabaloo
with the story of the ancient Coptic Church in Egypt.

It is a church whose roots are found in St Mark who brought the Gospel to Egypt
during the reign of the Emperor Nero.
A long suffering church body of Believers who have suffered at the hands of Islam
since Muslims invaded their homeland in 641.

Believers who do not adhere to the cultural gods, but rather adhere only to the
Word of the One Almighty and Omnipotent God…

For there is no demand for change, or tolerance of the sinful, or acceptance of
society’s demands.


(Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church of Egypt)


(The Amir Tadros coptic Church in Minya on Sunday.
The building was set ablaze on Aug. 14)

Consider the following comment….

What kind of faith makes people go back to church immediately after that
church was bombed?
What kind of faith makes people chant the Nicene Creed right after their church
was bombed?
What kind of faith makes a community continue liturgy outside because their church
wasn’t yet safe enough to be in?
What kind of faith makes one go on national TV and tell persecutors that they
are loved and forgiven after they just attacked and killed 28 Christians?
The unshakable faith of Christ.

We mourn.
We are in pain.
We are angry.
We have lost many brothers and sisters in Christ, and their blood continues to flow.
But many of us neglect to remember something –
the Coptic Christians remain undefeated.
They continue to grow.
They continue to inspire and strengthen the faith of Christians around the world.

https://howtoreligion.wordpress.com/2017/12/29/coptic-orthodoxy-and-self-defense/

And so will round out these thoughts with the words of the late Orthodox monk and saint,
Saint Paisios…..

“[St. Paisios responds to the question: ‘Geronda, what is this joy that I feel?
Can it be that I am not aware of my sinfulness?’]

No, my child!
God gives you a chocolate here and there, in order to give you joy.
For now, it’s chocolates; later, it will be wine —
like the wine they drink in Paradise.
Do you know how sweet is the wine they drink there?
Oh my!
If God sees a little philotimo (*), a bit of good disposition,
He offers His Grace abundantly, and it intoxicates you —
even from this life.
The spiritual delight one receives, and the transformation he feels in his heart
when the Grace of God visits him, cannot be given…
even by the best cardiologist in the world.
When you feel such joy, try to hold on to it for as long as you can.”
~+~
(*) – Philotimo, is the spontaneous, self-sacrificing love shown by humble people,
from whom every trace of self has been filtered out,
full of gratitude towards God and their fellow man.
Philotimo comes from a deep, abiding connection with God,
so that one is constantly moved to do and seek that which is good,
right and honorable.
(Although this definition has been repeated many times during these teachings,
the last time was 5 months ago,
I feel it is never too often to remind us of its awesome meaning!)

From Discerning Thoughts

And so we end this year of the humanly chaotic being warned.
For we the faithful are being called.
Called not to be quiet, not to fear reprisals, not to accept that which is wrong
but to hold up to the world the Image of God incarnate in His only begotten son….

His duality is seen in the oldest documented Icon of Christ the Pantocrator.
One side of his face is the Christ who is benevolent, kind and loving,
the other side is of the Christ who sits in judgement….judgement of all mankind.

What those who clamor for all things cultural and accepting have chosen to ignore
that Jesus will indeed sit in judgement.

We are called to repent.
To be repentant.
For in that repentance and in that the turning away from sin is found
the true acceptance of Salvation.


(Christ Pantocrator, the oldest known Icon of Christ, 6th Century AD / St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai)

ode to a fig

“To eat figs off the tree in the very early morning,
when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite
pleasures of the Mediterranean.”

Elizabeth David


(this past summer’s plucking–a fig resting on a bed of fresh herbs / Julie Cook / 2017)

There’s eating figs, figs stuffed with blue cheese, fig preserves
and then there’s “giving the fig”….
I liken the latter to our shooting of birds….but this is not about that

But according to Wikipedia, to give someone the fig means:
The fig sign is a mildly obscene gesture used in Turkish and Slavic cultures
and some other cultures that uses two fingers and a thumb.
This gesture is most commonly used to deny a request.

In Brazil, use of this gesture wards off evil eye, jealousy, etc.
Often worn as a good luck charm.

In ancient Rome, the fig sign, or mano fico, was made by the pater familias
to ward off the evil spirits of the dead as a part of the Lemuria ritual.

The hand gesture may have originated in ancient Hindu culture to depict
the lingam and yoni.

Among early Christians, it was known as the manus obscena, or “obscene hand”.

Recently, a Ukrainian word for this gesture “дуля” (dulya) has also become
a jargon to refer to Control-Alt-Delete. (“…you need three fingers to
press the buttons. So it’s like telling somebody (a computer in this case)
to get lost.”)

So you should know that this little tale is not exactly a story about
offending gestures—
yet the notion of a fig, even cursing a fig, does play a dominate role…..

This morning when I left the house at 9AM, headed back to my dentist—
I had a full set of teeth.
Well actually I am minus one back upper right molar that was pulled
years ago due to it causing chronic sinus problems—-and as I was born without
wisdom teeth, other than that, I’ve had a nice head full of teeth.

About 4 weeks ago one morning, I had grabbed a couple of fig newtons to act
as my breakfast of champions.
Whereas I’m not keen on eating fresh figs, I do did enjoy Fig Newtons—-you know,
that whole debate of is it a cookie or a cake—-
potato, potaaato sort of thing.

When I took a bite of one of the Newtons, I bit down on something chunky and
hard—it wasn’t one of those pesky tiny seeds but rather a piece of stem.
And when I did, I immediately felt as if I’d broken my tooth.
I raced to the bathroom grabbing a mirror for a closer inspection.

Nope, the tooth was intact and looked ok.
Even the filling was still intact.
Whew…..

Yet there remained a nagging pain.
I figured I’d probably just bruised the area around the tooth.

I have had several teeth with root canals and crowns but this was still an active
tooth that happened to have a filling.

And as you may remember I am adopted.
I learned a few years back that my biological mother,
despite being a nurse, hid the pregnancy as long as possible.
No prenatal care there.

Of course this was the 1950’s and she was not married and that is a long story
for another day…but I was born premature.

Years later our family dentist explained to both me and my (adopted) mom
that in utero, my teeth had not properly fused—-leaving them prone to cavities,
and even cracking, etc.
Thus I have have treasured my teeth, working hard and being fastidious
in their care—-yet…..

The next day following the stem incident, there was a good deal of pain
when I drank anything hot or cold….as in sensitivity.

“Crap” I groused cause I knew what that would entail.
I called the dentist.
I went in and she did an X-ray.
“Nope Julie, I don’t see any cracks…it’s probably just really bruised.”

Whew—a dodged bullet!

Another week passed and still the sensitivity persisted.

Another anomaly fact about me is that many of the roots of my teeth run up into
my sinus cavity. Hence may age old conundrum—-
is it the sinuses infected or is it the teeth being aggravating??
I’ve had two sinus surgeries, with one having done wonders, the other not so much…
so my doctors and dentists pretty much roll their eyes when they see me coming…
as in here comes the oddity—-they would deny that but I know better…

So a week later I went back to the dentist who did another X-ray.
This dentist didn’t see a crack but wanted me to go see an endodontist.
This particular endodontist has seen me before, having done a couple of root canals.

He x-rayed as well but didn’t see much within the tooth, but the sinus cavity
on the other hand showed a cloudiness, indicating infection or swelling.
He did the cold test which definitely caused pain.
He removed the old filling and found the interior of the tooth to be what
he called inflamed.
How the inside of a tooth is inflamed I’m not sure, but I believed him.

This was Thursday before Christmas.
He did a root canal right then and there and sent me off with an antibiotic
and pain pills with an appointment to come back in January to have the
tooth permanently sealed.

Well I still felt terrible.

So the day following Christmas, I was in the ENT’s office.
He x-rayed my head, saw inflammation and changed the antibiotic to something
stronger plus gave me a shot.

The following day I was feeling better and found I could actually chew
without pain.

Ahhhh…..

Fast forward to this Thursday night— I had roasted a nice turkey breast.
I lay bacon over the breast to help keep it moist and self basting as it cooks.
Once the turkey was done, I took it out to allow it to “rest”
Roasted things need time to rest so their juice fill back up keeping the meat
nice and moist.

And as I happen to adore bacon, I grabbed one of the pieces and took a bite.
I tend to chew on my left side where the culprit tooth is located.
Not a wise choice.
Biting into the bacon, I immediately felt as if something had pieced my gum,
then all of a sudden out came a part of my tooth….

AGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Again I race to the bathroom for a mirror….what to my wandering eyes did appear—
the culprit tooth spilt totally in half…

AGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

The interior split half was piecing into the gum in the roof of my mouth.

I called the endodontist.
He calls my dentist.
The plan, be ready by 7AM to be seen by the one or the other.

I get a text the following morning at 6:30AM—be at dentist at 9AM

The dentist is here in town.
The endodontist is in a neighboring town about 20 minutes away.

The dentist takes one look at the split tooth and tells me that since it is Friday
and their office closes early, as well as the local oral surgeon’s office—he opts
to send me to another town, about 30 minutes away, to a different oral surgeon
who he knows works all day on Fridays.

Post haste I drive.

Long story short….3 shots in the roof of the mouth, one on the other side….
a lot of pulling, twisting, and odd noises emanating from my head,
while someone is holding my head and another is suctioning
tooth bits, all the while my eyes are tightly shut as I keep saying the
Jesus Prayer over and over and over…
then just as quickly, #13, what they call a pre molar, is gone.

Replaced by a wad of gauze….and later a tea bag whose tannin helps
to control bleeding, or so they say.

My husband was a bit taken aback when he walked in the door this evening only
to be greeted by a wife with a wet tea bag stuffed in her mouth complete with
both tag and string blowing in the wind.
Tetley tea anyone…..

And you should know that if I was telling you this tale in person–
the word tooth would sound like ‘poof’ as in the novocaine and cheek full of
gauze are doing a number on my speech….
did I mention the uncontrollable drool???

Following the pulling of the tooth, the oral surgeon did a bone graft as we will be
going the route of an implant…much as I hope that it will work but just
as much to my chagrin.
My husband has had an implant—it was a year long process and a small fortune.

So the moral of this long and wending tale,
besides the fact that I now have a hole in my head, copious amounts of drool,
and tea bags stuffed in my face….

Always be careful when opting to give any one the fig and be even more careful
when biting down on a Fig Newton!!!
You never know what might bite back..

And oh…be good to your teeth!

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you,
whom you have received from God?
You are not your own;
you were bought at a price.
Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

“I’m gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse….”

“Jesus Christ is the source—the only source—of meaning in life.
He provides the only satisfactory explanation for why we’re here and
where we’re going.
Because of this good news,
the final heartbeat for the Christian is not the mysterious conclusion to
a meaningless existence.
It is, rather, the grand beginning to a life that will never end….”

James Dobson


(Marlon Brando as Don Corleone in The Godfather)

A curious thing happened this morning in my little corner of blogland…
(yesterday if you’re reading this on Friday),

I noticed it when I went to hit the publish button to my latest post offering
for the day ….
I noticed that there was a comment waiting in moderation.

It was early and I had just poured my morning cup of coffee when I noticed this
pending piece of business that was asking for my attention.

Now granted I have been known to end up in many purgatories on the blogs
of friends and acquaintances…and even for some who I just comment on as I might
not be a regular contributor or reader…
obviously when the WP gods deem me unworthy…it is to purgatory I go.

And despite being a regular on the sites of friends,
or the fact that my comments are neither foul, nefarious or offensive,
I’m left relegated to the simple fact that I must accept the fact that it is,
at times, just part and parcel of an inconvenience of Word Press.

And yes, it does often bother me that my “friends” and fellow bloggers don’t
necessarily know or won’t realize that I’ve actually visited—
as I’m in some sort of spam bucket of moderation purgatory,
trapped without being able to say “hey, here I am….
way down in the bottom of this empty barrel…..

So as I was pondering moderation purgatory, I had a red exclamation point
staring at me on the admin page,
as well as an email notification, that a person’s comment was awaiting
my “moderation”…it all seemed a bit urgent—

I clicked to see who may have been discarded without just cause….

This is what I read (and it is rather crude):
“Do not comment on ______ site. (I’m not saying whose site I was
to stay away from in order to protect the innocent or in this case, the much maligned)
It is a repository for farters and fundie theology. Go to sites such as Jesus creed,
Roger Olson and Christianity today for real news. Bye Bye”

Naturally I hit the spam and trash buttons as well as trashed the e-mail as I was
none too amused.
And yet perhaps that was the point…to be irksome while I in turn offer
a bit of immortality to this trouble.

Firstly it was a comment both crass and crude and I don’t like crass nor crude.
And it was laced with sarcasm.
I dislike sarcasm.
I’m one who still believes in decorum and manners despite this current culture’s
love of all things angry, mean spirited, rude, crude and downright vile.

Secondly it had the air of an unspoken tone of a threat—
and I don’t like being threatened—because as a 58 year old Christian,
I certainly resent being told what to do, what to see, what to read by some
upstart irksome trouble….
as I think I’ve got that area well figured out by now.

Thirdly this nefarious individual was trying to redirect me from one
Christian blogger’s blog to some other type of Christian blog fodder…for what?
What kind of “Christian” is crass and vile defaming a brother in Christ,
while attempting to steer readers to other supposed Christian sites….

A nut job that’s who…..who I suspect is no sort of Believer whatsoever.

But rather a misguided, sinful lost troll…

All of this was swirling around in these early morning thoughts of mine when suddenly
I had visions of Don Corleone’s raspy voice giving me some sort of ultimatum…
leaving an unspoken ‘or else’ hanging in the air.
As in this dude was telling me to steer clear and steer here instead…
in an oh so crude sort of way with an unspoken notion of something bad happening
if I did not comply….

Really??!!

Now those of you who know me know that I don’t do Facebook, I don’t tweet,
I don’t Pin, I don’t instagram…I dont do much of anything but this blog and email–
I like to keep it simple…
plus as a long time educator, I often saw the darker side
of all things social media—so I consciously choose not to participate….

So with that being said, my blog following is low compared to those who attach
their blogs to say their Facebook, etc…
and thats ok with me as I decided long ago that if God wanted someone to read what
I had to offer, He’d bring them my way…He’s good that way.

It also means on the flip side that our Ancient Adversary equally enjoys
bringing people to places they have no business going or in that
their motives for going are grievously wrong…and in part because the
posts and or blogs do bring glory to God….
and we all know this Adversary despises God and all His Glory….

And so now enters the misguided and mean spirited trolls that seem to
find some sort of sick twisted pleasure from becoming human beggar lice.
You know…those little brown things that stick to your clothing when you’re
out walking in the woods or tall grassy fields….

You can’t brush them off because of the velcro like stickiness that
has them attaching to your pet’s fur or your clothing. You have
to pick them off one by one…

So yes, I disdain a troll.

I believe their activity of “trolling” is a waste of human life.
There is so much that needs doing in and for our world and our
fellow human beings in order to better their lives and our entire
collective lives etc…
that wasting time cruising blogs and the net in order just to be a thorn in
someone’s side is just, as I say, a waste.

And yet here is the rub in all of this…
most of these blogs that these human beggar lice opt to stalk and harass
are witnesses to the Faith…

It is a testimony…and we know from the early followers of Jesus, shortly
following his death and resurrection that witnessing and testimonies were often
a dangerous practice but a much needed practice none the less….

And so those of us who offer the Word of God to those who happen by our blogs—
be they by choice of desire or choice of the nefarious…the message remains the same.
Jesus Christ is the Salvation of all mankind….
Praise God!

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10

“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Messiah,
for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down,
who accuses them day and night before our God.
But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,
for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.
Rejoice then, you heavens
and those who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
for the devil has come down to you
with great wrath,
because he knows that his time is short!”

Revelation 12″10-12

there’s a shadow…..

“There is strong shadow where there is much light.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


(Lorenzo Costa / 1490 / Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, France)

Birth usually brings with it a great deal of joy, expectation as well as a fair share
of anticipation…
Yet in some rare instances, there is sadly a presence of foreboding.
As in something troublesome is looming while the expected state of gladness is not
entirely free of worry.

A feeling of something, yet not quite known or understood….just a sense.

For it is both anticipation and foreboding to which we, the faithful, must now look.

Never mind that as much as we may prefer to simply bask in the glory of the news of
this happy and tender moment, we are reminded that a shadow is constantly present.

Anticipation: a prior action that takes into account or forestalls a later action
b the act of looking forward; especially : pleasurable expectation

Forbode: to have an inward conviction of (something, such as a coming ill or misfortune)

Looking at this particular image of the Nativity, painted by the Italian artist Lorenzo Costa, I am drawn to the expression on Joseph’s face.
Should there not be a smile?
What of an assumed expression of happiness and even pride
in the birth of this new child?

Yet instead of exultation and happiness,
those emotions are replaced by an expression of sadness, perhaps even sorrow.
There is a resignation of something greater than….
greater than we the viewer are privy to.

Mary’s eyes also allude to something other than jubilation over the birth of this
child of hers.
There is a feeling of the resolute hiding behind a prayerful countenance.

And even the child himself…resigned.

And where we have spent the past month or longer reveling in all things Christmas…
with the culmination of jubilation coming about on Christmas Day…
as the faithful marked, once again, the birth of the Christ Child….
there remains a shadow….an ominous foreboding shadow.

For this particular birth brings with it more than the joy to be experienced at the birth of a child….for this child, this glad tiding, is no mere child….

Eight day’s following the birth and the mysterious visits of strangers, both meek and
grand, the child was brought to the Temple, as religious custom dictated, to be
circumcised. And following which, also with custom, the time of the presentation, purification and sacrifice as required.

At this time a strange old man approached the young family.
Mary drew the child close to her breast as the stranger continued coming closer, arms open wide, babbling and now reaching for the babe.

But there was something oddly familiar in the way this man was speaking, something that
moved Mary to volunteer the baby, with now her own outstretched arms,
giving up her child just as she would eventually have to offer up her son for
the salvation of all mankind…

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
I have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him.
Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother,
“This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise.
He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him.
As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Luke 2:29-35

A shadow draws across the jubilation…..

see, hear then seek….

It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you.
Mother Teresa


(image courtesy the web)

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—-
I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:
to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is the Messiah,the Lord.
This will be a sign for you:
you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,
praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds
said to one another,
“Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place,
which the Lord has made known to us.”
So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the child lying in the manger.
When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child;
and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.
But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen,
as it had been told them.

Luke 2:8-20

Imagine yourself a rather lonely shepherd sitting watch throughout a long dark night.
Your livelihood is your herd of sheep.
It’s how you make money.
It’s how you care for your family.
It’s how you feed your family.
As your sheep’s existence depends upon you and your existence depends
upon your sheep.

During the passover,
you sell your sheep, the young lambs, to those who want to offer sacrifices for
their faith.
Your sheep are important to you as they are important to the faithful.

You lead the sheep to fertile fields for feeding, you sheer them when its time,
you keep count of the ewes, rams and lambs and you watch out for any predators.

Sheep need tending to—they are considered to be defenseless animals as well as
not very bright or smart.

They eat, sit, stand, sleep…. and they run.
They run if they sense trouble—that’s about the extent of their defenses.
They do not take a stand.
They will not fight to the death.
And they don’t always run far or totally out of harm’s way.
They will scatter, not knowing how to find their way back to the herd.
A lone sheep is a defenseless sheep.
Their adversary is more stealthy, faster and more determined and knows how
to disperse a herd.

So sheep need a shepherd.
They need an overseer.
And thus the shepherd keeps watch, both day and night.
Yet it is in the night that the shepherd must be more keen to watch because
predators prefer to do their hunting in the dark of night.

There are only a few out this night, watching.
Most likely it is you and a few relatives, as this has been how your family has made a living since you grandfather’s father and his father before him made their way.
Maybe tonight it’s just you and your brother-n-law, or maybe it’s an uncle and a cousin
who have joined you during this dark lonely night.

Each of you pull the woolen blankets tighter around your shoulders because the air is
more chilly then usual.
The herd seems a bit agitated.
Do they smell a predator?
Have they heard something edging its way closer?

The moon is not full yet the night sky is oddly bright.
You scan the sprawling and now eerily lit field, looking for any sort of movement.

Looking upward into the inky night sky, you notice a single star casting an
unusual intense direct light.
Are your eyes playing tricks or is the night slowly becoming more like day?
Looking toward to where the light is cast, you can actually make out the far-off
silhouette of Bethlehem—because the star seems to be directly over and actually illuminating the sleepy little quiet town.

You call your kinsmen to come close.
What do they make of the oddly lit sky.
What do they know of Bethlehem.
This town which bore the King David.

And just when you are pondering the oddity of this particular bright star, you are
suddenly aware that you are no longer alone.
It’s no longer just you, your relatives and the sheep on this lonely chilly night.

There is a multitude of beings you have never seen before.
Before you have time to even focus on what you are witnessing, they speak.

“Fear not” they say….

as you suddenly realize you actually have no fear.

They speak with authority and they explain the reason for the star.
They explain good news.
They explain a birth.
They explain salvation.
and not some sort of generic salvation, but….
your salvation.

In that your salvation has just been born and is to be tangibly found—
lying directly underneath the light from the very star that you had
noticed shining over the far distanced town of Bethlehem…..

Oddly you don’t feel the need to decipher or discern…you don’t feel confused or
disoriented.
You are neither overwhelmed or dismayed—rather you are fully alert and
in the minute…the only thing you feel is now a sense of urgency to go to
see this newly born “Salvation”….

As it is now to this star that you know you must now go….

And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
Daniel 12:3

St Stephens Day

You desire that which exceeds my humble powers,
but I trust in the compassion and mercy of the All-powerful God.

Saint Stephen


(portion of the Demidoff Altarpiece 1476 / The National Gallery / London, England)

In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke praises St. Stephen as
“a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit,” who
“did great wonders and signs among the people”
during the earliest days of the Church.

Luke’s history of the period also includes the moving scene of Stephen’s death –
witnessed by St. Paul before his conversion –
at the hands of those who refused to accept Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.

Stephen himself was a Jew who most likely came to believe in Jesus
during the Lord’s ministry on earth. He may have been among the 70 disciples
whom Christ sent out as missionaries, who preached the coming of God’s kingdom while traveling with almost no possessions.

This spirit of detachment from material things continued in the early Church,
in which St. Luke says believers “had all things in common”
and “would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all,
as any had need.”

But such radical charity ran up against the cultural conflict between
Jews and Gentiles, when a group of Greek widows felt neglected
in their needs as compared to those of a Jewish background.

Stephen’s reputation for holiness led the Apostles to choose him,
along with six other men,
to assist them in an official and unique way as this dispute arose.
Through the sacramental power given to them by Christ,
the Apostles ordained the seven men as deacons,
and set them to work helping the widows.

As a deacon, Stephen also preached about Christ as the fulfillment of the
Old Testament law and prophets. Unable to refute his message,
some members of local synagogues brought him before their religious authorities,
charging him with seeking to destroy their traditions.

Stephen responded with a discourse recorded in the seventh chapter of the Acts
of the Apostles.
He described Israel’s resistance to God’s grace in the past,
and accused the present religious authorities of “opposing the Holy Spirit”
and rejecting the Messiah.

Before he was put to death, Stephen had a vision of Christ in glory.
“Look,” he told the court,
“I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

The council, however, dragged the deacon away and stoned him to death.

“While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,’”
records St. Luke in Acts 7.
“Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice,
‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’
When he had said this, he died.”

The first Christian martyrdom was overseen by a Pharisee named Saul –
later Paul, and still later St. Paul –
whose own experience of Christ would transform him into a believer,
and later a martyr himself.

—Catholic News Agency

Seek Him

Christmas tells a different story.
It tells us that a deeper moral change comes from encountering the
Presence who loves us, instead of threatening us;
Who comes to find us instead of shaming us;
who comes to change the human heart by offering it compassion and forgiveness
instead of forcing and humiliating us.
Christmas is ‘God with us’ rather than the ‘state over us.’

Bishop Gavin Ashenden


(image courtesy the web)

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests!”
Luke 2:14

“God has done everything; he has done the impossible: he was made flesh.
His all-powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human
understanding:
the Infinite has become a child,
has entered the human family.
And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to him.”

Pope Benedict XVI

A very Merry Christmas to all of my family, friends and dear blogging family,
each and everyone…be they near or far…

Pax