languages of the Spirit of the season

O Father, in your Truth (that is to say, in your Son, humbled, needy and homeless)
you have humbled me. He was humbled in the womb of the Virgin,
needy in the manger of the sheep, and homeless on the wood of the Cross.
Nothing so humbles the proud sinner as the humility of Jesus Christ’s humanity.

St Anthony of Padua


(a painting of St. Anthony and the Christ Child / artist, Unknown /Julie Cook / 2021)

“The man who is filled with the Holy Spirit speaks in different languages.
These different languages are different ways of witnessing to Christ,
such as humility, poverty, patience, and obedience;
we speak in those languages when we reveal in ourselves these virtues to others.
Actions speak louder than words…
it is useless for a man to flaunt his knowledge of the law if
he undermines its teaching by his actions.
But the apostles spoke as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.
Happy the man whose words issue from the Holy Spirit and not from himself!
We should speak, then, as the Holy Spirit give us the gift of speech.
Our humble and sincere request to the Spirit for ourselves should be
that we may bring the day of Pentecost to fulfillment,
insofar as he infuses us with his grace, by using our bodily senses
in a perfect manner and by keeping the commandments. ”

St. Anthony of Padua
Excerpt From
Witness of the Saints, p. 492

Here is the link to a small story about me, St. Anthony and the image of the painting
I’ve chosen for today…

ora pro nobis—pray for us

God Comes, again

“Into this world, this demented inn
in which there is absolutely no room for him at all,
Christ comes uninvited.”

Thomas Merton


(Caravaggio’s Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence / 1609 / Palermo, Italy)

(I found this little advent post from 2016 and found it still quite fitting for today)

“God Comes”

Pope Benedict XVI in his homily celebration of First Vespers
of the First Sunday of Advent
(Saturday, 2 December 2006)

“At the beginning of a new yearly cycle, the liturgy invites the Church to renew her
proclamation to all the peoples and sums it up in two words
‘God comes.’
These words, so concise, contain an ever new evocative power.

Let us pause a moment to reflect:
it is not used in the past tense—God has come,
nor in the future—God will come,
but in the present—‘God comes.’

At a closer look, this is a continuous present, that is, an ever-continuous action:
it happened, it is happening now and it will happen again.
In whichever moment, ‘God comes.’

The verb ‘to come’ appears here as a theological verb, indeed theological,
since it says something about God’s very nature.
Proclaiming that ‘God comes’ is equivalent, therefore, to simply announcing God himself,
through one of his essential and qualifying features: his being the God-who-comes.

Advent calls believers to become aware of this truth and to act accordingly.
It rings out as a salutary appeal in the days, weeks and months that repeat:
Awaken!
Remember that God comes!
Not yesterday,
not tomorrow,
but today,
now!

The one true God, ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,’
is not a God who is there in Heaven, unconcerned with us and our history,
but he is the-God-who-comes.
He is a Father who never stops thinking of us and, in the extreme respect of our freedom,
desires to meet us and visit us;
he wants to come, to dwell among us, to stay with us.
His ‘coming’ is motivated by the desire to free us from evil and death,
from all that prevents our true happiness.
God comes to save us.

The Fathers of the Church observe that the ‘coming’ of God—continuous and, as it were,
co-natural with his very being—is centered in the two principal comings of Christ:
his Incarnation
and
his glorious return at the end of time…
(cf. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis 15,1: PG 33, 870).

The Advent Season lives the whole of this polarity.

In the first days, the accent falls on the expectation of the Lord’s Final Coming,
as the texts of this evening’s celebration demonstrate.
With Christmas approaching, the dominant note instead is on
the commemoration of the event at Bethlehem,
so that we may recognize it as the ‘fullness of time.’

Between these two ‘manifested’ comings…
it is possible to identify a third,
which St. Bernard calls ‘intermediate’ and ‘hidden,’
and which occurs in the souls of believers and,
as it were,
builds a ‘bridge’ between the first and the last coming.”

Memento mori

“Begin now to be what you will be hereafter.”
St Jerome

Memento mori (Latin for ‘remember that you [have to] die’)
wikipedia


(painting of St. Jerome by Caravaggio (1605-6))

Yesterday I caught a great little write up regarding St. Jerome.
September 30th, yesterday, in the Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox churches,
was the Feast Day of St. Jerome—
or more succinctly, the day The Church recognizes the life and legacy
of one of the great early fathers of the Christian Church.

In a quick nutshell:

Jerome, also known as Jerome of Stridon, was a Latin priest, confessor,
theologian, and historian; he is commonly known as Saint Jerome.

Jerome was born (c. 342–347) at Stridon, a village near Emona on the border
of Dalmatia and Pannonia.
He is best known for his translation of most of the Bible into Latin
(the translation that became known as the Vulgate)
and his commentaries on the whole Bible.
Jerome attempted to create a translation of the Old Testament
based on a Hebrew version, rather than the Septuagint,
as Latin Bible translations used to be performed before him.
His list of writings is extensive, and beside his Biblical works,
he wrote polemical and historical essays, always from a theologian’s perspective.

Jerome was known for his teachings on Christian moral life,
especially to those living in cosmopolitan centers such as Rome.
In many cases, he focused his attention on the lives of women
and identified how a woman devoted to Jesus should live her life.
This focus stemmed from his close patron relationships with several prominent
female ascetics who were members of affluent senatorial families.

Thanks to Jerome’s contribution to Christianity,
he is recognised as a saint and Doctor of the Church by the Catholic Church,
the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Anglican Communion.
His feast day is 30 September.

(Wikipedia)

Well, from his biography, we can see that Jerome was probably one of the
first pro-women fellows for his time.
Imagine that….
And happily Jerome is the one who gave us the Latin Bible…

So whereas we can understand why Jerome is always painted or drawn as
sitting at some sort of desk…for he was a translator and scholar…

But also within those images Jerome is always depicted with a skull
either on his desk or in his hands.

And this is where the write up comes into play.

The write up comes from a Catholic Company’s Get Fed segment.
This fed segment was in honor of St. Jerome and focused in on the reason as
to why there is always a skull sitting in close proximity to the
studious saint while he labors writing.

Now we come to the skull. Not something we would normally put on our desks.

In portrayals of St. Jerome and other saints, the skull symbolizes our mortality.
Memento mori —the memory of death—is something we as Christians should
always have in our minds, though not for the sake of meaningless morbidity.

Instead, the recollection of death reminds us to stay
detached from worldly things and to be always prepared to die,
since we will die eventually, and sometimes unexpectedly.
When our own death does come, may the Lord find us ready!

For Jerome and other ascetics, the skull is particularly suitable.
They deliberately separated themselves from the world and embraced
a life of prayer and penance in order to better attach themselves
to spiritual things and to prepare themselves for the next world.

The skull could also indicate St. Jerome’s spirit of penance
for the sins of his youth.
While studying in Rome as a young man, he fell into the immorality
common among his confrères.
Spurred by a guilty conscience and frequent visits to the Roman catacombs,
he converted and was baptized in the 360s.

Memento mori, detachment, penance—a skull in your study seems a little
more reasonable now, doesn’t it?’

And it was the notion that “the memory of death—is something we as Christians should
always have in our minds, though not for the sake of meaningless morbidity.”

Instead, the recollection of death reminds us to stay
detached from worldly things and to be always prepared to die,
since we will die eventually, and sometimes unexpectedly.
When our own death does come, may the Lord find us ready!

And it is this single thought, that of detachment, that is sadly the furtherest
notion from the minds of oh so many.

Detachment from the world.

How can any of us be detached when our world is more alluring than ever…
A sparkly shiny temptation vying for our very souls.

Our governments vie for our total dependance.
Big tech vies for our total allegiance.
Big merchandizing vies for any and all income.

It will only be in detachment that we can truly find our our salvation.

May the Lord find us ready indeed…
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
For the law of the Spirit of life has set you
free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.
By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,
he condemned sin in the flesh,
in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us,
who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit

Romans 8:1-5

“Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum”

“Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum”—
“Let it be done unto me according to thy word.”


(The Annunciation by Fra Angelico /the Museo Nazionale di San Marco,
Florence, Italy/ 1440–1445 /Julie Cook / 2018)

So I was reading through a few emails yesterday when one in
particular caught my eye.

This particular email opened with a question.
What does the word “fiat” mean.

Well naturally my mind immediately jumped to that of the Italian car
maker of that same name.
When we were teens, my cousin had an old school blue fiat..
that was almost 50 years ago and of course he had to trade it in for
something new and shiny red.

The email I was reading had nothing to do with cars but rather with
the original word that is actually Latin for ‘decree’.

According to dictionary.com the word fiat is
“taken from the Latin meaning “let it be done,”
this word appears in the Latin translation of Genesis,
the first book of the bible, when God proclaimed “let there be light” (fiat lux).
As a result, many early uses of fiat were biblical allusions,
as in John Donne’s 1597 poem The Storm. I
n it he writes that there will be darkness unless
“God say/Another Fiat.”

It was not until the 1630s that English speakers started using fiat
to describe an “authoritative decree,”
often issued by royalty or clergy—two groups that depended on divine
right for their power.

By the turn of the 19th century,
English speakers applied fiat’s meaning to less-than-Godly legal manners.
The phrase “fiat in bankruptcy” gained popularity at this time.
Later that century, the concept of “fiat money,” or currency
that has no intrinsic value,
but that the government gives a value to by declaring it legal tender,
took its place in English-speaking minds.”

Isn’t that interesting…fiat money, currency that has no intrinsic value…
hummm….
kind of like our currency today…just print and spend with nary
a thing to back it.

So it IS true…??!! There really is such a thing as monopoly money!!!!!
I knew it!!!!!

Oh but I digress again, today’s post is not about our Federal Banking System…
but maybe it should be…no, no…I’ll save that notion for another day.

So each day I receive an email devotional from the Catholic company…and no
I am not Catholic, but I probably should be…but again, I digress…
another post, another day..

So like I was saying, I get a daily devotional via email…
I also get a few other emails from this group entitled
“Get Fed, bite-sized faith”.
These little offered nuggets, or bites, are always informative and
thought provoking.

So in yesterday’s “bite” they posed the question, “what does “fiat” mean?”

And since this wasn’t about cars, I was intrigued and read on.

Like the info I listed above, they explained that the word fiat did indeed
refer to a type of decree.
And so naturally when we think of decrees, we usually associate decrees with
authoritative institutions such as governments or leadership.

An “off with their heads” sort of dictatorial decree.
One that sweeps in fear and dread—something that is given as a command,
an order to make the little people, us serfs, quake.

But the fiat that Catholic Company was speaking of was far
from authoritative—rather it was one of humble surrendering.

Here is a portion of what they wrote:
“Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum”—
“Let it be done unto me according to thy word.”
Certainly no “fiat” before or since has had such drastic consequences
for humanity.

When we refer to Our Lady’s “fiat,” we mean not only the words she spoke,
but also the spiritual attitude verbalized by these words.
This small phrase encapsulates her spirit of obedience,
her profound humility, and her boundless charity.
Unlike so many other fiats, she wasn’t enacting her own will
but embracing God’s will. She wasn’t exercising her own authority
but assenting with a full and joyful heart to her role in
God’s glorious plan of salvation.

I loved this kinder, simpler take on what is usually considered
an authoritative word.

Rather than the command ordered for the troops to go forth and conquer,
here we have a humble submission of the will…acquiescence to the
Great I AM–“Let it be done to me according to your will…”

In Mary’s submission…therein lies the reality of strength…our strength.
A holy segue from humble submission to Omnipotent Greatness.

Having watched and read about what is unfolding with our botched
withdrawal of Afghanistan, knowing that horrible things are currently
happening to individuals and families…knowing that our leadership
made an uncalculated fiat…
knowing that the Taliban has announced their own fiat…
conquer at all costs…
a fiat which stands in stalk contrast to Mary’s fiat to God…
humility and submission vs brutality or else.

What of a former President and his grandiose birthday?
What of Madame Speaker and her cohort Schumer
who proclaim that their inner circles should go out and party…
dance, drink and eat cake while they in turn pronounce their own fiat…
telling us, the simple populace, to mask up, fall in line or else.

What of the Border crisis?…
What of the Administration’s fiat that says to one and all, come then go
while never minding any sense of legality, a pandemic, or placement?

Fiat of folly or fiat of humble purpose..

Yep.
Fiat.
A decree.
Let it be done unto me according to YOUR will!

Luke 2:1-20 NIV
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census
should be taken of the entire Roman world.
(This was the first census that took place while
Quirinius was governor of Syria.)
And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea,
to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
He went there to register with Mary,
who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby,
keeping watch over their flocks at night.
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord
shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy
for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;
he is the Messiah, the Lord.
This will be a sign to you:
You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel,
praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven,
the shepherds said to one another,
“Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened,
which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off
and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby,
who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him,
they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,
and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the
things they had heard and seen, which were just as they
had been told.

mystery

“Love is an endless mystery, because there is no reasonable cause that could explain it.”
Rabindranath Tagore

(Moses by Michelangelo / Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli /Rome / Julie Cook 2018)

“A sculptor who wishes to carve a figure out of a block uses his chisel,
first cutting away great chunks of marble, then smaller pieces,
until he finally reaches a point where only a brush of hand is needed
to reveal the figure. In the same way, the soul has to undergo
tremendous mortifications at first, and then more refined detachments,
until finally its Divine image is revealed.
Because mortification is recognized as a practice of death,
there is fittingly inscribed on the tomb of Duns Scotus**, Bis Mortus; Semel Sepultus
(twice died, but buried only once).
When we die to something, something comes alive within us.
If we die to self, charity comes alive;
if we die to pride, service comes alive;
if we die to lust, reverence for personality comes alive;
if we die to anger, love comes alive.”

Fulton J. Sheen, p. 219
An Excerpt From
Peace of Soul
(**John Duns OFM, commonly called Duns Scotus, was a Scottish Catholic priest
and Franciscan friar, university professor, philosopher, and theologian.
He is one of the three most important philosopher-theologians of
Western Europe in the High Middle Ages, together with
Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham. Wikipedia)

So the other day I posted one of my more short and sweet offerings…
When time is scarce, I rely on a good picture and a couple,
of what I think to be, pointed quotes.
Most often the quotes offered are by the Saints, Christian theologians,
Christian authors and or Christian mystics.

And so it was on a recent day when I posted a quote by C. S. Lewis:
“In the old days, when there was less education and discussion,
perhaps it was possible to get on with a very few simple ideas about God.
But it is not so now. Everyone reads, everyone hears things discussed.
Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology,
that will not mean that you have no ideas about God.
It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones—bad,
muddled, out-of-date ideas. For a great many of the ideas about God
which are trotted out as novelties today are simply
the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and rejected.”

C. S. Lewis, p. 155
An Excerpt From
Mere Christianity

that I received the following comment:

“In the old days, when there was less education and discussion,”

This was true in regards to both theological and knowledge of everything
but I believe that is the only part the great writer Lewis got
right in this quote.

Theology has not changed, the stories and traditions are basically
exactly the same today but likely more complicated than when they
were created but the general knowledge of our world has
increased dramatically.

We have the massive advancement in both scientific knowledge
and increased educational opportunities that have accumulated mostly
over the last two hundred years, this has cost all religions dearly
in a decline of power especially in first world industrialised countries.

As there is now more freedom of thought there are answers
that explain what we experience in the light of reality without
any supernatural input.

Well, I’ve not had a chance to respond to this particular commenter but
thought I could maybe take a little time now in order to do so…

The picture above is a marble statue carved using the famed Carrara marble
of Carrara, Italy. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrara_marble)

The statue was carved by the famed Italian artist Michelangelo…
a statue of Moses that was to adorn the one-day tomb of Pope Julius II.

Pope Julius and Michelangelo had quite the love-hate relationship.
It was this same Pope that sent his guards to bring back the
run-away artist who tried to skip out on his Sistine Chapel project…
but I digress.

Isn’t this just an amazing piece of craftsmanship?
Do you see the veins and tendons in the muscular arm of Moses?


(Julie Cook / 2018)


(Julie Cook 2018)

When I was in Girl Scouts, we were given a bar of soap and were to use our
trusty Girl Scout knife in order to carve something out of the soap.

Despite my grandiose hopes of carving out a bear, I think I managed to
have a whittled pile of soap shavings.

So to be able to see something in a massive chunk of rock and to then,
with only hands, hammer and chisel–with no modern electric or technological
assistance in order to bring forth “life” is, to me, simply amazing.

It is a gift.
Not a rote learned skill…
Now whereas it does indeed take skill to be such a craftsman,
it also takes much more.
It takes vision…seeing that which lies within…
And it also takes something that borders upon the mystical.

Life breathed into a handful of dust….

So our friend’s comment today speaks of both knowledge and understanding.
Noting that each one has more or less come steamrolling in within the
last 200 some odd years…but I dare say it all really took off during
the day’s of Michelangelo…the age of the Renaissance…
and by gosh, it hasn’t dared stop to look back.
Think the Age of Reason…the Age of Enlightenment…
The Industrial Revolution…Post Modernism, Post Christianity…

Whereas we greatly pride our 21st century selves on our breadth,
depth and scope of knowledge…there are, contrary to popular belief,
a few truths that remain…despite man’s dire
attempts to counter it all with his / her hubris and arrogance.

“Supernatural input” our friend notes.

Yet, despite the argument that we are so advanced and now know
all there is to know, there actually remain certain truths…

Take Biology for instance…
I would think Biology is one said truth.

Male.
Female.
Egg.
Sperm.
Conception.
Birth.
Life.
Death.

And yet, therein lies the mystery.

Conception / birth / life / death…

Sure there are miscues and misfires.

There are anomalies.
There are exceptions
There are mysteries.

But that does not diminish the truth.

Male.
Female.
Conception.
Birth.
Life.
Death.

Our friend speaks of a “freedom of thought giving way to answers that explain
what we experience in light of our reality…”

Hummmm.

Thought does not necessarily equate to reality…does it?

This particular individual speaks of the supernatural no longer being necessary…
but if it is “super” as well as natural…then is that not a mystery in itself?
That which remains rooted in that of the unknown?

And so as I consider today’s quote by Archbishop Fulton Sheen,
I marvel.
Our lives are not so readily written off as compartmentalized
reason now are they?

“When we die to something, something comes alive within us.
If we die to self, charity comes alive;
if we die to pride, service comes alive;
if we die to lust, reverence for personality comes alive;
if we die to anger, love comes alive…”

God will not abandon us

“Help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown.
Give me the faith to leave old ways and break fresh ground with You.”

St. Brendan


(St Teresa in Ecstasy, Gian Lorenzo Bernini/ Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome /
Julie Cook 2007)

“Do not suppose that after advancing the soul to such a state God abandons
it so easily that it is light work for the devil to regain it.
When His Majesty sees it leaving Him,
He feels the loss so keenly that He gives it in many a way a thousand
secret warnings which reveal to it the hidden danger.
In conclusion, let us strive to make constant progress:
we ought to feel great alarm if we do not find ourselves advancing,
for without doubt the evil one must be planning to injure us in some way;
it is impossible for a soul that has come to this state
not to go still farther, for love is never idle.
Therefore it is a very bad sign when one comes to a standstill in virtue.”

St. Teresa of Avila, p.99
An Excerpt From
Interior Castle

indissoluble bond

The highest glory of the American Revolution was this:
it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government
with the principles of Christianity.

John Quincy Adams


(detail from a triptych I created before retiring,
based on the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald)

I found this followup article to yesterday’s post…an article that actually preempted
my post from yesterday by a couple of day’s…a penultimate of sorts from
the Washingtonexaminer.com

With a similar observation, the article by Kimberly Ross, notes that
“For the first time in 80 years,
the number of Americans with dedicated church attendance has fallen below 50%.
According to a Gallup poll released Monday, only 47% of those polled confirmed that they
are members of a religious body.
This is quite a decline from previous years of polling,
which saw the number hover around the 70% mark for several decades.
Unsurprisingly, the downward trend began around the dawn of the new century.”

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/what-does-declining-church-attendance-mean-for-our-society?utm_source=deployer&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Beltway+Confidential&utm_term=Post+Up+Opens+2020&utm_content=20210401154409

And whereas I do fret and truly worry about how and where our liberally woke , Antifa laced and
oh so socialist minded society seems to be racing…gunning for our Judaeo Christian foundation,
I continue to find hope—glimpses of light that remind me that no one on Earth can nor will silence
the Resurrection of Life eternal.

I have read that God will not, cannot, ever be silenced…
yet in that proclamation however,
there is not a guarantee that the United States is destined for the ride.
The ride that connects the dots from Resurrection to Return.

And yet that very question remains in the minds of many of the faithful in our Nation.
Can we, will we be able to work toward remaining in that time line…or will we not.
Maybe we shouldn’t care.
Maybe we should.

Seek while He still may be found…

“Our national discourse is fraught with anger and tension.
There has been great struggle, sacrifice, and sadness over the past year.
There is uncertainty surrounding both economic and public health.
With challenges still remaining, there is no better time to seek spiritual guidance
and hope at places that foster relationships and fellowship.”

gifts

“What you are is God’s gift to you,
what you become is your gift to God.”

Hans Urs von Balthasar, Prayer


(Michael Davenport, a handicapped Athens street artist)

It was almost a year ago…
We were still living on the western side of Georgia when I caught a news story that was
taking place on the eastern side of our state, in the city of my alma mater.

There was a street artist in the Classic City of Athens, Ga. named Michael Davenport.

Street artists in Athens are nothing new.
I was an Art Ed. major in Athens 40 years ago…artists in any college town tend to
prevail upon the streets.

This story however is not a typical artsy story.

Rather this is the story about a handicapped middle aged man who had lost
both of his arms as a teen.
There was some sort of electrical accident.
Michael lost both of his arms at the age of 13.

Eventually Michael taught himself to write and draw by using his mouth.

I learned about this talented young man about a year ago when there was a news story about
Michael being attacked and robbed.

It seems that some low life thug cold-cocked Michael while he was in a Athens
parking lot doing his art.
Michael was knocked unconscious and robbed of both his earnings and art supplies.

I made a mental note– I wanted to support this young man–I wanted to eventually buy
one of his UGA bulldogs drawings.

Fast forward to yesterday.

My husband and I make almost daily runs to the Lowes and Home Depot in Athens as we continue working
on our new “home” project.
This new home of ours is about 10 minutes outside of Athens.

And as life would have it, it just so happens that Michael stands in front of
the Athens Lowes where he is set up out in the parking, drawing his UGA art.

As I pulled into the parking lot, my husband noted that “‘my artist’ was over there
making his pictures.”

WHAT??

I practically leapt out of the car racing across the parking lot toward Michael.

“Michael, Michael, my name is Julie, I saw you on the news…”

Michael began to tell me his story.

He explained how he was still healing from the brutal attack almost 11 months ago.
Still going to doctors.

He was just finishing up a bulldog that he drew using various Sharpies on a white canvas.

“Michael”, I began, “I don’t have much cash on me, but I would be honored if I could
buy one of your drawings…could I come back tomorrow or would
you be willing to take a check?”

Michael thought for a minute and eventually told me that he would indeed accept my check.

All the while various shoppers were stopping and patting Michael on the shoulder.
Cars would pull up, arms stretched out of windows, each offering cash in hand.

Michael told me to undo the the canvas from the easel and take the pictures he had just finished.

People like Michael remind us all what it means to persevere.
He shares a gift.
A gift that emerged from tragedy.
A gift that has been tested and tried but a gift none the less.

How blessed I was today.

Thank you Michael.
Thank you God.

https://www.fox5atlanta.com/news/athens-artist-without-hands-inspires-national-audience

https://www.fox5atlanta.com/video/858408

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,
as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

1 Peter 4:10

love does not mean being a pushover

“We must stand up for the rights of our neighbour who is suffering from injustice;
we must defend them all the more vigorously because we see Jesus present in them.
Surely this is our duty because of our love for others for his sake.
We have no right to be ‘sleeping watchmen’ or dumb watch-dogs.
Whenever we see evil we must sound the alarm.”

Blessed Charles de Foucauld


(Sainte-Chapelle / Paris, France /Julie Cook / 2018)
Just because we are Christians does not mean that we are to bend to every whim of man.
We are not commanded to bend to everything and anything that happens in the name of
worldly tolerance and acceptance.
Our Christian beliefs in such things as compassion, acceptance and love…does not equate to the
acceptance and approval of sinful acts and actions.
Things that go against the word of God.

As Christians we understand that God has issued commandments.
A simple list of life lessons to live by.

As stated, we as Christians are created to love and are commanded to have compassion and to forgive…
yet we also understand that if anyone continues to sin,
continues to live a life outside of the commands of God,
then that is not a pass for approval nor acceptance.

We love, we forgive but we also honor the commandments of God.

“When we continually ‘see’ the work of God in our life,
there is less need for faith. When the perception of blessing or presence is removed,
there is an opportunity to exercise faith on a deeper and purer level,
which is very pleasing to God and unites us in a deep way with Him,
even when His closeness to us might not be felt.
John of the Cross tells us that it is this ever-increasing purification that most
directly and immediately unites us to God.
The act of deep trust and abandonment and fidelity that faith entails is very pleasing
to God and brings us very close to Him.”

Ralph Martin p. 170-71
An Excerpt From
The Fulfillment of All Desire

losing, looking, knowing, seeing…

“There are two ways of knowing how good God is:
one is never to lose Him,
and the other is to lose Him and then to find Him.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen


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

This past week has been one full of ups and downs, highs and lows,
and a week of all things in between.
Much of which has been beyond our immediate control.

So I think it was Tuesday morning when I actually was afforded my “quiet time”—
a time when I could truly be alone and in fellowship with God.
A time that was once as regular as clock work…
then people retired and mornings were no
longer my own…
Juggling time took on a whole different sort of meaning.

Tuesday morning I opened my morning devotion, a book of The Divine Hours—
I pray the liturgy of hours—an ancient form of
prayer based on a fixed time of prayer during the course of a day—
mine is an abbreviated devotion of morning, midday, and vespers.
A typical monastic cycle is based on a schedule of 7 times dispersed over a 24 hour period.

According to prayerfoundation.org:
The Seven Historical (Canonical) Hours of Prayer is based upon Psalm 119:164
“Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.”

6:00 am – First Hour (Matins / Lauds / Orthros)
9:00 am – Third Hour (Trece)
Noon Prayer – Sixth Hour (Sext)
3:00 pm – Ninth Hour (None)
6:00 pm (Vespers / Evensong
9:00 pm (Compline)
Midnight Prayer.

These times basically overlap in the three large liturgical denominations…
Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican communions.

When I was attending the church of my childhood, Evensong was my most favorite service–
It was small, quiet, and intimate.
And that’s probably because I grew up in a massive Cathedral
and Evensong was always in a small gothic chapel rather than the cavernous sanctuary
and was always sparsely attended…but I digress.

Nowadays, I’m just lucky to be able to get in the morning devotional–

So Tuesday morning, when I began my reading and recitations, I began reading the affixed
reading for the day—a reading from the Book of Revelation:

Because you have kept My word of perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of the testing,
that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who live on the earth.
I am coming quickly; hold firmly to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
The one who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God,
and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God,
and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God,
and My new name.
The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Revelation 3:10-13

This is not a revolving sort of reading but a fixed reading.
Meaning it was not chosen precisely for this year of 2020.
It was not chosen for this surreal time but was rather more of a permanent piece of scripture–
it is the same verse read over the years, over the seasons on this particular day–
this Tuesday, the 3rd week of Advent.

And yet here it was staring at me on this particular Tuesday morning,
plain as day— speaking so pointedly to our trying days and time,
speaking plainly to our current prickly world which has been trying our souls day and night
since early March.

We have got to remember that God still sees and He still knows—
He knows we are heavily burdened.
We knows we are down trodden.
He knows.
He sees.
And in that seeing and knowing, He will write his Name upon us.
We will be His and He will be ours.

Hold fast.
The time draws nigh…

Advent.
We wait.
We watch.