the undoing within the transformation

“We might say the whole mystery of our redemption in Christ,
by his incarnation, his death and his resurrection, consists of this marvelous exchange:
in the heart of Christ,
God has loved us humanly, so as to render our human hearts capable of loving divinely.
God became man so that man might become God—-
might love as only God is capable of loving, with the purity,
intensity, power, tenderness, and inexhaustible patience that
belong to the divine love.
It is an extraordinary source of hope and a great consolation to know that,
by virtue of God’s grace working in us
(if we remain open to it by persevering in faith, prayer, and the sacraments),
the Holy Spirit will transform and expand our hearts to the point
of one day making them capable of loving as God loves.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 67-8


(zebra swallowtail / Julie Cook / 2019)

Today was a day for undoing.

The taking down and the packing up of all that which gives way to the barren.

The colors and lights surreally diminish… as we transition from light to dark.

And thus it is along this train of thought–the thought of transitioning from the then and now that my thoughts have wandered…I looked back to something I wrote years ago regarding our time as Believers and that of transition—we are currently living  the post Christmas season, to that of Epiphany to eventually that of Lent-as our seasons ride right into the next season of our constancy of faith…

And so we have something from from 2016.

I wrote this in January of that year…it was while we were still in the throes of a passing Christmas and what all that held as we looked toward what was to come—a Lenten season.

Here is that post…

There had been a whirlwind of emotion
Exuberance road wildly as if on the back of a broncing bull…
Holding on for dear life…
Yet madly giddy within the rush and exhilaration of the ride.
Major changes raced across the winds…

Soaring endlessly upward, words and feelings rapidly flowed downward…
as if caught in a raging torrent…
There was so much that needed to be shared, expressed, re-lived.
Time was the enemy, this much we knew…
If put on hold or held back, it might all be too late…
or so we reasoned…

The depth of feeling was so raw yet so very real.
Clarity had been granted, but for how long was anyone’s guess.
There was a sense of power beyond self…
As if one was being guided and willed onward by or from some other different place and time.
This was bigger than all of us combined and it had to be shared…
It was truly a race between life and death…

All consuming is the best way to describe it.
Mad we were labeled…the activity deemed by the State…nefarious.
Hope and death mingled dangerously together…yet at the same time there existed a calm which surpassed understanding.
We had seen the results of being caught, accused, condemned….
Yet a resolute feeling of determination prevailed…we knew that all would be well…
With this feeling of hopefulness spurring on the momentum…
It was a heady time…

It was a time of grave danger with imminent death if discovered.
Yet there was no turning back…the die had been cast
Three years had laid the foundation, three days cemented our fate
A lifetime would be our legacy as thousands more would follow suit.

As it turned out, time would not be the deterrent…
We would weather the centuries of both denial and persecution…
We would work together across the oceans of the world, hand in hand…
allowing our words, our deeds, our actions to tell the story…
There were times when voices were silenced and many lives were lost…
But transformation had been found
Renewal had become a reality
Power was indeed found in the weak
The blind had seen and the lame had walked
As Salvation blanketed the land…

Yet now we wonder…
Where has the urgency gone?
Where has the importance of this story gone?
Has the truth been lost in complacency?
Where is the momentum…?
Do lives still not hang in the balance?
Is Hope not still viable…?

Miracles have not ceased…
Hearts are still turned…
Life has indeed conquered Death
Yet the headiness,
the acuteness,
the gravity…
seem all but lackluster…

The importance
The need
The urgency
are still very much necessary…
Yet those of us who have been left to further the cause, spread the word,
live the story…
have fallen into lethargy, compliance with the world and sadly indifference…

May we once again find the strength, the need, the urgency to continue to fight the good fight…
For it is Time who is no longer on our side….or so we have been warned.
The winds have shifted, the signs are real and the headiness of exuberance, need and necessity is all but waiting…for our time has come….
are we still willing to be the voice behind the story….
If not us, then who….

Here we have the great wonder of heaven and earth,
the prodigious excess of the love of God…
God became man without ceasing to be God.
This God-man is Jesus Christ and his name means Savior.

St. Louis de Montfort
The Love of Eternal Wisdom

the day after…

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

Saint Stephen

“If you know what witness means, you understand why God brings St. Stephen,
St. John, and the Holy Innocents to the crib in the cave as soon as Christ
is born liturgically. To be a witness is to be a martyr.
Holy Mother Church wishes us to realize that we were born in baptism
to become Christ — He who was the world’s outstanding Martyr.”

Love Does Such Things, by Rev. M. Raymond, O.C.S.O.


(the recycle bin / Julie Cook / 2021)

The paper is torn and discarded.
the ribbons are cut and forgotten…
while the bows are simply tossed aside.

The table is a cluttered mess.
Dishes, bowls, plates, glasses all sit scattered in a skewed
disarrayed jumble.

Empty boxes long to be filled while other empty boxes are
forlornly broken down.

The moving of seasons…the in between of what was and what must be…

Is there a glow in the aftermath of what was?
Or does there remain a sense of longing?

The secular world clashes with the world of Christian heritage.

The calendar tells us that today is Boxing day…
the newspapers tell us it is the day for after Christmas sales.
Yet the Church calendar tells us that today is the
feast day of St.Stephen.

Previous posts have been written about both–

And yet we cannot ignore the fact that we are reminded that there
remains a history…
a history that is both ancient as well as more recent.

A clash of time and space…
between the then and now.

And whereas most of us have lived these past four weeks though
the season of Advent–a four week anticipation of light while we
transition from what will be to that of the miraculous…
we must remember that our world does not stop on December 25th.

St Stephen reminds us of this.
The first recorded Christian martyr.

Oddly or purposely we are reminded that sacrifice must follow
the joy of birth.
Or are the two not already intertwined?

It seems as if we are dogged by the specter of death.
Unfair as that may seem.

Here we are basking in the joy of the innocence of birth yet we are
reminded that sacrifice must follows directly behind that joy.

Yet if there was or is anyone who had to understand the notion of sacrifice,
it would be Mary.
A woman who’s heart would be pierced.

And so as we begin the transition between then and now..the old and the new..,
may we be reminded that we are afforded but a brief time in which to bask
in our joy…for tomorrow will always remind us, time is of the essence,

There were thus two things which the Savior did for us by becoming Man.
He banished death from us and made us anew; and,
invisible and imperceptible as in Himself He is,
He became visible through His works and revealed Himself
as the Word of the Father,
the Ruler and King of the whole creation.

St. Athanasius,
On the Incarnation

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

the mystery in misty memories

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved
and where all your yesteryears are buried deep,
leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can.
Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour
because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones,
vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud,
formidable from a distance.”

Beryl Markham


(a misty rising of the superman / Julie Cook / 2017)

(a timely tweaked re-post from 2017)

Whispers slip out from scented branches…
all while caught lingering between twinkling lights.

Each bauble, each ball, each special tangible memory calls out from ages past…
transporting the now to the then.

Broken, chipped, bent or faded…it matters not–
the flood of what once was cascades down upon the unexpected.

Voices long since silenced are suddenly as clear as a bell…
as a clock chimes upon a stocking draped mantle.

Each box, now reopened once again…
as each unearthed trinket is removed…
dusty and now worse for the wear from the years of in and out,
dangles precariously on a needle encrusted branch…
bridging both space and time…yet caught between a sea of red and green.

A story line begins to unravel….as a tale of love, loss and even hope sits
arranged, ever just so, inviting all to come behold.

For better or worse, we begin again…
Carrying on with and without…
and if we’re lucky, year in and year out…
a Mystery breaks through the barriers of both life and death.

And we are the better for that Mystery…

“The lack of mystery in our modern life is our downfall and our poverty.
A human life is worth as much as the respect it holds for the mystery.
We retain the child in us to the extent that we honor the mystery.
Therefore, children have open, wide-awake eyes,
because they know that they are surrounded by the mystery.
They are not yet finished with this world;
they still don’t know how to struggle along and avoid the mystery, as we do.
We destroy the mystery because we sense that here we reach the boundary
of our being,
because we want to be lord over everything and have it at our disposal,
and that’s just what we cannot do with the mystery…
Living without mystery means knowing nothing of the mystery of our own life,
nothing of the mystery of another person,
nothing of the mystery of the world;
it means passing over our own hidden qualities and those of others and the world.
It means remaining on the surface,
taking the world seriously only to the extent that it can be calculated
and exploited, and not going beyond the world of calculation and exploitation.
Living without mystery means not seeing the crucial processes of
life at all and even denying them.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

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.”

The advent of Advent

The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle,
the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time,
what is uncreated, eternal, come into nature, into human nature,
descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him.
It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there
is nothing specifically Christian left.

C.S. Lewis


(a golden red carpet / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park /
Julie Cook / 2015)

(an advent post from 2015)

Advent—the season of waiting, watching and expectancy…

As in waiting and watching with expectant anticipation.

With the anticipation being so wonderful, so indescribable,
so over the top…you can barely contain yourself.

This is not the worrisome dreading sort of waiting.
Not the “oh no we’ll never make it” gloom and doom of the negative waiting.
Not the looking constantly over your shoulder with fear rising up from the pit
of your stomach while you fret waiting for the other shoe to drop sort
of the anxious dreading type of waiting, watching, looking,
fretting and worrying…

This is rather the oh so great and oh so grand magnificent, I can’t wait,
I’m so excited, as this is going to be really really good and really really big…
full of sheer giddiness that I’m about to explode sort of joyful
waiting and watching…

As in I can’t wait because there is going to be such wonder,
relief and good things that all thoughts of bad, negative,
dread and woe are simply nonexistent…

Yet is this the season that you’re all excited and giddy over because of the
getting and receiving of more stuff?
The I can’t wait to go to the mall and bask in the holiday specialness
and magic of mega retail savviness sort of excited…??
Is it because this is the season you’ve long awaited because of the gathering
and the getting of those gifts and presents and all manner of things
that you’ve decided you just can’t live without sort of season…??

Is it the season that you’ve been long waiting and watching for as
your calendar will now be filling up with all manner of parties,
gatherings, galas and events…each offering the excuse of buying shiny and
sparkly outfits with the expectancy of seeing and being seen while
you imagine all the goodies to be sampled and savored…??

Is your watchfulness, your waiting, your expectancy over those things of this planet,
this world, this generation’s idea of a good time?

Or is your watchfulness, your waiting, your expectancy over something else?
Something that is much bigger, more awesome, more unimaginable and more over the top
than any of things of this life…
those things and events which pale in comparison as they are simply fleeting
and merely passing by…

For there is something really big and really monumental that is soon
to be taking place and for those of us who wait, who watch, who look,
who anticipate, who are full of expectancy, wonder and awe….
well, we are not to be disappointed…

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings,
but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people.
God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him;
rather, his way is beyond all comprehension,
free and self-determined beyond all proof.
Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels,
where our piety anxiously keeps us away:
that is precisely where God loves to be.
There he confounds the reason of the reasonable;
there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be,
and no one can keep him from it.
Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous
that he does wonders where people despair,
that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous.
And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…
God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings.
God marches right in.
He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where
one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost,
the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

fear vs awe

“We are a generation that has been stripped of our awe”.
Lisa Bevere

“The fullness of wisdom is fear of the Lord,
she is present with the faithful in the womb (Sirach 1:14).
Fear of the Lord does not mean to be afraid of God.
It means to stand in awe and wonder before the greatness of the Lord.
When we recognize that God is God and we are creatures,
we develop a healthy sense of humility.
We acknowledge our need for wisdom and grace, which are both
gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

Rev. Jude Winkler, p. 9


(Dingle Peninsula / Co Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

Fear, the dictionary tells us, is defined as:
an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something
is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

The dictionary also tells us that the definition of Awe is:
an emotion variously combining dread, veneration,
and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime

And so for those who have read both the Old and or New Testaments,
the word fear is often found throughout the various texts within both
halves that make up the Christian Bible as well in the Jewish Torah.
Even the Quran instructs those of the Muslim faith to fear Allah.

So we believers of the one Omnipotent God,
those of us who make up the three pillars of this monotheist faith of ours,
are often told, or so it seems, that we are to fear the Lord our God.

And yet within that same command, we are also told that we are not to be afraid–
that we are not to be fearful…
Rather we are told to love the Lord our God with all of our heart and soul.

For our’s is a great and powerful God…Master Creator.
He breathed life into our nostrils as he formed us in secret within the womb.
He has known us before we were even formed.
And he has loved us before time.

But we also know that He is a God of judgement.
A God who has cast out evil and will continue doing so until His
time has come.

A God who has instructed us how to live…and within those instructions
if they are not followed, there are indeed repercussions for not doing so.
But there is also great compassion and great forgiveness.

So it seems, that as the created, we have a fine line, once again in our lives.
It is a line that consists of both love and fear.

Yet fear is not exactly the right word to use when we speak of our God
and of the love He holds for us, His created.

The translations, over time have taken what was to be one and turning it into
another word completely.
And with the transitions has come a wealth of human emotion both
good and bad.

Yet the Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries explains
The Hebrew word translated into ‘awe’ in the Bible is yirah
(יראה, pronounced yir-ah).
It often directly translates into fear, but it can also mean respect,
reverence, and worship.
But, make no mistake about it, yirah is strongly connected to ‘trembling’.
firmsrael,org

And so I think that as we enter this season of expectation…
this season of Advent…we must remember that whereas we
are indeed watching and waiting with great expectation,
we should also find ourselves in pure wonderment as to what is
to come upon us.
Not so much fearful but rather one of amazement.

We are to be in awe—not so much fear as we know word,
but rather that of trembling both outwardly physically as well as internally.

For in that awe, that which we cannot readily comprehend, as we find ourselves
standing before a crib holding a small newborn child,
we must remember that this newborn child holds in His heart
the future of our own hearts.

And in that thought lies our amazement, wonder and awe.
Because it is there, in that newborn, where the epitome love resides.

There is much around us that is awesome and awful.
We know too well the divisions and suffering that plague our world.
We have seen that the authorities today use tactics similar to those employed 2,000
years ago, and many people scheme to play to our fear,
destroy our hope, and seal off our joy.

But we have the confidence of our faith.
We have seen the risen Lord!

Joyce Hollyday

the best kind of ‘extremes’

“If you wish to go to extremes, let it be in sweetness, patience,
humility and charity.”

St. Philip Neri


(one of my first Christmas ornaments, circa 1963 / Julie Cook / 2014)

“Augustine drew out the meaning of the manger using an idea that at first seems almost shocking,
but on closer examination contains a profound truth.
The manger is the place where animals find their food.
But now, lying in the manger, is he who called himself the true bread come down from heaven,
the true nourishment that we need in order to be fully ourselves.
This is the food that gives us true life, eternal life.
Thus the manger becomes a reference to the table of God,
to which we are invited so as to receive the bread of God.
From the poverty of Jesus’ birth emerges the miracle in which man’s redemption
is mysteriously accomplished.”

Pope Benedict XVI, p. 68
An Excerpt From
Jesus of Nazareth Infancy

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.

wakeful and hopeful

Being awake for God and for other people—that is the kind of ‘waking’
that Advent has in mind, the wakefulness that discovers the light and brightens the world.

Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI)


(Rublev’s Christ circa 1420 / Icon from Svenigorod / Julie cook / 2014)

“Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us,
namely, the memory of the God who became a child.
This is a healing memory; it brings hope.”

Pope Benedict XVI

(Happy Hanukkah and Advent
to all the brethren and sisters of our collective faiths)