This time of year….

Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world.

William Shakespeare

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Scottish saying

Halloween Pumpkins, Witch, Devil, and Black Cat
(vintage halloween card)

What is it about this time of year…
This time of year when we seem to crave the supernatural?
Is it in our nature to lean-in, ever so closely,
to those ancient tales of the “other side”?

Halloween,
what once was an evening relegated to the innocence of the imaginations of children,
has grown to become the second largest commercial “holiday” following Christmas.
No longer is All Hallow’s Eve a single night for young children to don costumes…
all the while as they canvass their neighborhoods, singing trick or treat,
as they amass a small mountain of candy…

Adults have gotten deep into the act.
With Halloween merry making and party going exceeding that of New Years Eve…
For it has now become a month long event….

Yet aside from candy and costumes, which innocently afford one the opportunity to play
dress up as some alter ego,
Halloween has become, more or less, a spiritual excuse.
An open invitation allowing ourselves to taste a bit of a spiritual realm…
But the trouble…
for that is what it becomes, a trouble…
lies in the choice of realms…

Bemused, you may wonder if there is a problem with this yearly interest,
of which borders on obsession,
in this revelry of the realm of the spirits…

And I fear that…yes, perhaps there is.

For you see, we are indeed spiritual beings…
with spirituality being hardwired into our DNA—
And history has proven that it is not necessarily always a need
for a monotheistic God that we seek,
but some sort of spirituality none the less.

Hollywood has long jumped on the bandwagon of our desire to examine spiritual realms,
while at the same time allowing us to exert that odd need to be frightened.
Spook and Horror movies, as well as those tales of witchcraft,
demon possession and specters, have long topped box offices
as we have an almost sick obsession with such.

It is as if cultures worldwide use Halloween as some sort of green light,
a go ahead in affording ourselves permission to dabble in the art of
fortune telling, tarot cards, palm readers, seances, Ouija boards,
paranormal hunting…the supernatural.
All coupled with jaunts to places that are supposedly haunted, creepy and even perhaps dangerous…
and lest we forget the trips to the myriads of haunted / horror houses
which open throughout the month.

Even Disney and Six Flags have each gotten into the act…

So we tell ourselves that that makes it all perfectly safe and harmless.

And yes Halloween, and the thought of spirits,
does indeed course through the blood of humankind….
With those roots traveling far back to Celtic Europe, the ancient Pagan Middle Eastern Kingdoms,
ancient tribes of the Americas, Asia and even Africa—
as every race of people has had that aspect of the supernatural and mystical tied
to their very beginnings.

So maybe we’ve just deem it as all innocent fun as we explore this need of the mystical.

Perhaps we merely convince ourselves that it’s simply wired
deep within the ancient core of our brains…
this odd desire to be scared and frightened…
all the while as we parle into a realm different from our own…

Maybe it’s just something we simply enjoy…

“So what,” we grouse, if it morphs into something else…
something other…
“I’m not scared, I don’t believe in that
hocus locus business…it’s just harmless fun…”

Yet there is just something troubling about it all…
Something actually quite unsettling…
Something actually very dangerous..

For in the naiveté of opening seemingly harmless doors,
we enter into an on-going battle…
an ancient battle for which we are simply not prepared to fight…

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world and against the
spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything, to stand.

Ephesians 6:12-13

Prayers for Italy

“Love, which quickly arrests the gentle heart,
Seized him with my beautiful form
That was taken from me, in a manner which still grieves me.

Love, which pardons no beloved from loving,
took me so strongly with delight in him
That, as you see, it still abandons me not…”

Dante Alighieri, Inferno

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(Santa Maria Nuova / Cortona, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

Our hearts, thoughts and prayers reach across the oceans and lands to the people of Italy…
especially those hardest hit by Wednesday’s early morning quakes centered in the regions of Umbria, Lazio and Le Marche.

Italy is an ancient land with a rich and storied past that is clearly evident today—
For all one must do is to look at the land, the ancient architecture and to the
warm faces of her loving people.

From its varied geography—
from the hilltop fortified towns to the colorful villas by the sea…
Italy is both mountainous, think Alps and Apennine, as well as coastal as it is surround by
the Mediterranean, the Adriatic, the Tyrrhenian, and the Ionian seas.

The villages, towns and cities are a rich mix of the centuries of man’s very existence.
From the Caesars to the Fashion runways,
from the birth of Christianity to her decadent gastronomic delights…
Italy herself is so much a part of the history of mankind.

We rejoice when Italy is at her best and we mourn when tragedy strikes….

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(one of the many alley ways, nook and crannies filling this country of mazes / Cortona, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(Assisi, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

With the past weaving itself into the present, upon observation, it is not difficult for the casual observer to understand how easy it is for a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, to have devastating results…

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(part of the roof line of Assisi, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(Looking across Rome / Julie Cook / 2007)

As Italy percolates upwards from her past, with layers upon layers, being built upon itself….
Even the clay tiles from region to region offer a glimpse to the volcanic soil composition…
as some area tiles offer rich red colors while other regions are full lot more earthy brown tones….

Italy is home to both dormant and active volcanoes…
Just more evidence of the constantly changing and ever evolving ground beneath the feet of both
her myriad sea of tourists and her enchanting residents….

Here is a small offering from the BBC explaining why Italy is so prone to earthquakes…

Why is Italy at risk of earthquakes?
By Jonathan Amos
Quakes are an ever-present danger for those who live along the Apennine mountain range in Italy.
Through the centuries thousands have died as a result of tremors equal to, or not much bigger than,
the event that struck in the early hours of Wednesday.
The modern response, thankfully, has been more robust building and better preparation.
Mediterranean seismicity is driven by the great collision between the African and Eurasian tectonic plates; but when it comes down to the specifics of this latest quake, the details are far more complicated.
The Tyrrhenian Basin, or Sea, which lies to the west of Italy,
between the mainland and Sardinia/Corsica, is slowly opening up.
Scientists say this is contributing to extension, or “pull-apart”, along the Apennines.
This stress is compounded by movement in the east, in the Adriatic.
The result is a major fault system that runs the length of the mountain range with
a series of smaller faults that fan off to the sides.
The foundations of cities like Perugia and L’Aquila stand on top of it all.

(excerpt from the BBC)

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(images of and beyond Assisi / Julie Cook / 2007)

May we pray for those who now find themselves without home, without city, without family,
without hope….may we be their hope….

From one man he made all the nations,
that they should inhabit the whole earth;
and he marked out their appointed times in history
and the boundaries of their lands.

Acts 17:26

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Deuteronomy 31:8-9

the tangible and the wonder of the intangible

“One man with an idea in his head is in danger of being considered a madman:
two men with the same idea in common may be foolish, but can hardly be mad;
ten men sharing an idea begin to act,
a hundred draw attention as fanatics,
a thousand and society begins to tremble,
a hundred thousand and there is war abroad,
and the cause has victories tangible and real;
and why only a hundred thousand?
Why not a hundred million and peace upon the earth?
You and I who agree together,
it is we who have to answer that question.”

William Morris

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(memorial cross inside St Patricks Cathedral / Dublin Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Yesterday my good friend Color Storm, over on the Lion’s Den (https://thenakedtruth2.wordpress.com),
offered a beautiful reflection to the last line of my day’s post…
“onward and upward”…
His was a comment in response to the topic of loss and to my choice of carrying on and turning upward.

I’ve always opted for the act of carrying on and the upward momentum in life…
with the alternative of stopping, stooping, becoming stagnant and eventually spiraling downward, not an acceptable nor pleasant option.

I try avoiding downward spirals at all costs.

CS threw out a latin phrase that I had not thought of in a long time…

Sursum Corda

Sursum corda, is the opening to the Eucharistic prayer in many churches…it was, and is still, very much a part of the Rite of the Holy Eucharist in both the Episcopal and Anglican churches…as I suspect, it is still in use in other liturgical based worship services as well.

The Sursum Corda, is Latin for: “Lift up your hearts” or literally, “Hearts lifted”

The service follows as such with the celebrant / priest addressing the congregation:

The Lord be with you.
People: And with thy spirit.
Celebrant: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up unto the Lord.
Celebrant: Let us give thanks unto our Lord God.
People: It is meet and right so to do.

(Then, facing the Holy Table (altar), the Celebrant proceeds)

It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should
at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord,
holy Father, almighty, everlasting God.

(Here a Proper Preface is sung or said on all Sundays, and on other
occasions as appointed.)

Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the
company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious
Name; evermore praising thee, and saying,

(Celebrant and People)

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts:
Heaven and earth are full of thy Glory.
Glory be to thee, O Lord Most High.

(Here may be added)

Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

(as taken from the Book of Common Prayer)

I watched each Sunday as my godfather, the Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral I attended growing up, would turn to those faithful gathered and raising his arms with a sweeping upward motion, began the ancient and holy ritual that had been said and done for over a millennium prior…

A literal and figurative lifting of voice, heart, soul, body and being….

For there within the heart of celebration of the Holy Eucharist, also known simply as the Communion Service, lies a most holy, sacred and mystical meeting.

That of the tangible joined with the intangible.

That which can be seen and touched colliding into that which cannot be seen nor touched…yet…
which is as present as a beating heart.

Odd how the mere mention of a long forgotten word or phrase can evoke a powerful recollection.

The recollection becomes but a reminder…
A reminder which becomes a window opening to the transcendence of both space and time.

There has been much debate throughout Christendom, ever since Jesus first conducted his own last supper, over the offered body and blood, which was done with the breaking of bread and the passing of a cup of wine.

Is the bread, the wafer, the host and is the wine, the blood, the offering the true mystical body and blood of Christ…
or
are they mere representations?

Transubstantiation—the actual changing of bread and wine into that of Christ’s actual body and blood.

How can that be ask both the believing as well as non believing…?
How does earthly tangible bread and wine turn into heavenly intangible body and blood?

“Take, eat, this is my body…
Drink, this is my blood of the new covenant,
which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

“For in the night in which he was betrayed, he took bread;
and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave it to his
disciples, saying,
“Take, eat, this is my Body, which is given for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”

Likewise, after supper, he took the cup; and when he had
given thanks, he gave it to them, saying,
“Drink ye all of this;for this is my Blood of the New Testament,
which is shed for you, and for many,
for the remission of sins.
Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me.”

(taken from the Book of Common Prayer, Holy Eucharist)

To take,
to consume,
to allow that which is of Him to become a part of us…

Our faith is rooted in the mystical mystery of…
Heaven and earth,
Creator and created,
Sinless and sinful…

For our God transcends mortal comprehension

In an age when seeing is believing,
more is better than less,
everything and anything goes…
When everyone worships at the altar of self,
reality is worse than fiction
and humankind embraces death over life…

Lifting hands and hearts upward, away from the gravity laden death grip of an earthly life,
lifting and reaching from the tangible upward to the intangible…
yearning for our release from here below,
we are mystically transformed, as is the bread and wine…and are never to be the same….

Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord,
your grace into our hearts,
that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ your Son
was made known by the message of an angel,
may by his passion and cross
be brought to the glory of his resurrection.
Through the same Christ Our Lord.
Amen.

taken from the Angelus

Petitions, Grace and Gratitude (re-mix)

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.
John Milton

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(Image: a statue to Saint Anthony in the small chapel of ST. BLASIUSKIRCHE , Salzburg, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

***This post was originally published in October of 2013.
Normally I don’t re-publish previous posts.
I had actually shared this particular post yesterday with a friend as I thought the subject was of importance to her and to her current life’s journey. It is a post of literal travels and journeys, as well as journeys which reach much deeper than the mere physical.
Having re-read the post myself, I was moved by my previous words as it is a strong reminder of a faith, my faith, that is so much deeper, so much stronger and so much greater than me or of the current life “journey” I’m finding myself traversing along with my dad as my traveling companion. . .
May you find comfort in the story and the words as well. . .

4/19/15

The deep groaning and creaking sound of the huge ancient wooden door being pulled open echoes loudly throughout the small yet cavernous chapel. It must be the vaulted ceiling helping to carry the sound deep into the hallowed room. The burning votives cast an otherworldly glow. There is a lingering scent of incense mixed with the musty dampness.

There is a lone figure, an older woman, kneeling at one of the front pews…her rosary woven through her fingers, moving ever so slightly, bead per bead as she silently makes her petitions before the small statue.
I once heard it put that religion was just something for old woman and children. Pity that…as that must mean that older woman and children are the only ones who “get it”…everyone else must be too vain, too prideful, too arrogant to truly understand.

My eyes begin to adjust to the lack of lighting as the cool air is a welcomed feeling against the late afternoon Autumn warmth outside. I walk slowly, quietly, reverently down the small aisle, my hand resting on the smooth wooden end cap of each pew, as I make my way to my seat of choice. I kneel slightly, the genuflection of reverence, before slipping into the pew.

I’m not Catholic but raised Anglican–I oddly welcome and greatly appreciate the nuances of ancient worship–more than would be expected from my raising. There is a deep mystery which I believe many in our mainstream churches miss. This Christianity of ours is an ancient faith but that is too sadly forgotten in this age of the technologically savvy mega church. The ancient components to worship lost on those now sitting in stadium type seating waiting, as if ready for the latest block buster to begin, to be wowed not by participation but by passive viewing.

Despite my pained attempts to muffle my movements, each step, each rustle of my jacket, causes deep reverberations through this ancient room, I feel very conspicuous even though just one other person is present. She never wavers from her intense focus to her prayerful conversation. She is oblivious to my presence.

I take in my surroundings before dropping to my knees. The chapel is hundreds of years old as worship here dates back to the 1200s. Dark wood paneling with cream colored walls. Arched vaults line the ceiling with stone columns systematically placed, acting as supports, creating the aisles throughout the room. This is not one of the beautifully bright and light Rococoesque churches of Austria that the tourists clammer to enter in order to view famous paintings, statues and frescos with ornate altars boasting a multitude of plaster cherubs heralding glad tidings. This chapel is small, dark, ancient and humble. Perhaps that is why I was drawn inside.

I slip down to my knees as I make the sign of the cross. I begin my “conversation”—it is one of thanksgiving and gratitude as a tremendous sense of warmth and contentment engulfs me. I then begin my petitions—not for myself, but for those I love who are not with me on this particular journey. After some time, I open my eyes. How long had I been praying? I rest in the moment as a tremendous sense of safety and peace washes over me–it is almost palpable.

Am I a tourist or a pilgrim? I like to think that when I travel, I am a pilgrim. I want to not merely observe, but rather, I want to partake…I want to be a part of each moment in time. I am not here to watch an old Austrian woman in prayer, watching from the shadows of an ancient chapel as some sort of voyeuristic individual or as someone viewing animals in an enclosure, but rather I want to pray beside her to the same God who hears each of our prayers. I am in communion with her even though she never glances my way. I want to appreciate this chapel that is a part of her daily life, wishing I too had such a special and reverent place of retreat.

The history here is so old as countless individuals previously have gathered here to worship, to seek, to lament, to rejoice. I slowly rise from my knees slipping out of the pew. I make my way to the small alter to pick up a fresh votive. I gently touch the fresh wick to one of the existing burning flames–my hand slightly shakes. I feel the warm heat against my cheeks rising from the candles. I place my lit votive in an empty slot silently thanking Saint Anthony and God for this time of communion with not only them but with this woman who never seems to notice my presence.

I am grateful. I slip a few coins into the small metal locked box by the door. I make my way back outside, into the light. It almost hurts my eyes as it is now so sunny and bright. The sounds of the throngs of people on the streets is almost painful to my ears. This is Oktoberfest, the streets and alleyways are teeming with a sea of people.

For a brief moment I had a glimpse of the Divine. I feel different for the encounter. Changed. Better. Not in an arrogant sort of way but more in the way that I have been fortunate to be privy to something so rich and so special. I look out at all of the throngs of people reveling in this historic and exciting city during this raucous time. I slightly smile inward thinking that I hold a special secret that no one else knows….no one other than that older woman back in the chapel and myself.