stand up now or soon, you won’t have the opportunity…blame it on the bats

Alleluia.
Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed.
Alleluia.

Book of Common Prayer


The Resurrection of Christ, from the right wing of the Isenheim Altarpiece, c.1512-16 oil / Matthias Grünewald)

Christ has Risen—
Christ has risen indeed!
Amen…

We are resoundingly reminded of this little fact each Easter…
we are delightfully reminded that our hope remains intact and steadfast.

Growing up—Easter always meant a new pretty dress and shiny black patented leather shoes.
Sunny and bright…radiating light all for the most Holy day in all of Christendom.
Easter Sunday was such a festive and beautiful day despite the early spring weather
being unpredictable.

There was the deep and resounding pipe organ accompanying the rising crescendo of voices
ringing out that Jesus Christ had (has) risen today…

Jesus Christ is ris’n today, Alleluia!
our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
who did once upon the cross Alleluia!
suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

(Latin hymn, “Surrexit Christus hodie)

Holy, Holy Holy…

Sacred while full of joy.

Yet sadly, we took it for granted didn’t we?

We just assumed every Easter we’d dress up, go to Church, sing joyfully then
gather with family for a festive lunch and competitive Easter Egg hunts.

This joy came after the lead up of dying eggs, picking flowers, cooking foods we’d
fasted from for the previous 40 days…

We let it become systematic…routine.
We took it for granted.

We didn’t realize it then did we?
We didn’t realize it two years ago.

However, last year gave us a foreboding glimpse to what was to come
and I dare say, the majority of us didn’t see what would be coming.

Not here…not us.

We had a pandemic.

We shut down our world.

We shut down our lives…our jobs, our stores, our movies, our schools and
more importantly, our houses of worship.

But hey, we can do anything for the good of the whole for a few weeks right?

But it wasn’t a few weeks was it?

We are now over a year in…
and two Easters have since come and gone.

So what does any of this mean?

Well Christian participation, that of church worship attendance
in the US, is now for the first time ever, down below 50 percent.

Before I go much further, let me give my full disclosure here—
I do not regularly attend any particular church.
So before you start wagging fingers at me for assuming that I am
some sort of ‘do as I say but not as I do’ sort of individual…
My journey with my Anglican roots has been jolted to the core
over its frenzied and gleeful racing away from God’s word…
all the while it blindly races to embrace the world’s word…
a word that is a lie.

So I am waiting for His lead as to where I need to land.
But until that time, know that I cling to a deep Christian Spirituality.
The mysticism that is our faith.
The Mysticism embedded within a three time span.
A timeline that exists between betrayal, brutality, death, hell
and Resurrection.

So I caught a blog post about Christian persecution…modern day, 21st century
persecution.

It was shared by our friend Vincent over on Talmidimblogging

“More than 245 million Christians worldwide are enduring high levels of persecution
for their faith—from militant extremist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram
(an Islamic extremist group terrorizing West Africa),
to government law and the general culture that often sees converting
to Christianity as betrayal.

According to Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List—an in-depth investigative report focusing
on the global persecution of Christians—persecution is increasing at an alarming rate.
That 245 million number is up this year from last year’s total of 215 million.

https://theologyschool.org/2021/04/04/christians-whose-lives-dont-matter/

The post highlights the top 10 nations from around the world who are trying to
silence Christians and eliminate the faithful and their faith.
Brutality
Torture
Kidnapping
Rape
Imprisonment
Death

The article however got me thinking.

Thinking about what we in the West take for granted.
We take our faith, our ability to go to our places of worship, all for granted.

We witnessed such on this past Easter Sunday both here and in Europe
where various masses and services were interrupted by law enforcement—interrupted
by the police for breaking pandemic protocol.

Where pastors and priests were reprimanded and even arrested for holding services with
their parishioners during a pandemic…
all the while secular events begin to open back up.

Police descending upon our houses of worship all the while rioters and protestors
continue their unchecked mayhem in our major cities—while thousands of immigrants
flood across our borders—the pandemic is allowed to fester due to our oh so woke
liberal minded leadership in what they allow to cross our borders by turning their
blind eyes.
They hammer home for everyone to get vaccinated yet they can’t even say that with the vaccine
things will ever get back to what they once were—as in going back to normal.

Control is an interesting thing.

Eating bats is also interesting.

It appears to be problematic— not only for the said consumer, but
apparently for the entire world.

We first saw that little problem with the Ebola outbreak a few years back…
Bats were the culprit then…and supposedly they are the culprit now.

Bats leading to the demise of Christianity in the 21st century?

I suppose stranger things have happened….

But if you are a Believer and you are beginning to wonder how much longer
the powers that be think they can curtail your right to publicly worship
you might want to speak up now…while you still legally have a voice.

Or you can just blame it on the bats and keep quiet.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord,
knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:58

stairway to heaven

“Apart from the cross,
there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.”

St. Rose of Lima


(Hotel Oud Huis de Peellaert stairway/ Bruges, Belgium/ Julie Cook 2011)

Remember back in the day, those heady days of the early 1970’s?
We had just crossed over the infamous Rubicon—a time of transition from the turbulent 60’s
crossing the threshold into a new decade—we did not want to look back.
Rather we crossed over, hoping the new decade would bring us
the gift of change….positive, war-free days change.

Musically it was a time just prior to the colorful days of spinning mirrored balls,
platform shoes, Night Fever and the world of all things Disco.
It was a quickly closing window of time…a time when rock bands still vied for the
waning spotlight.

It was a time when every sweaty-palmed young man and every young lady whose smile bore
the glint of silver braces, each felt a magical flutter when hearing the familiar and melodic
opening notes to the perfect slow dance song of all time—
the song that created an almost 10 full magical minutes of holding close slow dancing…

Should you dare rest your head on his shoulder??
Should you dare pull her closer to your chest??

Led Zepplin’s Stairway to Heaven

And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all is one and one is all, that’s what it is
To be a rock and not to roll, oh yeah
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven

Robert Plant, Jimmy Page / Led Zeppelin

Granted, I for one loved dancing to the song…especially if I was dancing
with “the one”—that particular boy who had stolen my fancy at that particular time
in life.

But I must admit, I often pondered those lyrics as the visual image of a stairway to Heaven
was akin to St. John Climacus’ The Ladder of Divine Ascent, also known as the Ladder of Paradise.


(The 12th century Ladder of Divine Ascent icon /Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt/
showing monks, led by John Climacus, ascending the ladder to Jesus, at the top right.

There were 30 rungs to the ladder…each a nod to the thirty some odd years of Christ’s life.
“It is the Divine model of the religious,
it presents a picture of all the virtues and contains a great many parables and historical touches,
drawn principally from the monastic life, and exhibiting the practical application of the precepts.”

And all of these thoughts came flooding to the forefront of my thoughts when I read today’s quote
by St. Rose of Lima.
There is no avoiding the cross as we look to climb the ladder to Heaven.

Many of the faithful, more of our Protestant brethren, often don’t understand what is
most often perceived as a bizarre and often macabre view of the cross, or crucifix,
that our Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican brethren seem to fixate upon.

And I for one tend to be one of those who look toward that cross.

It is the dark shadow of our faith that so many prefer to ignore or simply look past
pretending it doesn’t exist…but I see it for what it is.
The only means by which I now have hope.

For it there was no cross, there would be no hope.
If there is no decent into Hell, there is no ascent to Heaven.

It is the ugly truth as some would say…but I say it is the only truth.

There would be no Easter, no resurrection, without the cross.

We are told that we must carry that cross if we wish to live.
We can not avoid it.

There is no Easter joy if there is no cross of Good Friday.

The sacrifice had to be made if any of us were to be saved.

So yes, the cross is indeed our stairway to Heaven…

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will rise upon you, and His glory will appear upon you.
And nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Isaiah 60:1-3

a lamb lead to slaughter or just another dumb sheep?

I have strayed like a lost sheep.
Seek your servant,
for I have not forgotten your commands.

Psalm 119:176


(Francisco de Zurbaran / Agnus Dei / 1639)

If you know me, you know I have always loved that whole sheep and shepherd thing.
In fact I’ve often waxed poetic about moving to Ireland, living somewhere near
Dingle, with about 5 sheep.

A plot of emerald green land that looks out over the Atlantic Ocean….
ahhhhh… (thanks Paul)

I suppose this affinity of mine actually goes back to having grown up in a traditional
Episcopalian church…more “high” church—more Anglican than what we know now.

Each Sunday morning, working our way through the morning’s daily office, we would recite the
Confession taken from the Book of Common Prayer.

ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep.
We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against thy holy laws.
We have left undone those things which we ought to have done;
And we have done those things which we ought not to have done;
And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.
Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults.
Restore thou those who are penitent;
According to thy promises declared unto mankind In Christ Jesus our Lord.
And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake;
That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life,
To the glory of thy holy Name.

Amen.
1928 Book of Common Prayer

I so often felt like that erring and straying sheep…especially as I aged.
I could err and stray with the best of um.

So I always keenly felt that whole “I am the Shepherd and the sheep know my name”
You know, that verse out of John??
I would yearn to hear that loving and forgiving voice of my Shepherd.

We sheep aren’t often the brightest and are easily lead astray.
And yet Jesus took on that role of sacrificial lamb.
Laying down His life for His own sheep…the Agnus Dei.

You know that wonderful piece found in Isaiah???–
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished

Isaiah 53:6-8

So much symbology…so many beautiful and yet tragic images.
Albeit tragic melding into triumph…

But today, I felt perhaps a little ‘less than’ triumphant.
I simply felt that I was being a good dumb sheep.

I was joining the herd.

Maybe they should use the term ‘flock’…
Flock immunity vs herd immunity.

I don’t know if you’ve had your “vaccine”.
I don’t know if you want to get “the” vaccine.

I thought I didn’t want to get my vaccine.

There are so many schools of thoughts—so many bickering camps out there–
each touting a different mantra regarding the vaccine.

“It’s a biologic not an anti virulent”
“It will alter your DNA”
“You’re doing your part for your fellow man”
“It’s made from aborted fetus cells.”
“You’ll be dead in a year”
“You won’t be able to travel if you don’t get the shot”
“It’s the culling of the human race”
“Do your part”
“It’s the mark of the beast”

That last one gets me a bit because this new zip code of ours ends in 666—
of course there are two other numbers in front of that little triple line up…but
none the less, I hate even having to give out our zip code.
And that is in part as to why my husband feels that we’ve had such a time with this
new old house of ours.
Never buy something you didn’t build is his mantra…
But that’s another story for another day.

I have a dear friend who I grew up with who is a doctor.
She’s been practicing for over 30 years—she is well established and well respected.
She was adamant…DO NOT GET THE VACCINE! DO NOT LET THEM VACCINE SHAME YOU!”

Really??

Then I have another friend who is a doctor…one who has also been practicing for over 30 years
and is also well established and respected—plus these two both grew up with me and they went to
med school together.
He was like…”don’t forget to get signed up for your shot, my wife and I have already had our two.”

So.
Hum.
A quandary.

Throw in reading various takes on all of this and the confusion between the
do’s and the don’ts is exponential..
It is a matter of ‘name your game’ sort of thinking.

We had COVID back in November and thankfully lived to tell about it.
I figure we have some immunity going on but for how long is anyone’s guess.

I confess…. we felt vaccine shame….
and since my husband is 71, I got him signed up through the country’s health department.
I took him yesterday.

My new doctor signed me up despite my being 61 as she proclaimed that I am my husband’s caregiver.
Oh if she only knew…

Anywhooo, she signed me up in her office this past week.
And so I had to be at the University Cancer and Blood Center yesterday morning at 9AM sharp.

Driving over, I really felt like some dumb sacrificial sheep.
Was it the right thing to do??
Was I signing my own death sentence or was I simply doing my part for all mankind???

Who knows.

But what I do know is that the most caring professional group gave me, along with 799 other
sheep, a first dose yesterday morning.

Plus they gave me a goodie bag…

I’m a sucker for a goodie bag.

Plying me with chocolate is probably a good idea–thus I don’t think too much
about this whole ordeal of leading me to the slaughter business…

But like our friend Kathy said over on atimetoshare, “I guess if I’m going to die from it,
it doesn’t really matter, because that means I’ll go to heaven sooner,
but God is in charge of all that too.”

Amen Kathy!!!

God is still in charge!

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,
for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

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.

it’s all metaphysics…or is that Greek??

I devote my very rare free moments to a work that is close to my heart and devoted
to the metaphysical sense and mystery of the person.
It seems to me that the debate today is being played out on that level.
The evil of our times consists in the first place in a kind of degradation,
indeed in a pulverization, of the fundamental uniqueness of each human person.
This evil is even much more of the metaphysical order than of the moral order.
To this disintegration planned at times by atheistic ideologies we must oppose,
rather than sterile polemics, a kind of ‘recapitulation’ of the
inviolable mystery of the person.

(In his continuing struggle against Marxism in Poland after the Second Vatican Council,
Cardinal Karol Wojtyla identified the doctrine of the person as the Achilles’ heel of the Communist regime.
He decided to base his opposition on that plank.
In 1968 he wrote to his Jesuit friend, the future Cardinal Henri de Lubac

John Paul II and The Mystery of The Human Person, Avery Dulles)


(detail of Socrates and Aritstole from the School of Athens by Raphael / The Vatican)

Metaphysics: noun, plural in form but singular in construction
1. a division of philosophy that is concerned with the fundamental nature of
reality and being and that includes ontology, cosmology, and often epistemology
metaphysics … analyzes the generic traits manifested by existences of any kind

When it comes to metaphysics, well, it’s all pretty much Greek to me.
get it…Greek?? HAHAHA…

In all seriousness, it is such thinking, those of the various schools of philosophy,
that can push my poor brain to the limit.

That whole ‘if no one is around to hear it when a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound?’
Well, duh…yes, yes it does…
I think we call it vibrations and sound waves but I digress.
Why even waste breath and time debating such??

However, man has always debated the world around him as well as debating his
very own interior being.

My son was a philosophy minor…and yes, I thought he was off his rocker.
But philosophy is very connected to the study of religion so I took pride
knowing that he was there to defend the faith of the Triune God in today’s very very hostile
area of thought regarding Christianity.

The pharse Cogito, ergo sum comes to mind…
I think therefore I am…uttered by René Descartes,

But I say no to that thought…it’s more like when I get poison ivy…I itch therefore I am.
That’s how you know.
A physical reaction to and from an outside source…but again, I digress.

I was afforded a bit of uninterrupted quiet time yesterday morning and I actually listened
to a brief podcast offered by the British periodical The Spectator.
The podcast was a discussion between my newest favorite Catholic, Dr. Gavin Ashenden (aka our dear
favorite former Anglican Bishop) and British journalist, Damian Thompson

This is the written intro for the discussion:
Boris Johnson’s package of Covid restrictions announced this week included
a rule that weddings will be limited to 15 people and funerals to 30 –
numbers plucked out of thin air that will have questionable effect
on the transmission of the virus.
You might think that a ruling that affects only weddings and funerals
isn’t such a big deal for the churches, but that is to underestimate the fanatical zeal
of their leaders for implementing, and expanding, restrictions on their own worship.
The control-freak Archbishop of Canterbury, predictably,
seemed quite thrilled by the government’s intervention.
My own reaction, informed by conversations with many clergy outraged by their
bishops’ baffling willingness to accept any curtailment of church life,
was to wonder whether some Christians will be forced to ‘go underground’ –
that is, find a way of worshipping that quietly disobeys their own leaders.
To an extent this is already happening: at the height of the pandemic,
Catholics were holding secret Masses that reminded me of their ancestors’
defiance of Protestant penal laws.
I didn’t report it because I didn’t want them hunted down by their own ‘fathers in God’,
the local bishops.
So that’s the subject of this week’s Holy Smoke,
a very wide-ranging conversation with Dr. Gavin Ashenden of the sort that you
would never hear on the BBC.

What I took away from listening to the discussion was that our friend Dr. Ashenden
finds that this whole control and resist mindset regarding the restrictions
placed on us by our leaders regarding COVID boils down to something quite
simple…

We can go out to eat, we can go to stores, we can get a haircut, we can visit a liquor store,
and in limited numbers, we may attend a wedding as well as a funeral…
however, only 15 can go celebrate a wedding while 30 can go celebrate the passing of a life—
odd numbering given life vs death, but I am obviously not in leadership.

And yet…our worship services are being curtailed, canceled, or simply
shut down.
And therein lies much of the frustration.

Will the faithful eventually find themselves in the underground?
Worshiping in secret?
Shades of the early days of Roman persecution?

Dr. Ashenden notes that it seems
we are either prioritizing the immediate power structures of our day or we
are prioritizing the teaching of the Gospel…and sadly it seems as if it is our power
structures that are receiving the total focus.

The good doctor notes that this seems to be a power struggle between the secular, or non-supernatural,
vs the Metaphysical, that being the Spiritual

Secular vs Spiritual…and sadly— secular is winning.

Here are the links…enjoy exercising your brain…

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/57442176/posts/2929431852

https://www.spectator.co.uk/podcast/is-it-time-for-christianity-to-go-underground-

What separates Christians from the rest of the pack…

From April 12, 2018
(yes, life is that manic…
but I want to wish each of you joy this Easter morn….
Hail thee festival day!! (one of my favorite hymns)

(this is an oldie but a goody)

“Life [had] replaced logic.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky


(a soon to bloom peony / Julie Cook /2018)

The image of the bloom used in today’s post is that of a peony.
I call this peony my resurrection plant because I bought it two summers ago, in July.
It was a very expensive plant.
Yet anyone living in the deep South knows you don’t sink a lot of money into a
plant, dig a hole in the hot dry ground, plop in said expensive plant and expect it to live…
especially in July and especially in a summer experiencing a full-blown drought.

I wrote about this plant last spring and the reason as to why I call it a resurrection plant—
of which you can read from the following link…
but that is not the true gist of today’s post

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/resurrections/

Today’s post is a reminder of what the Resurrection is all about…
and if you are a Chrisitan, it’s a reminder of what that exactly means to you.

The reminder rests in the fact that we’ve just celebrated Easter…

Easter being the holiest celebration, besides the birth of Christ, within the Christian Chruch…
Some would argue that it is the sole holiest celebration…but I suppose we can’t have a
resurrection of our Savior without his immaculate conception and birth…
all of which supersedes the ability of man’s small mind to grasp and process…
hence so much of the consternation in mankind since that very first miraculous morning.

After watching the latest edition of Anglican Unscripted featuring our favorite
rouge Anglican Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Gavin Ashenden, I’ve come to realize that
there are many in our fold who really don’t know what they think about
the Ressurection…
And what is even more startling, many members of the clergy don’t quite
know what to make of it either…

In a nutshell, it is the what which separates Christianity from every other religion.

How in the world can you offer anyone, let alone speak of such things as
Hope, Salvation, Grace, if you can’t find the words to say that you believe, without
a doubt, in the Ressurection of Jesus?

You can’t.

Because the Resurrection is the defining key to our faith.
It is the impetus to faith…the belief in that which is a mystery, undefinable,
and greater than oneself.

Without the Resurrection,
Christianity is nothing… nor is it any different from a myriad of other belief systems.

C.S. Lewis explained this very point in 1950

I heard a man say,
“The importance of the Resurrection is that it gives evidence of survival,
evidence that the human personality survives death.”
On that view what happened to Christ would be what had always happened to all men,
the difference being that in Christ’s ease we were privileged to see it happening.
This is certainly not what the earliest Christian writers thought.
Something perfectly new in the history of the Universe had happened.
Christ had defeated death.
The door which had always been locked had for the very first time been forced open.
This is something quite distinct from mere ghost-survival.
I don’t mean that they disbelieved in ghost-survival.
On the contrary, they believed in it so firmly that, on more than one occasion,
Christ had had to assure them that He was not a ghost.
The point is that while believing in survival they yet regarded the Resurrection
as something totally different and new.
The Resurrection narratives are not a picture of survival after death;
they record how a totally new mode of being has arisen in the universe.
Something new had appeared in the universe:
as new as the first coming of organic life.
This Man, after death, does not get divided into “ghost” and “corpse”.
A new mode of being has arisen.
That is the story.
What are we going to make of it?
The question is, I suppose,
whether any hypothesis covers the facts so well as the Christian hypothesis.
That hypothesis is that God has come down into the created universe,
down to manhood—and come up again, pulling it up with Him.
The alternative hypothesis is not legend, nor exaggeration, nor the apparitions of a ghost.
It is either lunacy or lies.
Unless one can take the second alternative (and I can’t) one turns to the Christian theory.

C.S. Lewis,
“What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?” (1950)

So if you claim to be a Chrisitan and yet find yourself unable to acknowledge the mystery
and the might behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ, you need to rethink your allegiance.
And if you are a member of the clergy and find the words and concept uncomfortable,
you need a new profession because the calling, was not for you….

A time for yearning…

“If you learn everything except Christ, you learn nothing.
If you learn nothing except Christ, you learn everything.”

St. Bonaventure


(Independant Presbyterian Church steeple / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

I must say that I have a small regret…

My regret is that of time…but who doesn’t regret time right?

Sometimes we might think we have enough or even too much, but if the truth be told,
we never have nearly enough.

I use to be able to catch a youtube or video blog post of Anglican Unscripted.
I use to listen to the podcasts of our friend the Wee Flea, Pastor David Roberston…
as well as our favorite across the pond rogue bishop, Bishop Gavin Ashenden.

But first, the Mayor came on the scene.
Next, my better half retired.
And then, the Sherrif came on board.
Suddenly there was no more time….well, no more time for me to do those
things I use to do with time before my new time needers all arrived.

Now I am certainly not complaining mind you…as this use of time
is a good use…exhausting, but good.

It’s just that when I had time to do so, I would
listen/watch and take copious notes of the teachings by our two Christian Scholarly friends.
I would craft posts featuring the teachings of these most knowledgable individuals.
I learned and, in turn, wanted to share the learning…that’s a teacher thing and it matters
not if we retire…sharing knowledge is what we do.

So I was very excited the other day when I actually carved out some unexpected quiet
and surprisingly alone time in order to listen to a podcast offered by one of my
favorite publications, the UK publication The Spectator.

Happily, I got to listen, almost uninterrupted,
to an interview by Damian Thompson with Bishop Gavin Ashenden—
who by the way is a recent convert to Catholicism.
The interview focused on the Chruch of England and its current dangerous walk toward socialism.

Now for those of you who think you don’t have a dog in the fight over anything Catholic,
Anglican, Chruch of England or Episcopalian…or even Socialism…
may I quickly remind you that many of our Nation’s current politicians are touting
all things Socialism while Socialism currently creeps its ugly way into our
Nation’s political narrative.

Think Bernie, AOC and the Progressive left…

I think the good Bishop gives a sound foundation as to why all Christians
must be very wary of this most troubling dalliance of the Chruch of England.

The podcast is about 20 minutes and is well worth the time, if you are fortunate to
find some…time.

“Just before Christmas, Dr. Gavin Ashenden, a former Chaplain to the Queen,
converted to Catholicism. But that’s not the main subject of my interview with him in
the first Holy Smoke episode of 2020. In it,
he deplores the Church of England’s surrender to secularism under Archbishop Justin Welby,
who won’t enjoy his former colleague’s assessment of his talents.

Dr. Ashenden may not be Anglican any more,
but he does think that the Established Church has a historic mission –
and that its ‘middle managers’ have betrayed it in favour of ‘soft socialism’.
To which I reply that Pope Francis is busy hoisting the white flag,
or perhaps a red one, on the other side of the Tiber.
At which point our conversation takes an unexpected turn. Don’t miss it!”

https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2020/01/holy-smoke-podcast-has-the-church-of-england-surrendered-to-soft-socialism/

the realities of our irreligious times…

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Even though the Disciples suffered persecution, they were filled with joy.
One would have expected them to be depressed or angry or resentful.
The very fact that they responded to persecution with joy is a sign
that the Spirit was guiding their actions. We can use that same test with our
own words and actions.”

Rev. Jude Winkler, O.F.M., p. 11
An Excerpt From
Daily Meditations Holy Spirit


(detail of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling)

Tis the season that the collective thoughts of Western Civilization turn to all things
Christmas…and for many others, all things Hanukkah.

Shopping, Christmas fairs, parties, presents, food, candy, baking, traveling…
and perhaps less and less are the thoughts of manger scenes, candles, dreidels, caroling,
Christmas pageants, Advent wreaths, Menorahs, Midnight Mass, the lighting of candles
Christmas vigils…

I have written on and off, for the past near seven years, about the growing tide
of secularism—of which is rapidly eroding the Judeo-Christian foundation that
has been our chief founding cornerstone since its conglomerate inception during
the latter days of the Roman Caesars.

And in those seven years, the erosion has only grown exponentially.

Now we should know that the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ is a relatively new term–
especially compared to the moral foundation that those same two words helped build.

Some even argue that such a principle is a falsehood—that Western Civilization and
Judeo-Christian do not go hand in hand.
Such principles are not the making of the chief cornerstone of the civilization
we call our own.

I for one, however, disagree…as I have written a myriad of posts as to why those two words
most certainly do matter in both the building and longevity of our Western Civilization,
but no need to rehash that now–because today’s thoughts deal with a couple of
articles that recently came across my radar.

The other day my eye caught a title to an article that caused me to stop, taking
the time to read what it had to say.

It’s an article about how millennials are leaving religion and not coming back.

The “not coming back” part was what I found to be troubling.

The article notes that over the decades many a generation of youth,
especially when going off to college, would, in the immortal words of R.E.M,
lose their religion…only to come back to the fold once they settled, married
and began having children.

It was a homecoming of sorts to the religious raising of one’s youth.
Returning to life’s moral compass.

But the millennial argument is that religion causes more trouble than it eases
and one can still be ‘moral’ without the guidance of religion…
and so, who needs it?!
They, nor their children, will be returning to the fold.
No desire, no need…

Hummmm—

Here is the article:

Millennials Are Leaving Religion And Not Coming Back

And so a few day’s later I caught another article about some sort of hybrid Baptist Church
in North Carolina that is pro-socialism, pro LGBTQ, and pro debt forgiveness—
as in not forgiving trespasses but actual debt (think AOC’s wants).

Rather than reading and studying, say, one of the various books of the Bible, they’re
reading Karl Marx…
That was about all I needed to read before X-ing out of the article…
but I went back in and read on.

The article is long and yes, intentions might be meant for what seems to be the good
and well-intended, but that’s the problem these days…
well-intended does not get one to Heaven….well-intended and Salvation do not go
hand in hand.

These types of up and coming morphing churches rewrite the whole narrative of God’s word to man.
They change the ‘what to do and the what not to do’, as stated by God, all in order to
assuage the feelings of those who threw the notion of sin out with the baby and the bathwater.

Add into the mix ours being a grossly materialistic commercialism driven society.

That’s also something I’ve written about over the years.

In fact, it all runs together…
The loss of our moral direction…along with our growing hunger for things,
the self-medicating found through sexual immorality, addictions, technology…
the demise of the traditional family…
the blurring of sexual identity…
ad infinitum…

Pope John Paul II noted in a mass at the Capital Mall in Washington, D.C.–

The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure,
comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.”

Meaning that our attentions have turned more and more to our own selfish wants
rather than our needs and the needs of our fellow man.

We simply cannot pick and choose what we do and do not like of God’s word.
And thus condoning the lifestyle of such communities like the LGBTQ communities as being
sanctioned by God is in a word, wrong.

Here’s the article:

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/annehelenpetersen/jubilee-baptist-church-debt-forgiveness-lgbtq-socialism

Adding to these two articles, I read something rather telling on the Zwinglius Redivivus blog–

Millennials Were Failed By Churches When They Were Teens
So they’re leaving and not coming back.

So it looks like all those pizza parties and game sessions and all the other crap
they were given as teens in youth group didn’t pay off.
Maybe they should have been given the gospel instead…

Hummm…

https://zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com/2019/12/13/millennials-were-failed-by-churches-when-they-were-teens/

However, this next story offers a bit of optimism…well for me at least.

And maybe having been raised under the umbrella of Anglicanism in the Episcopal Chruch,
I can perhaps see this little current event as a delightful positive.

It has to do with our favorite across the pond former Anglican cleric and his move to the
Catholic fold.
A move I actually saw long coming.
And a move that has great meaning to my own little spirit…
but well chat about that later…

The article gives a bit of background as to why Bishop Ashenden stepped down from his position as
Chaplin to the Queen which eventually lead to his parting with the Anglican denomination.

The outspoken prelate became a global media celebrity after he objected to the
reading of the Koran at St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Koranic chapter on Mary, read from the lectern at the service of Holy Communion,
on the Feast of the Epiphany 2017, explicitly denied the divinity of Jesus.

Under pressure from Buckingham Palace, Dr. Ashenden resigned his royal chaplaincy in order
to be free to challenge the rising tide of apostasy in the Church of England.

Later that year, Ashenden was consecrated a missionary bishop to the United Kingdom
and Europe by the Christian Episcopal Church to provide episcopal cover to traditionalist
Anglicans leaving the Church of England.

Hummm…

Here’s the article:

https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/anglican-bishop-and-queens-chaplain-converts-to-catholicism

So perhaps to sum all of this up, this post is actually a small look at the comings and goings
of the foundation of our faith…our moral compass, our religion, our Western Civilization,
our Judeo-Christian base, and the continued erosion and rewriting of it all…
for both bad and perhaps some good…

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.
For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive,
disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous,
without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit,
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness,
but denying its power.
Avoid such people.

2 Timothy 3:1-5

late but still very timely–no chaining the word of God

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times.
But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do
with the time that is given us.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Ok, I admit, I’ve let this one sit a bit too long…as in this was from about two weeks ago…
Hence the story of my life in a nutshell…a day late and many dollars short!!!

I wanted to share something I read…about two weeks ago.

It came from a daily email I receive from the American Catholic Bishop Robert Barron.
The e-mail is actually a small reflection based on the day’s religious reading.
Be it Catholic, Anglican or Episcopal…or other like-minded denominations, we keep a
liturgical based calendar…

This particular calendar is one that reflects the life cycle of the greater Christian body.

And for those of you unfamiliar with liturgical calendars…
in a nutshell from catholicextension.org, here is an explanation:

The liturgical year serves as the Catholic Liturgical Calendar.
(We could insert Episcopal here as well)
It consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons that determine when feast days
and other holy days are observed, and which Scripture and Gospel
readings are used at Mass.

Aside from the readings,
the liturgical calendar also determines the interior decoration of a Church,
the priest’s vestment colors, the timing of spiritual seasons and practices such
as Lent, and much more.

The Liturgical calendar year begins on the first Sunday of Advent.
It is divided into six seasons.
The shortest but most holy season is the three day Sacred Pascal Triduum leading up to Easter.

My church raising, in the Episcopal Chruch, was based on the same line of calendar seasons.
Our services revolve around the seasons that are recognized by the greater Chruch…
Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost…

That being said, each Sunday is recognized as a Sunday within a certain seasonal time…and each
Sunday has its own specific readings from the epistles and Gospel that follow along
with the said season.
(Each day does as well but most folks do not attend Chruch services on a daily basis…)

Ok, so now that we have that straight…

Two weeks ago, that particular day’s reading was from Luke 11:27-28
It’s a reading based on a small exchange between Jesus and a woman who had been in a
crowd listening to him.
In her zeal and excitement, this woman shouts out to Jesus “Blessed is the mother who
gave birth and nursed you”

Jesus heard her words and responded much differently than what the woman may have imagined
“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it”

He was always, as He remains, pulling our sights to the bigger picture…
or more precisely, to the right and correct picture.

We hear him tell us to obey the word of God…for blessed will we be for doing so.

Bishop Barron reflects on this notion of obeying God and thus being blessed
by looking back at a time in history that was more or less a catalyst rather than
being just a single incident.

Since Hitler’s Nazi war machine marched on Polish soil on September 1, 1939
until the fall of that infamous wall in November of 1991,
the Polish people lived under two iron-fisted atheistic regimes …
The Nazis and Communists…fascism, socialism, atheism, authoritarianism, ultranationalism…
you name it–the Poles suffered.
Their Jewish population was almost decimated during the Holocaust.

Poland had been a staunchly Catholic nation almost since its first Christian king in 966.

Yet for over 50 years, Christianity was the bane of two of the
20th century’s bloodiest ruling regimes.

Both the Nazis and Communists worked meticulously to silence the Chruch.

In Germany, the Lutheran Chruch had already capitulated by becoming the official
state-run Chruch. A puppet church of Hitler.

The Chruch in Poland would not fall as easily.

Both regimes outlawed the Chruch, they arrested and murdered priests and nuns,
as well as the pastors of other denominations.
They threatened the faithful with torture and death.
Doors to churches were locked and padlocked.

Yet the faithful remained just that…faithful.
They simply went underground.

This was no more evident than the day the first Polish Pope made
a homecoming visit of sorts on May 8, 1979–
The leader of the global Catholic Chruch visited a bleak and battered Communist nation…
A nation whose leadership was stymied as to stop such a televised and historic trip.

Bishop Barron notes that during the open-air masses attended by the millions of
hungry souls, the crowds would break out chanting, “we want God”

I can remember watching the televised trip.
The people were so hungry for God.
They were determined, they would no longer remian silent.
Because as Bishop Barron reninds us…
“There is no chaning the word of God”

Regimes have all come and gone, each having discoverd what happens when the
people obey that Word regardless of the risk to life…
because be it sooner or later, blessings will indeed eventually follow.

Here is Bishop Barron’s “homily”

Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Luke 11:27-28
As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out,
“Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”
He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Friends, our Gospel blesses those who hear the word of God and observe it.
In this regard, I would like to speak about the response of the Polish people to
the word proclaimed by St. John Paul II.
The power of the Polish Communist state, and behind that the power of the Soviet Union,
is what John Paul faced at the beginning of the 1980s.
But he was practiced in the art of facing down oppressive political forces,
having grown up under Nazism and Communism.

He spoke of God, of human rights, of the dignity of the individual—frightening
at every turn, his handlers worried about diplomatic repercussions.
As he spoke, the crowds got bigger and more enthusiastic.
This went beyond mere Polish nationalism.
At one gathering, the millions of people began to chant “We want God! We want God!”
over and over for fifteen minutes.

There was no controlling this power, born of the confidence that God’s love is
more powerful than any of the weapons of the empires of the world,
from crosses to nuclear bombs. This is, of course,
why Communist officialdom tried vehemently to stop John Paul II.
But there is no chaining the Word of God!

Bishop Robert Barron

A new saint with an old soul

When it comes upon me how late I am trying to serve the Church,
the obvious answer is, even saints, such as St. Augustine, St. Ignatius,
did not begin in earnest till a late age.

Blessed John Henry Newman


(courtesy AP)

Today Pope Francis will canonize a new saint.

To those of you who are non-Catholics, this news is no more than a blip from some
religious news feed, but to me, I find it quite interesting.

As many of you reading this already know, I was born and raised in the Episcopal Church—
which is, in a nutshell, the American branch of the global Anglican communion.

Anglican being the Chruch of England.

A denomination I once loved, but for many years have found myself at a crossroads of odds.
I have found that I cannot remain in a fold that disregards the Word of God while
preferring to re-write God’s tenants to suit a disgruntled liberal culture.

John Henry Newman was an Anglican priest, writer and intellectual who was considered
‘an evangelical Oxford University academic.’

He too felt at odds with his “church.”

And so I offer you a little background from a few periodicals who offer us a bit of background
to this new saint with an old soul…

According to Wikipedia,
He [Newman] became known as a leader of, and an able polemicist for the Oxford Movement,
an influential and controversial grouping of Anglicans who wished to return to the
Church of England many Catholic beliefs and liturgical rituals
from before the English Reformation.

In this, the movement had some success.

In 1845 Newman, joined by some but not all of his followers,
officially left the Church of England and his teaching post at Oxford University
and was received into the Catholic Church. He was quickly ordained as a priest and
continued as an influential religious leader, based in Birmingham.
In 1879, he was created a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in recognition of his services
to the cause of the Catholic Church in England.
He was instrumental in the founding of the Catholic University of Ireland in 1854,
although he had left Dublin by 1859.
CUI in time evolved into University College Dublin, today the largest university in Ireland.

Newman came to his faith at an early age.

At the age of 15, during his last year at school,
Newman was converted, an incident of which he wrote in his Apologia that it was
“more certain than that I have hands or feet”.
Almost at the same time (March 1816) the bank Ramsbottom, Newman and Co. crashed,
though it paid its creditors and his father left to manage a brewery.
Mayers, who had himself undergone a conversion in 1814,
lent Newman books from the English Calvinist tradition.
It was in the autumn of 1816 that Newman “fell under the influence of a definite creed”
and received into his intellect “impressions of dogma, which, through God’s mercy,
have never been effaced or obscured”.
He became an evangelical Calvinist and held the typical belief that the
Pope was the antichrist under the influence of the writings of Thomas Newton,
as well as his reading of Joseph Milner’s History of the Church of Christ.
Mayers is described as a moderate, Clapham Sect Calvinist,
and Newman read William Law as well as William Beveridge in devotional literature.
He also read The Force of Truth by Thomas Scott.

Although to the end of his life Newman looked back on his conversion to
evangelical Christianity in 1816 as the saving of his soul,
he gradually shifted away from his early Calvinism.
As Eamon Duffy puts it, “He came to see Evangelicalism,
with its emphasis on religious feeling and on the Reformation doctrine of
justification by faith alone, as a Trojan horse for an undogmatic religious individualism
that ignored the Church’s role in the transmission of revealed truth,
and that must lead inexorably to subjectivism and skepticism.”

According to a news article on the Washington Post,
Pope Francis on Sunday will canonize John Henry Newman,
a Victorian-era intellectual, Catholic convert and cardinal.
A self-described “controversialist,” Newman was an early leader in the Oxford Movement,
an attempt to reinstate ancient forms of faith and worship in the Church of England.
After converting to Catholicism at age 44,
Newman went on to found a Catholic university and a religious community,
as well as a school, and he clashed with authoritarian,
or “Ultramontane,” Catholics over the issue of papal infallibility.

Newman called liberalism “false liberty of thought,”
or the attempt to find truth through reason alone independent of faith and devotion.
He characterized his life as one long campaign against this view in his spiritual autobiography.

The Wall Street Journal continues Cardinal Newman’s story…
noting that he could well be known as the patron saint of the lonely…

On Sunday Pope Francis will officially recognize as a saint the
British clergyman and Oxford academic John Henry Newman (1801-90).
Nearly 130 years after his death, Newman’s writings still offer readers
incisive theological analysis—and practical wisdom.

A theologian, poet and priest of the Church of England,
Newman found his way to Catholicism later in life and was ordained a
Catholic priest in his 40s.
Pope Leo XIII made him a cardinal in 1879.

Cigna, a global health service company,
surveys feelings of social isolation across the U.S. using the UCLA Loneliness Scale.
Last year Cigna released the results of a study of 20,000 Americans.
It found that adults 18 to 22 are the loneliest segment of the population.
Nearly half report a chronic sense of loneliness.
People 72 and older are the least lonely.

I spend a lot of time with young adults in my job,
and the results don’t surprise me.
I often observe young couples out on dates, looking at their cellphones rather than each other.
I see students walking while wearing earbuds, oblivious to passersby.
Others spend hours alone watching movies on Netflix or playing videogames.
The digital culture in which young people live pushes them toward a kind of
solipsism that must contribute to their loneliness.

“No one, man nor woman, can stand alone;
we are so constituted by nature,” Newman writes,
noting our need to cultivate genuine relations of friendship.
Social-media platforms like Facebook and Twitter connect people,
but it’s a different sort of connection than friendship.
The self one presents on Facebook is inauthentic,
someone living an idealized life unlike one’s daily reality.
Interaction online is more akin to Kabuki theater than genuine human relations.

When young people do connect face to face, it’s often superficial,
thanks in part to dating and hookup apps like Tinder and Bumble.
Cigna’s study found that 43% of participants feel their relationships are not meaningful.
Little wonder, if relationships are formed when two people decide to swipe right on their phones.

Cardinal Newman never married, but warm, sincere, and lasting friendships—the kind that
we so seldom form through digital interactions—gave his life richness.
He cultivated them with his neighbors in Oxford and, after his conversion to Catholicism,
at the Birmingham Oratory. He sustained them in his correspondence,
some 20,000 letters filling 32 volumes.

In one of his sermons, delivered on the feast of St. John the Evangelist,
Newman reflects on the Gospel’s observation that St. John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
It is a remarkable thing, Newman says, that the Son of God Most High should have loved
one man more than another.
It shows how entirely human Jesus was in his wants and his feelings,
because friendship is a deep human desire.
And it suggests a pattern we would do well to follow in our own lives if we would be happy:
“to cultivate an intimate friendship and affection towards those who are immediately about us.”

On the other hand, Newman observes that “nothing is more likely to engender selfish habits”
than independence.
People “who can move about as they please, and indulge the love of variety”
are unlikely to obtain that heavenly gift the liturgy describes as
“the very bond of peace and of all virtues.”
He could well have been describing the isolation that can result from
an addiction to digital entertainment.

When Newman was named a cardinal in 1879, he chose as his motto
Cor ad cor loquitur.
He found the phrase in a letter to St. Jane Frances de Chantal from St. Francis de Sales,
her spiritual adviser:
“I want to speak to you heart to heart,” he said.
Don’t hold back any inward thoughts.

That is a habit of conversation I hope we can revive among our sons and daughters.
Real friendship is the cure for the loneliness so many young people feel.
Not the self-referential stimulation of a cellphone or iPad;
not the inauthentic “friending” of Facebook; not the superficial hooking up of Tinder,
but the honest, intimate, lasting bond of true friendship.

Mr. Garvey is president of the Catholic University of America.

“Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th’encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!
Meantime, along the narrow rugged path,
Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Saviour, lead me home in childlike faith,
Home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.”

John Henry Newman