refuge found in a memory (re-run number 3–it’s that good)

“The Lord manifests Himself to those who stop for some time in
peace and humility of heart.
If you look in murky and turbulent waters,
you cannot see the reflection of your face.
If you want to see the face of Christ,
stop and collect your thoughts in silence,
and close the door of your soul to the noise of external things.”

St. Anthony of Padua


(a statue to St.Anthony in the small chapel of St. Blasiuskirche,
Salzburg, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

When I first read the quote that I’ve opted to use today,
I was immediately transported to a different time and place…
and to a previous post.

It was 2012 and I had recently retired from 31 years of teaching—
I was also preparing
to embark on an arduous journey with my elderly father…
how arduous, I had no idea,
but I knew life was changing and I knew it was not going to
be for the better.

My aunt, another friend, and I had all embarked on a bit of an adventure
during that fall of 2012.
It was a wonderful trip which holds some very precious and
treasured memories…especially since my aunt is no longer with us.

Yet during that trip, there were a couple of very special moments
that have stayed near to my heart…
and one thing I’ve learned over the years,
adventures offer lessons.

And so I looked back at that original post and found
that the serenity that I had experienced
during that adventure, and later in the writing of the post,
I realized that I greatly needed to relive, as well as share, again,
that peaceful gratitude I found one quiet fall afternoon.

And so here is that post from October 2013 about a warm fall
afternoon in 2012 in Salzburg, Austria:

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 women and children.
Pity that…as that must mean that older women and children are the only ones
who “get it”…everyone else must be too vain, too prideful,
and 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–yet I oddly welcome
and greatly appreciate the nuances
of ancient worship–-more than would be expected from my raising.
There is a deep mystery that 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 megachurch.
The ancient components of worship seem lost on those now sitting
in stadium type seating waiting, as if ready for the latest blockbuster 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 are 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.

Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox…it matters not

“Give that child to me. I want it. I will care for it.
I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted and to
give that child to a married couple who will love the child
and be loved by the child.”

Mother Teresa

‘What really is at play here, dear family,
is that other shepherds are offended because I simply state
the fact that they abandoned their sheep in a time of need.
If this alleged virus was allegedly a fraction as dangerous
as they said it was, it was all the more reason to keep our
churches open and get you the sacraments so that you
stayed in a state of grace.
They put your eternal souls at risk!’

Fr. Altman

Recently I’ve been following a story about a Catholic priest who made
a comment during the past 2020 election that if one was a professed Catholic,
one could not also be a democrat.
The priest made this comment based upon the two leading democrats at
the time, who were Catholic but who were also very outspoken
regarding abortion.

At the time, the priest was obviously referencing candidate Joe Biden
and Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi…both professed Roman Catholics
who were each touting a ‘woman’s right to choose’—a woman’s right to
use abortion as a means of birth control or a means to end something
that might just be more than one wishes to bear.

The priest also had qualms with not being able to administer
Communion to parishioners who wanted to partake in Holy Communion during
the pandemic quagmire we all endured.

Well, not being Catholic, I actually whole heartedly happen to agree
with this priest.

As in I don’t know how one can be Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian.,
Methodist, Anglican, Orthodox, etc and calmly proclaim from the roof tops
that abortion is certainly fine and dandy.

It is an abomination to God.
Plain and simple.

Our burdens that we bear on this earth are all known by the Father.
Believers know that the gate will be narrow…not wide.
Many will opt for the wide gate…wide is easy yet it is a gate
that will lead to one’s demise.

The narrow gate leads to Salvation…a simple fact.

Our perceived burdens are not meant to be isolated.
Our very lives are tools for teaching.
Our lives, our actions, teach others.
How we opt to handle our burdens is paramount to others.
And yet we don’t or can’t grasp that small fact.
Everything we do has a direct impact upon another…
be it for good or for bad.

Our culture prefers easy and calm…heck, who doesn’t
But that is not what life is all about…easy and calm.

The disciples were each called by name and it was made clear
up front that their opting to follow Christ would not be
a cake walk. It would not be an easy journey.
Choose or not to choose.

However the disciples knew that to not follow would be the lesser
of the two choices…it would equate to death.

He requires a great deal of us.
Plain and simple.

Pick up your mat and walk, He commands us.
Sin no more.
Go forth and proclaim the greatness of the Lord…

BREAKING: Fr. Altman’s bishop has asked him to resign

Shockingly, Fr. Altman announced this past Sunday that his bishop,
Bishop William Callaghan, has asked him to resign for being
“divisive and ineffective.”

Fr. Altman is the priest who said,
“You can’t be a Catholic and a Democrat” in 2020,
and who, more recently, has been strong in his criticism of the
pro-abortion Biden Administration and, separately,
has admonished the U.S. bishops for denying the Sacraments to church-going
Catholics during the COVID crisis.

After delivering a powerful Pentecost Sunday homily, Altman explained:
“I regret to inform you, they want my head on a platter.
They want my head now for speaking the truth.
I apparently have created enemies in the hierarchy.”

“To paraphrase the great, great Cardinal Burke,
‘When I die, I will stand in judgment before the Lord,
not any Bishop of the church, nor as the great Cardinal Burke
specifically said, the USCCB,’” said the embattled priest.

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/breaking-fr-altmans-bishop-has-asked-him-to-resign?utm_source=UPDT5_ALTMAN&ct=t(UPDATE-SUPPORT-FR-ALTMAN-5-25-21)

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