when man reaches up towards Heaven…

“Spira, spera.”
(breathe, hope)
Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The day we met,
Frozen I held my breath
Right from the start
I knew that I’d found a home for my heart…

I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more…

(Lyrics from Christina Perri A Thousand Years)


(Pieta by Niccola Coustou / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)

Notre Dame—Our Lady of Paris

850 years of–

Christianity
faith
religion
spirituality
mysticism
relics

history
ingenuity
construction
architecture
labor
sacrifice

art
sculpture
poetry
prose
music
colored glass

revolution
desecration
coronations
funerals
burials
weddings

bishops
nuns
confessions
monastics
saints
sinners

humanity
bloodshed
loss
wars
peace
victories

humankind
survival
life
death
breath
hope…

Yet for now, there are too many emotions to express regarding this collective sense
of sorrow, grief and loss.

Our frail and feeble earthly attempts to reach upward to God will each eventually perish
while fading to both ash and dust…

and yet…

Our Heavenly Father’s reach, downward to us his children, will remain for eternity…


(detail of Virgin and Child by Antoine Vassé / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the iron work on the main entrance doorway / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the central portal (central enterance) of Notre Dame Cathedral / The Last Judgment, constructed in 1220/
Julie Cook / 2019)


(vaulted ceiling of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(South Rose Window / 1260 / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook 2019)


(South exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of flying buttresses and gargoyles / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of bell tower / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2011)


(south view of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / 2011)


(Wesrtern facade of the bell tower entrance Notre Dame Cathedral /Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

“He therefore turned to mankind only with regret.
His cathedral was enough for him.
It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least
did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquillity and benevolence.
The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him –
he resembled them too closely for that.
It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at.
The saints were his friends and blessed him; the monsters were his friends and
kept watch over him.
He would sometimes spend whole hours crouched before one of the statues
in solitary conversation with it.
If anyone came upon him then he would run away like a lover surprised during a serenade.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

pretty much dead middle

“Ignorant people see life as either existence or non-existence,
but wise men see it beyond both existence and non-existence
to something that transcends them both;
this is an observation of the Middle Way.”

Seneca


(Chaple ceiling Museo Delle Cappelle Mediciee ( the De Medici chapel) / Florence, Italy /
Julie Cook / 2018)

For whatever reason, I have always been one who looks up when I go into someplace new.
Especially when traveling and visiting different locations.

When I walk into a massive Cathedral or other historic building…
I have learned that what’s on the ceiling often makes the ceiling more impressive than
what remains at eye level…

And yet so many people miss out as they never bother looking up.

I’ve even been known to look up in elevators wondering why the ceiling is a mirror.


(the elevator to the Luxembourg Parc Hotel in Paris / Julie Cook / 2018)

Early domed temples such as the Roman temple, the Pantheon,
situated in the heart of Rome, whose open oculus continues to capture our imagination,
is an early case in point.

The Pantheon’s opening was not simply left open in order to be some sort of a famous
architectural oddity or simply to allow light to enter into a windowless temple, but was
rather due to the fact that early engineers and builders could not figure out how to actually
enclose such a massive free-standing dome without wooden beam supports..
of which would prevent it from caving in upon itself from the sheer unsupported weight.

Yet the opening was a cool way to follow the sun, follow the time of day,
while watching the rain pour indoors…


(Pantheon oculus / Julie Cook / 2018)

The open niches along the dome’s surface are not only a decorative purpose but rather
work to help solve some of the weight issues.
The decorative openings required less concrete, therefore reducing the weight of the structure.

Yet figuring out how to close the opening was still a conundrum…

That was until the early 1400’s when the artist, designer, and architect Filippo Brunelleschi
was credited with designing the first successful free-standing dome for the Cathedral of Florence,
the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore…
A cathedral that had gone without its roofed dome for over a hundred years as no one could
figure out how to successfully design and execute such a structure without wooden supports.

Services and rainy days did not mix well.


(a viewoncities.com)

Cathedrals and civic buildings all over medieval and gothic Europe have been constructed
with similar massive domes, impressive soaring towers and open barrel vaults complete
with their flying buttresses and ribbed vaults…
impressive engineering feats accomplished by relatively low tech societies.


(vaulted ribbed ceiling of Sainte Suplice, Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2018)


(ribbed vault of Norte Dame Cathedral / Julie Cook / 2018)

Eventually, ceilings would become extensions of their surroundings, lavishly
painted and decorated…
pulling our eyes upward and beyond.


(Chaple ceiling Museo Delle Cappelle Mediciee / Florence, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)


(Both of these images, with one being a detail, are in the Pantheon in Paris/ Julie Cook / 2018)


(Both of these domed ceilings are found in Les Invalides / Paris, France
/Julie Cook / 2018)


(Santa Maria sopra Minerva/ Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)


(St Peter’s, The Vatican / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

I’ll be the first to admit that the better pictures of ceilings are usually the ones when
the photographer is able to stand directly underneath the very center…
much like I managed to do for the first image.

Nice, round, equal and symmetrical.

Most of the other shots are taken at angles due to the inability to get smack dab in the middle.
Therefore they just aren’t as visually appealing and just don’t offer that same sense of
dimensional perspective.

And so whereas the middle seems to be a pretty good spot when wanting to look directly upward
while wanting to take a pretty symmetrical photograph, I’m left wondering about the
middle we’ve seemed to have worked ourselves into in this nation of ours.

We’re nearly smack dab center in this ongoing battle of tug of war.
Or so say our last several years of elections.
With this past week’s elections being not much different.

Contrary to what either side wants, prefers or hopes for…
there were no waves…blue or red.

Deplorables came out in similar numbers as their progressively liberal counterparts.

There were no landslides.

No referendums.

Candidates won not by large margins but in some cases, just by a handful of
just enough extra votes.

Several key elections are still, 3 days after the fact, still up in the air…teetering
like a seesaw swaying toward one then swaying back to the other as the numbers are simply
too close to that 50 / 50 mark.

Recounts and runoffs are more common than not.

Candidates are lawyering up, refusing to concede while others are prematurely claiming
victory.

It’s become a messy situation from sea to shining sea.

We are a divided nation almost right down the middle.
Divided and exceedingly divisive.

Yet as to what this middle is and as to why it seems so hate-filled, I am uncertain…

But what I do know is that we are standing almost divided directly in half.

And whereas equally divided usually means equally weighted and balanced…
that is sadly not our case.

I don’t understand that despite our being divided nearly equally half in half…
there is such a growing divide of vehemence and discord.

Our symmetry is woefully skewed.

And so I think I’ll just continue looking upward.
Setting my sights up above.
Still lifting my view heavenward as the view upward seems much better than what’s
currently here at eye level…

“I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the
earth and be an atheist,
but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.”

Abraham Lincoln

chains

A christian martyrdom is never an accident,
for Saints are not made by accident.”

T.S. Eliot

“What Saint has ever won his crown without first contending for it?”
St. Jerome


(The Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli / the Basilica of St Peter in Chains / Rome, Ialy /
Julie Cook / 2018)

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

The night before Herod was to bring him to trial,
Peter was sleeping between two soldiers,
bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.
Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell.
He struck Peter on the side and woke him up.
“Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.

Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.”
And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him.
Peter followed him out of the prison,
but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening;
he thought he was seeing a vision.
They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city.
It opened for them by itself, and they went through it.
When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
(Acts 12:5-10)

The bonds, according to tradition, once held fast the limbs of St. Peter the Apostle
and have been cherished by Christians since the first century.

The story of their veneration first appears in the ancient Acts of Saint Alexander,
an early pope who died as a martyr in AD 115.
As he awaited his own execution, he received a visit from Quirinus,
the nobleman who oversaw the prisons in Rome.
The man’s daughter Balbina was desperately ill,
and he had heard that Pope Alexander had the power to heal her.
She was completely cured when the pope touched her with his chains.
Balbina wanted to kiss the chains in gratitude —
but Alexander instructed her to find the chains of St. Peter and honor them instead.

Balbina became a Christian–and, according to some accounts, a consecrated virgin–
and she arranged for the construction of a shrine for St. Peter’s fetters.
It would be rebuilt and moved and expanded through the centuries.

As Rome’s Christians honored Peter’s chains from the Mamertine,
so the Church in Jerusalem kept his chains from the Herodian prison.
In the fifth century, the Christian empress Eudocia, the wife of Theodosius II,
sent a length of Peter’s Jerusalem chains to St. Leo the Great.
According to tradition, Leo held it beside Peter’s chains from the Mamertine Prison,
and the two miraculously, inseparably fused together.

There are abundant testimonies to the presence of these chains in Rome.
St. Gregory the Great, who reigned as pope from 590 to 604,
was intensely devoted to the relic and often sent small filings as gifts to dignitaries–
to Constantina Augusta, the Byzantine empress; to a bishop named Columbus;
to King Childebert of the Franks; to King Rechared of the Visigoths; and to Theodore,
the court physician at Constantinople.
He would place the filing in a key-shaped reliquary–
the key representing Peter’s authority.
He sent each particle with a prayer
“that what bound [Peter’s] neck for martyrdom, may loose yours from all sins.”

The chains are today exposed for veneration in a gold and glass reliquary in the
Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli, on Rome’s Oppian Hill,
a church built in the fifth century during the reign of Leo the Great.
(Catholic Education Resource Center)

The Basilica of St Peter’s in Chains is what we consider, by Catholic Chruch standards,
as a minor basilica…meaning it is not one of the four Major Basilicas in Rome…
Rather it is a church of perhaps lesser significance but, in my opinion, it is still
significant none the less.

Say what you will about the Catholic Chruch, there is simply no denying that our roots,
our Christian roots, run deep in and through Rome.
That which had become known as the Latin West Chruch.

In the very dust of this city that is oozing with a vast array of sensory overloads,
rests the shadows of those who went long before us, all helping to create the history
we hold dear to this day.

At the time of Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, and eventual death, Rome was considered to be
the center of all that was and is.

A great and mighty empire who’s arms reached far and wide…even to the obscure
desert outpost of Judea.

The Roman Empire and the life of a Jewish carpenter were on a collision course.

Rome was considered the epicenter of this once mighty Empire…the seat of its government.

Scripture tells us that both Peter and Paul traveled to, preached throughout,
were each imprisoned in and were both eventually executed in this once important
center of all of humankind.

Yet today’s chaotic, trendy, chic and often very dirty city is a far cry from the city
that once “ruled the world.”

Just this past weekend there was a massive citywide protest as demonstrators took to
the streets showing their disdain for Rome’s crumbling infrastructure,
its overflowing trash and the fact that rats and even wild boar now roam this once
orderly city seeking out the overflowing trash.

Decades of inept and governmental corruption has taken its toll of what was once
Imperial Rome

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46003670

Yet Rome remains a rich treasure trove of our human history.
From art to architecture, from the sacred to the mysterious, Rome offers the curious a
fantastic feast.

The Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli is but one treat in this Roman feast.

Many people come here not so much to see a box of old chains but rather they wish
to see a masterpiece of marble and craftsmanship–
up close and personal, that of Michelangelo’s Moses.


(all images by Julie Cook, Rome, Italy / 2018)

The statue of Moses is only a part of what was to be the massive tomb for Pope Julius II—
the same pope who had a lifelong love-hate relationship with Michaelangelo

The Pope had charged Michaelangelo to construct a massive tomb to be used after his death.
Yet during the same time, the Pope had commissioned Michaelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel.

As Michaelangelo never considered himself to be a painter but rather a sculptor only, he felt
a deep sense of angst over having to work on such a massive undertaking of painting.

A painting that millions of people now flock yearly to see.

He actually ran away at one point, attempting to escape the demands of the man who history
now attributes to be the pope who brought St Peter’s to the glory that we marvel over today.
The Pope actually sent his soldiers to Florence to retrieve Michaelangelo…
bringing him back to finish his commission, of which they did and Michaelangelo in turn
eventually did.

Fortunately or unfortunately, however, Pope Julius II died before Michaelangelo could finish
the massive tomb. Yet luckily today for both the curious and the tourist,
we may view this lesser monument here in the Basilica.

The statue of Moses is the central figure that draws all attention.
It is a single massive piece of Carrara marble.

Looking closely one sees that Moses has what appears to be horns protruding
from his head. But the horns are due to a mistranslation.

Michelangelo’s Moses is depicted with horns on his head.
He, like so many artists before him, was laboring under a misconception.
This is believed to be because of the mistranslation of the Hebrew Scriptures
into Latin by St Jerome.
Moses is actually described as having “rays of the skin of his face”,
which Jerome in the Vulgate had translated as “horns”.
The mistake in translation is possible because the word “keren”
in the Hebrew language can mean either “radiated (light)” or “grew horns”.

(Rome.Info)

And whereas I will always stand in awe and marvel anytime I have an opportunity to stand
and gaze on a massive piece of marble that a seemingly otherworldly gifted man managed to
coax out an unbelievable miracle of vision and craftsmanship,
it is to the box of chains that held my fascination on this most recent visit.

Those who are jaded or who scoff over the significance afforded to something, that may or
may not be what it claims to be, may certainly be that way and question.

And whereas I cannot say yay or nay as to the authenticity of these chains…
Were these the actual chains that held Peter?
I don’t know if any of us can ever say, and  yet to me,
it is not whether they are or are not what they claim to be which is important
but is to where they direct my thoughts.

They have been on display since the year 115,
roughly 47 years following Peter’s execution in Rome.

I have sat in the Mamertine prison.

Sitting in the dark, on a small ledge, contemplating the fate of those who
were once kept in this underground dungeon.
It is, as it was then, a dark enclosed dungeon..an outcropping that now sits at the
foot of Capitoline Hill. A Christian church now sits atop this prison.

Prisoners were lowered by ropes down into this pit of a prison.
It is the prison said to have once held both Saints, Peter and Paul.

Peter was bound in chains when he held as a prisoner in the Herodian prison
as well as the Mamertine prison.

So as to this miraculous union of two separate sets of chains binding together as one,
again, is beyond my ability to say…

But what I do know is that these mysterious chains draw me back to scripture,
they draw me back to a mighty God who uses simple men and women to do mighty works.

No chain, no boundary, no weight, no limitation exists that can hold our Mighty God.
Small things such as a box full of historical chains are but a physical reminder of this.

Sometimes we need, I need, those physical reminders because my mind, our minds,
are so limited whereas our God is so limitless.

And so as Pope Gregory the Great reminds us…
“that what bound [Peter’s] neck for martyrdom, may loose yours from all sins.”

Amen…

sticky wickets

“Your Excellency, Sir William Morrison, and gentlemen. I am afraid tonight,
owing to the rain we have had in this island of Springs,
I am batting on rather a sticky wicket. We have just heard Sir William Morrison make,
in my opinion, a magnificent speech. I do not hope or think of living up to that.”

the Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner, April 1930:

dscn4491
(stem of my lovely bumpy pumpkin / Julie Cook / 2016)

Recently, having read an article about a school district ordering its elementary schools teachers
to immediately remove any and all references to Christianity from within their classrooms, sent a
familiarly eerie warning siren sounding within this old educator’s head….

No bibles were to be on their desks, no verses or images containing scriptures
were to be posted on the walls or in the halls,
there were to be no tag lines on their emails with any religious reference,
no mention of Christmas, or Easter…no religious images were to be displayed,
no references whatsoever of the Christian faith were to be evident…
end of sentence, period.

The district’s orders were indeed that, dictatorial orders.
No sort of explanation or conversation but rather strictly a “do as we say or else” sort of directive.
As an adult and educator, I always hated when the powers that be spoke down to their teachers as though they were, well yes, children.

It’s one thing for those in charge to say, “hey, we’ve received some complaints, or even a threatening law suit, etc, so we are asking that you please refrain…”
Instead it is the dictatorial command from up above…
laced with a threatening tone as well as a heavy dose of fear mongering.

Teachers were however told that they could continue wearing religious “trinkets”,
i.e. a cross necklace,
but anything that was considered too showy or attention grabbing or
blatantly displayed was strictly forbidden.

I can remember several years ago when I was still in the classroom and many of the current music entertainers had taken to wearing large crosses and rosaries…so our students, ever the fashion conscious, were quick to sport their own versions of the large showy crosses and rosaries around their necks.

To say that I was disappointed seeing prayer beads worn around ones’ neck as
something urbanely trendy was an understatement
as I’ve always felt prayer beads were just that…
for prayer….
but I digress.

I wonder if this particular school district, which just so happens to be in my own state,
has issued letters home to their parents asking that their children refrain from
bringing anything Christian related to school or wearing such…
or even that of the soon to be Christmas fashion world?
Or heaven’s forbid anyone talk about what happened at Wednesday night church…

Yet there was no mention as to removing anything Jewish nor was there
mention of anything of the Muslim faith..
no removing any stars of David, no removing prayer rugs,
no removing the kippah from the heads of young Jewish boys…
no removing henna tattoos from the hands of young Muslim girls,
no forbidding of any reference to Rosh hashanah or Yom Kippur
or Ramadan or Eid…
strictly a Christian sort of edict.

As a long time educator, I understand full well the whole concept of the separation of church and state…as we don’t want our schools endorsing or promoting any set religion…
for schools are simply to educate by following a set curriculum…I get that.

But as an educator, I also understand the undeniably woven nature of the
Christian faith in our history as a people of Western Civilization.
It is in the history of our DNA…whether we like it or not—
and no matter how hard we try to erase it from our very being as a people…we simply can’t.

There are very appropriate times when Christianity, and or the study of such,
is very much a part of a lesson.

I find it almost comical when our society tries to neuter the Christian faith.

Dare we not talk of the Pilgrims offering thanks that first Thanksgiving,
thanks to God that, quite frankly, they’ve actually survived thus far,
let alone why they came here in the first place…
to worship freely?

Dare we not speak of the Judaeo / Christian tenants which are the
basis of our own laws and legal system as we look at
the role the Ten commandments have played.
That whole thou shall not murder thing…

Dare we not look at the treasures offered to us artistically,
culturally, musically and even architecturally in the artwork, literature,
music and architecture which has reflected the endearing faith of Western Civilization…

Who among us didn’t read Pilgrims Progress or the Canterbury Tales, or works by
JRR Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, or even Martin Luther in a lit class?

What of the music of Bach, Mozart or Beethoven?

As an art teacher, my room was rife with images of the Renaissance.
Images from both Latin West and Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
Images from Africa, Asia, Native American….
along with the images of the importance spirituality played in each culture…
because like it or not spirituality and man have always been linked…
and from that came man’s desire to create, encapsulating that spirituality…
and that might be good spirituality or bad…
but such is to the eye of the beholder…

We explored the written words of the Latin, Hebrew, Cyrillic, Greek,
indigenous Indians, Arabic, and even Druid societies
as we looked at the history and relationship the
written word has to our visual understanding.

‘Over the top’ is the best way to describe how I often feel school systems
react when they feel threatened in some way…
They will bend over backwards, at the expense of their personnel,
good well trained personnel, if they feel that they might be sued,
cited or possibly lose critical funding…
should they not bow to the pressure of a few.

Sadly it is the local, state and even federal governments
who are putting the pressure on their own school systems to conform to
this current trend of across the board neutering…
Neutering of not all religion, but blatantly to just one…

It would be one thing if they had said absolutely no to all references to each and every religion,
but this district was very specific in referencing the Christian faith only.
For that, I cry foul.

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/10/04/school-orders-teachers-to-remove-religious-items-from-classrooms.html

Then shortly after having read the first article, I next came across the following article
citing the current persecution of Christian believers taking place in Uzbekistan…
over the possessing of any and all Christian material…
and to the extreme measures the Uzbek Government is taking to
curtail and punish all offenders..

http://www.christiantoday.com/article/christian.persecution.on.the.rise.in.uzbekistan.where.just.owning.a.bible.is.illegal/97157.htm

As I am left to simply scratch my head as to why Governments and Nations and even
School districts fear
the mere visibility of Christianity….

May we be mindful of our past…

In the field of education, everything was done to ensure that the youth of Germany was brought up in the atmosphere of National Socialism and accepted National Socialist teachings. As early as the 7th April, 1933, the law reorganising the Civil Service had made it possible for the Nazi Government to remove all ” Subversive and unreliable teachers “, and this was followed by numerous other measures to make sure that the schools were staffed by teachers who could be trusted to teach their pupils the full meaning of National Socialist creed. Apart from the influence of National Socialist teaching in the schools, the Hitler Youth Organisation was also relied upon by the Nazi Leaders for obtaining fanatical support from the younger generation. The defendant von Schirach, who had been Reich Youth Leader of the NSDAP since 1931, was appointed Youth Leader of the German Reich in June, 1933. Soon all the youth organisations had been either dissolved or absorbed by the Hitler Youth, with the exception of the Catholic Youth. The Hitler Youth was organised on strict military lines, and as early as 1933 the Wehrmacht was cooperating in providing pre-military training for the Reich Youth.
Excerpt from the Nazi Jewish Party
The Nazi Regime in Germany
The Jewish Virtual Library

For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens,
to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

Matthew
24:24

The tale of The Great Litany. . . hear us oh Lord. . .

“True prayer is done in secret, but this does not rule out the fellowship of prayer altogether, however clearly we may be aware of its dangers. In the last resort it is immaterial whether we pray in the open street or in the secrecy of our chambers, whether briefly or lenghtily, in the Litany of the Church, or with the sigh of one who knows not what he should pray for. True prayer does not depend either on the individual or the whole body of the faithful, but solely upon the knowledge that our Heavenly Father knows our needs.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

DSC00307
(a painting I did years ago of a meeting between Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa—I include it as you can see in her hand that she holds onto a rosary as Mother Teresa was known to be in a constant state of prayer–that she had trained her mind and heart to be at constant prayer even while simultaneously engaged—just as John Paul was known to do the same. . ./ Julie Cook / 2011)

Looking at the word count, before I even typed a single letter, it was topping out at 1188—
Makes one not want to read what’s going on in such a post as that is just way too many words. . .but I promise, I didn’t write them!!!
The reason behind such a hefty tally was the fact that I had cut and paste a copy of The Great Litany as taken from The Book Of Common Prayer–all before typing a single word–1188 words!!
Yes, the “prayer” is that long. . .
Which brings me to the meat of this post. . .

Growing up in a liturgical church, during various services, we would often recite The Great Litany, all while kneeling mind you!

I can remember when I was in high school attending church—it was (still is) a beautiful gothic Cathedral. Cavernously deep, tall and wide as the traditional architectural shape was that of a latin cross.

I’d settle into my favorite pew, the third down from the top, on the right side of the aisle, listening to the massive organ gently offering the ‘music voluntary’–those random tunes played pre- service as members ambled in taking their seats.
Eyeing the day’s service program, my heart would sink when I saw that The Great Litany was to be included in the service. It was almost enough to make me want to get up, walk out, cross the street and head over to the Catholic Cathedral for service (of which I had been known to do if I wasn’t keen on who was preaching).

A reiterated Litany could leave one perched on a kneeler for what seemed to be an eternity.

“hear us Oh Lord. . .” over and over and over. . .as the monotone priest would offer each sectioned prayer before God and congregant with each recited response rising equally as monotonous from the congregation. . .

“Good Lord, deliver us”

Yet I must admit there was always something I found deeply soothing about that prayer–just as I do so still to this day.

The Great Litany traces it’s roots back to 5th century Rome, when during the early days of the Christian Church’s service, there was a repeated petition to God—it began as the latin prayer
Kyrie Elesion–

Kyrie Eleison
Christe Eleison
Kyrie Eleison

or

Lord Have Mercy Upon Us
Christ Have Mercy Upon Us
Lord Have Mercy Upon Us

It wasn’t until 1544 when the Anglican Archbishop Thomas Cranmer actually put together the litany into the format we know today. . .

On my knees, reading along in the prayer book, I always made a mental note that The Litany hit all the bases as it covered everything—and I mean everything and everyone. . .
It pleaded for our redemption, our pardon, for our need of forgiveness. . .
it espoused our wickedness, our sinfulness and our deep need for Grace. . .

“have mercy upon us”

Blessings were asked to be poured upon our leaders, our families, our churches, our nation, ourselves, our clergy, our world. . .you name it. . .it was petitioned and we implored. . .

“we beseech thee to hear us Good Lord”

Yet for all of its verbose manner it was keenly focused.
It was succinct.
And if the truth be told, it was razor sharp and efficient.

There are those who have never quite understood repetitive prayers in those more liturgical church services—the saying of the rosary or even that of the Jesus prayer. . .

Yet there is one thing I’ve learned over the years and that is prayer, just like anything else, needs to be practiced and honed—just as a learned skill.

Oh I can hear the free thinkers and spontaneous ones among us now grumbling. . .
Prayer, which is a form of conversation with the Divine Being of God, requires a clear heart as well as mind and much focus. . .

How many times, when you’ve gone to God in prayer, that as soon as you close your eyes picking up your rosary, or prayer beads, or folding your hands it’s—suddenly it’s as if thought after thought comes crashing to mind. . .
“was that the phone?”
“Did I turn out the lights?”
“Did I lock the door?”
“Did I feed the dog?”
“Oh gosh, I need to call the bank, NOW!”

An assault of thoughts begin to assail the mind, urging the body to take immediate action—
It’s rather hard to pray when a million thoughts, along with an ever growing to do list, all begin to formulate in one’s head. . .the dark one is insidious that way. . .like a fly that just won’t stop buzzing around your face, demanding to be dealt with immediately.

Prayer, that sacredly private one on one time with The God of all Creation, requires our reverence, our determination, our hearts, our souls and our very busy crowded minds. . .

So there is definitely something, for me, soothing, cathartic and training about utilizing a litany, or repeated prayer as it were, when praying. It helps to provide a place to recenter, reconnect, to come back to when the mind takes off in a million different directions.
It is meditative, reflective, recentering and actually quite necessary. . .

So on this lengthy note—it’s time I get down to business while on my knees. . .
“hear me Oh Lord. . .

The Great Litany

O God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth,
Have mercy upon us.

O God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy upon us.

O God the Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of the faithful,
Have mercy upon us.

O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, one God,
Have mercy upon us.

Remember not, Lord Christ, our offenses, nor the offenses
of our forefathers; neither reward us according to our sins.
Spare us, good Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast
redeemed with thy most precious blood, and by thy mercy
preserve us, for ever.
Spare us, good Lord.

From all evil and wickedness; from sin; from the crafts
and assaults of the devil; and from everlasting damnation,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From all blindness of heart; from pride, vainglory,
and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice; and from all want
of charity,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From all inordinate and sinful affections; and from all the
deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From all false doctrine, heresy, and schism; from hardness
of heart, and contempt of thy Word and commandment,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From lightning and tempest; from earthquake, fire, and
flood; from plague, pestilence, and famine,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From all oppression, conspiracy, and rebellion; from
violence, battle, and murder; and from dying suddenly and
unprepared,
Good Lord, deliver us.

By the mystery of thy holy Incarnation; by thy holy Nativity
and submission to the Law; by thy Baptism, Fasting, and
Temptation,
Good Lord, deliver us.

By thine Agony and Bloody Sweat; by thy Cross and Passion;
by thy precious Death and Burial; by thy glorious Resurrection
and Ascension; and by the Coming of the Holy Ghost,
Good Lord, deliver us.

In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our prosperity; in
the hour of death, and in the day of judgment,
Good Lord, deliver us.

We sinners do beseech thee to hear us, O Lord God; and that
it may please thee to rule and govern thy holy Church
Universal in the right way,
We beesech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to illumine all bishops, priests, and
deacons, with true knowledge and understanding of thy
Word; and that both by their preaching and living, they may
set it forth, and show it accordingly,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bless and keep all thy people,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to send forth laborers into thy
harvest, and to draw all mankind into thy kingdom,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give to all people increase of grace
to hear and receive thy Word, and to bring forth the fruits of
the Spirit,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bring into the way of truth all such
as have erred, and are deceived,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give us a heart to love and fear
thee, and diligently to live after thy commandments,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee so to rule the hearts of thy servants,
the President of the United States (or of this nation), and all
others in authority, that they may do justice, and love mercy,
and walk in the ways of truth,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to make wars to cease in all the world;
to give to all nations unity, peace, and concord; and to
bestow freedom upon all peoples,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to show thy pity upon all prisoners
and captives, the homeless and the hungry, and all who are
desolate and oppressed,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give and preserve to our use the
bountiful fruits of the earth, so that in due time all may enjoy
them,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to inspire us, in our several callings,
to do the work which thou givest us to do with singleness of
heart as thy servants, and for the common good,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to preserve all who are in danger by
reason of their labor or their travel,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to preserve, and provide for, all
women in childbirth, young children and orphans, the
widowed, and all whose homes are broken or torn by strife,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to visit the lonely; to strengthen all
who suffer in mind, body, and spirit; and to comfort with thy
presence those who are failing and infirm,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to support, help, and comfort all who
are in danger, necessity, and tribulation,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to have mercy upon all mankind,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give us true repentance; to forgive
us all our sins, negligences, and ignorances; and to endue
us with the grace of thy Holy Spirit to amend our lives
according to thy holy Word,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to forgive our enemies, persecutors,
and slanderers, and to turn their hearts,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to strengthen such as do stand; to
comfort and help the weak-hearted; to raise up those who
fall; and finally to beat down Satan under our feet,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to grant to all the faithful departed
eternal life and peace,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to grant that, in the fellowship of
[__________ and] all the saints, we may attain to thy
heavenly kingdom,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us.
Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
Grant us thy peace.

O Christ, hear us.
O Christ, hear us.

Lord, have mercy upon us. Kyrie eleison.
Christ, have mercy upon us. or Christe eleison.
Lord, have mercy upon us. Kyrie eleison.

Show us the way oh Lord. . .

“Others have seen what is and asked why.
I have seen what could be and asked why not. ”

― Pablo Picasso

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(a statue of Christ on the Charles Bridge , Prague, The Czech Republic / Julie Cook / 2012)

What is it that sets us apart form the other creatures on this planet our ours?
Other than that opposable thumb business?

What is it that makes us greater, wiser, better. . .?

Is it perhaps our ability to be compassionate and kind?
Perhaps to reason and analyze?
Or is it is our capacity to be creative. . .that ability to dream, to imagine, to think and therefore to compose, to construct, to paint, to sing, to sculpt, to dance and to build. . .

The ability to even take that which has been ruined and destroyed, even by our own hands, and to remake, rekindle and renew. . .?

I had not intended to have such a serious minded post again this week but it appears that forces beyond my control thought better of my initial decision. . .

Today’s news is laced, once again with the heinous beheading by ISIS of another innocent bystander–another victim to their ravenous thirst for innocent blood. This time it was an 82 year old Archeologist taxed with preserving and saving the ruins of Palmyra.
It seems they held this gentleman for the past month, torturing him in an attempt to discover where the vast treasures of this ancient, and to some holy, site were hidden. He never shared that information with his captors, who knows if he even was aware of hidden treasure, so it was another case of “off with their heads”. . .

Here you may find a link to the full story as found on the BBC . . .
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33984006

In Charles Kaiser’s book “The Cost of Courage” which I shared in yesterday’s post, Mr. Kaiser retells the story of the Vichy Parisian Mayor, Pierre-Charles Taittinger who, following the invasion of Normandy which was the telling realization for the Nazis that their time of Occupation in Paris, as well as all of France, was drawing dangerously to its finale, approached the Nazi’s high commander, General Choltitz, with his final plea for the Germans to spare the city.

It was well known and documented that if Hitler had to relinquish the City of Lights back into the hands of the Allies, then they would not receive a city at all but rather one that had been razed and burnt to the ground. Every bridge crossing the Seine, as well as every monument from the Eiffel Tower to Napoleon’s Tomb had been wired with explosives. The fleeing German troops were to detonate and burn everything in their wake as they left the city.

Monsieur Taittinger implored the General one last time:
“Often it is given to a general to destroy, rarely to preserve,” Taittinger begins.
“Imagine that one day it may be given to you to stand on this balcony as a tourist, to look once more on these monuments to our joys, our sufferings, and to be able to say, “One day I could have destroyed all this, and I preserved it as a gift for humanity.’ General, is not that worth all a conqueror’s glory?”
The General replied, “You are a good advocate for Pairs. You have done your duty well. And likewise I, as a German general, must do mine.”

History tells us that the General was wise enough to know that by now Hitler was indeed a madman and that the war, with the Soviets now advancing from the east, was all but over and that it would not serve the furture of Germany, whatever that further may now hold, to destroy what the French held so dear. There is more to the story, a series of interventions and seemingly miraculous moments which spurred the Allied forces to march upon the city in the nick of time, but I suggest that you read that story on your own as it makes for fascinating reading.

When the church bells rang out echoing across the city, with the deep baritone bells of Notre Dame leading the way, sounding the joyful news of the liberation of Paris, the General was heard to say, “that today I have heard the bells of the death knell of my own funeral. . .” He had sent the troops out from the city with having detonated only the bombs of one of the train stations.

What is it about our splendors and our glories, those monuments we construct, build, make and craft from generation to generation. . . those tombs and treasures we hold so dear and so ever important? So much so that we feel the urgency and need of being tasked with their care, their maintenance, their upkeep and their eventual preservation?
Is it because we see that these manmade wonders are some of the tangible evidence of the better part of our nature? That despite our ability to destroy, to kill and to promote war. . .deep down we know that we strive for the good, the beautiful and the enduring?

These wonders of ours link us to our past civilizations. These monuments of glory, grandeur and beauty of both joy and sorrow allow us to see from where we have come, and in turn we are afforded the opportunity to show future generations the part of us which is better, kinder, gentler, more humane —that side which chose to give rather than to take?

So on this day, when another has fallen victim to a dark and evil menace spreading outward from the Middle East, I am left with the simple prayer, “Oh Lord, show us the way. . .”

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(Duomo di Milano / Milan, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(The Bascillica di San Antonio / Padova, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore / Firenze, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(Basilica Papale di San Francesco / Assisi, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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( Basilica Papale di San Pietro / The Vatican / Roma, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(stain glass windows in The Basilica of the Holy Blood / Bruges, Belgium / Julie Cook / 2011)

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(Notre Dame / Paris France / Julie Cook / 2011)

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(détail, Notre Dame / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

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(Eiffel Tower / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

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(the cross that sits atop the Eagles Nest or the Berghof overlooking Berchtesgaden, Bavaria which was once Hitler’s private mountain retreat / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(St Stephens Cathedral/ Vienna, Austria / Julie Cook / 2013)

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St Vitus Cathedral / Prague, The Czech Republic / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(Rose window, St Vitus Cathedral / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(A section of the Berlin Wall / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(a section of the Berlin wall / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(The Brandenburg Gate / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(The interior of the new German Chancellory, the Bundestag / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

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Exterior of the Bundestag / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

The importance of the angle

“I don’t care much for facts, am not much interested in them; you can’t stand a fact up, you’ve got to prop it up, and when you move to one side a little and look at it from that angle, it’s not thick enough to cast a shadow in that direction.”
William Faulkner

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(a bowl of freshly picked blueberries / Julie Cook / 2015)

Ode to the importance of angles. . .

I’m not talking about geometry or trigonometry
I’m not talking about Physics or Calculus
I’m not talking about cartography or the study of trajectory
I’m not talking about cameras, photography or architecture
I’m not talking about framing or woodworking
I’m not talking about golf, tennis, football, baseball, soccer, or hockey. . .

I’m simply talking about picking blueberries. . .

Upon first inspection of my blueberry bushes, I readily and immediately see exactly what needs picking.
Those lovely succulent orbs of royal blue to purple to practically black dangling and dotting the green backdrop like ornaments on a Christmas tree.

Working feverishly in the heat of day, gingerly canvasing the bush, I begin the task of pulling, plucking and gently twisting until the bush gives release of her tiny treasures. . .as I notice several berries sporting tiny little piercing holes. . . pecked neatly in the center of each berry.
As in pecking birds. . .
I am more than willing to share my bounty with my feathered friends but I would hope that the birds would pick and take as opposed to pecking, damaging and leaving.

Resigned to having no choice in my sharing, I let out one long heat laden sigh. . .

After an excruciatingly hot 40 minutes or so of slowly making my way round and around the bush, standing on tippy toes and squatting way down low, it appears as if I have gotten all the berries that are ripe, leaving those red and green berries for another day as they still require a few more days.

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The thoughts of a cool AC and an even colder cool shower were sweetly beckoning to me like a siren to the weary sailor. . .that is until I bend over, picking up a few berries that had fallen down into the pine straw. . .and that’s when happenstance would have it’s wicked way with me.
I cast my gaze slightly upward, up underneath the bush. . .and that’s when I saw it.. . or rather that’s when I saw them. . .
I was aghast.
Dangling high and low, as if to tease even more sweat from my heatstroke brow, there hanging and hidden from the sight of the obvious are a myriad more overtly ripe blue and purple berries.

Hidden from the sight of the obvious.

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I begin crawling up and under, scrounging on bended knees, reaching and stretching ever upward, around and over. . .agin and agin. . .
Plucking until, thinking triumphantly, I have finally gotten every last berry. . .
. . .that is until I turn my head to the left. . .

And that’s when it hits me. . .
This picking business isn’t about the obvious. . .no, not at all.
The key to successful picking is knowing about the angle.
The obvious is one thing.
The obvious is easy.
Everyone sees the obvious.
Even the birds see the obvious. . .taking full advantage of such obvious pickings.
The key to success, the key to the fullest basket or bowl of berries,
isn’t resting in the obvious. . .
No. . .I have discovered, in the heat of this late June day while clutching a burgeoning bowl of berries, that the key to success lies not in the obvious. . .
but rather the key lies hidden in the all important angle.

Being keen to bend, cocking ones head, peering up and over, or under and around.
With the angle of vision being paramount. . .

Being able to go into any endeavor, be it picking berries or solving any of life’s toughest troubles, knowing that what greets you initially is not all that there is—for there is certainly more— will be the true ticket to success—

So the next time you’re faced with one of life’s vexing problems—don’t consider the obvious, that which is staring you in the face. . . be willing to cock your head, looking over and around, up and above, hidden and way down low . . .

You might just be surprised at how quickly you’ll fill your cup,
your heart, your life, your bowl. . .
filling it full with even more ripe berries than what you had initially expected. . .

Now it’s time for that shower!!!