looking for saints in all kinds of places

This is the very perfection of a man,
to find out his own imperfections.

St. Augustine


(St. Augustine of Hippo painting by Philippe de Champaigne, 1650)

Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise;
your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning.
And so we humans, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you –
we who carry our mortality about with us,
carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud.
Yet these humans, due part of your creation as they are, still do long to
praise you.
You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy,
because you have made us and drawn us to yourself,
and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

The passage above appears to have been written by a person who was painfully aware
of his own mortality and sins yet yearns, nay longs,
to be in the arms of the Beloved Creator.

And so perhaps it might be hard for those of us reading these long ago penned words
to imagine that this person was not always so deeply attuned to
living life worshiping the Triune God.

For the past couple of days, my posts have veered toward the idea of saints.
No particular reason really…and when there seems to be no real rhyme nor reason for my
ramblings, that usually just means the Holy Spirit is at work and not so much
me.

Yesterday’s post offered two quotes summing up the notion of sainthood quite nicely…
yet it was especially the Kierkegaard quote which serves to remind us that God’s mastery
of creation is one thing, but to be able to make saints from sinners…
well, that’s something else altogether.

Augustine of Hippo…
a giant when it comes to thought and theory has been studied down through the ages by
all sorts of students—from theologians and philosophers to literates and historians…
many of whom have been Believers and many who have not.

Yet Augustine was not always one of Christendom’s most learned and revered theologian
turned saint.

According to Wikipedia,
“His first insight into the nature of sin occurred when he and a number of friends stole
fruit they did not want from a neighborhood garden.
He tells this story in his autobiography, The Confessions.
He remembers that he did not steal the fruit because he was hungry,
but because “it was not permitted.”
His very nature, he says, was flawed.
‘It was foul, and I loved it.
I loved my own error—not that for which I erred, but the error itself.”
From this incident, he concluded the human person is naturally inclined to sin
and in need of the grace of Christ.”

Augustine went on to have a long-lasting affair with a woman who bore him an
illegitimate son.
He later broke off that relationship in order to marry a 10-year-old heiress but had to wait
two years until she was of legal marrying age.
During his wait, he took up with another concubine.

Yet the time came in which Augustine abandoned all concubines and fiancees alike
lamenting“that he was not a lover of wedlock so much as a slave of lust”

Eventually, at the age of 31, Augustine broke off all his relationships with these
various women because he, like many before and after him, had his Road to Damascus moment.
He was struck from his lofty, self-absorbed, carnal way of living by the
One True Omnipotent God who literally called out to him..

As Augustine later shared
“his conversion was prompted by a childlike voice he heard telling him to
“take up and read” (Latin: tolle, lege), which he took as a divine command to open the Bible
and read the first thing he saw.

Augustine read from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans –
the “Transformation of Believers” section, consisting of chapters 12 to 15 –
wherein Paul outlines how the Gospel transforms believers,
and the believers’ resulting behaviour.
The specific part to which Augustine opened his Bible was Romans chapter 13,
verses 13 and 14, to wit:

“Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness,
not in strife and envying,
but put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.”

It was at this moment that his life turned.

Augustine eventually penned an autobiography of sorts which many of us,
trained in the classics were at some point, required to read— Confessions.

It is from the pages of his Confessions that we read these beautiful and deeply
haunting words:

Late have I loved Thee, O Lord; and behold,
Thou wast within and I without, and there I sought Thee.
Thou wast with me when I was not with Thee.
Thou didst call, and cry, and burst my deafness.
Thou didst gleam, and glow, and dispel my blindness.
Thou didst touch me, and I burned for Thy peace.
For Thyself Thou hast made us,
And restless our hearts until in Thee they find their ease.
Late have I loved Thee, Thou Beauty ever old and ever new.

And thus what we have learned is that many of those who are known to us today as saints
seem to have, at some point or other figured things out.

Namely, that life isn’t all about them.

But life, rather, is a yearning…and that yearning is the created’s longing to be
one with the Creator.

Some seem to understand this better than others.

Many have been rogues and scallywags.
Some have been liars and drunkards.
Some have been rich and arrogant.
Some started out as cowards and turncoats yet became brave and true.
And some will simply be known only to God and God alone.

And so with all this talk about saints and sinners, I am struck by a current circus of sorts.

Brett Kavanaugh, the latest Supreme Court nominee, has been in the center of a maelstrom.

I don’t know much about him, but from what legal experts and judges on ‘both sides of the
aisle’ have said, he is a stellar wealth of legal prowess.
A fair and just man who is deeply knowledgeable with regards to right and wrong.

Yet his experience, his record, his knowledge, his examples don’t seem to matter to
this pack of hearing committee members who are foaming at the mouth,
as they rip into this man for the simple reason that they hate the man who nominated him.

Desperate Democrats are grasping at ugly straws to do their darndest to stop this nominee’s
chance of confirmation…even resorting to highschool hearsay.

And in so doing…these very politicians who so vehemently cling to the separation of
Church and State and find themselves cringing over the notion that their precious
Roe v Wade would be overturned… these worshipers of all things cultural and secular
now seem to be seeking a saint…a saint who doesn’t exist.
As all of this is just one more example of the irony of man standing at odds with
his blinding self-serving pride.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micha 6:8

Christendom

The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers.
We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand,
we are obliged to act accordingly.

Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard


(a hornets nest on the side of a house Blue Ridge, Ga / Julie Cook / 2018)

The world in which we live is the battleground of the Church.
I believe that we are now living at the end of Christendom.
It is the end of Christendom, but not the end of Christianity.

What is Christendom?

Christendom is the political, economic, moral, social, legal life of a nation as
inspired by the gospel ethic. That is finished.

Abortion, the breakdown of family life, dishonesty,
even the natural virtues upon which the supernatural virtues were based,
are being discredited.

Christianity is not at the end.
But we are at the end of Christendom.

And I believe that the sooner we wake up to this fact,
the sooner we will be able to solve many of our problems.

Venerable Fulton J. Sheen
from Through the Year with Fulton Sheen

Prophet of old

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13

dscn1626
(cross on the grounds of Drumcliff Church / Co Sligo, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“If Christianity is to receive a rejuvenation it must be by other means than any now being used.
If the church in the second half of the twentieth century (an may we now add 21st) is to recover from the injuries
she suffered in the first half, there must appear a new type of preacher.
The proper, ruler-of-the-synagogue type will never do.
Neither will the priestly type of man who carries out his duties,
takes his pay and asks no questions, nor the smooth-talking pastoral type who knows how to
make the Christian religion acceptable to everyone. All these have been tried and found wanting. Another kind of religious leader must arise among us.

He must be of the old prophet type,
a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne.
When he comes (and I pray God there will not be one but many) he will stand in flat contradiction
to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear.
He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and
opposition of a large segment of Christendom.”

A.W.Tozer

the tangible and the wonder of the intangible

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

William Morris

DSCN1865
(memorial cross inside St Patricks Cathedral / Dublin Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

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

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

I try avoiding downward spirals at all costs.

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

Sursum Corda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Celebrant and People)

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

(Here may be added)

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

(as taken from the Book of Common Prayer)

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

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

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

That of the tangible joined with the intangible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For our God transcends mortal comprehension

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

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

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

taken from the Angelus