the undoing within the transformation

“We might say the whole mystery of our redemption in Christ,
by his incarnation, his death and his resurrection, consists of this marvelous exchange:
in the heart of Christ,
God has loved us humanly, so as to render our human hearts capable of loving divinely.
God became man so that man might become God—-
might love as only God is capable of loving, with the purity,
intensity, power, tenderness, and inexhaustible patience that
belong to the divine love.
It is an extraordinary source of hope and a great consolation to know that,
by virtue of God’s grace working in us
(if we remain open to it by persevering in faith, prayer, and the sacraments),
the Holy Spirit will transform and expand our hearts to the point
of one day making them capable of loving as God loves.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 67-8


(zebra swallowtail / Julie Cook / 2019)

Today was a day for undoing.

The taking down and the packing up of all that which gives way to the barren.

The colors and lights surreally diminish… as we transition from light to dark.

And thus it is along this train of thought–the thought of transitioning from the then and now that my thoughts have wandered…I looked back to something I wrote years ago regarding our time as Believers and that of transition—we are currently living  the post Christmas season, to that of Epiphany to eventually that of Lent-as our seasons ride right into the next season of our constancy of faith…

And so we have something from from 2016.

I wrote this in January of that year…it was while we were still in the throes of a passing Christmas and what all that held as we looked toward what was to come—a Lenten season.

Here is that post…

There had been a whirlwind of emotion
Exuberance road wildly as if on the back of a broncing bull…
Holding on for dear life…
Yet madly giddy within the rush and exhilaration of the ride.
Major changes raced across the winds…

Soaring endlessly upward, words and feelings rapidly flowed downward…
as if caught in a raging torrent…
There was so much that needed to be shared, expressed, re-lived.
Time was the enemy, this much we knew…
If put on hold or held back, it might all be too late…
or so we reasoned…

The depth of feeling was so raw yet so very real.
Clarity had been granted, but for how long was anyone’s guess.
There was a sense of power beyond self…
As if one was being guided and willed onward by or from some other different place and time.
This was bigger than all of us combined and it had to be shared…
It was truly a race between life and death…

All consuming is the best way to describe it.
Mad we were labeled…the activity deemed by the State…nefarious.
Hope and death mingled dangerously together…yet at the same time there existed a calm which surpassed understanding.
We had seen the results of being caught, accused, condemned….
Yet a resolute feeling of determination prevailed…we knew that all would be well…
With this feeling of hopefulness spurring on the momentum…
It was a heady time…

It was a time of grave danger with imminent death if discovered.
Yet there was no turning back…the die had been cast
Three years had laid the foundation, three days cemented our fate
A lifetime would be our legacy as thousands more would follow suit.

As it turned out, time would not be the deterrent…
We would weather the centuries of both denial and persecution…
We would work together across the oceans of the world, hand in hand…
allowing our words, our deeds, our actions to tell the story…
There were times when voices were silenced and many lives were lost…
But transformation had been found
Renewal had become a reality
Power was indeed found in the weak
The blind had seen and the lame had walked
As Salvation blanketed the land…

Yet now we wonder…
Where has the urgency gone?
Where has the importance of this story gone?
Has the truth been lost in complacency?
Where is the momentum…?
Do lives still not hang in the balance?
Is Hope not still viable…?

Miracles have not ceased…
Hearts are still turned…
Life has indeed conquered Death
Yet the headiness,
the acuteness,
the gravity…
seem all but lackluster…

The importance
The need
The urgency
are still very much necessary…
Yet those of us who have been left to further the cause, spread the word,
live the story…
have fallen into lethargy, compliance with the world and sadly indifference…

May we once again find the strength, the need, the urgency to continue to fight the good fight…
For it is Time who is no longer on our side….or so we have been warned.
The winds have shifted, the signs are real and the headiness of exuberance, need and necessity is all but waiting…for our time has come….
are we still willing to be the voice behind the story….
If not us, then who….

Here we have the great wonder of heaven and earth,
the prodigious excess of the love of God…
God became man without ceasing to be God.
This God-man is Jesus Christ and his name means Savior.

St. Louis de Montfort
The Love of Eternal Wisdom

a gift freely given

God has done everything; he has done the impossible:
he was made flesh. His all–
powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human understanding:
the Infinite has become a child, has entered the human family.
And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to him.”

Pope Benedict XVI


(Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2020)

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings,
but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people.
God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather,
his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof.
Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels,
where our piety anxiously keeps us away:
that is precisely where God loves to be.
There he confounds the reason of the reasonable;
there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be,
and no one can keep him from it.
Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous
that he does wonders where people despair,
that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous.
And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…
God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings.
God marches right in.
He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where
one would least expect them.
God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost,
the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded,
the weak and broken.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God is in the Manger:
Reflections on Advent and Christmas

And so He has come…

God of God
Light of Light
Very God of very God…

Begotten of woman, not made
Born man
Crucified
Dead
Buried
and yet Risen again for our Redemption and Deliverance

And so it is on this Christmas day…
this day of Light and Hope…that we find not only life…
but it is in that life that we must also find death…

For it is in the miracle of both life and death…
That of His birth, His life and eventually His death…
it is there that we actually find our most necessary Hope…

It is a hope found in both life and death—
of which each mingle together so blessedly and painfully…
yet oh so poignantly…
melding into that single transcendence of the Resurrection.

So on this Christmas day we are reminded, once again, that yes,
we are to rejoice…
We rejoice because we have each been invited to a grand banquet…
We have been invited to claim our rightful place at the table…
taking in all that is freely given and yet that which is gravely
undeserved…
but miraculously given nonetheless.

So in that Hope, found in both birth and death,
is a brilliance of illumination…scattering the
darkness from wherever it yearns to spread.

A great Light has shown in that darkness.
And that darkness scatters
because that Light has overcome the darkness.

Hope
Joy
Salvation
Redemption
Deliverence
Resurrection
Life…

All of which is offered to each man and woman, young and old,
sick and in-firmed, lofty and simple…underseved, yet a gift
freely given…

So yes, we are told to rejoice…

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Again I say,
Rejoice!

“What worthy return can we make for so great a condescension?
The One Only-begotten God, ineffably born of God,
entered the Virgin’s womb and grew and took the frame of poor humanity.
He who upholds the universe, within whom and through whom are all things,
was brought forth by common childbirth.
He at whose voice archangels and angels tremble,
and heaven and earth and all the elements of this world are melted,
was heard in childish wailing.
The Invisible and Incomprehensible,
whom sight and feeling and touch cannot measure, was wrapped in a cradle.”

St. Hilary of Poitiers

the mystery in misty memories

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved
and where all your yesteryears are buried deep,
leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can.
Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour
because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones,
vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud,
formidable from a distance.”

Beryl Markham


(a misty rising of the superman / Julie Cook / 2017)

(a timely tweaked re-post from 2017)

Whispers slip out from scented branches…
all while caught lingering between twinkling lights.

Each bauble, each ball, each special tangible memory calls out from ages past…
transporting the now to the then.

Broken, chipped, bent or faded…it matters not–
the flood of what once was cascades down upon the unexpected.

Voices long since silenced are suddenly as clear as a bell…
as a clock chimes upon a stocking draped mantle.

Each box, now reopened once again…
as each unearthed trinket is removed…
dusty and now worse for the wear from the years of in and out,
dangles precariously on a needle encrusted branch…
bridging both space and time…yet caught between a sea of red and green.

A story line begins to unravel….as a tale of love, loss and even hope sits
arranged, ever just so, inviting all to come behold.

For better or worse, we begin again…
Carrying on with and without…
and if we’re lucky, year in and year out…
a Mystery breaks through the barriers of both life and death.

And we are the better for that Mystery…

“The lack of mystery in our modern life is our downfall and our poverty.
A human life is worth as much as the respect it holds for the mystery.
We retain the child in us to the extent that we honor the mystery.
Therefore, children have open, wide-awake eyes,
because they know that they are surrounded by the mystery.
They are not yet finished with this world;
they still don’t know how to struggle along and avoid the mystery, as we do.
We destroy the mystery because we sense that here we reach the boundary
of our being,
because we want to be lord over everything and have it at our disposal,
and that’s just what we cannot do with the mystery…
Living without mystery means knowing nothing of the mystery of our own life,
nothing of the mystery of another person,
nothing of the mystery of the world;
it means passing over our own hidden qualities and those of others and the world.
It means remaining on the surface,
taking the world seriously only to the extent that it can be calculated
and exploited, and not going beyond the world of calculation and exploitation.
Living without mystery means not seeing the crucial processes of
life at all and even denying them.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

God Comes, again

“Into this world, this demented inn
in which there is absolutely no room for him at all,
Christ comes uninvited.”

Thomas Merton


(Caravaggio’s Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence / 1609 / Palermo, Italy)

(I found this little advent post from 2016 and found it still quite fitting for today)

“God Comes”

Pope Benedict XVI in his homily celebration of First Vespers
of the First Sunday of Advent
(Saturday, 2 December 2006)

“At the beginning of a new yearly cycle, the liturgy invites the Church to renew her
proclamation to all the peoples and sums it up in two words
‘God comes.’
These words, so concise, contain an ever new evocative power.

Let us pause a moment to reflect:
it is not used in the past tense—God has come,
nor in the future—God will come,
but in the present—‘God comes.’

At a closer look, this is a continuous present, that is, an ever-continuous action:
it happened, it is happening now and it will happen again.
In whichever moment, ‘God comes.’

The verb ‘to come’ appears here as a theological verb, indeed theological,
since it says something about God’s very nature.
Proclaiming that ‘God comes’ is equivalent, therefore, to simply announcing God himself,
through one of his essential and qualifying features: his being the God-who-comes.

Advent calls believers to become aware of this truth and to act accordingly.
It rings out as a salutary appeal in the days, weeks and months that repeat:
Awaken!
Remember that God comes!
Not yesterday,
not tomorrow,
but today,
now!

The one true God, ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,’
is not a God who is there in Heaven, unconcerned with us and our history,
but he is the-God-who-comes.
He is a Father who never stops thinking of us and, in the extreme respect of our freedom,
desires to meet us and visit us;
he wants to come, to dwell among us, to stay with us.
His ‘coming’ is motivated by the desire to free us from evil and death,
from all that prevents our true happiness.
God comes to save us.

The Fathers of the Church observe that the ‘coming’ of God—continuous and, as it were,
co-natural with his very being—is centered in the two principal comings of Christ:
his Incarnation
and
his glorious return at the end of time…
(cf. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis 15,1: PG 33, 870).

The Advent Season lives the whole of this polarity.

In the first days, the accent falls on the expectation of the Lord’s Final Coming,
as the texts of this evening’s celebration demonstrate.
With Christmas approaching, the dominant note instead is on
the commemoration of the event at Bethlehem,
so that we may recognize it as the ‘fullness of time.’

Between these two ‘manifested’ comings…
it is possible to identify a third,
which St. Bernard calls ‘intermediate’ and ‘hidden,’
and which occurs in the souls of believers and,
as it were,
builds a ‘bridge’ between the first and the last coming.”

We celebrate, we share, we rejoice…

When God came to this world, he did not leave heaven empty.
When he came to this world, he was not shaved down, whittled down to human proportions.
Rather, Christ was the life of God dwelling in human flesh.

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

Notice, too, that at the crib, only two classes of people found their
way to Christ when he came to this earth: the very simple, and the very learned—
the shepherds who knew that they knew nothing,
and the wise men who knew that they did not know everything;
never the man who thought that he knew.

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

“If we approach with faith, we too will see Jesus …
for the Eucharistic table takes the place of the crib.
Here the Body of the Lord is present, wrapped not in swaddling clothes but in the
rays of the Holy Spirit.”

St. John Chrysostom

East to West, West to East…and a very Merry Christmas to all!

The journey of the wise men took them from the east to the west…
and that’s the journey that Christianity took.
It started in Israel and it moves to Rome, the capital of the world.

Dr. Edmund Mazza
from Rediscovering Christmas


(ode to my world / Julie Cook / 2020)

Is that a bunch of presents, all tied up with a bow?
Oh.
No.
No, it’s not.
Wait, where’s the tree???
Is there a tree??

Yes, it’s in the basement, ready to be loaded on a truck.

What you’re seeing is just a small snippet of boxes and bubble wrapped pieces all
from a home ready for moving.

Who moves during a pandemic?
Obviously, we do.

This will be our last Christmas in a house that has witnessed 21 of our 37 Christmases.
Yet we’re off to see the Mayor and Sherrif for Christmas…so the cats will have to
carry on Christmas day without us.

The catnip is locked up!

The quote I used today by Dr. Mazza is somewhat technically true.
Things did seem to travel from east to west.

I somehow think that our Orthodox brethren might be able to agree on that eastern part—
as when we think of the east…we think ‘Eastern’ Orthodox…
However, they might dispute that notion of Rome being the capital of the world as
that capital kind of moved, at some point in ancient time, to Constantinople
(modern-day Istanbul)–

And of course it did sort of move back Rome’s way before it began heading off west again, spiraling, splintering and dividing– but I digress…
So we’ll just leave that footnote to be argued by the theologians and historians.

And so here I am in the west, preparing to move to the east.
Perhaps a bit backward…however by going east, I might just be heading back homeward.

Things are beginning to look barren and sparse.

Before:

After:

So as I live amongst the boxes and now travel over to share a magical time with both
the Mayor and Sheriff–
just know that I wish each of you a joyous, safe, healthy, and blessed Christmas!!!

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be
taken of the entire Roman world.
(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria).
And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea,
to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
He went there to register with Mary,
who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby,
keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;
he is the Messiah, the Lord.
This will be a sign to you:
You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel,
praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another,
“Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened,
which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby,
who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread
the word concerning what had been told them about this child,
and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things
they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

Luke 2:1-20

I love nurses–they exemplify everything God would like to see in us, His children.

Augustus was the son of a god and he asked the whole human race to swear loyalty
to him as “Father”.
It’s at this moment that God the Father sent the real Son of God into the world…
God works His providence even in the midst of human foibles.

Dr. Edmund Mazza
from Rediscovering Christmas


(Vampire day, again / Julie Cook / 2020)

Well you may remember my tale from about a month ago…
my tale about having to go siphon off an entire pound of blood due to being a
Hemochromatosis carrier.

A hemo what you ask…??

Well, it seems that my body hordes iron.

And who knew that the body only uses what it needs—if there is excess,
well, the body simply stores it up in the organs…where it sits.
Think of a balloon simply filling up with more and more air…
eventually, something has got to give!

The high end of a normal iron level in the blood is 150.
I was sitting at 330…therefore, I have to be milked like a cow in order to
bring my levels down.
Sadly, I do not do well with giving blood.
I never have.
My blood pressure tends to bottom out and I basically get quite sick just before I pass out.

So yesterday was once again vampire day.
I had to go give blood.

I go to the hospital’s infusion center.
Folks are here for their chemotherapy, needed antibiotics, phlebotomies,
needed fluids, steroids…you name it.

Many are cancer patients.
They walked slowly and were pale.
They were minus all hair and bundled up due to the cold.

Many were on walkers or canes.
They were both young and old.

Four of us are divvied up into a quad with hospital chairs in each corner of the quad.
Some curtains were drawn some were not.

The nurses greeted each patient by name.
Many knew the regulars…mainly those who were the chemo patients.
“Hey darling” you’d hear a warbly voice call out to a familiar nurse.

The rapport was enough to make you feel that you were missing out
on some glorious secret friendship.
I felt almost envious as there were many
“I love yous” and “I love you too”—each sincerely and genuinely shared.
An intimate special moment shared between caregiver and patient…
human being to human being.

“Honey, you want me to get you something to drink?”
“How bout a ginger ale?”
“How bout a diet ginger-ale…it’s all we have.”
“That would be perfect!”

Some patients had recently undergone amputations due to infections or diabetes.
They were there to receive high-powered antibiotics.

“Mr. Gentry, we’ll see you back here on Christmas day, ok?”
“Christmas Day, really?!”
“Yes sir, we’ll be here…and so will you, you hear me?!”
“Well only if you wear your hair down…”
It seems that elderly Mr. Gentry, getting about on his walker, is a bit of a rounder
with these ladies—and they all seemed to love it.

He had part of his foot amputated this past week after having cut his foot this past summer
at the lake while playing with his grandkids.
These nurses were all well aware of his hijinks and played right into his devious intentions.
Mr. Gentry needs high-powered intravenous antibiotics every day for a couple of weeks.

I was enjoying soaking in these conversations all the while as I was slowly losing a part
of myself into a plastic bag dangling on the floor.

I really do ok up until the very end of my time being hooked up like a gas pump.
Right before I’m finished filling up the bag, that’s when things go downhill.

And true to form, today my BP fell to 63 over 34.
And true to their form, the nurses who saw all color fade from my body, came racing over
in order to flip my chair up so I was practically on my head,
they next threw a cold washcloth on my head.
They handed me a green puke bag…which thankfully I did not have to use.
My curtain wasn’t drawn and I would have hated being the show of my quad.

All of this was taking place while the nurses changed out the lines and immediately
began administering a bag of fluids.

It is amazing what these fluids can do.

I go from passing out and near-death to right back to the life of the living.

Slowly my BP climbed, but then oddly it dipped again.

This time it didn’t rebound like it did last time.
I didn’t rebound like I did last time.

The nurse had to walk me out to my car this time as I was still a bit woozy headed.

“Go straight home.”
“But I need to go to the grocery store.”
“Do that later!”

But before the nurses pulled my head up off the floor, one nurse came by each chair in our quad
and handed each patient a simple candy cane.
She made certain that each patient saw the story printed on the wrapper…
the story of the candy cane.

You can say what you want to say about Christianity and spirituality within such a setting…
You can throw in your sarcasm about faith in fairytales…but I will tell you one thing…
the folks in those chairs each appreciated their candy cane, mattered not their faith or creed–
they appreciated its story and the fact that one human being was offering hope to those whose
hope was starting to run on empty.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
1 Peter 4:10

Oh do, let us come adore HIM!!

Christmas must mean more to us every year,
and we must not be afraid of immersing ourselves in its joy.

Mother Mary Francis
from Come, Lord Jesus


(my mom’s porcelain carolers / Julie Cook 2014)

Yes, let’s be not afraid—not afraid to sing our praises to the birth of our Savior.

Adeste fideles
læti triumphantes,
venite, venite in Bethlehem
natum videte
regem angelorum.
Venite adoremus,
venite adoremus,
venite adoremus,
Dominum.

O come, all ye faithful,
joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold him,
born the king of angels.

Refrain:
O come let us adore him,
O come let us adore him,
O come let us adore him,
Christ the Lord.

2 True God of true God,
Light of light eternal,
our lowly nature he hath not abhorred;
born of a woman,
here in flesh appearing.
[Refrain]

3 Sing, choirs of angels,
sing in exultation,
sing, all ye citizens of heav’n above:
“Glory to God,
all glory in the highest!”
[Refrain]

4 Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
born this happy morning,
Jesus, to thee be all glory giv’n;
Word of the Father,
begotten, not created.
[Refrain]

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant
Author (attributed to): John Francis Wade; Translator: Frederick Oakeley (1841; alt)
Tune: ADESTE FIDELES

the best kind of ‘extremes’

“If you wish to go to extremes, let it be in sweetness, patience,
humility and charity.”

St. Philip Neri


(one of my first Christmas ornaments, circa 1963 / Julie Cook / 2014)

“Augustine drew out the meaning of the manger using an idea that at first seems almost shocking,
but on closer examination contains a profound truth.
The manger is the place where animals find their food.
But now, lying in the manger, is he who called himself the true bread come down from heaven,
the true nourishment that we need in order to be fully ourselves.
This is the food that gives us true life, eternal life.
Thus the manger becomes a reference to the table of God,
to which we are invited so as to receive the bread of God.
From the poverty of Jesus’ birth emerges the miracle in which man’s redemption
is mysteriously accomplished.”

Pope Benedict XVI, p. 68
An Excerpt From
Jesus of Nazareth Infancy

something greater than

“He who carries God in his heart bears heaven with him wherever he goes.”
St. Ignatius of Loyola


(one of my first Sunday School homemade ornaments circa 1961 / a picture from ourn tree 2014)

God would have given us something greater if he had something greater than Himself.
St. John Vianney