How we continue to make God into matter…and does it matter?

We try to make Jesus present…
Gavin Ashenden

Firstly—yes, it does matter that man continues to attempt to make God into matter…
because that means that where the spark of the Creator remains,
the created continue to seek Him…

I was so very blessed yesterday when I got to watch the video, included below,
that was actually an interview between Bishop Gavin Ashenden and the British journalist
Rodney Hearth concerning the good bishop’s observation regarding the fire at Notre Dame.

Bishop Ashenden does a marvelous job of sorting through this emotional event from the lens
of a Protestant…

Contrary to popular belief, Anglicans / Episcopalians are Protestants…
and as I’ve tried explaining before, Catholics are not some sort of two-headed monster.

I’ve grievously come to realize that many of the Protestant faith do not understand
why everyone is making such a to do over the fire at Norte Dame.

Sadly they do not see the relevance to their own faith.

And that is in part…a lost lesson in history.

Yet I am not here today to teach but rather to share.

The good Bishop explains that humankind has always attempted to make God into what
we all can comprehend…that being matter–the same of which we are made.

This is why the ancient churches and cathedrals were built—man reaching upward
to the unseen Creator—a tangible to the nontangible.

With regard to this very tragic and very public fire,
the good Bishop notes the significance of fire and the Christian faith as a
“Theology of Fire.”

He also shares the observation of crisis—of which this fire was…
as it is just one more piece to the crisis of the collective Church in Europe,

Crisis in Greek, κρίσις, translates to judgment.

And when we stand in judgment, we are exposed to God’s fire—
It is a fire that burns away the dross… that of our sin—
It burns but it equally cleanses when we repent…becasue we are cleansed by a Holy fire.

But on the other hand, if we do not repent, we are also exposed to Holy fire—
however, this is the fire of Holy Judgement and in that unrepentance,
we are cast into an unending inferno.

It was not lost on either of the men that ironically, there is a symbol of Christianity
burning on an island that was flanked on either side by the right and the left banks…

In the reality of the current battle being waged by the culture gods of secular relativism
as they strive to prevail, working earnestly to erase any vestige of our Judaeo / Christian
heritage…the Left fights the Right over which values our culture must embrace—all the while,
in between these two warring factions sits the Church— engulfed in a raging inferno.

The key question to Christians and to all of Christianity, a question I continue to ask—-
how will we, the faithful, respond?

“Interpreting the great fire of Notre Dame.” Gavin Ashenden in conversation with Rodney Hearth.

Before and after…the question

The south facade of Notre Dame before the fire…


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

Now the upper portion of the same facade, after the fire…


(Associated Press)

Despite the brilliant blue sky, the delightfully warm late afternoon sun,
a heaviness continued to linger…

I dumped a portion of the hardwood chunks of charcoal into the grill then used the
lighter to ignite the charcoal.

When the soft yellow-orange glow began, I closed the lid, cracking open the vents while I
proceeded to wait.

Soon enough, I opened the lid as the flames rose while the burning wood chips popped
and crackled.

I stared down into the grill, filled with those yellow-orange licking flames,
while I purposely and intently listened to the sounds of both fire and wood.

My thoughts seemed to have gotten stuck on an unseen replay button…
replaying the scenes from yesterday’s images of both Notre Dame and of the fire.

I thought of each trip, over the past decades of my life,
that I have walked into that cavernous and overwhelmingly
historic and spiritual “house” of worship.

The sounds of my own footsteps echoing off the soaring stone walls and massive pillars
as my steps reverberated against the barrel vault high above my head.

Awe stopped me in my tracks as my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting
while the hints of pungent incense lingered in my nostrils.

I grappled with the magnitude of the historical and the physical while my mind
wrapped around the Spiritual impetus for this seemingly gargantuan whale that
had suddenly swallowed me whole.

The rising flames in the grill jerked me back to the present and my need
to get about my grilling supper…

I would say that this historic and catastrophic fire is proving devastating
on a great many levels.

The world is painfully mourning an iconic cultural loss.
Paris is mourning a devastating loss of an iconic piece of her home’s heart.
As we the world mourn both an artistic and architectural loss.

The proverbial bucket list destination for tourists and one of the spiritual
pilgrimage destinations on the lists of the faithful is now forever changed…
just as much of humankind is now changed.

But what I think is even more important, the fire has shaken loose a deeply hidden
sense of loss found in most of Western Civilization…it is a loss on a subconscious level
that we’ve never been able to put our finger on…
a loss that has long existed…one we have subconsciously known
was there but yet we didn’t know.

It is the loss of our Christian Spirituality…
our Spirituality that we have allowed to slip from, not merely our
hands, but from our very psyches and souls.

Yesterday I offered a response to a friend’s comment on my day’s post regarding
the fire and that comment has now lingered in my thoughts…

“someone I was listening to last night posed the question—– and I’ll paraphrase-
‘With so much of Europe becoming so secularized—–we’re seeing these massive ancient bastions
of Christian faith becoming more and more like museums rather than houses of worship.
With everyone now clamoring to rebuild…
the question we must be asking ourselves is what are we rebuilding?

Are we rebuilding a museum that lost so much art, etc…art that can never be replaced…
or are we rebuilding a church, a house of worship?…

I find that to be the very key question for our very postmodern Christian selves”

It is not lost on me that we are in the midst of the most Holiest of weeks within
all of Christendom while in the midsts of an ever-shrinking Christian faith
in our culture.

This fire is yet another visceral image of our own human tragedy and the fall of man.

It shakes loose our hidden sense of grief and loss over our flailing and fragile faith.

Christ descended into the depths of a raging fire of our very sin…
and on the third day, He rose from those ashes…

May we now use this sense of loss and grief, allowing our faith to be rekindled as we too rise
upward out of the ashes of what has become such a sinful loss…

Loss no more..but only gain…as the spire rises again…

“So you’re giving up?
That’s it?
Okay, okay. We’ll leave you alone, Quasimodo.
We just thought, maybe you’re made up of something much stronger.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The gift Giver who allows you to set the world on fire

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
St. Catherine of Siena


(plover along the surf /Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cool / 2019)

“Love is a strong force — a great good in every way;
it alone can make our burdens light, and alone it bears in equal balance what is pleasing and displeasing.
It carries a burden and does not feel it; it makes all that is bitter taste sweet. …
Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing higher, nothing stronger, nothing larger, nothing more joyful,
nothing fuller, nothing better in heaven or on earth;
for love is born of God and can find its rest only in God above all He has created.
Such lovers fly high, run swiftly and rejoice.
Their souls are free; they give all for all and have all in all.
For they rest in One supreme Goodness above all things, from Whom all other good flows and proceeds.
They look not only at the gifts, but at the Giver, Who is above all gifts.”

Thomas à Kempis, p. 108
An Excerpt From
The Imitation of Christ

Seize us oh Lord

“You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You.
Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back.
Kindle and seize us.
Be our fire and our sweetness.
Let us love.
Let us run.”

St. Augustine


(flower stall / Zurich, Switzerland /Julie Cook / 2018)

“When you sit down to eat, pray.
When you eat bread, do so thanking Him for being so generous to you.
If you drink wine,
be mindful of Him who has given it to you for your pleasure and as a relief in sickness.
When you dress, thank Him for His kindness in providing you with clothes.
When you look at the sky and the beauty of the stars,
throw yourself at God’s feet and adore Him who in His wisdom has arranged things in this way.
Similarly, when the sun goes down and when it rises,
when you are asleep or awake, give thanks to God,
who created and arranged all things for your benefit, to have you know,
love and praise their Creator.”

St. Basil the Great

how a panic gets started…

“I always thought a shipwreck was a well-organized affair,
but I’ve learned the devil a lot in the last five minutes.”

Erik Larson, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


(a decadent chocolate treat from The Confiserie Sprüngli / Zurich, Switzerland /
Julie Cook / 2012)

I think most of us know that it is unlawful to yell “FIRE” in a crowded
public venue when there is actually no fire.

The original use of the phrase “shouting fire in a crowded theater” actually
dates back to a Supreme Court case from 1919.
It was a case that dealt with the distribution of anti-war pamphlets and whether such
an act was a violation of the original Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917 / 1918—
and was such an act in opposition, as well as a violation, of free speech or was it considered ‘a clear and present danger.’

It was actually Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who coined the phrase when
he wrote the unanimous ruling over the case.

And according to Wikipedia:
People have indeed falsely shouted “Fire!” in crowded public venues and
caused panics on numerous occasions, such as at the Royal Surrey Gardens Music Hall
of London in 1856, a theater in New York’s Harlem neighborhood in 1884,
and in the Italian Hall disaster of 1913, which left 73 dead.
In the Shiloh Baptist Church disaster of 1902, over 100 people died when
“fight” was misheard as “fire” in a crowded church causing a panic and stampede.

All of this came flooding back to the forefront of thought when I saw a news report
with the near cataclysmic title
“Start Hoarding! Chocolate on Track to Disappear in 40 Years”

WHAT????

Chocolate gone in 40 years????

We might just say down here in the South, “thems fighting words”

After reading that title I felt a sudden urge to run to the kitchen, throw open
all the kitchen cabinet doors and take immediate stock of all the chocolate I have
stashed away for baking purposes….
Do I need to run the the grocery store and purge the shelves of 70% Cacao bars for all
my baking and dessert purposes????

Visions of pandemonium breaking out on the candy aisle at the local grocery store
as visions of a bunch of older ladies on walkers and kids with sneakers that light up fighting over bags of M&M’s…not a pretty picture.

And so goes the latest in a string of earth shattering headlines that when all
is shifted and shaked out…are not exactly as life shattering or life ending as
the words allude.

Clicking on the story and reading the tale behind these alarming headlines and
whereas the dwindling supply of chocolate is truly a real concern…
the headlines are not as dismal nor as damning as they lead one to believe.

And therein lies our trouble.

Sensationalism.

The “news” media has learned that they can grab and stir up the masses into
a frenzy of epic proportions with just a couple of carefully lined up words.

And we, the receivers, fall hook, line and sinker to the gurus of verbiage.

The moral of this tale you ask…..
well perhaps it is two fold…..
Firstly do not take headlines at face value….

In education we call such headlines “a hook”—-as in it grabs your audience…
pulling the recipient quickly into a state of curiosity while knowing that they,
your target audience, will be naturally curious… wanting to know more,
experience more, participate more….

And secondly–yes, in the reality of life, the cocoa plant is in peril….
yet is the peril as grave as we are being lead to believe?

I think the jury is still out on that….
and therefore, it would behoove us to be a bit more cautionary when it comes
to feeling the need to race to the store…grabbing up those precious bags of M&Ms
out of the hands of the grandparents and those fighting grandchildren…

https://www.usatoday.com/videos/news/world/2018/01/02/start-hoarding-chocolate-track-disappear-40-years/109090682/?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=usatodaycomworld-topstories

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

we didn’t start the fire

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Billy Joel


(image courtesy ABC News / Santa Clarita fire of 2016)

I agree we didn’t start the fire,
but…..
I’m not so certain that I agree with Billy Joel that we’ve really tried to fight it.

I see the current images of protesters, marchers, demonstrators…
full of contempt and vile discord.
I see the looting, the vandalism, the cars overturned,
the broken glass, the fires started…
once again, in the name of cause.

I hear the rhetoric of anti this and anti that…
the blaming, the finger pointing,the divisive dismissal of one human to another…

Maybe your mindset is that none of this is your fault.
You didn’t cause any of this to happen.
For better of worse you and me, we’ve merely inherited this mess….
right?

As each generation bemoans the generation before it while present generations
opine about the future…

Rather than igniting new fires, fueling fires or fanning fires…
all of which this country has gotten really good at doing,
perhaps it would behoove all of us to simply start extinguishing the fires…..

The one who sins is the one who will die.
The child will not share the guilt of the parent,
nor will the parent share the guilt of the child.
The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them,
and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.

Ezekiel 18:20

The work in becoming

I have but shadowed forth my intense longing to lose myself in the Eternal and become merely a lump of clay in the Potter’s divine hands so that my service may become more certain because uninterrupted by the baser self in me.”
Mahatma Gandhi

“I want to help you to grow as beautiful as God
meant you to be when He thought of you first.”

― George MacDonald

Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.

Isaiah 64:8

DSCN1720
(an area of bog being dug…peat bogs, the spongy base which makes up so much of Ireland is dug up, cut or formed into bricks, dried and used for fuel, it is also becoming a medium for artists who sculpt and carve beautiful images from the intense black bog / somewhere along Gleann Cholm Cille / County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Any potter, ceramist, or sculptor will tell you that before there is a mug, a plate, a bowl, a vase, a statue, a figurine, a sculpture…
there is a lot of digging, mixing, processing, rolling, watering, wedging, pushing, shoving, beating, slapping, pinching, moulding, slamming, overlapping, smashing, smushing, forming, pulling, prying, poking, smoothing, burning, cooking, heating, coloring, glazing….

Clay…before it becomes something of beauty or of purpose, or even both, must first go through a complete overhaul–both physically as well as molecularly. It is considered to be a perfect medium in the minds of many an artist as it is forgiving, up to a point, and can be transformed into almost anything…

A naturally occurring raw product taken directly from the earth, add in a little refinement, then placed in just the right hands, a seemingly magical if not mystical transformation from mere dirt and a little water, emerges into something of both practical use and amazing beauty. A new creation emerging from something initially so simple, mostly overlooked and certainly taken for granted… with just the needed and necessary work, results in an amazing metamorphosis.

Is it then any wonder that man is so often compared to clay which has been given over the hands of the master Creator?
That which was formed from dust and ash…
In the heavenly eyes of the One True Creator, a raw natural product, incomplete and in great need of forming, shaping, prodding, moulding, firing and finishing…

That when eventually transformed, becomes a thing of beauty that is both strong and fragile all rolled into one.

We live our entire lives in the hands of the One who works tirelessly and lovingly forming, shaping, reshaping, heating and coaxing out that which is within.
Forever patient, as is any potter, He tenderly yet persistently works and reworks His clay into a thing of wonder.

It is however a life long process, one not always realized—this forming, moulding, making and becoming….
At times it is most painful and difficult, trying and even excruciating… yet when all is said and done, the final result is indeed a treasure to behold…

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:15-16

Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.”
So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel.
But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands;
so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
Then the word of the Lord came to me.
He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.
Jeremiah 8:2-6