what is love?

We do not understand the Cross if we do not understand sin.
If we deny there is sin, the Cross loses its meaning.
That is why it is difficult in our time to speak about the Cross.
One no longer knows what sin is.

Fr. Wilfred Stinissen, OCD
from The Holy Spirit, Fire of Divine Love

What is love?
Baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt, me no more
Baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt, me no more
What is love? Yeah

lyrics by Hadaway

This past weekend my husband and I had the privilege of attending not one but actually two
different weddings.

There was one on Saturday evening and one on Sunday evening.

The one on Saturday took place at a lovely and tranquil farm, turned wedding venue, located
out in the rural countryside of West Georgia where both bobwhite and songbird joined
cheerfully in with the festivities.

The second wedding was on Sunday evening and it was also at an outdoor venue tucked deep in the
West Georgia woods which overlooked the soft rolling green hills…this while rumbles of
distant thunder gently reverberated between the “I dos”.
The vows were stated in what was a state of the art horse paddock perched high above a peaceful
lake where we had all gathered due to the threat of rain.

Both officiants/ministers spoke a familiar theme…that being the theme of the day, love.

Saturday’s officiant, a college minister, actually called up Michael Curry by name, the now
“infamous” Episcopal cleric who was invited to speak at the Royal wedding.
This college minister invoked much of the same line of thinking as the Bishop’s
during the Royal wedding yet giving the obvious nod to the fact that this current
wedding was between a Kentucky boy and Georgia peach.

I found myself shifting a bit uncomfortably in my chair as the mockingbird
overhead began, as if on cue, to sing.
“Really?!” I was thinking to myself.
“Did he just really head in that direction right here, right now, in this
peaceful meadow setting!?”
The words I heard grousing from that little-unamused voice inside my head.

This college minister, who had been the minister of this young couple throughout their college
tenure, echoed much of what Bishop Curry had said to both Prince Harry and Megan Markle…
with that being the pure unbridled all-encompassing power of love…

And his take was very much the same as that of the bishop’s in that his offering was
the same notion of an idealized jumble of both romantic and erotic love which seems to be
able to carry one and all through a married life….but the thing is it won’t.

It is a type of love that is in actuality very fleeting.

His was the notion being that joy and celebration which is found in romantic love,
could carry a couple throughout a lifetime together while
forgetting that once the shine and glitter fade,
a couple would be left staring at one another wondering what’s next.

It is a current cultural notion of love that Bishop Gavin Ashenden notes as
“the more it glitters, the more it’s good.”

The second officiant at Sunday’s wedding also spoke of love.
Because what else brings us to a wedding but what we hope is indeed love?!

But rather than going on about all that glitters being gold, the officiant was rather more
matter of fact.
He noted that marriage is not the end but rather the beginning of the journey…
and it is not always going to be the smoothest or clearest of travels.

He reminded this couple, along with the rest of us,
that there will be times that things will be hard.
Times when that romantic love and erotic love will have long since faded.
Because of time, life and even the separation of distance due to life’s varying circumstances
will each interfere with that initial love of romance which had brought them
to this spot on this particular day in the first place…
he reminded all of us that it is at this point that love
usually has to roll up its sleeves.

He then had the couple do something I’ve never seen before and was unfamiliar with.

Obviously, days before the ceremony he had previously told both bride and groom to sit down
and write a letter to one another.
A letter about what their relationship meant to them and how and why it had brought them
to this particular place…the place of marriage and a day in which they would commit
themselves one to another.

There was a wooden box on the makeshift altar along with a bottle of wine.
He explained to all of us gathered how he had asked them to write the letters but that
the letters were sealed and they had not yet shared them with one another.
In front of all of us he asked them to take the sealed envelopes and place them into the box.
He then placed the bottle of wine in the box and sealed it all up.

He told us that tradition dictated that they were to,
in a year’s time on the day of their first anniversary, open the box,
read the letters and then make a toast to themselves.

But…

Should they, at any point before the year’s time had passed,
find themselves in a place of darkness, they were to open the box and read the letters.

I rather liked that idea.

Looking back…recalling my younger self, my very immature younger self, I know full well that
what I had was an idealized vision of what both marriage and love were all about.

I think the glitter wore off on the honeymoon when we were at the beach for a week…a place
I now know my husband of 35 years was none too keen to be.
But we were there because his sister told him that’s where we needed to go.
He had actually wanted to go out west.
If he had thought to ask me, I would have voted on out west.

But here’s the thing.
Relationships, loving, growing…
they all take learning.

It takes learning to know…learning in knowing to ask, learning how to ask, learning when to ask,
learning how to speak up, learning when to speak up, learning when to be quiet,
learning when to share and learning when to listen.

It is a journey of growth.

Relationships are hard.
Love is even harder.

I think of those song lyrics listed above…“baby don’t hurt me”
But the thing is Love does often hurt…
Just ask anyone who has ever lost a loved one and whose heart now aches.

Love is not glamorous nor is it that of a fairytale.
There is a reason we are asked “for richer and for pooer…in sickness and in health”

Poorer and sickness are both hard and painful.
They are not pleasant, fun nor easy.
They aren’t pretty to see, pleasant to hear nor are they, at times, easy to even smell.

Love can appear to be very ugly at times because life can be ugly…

But here’s the thing…
Love, that day on Golgotha, was not pretty.
It was painful, it was lonely, it was bloody and it was dying.
And yet that dying Love actually went to Hell in order to do battle.
It was love in its most pure and rawest form.

And the thing is, it won.

And so what we now know is that because of that Love, that battered and bruised Love,
our love today, when battered and beaten, can actually be cleaned up,
repolished and made anew.

It will not be easy.
Nor will it always be pretty…but in the end, it is well worth it.

Here’s to the happy couples!

Below is a link to a 5-minute interview between Rod Liddle, a jounalist for the Sunday Times,
and Bishop Gavin Ashenden regarding the Bishop’s concern from
the wedding speech now heard round the world.

Rod Liddle Interviews Gavin Ashenden in the Sunday Times – on the Wedding Sermon.

And also here is a link to the latest offering by our friend the Wee Flea as he provides us
with a breakdown of the same sermon and how it is now dividing Evangelical Christians.

How Bishop Curry’s Sermon Revealed the Four Evangelical Tribes

Submit yourselves, then, to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7

high roads

“The high road is something very, very long, of which one cannot see
the end – like human life, like human dreams.
There is an idea in the open road,
but what sort of idea is there in travelling with posting tickets?
Posting tickets mean an end to ideas.
Vive la grande route and then as God wills.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky


(on the road to Crater Lake, Oregon / Julie Cook / 2013)

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because it is becoming more and more a road less traveled.

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because our mothers, fathers, grandparents, teachers once told us to.

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because taking the high road never means that we’re better than anyone else,
it just means that we’re working that much harder at bettering ourselves.

The high road is a more difficult climb.
The high road is much harder to traverse.
The high road will push us to our limits.
The high road is what we want our children to take.

Yet the high road takers are most often scoffed at by those on the lower roads.
The high road takers are most often forgotten by those on the lower roads.
Because the high road is often very lonely…

Yet the examples of those low road moments are far too numerous these days…

A most recent example was just the other day when a senator from New York was
addressing a crowd at New York University and opted to use her time with a
captive young audience by offering a profanity laced speech about the current
President.
The F word was front and center throughout her speech…
as she flippantly told the crowd that
“it’s okay, because this is a younger audience.”

No, Madame Senator that doesn’t make it ok for you to be lazy with your
choice of words in order to simply make an impact, to shock or garner generational points.
It does not make it okay for you to be trite, foul, offensive,
or seemingly one with your more impressionable audience.
For by taking this lower road, this easier road, you insult the intelligence
of your audience by opting to lower yourself and your standards by dumbing down your
address.

It is never okay to season a delivery with profanity because by doing so
cheapens ones words and ones true meaning.
It is a delivery of less than rather than of real substance

It is to those sound adults who these youthful ones must look as they seek examples
of what they should aspire to emulate.
Examples of grace, dignity, restraint, humility are much more preferable to anger,
crudeness, bitterness as well as a lack of decorum and respect.

Because it takes very little effort and is exceedingly easy to simply drop one’s
self lower rather than exerting the necessary energy to raise everyone else up.
And in so doing a disservice is done to everyone.
Because opting to take the lower road is in actuality a thinly veiled self serving act.

As that is exactly what we are witnessing—a society that prefers to go lower rather
than higher…because it’s the easiest path of the perceived least resistance.

So why should we opt to that higher road?
For it is the high road that helps us to reach our fullest potential as a human being.
And in so doing by taking that higher road,
we do so while following Christ as he carries his cross up the hill of Golgotha.

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.

Psalm 15

I need a hero

“Great heroes need great sorrows and burdens,
or half their greatness goes unnoticed.
It is all part of the fairy tale.”

Peter S. Beagle

“Even death is going to die!”
― Sally Lloyd-Jones

animalsweaters18_3
(a sweater wearing little goat jumps from a hay bale as seen on the Weather Channel from Farm Sanctuary image 2014)

Look up, in the sky…
It’s a bird…
It’s a plane…
No….
it’s Super…. goat??!!

Well… maybe that’s not exactly the hero you were hoping for….
albeit…it’s a pretty darn cute one…

For who among us hasn’t, at some time or other, longed for a cape crusader who would
come flying into our lives… ready to save the day…
Or perhaps even more aptly…
save us from ourselves…

“I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night
He’s gotta be strong
And he’s gotta be fast
And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight”

Song lyrics by Bonnie Tyler most recently heard and seen used in the KIA car commercial
showcasing Melissa McCarthy being called in to come save the whales, then the rhinos, etc
…with all calls being met with dire consequences for the heroine McCarthy…

Yet who among us hasn’t at some point in life looked up hoping to see someone, anyone,
swooping in who would have all the answers…
all the solutions…
the one person who possessed that magic bullet…that remedy, that saving hope…

Someone who would come to the rescue and who could stop all the craziness…
stopping all the bad guys,
stopping all the hurting,
stopping all the madness….

And it just so happens that we may have to look no further than to a small mountain bald
outside of the gates of old Jerusalem…

looking no further to….
Gagultâ… in Aramaic
Golgotha… in Greek Γολγοθᾶς
Calvariæ Locus… in Latin
Calvary… in English…

Otherwise known as simply ‘the place of the skull’…

For it was here on this bare outcropping of desolate land,
known to locals as the cap of the skull,
that just a little over 2000 years ago, a real hero,
nay the only true hero who has ever lived,
was put to death.

But, as most would imagine,
our hero’s story was not merely finished with his being put to death.
Absolutely far from the end….
Because the story was truly only beginning…

For it was in the death of this hero that our own endings, our own loss of life,
our own deaths….
were defeated…

Meaning, death would be no more….

No longer would death be a forever closed ending…
of which we have all so imagined things to be…
A permanent ending of a black hole sucking in all life…into the aphotic void of total
impenetrable light or hope…

But rather…in this death of our hero…
was to be found…
a beginning….
our beginning…
and a beginning not just for our hero, but for all who so choose….

And so it is to the cross where we are look in order to find our hero…

crusifixion-669x470

“If man had his way, the plan of redemption would be an endless and bloody conflict.
In reality, salvation was bought not by Jesus’ fist, but by His nail-pierced hands;
not by muscle but by love; not by vengeance but by forgiveness;
not by force but by sacrifice.
Jesus Christ our Lord surrendered in order that He might win;
He destroyed His enemies by dying for them and conquered death by
allowing death to conquer Him.”

― A.W. Tozer

submission

It is, perhaps, one of the hardest struggles of the Christian life to learn this sentence –
“Not unto us,
not unto us,
but unto Thy name be glory.”

– Charles Spurgeon

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(image of Mary, Illuminated Manuscript)

Jesus.
The name of our Lord and of my Order [The Society of Jesus]
shall be the first word I write in the New Year.
The name stands for all the things I desire when I pray, believe and hope;
for inner and outer redemption;
for relaxation of all the selfish tensions and limitations I place
in the way of the free dialogue with God,
all the barriers to voluntary partnership and surrender without reserve:
and for a speedy release from these horrible fetters.
The whole situation is so palpably unjust;
things I have neither done nor even known about are keeping me here in prison. ”

The name Jesus stands also for all that I intended to do in the world,
and still hope to do among mankind. To save, to stand by ready to give immediate help,
to have goodwill towards all men, and to serve them. I still owe much to so many.

And in conclusion the Order, too, is embraced in my invocation of this name–
the Order which has admitted me to its membership.
May it be personified in me.
I have pledged myself to Jesus as his loving comrade and blood-brother.

The Name stands for passionate faith, submission, selfless effort and service.

Excerpt from Fr. Alfred Delp’s diary
January 1, 1945

In 1944, at the time of Father Delp’s arrest and subsequent trial for treason against the Nazi State,
the young Jesuit’s date for his profession of his final vows as a priest had been
indefinitely postponed.
And as Hitler had decreed that no priest was to study for the priesthood,
as he had shuttered all seminaries, Delp’s friends arranged to have a priest, a confrere
with full support of the German Catholic Church, visit Delp while in prison in Berlin.
He would hear Delp’s profession and receive him fully into his order.

The visiting priest, Father Tattenbach,
knew that he had to disguise his visit as merely a sympathetic gesture offered to
a condemned prisoner.
The visit could have no whiff of official Church business as such had been long outlawed.
Nor could he let it be known what the two men were actually doing.
He also feared that the prison guards would be suspicious especially as the vows
were to be made in Latin…
he worried the guards would think that they talking in code while passing secrets.

So Fr Tattenbach explained that he was going to be praying with Fr Delp in Latin
and actually wrote out what he would be saying in German…
yet the guards remained suspicious hovering about as the two men
entered into a sacred, holy and solemn moment in time…
and oddly allowed the two men to conduct their most important “prayer session”…

To be submissive.

It is a word that is growing ever more difficult to act upon as our
society deems the act of submission to be a serious and egregious act of weakness…
Something that is to be scorned, reviled and forbidden.

The negative connotations associated with acts of submission are endless.
Particularly as the militant feminist movement has cast the word into the realm of all things taboo.
As they claim that the very word seethes with all things vile and odious in nature.

Yet throughout this season of Advent,
we are constantly reminded of what complete and utter submission looks like.
It begins in the form of Mary’s selfless, obedient and submissive willingness to play a part in God’s grand plan…
spanning the chasm of time to the Springtime reminder of that same selfless,
obedient and submissive willingness offered freely by her son as he walks from
the start of his life in that obscure stable to his destiny on Golgotha.

And thankfully there remains those few souls among us who make wide their beings…
opening and allowing for the totally emptying of self.
They forgo all aspects of their own wellbeing…
in turn allowing for the betterment of all humankind… at the cost of their own existence.
They act as our polestar.

And just as Father Delp demonstrated,
with hands chained and a noose waiting to be placed around his neck,
submission to the service of God is an act so much greater than any fettered or
tethered limitation imposed by man.

So may we, this season of Advent, learn the importance of submission…
May we be both strong and courageous as we learn to yield our hearts, minds and our very beings
to the will of the One True God…

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.
For there is no authority except from God,
and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

Romans 13:1