Caritas

“Intelligence and love are not in separate compartments:
love is rich in intelligence and intelligence is full of love.”

Pope Benedict XVI, Charity in Truth: Caritas in Veritate


(a modern day icon depicting Saints Benedict and his sister Scholastica)

Ok so if the truth be told, I have about 6 or so posts in the making just sitting in
the draft pile waiting for expansion and or completion.
Much like the pile of books that I keep accumulating…
the must-reads that must be prioritized…
add a heavy and liberal dose of life…
and thus so many good things are simply left hanging and or waiting…

But as I am a strong believer in the power of the Holy Spirit,
there will always be a good nudging or even a shove into the direction I need to go.

So since today (yesterday for those reading this as intended on Sunday)
February 10th is the feast day of St Scholastica.

“Who??” you’re probably asking…
We’ll get to her in a minute.

Sometimes I am so tired or weary when putting the finishing touches on a post
that in my strained eyed state, I’ll push publish rather than preview well before it’s time…
In turn, sending myself into a fit of near hysteria as I try to undo what I have
erroneously done lest anyone pop onto a half-finished and more ill edited post
than they should.

Add to my posting troubles that my favorite clerics,
all who oddly are each located on the Isle of Great Britain…
those being that delightfully rouge Anglican Bishop, that no-fuss,
no holds barred free Presbyterian Pastor and that rather conservative Orthodox Australian
Catholic monk stuck in the middle of the UK…
each has been serving up more than the ample plate of refreshing and deeply
heartening truths—all of which is making me run around like some sort of chicken
with my head cut off as I’m finding myself hard pressed just trying to keep up—
Trying to discern and pick what I must in turn digest and later share…

Father, or rather Dom, Hugh offers a most intriguing Latin-based themed post entitled
Contemplatio, Consideratio & Caritas—
or for us laymen, contemplation, consideration, and love, or charity,
whichever word you’d like to use.

Fr Hugh focuses in on St Benedict of Nursia and Benedict’s sister St Scholastica,
along with the power of prayer and what is the true nature of our actions and prayers.

St Benedict is considered to be the father of Western Monasticism and is the patron
Saint of Europe. A saint whose current job,
I would suspect, is quite busy given the growing secularism sweeping
across Europe but that’s a post for another day…
like I say, waiting in the queue.

This saintly brother-sister duo was born and raised in Itlay,
in what is modern-day Norcia, sometime
in the 5th century. Some historians believe the two had been twins,
others merely note them being merely brother and sister.

Benedict is probably best known for his Rule of Benedict.
A playbook of how to live…in a monastery….
but whereas it is most a relevant and practical book for those living a cloistered life,
it is also a book most relevant for those of us outside of the monastery.

This little book is still in huge demand and is widely read today.
In fact, many businesses have adopted Benedict’s Rule as part of a guiding
and directional tool for their employees.

The good Father relays the teaching found in the homily offered on the feast day
of St Scholastica during their morning mass.
Where the notion of Contemplatio, Consideratio & Caritas was put before the gathered monks.

The abbot offering the homily tries to explain the balance between body and soul,
prayer and our often misguided practicalities…

“Put another way, it is to apply the primacy of love to any situation;
not the schmaltzy love favoured in muzak, but the love of God and of our neighbour
as ourselves, seen in one harmonious whole.
A good example would be Our Lord’s healing on the Sabbath:
he did not devalue the sabbath but put it in a proper sense of proportion,
as being made for man not man for it.

The abbot shared a story about Benedict’s sister the nun coming for a visit to
her brother the monk.
Her brother met her at the gate. Benedict and a few of the brothers left the
walls of the monastery in order to visit and share a meal with Scholastica.

Scholastica was keen to spend the day with Benedict and his brothers,
sharing stories about God’s power and grace.

As evening fell, Benedict told his sister that he and his fellow brothers
needed to be getting back to their abbey as she must hers.
She implored him to stay that they still had much to share.
But he insisted that he must leave her.
At this point, Scholastica took her brother’s hands within her own and began to
earnestly beseech God to impress upon her brother the importance that he should stay,
even throughout the night, in order that they may share in God’s good word.

And so a storm suddenly ensued.
Benedict reprimands his sister “What have you done?”.
Scholastica replied, “I asked you and you would not listen;
so I asked my God and he did listen.
So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery.”
The storm was beating down too hard for Benedict or his companions to return to
his monastery, and they spent the night in discussion.”

(solemncharge.com)

The storm had made it impossible for Benedict to take his leave back to the
abbey and in turn, he had to spend the remainder of the evening in his sister’s
company discussing God’s glory and wonderment.

Benedict felt that the rules of his order, that he and the others were bound to follow,
that their return to the abbey was far more important
then talking about God all night long with his sister.

Finally, as daylight arrived and the storm had abated, Scholastica bid her brother farewell
as they each retreated and made their individual ways back to their respective abbeys.

Three days later Scholastica died, and Benedict had a vision of Scholastica’s soul
ascending to heaven in the form of a dove.
He sent his fellow monks to retrieve her body to his monastery and they laid it
in his own tomb.
She died about the year 543.
Her feast day is February 10th.

(solemncharge.com)

Benedict later reflected that because his sister “loved” more in her prayer of pure
earnestness, her will prevailed over his idealism of practicality.
Think Martha and Mary.
For her prayer that night was one of the pureness of charity and of a deep abiding love
as she most likely realized that her time death was imminent—
and that to spend what time was remaining together was most important.

Dom Hugh notes that “if we truly have charity for even those who disagree with us,
who peddle a line that reeks of error,
then we will achieve far more by persuasion than intimidation.
The achievement might come in God’s good time rather than our own,
a salutary reminder that instant gratification is not of the Gospel.
A sense of proportion, a healthy discretion, will keep us to this way.
It is all there in the Tradition.

It is interesting to note that when dealing with sinners Jesus was mildness itself.
His more strident tone was reserved for those who should have known better
or thought they knew better.

Caritas indeed.

Contemplatio, consideratio & caritas

the Christian Paradox

“We live in an age when unnecessary things are our
only necessities.”

Oscar Wilde


(the sad little cherub birdbath has seen better days / Julie Cook / 2017)

Reflecting back over this past and most chaotic year—chaotic on so many levels….
As it has been chaotic, yes, personally but perhaps the correct word there
would be difficult….

Yet chaotic is what it has been, none the less and more importantly, on
a National and Global level….
thus making it more acute because its a sort of chaotic which affects us all.

It has been a year which has seen its fair share of words and acronyms,
some tried and true, some new and biting…each having left us changed.

Words and letters such as BREXIT, Tweet, Trump, Merkel, May,
Hillary, Russia, Putin, LBTGQ, ISIS, snowflakes, cupcakes, harassment,
sexual, misogynist, tolerance, intolerance, conservative, media, fake news,
liberal, Socialist, Nazi, Communist, accept, Democrats, Homophobic, Republicans, e-mails,
leaks, white supremacist, racist, walls, migrants….

On and on the list has grown….
so perhaps the ending of this particular year is coming none too soon.

It has certainly been perplexing watching the shift in dynamics within our Nation
as well as within the world at large.

It has been disconcerting watching this shift in Culture—
particularly in and with what we thought we knew.

It is maddening to be called “phobic” when one simply disagrees with a sinful
lifestyle.

In the latest posting of Anglican Unscripted, Bishop Ashenden was also opining
the same sorts of issues but with a more keen eye on the shift within Christian
Culture and the Church….

The good Bishop notes that there are all sorts of calls emanating from various pulpits,
all the way to Canterbury itself, the ancient seat of the Anglican Church—

Calls are being made for a total acceptance, absolute tolerance and drastic change….
Coupled by the actual accusations towards those who opt not to get on board with the
acceptance, the tolerance and the change….
Actually accusing those who cling to Scriptural Authority as being outdated,
out numbered and flat out wrong.

I can remember when words from various pulpits were words of God, Salvation, Fatih, Sacrifice, Obedience, Jesus, Love, Grace—
not this modern mantra of jumping on the culture train or else…….

Bishop Ashenden notes that it seems as if the majority of the English Clergy,
(and I would include their kissing cousins of the Episcopal Church), are
either outright socialists or of socialist leanings.
While frustratingly the more Orthodox remain silent for fear of reprisals.

As it appears that the majority of both clergy and laity have lost confidence in the Spiritual message of Salvation, that which calls for all humans to repent,
having rather “transferred their allegiance to a political solution.”
Because who wants to be told to repent from a lifestyle that society has
deemed worthy as God has succinctly and resoundingly deemed as sinful?

And what we the Faithful must note….is that within that notion of all things
of a political solution, there is absolutely no call to or for repentance.

Anglican unscripted:

And now we look to the paradoxical…

We look to the counter balance to all of the liberal heavy handed hullabaloo
with the story of the ancient Coptic Church in Egypt.

It is a church whose roots are found in St Mark who brought the Gospel to Egypt
during the reign of the Emperor Nero.
A long suffering church body of Believers who have suffered at the hands of Islam
since Muslims invaded their homeland in 641.

Believers who do not adhere to the cultural gods, but rather adhere only to the
Word of the One Almighty and Omnipotent God…

For there is no demand for change, or tolerance of the sinful, or acceptance of
society’s demands.


(Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church of Egypt)


(The Amir Tadros coptic Church in Minya on Sunday.
The building was set ablaze on Aug. 14)

Consider the following comment….

What kind of faith makes people go back to church immediately after that
church was bombed?
What kind of faith makes people chant the Nicene Creed right after their church
was bombed?
What kind of faith makes a community continue liturgy outside because their church
wasn’t yet safe enough to be in?
What kind of faith makes one go on national TV and tell persecutors that they
are loved and forgiven after they just attacked and killed 28 Christians?
The unshakable faith of Christ.

We mourn.
We are in pain.
We are angry.
We have lost many brothers and sisters in Christ, and their blood continues to flow.
But many of us neglect to remember something –
the Coptic Christians remain undefeated.
They continue to grow.
They continue to inspire and strengthen the faith of Christians around the world.

https://howtoreligion.wordpress.com/2017/12/29/coptic-orthodoxy-and-self-defense/

And so will round out these thoughts with the words of the late Orthodox monk and saint,
Saint Paisios…..

“[St. Paisios responds to the question: ‘Geronda, what is this joy that I feel?
Can it be that I am not aware of my sinfulness?’]

No, my child!
God gives you a chocolate here and there, in order to give you joy.
For now, it’s chocolates; later, it will be wine —
like the wine they drink in Paradise.
Do you know how sweet is the wine they drink there?
Oh my!
If God sees a little philotimo (*), a bit of good disposition,
He offers His Grace abundantly, and it intoxicates you —
even from this life.
The spiritual delight one receives, and the transformation he feels in his heart
when the Grace of God visits him, cannot be given…
even by the best cardiologist in the world.
When you feel such joy, try to hold on to it for as long as you can.”
~+~
(*) – Philotimo, is the spontaneous, self-sacrificing love shown by humble people,
from whom every trace of self has been filtered out,
full of gratitude towards God and their fellow man.
Philotimo comes from a deep, abiding connection with God,
so that one is constantly moved to do and seek that which is good,
right and honorable.
(Although this definition has been repeated many times during these teachings,
the last time was 5 months ago,
I feel it is never too often to remind us of its awesome meaning!)

From Discerning Thoughts

And so we end this year of the humanly chaotic being warned.
For we the faithful are being called.
Called not to be quiet, not to fear reprisals, not to accept that which is wrong
but to hold up to the world the Image of God incarnate in His only begotten son….

His duality is seen in the oldest documented Icon of Christ the Pantocrator.
One side of his face is the Christ who is benevolent, kind and loving,
the other side is of the Christ who sits in judgement….judgement of all mankind.

What those who clamor for all things cultural and accepting have chosen to ignore
that Jesus will indeed sit in judgement.

We are called to repent.
To be repentant.
For in that repentance and in that the turning away from sin is found
the true acceptance of Salvation.


(Christ Pantocrator, the oldest known Icon of Christ, 6th Century AD / St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai)

changing hell into paradise

“The path to paradise begins in hell.”
Dante Alighieri


(Georgios Klontzas, 16th Century icon)

No matter one’s concept of hell, I think most Believers would agree…
Hell is the total absence of God.

An endless, as in never ending, void of the Divine…
ergo no hope, light, joy, love, compassion….
you get the idea…

So leave it to an Orthodox monk to offer an interesting thought concerning
how the demons handle the desire of a condemned’s longing for God….

And yet what an interesting thought it is…that even in hell the demons quake
at the notion of one reaching upward to the Almighty…

One day we met on the site where the construction of the new church had begun,
and the Elder said, “It is a difficult thing today to build a church.
All the demons will rise up.”
And he told me an anecdote that he had heard in Russia:

“Someone went to hell, but he wanted there to be a church there too so that
he could pray. Despite his sinfulness, he loved God and wanted to pray.
He began to measure the site in order to lay foundations.
A devil asked him what he was doing.
He replied: Ί want to build a church so that I can pray.’
The devil was uneasy, because it was impossible for a church to be built in hell,
and he tried to stop him. He did not manage.
He summoned other demons. They could not do anything either.
They reported it to their leader.
Then many demons gathered and they threw him out of hell,
to prevent a church being built.”

And he continued:
“So we build churches to change hell into Paradise,
and if we do not manage to do that,
we will succeed in not being accepted by the devil in hell.”
And he laughed wholeheartedly.

—Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos. I Know a Man in Christ:
Elder Sophrony the Hesychast and Theologian

As seen on Discerning Thoughts:
(https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com/2017/10/28/someone-went-to-hell-but-he-wanted-there-to-be-a-church/)

A first…or will it be the last?


(the oldest surviving Icon or image of Christ, the Pantocrator / St Catherine’s Monastery, The Sinai Peninsula)

For the first time in 2000 years a Holy Mass for Easter will not have been held in Mosul.

“So what” you shrug…
“Who cares about Mosul?” you ask…
“Isn’t that in Iraq?” you quip…
“Isn’t Iraq Muslim?” you assume…
“Why would there be Easter in a Muslim land?” you espouse…

Well…yes, because for 2000 years there has been a celebration mass for Easter,
as well as Christmas and every other time a mass is to be said,
in what is now considered a Muslim land.

For Christianity has been practiced, as an organized religion, just following the
Resurrection of Christ, in this region of the world for the past 2000 years.

Christianity has been a long protected religious minority under the rulings and regimes
of various sultans, and in more recent times, dictators such as
the likes of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi.

But how can that ever be…as we are left alarmed asking ourselves.

Because various Muslim leaders throughout the ages have in fact protected the
Christian Church within this Muslim land.

Not all of them mind you, but many have….as they have been tolerant.

In 1219, during the 5th Crusade, St Francis traveled from Italy to Egypt
as a Christian ambassador of sorts.
This was a time in which the Holy Roman Empire was fighting Muslims, Jews and heretics
in order to keep Jerusalem free and open to traveling pilgrims wishing
to visit the Holy Land.

But control of the region became a long, deadly and bloody conflict.

There was much stubbornness on both sides as each faction refused to budge in their
dominance of the region.
Countless lives were being lost and this grieved the heart of Francis.

Francis wished to share his faith with these unbelievers and if need be, he was willing
to die a martyr while proclaiming the Gospel to the unsaved.

Francis was opposed to the killings and bloodshed on both sides and had sought the
current pope, Pope Innocent III’s permission to travel to Egypt to meet with then Sultan,
Malik-al-Kamil,
nephew to the Great Kurd leader, Saladin.

Unarmed, history tell us that, Francis was arrested and beaten by the Sultan’s army.
He was eventually taken to the Sultan,
who was intrigued by this man who came wearing a tattered tunic
while carrying no weapons nor a quest for battle, but rather a love and desire
to share the word of God….
that being that Christ died to save sinners and his teaching was that the first shall be last,
the last shall be first and we are to love our enemies.

Francis won over the Sultan’s respect and favor….
And eventually following Francis’s safe return to Italy,
a peace was brokered between the Sultan’s armies and the European forces.
With Jerusalem once again being open to Christian pilgrims with a promise of
safe passage by the Sultan.

Sadly however…history reminds us that peace is a tenuous affair
wherever man is involved…

We know that there were a total of 9 crusades with the final fall of the final Christian
stronghold in Syria in 1291.
The land has been in Muslim control ever since.
And throughout the centuries that control has been both with and without toleration
for the minority people and faiths of Christianity, Judaism
and other minority sects..

But with the recent toppling of dictators such as Hussein and Gaddafi,
the vaccum which was created with their oustings has been filled by something
much more sinister and vile.

ISIS
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

ISIS is not tolerant.
Not tolerant of even varying sects of Muslims who do not adhere to the Sunni ISIS strict
following of Shia laws.

ISIS is not a single man who one may perhaps find reason with or
in turn topple and remove.
Rather ISIS is a fanatical organization which will not rest until “the infidel” is vanquished.
And they do not care who or what stands in their way…nor how their ends are met.
No one is exempt from their terror..not children, women, the old or in firmed.
They give new meaning to the words barbarism and sadism.

Eliza Griswold, a journalist who recently returned from an extensive study of the region
and of this anomaly of the systematic eradication of Christians and others sects in places
such as Iraq and Syria, was interviewed by FOX News.

Mrs Griswold offers a very sobering account of what she sees as the death throws of the
Christian faith in a part of the world in which Christianity has
existed since its very inception.

She lays out the argument for the need to eliminate ISIS and its spawned fanatical groups
or either humankind will have to live with the stalk reality that entire ethnic groups,
such as the Yazidis, and certain religious peoples and their existence will be gone forever
from a land which is as old as time itself. And not only gone from a region of this planet,
but gone from earthly existence.

And so my question to all of us…
will the knowledge of this eradication be something we can live with…
down in the depths of our human knowledge and understanding…
and within the soul of our consciousness.
Or…
will we allow ISIS and all of its tentacles to spread as far as they wish,
eliminating huge swarths of humankind…
that is until we see them on our very doorsteps?

Please read the article, but more importantly watch the 5 minute video clip of the
Griswold interview.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/04/14/christian-persecution-how-many-are-being-killed-where-are-being-killed.html

hopefulness found in the new….

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”

Alfred Tennyson

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(Icon image of St Jude Thaddeus by Ryszard Sleczka)

“But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of
our Lord Jesus Christ foretold.
They said to you,
“In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.”
These are the people who divide you,
who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.”

As we prepare to close the book on yet another year…
being mindful that it was indeed quite the year….
dangling from the icy strands of a distant bitter wind,
the ancient words of those who have gone long before us,
dance across the cold chasm of time…

St Jude Thaddeus,
younger brother of James the Lesser and one of the inner circle of 12…

Apostle,
Preacher,
teacher,
martyr.

Jude who is known as the saint of lost causes, of despair, and of hopelessness…
Proclaims, and rightly so, to all who have ears to hear and eyes to behold
not to despair…
not to languish in the gloom of dejection…
not to give way to the ensuing divisions of the ungodly
but rather to be of steadfast faith binding ourselves to the Holy Spirit…

But you, dear friends,
by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in
the Holy Spirit,
keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of
our Lord Jesus Christ
to bring you to eternal life.

Be merciful to those who doubt;
save others by snatching them from the fire;
to others show mercy,
mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and
to present you before his glorious presence without fault
and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory,
majesty, power and authority,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
before all ages,
now and forevermore!
Amen.

(Jude 17-25)

So therefore we are to go boldly and bravely into this new and waiting year…
Standing firm and grounded in our faith which is rooted deeply in Jesus Christ.
May we not be deterred nor disheartened…
not by the ominous signs of these trying times…
But rather rejoicing…
as we are full of the hopefulness found in the mercy and forgivenes
of our Risen Savior….

Happy New Year…

An open and willing vessel

“I am the vessel.
The draft is God’s.
And God is the thirsty one.”

Dag Hammarskjold

2f784092d15c91527c64f9b969c4679b
Advocata Nostra [our advocate], The oldest icon of Mary in Rome, Italy / The Dominican sisters Convert /
Its origin is traced to ancient Jerusalem and is attributed to the hand of St Luke who painted
it at the request of the Apostles )

[That]A peace would settle over the planet like a velvet coverlet drawn over a sleeping child.
The world would recollect itself and discover itself held in the womb of the Mother of God.
We would be filled with all the fullness of God,
even as we filled the emptiness of the Savior’s heart with ours.

Loretta Ross-Gotta

Authentic representation

To be nobody but myself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make me somebody else-means to fight the hardest battle any human can fight, and never stop fighting.
e.e. cummings

No one man can, for any considerable time, wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which is the true one.
Nathaniel Hawthorne

DSCN1839
(a charming little sheep sculpture made by artist Marina Hamilton– County Donegal / Julie Cook/ 2015)

I had fallen in love.
For 15 days, I had fallen in love.
I had traversed the countryside, climbed upward and downward to what seemed to be each hill and dale, skirted the coastline, stood upon pinnacle after pinnacle gazing out over land and sea all the while as I tasted, saw, heard, felt and sensed what it was, what it is, that made/makes this island nation so enticing… as I had simply fallen in love with the sheer wondrous beauty which was lovingly laid out by a masterful Creator before my very eyes…

Yet I had fallen in love with something else as well…as in head over heels in love…for I was taken with and smitten by the endless sea of sheep.

DSCN0845
(a soon to be sheared sheep / County Cork / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSCN1712
(a sheep sits enjoying the day, somewhere near Slieve Liag, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSCN0853
(a freshly sheared sheep, County Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

White faced, long haired, short haired, with horns, without horns, black faced, black sheep, brown sheep, all white sheep, spotted sheep–every kind of sheep imaginable…I had loved each and every one I encountered.

Why?

I’m not sure…I’ve just always had a deep affinity for sheep, as I have always fancied myself one day being a bit of a sheepherder.

Most likely it’s because I identify with the spiritual analogy of sheep–of our being like lost sheep with Jesus being the shepherd who goes out in search of that one lost sheep–aka, me…
He didn’t let it go, cutting his losses, but actually left the flock to go searching for the not so bright one who wandered off….

Or maybe its the whole sacrificial lamb analogy…the deeply mournful words spoken by the ancient prophets…he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

Whatever the reason the love has always been there…but the recent adventure, which brought me face to face, pretty much cemented the deal of true love.

Never mind that they are dirty…bearing poop stained butts. Never mind they don’t make for the most loyal of pets–if you can call them pets. Sheep are skittish, flighty, loud, and are certainly not the brightest animals on the food chain— hence why they are more or less dinner for many an opportunist predator…yet there is just something about them…

And maybe it’s just seeing them sitting, standing, grazing in a most pastoral idyllic picture perfect, kodak moment, locale of sheer sheep beauty that just seals the deal–peace on earth kind of wonderful.

How does one capture, taking home that whole feeling of the moment… of that love at first sight sort of instantaneous feeling—tasting it, savoring it, holding on to it for later when both you and it are parted and far removed from the very moment of being delightfully caught together in time?

There are a million touristy, kitschy, chotskies of the made in China variety of the cutesy Disneyesque sheep any tourist can snap up at any numerous shop throughout the country. Yet I wanted something real, something tangible, something as close to the real deal and unique as I could find.

As our time together was drawing to a close, I felt myself slipping a bit into the heaviness of melancholy as I was actually mourning–it was hard to still be happy, enjoying the moment as I knew I was mere days away from departing—and for who knows how long—a year, a few years, a lifetime?
Would I be back?
I could not say.

Wandering into a little shop of locally made crafts, in the middle of County Donegal, I immediately spotted my keepsake.

He was a little sculpted ceramic sheep made by a local artist. There were actually two perched on a display pedestal. I looked them both over–picking them up, feeling the unglazed heft of clay in my hands, the weight of something solid and substantial…all the while as I looked into those black glassy eyes. I made my choice and gingerly carried my “skelybegs” (a butchering amalgamation of the gaelic surroundings) to the counter. As he, yes it was a he I had decided, was a piece of art, he did not come cheap, but to me, he was worth the cost and then some as he spoke volumes of my Irish adventure.

Once home, I excitedly and carefully unwrapped my prized possession. I had painstakingly carried him by hand the final leg of the journey, even on the long plane ride home, so having unwrapped him and seeing he was in one piece, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
I then lovingly placed my little sheep on the counter in the kitchen right next to one of my favorite Russian Icons of Jesus…as it only seemed fitting to have the sheep by the Shepherd.

I greatly enjoy seeing that sheep each and everyday as I lovingly labor about in the kitchen as it helps me to hold onto a very special place and time.
Yet my little clay sheep is but a mere representational reminder of something that, although I deeply love, is far removed from me and my daily life.

The clay sheep is a token of remembrance, a reminder and a representative…
yet he is a far cry from the authentic real deal sheep.
He merely captures the spirit of an enduring love and intrinsic connection to something deeply important.
Which got me thinking…

Jesus–that icon or image of the mystical shepherd sitting next to my little sheep…
Obviously not the real deal either…yet it is rather a visual representative of someone who was… and in my heart and mind, of someone who still is…

Obviously I understand that, feel that and acknowledge that…but what about others…?
What about the countless numbers of non-belivers or other faith believers or even those Christian believers who do not have that knowledge of that tangible Being…how are they to ever understand the depth of the love offered by the one true Shepherd…certainly not from a mere picture, icon or image…it certainly has to be more….

What of those countless numbers of folks currently around the globe, during these terribly trying times, who are more wary than ever before of what being a follower of Christ truly entails.

And then it hit me….

It’s not a matter of those of us who “get it” or truly understand being simply rote, mindless, empty, lip-syncing followers who merely show up to “worship” on Easter, pull out those dusty nativity scenes at Christmas or slap some sort of fish on the back of our car window or flippantly check off on a form that we are of the Christian persuasion but rather it is imperative in these ever growing darkening days that an authentic representative understands that he or she is to step up to the plate…one who understands what it means to be a true imitator of Christ….picking up and taking up the Cross and in turn understanding that that means dying unto self…as an authentic representative understands, grasps and lives the idea that a true imitator of Christ is called to do just that…imitate how Jesus lived and that living often exacts a tremendous price…a price often paid with ones very life, a price we must all be willing to pay….

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
Ephesians 5:1-2