expectation, seeking and knocking

We may despair at scandals we hear about in the Church.
True reform may seem impossible. Beware the tempter! Rather than succumbing
to the despair and apathy to which the tempter seeks to lead us,
let us instead embrace God’s call to share in Christ’s sonship and participate
in his work of redemption…
Transformation is possible, but only to those who trust in him.

Michael Patrick Barber
from Salvation: What Every Catholic Should Know

“Mary remained with the donkey at the very entrance of the street while
Joseph sought a lodging in the nearest houses—in vain,
for Bethlehem was full of strangers, all running from place to place.
Joseph returned to Mary, saying that as no shelter was to be found there,
they would go on farther into the town. He led the donkey on by the bridle,
and the Blessed Virgin walked beside him. When they came to the beginning
of another street, Mary again stopped by the donkey,
and Joseph again went from house to house in vain seeking a lodging,
and again came sadly back. This happened several times, and the Blessed Virgin
often had long to wait.
Everywhere the houses were filled with people, everywhere he was turned away …
Joseph led the Blessed Virgin to [a] tree, and made her a comfortable seat
against its trunk with their bundles, so that she might rest while he
sought for shelter in the houses near. …
At first Mary stood upright, leaning against the tree.
Her ample white woollen dress had no girdle and hung around her in folds:
her head was covered with a white veil.
Many people passed by and looked at her, not knowing that the Redeemer
was so near to them.
She was so patient, so humble, so full of
hopeful expectation.
Ah, she had to wait a long, long time;
she sat down at last on the rug, crossing her feet under her.
She sat with her head bent and her hands crossed below her breast.
Joseph came back to her in great distress; he had found no shelter.
His friends, of whom he had spoken to the Blessed Virgin,
would hardly recognize him.
He was in tears and Mary comforted him.”

Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich, p.185
An Excerpt From
The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary From the Visions of
Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich

if I only had a heart…

“Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional
memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child.
This is a healing memory; it brings hope.”

Pope Benedict XVI


(mother’s kitchen funnel has seen better days / Julie Cook / 2018)

This pitiful image of what was once my mother’s kitchen funnel, that I have
obviously “loved” to death by overuse and wash, always reminds me of the hat of
the head of the tinman from the Wizard of Oz…
albeit a kitchen funnel and not an oil funnel.

Who can forget Jack Haley singing…if I only had a heart…

When a man’s an empty kettle he should be on his mettle,
And yet I’m torn apart.
Just because I’m presumin’ that I could be kind-a-human,
If I only had heart.
I’d be tender – I’d be gentle and awful sentimental
Regarding Love and Art.
I’d be friends with the sparrows …
and the boys who shoots the arrows
If I only had a heart.
Picture me – a balcony. Above a voice sings low.
Wherefore art thou, Romeo? I hear a beat…
How sweet.
Just to register emotion, jealousy – devotion,
And really feel the part.
I could stay young and chipper
and I’d lock it with a zipper,
If I only had a heart.

Wizard Of Oz – If I Only Had A Brain/Heart/Nerve Lyrics

If I only had a heart…

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

To remove the heart of stone and receive the heart of flesh…

And so it seems on that fateful day when an apple was received and in turn eaten,
two hearts grew hard…
spawning a spiraling outward of generational stone hardened hearts.

Shuttered hearts.
Closed hearts…
turned cold

Yet all the while the mind deludes, claiming otherwise.

The mind convinces the heart to remain closed and hardened,
otherwise, there will be pain, weakness, and vulnerability…

C.S Lewis says it this way…

“There is no safe investment.

To love at all is to be vulnerable.

Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.

If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one,
not even to an animal.

Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements;
lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change.

It will not be broken;
it will become
unbreakable,
impenetrable,
irredeemable.

The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.

The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers
and perturbations of love is…
Hell.”

Yet it was the famed English preacher, Charles Spurgeon, who had previously addressed this
notion of the heart of stone.

“Spurgeon surmised that the stony heart is, specifically:
cold,
hard,
dead,
not easily softened and utterly senseless.

He said the person with the hard heart is “Satan’s throne.”
And he said the hard heart is “impervious to all instrumentality,”

(Cliff Vaughn)

In a sermon delivered in 1887 Spurgeon addresses the hardened heart:

Hardness of heart is a great and grievous evil.
It exists not only in the outside world,
but in many who frequent the courts of the Lord’s house.
Beneath the robes of religion many carry a heart of stone.

Nothing good can come out of a stony heart;
it is barren as a rock.
To be unfeeling is to be unfruitful.
Prayer without desire,
praise without emotion,
preaching without earnestness — what are all these?
Like the marble images of life, they are cold and dead.

Yet he reminds us that all is not lost.

The Holy Spirit makes us like wax, and we become impressible to his sacred seal.
Remember, you that are hard of heart, that your hope lies this way;
God himself, who melts the icebergs of the northern sea,
must make your soul to yield up its hardness in the presence of his love.
Nothing short of the work of God within you can effect this.
“Ye must be born again,” and that new birth must be from above.
The Spirit of God must work regeneration in you.
He is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham;
but until he works you are dead and insensible.
Even now I perceive the goings forth of his power:
he is moving you to desire his divine working,
and in that gracious desire, the work has already begun.

Note next, that as this tenderness comes of the Spirit of God,
so it also comes by his working in full co-operation with the Father and with the Son.

We hear the Father say, “I will pour upon the house of David the spirit of grace,”
(angelfire.com)

And so it is from that same genealogical house–the house of David which is born the Grace
which is our hope from the impenetrable death found in the stone cold heart.

It is a hope found in the genealogical line from Abraham, to David, to the Christ.

Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David,
fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon,
and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.
(Matthew 1:17)

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.
(Luke 2:4-7)

And so the genealogical line of hardened hearts, hearts which once seemed destined to reside
closed for all time and destined to spend an eternity in Hell,
will be broken…broken by the gift found in a genealogical line of hope,
the gift found in the birth of a single child…

And a little child shall lead them (Isaiah 11:6)

Leading once stone hardened hearts, now broken by Grace, to healing found only in Salvation.

Death and taxes…

“I earnestly admonish you, therefore, my brothers,
to look after your spiritual well-being
with judicious concern.
Death is certain; life is short and vanishes like smoke.
Fix your minds, then, on the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Inflamed with love for us, he came down from heaven to redeem us.
For our sake he endured every torment of body and soul and shrank from no bodily pain.
He himself gave us an example of perfect patience and love.
We, then, are to be patient in adversity.”

St. Francis of Paola

Death and taxes…
nothing is certain in life but those two unpleasantries.

April 15th—the dreaded day of taxes.
(or actually the 17th due to the 15th falling on a weekend)

A day that accountants have longed for while regular citizens have dreaded.
To pay or to be refunded, that is the question…

Yet taxes are nothing new.

We might recall that it was while traveling to Bethlehem, Joseph’s ancestral home,
Mary gave birth to Jesus.
It was a requirement of Roman law that all citizens take part in the counting for the census
in order to meet the tax requirements…
thus the reason why this young couple, with a very pregnant Mary,
was out and about traveling at a rather critical time.

And so history teaches us that taxes are nothing new…
nor is death…
for death is as old as life itself…
As they actually go hand in hand…

Death and taxes—the two givens in life.

St Francis of Paola—
the humble 15th-century monk who founded the equally humble order
of Minim Friars, reminds us, in this morning’s quote, that death is indeed certain.

Yet the notion of death being inevitable… is really nothing more than a given.
If you’ve been born, you will inevitably die.
That’s just how that works.

Yet most of us don’t like being reminded of such.
Just like we don’t like being reminded about taxes,
forms, payments and the deadline for submitting such.

Our humble monk also reminds us of something else equally as important…
that life, as fleeting as it is…. is simply like vanishing smoke.

And just like taxes and death, none of us like to think about fleeting…
those unpleasant things such as taxes, death coupled with our fleeting lives.

However, our friend reassures us that because our time is just that, vanishing as the smoke…
and death is, for better or worse, inevitable…
it is to be our task to fix our sights, our minds and even
our passions upon Jesus and on Jesus alone…
because it is only in Jesus that things such as death and taxes,
and that of pain, sorrow, and suffering…
those earthly fleeting instances which will vanish as the smoke,
are nothing compared to a life with Jesus—of which is truly everlasting…

They seldom reflect on the days of their life,
because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.

Ecclesiastes 5:20

coincidence or Spirit…

“We must become so alone, so utterly alone, that we withdraw into our innermost self.
It is a way of bitter suffering. But then our solitude is overcome,
we are no longer alone, for we find that our innermost self is the spirit,
that it is God, the indivisible.
And suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of the world,
yet undisturbed by its multiplicity,
for our innermost soul we know ourselves to be one with all being.”

Hermann Hesse

One year ago yesterday on March 19th, my dad lost his battle with cancer.
At the time, the last thing I was thinking about was what all was going on around me
let alone the significance of dates on a calendar.
I was just doing good by planning a funeral and dealing with the remnants of a lost life…

I was simply oblivious to everything else.

Moments of such loss tend to do that to us…

We freeze as if caught in a glitch of both space and time…
we’re standing still but the world, and everything else around us is still
spinning and moving.

This year as March 19th arrived on the calendar, with me marking both it’s coming and going
with a bit of inward melancholy, I couldn’t help but notice that throughout the entire day
I had been subtly reminded that March 19th was not just a day marking a sad milestone in my
small corner of the world, it also just so happened to be the day that the Church remembers
St Joseph…the earthly father of Jesus.
As in the feast day of St. Joseph

As in a ‘dad’ sort of day.

And like I’ve said before, I’m not one for the notion of coincidence as I am more about the moving
of the Spirit. Because with God, there is no such thing as coincidence…
just the guidance offered by the third member of the Trinity.

And so as I found myself fondly remembering my own dad, the man who adopted me when I was but
a few months old, for both good and bad, who stood watch over me most of my life while that role
was reversed during the last 5 years of his life…
I now recall the one who stood watch over a growing God made man-child …
a boy who needed the perfect earthly father to guide him as He prepared to lead us all
to our own Salvation…

So whereas I was feeling glum as I moved throughout my day, I found my thoughts being gently
teased outward as I have been reminded that God is always greater, ever mindful and deeply full
of thought for each and every one of us in our ups as well as downs…
no detail is too small, no event too insignificant that He is not everpresent.

my eyes have seen Your salvation…


(The Scene of Christ in the Temple by Fra Bartolommeo / 1516 / Kunsthistorisches Museum
/ Vienna, Austria)

“My eyes have seen Your salvation…”
your revelation, your glory, your grace, you name it, the eyes have now beheld it…”
So says Simeon in the Temple on the day Mary and Joseph have taken their young son,
as all good Jewish couples do at the time, for his presentation,
for the ceremony of Purification.
Luke 2:30

The honoring of the Law and of God’s Word.

I would suspect most Christians are rather unfamiliar with what this day of Presentation
was/is actually all about—
We just know it is known as the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord
at the Temple, or more commonly known as Candlemas.

According to an old Jewish custom, a woman who gives birth to a child will be
unclean and homebound for a certain number of days after the birth.
The days for this custom differ for the birth of a boy and a birth of a girl.
If a boy child is born, the woman is unclean for seven days and then she remains
at home for an additional thirty-three days for a total of 40 days.
If a girl child is born, the woman is unclean for 14 days and then she remains
at home for an additional sixty-six days for a total of 80 days.
During these time periods, the woman touches nothing holy.

February 2nd is exactly 40 days after the birth of Jesus Christ and it is on
this day that Mother Mary along with Joseph brought forth their newborn son,
Jesus, to the Temple. Mother Mary was cleansed on this day.
Jesus was presented to the Lord in the Temple on this day.

(Holidays Calendar)

Imagine a woman today having given birth and remaining at home, being considered
“unclean” despite having bathed or showered and being cleaned up first at the Hospital
then later at home…
Only to then be isolated for upwards of 80 days…

That would be almost 12 weeks.
Most maternity leave here in the US is between 6 to 8 weeks, then it’s back to work.

During maternity leave, the majority of women certainly don’t remain isolated—
as getting up, moving and going seems foremost and paramount to both
healing and simply living life in these modern days.

There’s a home to manage, a child, perhaps even more than one, that all need tending to…
there are groceries to buy, doctors to visit, workouts to attend, meals and bottles
to prepare and strollers to push…
who has time for “isolation” let alone “The Law”… and what in the world is this
about not touching things “holy”??

So as we see, there was a great deal more to this notion of Presentation than meets
the eye. And in Simeon’s words, we hear not only proclamation but we hear of a peace—
a blessed peace full of both joy and contentment.

During this particular visit to the Temple for this observed requirement of both Jewish
custom and law, Joseph and Mary encounter two individuals who, to the average observer,
would be nondescript–meaning they’d really not have been noticed nor
considered of much consequence.
They were more or less, figures in the shadows.

Both Simeon and Anna were old.

They ‘hung out’ at the Temple spending their time in constant prayer.
By society’s standards, they served no real practical purpose.
Their usefulness having long come and gone…and yet here they are at the Temple
giving themselves over to constant prayer and communion with God–
I wonder who has the better notion of service, practicalness, and usefulness…

Society or Simeon and Anna?

Today we hear, Bishop Ashenden pointing out in his homily regarding the
Feast Day of the Presentation, that The Law of the day was being upheld in
Mary and Joseph’s bringing Jesus to the Temple for The Presentation—
just as we see the Holy Spirit at work in and through both Simeon and Anna.

We also see, in the then infant Jesus…that He was then, just as he always is
now, the one who is expressing and exposing what is in the heart of the human spirit.

Bishop Ashenden reminds us of the words of the Russian saint and mystic St Seraphim…
“The most important thing is to acquire the Holy Spirit”

Acquiring the Spirit of God is the true aim of our Christian life, while prayer,
fasting, almsgiving and other good works done for Christ’s sake are merely means
for acquiring the Spirit of God.”

“What do you mean by acquiring?” I asked St. Seraphim. “Somehow I don’t understand that.”

“Acquiring is the same as obtaining,” he replied.
“Do you understand, what acquiring money means?
Acquiring the Spirit of God is exactly the same.
You know very well enough what it means to acquire in a worldly sense, your Godliness.
The aim of ordinary worldly people is to acquire or make money;
and for the nobility, it is in addition to receive honors,
distinctions and other rewards for their services to the government.
The acquisition of God’s Spirit is also capital, but grace-giving and eternal,
and it is obtained in very similar ways,
almost the same ways as monetary, social and temporal capital.

“God the Word, the God-Man, our Lord Jesus Christ,
compares our life with the market, and the work of our life on earth He calls trading.
He says to us all:
“Trade till I come” (Lk. 19:13),
“buying up every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).
In other words, make the most of your time getting heavenly blessings through earthly goods.
Earthly goods are good works done for Christ’s sake that confer the grace of the All-Holy Spirit,
on us.”…..
“At last the Holy Spirit foretold to St. Simeon, who was then in his 65th year,
the mystery of the virginal conception and birth of Christ from the most pure
Ever-Virgin Mary.
Afterwards, having lived by the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God for three
hundred years, in the 365th year of his life, he said openly in the
temple of the Lord that he knew for certain
through the gift of the Holy Spirit that this was that very Christ,
the Savior of the world, Whose supernatural conception, and birth from
the Holy Spirit had been foretold to him by an Angel three hundred years previously.

And there was also St. Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel,
who from her widowhood had served the Lord God in the temple of God for eighty years,
and who was known to be a righteous widow, a chaste servant of God,
from the special gifts of grace which she had received.
She too announced that He was actually the Messiah Who had been promised to the world,
the true Christ, God and Man, the King of Israel,
Who had come to save Adam and mankind.

(excerpt from Saint Seraphim of Sarov /On Acquisition of the Holy Spirit)

And so here in the Temple, we don’t have to wait until Pentecost to see the presence and
work of the Holy Spirit as we hear His words through the words, just as we see
His work through the actions, of both Simeon and Anna—
two individuals who had acquired the Grace of the Holy Spirit.

Just as we later see that John the Baptist knew, by the discernment of the Spirit,
that Jesus was God’s own son.
And as we see, the Spirit has always been, despite not having been officially introduced…
not as He was at Pentecost…He has dwealt among us…the Holy Signpost pointing
always back to God the Father and Christ the Son…

Bishop Ashenden poignantly explains that “God slips into the skin of humanity as through
Jesus and He comes to us just as He comes to us by way of the Holy Spirit as He continues
guiding us through our days…”

And in this age of power struggles, gender identification and the rise of all
things feminist, it is revealed to the faithful that the real power comes
from our having the Holy Spirit.

And thus that is to be our quest, our life’s goal—to seek out the Holy Spirit.
Because when we possess the Spirit within—
it is the Spirit who will lead and guide us through this journey of life.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Luke 11:13

work done while sleeping….

“I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long.
If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.”

― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh


(tiny prayer box / Julie Cook / 2018)

The above image is that of a tiny, badly tarnished silver, prayer box.
This particular little box, along with others like it, was very popular in the late
80’s early 90’s.
This is the one that I had at the time.

Just inside the tiny box, you can see a bit of blue paper.
And might I add, that is a very tiny piece of blue paper with an equally tiny
written prayer.
But we might note that the prayer was anything but tiny.

Below is an image of another prayer box.
This particular box was discovered buried along a street in the old City of David sandwiched between some tile during construction taking place in a car lot.
This tiny box, made of some sort of animal bone, dates from either the 5th or
6th century AD and is considered to be a Byzantine prayer box.

Rather than a tiny piece of paper with a tiny scrawled prayer resting inside the tiny box, there is actually a small and very worn Icon, or painted image, of what is thought to be Mary.
Such a prayer box was intended to be carried in a pocket or pouch and acted as a
tiny traveling church, as one could open the box and pray before a holy image…
taking one’s prayers directly to the source.

The Byzantine time period from which this little box dates was a very tumultuous time
for the Middle East along with the whole Mediterranean region.

The Roman Empire had fallen to the Visigoths and Carthage had fallen to the Vandals…
add in the push from Attila’s Huns and it was a very dangerous time to be either
Jewish or Christain.

I can only imagine the prayers offered before this ancient little box…
as I am left to wonder whose box it was and how did it come to rest buried
in a parking lot in Jerusalem.

Right before Christmas a longtime blogging friend emailed me that she wanted me to
look into something she had just purchased.
This friend has since moved on from the blogging world, as she is a working mom
with young children whose time has not been her own.
She is an extremely devout Christian with a deep Jewish heritage.

She is very familiar with the idea of prayer, particularly those that are written and
placed before God.

It is a tradition that at the Wailing wall in Jesurelum, prayers are written down and placed in the crevices of the wall, as the wall is considered Holy by Jews as well as many Christians.

Often seen rocking slightly back and forth as their heads gently touch the wall, Jews will stand for long periods of time before the Wall, hands resting outward with palms facing upward or either with hands reverently folded…they will be immersed in deep meditative prayer.
Others, be they tourists or locals, merely push tiny bits of paper into the cracks as they lay their written prayers before what it thought the Divine Presence of
God Himself.

The Wall is considered Divine because it is a remnant of the actual Temple.

Human beings seem to have a very deep need for the tangible when it comes to their relationship with the Divine Presence of God…to be able to touch, to write to physically connect is of the utmost importance to many of the faithful.

Be it prayer beads, a knotted prayer rope, icons or even a prayer box–the
tangible and physical connection between penitent and God is a deeply profound
yearning as well as a mystery.

What my friend wanted me to look into was what is known as a sleeping Joseph.

Now that might sound odd and even appear odd but the story behind the small figurine is anything but strange and is actually rather full of gentleness and a gracious sense of comfort.

We know very little about Jesus’ earthly father Joseph.
He is only mentioned early on in the Gospels of both Matthew and Luke and later in the books of Mark and John
It is in Matthew (1:1-18) that we read of his lineage harkening back to
David.

It is also when we read of the importance of dreams regarding Joseph as God came to Joseph at the most key moments in his life as a husband and father during his sleep. First Joseph is reassured that Mary is indeed telling the truth regarding her pregnancy and that he is to follow through with marrying her.
Secondly, Joseph is warned to take his young family to Egypt in order to flee Herod’s wrath and the killing of the Innocents.

I can remember my Godpoppa, the Episcopal priest, giving a sermon one Father’s day
about Joseph.

And he noted what we already know, that historically, we know very little regarding Joseph as he seems to simply “disappear” from scripture once Jesus begins
his earthly ministry.
He is not mentioned throughout the three years of ministry as being present and is not by Mary’s side at the crucifixion.

And so we simply and sadly assume he died at some point during Jesus’ growing up.

As we are left to wonder about this earthly father of Jesus.

Thinking about Jesus’ earthly father actually brought tears to my Godpoppa’s eyes as he had lost his own father when he was only 16. His was a heartfelt observation about what a life Joseph must have lived.

He most likely taught Jesus the skills of carpentry.
How to be a craftsman using both his mind and his hands.
He taught Jesus what it meant to be reverent and prayerful
He taught Jesus the demonstrative nature of what Jesus intuitively knew,
how to worship His actual Father…no doubt a precarious balance and a heavy burden
for the earthly father.
He also taught the young boy respect.

There was a humble yet focused obedience that Jesus learned from Joseph.

And he learned about the importance of prayer…

The small figurine my friend shared with me is a prayer box of sorts.
The idea being that as you ready for sleep you place your concerns, worries, prayers
written down while placing them under the sleeping Joseph.

How often is your sleep disrupted by the heaviness of concern and worry?
Your thoughts, including your subconscious, consumed by the weight of whatever it is
that is eating at you. Your family, your friends, your work, your health, the health of those you love…there is a quickening of need that plays out even while you attempt to sleep—you pray as you drift off only to toss and turn…

The Joseph “prayer box” asks that you write down these concerns and or petitions,
laying them beneath Joseph—a man who was accustomed to Godly encounters during his sleep through his dreams, as you literally give your concerns over to God.

Trusting that He will, as He does, see, hear and know…

This is not a discussion on the topic of Saints nor of the notion of their interventions or of denominational differences, infighting, and angst…
it is rather a reminder of the human need and desire for a tangible and or physical connection as we literally acknowledge the weight of our concerns, worries and thoughts along with the very real need to literally give them over to God.

For God does speak—now one way, now another—
though no one perceives it.
In a dream, in a vision of the night,
when deep sleep falls on people
as they slumber in their beds,

Job 33:14-15

Parenting

“St. Joseph was chosen among all men, to be the protector and guardian of the Virgin Mother of God; the defender and foster-father of the Infant-God, and the only co-operator upon earth, the one confidant of the secret of God in the work of the redemption of mankind.”
St. Bernard of Clairvaux

It is enough for you to know that Mary is the Mother of Jesus…She loves us so much that she offered to God the Father His only natural Son to save His adopted sons…She is a great and inestimable treasure who encloses in herself an infinite treasure, the Son of God.”
St Padre Pio

DSCN0707
Bas Relief of the marriage of Mary and Joseph / St Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

During these mystical days of Christmas, as we recall and remember the birth of the Savior of all mankind, may we also pause, taking care to reflect upon the dutiful two who were charged with the care of the very Son of God.

Examples of obedience, faithfulness, dutifulness, devotion, sacrifice and unconditional love…

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 1:20

Credo quia absurdum

Crucifixus est Dei Filius, non pudet, quia pudendum est;
et mortuus est Dei Filius, prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est;
et sepultus resurrexit, certum est, quia impossibile.

— (De Carne Christi V, 4)

“The Son of God was crucified: there is no shame, because it is shameful.
And the Son of God died: it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd.
And, buried, He rose again: it is certain, because impossible.”

Based on the writing of Tetullian

DSCN0264
(stain glass window Christ Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“I believe that Christ died for me because it is incredible; I believe that He rose from the dead because it is impossible”
A.W. Tozer

“Let me seek Thee in longing…let me long for Thee in seeking; let me find Thee in love, and love Thee in finding”
St Anselm

It is indeed incredibly impossible, absurd and even implausible that we Christians believe what we believe—certainly in the eyes of the non believer but actually…even to ourselves.

Anyone who stops long enough to actually ponder Christianity, the faith, as well as the inception of that faith which actually began, not so much with the earthly three year ministry of Jesus, but rather on the day that his tomb was found empty.

It begins with us now, during this time of Advent.

We, the Christian faithful, now expectantly and vigilantly wait and watch….

We wait and watch along with three Wisemen, who came from all we know to be the East…
We also wait with a handful of desert shepherds…
All of whom had each seen signs and had visions of something miraculous, life changing and unbelievable that was soon to take place…
Taking place in the far flung regions of poverty on the outer reaches of the Roman Empire…in the middle of nowhere.

We anxiously wait with a simple an honest man named Joseph— the young nervous husband chosen by the Creator of the Universe to be the earthly father to a heavenly king.

We expectantly wait with a young Jewish woman who is pregnant with her first child, yet she has never had sex. Instead she was visited by an angel who told her that she had found favor in the sight of God…and now she is alone, only with her husband, as they are on the road traveling and she is ready to deliver in the middle of nowhere.

We look for the star, a sign, a seemingly tangible apparition in the heavens—a sign that something monumental is about to rock the very foundations of humankind.

Later in the story, we follow the words of a crazy zealot who lives in a desert, eating bugs and wearing next to nothing…who preaches to any and all who would give him ear. Preaching to the birds and animals when no people come to listen. He tells both man and beast that God will send a savior for all mankind. He tells those who listen that in order to be “saved” all must be baptized, first by water, than by the Spirit—being born once again.

We believe the words of a 33 year old man who preached, healed and taught to whomever would listen. We believe he walked on water, made the dead rise, made the blind see, the lame walk and the possessed free.

We choose to follow him along his journey… all the way to his death— brutal and barbaric as a death could be.
And we believe that when he says he will be back…from the gates of hell and death itself…he will indeed, be back.

And we believe when a woman finds an empty tomb…

2000 years pass and we are still believing.

Absurd, impossible, implausible, incredible…

All the better reason to believe…

I acknowledge, Lord, and I give thanks that you have created your image in me, so that I may remember you, think of you, love you. But this image is so obliterated and worn away by wickedness, it is so obscured by the smoke of sins, that it cannot do what it was created to do, unless you renew and reform it. I am not attempting, O Lord, to penetrate your loftiness, for I cannot begin to match my understanding with it, but I desire in some measure to understand your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to undertand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this too I believe, that “unless I believe, I shall not understand.” (Isa. 7:9)
St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury 1093

Shadows, Groundhogs, badgers, Candlemas and a birthday

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.

Old English song

If Candlemas day be dry and fair,
The half o’ winter to come and mair,
If Candlemas day be wet and foul,
The half of winter’s gone at Yule.

Old Scottish song

Groundhog%20Munchies
(image taken from the web)

February 2nd marks, for Christians, the holy day of Candlemas, otherwise known as the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple

Jesus Presented in the Temple
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Luke 2:22-40

In both the US and Canada February 2nd is also known as Groundhog Day.
A hopeful day designated for anticipation and decision making. . .the pivotal marking of whether or not Winter is to linger for 6 more weeks or if Spring is to make a long awaited early arrival.
Either the groundhog sees his shadow or not—-The importance of shadows and clouds suddenly fills the air with expectancy. The signposts of legend and lore pointing either toward or away from Spring.
In Germany it was first a hedgehog–later in England it was a badger–and now, in North America, it’s a groundhog which is to take top honors bearing the responsibility of forecasting.

February 2nd is also Aunt Martha’s birthday and we certainly can’t let that monumental event be overshadowed by a groundhog, a hedgehog or a badger now can we. . .

So on this new day to this new month, early on in this new year, may we actually hope for clouds, shadows and Spring. . .may we be mindful of the significance of a wee child being presented in a Temple so very long ago and may we, much like Mary, ponder in our hearts as to how that single event has changed our lives as we are to never be the same. . .Also. . .may we think of wishing those we know and love, like Aunt Martha, a very happy birthday. . .
now. . .where are those clouds and did anyone think to bring the cake???

Breath of Heaven

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Mary’s Prayer (Breath of Heaven)

I have traveled many moonless nights
Cold and weary with a babe inside
And I wonder what I’ve done
Holy Father, You have come
And chosen me now to carry Your Son

I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now, be with me now

Breath of Heaven, hold me together
Be forever near me, Breath of Heaven
Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness
Pour over me Your holiness for You are holy
Breath of Heaven

Do you wonder as you watch my face
If a wiser one should have had my place?
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of Your plan
Help me be strong, help me be, help me

Breath of Heaven, hold me together
Be forever near me, Breath of Heaven
Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness
Pour over me Your holiness for You are holy

Breath of Heaven, hold me together
Be forever near me, breath of Heaven
Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness
Pour over me Your holiness for You are holy
Breath of Heaven, Breath of Heaven
Breath of Heaven
AMY GRANT

This is one of my favorite more modern sung prayers / hymns. The words do not do justice to the tone and inflection of the song–the sung version of a spoken prayer.
The melodic up, downs, starts, stops, trailing off. . .
It is an emotional prayer—
I cannot begin to imagine the humility and wonderment that must have flooded a young Mary as she is foretold of her now tremendous responsibly– so very overwhelming!
Pregnancy alone is a great responsibility, but for it to have taken place in such a miraculous, hidden and holy fashion is, for even many individuals today, most difficult to comprehend.

To say that Mary must have been scared is most likely putting it mildly.
We know Mary was young, most likely around 15 years old, an age when most modern day kids are just getting a learner’s license.
To be a parent at such a young age is most difficult, as I have had many a student who has borne such a burden—
But to do so alone, with no one but a young husband, in the middle of a strange town, with no shelter, no help, no mid wife, no money— all the while knowing that this child is more than merely your first child with a man whom you just recently married–but this child is much, much more–it is simply overwhelming—especially for me and my limited understanding.

I can only imagine the thoughts that constantly played out in Mary’s head during her wait of 9 months. The constant wondering of “why me —I am but a simple jewish girl” . . .over and over.
And yet I also imagine a supernatural peace must have engulfed her—as it must have for Joseph as well—that is until it was time to give birth.

I imagine Mary, uncomfortable and in great pain yet by this time, having now plainly accepted her role and relinquishing herself to a greater plan than her own earthly comprehension, is prepared to do what she has been waiting so long to do. Joseph is now the one more afraid and feeling most helpless. My heart breaks for this young couple at this single moment in time as it plays out millennium after millennium.

Our modern eyes look at the artistic images of a placid little family in a tidy little stable which adorn our holiday trimmings—but I bet it was far from the artistic version which we are so familiar with today in our countless nativity scenes and Christmas cards. This was a birth plain and simple and a birth is never a nice, neat, tidy event. To say Joseph was scared to death would be no illusion.

When hearing these words today, imagined as they are, recalling what could have been the thoughts of a young jewish girl, I am humbled by the sheer magnitude of the situation. I don’t think many of us stop long enough to truly comprehend the resounding implications of such a harrowing circumstance as we busy ourselves with our holiday festivities, but had it not been for this long ago and far away dramatic event, our festivities of today would simply not exist.

May you, during these waning days of Advent, stop long enough during the frantic frenzied days of shopping, working, and of making merry to find a glimpse of the marvelous mystery which is truly a part of this single prayer which must, to some degree, reflect the hopes and fears of a young girl many many years ago.