late but still very timely–no chaining the word of God

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times.
But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do
with the time that is given us.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Ok, I admit, I’ve let this one sit a bit too long…as in this was from about two weeks ago…
Hence the story of my life in a nutshell…a day late and many dollars short!!!

I wanted to share something I read…about two weeks ago.

It came from a daily email I receive from the American Catholic Bishop Robert Barron.
The e-mail is actually a small reflection based on the day’s religious reading.
Be it Catholic, Anglican or Episcopal…or other like-minded denominations, we keep a
liturgical based calendar…

This particular calendar is one that reflects the life cycle of the greater Christian body.

And for those of you unfamiliar with liturgical calendars…
in a nutshell from catholicextension.org, here is an explanation:

The liturgical year serves as the Catholic Liturgical Calendar.
(We could insert Episcopal here as well)
It consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons that determine when feast days
and other holy days are observed, and which Scripture and Gospel
readings are used at Mass.

Aside from the readings,
the liturgical calendar also determines the interior decoration of a Church,
the priest’s vestment colors, the timing of spiritual seasons and practices such
as Lent, and much more.

The Liturgical calendar year begins on the first Sunday of Advent.
It is divided into six seasons.
The shortest but most holy season is the three day Sacred Pascal Triduum leading up to Easter.

My church raising, in the Episcopal Chruch, was based on the same line of calendar seasons.
Our services revolve around the seasons that are recognized by the greater Chruch…
Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost…

That being said, each Sunday is recognized as a Sunday within a certain seasonal time…and each
Sunday has its own specific readings from the epistles and Gospel that follow along
with the said season.
(Each day does as well but most folks do not attend Chruch services on a daily basis…)

Ok, so now that we have that straight…

Two weeks ago, that particular day’s reading was from Luke 11:27-28
It’s a reading based on a small exchange between Jesus and a woman who had been in a
crowd listening to him.
In her zeal and excitement, this woman shouts out to Jesus “Blessed is the mother who
gave birth and nursed you”

Jesus heard her words and responded much differently than what the woman may have imagined
“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it”

He was always, as He remains, pulling our sights to the bigger picture…
or more precisely, to the right and correct picture.

We hear him tell us to obey the word of God…for blessed will we be for doing so.

Bishop Barron reflects on this notion of obeying God and thus being blessed
by looking back at a time in history that was more or less a catalyst rather than
being just a single incident.

Since Hitler’s Nazi war machine marched on Polish soil on September 1, 1939
until the fall of that infamous wall in November of 1991,
the Polish people lived under two iron-fisted atheistic regimes …
The Nazis and Communists…fascism, socialism, atheism, authoritarianism, ultranationalism…
you name it–the Poles suffered.
Their Jewish population was almost decimated during the Holocaust.

Poland had been a staunchly Catholic nation almost since its first Christian king in 966.

Yet for over 50 years, Christianity was the bane of two of the
20th century’s bloodiest ruling regimes.

Both the Nazis and Communists worked meticulously to silence the Chruch.

In Germany, the Lutheran Chruch had already capitulated by becoming the official
state-run Chruch. A puppet church of Hitler.

The Chruch in Poland would not fall as easily.

Both regimes outlawed the Chruch, they arrested and murdered priests and nuns,
as well as the pastors of other denominations.
They threatened the faithful with torture and death.
Doors to churches were locked and padlocked.

Yet the faithful remained just that…faithful.
They simply went underground.

This was no more evident than the day the first Polish Pope made
a homecoming visit of sorts on May 8, 1979–
The leader of the global Catholic Chruch visited a bleak and battered Communist nation…
A nation whose leadership was stymied as to stop such a televised and historic trip.

Bishop Barron notes that during the open-air masses attended by the millions of
hungry souls, the crowds would break out chanting, “we want God”

I can remember watching the televised trip.
The people were so hungry for God.
They were determined, they would no longer remian silent.
Because as Bishop Barron reninds us…
“There is no chaning the word of God”

Regimes have all come and gone, each having discoverd what happens when the
people obey that Word regardless of the risk to life…
because be it sooner or later, blessings will indeed eventually follow.

Here is Bishop Barron’s “homily”

Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Luke 11:27-28
As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out,
“Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”
He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Friends, our Gospel blesses those who hear the word of God and observe it.
In this regard, I would like to speak about the response of the Polish people to
the word proclaimed by St. John Paul II.
The power of the Polish Communist state, and behind that the power of the Soviet Union,
is what John Paul faced at the beginning of the 1980s.
But he was practiced in the art of facing down oppressive political forces,
having grown up under Nazism and Communism.

He spoke of God, of human rights, of the dignity of the individual—frightening
at every turn, his handlers worried about diplomatic repercussions.
As he spoke, the crowds got bigger and more enthusiastic.
This went beyond mere Polish nationalism.
At one gathering, the millions of people began to chant “We want God! We want God!”
over and over for fifteen minutes.

There was no controlling this power, born of the confidence that God’s love is
more powerful than any of the weapons of the empires of the world,
from crosses to nuclear bombs. This is, of course,
why Communist officialdom tried vehemently to stop John Paul II.
But there is no chaining the Word of God!

Bishop Robert Barron

confessionals

“The punishment of every disordered mind is its own disorder.”
St. Augustine of Hippo


(an Italian confessional in St Peter’s / The Vatican, Rome / Julie Cook / 2018)

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another,
that you may be healed.
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

James 5:16

Let me back up a tad…

Back at the end of June, my husband retired.

He had spent 50 years running a small family business.

It was not how he had wanted to spend his life.
It was not his dream.
But it was his lot in the world of his sense of duty.

So when he made the decision to throw in the towel after 50 long grueling years,
I knew I wanted to do something special.
Something memorable to mark such a monumental occasion.

But what would be special?

A trip perhaps?

And perhaps not just any trip.
Perhaps a bucket list sort of trip.

For my husband, however, his idea of leaving this country has simply been crossing over the
border into Canada.
Not that anything is wrong with wandering into Canada…
but Canada’s border wasn’t in the bucket.

The only time my husband had truly left the country, as in the continent,
was in the mid-1970’s.

He was in his sophomore year of college, playing college football, with his eye set on
dentistry or even coaching…
but at the behest of his father, or more like the demand of an abusive alcoholic father,
he stoically left where he was happiest and went to the Joseph Bulova School
in Queen’s New York where he eventually earned a degree in Horology.
That being the study of watches and watchmaking.
And with that followed studies with the GIA institute to become a gemologist and
diamond graduate.

Never his plan but rather what his father demanded what he was to do with his life as
he felt obliged to do so.

Following two years of surviving ad enduring life in New York,
this small town country boy was then sent to America Somoa where he managed the Bulova Watch Plant
for a year’s time.

It was following this year in absentia, a year of living on a 5-mile wide and long island that he
vowed, that if he ever made it home, he’d never leave the country again.

And that vow stuck…for 50 long years.
With, of course, Canada being excluded.

So now let us fast forward to a man 69 years of age and finally retiring…
I told him that if he would like…if he was willing…
I would make the bucket list trip happen.

And so he actually delightfully agreed.

The bucket list trip had always been to Normandy, France.

Or rather, it was to the beaches and towns of the D-Day invasion.
The places where regular men were to be unknowingly transformed into heroes…
heroes because these average young men willingly gave up their lives for all of
Western Civilization’s precious gift of democracy and freedom—
a gift so woefully tested by our current society.

I will soon write about this personal pilgrimage of sorts within the coming days…
but before I do so, I want to address my concern over a current global obsession.

An obsession that only those living under rocks must be missing.

If you’ve ever found yourself traveling outside of the US and after a long
day or either business or touring, wanting to simply fall onto a bed while flipping on
a television hoping to catch a familiar sound of someone speaking your own language,
chances are your choice has been limited to one of two channels…
CNN International or the BBC International.

Both of which have a heavy dose of progressive liberalism in their slant
on global happenings.

Such was our lot during this recent Supreme Court nomination fiasco.

We were subjected to the willy-nilly, the sky is falling Henny Penny sense of
hysteria coming from the news anchors of CNN International.
I actually caught each and every nuanced slur and sensationalistic little dig.

So I will giddily confess…I was greatly happy to be out of the country during all of the
obsession over the Kavanaugh hearings…
or more aptly put…the grilling, the scrutinizing and the personal persecution
of a seemingly decent man, husband, father and professional.

I will not belabor this latest idiocy of ours as I am sick of it all.
Sick of the latest low we, as a Nation, have sunk to.

That we have actually allowed ourselves to conduct governmental dealings as a sleazy
tabloid trash reality show would do…of which I find disgusting…
disgusted over our irreprehensible assinine behavior…is beyond my soul.

Scintillating and titillating are two words I would never have ever considered using when thinking
about, let alone describing, a hearing process working towards the nomination of a Supreme
Court Justice…
Rather we should consider words steeped deeply in the tedious law-minded legal policies
and ponderings of a judicial system.

If we are now wanting to use the haphazard adolescent behavior from our teenaged years
as benchmark measures for our adult appointments and advancements then I fear every last
human being will be in store for a rude awakening if not a ton of troubles.
For what young person among us hasn’t done something dumb, shameful, wrong, illegal
and or simply arrogantly stupid?

For is that now how we, in part, learn?
Learning from youthful idiotic mistakes and poor choices as we make our way
to adulthood?

We just pray, as do the adults in our lives, that such mistakes and poor youthful judgment calls
are not overly detrimental, utterly devastating or sadistically dubious…
and yet sadly, in many cases, they are…

Consider the adolescent bravado of living fast, furious and large while mixing life and death consequences…
James Dean comes to mind.

And no, we are not talking about pathological psychosis that gives way to bizarre heinous actions.
Here we are talking about poor judgemental actions by, more often than not,
self-centered egotistical youth not the actions of psychopaths.

And so when recently visiting St Peter’s in Rome while passing by a confessional booth…
I was struck immediately by our human sinful nature.
Something that hangs over us like a heavy dusty suffocating curtain.

I grew up in a liturgical church…a church with the prayers of confession and confessions
to a priest…all being the norm.
I for one often found myself on that confessing end, seeking both prayerful wisdom and direction
from those more knowledgeable and wizened than myself as I made my way through the muddy waters of
growing up balancing on the wire between my newly professed faith while finding my way as a willful
teenager.

Absolution.

Absolution which we graciously offer to those who seek forgiveness…
the ultimate absolution granted to each of us from the one who hung on a cross.

“Go and sin no more” said the Jewish rabbi to the adulteress woman.

The confessional is a sacred form of sharing from the penitent to the priest.
It is a protected sharing…protected even in a court of law.
For it is a sharing between penitent, priest and God.
And yet, I somehow sense that our rabid politicians and progressive liberal culture,
coupled with the hyper-rabid news media, would find the confessional null and void
for the sinners among us…as they seem to find themselves above reproach…

Yet who among us is worthy of casting that stone?

My concern is not with what took place 35 years ago by a supposed 16-year-old kid
and those who can and cannot recall the who, what and wheres of cloudy recollections…
but rather with the dubious ploys used by those who simply hate a president and everything
attached to his tenure.

Such that they seek a saint amongst the sinners…

May God have mercy on us all…

If we confess our sins,
he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

sinking ships

Democracy requires common ground on which all can stand,
but that ground is sinking beneath our feet, and democracy may be going
down the sinkhole with it.

Pat Buchanan


(Canterbury Cathedral)

I grew up in a very large church in a rather large denomination in an
increasingly large city.

The Cathedral of St Philip.

A beautifully large Episcopal, southern Gothic, church reminiscent of something that
should have been found somewhere in the UK rather than Atlanta, Georgia.

The Cathedral is the diocesan seat of the North Georgia chapter
of the Episcopal Church in Georgia.

The Episcopal Church of America, in a nutshell, is a part of the World Wide Anglican Communion and is basically a sibling to the The Church of England.

Many consider the Episcopal and Anglican Churches kissing cousins to the Catholic
Church. And perhaps there is a good bit of truth to that as we are each liturgical
churches that follow a similar service format with very similar
creeds and doctrine.
Yet whereas the cousins are related, they are also different.
The cousins have a pope and we have the Presiding Bishop in American and the
Archbishop of Canterbury in the UK.

Confused yet?

It is not my intention to give a history lesson here as I’ve done that in the past.
I don’t want to have a theological discussion as I’ve done that in the past as well.

But what I do want to do is share a bit of sad frustration that just might have
finally found a slight ray of hope.

Have you ever found yourself on a sinking ship?
Probably not, but stay with me for a minute…

It is a ship that is actually on fire.
In the middle of a moonless night out upon a vast body of water.
You know the ship is burning as well as sinking…
plus you know you need to get off ASAP!

Problem is there are no lifeboats, no fire extinguishers…
the water is dark and cold as well as shark infested.
Your options are limited.
Things just aren’t looking too good.

I have felt this way for a good many years now.

Both The Episcopal Church and the Church of England have become that sinking
ship.

It’s a long story which I suppose got really going in the late 60’s
and early 70’s.

We may remember that we were coming off a very difficult time in the country.
Vietnam had been a mess, women were burning bras,
demanding equal rights, demanding the right to abortions,
while the youth had enjoyed a “season” of open and free love as we had witnessed
the demand for birth control and open sex.

That was also about the time women were wanting into the priesthood.
Then came the openly gay and practicing clergy.
Then came the approval of same sex marriages within the church.
Ad nauseum it goes.

I’ve spent my life as an ardent Christian and ardent church member who has always
clung to God’s word…as in His word is actually the final word…

As His word has been and will continue to always be that final word….
Yet that Word is basically being chopped to bits by the church…..
while the sinking has been hard.

That is part and parcel as to why I quit attending long ago as
I found it increasingly hard to reconcile myself with leadership of a church body
that made decisions that I believe run counter to the Word of God.
Yet my heart remained with the liturgical church.

I am a person who has always liked, as well as admired, those lone voices among
the noise.
Being a person who actually yearns for such voices.
Because I believe those voices speak of our hope.

The voices of those who stand alone in the desert while shouting to the moon
and back as to what is Truth.
Those who speak Truth while the entire world is losing its mind and running
like freaking lemmings to the cliff.

Think John the Baptist.

Think the early Christians persecuted by Rome.

Think even Winston Churchill in our more modern times.

Think anyone who has seen the reality of the times and dares to speak up
by saying so.

I’ve just recently happened upon the blog of an Anglican priest who just so
happens to be one of those lone voices.

A single thread of sanity found in the middle of the madness.

His name is Gavin Ashenden and he is the former chaplain to the Queen…
a position he held until he could no longer support the direction in which the
Anglican Church was going…
that being to the cliff with the other lemmings.

Yesterday Father Ashenden posted a column by the a catholic priest, Fr Ed Tomlinson,
which has hit the nail squarely on the head for both these kindred siblings and cousins.

For you see what is happening in the Episcopal and Anglican Churches is just
a reflection of what is actually taking place on a larger stage.
It is a reflection which mirrors what is actually happening in both the
United States and Great Britain as a whole…
as we are currently watching both our Governments capitulate to all things
Politically Correct, those things deemed holy only by man and a blatant
refusal to acknowledge the Christian foundations of Western Civilization.

The ship is on fire, it is sinking fast and those of us who know better,
have got to get off ASAP but there are no lifeboats….

Below are a few key points from Fr. Tomlinson’s column along with a link to the
full post:

“Highly political synods shattered Anglicanism’s fragile unity.
Catholics should take note”

“A former Anglican Chaplain to the Queen, the Revd Gavin Ashenden,
is spearheading a revolt in the Church of England Synod over the thorny issue
of homosexuality.
Anglicans are talking openly about schism.
Catholics the world over should be watching very carefully.”

Anglicanism’s real problem has always been a theological schizophrenia –
the result, perhaps, of it having formed to appease a lusty monarch rather
than to preach a creed with clarity. Ask a hundred Anglicans what
Anglicanism actually is and expect a hundred answers.
The Church of England isn’t, really, one Church at all.
It’s an Erastian umbrella organisation holding together,
by virtue of the Crown, a huge range of competing theologies.

“And it didn’t take long for the liberal lobby, strengthened by trends
in society and over-represented on the bench of bishops,
to realise synod worked in their favour.
Did the Holy Spirit say no to women priests in July’s Synod?
Fret not: table the motion again in February, then repeat ad nauseum,
until the Holy Spirit finally gets the message!”

The second development which disrupted Anglican unity occurred when the
Book of Common Prayer became optional not mandatory.
You are what you pray: lex orandi, lex credendi.
With the shackles removed, parishes started to go their own way.
Today, there is almost no common ground between an evangelical parish
on one side of town and its liberal counterpart on the other.
This represents a massive problem for the Church of England:
how can you bring people together in love when there is zero shared praxis
between them?
The situation has become so grave that the Lambeth Conference can no longer be held,
due to deep divisions even at the level of the episcopacy.

So it is that the Revd Gavin Ashenden finds himself embroiled in this final
battle for the soul of modern Anglicanism. He and a few others are making
their last stand against the powerful modernist liberal consensus
that dominated the most recent Synod.

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2017/07/26/the-lesson-of-anglicanism-liberalism-will-tear-you-apart/

So I am somewhat hopeful when I read the tales that there are a few lone
voices still out there that have yet to be silenced by the masses…voices who
know the truth for what it is….
God’s Truth…

Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ;
and He will reign forever and ever.”

Revelation 11:15

Veni, Veni Emanuel

Veni, veni Emmanuel;
Captivum solve Israel,
Qui gemit in exilio,
Privatus Dei Filio.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
Nascetur pro te, Israel!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that morns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel

CIMG0281
(a woman worships in silence alone, in a small Florentine chapel in Florence, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

Growing up in an Anglican, more specifically, an American Episcopal Church, in a large Gothic Cathedral to be more exact, I was immersed at an early age with beautiful choral music and hymns. Many of which boast of ancient roots and beginnings. To hear and to feel the massive and beautiful organ deeply reverberating throughout the massive stone cavernous church as it engulfs one’s entire being, accompanying the voices of the classically trained choir, echoing and rising out from behind the chancel, was all short of magical.

I am very old fashioned when it comes to hymns and the music associated with that of a Cathedral. There is a solemnity and a reverence. Just merely reading the lyrics of these hymns, one is struck by the rich poetic history of the stories being told via the use of ancient song.

There are a handful of hymns, to this day, which tug upon my heart bringing tears to my eyes each opportunity I have, as either a member of a Sunday congregation or merely gently singing to myself as I go about my day–that move my heart to a place of deep reflection–an almost mystical reverence.

Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, the Latin version of O come O come, Emmanuel, is one such hymn. It is a hymn for the season of Advent, as that is the only time it is sung. It’s roots are indeed ancient as some scholars date it (the Latin version) to that of an 8th century Gregorian Chant. Others date it to either the 12th or 15th century France as a processional type of hymn. Even others date it to as earless the 18th century as an antiphon or type of sung liturgical response.

Sadly, I must confess that I don’t know a thing about music, as I’ve never been trained or had an opportunity of singing in a choir. I really can’t sing, but have always wished I could. So as I explain the power of this particular hymn, those of you who do understand music, please forgive me for I speak from my heart about this music and not of classical study.

O come O come Emmanuel is sung slowly, beginning quite low, being “sung” a cappella. It can be accompanied by an organ or other single instrument. Mannheim Steamroller, the wonderfully synthesizing modern music group, who has produced marvelous holiday music based from many medieval songs, has a beautiful rendition. It is very reminiscent of the chants heard from various early Christian monasteries–which is why I believe it does have it’s roots seeded in that of Gregorian Chants. The cadence is steady and specific–there is power in the simplistic rhythm of the 7 groups of stanzas which make up the full body of the text.

I understand the whole joyful noise business, but I am of the serious school when it comes to worship. The ancient hymns, that are more typical of a liturgical service, speak of solemn serious worship–meditative and reflective, which seem to rise up from one’s very core. There is not that over the top emotionalism so often associated with the prayer and praise musical services of today. In this chant, as well as other similar types of hymns, there is rather an acute awareness.

Much of the early Church’s music, which has it’s roots in Medieval Europe, speaks of wondrous mysteries as the world, to those who were apart of those “dark ages,” was indeed a mysterious time and place. They did know the things which we know today. Much of our scientific world has solved many of their mysteries and problems. Their musical worship was based deeply in a belief and faith that was undefinable, full of questions, wonderment and awe. God and the understanding of Him, His Son and that of the Holy Spirit was unfathomable–something not easily or readily defined or put in a nice little box of understanding. Their music reflected such. Mystery and awe.

This particular hymn / chant is serious, steady, determined, meaningful and lasting. It strikes at something very deep. It doesn’t get one worked up in a sweat induced, clap your hands and shout to the heavens sort of deal, but rather it is almost spoken, as in a statement that is meant to make those who hear it contemplate its very importance. It is almost mournful and heavy.

Why mournful and heavy you ask as we enter the season of Advent which, for the Church, marks a time of waiting and expectant watching you wonder. Are we not anticipating a birth? Is not the anticipation of a birth an event of great joy?

A time of joy, yes, and yet at the same moment, with this particular birth, comes a deep heaviness as it is a birth marked with tremendous hardship, only to be followed by the fleeing for safety and then a time of more waiting. The very conception, waiting and birth stay constantly in the shadow of Death. With this birth comes grave consequence for both me and you. . .and yet, as with all births, there is tremendous Hope of what will be.

And as with the anticipation of any birth comes a sense of urgency. The urgency here is of the coming of the one referred to as Emmanuel, as it is He who is come to ransom the captive Israel, which in turn refers to all of us today. He is to come and is to set the captives free. To free you and I from the prison of our sin and of our death. As we mourn throughout our “exile” or separation from our Father.

The Immanuel, Hebrew עִמָּנוּאֵל, which has been Romanized to Emmanuel–meaning God with Us, is invoked to come, to come to us all, but yet is acknowledged as already being here with us–the Omnipotent one. We sing to the God who is with us and yet who is to come, and who is to come quickly. We are then told to Rejoice, Rejoice because He will come, as He has come and as He will come again.

On this first Monday in this new season of Advent may we all be mindful of our continual need of this Holy Coming–of the one who will set and make things right, who will free both you and I from the constant presence of the shadow of Death—-who will bridge the gap of separation, as this Emmanuel is the only one who can and will and has done all of this! So may we Rejoice and Rejoice continually as He shall come to us indeed—Amen. Amen.