Valentine’s day…humbug

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings,
what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

Pedro Arrupe, S.J.


(detail of mosaic of the 3rd century martyr, St Valentine)

I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day—that being the made up “holiday” and not that of the real person.
And yes, St Valentine was a real person.

I never had a traumatic incident regarding the day for all things amóre–
in fact, my grandmother use to love telling the story of how I once received roses
from 5 different suitors on a Valentine’s day long, long ago.

My cousins still enjoy reminding me of that story as my husband casts a sideways glance my way…
he wasn’t one of the suitors…

I just have never cared for the exploitation of the life of a person who was not about all things
marketing but rather more about the sacrifice of self for his faith and his fellow man.

It’s that whole notion of the ultimate gift of self…
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

I had labored all last evening on a post about our Founding Fathers.
I spent most of the evening writing it.
I saved it.
Oddly it wasn’t there this morning…just the initial post I had started several days ago…
None of the additions or the final completed edited post…
the completed edition that was to be posted this morning.

I went in via my phone this morning to publish the post and realized, after posting it,
that what I posted was not the completed post I had thought I’d finished late last night–
a post that was good to go, but rather just the initial incomplete writing.

Odd and frustrating to be sure!

What happened you ask?
I don’t know…
But my witness, my husband, was equally baffled as we had chatted a bit about what I had
found regarding the “faith of our fathers”—which was the gist of the post.

I did, however, have a nagging thought all evening that, whereas I wanted to write about the faith of
President Washington and his fellow founders, perhaps I should be writing about St Valentine.

So be it by Divine Providence or some sort of nefarious act—the President will have to wait
until I can rework him and try to remember what I wrote…
and no, it’s oddly not in any of the history on the computer or WP.

So here is my Valentine day offering—what perhaps should have been my initial offering
on this day of Love.
A reminder that our love for one another is to be the greatest gift we can give one another…
because the ultimate example was given to us on Calvary.

According to Church lore,
Saint Valentine lived in Rome in the third century and was a priest who helped the martyrs
during the persecution of Emperor Claudius II the Goth.
The great virtue and catechetical activities of the Saint had become known.
For this he was arrested and brought before the imperial court.

“Why, Valentine, do you want to be a friend of our enemies and reject our friendship?”
asked the Emperor.

The Saint replied: “My lord, if you knew the gift of God,
you would be happy together with your empire and would reject the worship of idols and
worship the true God and His Son Jesus Christ.”

One of the judges stopped the Saint and asked him what he thought about Jupiter and Mercury,
and Valentine boldly replied:
“They are miserable, and spent their lives in corruption and crime!”

The judge furiously shouted: “He blasphemes against the gods and against the empire!”

The Emperor, however, continued his questions with curiosity,
and found a welcome opportunity to finally learn what was the faith of Christians.
Valentine then found the courage to urge him to repent for the blood of the Christians that was shed.
“Believe in Jesus Christ, be baptized and you will be saved,
and from this time forward the glory of your empire will be ensured as well as the triumph of your armory.”

Claudius became convinced, and said to those who were present:
“What a beautiful teaching this man preaches.”

But the Mayor of Rome, dissatisfied, began to shout:
“See how this Christian misled our Prince.”

Then Claudius brought the Saint to another judge.
He was called Asterios, and he had a little girl who was blind for two years.
Listening about Jesus Christ, that He is the Light of the World, he asked Valentine
if he could give that light to his child. St. Valentine put his hand on her eyes and prayed:
“Lord Jesus Christ, true Light, illuminate this blind child.”
Oh the great miracle! The child could see!
So the judge with all his family confessed Christ.
Having fasted for three days, he destroyed the idols that were in the house and
finally received Holy Baptism.

When the Emperor heard about all these events,
he initially thought not to punish them,
thinking that in the eyes of the citizens he will look weak,
which forced him to betray his sense of justice.
Therefore St. Valentine along with other Christians, after they were tortured,
were beheaded on 14 February in the year 268 (or 269).

Apart from the historical data we have for Valentine’s life,
there is accompanied various legends,
such as from those who say he is the patron saint of lovers.

The Saint had a reputation as a peacemaker, and one day while cultivating some roses
from his garden,
he heard a couple quarrel very vigorously.
This shocked the Saint, who then cut a rose and approached the couple asking them to hear him.
Even though they were dispirited, they obeyed the Saint and afterwards were offered
a rose that blessed them.
Immediately the love returned between them, and later they returned and asked the Saint
to bless their marriage.
Another tradition says that one of the charges against Valentine was that he did not adhere
to the command of the emperor which stated that men who had not fulfilled their military
obligations were not allowed to marry;
meanwhile the Saint had blessed the marriage of young Christian soldiers with their beloveds.

Besides all this, the likely choice of him as the “saint of lovers” is to be associated with
the pagan festival of Lupercalia, a fertility festival, celebrated by the Romans on February 15.
Others connect the celebration of this feast with the mating season of birds during this period.
Certainly, however, the Saint has nothing to do with the commercialism (marketing) of flowers,
gifts and secular centers which trivialize Eros, this great gift of God.

St Peter’s Orthodox Church and Mystagogy Resource Center

the secular stealing the Sacred

As a survivor of the Communist Holocaust I am horrified to witness how my
beloved America, my adopted country, is gradually being transformed into a
secularist and atheistic utopia, where communist ideals are glorified and
promoted, while Judeo-Christian values and morality are ridiculed and
increasingly eradicated from the public and social consciousness of our nation.
Under the decades-long assault and militant radicalism of many so-called
“liberal” and “progressive” elites, God has been progressively erased from
our public and educational institutions, to be replaced with all manner of
delusion, perversion, corruption, violence, decadence, and insanity.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn


(vintage Christmas Card)

About a week back or so, I wrote a post about the fact that we actually have two
Christmases…with the truth being that we do…we do have two.

And in turn, we have what seems to be a melding.

One is the secular Christmas of Santa, presents, stockings, commercialism and merchandising.

The other, of which is the original of the two, is the Christmas of a birth.

A birth that isn’t just any kind of birth…but rather it’s the birth of
a Savior…the birth of the Sacred.

So now that we have all of that clear—I should let you know that I have always tried hard
to keep the two separated yet at the same time, trying to keep them as one.

I think that chore is more of a burden that is not merely my burden alone…
but rather a burden that most Christians have struggled with…that being
the balance of the Sacred and secular.

And it seems as if, every year about this time, I jump on a tiny soapbox pontificating this
same ol conundrum…
And every year I tell myself, enough is enough.
I won’t get sucked in…not again.

There’s a lot of work to do for our secular side.
And it’s really a great deal of busy, and even expensive, sort of work.
And oh how we stress over it all.

We fret over the tiniest of details.
We strive for perfection while always falling short as we are then made to feel as if
we did not live up to the expectation our culture has put upon us.

But let’s be honest, we really put it on ourselves do we not?
If put another way, we actually “allow” it to make us feel as if we have not lived
up to the perfection….
However, me thinks there is something more going on here, more than meets the eye…

It’s actually something which many would consider near criminal…
A crime that is actually taking place in plain sight—
yet none of us appears to be any the wiser.

It is the stealing of the Sacred by the secular.

Yep, you read correctly.

The secular is, or certainly is trying, to steal the Sacred.

Yet here’s the thing…we are allowing it to happen.
We are complicit.
We are falling hook, line, and sinker— while all throughout this theft, we’re being dupped.

It is in our defense, that I state for the record, that we are being hoodwinked.
We are being lulled into this crime of complicity by the shiny lights and sounds
of the slick merchandising of the season that now ramps up sometime after July 4th.

So this year, my one small “rebellion” against complicity…

I opted not to send out Christmas cards.

At first, it was going to be the lights.
Then it was the tree, the gifts, the cooking, the decorating….see what I’m saying??
we’re living on an out of control fast rolling snowball turned avalanche.

Every year, early in the Fall, I’d seek out my Christmas Cards.
I did not take the task lightly.

When our son was little, ours was the basic card of a small family wishing
A Merry Christmas to all.
It was always a photo type card of our little boy with a Christmas Greeting from
all three of us.

Yet as time passed and he grew to be a young man versus that of a little boy, I shifted our
card focus from the greeting of a family through the image of their child to now
a card of only the Sacred.

A religious card that proclaimed the birth of a Savior.

It was not to be one of those types of cards with pictures of the whole family at the beach,
or on some exotic trip or some sort of montage of family feats and accomplishments…
nor was it to be one of those letter types of card that is a laundry a list of who, what
and where of the great and grand.

I understand that the simple sacrificial Christmas card morphed into becoming a surrogate
form of communication…
It became the equivalent of filling in the gaps of a year without having touched base
with the list of names on a list.

The Christmas card turned into the catch-up of life, liberally spiked with a heavy dose
of grandstanding.

It became the litany of a brag sheet of trips, events, accomplishments, and milestones…
Nothing about Christmas…that being Christ’s mass.

Nothing about Christ even being hidden in the details of that spectacular vacation to Machu Pichu
or your eldest now graduating top of her class.

Where is Jesus in the tales of where you went, who you saw, or what you accomplished?
Are there any thoughts or reflections regarding your service to Him or his sheep?

I don’t mind the images of the little children or even those of grandchildren as children
seem to be the connecting glue between the Sacred and the secular…
it is the children…or so that is what it should be.
The Sacred is that of a child and the secular is that of collective children.
Or so it was to be…
Innocence and the mystical mixed with the gift of Sacred birth.

So I figured…I’d send out my card here instead.
Just one big card for friends, family, and even strangers…

And since I would have sent them out by now, I figured I should do so here today.

So I offer you this lovely Italian baroque time period painting of the Nativity–also known
as the Adoration with Saints Francis and Lawrence…
a beautiful image for reflection and proclamation.

Yet it is a painting by the Italian artist Caravaggio—commissioned in 1609 as an altarpiece
for an oratory in Palermo, Sicily, the Oratorio di San Lorenzo…
A painting with a mysterious past, painted by a rogue of a painter…

It would be centuries following its completion that the painting would be
quietly taken by two men working for the Mafia and in turn
it would be “lost” for nearly 40 years.

A painting of the Sacred, painted by one who was anything but…
A painting that was stolen by those who were perhaps even worse than the artist…

Thus we have an example of the secular literally stealing an image of the Sacred….hummmm

(here’s a little link to the backstory behind the painting and artitst…I’ve written
about Caravaggio before…a very secular rogue of an artist who could paint oh so powerfully
the of the Sacred in a way unmatched by many other artists…one of my favs…
http://art-crime.blogspot.com/2009/12/breaking-news-on-stolen-caravaggio.html )

May we all be blessed as we recall the Sacred birth of Salvation…


The Adoration / Nativity with St. Francis and St Lawrence / Caravaggio 1609)

God is dope

“You are asking for something that would be harmful to your salvation if you had it–
so by not getting what you’ve asked,
you really are getting what you want.”

St. Catherine of Siena

I had the pleasure of attending a corporate function yesterday at a large Atlanta corporation.
It was a great family affair.

I was very surprised when I heard a fellow over a loudspeaker addressing the large
crowd gathered, consisting of employees and their families, grateful that
“the Lord has provided us with such a beautiful day today for our party…”

“Wow,” I thought to myself…how many corporate events, other than Chick-fil-A,
will a person hear such words spoken publically to a large gathered crowd???
A crowd that is not gathered for some sort of church service but simply gathered?!

Hopeful was my immediate reaction.

Next, I saw a young lady walk past me wearing a shirt very similar to the one shown above,
albeit with gold lettering.

I laughed to myself, laughing over how our words and their meanings have evolved
with our ever-evolving culture.

Back in the day…as in back in my younger days, the word dope was another word for drugs…
usually hard drugs such as heroin.

So to see such a current catchphrase used, as well as worn,
in reference to the great I AM left me a bit taken aback.

Is the name of God to be emblazoned, worn across the body in such a fashion?

Is Elohim, El Shaddai to be merchandised and blended into the current culture as
trendy high fashion?
Just another glittery hip-hop fashion statement??

I don’t know.

Whereas some would argue that wearing such a shirt is a good thing as it proclaims
that one is obviously some sort of unashamed “believer”…
and yet I am left wondering if it is not actually the making of God into something He is not…
that being small…

Making God fit into our idea rather than His idea…
an idea of what it is to be GOD…the great I AM…
or rather something that is simply, as we now say, dope.

Sigh.

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites:
‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

Exodus 3:14

a continuation of beginnings and comings

See me safe up: for in my coming down,
I can shift for myself.

Thomas More

dscn4719
(the frozen demise of the mint / Julie Cook / 2017)

Despite our having just journeyed through the season known for all things of anticipation…
that sacred time of observing Advent, which then culminates with the wondrous arrival
of the illuminating Nativity…
we actually, in this silent and slumberous time of deep winter,
continue finding ourselves waiting and watching.

Found in the Latin word adventus, which is the translation of the Greek word parousia,
we find a word and meaning that has traditionally been used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ.
Not so much denoting a single and initial birth, but rather embracing the anticipation of
a second birth…a sort of re-coming…

Yet, as William Stringfellow observes,
“we live now, in the Untied States, in a culture so profoundly pagan that Advent
(or any other Christian “season”)*
is no longer really noticed, much less observed.
The commercial acceleration of seasons,
whereby the promotion of Christmas begins even before there is an opportunity to enjoy
Halloween, is superficially, a reason for the vanishment of Advent.
But a more significant cause is that the churches have become so utterly secularized
that they no longer remember the topic of Advent.
*(parentheses mine)

And so it seems that our secular and worldly selves have given way from our
continuation of waiting and watching to rather the glossing over of a key
observational time within our faith.
We have allowed, as it appears we have preferred, to move away from that which should
still be our focus, yielding rather, to the superficial luster of the fleeting.

For it seems that the notion of Advent, or any other of the “seasons” of the church,
has fallen way to the more glamorous secular association of what should actually be the truly
innate spiritual rhythms of our beings.

Yet as unrelenting and ever-faithful,
we now find ourselves transitioning from the anticipation found in Advent and the Nativity
to Epiphany, leading way to Ash Wednesday and the heaviness of the somber Lenten season…
as it too shall give way to the unending promise of Hope…

We enter, once again into a time of waiting and watching…
waiting not so much for the first birth with its earth shattering life that was cut
tragically short by a brutal yet necessary death…
but rather we, the dwindling yet tenacious faithful, both wait and watch
not for an ending associated with death but rather for the continuation of what is to come…

Life anew and everlasting…

As we find ourselves listening to once again, as well as claiming, those prophetic words of that
lone figure who cried out to the masses so long ago…
as his words continue to resonate in our hearts…

MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!'”
Matthew 3:3