fine lines

When were the saints at the height of their joy,
but when they were suffering for their God and Saviour?

St. Teresa of Avila,
In a letter to the Reverend Father Hohn de Jesu Roca,
Carmelite, at Pastrana


(Palmer Chapel Methodist Church / Cataloochee National / Cataloochee Valley in the
Smokey Mountains)

Something that I’ve long observed as a Christian is that we members
of the faithful flock often walk a fine line with our faith and following.

We do so because we have been programed by words like sin, guilt, suffering,
penance, punishment—words that have throughout time
become sentiments hammered into our heads—worn around our necks like a
an every growing weighted chain.
Sentiments that we must experience if we are to be true to our faith.
Simply put, the burden is part and parcel of life as a Christian.

Such teachings have been allowed to morph while getting tangled
and entwined in our mindset.
They become like a choking vine wrapped around a tender young sapling.
Eventually that choking vine outpaces and engulfs the poor sapling.

We are very much like that tender sapling…
striving to grow ever upward, seeking our place in the sun—or in our case
that is more like in and with the Son…but…sadly…
many of our Christian denominations have instilled in us a need to carry a
deep suffocating burden if we expect to be true followers of Christ…

And yes, we should note that that burden is in essence
our sinful nature and that of our sins…
of which I dare not wish to dismiss, diminish or make light of…
for as a sinner, I know all too well the deep and lasting effects sin
can have on our spiritual well being–especially
sin that is neither repented nor confessed let alone curtailed.

The fine line is found somewhere between redemption and that of the sin itself.

We should also note that not only do we bear the weight of our sins,
it’s as if we are expected to continue carrying the associated guilt and heaviness
of those sins and wrong doings despite our having confessed and having handed
them over to our Redeemer.
We are not allowed, nor do we allow ourselves, to truly feel the release,
the joy and the freedom that comes with redemption.

We are washed clean yet many of our denominations and religious teachings
have lead us to think, or better yet believe,
that we must constantly wear our hair shirts as a reminder
that we are never truly free.

And perhaps in many ways, we are not free.

We are tethered to this world and that of our own sinful nature.
Yet I honestly believe that Jesus wants to lighten our burdens
when we confess to him, yet in doing so, many of us, me included,
just can’t seem to shake the heaviness or associated guilt…guilt
the world and our ancient enemy would have us bear and claim despite
Jesus having claimed them for us in his death and resurrection.

It seems that I also have observed that we have been taught, again over time,
that we are to actually suffer for our faith.
And the question of this world then nags… if we are not heavy ladened and or suffering,
are we truly following as we should??

There are those who would say no.

And so we wrestle on…wrestling with our various doctrines as well as
ourselves.

Personally, I think Jesus has the better solution.
A solution I must embrace…I must listen for his call…
or perhaps that is more like I am yearning for his call…

Come unto me, all you who labour and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest
(Matthew 11:28)

But go and learn what this means:
‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’
For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

Matthew 9:13

Memento mori

“Begin now to be what you will be hereafter.”
St Jerome

Memento mori (Latin for ‘remember that you [have to] die’)
wikipedia


(painting of St. Jerome by Caravaggio (1605-6))

Yesterday I caught a great little write up regarding St. Jerome.
September 30th, yesterday, in the Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox churches,
was the Feast Day of St. Jerome—
or more succinctly, the day The Church recognizes the life and legacy
of one of the great early fathers of the Christian Church.

In a quick nutshell:

Jerome, also known as Jerome of Stridon, was a Latin priest, confessor,
theologian, and historian; he is commonly known as Saint Jerome.

Jerome was born (c. 342–347) at Stridon, a village near Emona on the border
of Dalmatia and Pannonia.
He is best known for his translation of most of the Bible into Latin
(the translation that became known as the Vulgate)
and his commentaries on the whole Bible.
Jerome attempted to create a translation of the Old Testament
based on a Hebrew version, rather than the Septuagint,
as Latin Bible translations used to be performed before him.
His list of writings is extensive, and beside his Biblical works,
he wrote polemical and historical essays, always from a theologian’s perspective.

Jerome was known for his teachings on Christian moral life,
especially to those living in cosmopolitan centers such as Rome.
In many cases, he focused his attention on the lives of women
and identified how a woman devoted to Jesus should live her life.
This focus stemmed from his close patron relationships with several prominent
female ascetics who were members of affluent senatorial families.

Thanks to Jerome’s contribution to Christianity,
he is recognised as a saint and Doctor of the Church by the Catholic Church,
the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Anglican Communion.
His feast day is 30 September.

(Wikipedia)

Well, from his biography, we can see that Jerome was probably one of the
first pro-women fellows for his time.
Imagine that….
And happily Jerome is the one who gave us the Latin Bible…

So whereas we can understand why Jerome is always painted or drawn as
sitting at some sort of desk…for he was a translator and scholar…

But also within those images Jerome is always depicted with a skull
either on his desk or in his hands.

And this is where the write up comes into play.

The write up comes from a Catholic Company’s Get Fed segment.
This fed segment was in honor of St. Jerome and focused in on the reason as
to why there is always a skull sitting in close proximity to the
studious saint while he labors writing.

Now we come to the skull. Not something we would normally put on our desks.

In portrayals of St. Jerome and other saints, the skull symbolizes our mortality.
Memento mori —the memory of death—is something we as Christians should
always have in our minds, though not for the sake of meaningless morbidity.

Instead, the recollection of death reminds us to stay
detached from worldly things and to be always prepared to die,
since we will die eventually, and sometimes unexpectedly.
When our own death does come, may the Lord find us ready!

For Jerome and other ascetics, the skull is particularly suitable.
They deliberately separated themselves from the world and embraced
a life of prayer and penance in order to better attach themselves
to spiritual things and to prepare themselves for the next world.

The skull could also indicate St. Jerome’s spirit of penance
for the sins of his youth.
While studying in Rome as a young man, he fell into the immorality
common among his confrères.
Spurred by a guilty conscience and frequent visits to the Roman catacombs,
he converted and was baptized in the 360s.

Memento mori, detachment, penance—a skull in your study seems a little
more reasonable now, doesn’t it?’

And it was the notion that “the memory of death—is something we as Christians should
always have in our minds, though not for the sake of meaningless morbidity.”

Instead, the recollection of death reminds us to stay
detached from worldly things and to be always prepared to die,
since we will die eventually, and sometimes unexpectedly.
When our own death does come, may the Lord find us ready!

And it is this single thought, that of detachment, that is sadly the furtherest
notion from the minds of oh so many.

Detachment from the world.

How can any of us be detached when our world is more alluring than ever…
A sparkly shiny temptation vying for our very souls.

Our governments vie for our total dependance.
Big tech vies for our total allegiance.
Big merchandizing vies for any and all income.

It will only be in detachment that we can truly find our our salvation.

May the Lord find us ready indeed…
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
For the law of the Spirit of life has set you
free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.
By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,
he condemned sin in the flesh,
in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us,
who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit

Romans 8:1-5