putting words in one’s mouth…

“The word of the Eucharist makes us part of the great story of our salvation.
Our little stories are lifted up into God’s great story and there given
their unique place. The word lifts us up and makes us see that our daily,
ordinary lives are, in fact, sacred lives that play a necessary role
in the fulfillment of God’s promises.”

Henri J.M. Nouwen


(the most famous mouth—detail of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa)

God’s word….
We alter it to suit our purpose, our lives, our desires, our pursuits
our agendas, our lies…

We hear it, we read it, we change it…
then…
we claim it, we speak it and everyone believes it…

I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying,
‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’
How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies,
and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart,
who thinks to make my people forget my name by their dreams which they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Ba′al?…

Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, says the Lord, who steal my words from one another.
Behold, I am against the prophets, says the Lord, who use their tongues and say,
‘Says the Lord.’
Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, says the Lord,
and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness,
when I did not send them or charge them; so they do not profit this people at all,
says the Lord.

Jeremiah 23:25-28,30-32

pandora’s box

“They gave Pandora a box. Prometheus begged her not to open it.
She opened it. Every evil to which human flesh is heir came out of it.

The last thing to come out of the box was hope.
It flew away.”

Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


(an annoying pest moments before its demise / Julie Cook / 2017)

What have we become?

It was way back in 1989 when the world wide web, or more aptly known www., was
officially “created” by the British scientist Tim Berners-Lee,
an independent contractor working in Switzerland at the European Organization for
Nuclear Research…otherwise known as CERN.

It’s actually all quite above and beyond me really so I won’t even try to rehash any of it
or even attempt to explain it or its history except….
that I know that it was shortly after 1989 that one of those governing bodies
of all things science there at CERN proclaimed that access to and of the “web”
would be made available and free to the general populace….meaning you and me.

And life as you and I know it has never been the same.

And maybe that was the opening of pandora’s proverbial box.

Fast forward to 2017.

I am not a fatalist nor am I a henny penny the sky is falling doomsday sayer…
I’m also not one to put a whole lot of stock in prognosticators such as
the likes of a Nostradamus…
those soothsayers among us who carry the fatalistic signs proclaiming
that the end is near and we best all be ready…..

However that is not to say that I ever dismiss Christian mysticism…
I’ve lived long enough to know that I don’t know nearly as much as I often think I do.
I do believe in prophets.
I do believe in spiritual gifts.
and I also believe in spiritual curses…

I believe that there are those among us who tune in much better to God and His vast
and otherworldly Word than most of us average bears.
They hear and see and believe on a much deeper level than most of us are ever capable of
doing, possessing or going.

Theirs is a burdensome faith that most often comes with a heaviness that would suffocate
the average believer.
Carrying the weight of God’s very direct and personal words is not for the faint of heart.

Oh we’d all like to think we believe, we think we are faithful,
we think we step up to the plate when called…but trust me,
the majority of us fall much shorter than those few hearty inwardly seeing souls.

These certain individuals have been with us throughout the duration of time.
We know the ancient ones readily by name.
John
Jeremiah
Noah
Moses
Isaiah
Habakuk
Daniel
Simeon, etc…

on down to the very saints that today we so often reverently recall….
in places such as Fatima, Guadeloupe, Medjugorje, Lourdes
and even in the death camps of places like Auschwitz or in the Gulags buried deep
in Siberia.
Those select few have heard with a cutting clarity what the rest of us often naively
yearn for….but foolish mortals, you know not what you ask….

Most of us are not ready for such a sorrowful burdens of the Divine.
Think of the pieced heart of Mary…

And yet we must know that this mysticism of God is not far nor is it absent from our
modern-day lives despite many claiming quite the contrary.
Those frustrated among us who today proclaim we have no prophets,
no holy ones who see and call us to stop, look and listen–
No holy vocal polestars who point the rest of us in the right direction…

So what does Christian mysticism and the world wide web have to do with one another?
Well, not much really to the casual observer.
But to the more attuned…a great deal really….

Shortly after 1989 access to everything came to everyone with a frightening speed and
a deadly accuracy.
Now everyone had and still has the power.

The gift of technology was a boon but also a curse.

As it has begotten unto itself a wealth of spiraling accesses
of both new boons and endless curses.

It’s brought a connectivity to mankind that had never existed before.

Cell phones tying a crisscrossing virtual thread of global webs to the far flung edges
of civilization.
Internet at your fingertips anywhere, anytime….with anything you could imagine available
24/7 free of charge,
as our brains are now altered to seek out and be satisfied.

Twitter and its war of words with the tit for tat endlessness of anger and hatred…
Instagrams and its images galore be they good or be they bad….
Facebook and its sharing, bragging and constant underlying theme of human mayhem
Pintrest and its posting of the frustratingly fantastic
Snapchat and its humor of shenanigans
and so it goes…on and on, ad infinitum it begets and begets….

And what meaningful purpose does the majority of this all provide, offer or share
other than simply that, sharing…
with that sharing not always being a betterment for mankind kind of sharing….

And within all this dizzying wonderful and awful connectivity and sharing lies a
dark and sinister side…

Yet no one really wants to hear or acknowledge the darkness.
No one wants to see those who hold the signs proclaiming dangers or
that the end is near and are you ready….

For an unhealthiness has been bred deeply into mankind and it’s only boring deeper
and wider within.

Some now simply call the world flat…
Such as is the title of Thomas L Friedman’s 2005 book
The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century.

But at what cost have we flattened our world and ourselves?

There is new research stating that the brain has actually been altered by this
obsessive and loving addiction to our technology and it is called brain hacking…
(http://www.cbsnews.com/news/brain-hacking-tech-insiders-60-minutes/)
as in people are actually working on programs to addict your brain to
the need to access…..

So with this gift of access came to us a great responsibility along with a great curse…
Such that the majority of us were or are not ready nor prepared to bear…
rather we have been swept up within the fracas of begetting…
while the din of a million voices now vie for our thoughts…

Have we lost our ability of hearing…
listening and being attuned to those mystics among us calling out the words
of our God as we stare, with the blinders attached to our heads, ever so intently at the
devices at our finger’s reach……

Lest we be wary to whom and to what we now listen and give our beings over to…..

But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, until the time of the end.
Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”
Many shall purify themselves, and make themselves white, and be refined;
but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand;
but those who are wise shall understand
But go your way till the end; and you shall rest,
and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days.”

Daniel 12: 4, 9, 13

heads of serpents

“The final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about marriage
and the family.
Do not be afraid,
because anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will
always be fought and opposed in every way,
because this is the decisive issue.
However, Our Lady has already crushed his head.”

Sister Lucia


(Madonna and Child with St Anne / Caravaggio / 1605-1606 / Galleria Borghese, Rome)

Caravaggio was a masterful late Renaissance painter who seems to have been able to
capture the overwhelming importance of certain biblical moments with merely the tip
of a brush.
He mixed both arrangement, size, light and proportion to make both impressive,
as well as tremendous, visual impacts.

Yet for many art historians, this particular painting is not considered one of his better works.
However workmanship aside, the visual representation based on the verse from Genesis 3:15,

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

is indeed a powerful painted statement none the less.

A little history behind the painting, taken from the site Caravaggio.org

The Madonna and Child with Saint Anne was painted between 1605 and 8 April 1606,
when a final payment to Caravaggio was recorded,
for the Confraternity of Sant’ Anna dei Palafrenieri, or Grooms, of the Vatican Palace.
The composition depicts Christ and the Virgin treading simultaneously on the serpent of heresy,
watched by the Virgin’s mother, St. Anne, who was the patron saint of the Palafrenieri.
It was an unusual although topical theme based on an ambiguous biblical passage, Genesis 3:15,
which does not make it clear whether it was Eve, the antetype of Mary, the ‘New Eve’,
or her offspring who was meant to strike at the serpent’s head.
What started as a theological dispute became caught up in the wider debate between
Roman Catholicism and Protestantism,
with the Protestants not unnaturally arguing in favour of the offspring and, hence, Christ.
The issue was resolved on the Roman Catholic side, however, with commendable textual accuracy,
not to say religious tact,
by a Bull of Pius V which ruled that ‘the Virgin crushed the head of the serpent
with the aid of him to whom she had given birth.’
It is this interpretation which Caravaggio followed, possibly basing himself on a
slightly earlier picture by the Milanese artist Figino.

Yet Papal Bulls, Reformations and denominations aside…
Today’s faithful know that the head of the serpent was indeed crushed following that fateful
Friday afternoon outside of the walls of the old city of Jerusalem.
And if the truth be told, the vice hold on the head began that lone starry night
in Bethlehem 33 years prior.

The quote from above is offered by Sister Lucia, the oldest of the three shepherd children
who, while tending their sheep in Fatima, Portugal in 1917, were visited by a strange yet
lovely lady.

And yet it matters not where you are on your Christian journey as to whether you
take stock in the tale of the shepherd children or of the tale of the miraculous..
Just as it matters not as to whether you believe that there was indeed such a heavenly
encounter now 100 years passed…
The important thing here however is to understand that wisdom and warning both
come to us in a myriad of fashions.

There are many in today’s world, both believers and ardent non believers,
who wonder and even argue that those tales of miracles and those outspoken prophets of
the bible are found only there…
in between the pages of ancient texts…
and that our world has not been privy to such powerful and outspoken voices, with such
names as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Moses, John, Peter, Paul and that we have not witnessed such
miraculous examples as to partings of seas, or to the raising of dead bodies,
or to waters that turn either to blood or wine…
but if truth be told,
both believers and non believers, yearn for that very thing.

It is a yearning for the tangible being found in the miraculous of that of the intangible.

Our current time is precarious at best…
Where persecution of the faithful becomes seemingly more elusive yet more sinister….
as it is an intellectual and spiritual suffocation.

While that which was once overt is no longer clearly visible but rather is now veiled in
the gossamer shadows of confusion.
It is a place where the notions of acceptance and approval pervasively reign for that
which is upside down.

What was once accepted as Truth has now been twisted into something other than
as we are being spoon fed a most palatable mix of half truths and lies…
all the while we continue to clamor for bite after tasty bite.

Yet the time has come…
shall the faithful speak up and speak out?

A final battle will eventually ensue..
there have been preparations, when he left us, he made certain we were well equipped.
As he has provided ample opportunities, all of which have been freely offered..
all the while as a holy foot has held the head of the serpent at bay…

So the choice is now clear, either we opt to crush the head of the serpent or
we become his prey…

He who commits sin is of the devil;
for the devil has sinned from the beginning.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him,
and he cannot sin because he is born of God.
By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil:
whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother.

1 John 3:8-10

hard words

As fire is not extinguished by fire, so anger is not conquered by anger,
but is made even more inflamed.
But meekness often subdues even the most beastly enemies,
softens them and pacifies them.

Tikhon of Zadonsk

300px-tikhon_of_zadonsk
(icon image of St Tikhon of Zadonsk)

“It is a fearful thing to hate whom God has loved.
To look upon another–
his weaknesses, his sins, his faults, his defects–
is to look upon one who is suffering.
He is suffering from negative passions,
from the same sinful human corruption from which you yourself suffer.
This is very important:
do not look upon him with the judgmental eyes of comparison,
noting the sins you assume you would never commit.
Rather, see him as a fellow sufferer,
a fellow human being who is in need of the very healing of which you are in need.
Help him,
love him,
pray for him,
do unto him as you would have him do unto you.”

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

I caught this quote this morning while playing catch up reading over several blogs.
An Orthodox monk offered the quote and when I read that very first line,
its was if St. Tikhon reached out across space and time,
grabbing me by both shoulders while proceeding to shake me to consciousness.

“It is a fearful thing to hate whom God has loved….”

Whoa…
Ruminate over those words for a minute…letting them sink in…

“It is a fearful thing to hate whom God has loved…”

Not just that it is a fearful thing to hate, but he adds, whom God loves.
As in doubly significant…

It is an ominous observation that transcends time.

St. Tikhon was a Russian Monk who lived in a monastery in Zadonsk during the 18th century.
He is venerated as a saint within the Orthodox Church.
And his observational words are as timely today as they were in mid 1700’s Russia.

The wisdom of those who have trod the very earth of this planet prior to our own wanderings,
have much to offer those of us today struggling to manage our lives.

Have we as Christians not been told repeatedly that God loves each of us…
each last individual one of us???

All 7,465,271,925…of us
(click on the world population meter and this number will have grown considerably
by the time you are reading these words…
it is almost frightening how fast the counter rolls off number after number…
http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/ )

Turn on any television,
read andy news feed,
watch any current banter, particularly in the US,
and you will see right fast that there is very little if any love roaming about
this great Nation of ours.

Yet St. Tikhon tells us that it is a fearful thing, as in bad…as in really really bad,
not to love those whom God loves.

And don’t we know, aren’t we told that God loves everyone…
Not just Christians…but Jews, Buddhists, Atheists, Muslims…

If you can name them, He loves them…
as well as those you can’t name.

Remember the words of the prophet…

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Jeremiah 1:5

Let that sink in.

He knew you…as in you and you alone….
and He knew me and all those people now around us…

He even knows and loves those who you now hold with great disdain….

let that sink in…

For whom you hold with disdain,
for whom you loath,
for whom you distrust,
for whom you can’t stand,
for whom you claim to hate…

He, in turn, knows and loves.

And now remember the words of the saint…

Help them
Love them
Pray for them

And love them as He loves you….

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath,
for it is written:
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:18-21

ruffled feathers

It is the character of a brave and resolute man not to be ruffled by adversity
and not to desert his post.

Marcus Tullius Cicero

DSCN4197
(time for molting / a cardinal looking worse for the wear /Julie Cook / 2016)

Now is the time for the Faithful to be both brave and resolute…
for doubt and complacency have blanketed reality.

No longer do we know what is truth or fallacy…
As loud voices are vying for supremacy.

But we have been warned, long before now, that false prophets will abound.
There will be those who come and go offering promises that can’t be kept.
As we’ve been lulled into ignoring honesty

We’ve readily traded Truth for the satisfaction of self…
while the masses have not a clue.

There is neither time nor season to waste…
The stage is set, the events have begun,
yet everyone is too busy posing for the selfies of the egocentric.

Speak up you who hold the Faith.
Stand firm and hold your ground….
Because if you don’t, no one else will…
as all will have been for naught…

You don’t think so?
You don’t agree?
You don’t wish to be an alarmist?
You don’t want to appear intolerant, ignorant or uninformed…

Trouble is…
you don’t have the time to wait and wonder if…

DSCN4195

How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you get up from your sleep?

Proverbs 6:9

Valleys

“When walking through the “valley of shadows,” remember, a shadow is cast by a Light.”
Austin O’Malley

CIMG0533
(a beautiful view of the Basilica Papale di San Francesco and the sweeping valley below Assisi as seen from a journey up to the summit of the hill town ,The Rocca Maggiore Castle / Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

Today all of mankind walks through the valley of the shadow of death,
as a veil is pulled across all clarity.
Unbeknownst to humankind, a war currently wages for its very soul.
Oblivious to the cost paid, the sacrifice made or the blood spilt,
the sons of Adam strut about in the small world they have created for themselves.

Angels and demons wrestle over the lives of clueless specters as
the former Bearer of Light holds court.
Shoulders contort as bones separate from familiar joints.
Lungs burn desperately for oxygen as stretched muscles ache pushing upward for air.

Wails and cries mix in a never-ending cacophony of agony,
as a mother’s heart breaks.
Memories of the nine months of wonder and awe suddenly give way to the Prophet’s cries.
Death’s cold hand grazes her cheek as he sweeps toward the cross.
The secrets held deep in her heart, now smashed into a thousand drops of blood,
while her tears fall to dust.

“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani”
The heaviness of a breathless statement is carried away on the wind,
as those who have come to gawk, cackle with glee.
“Where is you god now prophet?”
“Free yourself and us, oh you mighty king”
Scorn and ridicule horrifically collide into conviction and hope.

The hour finally draws nigh as Day gives way to Night.
Light lets go, allowing Darkness its false victory.
With the toll now paid, as the demons dance and shout, the lone Creator turns His back.
Man, still unaware of his role, sports the Innocent’s blood on his hands.

Silence is all that remains.
The deep dark emptiness filling the void turned tomb,
as the Earth trembles and quakes.
There is no hope.
Not today.
“It is finished” is all He said.