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.

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)

She died stringing beans

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Hamlet / William Shakespeare


(tomb in Santa Maria sopra Minerva / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

“After William Shakespeare’s Horatio sees the ghost of Hamlet’s father and
scarcely believes his own eyes, Hamlet tells him that there is more to reality
than he can know or imagine including ghosts.”

So reads a small excerpt I recently came across when flipping through a new book catalog
I’d just received in the mail.
The catalog is from Ignatius Press and the excerpt was part of a brief overview
for a new book release by both college professor and Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft.

I found the Shakespeare piece, the quote from Hamlet, quite telling.

That there is indeed more to this reality of ours…with death being a bit of a doorway…
not so much the ghost thing…as I do believe in a spiritual warfare…but this is
not about that…not today anyway…

But I should confess that every once in a while I do find my thoughts turning to my
own mortality.
Perhaps that’s a bit morbid, but hey, it happens.

I suppose such thoughts increase as one’s age increases.

Since I hit another birthday last week, I suppose such thoughts concerning both
life and death are just typical brain fodder.

You know when you’re actually closer to that magic number that those supposed experts
keep telling us is a typical life expectancy age for a relatively healthy US woman…
well, the reality becomes a bit hard to ignore.

I’ve mentioned before that if you have ever lived through losing, utterly prematurely, a
loved one or perhaps a dear friend due to a catastrophic illness or tragic accident…
you naturally find yourself wondering, more often than others,
‘when might my your own number get called up??’

So yesterday while I found myself standing at the kitchen sink…a sink full of green beans
that needed snapping and stringing before being cooked…my thoughts wandered off course.

And by the way, I don’t know why but I can never find fresh pole beans this time of year…
just those generic string beans now sold in pre-packaged plastic bags all imported from
south Florida or worse…California….anywhooo, I digress.

So there I was mindlessly stringing and snapping a sink full of imported beans as my mind
started wandering.

My thoughts actually got around to the notion of what if I did just suddenly fall out
here at the sink…
what if I dropped dead while stringing these beans…???!!
I suppose they could sadly write my epitaph “She died stringing beans”

But there are certainly worse ways to go.

And in typical fashion for my life, that’s how it will be you know.
It won’t be like something out of the movies but rather it will be
nothing I will have expected or planned on.
Death doesn’t work that way.

With a healthy melding of both humility and hubris, I’ve always thought it will never
be in some sort of glorious heroic sort of finale.
It’ll be more like something stupid or either something plain awful.

Funny how the brain and ego work in tandem when imagining one’s own ending.

Death waits for no man, and if he does, he usually doesn’t wait long…
That quote comes from Markus Zusak, author of The Book Theif (I didn’t care for the book)

So yes, Mr. Zusak is correct, Death doesn’t wait.

And I think we’d all agree that Death, here in our realm, is mostly perceived as
something most tragic and dreaded…
It’s a permanent-seeming sort of separation and, for far too many, it can be
a painfully slow and lingering happening.
And the odd thing is…that when it is long and painful, we then view Death as a blessed
release.
We even note that the one suffering suffers no more.

Yet death is a thought that leaves all of us unsettled…
particularly when we think about our own demise.

Chances are all of us, at one point or another has mused over when, where, how and why…

Yet what we must remember is that in the mind of God, death is more or less liberating.
It’s the cutting of an earthbound tether… as we humans suffer from
a gravitational pull that keeps us grounded… and Heaven knows, we certainly like
our earthly grounding.
But the cutting of the earthly tether allows for a reunion.
A reunion between Creator and created…
it’s just that we don’t always think of it those sorts of terms.
Instead, we dread it or simply see it more as an ending rather than a beginning.

It’s hard to imagine that death is actually an act of ‘freeing’ us.
Yet for me, it tends to be more of a scary thought than not.

For those of us who lay our hearts, our lives, our sins, our hopes at the foot
of the cross…
those of us who die on the Cross with Christ and are in turn risen from the tomb with
Christ Resurrected…death should not be seen as the ending but rather the beginning…
but yet I’ll be the first to admit, it’s a bit scary walking out into that unknown.

So as I was stringing my beans, I quickly realized that our idea of death is not God’s
idea of death…and that in itself alone is a very good thing.

When I recently visited the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, I
was taken aback a bit when I saw two separate tombs that actually had the real skulls
of the deceased embedded into the tombs as part of the elaborate construction.

A somewhat creepy reminder of our own mortality.

Just like those catacombs in France and other places scattered around the world…
catacombs with thousands of human bones..those of deceased monks,
elaborately displayed in a macabre reminder that from dust we come and to dust,
we will return.

And so as we prepare to enter into this season of Advent, that season of waiting and
watching…
A time of anticipation, birth and the newness of life…we must be mindful that the
shadow of the Death remains…
it remains not to frighten us but rather to offer us hope.
The Hope of Life which comes through the Ressurection of a life that overcame Death.

A hard concept to wrap our earth bound heads around, but wrap we must because it is in
our dying that we truly have our life…

It remains not as a harbinger but rather as a reminder…harbinger being man’s idea as
Hope is God’s idea…

And thus the reminder being….that Jesus, through His own death, overcame our death,
allowing us to live…to truly live with Him.

Therefore in Christ, we gloriously find birth, life, death and then finally life eternal…
all intertwined.
A gift as it were…with it being the best gift our Heavenly Father could give…
that being a reunited life free of sin or earthly strife…

So tomorrow when I find myself making a pumpkin pie, who knows where my thoughts will
lead me…at least my epitaph won’t read she died stringing beans…
dying while making a pumpkin
pie certainly sounds so much more festive…complete with whipped cream…


(images from The Bascilica of Santa Maria sopa Minerva / Julie Cook / 2018)

looking up and being reminded


(a pigeon rests on a statue placed above the ridge of the Assumption chapel at the corner
of Garancière street and Palatine street, behind the Saint-Sulpice church. / Julie Cook / 2018)

Back in the summer, back when the beach was consuming so many of our minds,
I offered a post featuring some shots I’d taken of some pelicans I’d seen while enjoying
our summer trip to the panhandle of Florida.

Nothing says beach and ocean like seeing a brown pelican sitting on an old weathered pier or that
of a formation of these gangly birds gliding effortlessly just above the surf…

Days such as today…days that are damp, windy, overcast and grey quickly push our thoughts
to warmer sunnier days. This as we are just entering into our darker colder days of the year.

I noted in that previous post how much, for reasons unknown, that I love pelicans…
They are my favorite birds oddly enough.

Birds that eat whole fish and hold them in their gullets for later…
my husband calls them nasty birds while I call them resourceful.

My previous post touched on the seemingly odd relationship pelicans have had in Christian lore
and tradition.

I did a little research and offered a bit of teaching from the information that I had gleaned…
The premise was that during times of famine, mother pelicans have been known to pluck their own
breasts until they bled in order to offer their own blood to their hungry babies…
offering life-giving sustenance.

A direct reference to Christ who offers His own blood for our spiritual hunger and
our own salvation.

So recently when visiting Paris, we were staying at a small hotel just outside of
the Luxembourg Gardens.


(just a tiny area of the Luxembourg Gardens with a shot of the Senate building behind/
Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

This boutique hotel sits in the shadow of the second largest church in Paris,
Eglise Saint-Sulpice.


(Eglise Saint-Sulpice / Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

I happen to really love this church as it is not Notre Dame.


(Notre Dame / Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

It is not consumed by crowds and tourists.

It was the anchor to the neighborhood my aunt and I called home for a couple of
days about 8 years ago and the same anchor to the same neighborhood my husband and I called
home more recently….the Germain-des-Prés, Odéon of the 6th arrondissement.

Entering this historic building is definitly otherworldly.

It’s like walking into an ancient, silent and dark crevasse…as well as
stepping back into a far removed time…think pre-Revolution and pre-Bonaparte.
Yet the Revolution did hinder the finishing of the facade.

The original church was constructed in the 13th century but the building we see
today dates to the early 1600’s—finally being completed in the late 18th century.
Yet it suffered, as did so many in Paris, during the Revolution.

There are some famous paintings by Eugene Delacroix…

Along with some masterful statues and some simple but lovely stain glass…

Along with the scars from living through the days of a revolution down to
simple neglect and decay…

Add of course the massive and impressive organ

And yet there is reverence…
There is a deep and mystical yearning by many who come here…
those who come curious or those who come seeking.

They come to sit,
to pray,
to sleep,
to hide,
to rest,
to wander,
to wonder…

And so it was when I was actually outside on a side street…
walking alongside the perimeter of this massive hulking building that I looked up
and actually saw it…
the mother pelican sitting atop a spire of a side chapel.

The same imagery that came to mind back in July…and here it was again in September.
Found not at the beach and not in some warm tropical locale but rather in the midst
of a massively large city whose people are often too busy to glance upward albeit toward
their rather famous tower…

And yet here it was…as always, a powerful reminder of sacrifice.
Life, death, redemption, and salvation…


(all photos by Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

Remember to always stop long enough to look up…

And may we now offer our prayers for our Jewish brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh
as well for all the first responders…

Lord have mercy…

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2018/07/29/pelicans/

spam

“Suffering, gracefully accepted, refines the human heart,
and the experience of darkness sharpens the vision of the spirit.”

Paul Glynn, A Song for Nagasaki:
The Story of Takashi Nagai:
Scientist, Convert, and Survivor of the Atomic Bomb

According to Wikipedia Spam is (stylized SPAM) is a brand of canned cooked meat made
by Hormel Foods Corporation.
It was first introduced in 1937 and gained popularity worldwide after its use during World War II.
By 2003, Spam was sold in 41 countries on six continents and trademarked in over 100 countries
(not including the Middle East and North Africa).

According to its label, Spam’s basic ingredients are pork, with ham meat added, salt,
water, modified potato starch as a binder, sugar, and sodium nitrite as a preservative.
Natural gelatin is formed during cooking in its tins on the production line.
Many have raised concerns over Spam’s nutritional attributes,
in large part due to its high content of fat, sodium, and preservatives.

I also understand it’s the “national” food of Hawaii as “Hawaiians sometimes call it
“Portagee Steak” oddly my money was always on the pineapple.

And also according to Wikipedia Spam or rather Spamming is:
Electronic spamming is the use of electronic messaging systems to send an
unsolicited message (spam), especially advertising, as well as sending messages repeatedly
on the same site. While the most widely recognized form of spam is email spam,
the term is applied to similar abuses in other media:
instant messaging spam, Usenet newsgroup spam,
Web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, online classified ads spam,
mobile phone messaging spam, Internet forum spam, junk fax transmissions,
social spam, spam mobile apps, television advertising and file sharing spam.
It is named after Spam, a luncheon meat, by way of a Monty Python sketch about a
restaurant that has Spam in every dish and where patrons annoyingly chant “Spam!”
over and over again.

I must confess that I have never tried Spam.

I never cared for bologna so I kind of figured I wouldn’t care for Spam.
I’ll just stick to ham.

However that other kind of Spam…
well let’s just say I’ve had my fair share of that unappetizing mess.

We all get the e-mails, the phising (not fishing), the viruses (electronic and not physical),
the phone scams etc…
and yet we must admit it happens here in blogland as well.

Ever so often I’ll go into the comment section on my admin page in order to see if anyone
has been earmarked as spam.

I know that some of my blogland friends will make comments on posts and I will receive
an email notification along with the regular WP notification.
Yet every once in a while a friend’s comment is deemed spam by good ol AT&T.

WP is also prone to throwing friends into the black abyss of either ‘awaiting moderation’
or simply delightfully chunking them to spam. I too have been the victim of being chunked.

So yesterday I went into my site in order to check the spam allotment while
trashing what was indeed a bunch of junk as I sought to rescue anyone who had been
sorely misplaced.

Yet I stopped long enough to skim over one offering in particular that was about as vulgar
as it gets…and to think they were targeting poor ol Taylor Swift.
Not being one who stays up with the music scene…I don’t know why Ms. Swift should be so
grossly vilified, but gross it was.

My knee-jerk reaction, before pushing delete, was to simply bemoan the level of sickness
and vileness that runs rampant across our senses.

But then my thoughts shifted to the evil that is actually at work…
Evil found in something such as mind-numbing as the prevalent swarth of spam
on a simple little blog…

And so I was struck by the contrast of such thoughts of spam..thoughts for its reasons,
its uselessness and its dark and evil agendas countered by the thoughts of one who
lived to survive chaos and evil and came to know both peace and worth…
hope and salvation…

All of us will have to render an account of our lives when we die.
God will not be interested in who or what we were.
No, only in this: how did we live?
That will be the sole matter for judgment.
A company director won’t be able to pull rank on a waiter,
and a fisherman’s wife will be on a par with a millionaire’s wife.
Ships’ officers will receive no preference over ships’ cooks.
All will be judged by exactly the same measure:
did we use our talents well and for his glory?

Takashi Nagi
from A Song for Nagasaki
(Takashi Nagai, a survivor of the atomic bomb and convert to the Catholic faith
who lived a life of heroic virtue in the face of great tragedy)

The words of Takashi Nagai pointedly reminds us that we must consciously choose how it is we
wish to use our ‘talents’…those abilities bestowed upon us long before our birth…
gifts, abilities, and talents endowed upon, and found within, each of us—
given to us all by grace form the Father and the Creator to His created and children.

Will we opt to use them for the betterment of others and to God’s glory or will we use them
for the detriment of others and of self?…
Detriments much like the annoying spam folks are wasting their precious time over by creating and
sending to tiny little blogs like mine?

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another,
as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

1 Peter 4:10

The world says that we are either bad or mad…perhaps we are both

“The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will care for
you tomorrow and every day.
Either he will shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength
to bear it.
Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.”

Francis de Sales


(a gardenia after the rain / Julie Cook / 2018)

A Reading from the 2nd Sunday following The Trinity
Mark 3:20-35
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered,
so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him,
for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said,
“He is possessed by Beelzebul!
By the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.”

So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables:
“How can Satan drive out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.
In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up.
Then he can plunder the strong man’s house.
Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter,
but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven;
they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived.
Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.
A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him,
“Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers!
Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

When I’m away, playing grandmother my time is, well, not my time…
and that is as so it should be…time, not, mine.

So returning home today, after being gone to and fro for the better part of the
last two weeks…
I played a bit of catch up with my favorite across the pond rouge Anglican Bishop…
The Rt Rev Gavin Ashenden.

I caught both an edition of Anglican Unscripted as well as the latest clip from a
homily offered for the 2nd Sunday after the Trinity…
a homily in which we hear of both the opposition of those who knew Jesus…those
who turned on him…as well as the message of casting out demons and an unpardonable sin.

First, we hear of how those who had known Jesus had accused him of being pretty much
out of his mind, having totally lost his senses…
meaning he must simply be either crazy or demonic, or both.
A bad or mad sort of scenario.

And do we not hear today that same echoed sentiment being hurled against the
Orthodox Christian?
“Those Christians are bad, mad and certainly evil in their thinking…”

Next, we hear Jesus explain that Satan cannot cast out himself…
So, therefore, how could Jesus, who is casting out demons, not be demonic himself?
Answer—
He can’t.

He explains to the crowd that man is being held captive by a heavy-handed strongman,
a strongman who is of the world.
A strongman who, when all the confusion and bluster of this world is swept aside,
is exposed for who he is—Satan.

And thankfully for us, it is Jesus, who has come to cast out Satan.
To set us free, renew us and to ultimately heal us.

In both the homily, as well as the interview on Anglican Unscripted, the good bishop
touches on a single thought…
“There are two great enemies of Christianity…those being both Homosexuality and Islam”

In his interview on Anglican Unscripted, Bishop Ashenden shares the thought that we are
currently witnessing the Chruch being lost…
she has lost her way of knowing who is a friend or who is a foe.
This 21st century Christian Chruch has opted to embrace both of her enemies
while turning a blind eye to the illness these enemies possess.

Rather than sharing the importance of Jesus’ teaching about man and sin…
that being of the good news of forgiveness, hope, healing, and renewal…
the Chruch is now teaching her own ideas.

She is totally disregarding the critical ailment besieging man…the ailment of man’s
choosing to stand in direct opposition to God’s teaching and Word…
particularly with regard to the teaching of human sexual relationships.
And in turn, she, the Chruch now stands in opposition.

The Chruch of the 21st century is instead hoping to simply embrace both her enemies…
Opening her arms to embrace a religion that is also a political ideology of violence
and oppression..an ideology in direct opposition to Christianity–
while She, the Chruch, continues to totally ignore the fallen sinful nature of man
as she daringly decides to override God’s very own directive.

Some would loudly question why embracing the enemy would be wrong or a bad thing.
Are we not told to love those who hate us?
Why shouldn’t the Chruch, the embodiment of love and healing, not want to embrace?
Offering the demonstrative of her words?

But the problem in that thinking is that the Chruch has begun to lead and teach by her
own thoughts and actions over those of the spoken Word of God’s directive to man.
We should love yes, but we should not alter, change or rewrite His commands.

This is a precarious situation in that it is both dangerous and undermining as it’s base
is rooted in the ignorance of the embracing enemies..an action that
The Chruch obviously and so naively hopes will aid in simply making these enemies go away…
all after a good hug.

The Bishop notes that as far as Islam is concerned, contrary to what many Christians want to
believe, Islam is not the “symmetrical opposite of our Judaeo/ Chrisitan heritage
and belief system.”

With Isalm we know that it is either all or nothing, there is no picking or choosing.
The Quran is very specific…those who oppose the teachings of Islam are in turn the enemy
of Islam and all enemies, in turn, must be killed.
End of sentence.

There is no forgiveness nor is there any offer of hope of redemption and salvation as is
taught in Christianity, but rather those in opposition must die.
Plain and simple.

Bishop Ashenden keenly notes that whereas “a Chrisitan will die for his faith,
a Muslim, who abides by Sharia Law, will kill for his.”

So it is pure folly that recently a Cathedral,
a place that is the outward symbol of Apostolic teaching, in England opened it’s door to offer the
neighboring Muslims a meal following the fast of Ramadan.
(link to story provided below)

Harmless hospitality most folks responded but the Bishop asks,
how many Mosques opened their doors following
Lent and Easter, offering the Christians a meal of celebration?

Absolutely none…because to do so would have been to blaspheme Mohammad.
And no Muslim is to ever blaspheme Mohammad.
Because to blaspheme Mohammad is to be killed.
The Quran is that specific.

Never mind that the Chruch blasphemes the Word of God by embracing and teaching
that homosexuality is suddenly now sanctioned and even embraced by God.
Never mind that the Chruch capitulates and waffles with her appeasement of an ideology
that states its sole goal and focus is the total eradication of Christians and Jews…
as all must convert to the faith of Islam or die.
Plain and simple.

So now is the Church not therfore engaged in a dangerous dance?

In her keen desire to play culturally nice, appearing to be the place
of total acceptance and of all things feel good, she is actually turning
on herself while turning from the word of God.

For in her mad rush to embrace, accept and tolerate, the Chruch,
this bride of Christ, has forgotten that she places the one thing that she has been
entrusted with to always defend and uphold…that being the sole word of Jesus Christ.

“Celebrating Ramadan in Southwark Cathedral; mission, meals and infidelity”.

What separates Christians from the rest of the pack…

“Life [had] replaced logic.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky


(a soon to bloom peony / Julie Cook /2018)

The image of the bloom used in today’s post is that of a peony.
I call this peony my resurrection plant because I bought it two summers ago, in July.
It was a very expensive plant.
Yet anyone living in the deep South knows you don’t sink a lot of money into a
plant, dig a hole in the hot dry ground, plop in said expensive plant and expect it to live…
especially in July and especially in a summer experiencing a full-blown drought.

I wrote about this plant last spring and the reason as to why I call it a resurrection plant—
of which you can read from the following link…
but that is not the true gist of today’s post

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/resurrections/

Today’s post is a reminder of what the Resurrection is all about…
and if you are a Chrisitan, it’s a reminder of what that exactly means to you.

The reminder rests in the fact that we’ve just celebrated Easter…

Easter being holiest celebration, besides the birth of Christ, within the Christian Chruch…
Some would argue that it is the sole holiest celebration…but I suppose we can’t have a
resurrection of our Savior without his immaculate conception and birth…
all of which supersedes the ability of man’s small mind to grasp and process…
hence so much of the consternation in mankind since that very first miraculous morning.

After watching the latest edition of Anglican Unscripted featuring our favorite
rouge Anglican Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Gavin Ashenden, I’ve come to realize that
there are many in our fold who really don’t know what they think about
the Ressurection…
And what is even more startling, many members of the clergy don’t quite
know what to make of it either…

In a nutshell, it is the what which separates Christianity from every other religion.

How in the world can you offer anyone, let alone speak of such things as
Hope, Salvation, Grace, if you can’t find the words to say that you believe, without
a doubt, in the Ressurection of Jesus?

You can’t.

Because the Resurrection is the defining key to our faith.
It is the impetus to faith…the belief in that which is a mystery, undefinable,
and greater than oneself.

Without the Resurrection,
Christianity is nothing… nor is it any different from a myriad of other belief systems.

C.S. Lewis explained this very point in 1950

I heard a man say,
“The importance of the Resurrection is that it gives evidence of survival,
evidence that the human personality survives death.”
On that view what happened to Christ would be what had always happened to all men,
the difference being that in Christ’s ease we were privileged to see it happening.
This is certainly not what the earliest Christian writers thought.
Something perfectly new in the history of the Universe had happened.
Christ had defeated death.
The door which had always been locked had for the very first time been forced open.
This is something quite distinct from mere ghost-survival.
I don’t mean that they disbelieved in ghost-survival.
On the contrary, they believed in it so firmly that, on more than one occasion,
Christ had had to assure them that He was not a ghost.
The point is that while believing in survival they yet regarded the Resurrection
as something totally different and new.
The Resurrection narratives are not a picture of survival after death;
they record how a totally new mode of being has arisen in the universe.
Something new had appeared in the universe:
as new as the first coming of organic life.
This Man, after death, does not get divided into “ghost” and “corpse”.
A new mode of being has arisen.
That is the story.
What are we going to make of it?
The question is, I suppose,
whether any hypothesis covers the facts so well as the Christian hypothesis.
That hypothesis is that God has come down into the created universe,
down to manhood—and come up again, pulling it up with Him.
The alternative hypothesis is not legend, nor exaggeration, nor the apparitions of a ghost.
It is either lunacy or lies.
Unless one can take the second alternative (and I can’t) one turns to the Christian theory.

C.S. Lewis,
“What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?” (1950)

So if you claim to be a Chrisitan and yet find yourself unable to acknowledge the mystery
and the might behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ, you need to rethink your allegiance.
And if you are a member of the clergy and find the words and concept uncomfortable,
you need a new profession because the calling, was not for you….

Divine Mercy

“Great love can change small things into great ones,
and it is only love which lends value to our actions.
And the purer our love becomes, the less there will be within us for the flames
of suffering to feed upon, and the suffering will cease to be a suffering for us;
it will become a delight! By the grace of God,
I have received such a disposition of heart that I am never so happy as when I suffer for Jesus,
whom I love with every beat of my heart.”

(303, page 140) St Faustina


(the chives are blooming / Julie Cook / 2018)

Yesterday, and this week actually, marked the day of Divine Mercy for our Catholic
brothers and sisters.
A timely marking given our continued celebration with Easter and the
most notable and tangible gift of our Salvation…

According to Wikipedia…
The Divine Mercy of Jesus, also known as the Divine Mercy, is a Roman Catholic devotion
to Jesus Christ associated with the reputed apparitions of Jesus revealed
to Saint Faustina Kowalska.
The Roman Catholic devotion and venerated image under this Christological title refers
to the unlimited merciful love of God towards all people

The primary focus of the Divine Mercy devotion is the merciful love of God and
the desire to let that love and mercy flow through one’s own heart towards those in need of it.
As he dedicated the Shrine of Divine Mercy, Pope John Paul II referred to this when he said:
“Apart from the mercy of God there is no other source of hope for mankind”.

For a woman whose writings were once banned by the Vatican, the fact that the Catholic world
now recognizes this Polish nun is really quite amazing.

“Twenty-five years ago, her writings were banned by the Vatican and her legacy —
a special devotion to the divine mercy of God — seemed in doubt.

Today she is a saint,
her diary has been translated into more than a dozen languages and her Divine Mercy movement
has attracted millions of Catholics around the world.”

Catholic News Service

For a more in-depth look into St Faustina Kowalska…here is a link:
https://cssfinternational.wordpress.com/2018/04/06/backstory-st-faustina-and-the-divine-mercy-devotion-cns-top-stories/

According to Merriam Webster–Divine is defined as of, from, or like God or a god
Mercy is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone
whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm

Put the two together and we have Compassion and/ or forgiveness,
shown by God who actually has the power to
punish or harm if so desired…and yet, He desires Compassion and forgiveness…
the same compassion and forgiveness afforded to each of us on Easter
as witnessed through His resurrected Son…

Now, this is not to be some sort of theological debate about our Catholic,
a word that also means Universal, brothers, and sisters in Christ.
Nor is this a debate about saints or the notion of God playing judge, jury and
executioner…this is about the call for all Christians to come together and remember the gift
we’ve each been given and as a Divine gift, it is in turn to be extended to others…

Divine Mercy…may we each pass it on…

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

lambie pies

While many try to ignore Jesus, when He returns in power and might,
this will be impossible.

Michael Youssef


(an Irish lambie pie / Julie Cook / Sleive League, Co Donegal, Ireland / 2015)


(my own lambie pie / Julie Cook / 2018)

Whereas this being Easter…there is much to say about lambs, sheep, shepherds, sacrifices
Salvation…but…unfortunately the pace of life right now just won’t permit me to dig
any deeper, share any more or go any further than this…

Two images of two very different lambie pies…

Each with their own very different stories yet under the watchful eye of the
same Creator, same Shepherd…

So as I will be here, there and yon all weekend…running on no sleep…
I wish you all a joyous Easter…

He is Risen…
and so we may shout Alleluia…

Oh, and by the way, the word Alleluia, or its variation Hallelujah, is not used in the
liturgical service throughout the Lenten season…as Lent marks a very solemn time period
for the Chruch.

But if you’ve ever had the opportunity to attend an Easter Vigil service on
Holy Saturday evening—a deeply solemn service bathed only in flickering candlelight…
as at the stroke of midnight, of which signals the beginning of the day
of Ressurection…the lights are illuminated as we shout
“The Lord has Risen indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!!!!

And now a little historical background to my most favorite Easter Hymn….

From the hymn, Jesus Christ Is Risen Today.

for Easter

This version of the anonymous Latin hymn,
“Surrexit Christus hodie,” is first found in a scarce collection entitled:—
Lyra Davidica, or a Collection of Divine Songs and Hymns,
partly new composed, partly translated from the High German and Latin Hymns;
and set to easy and pleasant tunes. London: J. Walsh, 1708.

Of the history of this collection nothing is known,
but the character of its contents may perhaps lead to the supposition that it was compiled
by some Anglo-German of the pietist school of thought.
The text in Lyra Davidica, 1708, p. 11, is as follows :
“Jesus Christ is risen to day, Halle-Haile-lujah.
Our triumphant Holyday
Who so lately on the Cross Suffer’d to redeem our loss.
“Hast ye females from your fright Take to Galilee your flight
To his sad disciples say Jesus Christ is risen to day.
“In our Paschal joy and feast Let the Lord of life be blest Let the Holy Trine
be prais’d And thankful hearts to heaven be rais’d.”

…The oldest Latin text known is that given by Mone, No. 143,
from a Munich manuscript of the 14th century.
This manuscript does not contain stanzas 4, 6, 8, 10, 11
(enclosed in brackets above).
Of these stanza 6,11 are found in a Breslau manuscript, cir 1478;
and stanzas 4, 8, 10 in the Speier Gesang-Buch (Roman Catholic), 1600…

The modern form of the hymn appears first in Arnold’s Compleat Psalmodist,
2nd edition, pt. iv., 1749, where the first stanza of 1708 is alone retained,
and stanzas 2 and 3 are replaced by new ones written without any reference to the original Latin.
This recast is as follows:—
Jesus Christ is ris’n to-day. Hallelujah.
Our triumphal holyday
Who did once upon the Cross Suffer to redeem our Loss.
“Hymns of praises let us sing Unto Christ our heavenly King Who endur’d the Cross
and Grave Sinners to redeem and save.
“But the pain that he endured Our Salvation has procured
How above the Sky he’s King Where the Angels ever sing.”

Variations of this form are found in several collections.
The following is in Kempthorne’s Select Portions of Psalms, &c. 1810:—
Hymn lxxxii.
“Benefits of Christ’s Resurrection to sinners.
“Rom. iv. 25. “For Easter Day. “Jesus Christ is ris’n to day;
Now he gains triumphant sway;
Who so lately on the cross Suffer’d to redeem our loss.
Hallelujah.
“Hymns of praises let us sing, Hymns to Christ our heav’nly King,
Who endur’d both cross and grave, Sinners to redeem and save.
Hallelujah.
“But the pains, which he endur’d, Our salvation have procur’d;
Now He reigns above the sky,
Where the angels ever cry Hallelujah.”

The next form is that which was given to it in the Supplement to Tate & Brady.
This was added to the Supplement about 1816.
This text is:—
”Jesus Christ is risen to-day,
Our triumphant holy day;
Who did once, upon the cross, Suffer to redeem our loss.
Hallelujah, “Hymns of praise then let us sing Unto Christ our heavenly King:
Who endur’d the cross and grave, Sinners to redeem and save.
Hallelujah. “But the pains which He endur’d Our salvation hath procur’d:
Now above the sky He’s King, Where the angels ever sing. Hallelujah.”

To this has been added by an unknown hand the following doxology:—
“Now be God the Father prais’d, With the Son from death uprais’d,
And the Spirit, ever blest; One true God, by all confest. Hallelujah.”

This doxology, from Schaff’s Christ in Song, 1870, p. 198,
is in the Hymnal Companion and one or two other collections.
Another doxology is sometimes given, as in Lord Selborne’s Book of Praise, 1862,
Taring’s Collection, 1882, and others, as follows:—

“Sing we to our God above—Hallelujah! Praise eternal as His love;
Hallelujah! Praise Him all ye heavenly host, Hallelujah!
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Hallelujah! ”

This is by C. Wesley.
It appeared in the Wesley Hymns & Sacred Poems, 1740, p. 100;
again in Gloria Patri, & c, or Hymns to the Trinity, 1746, and again in the Poetical Works,
1868-72, vol. iii. p. 345.
The above text from Tate and Brady’s Supplement, cir. 1816,
is that adopted by the leading hymn-books in all English-speaking countries,
with in some cases the anonymous doxology, and in others with that by C. Wesley.
It must be noted that this hymn sometimes begins:—
“Christ the Lord, is risen to day Our triumphant holy day.”
This must be distinguished from:— “Christ the Lord, is risen to-day,
Sons of men and angels say,” by C. Wesley (p. 226, i.);
and, “Christ the Lord, is risen to-day, Christians, haste your vows to pay:
“a translation of “Victimae Paschali” (q. v.), by Miss Leeson; and,
“Christ the Lord, is risen to-day, He is risen indeed:” by Mrs. Van Alstyne (q. v.).
Another arrangement of “Jesus Christ is risen to-day”
is given in T. Darling’s Hymns, &c, 1887. This text is stanza i., ii.,
Tate & Brady Supplement, with a return in stanza i. lines 3,
to the older reading; and stanzas iii., iv. by Mr. Darling.
It may not be out of place to add, with reference to this hymn,
that the tune to which it is set in Arnold, and to which it is still sung,
is that published with it in Lyra Davidica. The tune is also anonymous,
and was probably composed for the hymn.
The ascription of it by some to Henry Carey is destitute of any foundation whatever,
while Dr. Worgan, to whom it has been assigned by others,
was not born until after the publication of Lyra Davidica.
[George Arthur Crawford, M.A.] –John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)
Hymnary.org

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