the extraordinary venture

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei


(a protion of the paitning The Sacrificial Lamb / Josefa de Obidos / 1670-1684)

There is so much I wish to share after having watched the 2nd Sunday in Epiphany
posting by Bishop Gavin Ashenden, but time will not permit me to do so.

I am however including the video clip of his homily at the end of this post, which is really so lovely, so welcomed and so needed.
For as the good Bishop reminds us—our pursuit of God, or perhaps that should be God’s pursuit of us, is that of an extraordinary venture…

I will, however, touch on just a portion of what I’ve taken away, as I will do so
over the next day or so, as his words have touched me deeply.

The good Bishop, at one point during his homily, recalls having, not long ago, having attended a reunion of his schoolmates. He had actually attended a Christian School and remembers quite vividly attending the chapel services and how often as a boy,
listening to the words of the Gospel, or a reading from the Epistle,
or even words of the hymns…just how deeply touched and moved he was—
his words— “I felt my spine tingling.”

So at this reunion of sorts, he knew that some of his now grown classmates were Christians and some were not. He asked if they remember the hairs on the back of their necks
standing on edge or getting goosebumps or feeling a tingling in their spine during parts
of the service…

And their response was one of incredulous bewilderment.
They told him that chapel was merely a time to be endured,
nothing earth-shattering as he seemed to recall…
and I, in turn, was keenly moved by this tale because I too have felt that tingling.

Bishop Ashenden went on to conclude that he felt perhaps that God’s hand was on his life
heavier and more direct, for whatever reason than at that same time of that of his mates.

And I too have felt that heaviness, and it was also at a much younger age.

He goes on to relate a tale of the notion of sin and the fact that there is a Christian perception of sin and that there is what is considered a secular perception sin…
Christian sin, to the Christian, is more evident as it is a brokenness that separates
the sinner from God.

A secular sin is more or less a cultural perception of correctness—
and if you are on the wrong side of that correctness, then that is the true sin…
An example would be a person who opposes same-sex unions/marriage.
Secular society condemns anyone who is against same-sex unions by not viewing such
unions as perfectly acceptable.
That’s all there is to it.
One has broken the cultural code of what is right, and therefore there is no help for you…for you have sinned. You are castigated.

The Christian perception of sin is different in that there is one key component…
That component is forgiveness.

In a politically correct society, there is no room for forgiveness.

And whereas “we are fractured from God by our appetites, by our flaws, by our behavior,”
we are in desperate need of forgiveness.
And that forgiveness comes in the form of Jesus
on the cross.

The homily was opened with the reading from the book of Revelation 5:1-10

Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals;
and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice,
“Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”
And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open
the scroll or to look into it.
And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the
scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me,
“Do not weep.
See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered,
so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the
elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered,
having seven horns and seven eyes,
which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. When he had taken the scroll,
the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb,
each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense,
which are the prayers of the saints. They sing a new song:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints
from every tribe and language and people and nation;
you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God,
and they will reign on earth.”

Bishop Ashenden makes note of John and of his weeping over the fact that there is no one
who can or is worthy to open as well as read the scrolls.
He is then told that first, it is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David
who is also, in turn, is the Lamb…and it is this sacrificial yet triumphant
Lamb who will open and read the scrolls.

It is the Lamb who is key to the forgiveness and cleansing we are so desperately
in need of as our fracturing from God is now rejoined and made whole…

More tomorrow….

What do the wise among us see

“Saruman rose to his feet, and stared at Frodo. There was a strange look in his eyes of mingled wonder and respect and hatred. ‘You have grown, Halfling,’ he said. ‘Yes, you have grown very much. You are wise, and cruel. you have robbed my revenge of sweetness, and now I must go hence in bitterness, in debt to your mercy. I hate it and you! Well, I go and I will trouble you no more. But do not expect me to wish you health and long life. You will have neither. But that is not my doing. I merely foretell.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

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(a curious jackdaw watches from the crumbling walls at The Rock of Cahsel, County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

What of those wise men…
those sages of days long past…
those perceptive foreign kings who would travel from far far away in search of the sacred, the mysterious, the Divine?

What of those enlightened seers who once possessed a depth of wisdom not afforded to the masses of their time…
Of those scholarly patricians, scientists and astronomers of yore, those who studied both the heavens and the stars hoping to see, to foretell, and to discern those dire or joyful events which were to befall mankind…

I wonder what their thoughts, predictions, and discernments would be for our day and of our time…would they travel day and night all those many miles wandering only hoping to pay homage or rather would they hasten to warn those willing few brave enough to heed their divinations?

Would their concern be of the escalating global warming as they measured various viscous liquids watching the rise and fall of floating objects within a myriad of glass vessels?
Would they gather dirt and seed while measuring the falling rains?
Would the increasing number of tumultuous storms, floods, fires and earthquakes give way to a heightened need of understanding fueling their global quest?
Would their concern be of the climate shift and of the rising ocean temperatures?
What of the mysterious “die offs” of massive numbers of fish, antelopes, star fish, birds…
What would these learned men who sought to understand the balance between health and living make of these new pandemics, epidemics, plagues and unexplained global sicknesses?
What of the melting icecaps, would they even be aware of opposing earthly poles encased in ice and snow?

Would they unroll their brittle parchments and calfskin scrolls plotting and planning while measuring the charted maps of both known land, sea and heavens?
Would their vision be cast upward during a nighttime sky as they pondered the oddity of 4 successive large reddish moons which each oddly took place during a holy day or festival of the Hebrew people?

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(the half moon in the Killarney night sky / Sept 2015 / Julie Cook )

Would they read the words of ancient prophets and prophesies wondering if there were connections and correlations or would they simply pass it all away as coincidence.
Would they yield to the ancient scriptural warnings of things long foretold or would they consider the ancient tomes written by those delusional and crazed?

What of the star, that lone bright and brilliant star which had beckoned them years prior to that tiny Jewish village on the periphery of the expansive Roman Empire…
What of the ancient texts and the cross references of the both sacred and secular…were they but mere conjecture?

What other celestial and earthly signposts and events must appear before the wise and the average both understand?

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(moonlight over Killarney, Ireland / Sept 2015 / Julie Cook

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 24:6-14