when man reaches up towards Heaven…

“Spira, spera.”
(breathe, hope)
Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The day we met,
Frozen I held my breath
Right from the start
I knew that I’d found a home for my heart…

I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more…

(Lyrics from Christina Perri A Thousand Years)


(Pieta by Niccola Coustou / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)

Notre Dame—Our Lady of Paris

850 years of–

Christianity
faith
religion
spirituality
mysticism
relics

history
ingenuity
construction
architecture
labor
sacrifice

art
sculpture
poetry
prose
music
colored glass

revolution
desecration
coronations
funerals
burials
weddings

bishops
nuns
confessions
monastics
saints
sinners

humanity
bloodshed
loss
wars
peace
victories

humankind
survival
life
death
breath
hope…

Yet for now, there are too many emotions to express regarding this collective sense
of sorrow, grief and loss.

Our frail and feeble earthly attempts to reach upward to God will each eventually perish
while fading to both ash and dust…

and yet…

Our Heavenly Father’s reach, downward to us his children, will remain for eternity…


(detail of Virgin and Child by Antoine Vassé / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the iron work on the main entrance doorway / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the central portal (central enterance) of Notre Dame Cathedral / The Last Judgment, constructed in 1220/
Julie Cook / 2019)


(vaulted ceiling of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(South Rose Window / 1260 / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook 2019)


(South exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of flying buttresses and gargoyles / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of bell tower / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2011)


(south view of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / 2011)


(Wesrtern facade of the bell tower entrance Notre Dame Cathedral /Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

“He therefore turned to mankind only with regret.
His cathedral was enough for him.
It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least
did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquillity and benevolence.
The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him –
he resembled them too closely for that.
It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at.
The saints were his friends and blessed him; the monsters were his friends and
kept watch over him.
He would sometimes spend whole hours crouched before one of the statues
in solitary conversation with it.
If anyone came upon him then he would run away like a lover surprised during a serenade.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

looking for saints in all kinds of places

This is the very perfection of a man,
to find out his own imperfections.

St. Augustine


(St. Augustine of Hippo painting by Philippe de Champaigne, 1650)

Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise;
your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning.
And so we humans, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you –
we who carry our mortality about with us,
carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud.
Yet these humans, due part of your creation as they are, still do long to
praise you.
You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy,
because you have made us and drawn us to yourself,
and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

The passage above appears to have been written by a person who was painfully aware
of his own mortality and sins yet yearns, nay longs,
to be in the arms of the Beloved Creator.

And so perhaps it might be hard for those of us reading these long ago penned words
to imagine that this person was not always so deeply attuned to
living life worshiping the Triune God.

For the past couple of days, my posts have veered toward the idea of saints.
No particular reason really…and when there seems to be no real rhyme nor reason for my
ramblings, that usually just means the Holy Spirit is at work and not so much
me.

Yesterday’s post offered two quotes summing up the notion of sainthood quite nicely…
yet it was especially the Kierkegaard quote which serves to remind us that God’s mastery
of creation is one thing, but to be able to make saints from sinners…
well, that’s something else altogether.

Augustine of Hippo…
a giant when it comes to thought and theory has been studied down through the ages by
all sorts of students—from theologians and philosophers to literates and historians…
many of whom have been Believers and many who have not.

Yet Augustine was not always one of Christendom’s most learned and revered theologian
turned saint.

According to Wikipedia,
“His first insight into the nature of sin occurred when he and a number of friends stole
fruit they did not want from a neighborhood garden.
He tells this story in his autobiography, The Confessions.
He remembers that he did not steal the fruit because he was hungry,
but because “it was not permitted.”
His very nature, he says, was flawed.
‘It was foul, and I loved it.
I loved my own error—not that for which I erred, but the error itself.”
From this incident, he concluded the human person is naturally inclined to sin
and in need of the grace of Christ.”

Augustine went on to have a long-lasting affair with a woman who bore him an
illegitimate son.
He later broke off that relationship in order to marry a 10-year-old heiress but had to wait
two years until she was of legal marrying age.
During his wait, he took up with another concubine.

Yet the time came in which Augustine abandoned all concubines and fiancees alike
lamenting“that he was not a lover of wedlock so much as a slave of lust”

Eventually, at the age of 31, Augustine broke off all his relationships with these
various women because he, like many before and after him, had his Road to Damascus moment.
He was struck from his lofty, self-absorbed, carnal way of living by the
One True Omnipotent God who literally called out to him..

As Augustine later shared
“his conversion was prompted by a childlike voice he heard telling him to
“take up and read” (Latin: tolle, lege), which he took as a divine command to open the Bible
and read the first thing he saw.

Augustine read from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans –
the “Transformation of Believers” section, consisting of chapters 12 to 15 –
wherein Paul outlines how the Gospel transforms believers,
and the believers’ resulting behaviour.
The specific part to which Augustine opened his Bible was Romans chapter 13,
verses 13 and 14, to wit:

“Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness,
not in strife and envying,
but put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.”

It was at this moment that his life turned.

Augustine eventually penned an autobiography of sorts which many of us,
trained in the classics were at some point, required to read— Confessions.

It is from the pages of his Confessions that we read these beautiful and deeply
haunting words:

Late have I loved Thee, O Lord; and behold,
Thou wast within and I without, and there I sought Thee.
Thou wast with me when I was not with Thee.
Thou didst call, and cry, and burst my deafness.
Thou didst gleam, and glow, and dispel my blindness.
Thou didst touch me, and I burned for Thy peace.
For Thyself Thou hast made us,
And restless our hearts until in Thee they find their ease.
Late have I loved Thee, Thou Beauty ever old and ever new.

And thus what we have learned is that many of those who are known to us today as saints
seem to have, at some point or other figured things out.

Namely, that life isn’t all about them.

But life, rather, is a yearning…and that yearning is the created’s longing to be
one with the Creator.

Some seem to understand this better than others.

Many have been rogues and scallywags.
Some have been liars and drunkards.
Some have been rich and arrogant.
Some started out as cowards and turncoats yet became brave and true.
And some will simply be known only to God and God alone.

And so with all this talk about saints and sinners, I am struck by a current circus of sorts.

Brett Kavanaugh, the latest Supreme Court nominee, has been in the center of a maelstrom.

I don’t know much about him, but from what legal experts and judges on ‘both sides of the
aisle’ have said, he is a stellar wealth of legal prowess.
A fair and just man who is deeply knowledgeable with regards to right and wrong.

Yet his experience, his record, his knowledge, his examples don’t seem to matter to
this pack of hearing committee members who are foaming at the mouth,
as they rip into this man for the simple reason that they hate the man who nominated him.

Desperate Democrats are grasping at ugly straws to do their darndest to stop this nominee’s
chance of confirmation…even resorting to highschool hearsay.

And in so doing…these very politicians who so vehemently cling to the separation of
Church and State and find themselves cringing over the notion that their precious
Roe v Wade would be overturned… these worshipers of all things cultural and secular
now seem to be seeking a saint…a saint who doesn’t exist.
As all of this is just one more example of the irony of man standing at odds with
his blinding self-serving pride.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micha 6:8

saints and sinners

Lives of the saints are valuable not only for the virtue they reveal but also
for the less admirable qualities that also appear.
Holiness is a gift of God to us as human beings.
Life is a process.
We respond to God’s gift, but sometimes with a lot of zigzagging.
If Cyril had been more patient and diplomatic,
the Nestorian church might not have risen and maintained power so long.
But even saints must grow out of immaturity, narrowness, and selfishness.
It is because they—and we—do grow, that we are truly saints,
persons who live the life of God.

(Franciscan Media)


(icon of St Cyril of Alexandria)

I will readily admit that there are many folks out there who ardently dismiss the notion
of saints, sainthood and what all that sort of thinking entails…
With the dismissal of thought coming from both sides of the aisle…the aisle of
Believers and non-believers alike.

Non-believers just love hitting up Believers with arguments around the whole concept of
saints and sainthood…

As in who merits being let into the special club of sainthood and who doesn’t?
Who sets the determining standards and factors?
Who gets the right to say yay or nay?
Can you de-saint someone if you determine they were more screwup than up and up?
With the kicker remark being…” and so, these saints of yours, are they suppose to have
some sort of superpowers which makes them saint worthy?”

And if anyone really studies much history then the actions of many of these so-called
“saints” comes flying into question.
As in…was this person more rouge or saint or both?

We go through life hearing phrases about living a saintly or Godly life.
We hear stories of those selfless good deeds matched often with some sort of
other-worldly gifts.

There are even various denominations which are more prone to recognize the lives of saints…
those being mainly both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths…along with
Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Anglicans…
Denominations that have long been looked at sideways for this saint fascination of theirs.

Yet there are many a Protestant who will refer to Peter and Paul,
as well as a handful of others, as “Saints”

And remember… many a denomination recognizes All Saints Day on the Christian calendar.

But this isn’t a post about whether or not Saints are real or not.
Meaning the person may have been real, but should they be classified in a particular
category of Godliness?

It’s not a post about miracles or the lack thereof.
It’s not a post about virtue or perfection.
And it’s not a post about what is or what isn’t the proper Chrisitan doctrine regarding
this whole to be or not to be saint business.

Far from it.

I’ll be the first to admit that there are well known “saints” and not so well known saints.
There are saints who are recognized by both the Latin West (think Catholic) and Eastern Orthodox
faiths… while some saints are not recognized hardly at all.

There are even saints which all denominations will claim while others are claimed by
a mere handful.

All of which can make this saint business even more confusing for a Believer…and let’s
not even go over to the nonbelieving side as there is simply not enough time nor energy…

Suffice it in knowing that things can be fuzzy at best when trying to figure out
who is whom and what is what.

Yesterday I caught a posting on “the saint of the day” by the Felician Sisters CSSF blog
that gave me considerable pause to ponder…
https://cssfinternational.wordpress.com

Being a lover of history and always fascinated by those who blazed the various trails of
long ago…
those scoundrels, scallywags, and glorified who each fought the good fight while
affording all of us more or less today the freedom to worship, or not, as we please…
I was most interested in learning about this early 4th century Patriarch of Alexandria
who was later known as “Saint and Doctor of the Chruch.”

However, we should note that it wasn’t until many centuries later that Cyril actually
made the cut in both the Latin West and Eastern branches of faith…
becoming recognized by the Chruch as a saint and Doctor of the faith in 1882.

I will confess that St Cyril of Alexandria, despite his deep roots in the early Church,
was not top on my radar.

And so it wasn’t so much his teachings, his biography, his fight against heresy or even his
rush to those knee-jerk responses to that said heresy of which has left some of his actions
somewhat questionable–actions and teachings best sorted out by historians…
rather it was what the Franciscan media noted in regard to Cyril and that of his slightly
off-putting and less than saintly ways, that made the greatest impression on my reading
of the day.

The idea that both Holiness is a gift from God and that life is a process.
And that it is our response to the gift, of which comes with a great deal of “zig-zagging,”
is what this is all really about.

Hindsight, time and clarity so often provides those of us more modern-day folks
with a better vision as to what once was…
But with that hindsight, time and clarity comes a certain level of smugness and arrogance.
A smugness and arrogance that falsely allows us to think we are better than,
smarter than and wiser than those who trod before us…and in that lies a danger.

A danger in thinking that we need no longer grow.
A false sense that we are above our own immaturity and flaws.
And in turn, we become narrow in our thinking.

May Cryil, along with the host of sinners now saints,
those who have all gone before us having seen the glory of both mercy and grace,
continue to teach us that God can take that which seems hopeless, broken and
lost and turn it all around…
as in a sinner to a saint…

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders
fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense,
which are the prayers of the saints.

Revelation 5:8

https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-cyril-of-alexandria/

heed thy words

img_0891
(the front window pane smashed)

The majority of the posts I write are written the day before they are posted.
Yesterday and the day before that were no exception.

Witnessing the surreal angst raging across this nation, Saint Velimirovich’s quote
seemed to best capture the correct Christian response…

“the world is a sick man whom sin has made sick…

as this pious cleric reminds us that…

“sin is the sickness and to scorn sinners is to scorn the sick.”

And therefore a healer is needed and we are to pray for the sinner…

Little did I realize how much those words were to resonate in
my own heart on a very personal level….

Saturday night we had been out to eat with friends…
It was just before midnight when we finally climbed into bed, ready to call it a day…
that the phone rang.

Calls in the night are never good.

It was the security monitoring system alerting us that the alarm at my husband’s store was going off.
Quickly dressing we raced to town hoping this was just some sort of false alarm.
Pulling into the shopping center we were met by the Georgia State Patrol and 4 Carrollton Police vehicles…it was no false alarm.

Glass littered the sidewalk like a million sparkling diamonds, scattering out into the parking lot…
this was the ominous welcome mat for what we would find inside.

img_0888
(the front corner that was smashed and the Pandora case…I am not showing the rest of
the damage in the store…that of the the broken cases as the investigation is on going)

I can’t describe the sicking feeling that grips one’s gut when walking upon
and seeing an extended part of yourself shattered and violated…
A flock of shadows eerily wandered in the fractured light with flashlights in hand,
searching for any information as a carpet of broken glass crunched underfoot.
The police surmised it all took place within 20 seconds.
Twenty seconds and thousands of dollars later…..

My husband’s father had returned home after spending fours years in Europe fighting
in a world war.
With no training or connections and little money in hand,
he opened a small town jewelry store with a legacy now 70 years old.

My husband took up the torch 40 years ago.
His store, his business, is all he has ever known.
He’s poured his entire existence into this small-town business with a
sense of selflessness rarely seen in today’s business market.
His integrity, diligence and sheer honesty has been the greatest example of
living and working that he could ever offer to our son.

Seeing a portion of this self-effacing work ethic of the man I’ve been fortunate to
share the last 34 years with…
broken and scattered along the sidewalk and parking lot late on a stormy Saturday night,
left a part of my own heart shattered and mixed within the glass.

Over the past several weeks,
I’ve sat perplexed as I’ve watched a swarth of this country act disgracefully and unbecomingly.
I’ve seen protesters marching, burning, and smashing store fronts.
Women enjoying profane laced rants.
Young people with masked faces torching that which is not theirs.
Vandalism for the sake of vandalism.
while hate percolates up to the surface…
As a percentage of this country decides every time we have transition and change,
it is a rallying cry for destruction.

There has been a call to destroy.
To destroy that which belongs to someone else…
that which was sweated over to create,
that which was labored over to build
of that which has witnessed the loss of sleep and great sacrifice…
coupled with the tender nurturing while praying as it all ebbed, flowed and growed…
pouring out a life to and for…
While others now selfishly and hatefully decide,
in the blink of an eye,
that none of that matters.

I cannot abide by those who steal or blatantly vandalize.
I do not make excuses that such individuals are disenfranchised, impoverished,
or uneducated…
that such individual’s behavior is due to the fact that they have not
benefited as others have…
so therefore such behavior is not to be seen as wrong…
just merely misunderstood.

Such is the liberal mantra echoed by those who make excuses for those who knowingly
choose to do wrong.

There are no excuses for choosing to do wrong.

Rich or poor
Educated or illiterate
have or have not
black or white
brown or yellow
Believer or not…

Wrong is wrong…
and it matters not your position in life nor
of your opportunities or lack there of…

So now I am finding myself hearing the same words of St Velimirovich that I typed
and shared yesterday…
“Make your heart prayerful, together with your soul and your mind,…
feel pity and compassion for every creature…
Do not scorn sinners, but pray for them…”

And so now…
I pray…
I pray for sinners as I pray for myself…
Sinners who have decided to turn their sins of selfish choices which
have been pointed in my direction…
I am called to pray for sinners to turn their hearts and their ways just
as I am to pray for my own ability to be able to forgive…

Whoever is of God hears the words of God.
The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

John 8:47