prayer and the victory over death

“There is nothing the devil fears so much, or so much tries to hinder, as prayer.”
St. Philip Neri


(it is so hot and dry here, even the toadstools in the woods are swiveling and decaying/ Julie Cook / 2019)

Yesterday I spoke of the running thread of a single word and thought that just
seemed to keep popping up at each turn and corner.

That word and act would be that of prayer.

And so again the following morning, my incoming quote of the day focused
on that very same notion.

Prayer.

As St. Philip Neri teaches, Satan fears our very prayers.
They become a hindrance to both him and his plans so therefore he painstakingly attempts
to hinder us as we long to reach out to our Father.

We become busy.
We become distracted.
We become distant.
Or we simply grow hardened.

So often we feel defeated when our prayers seem to go ignored or unanswered—
And yet even worse, we can grow despondent when they appear to be answered in a
way so utterly contrary as to how we would have hoped.
When our oh so deeply prayerful “please yes” is answered with a gut-wrenching “no, not today.”

No to healing.
No to life.
No to avoiding the bad and painful.

And yet our hearts remain steadfast because despite the answers,
despite the bitter disappointments, we still know that our prayers are our
only means of conversing with our God.

St Athanasius’ quote below adds to this thought by examining the
fear man has with death and decay.
Because if the truth be told, are not so many of our prayers aimed at avoiding
that very thing?
As we fervently pray to avoid death, pain and suffering at any and all cost?

Man sees death as the inexplicable chasm of separation.
That of isolation, loneliness and unending sorrow.

The non-believer scoffs and belittles the simplistic pleas and petitions
of the believer as he cries out to that unknown and unseen God.

The un-believer mocks and sneers at the childlike actions of the believer.

And yet I have often wondered…in that single solitary moment of overwhelming grief,
unbearable sorrow, engulfing fear and isolation of abandonment…
who does that non-believer cry to?

Who does he turn to in that micro-moment of the blinking of an eye that exists between
living and dying?

Whose hand does he reach for?
Whose arms does he yearn for to envelope him?
To whom does he cry out?

Or is his mind merely an empty void, his ego too full, his heart so hard that he has
already withered with decay?

Yet despite the ridicule and vitriol, the prayer of the humbled believer will
always be for that hardened non-believer…
it will be a prayer for blessed deliverance…
a prayer that he would find solace, comfort as well as Grace.

Even to the end, the believer prayers…even for the sake and soul of the non-believer.

“Now, man is afraid of death by nature, afraid of the decay of the body.
But here is a startling fact: whoever has put on the faith of the Cross
despises even what is naturally dreadful, and for Christ’s sake is not afraid of death.
So if anyone is skeptical even now, after so many proofs,
and after so many have become martyrs to Christ,
and after those who are champions in Christ have shown scorn for death every day—
if his mind is still doubtful about whether death has been brought to nothing and come to an end—well,
he’s right to wonder at such a great thing. But he should not be stubborn in his skepticism,
or cynical in the face of what is so obvious.
Let him who is skeptical about the victory over death receive the faith of Christ,
and come over to his teaching.
Then he will see how weak death is, and the triumph over it.
Many who used to be skeptics and scoffers have later believed,
and despised death even enough to become martyrs for Christ himself.”

St. Athanasius, p.15
An Excerpt From
A Year with the Church Fathers

Upholding God’s word, part II: when your child is not your child

Let this be the way that I go,
And the life that I try,
My feet being firm in the field,
And my heart in the sky.

Philip Britt

It was May 2nd, the day the Chruch recognizes St Athanasius, a true defender of the
Holy Trinity, when I caught the latest episode of Anglican Unscripted featuring our
favorite rouge cleric Gavin Ashenden.

Before beginning his interview, the good Bishop made note of the feast day of this
former bishop within the Chruch, St Athanasius.
An obscure saint to most of the faithful but none the less important in the
history of our faith…
His is the story of a man who stood up in defense of the Godhead of Christ
when the early church was being run amuck in heresy.

Not much different it appears from our own current run amuck days.

St. Athanasius
A champion of orthodoxy!
He did not die a martyr, but his life was martyrdom in the truest sense.
Athanasius was the Church’s greatest hero in the battle against Arianism
(a heresy that denied Christ’s divinity).

“the entire Catholic congregation with one accord, as one soul and body,
voiced the wish of the dying bishop Alexander that Athanasius should succeed him.
Everyone esteemed him as a virtuous, holy man, an ascetic, a true bishop.”

Bishop of Alexandria and a great defender of the orthodox faith,
throughout his, life opposed the Arian heresy.
By denying the Godhead of the Word the Arians turned Christ into a mere man,
only higher in grace than others in the eyes of God.
St. Athanasius took part in the Council of Nicea in 325 and until the end remained a champion
of the faith as it was defined by the Council. Even as a young deacon at the Council.
he was recognized as “Arius’ ablest enemy” and the foremost defender of the Church’s faith.
After the death of his bishop (328),
“the entire Catholic congregation with one accord,
as one soul and body, voiced the wish of the dying bishop Alexander that
Athanasius should succeed him.
Everyone esteemed him as a virtuous, holy man, an ascetic, a true bishop.”
In him the Church venerates one of her great Doctors.
He was subjected to persecutions for upholding the true teaching concerning the person
of Christ and was sent into exile from his see no less than five times.
He died at Alexandria in 373 after an episcopate of forty-six years.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The good bishop began the interview with a reflection on the life and death of Alfie Evans–
the young boy I wrote about the other day in the post “When your child is not your child”

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2018/04/30/when-your-child-is-not-your-child/

I found it important to hear the perspective of the good bishop—
the perspective of one who is British and understands better than I do
the workings of the healthcare system and the legal system in the UK.

Bishop Ashenden notes that this all boils down to a pure rank prejudice as to why the
British Court wouldn’t allow Alfie’s parents to be what is their God-given responsibility…
that being Alfie’s parents.
Parents tasked with making those hard decisions for their own children…
and not a legal system who blatantly decrees that it is the one who knows
what is best for a child not its own.

For as parents, it is our Divine responsibility to mirror the parenthood of God the Father,
a Father who sent His only begotten son so that we may have eternal life…

The Godhead of the parent to the Son.

Bishop Ashenden explains that at first, this was basically a case about a power struggle.
It was a struggle for power between the medical professionals who decreed that they knew best
for the child over that of Alfie’s own two parents.

But it turned more sinister and very anti-Christian when Alfie’s Catholic parents stated
that the Pope, along with the Italian Government who had granted Alfie citizenship,
offered to bring Alfie to Rome in order to receive continued care in Italy versus terminated
care in the UK.
No matter if that care was for 24 hours or 24 days, etc.

So wouldn’t any parent, no matter how dire the circumstances may be,
opt for, as well as cling to, any ray of hope???
That hope being, in this case, the generosity of both the Pope and Italy?!

Yet the judge involved, who happens to be an ardent Gay Rights supporter and known for his
outspoken disdain of Christianity, brought in the element of anti-parent and anti-Christian and
anti-Chruch by putting state and secular values before the values of the Gospel.

He ruled that Alfie could not leave the country for care elsewhere and that the hospital
should remove all life support from the child ASAP.

The child would then be expected to die immediately.

But Alfie did not die immediately.

He actually lived for 4 days…

And here is where the sinister enters in…
the hospital, seeing that the child would not die, withheld any and all sustenance, water,
IVs, fluids, noursihment…in essence murdering this 23-month-old child.

With the argument being that he would die anyway so why prolong the inevitable.

But do we mere mortals ever really know the inevitable or rahter merely the assumed?

So let us imagine for this moment the sheer hopeless anguish this young couple felt for
their child.
As his parents, it is their innate prewired disposition to protect, care for, nurture,
console, help, aid, and sustain their child.
It is what we as parents do…
Just as God the Father has so bestowed upon us all with His being the pinacle example.

Baby In My Arms I Took

Baby in my arms I took
Through the gentle night,
Tawny, tawny were the clouds,
By the moon alight.

And we found a golden tree,
All alone and old,
Standing in the tawny light,
Palm tree made of gold.

Golden palm tree, bend your head,
Tell my baby why
Here you stand all tawny-gold,
With your head so high.

Whispered then the golden palm,
Bending low and near,
“Long ago another Child
Found me standing here;

And He gave me leaves of gold,
Laughing in His glee,
Saying ‘When the babies come,
Speak to them of me.'”

Philip Britt
September 5, 1943