Thursday, April 24, 2014

You Mean to Tell Me You Don't Go Anywhere?

A couple of days ago, I found this in my Facebook newsfeed.

I was just going to link to the picture, but I find it's already on about 6 billion websites, so I guess it's okay to post it here.

I thought it was mildly amusing, and just moved on to the next thing, but today I thought about it again. I was in church doing some work, and I could barely see the tabernacle for all the flowers on the altar, and I said, "I see you're playing peekaboo with me." Then I remembered this picture, and I started to think how that is exactly right. He doesn't go anyplace when He plays peekaboo with us. Of course, it doesn't often seem like a fun game to us, and we really feel as if He's gone away, but I know we'll laugh when He pulls that napkin off His head.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

In the Midst of Life

About 2 1/2 weeks ago, a man came to the door of the parish office to set up a time to meet with us about his father's funeral. The man himself wasn't young, he was 6 years older than I, and he had to use a cane. It wasn't just for balance. It obviously caused him some pain to walk, but he didn't seem to let it bother him at all.

Most of us have had the experience of losing someone in our family, or someone we dearly love, to death. We suddenly find ourselves along with other family members in another place, a sort of anteroom to death. Our loved one has gone into the next room, and we're not going quite yet, but we can't go back to our everyday world, either. It doesn't matter where we go, we take our little limbo with us. We may be surrounded by other people, but no matter how glad we are to see them, and how kind they are, they are outside. They're going back to their jobs and their homes where things are more or less normal, and we have to wait out our confinement. And once or twice a month, a family moves their little waiting room into the conference room at our office.

Every family has its own way of dealing with death. Sometimes, there will be ten or more people in the room, squabbling over the songs and readings. Others are very quiet and want us to make all the decisions for them. Many times, people want to tell us about the deceased. Sometimes I feel quite fond of these people by the time they leave.

Junior, I'm going to call him that because he had the exact same name as his deceased father, was very upbeat. He told me he would talk my ear off if I gave him half a chance, and I did, and he did. His sister was quiet and seemed to want to just get through the day, but Junior wanted to tell us about his dad--and himself. Even though he was physically weak, he seemed to be bursting with life.

Yesterday when I got to work, as soon as I got in the building, my co-worker told me that Junior had died from a massive heart attack on Saturday. I was stunned. It's hard for me to imagine that radiant man dead. His funeral will be Friday, 18 days after his father's. The family wants everything to be the same as it was at the first funeral, so in a sense, Junior planned his own funeral. I was the lector then, so I will be the lector again. I think it's going to be hard.

One of the reasons I'm writing about this is because it has made me so aware that the person I am talking to at the moment might be gone tomorrow, and I think this is something I need to consider seriously. I'm not talking about the fact that I need to keep my own death in mind, which of course I do, but that I have to be aware of how important it is to be about my Father's business--to be aware of why that person I'm talking too has been sent into my life.

Most of you who are reading this have probably read C. S. Lewis's, The Weight of Glory, and are familiar with this quote:
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.
 How to do this? Of course, that is the question. Badly, might be the answer. But every morning (almost every morning) I pray that everyone who comes into contact with me somehow touches Jesus instead of me and that I will try to see Him in everyone.

To show you how easy this is for me, I was writing this post in my head on the way to the dentist office this morning and as soon as I walked in the door, I was miffed because the small waiting room was full, and because even though I had the first appointment I had to wait, and because some of the people were irritating. Still, I plod along. I tell myself, "Love those people. Love that woman who is texting on the interstate, love that inefficient waitress, that person who hurt your feelings, that man that comes to door asking for gas money who you KNOW is lying to you." Sometimes I can even do it.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Here is a Nice Thing

I am working on a post, and it is time for me to go to bed, and I can go to bed because I'm not committed to posting something tonight. I can't tell you what a relief this is. I'm so glad Lent is over, and I can get some sleep!


Saturday, April 19, 2014


Exsurrexi, et adhuc sum tecum 
 I rose up and am still with thee. Psalm 138:18

...Jesum quaeritis Nazarenum, crucifixum: surrexit, non est hic...
...Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: he is risen, he is not here... Mark 16:6

Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!

Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!

If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.

To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!

First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!

Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.

Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.

Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.

Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!

Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

St. John Chrysostom, Easter Homily

May you all have a very Blessed and Joyous Easter.


Holy Saturday

Et eduxit eos de tenebris et umbra mortis, et vincula eorum dirupit. 
And he brought them out of darkness, and the shadow of death; 
and broke their bonds in sunder. Psalm 106:14 redemisti nos Deo in sanguine tuo ex omni tribu, et lingua, et populo... 
...hast redeemed us to God, in thy blood, out of every tribe, 
and tongue, and people... Revelation 5:9

For some reason I don't think I ever noticed that poor sinner on the left being dragged back into hell, and the watcher in the top left corner. The joy and light on the right demands all your attention. Both Adam and Eve in this one, but only Adam in the one below.

You know, I never noticed that there is demon under the door before. I just perceived it as a crack. No wonder those other guys on the left are so scared--and some up in the top left corner, too.

If you haven't read this, you should. I think it's very important. When I started writing this blog, I had no intention of it's being so intentionally spiritual. I knew that would be part of the mix, but not such a very large part. But I am increasingly aware that there is nothing else that really matters, and there is certain, how can I say this, a certain pressure or encouragement to write these things. 

It's not that I think I won't ever write occasional mundane posts, but I think they will be the exception. I had a conversation with a friend a while back about how you have to write what you are given to write. I don't entirely mean given in a spiritual way, although that is a part of everything, but I also refer to the natural talent that you have been given and for me, this seems to be it. Of course, I think I also have a natural ability to make people laugh, and I miss writing things like that, so hopefully there will be more of that, too.

And I can't have Holy Saturday without this.

What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam's son.

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: 'My Lord be with you all.' And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

‘I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

‘For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

‘Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.

'See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.

`I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

‘But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

"The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages."

From an Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday

Now we wait.