Monday, January 30, 2012

Early Christian Teaching: Christus Victor (1)

"The work of Christ is first and foremost a victory over the powers which hold mankind in bondage: sin, death, and the devil" (compare 1 Jn 3:8; Col 1:13; Heb 2:14)

The Early Church did not have a set doctrine of the cross and the atonement it was more of a collection of images and dramatic metaphors. The main focus theologically was on the incarnation and what they saw in the cross flowed out of their understanding of the incarnation. The Early Church saw Christ as God come among them. John writes in his Gospel, 

" The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world...The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father full of grace and truth. (John 1:9,14) "

Irenaeus taught that Jesus’ redemptive work in his Incarnation, perfect life, death and resurrection was a "Victory in Christ" over all of God’s enemies. He wrote: "[Christ] fought and was victorious…for he bound the strong man, liberated the weak, and by destroying sin endowed his creation with salvation."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Juniper (died 1258

 Francis of Assisi referred to Juniper as "the renowned jester of the Lord'

more on Juniper in living water: his thumb nail bio and additional stories

Cowpers Names of God

Jehovah-Rophi. I Am the Lord That Healeth Thee

(Exodus, xv.26)
    Heal us, Emmanuel! here we are,
    Waiting to feel Thy touch:
    Deep-wounded souls to Thee repair
    And, Saviour, we are such.
    Our faith is feeble, we confess,
    We faintly trust Thy word;
    But wilt Thou pity us the less?
    Be that far from Thee, Lord!
    Remember him who once applied,
    With trembling, for relief;
    "Lord, I believe," with tears he cried,
    "Oh, help my unbelief!"
    She too, who touch'd Thee in the press,
    And healing virtue stole,
    Was answer'd, "Daughter, go in peace,
    Thy faith hath made thee whole."
    Conceal'd amid the gathering throng,
    She would have shunn'd Thy view;
    And if her faith was firm and strong,
    Had strong misgivings too.
    Like her, with hopes and fears we come,
    To touch Thee, if we may;
    Oh! send us not despairing home,
    Send none unheal'd away! 
    William Cowper

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Casting a caim or encircling prayer

Casting a caim or encircling prayer is a technique that was used by the early Celtic Church. You can Draw an invisible circle around yourself with your right index finger by extending your arm towards the ground and turning clockwise with the sun. As you do this, become aware that you are safe and encompassed by the love of God: that you are encircled, enfolded and protected.

Circle me Lord
Keep hope within
Keep doubt without
Circle me Lord
Keep protection near
And danger afar
Art by Cari Buziak
Circle me Lord
Keep peace within
Keep evil out
Circle me Lord
Keep light near
And darkness afar

May You be a bright flame before me
May You be a guiding star above me,
May You be a smooth path below me,
And a loving Guide behind me,
Today, tonight, and forever.

*Cross image by Cari Buziak 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Brother Lawrence (1611-1691)

The more one knows God, the greater one desires to know Him. Knowledge is commonly the measure of love. The deeper and more extensive our knowledge, the greater is our love.

We must know before we can love. In order to know God, we must often think of Him. And when we come to love Him, we shall then also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure.

I see Him in such a manner as might make me say sometimes, I believe no more, but I see.

People seek methods of learning to know God. Is it not much shorter and more direct to simply do everything for the love of Him? There is no finesse about it. One only has to do it generously and simply.

It is the Creator who teaches truth, who in one moment instructs the heart of the humble and makes him understand more about the mysteries of faith and even about Himself than if he had studied them for a long term of years.

God alone is capable of making Himself known as He really is. We search in reasoning and in sciences, as in a poor copy. What we neglect to see is God's painting Himself in the depth of our soul.
I walk before God simply, in faith, with humility and with love; and I apply myself diligently to do nothing and think nothing which may displease Him ... and this without any other view than purely for the love of Him, and because He deserves infinitely more.

In continuing the practice of conversing with God throughout each day, and quickly seeking His forgiveness when I fell or strayed, His presence has become as easy and natural to me now as it once was difficult to attain.

We are made for God alone, who can only be pleased when we turn away from ourselves to devote ourselves to Him.

I know that for the right practice the heart must be empty of all other things; because God will possess the heart alone; and as He cannot possess it alone, without emptying it of all else besides, so neither can He act there and do in it what He pleases, unless it be left vacant to Him.

We ought to give ourselves up to God, both in temporal and spiritual things, and seek our satisfaction only in fulfilling His will. Whether He leads us by suffering or consolation, all is the same to one truly resigned.

We only deceive ourselves by seeking or loving God for any favors which He has or may grant us. Such favors, no matter how great, can never bring us as near to God as can one simple act of faith. Let us seek Him often by faith.

 Let us think often that our only business in this life is to please God.

The end we ought to propose to ourselves is to become, in this life, the most perfect worshippers of God we can possibly be, as we hope to be through all eternity.

The most excellent method of going to God is that of doing our common business without any view of pleasing people but purely for the love of God.

We ought not to grow tired of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.

The more one knows God, the greater one desires to know Him. Knowledge is commonly the measure of love. The deeper and more extensive our knowledge, the greater is our love.

We must know before we can love. In order to know God, we must often think of Him. And when we come to love Him, we shall then also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure.

I see Him in such a manner as might make me say sometimes, I believe no more, but I see.

God does not ask much of us. But remembering Him, praising Him, asking for His grace, offering Him your troubles, or thanking Him for what He has given you will console you all the time ... lift up your heart ... little remembrances please Him.

We should, once and for all, heartily put our whole trust in God and make a total surrender of ourselves, secure that He will not deceive us.

There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God; those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.

quotes from the letters of Brother Lawrence  (compiled in the text of "Practicing the presence of God") 17th century

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Early Christian Teaching: Free Will (1)

Early Church Fathers on Free Will

   "We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, chastisements, and rewards are rendered according to the merit of each man's actions. Otherwise, if all things happen by fate, then nothing is in our own power. For if it be predestined that one man be good and another man evil, then the first is not deserving of praise or the other to be blamed. Unless humans have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions-whatever they may be.... For neither would a man be worthy of reward or praise if he did not of himself choose the good, but was merely created for that end. Likewise, if a man were evil, he would not deserve punishment, since he was not evil of himself, being unable to do anything else than what he was made for."
(Justin Martyr (110-165) First Apology chap. 43)

"He makes Himself known to those who, after doing all that their powers will allow, confess that they need help from Him." (Origen (185-255 )Against Celsus bk. 7, chap. 42)

"A man by himself working and toiling at freedom from sinful desires achieves nothing. But if he plainly shows himself to be very eager and earnest about this, he attains it by the addition of the power of God. God works together with willing souls. But if the person abandons his eagerness, the spirit from God is also restrained. To save the unwilling is the act of one using compulsion; but to save the willing, that of one showing grace." (Clement of Alexandria (190) Salvation of the Rich Man chap. 21)

 "Neither praise nor condemnation, neither rewards nor punishments, are right if the soul does not have the power of choice and avoidance, if evil is involuntary." (Clement of Alexandria Miscellanies bk. 1, chap. 17)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Feast of theTheophany

Orthodox Christian Churches celebrate the Theophany of Christ, on (January 6 (Gregorian Calendar)/January 19 (Julian Calendar) it is one of the Great Feasts of the (Eastern) Orthodox Christian Church.  In Orthodox Tradition, the feast commemorates the biblical event which reveals the Holy Trinity to the world. The Baptism of  Christ by John the Baptist is seen as that moment. Specifically when Christ  emerges from the waters of the river Jordan, The Holy Spirit of God descends upon Him as a dove and the voice of God The Father is heard, simultaneously (Mt.3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22).

Theophany, from the Greek (ἡ) Θεοφάνεια (Τheophaneia, meaning "appearance of God"),refers to the appearance of a deity to a human. 

The term has been used to refer to appearances of the gods in the ancient Greek and Near Eastern religions. The Iliad is the  earliest source for  a description of Throphany in classical Greek literature.  Probably the earliest description of a theophany is in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

The term theophany has acquired a specific usage for Christians and Jews: It refers to the manifestation of God to man; the sign or way by which the presence of God is revealed.

In Celtic Christianity  in a general sense all of creation can  be seen as a theophany, a vehicle by which God is revealed.

see more on theophany and epiphany

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Desert Wisdom (9)


There were two old men who dwelt together for many years and who never quarreled. Then one said to the other: "Let us pick a quarrel with each other like other men do. "I do not know how quarrels arise," answered his companion. So the other said to him: "Look, I will put a brick down here between us and I will say "This is mine." Then you can say "No it is not, it is mine." Then we will be able to have a quarrel." So they placed the brick between them and the first one said: "This is mine." His companion answered him: "This is not so, for it is mine." To this, the first one said: "If it is so and the brick is yours, then take it and go your way." And so they were not able to have a quarrel.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Anthony of Egypt (251–356)

The Death of Anthony of Egypt

When Saint Anthony felt that the day of his departure had approached, he commanded his disciples to give his staff to Marcus, and to give one sheep skin cloak to  Athanasius and the other sheepskin cloak to Serapion, his disciple. He further instructed his disciples to bury his body in an unmarked grave. He died in 356 on Mount Kolzin by the Red Sea, 105 years old..

He probably spoke only his native language, Coptic, but his sayings were spread in a Greek translation. He himself left no writings. His biography was written by  St.Athanasius and titled Life of Saint Anthony the Great. Many stories are also told about him in various collections of sayings of the Desert Fathers.

Though Anthony himself did not organize or create a monastery, a community grew around him based on his example of living an ascetic and isolated life. Athanasius' biography helped propagate Anthony's ideals. Athanasius writes, "For monks, the life of Anthony is a sufficient example of Asceticism.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Vision of St Ita

The Vision of Ita

(Saint Ita sees Christ come to her in a vision as a baby to be nursed)

It is Jesu
who is nursed by me in my little hermitage:
though it be a cleric with treasures,
all is a lie save Jesu.

The nursing I do in my house
is not the nursing of a base clown:
Jesus with the men of Heaven
under my heart every single night.

Young Jesu, my eternal good!
to heed him is a cause of forgiveness,
the king who controls all things,
not to beseech Him will cause repentance.

It is Jesus, noble, angelic,
not an unlearned cleric,
who is fostered by me in my little hermitage,
Jesus the son of the Hebrew woman.

Sons of princes, sons of kings,
though they should come into my country,
I should not expect profit from them;
more likely, I think, from Jesu.

Sing ye a chorus, O maidens,
to Him who has a right to your little tribute,
who sits in his place above,
though Jesu is at my breast.

A lullaby attributed to St Ita later put to music as one of  Samuel Barbers Hermit  Songs

The Martyrology of Oengus. translated by Whitley Stokes. London, 1905.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ita (475; d. 15 January, 570)

St. Ita is known as the "Foster Mother of the Saints of Ireland" because she was a soul friend and spiritual mother to several of Ireland's early saints among them Brendan,  Cummain and St. Mochoemoc, whom because of his beauty she called 'Pulcherius'. The wisdom with which she managed her charges and taught her "children" was cultivated through the quiet of solitary prayer and meditation.

Her gentle ministry to children is reflected in the lullaby for the infant Jesus that is attributed to her. Such is Ita's love for God that she prays for the gift of nursing the infant Jesus, a privilege granted to her in a vision. Along with Brigid, she becomes known as 'the wet-nurse of Christ'.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ammon Ashford Hennacy (July 24, 1893 – January 14, 1970)

 File:Jesus wanted poster.jpg

Hennacy was born in Negly Ohio to Quaker parents, Benjamin Frankin Hennacy and Eliza Eunice Fitz Randolph, and grew up as a Baptist On hearing Billy Sunday preach in 1909 he became an atheist and shortly afterward became a socialist.

At the outbreak of WWI  Hennacy was imprisoned for two years in Atlanta for resisting conscription. While in prison the only book he was allowed was the Bible. This inspired him to radically depart from his earlier beliefs; he became a Christian pacifist and a self-proclaimed "Christian anarchist". He led a hunger strike and was punished with eight months in solitary confinement. Hennacy believed that adherence to Christianity required being a pacifist and, because governments constantly threaten or use force to resolve conflicts, this meant being an anarchist.

In 1919 Hennacy married his first wife, Selma Melms, under common law; two years later they hiked around the US passing through all 48 states. He settled down in 1925, buying a farm and raising his two children. In 1931, he began social work in Milwakee and organized one of the first social worker unions. He refused to use force or self-defence  when threatened , preferring instead to use non-resistance. During the 2nd WW, he refused to sign up for the draft  and declared that he would not pay taxes. He also reduced his tax  burden  by embracing a lifestyle of simple living. Between 1942 and 1953, Hennacy worked as a migrant farm laborer in the southwest United States.
In 1952, he was baptised as a Roman Catholic by an anarchist priest, with Dorthy Day as his godmother. Hennacy moved to NY in 1953, and became the associate editor of the Catholic Worker. Hennacy engaged in many protests while in New York particularly against the Atomic Energy Commission. In 1958, He fasted for 40 days in protest of nuclear weapons testing.

Hennacy fasted and picketed in protest of the death penalty and the use of taxes in war. Following a divorce from Selma in 1964, Hennacy married his second wife, Joan Thomas, in 1965. In the same year he left the Roman Catholic Church, though he continued to call himself a "non-church Church". He wrote about his reasons for leaving and his thoughts on Catholicism, which included his belief that "Paul spoiled the message of Christ"  This essay and others were published as The Book of Ammon in 1965, which has been praised for its "diamonds of insight and wisdom" but criticised for its rambling style.

 His second and last book, The One-Man Revolution, was published in 1970 and consists of seventeen chapters with each one devoted to an American radical. These included Thomas Pain, William Loyd Garrison John Woolman, Dorthy Day, Eugene Debs, Malcom X, Mother Jones,  Clarence Darrow and Albert Parsons.

Ammon Hennacy died from a heart attack on January 14, 1970. In accordance with his wishes, his body was cremated and the ashes scattered over the graves of the Haymarket Anarchists in Wieldehiem cemetery  in Chicago.

Cartoon by Art young, first published in the Masses in 1917 and later reprinted in Ammon Hennacy's The Book of Ammon. I had this version as a poster on my wall as a young man.

adapted  from Wikipiedia

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Celtic House Blessings

May God give blessing
to the house that is here;

May Jesus give blessing
to the house that is here;

May Spirit give blessing
to the house that is here;

May Three give blessing
to the house that is here;

May Brigit give blessing
to the house that is here;
May Michael give blessing
to the house that is here;
May Mary give blessing
to the house that is here;
May Columba give blessing
to the house that is here;

May the King of the elements be its help,
The King of Glory have charge of it;
Christ the beloved, Son of Mary Virgin,
and the gentle Spirit be pouring therein;
Michael, bright warrior, King of the Angels,
Watch and ward it with the Power of his sword;
Mary the fair and tender, be nigh the hearth,
And Columba kindly giving benediction;
In fulfilment of each promise
On those within, On those within!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Epiphany (5)

Epiphany is the climax of the Advent/Christmas Season and the Twelve days of Christmas, which are usually counted from the evening of December 25th until the morning of January 6th, which is the Twelfth Day.

The term epiphany means "to show" or "to make known",  "to reveal." In Western churches, it commemorates the coming of the wise men bringing gifts to visit the Christ child, who by so doing "reveal" Jesus to the world as Lord and King.

In western Christian tradition, January 6 is celebrated as Epiphany.

Because of differences in church calendars, mainly between the Eastern Orthodox and the western Catholic and Protestant traditions, both Christmas and Epiphany have been observed at different times in the past.  Today, most of the Eastern Orthodox traditions follow the western church calendar. The exceptions are some Greek Orthodox Churches and related traditions (for example, Russian and Serbian Orthodox) that still follow the older calendar and celebrate Epiphany as the Theophany on January 19th.

                                                 What star is this, with beams so bright,
                                                   More lovely than the noonday light?
                                                 ’Tis sent to announce a newborn King,
                                                      Glad tidings of our God to bring.


graphic: Epiphany Times Three by Kathrin Burleson Watercolor, 2007,

see more  

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Beannacht ar chách
(Blessing on everyone)

Nara tiugha féar ag fás
(Not more generous the growing blades of grass)
Ná gaineamh ar thrá
(Nor the grains of sand on the shore)
Ná drúcht ar bhán
(Nor the dewdrops on the pasture)
Ná na beannachtaí ó Rí na ngrás
(be the blessings of the Kind of grace)
Ar gach anam a bhí, a bheidh ná atá.
(on every soul that was, that will be or that is.)

From The Glenstal Book of Prayer