Sunday, April 29, 2012

Desert Wisdom (12)

Abba John the Dwarf went away to an old Theban in Scetis who lived in the desert. Once his Abba took a piece of dry wood, planted it, and said to him: Water it every day with a bottle of water until it bears fruit. The water, however, was so far away from there that John had to go out late in the evening and come back the next morning. Three years later, the tree came to life and bore fruit. Then Abba took some of the fruit and brought it to the church, and said to the brothers: Take and eat the fruit of obedience!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Early church teaching: Free Will (5 )

 The early Fathers declare that God exists, man has a soul. He is free to choose. Not even  the Grace of God is compulsory.

       So that none may infer what we have said about the events we have described. ..the
       penalties and punishments, and the good rewards are given according to each man's
       action. If this not so, but all things happened in accordance with fate, nothing would be
       left us. For if it is destined that one man should be good and another wicked, then
       neither is the one to be praised, nor the other blamed. 
                                      St. Justin Martyr writes in his first Apology, 43,

       This expression of our Lord, "How often would I have gathered thy children together,
       and thou wouldest not, (Matthew 23:37) II , set forth the ancient law of human liberty,
       because God made man a free agent from the beginning, possessing his own power,
       even as he does his own soul, to obey the behests of God voluntarily, and not by
       compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but a good will towards us is
       present with Him continually. And therefore does He give good counsel to all. In man,
       as well as the angels, He has placed the power of that those who had yielded
       obedience might rightly possess the good, given indeed by God, but preserved by
       themselves. On, the other hand, they who have not obeyed, shall, with justice, be not
       found in possession of the good, and shall receive condign punishment : for God did
       kindly bestow on them what was good;...
                                                     St. Irenaeus  (Against the Heresies, IV, 37, I).

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

God's Peace Be To You

God's peace be to you,
Jesus' peace be to you,
Spirit's peace be to you
And to your children.
Oh to you and to your children.
Each day and night
Of your portion in the world.

graphic: BC

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day

May the blessing of light be on you - light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you like a great peat fire,
so that stranger and friend may come and warm himself at it.
And may light shine out of the two eyes of you,
like a candle set in the window of a house,
bidding the wanderer come in out of the storm.
And may the blessing of the rain be on you,
may it beat upon your Spirit and wash it fair and clean,
and leave there a shining pool where the blue of Heaven shines,
and sometimes a star.
And may the blessing of the earth be on you,
soft under your feet as you pass along the roads,
soft under you as you lie out on it, tired at the end of day;
and may it rest easy over you when, at last, you lie out under it.
May it rest so lightly over you that your soul may be out from under it quickly;
 up and off and on its way to God.
And now may the Lord bless you, and bless you kindly. Amen.

                                                           Scottish Blessing

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Peter Abelard (1079-1142 )

Abelard a medieval french scholastic philosopher, theologian, poet, musician and preeminent logician has been described as "the keenest thinker and boldest theologian of the 12th Century"  His love affair with Heloise is of the stuff that fuels legend

While only twenty-two, Abelard set up a school of his own at Melum,
 Eventually he set up a school school in Paris over looking Notre-Dame. From his success in dialectic, he next turned to theology and attended the lectures of Anselm at Laon. His triumph was complete; the pupil was able to give lectures, without previous training or special study. Abelard was now at the height of his fame. He stepped into the chair at Notre-Dame, being also nominated canon, about the year 1115

Abelard was seen surrounded by crowds – it is said thousands of students – drawn from all countries by the fame of his teaching. Enriched by the offerings of his pupils, and entertained with universal admiration, he came, as he says, to think himself the only undefeated philosopher in the world. But a change in his fortunes was at hand. In his devotion to science, he had always lived a very regular life, enlivened only by philosophical debate: now, at the height of his fame, he encountered romance.

Helolise was living within the precincts of Notre-Dame, under the care of her uncle, the canon Fulbert.She was brilliant  and remarkable for her knowledge of classical letters.  Abélard seduced Héloïse.  She became pregnant and was sent to Brittany by Abelar, where she gave birth to a son whom she named Astrolabe

they were married in secret  in order not to mar his career prospects. Fulbert publicly disclosed the marriage, and Héloïse denied it, she went to the convent of Argentillat  on Abélard's urging. Fulbert, believing that Abélard wanted to be rid of Héloïse, had him castrated. Héloïse was forced to become a  nun. Héloïse sent letters to Abélard, questioning why she must submit to a religious life for which she had no calling.

 The 40-year-old Abélard sought to bury himself as a monk. Finding no respite in the cloister and having gradually turned again to study, he reopened his school at an unknown priory. His lectures, now framed in a devotional spirit, were once again heard by crowds of students, and his old influence seemed to have returned.

 No sooner had he published his theological lectures (the Theologia 'Summi Boni') and he found himself being charged with the heresy. An official condemnation of his teaching, forced made to burn his book before being shut up in the convent of St. Medard at Soissons.

 Life in the monastery grew intolerable  and he was finally allowed to leave. In a deserted place near  he built a cabin of stubble and reeds, and became a hermit.  When his retreat became known, students flocked from Paris, and covered the wilderness around him with their tents and huts. When he began to teach again he found consolation  he consecrated the new Oratory of the Paraclete.

Fearing new persecution he left the oratory. During this time Héloïse had lived respectably and grown in stature within the religious community, where she would eventually become abbess. 

By 1136, Abélard returned to the site of his early triumphs, lecturing on Mount St. Genevieve.  In 1141   Bernard of Clarvioux, in whom was incarnated the principle of fervent and unhesitating faith, to which rational inquiry like Abélard's was sheer revolt, brought formal charges of heresy against Abélard. He appealed to Rome.

He died in the Abbey of Cluny while on his way to Rome to plea his case in person, 

 He is also closely associated with the moral influence theory of the atonement.

compiled from various sources

Anselm (1033-1109)

Anselm was one of the most important Christian thinkers of the eleventh century. He is most famous in philosophy for having discovered and articulating the so-called Ontological_argumentment” for the existence of God. As a theologian  his formulation  of the subsitutionary theory of the atonement

Anselm's writings represent a recognition of the relationship of reason to revealed truth, and an attempt to elaborate a rational system of faith.

Anselm was born in 1033 in Aosta, a border town of the kingdom of Burgundy. In 1060Anselm should enter monastic life at Bec,  

 In 1070, Anselm began to write, particularly prayers and meditations, which he sent to friends to be used in their own private devotions. Eventually, his teaching and thinking culminated in a set of treatises and dialogues. In 1077, he produced the Monologion, and in 1078 the Proslogion. Eventually, Anselm was elected abbot of the monastery. At some time while still at Bec, Anselm wrote the De Veritate (On Truth), De Libertate Arbitrii (On Freedom of Choice), De Casu Diaboli (On the Fall of the Devil), and De Grammatico.

In 1092, Anselm traveled to England, King William Rufus kept the seat of the Arch Bishop of Canterbury  vacant so could collect its income.  Anselm was proposed as the new bishop, a prospect neither he nor the  king desired. Eventually, the king fell ill, and nominated Anselm to become bishop. Anselm attempted to argue his unfitness for the post, but eventually accepted. 

In addition to the typical cares of the office, his tenure as arch-bishop of Canterbury was marred by nearly uninterrupted conflict over the separation of church and state.Anselm had to go into exile and travel to Rome where  the Pope,  not only affirmed Anselm’s   position, but refused Anselm’s own request to leave office.

While in exile, Anselm finished his Cur Deus Homo and wrote his treatises On the Incarnation of the Word, On the Virgin Conception and on Original Sin, On the Harmony of the Foreknowledge, the Predestination, and the Grace of God with Free Choice.

Upon returning to England after William Rufus’s death, conflict again ensued over the issue of ensued between The new king Henry I exiled Anselm who once again traveled to Rome. When judgment was made by Pope Paschal II in Anselm’s  favor, the king forbade him to return to England, eventually reconciliation took place. Anselm died in England 1109,

Friday, April 13, 2012

Free Will (4)

 More Justin Martyr on Free Will

"For so we say that there will be the conflagration, but not as the Stoics, according to their doctrine of all things being changed into one another, which seems most degrading. But neither do we affirm that it is by fate that men do what they do, or suffer what they suffer, but that each man by free choice acts rightly or sins; and that it is by the influence of the wicked demons that earnest men, such as Socrates and the like, suffer persecution and are in bonds, while Sardanapalus, Epicurus, and the like, seem to be blessed in abundance and glory. The Stoics, not observing this, maintained that all things take place according to the necessity of fate. But since God in the beginning made the race of angels and men with free-will, they will justly suffer in eternal fire the punishment of whatever sins they have committed. and this is the nature of all that is made, to be capable of vice and virtue. For neither would any of them be praiseworthy unless there were power to turn to both (virtue and vice). And this also is shown by those men everywhere who have made laws and philosophized according to right reason, by their prescribing to do some things and refrain from others. Even the Stoic philosophers, in their doctrine of morals, steadily honour the same things, so that it is evident that they are not very felicitious in what they say about principles and incorporeal things. For if they say that human actions come to pass by fate, they will maintain either that God is nothing else than the things which are ever turning, and altering, and dissolving into the same things, and will appear to have had a comprehension only of things that are destructable, and to have looked on God Himself as emerging both in part and in whole in every wickedness; or that neither vice or virtue is anything; which is contrary to every sound idea, reason, and sense." (Justin Second Apology, VII)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dietrch Bonhoffer (1906 - 1945)

 Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community / Quotes

"Christian community means community through and in Jesus Christ. On this presupposition rests everything that the Scriptures provide in the way of directions and precepts for the communal life of Christians." 

“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. 'The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared' (Luther).”

"Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate." 

  “The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus. The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is. Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of man. And so it also does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this. In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner. The psychiatrist must first search my heart and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth. The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God’s forgiveness. The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God. The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ.”

"For Christians the beginning of the day should not be burdened and oppressed with besetting concerns for the day's work. At the threshold of the new day stands the Lord who made it. All the darkness and distraction of the dreams of night retreat before the clear light...

 “Christian community is like the Christian's sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.”

 “We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.” 

link to Bonhoffer living water pages

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Sunday (5)

Graphic: The Two Marys, William Holden Hunt (1847-1900)
Hunt explains in his memoris that he began this painting early in his career, but since he was then an atheist felt he could not complete it. His conversion to a personal form of Christianity, which is record in The Light of the World took place a few years later, but he did not take up this picture again until 50 years later.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday (5)

Prayer of St Richard

Thanks be to you, our Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits which you have given us,
for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us.
Most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother,
may we know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly,
day by day.

Part of this may sound 9 and look) very familiar... all things old are new
For years Mary and i have been celebrating good Friday by sharing Godspell with friends and family.
graphic: Victor Garber in the film adaptation of Godspell

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Maundy/ Holy Thursday (5)

Alone thou Goest Forth

Alone Thou Goest Forth
Alone Thou goest forth, O Lord,
In sacrifice to die;
Is this Thy sorrow nought to us
Who pass unheeding by?

Our sins, not thine, Thou bearest, Lord;
Make us Thy sorrow feel,
'Till through our pity and our shame
Love answers Love's appeal.

This is Earth's darkest hour, but Thou
Dost light and life retore;
Then let all praise be given Thee
Who livest evermore.

Peter Abelard (1079-1142)

graphic: “Christ in Gethsemane”, by Michael D. O’Brien.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Benedict the Black (1526 - 1589 )

St Benedict the Black was the son of  Black north Africans who were taken from North Africa and sold into slavery in Sicily.  They converted to Christianity, living such exemplary lives of service their master, granted freedom to their eighteen-year-old so. Benedictcontinued to work as a day laborer, generously sharing his small wages with the poor and spending his free me in caring for the sick. Growing up he was the brunt of much racism and ridicule.

At the age of 21 he became acquainted with Jerome Lanze, a nobleman who had given up his title to live under the rule of St Francis of Assisi. Benedict sold his few possessions, gave the money to the poor and joined the monastic group at San Fratello, later moving with them to Palermo. For many years he was happily employed in the kitchen as a lay brother at the Friary of St Mary of Jesus. Upon the death of the Director, he was chosen guardian of the friary, even though he could neither read nor write. 

After serving one term in office, he was chosen spiritual director of the novices. It is recorded that  he possessed extraordinary gifts of prayer. Was divinely given an infused knowledge of the Scriptures. He had such an intuitive grasp of deep theological truths that learned men were astounded. 

Reports of his sanctity spread throughout Sicily, and the monastery was constantly beset with visitors – the poor requesting alms, the sick in search of a miracle, and people of all ranks seeking spiritual direction and prayers.
Although  he preferred a quite life he never refused to see anyone. Toward the end of his life he willingly returned to the humble duties of the kitchen. He died after a short illness at the age of sixty-three, at the very hour he had predicted

Martin Luther King (1928 - 1968 )

10 Rare King Quotes
"Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see."
"Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness."
"Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will."
"The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men."
"The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood."
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
"We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies."
"Whatever your life's work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better."
"We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."
"We must use time creatively."

Actual Stations of the Cross

Actual Way of the Cross

  1. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane,
  2. Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested,
  3. Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin,
  4. Jesus is denied by peter 
  5. Jesus is judged by Pilate,
  6. Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns,
  7. Jesus takes up His cross,
  8. Jesus is helped by Simon to carry His cross,
  9. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem,
  10. Jesus is crucified,
  11. Jesus promises His kingdom to the repentant thief,
  12. Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other,
  13. Jesus dies on the cross,
  14. Jesus is laid in the tomb .    
Graphic: Anatomical Crucifixion (James Legg). Plaster cast, wooden cross. 1801

Monday, April 2, 2012

traditional stations of the cross

Traditional form of the Stations

The Stations themselves are usually a series of 14 pictures or sculptures depicting the following scenes:

  1.  Jesus is condemned to death
  2. Jesus is given his cross
  3. Jesus falls the first time
  4. Jesus meets His mother
  5. Simon of Cyrene carries the cross
  6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
  7. Jesus falls the second time
  8. Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem
  9. Jesus falls the third time
  10. Jesus is stripped of His garments
  11. Crucifixtion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
  12. Jesus dies on the cross
  13. Jesus' body is removed from the cross (Deposition or Lamination)
  14. Jesus is laid in the tomb and covered in incense.
Although not traditionally part of the Stations, the Resurrection of Jesus is sometimes included as a fifteenth station.
graphic: Notre-Dame-des-Champs, Avranches

    Sunday, April 1, 2012

    Orgins of the Stations of the Cross

    Stations of the Cross (or Way of the Cross; in Latin, Via Crucis; also called the Via Delarosa or Way of Sorrows, or simply, The Way) refers to the depiction of the final hours (or the passion) of Christ, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. The tradition as chapel devotion began with St Francis of Assisi and extended throughout the Roman Catholic Church in the medieval period. It is commonly observed in Lutheran churches, but it is less often observed in the Anglican churches. It may be done at any time, but is most commonly done during the Season of Lent, especially on Good Friday and on Friday evenings during Lent.

    The Stations of the Cross originated in pilgrimages to Jerusalem A desire to reproduce the holy places in other lands seems to have manifested itself at quite an early date. At the monastery of Santo Stefano at Bologna a group of connected chapels was constructed as early as the 5th century, by St Petronius, Bishop of Bologna, which was intended to represent the more important shrines of Jerusalem, and in consequence, this monastery became familiarly known as "Hierusalem.” These may perhaps be regarded as the germ from which the Stations afterwards developed, though it is tolerably certain that nothing that we have before about the 15th century can strictly be called a Way of the Cross in the modern sense. Although several travelers who visited the Holy Land during the twelfth, thirteenth, and 14th centuries  mention a "Via Sacra,” i.e., a settled route along which pilgrims were conducted, there is nothing in their accounts to identify this with the Way of the Cross, as we understand it. The devotion of the Via Delarosa, for which there have been a number of variant routes in Jerusalem, was probably developed by the Franciscans after they were granted administration of the Christian holy places in Jerusalem in 1342.

    The earliest use of the word “stations,” as applied to the accustomed halting-places in the Via Sacra at Jerusalem, occurs in the narrative of an English pilgrim, William Wey, who visited the Holy Land in the mid-15th century, and described pilgrims following the footsteps of Christ to the cross. In 1521 a book called Geystlich Strass was printed with illustrations of the stations in the Holy Land.

    During the 15th and 16th centuries the Franciscans began to build a series of outdoor shrines in Europe to duplicate their counterparts in the Holy Land. The number of stations varied between eleven and thirty. In 1686, in answer to their petition, Pope Innocent XI granted to the Franciscans the right to erect stations within their churches. In 1731, Pope Clement XII extended to all churches the right to have the stations, provided that a Franciscan father erected them, with the consent of the local bishop. At the same time the number was fixed at fourteen. In 1857, the bishops of England were allowed to erect the stations by themselves, without the intervention of a Franciscan priest, and in 1862 this right was extended to bishops throughout the church.