Friday, June 28, 2013

IRENAEUS (120-202)

" the greatest way to glorify God is with a life well lived"

Born in Asia Minor, probably Smyrna. He was a disciple of Polycarp who had been mentored by John the beloved. He studied in Rome then became a priest at Lyons at the invitation of the Ponthinus the first bishop of Gaul.

He was sent back to Rome with a message and on his return to Lyons found that Ponthinus had been killed in the persecution. Irenaeus was made the new bishop of Gaul. He remained in the West and died there.

Irenaeus made a later journey to Rome to plead for leniency toward the Montanists  and for those Eastern Christians who were threatened with excommunication because they did not observe the Roman date for Easter.

His writings were important in the early developement of Christian theology and the development of the Canon. Irenaeus also provides the first explicit witness to a four-fold gospel canon. He was the earliest Father of the Church to systematize the Christian beliefs that would later they the foundation for orthodox doctrine. He is frequently cited by later theologians.

Only two of his works survive—neither in the original Greek. The five-volume Against Heresies establishes Christian doctrine against the Gnostics and incidentally supplies much of our present information on Gnosticism. And the Epideixix or the Demonstrations of Apostolic Preaching, which is a concise exposition of Christian doctrine.

He is recognized as a Saint by both the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches. 

living water reprint from 2008

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Nativity of John the Baptist 

Christians have long interpreted the life of John the Baptist as a preparation for the coming  of  Christ, and the circumstances of his birth, as recorded in the New Testament, are miraculous. John's pivotal place in the gospel is seen in the emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself—both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus.

The sole biblical account of the birth of John the Baptist comes from the Gospel of Luke. John’s parents, Zechariah, a Jewish priest and Elizebeth, were without children and both were beyond the age of child-bearing. During Zechariah's rotation to serve in the Temple in Jerusalem, he was chosen by lot to offer incense at the Altar in the most holy of Hollies. The Archangel Gabriel  appeared to him and announced that he and his wife would give birth to a child, and that they should name him John. However, because 

Zechariah did not believe the message of Gabriel, he was rendered speechless until the time of John's birth;at that time, his relatives wanted to name the child after his father, and Zechariah wrote, "His name is John" and could speak (Luke 1:5-25; 1:57-66). Following Zechariah's obedience to the command of God, he was given the gift of prophecy

The Nativity of St John the Baptist on June 24 The purpose of these festivals is not to celebrate the exact dates of these events, but simply to commemorate them in an interlinking way. The Nativity of St. John the Baptist anticipates the feast of Christmas.
The Nativity of St John the Baptist is one of the oldest festivals of the Christian church, being listed by the Council of  Agde in 506 as one of that region's principal festivals, where it was a day of rest and, like Christmas, was celebrated with three Masses: a vigil, at dawn, and at midday.

adapted from Wikipedia 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Pile of Stones (part 2)

"A Monument of Remembrance."

"Tell me about the goodness of God", is a request i make fairly often to my wife... I seem to have a very short memory.

One day back in the mid-eighties during a difficult season (my mother had just passed away) while reading Joshua, we had an epiphany  Why don't we make a pile of stones and establish a monument of remembrance like the children of Israel were told to do. We made a list of Miracles, promises, answered prayer, words, tokens (more about that another time) and obvious kindness of God, so in times of trial and darkness or a tell me the stories moment we would have something tangible to turn to.

So we drew a pile of stones on a piece of full-scap and wrote on the individual stones. God promised this. He provided that. The Lord healed so and so. We have added a sheet or two over the years and still occasionally pull the tattered pages out to refresh our memories.

Eventually we made a real pile of stones in our back yard and had a gathering where we placed stones of remembrance  From time to time we place new stones if something warrants it.

We've even had friends come over and place stones to mark monumental times in there lives. Some have simply given us a stone and asked us to place it for them. Each time we see that pile in our back yard not only are we reminded of God's goodness in our lives but that of our friends as well.

living water reprint from 2008

Friday, June 21, 2013

Of the summer Solstice and Saints

The traditional Midsummer Day of 24th June became St John the Baptists Birthday and feast in the early Christian world. John of course was the one sent to announce the coming of Jesus so here the 24th June parallels Christmas Eve on 24th December linking both Roman Solstice dates to the coming of Jesus, announced at Midsummer born at Midwinter.

In Britain another significant Christian festival falls in this season on 22nd June, the martyrdom of St Alban, Britain’s first recorded Christian Martyr. Alban lived in the Roman city of Verulamuim and gave shelter around 250 AD to a Christian missionary having himself become a follower of Jesus. This was a time that the 

Christian faith was suppressed by Roman authorities and so Roman Soldiers came seeking the missionary. Alban allowed him to escape by pretending to be the missionary giving himself up. We cannot know his reasons, though this was very brave to do as it lead to certain death. Perhaps he realized that just as he had found hope in that missionary’s message others would too and offering his own life would enable that to happen again and perhaps again and again.

As is so often the case Christian, Pagan and seasonal themes weave together. The Summer Solstice is a point of balance between increase and decrease. The time when the growth of the year looks forward to Harvest. A time of hope looking forward but also often in some cultures of fear leading to sacrifices to ensure the harvest as the year began from this point dwindles. So John the Baptist the Lord who comes in Summer says of Jesus the Lord who comes in winter ‘I must decrease that he may increase’. And yet Alban’s severed head, echoing a common theme in early British and Celtic saints, rolls down the hill and new life in a sacred well springs up, naming the street there to this day Holywell hill. 

adapted from " fullnes of life in mid summer" an article on the communities of the mystic Christ web site

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Jesus Prayer (part 2)

The Jesus Prayer can be considered practical application of the lesson taught by the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. The Pharisee demonstrates the improper way to pray by exclaiming: "Thank you Lord that I am not like the Publican", whereas the Publican prays correctly in humility "Lord have mercy on me, the sinner." (Luke 18:10-14.)

In the Eastern tradition the prayer is said or prayed repeatedly. A prayer rope (Russian chotki; Greek komposchini) is often used in addition to the prayer it's self. The cord is usually woolen and tied into many knots. The person saying the prayer says one repetition for each knot.

Orthodox monks often pray this prayer many hundreds of times each night as part of their private cell vigil. Under the guidance of an Elder (Russian Starets; Greek Gerondas), the monk aims to internalize the prayer so that he is praying unceasingly. Diadochos refers in the Pitfka to the unconscious repetition of the Jesus Prayer, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, even in sleep. This state is regarded as the accomplishment of Saint Paul's exhortation to the Thessalonians to "pray without ceasing". (1 Thessalonians 5:17) The monk's goal is also, in advanced practice, to bring his mind into his heart so as to practice the Jesus Prayer with his mind in his heart.

It can be used as a means of finding contrition or a practice to help facilitate humility in the individual. In its more advanced use, the monk aims by the practice of the Jesus Prayer to be moved by Divine grace into a place of contemplation.

In a modern context this continuing repetition is regarded by some as a form of meditation. The prayer functioning as a kind of mantra. However, traditional users of the Jesus Prayer emphasize the invocation of the name of Jesus Christ and the object of the exercises being contemplation on the Triune God rather then simply an emptying the mind.

adapted from several sources.

living water reprint from 2008

Sunday, June 16, 2013

the Peace of Christ: A celtic Invocation

Peace between neighbors

Peace between kindred 

Peace between lovers 

I love the King of Life

Peace between person and person 

Peace between Mother and Child 

Peace between Father and Son 

The Peace of Christ above all peace

invocation from the Carmina Gadelica collected by Alexander Carmichael

Living water from an ancient well classic from 2008

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Evelyn Underhill (1875 - 1941)

Evelyn Underhill was born at Wolverhampton England on December 6, 1875. The only child of (Sir) Arthur Underhill, barrister and his wife, Alice. She was educated at home, except for three years at a private school in Folkestone. Later she attended King's College for Women, where she excelled in history and botany. She also became a first-class bookbinder.

In 1906 She married Hubert Stuart Moore, a barrister, whom she had known since childhood. That same year she became a convert to Christianity, initially via the Catholic church, eventually joined the Anglican Communion (1921) and in her later years settled in the Greek Orthodox Church (1936).
Her first important book, Mysticism (1911), brought her in to acquaintance with Baron Friedrich von Hugel she formally put herself under his spiritual direction and she remained his pupil until his in 1925.

From the moment she became a Christian Underhill's life consisted of various forms of christian service. She often quoted St. Teresa's "to give Our Lord a perfect service Martha and Mary must combine." Her mornings were given to writing and her afternoons to visiting the poor and to spiritual direction. As she grew older spiritual direction became her chief interest.

In 1924 she began to conduct retreats, and a number of her books consist of the notes from these. She also penned three novels, two books of verse, a number of works on philosophy and religion, and various editions of, and critical essays on, the mystics.

During the first World War Underhill worked for the defense department. On the advent of the second world war in 1939 she found herself a Christian pacifist. She joined the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship and wrote an uncompromising pamphlet, The Church and War (1940).

In 1913 Evelyn Underhill became an honorary fellow of King's College of Women and in 1927 fellow of King's College. She had a zest for life and a sharp sense of humor. In her relationships particularly with her pupils, she had a vey light touch, having a great disdain for "pushing souls about." Her love of people combined with her desire to help them to grow at God's pace, not at there's or hers, won her the love and trust of all who went to her for help.
Evelyn Underhill died at Hampstead on June 15th, 1941.

living water from an ancient well reprint

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Celtic Way of Prayer

 In the Celtic Christian tradition there was no separation between the sacred and the secular. Life was seen as a hole and the Trinity present in every moment. Prayer therefore was a natural as breathing. The Celt practice was to pray or invoke God's involement for, during and about everything (good, beautiful,...). This facilitates a very natural and organic approach to prayer  and practicing the  presence of God.
Prayers for frequent activities like lighting the fireplace, milking the cow etc. were learned by heart and handed down by word of mouth or later in writing.

Being an oral and creative culture facilitated this very natural approach to prayer.The use of the imagination became second nature. For example, by imagining that Jesus, his mother or friends are in our back garden, workplace or bedroom! As we imagine this, we begin to sense what they would think and do if they were us and respond in very natural way.

The Celtic way is to bless everything in life (except evil), however earthy or ordinary. Animals, bicycles, computers, exams, food, gifts, jobs, love-making, meals, parties, travel – try it!

A living water from an ancient well  reprint from 2008

Sunday, June 9, 2013

St. Columba (521-597)

Columba was born into an Irish royal clan and trained as a priest. He travelled preaching and teaching thoroughout Ireland founding several monasteries including those at Derry (546) and Durrow (556). Columba was condemned by a Synod in 561 due to his part in a dispute over the ownership of a copy of a Gospel which resulted in the deaths of many in the battle of Cooldrevne.

Columba asked Finnian if he could make a copy of the manuscript but Finnian refused. Columba, however, was a prince of the O’Neills. A proud and independent minded man he ignored Finnian’s refusal getting up in the middle of the night Cloumba copied a small piece of the manuscript. He repeated this act every night until the copy was completed. Fiinnian flew into a rage when he discovered what had been don, demanding the copy. Columba who refused and retreated to the country of his tribe.

Finnian appealed to the High King of Ireland who summoned both to appear before him on a set date for the judgement. When they appeared the King’s judgement was "To the cow her calf." Finnian won the judgment but Columba was was determined.

He returned home to his tribe raised an army and marched south. The High King, angry that his judgement had been defied, raised his army and marched north. There was a huge battle. Columba won but 2000 men were killed. Filled with remorse he sought the counsel of his Soul friend who told him he must leave Ireland and win as many souls for Christ as had been lost at the battle. This sentence became known as white martyrdom

In 553 he left his beloved Ireland with a group of twelve and in a self imposed excile sailed for Scotland. He reached the island off Southend on the Mull of Kintyre but he found that when he climbed to the top of the hill he could still see Ireland. As a result he sailed on to Iona. He established the now famous monastic community there and become it's first Abbot.
Blessed with powerful oratory skills and using Iona as a base Columba and his companions travelled widely on the mainland reviving Christianity among the Scots and even managed to penitrate into Pictland.

Columba made a number of return visits to Ireland. At one such visit he attended a summit of all the kings of Ireland and managed to persuade them to exempt women from military duties
By the time of his death in 597 Columba had succeeded in making Iona the centre of a Celtic church that was very rapidly expanding through out Great Britian.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Pile of Stones (pt.1)

1 When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, 2 "Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, 3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight." Shortly after being delivered from slavery in Egypt the children of Israel found themselves wandering in the barren sands of the Sinai desert.

4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelite s, one from each tribe, 5 and said to them, "Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelite s, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' 7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever."

8 So the Israelite did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelite s, as the LORD had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down. 9 Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been [
a] in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day. Joshua 4:1-9Shortly after being delivered from slavery in Egypt the children of Isreal found themselves in trouble the primary cause: a short collective memory.
They quickly forgot God's goodness and provision and began to murmur and complain. This lead to all sorts of trouble.
Ever find yourself complaining. Don't know about you but I find it really really easy to forget God's kindness in my life. When the proverbial crap hits the fan and we find ourselves in the heat of life's battles it's easy to lose sight of God's goodness. We quickly forget the time's He's lavished His kindness on us, opening windows of promise, provision and protection .

When you catch your self beginning to gripe, complain, fear or doubt try building a pile of stones.

photo taken by bc

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dorthy Day

Dorthy one line Zingers

 “My strength returns to me with my cup of coffee and the reading of the psalms. ”

“We must talk about poverty, because people insulated by their own comfort lose sight of it.”

“Life itself is a haphazard, untidy, messy affair.”

 “It is people who are important, not the masses.”

 “Writing is hard work. But if you want to become a writer you will become one. Nothing will stop you.”

“Don't call me a saint. I don't want to be dismissed so easily. ”

“Charity is only as warm as those who administer it.”

“Don't worry about being effective. Just concentrate on being faithful to the truth.”

“Those who cannot see Christ in the poor are atheists indeed. ”

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Jesus Prayer (1)

Vernicle.jpg (78264 bytes)The Jesus Prayer also refered to as the Prayer of the Heart, is a short repetitive prayer. It has been taught and used throughout the history of Eastern Christianity. The words of the prayer have varied from it's simplist form "Lord have mercy," to the more common form: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." (LK 18: 9-14)

The Jesus Prayer is highly esteemed in the Eastern Orthodox tradition . It has an important place in personal ascetic practice. The constant praying the prayer is considered to be prfoundly mystical and transformative in nature. Its practice is an integral part of the Philokalia. A collection of texts on prayer compiled in the late 18th Century.

The use of the prayer most likely has it's roots in the Egyptian desert around the end of the 4th century. John Cassian describes this type of prayer in the 'Conferences' his diolouges with the Desert Fathers. It's earliest known specific mention is in the Gnostic Chapters of Saint Diadochos of Photiki, a work found in the first volume of the Philokalia. Diadochos encouraged the use of the Jesus Prayer for the purification of the soul. He also taught that it's repetition produced interior tranquility..

John of Sinai recommended it's use in his work the "Ladder of Divine Ascent". The Russian spiritual classic "The Way of a Pilgrim" encourages the use of the Prayer as taught in the Philokalia. J D Salinger in his modern classic Franny and Zooey even eludes to it's practice as a solution to the spiritual deadness of our age.

Though practiced primarily by the Eastern tradition, it has drawn a wider range of practitioners from different streams in the 20th century.