Saturday, December 03, 2022

Advent - Company's Coming


As children, hearing our mother tell us that company's coming was always a double-edged message.  "Company" pointed to a happy time that included laughter, gifts, surprises, and all the things that disrupted our humdrum, Pennsylvania steel town existence.  It meant that friends, or other family members would shortly interpose upon the life of our family. Now, while there were family members who visited on a regular basis, and this is in no means to diminish them, they weren't company.  Company, consisted of Family who lived out of state, or even the aunt & uncle who were visiting from Ireland.  These constituted company, and their arrival was a time for excitement. 

When our mom's declared company was coming, it was in a statement that rarely ended is a period, it ended in a semicolon where the following statement went something like "and this house is a mess!"  In our minds, mom was violating a chorus of child labor laws as we were suddenly picking up our toys, cleaning our rooms, sweeping floors or other monumental labors.  All the while, mom took on her own chores.  In the end, the house sparkled, company came, and a good time was enjoyed by all.

At the heart of the Old Testament, was the message that "company is coming".  Throughout the Old Testament, the Prophets pointed to the promised Messiah. Prophets like Isaiah who declared in a loud voice:
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins. A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Isa 40:1-3 ESV                                                         
Or there was the Prophet Micah who in an even clearer voice declared the place where the Messiah would be born, in a prophecy that all but zeroed in on the natal zip code:
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Mic 5:2 ESV
Throughout, these messengers exhorted the people of Israel to prepare themselves to welcome their coming King.  This King did come on a silent night, witnessed by few.  While his incarnation was mostly missed by many, this King promised to return, and that return will be seen by all. Each Sunday, we declare this when we proclaim the Mystery of Faith:

Christ has died,
Christ has risen,
Christ will come again!

Today in this Advent season, God's people are being called to a time of preparation and examination.  While we commemorate our Lord's first coming, we also watch, wait and prepare ourselves for that moment when He will come again.  This short season in our Liturgical year gives us space for reflection, and to consider how our heart's might be made ready for coming company.   

This Advent season, let or heart's echo the words of the Prophet, who declared:
A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Isa 40:3 ESV

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Advent I -- Advent Begins in the Dark


I’m recalling the first Sunday in Advent 1979, when I was blessed to be part of a choir that was performing in the National Cathedral up on Mount Saint Alban’s.  It was a memorable Sunday on many levels that included hearing a homily whose takeaway was “Advent begins in the dark”, a catchphrase that has stuck in my head for nearly 42 years.  The Homilist employed an apt visual reference pointing to the wreath that would glow ever brighter before the season’s conclusion.  I believe though that the weight of this statement extends far beyond the lumens provided by the five candles and the setting of that first Advent bears witness to this fact.

Advent began in a period of Sociopolitical Darkness.  For more than half a millennia, Abraham’s children had been an oppressed and occupied people.  Her golden age and the splendor of Solomon’s temple were little more than stories told by grandfather’s to their grandchildren.  Worse still, they were now into the second generation of being under the iron boot of the Roman Empire.  Against this backdrop and in an act of subversion against the kingdom of darkness, the Angel Gabriel stepped into the realm of time and the Holy Spirit hovered over a comely virgin of the House of David.

Advent began in a period of relative Spiritual Darkness.  Four hundred years had passed since a Prophetic voice was heard in Judah.  Those who were waiting for the Consolation of Israel knew the teaching of faithful Rabbis and the endless circle of sacrifice but never knew the sound of one speaking under the unction of the Almighty in prophetic counsel.  The dark silence would be shattered as the angel pronounced fulfillment of multiple prophecies concerning the coming Messiah.   

But consider too how Christ’s Advent into our own lives also began in the dark.  We all at one time, walked in spiritual darkness.  Each of us, as Saint Paul wrote to the Ephesians, were living far away from God and living to serve ourselves and our own desires; our past, present and future held only the dark and starless night.  Yet when the Holy Spirit moved upon us to convict us of our transgressions and convince us of our need for a Savior, both life and light was brought to us in the new birth.

Those who know the Christ of Advent can take comfort in the fact that the child born in Bethlehem is the very redeemer who will again return to make all things new.  No matter how dark it may seem, His glorious light will burst forth at the Father’s appointed hour.  This Advent which began in the dark will culminate in glorious light.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Advent I -- 2022


Happy New Year.  Its the season to turn our attention to a season of preparation.  A time to look beyond bargains, sales, Big Screens and the like, to the Messiah who's appearance who was missed by nearly all.  His return WON'T be missed. 

So, on this First Sunday in Advent, the Church traditionally prays:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

As well, our heart's cry remains, Oh come, oh come Emmanuel...

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Morning Rumination's

Thinking today, of two seemingly minor characters in the Christ’s passion as it was played out on Golgotha’s hill on the outskirts of Jerusalem.  Many were there in attendance that afternoon.  Members of the “established church” were present, watching and throwing shade on an innocent one who, stripped naked, was slowly dying by installment with each agonizing breath.  There were the gawkers, who had nothing better to do than take in the spectacle of a public execution.  There was the Roman execution squad who were tasked with the sordid detail of executing culprits and the unfortunate victims.  There were those who truly loved the condemned victim; his mother, his beloved pupil, a number of others who stood in this grave and terminal vigil.  And finally, there were two, Joseph and Nicodemus, Leaders within the Jewish faith who opposed what was unfolding.  While Nicodemus was mute, Joseph was open in his opposition.  Though not naturally succumbing to the violent physical trauma, the Christ shouted “It is Finished!”, and relinquished his life.


Barring intervention, the execution detail would have had Christ’s body consigned to the smoldering fires of Gehenna.  Yet the two leaders, Joseph and Nicodemus mustered the courage to petition the Roman Governor to receive Christ’s mortal remains. This act created a conundrum.  In receiving this corpse, the two rendered themselves ceremonially unclean and ineligible to take their seat at the Passover meal.  The reality of the moment was that these two were already present for the Passover as the LORD’s Pascal Lamb was offered up. 

In our Eucharistic celebration, we boldly proclaim, “Alleluia, Christ, our Passover is sacrificed for us! Let us keep the feast”.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Morning Rumination's

I’m a believer in the practicing of Morning Prayer.  While some will practice “bedtime” prayers, I take a timeout to pray once I’m fully awake, but before diving into the thick of the day.  In that quiet space before morning prayers, I was considering the sixth day (Friday). It was on that first Sixth Day, when God created man, and created him in his own image. The sin of willful disobedience irreparably disfigured that image, and succeeding generations of humanity walked in enmity with the Divine. On a succeeding Friday, far from Eden, God once again engaged in the act of re-creation. In crying out “tetelestai”, He declared that the debt incurred by that defacing offense was once and forever satisfied. On that first sixth day, humanity saw their birth. On that second sixth day, humanity realized their redemption and restoral.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Roe: Jan 22 1973 - Jun 24 2022


In December 1971, it was seasonably cold in Pennsylvania.  I was  a nine year old forth grader who was daydreaming of what Santa might bring in the next few weeks.  Hot Wheels were high on my list and if I recall correctly, my heart was set on the Mongoose verses Snake play set.  Beyond my nine year old horizon, a case was being heard within the halls of our Republic's Supreme Court.  In question, did a woman have the unfettered right to end the life of a child she was carrying in utero.  The case would be reargued a year later, before ultimately being ruled upon on January 22 1973.  By this time, the fabric of my childhood had been torn asunder by the separation of my parents.  Years before this, I had already learned of abortion's horror when the Monsignor at Saint Cecelia's spoke of it from the pulpit.  While I knew babies grew in their mother's stomachs (while not knowing just HOW they got there), the revelation that they could be wrenched from the safety and serenity of their mother's belly was dark and scary.  Even so, the notion would permanently dwell in that dark, scary place alongside mom and dad's divorce, and Soviet thermonuclear annihilation.  

While I was always personally opposed to the practice of abortion, I was able to find my voice, opining my thoughts in the mid 1980's.  Editorials/Letter to Editors followed, along with candlelight vigils outside of abortion provider facilities.As we engaged, the practice of abortion became further entrenched and more militant.  Where once, the practice that would have been unheard of beyond the first trimester, was now being performed well beyond the demarkation of viability and into the transnatal stage. At abortion's nadir, Pediatricians like Virginia's Governor Ralph Northam were openly discussing protocol for postnatal infanticide.

Finally, it would take a new generation of jurists who could recognize that the "right" to feticide wasn't envisioned by the founders; the Roe versus Wade decision was soundly reversed.

Abortion isn't going away,  but it will now be a matter for the States.  There'll no doubt be states that not only retain abortion, but will double down in loosening any and all safeguards preventing this in utero destruction.  Other states have begun to move towards absolute prohibition.  I suspect though, that there will be a demarkation line in most states that uses viability as the standard.

A dark chapter has ended, and a new one has begun for the Republic.  By God's help, may we get this one right.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Saturday Reverie II

 Thanks Chrissie Hynde:

The lyrics possess a near-agape love feel...

Saturday Reverie

 It's one of those "tween days" here in Suburbia Majora. By tween days, I'm speaking of a weather pattern where if it were a few degrees on either side, it would either be cold an d damp or hot and muggy.  But for now, its clammy and unsettled. Long sleeves would be too much, yet short sleeves aren't quite enough.  On  a plus, the atmosphere is very stable so the chances for story weather are pretty much removed.  So for now, its relaxing in the comfortable chair and reflecting on the passing scene.  Believe me, there is plenty to consider in the age of Biden and his nascent Authoritarian State.

Our collective Saturday is ensconced in a mist of global instability where bad actors have moved into the vacuum created by the loss of our national standing.  A frail putative figurehead POTUS, and cabinet have emboldened imperialistic competitors to become predators, preying on their neighbors.  We're witnessing this in the Ukraine and without Divine intervention, I fear we'll see this repeat in the Taiwan Strait.  Will Israel follow behind?

These are moments where I find a harbor of refuge in both Holy Scripture and music.  The words of The Almighty promise us that this world is indeed, enroute to Hell in a hand basket.  Yet, He will right the ship and make all things new at His return where:

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
Yet, in the meantime, He's promised us His presence through the person of the Holy Spirit as a comforter and counselor.  

Sunday, May 08, 2022

A Meditation on a Chilly Sunday

 From the  morning's Gospel reading:

At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one." - Jhn 10:22-30 ESV

This Sunday, in the Western Christian tradition, is often referred to "Good Shepherd Sunday" based on the appointed Gospel reading.  As the Parish Deacon, its my privilege to proclaim that Gospel to those gathered for the Eucharistic celebration.  I use the word "proclaim" purposely, as one doesn't read the Gospel as one might some random narrative.  This is primarily because the very power of it's word:  The power to reveal, the power to convince, the power to encourage, and even to power to either indict or convict.  It has captured the very words of God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the one whom Saint John called the very icon of God in his gospel's prologue.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

In Wednesday Morning's Quiet

 It's Wednesday morning and the house is quiet.  Shortly, I'll be setting out to physical therapy.  I'm caught by a melancholy this morning that feels a bit like Stevie Nicks' song, "Landslide".

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Reflections in Holy Week -- Holy Saturday


The Harrowing of Hell - Fra Angelico c. 1430's

  This morning, much of the Church is observing what's known as Holy Saturday, a reflective interval between Good Friday and the Pascha, or Easter Sunday.  While Scripture seems to be silent on today, it's been recognized since the dawn of the Church, known to us in Latin as the Descensus Christi ad Inferos , where the Christ "Descended to Hell" as attested to in both the Apostles' and Athanasian Creeds.  To say Scripture is silent on this is not entirely accurate because Saints Peter and Paul speak to this event and its purpose in their epistles.

  This descent is unlike any other thats been recorded within or outside the realm of time.  Lucifer and his fallen angels were violently cast down into the underworld and  the unredeemed are by nature compelled to descend there, Jesus did so willingly and obediently on His continuing mission from the Cross to the Throne.  Quantitatively, He spent little more than a day in this region of the dead in what was essentially gathering the first fruits of the atonement into His eternal presence.  From this moment onward the Just, or those who lived their lives by faith in The Almighty would never have to experience this descent into the abyss but rather, immediately enter into the light and presence of The Father.

  Saint Paul spoke to this moment in his letter to the Church at Ephesus where he declared:

(In saying, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) - Eph 4:9-10 ESV

  Saint Peter further speaks to this in his first epistle:
For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does. - 1Pe 4:6 ESV

    The theological impact of Holy Saturday is monumental, yet the day serves to teach a lesson thats closer to our everyday lives.  Let's consider the lives of Christ's remaining eleven Apostles and his other disciples.  Yesterday, they witnessed the horrific slaughter of their master who breathed his final breath naked, bloodied, and impaled upon a Roman cross.  The day had been darkened either through a total solar eclipse or some supernatural agency.  Their city was rocked by an earthquake and there were reports of paranormal activities with sightings of the dead.  Then, their master was sealed into a tomb and under Roman guard in a seeming cold finality.  Now, on the morning of the seventh day they rested, wrestling with grief, shock, disappointment, and a plethora of questions and emotion.  Yet within the next twenty-four hours, their lives would be seismically and irrevocably altered.  

  Holy Saturday teaches us that no matter how dire or final a situation may be, our stories are still being written by the Master of time and eternity.  While we see moments, he has already seen the our outcome.

  Let's rest in this truth. 

Friday, April 15, 2022

Good Friday. -- Tetelestai!


It is Finished.

Good Friday -- Reflections

 From the Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Today's Gospel passage is extremely long, recapturing the Passion narrative that was read at All Saints' this past Sunday.  I'm sharing a portion of that large passage to accompany our thoughts in this moment. 

While I'd certain no one those reading this today has actually witnessed a Crucifixion, yet most have seen one or more theatrical or cinematic dramatizations of the event. Many of these dramatic recreations are relatively sterilized while some are extremely graphic and visceral.  But the bloodiest depiction fails to capture the horrors of a roman crucifixion, an execution engineered to inflict one of the worst terrible deaths a human may endure.  The Gospels capture a sense of this in their description of how the Roman execution detail broke the legs of two of the sufferer's in order to accelerate their end.

Our portion of Saint John 19 captures the Christ, in the moments leading to His death upon the cross:
"When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), "I thirst." A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, "It is finished," and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." John 19:26-30 (ESV) 
It was approaching 3:00 PM in Jerusalem.  It could likely have been 68 Degrees Fahrenheit or 20C and fair on any given day, but this was an afternoon like no other.  Three hours prior, an unnatural darkness enveloped Jerusalem that held the city in the grip of twilight.  In this gloom, each breath taken by the master took the full measure of his strength as he strained against the nails to fill his lungs.  No doubt, he was dehydrated and in shock from being beaten and awake for 33 hours.  For all of this, the Christ WOULD NOT die until his mission was complete.  

In these moments, Jesus scans the perimeter, and sees his Disciple John Bar Zebedee with Mary, his Mother.  He commends his mother into John's care while comforting his mother that John would care for her.  Now, his thirst slaked by the sour wine, Jesus was able to cry out in a loud voice that the redemption of the Creation was complete. His words captured the sense that our sin debt at that moment was now paid in full.