Archive for April 2010

WORKMAN, NOT WORKER ON THE EVE OF MAY

April 30, 2010

Might be a short posting tonight.  

 

Apparently the body is still in its manic phase.    Let’s see…..64 1/2 hours now, and….5 hours of sleep if I total it up….Must be having insomnia.   I’m not cranky,  just a little unfocused.

The task at hand….”Words mean things.”     WORDS MEAN THINGS.     I find myself saying that a lot these days.  

Words mean things.  Words can help communicate things to you.  And words can influence the way you think.    Behavior modification through verbal entrainment.    It’s a science.

If you’ve never thought about it, it’s probably being successfully used on you.  And if you expose your mind to any electronic means of communication, you are probably being herded into  “correct”  attitudes and behavior.

Now I’m feeling cranky.   It happens every May 1.

This is a workman.   He is putting himself into the product of his work.   That is,  his effort and skill,  his mind and his will.  are all in the work he’s doing and the product he’s making.

For many centuries the Christian world has honored another workman.

This is Saint Joseph, the man Jesus chose to be his foster-father on earth, in Nazareth.     We look with wonder and admiration at Joseph’s manly piety, his strength of character formed by his faith, the love and protection he gave to his family, and the material support which he provided through the work of his strong hands.  

We are told that Joseph was a “teknon”  —  a builder;      a workman who used stone and wood to build things.   Did he manage a small family contracting business and employ others?   Was he an “independent contractor”  working out of his own home workshop?      One thing we believe is he passed on  his “building”  skills to his Son,  the Creator and Builder of the Universe.       Did the quality of Joseph’s workmanship assure a steady supply of customers?

Now compare the word “workman” with the word “worker.”    The words matter.     Again, for many centuries we have honored Saint Joseph the Workman.

What is it we are being told to think about on May 1?    St. Joseph the “Worker”?    And why?

Well, tomorrow I’ll take you on a little tourist trip to my town.   I’ll show you some workmen and some of their workmanship, and maybe answer those questions.

Right now I’m going to that weird place called bed.    Shortly after, I’ll probably be looking out through Rasputin-like eyes wondering  what I’m doing there…bored and vulnerable.

65 1/2…

Advertisements

OWLS: THE CHURCH KIND & THE NIGHT KIND

April 29, 2010

I’m still fascinated with these owls perched on the top of our church.   They’re not real, of course, as I explained before, but they still work as effective sentinels, guarding the rooftop from the city’s pigeons.   We had to move into another classroom earlier this week, so I could see them outside our window, and  the camera just happened to be with me again.

It’s four in the morning, and I’m having a bit of insomnia.   As usual.    I suppose that makes me a Night Owl.   Ha!      But really, I’m getting ready for class tomorrow night  (hopefully I’ll be awake for it)  and I’m preparing Mark 16.     It’s so full of wonderful things, that I can hardly stop.

There’s no “new information” in all the things that come together in that last chapter of the Gospel of Mark.    It’s just that seeing it all in one place adds so much insight.    I’m a different person from…from the person I was before.   We all are “different” each day because of what we experienced the day before.    But the Bible keeps up with us.

That’s why so many have called it a Living Bible…it lives with us.   And that’s why so many know it to be inspired.   “Spiration”  is  breathing.     Breathed into by the Living God…who surely watches over us and keeps up with us daily!

There’s a close-up of those owls.     Keeping watch.  

I think I like being a Night Owl, thinking about this in the quietness of the night.

SPRING COLORS – SOUTH OF FAR NORTH

April 27, 2010

Yeah…we’re a little south of Far North where the Cousin works the maple trees, but  it was  our trees which caught my eye today.      Everything kind of came to a standstill for a while, as Mother Nature commanded our attention:

That was quite a  yellowish sort of green, but it was glowing with sunshine when I went out to the maibox.

I really never realized how many greens there are in the Spring:

I know our Fall is full of the most brilliant colors, but this is the first time I noticed all the colors together in the Spring of the year.  Here is looking northward  down our street. 

I’m speechless.   Almost.    How could I look at this at not raise my heart and mind up to the Creator of this all – with joy and gratitude!

And this is looking southward:

Even our bay window gave us quite a show:

That’s our apple tree with tiny new blossoms in the center panel, but they’re pretty pale so far.     Today it was the time for the greens:

I hope you’re having a beautiful Spring too.

SPRINGTIME IN THE FAR NORTH

April 26, 2010

Not much of a river.That’s probably what Naaman thought about the Jordan River when he, the great general of Syria, was told to go bathe in it and,  in the obedience of the act,  the God of Israel would cure his leprosy.  (IV Kings chapter 5 in the Bible)

But he did….and He did…and when the episode between Naaman and Elisha was completed, it says that Naaman departed Israel in “the springtime of the Earth.”

I’ll bet he felt like  it was springtime!    Naaman was so thoroughly cured that he had new fresh healthy skin like that of a little child!

So that’s how preparing for tomorrow night’s Bible study class led me to think of Springtime.

The procession of seasons is undeniable.   As much as I like one certain season, I have to admit each season has something admirable about it.   Up here in the North the seasons are quite distinct.    One season is very much not like another, and  each season has its own activities that can’t be done at another time.

So…I got a phone call from my cousin from waaaaaay up North.   The Far North.      

The Little Red Car and the Cousin:

Big Red, Little Red….”Red”  seems to run in the family.

Cousin Big Red is retired now, so she has plenty of time for interesting Spring things, like this:

That’s what they do to trees up there….if you’re a sugar maple.

She has a whole line of trees on her property, each with those things that collect the sap of the maple and allow it to drip into milk jugs.   Fast drips if it’s warm;  very slow drips if it’s cold.

Weeks and weeks of dripping, and then the hard work of collecting the jugs, getting them into her house, boiling and boiling and boiling  (I think)  and then getting the boiled-down sap into jars….and now we can call it maple syrup!

I’m slow to link to other Websites, but you may find her maple syrup story interesting at her Blogsite.   (It’s called Lois in Wonderland.)    She has more pictures there too.    There’ll be a permanent link in the right-hand column under “Interesting.”     She is a Yooper.   That in itself is interesting!

HEMINGWAY OF THE GOSPELS

April 25, 2010

On this day we are reminded to think on St. Mark for a bit and honor the work that he did in the first century of Christianity.    Do not underestimate his ability to teach, nor your ability to learn from his Gospel!     He did it!   You can do it!

Whether it was Peter’s direct style of preaching that influenced his assistant, Mark, or whether it was Mark’s own writing style, we find in the Gospel of Mark  short and to-the-point sentences, with very tightly focused stories, and little or no transition from one scene to the next.

But like Ernest Hemingway’s writing,   which is similar, in the short straightforward sentences there is a wealth of understanding of the human psychology.    Only a small sentence may set the scene, but it can suggest a myriad of details, easily understandable to the reader who places himself there.

The change from one scene to another may not be written explicitly in this Gospel, but what can be known by  common sense allows room for the reader to explore what else went on at that time. 

One example of an abrupt scene change is in Mark 13 between verses 2 and 3 –  and there is room between those verses to meditate and enter the scene yourself,  drawing on what you know about the layout of the city of Jerusalem, and from human nature, and from   the style of teaching that Jesus often used.   He often called on his listeners to use their hearts and minds and souls to really hear what He is saying.

And those who desire to hear His words will hear and not just listen.    (He who has ears to hear, let him hear….)

Mark 13: 1 and 2 takes place in front of the beautiful and massively impressive Temple in Jerusalem.    It was an awesome presentation of the majesty of  God.

The disciples remarked to Jesus what a glorious place this was, perhaps hoping to draw Him into the  viewpoint of their finite minds.     Jesus’ answer – His teaching answer – was to have them look at the  stones, those massive building blocks used in the construction of this seemingly enduring Temple.

But rather than enter their mindset and encourage their expectations, Jesus tells them that some day soon there will be “no stone left standing upon another stone.”      

And then we have the abrupt scene change.   In verse 3 we are already sitting with Jesus at the part of the hillside of the Mt. of Olives that overlooks Jerusalem and the Temple.   Mark takes us instantly to the private question of the four disciples who came closer to Jesus for an explanation….and then to His answer which is commonly called The Olivet discourse.

But what were the disciples thinking?  What led them to associate the destruction of the Temple with the End of the World?

Leaving the Temple area, they must have all walked out of the Temple courts, out through the city walls, across the bridge over the Brook Cedron, then along the pathways that led up to the Mt. of Olives.   They had plenty of  time to whisper among themselves the perplexity and fear that Jesus’ words had aroused.

They knew that God’s covenant with the Jews centered around the Temple and will last as long as God keeps the world in existence.   The response of Jesus could only mean the End of the World.  

If God allows the physical destruction of the Temple, that could only come with a great upheaval of war, pain, blood, fear, and death to the Jews of Jerusalem.      It would mean the end of the Jewish religion.

Jesus had come to fulfill every part and particle of the Law of Moses, and the time was fast approaching when He would undergo His own “destruction” in His Passion and Death, fulfilling the last bit of the types and foreshadowings of the Old Testament, and ushering in a new covenant between God and Man.  

Along that walk to the Mt. of Olives, how far from their understanding was the Truth of the events to come!    How uncomprehending they must have been on their walk to the hillside!   

How can they – and we – ever fully know the Mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Christ, for our atonement, that now makes the sacrifice of animals in the Temple no longer necessary?  

It is not a little matter.   And that gap between verses 2 and 3 allow us to experience a fuller measure of the great salvation that was about to be wrought by the Lamb of God.   There is no Temple now;   but there is a New Church.

Perhaps before our own  “next scene” occurs, we can be prepared for the similar Way of the Cross that the whole Church will likewise endure.   It’s worth another “walk”  to the Mt. of Olives.

LION OF THE GOSPELS

April 25, 2010

The Feast Day of St. Mark the Evangelist today!

In the fourfold representation of the Gospel writers – the Man, the Lion, the Ox, and the Eagle – Mark is the Lion.     He is imaged as the Lion because he opens his Gospel account with  the message of John the Baptist — “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”

Those who lived in the outskirts of the cities of the ancient Middle East, or in the little villages, or in the farms and grazing lands, knew well the sound of the lion’s roar in the middle of the night.   It can be heard over great distances , and although there may not be immediate danger, the sound of the lion’s voice commanded attention and was a mighty force to be reckoned with.

And so it was with John the Baptist,  living out in the wilderness, yet he commanded the attention of the people of Judea with his mighty Voice of repentance.  Now the time of the Messiah is at hand;  the Lamb of God  has come.     What an opening for a Gospel!

Knowledge passed down from the first few generations of Christians give us some information about the life of St. Mark.    His own mother was the owner of a large house in Jerusalem, and was probably an early follower of Jesus.      Her house became a meeting place for the disciples, and perhaps during this time her son, young John Mark, also became a disciple. 

It is in this house that the disciples often met, perhaps during the Last Supper and also in that time around the Resurrection and Ascension.    On the night Jesus was arrested, John Mark was probably the “young man” that narrowly escaped capture by the Temple guards — leaving his clothes behind in the clutches of an angry guard!   (Mark 14)

Mark was cousin to Barnabas, beloved and trusted friend of the disciples.   Later, according to the book of Acts, he accompanied Paul and Barnabas on a missionary trip, but for reasons of his own, he turned back, to the consternation of St. Paul.

Mark learned much at the feet of Peter, in Rome, and was said to be Peter’s assistant, a secretary or scribe.    In his first little epistle, Peter refers to Mark as “his son,”  a term of affection.  (I Peter 5:13)     With the instruction and authorization of Peter, Mark wrote down the Gospel account from Peter’s perspective.

St. Mark was later sent to Alexandria in Egypt,  which under his influence and preaching became one of the three great centers of Christianity, along with Rome and Antioch.     Today, the voice of this Lion continues to roar out in the writings and examples of the many saints from this region, including the Desert Fathers.

Several  centuries later, Alexandria – and the Christians there – were destroyed by the Muslims.    In the early 9th century the relics of St. Mark were rescued and brought to Venice, Italy.

St. Mark’s Square, Venice

Venice became another center of Christianity, but it lasted only as long as the people in the area remained faithful to the teachings of the Faith.   The great basilica on St. Mark’s Square reminds us of the greatness that was once Venice’s when the roar of the Lion commanded her  attention.

HUMANS: UNDER THE INFLUENCE

April 25, 2010

Pardon the kind of long absence.   I am periodically overcome by RF, EMF, and various sources of  microwave fields around here.   My thoughts turn into a pile of rubble.  Returning to normalcy is like pulling myself upwards on a mountainside of this rubble, which is sliding downwards.

Thoughts move around and slip away as fast as I try to grab hold of them.

Time away from computers, electrical fields, and everyone’s cell phones usually helps.  The mind reassembles itself,  joint pain eases, the tingling and burning stops, and the hot spots under the skull cool down.

All human bodies are being damaged by these things.  According to the World Health Organization, 3 – 10 percent of the population can actually feel the injury.  

Unfortunately, my “paying job” puts me in front of a computer for long periods of time.   My brain feels like a broken machine, slowly clunking back to work, as the next “clunky” postings will probably demonstrate.

EARTH DAY TRIBUTE

April 22, 2010

Here is my tribute to Earth Day, in words written by other men:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.”  (Gen. 1:1)

“He stretches out the north over the empty place, and hangs the Earth upon nothing.”    (Job 26:7)

“The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof;  the world, and all they that dwell therein.”   (Psalm 23:1)

Humans are “hired”

“And He created mankind and made them to be caretakers of the Earth.  And God blessed  them and said to them:  Be fruitful and multiply, and repenish the Earth and subdue it;   and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the fowl of the earth and every living thing that moves on the face of the Earth.”  (Gen 1:28)

“Is there not an appointed time to man  upon Earth?       Are not his days also like a hireling?”   (Job 7:1)

The Creator comes down to His Earth

“And the Lord shall be King over all the Earth.     In that day there shall be one Lord and His Name One.”   (Zech 14:9)

“Glory to God in the Highest;  and on Earth peace to men of good will!”   (Luke 2:14)

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at the latter day upon the Earth.”     (Job 19:25)

“And Jesus spoke unto them:  All power has been given unto Me in Heaven and in Earth.”   (Matthew 28:18)

“And He said unto them, when you pray,  say:   Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name.  Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in Heaven, so in Earth.”   (Luke 11:2)

A Fight for the Earth:

“And the great Dragon was cast out, that Old Serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world.  He was cast down into the Earth, and his angels were cast down with him.”      (Apoc./Rev.   12:9)

“Suppose you that I have come to give peace on Earth?   I tell you, Nay!  but rather division.”     (Luke 12:51)

“Think not that I have come to send peace on Earth;   I came not to send peace, but a sword.”    (Matthew 10:34)

“Therefore, rejoice ye Heavens!   and ye that dwell on the Earth!   Woe to the inhabitors of the Earth and of the sea;   for the Devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time.”   (Apoc./Rev 12:12)

“But the heavens and the Earth which are now, by the same Word are kept in store,  reserved unto fire against the Day of Judgment and Perdition of the ungodly men.” (II Peter 3:7)

“And I saw a New Heaven and a New Earth,   for the first Heaven and the first Earth were passed away, and there was no more sea.”   (Apoc./Rev. 21:24)

 

 

NO QUESTIONS – NO ANSWERS

April 21, 2010

The week following Good Shepherd Sunday always has me feeling a bit quieter inside.     “We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture….”  the psalmist says.    There is a stillness in a safe pasture, peace beside still waters;  the activities and uncertainties  from outside the pasture fall silent when the Shepherd is present.

In keeping with this Sunday’s meditations, I’ve been spending more time just sitting quietly on the back deck.   Godlfish in the pond down there near the edge and turtles drifting nearby.     Squirrels playing up and down the tree trunks.   Birds all over,  up above.   Deer walking slowly through the woods, snapping twigs as they pass.   

Once I put the camera away, and once I get used to the noise that all the critters make,  then I begin to think about the peace and stillness of this place.   And then I wonder what I can hear in that stillness.

I thought of Knock, which I made reference to a couple postings ago.  I asked:  “Remember this place?”   but I  shouldn’t have asked that of many who have never heard of what happened there, a little over a hundred years ago.

So, imagine another “still place” — a faraway place in Knock, Ireland, and some people are walking past their familiar church, going from one place to another, in a quieter, slower age.     There is a fine misty rain coming down, and a feeling of something pending in the air…something holy….something religious.

The  people sense a  light or a glow beneath a gable  of the church.   They walk more closely to the church, and they begin to see some figures there, not against the wall of the church building itself, but at a  litle distance in front of the wall.   They are in white, and being well-versed in their religion and in the knowledge of the people in the Gospels,  the fifteen witnesses recognize the figures.  

Although the tableau was a little off-center, according to the witnesses,  the figures were focused on the Lamb on the Altar, standing in front of a cross.  There were small angel figures, bowing in adoration.  To the side was St. John, with a “Gospel” in his hands, as though ready to teach the Gospel truth about the Lamb of God.   The Virgin Mary was there, and St. Joseph was there, inclining his head slightly, in respect.   

It was an apparition, plain and simple.  It looked and felt heavenly.  But there was no explanation to them , not from any of the figures before them, neither in their ears,  nor in their thoughts.   No words.  The figures appeared in silence and remained silent.

Why?  What does it mean?   Where is the message?   What are we supposed to learn  from this?  What are we supposed to do?   What is the point?   What is the lesson?

The questions themselves shatter the stillness and bring a kind of utilitarian complexity to the event.

And yet, throughout the 130 years afterwards, the apparition draws many millions, and teaches those who can learn in the silence of their hearts.

I may not write about Knock again, not anytime soon, but I think I can say I know how the meaning can begin to come.

The figure that the people recognized as the Mother of the Lamb appeared in a white gown with four flowing folds, graceful and full of dignity.   But it was her hands that they noticed most.  They were extend slightly and about to be folded together in prayer, but they seemed to be reaching out first, to invite all people to prayer, deep prayer, pure, holy, dignified prayer to Our God.  

If ever we can achieve this, we will have also achieved a state of profound stillness in our soul.   This is when we’re ready to learn what the apparition at Knock came to tell.

FEATHER DEPOSITS

April 20, 2010

Birds of all kinds enjoy our back deck railing.    I like sitting out there, very still and quiet, and see how many will come to eat — with me not more than ten feet away.   And  I like hearing the beat of their wings closely overhead.  

We get many goldfinches.  

But you have to be very, very careful around them.    They arrive in little flocks, usually more than four at a time, and they eat and peep happily until all of a sudden something will frighten them and off they go – in any direction.

If you ever wonder why my windows seem dirty and smudged in some of my photos, it’s because of the birds.

I want to avoid “Feather Deposits”:

That was our big window one evening, after a sickening smack.    Sweet little white feathers deposited onto the window.  

No matter how dirty I keep our windows, they never seem to see the glass, but only the reflection of another woods to fly into.  

But I’ll keep doing my part!

Poor things.

THE LADY ESCHEWS GARDENING

April 20, 2010

“The lady”,  staying out of the dirt  for the past few days…

……. prefers pretty sandals…

MBT Sandals, to be exact.

Now there is no longer any  reason to have to choose between wearing a skirt …OR… having happy feet.      

I’m “old” now.   I probably won’t ever have to buy another pair of shoes  (nor can I anymore!).     I have working skis, working Rollerblades, winter boots, shoes to wear to church,  good athletic shoes, and, now,  good sandals  (and the other pair of sandals that  the spider pushed me off of last August).    So no more shoes needed.  

Now, let me explain that Vocabulary Word up in the title of this posting:   “Gardening.”       

“Gardening”  is a hobby.    Supposed to be a gentile hobby.     It’s not.   

Digging in the dirt,  sowing seeds, cultivating the fields, shovels, rakes, hoes, and heavy buckets of water….I can see how that’s how we get our food.   I can do that.    It’s work.   I’ll accept that.  

But it’s not a hobby.

GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY

April 18, 2010

 

                                    Lamb of God, then:

                               Lamb of God, now:

 

John 10:14  –   ” I am the Good Shepherd;  I know Mine, and Mine know Me.”

There are many ways to learn what it means to have Jesus as Our Good Shepherd.   Please don’t let this day and its week slip by you.      So much instruction is there for all of us.    If you think the Internet can be a tool for Good,  then you can Search for such words as Good Shepherd;  go to your favorite Bible place and Search for “shepherd” or “lamb”  or “sheep”   and  seek out sermons from the Early Church Fathers on The Good Shepherd.

“A good teacher should not produce lazy students.”    

Remember this place?

No words were spoken, but much was learned.

POLISH SUN

April 17, 2010

Check out the link to Spaceweather in the right-hand column sometime.  It’s under the category called “Interesting.”  Right now they have  a section near the top with numbered links, #1 – #10, to photos that people have sent in from various regions affected by the volcanic ash from Iceland,  including the Polish sunset above.

If you like to use a camera, you just can’t help putting yourself in the place of the photographers and noticing things like composition, balance, framing, contrast, patterns, textures….And you probably can’t wait to try something like this yourself.

(How many more days before the  microscopic bits of glass and ash come drifting over our hemisphere? )

Signs and portents?   I don’t know.   But — It all started with a glacier named: Eyjafjallajokull.     In Iceland.

One lady in my Friday morning class has traveled to Iceland.  Although she very much enjoyed her visit,   enough to keep encouraging all of the rest of us to go,   she notes two things:  1,  the people have little to no interest in religion;  and, 2, they are living on top of live volcanoes!

THE BLUR TWINS RETURN

April 16, 2010

We’ve had a fleeting glimpse of a deer or two during the past week, but tonight the whole little herd was back, seven of them maybe.

They began to assemble:The Twins from last year are like little bookends, rear to rear.   They’re a bit bigger now, but still colored like “dead leaves.”

I thought  I’d get some great photos of them.    But not quite:Our spring grass is an unearthly green in the fading evening light.  Apparently that was an inspiration to the Twins.

50 photos later, I got mostly blurs again:

“…and how about that way…”

This is ridiculous.   I’m going to need a new camera —

No head!    Seems like he’s at rest, with his head missing.  What’s happening is I caught him a split second before he made a 180-degree turn.    He spins his head first, and the body follows the spin:

And this isn’t being “at rest” either.   His hind feet are about a foot off the ground, again a spllit second before he leaps:

Busted!    (Me, that is.   I think he was showing off for the camera.  He knew very well that I was watching him and he stared right at me for a moment):

As the light faded more, it was time for everyone to take a rest.  

I have no idea if they’re gone now.  It’s too dark to tell.     But I know for sure I’ll be watching the Motion Detector Back Deck Lights turn on and off all throughout the night, and it won’t all be raccoons.

GOD GIVES THE BEAUTY

April 15, 2010

Just wanted to remember why I was mucking around in the mud this morning:

Just before class tonight, at the church.

Glorious.

Back to white…

Two days ago before Tuesday’s class, there were fewer leaves, but I only had my cell phone camera.    Was Eden like this?

I really must catch them earlier next year with the big camera.

Notice the title of this posting?  “GOD GIVES….”    It remains to be seen whether “garden mud gives.”

A NON-GARDENER’S LAMENT

April 15, 2010

(“Rant from Earth to Heaven…”):   God made me a Daughter of Eve, not a Son of Adam.    Enough! with the Sweat of the Brow part of the Curse.   I’m content with the interminable cleaning, laundering, cooking, organizing, husband-helping, child-bearing, wiping up the outflow of human bodies, picking up, brushing off, putting things back in place, and otherwise fighting the Law of Entropy….

But this….I see the photos of all people’s flowers, of  people “putting in their garden” — a phrase that defines the word “euphemism.”   

Flowers that grow naturally out of the ground:

I’m a city girl who grew up on the edge of the Great American Prairie.   There was freedom and fresh air, and…civilization.    Flowers came abundantly from the fields and from flower shops.   I often came home with a bike-basket full of lilacs (and bumblebees)  for my Mom.  Dads made Moms happy coming home with flowers too.

But now…if you want to make flowers grow in your own backyard, then nature apparently needs a whole lot of help.   And if you want to make your hummingbirds happy, you make a gladiola garden.   At least I hope that’s what you do.  They look like hummingbird flowers.

So I committed a little “tench warfare” this morning (with apologies to my Grandpa who was a WWI veteran and understands that phrase differently…we must never forget.)

And I had a “weapon” that would gladden  any Viking heart  …

And I had a plan.   Actually, I had instructions:    “just plant the little things 2 inches apart and 8 inches deep,  anytime around now.”

I’m pretty sure the soil is good enough, since I spent all morning removing all the things that were already growing there, along with tons of matted roots.

There were already some residents there, which I know are good  for robins and fish and the soil, so we’re good in that department.  

I wasn’t really sure which way to plant them, which way was up or down for them, but some of them had little hairy strands that look like roots, and the other side had a single pointed green thing growing, which I hope is not a root.  So that’s a little hint if you’re putting these things in the ground.

……Two and a half  back-breaking, mud-slinging, sweat-running hours later…I had buried the things!     If anything ever rises up from these trenches, I’ll add this as a metaphor for “resurrection” —

I’m done for the day.   Follow me to the shower….

I’m not ready to think about where vegetables come from….

LEO AND OUR TRADITIONS

April 14, 2010

This blog seems to be read by many:     believers and non-believers; those within the Church and those outside of the Church.    The words about St. Leo and Tradition and the beautiful photos below are an explanation for all of you!

2 Thessalonians 2:14 –  “Therefore, brethren, stand fast.    Hold on to the traditions which you have learned, whether by word or by epistle. “   St. Paul, right from the beginning, teaches the Gospel and then tells us to hold on to his teaching.   Hold on to everything that was taught from the beginning, whether you learned it by reading or whether you  learned it by hearing someone talk to you.

In this way the word “tradition” has a large and important meaning.   We dare not let go of the teachings of the Apostles, again, whether it was passed on by oral teaching or whether it was passed on to us by reading something.  

But how do we know the same teaching got passed on, without any changes?   Well, several ways, but for the purposes of this posting, St. Leo the Great is an example of  one of those ways.   

In his generation, as in every generation, there are people who would put forth a “new understanding” of elements of the Christian faith.  They (or their group) know a “better way”;  they have the “real truth.”     At that time there were attacks against the doctrine concerning the divinity of Christ.  That is, some people had a way to explain that the “Son of God” didn’t mean that Jesus is God.

 But St. Leo was a  watchful vicar (prime minister) of the Body of Christ who  worked vigorously to ensure that the Christian teaching was passed on exactly as he had received it.     At the great Council of Chalcedon the teachings of these influential religious leaders, Eutyches, Dioscorus, and Nestorius, were condemned and with the help of the  teachings and writings of St Leo, official Council documents were drawn up and approved.

Traditional teaching was saved, and the Church had taken her stand to teach only what St. Paul and all the Apostolic Fathers had learned from Christ Himself.

Today, we see many trends away from traditional teaching.   It can be confusing and overwhelming and much, much easier to follow whatever seems right to the individual.

How do we” stand fast and hold on to Traditional Christian teaching”?     It’s important to know what’s true, because, as St. Ambrose taught,  “A man is not held innocent if he fails to learn what he is obliged to know.”  

I like this way:  “Seek and you shall find….”(etc.)   And “know that God is, and He is a rewarder of those who seek Him….”      Keep searching and testing what you find out.

Another way:   Some of us can read;   that’s really helpful, but it is not necessary to know how to read.      For 1,500,  1,600, even 1,700 hundred years after Jesus, it was not common to know how to read – and very uncommon to be able to afford a book, not even a personal Bible.

So, it became “traditional” to tell the stories of the Bible and present the teachings of our Faith in pictures, where everyone could see.Yes, these are faded and almost in ruins now, but for centuries, beautiful murals like this taught the common people the traditions of the Faith.

The story-pictures were even put on the ceilings!

It is traditional to teach that Christ has defeated Satan, and in the end,  St. Michael, the chief of the army of angels, will be victorious over  that Old Dragon in the Final Battle.

It is traditional to teach that Christ is our Light, and to get that point across any way the Church can:

It is traditional to tell the stories of great men of faith, so that we can sit and contemplate what they have to tell us, so we may be inspired and dedicate our lives to a similar life of courage and faith:

We build the teachings of  the Faith into structures of architectural beauty and dignity that exemplify, as best that human hands can do,  the Glories of God and of His love for us.   And then we invite everyone in!

And we ask that everyone “hold on to the traditions” that were handed on to us.   It costs very little for us to read, to contemplate beautiful art, to practice our faith throughout the day and on special days, and with certain habits and practices, and to pray much.

And some day we may be strengthened for when “holding on to tradition” costs us much more.

THANKS to my Friend-in-Rome for these beautiful photos!   (I “took” a few more photos from you while you’re busy studying for exams – but you said I could!  )

LEO AND HIS WORDS

April 14, 2010

A great man lived long ago, and we may forget who he is unless we make an effort to seek him out in his history, his writings, and his accomplishments.   Only by studying the lives of great men can we discover that we might become great ourselves – and how.

St Leo the Great built many church buildings; he restored and repaired many others; he furnished many churches with objects of durable beauty, worthy of the sacred tasks for which they were used.

But these are not his greatest achievements.   Even stopping Attila the Hun at the gates of Rome was not his great achievement, merely the will of God made known through an incident in the life of this man.

His “greatness” stems from his great faith and fidelity which put all that he was and all that he had, including his intellect at the service of Christ, his Savior.  His Heavenly King was king over all his life and endeavors, and so he became in his personal life a force for Goodness.     His writing style set the standard for ecclesial Latin for many centuries.     His writings are so clear and direct that they still inspire, even when translated into other languages.

Just sample a timely excerpt from one of his sermons on the Resurrection.  Note how these words contain inspiration, encouragement, and instruction, all brought together in rhetorical elegance.   If we could just imagine ourselves in an ancient basilica, seated, perhaps, and hearing these words spoken to us:

“The blessed apostles together with all the others had been intimidated by the catastrophe of the cross, and their faith in the resurrection had been uncertain;  but now they were so strengthened by the evident truth that when their Lord ascended into Heaven, far from feeling any sadness, they were filled with great joy.   Indeed that blessed company had a great and inexpressible cause for joy when it saw man’s nature rise above the dignity of the whole creation, above the ranks of angels, above the exalted status of archangels.   Nor would there be any limit to its upward course until humanity was admitted to a seat at the right hand of the eternal Father, to be enthroned at last in the glory of Him whose nature it was wedded in the person of the Son.”

By one count we have 96 sermons, 143 personal letters, and other writings.  How much more deeply would we understand our Faith if we were to read and study these!    What treasures there are for us to know!

I must share another quotation with you to show you what I mean!

“Short and fleeting are the joys of this world’s pleasures which endeavor to turn aside from the path of Life those who are called to eternity.   The faithful and religious spirit, therefore, must desire the things which are heavenly, and being eager for the Divine Promises, lift itself to the love of the Incorruptible Good and the hope of the True LIght.”

The world’s pleasures turn us aside from the path of life….instead,  this Doctor of the Church tells us to be eager for the Divine Promises….We are called to eternity; we are called to greatness.

LEO AND THE BATTLE

April 13, 2010

Been a little busy lately, a little overwhelmed with the duties and demands of the physical world, something which continues to mystify me.  

And so, April 11 slipped by me;  this was the day we are reminded to think about the greatness of Saint Leo the Great.  I want to make up for it this week. 

My mind is bursting with thoughts about this great man and his not-so-great world.   “Leo” is a historical figure, and his “battle” touches our lives.  I think it would be easy for anyone to relate the era of Leo the Great to our times.

The Enemy truly, not figuratively, at the Gates:

IMAGINE, if you will, approaching the great city of Rome is an army of barbarians, fearless in battle, cunning in strategy,  savage in their warfare like the noble beasts, destroying everything that lay in their path to world conquest.

Like a thunderstorm of impending, this immense army, along with its auxiliaries, merchants, craftsmen, families, approaches what is left of the Roman Empire.     Region after region, city after city falls to this army in a mighty collision that will change the course of history – for us.  The Empire is at its political and economic weakest, but yet it stands at the threshold of carrying forth its genius into all of Europe in the coming centuries.

  And now, Roman greatness will be brought to a sudden end by the approaching army.    It is the army of the Huns, and their leader is Attila.  

Messages are exchanged.  The uneasy dance of  demands and negotiations is begun.   And then one day Attila and a small army of armed guards arrive at the city gates of Rome.  

The Huns, fierce warriors in leather and iron, swords and shields visible, meet a contingent of Romans:  religious leaders, followed by a few city officials, all in soft robes, no visible means of defense,  by all appearances unready for any battle.

Attila is at the head of one side;  Pope Leo the Great leads of the other side.    If we watch from a distance, there seems to be an exchange of words.    

It is an uneven debate.   Physical superiority, confidence, and aggressive pride puts forth the conditions for surrender.   Pope Leo stands unmoved, calm and dignified, like Our Lord before Caiaphas and before Pilate.   Only a few words are necessary.

The Might Attila nods his head and turns his horse around, leading the puzzled contingent of soldiers back to the main camp.    Attila then announces to everyone that they have gone far enough.   They will not be attacking the city of Rome.  Their own interests lie elsewhere.

Need we ask why?   We know what happened.    We know Leo went to battle that day, confident in the invisible host that stood behind him.

Great artists have told the tale.    When the army of Attila demanded an explanation, he told them that he spoke to the man in white robes, this religious leader, this pope, and although he was just a man, beside him stood his Defender, a Mighty Man of Valor, holding a huge sword that this man said was for him, Attila, if he should disobey this religious leader and attack the city.

Not one other single man, not even Pope Leo, saw this Mighty Defender sent from Heaven.    But Attila saw, and understood.

QUASIMODO SUNDAY!

April 11, 2010

As usual, the Introit names the day:  Quasi modo geniti infantes….i.e.,  in the manner of newborn babies, desire the rational milk of the Gospel, in all innocence;  sing alleluia!

The lessons of this Sunday are so close to us today!   I somtimes feel like I am “like a newborn baby infant” — not understanding very much, but eager to find out more.

And then the Gospel we are given today shows us Thomas, also brand-new in his faith, not sure what to do, what to decide, what to believe.  There’s a little of St Thomas in me too, I’m afraid.    My culture surrounds me with doubtful thinking, and then it gets inside of me too.

Caravaggio got the scene right.  Thomas, in darkness, still not certain what he will find in this Man’s side.

In effect, Thomas has been telling Jesus three kinds of things that unfortunately sound so familiar to our ears today:  

1.  The stories of Your Resurrection are only anecdotal evidence;   that’s  not “proof”!    Unless I can see it, touch it,  measure it, feel it, it’s not real.   I won’t believe what you  tell me unless I can see it.

2.   Peter saw you?   Do I have to believe everything Peter says?   Peter has Your keys?  That only means You liked his faith that day.    You told Peter that after Satan has finished sifting him, that then Peter would strengthen the rest of us?  Why Peter?   Peter was last at the tomb but the first one in;  why does Peter have to be first all the time?

2.  Am I not using my reason and my own  judgment when I hear Jesus is the Christ, risen from the dead?   Aren’t I supposed to use my God-given intellect before I leap out into faith?    Aren’t I supposed to understand things first so then I can believe things later?

Thomas touches Jesus, explores all His Wounds, and is overcome with the knowledge that this is his Lord and his God.     But then Thomas hears a gentle chiding from Jesus.   Oh, so you now believe because you have seen Me?  

Then poor Thomas must have felt a kind of  growing gulf between himself and all those of us who believe but have not seen Jesus face to face.     Without the special grace from God, Thomas couldn’t overcome his  doubts on his own.

But afterwards?   Thomas, who needed the most grace, the most mercy to spark his weak faith, turned out to be the apostle who proclaimed the Name of Jesus probably the furthest in that first century:   traditiona and historical evidence show that he went all the way to India and he or his disciples went on even further along the Silk Road into what is now China!

“Quasi modo geniti infantes” are we all, struggling with our little faith, eager to grow stronger, but sill needing the grace and mercy of God to go further.