30 March 2008

Divine Mercy & St. Thomas

The Sunday after Pascha for Byzantine Catholics is called Thomas Sunday and recalls the incredulity (unbelief) of the apostle when he heard that Jesus rose from the dead. Then Jesus appeared and St. Thomas thrust his hand into the wounds, convincing him of the resurrection.

For Roman Catholics today is Divine Mercy Sunday. Based on revelations given to St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun, the devotion called the Chaplet of Divine Mercy was established in the Church. Her diaries are a spiritual masterpiece and reveal conversations she had with our Lord.

The icon of Divine Mercy show two rays (the water and the blood) beaming from the side of Christ. "O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You"

Hannah Whitall Smith (what, he's quoting a Quaker!) said that to "grow in grace" the soul must be planted in the very heart of divine love, "enveloped by it, steeped in it. ' (The Christian's Secret to a Happy Life, 1875)

Now, I don't think Mrs. Smith had the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in front of her, but I sure did when I read what she said. St. Thomas planted his hand literally into the heart of Divine Love! And the two rays coming from the side of Christ in the Divine Mercy image are like vines growing from Christ's Heart--vines that we are grafted on to.

See how it all ties together?

Was St. Thomas a mystic? He became a little child and stuck his hand in the wounds of Christ to make sure it really was Him. St. Faustina, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, John Wesley, Smith Wigglesworth--any of these "mystics" were simply obedient children who did what God told them. They were rooten in the Heart of Jesus, nourished by the blood and water that poured from His side.
My prayer is that we can all do the same. Plant yourself in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and grow!

28 March 2008

Lux Beatissima

There are so many corners, so many winding labyrinths in my heart, in which variety of concupiscence lies hid, that unless You search it narrowly they will escape untouched. It is not much unlike the cups of hypocrites, which were fair without, but filled within with rapine and uncleanliness. Proba me, Deus, et scito cor meum (Prove me, O God, and know my heart). You are the Searcher of hearts and reins; only You have eyes which look into the depth of human souls. Search mine thoroughly, that no corner may lie unseen, no secret may escape unknown. You will find there many corners filled with many and unseemly loves,--all sensual, which divide my heart among them and steal it from myself. But please enter into these innermost retreats, hunt all those little foxes out quoe demoliuntur vineas (that destroy the vines), and fill them with Your light, enlighten them with Your love, that those children of darkness, those transitory loves, may never enter again. O Lux beatissima, reple cordis intima (O blessed Light, fill the depths of my heart)

~Rev. Richard Johnson (17th c.)
Suppliant of the Holy Ghost, chapter 12:3

25 March 2008

Hail! Full of Grace

Here we are in Bright Week and already another major feast day pops up.

The Annunciation is today, March 25. That means we are 9 months from Christmas. Let us recall how the Blessed Virgin said "Yes" to the Archangel and became "more spacious than the heavens". How for nine months, everywhere that Mary went, the Lamb was sure to go. How the Creator of the Universe took flesh from this simple daughter of Eve.

The Byzantine Canon for today's feast is a profound dialog betwen the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary.

I'll share this Ruthenian hymn with you that really captures the feast:

Another important aspect of this feast is that the serpent was conquered at the second of her "fiat". The prohecy given in Genesis that the woman's offspring would crush satan's head is fulfilled (Gen 3:15). What a victorious time! Christ conquers sin on Friday, death on Sunday, now it's Tuesday and the Church reminds us how the devil is defeated! Boo-yah!

Today all creation greatly rejoices, for the Archangel says unto thee, "Hail! Blessed art thou, O pure and holy, undefiled and spotless." Today the proud insolence of the serpent is brought low, for the chains of the curse laid on our forefather are loosened. Therefore with all the world we cry aloud unto Thee." (Tone 3)

23 March 2008

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Thou New Jerusalem, arise and shine!
The glory of the Lord on thee hath risen!
Zion, exult! rejoice with joy divine,
Mother of God! Thy Son hath burst His prison!

O heavenly Voice! O word of purest love!
‘Lo! I am with you alway to the end!’
This is the anchor, steadfast from above,
The golden anchor, whence our hopes depend.

O Christ, our Pascha! greatest, holiest, best!
God's Word and Wisdom and effectual Might!
Thy fuller, lovelier presence manifest,
In that eternal realm, that knows no night!

St. John of Damascus
Paschal Canon, Ode 9
Tr. J.M. Neale

22 March 2008

He Descended

What was Jesus doing on Holy Saturday? Well, the Creed says he descended into "Hades". This is not Hell, or what was known as "Gehenna" the place of eternal punishment made for the devil and his demons. It is "Sheol" the place of the dead where they awaited the Messiah. Too often English speakers get the two places confused, as if they are the same place.

That said, I still enjoyed this cartoon despite th common misunderstanding.

21 March 2008

Like a Lamb to the Slaughter

They crucified my Lord,
And he never said a mumblin' word.
They crucified my Lord,
And he never said a mumblin' word.
Not a word, not a word, my Lord,

They nailed him to a tree
And he never said a mumblin' word.
They nailed him to a tree
And he never said a mumblin' word.
Not a word, not a word,

They pierced him in the side,
And he never said a mumblin' word.
They pierced him in the side,
And he never said a mumblin' word.
Not a word, not a word, my Lord.

He never said a word my Lord,
He never said a word my Lord.

He bowed his head and died
He bowed his head and died
He bowed his head and died

Oh my Lord, not a word
Lord my Lord, not a word
My Lord, oh my Lord, not a word
Lord my Lord, not a word
My Lord, not a word,
My Lord, a word my Lord, not a word,
Lord my Lord, not a word,
My Lord, not a word, my Lord, a word,
My Lord, not a word, my Lord,
Not a word, not a word

Not a word , not a word, not a word, my Lord
And he never said a mumblin' word, my Lord,
My Lord, my Lord!

20 March 2008

A Happy and Kosher Passover

"With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer..." ~Yeshua

"Mo`adim lesimha" to any Jewish readers celebrating Pesach. How appropriate that as you begin your time of fasting and celebration of deliverance, Catholics are doing the same. For us this is Holy Thursday when we remember Jesus celebrating the Passover with His disciples. The first reading of Mass today is from Exodus chapter 12 where God institutes the Passover.

Jesus took it a step further and became the Passover Lamb. When we make the sign of the Cross on our bodies, it resembles the blood placed on the door posts in Egypt.

At that Seder, Jesus declared the wine to be His Blood and the bread to be His Body. This mystery takes place during every Mass.

Jesus was Jewish, His disciples were, and so was the early Church. You can still see it in the vestments, rituals, and symbols found in the Roman and Byzantine Catholic ceremonies.

Stichera for Great Thursday
Christ is now our mighty pascha,
Eaten for our mystic bread:
Take we of His broken Body,
Drink we of the Blood He shed,
As a lamb led out to slaughter,
And for this world offered.

Christ to all the world gives banquet
On that most celestial Meat:
Him, albeit with lips all earthly,
Yet with holy hearts we greet:
Him, the sacrificial Pascha,
Priest and Victim all complete.

~St. Andrew of Crete, Tr. J.M. Neale

If you missed the series "Jewish Roots of Catholicism", you can catch it on GodTube.

19 March 2008

Walking with the Man of Sorrows

"I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting." (Is 50:6)

Sometimes we stand by as spectators on the Via Dolarosa. Other times we participate by carrying the cross part of the way. During this Holy Week I have suffered much, putting me under the weight of the Cross, uniting me to the suffering of Jesus.

Pope John Paul II said that we are most united to Christ when we suffer. "
Through His suffering on the Cross, Christ has prevailed over evil and enables us too to overcome it. Our sufferings become meaningful and precious when united with His. As God and man, Christ has taken upon Himself the sufferings of humanity, and in Him human suffering itself takes on a redemptive meaning. In this union between the human and the divine, suffering brings forth good and overcomes evil."

Not only are we called to suffer with Christ, we must "die" with Him on Good Friday. Die to self, die to the passions. But if we die with Him, we will also rise with Him on Pascha!

This was a tough Lent for me, and Holy Week isn't any easier. But the hope of new life keeps me going.

18 March 2008

Christmas Is Really For the Children

Christmas is really
for the children.
Especially for children
who like animals, stables,
stars and babies wrapped
in swaddling clothes.
Then there are wise men,
kings in fine robes,
humble shepherds and a
hint of rich perfume.

Easter is not really
for the children
unless accompanied by
a cream filled egg.
It has whips, blood, nails,
a spear and allegations
of body snatching.
It involves politics, God
and the sins of the world.
It is not good for people
of a nervous disposition.
They would do better to
think on rabbits, chickens
and the first snowdrop
of spring.

Or they'd do better to
wait for a re-run of
Christmas without asking
too many questions about
what Jesus did when he grew up
or whether there's any connection.

Steve Turner

17 March 2008

Pascha is a week away!

"The (willow) branch beats you, not I beat you, Pascha is one week from today!"

This is how Ukrainians and other Slavs greet each other after the Divine Liturgy on Palm Sunday. They do this while tapping each other with blessed willow branches that represent the branches used to welcome our Lord during His entrance into Jerusalem the week before his Passion.

Palm Sunday Troparion
(Tone 1) O Christ God, when You raised Lazarus from the dead, before the time of your passion, you confirmed the future resurrection of all. We too, like the children of old, carry before You the symbols of your triumph and victory and cry out to You, the Conqueror of Death: "Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!"

Writing Assignment:
Imagine that you are Lazarus having dinner with Jesus and your sisters after rising from the dead. What would you say? Please post a reply with your answer.

10 March 2008

Walking with Jesus

What Gospel event do you see yourself participating in? In other words, think about your walk with Jesus then pray about which event in His life do you see yourself in.

Are you Martha, the busy-body trying to put together a meal, worrying too much and complaining? Maybe you are the centurion at the foot of the Cross or a disciple falling asleep in the garden while Jesus prays in agony.

Once that place is revealed to you, put yourself there. Use all your senses. Maybe an illustration from a children's Bible or an icon will help you enter into the scene. Dwell on the story and the images for a few days.

Next, what is the Lord trying to tell you through the story. What is the symbolism? Why are you here? Are you an active or passive participant? For example, the Wedding at Cana: you're a servant bringing a jug of water at the request of the Blessed Mother--maybe you consider yourself ordinary, but if you bring your simple gifts to Jesus, he will transform them into something miraculous.

It was hard for me to discern where I was at with Jesus--what event represents where I am right now emotionally and spiritually. The Holy Spirit showed me that the place I am right now is hidden in the most intimate and special place that Jesus ever dwelled. He was only there for nine months and only three verses in the whole Bible talk about it (Mt 1:18, Luke 2:5, Is 7:14). So where am I?

In the womb of the Virgin Mary! Not just in her protective arms, but surrounded in that tabernacle of flesh and blood. Soothed by her heartbeat. What happens next? Well, I can't stay in here forever, but for now I'm safe.

I have an icon of "Our Lady of the Sign" (after Isaiah 7:14) that depicts Jesus in the womb of the Theotokos. I've been meditating on this image and the phrase, "she was found with child of the Holy Ghost." (Mt 1:18)

Luke chapter one gives the whole account of the Annunciation, and Mary's visitation with Elizabeth--both mysteries of the Rosary. In addition, part of the Rosary comes from Elizabeth's greeting "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb." (Luke 1:42) The position of Mary in the Church for two thousand years fulfills the prophecy she gave at that event "from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed." (Luke 1:48) I can take this to mean I should pray the Rosary more, carrying it with me wherever I go. It is my umbilical chord!

In addition, God showed me this Eastern Hymn from Matins for the Annunciation (Tone 3) as my prayer during this time:

Today all creation greatly rejoices, for the Archangel says unto thee, "Hail! Blessed art thou, O Pure and Holy, Undefiled and Spotless." Today the proud insolence of the serpent is brought low, for the fetters of the curse laid on our forefather are loosened. Therefore with all the world we cry aloud unto thee: Hail, thou who art full of grace!

Whew! That's where I am. So where are you?

09 March 2008

A Hermit's Cave

In my cave the temperature remains constant. Sitting on my woven mat I meditate, trying to find the silent place in my heart. You'd think that being alone in a cave would be enough silence, but every spiritual athlete knows that there is an inner silence that can only be achieved by force, that is, by conquering the passions.

While advancing toward the uncreated light I heard this voice one day, "Huloo! Anyone in here?"

I don't usually get visitors of any kind. Occasionally another brother will stop by with some bread or to hear my confession. When I saw this visitor, though, he was quite unusual—he wore a suit and tie and was carrying a canister with a long neck and hose.

"Good afternoon," he smiled, "You look like someone in need of a high quality vacuum."

"What does this vacuum do?"

"Well," replied the visitor, "It sucks up dirt to keep your whole house clean."

I know that I should greet all visitors with warmth and kindness, but I couldn't resist sarcasm, "I live in a cave, with a dirt floor."

Undaunted he replied, "Let me plug it in and show you how powerful this baby is."

Some people just don't get it, "I live in a cave, with a dirt floor. I have no electricity."

"Not only is this a vacuum, but it also has a filter to purify the air," the man added, "It's also a wet vac so you can suck up any spills."

"Sir, you aren't listening," I could feel annoyance welling up within me, "I live in a cave. I have a dirt floor. I have no electricity. My air is fine. I will not be needing your device."

"But it's only..."

I interrupted, "I am a hermit. A monk. I have no money."

"You could try it for thirty days free of charge, and only pay if you decide to keep it."

"Are you the devil?" I asked him.

"What?" I guess I finally shook him from his sales pitch.

"Are you a devil sent here to tempt me? Only the devil would come here all dressed up trying to sell me something I don't need. Are you trying to tempt me by showing me what I left behind in the world? Are you mocking me? I am content with my cave and the dirt floor. My poverty does not bother me since I am fed like Elias by the birds of the air. If you are a mere man I will gladly pray for you, but I have no need for your vacuum."

"Did I mention the lifetime warranty? I'll even throw in two extra HEPA filters at no charge."

Anger bubbled up within me. This man must be a demon. Trembling I sat down in front of my icon corner. I slowly breathed a prayer fumbling with my prayer rope, hoping he would go away, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Lord Jesus Christ..."

I made it all the way around my prayer rope when I heard his voice, "It looks like I caught you at a bad time. I'll leave my business card here, so if you want to think about it, or talk to the lady of the house, you can give me a call when you make a decision."

There is an inner silence that can only be achieved by force, that is, by conquering the passions. Just when I think I've achieved it, something or someone comes along to test it. I am reminded that despite the greatest effort the journey is not over. Each trial serves to make me stronger.

This place could use a bit of cleaning, even if it is just a cave with a dirt floor.

~David Samuel Thomas

07 March 2008

Family Tree Healing

Last night I went to see a speaker from Intercessors of the Lamb, a group of contemplatives, both hermits and families, dwelling in Nebraska. Their charism is to pray, pray, pray! The emphasis was on "Family Tree Healing" and generational curses.

This is a controversial topic for both Protestants and Catholics. Among Charismatics it is especially popular. In my own family I have seen certain tendencies that seem to have a spiritual connection. Some things that came to mind though:

For those who were baptized in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, two exorcisms take place that setone free from the power of the devil. Therefore, to embrace this teaching is to say that your baptism was deficient.

Most Protestant baptisms do not include exorcism and are considered either symbolic or a seal of faith. Therefore, any curses or evil spirits could remain. Protestants who are recieved into the Universal Church through Confirmation (Roman) or Chrismation (Eastern) only, would also lack the benefit of the baptismal excorcism.

I was baptized in the Assemblies of God at age 11 because I wanted to follow Christ and profess my faith to the community. It was done in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But it was not seen as a deliverance from death to life, freedom from evil spirits, a washing away of sins. When I became Eastern Orthodox, I was recieved through Chrismation which was the "seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit". It joined me to the ancient Church, but again, no deliverance.

So it is no surprise that I still struggle with issues and tendencies that I discovered go back to grandparents and great-grandparents. This is another reason why "proper" baptism is so important--a change DOES take place.

More on Family Tree Healing:

06 March 2008

Pride is Idolatry

All pride springs from ignorance. It is no pride to have a correct view of ourselves; to acknowledge the blessings and advantages we possess; as, on the other hand, it is no proof of humility, but often only of a subtle pride, to cry ourselves down, and make little of the talents, of whatever kind, with which God has entrusted us.

Pride is, in fact, the idolatry of self—an inordinate self-esteem. Humility is simply the dethroning of this idol, and "consists", as has been well said,"not so much in thinking meanly of ourselves as in not thinking of ourselves at all." Thus, to "be filled with the Spirit"—to have God our all in all—to have Christ "dwelling in our hearts by faith", is the true way to be humble; for if our minds be taken up with the indwelling presence of God, and the thought of pleasing Him—there will be little time for thinking about and seeking to please ourselves.

We know from the whole of Scripture how hateful to God is the sin of idolatry. Now, seeing that pride is the idolatry of a most unworthy object—self, we need not wonder at the statement of the text,"God resisteth the proud". This is, in truth, the worst of sins, as it lies at the root of all sins. It has been well said—"Other sins lower man, pride alone exalts him against God; other sins fly from God, pride alone opposes itself to God. Therefore, God also in turn, opposes Himself to the proud."

~Martin A. Keene, A.B.
Curate of Harold's Cross, in the Diocese of Dublin
The Army of Christ: a Series of Lenten Sermons (1868)

Prayer O my God, I thank you and I praise you for accomplishing your holy and all-lovable will without any regard for mine. With my whole heart, in spite of my heart, do I receive this cross I feared so much! It is the cross of Your choice, the cross of Your love. I venerate it; nor for anything in the world would I wish that it had not come, since You willed it. I keep it with gratitude and with joy, as I do everything that comes from Your hand; and I shall strive to carry it without letting it drag, with all the respect and all the affection which Your works deserve. Amen. ~St. Francis de Sales

Finding the Cross

Today Byzantine Catholics and Orthodox Christians commemorate the finding of the Precious Cross and Nails of the Lord at Jerusalem in 326 by the Holy Empress Helen. An old man named Judah told her that it was buried beneath a temple of Venus, so she had the pagan temple destroyed. Sure enough, three crosses were found. So, which one belonged to the Savior?

Patriarch Macarius saw a dead person being carried to his grave. He ordered that the dead man be placed upon each cross and the one that brought the corpse back to life was determined to be the Cross of Christ.

Over the last 1700 years the Cross has been captured, splintered and scattered throughout Christendom. You can find relics in the East and the West. One such relic is found at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Jesus overcame the curse of the human race by taking upon His own person. He vanquished death by undergoing death Himself, sin by identifying Himself with sin, and the serpent were all included in God's curse on the human race after the first sin, but the cross has triumphed over each of them.
~St. Augustine, Commentary on Galatians 22

The Cross always stands ready, and everywhere awaits you. You cannot escape it, wherever you flee; for wherever you go, you bear yourself, and always find yourself. Look up or down, without you or within, and everywhere you will find the Cross. And everywhere you must have patience, if you wish to attain inner peace, and win an eternal crown.
~Thomas a'Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

O Jesus! Whosoever does not take up his cross and follow Thee, is not worthy of Thee. Behold, I join Thee in the Way of Thy Cross; I will be Thy assistant, following Thy bloody footsteps, that I may come to Thee in eternal life. Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
~ St. Francis of Assisi

05 March 2008

The Great Canon

Eastern Catholics will be singing the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete Thursday at Matins. Unfortunately, none of my local Byzantine/Ukranian Catholic parishes will be doing it. This song of repentance was one of the highlights of Lent for me when I was Eastern Orthodox. The "King of Canons" uses Scriptural images to create a penitential confession over three-hundred stanzas long.

In my typical West-meets-East fashion, here's John Mason Neale's adaptation of the Canon into English hymn form:

Whence shall my tears begin ? What first-fruits shall I bear Of earnest sorrow for my sin ? Or how my woes declare ? О Thou ! the Merciful and Gracious One ! Forgive the foul transgressions I have done. With Adam I have vied, Yea, pass'd him, in my fall ; And I am naked now, by pride And lust made bare of all ; Of Tiiee, О GOD, and that Celestial Band, And all the glory of the Promis'd Land. No earthly Eve beguil'd My body into sin : A spiritual temptress smil'd, Concupiscence within : Unbridled passion grasp'd th' unhallow'd sweet : Most bitter—ever bitter—was the meat. If Adam's righteous doom, Because he dar'd transgress Thy one decree, lost Eden's bloom And Eden's loveliness : What recompense, О LORD, must I expect, Who all my life Thy quick'ning laws neglect ? My guilt for vengeance cries; But yet Thou pardonest all, And whom Thou lov’st Thou dost chastise, And mourn’st for them that fall: Thou, as a Father, mark’st our tears and pain, And welcomest the prodigal again.

Listen to the Byzantine Catholic Recording in mp3 here:
Ode 1 - Ode 2 - Ode 3
Ode 4 - Ode 5 - Ode 6
Ode 7 - Ode 8 - Ode 9

04 March 2008

The Little Things

A want of zeal in small matters is the cause of all our calamities; and because slight errors escape fitting correction, greater ones creep in. As in the body, a neglect of wounds generates fever, mortification, and death; so in the soul, slight evils overlooked open the door to graver ones. It is accounted a trivial fault that one man should neglect fasting; that another, who is established in the pure faith, dissembling on account of circumstances, should surrender his bold profession of it, neither is this anything great or dreadful; that a third should be irritated, and threaten to depart from the true faith, is excused on the plea of passion and resentment.

~St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on Galatians

It's not just big sins that bring us down, little ones slowly eat away at our souls. Like neglecting an illness, the spirit gets sicker and sicker.

So, how are we healed? How are we delivered? Our recovery is also a gradual process. We don't need to make BIG sacrifices to be holy. St. Therese of Lisieux (Ta-rez of Lee-zyoo) wanted to be a martyr and do great things for God, but when she couldn't she discovered the "Little Way'. By making small sacrifices and little act for Christ she became a kind of martyr.

Of course, we also have the Church, which is a spiritual hospital where we are healed through the Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist. We also have each other for fellowship, intercession, help and encouragement.

Prayer O Lord, You will increase Your gifts more and more in me, so that set free from all concuiscence my soul may follow me to you. ~ St. Augustine

Good News Online March/April

This month's issue of Good News Magazine is online. It is a gift to us from the National Service Committees for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in England and Ireland. This issue features a neat article about the relevance of the Rule of St Benedict to Charismatic groups and communities. Since I know some of you out there are in leadership positions, this really stood out:

Though the authority and responsibility of an Abbot is greater than that of a prayer group leader, it is worth benefiting from St. Benedict’s insights. The group leader is more than just an organiser. Making provision for prayer, teaching and ministry, maintaining the unity of the group, and listening to people’s needs, nurturing development and mediating between individuals requires pastoral care. St Benedict reminds the abbot that, ‘he will have to give an account of his stewardship’ (RSB 64:7, cf. Lk 16:2). He needs to listen to the brethren before making significant decisions (RSB 3:2), ‘teach more by deeds than words’ and ‘use argument to exhort and rebuke’ (RB 2:12 & 23, cf. 2Tim 4:2). Such a wise balance in leadership is one of the keys to the longevity and success of the Rule. However, the leader should not take decisions on his own. Leadership is not a democracy – God is not automatically in the majority – but neither is it a dictatorship. It involves discerning the will of God, in the group. The Abbot should, ‘convoke the whole community, and himself declare the proposed action: and having heard the counsel of the brethren, he is to ponder it over within himself and then do what is most appropriate’. Everyone should feel included, and he is told to pay particular attention to children, ‘because it is often to the younger that the Lord reveals what is best’. (RSB 3:1-3)

Be sure to check out the rest of this article and the magazine.

03 March 2008

Angel with a Six-Pack

There are many kinds of angels. Seraphim and Cherubim are closest to the throne of God, while Archangels and Guardians are closest to man. Throughout the Christendom angels are depicted according to culture.

For example, angels in Abyssinian iconography look like Ethiopians/Eritreans even when Mary and Jesus look Middle Eastern. Cherubim, on the other hand, are more abstract.

I came across these Guardian Angel posters in the Catholic Child catalog. It depicts a buff angel sitting by a sleeping child. At first I laughed, but then I realized that it follows the tradition of depicting angels according to the cultural ideal of strength. And it inspired this poem:
Little cherub
fat baby with
hummingbird wings

flutter about the Throne
singing to God
Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus

My Guardian Angel

with bulging biceps

six-pack abs and

flaming sword

watches over me

How'd you get so buff?

Divine design?

Lord's Gym workout?

Probably from daily reps

of keeping me out of trouble
out of danger

Why don't I ask
your help
every time
I'm tempted
every time trouble comes?

Hodie illumina

custodi rege

et guberna!

Yes, rule and guide

be at my side

and kick demon butt!

02 March 2008

Fourth Sunday of Lent

I just can't shake the Eastern commemorations when it comes to Sundays in Lent. I'm so thankful for the Byzantine Rite in the Catholic Church so I can keep up the customs I loved when I was Eastern Orthodox. That said, let's look at today:

St. John Climacus was a monk in the 6th century who lived on Mt. Sinai. His home, the monastery of St. Katherine is still active today. Born is Syria, he entered monastic life at 16. He is celebrated by Roman & Byzantine Catholics as well as Eastern Orthodox on March 30th--plus the Oriental Orthodox (non-Chalcedonian monophysites, i.e. Coptic, Ethiopian/Eritrean, Armenian & Syrian "orthodox") recognize him too.

His best known work is the Scalia, aka The Ladder of Divine Ascent. The icon shows a ladder with monks ascending--notice the angels helping them up and demons attempting to pull them off. Jesus waits at the top. This icon reminds us of the Lenten journey, which is probably why this image is presented in the "home stretch" of Lent.

On Lying
As with all the passions, we ought to recognize various types of lying according to the damage done. One person tells lies from fear of punishment; another when no danger is threatening; another because of conceit; another for enjoyment; another to raise a laugh; and yet another to do harm to his neighbour.

On Love
Love in its nature makes a human being like God, as far as is possible for a human being. The soul is intoxicated by the effects of it. Its characteristics are a fountain of faith, an abyss of patience, an ocean of humility. When someone is completely permeated with the love of God, the brightness of his soul is reflected by his whole personality as if in a mirror. Therefore the one who loves God also loves his brother or sister. Indeed, the second love is the proof of the first.

Dismissal Hymn (Tone 3)
Having raised up a sacred ladder by thy words, you were shown unto all as a teacher of monastics; and you led us, O John, from the purification that comes through godly discipline unto the light of Divine vision. O righteous father, entreat Christ that we be granted great mercy.

01 March 2008

March Prayer Intentions

The month of March is dedicated to St. Joseph.

Lent continues. Pascha (Easter) is on the 23rd and Annunciation falls on the 31st.

Holy Father's Prayer Intentions

Forgiveness: That all may understand the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation between individuals and peoples and that the Church may spread Christ’s love.

The Persecuted: That Christians who are persecuted because of the Gospel may be sustained by the Holy Spirit and continue to bear witness to the Word of God.