Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Mystery of Advent: Journey to the Manger

This is the time of year when my sense of Christian mysticism becomes a bit more fine tuned than at other times of the year, with the exception of the Easter season. The road to Easter is a cold and mystical journey. There is something inherently awe inspiring about the anticipation of Emmanuel and the human mind trying to comprehend the concept --much less the reality-- of God with us. Some people simply cannot get their mind around the juxtaposition of the divine and the human as one person, in the flesh, looking much like us, as being anything but extraordinary. Actually a lot of them think it is wishful nonsense, a panacea for the trouble this world is in, that we who do believe are a bit muddle in the head. Then there are those who believe but aren't sure what to do with the information. There are many who try to analyze it to death, thereby not experiencing the wonder that comes from just letting the concept be.

The category I know I fit into is the one where you know its real, as real as the stars and roses blooming. As real as wondering how a horsehair can produce on the taut string of a violin the soaring sound that elevates our souls to a state of such elation that we hear a little echo of heaven. The words are hard to come by because those particular words don't exist...yet.

And so the season of Advent is this way for me. There are those of us who do get it and understand it. Perhaps not as well as we would like in this life but we understand the concept of the "thin place", the ethreal, the inexplicable. We believe in miracles. We know they happen. We see them daily. Where others see the ordinary, we detect the inordinary. It is not an easy life by any means. Your friends think you are one apple short of a bushel, or the only nutty chew in the box of See's candy. Or you end up with an unusual sense of well, "sight". That's all I will say on that subject for now.

One of the most common ways Christian mystics tried to express their experience was in writing, either prose or poetry. And so I have sought out poetry and prose that reflects attempts by both ancient and modern mystics, to put into words what can best be described as their perceptions of mystical experience or epiphany.

As we enter into Advent I will be sharing with you examples of both to enrich your journey on the way to the manger. I decided that we need hope and spirituality at this time, not only in the world and in the Church, but in the Holy of Holies of our hearts where God's Spirit dwells.

For now I would like to point you to a few web sites and blogs that may be of help to you as you prepare for your anticipatory journey.

The Way of the Pilgrim has many resources and examples of mystical writings, especially about the Jesus Prayer.

Anamchara is the site that led me to the first one. It also speaks of the Jesus Prayer and has articles on the prayer as well as how to make a prayer rope by tying knots in a particular pattern.

Christians Mystics: A Journey into the Presence of God has many resources, both scholarly and grassroots on the subject of mysticism as well as examples of their writings. I really like this one because it leads you to more.

Then there is Mystics In Love, a very good site that explains what Christian mysticism is and what it is not. You will find several examples of writings from some of my absolute favorite mystics here.

Every evening, I look skyward and marvel at the stars and light from the heavens. It does make you wonder...

Silent air
crisp in clarity,
I see God's eye

I look forward to sharing my finds with you as we prepare for the coming of The Child.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

In the Quiet...

In the quiet of this still time of night when all is settled from a day of thanks and feasting, I now focus on the needs of those far-flung friends in the blogosphere who are in need of heartfelt prayers...

I think of Eileen at EpiscopaliaFem for one. She has had a terrible time with sick children, trying to fulfill a job promotion and deal with domestic issues, and through it all, maintains her faith with a steadfastness in spite of it all that baffles my mind. Please keep our Eileen in your prayers so she can get through this maelstrom...

I remember also Elizabeth+ at Irreverent Musings. She lost her dad to a terminal illness this last week and she has blogged about it some on her site. If I may be so bold as to ask for prayer for my friend, Elizabeth+, I would appreciate it, even from the Mad One. Prayers are ascending, E+...

Breath of Heaven, hold me together...

be forever near me, Breath of Heaven...

And for my friend Lynne in Newport News, VA I ask your prayers as well...such unselfish giving to the poor and the homeless, working tirelessly through the holiday at a shelter whilst doing hospice work at home and in the community, displaying humbly Christ's compassion and living His mission...I bid your prayers...

I give thanks to God for blessing a friend in Tacoma with a job after a long time of unemployment that has sent her into frequent spirals of depression and hopelessness. Now she knows not only future financial relief but also peace of mind. She had returned to church after a spell of that same hopelessness due to my relentless and loving prodding. She's not an Episcopalian yet but I can hope! And no, T, that's definitely not why I wanted you to go!

I'm thankful too for Lisa's story of faith at My Manner of Life. Need to be inspired to love your neighbor and share the Gospel without causing physical harm? You know, no Bible marks from being thumped....Go and read her story...

As Advent approaches and our long green season comes near to its conclusion, I am reminded of the lore surrounding this time of transition. In and of themselves, transitions are not always easy; in fact they rarely are simple or straightforward. It's like the weather here in southern Oregon. One day it can be sunny, in the 70's and a warm, spring-like breeze blows, and then the next day the temperature drops 15 to 20 degrees and the wind is chilled, the sky battleship gray and you know a new season has arrived. Transitions can be abrupt like that, like day and night by the flick of a switch. And so Advent draws near and with it, the promise of new life: a spiritual spring of the soul as we prepare for His coming as flesh of our flesh, and blood of our blood; in the likeness of flawed humanity, His creation from the beginning.

O Desire of Nations, come...

It's not about giving gifts or putting up decorations, trees or stars, or dressing festively...or is it?
It's about a simple thing: Love. Loving us enough to become one of us, the Divine diminished to the dust of the earth and yet exalted to the place of such value that God comes to us, instead of us to Them. And in the voices of others we hear the basic teaching of that Love. And those others don't have to know God for the Voice of the Trinity to speak through their words or music, their art or engineering, or any of the other myriad of gifts we are given. After all, we are all loved and the Cross was for all of us too, without exclusion.

I close this entry with another poem by Mary Oliver from "Why I Wake Early"*. The mystery of creation and of God are so clear. I hope you sense its gentle message for what it is, in the quiet...

Night after night
enters the face
of the lily

which, lightly,
closes its five walls
around itself,
and its purse

of honey,
and its fragrance,
and is content
to stand there

in the garden,
not quite sleeping,
and, maybe,
saying in lily language

some small words
we can't hear
even when there is no wind

its lips
are so secret
its tongue
is so hidden --

or, maybe,
it says nothing at all
but just stands there
with the patience

of vegetables
and saints
until the whole earth has turned around
and the silver moon

becomes the golden sun --
as the lily absolutely knew it would,
which is itself, isn't it,
the perfect prayer?

*Mary Oliver, "Why I Wake Early", page 24, 2004 edition.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Diocese of Oregon Convention News Update

Two major developments have occurred in the first and second days of the diocesan Convention.

The first development is that our Bishop Johncy has announced his intention to leave the post of Bishop of Oregon sometime next year. Read the ENS story here.

The next major and positive development has to do with a Resolution voted on and passed at Convention concerning Integrity Portland and their reaction to the statement of the House of Bishops made in New Orleans . Here is part of it:

, That the 119th Diocesan Convention considers the statement made by the House of Bishops at their September 2007 New Orleans meeting to be non-binding on the diocese of Oregon and on the Episcopal Church unless adopted by General Convention; and be it further

Resolved, That the 119th Diocesan Convention deplores the lack of access to adequate pastoral care and liturgical rites for the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in The Episcopal Church and calls upon the House of Bishops to publish guidelines for such care; and be it further

Resolved, That the 119th Diocesan Convention recognizes Integrity, Inc., and it’s local presence, Integrity/Portland as an official diocesan program, and calls upon the Diocese of Oregon and Integrity to build a positive working relationship to meet the pastoral needs of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender persons in the diocese of Oregon; and be it further

Resolved, That the 119th Diocesan Convention commends the House of Bishops for its call to increase implementation of the Communion-wide listening process as a process of real engagement, and calls upon the Presiding Bishop and her staff to further develop this process within the Episcopal Church, recognizing that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people continue to be marginalized in many parts of our Church; and be it further...

Read the rest of the Resolution here.

William Jenkins, Convener of Integrity Portland stated in a newsflash to all Integrity PDX members, the following:

"The Resolution put forward by Integrity at the 119th General Convention passed with a majority as amended. The amended portion is crossed through in the text above.

Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow. Amen!"



Why wonder about the loaves and the fishes?
If you say the right words, the wine expands.
If you say them with love
and the felt ferocity of that love
and the felt necessity of that love,
the fish explode into the many.
Imagine him, speaking,
and don't worry about what is reality,
or what is plain, or what is mysterious.
If you were there, it was all those things.
If you can imagine it, it was all those things.
Eat, drink, be happy.
Accept the miracle.
Accept, too, each spoken word
spoken with love.
~ Mary Oliver ~
From: Why I Wake Early, written in Memory of John Paul II

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Secessionists, Squid, a Waffle and Prodigals

Some people have been a bit critical of me because I haven't made mention about the latest breaking news out of TEC. So many bloggers, pundits and people in general have been talking so much about it, I thought "Gee, what can I possibly say about it that hasn't already been said?" So here are some random reflections on that very subject. Disclaimer: some of this may seem redundant.

The Presiding Bishop, our Kate, extended once again the right hand of fellowship to the rebel dioceses but to no avail. Duncan is so full of himself that he thinks it is the grand gesture to refuse that right hand in the vain belief that what he has to offer is better. I am SO in support of the Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh that I could cry. You ask why? Look at what Duncan and his minions are wreaking upon the good people of that diocese...chaos, in a word, chaos resulting in the very division that Christ came to prevent. He died to unite us not divide us, and yet Duncan along with Iker and Schofield and the rest are delighting in tearing this communion of saints apart for their selfish gain, all in the bogus name of preserving the faith. They have, quite literally, hoodwinked the delegates of their respective dioceses into believing that their way is the only way; that God will not love them anymore if they don't go along with their way of thinking. Hitler and Stalin did pretty much the same and succeeded in twisting the Scriptures into their own weapons of mass destruction. It's a power trip for them and a way to finally gain the pitiful control and power they have been seeking all along. They think so little of their fellow Christians that they denigrate women and those of the same gender who seek Holy Orders and deny the rightful place of all the baptized in this Church, a Church that deigns to lead the way into fulfilling the Gospel in our time, taking loving your neighbor as yourself to the max.

These men who pretend to be Bishops of something other than The Episcopal Church are discrediting the very Savior who died for them, who died for us all. They are as misled as those Evangelicals who pray daily for the hastening of the coming of the Lord to destroy the earth, instead of doing what Jesus bid them do: Go into the world and spread the Good News...not the bad news, but the GOOD NEWS. As much as I think that St John was inspired by...something...I much more believe the words of Christ, God with us, than a guy left in solitary on an island to do some creative writing. Now a bunch of dudes "back when" decided what was divinely inspired to be called the Bible, and given their penchant for patriarchy and power-mongering, it is no wonder that the Scriptures include some...shall we say interesting and misogynist stuff. And the modern day dudes are using Scripture for pretty much the same reason...patriarchy and power-mongering in the form of Duncan, Iker, Schofield and Associates, rebel priests at large, not to mention Akinola and Gang.

In the convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh it was decided by one--count'em ONE--lay vote to secede and/or withdraw from the Constitution and Canons of TEC regardless of the outlined consequences of such an action by ++Katharine [who is as we know, more intelligent than all of the rebels put together, spiritually and intellectually]. She has been trying so hard to wait at the threshing floor before having to separate the wheat from the chaff. It's the patience of Job all over again. And the repeated attempts to get these guys to see reason as well as the Gospel would have worn me out a long time ago, but then she is the Presiding Bishop and she is Katharine. If she can be patient with studying squid then she can work darn-near miracles, thank you. The two circumstances really are not that different when you come to truly consider it. It cannot be said that she has not tried everything to keep TEC together as part of the Anglican Communion, no thanks to Rowan who is about as useful in this dilemma as Waffle the Cat.

I don't waste time reading at Stand Limp or Blog Viagra or Virtueless Online because they aren't very rational about much if anything, and why ruin my good disposition by stepping into a mud puddle? All they live for is to incite hate and bigotry in the name of God, giving Christians everywhere a worse reputation that we globally have or deserve.

This whole scenario reminds me of the parable of the Prodigal Son. Here are the rebel diocese with their patriarchs, wanting their share of the inheritance of the Church and they won't settle for anything less. So TEC lets them go in every sense of the word but without the assets or buildings or fair linen, and off they go to find their way. Once they have severed ties with TEC they leave and go their own self-righteous way. They will find it is not a bed of roses, that the pig sty they have found themselves in is not so ideal after all. They will see the error and greed of their ways and return home, and we will receive them back with open arms and with rejoicing because the lost have been found once more. And perhaps they will have to wait "a season" before it is decided that they are sincere and will not do further harm to the Church when we do receive them back. Perhaps a little "fasting " is in order. Then they will know what they have perpetrated upon part of the Church endured in this present time, "a season" of waiting to be accepted as fully baptized members of the Church, as members worthy of the episcopacy. As today's Old Testament reading from Habakkuk stated:

"Look at the proud!
Their spirit is not right in them,
But the righteous live by their faith."

Humility is the way to go, unhappy boys and girls...