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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sweet Book Plate


I came across this book plate in a copy of William Temple's Christus Veritas. The owner has impeccable taste!  Click on the photo to enlarge it.  


Brother Sun Sister Moon




I recently watched Franco Zeffirelli's movie on the life of Saint Francis, "Brother Sun, Sister Moon." I purchased it on iTunes; it was worth it! Here is the conversion scene. Check the movie out, I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Published Poet

I received word today from the editors at Anglican Digest that a poem of mine is to be published in their next edition.  Funny thing, I submitted it over a year ago and completely forgot about it!  I wrote this in February 2008 as I was preparing a sermon on the Feast of the Transfiguration.  I liked the idea of us--we, the Body of Christ--being bread to the world.  Admittedly, though, it is not my favorite poem or even my best work.  It's always interesting to see what others think of your work.  Nonetheless, after several various submissions, I can now claim to be a published poet!  

These Transfigured Loaves
by Chad M. Krouse

O Jesus,
your body for us:
taken, blessed, broken, and given. 

We, O Lord, are yours.
Come, O Come we sing:
The light that transfigures us
turns us into bread for your world. 

It returns to you not empty, but 
fills hungry mouths with insatiable
strength.

We too, O Lord, are loaves taken, blessed,
broken, and given to the world. 
We lay our sacrifice upon your altar
and all creation rejoices with you.
For we are bread.       

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Faces of God: God as Mother

I want to begin this reflection as "God as Mother" by borrowing from Henri Nouwen's famous book, Return of the Prodigal Son.  

"Often I have asked friends to give me their first impression of Rembrandt's Prodigal Son. Inevitably, they point to the wise old man who forgives his son: the benevolent patriarch.

"The longer I look at 'the patriarch', the clearer it becomes to me that Rembrandt has done something quite different from letting God pose as the wise old head of a family. It all began with the hands. The two are quite different. The father's left hand touching the son's shoulder is strong and muscular. The fingers are spread out and cover a large part of the prodigal son's shoulder and back. I can see a certain pressure, especially in the thumb. That hand seems not only to touch, but, with its strength, also to hold. Even though there is a gentleness in the way the father's left hand touches his son, it is not without a firm grip.

"How different is the father's right hand! This hand does not hold or grasp. It is refined, soft, and very tender. The fingers are close to each other and they have an elegant quality. It lies gently upon the son's shoulder. It wants to caress, to stroke, and to offer consolation and comfort. It is a mother's hand....

"As soon as I recognized the difference between the two hands of the father, a new world of meaning opened up for me. The Father is not simply a great patriarch. He is mother as well as father. He touches the son with a masculine hand and a feminine hand. He holds, and she caresses. He confirms and she consoles. He is , indeed, God, in whom both manhood and womanhood, fatherhood and motherhood, are fully present. That gentle and caressing right hand echoes for me the words of the prophet Isaiah: "Can a woman forget her baby at the breast, feel no pity for the child she has borne? Even if these were to forget, I shall not forget you. Look, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands."

Clearly, Nouwen reminds us that we need both masculine and feminine imagery when we speak about God.  I was challenged right at the beginning of my seminary formation to begin using "inclusive language" for God-talk.  At first, I really did not like using words like "Godself" in writing papers for class.  I was able, though, to move past this.  I remember having a conversation over inclusive language with my parents during the first Christmas break--my father refused to give in!

Why are we afraid to see God as feminine?  Do we lose something by the reference?  Quite the opposite, I believe.  "Expansive language" is more cutting edge these days, expanding the adjectives and metaphors for describing God.  We lose far more when we limit God and Godself to being simply male.  "There is no longer Jew or Greek," writes Saint Paul, "there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 3:28).  Put into the positive, there is both Jew and Greek, there is both slave and free, and there is both male and female in Christ. Paul understands that the distinctions are exploded in the risen Christ.  And yet, we are still afraid to loosen our masculine grip on God. 

Having had both parents in my life as a child, I saw clear distinctions between the roles of mother and father.  My father was the busy bank executive who did what he could to spend time with me and my brother--coming to the baseball games, Scout camp-outs, and the annual father-son fishing extravaganza.  Dad was everything that you would expect in a fatherly role. Mother, too, filled the womanly role. She was the one who cooked, cleaned, and also worked full-time outside of the home.  When you put the two parenting roles together, everything was covered.  Separated, my mother was the one who, more often than not, spent time listening to me and encouraging my creative side.  I was always close to my mother, and now in my adulthood, I am growing closer to both parents.  My mother never used guilt to force my hand in a decision. On the contrary, she excessively worried for me over the decision!  And still does, bless her heart. 

Growing up, I felt as though both mother and father helped expand my view of the world by offering unconditional love and support. When I fell, and I did quite often, they helped me get back up and examine where things went wrong.  They never protected me from the world, but rather let me see and feel my own way in it.  They were always a few steps behind me, just in case. 

God as Father fits the mold of my childhood; my theology was shaped by the roles my parents filled.  God as the bread-winner and busy executive. God as the person that needs a drink at five o'clock following a hard day of meetings, and so forth.  It was harder to accept God as the cook, God as the laundry lady, and God as the healer of all the scratches and cuts.  But it works, doesn't it?  It makes sense that God fills both parenting roles.  God certainly can fulfill both roles.  

Our Father and Mother, who art in heaven. . .

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Faces of God: God as Father

"God is not an object," screams my Theology and Ethics Professor during our first day in Seminary.  "Huh," I thought, "what a way to begin three years of spiritual formation!"  I realized his point in time--and he effectively made his point, over, and over, and over again--is that we tend to turn God into an object, a convenient and handy object.  There's a human tendency to do this and it can be spiritually dangerous.

The image of God as the grand old man in the sky works as a child, it is less helpful to me as an adult.  Yes, I grew up with that image, a God who lives high up in the heavens surveying creation and keeping count on our sins and offenses.  This idea is even less helpful as a sinning adult!  The problem with the grand old man image is that some faithful refuse to let go of it--God is father and that's that.  Pastorally speaking, this is also less helpful.  If we maintain that image or face of God, we lose sight of the creative God who created humankind in "our image" (NRSV translation).  God created us to be in relationship with us, not to leave us to our devices and demise.  We need God just as God needs us--a dynamic ongoing salvation history from God establishing the covenant with Abraham all the way to the Word made flesh in the Incarnation.  This relationship is repeatedly given credit throughout scripture.  

The God on high who sits in judgement does not help a young rape victim who is faced with the difficult decision over abortion, or the elderly man who keeps begging God to let him die.  We seek, above anything else, a God of Compassion.  "I AM the I AM," to me means that God is the God who remembers, the God who saves, the God who listens, the God who can change God's mind.  I think of God saying, "I AM the compassionate one."  Some remote God does not intervene in the course of human history.  A remote God does not enter into covenants with humanity, much less seek to fulfill them. Ours is a God of relationship.

I think it is extremely important to see that our ideas of God, and the many faces of God, change as our understanding--based on experience--changes.  The grand old man works for a small child, but as that child grows, so too does the image.  If God has been limited to an object, then the object remains static and unable to grow into a deep relationship with creation.  

In Book One of Saint Augustine's Confessions (Oxford, Penguin Ed.), Augustine writes, "how shall I call upon my God, my God and Lord?  Surely when I call on him, I am calling on him to come to me.  But what place is there in me where my God can enter into. . . Lord my God, is there any room in me which can contain you?  Can heaven and earth, which you have made in which you have made me, 
contain you?"
"We need God just as God needs us."

Augustine goes on to ask, "who then are you, my God. . . most high, utterly good. . . deeply hidden yet most intimately present, perfection of both beauty and strength, stable and incomprehensible, immutable and yet changing all things, never new, never old. . .In your mercies, Lord God, tell me what you are to me. 'Say to my soul, I am your salvation (Ps. 34:3). Speak to me so that I may hear.  See the ears of my hearts are before you, Lord.  Open them and 'say to my soul, I am your salvation.'  After that utterance I will run and lay hold on you. Do not hide your face from me.  Lest I die, let me die so that I may see it."

Even after the centuries when Augustine wrote this, we still wrestle with the many faces of God.  Wrestling is part of the journey of faith.  Take to heart one Augustine's most famous quotation from Confessions, "our heart is restless until it rests in you" (Oxford Penguin Ed.).We should wrestle with seeing God as a black woman, a Chinese teenager, or an Inuit man. Otherwise, I think we reduce God in size--we reduce the believer's capacity for the need of a certain face of God that speaks to them.  God is not an object!  And please, this is not reducing God to relativism either!  I think this idea is deeply embedded in the tradition of Byzantine iconography, where one is not allowed to write or paint a human image of God.  

It has taken me many years to grow in my relationship with God and how I see God.  I've stopped referring to God as just "Father" or any masculine reference for that matter.  God indeed has many faces, many voices (spoken and silent), and above all, God longs for us as we long to be in relationship with God.  We also need feminine imagery for God--God is also "Mother," but more on that subject later.

  

Rooting Social Justice in Silence

Social Justice in Silence?  Cognitive dissonance?  Answer: No.  

If we take away the life of prayer, and here I am referring to contemplative prayer, you risk turning a Gospel-witnessing of social justice into simply becoming self-righteous anger which can lead to rage.  Episcopal Priest and author Malcolm Boyd--himself a Freedom Rider in the Civil Rights era and now a voice for Gay Rights--speaks of the unholiness of rage and anger.  In his article, "Rage is Not Holy," Malcolm writes:

"Rage is too much with us. Some people speak of “holy anger.” Rage is not holy. In all the years that I encountered Martin Luther King in myriad public situations, he was never enraged. He was demonstrative. He was impassioned. He was committed to nonviolence. Once I heard him describe nonviolence as the way one should pick up a telephone receiver to respond to a call—a simple act of wholeness and integrity instead of a big public relations gesture or a political act for the 10 o’clock news.

"This is why Christians engaged in the work of social justice need to cultivate an inner spiritual life centered in prayer and quiet reflection. This is indispensable for a public life of debate, action and complex relationships. When I became a Freedom Rider in 1961 and, following the example of Martin Luther King, opposed the Vietnam War—which included participation in a Peace Mass inside the Pentagon—I sometimes neglected my inner spiritual life because of the pressure of immediate demands. At such times I veered toward self-righteousness and became shrill and angry.

"I see clearly what went amiss. I denied the central place of prayerful reflection in my life. In recent years I have undertaken the task of being spiritual director for around a dozen women and men, mostly clergy, ranging in age from late twenties to early seventies. I feel that anyone involved in the work of social justice needs to be actively engaged in the discipline of centering prayer. It enables a needed perspective, integrates the inner life with the outward life, and allows humility to serve as a companion in one’s public, bigger-than-life controversies." Click here to view the entire article.

"I sometimes neglected my inner spiritual life because of the pressure of immediate demands. At such times I veered toward self-righteousness and became shrill and angry."

I find myself seeing how my passion for certain social issues can quickly turn into anger.  When your angry, your thoughts are not clear, and your well-intentioned words are received bitterly sometimes by a discerning ear.  Silent contemplative prayer is the ground of one's being--simply resting for nourishment in the presence of God.  The fruit of silent prayer is harvested in the daily give-and-take of life.  Clear thoughts, clear words, and Gospel values are just a few of those God-given fruits.  

As I contemplate and discern my future ministry, committing myself to helping others embrace the Kingdom of Christ, I know that everything must have this sacred "groundedness," otherwise I'll simply flounder along with mediocre sermons, pastoral care that ignores my own woundedness, and generally serving as a part-time Christian.  The fullness and richness of silent contemplative prayer is not always apparent in the early stages.  If you consider the early three-fold stages of 1) Purgation, 2) Illumination, and 3) Union with God, then you must prepare yourself to run a marathon and not simply a short sprint.   

This Fragile Earth: A Christian Celebration of Earth Day 2009 at The School of Theology, Sewanee


Yesterday, the Seminary Sustainability Committee led its first Earth Day service in front of the Seminary's Chapel of the Apostles (pictured above).  We had twenty in attendance and we were pleased with the efforts to get the word out.  Most importantly, our Liturgics Professor showed up and we felt like we got the ultimate compliment on our service!

Here's one of the opening prayers from our service.

O God, by the mystery of the Resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ, you have made us all part of your new creation in the Kingdom of God.  Grant that as we, who profess your faith, may be good stewards and caretakers of this fragile earth, our island home: where we may be steadfast in preserving your creation for generations to come.  All this we ask through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

We're already thinking about next year.  I see this moving in "baby steps," which is why I'm okay with our turnout.  You have to start somewhere and work with what you have.  Moving from here, I feel certain we'll grow our efforts and yield even greater fruit next year. 

Friday, April 17, 2009

Practice Resurrection

Thursday in Easter Week, Year B
Chapel of the Apostles
Sewanee, Tennessee

Luke 24: 36b-48

**This is the second hermeneutic of the sermon, the part where I attempt to apply the text to the here-and-now.  If you would like to see the full sermon text, please e-mail me for a copy.
      
With this kind of living, loving, creative power alive in the world than the Easter life calls us to do something radical, something that does not compute in this world.  With fear and trembling we touch the wounds, we taste and see, and we live our lives in this new Easter creation, the Kingdom of Christ—where beauty, love, justice, and peace reign eternally.  Not only do we live in it, but we are called as stewards of the risen Christ to run it on his behalf!  We cannot remain static, for the resurrection bids us to do the unthinkable:  work for peace, free the oppressed, protect the environment, and live a life of forgiveness.

We say that creation is ongoing; to say this we must admit that crucifixion is also ongoing with many of God’s children.  Immigrant workers in our country who continually face discrimination; the working poor who no matter how many jobs they can humanly manage can never get ahead; Gay/Lesbian/Bi-Sexual/and Transgendered persons continue to be pushed to the margins of society; and all those who just don’t seem to fit our orthodox view of the world—all these and more continue to feel the nails piercing their skin.  Yet, if crucifixion is ongoing, then we must believe that resurrection of God’s children is not only possible but necessary, and necessary for us to work on their behalf.  Practicing resurrection is our response to the Easter life.  Practicing resurrection in our own lives is what Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians 12 as God tells him, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God’s power is made perfect in Christ’s resurrection and it is also made perfect in ours.  Practice resurrection.
God’s power is made perfect in Christ’s resurrection and it is also made perfect in ours.
The Easter life cannot be measure in economic terms of winners and losers.  The Kingdom of Christ, God’s Divine Commonwealth does not live under the laws of supply and demand.  If Christ is raised from the dead, than the world cannot be seen the same way.  If Christ is raised from the dead than we cannot stay locked and burdened in our own tombs; we cannot avoid the dead places in our lives anymore, we must face them with the hope that Christ will raise us!  Practice resurrection.
    
If Christ is raised from the dead, than we can no longer accept the inequality of living conditions among the working poor.  If Christ is raised from the dead, than we cannot accept starvation, pollution and raping of the planet for profit.  If Christ is raised from the dead, than we must reach out to our neighbors who continue to feel the pain of crucifixion in their lives.  If Christ is raised from the dead, then we can no longer live by thinking.  Practice resurrection.
    
So what do we do now?  What’s the answer?  We can live the Easter life and let Christ consume us in His Church and in the Sacramental grace of the Holy Spirit.  We do what we were created to do—live as images and likenesses of God working for the Kingdom all the while practicing reconciliation and practicing loving one another as Christ loves us.  We live to practice resurrection from our dead places and we are bidden to leave behind our tombs.  We live for the Kingdom and the new creation that has dawned upon us all, let us incorporate our lives into the blessed Trinity.  Thus in this new Kingdom, we may join with the Church triumphant and proclaim:  Christos Anesti, Cristo ha resucitado, Alleluia Christ is Risen.  Amen.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Running the Kingdom, An Easter Message

An excerpt from Bishop N.T. Wright's Easter Vigil sermon, "Living in God's Future--Now," delivered in Durham Cathedral.  Click here to read the full text of the sermon.


My friends are surprised by the fact that I actually like a lot of Wright's theology.  As a liberal theologian myself, I find most of Wright's conservative writings to be very clear in what he says--I appreciate that, especially given his Kingdom theology.  


"But the Easter message generates two other things which are quite new. Yes, we must live our lives from the coming future – but we now know much more clearly what that coming future is, and that gives particular point and direction to the people we are to choose to become, to the habits we are to choose to develop. And yes, forming habits of character is vital, even though it’s difficult, but for the Christian the all-important difference is that we don’t do it alone. We don’t develop these habits all by ourselves. We do it, basically, with the help and energy of God’s spirit; and we do it in company, all of us together. After all, the most basic Christian habit is love, and you can’t do love all by yourself.

 

"Let’s think about these two things for a moment. The resurrection of Jesus, the great fact at the heart of the Easter faith, means that we now know, suddenly and in a blinding flash, what our ultimate future will be. Our ultimate future isn’t just that we bumble along trying to live the present life a little bit better until one day we decay and die, and end up either in the grave or in a disembodied heaven or perhaps both. Our ultimate future is that we will be raised to new life in God’s new world, not only to inhabit God’s new creation, a world full of beauty and life and justice and freedom, but actually to run it on God’s behalf. That’s a solid New Testament truth which the church usually keeps quiet about, but it’s time to get it out of the cupboard, blow the dust off it, and see what it means for today. Running God’s world won’t mean, of course, arrogantly imposing our own will on it; it will mean being God’s stewards, and ruling with his gentle, wise love. To be Easter people, we are called to anticipate, here and now, that future vocation, to look after God’s world on his behalf, and to gather up the praises of creation and present them before the creator. Stewardship and worship, the practice of being kings and priests, are the habits of heart and life that Easter people must acquire.

"Our ultimate future is that we will be raised to new life in God’s new world, not only to inhabit God’s new creation, a world full of beauty and life and justice and freedom, but actually to run it on God’s behalf."

"Stewardship and worship take a thousand different forms. Stewardship means working for God’s justice in the world, for the health and flourishing of the planet and all who live on it, for God’s wise order and exuberant freedom to come to birth in all directions. Pray, in the days to come, about the ways in which God wants you to be a steward in his creation. That’s what you’re going to be doing in the resurrection life; start practicing now. Worship means celebrating God’s powerful deeds in history, in your own history, in your community; it means summing up the praises of the whole creation and expressing them, articulately and with understanding and delight, in the presence of the God who made you, loves you and has redeemed you. Pray, in the days to come, about the ways in which God wants you to worship him, where that should be, how often you should come to the eucharist, and how to worship in private as well. Worship is what you’re going to be doing in the resurrection life; start practicing now."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Earth Day Liturgy: The Green Collects

For Earth Day 2009, I've written a liturgy that a group of brother seminarians and I will be leading next Wednesday, April 22nd.  Titled, "This Fragile Earth:  A Christian Celebration of Earth Day," I wanted to use Anglican formation but original prayers and so forth.

Below are the aptly named, "Green Collects" that will be prayed. These prayers can be downloaded from here without copyright, use them and pray for this fragile earth, our island home!

If you would like a copy of the whole service to reproduce for local use, please e-mail me and I'll send you a copy.

The Green Collects for Earth Day 2009

O God of the forest, you bring forth life in the trees, the birds of the air, and every creature who lives under the canopy of your protection:  enable us to conserve the beauty of this land for our children and our children’s children, that we celebrate the mystery of your loving creation and seek to do it justice in our every day lives, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Christ of the seas, your fish and water-life creatures show us ways to live in a world that is deeply connected to our own:  grant that we may not take more than we need, and that we are always thankful for the abundance that you provide and so we remain not greedy but ever gracious towards your creation, through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Creator God of the dome of the sky, you brought forth birds to fly, the sun to warm us by day, rain to nourish and refresh the soil, and the moon and stars to shine brightly at night:  we beseech you to help us preserve clean air to sustain our life.  May we reduce our pollution of harmful gases that harm your wonderful creation so that we may be take in the breath of your saving Holy Spirit each and every day, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Almighty God, through the gift of baptism we are marked as your own in this world and called to proclaim your love to the ends of the earth: give us the strength and courage to be modern day prophets for your creation, that we may behold the gifts of joy and wonder in all your works; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer.  Amen

Earth Day Liturgy: A Green Litany

A Green Litany

A litany is a collection of statements and responses that we offer to God.  The Green Litany was modeled on the Great Litany found in The Book of Common Prayer, page 148.  This litany may be reproduced for local use.

O. Lord, have mercy upon us.

R. Christ, have mercy upon us.

O. Lord, have mercy upon us.

O. God the Father and Mother of the universe,

R. Have mercy upon us.

O. God the Son, redeemer of the whole world,

R. Have mercy upon us.

O. God the Holy Spirit and inspiration in our daily lives,

R. Have mercy upon us.

O. Holy Trinity, One God,

R. Have mercy upon us.

O. That we may live as faithful stewards of the gifts of the earth,

R. We beseech you to hear us Good Lord.

O. That we may be faithful in recycling and reusing everything that we share,

R. We beseech you to hear us Good Lord.

O. For better use of our water, our soil, and the air we breath,

R. We beseech you to hear us Good Lord.

O. That the government of this and every land will seek to promote innovative ways to produce clean and renewable energy,

R. We beseech you to hear us Good Lord.

O. That we may show love to those who cause damage and pollute the Earth for profit,

R. We beseech you to hear us Good Lord.

O. That we may reduce our burdens and demands upon this Earth,

R. We beseech you to hear us Good Lord.

O. That we may be free from consumerism and coveting more than we need to live,

R. We beseech you to hear us Good Lord.

O. That we may stand upright to speak the truth in love about those things that continue to plague and harm our Earth,

R. We beseech you to hear us Good Lord.

Morning Prayer Reflection: Christ of the Pow-Wow

Friday, March 27, 2009  

Daily Office Year 1, Romans 8: 29-39
Chapel of the Apostles  


'Christ of the Pow-Wow'  


Dancing with the sun in the azure sky,  
Dancing in the dark nights where no moon or stars shine,  
Dancing amid the pain and exhaustion of suffering our history,  
Dancing the red path that God calls our people to walk,   
Dancing on the prairie grass as the Spirit blows in the hot, dry wind,  
Dancing our way of life into freedom and peace,   
Dancing in death,  
Dancing in life.  


Nothing can separate us—no arrows, no bullets, no land, no water, no treaty, no  
reservation, no nothing.  
Nothing has ever separated us.  
The nations are bound together in love, Christ’s love—Cheyenne and Mandan,  
Lakota and Shoshone, Arapahoe and Blackfoot.  


In the Great Circle of the Spirit   
every nation, every tongue, every people  
gather to keep our traditions breathing and balm our wounds.
In the circle we dance, we laugh, we cry, and we rejoice in life.  
The beat of the drum, the heart beat of mother earth,   
the calling of the Chief of Peace unites us.  The sage smoke  
lifts up our prayer of praise, our hopes and our dreams for our children,
and blesses us in His presence.


The drum bids us to let go of our loss,   
to let go of our anger,   
to let go of ourselves and be united   
as one in love, inside the circle…dancing.    
Join with me and my great family,  
today shall be our dancing day!  
Come into the circle and dance.  
Come into the circle and know the Christ of the Pow‐wow. 

___________


N.B.  This is an American Indian exegesis of the famous Romans text. 




Morning Prayer Reflection: The Mirror of Christ




Monday, March 9, 2009, Feast of Gregory of Nyssa 
Daily Office Year 1
Chapel of the Apostles


The Mirror of Christ


Each night I sit in silence, in darkness, waiting. . .  
Each night I pray: ‘Lord Jesus, may I share in my body the pain 
you suffered on the cross; but even more may I know in my heart 
the love that brought you there.’


Never did I dream that this yearning would happen.    
Lent has always been too painful for me;   
everyday seems like Ash Wednesday.  
I don’t need the ashes to remind me that my twilight is harrowing.


But on this night, I woke to find myself stripped and barren,   
laden in the wasteland of exile.  
For what seemed like one long, never‐ending night   
would be driven into my soul for forty interminable days.


Pain, yes, pain was there.  He became my friend, my shackle,   
and my constant companion—  
never letting me forget him.  
Tears became like sandpaper to me.  
Never mind the cross whose splinters stick through me.  
Water was the mirage that kept me moving,   
yet that image could never quench my deepening thirst.  
The dark sky kept me warm and safe, but always alert.  


Here, in the desert of my mind, I admit my failures,  
my sin, my temptation, my human‐ness.  
I failed to live up to that which I thought I should be;  
the image in the mirror looked so beautiful, so perfect, so happy.
And now, that image fades away each day.  
I feel the pain, but where is your love?  


Why have you abandon me?  Save me!  
Give me a rope, pull me up please!  
Where are you?  
Was this whole thing a ruse?    
A cruel prank at my own expense?  


Where were you when my heart broke?  
Where were you when my life split wide open,   
and left me vulnerable to the world?  
Where were you when my burdens crushed me?


And silence. . . and darkness. . . and shadows moving.  
Somehow, through my numbness, I could feel the wind   
beginning to blow and voice whispered from the East:  


‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.  
In the darkness of your advent I called you by name.  
You are mine, and you are loved!   
I have never abandoned you.  
I send you your daily bread!  
You think suffering and pain is darkness,   
but I say it is also light.  


'Can’t you see it?    
In your darkness you’ve regained your vision.  
In your darkness, I can turn your embers into bright flames of holiness,
flames that the daylight cannot reveal.  
Darkness is indeed light.  I am in the darkness too!  
In the shadows you learn your truth, my truth, and ours together.  
There you learn to walk with integrity,   
there you can soar over mountain tops into the clouds of the unknown.
But those scars will never go away,   
see mine and know their healing power!  


'The desert is a by‐way to your salvation.    
I am there.  I am there in the mirror.  
I have always been there.  
So come, come down now from the cross.  
A new day is rising.  
The dawn from on high is upon you.  
The best is still to come.’     

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Blessed Charles, King and Martyr


Here is one of my latest icons, Blessed Charles King and Martyr.  I chose Charles because of my affiliation with the Society of King Charles the Martyr--a group of Anglicans around the world who advocate putting Charles back on the Anglican Calendar of Feasts.  He was canonized in 1660 by his son, Charles II in the Restoration of the Monarchy.

His feast day is January 30th.

For more information concerning membership into the US Branch of the Society of King Charles the Martyr, please
click here to go to the Society's website.

Collect for Blessed Charles Stuart 
from Celebrating Common Prayer

King of Kings and Lord of lords, whose faithful servant Charles prayed for those who persecuted him: by his example, give us the will to love and bless our enemies; through the power of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

"Why We Honour King Charles"
from the UK SKCM website

King Charles the Martyr was the last saint to be canonised by the Church of England.

He is honoured as a martyr because he died for the Church. He was offered his life if he would abandon episcopacy but he refused for this would have taken the Church of England away from being part of 'the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church’ and made Her into a sect.

So we venerate him for his sacrifice and see in it inspiration for us today.  

In the words of Dr. Mandell Creighton, Bishop of London 1897-1901 and a noted ecclesiastical historian: ‘Had Charles been willing to abandon the Church and give up episcopacy, he might have saved his throne and his life. But on this point Charles stood firm: for this he died, and by dying saved it for the future.’

Immediately upon the Restoration of Church and King on 19th May, 1660, the Convocation of Canterbury and York, now being free to assemble and act, canonised King Charles and added his name to the Kalendar of Saints at the revision of The Prayer Book (see example on main SKCM page).

It came into use with the authority of Church and State in 1662 and since that time parish churches and chapels have been dedicated under the title of S.Charles (often as King Charles the Martyr).

His reign saw the beginning of a revival of the Religious Life in the Church of England and the first attempt at Community Life (after the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII), which began at Little Gidding and was encouraged by S.Charles.

He oversaw many schemes for the Church: the restoration and adornment of churches and cathedrals, the founding and advancement of charities, the improvement of the liturgy and the re-introduction of the episcopacy in Scotland. His reign witnessed, albeit briefly, a Golden Age for Anglicanism especially in spiritual and devotional writing which is still much appreciated today.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Old English Poem, "The Dream of the Rood"

The Dream of the Rood

Author unknown



Listen! The choicest of visions I wish to tell,  

which came as a dream in middle‐night,  

after voice‐bearers lay at rest.  

It seemed that I saw a most wondrous tree  

born aloft, wound round by light,  

brightest of beams. All was that beacon  

sprinkled with gold. Gems stood  

fair at earth's corners; there likewise five  

shone on the shoulder‐span .   

All there beheld the Angel of God, fair through predestiny.   

Indeed, that was no wicked one's gallows,  

but holy souls beheld it there,  

men over earth, and all this great creation.  

Wondrous that victory‐beam‐‐and I stained with sins,  

with wounds of disgrace. I saw glory's tree honored with trappings, 

shining with joy, decked with gold; gems had  

wrapped that forest tree worthily round.  

Yet through that gold I clearly perceived  

old strife of wretches , when first it began  

to bleed on its right side. With sorrows most troubled,  

I feared that fair sight. 

 

I saw that doom‐beacon   

turn trappings and hews: sometimes with water wet,  

drenched with blood's going; sometimes with jewels decked.  

But lying there long while, I,  

troubled, beheld the Healer's tree,  

until I heard its fair voice.  

Then best wood spoke these words:  

"It was long since‐‐I yet remember it‐‐  

that I was hewn at holt's end,  

moved from my stem. Strong fiends seized me there,  

worked me for spectacle; cursèd ones lifted me.  

On shoulders men bore me there, then fixed me on hill;  

fiends enough fastened me. Then saw I mankind's Lord  

come with great courage when he would mount on me.  

Then dared I not against the Lord's word  

bend or break, when I saw earth's  

fields shake. All fiends  

I could have felled, but I stood fast.  

The young hero stripped himself‐‐he, God Almighty‐‐  

strong and stout‐minded. He mounted high gallows,  

bold before many, when he would loose mankind.  

I shook when that Man clasped me. I dared, still, not bow to earth,  

fall to earth's fields, but had to stand fast.  

Rood was I reared. I lifted a mighty King, 

Lord of the heavens, dared not to bend.  

With dark nails they drove me through: on me those sores are seen,  

open malice‐wounds. I dared not scathe anyone.  

They mocked us both, we two together. All wet with blood I was,  

poured out from that Man's side, after ghost he gave up.  

Much have I born on that hill  

of fierce fate. I saw the God of hosts  

harshly stretched out. Darknesses had  

wound round with clouds the corpse of the Wielder,  

bright radiance; a shadow went forth,  

dark under heaven. All creation wept,  

King's fall lamented. Christ was on rood.  


But there eager ones came from afar  

to that noble one. I beheld all that.  

Sore was I with sorrows distressed, yet I bent to men's hands,  

with great zeal willing. They took there Almighty God,  

lifted him from that grim torment. Those warriors abandoned me  

standing all blood‐drenched, all wounded with arrows.  

They laid there the limb‐weary one, stood at his body's head;  

beheld they there heaven's Lord, and he himself rested there,  

worn from that great strife. Then they worked him an earth‐house,  

men in the slayer's sight carved it from bright stone,  

set in it the Wielder of Victories. Then they sang him a sorrow‐song,  

sad in the eventide, when they would go again  

with grief from that great Lord. He rested there, with small company. 

 

But we there lamenting a good while  

stood in our places after the warrior's cry  

went up. Corpse grew cold,  

fair life‐dwelling. Then someone felled us  

all to the earth. That was a dreadful fate!  

Deep in a pit one delved us. Yet there Lord's thanes,  

friends, learned of me,  

adorned me with silver and gold.  

 

Now you may know, loved man of mine,  

what I, work of baleful ones, have endured  

of sore sorrows. Now has the time come  

when they will honor me far and wide,  

men over earth, and all this great creation,  

will pray for themselves to this beacon. On me God's son  

suffered awhile. Therefore I, glorious now,  

rise under heaven, and I may heal  

any of those who will reverence me.  

Once I became hardest of torments, 

most loathly to men, before I for them,  

voice‐bearers, life's right way opened.  

Indeed, Glory's Prince, Heaven's Protector,  

honored me, then, over holm‐wood.  

Thus he his mother, Mary herself,  

Almighty God, for all men,  

also has honored over all woman‐kind.  

 

Now I command you, loved man of mine,  

that you this seeing tell unto men;  

discover with words that it is glory's beam  

which Almighty God suffered upon  

for all mankind's manifold sins  

and for the ancient ill‐deeds of Adam.  

Death he tasted there, yet God rose again  

by his great might, a help unto men.  

He then rose to heaven. Again sets out hither  

into this Middle‐Earth, seeking mankind  

on Doomsday, the Lord himself,  

Almighty God, and with him his angels,  

when he will deem‐‐he holds power of doom‐‐  

everyone here as he will have earned  

for himself earlier in this brief life.  


Nor may there be any unafraid  

for the words that the Wielder speaks.  

He asks before multitudes where that one is  

who for God's name would gladly taste  

bitter death, as before he on beam did.  

And they then are afraid, and few think  

what they can to Christ's question answer.  

Nor need there then any be most afraid  

who ere in his breast bears finest of beacons;  

but through that rood shall each soul  

from the earth‐way enter the kingdom,  

who with the Wielder thinks yet to dwell."  

 

I prayed then to that beam with blithe mind,  

great zeal, where I alone was  

with small company. My heart was  

impelled on the forth‐way, waited for in each  

longing‐while. For me now life's hope:  

that I may seek that victory‐beam  

alone more often than all men,  

honor it well. My desire for that  

is much in mind, and my hope of protection 

reverts to the rood. I have not now many  

strong friends on this earth; they forth hence  

have departed from world's joys, have sought themselves glory's King;  

they live now in heaven with the High‐Father,  

dwell still in glory, and I for myself expect  

each of my days the time when the Lord's rood,  

which I here on earth formerly saw,  

from this loaned life will fetch me away  

and bring me then where is much bliss,  

joy in the heavens, where the Lord's folk  

is seated at feast, where is bliss everlasting;  

and set me then where I after may  

dwell in glory, well with those saints  

delights to enjoy. May he be friend to me  

who here on earth earlier died  

on that gallows‐tree for mankind's sins.  

He loosed us and life gave,  

a heavenly home. Hope was renewed  

with glory and gladness to those who there burning endured.  

That Son was victory‐fast in that great venture,  

with might and good‐speed, when he with many,  

vast host of souls, came to God's kingdom,  

One‐Wielder Almighty: bliss to the angels  

and all the saints‐‐those who in heaven  

dwelt long in glory‐‐when their Wielder came,  

Almighty God, where his homeland was.