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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Liturgical Movement: Reforming the Reform

Reforming the reform?  Huh?  Well, if you believe that the Second Vatican Council went too far in its *cough* liturgical reform, than the New Liturgical Movement (NLM) blog may be for you.  Actually, I rather like the information, its attention to detail, and of course all the lovely pictures and videos of all things liturgical throughout the church catholic.  If you can stomach it's decided slant towards all things "Benedictine," then you will treasure the wealth of resources compiled together at NLM.  It took this old-hearted Anglo-Catholic some time to discern that Benedictine was not in fact monastic, but referring to Pope Benedict XVI's zeal for the ancient liturgical tradition of the church.  

There has been, for instance, an interesting thread going through the blog considering what liturgical tradition the new Anglican ordinariates will follow and as such examining the Sarum use along with many other English forms.  The trailer above for the Solemn Requiem in the Dominican Rite (which is a religious order!) is an example of the rigor with which this spirit for "reforming the reform" has and continues to build.

Regardless of your position, and take heart, I am an ardent 1979 BCP man myself (with a high ceremonial), NLM is a rather interesting blog to check out from time to time.  

Me, Age 6

My parents are to thank for this photograph, taken in May 1986.  I used to stand on the dinning room chair and pretend it was my pulpit.  I would make my parents sit in the living room and listen to me preach!  I even passed around a bowl asking for a collection, though I padded it with pennies to pretend that money was in there.  I thought of everything, down to the grape juice and saltine crackers for the Eucharist.

In Sunday school class at St. Peter's Episcopal Church (Huntington, WV) where I grew up, we made these felt stoles which all the children wore in a grand Palm Sunday procession.  We even had a wooden donkey on wheels that some lucky child got to ride!  While I don't think that I would do this now, liturgically speaking, it was something to behold as a child.

The lesson, I suppose, is that you never know what can really speak to a child about holy things.

Monday, May 24, 2010

New York or Bust: Preparing for the 2010 NYC Marathon

It begins today.  On Sunday, November 7th, me and 40,000 of my closest running buddies will be zigzagging through all five boroughs of New York City in the 40th running of the New York City Marathon.  How many miles is a marathon, you ask:  26.2 glorious, painful miles!  Founded in 1970, the NYC Marathon is considered one of the "majors" in the marathon world.

I started running--seriously--during my first year of seminary.  I ran a 5K during sunset in Key West in 2008, I've run Central Park, and added cycling to the mix of activities.  Last year, I ran five half-marathons (13.1 mi.) across Tennessee and Alabama.  I over did it, you could say, and got burned out. Logging over 500 miles was sometimes fun, sometimes painful, but always exhilarating.  I took much of this past year off from running and the weight crept back on. Running quickly became more than just a physical release from stress--it became an important part of my prayer life.

I won the lottery in order to secure my spot in 2009.  Because of burnout, I was able to delay my acceptance until 2010.  Last year, I was asked to serve as one of the Chaplains for the ecumenical service prior to the start of the race.

In just 116 days, I'll have completed my first full marathon.  NYC, the Big Apple, will be mine!  The race begins on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Staten Island and finishes in Central Park.  I am excited, a bit nervous, and looking forward to commencing the long training schedule to get ready.  No more sweets, extra nibbles here and there, no more good beer.  Nope, it all starts today.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Praying Our Goodbyes

Following Commencement with the Chancellor of the University of the South, 
Bishop J. Neil Alexander (Bishop of Atlanta).

The day came and went as fast as you could imagine.  Graduation day, family, and all the goodbyes.  A day that seemed as though it would never happen, finally did.  And it happened quickly.  How did three years disappear so fast?  Can I get that time back?  Just one more hour in the theology library?  Well, no. Time's up.  

Attending The School of Theology at the University of the South was both an honor and a privilege.  I was stretched in so many ways, taught to expand my own theological and spiritual dimensions while complimenting a formation for priestly ministry in the church.  It hurt at times, the stretching and letting go of all those views that I felt important, and then there were those profound moments of clarity.  Seminary did not "take away" anything of mine, but rather challenged me to go deeper and deeper into Christ's ministry.  Formation, I used to believe, was a bad word; feeling as though I was an empty mass of clay that needed to be shaped into some pre-determined earthen vessel.  What I discovered was that the faculty and curriculum was in fact meeting me where God had begun the work, and the formation naturally takes off. 

While the degree title can be misleading, "Masters of Divinity," I leave Sewanee probably with more questions than answers, deeper questions probing the Christian life and witness.  And yet, I have gained a clearer sense of my own call towards ordained ministry along with a deeper faith in Christ.  I could not even begin to summarize all the experiences, encounters in ministry, and relationships in community that evolved over these three short years.  But I have learned something about death and resurrection, love and betrayal, and what the risks entail for living a life of faith in Christ.  "Comfort the afflicted," you hear often in the seminary halls, "and afflict the comfortable."  There is nothing glamorous about ministry, as you know:  the pay is lousy and the hours are consuming.  But, there is profound joy and wholeness that fills those earthen vessels with overflowing life--however cracked though they may be.

One step that I took this year towards my formation was professing vows in a new, emerging monastic community based in the Diocese of Atlanta--the Order of St. Anthony the Great, OPC.  The order was formed in 2006 and I liked the idea of being apart of an order whose history has not yet been written.  We shall soon have 11 brothers and will be petitioning General Convention in 2012 for formal recognition in the wider body.  I wanted to adapt my life to a written "rule" and live under vows of simplicity, obedience, and chastity (celibacy in singleness and fidelity in marriage).  There is a great freedom, believe it or not, in this life.  Free to love chastely, to obey the rule and the authority over me, and live simply is really life-giving.  I began my discernment with the community in Lent 2009 and my vows are annual.  The monastic "me" compliments my calling to be a priest.  And yes, we do have monk-priests in the Episcopal Church! 

Praying my own goodbye has been hard but ultimately proved fulfilling, a way in which I am reminded to let go and put trust in God's hands again.  The idea is not mine, it comes from a remarkable little book that I discovered this past semester on loss and goodbye written by Sister Joyce Rupp, simply called Praying Our Goodbyes (Ave Maria Press, reprinted in 2009).  Just remember, there is always a "hello" to be heard if your ears are opened to the Spirit.  I feel as though I am able to listen now and sense those hellos echoing daily.   

What an incredible, holy, and life-giving three years seminary proved to be. Formation, as it turned out, wasn't so bad after all.  Of course, it's still ongoing, though you must be willing to trust God and be open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit--she'll work hard on you and trust that!  

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

On the Baptismal Covenant

Brother Karekin Yarian, BSG is a member of the Brotherhood of St. Gregory the Great (BSG).  He's an avid blogger and you can find him over at Sandals at the Gate. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Latest Projects

Before I pack up my tools and leave Sewanee, I had several wood projects that needed to be finished for some friends.  I wish my high school taught "shop class."  This new prayer discipline really took off this year and it seems with each project, I see a marked improvement in my technique.  Still, I know I have a lot to learn about woodwork.  

I created a simple, working pattern for what I call "book desks."  These are great for writing papers, sermons, etc.  They are made from pine which is very easy to work with, though the staining is somewhat tricky.  For seminarians, I have been burning the Saint Luke's cross into the wood as a center piece.

I have now built a few of these "prayer benches" which are modeled after the pattern found in Martin Smith's (former SSJE) seminal work, The Word is Very Near You: A Guide to Praying with Scripture. (Cambridge: Cowley Publications, 1989).  These are great for contemplative prayer.  I've also burned the Saint Luke's cross in the center.  I've used poplar since these require support.

The "Saint Luke's Cross" is the official cross of the School of Theology, Luke being the patron of our community.  Why it's Celtic, I have no idea.  A metal, pectoral version is presented to all graduates during Commencement.  I'll have mine in two days!  These are wall crosses done in pine.

Finally, I am excited to begin work on my summer project, an icon crucifix.  This is a Western-style San Damiano but written in the Byzantine tradition--I really like blending the two.  I went ahead and cut the wood and prepared the icon board so that I don't have to fiddle with it once moved.  This will be my first crucifixion scene.  I wanted to make this large so as to inhabit a chapel one day.

This is what I'm after here.  This icon cross is found in the lower church of the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield, West Yorkshire.  When I first saw it there I knew that I wanted the challenge in trying my hand at writing one.  We'll see...

I guess you really can do anything with an Masters of Divinity degree!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

May is for Mary

Lady Month, or the month of May is especially marked by catholics with devotion to the God-Bearer (Theotokos).  May 31st, after all, is the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin to her cousin Elizabeth whereby Luke recalls that famous ave and the glorious Magnificat (Luke 1:39-57).  Later this month in Walsingham, the National Pilgrimage will be held.  May is the month of Mary.

There is an old catholic tradition of building and maintaining a "May altar" dedicated to Our Lady throughout the month of May.  The photographs of these May Altars come from the home of my brother, Fr. Robert-James, OPC.  The following excerpt comes from the webpages of The Marian Library/The International Marian Research Institute in Dayton, OH.
To the specific characteristics of the May devotion is to be counted the specially set up May altar - be it as an addition to or specially decorated altar in the church or as a "house altar" in the family circle. Like the May devotions themselves, the custom to highlight this type of May altar stems from southern European countries. A report from France in 1842 speaks of Our Lady's altar in May showing off in rich splendor, while the families also erected and decorated small home altars. 
All of nature awakened to new life in springtime is presented to honor Mary, who is herself "a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys" (Song of Songs 2,1). This form of devotion was influence and furthered, for example, in Treatise on True Devotion to Mary by Louis de Montfort, who, among other things, counted the decoration of Marian altars a chief exercise of Marian devotion.
The development of "home altars" seems to have naturally grown from churches specially dedicating altars within the worship space to Our Lady.  The above citation continues:

When erecting a May altar in a church, one distinguishes between the special decoration of an existing Marian altar, the erection of an altar set up specifically to serve this May devotion, or the transformation of the main altar into a May altar. The Handbook of Church Rituals (Regensburg 1846) notes under May altar that these devotions be held at an altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and decorated "to the full." If there isn't any [altar dedicated to Mary], another  altar is to be set up and furnished with a picture or a statue of Mary.  In Strasbourg, in 1855 for the first time, a special "Mother of God altar" was set up before the chancel.
With the development of May altars in churches, the custom spread to set up this type of "altar" also  in the home. The authors of both private publications and of official publications refer to this practice, encourage them, or assume that there are such.  While some devotional books encourage the user to decorate an image of Mary found there and to pray there--a custom "that belongs anyway in every good Catholic home"--others depict the "prayer room" as "a shrine dedicated to Mary." 
A side altar of this type was drawn into the celebration in that the blessing frequently was given from this altar. By carrying the Blessed Sacrament from the main altar, the precedence of the main altar was clearly visible. 
Pick some flowers, find an icon or statue, and light a candle.  Place Mary as the "spiritual fireplace" of your home this month.  Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us all!   

Monday, May 10, 2010

Leaven For the World: Monastic Profession Research

Ever wonder the origins of monastic profession?  What's this about a "mystical burial?"  What did Benedict really think about monastic profession?  Learn all of this (hopefully) and more in my recent article, "Leaven For the World: Monastic Profession Rites from the Desert to Saint Benedict."  Leaven for the World: Monastic Profession Rites from the Desert to Saint Benedict