Ecce Rex Noster Dilecto


II Samuel 5:1-3
Colossians 1:12-20
Luke 23:35-43

When I went away to college, my freshman year, I was at an Evangelical liberal arts college called “The King’s College“. Two guys named David shared the room with me. A huge bunch of stuff had been given to me to go to college with, but one thing I asked for was a wall crucifix. We got it at the more-expensive “gift shop” at Sullivan’s in the mall, it was maybe $20. It looked a little like this:

The cross was wood, the corpus was from Italy, but was certainly plastic. It was very white. I hung it over the door because that’s what they did in the movies. I was a good Anglo-Catholic and I wanted some part of my world to look like things did in The Bishop’s Wife. (Note to self: need copy of said movie.) Anyway, after we were all moved in, the floor manager… or whatever they called him, showed up and inspected the room. And walking out he saw the Crucifix. He looked at it for a moment and then said, “Shouldn’t you show Jesus more triumphant?”

“That is Jesus,” I replied. “at his most triumphant.”

I had just got to college, you understand: I clearly knew everything.

The Easter Sermon of St John Chrysostom is a glory. The Paschal Canon makes me weep. The first singing “Shine, Shine, O New Jerusalem” is one of the high points of the Byzantine liturgical year. When the whole church lights up with the Easter Vigil Gloria, bells ringing and people shouting, I get shivers. When the organ blasts its way through a solemn Te Deum I am prostrate with the incense and the joy. Yet St Paul says nothing about the Resurrection that is so strong as this line: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Or this one: I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified…. we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness.”

But for us, Our King.

Imagine meeting an Apostle, imagine meeting anyone from the Jerusalem Church at the time, really. They have seen the most horrid execution the gov’t of that period could divise. To know someone who was so treated, to have witnessed it, to have lived through the torture, the ignominy, the horror.

And then to hear her or him say, “That is God.”

That’s why he was so scary to the Romans: these Christians saying “this guy you hung up is Lord, God, and King,” not Caesar. No Caesar’s Palace or Trump Tower contains the real power. Christ is King.  Power is not in the palace, not in the tower: but hung on the Cross. And Risen.

There are a few people who insist the Resurrection of Jesus is a myth. One Episcopal priest even shared from the pulpit that he sided with those who knew – knew, mind you – that after Jesus had died his body was tossed onto a garbage heap and dogs ate it. And all this stuff about a Resurrection was just backfill because the apostles felt guilty about abandoning Jesus in the hour of his need. He had told them to take swords, right? We make up for that abandonment by claiming he was God and assuaging our guilt.

“He saved others, let him save himself
if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.”
Even the soldiers jeered at him.
As they approached to offer him wine they called out,
“If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.”
Above him there was an inscription that read,
“This is the King of the Jews.”
Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,
“Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us.”

When you look at the Crucifix, and hear people deny him even now while feigning love for the “real” Jesus that they just made up, you get it: that God became so weak, so powerless, that even those he came to save could deny him at the moment of his triumph.

And yet he loves them.

I hear all the time that we can’t forgive sinners who don’t repent… but Jesus does: “Father forgive them…” from the cross. And you know no one was repenting.

So our King is merciful.
So our King is love.
So our King is truth itself.

That Dead Guy on the Cross, victim of capital punishment, hated by his own and subjected to torture by his oppressors, really is God: crucified, dead, buried. Risen. It’s your choice. Make him your King, know his Resurrection, and you will become the object of scorn and derision, reviled even by people who claim to follow him. To them that derision is hate. But to us their derision is a sign of life.

That derision is probably about to get worse as those from the left and right who confuse real, faithful Christians, the Confessing Church, with those apostates who sold their souls for worldly gain: sexual, or political. The Faithful will be oppressed by the Progressive and the Fascist, both. And the faithful shall pray, love and die, for those who hate us as our King did. Even then we have only done our duty: we are unworthy servants.

The Prophet Malachi says that when the Day of the King shall come it “shall come kindled as a furnace: and all the proud, and all that do wickedly shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall set them on fire, saith the Lord of hosts, it shall not leave them root, nor branch. But for the righteous, it’ll be totally different, unto you that fear my name, the Sun of justice shall arise, and health in his wings: and you shall go forth, and shall leap like calves of the herd. And you shall tread down the wicked when they shall be ashes under the sole of your feet in the day that I do this, saith the Lord of hosts. 

The fire is both Furnace and Sun of Justice. (Malachias 4:1-3) It’s really up to you which one it is. The Day of the King is coming. It is here already: at Liturgy we can see it.

These Three are One

Revelation 11:4-12
Luke 20:27-40

…those who deny that there is a resurrection…
Luke 20:27

The Sadducees insisted on the literal meaning of the text, following only the first five books of the Bible (excluding the Prophets, the Wisdom books, and the Historical books from their sense of “Scripture”). They also insisted there was no bodily resurrection, no spirits, and no demons. They had some other teachings – they were Pelagian before Pelagius – but these were their two main hallmarks: Scripture and Resurrection. It is these that are most beloved today. As regards the Bible and the Resurrection, world has become filled with Sadducees.

Most people insist what they see as a literal reading of the Bible: they refuse to allow the Church to teach her teachings without asking, “How is that in the Bible?” They deny the idea of oral tradition, of teachings evolved from discussions about the Bible rather than some odd idea of Sola Scriptura. While they are, often, interpreting the Bible in their own way (and insisting that’s the literal meaning) they ignore that for 4,000 years the Jewish community, and for 2000 years the Christian community have been engaged in discussions about what it means. These are two different discussions one growing out of and beyond the other. One cannot set up camp outside them. Even in the Churches this can be the case, where persons will reject the teachings of the Church based (a la Luther) on their private sense of what the scripture means… but calling it the “literal meaning of the text”. These are Sadducees in spirit. The Jesus Seminar people are Sadducees, insisting that most of the New Testament is Oral Traditions accreted onto some sort of Ur Jesus Story.

Many Christians are Sadducees in regards to the Resurrection.  Christian theology is very clear: humanity is both soul and body. Angels are pure spirit, with no physical body. Animals are pure matter with no spiritual content. (This is why all dogs do not go to heaven, contra certain evangelical silliness.) Man is both a Soul and a Body, as Jesus was both God and Man.  We are not so much as a Body with a Soul as we are a Soul with a Body.  As a person, Jesus was  Eternal, Uncreated Beingness in an immortal Soul-Mortal Body unity. And you and I are that latter part: an Immortal (meaning undying) and Mortal (meaning dying) unity.

Many Christians of the more conservative sort (and I’ve heard this in Orthodox and Catholic conversations as well as Protestant) make us out to be Spirits that happen to have bodies right now. “When we die we will all go to heaven.”  “Grandma’s an Angel with Jesus, now.”  While we certainly believe the Saints are granted a foretaste, it is only in the General Resurrection and after the Judgement that, by God’s mercy, most of us will “get to go to heaven”.  But when we do, it will be in our bodies, in the flesh. This mortal flesh will put on immortality and, whatever he is, we shall be as Jesus is. This is why the Orthodox do not cremate, although I think a mortal body can corrupt in a fire just as easily as in the dirt.

Many Christians of the more progressive sort deny any spiritual function at all. Honestly, I have no idea what they’re doing in the Church b/c they’re functional Atheists, as far as I’m concerned. If there is no resurrection for all of us there is none for Jesus. And if Jesus didn’t rise, then this is all malarky. Again, the Jesus Seminar fits into this category so they are doubly Sadducees.

It’s easy to pretend there is no resurrection. But why? There’s no hope, there’s nothing to live for, no reason to imagine good to have a point. What makes me giggle is the idea that you can then say “there is still a reason to do good in the world” and “there is a literal definition of things that are good.”  The world is filled with Sadducees. (Easy mnemonic: because they don’t believe in the resurrection, they’re Sad, you see?)

If your God is not the God of the Living, then why bother?

Gosh that’s hard.

Revelation 10:8-11
Luke 19:45-48

I took the small scroll from the angel’s hand and swallowed it. In my mouth it was like sweet honey, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.
Revelation 10:10

Chesterton rather famously said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and not tried.” Every time I take a look in the Bible I feel the same way. St John’s image of a scroll that tasted pretty good, but made him vomit once it got all inside is spot on. This whole thing seems pretty easy to swallow: love, peace, forgiveness. It’s only once it gets inside and starts working through your system that you realize, it means love for some pretty unsavory types. It means turning the other cheek to some people you’d rather deck. It means forgiving even your bully brother. Forgiving Hitler was easy and abstract, but the boss who steals your time without pay is hard, hard, hard to forgive.

This Sunday folks in most western liturgical places will celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. It’s good to remember that his kingship is over all things in heaven and on earth, seen and unseen. But come Monday morning, it’s so much easier to buy one of these things instead, and call it your Christianity:

  • The Jesus Seminar credo: “All the stuff you don’t like isn’t real so just ignore it.”
  • The Oprahtyrians credo: “All the stuff you don’t like only applies to people who can’t think for themselves.”
  • The Newager credo: “All these words means something totally different and you don’t have to go to Church.”
  • The Conservatives credo: “Ignore all those financial things. Just follow some moral things.”
  • The Progressives credo: “Ignore all the sexual things. Make up some inclusive justice things.”
  • The Americans credo: “Pick what you want if you want and when you want. Throw it aside when done.”

You know – as do I – what the Saints clearly teach: the first thing one sees when one opens up the Gospel of Jesus is that that thing, whatever that thing is, whatever I hold dearest and most important to my identity that is not Jesus himself… that thing must go. It must go first. It must go quickly. Or there just isn’t room for Jesus. After that first thing goes, eventually everything else has to go as well. So when I open the Gospel and actually read it, the very last thing I want to do is swallow it whole.

Christianity is very difficult. And Christ will be King of All – or nothing.

Have you heard this rumor going around about some politician or other wanting to register all the Muslims in America just, you know, to have a list of names in case he needs it? It’s probably just a rumor. Or a fringe, or maybe an outright lie created by people who want to discredit something or other. Or maybe it’s one of those fake news sites I keep reading about, that has gone viral with no fact checking. Or maybe it’s real. We say, “It can’t happen here” as if it hasn’t already happened, with the Japanese, with Africans, with Irish, with millions of tribal persons whose lands we now inhabit.

Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners, the righteous for the unrighteous. I believe this and all the truths which the Catholic Church believes and teaches because God who can neither deceive nor be deceived has revealed them So, if they come for the Muslims, taking names: I’m with Jesus. I will register. I will gum up the works. I will die. I’m sure they’ll want to find a way to weed out the Christians and say, “not this time, but you’re turn will come”. But maybe one life will be saved, maybe a soul will.

St Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.

More of the Unpopular Opinion

Revelation 5:1-10
Luke 19:41-44

If this day you only knew what makes for peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes.
Luke 19:42b

These came to me in College, they are called, Bailey’s Four Spiritual Flaws of Human Interaction:

  1. Humans are primates.
  2. Primates are Territorial.
  3. Humans have evolved to a point where “territory” includes abstract ideas.
  4. When primate territory is invaded, primates attack.

If we only knew what makes for peace…

Politically, these laws can be observed as both acting history and being used by humans to their advantage. Wherever in our world a political force wants to cement control, they create a need for a “peacekeeping” force, and then become that force. It is a policy that has served the Romans well, before them Alexander, and after them the British. It continues to serve America well. The Soviets used it in many places and Russia does it now (in Ukraine, for example). Indeed, any Empire-building political force uses it. This strategy is widely used in politics as well: it is called “Divide and Conquer. The blame, however, is not the politician that uses it, save indirectly. The strategy was invented by demons.

In all these narratives, it is those who would keep us apart that profit most from our division. The same is true, as I wrote yesterday, of the demons who are the only ones who want us to demonize each other. I read once, somewhere, that the difference between us and God is so vast that it is rude to point at another of his servants and say “She is more different than am I.” Yet we do that always.

Will D. Campbell, who is in the header quote above, was very active in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Here’s what the Wiki says about that:

In 1957, while working for the National Council of Churches, Campbell participated in two notable events of the Civil Rights Movement: he was one of four people who escorted the black students who integrated the Little Rock, Arkansas, public schools; and he was the only white person present at the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Some black delegates opposed admitting him; but Bayard Rustin sponsored him. In 1961, he helped “Freedom Riders” of the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to integrate interstate bus travel, despite white mob violence, in Alabama. In a 1964 interview with Robert Penn Warren for the book Who Speaks for the Negro?, Campbell discussed many of the issues of the Civil Rights Movement, including the assassination of Medgar Evers by Byron De La Beckwith, Desegregation busing, and the relationship between theology and social activism.

Worthy are you to receive the scroll and break open its seals, for you were slain and with your Blood you purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue, people and nation. You made them a kingdom and priests for our God, and they will reign on earth.
Revelation 5:9b-10

But then, Will took that “all nations” thing seriously. He got in trouble.  The Wiki continues:

His uncompromising theology has led him to keep his distance from political movements. He has insisted that “anyone who is not as concerned with the immortal soul of the dispossessor as he is with the suffering of the dispossessed is being something less than Christian” and that “Mr. Jesus died for the bigots as well”. These convictions sometimes caused friction between Campbell and other civil rights figures, for example, when Campbell ministered to members of the Ku Klux Klan and visited James Earl Ray in prison. He remarked in 1976, “It’s been a long time since I got a hate letter from the right. Now they come from the left.”

Will had crossed the line against his fellow whites – realizing the at people of color are, first of all, people. But then he made a huge mistake, realizing that the haters needed to be loved too.

Jesus has made and called people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation into his own kingdom of priests to serve our God. Yet once inside that kingdom, he has commanded us to care for the poor, the needy, the homeless, the widow, the orphan, in ways that have nothing at all to do with their religion or race. In fact, it is our reaching out to the poor, ill, wounded, homeless, wealthy, gun-toting, violent, sexually used, or using non-Christians in God’s Agape, that is our primary act of evangelism. To ban them from our lands, our churches, our charity, our lives until they become “really” Christian (which really means, essentially, White Middle Class boring people) is to ban them from the Table of the Lord forever.

We want them to be “good enough” first. God has already died for them – how much gooder do they need to be?

I took heart reading the statement by the bishops that they were standing in solidarity with Christians in the Middle East as well as with migrants on our own shores.

“Although the vast majority of today’s refugees are non-­Christian; the vast majority of those who serve them are Christians, who continue to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth,” Bishop Gregory J. Mansour (Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn) said. “Today Christians are more united than ever, through a common suffering, a common martyrdom, and a common assistance given to those in need.” 

What we need now is a statement where we will stand in solidarity with the poor and the downtrodden in our own country, and not forget the rich need saving too. Where we will stand in solidarity with the unborn, and not forget the best time to save the unborn is before they are conceived. Where we will stand in solidarity with oppressed Natives and not forget the real oppression is their Reservation. Where we will stand in solidarity with workers whose real oppression is the wage slavery in which they labor, but whose bosses need to be educated to see their own greed. Everyone needs saving.  Paul understood this in Philemon’s letter.

Peace is hard work. It’s not – ever – making the other person think like us. Jesus commanded us to “Make disciples of all nations” yes, but he never said, “Convert your enemy”. Rather he commanded us to love, pray, forgive, and even serve our enemy in order to win his soul.

If we only knew what made for peace…

I’m afraid the internet, and indeed, our political space today, the “national conversation” if you will, wants one side to gain a victory while another side must be defeated. Merely human victory or defeat is entirely useless. The simply reality is: if Christians get caught up in these political games (as Christians have been doing for most of 2000 years) we neutralize our witness and mute our voices. When we get played by the system, we end up forgetting that Jesus is for everyone. If we build walls around property designated by our political overlords, we’ve only supported the demons, and we’ve only kept out Jesus. Our first duty is to go into all the world making disciples. We can’t do that by picking the lesser of two evils in an attempt to slay the larger one. The way forward is to proclaim that “Mr. Jesus died for the bigots as well.” The Anti-Christian bigots, the bigots against children, the anti-Muslim Bigots, the racists bigots, the Atheist bigots, the anti-Gay bigots. All of them. Then we have to go love them – even if that means that we leave our political, secular friends angry at us (but we have to bring them too…)

“Mr. Jesus died for the bigots as well”

Only peace saves.

Jesus is our Peace. Know Jesus: know peace.

Praying the (WR-OF-EF) Mass

In both Western Rite Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism (EF and OF) there are liturgical texts assigned for nearly every day’s Mass.  The “nearly” is because sometimes it’s a repetition of the previous Sunday’s mass. It is beneficial for the layperson who cannot get to church on a given day to pray and meditate on those texts as a way to practice the faith and stay “in communion” with the Church even when not being able to get to Mass.

The method suggested below is based on the “Missa Sicca” or “Dry Mass” which was used in earlier days (up til the mid 16th Century) by priests who could not, for one reason or another, get to say Mass on a given day. It is combined with a few prayers from another source of devotions during Mass. Until about 100 years ago it was popular piety for the laity to participate in mass by saying vernacular prayers appropriate to what was happening at the altar.

Below you will find a private, devotional method for “Praying the Mass” that should be usable by both Western Rite and Roman Catholic readers, be the latter participants in a Latin Mass community or a Novus Ordo community. I have used various Prayers at Mass from a book called The Key of Heaven, printed in the mid 1930s with the Imprimatur of the then-Bishop of Indianapolis. I hope the notes make it clear what to do and say – but please let me know if there is anything unclear or if anything seems “Un(o)thodox” in any way. Below the language and Rubrics are for the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, by far the most common. However at the end of the page are links to to PDFs for downloading for the Extraordinary Form and for Western Rite Orthodox.
A form of
Missa Sicca for Lay Use
when unable to attend Mass
(in the Ordinary Form).
Begin with the sign of the Cross, saying:
✠ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
If one is appointed for the day, say the Entrance Antiphon from the Missal. Generally, the days of the week use the one for the preceding Sunday. You may skip this.
Then this prayer:
O my God, though I cannot draw near to your altar at this time I do so now spiritually to gain new strength and vigor to my soul’ separate me from those unbelievers who have no trust in you, grant me that grace which comforts me when the remembrance of my sins afflicts me and casts me down; that grace which lets me know there is an everlasting refuge in your goodness and that you are always ready to forgive even our greatest sins. Amen.
Say this prayer from the Penitential Rite:
I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, And, striking your breast, say: through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
Then say the Kyrie.
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy upon us.
Make an act of Contrition:
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins because of your just punishments, but most of all because they offend you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of your grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.
If it is appointed for the day then say the Gloria here. (Omit during Advent and Lent.)
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will. We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father. Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us; you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer; you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Say the Collect or prayer of the day from your Missal. You can also find it online.
Before the Epistle or any Lessons say this prayer:
May you be eternally praised and blessed, O Lord,  for having communicated your Spirit to the holy prophets and apostles, disclosing to them admirable secrets, redounding to you glory and our great good. We firmly believe their word, because it is yours. Give us, we beg, the happiness to understand from the Church, by their instructions, what is profitable, and grace to practice the same all our lives. Amen.
Read the lessons for Mass from your missal.  If you have any lessons assigned before the Epistle, read them as well, and then the Epistle and Gospel of the day.  Include any Responsorial Psalms, Graduals, and Alleluias. If there are any collects or prayers appointed between the readings (as there may be on certain fasting days) say those as well.
After the Alleluia and before the Gospel say this prayer:
May you be ever adored and praised, O Lord, who, not content to instruct and inform us by the prophets and apostles. You have even vouchsafed to speak to us by your only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, commanding us, by a voice from heaven, to hear HIm: grant us, O Merciful God, the grace to profit by His divine and heavenly doctrine. All that is written of you, dread Jesus, in your gospel, is truth itself: nothing but wisdom in your actions; power and goodness in your miracles; light and instruction in your words. With you, sacred redeemer, are the words of eternal life: to whom shall we go, but to you, eternal Fountain of Truth! Give me, O God, grace to practice what you command, and command what you will.
After the Gospel, makes these acts of Faith, Hope, and Love as follows (On Sundays or Feast days say, also, the Nicene Creed using your familiar form):
Act of Faith
O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches because you have revealed them who are eternal truth and wisdom, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. In this faith I intend to live and die. Amen.
Act of Hope
O my God, I hope by your grace for the pardon of all my sins and after life here to gain eternal happiness because you have promised it who are infinitely powerful, faithful, kind, and merciful. In this hope I intend to live and die. Amen.
Act of Love
O my God, I love you above all things and I love my neighbor for your sake because you are the highest, infinite and perfect good, worthy of all my love. I forgive all who have injured me and I beg pardon of all whom I have injured. In this love I intend to live and die. Amen.

Then, having prepared yourself with all the foregoing, make a Spiritual Communion using this or another form.
I cannot this day enjoy the happiness of assisting at the holy Mysteries, O my God! I transport myself in spirit at the foot of your altar; I unite with the Church, which by the hands of the priest, offers you your own adorable Son in the Holy Sacrifice; I offer myself with Him, by Him, and in His Name. I adore, I praise, and thank you, imploring your mercy, invoking your assistance, and presenting you the homage I owe you as my Creator, the love due you as my Savior.
At your feet, O my Jesus, I prostrate myself and I offer you the repentance of my contrite heart, which is humbled in its nothingness and in your holy presence. I adore you in the Sacrament of your love, the ineffable Eucharist. I desire to receive you into the poor dwelling that my heart offers you. While waiting for the happiness of sacramental communion, I wish to possess you in spirit. As you came once to the house of Zacchaeus, come to me, O my Jesus. I, for my part, am coming to you! May your love embrace my whole being in life and in death. I believe in you, I hope in you, I love you. Amen.
Then end with the following prayers:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be world without end. Amen.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and evermore. Amen
✠ In the Name of the Father &c. Amen.
Here are downloadable PDFs of for use in the Orthodox Western Rite, and the Roman Rite in the Extraordinary Form (the TLM 1962), and the Ordinary Form

Confess Your Unpopular Opinion

Revelation 4:1-11
Luke 19:11-28

Worthy are you, Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things; because of your will they came to be and were created.
Revelation 4:11

The Introduction to a Devout Life by St Francis de Sales has been my evening and morning reading for a month or so. I’d read more if I could afford a print copy… I’m living off of the internet version just now. This morning I came across this passage in Chapter 9 of the first part:

God has given you existence from this nothingness. He has made you what you are, without having need of you and only because of his goodness.

As I was chewing on that, I had one of those rare moments where I can see other people… and realized it was true of them as well: that God drew each person out of nothingness because of his goodness. Set that as a spiritual practice, I dare you: to know everyone you see as drawn by God out of nothingness because of his goodness.

There are a few other such passages in the writings of Christian history – or else often quoted by Christians. Things about “image and likeness” and “teach me to treat all who shall come to me today”. There’s also Philo of Alexandria’s “Be kind, everyone you meet is struggling.” Yeah, I get it. For some reason, though, this one passage, when turned around from a me-center to a you-center was stunning.

Because of your will, they came to be and were created.

There’s been a lot of talk about “reconciliation” lately. It usually comes from political “winners” and gets directed at the “losers”. We have to all come together to be Americans together. And we have to “work together” to make things better. I’m here to call horse hockey.

Some of my friends are seriously angry: they feel threatened, they are worried about the world coming into being, as for themselves and for their children. They have no idea what this election means for posterity, but they are not willing to take a chance on anything that means a loss of freedom to be whomever they have come to know and to imagine themselves to be. They see their actions as their only hope.

Some others of my friends are seriously angry: they feel threatened, they are worried about the world coming into being, as for themselves and for their children. They have no idea what this election means for posterity, but they are not willing to take a chance on anything that means a loss of freedom to be whomever they have come to know and to imagine themselves to be. They see their actions as their only hope.

Both parties are full of it.

In addition to my friends out there, there are others out there who are decidedly not my friends. Some have more angry and fearful attitudes. Some spraypaint graffiti, some firebomb, some destroy, some provoke. Some hate people who are the wrong color. Some hate people who are the wrong religion. Some hate people who are any religion. Some sound like everyone’s favourite dictator and evil guy from the early part of the last century. Some sound like everyone’s favourite dictator and evil guy from the middle of the last century. A few sound like a bad cardboard cutout of a dictator from a 70s Bond movie and a few sound like a bad cardboard cutout of a demon from a 70s Chick tract.

Here’s where I #confessyourunpopularopinion

We must each give all that crap about “my freedom to be” or we will never together know justice, peace, wholeness, or liberty. Unless you stop demanding “rights” you won’t have any love to give away. And without seeing the true person beyond their politics, and realizing that God has given them existence from nothingness only because of his goodness, there is nothing at all we will ever get accomplished.

It’s much easier to demonize the other than it is to love another person. And trust me: when you demonize, the only winner is the demons. They love nothing so much as to see us confuse mere human response with demonic action. Where we’re at each other’s throats they laugh the best and loudest.

I’m here to reconcile: and the only hope of that reconciliation is Jesus and I don’t care who you voted for or didn’t. I don’t care if you want to murder children in the womb before they ruin your modern life or murder them in the streets of their homelands before they get here and steal your stuff. I don’t care if you want to destroy the environment to save some jobs or wreck people’s jobs to save a few fur babies. We got one hope.

Jesus is it.

That person over there was drawn out of nothing by the profound goodness of God for your salvation. You will not be saved without him. That other person? You will not know God without her presence in your life. You will stand alone before the final Judge yet his prayers there and her prayers over there are the only hope you have. As your prayers are their only hope, too.

The only sinner in the Christian worldview uses the first-person pronoun. The only rights in the Christian worldview are in the second or third person. Christianity is one of those irregular nouns: I am a sinner, you are Christ, we are the Church, they are our neighbors.

So when you hear me talking about Reconciliation, please don’t hear “Let’s all come together under the flag/president/my favourite political cause.” What I mean is “Repent, get ready, the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

Shorter?

No Jesus. No peace.

Anthony Quinn and Keith Green Agree…

Revelation 3:1-6, 14-22
Luke 19:1-10

I know your works, that you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead… I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’ and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
Revelation 3:1b, 15-17

Did you ever see The Shoes of the Fisherman? It was released in 1968 and has a marked note of 60s hippiness about it. However it well lays out the internal Christian debate between having stuff and not having stuff; stuff which tends, as we know, to weigh us down, no matter how we intended to use it, hopefully, to God’s greater glory. At the end of the movie, the new Pope solves a spot of world poverty by selling off the stuff of the church. It’s an interesting idea…

There’s that scary passage in the Gospel, right? Where Jesus says he will cut the sheep off from the goats. (That’s scary to me – is it so to you?) Anyway, today’s readings remind me of that passage, when Jesus is like, “You know, you never gave a cup of water to a thirsty person, or even a crust of bread to a hungry person. Bye.” And then everyone is all “But Lord, we did all this cool religious stuff!” and he is like, “Nope. Bye.” That’s scary to me because I know my works. I know my total lack of anything remotely resembling charity.

“I know your works”, says Jesus. He says it to all the churches in the open letters that begin the Apocalypse. Some Churches are good and some are bad. Today the reading skips over a good Church, located in between Sardis and Laodicea. That Church, the Church of Brotherly Love (in Philadelphia) is known for her good works. I think maybe the name tells us more about what we need to know… but we’ve skipped it in the reading today, rightly I think. The fact is, most American Christians are on a scale someplace between Sardis and Laodicea.

Sardis says “People say I’m all kinds of awesome” when, in fact, she’s dead.
Laodicea says, “I say I’m all kinda of awesome” and yet, again, she’s dead.

Most of our churches, I think, bask in either a self-created glow or else a world-created glow. We are not, however, awesome: we are dead. I know your works.

It’s curious that Jesus, speaking through the Evangelist John, doesn’t seem to really care about their “faith” as such. (He does and I’ll get to that in a moment.) Jesus does not talk about their doctrines, which I think are different from Faith: by doctrine, let’s be anachronistic about it, we mean the fullness of the Scriptural Canon and the whole, unadulterated Nicene Creed. (I am speaking anachronistically.) One puts one’s faith (trust) in the doctrine, see? The doctrine may be poetically called “our faith” but I think that’s only poetic license. We put our faith (in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin that means “trust”) in the Doctrine which is, as it were, the type and Jesus, himself, is the antitype for it is his person, action, and teaching that are revealed in the Doctrine.

Jesus says “I know your works”. Works are the the manifestation of faith in the same way that rustling leaves are the manifestation of wind. If we do not see or hear the leaves moving, we know it’s not windy. Jesus, in saying he knows their works is saying “Your faith ain’t up to snuff. It’s like snuff that fell out of the box a week ago and you’re finding it as you sweep up and you just throw it away, because it’s all on the floor and it’s not so much ‘snuff’ now as ‘stuff and things I’m not putting in my nose.'”. For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (James 2:26)

The Zacchaeus story in the Gospel makes this point amply, I think: he’s sees Jesus and says “Behold I’m giving away half of what I have, and if I have extorted anything I will give back four times as much – which may have eaten up most of the remaining half. And what does Jesus say? “Behold, wholeness has come to this house today.”

Our Doctrine – all the things God has revealed to us about himself in Christ Jesus that has been taught to us by Holy Mother Church – if we actually trusted it, if we actually believed it would be the wind that rustles our leaves branches and shakes all of our stuff out onto the poor. We say we are rich – and yet we are not. People look at us and say we’re amazing, but we’re not. Jesus knows our works.

We have all kinds of beautiful liturgies. We’ve built very beautiful churches. We may keep our priests well paid. Or maybe, we have a well-paid pastor and we have awesome singing and really amazing overhead projectors with flashy lights. Our offering plates are full. But Jesus knows our works. We are dead. We are not whole. We are not saved. What are the works that show a living faith? James tells us:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:14-17

Nothing there about big churches, gold cups, or jeweled rings. Nothing there about filioques or communion for the divorced. Nothing there about sinners’ prayers, sola scriptura, or evangelism, even. It’s straight up mercy. Don’t get me wrong: all that stuff is important – yet only so far as it supports the works that manifest our faith in the risen Lord. If we don’t have that… it’s bye bye goats.

Popi, have you seen Dash?

Revelation 1:1-4; 2:1-5
Luke 18:35-43

Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He replied, “Lord, please let me see.” Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.” He immediately received his sight and followed him, giving glory to God.
Luke 18:40c-43a

This blind man, asking for pity. Jesus says, “What?” The man (called Bartimaeus by St Mark) says, “Let me see.” Done. Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you.” At no place was the man asking for to be saved. We know the Greek word here, σῴζω – sozo, can mean “made whole” or “healed”, it gets rendered “saved” so many times it’s worth talking about.

What does it mean to be Saved? What is it when one is sozoed?

Unfortunately, for all most all Americans, Christian or not, to be saved means “going to heaven.” There is no scriptural reason to hold that meaning. None. At all. Period. Nothing in the Bible makes any sense at all if that’s what sozo means. It is pointless and imaginary. It’s nearly demonic. It is NOT WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS (for you Sola-protestants out there). Nor is it what the Church says. It is not what Protestant Christians of even 200 years ago would have meant by the word.

If you died today, asks this demonic temptation, do you know where you’d spend eternity?

I can answer that question in two words – equally true for me, for you, for Ivan the Terrible, for Adolf Hitler, for Mother Theresa, and for your great grandma Mae. The answer is totally the same for everyone:


With God.

We will all spend Eternity with God. Eternity is that omega point where our human, fear-based self-shielding mechanisms of time, space, sin, self-interest, ignorance, and doubt all collapse into the event horizon of God’s very beingness, from whom nothing can escape, by whom all things are known, and in whom all things live and move and have their fullest being. There is no place else to go, nowhere to run in eternity where God is not. There is no place to run here in Space-Time, either, if you really want to know. It is our delusions that allow us to think that we’re safe from him. We can ignore him for a few minutes, hiding behind fig leaves, as he walks in the evening crying out, “Earthling, where are you?”

Eternity with God is not “salvation” though, except in the abstract: certainly Jesus didn’t send Bartimaeus there when he said “you’ve been σῴζωed – sozoed.” Nor did he send anyone else to “the Gold Streets of Glory, halleluia!” when he said to the woman at his feet, the lepers, the bleeding woman, the Syrophoenician woman, the Centurion, “Your faith has sozoed you.” Neither is it what St Paul and the other Apostles mean when they say, preaching, “You and your whole household can be sozoed this night…”

In the LXX, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, σῴζω – sozo is used for the word הושִׁיעַ, hoshia which is related to Jesus’ own name, Yeshua. There is our clue, really: think of it that way for just a moment and it will make sense:

Being “saved” means being “made more like Jesus”.

No one will be excluded from God’s presence – but to see God is to be be plunged into what? “Our God is a Consuming Fire.” The only Human who can be there is Jesus, who is God, himself. To be saved… to be brought into communion-via-likeness with Jesus… is to stand alive in the Fountain of Life itself, to be made like the Burning Bush: raised to a fullness of Beauty unimagined, burning and yet not consumed.

Dante takes us so close to heaven:

This heaven has no other where than this:
the mind of God, in which are kindled both
the love that turns it and the force it rains. 

As in a circle, light and love enclose it,
as it surrounds the rest and that enclosing,
only He who encloses understands.

Like sudden lightning scattering the spirits
of sight so that the eye is then too weak
to act on other things it would perceive, 

such was the living light encircling me,
leaving me so enveloped by its veil
of radiance that I could see no thing.

As he is ending his glorious quest Dante links heaven with us here, on earth: we are being made ready, turned…

The Love that calms this heaven always welcomes
into Itself with such a salutation,
to make the candle ready for its flame

But already my desire and my will
were being turned like a wheel, all at one speed,
by the Love which moves the sun and the other stars.

We want seriously to think that “I’ve found the only way into heaven”. We want to think “We can keep out the wrong sort of people.” I know one pastor who keeps a gun in his pulpit because he thinks the wrong sort of people will try to stop him from getting into heaven. Even Dante put the wrong sort of people in other places. But that was humorous and educational. We need to stop imagining heaven like an old Simpsons Episode:

Oh, my friends, I have no doubt that God will call all men to himself – he is doing so now. Not everyone will want to be there. We have to be saved – to be made as much like Jesus as possible. We are working out our salvation here, now – working out our transformation into Jesus. When the opening of our presence to God’s Being is at the fullest, some of us will have been prepared and some will fight it off. In that Divine Light our only defence will be to self-destruct as we burn. Or we can live there forever – only if we, even now, are being turned like a wheel, being brought up to speed, by the Love which moved the Sun and other stars.

If You Don’t Work, You Don’t Eat.

Malachi 3:19-20a
II Thessalonians 3:7-12
Luke 21:5-19

Jesus said, “All that you see here– the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”
Luke 21:6

In the weeks leading up to Advent the western Lectionary gets apocalyptic. Today it comes out in full swing! The collection of readings emphasises the Christian apocalyptic dynamic in which we always live: already here/not yet.

Jesus is prophesying about the destruction of the temple – which has nothing, really, to do with the end of the world. The Apostles (quite logically) imagine such a threat as only possible in an end-of-the-world context. So Jesus points out all the other things that will happen before the End of the World. But, first, everything’s going to get torn down: in a matter of 40 years or so, really. But, even without all that stuff happening, Jesus’ warnings were needed: don’t let people tell you “There he is” or “Look it’s happening now!”

In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat. We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others.
II Thessalonians 3:10-11

Paul was talking about people who had decided the world was about to end so they were just sitting around waiting. Meanwhile the Christians were being charitable, taking care of them. That charity drew in more freeloaders… It’s almost a cynic’s reversal of our note yesterday about Orthodox Monastics. But as far as Apocalypse goes, I think, even though the Temple was still around, the discovery that God had come among us and died and rose again was pretty scary stuff. Neighbors looked over and thought this new community was scary, even the ones who did work!We’re not that scary any more – although the recent elections reminded us that we can be… but let’s remember who we really are.

One day in 2010 Cam Miller, then Rector of Trinity ECUSA in Buffalo, NY, teaching an adult ed class on the Gospels, asked us to list “classes of people” in the Gospel stories and, as we were confused, he started a list on the board with 1, 2 and 3. Then we figured out the pattern and got the rest of it:

  1. Jesus
  2. The Apostles
  3. The Women
  4. Jews
  5. Jesus family
  6. Samaritans
  7. Pharisees
  8. Tax Collectors
  9. Sadducees
  10. The Scribes
  11. Clergy
  12. Lepers
  13. Sinners
  14. The Army

We came up with a few more as well. Then Cam asked us “Who are we?” The Apostles was a logical choice. But Cam pointed out that’s who we would want to be, but, as far as the story goes… “Sinners!” Yes, that’s true, but I mean, in terms of current parallels none of these categories fit. Who are we, in terms of history as we sit here in Buffalo, NY, in the middle of winter?

All of these people, in the Gospel story, live in Judea (he used the Anachronism of “Palestine” but set that aside for this post). Judea is an outlier provence in the Roman World where taxes are collected and olives are harvested. It is not, however, a place where olives are eaten – they are sent away. It is a place where bad politicians get sent by the Emperor for “special assignments”. It is a place where “Keeping the Peace” is a imperial command that is impossible to keep and one’s own death sentence.

Do we live in 1st Century Judea? (NO!)
Ok, then where are we?

Americans, in terms of the Gospels, are none of the people in Judea. We’re not in the story at all except as an “unseen hand”. We are most closely paralleled to Rome, to which all taxes go, all goods are sent, and from whom no secrets are hid. We are the gobblers and thieves who send out armies to “keep the peace” only so much as it benefits us (where “us” is defined as the bankers and companies that keep Americans shopping). We are Rome. What little good others get from our benignity is because we get a greater good from it. We do not send Charity so much as we send blood money. We speak of the Law of Supply and Demand as if we had not imposed it on the world with our guns.

In the end, Christian morals and ideas about purity, morality, equality, justice, and the Kingdom of God undercut the Roman Empire so much she had to start killing the followers of this new cult.

Please, God, it were so now.

In a fit of realism, as I type this on a cheap computer, sitting under lights lit by energy paid for by farmers in Kansas, sipping coffee made by underpaid farm workers in various parts of the world, wearing clothes sewn by hands well sweated in Target and Kmart, I wonder what can ever be done. I have a lot of stuff I didn’t work for. I have a lot of stuff paid for by the blood of others. Even the foods I eat are harvested by the hands of wage slaves who come to our country because we have ruined theirs with our our politics and trade agreements. St Paul says to all of us, “Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food.” Yet we have, instead, become Rome. We are the rulers of the world, the exporters of the violence that moved west with a Young America. We are the killers and the spoilers. What Marshal will stop us?

I know that some part of the world thinks we may have elected our own Nero or Caligula. Although either would be disastrous, neither were anywhere near the end of the Empire. In fact, they were the beginning of the seriously bad part. But I do fear the wrath when it comes. And it won’t be God, as such (although by his will): it will be by the hands of those we’ve chained to the machines that make our stuff.

Since August

A friend asked why I’ve not blogged about my experience at the Monastery. My reply is that you only meet the good side of a divorce. To be clear, I don’t think anything bad happened, and as Fr Prior noted in his recent newsletter it was a peaceable departure. The final date was suggested by me as it would give me the chance to prepare food for the annual pilgrimage. I stayed, planned menus, cooked, and served rather a lot of food for several meals and it was a good thing. Those of you who know that I cook to relax will be amused at this story. I closed out my time at the monastery joyfully making an offering of my few gifts to people I love.

What started the departure was a conversation with a guest visiting from Texas, as we sat and watched the Bighorn Sheep on the mountain side. (The Date was 23 June – when I took the above photo.) I will not go into the conversation, but the end result was a few follow-up conversations with my parents and the discernment that I needed to be in the world working out my salvation. It was “taking care of my parents” and it was “doing community justice work” and it was not sitting in the mountains and enjoying the silence. That discernment was confirmed in the positive by a conversation with one of my Oblate Brothers, and in the negative by a conversation with a visiting priest. It was this priest that said, first, to me “Be the hands and feet of Christ in the world”.  That phrase was repeated several times (as is their homiletical style) in a sermon by the preacher at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, GA (photo below, with my parents and President and Mrs Carter). When we got home, with me deep in thought from the coincidence, Mom said, “I hope you realized he was preaching to you.”  Yeah, Mom. I got that.

Then I had to think long and hard. Because, let’s face it, Orthodoxy, in America at least, just doesn’t do much community justice work. There are a couple of places that do it, I know: One major one in Kansas City (Reconciliation Services), one in Toronto. Also I know that the Orthodox Peace Fellowship is cataloguing all the places, big and small, they can find. Yet with a number of good reasons – and a few bad excuses – many parishes do nothing like this. I think this is a reaction formation that may go away in a generation or two: many Orthodox are converts. Many converts are coming from mainline prot land where theology, Bible, and tradition were essentially replaced by social justice work which, devoid of Christian theology, became radically progressive. In time it diverged heavily from orthodox, historical Christian moral teachings especially in the areas of sex, marriage, and the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death. My own experience in ECUSA was like this, it is a reaction I well understand.

As an adult, wanting to dedicate the rest of my life to Christ in his Church, working out my salvation, however, I need all three gears of the faith to be in place: Teaching, Tradition, and Action. This is what drove me bonkers in Buffalo: it seemed as if I could get right teaching or right work. Why do I need to choose?

What I experience is that there is one place that does all three very well, manifested in nearly every Roman Catholic parish and institution. I know Orthodoxy has some theological issues with the Roman Church. However, I come from the Russian Tradition of Orthodoxy which is quite different from the Greek trad in this respect: the Roman Church is simply another Church, not a bunch of heretics. A Roman priest becoming Orthodox is simply vested in Byzantine Vestments, “Welcome to the club….” Coming into other branches of Orthodoxy as a priest is not so easy. Russia’s big issue with Rome is Territory – be that in the Ukraine or Moscow. Perhaps, that attitude softens my approach to the whole Roman tradition. This is one place where my theology becomes less Orthodox, I confess: I’m quite willing to buy into the “two lungs” idea. We have never officially declared them to be “without grace”. If that were so there would be an Orthodox Bishop of Rome. We’ve never gone there: that lack of action is a huge doctrinal statement. We in the OCA don’t fully Chrismate their converts to Orthodoxy (just anoint them once, on the head, with oil after saying the Creed without the filioque). They are, essentially, the Separated Brethren. What Rome most looks like to me is ROCOR, back in the days when the latter were “non-canonical”. Again, that’s not an official position or anything, but that’s how my vision has been formed coming in to Orthodoxy where I did. Yet, history backs me up: even intercommunion happened until rather recently. Among the Laity it ossified into the current practice only in the last 200-300 years depending on where you were. Intercommunion continues today in the Muslim lands where any Christian priest shows up and serves liturgy for everyone.

Since my parents moved here, I’ve visited the local Orthodox parish, which has Sunday liturgies, only. Nothing else happens save for a vespers service once a month for confession. The priest doesn’t live here. It’s a small parish, I get that. But visiting my parents from time to time, I’ve always been thankful that this was not my regular parish. So, when I got here for full-time living, I was really worried about what would become of me. I visited my parent’s UMC, and then I discovered St Anne’s Roman Catholic Church. After going for a while, sneaking in and listening to sermons and then sneaking out without shaking hands… I was impressed with the, forgive me, Orthodoxy, of the place as well as the social life, the justice activity, the spiritual life of the parish. While I have not been received into the Roman Church nor partaken of Sacraments, I have been “getting fed” at Holy Mass, adult ed, weekly Rosary, Bible study, and RCIA class.  As an Orthodox Christian, I don’t need to do any of that stuff: Roman teaching is that I could take communion without “switching”. But I do not.

Being back in SF will mean I could go back to my beloved OCA Cathedral Parish for six months. But right now I’m feeling ambivalent about that: being in SF also means that I could attend a daily Latin mass or, at least, a weekly one at Star of the Sea Parish.

So, that’s where I am now. Right now what weighs on me most heavily is the fact that in 6 months at the monastery, I’ve only been to confession once – and not at all since leaving. I miss communion. I miss the sacraments.

I have not felt able to commit to social justice work either because all my energy has been devoted to the Job Search and I never knew where I would be in all that time, from week to week. It has been depressing, the only light being multiple weekly visits to St Anne’s. Now, thanks be to God, I shall spend 6 Months in San Francisco on assignment before coming back here. At which time I will make room in my life – as my Dad does – for homeless outreach and other things, being the hands and feet of Christ in the world.
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Asking your prayers.