31 December 2008

The Feast of the Ministry of the Forerunner

Today, December 31st, marks the next to last day of the Nativity Octave.  Today's focus is on the ministry of John the Forerunner.  In the Office of Readings today, Bede shared with us a timeless reflection on the nature of John's ministry.

From a Homily by Bede of Jarrow.

As forerunner of our Lord’s birth, preaching and death, the blessed John showed in his struggle a goodness worthy of the sight of heaven. In the words of Scripture: Though in the sight of men he suffered torments, his hope is full of immortality. We justly commemorate the day of his birth with a joyful celebration, a day which he himself made festive for us through his suffering and which he adorned with the crimson splendor of his own blood. We do rightly revere his memory with joyful hearts, for he stamped with the seal of martyrdom the testimony which he delivered on behalf of our Lord.

There is no doubt that blessed John suffered imprisonment and chains as a witness to our Redeemer, whose forerunner he was, and gave his life for him. His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless, he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: I am the truth? Therefore, because John shed his blood for the truth, he surely died for Christ.

Through his birth, preaching and baptizing, he bore witness to the coming birth, preaching and baptism of Christ, and by his own suffering he showed that Christ also would suffer.

Such was the quality and strength of the man who accepted the end of this present life by shedding his blood after the long imprisonment. He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men; he was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life and deserved to be called a bright and shining lamp by that Light itself, which is Christ. John was baptized in his own blood, though he had been privileged to baptize the Redeemer of the world, to hear the voice of the Father above him, and to see the grace of the Holy Spirit descending upon him. But to endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather it was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward.

Since death was ever near at hand through the inescapable necessity of nature, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake. He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that his chosen ones should suffer for him: The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.

30 December 2008

Exciting News: New Addition to our Family

Taking a momentary break from reflections on the Nativity Octave, I'd like to invite all of our readers to say hello to Coco, the newest addition to the Lyons household.  She was born at the end of July, so she is getting ready for her 5 month mark.  She is a black lab mix (though we have no idea what the other part of her might be).  More on her later, together with a fuller story about how Coco came to be with us... but for now, a photograph will have to suffice.

The Feast of our Lord in the Temple

Just a few days to go in the Octave of Christmas, and today our Liturgy and Readings focus on the finding of our Lord in the Temple.

From a Sermon of Bernard of Clairvaux.

"The goodness and humanity of God our Savior have appeared in our midst." We thank God for the many consolations he has given us during our pilgrimage here on earth. Before the Son of God became man his goodness was hidden, for God's mercy is eternal, but how could such goodness be recognized? It was promised, but it was not experienced, and as a result few believed in it. "Often and in many ways the Lord used to speak through the prophets." Among other things, God said: "I think thoughts of peace and not of affliction." But how did men respond, thinking thoughts of affliction and knowing nothing of peace? They said: "Peace, peace, there is no peace." This response made the angels of peace weep bitterly, saying "Lord, who has believed our message?" But now men believe because they see with their own eyes, and because God's testimony has now become even more credible. He has gone so far as to "pitch his tent in the sun" so even the dimmest eyes see him. 

Notice that peace is not promised but sent to us; it is no longer deferred, it is given; peacae is not prophesied but achieved. It is as if God the Father sent upon the earth a purse full of him mercy. This purse was burst open during the Lord's passion to pour forth its hidden contents-the price of our redemption. It was only a small purse, but it was very full. As Scripture says, "A little child has been given us us, but in him dwells all the fullness of the divine nature." The fullness of time brought with it the fullness of divinity. God's Son came in the flesh so that mortal men could see and recognize God's kindness. When God reveals his humanity, his goodness cannot possibly remain hidden. To show his kindness what more could he do beyond taking my human form? My humanity, I say, not Adam's-that is, not such as he had before the fall. 

How could he have shown his mercy more clearly than by taking on himself our condition? For our sake the Word of God becamae as grass. What better proof could he have given of his love? Scripture says, "Lord, what is man that you are mindful of him; why does your heart go out to him? The incarnation teaches us how much God cares for us and what he thinks and feels about us. We shoud stop thinking of our own sufferings and remember what he has suffered. Let us think of all the Lord has done for us, and then we shall realize how his goodness apppears through his humanity. The lesser he became through his human nature the greater was his goodness; the more he lowered himself for me, the dearer he is to me. "The goodness and humanity of God our Savior have appeared" says the Apostle. 

Truly great and manifest are the goodness and humanity of God.  He has given us a most wonderful proof of his goodness by adding humanity to his own divine nature.

29 December 2008

The Feast of the Holy Innocents

With apologies for the late posting... today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, and as a devotional aid, the following excerpt from today's Office of Readings is provided for your enjoyment.

From a Sermon by Quodvultdeus.

A tiny child is born, who is a great king. Wise men are led to him from afar. They come to adore one who lies in a manger and yet reigns in heaven and on earth. When they tell of one who is born a king, Herod is disturbed. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill him, though if he would have faith in the child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and for ever in the life to come.


Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this you are disturbed and in a rage, and to destroy one child whom you seek, you show your cruelty in the death of so many children.


You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the deaths of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are seeking to kill Life himself.


Yet your throne is threatened by the source of grace, so small, yet so great, who is lying in the manger. He is using you, all unaware of it, to work out his own purposes freeing souls from captivity to the devil. He has taken up the sons of the enemy into the ranks of God’s adopted children.


The children die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to himself. See the kind of kingdom that is his, coming as he did in order to be this kind of king. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the savior already working salvation.


But you, Herod, do not know this and are disturbed and furious. While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying him homage, and do not know it.


How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.

28 December 2008

The Feast of the Visitation of the Magi

Today, on the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas, we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation of the Magi, one of our Lord's first manifestations to the Gentile world.

From a Sermon of Leo of Rome.

The loving providence of God determined that in the last days he would aid the world, set on its course to destruction. He decreed that all nations should be saved in Christ.


A promise had been made to the holy patriarch Abraham in regard to these nations. He was to have a countless progeny, born not from his body but from the seed of faith. His descendants are therefore compared with the array of the stars. The father of all nations was to hope not in an earthly progeny but in a progeny from above.


Let the full number of the nations now take their place in the family of the patriarchs. Let the children of the promise now receive the blessing in the seed of Abraham, the blessing renounced by the children of his flesh. In the persons of the Magi let all people adore the Creator of the universe; let God be known, not in Judaea only, but in the whole world, so that his name may be great in all Israel.


Dear friends, now that we have received instruction in this revelation of God’s grace, let us celebrate with spiritual joy the day of our first harvesting, of the first calling of the Gentiles. Let us give thanks to the merciful God, who has made us worthy, in the words of the Apostle, to share the position of the saints in light, who has rescued us from the power of darkness, and brought us into the kingdom of his beloved Son. As Isaiah prophesied: the people of the Gentiles, who sat in darkness, have seen a great light, and for those who dwelt in the region of the shadow of death a light has dawned. He spoke of them to the Lord: The Gentiles, who do not know you, will invoke you, and the peoples, who knew you not, will take refuge in you.


This is the day that Abraham saw, and rejoiced to see, when he knew that the sons born of his faith would be blessed in his seed, that is, in Christ. Believing that he would be the father of the nations, he looked into the future, giving glory to God, in full awareness that God is able to do what he has promised.


This is the day that David prophesied in the psalms, when he said: All the nations that you have brought into being will come and fall down in adoration in your presence, Lord, and glorify your name. Again, the Lord has made known his salvation; in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.


This came to be fulfilled, as we know, from the time when the star beckoned the three wise men out of their distant country and led them to recognise and adore the King of heaven and earth. The obedience of the star calls us to imitate its humble service: to be servants, as best we can, of the grace that invites all men to find Christ.


Dear friends, you must have the same zeal to be of help to one another; then, in the kingdom of God, to which faith and good works are the way, you will shine as children of the light: through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with God the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

27 December 2008

The Feast of the Presentation of our Lord

Three days now into the Octave of Christmas, we recall the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple at Jerusalem, together with the Purification of his Mother, Mary.  Traditionally, this feast was/is celebrated on February 2nd, but in our rite it is celebrated as a part of the Christmas feast, which culminates on January 1st in the celebration of the Theophany of our Lord - his Baptism.  This is done to provide a feastal time during this week that is focused on God, as opposed to the many other emphases in this time that can draw us away from the Lord.

From a Sermon of Sophronius of Jerusalem.

Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendor of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ.
 

The Mother of God, the most pure Virgin, carried the true light in her arms and brought him to those who lay in darkness. We too should carry a light for all to see and reflect the radiance of the true light as we hasten to meet him.


The light has come and has shone upon a world enveloped in shadows;the Dayspring from on high has visited us and given light to those who lived in darkness. This, then, is our feast, and we join in procession with lighted candles to reveal the light that has shone upon us and the glory that is yet to come to us through him. So let us hasten all together to meet our God.

The true light has come, the light that enlightens every man who is born into this world. Let all of us, my brethren, be enlightened and made radiant by this light. Let all of us share in its splendor, and be so filled with it that no one remains in the darkness. Let us be shining ourselves as we go together to meet and to receive with the aged Simeon the light whose brilliance is eternal. Rejoicing with Simeon, let us sing a hymn of thanksgiving to God, the Father of the light, who sent the true light to dispel the darkness and to give us all a share in his splendor.

Through Simeon’s eyes we too have seen the salvation of God which he prepared for all the nations and revealed as the glory of the new Israel, which is ourselves. As Simeon was released from the bonds of this life when he had seen Christ, so we too were at once freed from our old state of sinfulness.

By faith we too embraced Christ, the salvation of God the Father, as he came to us from Bethlehem. Gentiles before, we have now become the people of God. Our eyes have seen God incarnate, and because we have seen him present among us and have mentally received him into our arms, we are called the new Israel. Never shall we forget this presence; every year we keep a feast in his honor.

26 December 2008

The Feast of the Circumcision of our Lord

Today is the second day of our Nativity Octave in the Primitive Catholic rite, with a celebration of the Circumcision of our Lord.  Of course, it was on this day that the Messiah recieved his name, Jesus, the name spoken by the angel in Joseph's dream.  As a part of the feast, I share with you a selection from today's Office of Readings.

From a Sermon by Leo, Bishop of Rome.

God’s Son did not disdain to become a baby. Although with the passing of the years he moved from infancy to maturity, and although with the triumph of his passion and resurrection all the actions of humility which he undertook for us were finished, still today’s festival renews for us the holy childhood of Jesus born of the Virgin Mary. In adoring the birth of our Saviour, we find we are celebrating the commencement of our own life, for the birth of Christ is the source of life for Christian folk, and the birthday of the Head is the birthday of the body. 
Every individual that is called has his own place, and all the sons of the Church are separated from one another by intervals of time. Nevertheless, just as the entire body of the faithful is born in the font of baptism, crucified with Christ in his passion, raised again in his resurrection, and placed at the Father’s right hand in his ascension, so with Him are they born in this nativity.

For this is true of any believer in whatever part of the world, that once he is reborn in Christ he abandons the old paths of his original nature and passes into a new man by being reborn. He is no longer counted as part of his earthly father’s stock but among the seed of the Saviour, who became the Son of man in order that we might have the power to be the sons of God. 

For unless He came down to us in this humiliation, no one could reach his presence by any merits of his own. 
The very greatness of the gift conferred demands of us reverence worthy of its splendour. For, as the blessed Apostle teaches, We have received not the spirit of this world but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know the things which are given us by God. That Spirit can in no other way be rightly worshipped, except by offering him that which we received from him. 

But in the treasures of the Lord’s bounty what can we find so suitable to the honour of the present feast as the peace which at the Lord’s nativity was first proclaimed by the angel-choir? 
For it is that peace which brings forth the sons of God. That peace is the nurse of love and the mother of unity, the rest of the blessed and our eternal home. That peace has the special task of joining to God those whom it removes from the world.

So those who are born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man but of God must offer to the Father the unanimity of peace-loving sons, and all of them, adopted parts of the mystical Body of Christ, must meet in the First-begotten of the new creation. He came to do not his own will but the will of the one who sent him; and so too the Father in his gracious favour has adopted as his heirs not those that are discordant nor those that are unlike him, but those that are one with him in feeling and in affection. Those who are re-modelled after one pattern must have a spirit like the model. 

The birthday of the Lord is the birthday of peace: for thus says the Apostle, He is our peace, who made both one; because whether we are Jew or Gentile, through Him we have access in one Spirit to the Father.

25 December 2008

The Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord

To all of the readers here at StellarCross, I wish you and yours a Merry and Joyful Christmas feast. Today, as we celebrate that day on the Church's calendar that has been traditionally associated with Christ's birth, I share with you a selection from today's Office of Readings.


From a Sermon by Leo, Bishop of Rome.

Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness. No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life.

In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind. And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy: Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to men of good will as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvellous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?

Beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, because in his great love for us he took pity on us, and when we were dead in our sins he brought us to life with Christ, so that in him we might be a new creation. Let us throw off our old nature and all its ways and, as we have come to birth in Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh.

Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom. Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ.

21 December 2008

Advent 6: The Annunciation of our Lord to Joseph

Today is the final Sunday of the Advent season, marked by the story of Joseph's encounter with an angel who announces to him the impending birth of the Messiah. In today's Office of Readings, we hear from Sermon 2 on Saint Joseph, composed by Bernadine of Siena, a Franciscian friar. In this work, Bernadine casts Joseph in a similar light with John the Forerunner - as the turning point between the Old and New Covenants of God.


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From a Sermon of Bernardine of Siena.

A general rule that applies to all individual graces given to a rational creature is that whenever divine grace selects someone to receive a particular grace or elevated state, all the gifts for his state are given to that person.

This was verified in a particular way in the case of Joseph, a great and holy man, foster-father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and true husband of Mary. He was chosen by the eternal Father to be a faithful provider and guardian of the most precious treasures of God – his Son and his spouse – and Joseph carried out this task with great fidelity.

A comparison can be made between Joseph and the whole Church of Christ. Joseph was the specially chosen man through whom and under whom Christ entered the world fittingly and in an appropriate way. So, if the whole Church is in the debt of the Virgin Mary, since, through her, it was able to receive the Christ, surely after her, it also owes to Joseph a particular gratitude and reverence.

Joseph is the terminus of the Old Testament in whom the dignity of the prophets and patriarchs achieves its promised fulfillment. Moreover; he alone possessed in the flesh what God in his goodness promised to them over and again.

It is beyond doubt that Christ did not deny to Joseph in heaven that intimacy, respect, and high honor which he showed to him as to a father during his own earthly life, but rather completed and perfected it. Justifiably the words of the Lord should be applied to him, “Enter into the joy of your Lord.” Although it is the joy of eternal happiness that comes into the heart of man, the Lord prefers to say to him “enter into joy’ to indicate mystically that this joy is not only within him, but that it surrounds him everywhere and absorbs him, as if he were plunged into an infinite depth.

14 December 2008

Advent 5: The Ancestors of our Lord

Today is the Fifth Sunday of Advent. "Fifth Sunday, you say?" Fret not. The calendar of the Syriac Churches (and of the Ambrosian rite, as well as some other historical western rites) feature a longer Advent season.

Today's readings pose an interesting look at the nature of faith and how justification by faith through grace truly operates. We are reminded in our Lord's genealogy (from the Gospel at today's Divine Liturgy) of the many sinner-saints who stand in our Lord's worldly lineage.

In the Office of Readings today, we once again hear from Augustine of Hippo (Sermon 185) who reminds us that it is God's grace that the Ancestors of our Lord needed for salvation, just as we do as well.



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From a Sermon of Augustine of Hippo.
(Sermon 185)

Awake! For your sake God has taken on our flesh. “Awake, you who sleep, rise from the dead, and Christ will bring you new light.” I reiterate, for your sake, God became man!

You would have suffered eternal death if he had not been born among us in time. You would have never found freedom from sinful flesh if he had not taken upon himself our nature. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness if it had not been for his great mercy. You would never have been reborn if he had not shared your death. You would have been lost had he not come to your aid. Likewise, if he had not come, you would have perished.

So, let us joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption! “He has become our righteousness, our sanctification, our redemption.” Thus, as it is written, “All you who glory, glory in the Lord.”

“Truth, then, has arisen from the earth”: Christ himself, who said, “I am the truth” was born of a virgin. “And righteousness looked down from heaven”: because believing in this newborn child, we are justified not by ourselves but by God.

“Truth has arisen from the earth”: because “the Word was made flesh. And righteousness looked down from heaven”: because “every good and perfect gift comes from above.”

“Truth has arisen from the earth”: flesh from Mary. “And righteousness looked down from heaven”: for “you can receive nothing unless it has been given to you from heaven.”

“Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God”: for “righteousness and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ”: for “Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory.” He does not say, “of our glory,” but “of God’s glory”: for “righteousness” has not proceeded from us but has “looked down from heaven.” Therefore let those who glory, glory not in themselves but “in the Lord.”

For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angels was “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.” How could peace reign on earth unless “Truth has arisen from the earth,” that is, unless Christ was born of our flesh?

Let us rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says, “He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head.” For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the Son of Man, so that we might in turn become children and heirs of God?

Ask if this were merited.
Ask for its reason and justification.
Behold, your only answer is grace.

07 December 2008

Advent 4: The Birth of John the Forerunner

Today the Church celebrates the Fourth Sunday of Advent, which marks (in the Syriac tradition) the Birth of our Lord's Forerunner - John. Today's Office of Readings features a reading on the Forerunner, taken from Sermon 293 of Augustine of Hippo.



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From a Sermon of Augustine of Hippo.

The Church observes the birth of John as in a holy event. We do not celebrate the birth of any of the other fathers, but we do celebrate the birthdays of both both John and Christ. This point cannot be passed over silently. Perhaps I may not be able to explain it in the way that such an important matter deserves, but it is still worth thinking about it a little more deeply and fruitfully than usual.

John was born of an old, barren woman; Christ was born of a youthful virgin. The news of John’s impending birth was met with incredulity, and his father is dumb-struck; Christ’s birth was believed, and he was conceived by faith.

Such is the topic, as I have presented it, for our discussion and study. I have introduced these points even if we are not capable of examining all the twists and turns of such a great mystery, either for lack of capacity or for lack of time. You will be taught much better by the Holy Spirit, the One who speaks in you even when I am not here. (It is the Spirit whom you contemplate with devotion, whom you have taken into your hearts, and whose temple you have become.)

John, it seems, has been inserted as a kind of boundary between the two Testaments, the Old and the New. Our Lord indicates as much when he says, “The law and the prophets were until John.” Thus, John represents the old and heralds the new. Because he represents the old, he is born of an elderly couple; because he represents the new, he is revealed as a prophet in his mother’s womb. You will remember that, before he was born, at Mary’s arrival he leapt in his mother’s womb. Already he had been marked out, designated before he was born; it was already shown whose forerunner he would be, even before he saw him (with his eyes). These are divine matters, and exceed the measure of human frailty. Eventually, he is born, he receives a name, and his father’s tongue is loosed.

Zechariah is struck dumb and loses his voice, until John, the Lord’s forerunner, is born and releases his voice for him. What does Zechariah’s silence mean? The silence of Zechariah is nothing but the age of prophecy laying hidden – obscured, as it were – and concealed before the preaching of Christ. At John’s arrival his voice is released, and it becomes clear when the one who was being prophesied is about to come. The releasing of Zechariah’s voice at John’s birth has the same significance as the tearing of the veil of the Temple at the crucifixion of Christ. If John were meant to proclaim himself, he would not be opening Zechariah’s mouth. The tongue is released because a voice is being born – for when John was already heralding the Lord, he was asked, “Who are you” and he replied “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”

John was a voice that lasted only for a time.

Christ, who is the Word from before all time, is eternal.

30 November 2008

Advent 3: The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth

Today we celebrate the Third Sunday of the Advent season, commemorating the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, and of Christ Jesus to his Forerunner, John. Often times the latter portion of this great mystery remains unspoken, but in today's Office of Readings, Ambrose of Milan's words from his Commentary on Luke speak eloquently of the double visitation that occured on that day in the Judean highlands.



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From a Commentary on the Gospel of Luke by Ambrose of Milan.

When the angel revealed his message to the Virgin Mary he gave her a sign to win her trust. He told her of the motherhood of an old and barren woman to show that God is able to do all that he wills.

When Mary hears this, she sets out for the hill country. She does not disbelieve God’s word; she feels no uncertainty over the message or doubt about the sign. She goes forth, eager in purpose, dutiful in conscience, hastening for joy.

Filled with God, where would she rush but to the heights? The Holy Spirit does not proceed by slow, laborious efforts. Quickly, too, the blessings of her coming and the Lord’s presence are made clear: as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting the child leapt in her womb, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Notice the contrast and the choice of words. Elizabeth is the first to hear Mary’s voice, but John is the first to be aware of grace. She hears with the ears of the body, but he leaps for joy at the meaning of the mystery. She is aware of Mary’s presence, but he is aware of the Lord’s: a woman aware of a woman’s presence, the forerunner aware of the pledge of our salvation. The women speak of the grace they have received while the children are active in secret, unfolding the mystery of love with the help of their mothers, who prophesy by the spirit of their sons.

The child leaps in the womb; the mother is filled with the Holy Spirit, but not before her son. Once the son has been filled with the Holy Spirit, he fills his mother with the same Spirit. John leaps for joy, and the spirit of Mary rejoices in turn. When John leaps for joy Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, but we know that though Mary’s spirit rejoices, she does not need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Her son, who is beyond our understanding, is active in his mother in a way beyond our understanding. Elizabeth is filled with the Holly Spirit after conceiving John, while Mary is filled with the Holy Spirit before conceiving the Lord. Elizabeth says: Blessed are you because you have believed.

You also are blessed because you have heard and believed. A soul that believes both conceives and brings forth the Word of God and acknowledges his works.

Let Mary’s soul be in each of you to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let her spirit be in each of you to rejoice in the Lord. Christ has only one mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ in faith. Every soul receives the Word of God if only it keeps chaste, remaining pure and free from sin, its modesty undefiled. The soul that succeeds in this proclaims the greatness of the Lord, just as Mary’s soul magnified the Lord; just as her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior.

Elsewhere in Scripture we hear the words “Magnify the Lord with me”. The Lord is magnified, not because our voice can add anything to God, but because he is magnified within us. Christ is the image of God, and if the soul does what is right and holy, it magnifies that image of God, in whose likeness it was created and, in magnifying the image of God, the soul has a share in its greatness and is exalted.

23 November 2008

Advent 2: The Annunciation of our Lord to Mary

Today is the second of six Advent Sundays in the calendar of the Church year of many Syriac Churches, and in our own local calendar. Our readings retell the marvelous day of the Incarnation, when Christ Jesus was made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

Instead of giving you my own words today, I would like to share words that are far wiser and more ancient than anything I could come up with on my own. These words are taken from today's Office of Readings, and come from a letter penned by Leo of Rome (i.e., Leo the Great) to Flavian.

***

Majesty took on humility, strength weakness, eternity mortality; and for the paying off of the debt belonging to our condition a nature that is incapable of suffering was joined to one that could. Thus, in keeping with the needs of our case , one and the same Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, was able to die in one nature, and unable to die in the other.

Thus in the whole and perfect nature of true man was true God born, complete in what was his own, complete in what was ours. And by ours we mean what the Creator formed in us from the beginning and what he undertook to repair. For what the Deceiver brought in and man, being misled, committed, had no trace in the Savior. Though he partook of man’s weaknesses, he did not share our faults.

He took the form of a slave without stain of sin, increasing the human and not diminishing the divine. He emptied himself; though invisible he made himself visible, though Creator and Lord of all things he chose to share our mortality. This was the condescension of pity, not the loss of omnipotence. Accordingly he who while remaining in the form of God made man, was also made man in the form of a slave. Both natures retain their own proper character without loss: and as the form of God did not do away with the form of a slave, so the form of a slave did not impair the form of God. Thus the Son of God enters into our lowly world, descending from his heavenly home and yet not relinquishing his Father's glory. He is born in a new condition, by a new birth.

He was born in a new condition, for, invisible in his own nature, he became visible in ours. He whom nothing could contain was content to be contained. Existing before all time, he began to exist at a moment in time. Lord of the cosmos, he obscured his immeasurable majesty and took upon himself the form of a servant. Incapable, as God, of suffering, he did not disdain our humanity which is capable of suffering. Immortal, he chose to be subject to the laws of death.

The Lord Jesus assumed his mother’s nature without her faults; and, in spite of his wonderous virgin birth, his human nature is not unlike our own. He who is true God is also true man. There is no falsehood in this unity as long as the humility of manhood and the loftiness of the Godhead co-exist together.

As God is not changed by the showing of pity, man is not swallowed up by God’s dignity. Both natures exercises its own activity, in unity with the other. The Word performs what is proper to the Word, and the flesh performs what is proper to the flesh. One nature shines forth with miracles, while the other succumbs to injuries. And as the Word does not loose equality with the Father’s glory, so the flesh does not leave behind the nature of our race. It must again and again be repeated: one and the same is truly Son of God and truly Son of Man.

God in that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”; man in that “the Word became flesh and dwelt in us.” God in that “all things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made”; man in that “He was made of a woman, made under law.”

The nativity of the flesh was the manifestation of human nature: the childbearing of a virgin is the proof of Divine power.

21 November 2008

New Review at TrekMovie.com

Delayed by fire and a need to reship the book, my review of the final installment of the Destiny trilogy, "Lost Souls" hit the web yesterday over at TrekMovie.com. Enjoy!

17 November 2008

Because Some Things Just Won't Die

TrekMovie.com has just posted a new promo that will begin running in December for the 're-mastered' Star Trek: Original Series episodes that are now avaliable in syndication.

I'll definately keep my original discs, but this promo is just too funny to pass up.

16 November 2008

Advent 1: The Annunciation of John the Forerunner

Today, those of us who are beginning Advent are celebrating the Annunciation and Conception of John the Forerunner. I wanted to draw your attention to an outstanding and timely homily on the topic at the website of St. George Orthodox Christian Cathedral in Wichita, Kansas.

You can read the homily at this link.
Over the next several weeks, we will be hearing about the unfolding of our Lord's first Advent on the Sundays of the season, while recalling that his second Advent is immanent throughout the weekdays that follow.
May God bless you and your families during this Advent Season.

03 November 2008

Things Come, Things Go, but God Stays the Same

It's been one heck of a day.  I was planning to blog about the Colts beating my Patriots last night, but a local television station can tell you more about why that post is not being made today...  CLICK HERE

I was at home when the fire started, but was given warning by the Fire Department and evacuated.  Our apartment suffered extensive smoke damage (read: everything stinks!) but we have been moved to a temporary residence tonight, and have already had a washer installed (with furniture on its way).  

My hats off to the firefighters who responded from Franklin Township and the Beech Grove Fire Department (I thought I may have seen one other department there... but I am not sure).  Nobody was hurt.  God was watching out for us today, and while our couch may stink, and our main work for the next week will be washing clothes, we have our lives and our health... and in the end, that's enough for me.

To that end, please pardon me if, for the next several days I am somewhat quiet... but we have a lot of work to get done.  We are planning on moving our closing date up a few days (as much as we can) and we actually have a place to go.  Please be in prayer for those who do not.

30 October 2008

Update

Regular readers of the blog will note that I have been quite quiet as of late.  In fact, it's been more than a month since my last posting.  It has been a busy month, so I do beg your pardon and indulgence.  A lot has been happening.

During October I travelled to Nashville, Tennessee to attend the fourth annual National Learning Congress for Organ Donation and Transplantation.  This was my second trip to the event, and I found it to be even better than last year.  I visited a few friends and my bishop while I was in Tennessee, and I hope to head back that way again soon.

We have also learned in the past month that our closing date on the house has to move up... about three weeks.  We are now closing on the day before Thanksgiving, with Kristen and I slated to paint our way through the holiday (with a break for a turkey cold cut, or some other dinner... it would be kinda neat to have my first cooking experience in the new house be on Thanksgiving Day!).  As you can imagine, our nice schedule is now wrecked, so we will be very busy making up for three weeks of lost time... and trying to figure out exactly what we can live without so we can get stuff boxed up ASAP.  The photo accompanying this post is the house as it existed a few weeks ago.  As of tonight, the heating and air, plumbing, flooring, painting, siding, electricity, and even garage door are substantially complete.  It's time for touchups inside, and we have a pre-settlement meeting in less than two weeks.  About all that remains is installing our appliances, fixing some paint issues, and some drywall repairs.  Our yard has even been sodded (well, the front...) and trees planted.  Amazing!

My latest review was posted last week over at TrekMovie.com.  This time, it was for the second book of the Star Trek Destiny trilogy, "Mere Mortals".  I am now reading the third book and prepping for that review to run in early November.  

So, all in all, it has been a busy month.  The next month will be even busier still, though I hope to have time to put together some new content in the coming weeks.  After the first of the year, I should have substantially more time free to blog and write, as the house construction phase will be ended and things will have calmed down.

29 September 2008

Some Railings on the RCL

Yesterday, my wife and I visited a Church in our neighborhood (relatively speaking).

But this post isn’t about the congregation, or the pastor, or the way they conducted the service. While I could choose to write on those topics, I won’t.

This post is, instead, focused on the contemporary western Lectionary, the Revised Common Lectionary… and my continued contempt for it.

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) is the Protestant version of the western Lectionary that was prepared in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. As a result, with amendments here and there, the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran world (together with a smattering of Presbyterians, Methodists, United Church of Christ folks, and others) use, essentially, the same readings every week. (Within the RCL itself, two varying tracks -unlike the Roman lectionary- which allow for either loosely thematic or semi-continuous readings from the Old Testament during most of Ordinary Time.)

During the Sunday service I attended, the second reading (the Epistle) was utterly ignored. It wasn’t given a second thought or mention in the homily, and probably by the congregation. The first reading didn’t fare much better. Only the Gospel got any real substantial face time in the homily.

Scripture scholars and liturgists have, over the years, decried placing the Scriptures into ‘artificial’ thematic constructs, but I have to ask the question… Why?

As we look around the Christian world today and assess the landscape, what do we see? Large numbers of people falling away from essential truths, truths that often get glossed over because of our rush to focus on the Gospel in the homily (or at least the predominant theme) because of a duty to the words of Jesus (or the overarching theme). The moral teachings of Paul, Peter, James, and Jude often get overlooked as the ‘third-wheel reading’ that they are (and heaven forbid that the Psalm get a mention!).

Consider this a plea for, at least in the west, returning to thematic pericopes for the proclamation of Scripture in the midst of the assembly. I understand and embrace the desire for a more comprehensive lectionary in the Church (personally, I prefer a 4 year cycle), but the RCL and modern Roman Lectionaries fail... the only redeemable version of the so-called Common Lectionary that I can even come close to endorsing is the one from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod's new Christian Worship Supplement, which does radical surgery on the three year lectionary and ensures that more themes are present.

26 September 2008

The Trinity...

Someone recently asked a question in an online forum about where the Word of God teaches the word of the Trinity. I thought I would share my answer.


The Trinity, as others have shared, has a long and storied (and perhaps sordid) history. The term Trinity does not begin to appear until the latter part of the third century, though the writers are clearly struggling to understand the concepts revealed in Scripture, for better or for worse.

One of the key supports for the concept of Jesus' divinity is found in the Gospels. The prologue of John's Gospel specifically tells us:"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." and later "...the Word became flesh and lived among us..." (see John 1). John 1:1 literally teaches that God took on flesh and pitched his tent (tabernacled, dwelt) among us in the person of Jesus Christ. This can and has been interpreted in many different ways over the centuries.

No matter how you interpret it, it clearly teaches that in some fashion, in the person of Jesus Christ, God and man have been united. To the Trinitarian, it is inconceivable that the Father ceased to exist when Christ was made incarnate, as witnessed by the fact that Jesus prayed to the Father often during his earthly ministry.

Trinitarians will also point out the nature of the word Elohim, present in Genesis 1:1, as being plural and singular at the same time, as well as the mention of the Spirit in the creation narrative. As a result, the best explanation is that God is one, while possessing three different persons. (Sidenote: If Elohim is properly understood as singular and plural at the same time, than does not the choice of words teach us the concept of the Trinity? It is not an insinuation if, in fact, Elohim is as Biblical scholars accept it to be.)

Is this the best or most adequate explanation? Surely not. In fact, no explanation we offer can be perfect. Modalism fails us... Arianism fails us... every attempt to define the nature of the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit fail us as Christians, because our limited human comprehension and language simply cannot get wrapped around the true majesty of God and his nature.

So in the end, while Councils and Creeds have mandated the Trinitarian belief in the mainline Church, those of us on the margins who who accept the Trinity accept it because it is the best explanation we can come up with for what we see in the Scriptures. At the same time, we must admit that we fall short in even this description and acknowledge that the true nature and depth of God is a mystery far too great for us to understand or comprehend on this side of eternity.

24 September 2008

What an Embarassment

In his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column over at ESPN, Gregg Easterbrook displayed his obviously irritated view on the state of the American economy, and the Federal Government's role in wrecking it. Of all of his comments, I found the following words to be the most telling (and damning) of all:

"And about that $700 billion about to the shoveled to the Wall Street elite -- in 2007, George W. Bush vetoed an increase of $7 billion per year in health care spending for the poor, saying the country couldn't afford it."


You can read the entire article at this link.

We can't afford to provide health care to the poor, but we can afford to continue to dole out money to financial fat-cats who live lives that, essentially, thrive on charging absurd levels of usury for the privilige of borrowing money for basic needs like shelter and transportation. I don't ever want to hear someone extolling the virtues of either George Bush or the American Congress again. EVER.

Will I continue to pray for our civil leaders? Of course. They obviously need it. But once again, the current mindset in power in Washington, one that believes that $7 Billion dollars is too much to spend on health care for the poor, but believes that $700 Billion (or more!) is the least we can do for the financial sector, is obviously pure evil. If we aren't going to bail out the poor who can't afford health care, then we shouldn't be bailing out the financial sector either.

Sure, failing to bail them out will affect us all... and in a bad way. But you know what... most of the classic modes of stimulating the economy have failed dismally of late. Bush and Congress have sent us extra tax rebates (or, more recently, cash advance against next year's taxes) from time to time. Fail. Bush managed to start a war... that usually works. Fail. The pair of em' have poured boatloads of money into various financial bailout plans. Fail. Fail. Fail
George Bush: You fail.
Congress: You fail.
American People: You fail too.

Yes, that's right. It's not just the government to blame however. Did you all really believe it when you got those stupid door hangers on your apartment that claimed you could own your home cheaper than what you were paying for apartment rent? Sure, if you were paying between $900 and $1200 in rent (at least around here) you could have owned a home... but those stupid hangers were on HUD and other lower-income housing doorknobs. And people fell for it; hook, line, and sinker. Instead of stopping to think for two minutes about the real cost of owning a home, people went out and made several bottom barrel homebuilders a quick buck, only to turn around three or for years later and face foreclosure because their property taxes went up, utilities were too high, or because they had to choose between paying for their new Plasma TV or their house.

We've all failed. In what is supposed to be the most prosperous nation on the face of the earth, we have all failed horribly. We have been terrible stewards of the fiscal gifts that God has given us... and, to be honest, if the bottom tanks out, as disappointed as I would be that it might affect my plans to buy a house, I think we only deserve it.

22 September 2008

Christmas in... Tishrei?

Late last year, I shared an article about recomputing the Christian calendar based on a more plausible sequence of events - specifically as it surrounds the celebration of Christ's birth. As I noted then:

When was Christ born? It is my belief that the best avaliable evidence tells us
that it was 29 September 2 BC (15 Tishrei 3760), which was the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles that year. What a magnificent day for our Savior to Tabernacle among us (as John 1 teaches)! An alternate date, especially if adopting an earlier Crucifixion date, would be 29 September 5 BC (15 Tishrei 3763).


I am not so much worried about the date on our civil calendar as I am the date on the Hebrew Calendar. This year, 15 Tishrei falls in October (sunset on the 13th to sunset on the 14th according to our civil calendar) and thus that would give us Christmas in October.

Theologically, the connection with Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) is striking (as noted in the above quote), so this year, in my home, I will be celebrating the Nativity of our Lord in October. I'll still (begrudgingly) celebrate a public service at the hospital in December, but for me, it's Christmas in Tishrei... ur... October... at least this year.

18 September 2008

Don't ask... I don't know why

Truly, I have no clue why I decided to join Facebook last night. (I must have been bored.) But since I did... well... if you are a fellow Facebooker (is that what we are supposed to call ourselves?) feel free to hunt me down, link up, and subscribe to my site!

Would you... Diatesseron?

Sounds weird, eigh? Actually, the Diatesseron, written by a chap named Tatian, is the earliest Gospel Harmony for which we have an account. It consists of pretty much the entire text of the four Gospels harmonized in what was, at the time, believed to be the correct chronological order. All four texts are melded into a single account.

What was the Diatesseron used for? Well, as best we can tell, it was the liturgical Gospel text for the Syriac Church well into the fifth century. Later, the Peshitta version began to take hold, and the Gospels were separated in the Christian far east, but the memory of the Diatesseron was long... and it is, in its way, still with us today.

The question, though, is... would you Diatesseron. In other words, would you, dear reader, elect to proclaim the Gospels in the Sunday liturgy of your own congregation in a Diatesseron-like format? To be honest, I would.

One of the most common arguments against such a practice today is the notion that each of the four Gospels was written to a particular audience. Such is a true statement. However, if we are realistic, we - you and I - are not the audience that the Gospels were written to, at least not in the linguistic and contextual sense. With a properly prepared Diatesseron in clear, modern English, we could provide an outstanding Gospel text that would shine through for the contemporary reader.

Such a text would have to be well footnoted, to ensure that differences in the Gospels were not lost, and that readers could easily locate them in a regular Bible. But my concern is more for the regular reading of the Gospels in the Church than it is the personal study undertaken by the Christian at home. And I, for one, would be more than comfortable adopting a Diatesseron-like Book of the Gospels for use in Christian worship.

So... would you Diatesseron?

17 September 2008

Humility in Worship does not Irreverence Make

I am sick to death of people trying to tell me that humility and simplicity in Christian Worship is the equivalent of irreverence.

In some recent comments, Pope Benedict XVI, speaking about the traditional Latin Mass, said, "Everyone, without exception, must be able to feel at home, and never (must he feel) rejected."  I find this to be a very interesting thing for him to have said.  In context, he is trying to preserve the unity of the Latin Rite of the Roman Church, but his words show a problem in the Church (Roman and others) today that it seems fundamentally impossible to resolve...

Let me give you an example.  Lets say, as a priest, that I gather a group of fifteen or twenty people together in a large circle around an altar.  I sit to preach.  We all hold hands for the Lord's Prayer.  I use a pottery chalice and paten (properly glazed!), and I administer the Eucharist in the hands of the individuals gathered together at the Altar.  Many will say that these carachterisics show me to be a liberal... or just utterly irreverent.

Another example.  I gather the same fifteen or twenty people.  They kneel through most of the service on the other side of an Altar rail.  I face east with them for almost all of the Liturgy.  I use a sterling silver chalice and paten that have been plated in gold, and I administer the Eucharist on the tongue of the communicants with a chin paten.  Many will say that these carachteristics show me to be a conservative... or deeply reverent.

I think it's time to challenge such notions.  I think it is perfectly possible to be reverent with a group assembled around a table in a home celebrating the Eucharist with guitar music and the work of a potter's hands holding the Body and Blood of Christ.  I believe it is equally possible to be absolutely irreverent, no matter how much you attempt to dress up the Liturgy.

Sadly, far too many people think that the only way to ensure reverence is to mandate a specific interpretation of the historic worship of the Church.  The Tridentine Mass, 1928 Book of Common Prayer, 1941 Lutheran Hymnal... none of them will ensure reverence or instruction in the truth on their own.  They are living liturgical rites, and the reverence and content is as much determined by those who participate in the worship as it is by those who clamor for their restoration (at times to the exclusion of other forms).

Scripture and the Church Fathers give us a pretty strong outline of the weekly worship of the Church, centered on Word and Sacrament.  How we execute it in heart and how it manifests itself in our lives is far more telling of the validity of the celebration and its content than if we use a gold or pottery chalice to celebrate.
 

13 September 2008

Shot Glass Jesus

"Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf."  
1 Corinthians 10: 16-17 (NLT)

I remember the old game of 'cooties'.  

To be honest, I am not sure it was so much a game as it was an excuse to run around and scream, but be that as it may.  The object was to avoid the fictional 'cooties' germ that, in my case, girls carried.  (Girls, of course, maintained that us boys had the germ.  So be it.)  By the time everyone got around the age of eight or ten, cooties became a tease.  I recall being at the house of a friend one muggy afternoon and being offered a sip from his glass of water.  Ick!  Why would I want to do that?  It was disgusting, right?  Yea, well... ten minutes later it wasn't so disgusting (or, perhaps, the muggy air was more disgusting).  Most of us, faced with a similar situation, would take a drink from someone elses' cup or can... so why is it that we find it so abhorrent to drink from the one cup of the Lord?

Now, to be sure, I am not talking about on the occassion when the bird flu is running rampant, or when half the parish has strep throat... but I am talking about the regular fear that many Christians have of drinking from the cup at the celebration of Communion.  

The common cup is a sign of the unity of the Church, the Body of Christ.  (I could get into a discussion here about the use of individual wafers, but I'll leave that for another time.)  In this day and age, our faith is becoming so personal that we almost loose a connection with the sense of community that is present in the Sacrament.  In the Eucharist, we are united with Jesus Christ in a deep, intimate way.  We share his true Body and Blood and are nourished with, as Ignatius put it, the 'medicine of immortality'.  All of us share the common illness (sin), and stand in need of the common cure (Christ's redemption).  

While I am loathe to get too deep into discussing the symbology of the Eucharist (for fear that you, dear reader, may think that I am trying to dismiss the Divine aspects of the Eucharist in favor of a mere symbolic view of it... I am not!), I feel that, in this particular entry, it must be done.  For far too long, our discomfort with drinking from the common cup has resulted in the curious phenemonon that I refer to as 'shot glass Jesus'... the use of either pre-filled or filled-in-service single-servings of the wine or juice in Communion.  While this may be a Protestant phenemenon, I have been to a few Catholic churches that have at least made an attempt of it... usually with either comical or sorrowful results.

Shot glass Jesus is, first and foremost, destructive of the sign value of the Eucharist.  For that matter, so is using have a bazillion chalices at mega-Masses in sports stadiums.  The powerful visual of one cup being shared among the people is difficult to replace, and that symbol serves to drive home a far more important reality: we are a unified people.  One bread, one cup... one Lord.  Why are we so afraid of drinking after one another at the table of the Lord?  Is it because we don't really care all that much about the concept of the unity of the body?  Is it because our society has taught us that religion is so personal that we don't want to run the risk of ingesting a drip of spittle from a brother or sister in Christ (what I call the cootie factor)?  

Let's look at this in a different way.  If you brother and you were sitting at a table and you had a new and unique flavor of soda in your glass, would you not let him have a sip to try it?  Yes, I went there... the family angle.  The Church is supposed to be a family - brothers and sisters in Christ.  If we would let our worldly family share backwash, why not do the same with our spiritual family?  In part, it's because we don't actually know our spiritual family all that well, and, I fear, we often don't want to get to know them well enough to set aside our fears... either socially or eucharistically.

So, instead, we remain content on Sunday after Sunday, when we are all in perfectly good health, to pass on the chalice, or dip the Body into the Blood, or even to use single-serving (and at times pre-filled and vacuum sealed!) Jesus kits in order to avoid becoming one with the Body of Christ... all because we just can't get over that stupid game of cooties that we still remember all to well from when we were five.

Speaking for myself, I want my spiritual maturity to get a little bit more in depth than a five year old, so I'll keep on drinking from the cup.  You, of course, are invited to join me... but please leave your cooties at the door.   

08 September 2008

Powerful Message on Common and Christian Grace

John Roop+ of Trinity Church, Knoxville, Tennessee, has posted an outstanding sermon on the goodness of God revealed throughout history across every religious expression, and the true goodness and grace of God that brings us to salvation in Jesus Christ. I can't recommend it enough.
You can read his sermon, preached this past Sunday, at this link.
It is definately worth your time.

07 September 2008

Ugh! Adding Insult to Injury - NFL Week 1

Week 1 of the 2008 NFL season has been a mixed bag for this fan, with victories for my favorite teams, but the lost of one of the biggest difference-makers in the League.

New England defeated Kansas City today, and the balance of the game was engineered by Matt Cassel.  Yea, Matt Cassel, also known as Tom Brady's shadow.  Brady, about halfway through the first quarter, went down... hard.  News reports are saying that he has a torn ACL, and that his season, most likely, is done.  Chris Simms (son of Giants great Phil Simms, most recently of Tampa Bay) is supposed to be on his way to Foxborough tomorrow for a workout and physical.  The question becomes, would Simms (or, as others have suggested, Daunte Culpepper) displace Cassel as the starting QB for the Pats?  It's hard to tell at this point.  Cassel played a respectable game today, so we'll have to wait to see what happens during the next week.  Needless to say, loosing Brady only serves to add insult to the injury perpetuated back in February when the Perfect Pats blew it in Glendale and handed Lil' Manning the Lombardi Trophy.

In the meantime, the New Orleans saints looked OK in their home debut as they held off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Not much else to say about this game... Reggie Bush had a good day, as did Drew Brees, and Jeremy Shockey got to make a face or two after some good plays.  I am still not convinced that they are quite all that many analysts are making them out to be, but I am definately willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

As I write, the Colts are behind the Bears (Bears 12, Colts 6) at the two-minute warning (2nd quarter)... and somehow I don't expect myself to care all that much about tomorrow night's games.

05 September 2008

A Letter to the U.S. Department of State

(Editor's Note: This letter has been slightly edited to protect confidential information that could lead to identity theft.)

To whom it may concern:

I apologize, as this might get a bit long. 

I was born in California.  Today, I am a Primitive Catholic priest, and consider myself to be solely a citizen of the Kingdom of God.  While I am willing to follow the just laws of the country in which I reside, I am unwilling to consider myself an American... or any other nationality for that matter.  Currently, I live in Indianapolis, Indiana.  This leaves me with several problems, however, that I am unsure of how to approach. 

My most immediate problem is that I have family who reside in Canada.  Soon, I will be required to present a Passport when I travel to Canada by car.  I am concerned because I do not consider myself an American, and believe that, to bear an American passport would constitute the bearing of false witness against my God.  Heretofore, I have been able to get across the border with my driver's license and birth certificate.  When asked about my residence, I tell the border agent where I live (Indianapolis).  I need to try to figure out a way to maintain my freedom to travel, to maintain contact with my family, while, at the same time, preserving my conscience's freedom to refuse to claim citizenship in a nation-state on earth. 

My second concern is in restrictions on travel, specifically on the restriction that is placed upon me with regards to traveling to Cuba.  I don't have any personal ties to Cuba, but I have always wanted to visit there, experience their life and culture, meet other Christian believers, and see the place for myself.  I have long considered visiting Cuba, but then I found out that (in addition to the passport issue) if I did go, I would not be permitted to return to the United States for violating the Cuban Embargo.  What right does the American government have to impede my God-given right to freely travel throughout the world? 

Finally, I am curious about alternatives to being considered a United States Citizen.  As I noted earlier, I do not believe in considering myself a citizen of any nation-state, as I cannot pledge any kind of allegiance to any nation on the planet.  I have no objection to paying my taxes (though I am considering joining a group to promote an alternative to war taxes) and obeying just laws, but I cannot, in conscience, vote, serve in the military or any form of alternative service, serve on a jury, or serve in elected office.  I consider myself a resident alien in this nation, as I was never given the chance to claim citizenship for myself.  Is there any means in American law for me to 'downgrade' my status (best term I can think of) to that of a legally resident alien? 

I know that this may seem a bit, frankly, kooky... at one time I truly believed in nationalism, patriotism, and all that... but the New Testament teaches me that, while I have an obligation to pray for all civil leaders and to obey just laws, I cannot have divided loyalties.  I must be a citizen of this world, or a citizen of God's kingdom.  I choose the latter, and I seek to find a way to allow myself, in conscience, to live out this conviction. 

Thank you for your kind attention in this matter. 

Father Robert Lyons

All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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