All saints day. The Perfect Follow up to the Reform of things..

cathedral basilica, st. louisToday, the church Celebrates the Feast of All Hallows, or All Saints Day. It is a Solemnity, which means we are required to attend mass. Its where we get the word, Halloween, which is a mashing together (Germanically..) of All Hallows Eve, the same day Luther would nail his thesis to the door of the church.

But what is a saint? Saint, the word, comes from the Latin “Sanctus”, which means Holy. We first hear about them in Revelation 7:9

 

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

This immediately follows a favorite of the Jehovah Witness… the so called 144000 (which is actually a mathematical Prophecy…. but that’s another discussion). The Give away of these people is their White Robe. This was something the People of God at the time this was written would have understood. The Levites, Wore white robes when entering the Court of Priests. Even in early times, those who received Baptism would wear white. In the Psalms, we hear the Psalmist cry “Wash me O Lord, and make me Pure, and I shall be whiter then show”. Clearly, this color white robe, is very symbolic of purity.

Also if we read further in Revelation 21:27

Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Here again, we have this concept of white. Even the Lamb, in the Passover, was white, spotless.. without stain.

This is what a saint is – They are those who by their life (or in the matter they died), made themselves pure, spotless, worthy. This is not to say, their works earned them their salvation. That is a gift that is freely given. But, what it does demonstrate to us, is that they are without a doubt, beholding God in all his perfect glory. Something we like to term the “Beatific Vision” – God, in his perfect love, can only be comprehended in Perfect love. The saints, through prayer, struggle, and becoming increasingly closer to God, obtained this perfect love. Our Souls are immortal, so they very much can  (and often very well do) carry baggage.

That’s not to say, we aren’t all called to Holiness. This has been the mission of the Church since Pentecost 33ad. However, as is often with groups ran by man, corruption sat in. We developed “Criterium” for sainthood, which while useful, was corrupted in its understanding. Instead of it being used as Proof that without a Doubt, these people were in heaven, it somehow became a Posthumous litmus test. This was one of Luther’s greatest quips, that this doctrine of Sainthood attainable for all, became corrupted.

Luther though was also in error in his thinking – Where he did rightly point out, its a free gift, he ignored the fact that “Faith without Works is Dead”…So much so that he at one point ripped James’ letter from his reworked bible.

We need to know why we celebrate, and believe what we believe. We Celebrate All saints, because where the Canonization process is a formality, we certainly don’t know the name or condition of every Person whom ever died in the Lord, nor do we know if he.. in his mercy, decided to save that person ( see St Dismas, the Good Theif).

Also more importantly, this day teaches us where we are going. We ALL will one day see God.. in his perfect glory (though some of us…including myself.. will have our baggage). Saints are something we can emulate, and more importantly they remind us, we all have the ability to achieve Holiness. It was given to us from the Blood of Christ.. But, we have to work at it. Just like Paul says  “Work out your own Salvation with Fear and trembling”. One day, we will see the One being who is owed this, not because we fear him, but because of our place in the universe, and his Omniscience.

Those who go before us, share not only in that Vision, but also are very much alive and well. As such, we can certainly pray with them (which is what intercedence is) – can we go directly to God? Yes… But why wouldn’t we have our case pleaded or validated by those who are in the room with him?

That’s what this day is about. Realizing our connection to each other, to those who went before us, and where we are going. All you Holy Saints (who are very much alive) – Pray For us.

Its traditional to Chant the Te Deum sequence or Recite it Publically in a Church on this day. So in an effort to “Publically Recite it” , I leave you with a  chanted YouTube of it, so you can read the words as well – This is what we will without reservation, by our very nature, chant sing or whatever, in front of Him.  (also its in mode 3…a  Triumphant mode, for you chant nerds out there)

All you Holy Saints, pray for us!

Brief thoughts on All Hallows Eve (AKA reform Day)

lutherOnce, there was a dream that was the church. This Dream, was of a unified group, that would change the world. It was our Saviors Desire that we would all be one. We never really hear Jesus Pray for his own desires. This is the only time, we ever in scripture, see him almost be selfish, even though the request he makes of the Father, is one of Selflessness.

Fast forward about 1500 years. A Young Augustinian monk, brilliant beyond his years, realizes that the church has some legitimate corruption. He tries to point out what is wrong, why it is wrong, and how to fix it.

As what often happens with time honored tradition based groups, he was met with disdain and prejudice. How dare this little monk… presume to tell the princes of the church, how to act, what to say, and when to say it!

Sadly, he would be excommunicated, and what would follow would be a splintering of the church that would continue for the next 500 plus years. Even amongst his own tradition, the Lutherans, there are sharp divides depending on which Lutheran you talk to.

Some would argue, that all of these expressions are beautiful, however, we are missing one core tenet – We are no longer one. We can agree on some things, but we cannot even cohesively function as a group. We spend more time arguing, and less time doing. While the word “Heresy” isn’t used… it certainly is still implied by our attitudes towards each other.

So, I struggle with  how we can celebrate Reformation day. If Anything, Catholic and Reformed Christian a like really need to use this day to step back, reflect, and consider why we are still so divided.

At the end of the day, we all adhere to the Creed. We all believe the mystery of Faith, Christ Died on a Cross, He Destroyed our Death, and he will come again in Glory. Yet again, we are still separated. The Body of Christ mystically bears wounds as apparent as the five holy wounds were to Thomas the apostle.

Don’t get me wrong – I will also always point out, I think good or bad, happens for a reason, and the reformation was allowed to the Church to wake it up. We weren’t talking to each other, and had become complacent with small T Traditions, rather then going deeper, and having an Encounter, a very personal encounter, with our Lord and Savior. Like a father, God always is teaching, and always nudging us to go deeper. Perhaps after 500 years, we have made just enough progress to start moving back towards each other.

I don’t think we were unified up to that point – We are complacent under fear and a lackluster monotony. Perhaps with a clear divide, we can truly learn how to be unified again, and just how precious that unity is.

One Church… One Day..Again

2Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.   Gal 5:2-6

lanternFirst off, Most who know me, know I am a cradle catholic. That means when I was born, my parents made the decision to baptize me as an infant. I made my first communion, My confirmation, all within the Church. I have as much as I have challenged the Church, also defended her, to my best, broken abilities. In a sense, this blog is an example of it, a defense of the true faith (as I see it, and not what the extremists on both sides scream it is). You’ll see me pull from different sources, equally. Its not unusual for people to be “nervous” of what I write.. when I write it, because at the end of the day, all I care about is the Gospel.

Denominations were attempts at getting back to the root of the Gospel – In the Beginning, oh…say around 33ad (and about 7 weeks after), there was ONE, HOLY,CATHOLIC,APOSTOLIC CHURCH. They were united in love (and shared all things, alas, I digress), and defended their faith to the death. It would really exist this way until the 4th century. At that point a couple different things were happening.  One most importantly, the Empire, long the oppressor of the Church, was Crumbling. Constantine had conquered back the Eastern Empire, and had set up his capital in Byzantium, which he renamed, Constantinople (Now Istanbul) – He Realized though, he still had the problem of us Christians, and that we were so busy fighting amongst our selves, that we were oblivious to what it was causing to society around us. The Empire was already on shaky ground enough, and was becoming predominantly Christian. We needed to be reigned in. One one Side, we had the Gnostics, who had their own set of Documents (see Nag Hamadi, and also Qumran), and on the other side, we had internal divisions, over the very nature of our savior.

Thus the Second Eccumenical Council Occured (see council of Jerusalem… history likes to forget this one in their counting.. I digress) – Specifically, this council dealt with what we as a whole believed, and who we believed God was. It wasn’t the first meeting like this, and it wasn’t the last. However, a few things came out of these Councils. First, we received the Nicean Creed, which to this day, is a source of unity (if nothing else) amongst the Church. The Empire was at peace, atleast from the perspective of the Christians, who, which us becoming a state religion, were now in check.  However, this is where alot of other problems came up. Because we now were part of the system, we developed all the trappings of it. Money, Power, Primacy – Those all entered in, as the undoubtedly would. Much of the externals we Catholics  (and orthodox) have that we see as “Big T” traditions,  came from this period. We now had money to build Cathedrals..  We were able to have glorious Vestments for our liturgy. We Codified once and for all, the books we would call the Bible (cir 383).  We no longer had Church,  but something bigger.

With being bigger came a sense of importance, a sense of Pride – It wasnt long before we started fighting again, first, Amongst which bishop was First among equals, and why. Later during the reformation, we would argue about Salvation, and abuses to the message of how we obtain it. No one would agree, and this is why we have 40000 + denominations to this day.

We can use the Term Schism. We can Say Reformation. We can say a lot of things, that takes away the sting of the word Division. Its a foolish state, because the ONE THING that Christ prayed for, was our unity. He didnt pray that we would feed the orphans.. or that we would see the light. He Prayed we could be unified. He Knew in numbers we were strong. Everything else takes care of itself when we are unified. Sadly, this hasn’t been the case. Much like the Christians of the 4th century, we have trouble agreeing on even simple things.

Through this all we forgot what matters though. Back to the Creed. No where in the creed does it mention the pope. No where in the creed does it mention indulgences, or speaking in tongues, or who to donate. What it does mention is Who God is, What he Did, When he did it, Where we are Going, and Why. That, in a nutshell is the Creed… the Ends all says all of our Faith. There are other traditions that go along with that, but, they are inconsequential to this.

People like to talk about the “spirit of ______” this, that or the other. Im Convinced right now though, there is a real rebirth amongst believers. One That started in places like Taze, and in other efforts. That real rebirth gets beyond the labels, and focuses in on Why we believe. We believe because God Loves us, because he sent his son to die for us, and we will share in that resurrection. That is what we begin with as a Christian. That is what we end with.

Right now, we are faced with an uncertain election. Labels are being adopted, used, thrown around and into the ground. We are being told, vote for this person if you are a true Christian, or dont vote for them or you will die in Gehenna. All of the options are distorted examples in their own right of our Christian faith as it was originally intended.

I believe God does in fact allow nations to be humbled in their arrogance, and we certainly as a country have been arrogant for a very long time. Many would argue this election is a judgement on us, for abandoning Christian values, and instead somehow making them fit into the mold of government. In that effort, we have become worshipers of the letter of law, rather then the Laws set forth by God.

I also believe however, God has raised up a generation of people who are able to get beyond the labels. I was really thinking about this over the weekend – I had attended a concert that included Casting Crowns, with Matt Maher opening for them.  Those who follow contemporary Christian Music, know both of these names very well.

What I had forgotten while I was there, was that Matt Maher, is a devout roman Catholic. Probably no one in the crown knew it…nor did they care. His music has been a part of Worship music for a very long time now – I myself have played many of his songs at Mass..  His Lamb of God (which, has latin added to it.. ),  Here I am to worship,  and Others like Love has Come.  All of these reach across lines, without sacrificing his own personal convictions, and the recipe is simple, because we are all Christian, what matters is the message.. not where we go every sunday.

Casting Crowns is no different. Mark Hall, (a Baptist), is a wonderful emmisary. He doesnt speak as a Baptist though, he speaks as a Christian. Hes not obsessed with how he is different, but how he and you are the same, because you both believe. Certainly his music has reached across fences and lines.

Still I can go on and on about Others. How About Rick Warren, the Evangelical Powerhouse who prays the Rosary (What SCANDAL!  Right? ),  Or someone like John Michael Talbot, who is along with a few others, Credited with igniting the Christian Contemporary Music industry. Certainly, his song he wrote along with Michael Card (El Shaddai, amongst other songs he is known for..) “One Faith”… speaks to the ideal those men started with, and people like Maher, Hall, etc have continued the work of.

Also, look to some of the heavy hitters in the Blogosphere, thinking Shea, Alt, Rose, among others. All Speak from a Catholic Perspective, but radiate a greater Christianity. They arent afraid to point out when right is right..and wrong is wrong, and sometimes that puts them at odds with their own community.

In Unity we are strongest. Something I learned in my second Degree as a Knight…  a single strand of rope alone can break, but all the fibers wound together into the rope are not easily separated. We Christians, need to get back to being one Rope… Rather then the thousands of strands we have let ourselves become.

Come November 8 – we will have a president. Either choice..  will have its challenges for us as a Christian people. Neither route will spell anything good for us. However, this should be seen as opportunity for us Christians, to finally come together. We have the bad seeds we have out there, not because we have been quiet, but because we haven’t spoken with one voice. If Anything else, I see this election forcing us to reevaluate what that voice is, and we will found that unified voice.

Hashem – or The Name above all Names

As a musician, specifically a church musician, part of my privilege in the liturgy (and it is a privilege), is I assist in lifting the people’s hearts and mind to God, through my voice, my instrument or whatever.  St Augustine is quoted as having said “Those who Sing Pray Twice”. Surely St Francis, was regarded as God’s Minstrel. We all know about St Cecilia.

Holy Mother Church, has over the centuries, had many outlets for musical expression. Most are familiar with Gregorian Chant, but there are countless others, including Ambrosian chant ( a personal favorite of mine), Polyphony, as well as many modern, beautiful, worship-filled songs that help us focus, and help us find “The Source”.

Music in general, has a way of connecting the divine to the earthly. In a sense, its very nature forces us to go in ward..and to see the God, who lives in all our hearts, and who speaks to us from its very depths.

I’ve always been fascinated, and intrigued with how other faiths and cultures (especially those who share our Monotheistic attitude naturally), try to start that inward Journey. The Best place to start I think for any Christian to learn about themselves better, is to look to the beautiful expression of Faith from our Jewish Brethren. While we have differing views on the Messiah, and who he IS (as opposed to will be, which is the Jewish attitude, naturally), we both share the same view of God as Father (more important now than in the past). As such, we have a common ground to begin with.

I don’t know if it’s because of the Jewish Friends I have, The few rabbis I’m privileged to be friends with.. or perhaps some repressed inclinations I have by virtue of on my mother’s side some mid Europe Ancestry (Grandmother was Prussian and Polish), but I have always been aware of Sephardic, Chassidic and Yiddish music.. and it speaks to me.

A Few years back I stumbled upon Shlomo Carlebach , who was an innovator in itinerant jewish contemporary music. In other words he uses music to teach Torah in a way that normally a rabbi might simply have a sermon or talk to his congregation. That segwaid into Schlomo Katz , who I also discovered is my age (which to me is wierd…. I always think of Rabbi as old wise sage like men..  I digress though.. this is a Young Sage like man)-

 

Text of Vehakohanim Prayer

The particular piece, is from a live Concert he did from Melbourne, called Vehakohanim,  which is a prayer that is recited on Yom Kippur, the holiest of days for the Jewish people, where the High Priest, The “Kohan Gadol”, would enter the Holy of Holies, the one day a year he would do this, and pray on behalf of the people. He would dare to utter the name of the most High.. Something that any other day of the year, one would NOT DARE say. Instead you hear names such as El Shaddai, Elohim,Yahweh El , Adonai El ohenu.  Even the son of God, from the Cross, who is equal to the Father, didnt dare say his name, instead Crying out “Eli Eli! ” – That name of God.. is written into the very fabric of creation. So , for it to be said, creation itself, would have to be wed in a way, even temporarily and imperfect, as was made on Yom Kippur –

That Atonement is made perfect in the Cross – That name, the Word of God..  Exists in Yeshua… Jesus.. the Christ..  That name above all names, Emmanuel, God With Us,  Jesus, God Saves. This is why we Catholics, will bow at the mention of his Holy name. Again, I digress.  The lesson here.. the lesson is more important

One Thing our Jewish Brethren never lost, even in their more contemporary expressions, is a humble comprehension of the Awesomeness of God. The VERY FACT a Jew, wont spelled the word “God”.. but will spell it as such “G-D”, or wont even say it at all. Thats huge to me. It shows a true understanding of being the created.. and not being on the same terms as the creator. We Christians take our Father God too much for granted. I can think of the movie “Dogma” with the buddy Christ…  Where its true God is our Father.. and our friend.. he is still God first. Likewise we can say this about the whole trinity, the God Headed united in love… Which is our Understanding of the wholeness of God.

IN the Lyrics, Rabbi tells us ” On the Holiest day of the Year, The holiest man in the world, Goes into the Holiest Place, and says the holiest name ” (paraphrased) – Just. Wow. What an understanding of who we are in relation to God…. The great privilege of what we are doing when we approach the throne. If Only a lot of Catholic Treated the Eucharist in the same way, or even the Protestants, treating the Word with that level of reverence… as opposed to the bibliography of reference

The biggest thing that sticks out to me though is where he brings us out of antiquity and back into the now where he says

“The Closest we probably get to hearing what God’s blessed name is, when our Children look into our eyes… And they Say Mommy, Pappa, Abba.. Tati, its probably the closes well ever get.. So We need to hang onto those moments,… But not for long… because we need to hear that name so badly “”

First off..as a father, I get this..  and it really put into perspective.. what fatherhood is… Its a VERY SMALL piece in the Creator-ship that God has.

God made us, to be with him. To Love him, and to know him.  The challenge though is in this life, we are intellectually incapable of knowing him, because by nature he is a Perfect love that we, in our fallen nature, can’t even begin to fathom. We Christians take the Cross for granted. We think.. because we believe.. that it’s a done deal. It’s not. We can still screw up, and we have to remember never to give up trying to understand God. Yes, God is a mystery, but that should be something awed and marveled at, and not simply a get out of jail free card.

Jews know this, its in Kabbalah. The Soul is designed to Go back to the Source. But its impure by sin. The Cross bathes us, and makes Christ a perfect Oblation, one that once and for all, allows us to Go home. This world isn’t our home..  Our Home is past here.. Over the sea.. Grey Havens.. all that good stuff.

So what I think.. is that we need to not stop at the “I’m Saved Because I believe”. We need to go deeper. One very wise Baptist man told me once “Its all about relationship”. That word to be is pretty infinite. It doesn’t have a beginning or end, but rather, its continuous, and it’s always rooted in the catch 22.. that in this life.. well never fully understand things, but.. one day we will. One day we will stand in his Glory..and Gaze on him.. and we wont want to gaze on anything else. We’ll fully comprehend the Love transcending.

The Jews have a Word.. and alot of Evangelicals know the word.. but they don’t know the word..  “Shekinah” , which literally means a Dwelling on of the Presence of God.. or in other words.. God amongst the people – This was said to rest above the Holy of Holies in the Cloud..and then on the “Mercy Seat” of the tabernacle, and I, as a Christian, fully believe that was made perfectly Manifest in Jesus Christ, who dwelt amongst us.

 

tabernacle

Shekinah – We Christians need to meditate on that.. and know it again. Maybe then we will act better. Maybe we Catholics in particular.. would have fear and trembling at the Eucharist.. instead of walking up like cattle to a trof. I wish we understood.. the awesome presence we stand in.. and the Glory manifest that’s there everytime we receive. We have the Eucharist…we have something tangible, and yet our Jewish brothers have nothing tangible, but still believe. That’s a bit of awesome right there. Period. End Stop.

We need to learn from our Jewish forefathers in faith. Start doing it. They are still around. Jesus himself.. was a Jew.. He had a very jewish way about him.He probably went to Schuul.. He Danced a Horah or Two. He Certainly had Chutzpah, and I think if we recover at least some of that understanding, we’ll know Him in a more comprehensive sense. Then we will begin to better understand the Name above all names.. and realize the Shekinah Glory.

 

Dealing with the enemy’s game.

Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me. Let evil recoil on those who slander me; in your faithfulness destroy them.
Psalm 54:4‭-‬5 NIV

http://bible.com/111/psa.54.4-5.NIV
I needed to read the above Psalm. For whatever reason today I have felt a real weight on my shoulders, one that I shouldn’t feel.

Reading this..comforted me..as it always does.

I’m In a good place. Your convictions about the past won’t work. God alone is who is my judge…my strength…and my courage.

Times and Seasons

 

Today, I celebrate my 37th Birthday. Given the past year, (and the fact I like the hobbit Movies…and Billy Boyd has a GORGEOUS voice) –  I like this song. It really speaks to me, especially as I have watched some enter my life, while others have left.

I think of everything I’ve gone through. Some good, some bad. Probably alot bad.  I had in the past year, chapters of my life complete, while still others began.

The point of the Hobbit, and in a much larger scale, The Lord of the Rings is, its not so much the journey that matters, but the destination. Everything else, whether good or bad, is what strengthens us and prepares us for it. To Paraphrase Gandalf (from the same “world”)

“The grey rain curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass…and then you see it. White shores. And beyond…a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

One day Ill see the green country. Until then, Im still on a rather “Unexpected Journey”, that I am sure will take me places  I have yet known. The diligence on my part is remembering the lessons of the year.

“Many places I have been
Many sorrows I have seen
But I don’t regret
Nor will I forget
All who took that road with me”

 

There are people who shared my road, and there are people who will share my road. Some will be with me for years to come. Others have taken their own path. But I am happy for the people who are in my life now, and especially where my life is.

Looking back, things can be rather bittersweet – Decisions I could have made better, choices I could have made more wisely. But, everything happens for a reason, and all of those things brought me to this point, right here right now.

So, here is to another year to learn, to grow, to transcend, and eventually see the far green country. Until then I leave you with Bilbo’s Birthday speech,

“Alas, eleventy-one years is far too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable hobbits.I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”