Seasons Change, Reflections

“7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Tim 4:7-8

As it is, this past Monday marked the end of the Road racing season (for me anyhow), with the completion of Gateway Cup. I Showed up..I gave it everything I could… and didn’t leave anything behind – with few exceptions, in reflection I don’t think it could have happened any other way.

The past year, has been truly dynamic. With getting a year under my feet at a new company, to settling the custody issues with my children, to having not one, but two crisis of faith, its been truly a character building year.  I don’t need to remind folks of the events of the last 4 weeks concerning a certain Cardinal (or several)…and his boss that has been overly quiet..much to the dismay of all the faithful. 

In criterium racing, its very dynamic. You have 20-80 extremely crazy cyclists… all on a closed course… trying desperately to win. Some will try harder then others. Through a 40-60 minute race, you will have attacks, pacing. You could have crashes, rain, obstacles (people), and other things that can over all kill your mental resolve. I myself had a few. With a race restart Friday, a flat Saturday, and avoiding 3 crashes on Monday, it truly was an effort among efforts.

I tend to go through a depression after big races. In retrospect…I have since high school. You push and push and push..only to suddenly be done with everything. It got me thinking that our faith journey, is very much like a race. You start off optimistic. You might come off the line as hard as you can. You will follow someone who you think is a “good wheel”.. only to find another to pull you through.  In an instant.. your dreams of grandeur can be completely crushed, only to see that faint chance, and a strong surge at the end.

Faith is like this, especially in light of the latest scandal. Those of us who try (and none of us have it right).. will have our own race dynamics… and I certainly have been dealing with that on a larger scale myself. If anything,  the Mccarrick scandal was losing the pack, and the Pope’s lack of leadership.. is that jerk in the pack who instead of helping you out… goes off and does his own thing. 

Its only at the point…that inside… the Source, the One, speaks to us…tells us to hang on a little longer, and to surge with everything we got. Then at the end we can enjoy the reward…not one of Tin, Gold, Money (or even beer), but the words we all hope to hear someday  “Well done, good and faithful servant, Enter into the Joy, of your Master’s Kingdom”

To my friends (and myself) , who are struggling right now – Hold your line. Ride your race. reach down… and eventually our race will be done, and we will have the joy and peace of having done all we could to get to the real prize, Him.

Image and likeness

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
1 Corinthians 6:19 NIV
https://bible.com/bible/111/1co.6.19.NIV”

This verse above is why I try to take care of myself, and why the master teaches us it is better not to look all glum and frumpy when we are penitent.

As the body is a temple, it needs upkeep, support, maintenance just like any other structure. We are temples of the spirit… so we cant overdue our diligence in that (provided we don’t make an idol out of it)

That said… the summer always makes me think of the true nature of this verse, which to me, greatly speaks to being made in the image and likeness of Almighty God. That said, there are other things that can play into respecting the temple, namely modesty and how we carry ourselves.

This doesnt just come down to what we wear (though..that’s a big part of it), but rather, how we present ourselves.

Guys and gals alike…need to ask themselves… am I presenting myself in a Godly manner? Does what I wear… or put on my body show that I keep sacred that image and likeness of God, or do I desecrate my own temple?

This doesnt mean I cant dress in a way that’s appropriate style or form for the weather, but rather… did I get an inch….and take a mile, as it were.

Does what I put on…or put into my body encourage sanctity.. or does it feed vanity .. or gluttony… or narcism??

Does my style scream…..look at me.. does what I eat…build me up? Have I embraced gluttony, and written it off as ok because I’m older… or not athletic? Have I done my best to maintain a healthy lifestyle… both spiritually…and physically?

All of these things can either build up or tear down our temple. So, something to think about as we get into swimsuit and cookout season.

Switching the light back on

Finally managed to figure out my blog with my new CenturyLink internet. (Sort of)

If you aren’t aware… I’m all nerdy and host it myself of a Raspberry Pi.

For every one that doth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be reproved. But he that doth truth, cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, because they are done in God.
St John 3:20‭-‬21 DRC1752
https://bible.com/bible/55/jhn.3.20-21.DRC1752

Today’s scripture is striking in that it’s incredibly illuminating as to the current secularist mentalities towards people of faith. Even shows on the history channel…when they talk about faith history, are very tongue and cheek about how gullible people who believe in God are.

I think this is a mechanization. There is power and shielding in calling on Gods name. If you can get people to believe there is no God, then all sorts of other doors are opened wide, and you are an easy conquest for the enemy.

We truly are in the onslaughts of battle and would do well to remember that…not only for our own sake, but for those around us as well.

There are far deeper reasons people abandon faith then we or they let on, and there is a reason militant atheism is on the rise more then ever.

The Contradiction of Liturgy in today’s anthro-centric world

Today I went to the Solemn Mass organized by Juventutem St Louis, at the Church of St Anselm. If you don’t know who Juventutem is, read more about them Here . In short they are a young adults group, who is dedicated to the traditional mass.

Mass. That’s the one word that describes Catholics to most people – Those are the people who have mass. Get up. Sit down. Kneel. Repeat.

On my way home I realized I’m very much a contradiction. I’m 38, and have spent my life very much involved in the liturgy in some form – I was an Altar Server, and then involved in Choir and Music ministry. I grew up during the Pontificate of St John Paul II, a time of frankly bismal catechism, and people over all not knowing their faith. My First Holy communion was more akin to an assembly line than the conferment of a Sacrament, but I digress.

In 1969 the so called “Novus Ordo” or “New Order” of mass was promulgated. This mass was meant to shorten and make the Liturgy of the Latin Rite more relevant and accessible. However, the baby was definitely thrown out with the bath water,  and along with the Latin, smells and bells, we lost a lot of who we were as Latin Rite Catholics. Chiefly, How we worshiped was how we believed.

The Traditional mass, wasn’t just celebrated “Ad Orientem” or facing east… but was also celebrated  “Ad Deum” – Facing God.  This posture  alone reminded the believer who mass was intended for.

Along with the new mass, came a shift in posture – Now it was celebrated  “Versus Populum”. The concept of “Meal” was emphasized over “Sacrifice”, and suddenly mass, along with our faith, became more about “US” rather than Him. Music focused in on the We, and less about our God.

Growing up as a child.. like a lot of young boys, I wanted to play mass – Ironically though…I played Tridentine mass I had an  Alb, and my own Amice. My “High altar” was on a cedar Chest.. and I think I had at least 20 candles I didn’t actually light.   I would listen to my grand parents tell stories about how it was.. and find myself confused at how it is in front of me.

As I got older, I became more complacent, and found myself valuing the Church in Community. I thought the parish, being the center of the community, was vital, and that ANY way we could reach people… WE needed to. There’s that We word again.

That’s when a a lot of the “contradictions” started.  I am trained classically in music  (voice) , and have always loved Gregorian Chant.  However, we seemed to only chant when we wanted to be “extra holy” during Holy week, even though the Novus Ordo, has a plethora of chants arranged.

We hardly did bells – Why?  “Because bells went out with Vatican 2”.  Then there was the rather casual nature that not only people showed up for mass, but how they carried themselves during mass.

All of this points back to us losing an understanding of who we are encountering – and Holy Mass IS an encounter. In thinking on this, it very much reminded me of the Apostles who were walking on Emmaus Road (which just so happens to be the readings for this upcoming week), And they encountered a stranger. They had no idea who this man was, until the Breaking of the Bread, “for they knew him in the breaking of the Bread” ..  

Sometimes it takes us a moment to realize Jesus present in the mass , especially in our state of being and in this world. We, like the apostles, are more concerned about our worries and “Current Events”, rather than who we are, and where we are going, and who is there with us.

This is where I am the contradiction. Given my age, I have an affinity for traditional things that is uncharacteristic of my generation. At the same time, I still firmly believe in modern approaches to evangelization, however the mass is for God alone. I can go to a traditional mass, and then on the way home listen to Crowder or Maher. I wish more of the “Catholicsphere”  could get that.  Maybe then there would be more people at church, because they would realize that their faith life is dynamic, and can be expressed in a modern world, and the Timelessness of the liturgy,  is the summit of our faith. It is there that we know him in the breaking of the bread.

Thoughts on Low Sunday/Divine Mercy Sunday ..or whatever

Today marks the 1st Sunday after Easter. In modern times, its referred to as Divine Mercy Sunday. In ancient times, it was known as “Low, or  “Whit Sunday”, as this was the final day that the recently baptized would wear their white garments.

The Modern annotation, comes from the visions of one St Faustina, who gave to us the divine mercy chaplet. The novena of such, began on good Friday, at the hour of mercy, and completed today – in short, it is repeated over and over again, like a rosary or Jesus prayer

+Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, soul and divinity, of your Dearly beloved son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In atonement for our sins, and those of the whole world

For the Sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us, and on the whole world.

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy immortal one, have mercy on us, and on the whole world. +

 

Orthodox and those who are of the old form of Liturgy will recognize this as the text of the Thrice Holy, or in the east, know as the Trisagion. There are special graces attained with the recitation of this chaplet, most notably at the time of death.

To me, it all denotes the immensity of calvary. Mercy flowed from the Cross that day, and gave us all a second chance, but it is NOT without cost. His only Son, laid down his life.

We need to be careful that we dont treat this act as something disposable, as in something that we are simply owed. None of us are owed this, and it is only by grace that we receive it. It should NOT be taken for granted or with a sense of casualness.

 

I wandered into orthodoxy a year or so ago.. and quickly learned what I was moving towards, that being a more deep understanding of liturgy, and an acknowledgement of the immensity of the Godhead. That itself demands a certain purposefulness in our Worship. Where its true…we should find ways to engage the world through modern measure, the liturgy engages God himself, who is otherworldly.

Kneeling at the rail today.. taking in the incense.. and the beauty, reminded me of what we enter when we go to mass. We enter heaven, and from that, comes the mercy of forgiveness, if we approach with a contrite heart, and a comprehension of where we are, and what we are doing.

 

The Last 6 Hours before Salvation, And the 7 last “words”

Tradition Holds that After the Scourging, and the way of the cross, Christ hung for 6 hours before dying.

Many Musicians, and writers have noted, and it is noted in scripture, there are 7 last sayings or “Words” that Christ spoke from the Cross. For him to even speak.. when under the amount of pain that he was in, is mind boggling to think about.

His hands would have been pierced, as would his feet. He was very literally, beaten to a pulp. It is not without reason that certain bones would have been exposed.. given the flails that the Romans used. However one didnt die from lack of blood with this method, but by asphyxiation, brought on by both the fact you would have from your arms.. and at the same time, your insides would fill with fluids, to where to breath, you would have had to pull yourself up a bit, just to get a breath

Imagine then, how important these words were for our Lord to mention. I plan on throughout the day, Until 3 pm, The Hour of Mercy, to chronicle each one of these, both as informative, and penitential for my own self.

The First Word:
“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”
(Luke 23:34)

Consider how big of a step this was for him to say – Jesus was the Son of God, but he was also human. He would have struggle with hate, anger, feelings of rejection, just like any of us. Instead of condemning all of us, as he should and as we deserved, he instead shows us what Priest and Sacrifice is. He implores mercy on our part, for he is the Unblemished lamb, the only worth sacrifice that could satisfy our debt.

Jesus, Your hands and feet were pierced for me, the most unworthy. Thank you for going to the cross. Thank you for your sacrifice of love. Thank you for caring enough about me, that you would embark on the ultimate journey.

A35

Behold…all things made new

“5 And he that sat on the throne, said: Behold, I make all things new. And he said to me: Write, for these words are most faithful and true.

And he said to me: It is done. I am Alpha and Omega; the beginning and the end. To him that thirsteth, I will give of the fountain of the water of life, freely.

He that shall overcome shall possess these things, and I will be his God; and he shall be my son.” Rev 21 5-7

 

Its no secret to most people..if there is a hell, I have been through it, or maybe its purgations, who knows.

There was a point where my faith was all but extinguished. Like the Psalmist….I felt my God had forsaken me…left me to die..and I was broken beyond repair.

However…He Makes all things new..and further like the psalmist  “He will not suffer his servant to die”.

Servant…. Thats something most people struggle with, and I certainly am no exception. As I stated earlier today on social media, I don’t do anything half heartedly, and my errors seem to follow suit with precision.

For about 3 years I wandered spiritually. I even at one point fled to Orthodoxy, thinking, the only thing that could fix me was rigidity, and structure. What I needed was sublimity.

Im glad to have found my parish that I am at now. I always certainly walked the line of “contemporary” and conservative, both in my approaches and understanding, and in my worship. But, the liturgy and the Sacred space is timeless.

Its no mere coincidence I am where I am at. As this church rebuilds…so I am rebuilding…falling desperately in Love with a God who cares enough to let us ALL screw up, if nothing else…so that we can, in our darkness…search for the glimmer of light that is him.

That’s a good metaphor for lent… a walk through darkness. As the season progresses we will deny ourselves more and more. Food… vices… even the last couple of weeks the church will deny us of some of the sacramentals, statues, and other items. These ..like God sometimes being silent, are not to keep those things from us..as much as to force us to go deeper…and rather then finding God in the Storm or earth quake… but rather, in the gentlest of winds.

Spiritual Warfare

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”  1 Peter 5:7-9

This scripture is at the end of the monastic compline. It is a call to the Brothers to always be on guard. For those that dont know, there are 7 liturgical hours to the day, Compline completes the day, where in the Monks/Nuns have prayed the psalsm and readings through the day  (More of Catholics not being deep in scripture…I digress). When the Compline is complete, the brothers will approach Father Abbot, and he will bless them before they retire into the Great Silence..which happens just before sleep time.

Sleep Time. That’s when we are most vulnerable to oppression. Sleep can be more then the physical act of resting though. I would argue right now, the world is very much asleep. We turn a blind eye to our fellow man. We parade mediocrity for leadership, and are complacent with moral relativism, accepting everyone on their own terms..rather then aspiring mankind to reach the glory that God the Father intended for us.

 

This past weekend at mass, we heard the reading of Jesus at Capernaum. Capernaum was a cultural center for the Jewish people, and it had a marvelous Synagogue. It truly was an epicenter of the Rabbinic Jewish movement that would replace the more temple based Judaism of the day. In the reading, he banishes a demon

In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 34 “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

35 “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.

36 All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!” 37 And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.” Luke 4:33-37

Even demons recognize the authority of Christ. Because he is more then man… he is God in the person of the Son.  Father then went on to share an experience with us of his own spiritual awareness. The devil HATES that God can relieve us of our burden of sin, and will do everything in his power to deceive and destroy. He can make something something seem beautiful, perfect or right… when all the while it is leading us to damnation.

Sometimes… Life is hard, and the Message of the Cross is this is not the end for us.. but simply a beginning to an end. However, life’s struggles can weigh us down to the point of complacency and often ignorance. That is when we are most vulnerable. Just like in warfare, often the element of surprise can be vital, so too our Enemy uses that against us, and before we know it… we have gotten ourselves in a mess that snowballs into despair of God’s mercy.. which is right where Satan wants us. His greatest hate of us…is that WE are made in the image and likeness of God. So he prods…pries, corrupts us until we either hate our Maker… or are unrecognizable….even unto ourselves.

Now more then ever we are in a situation in life..in this world…where we need to be Sober and Ready. Our Enemy is working over time. Dont believe me?  Watch the news… Follow our government..  Be aware of the people around you..and the little things they might do or say.

There is hope though. That hope begins with trusting in Gods mercy above all else.  Often we westerners get into the rut of Cause Effect in our understanding of the relationship… but really…  its all effect, an effect of mercy. Trust in that mercy, and eventually all will be made right in the world.

Some of us are into “Pre Lent”… That might be Cheesefare and Meat Fare sundays… That might be Septuagesima and Sextuagesima Sundays..

Some might be thinking about lent, and what we might give up .

All of us will embark on a time and journey that will either make or break us.. and hopefully prepare us for easter. This is when we are vulnerable the most, so we need to be watchful and ready, and our eyes Fixed on going up the hill.

St Michael Defend us in Battle.

 

 

Ecce Agnus Dei – Behold the Lamb of God.

Many people know that the last 10 years of my life haven’t been without trials. Needless to say, it certainly has spiked and plummeted my faith. I have in the past 4 years, gone through 2 major life changes.

All the while… I kept looking for Him – Sometimes to find someone to just hold me, others… so I could give him a piece of my mind. I have been at times angry…desperate, and indifferent…often all the same time.

There was even a period where I wondered into the Orthodox Church. See, Im very much a structure person. When I get scared, I default to “procedure”. Procedure is safe.. its predictable… But Procedure doesn’t work with faith. Faith is unpredictable. Faith ISNT safe, at all. It can be down right terrifying for a person like me.. the simple fact that I DON’T have all the answers.

I often think that’s why many people go here… or go there. We have thousands of denominations, and every last one of them goes back to someone who thought he had the right answer.

Often we aren’t looking for the answers we seek.. we are looking for the confirmation of the answers we tell ourselves. So, we go where the answer makes the “most sense”…rather then where the answer is most accurate –  then we claim we have found our home. Why not?  Here is where it makes sense. Here is where it becomes easy. Here is where its “safe”.

I’ve always found eastern thought fascinating. It is on surface, less rigid then Western so called “legalism”. But scratch the surface, and there are incredible insecurities. Rigidness that is designed to desperately confirm ones place rather then necessarily allow the vulnerability that leads to the Dark Night of the soul… that point where all seems dark, and bleak..except He who comes.

Today, mass was at St Barnabas. It was in the Novus ordo, or  “New Order” of mass (as are many Roman Catholic Parishes these days), but with an out of the “Ordinary” kick, it was Celebrated Ad Orientem – Facing east.. Which.. with the orientation of Churches.. is designed to also Face us “Ad Deum” or  “Towards God”.

The ancient tradition of building churches, positioned them this way, to remind us that Christ, is the Rising of the Sun on the New Day, and also calls to mind the Ressurection, the Dawn of the new day. Over the years, both Eastern and Western Churches would build towards this direction – How We pray, is how we believe after all. This causes one perfect thing – We are ALL worshiping together in unison at that point, and being lead by the Priest..the presider of the liturgy, who offers sacrifice.. The Lamb, on ours and his behalf.

I have never lost faith. I can honestly say this. But I will honestly equate myself to Peter. When Peter denied Jesus… he hadnt lost faith.. BUT he had lied to himself as to what that faith was… and who it was in . Likewise.. Often and lately my faith has been lukewarm. Often..my own inequities.,..and my own failings.. have forced me back into a Dark night of the soul.. where the only thing causing me to hang on to my God…was that small light.

Our church has its issues right now, and it can be very easy to Fight or Flight. Many sadly, have a flight mentality.  Yet, there is also a solid group of “fighters” who want their answer, to be the right answer. IN reality…  the true answer is with Peace and acceptance, acceptance of where you are, and WHOSE presence you are in.

Years ago… I was in a similar “flight”. I had delved into Gnostic writings.,.. under the misguided belief that I WOULD FIND THE ANSWER.. Because I “Was smart” I told myself.. In my arrogance, I believed that I would find the answers others couldn’t. I was wrong… and it stared me in the face. This Mosaic Above… 

 

 

“This is my Beloved Son, in Him I am well pleased”

 

The words we here are from the Father. We hear them twice in Holy Scripture – Both at the Baptism of the Lord by his cousin John, and the Transfiguration on mount tabor.  IN both instances… people were thinking they had the answers already. Some Thought John was the messiah. In the case of the transfiguration, the Apostles thought they knew Jesus’s mission.

In Both cases…God set everyone straight. This wasnt a warrior.. this wasnt a king in the earthly sense. This WAS IS and ALWAYS will be the Son of God.

At Holy Mass… we hear the words  “Behold the Lamb of God”.. each and every time the sacrifice is offered. These are also the words of John the Baptist in Today’s reading… as he tells Andrew and others to follow a new teacher…  “Behold him who takes away the sins of the world”.

Ironically, father’s Homily was about people who go all over searching.. trying to find the answers.. and its always staring them right in the face. Behold the Lamb of God  – THIS IS MY SON. The words coursed through my body like a tidal wave.

It doesnt matter that I am scared.. or confused. There are constants. JESUS is always in the Eucharist.. and he is always in the Tabernacle.. waiting for me. The Lamb of God.. isnt bound or affected by the confusion of the world right now, Let alone my own insecurities.

 

 

That in itself.. is a beautiful process and procedure. Jesus is always there..and there is true safety in that.. and true consistency. I was humbled.. I was moved… and I was confirmed..not because I was certain..but because He is certain. Jesus Christ, Yesterday, Today, and Forever.