Sunday, March 27, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Random Top Ten

and Shirts!

Ya pushes "shuffle" and ya takes yer chances. . .

1. A New England Kirsty MacColl
2. She Thinks She's Edith Head They Might Be Giants
3. Half Soundgarden
4. Ladytron Roxy Music
5. Funny How Love Is Queen
6. Talking Loud And Clear Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
7. We Prick You David Bowie
8. Fire Engine 13th Floor Elevators
9. The River David Byrne & Brian Eno
10. Malo Bebe

Lottsa cool stuff today! And ten YouTube links. And, I like Roxy Music so much that I'll post their video.

Happy Annunciation Day, everbuddy!

Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord

Our series March, the Month of Saints Named Gregory is suspended today in honor of the Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord, and we celebrate said feast with my Feast of the Annunciation sermon

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord, the commemoration of the visit of the Archangel Gabriel to a young Jewish girl in Palestine some two thousand years ago. This feast has been celebrated since the fifth century, and it is one of the few feasts which are important enough that the fast of Lent is actually suspended for the day. Some see this feast as Mariological, that is, that it has to do primarily with the Blessed Virgin, but I see it as Christological, I believe that it has more to do with the Christ, the Incarnation.

The reading we heard this morning from the Hebrew scriptures is a very interesting reading, as it can be understood on two levels, and both have to do with prophecy. We can read the meaning of this text in its original historical situation which is described in the second Book of Kings. The nation of Syria had entered into an alliance with the northern kingdom of Israel against the southern kingdom of Judah, of which Ahaz was king. Both Syria and Israel had laid siege to the city of Jerusalem. The prophet Isaiah offered Ahaz a sign that everything would eventually work out and be successful, but Ahaz refused the sign, probably because he didn't want Isaiah's advice. Isaiah was a prophet who always spoke the word given to him by God' he didn't care whether Ahaz wanted to hear it or not. The sign Isaiah gave Ahaz was: A young woman will conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel. In this context, it is probable that the young woman was the wife of Ahaz, and the son to be born is Hezekiah, the future king of Judah. The sign, then, concerned the continuation of the dynasty of David, a sign that God was still with God's people.

The second meaning is that of Matthew and is the meaning which we, as Christians, recognize. We read this as a prophecy of the coming of the Messiah, and we see the young woman as Mary, and the son as Jesus. When the author of Matthew's gospel quoted Isaiah's prophecy, he was not using the actual Hebrew text but using a translation we call the Septuagint which is a translation from the original Hebrew into Greek, which is the language of the Christian scriptures or New Testament. In the Septuagint the word for young woman was translated as παρθενους, which means "virgin." Now, it's quite probable that Isaiah was only thinking of the immediate future when he made his prediction to Ahaz, but since he as a prophet, and the Spirit of God was upon him, the Holy Spirit was speaking through him and this prophecy did have to do with the birth of Hezekiah but also had to do with the birth of the Incarnation. The genealogies of both Matthew and Luke serve to tell us that the birth of Jesus was also a continuation of the Davidic dynasty, and Jesus truly was Emmanuel, "God with us." The Holy Spirit, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, was giving hope to Ahaz and hope to the entire world.

The reading from the Gospel of Luke is the story of the Annunciation, and it is a story that we usually only hear during Advent, and people outside of the Liturgical tradition only think of this story during Christmas. The Bible contains several annunciation stories: there are annunciation stories about the birth of Isaac, about the birth of Samson, the birth of Samuel, and, of course, the birth of John the Baptizer. The purpose of an annunciation story is to acquaint the reader or those listening to the story with the role that the person about to be born will play in salvation history. The purpose is to give us a foreshadowing, in a way, of what will happen, of how important this person's life will be; it is not to serve as an accurate historical narrative. In the other annunciation stories I mentioned, the situation was that a child was to be born to a couple who were either barren and unable to have children, or, in the case of Abram and Sara, a couple who were well past child-bearing age, so the angel was announcing a miraculous birth. But the situation in today's story is quite different: this annunciation is to a young woman of child-bearing age, but she is a woman without a husband, which, as we all know, does not prevent one from having a child. The emphasis in this story is not on a miraculous birth, but on the creative act of the Holy Spirit in bringing about the conception in the womb of this young girl so that the Incarnation, God in Flesh, could come and live among us, so that Emmanuel, God-with-us, could be born in a simple stable with beasts of burden. The Archangel Gabriel came to this young, frightened girl, and informed her that she had been chosen above all others to be the Θεοτοκυς, the God-bearer. Gabriel told her that she would become pregnant, that she would have a son, that his name would be Jesus, and that he would be called Holy and the Son of God. When Mary asked how this could be since she did not have a husband, Gabriel explained the process to her, and also told her that although this may sound strange, her cousin Elizabeth was with child because with God nothing is impossible. And Mary, the one we call Blessed above all women, said, "You see before you the Lord's servant; let it happen to me as you have said." And with her agreement, and with her obedience to God's will, the salvation of the world was able to take place. It is said that "God made us without us, God redeemed us without us, but God cannot save us without us." Mary represented all of humanity when she said "yes" to God's plan, and we have been saved because a human being allowed God to dwell in her womb for nine months.

Mary answered "yes" to God's call, just as Abraham had answered "yes" to God's call. When Abraham answered God's call, he became the father of a mighty nation, the nation of Israel. When Mary answered God's call, she became the mother of the faithful, of God's people, the Λαος, the People of God' she became the mother of the New Israel. Her response to Gabriel, "You see before you the Lord's servant; let it happen to me as you have said," expresses the same faith as that expressed in the prayer her son, Jesus, taught us to say: Your will be done on earth as in heaven. The Annunciation is an event outside of history, because it is the direct intervention of God in human affairs, it is the actual insertion of God into human affairs, because God took on a human body and lived and laughed and ate and drank and slept and woke and experienced all the joys and trials which make up this life, this human existence.

The Feast of the Annunciation takes place on March 25th because it is supposed to be exactly nine months before the birth of Jesus. You mothers know that it is actually quite rare that someone is born exactly nine months after conception; some babies are early and some are late, and it is quite probable that Jesus was not born on December 25. St. Clement of Alexandria was sure that Jesus was born on May 20. But I think that it is appropriate that the Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated during Lent, because the Lenten season points towards the purpose of the Incarnation: to live as one of us, to be arrested and executed, to be buried and then on the third day be resurrected so that death would be conquered, that humanity would be redeemed and given the gift of eternal life. Lent points us towards the arrest, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and the Annunciation points us towards the birth by which the Incarnation came to live among us.

Today we celebrate the Archangel's message to a young girl. Today we celebrate the young girl's obedience to God's will. Today we celebrate the life which told us of the Good News of forgiveness of sins and the coming of God's Reign.

Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever Amen.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Feast of St. Gregory the Illuminator, Apostle to Armenia

Our series March, the Month of Saints Named Gregory continues with the life of Gregory the Illuminator, Apostle to Armenia

Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints, and who raised up your servant Gregory the Illuminator to be a light in the world, and to preach the Gospel to the people of Armenia: Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

According to the fifth century History of St. Gregory and the Conversion of Armenia attributed to Agathangelos, Gregory was the son of Anak, who assassinated King Khosrov of Armenia. Khosrov's son, Drtad, was taken to the Greek Territory and raised by Count Licinius. Anak was killed by the princes of Armenia in revenge for the death of Khosrov. The infant Gregory was smuggled to Cappadocia and raised by a Christian family in Caesarea. As a young adult, Gregory hired himself to Drtad as a servant but didn't let Drtad know his parentage. Drtad hated Christians, and when he heard that Gregory was a Christian, he threatened Gregory with all many of tortures and even imprisonment. When Drtad became King of Armenia, he kept Gregory on as his servant. Drtad was a Pagan, and he venerated the goddess Anahid, and he wanted Gregory to do so, too. Agathangelos writes: "He ordered Gregory to venerate her statue, and when Gregory refused Drtad asked him: 'You have served me well these many years. Why in this one matter do you refuse to do my will?' Gregory answered: 'You speak truly. I have served you as God commands us to serve our earthly lords. But He alone is the creator of angels and men, of heaven and earth. We can worship only Him.'

Drtad frowned and said: 'By saying this you render all your service to me completely worthless. I shall punish rather than reward you as I had planned. It will be prison and bondage for you unless you honor the goddess Anahid.' Gregory replied: 'My service to you is not worthless; God values it as He promised always to value our efforts for Him. It is He I seek to please. And if you punish me, I rejoice, for my lord Christ suffered affliction and death, and I will gladly follow Him into death so that I can be with Him in everlasting life. You speak of Anahit, and perhaps demons did once bedazzle men into building temples for them and worshipping them. But I will not worship lifeless objects of stone. We must worship the One who lives and gives life.'"

Drtad asked Gregory to tell him more about the living God, and Gregory "explained that Christ is the Lord of creation and the true light for those in the darkness of idolatry. He exhorted the king to use his intelligence and put away the mulishly stupid devotion to mere images." Drtad didn't like being called "mulish" and responded: "You have insulted the gods and insulted me by calling me stupid for worshipping them. You had the audacity to speak to me as if you were my equal. You said I was stupid as a mule; now you shall feel the burden of such words."

Then the torture begins! Agathangelos writes: he ordered Gregory to be bound and strung up, with a muzzle over his mouth and a heavy block of salt hung on his back. After a week of this torture Gregory was brought before the kin, who said: "Now like a mule you have carried a load. But worse things can happen to you if you further insult our deities." Gregory, however, had not been subdued by his suffering. He told the king that he did not mind tortures, and that only those who worship idols need fear the Lord's wrath. So Drtad tortured him further, hanging him by one foot for seven days. But Gregory passed the time in prayer.

Drtad kept torturing Gregory, and Gregory wouldn't recant. Finally, someone told Drtad that Gregory was the son of Anak, his father's assassin. That was the final straw for Drtad and he had Gregory thrown into a pit for the rest of his life. Gregory lived in this pit for some thirteen years! Drtad continued to persecute the Christians of Armenia. He fell in love with a young nun, Hripsime, and wanted to marry her, but she, being married to Christ, refused. So, after pleading and trying to seduce her, fell back on his usual practice and had her tortured and beaten until death. According to Agathangelos: "King Drtad was not an introspective man, and after a week of grieving over Hripsime's death, he had to have some strenuous activity. He arranged to go hunting, and when the hounds and nets and traps and beaters were all ready, he climbed into his chariot to leave the city for the plain where he loved to hunt. Suddenly, Drtad fell from the chariot, as if struck down by a demon. He began to rave and grunt, like an animal. As their king was crazed, so all the people suddenly seemed to be, and there was chaos and ruin throughout the city and from the highest to the lowest of the king's household."
The Pit

Only one person could solve this problem and he was in a pit. Actually, most people figured Gregory was dead, but they checked anyway. They called, "Gregory, if you're down there, let us know!" They felt a tug on the rope and pulled him up out of the pit. They cleaned him up and brought him to the king. The king knelt before Gregory and asked for forgiveness. Gregory pulled Drtad to his feet and said, "I am a just a man like you. The One who has had mercy on you is your creator, the Lord and Creator of all things." Drtad and his entire family and court were converted but since Gregory was not a priest he could not baptize them. Gregory went throughout Armenia destroying temples and setting up crosses and educating the people about the True God. He then returned to Caesarea to be ordained so that he could serve as pastor to the Armenians. Upon Gregory's return, the entire royal court went down to the Euphrates river and were baptized, 150,000 new Christians! Gregory went throughout the country and baptized multitudes. And that is how Armenia became the first Christian nation.

Gregory eventually went to live the life of a hermit in the wilderness, living in a cave. He died around the year 332.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Prayer Request

I don't do this very often, but please include my cousin Marlene and her daughter Kylee Dresbach-Hill. They were in a major traffic accident last night. Their SUV was hit by two Big-rigs. They are both in the hospital and we don't know how much damage they sustained.

O Father of mercies and God of all comfort, our only help in time of need: We humbly beseech thee to behold, visit, and relieve thy sick servants Marlene and Kylee. for whom our prayers are desired. Look upon them with the eyes of thy mercy; comfort them with a sense of thy goodness; preserve them from the temptations of the enemy; and give them patience under their affliction. In thy good time, restore them to health, and enable them to lead the residue of their lives in thy fear, and to thy glory; and grant that finally they may dwell with thee in life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Feast of St. Joseph

Our series March, the Month of Saints named Gregory continues with today's Saint: Joseph-Not-A-Gregory-At-All and Padre's St. Joseph Day sermon. The Lovely Mona and I are in Gamboa today with the Altar Guild for a Quiet Day.

As is usually the situation with the members of Jesus' family, we know very little about Joseph. The gospel texts tell us that he was a carpenter, that he was a descendant of David the king, and we know that he had to go to Bethlehem for the census. We know that he was betrothed to Mary and wasn't too sure about things when he learned that she was with child, and we also know that he was still around when Jesus was twelve years old. Everything else is a guess and is usually something someone made up for a theological or dogmatic reason.

One thing we know about Joseph is that he was obedient; even when he had his doubts about the marriage and his young bride, when angels would appear to him in his dreams and give him instructions, he would follow them. He married Mary even though she was pregnant, and he took his young wife and baby son to Egypt when instructed by an angel in order to save them from the wrath of Herod. We know that Joseph was a devout Jew and that he brought his family to Jerusalem to sacrifice at the Temple. These are the only stories we have from the Bible. But many traditions sprang up involving Joseph over the centuries. There is a tradition that Joseph was an elderly man when he wed Mary. This tradition was probably invented as a means of preventing some from thinking that Joseph was the biological father of Jesus. If Joseph was an elderly man then he probably had lost all interest in sex by the time he and Mary were wed, so he couldn't possibly be Jesus' biological father; plus Mary could remain ever-virgin! There is another tradition that Joseph was a widower and that his marriage to the Blessed Virgin Mary was his second marriage. This idea may have been developed as a means of explaining all those brothers and sisters of Jesus; if Mary was ever-virgin, those other kids must be step-children. Personally, I don't accept those stories; I thin that Joseph was probably in his twenties when he married Mary, and I think that they had at least four sons together and several daughters, too. He isn't mentioned in the texts after the visit of Jesus to his home town because he was no longer important to the story. The Gospels are not histories in the same sense as a book about the building of the Canal is a history; the purpose of the Gospels is to tell the Good News and they are theological documents serving a theological purpose, not an accurate history as we modern people expect in a historic document.

Today's Gospel reading gives us the only story from a canonical source on the childhood of Jesus. There are several non-canonical sources on his childhood and we call them infancy gospels. This story from Luke's gospel is the only story as such in the Bible. In this story Jesus is very precocious, telling his family that he must be about his Father's business. When I head this story as a child, I always liked it because the child Jesus showed-up all the adults, but as a father I have a lot of sympathy for Joseph and Mary, as I know what it is like to raise a precocious child. Raising precocious children can be difficult, but imagine how difficult it must have been to raise the Incarnation! In this story Joseph and Mary noticed that Jesus was missing, they've gone all the way back to Jerusalem to find him sitting in the Temple teaching the Scribes and Pharisees and Teachers, and he doesn't even feel bad about worrying his parents. When his mother scolds him, he says, "Why were you searching for me? Don't you know that I must be in my Father's house?" In the infancy gospels little Jesus turns children who make fun of him into goats and he even raises a child from the dead to clear himself from the accusation that he had pushed the boy off a tower. Raising little Jesus must have been quite a task! Actually, I think that Jesus was probably more like all the other children in the neighborhood; I doubt that he was turning other children into goats and I'm sure he didn't spend his time doing magic tricks. He probably helped his father and learned about carpentry, and he probably helped his mother take care of his younger brothers and sisters. I'm sure that the family of Joseph and Mary and Jesus and his siblings was as normal as all the other families living in Nazareth, a rather typical Galilean family.

Joseph is very important because he gave Jesus and James and Judas and the other children the fatherly influence that they needed to grow up to be the adults God wanted them to be. Joseph must have been a good, loving father, because the image of the father in Jesus' teachings is that of a loving, caring person. There are many people in the world who do not have good fathers; their fathers are uncaring and abusive, and this affects a person's perception of a father and it makes the name "Father" for God a problem, because when these people hear the word "father," they experience fear or loathing. But Jesus understood the word "father" to be a positive word. For Jesus the image of a father is that of a loving, caring, welcoming person and I'm sure that this image had a lot to do with his experience of his earthly father, Joseph.

Joseph was willing to take Mary as his wife even though her condition could bring scandal upon his name. Joseph was willing to pick-up and head for Egypt for a few years in order to protect his wife and infant son. He returned to Galilee, to Nazareth, and there he raised a family and worked as a carpenter and was a model of fatherhood for Jesus and his brothers and sisters. Joseph is a model of dedication and obedience; obedience to God and dedication to his family, and that is why we honor his memory today.

O God, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Random Top Ten


Ya pushes "shuffle" and ya takes your chances. . . .

1. Happiness Is A Warm Gun The Beatles
2. Burned Neil Young
3. Neighborhood Threat Iggy Pop
4. Planxty Brown/The William Davis's/ Lady Wrixon The Chieftains
5. D.C.B.A. 25 Jefferson Airplane
6. Cowtown They Might Be Giants
7. My Bird Performs XTC
8. Un Día Normal Juanes
9. Holy & Righteous Trin-I-Tee
10. Solitary Confinement The Members

As usual, an unusual list. I guess the shuffle is sumkina hippy today. Thank God for Juanes! He serves as both 21st Century representative AND Rock Latino representative. I think we had that Iggy song just a couple of weeks ago. I guess the Chieftains are still hangin' 'round from yesterday. The Members is way cool, also. too.

Watchoo listenin' to?

Oh, heck! Let´s ALL watch the Members!

Thirty-three Years Ago

Thirty-three years ago today the Lovely Mona and I stood before the pastor of Saratoga Federated Church (kinda sounds like a department store) in Saratoga, California, surrounded by family and friends, and Made Certain Promises. And we're still married, which is great for us! The Lovely Mona returned from California last night so we can be together on our Big Day. Of course, a Friday in Lent isn't the best day for a celebration (St. Cyril of Jerusalem is not a major feast), but we're gonna have a wonderful dinner on Sunday.

Yeah, I loves her even more now than I did all them years ago.

Here's a wedding photo. Yes, we HAVE changed quite a bit in thirty-three years. Also, she made me get rid of that sword.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Feast of St. Patrick, Missionary to Ireland and Bishop

We continue our series March, the Month of Saints Named Gregory with today's saint, Irish Greg, also known as St. Patrick, and even St. Paddy to others. This post is adapted from my St. Big Irish Gregory St. Patrick sermon.

Almighty God, in your providence you chose your servant Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of you: Grant us so to walk in that light that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Today is the Feast of St. Patrick, which is a huge celebration in the U.S.A., with parades and speeches and people wearing green and, from what I remember from elementary school, lots of pinching. I think the celebration of St. Patrick's Day has more to do with the pride of those of Irish heritage in the land of their ancestors than with the actual St. Patrick; leprechauns and green beer and getting plastered have nothing to do with the saint, and such celebrations do not take place in Ireland. Today we are going to remember Patrick as a missionary and bishop, and as the man who helped spread Christianity throughout Ireland.

Patrick did not bring Christianity to Ireland; there were Christians in Ireland in the fourth century, probably as a result of contact between the British, who had first heard the Gospel with the arrival of missionaries in the second century. The Celtic Church was different from the Roman Church; they kept a different date for Easter and their spirituality was different than that of the Western or Roman church.

Patricus was probably born in the year 390 in Britain. Patrick's family were Christians; his grandfather was a priest and his father was a deacon. His father, Calpornius, was also an important official in the Roman imperial government in Britain. Yet even though he came from a Christian family, Patrick, like many young people, didn't really concern himself with the faith or with his education. He regretted his lack of education for the rest of his life. When he was sixteen years of age, his village, Bannavem Taburniae, was raided by Irish pirates or slave-raiders, and he and many other people were captured and taken away. Here is how he tells the story in his Confession: I was then about sixteen years of age. I did not know the true God. I was taken into captivity to Ireland with many thousands of people---and deservedly so, because we turned away from God and did not keep His commandments, and did not obey our priests, who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought over us the wrath of his anger and scattered us among many nations, even unto the utmost part of the earth, where now my littleness is placed among strangers.

And there the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my abjection, and mercy on my youth and ignorance, and watched over me before I knew Him, and before I was able to distinguish between good and evil, and guarded me, and comforted me as would a father his son.

Patrick was forced to work as a shepherd, and he spent a lot of his time in repentance and prayer. He also had a vision which told him that he would return home: But after I came to Ireland---everyday I had to tend sheep, and many times a day I prayed---the love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened. And my spirit was moved so that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and almost as many in the night, and this even when I was staying in the woods and on the mountains; and I used to get up for prayer before daylight, through snow, through frost, through rain, and I felt no harm, and there was no sloth in me---as now I see, because the spirit within me was then fervent. And there one night I heard in my sleep a voice saying to me: "It is well that you fast, soon you will go to your own country." And again, after a short while, I heard a voice saying to me: "See, your ship is ready." And it was not near, but at a distance of perhaps two hundred miles, and I had never been there, nor did I know a living soul there; and then I took to flight, and I left the man whith whom I had stayed for six years. And I went in the strength of God who directed my way to my good, and I feared nothing until I came to that ship.

When he first came and asked the captain for work on the ship, the captain was angry and said, "There is no room and it is no use for you to ask to go along with us." Patrick, discouraged, turned away and started walking down the path. He was praying that God would guide him safely back to his hut, but before he even ended his prayer he heard a sailor calling: "Come, hurry, we shall take you on in good faith; make friends with us in whatever way you like." Patrick thanked God and hoped to bring them all to Christ, as they were all Pagans. Three days later they arrived on the coast of Britain. They left the boat and began traveling by foot. Patrick writes: . . . for twenty-eight days we traveled through deserted country. And they lacked food, and hunger overcame them; and the next day the captain said to me, "Tell me, Christian, you say that your God is great and all-powerful; why, then, do you not pray for us? As you can see, we are suffering from hunger; it is unlikely indeed that we shall ever see a human being again." I said to them full of confidence: "Be truly converted with all your heart to the Lord my God, because nothing is impossible for Him, that this day He may send you food on your way until you be satisfied; for He has abundance everywhere." And, with the help of God, so it came to pass: suddenly a herd of pigs appeared on the road before our eyes, and they killed many of them; and there they stopped for two nights and fully recovered their strength, and their hounds received their fill for many of them had grown weak and were half-dead along the way. And from that day they had plenty of food.

That night Patrick had a dream that Satan was holding him down, and he called out to God and was saved from Satan's grasp, and he realized from that moment on that the Spirit of God would speak and work through him. He eventually left this gang and returned to his family. He also as educated as a Christian and took on Holy Orders, being ordained deacon, priest, and eventually, bishop. All during this time back home he had visions calling him back to the land of his captivity: And there I saw in the night the vision of a man, whose name was Victoricus, coming as it were from Ireland, with countless letters. And he gave me one of them, and I read the opening words of the letter, which were "The voice of the Irish;" and as I read the beginning of the letter I thought that at the same moment I heard their voice---they were those beside the Wood of Covlut, with is near the Western Sea---and thus did they cry out as with one mouth: "We ask thee, boy, come and walk among us once more." And I was quite broken in heart, and could read no further, and so I woke up. Thanks be to God, after many years the Lord gave to them according to their cry. And another night---whether within me or beside me, I know not, God knows---they called me most unmistakably with words which I heard but could not understand, except that at the end of the prayer He spoke thus: "He that has laid down His life for thee, it is He that speaketh in thee;" and so I awoke full of joy.

Patrick decided to answer this call and return to Ireland, but he was opposed by other bishops and he also suffered a serious illness. Patrick decided that this was for his own good and that he was being purged by the Lord. He finally returned to Ireland in the year 432, arriving not far from the area where he had been a shepherd. He set-up a church in Armagh, which served as his head-quarters, and he traveled throughout Ireland, preaching and baptizing. He usually preached to the chiefs of clans and with their conversion the entire tribe would convert. He also Christianized the old religion, building churches over former Druid holy sites, carving crosses on druidic pillars, and putting sacred wells and springs under the protection of Christian Saints. His conversion of the three High Kings of Ireland put Ireland on the road to becoming a Christian nation. He educated the sons of the chiefs and kings, he established monasteries throughout the land, he ordained clergy and he instituted monks and nuns. The monasteries of Ireland became incredible powerhouses of education and spirituality. He stayed in Ireland for the rest of his life, and probably died around the year 461. We don't know the date of his death, but the celebration of March 17 dates to the seventh century. I doubt that he chased the snakes from Ireland, or that he used shamrocks to explain the concept of the Trinity, and most of the other miracles attributed to him were invented over the centuries. We do know that he was a faithful bishop and loved the people of Ireland.

I will close with the ending paragraphs of Patrick's Confession: Wherfore may God never permit it to happen to me that I should lose His people with He purchases in the utmost parts of the world. I pray to God to give me perseverance and to deign that I be a faithful witness to Him to the end of my life for my God.

And if ever I have done any good for my God whom I love, I beg Him to grant me that I may shed my blood with those exiles and captives for His name, even though I should be denied a grave, or my body be woefully torn to pieces limb by limb by hounds or wild beasts, or the fowls of the air devour it. I am firmly convinced that if this should happen to me, I would have gained my soul together with my body, because on that day without doubt we shall rise in the brightness of the sun, that is, in the glory of Christ jesus our Redeemer, as sons of the living God and joint heirs with Christ, to be made conformable to His image; for of Him, and by Him, and in Him we shall reign.

For His sun which we see rises daily for us because He commands so, but it will never reign, nor will its splendor last; what is more, those wretches who adore it will be miserably punished. Not so we, who believe in, and worship, the True Sun---Christ---who will never perish, nor will he who doeth His will; but he will abide for ever as Christ abideth for ever, who reigns with God the Father Almighty and the Holy Spirit before time, and now, and in all eternity.

Behold, again and again would I set forth the words of my confession. I testify in truth and in joy of heart before God and His holy angels that I never had any reason except the Gospel and its promises why I should ever return to the people from whom once before I barely escaped.

I pray those who believe and fear God, whosoever deigns to look at or receive this writing which Patrick, a sinner, unlearned, has composed in Ireland, that no one should ever say that it was my ignorance if I did or showed forth anything however small according to God's good pleasure; but let this be your conclusion and let it so be thought, that---as is the perfect truth---it was the gift of God. This is my confession before I die.

Patrick was creative in his evangelism, he understood that incorporating what was familiar would do much more to further the message of the Gospel rather than trying to force the Irish into some concept of The Faith Once Delivered. He understood the importance of education and the intellect in Christianity. He was faithful to God and faithful to the Irish. He is an example of a missionary who loved and served the people to whom he had been sent. And that is why we remember him today.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

It's the Lovely Mona's Birthday!!!!!!!!!

It's the Lovely Mona's Birthday!!!! And this is her favorite birthday song!!

She's in los estados unidos with her parents and our daughters and granddaughters having one hella birthday celebration! Yesterday was her father's 89th birthday and Tuesday is our granddaughter Evannie's birthday, so lotsa birthdays happenin' in this fambly.

Have a wonderful birthday, Mona! I love you!

The Great Litany

O God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth,
Have mercy upon us.

O God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy upon us.

O God the Holy Ghost, Sanctifier of the faithful,
Have mercy upon us.

O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, one God,
Have mercy upon us.

Remember not, Lord Christ, our offenses, nor the offenses of our forefathers; neither reward us according to our sins. Spare us, good Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood, and by thy mercy preserve us for ever.
Spare us, good Lord.

From all evil and wickedness; from sin; from the crafts and assaults of the devil; and from everlasting damnation,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From all blindness of heart; from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice; and from all want of charity,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From all inordinate and sinful affections; and from all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From all false doctrine, heresy, and schism; from hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word and commandment,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From lightning and tempest; from earthquake, fire, and flood; from plague, pestilence, and famine,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From all oppression, conspiracy, and rebellion; from violence, battle, and murder; and from dying suddenly and unprepared,
Good Lord, deliver us.

By the mystery of thy holy Incarnation; by thy holy Nativity and submission to the Law; by thy Baptism, Fasting, and Temptation,
Good Lord, deliver us.

By thine Agony and Bloody Sweat; by thy Cross and Passion; by thy precious Death and Burial; by thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension; and by the Coming of the Holy Ghost,
Good Lord, deliver us.

In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our prosperity; in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment,
Good Lord, deliver us.

We sinners do beseech thee to hear us, O Lord God; and that it may please thee to rule and govern thy holy Church Universal in the right way,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to illumine all bishops, priests, and deacons, with true knowledge and understanding of thy Word; and that both by their preaching and living, they may set it forth, and show it accordingly,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bless and keep all thy people,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to send forth laborers into thy harvest, and to draw all mankind into thy kingdom,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give to all people increase of grace to hear and receive thy Word, and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bring into the way of truth all such as have erred, and are deceived,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give us a heart to love and fear thee, and diligently to live after thy commandments,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee so to rule the hearts of thy servants, the President of Panamá and the President of the United States, and all others in authority, that they may do justice, and love mercy, and walk in the ways of truth,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to make wars to cease in all the world; to give to all nations unity, peace, and concord; and to bestow freedom upon all peoples,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to show thy pity upon all prisoners and captives, the homeless and the hungry, and all who are desolate and oppressed,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give and preserve to our use the bountiful fruits of the earth, so that in due time all may enjoy them,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That It may please thee to inspire us, in our several callings, to do the work which thou givest us to do with singleness of heart as thy servants, and for the common good,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to preserve all who are in danger by reason of their labor or their travel,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to preserve, and provide for, all women in childbirth, young children and orphans, the widowed, and all whose homes are broken or torn by strife,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to visit the lonely; to strengthen all who suffer in mind, body, and spirit; and to comfort with thy presence those who are failing and infirm,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to support, help, and comfort all who are in danger, necessity, and tribulation,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to have mercy upon all mankind,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give us true repentance; to forgive us all our sins, negligences, and ignorances; and to endue us with the grace of thy Holy Spirit to amend our lives according to thy holy Word,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to forgive our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, and to turn their hearts,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to strengthen such as do stand; to comfort and help the weak-hearted; to raise up those who fall; and finally to beat down Satan under our feet,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to grant to all the faithful departed eternal life and peace,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to grant that, in the fellowship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Christopher and all the saints, we may attain to thy heavenly kingdom,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us.
Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
Grant us thy peace.

O Christ, hear us.
O Christ, hear us.

Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Let us pray:

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Feast of Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome

Hey! Didn't we just have a St. Gregory the other day? Yes, we did, cuz it's March: The Month of Saints Named Gregory

Today is the feast of Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome. Gregory was a bishop in a time of transition; it was the end of the era of Late Antiquity, the period in which Greco-Roman influence was at its height. Gregory lived during the end of Late Antiquity and the beginning of the Medieval era. The center of the empire had shifted from Rome to Constantinople two hundred years earlier and the two great cities (and ecclesiastical Sees) continued to drift apart. It was the time in which the once great city of Rome was being attacked and raided by barbarians. Gregory was the one who held the city and the church in Rome together during this dangerous time.

Gregory was born in the year 540. He was the son of a senator who was also a lawyer in charge of the estates of the Bishop of Rome, and Gregory himself became the prefect of Rome in 573 at the age of 33 years. He was a man of fine upbringing, and even though he was prefect of the city he did something that no politician of our time would do: he sold all his lands and gave the money for the relief of the poor, and then he set up a monastery around the home of his parents. He founded seven monasteries: six in Sicily and one in Rome. A year after he became Prefect, he entered the monastery in Rome as a monk. He was very serious about monastic life and followed a very austere rule. Several years later the Bishop of Rome convinced Gregory to leave the cloister and made him one of the seven Deacons of Rome. In the year 578, a new Pope, Pelagius II, made Gregory ambassador to the Court in Constantinople, where he learned a lot about church and governmental politics. His experience in Constantinople convinced him that Rome could not expect any help from the struggling Eastern Empire. He returned to Rome in 585 to become Abbot of his former monastery, but a few years after his return Pope Pelagius II died of the plague. In the year 590, Gregory was elected the new Pope, the new Bishop of Rome. There is a story that just after he was elected Pope he saw a slave at an auction. This slave was blond and fair-skinned, and when Gregory asked what nationality this slave was, he was told "an Angle from Angleland." He is said to have responded "Not an Angle, but an Angel!" He took 40 monks from his monastery and made them missionaries to England, and one monk, Augustine, became the first Bishop of Canterbury. The conversion of England was one of the greatest successes of his episcopate. Many years after his death, Gregory the First was called "the Great" but he was not very popular during his lifetime, and he was a very hard and practical man, brought up to believe in efficient administration. Gregory was bishop when bishops were no longer mere "overseers;" they no longer had only spiritual authority but were in charge of the protection of their cities. The Church had taken over the care of the poor and indigent and soon this led to the protection of the entire city, so Gregory was in charge of the protection of the city of Rome. Gregory rebuilt the defenses of the city, and the aqueduct, bringing water to the besieged city, and he also cared for those who had suffered from the terrible floods, pestilence and famine which threatened the city. Gregory was a man of firmness and strength of character, tempered with gentleness and charity. He was able to do what must be done, but he was also compassionate. We have an idea of what he looked like from frescoes painted in his lifetime, although these frescoes were later destroyed. According to John the Deacon, who wrote a biography of Gregory in the ninth century and saw the frescoes, described Gregory as a man of medium height, with a large, bald head, light-brown eyes, and long, thin, arched eyebrows; he had an aquiline nose, thick lips and a swarthy complexion. Gregory himself said that he felt like "an ape forced to play the lion." He was not very healthy; he had weak digestion, gout, and bouts of malaria, but, as I mentioned earlier, he had a strong will and a lot of common sense. He established relations with the Lombards who had been attacking the Empire on both the eastern and western fronts. He established a separate peace with the Lombards, while the government in Constantinople refused to do so and was under constant attack.

Gregory was a prolific writer. |He wrote a commentary on the book of Job, and we still have some 858 of his letters, which give historians a clear picture of how his mind worked. His idea of the pastoral life of a bishop, whom he regarded as a "shepherd of souls," became the textbook for the medieval episcopate. He was an ardent promoter of monasticism and kept all the monasteries under his control. This was a major change, as clergy are always under the authority of their bishop, but since Gregory, Roman monks are under the authority of the Pope. He followed the teachings of St. Augustin of Hippo, the great African saint, and he accommodated Augustine's ideas to fit sixty-century Rome. Gregory developed the idea of Purgatory, a place between heaven and hell where the souls of the deceased could do penance and finally win admittance into heaven, and he was also a great believer in the angelology of St. Dionysius, a mystical theologian of that era. Gregory encouraged the veneration of holy relics but only if they could be proved to be authentic. He made major changes in the liturgy and some of the prayers in the Gregorian Sacramentary were actually written by him, although the sacramentary was assembled later. He was also very much involved in the development of liturgical music. He gave the Roman Schola Cantorum its form, and his work in plainsong was so important that it is known as Gregorian Chant.

Gregory cared about the Church. He cared about the city of Rome and the western part of the Empire. He also cared about the poor. He sold his vast estates in order to establish funds of the care of the poor in Rome, and he fed the populace of Rome from the papal granaries in Sicily. Though he was able to work comfortably in the world of politics, his main concern was the souls of his flock. He was a strong believer in evangelism, and he strengthened the Church not only in Rome, but in Northern Italy, Spain, and Gaul. His fascination with the Angle slave he saw in Rome led to the mission to England (although there were already Christians there) and the growth of the Church in the British Isles, which contributed to the eventual establishment of the Church of England. The Church of England came to the Americas with the English colonists and eventually found its way to this Isthmus so that here we are, sitting in Parque Lefevre using the Book of Common Prayer in an Episcopal church with its roots in the Church of England. I think this is an example of just how far reaching one's actions can be at times; the actions of the son of a Roman senator, who saw an Angle slave in the city of Rome is inspired to send missionaries to England which eventually leads to our group here sharing the Bread and Wine in very much the same manner as did Gregory the Great. And during the healing part of our service we listen to music created under his influence. It is another example of how answering "yes" to God's call can change everything.

Almighty and merciful God, you raised up Gregory of Rome to be a servant of the servants of God, and inspired him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people: Preserve in your Church the catholic and apostolic faith they taught, that your people, being fruitful in every good work, may receive the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Random Top Ten

Ignore the illustration; no Folk Rock here!

Ya pushes "shuffle" and ya takes your chances. . .

1. Benedictus (Tallis) The Theatre of Voices
2. Louis Quatorze Bow Wow Wow
3. The Pain Of Loving You Dolly Parton, Linda Ronsdtadt, Emmylou Harris
4. Let's Get To It Devo
5. Third Tune from Archbishop Parker's Psalter [Why fum'th in fight] (Tallis) The King's Noyse
6. You Got Me Hummin' Sam & Dave
7. I Got A Lot To Say The Ramones
8. No Promise Have I Made Hüsker Dü
9. Johnny B. Goode/Road Runner The Sex Pistols
10. Ad Dominum Cum Tribularer (W. Byrd) I Fagiolini

Geez, I've complained before about the shuffle doing the Old Guy list before, but this week it's a REALLY OLD guy's list; three pieces from the sixteenth century! Thomas Tallis and his student William Byrd. Well, at least Devo saves us with a cut from their 21st century album. However, gotta say I likes all this stuff.

Watchoo listenin' to?

For the People of Japan

Photo credit: European Pressphoto Agency

This prayer is from the Church of England website. I nicked it from Episcopal Café.

O loving Creator,
bring healing and hope to those who, at this time, grieve, suffer pain, or who have been affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
We remember those who have died and we pray for those who mourn for them.
We pray for those who may be affected as the tsunami spreads across the Pacific.
May we all be aware of Your compassion, O God, which calms our troubled hearts and shelters our anxious souls.
May we pray with humility with our troubled and struggling brothers and sisters on earth.
May we dare to hope that through the generosity of the privileged, the destitute might glimpse hope, warmth and life again.
Through our Saviour Christ who lives with us, comforts us and soothes us.

We also remember the victims of the earthquake in New Zealand and those rebuilding their lives. We pray for the victims of political violence around the world and throughout North Africa and the Middle East, especially.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Feast of St. Gregory of Nyssa, transferred

Yesterday was actually Gregory's feast day, but that pesky Ash Wednesday made us change everything!

Almighty God, you have revealed to your Church you eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in Trinity of Persons: Give us grace that, like your bishop Gregory of Nyssa, we may continue steadfast in the confession of this faith, and constant in our worship of you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; for you live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

The lawyer Basil and his wife Emmelia of Cappadocia, had one heck of a family. They produced a daughter who started one of the first monastic orders, and two of their sons became bishops. Three canonized saints out of ten kids: five boys and five girls.

Gregory was overshadowed by the older kids, including Naucratius, the darling of the family. I imagine a typical conversation:
Basil and Naucratius: "Mom, tell Gregory to quit following us!"
Gregory: "I am not following them! I'm just walking in the same direction. Basil's lying, mom!"
Emmelia: Gregory, leave the boys alone. Go play with Macrina."
Gregory: "But she has cooties, mom!"
Emmelia: "No she doesn't; she's a saint compared to you three. Now go help Macrina feed the poor."

Gregory became a rhetorician like his father while Basil became Bishop of Caesarea. Gregory was happy to spend his time in contemplation and writing, but Basil had other plans for his brother. He named Gregory Bishop of Nyssa, a small, no-where town ten miles from Caesarea. Gregory had no desire to be a bishop; he didn't like being around people, he hated giving orders, and he only became bishop because Basil forced him to. Gregory, a man who experienced a lot of misery, later said that the day of his consecration was the most miserable in his entire life. Gregory was tactless, had no concept of money, and had no idea of human behavior. Three years into his episcopacy he was falsely accused of embezzling church funds and went into hiding. He returned to his See upon the death of the Emperor Valens, an Arian. As much as he resented his brother Basil, he was shocked by his death and he suffered another blow a few months later when he learned that his sister Macrina was dying. He hurried to her convent in Annesi and spent two days talking with her about death, the soul, and resurrection. She died in his arms. He wrote a wonderful description of her last days in his Vita S. Macrinae. While he was grieved and shocked by the deaths of his brother and sister, he was no longer under their shadows, and this seemed to allow him the freedom to grow as a theologian and writer. He produced his greatest works in the period after the year 379. He defended the Trinity, he defended the Nicene faith, he was a mystic, and, at the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople, he was honored as a Pillar of the Church. He and his brother Basil and their friend Gregory of Nazianzus are known as the Cappadocian Fathers.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ash Wednesday

Litany of Penitence from the Book of Common Prayer

Most holy and merciful Father: We confess to you and to one another, and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth, that we have sinned by our own fault in thought, word, and deed; by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

The Bishop, if present, or the Priest, stands and, facing the people, says

Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they may turn from their wickedness and live, has given power and commandment to his ministers to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins. He pardons and absolves all those who truly repent, and with sincere hearts believe his holy Gospel.
Therefore we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do on this day, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Monday of Carnaval

Feast of Perpetua, Felicity, and Their Companions, Martyrs in Carthage

O God the King of saints, you strengthened your servants Perpetua and Felicitas and their companions to make a good confession, staunchly resisting, for the cause of Christ, the claims of human affection, and encouraging one another in their time of trial: Grant that we who cherish their blessed memory may share their pure and steadfast faith, and win with them the palm of victory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Today is the Feast of Saint Perpetua and her companions, Felicitas, Revocatus, Secundulus, Saturninus, and Saturas. They all lived in the city of Carthage, in North Africa, during the late second-early third century. Vibia Perpetua was a young, relatively well-off young widow with an infant. Felicitas and Revocatus were her slaves, but these three, with Secundulus and Saturninus, were catechumens, people studying in preparation for baptism, under the care of the priest Saturas. In those days people who wanted to be baptized had to study for three years. They were also watched closely during that period to make sure that they were sincere about their desire to become Christians, that they had begun to live a moral life, and to make sure that they were not sent to spy upon and betray the Christians to the government. Once a person had finished their three years in the catechumenate, they were baptized at the Easter Vigil.

In the year 202, the Emperor Septimius Severus decreed that there would be no more conversions to Christianity and that everyone must sacrifice to the divinity of the emperor. This required a person to take a little incense and drop it into the sacrificial fire in front of the government priests. Since Christians only believe in the divinity of Christ, they could not and would not participate. Perpetua and her companions were all arrested and put into prison. The conditions in these prisons were terrible and the only way one was fed was if family or friends brought the prisoner food. Visiting prisoners was a very important aspect of being a Christian in those days; Jesus said that when we visit prisoners in his name, we are visiting him, and this was taken seriously by the Christians of that era. Many Christians were being arrested because of their faith, and this had been happening since the earliest days; St. Paul, St. Peter, and almost all of the apostles had spent some time in prison, and St. John was even exiled on the island of Patmos for a while. Not only the leaders of the Church were imprisoned; people like Perpetua, a nursing mother, were locked in filthy cells with shackles on their ankles simply for desiring to be baptized. The martyrs and confessors went to prison willingly rather than betray their faith. in the Letter to the Hebrews, we read: “Recall the former days when you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated... For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised.” These people were spiritual athletes, and they endured these terrible trials for the sake of their faith.

When Perpetua was brought before the Proconsul, she refused to sacrifice to the Emperor and she refused to deny Christ. Her father came and begged her to think of what she was doing; he begged her to think of her little baby, to think of her family name. Here she was, a well-born woman, spending her time with slaves and others. Here she was, a nursing mother, imprisoned with her baby. Here she was, bringing great shame upon her family; all she had to do was offer a little incense to the divinity of the Emperor and denounce this “Christ” and his followers and everything would be all right. But Perpetua would not turn against Christ and the Christian faith. She stood before the Proconsul and her father and said, “I am a Christian.” The Proconsul finally let her father take the baby home with him, and Perpetua was returned to the dungeon. Perpetua and her companions were Montanists, a group who believed strongly in the direction of the Holy Spirit and were given to visions and prophecy. Perpetua experienced several dreams and visions in prison. She dreamed that she climbed a ladder to heaven, to a garden in which she saw those who were martyred before her. She had a vision in which her brother, who had died of cancer, appeared to her healthy and drinking of the water of life; and she also dreamed that she was a warrior, that she became a man and fought the Devil, defeating him to enter heaven. After that last dream, she awoke understanding that she was to fight in the arena, not with the wild beasts, but with the Devil himself.

On the day of March 7, 202, Perpetua and Felicitas, Revocatus, Secundulus, Saturninus, and Saturas, encouraging one another to be brave before whatever pain they may suffer and before whatever awaited them, were led to the arena. There, wild beasts were unlashed upon them: a leopard, a wild boar, a bear, and even a wild steer attacked and mangled them. The steer tossed Perpetua and Felicitas about with its sharp horns but although they were bruised and dishevelled, they held up. Perpetua didn’t even know that she was being tossed about; like so many martyrs, she was in a state of spiritual ecstasy and she cried to the others: “Stand fast in the faith and love of one another. And do not let what we suffer be a stumbling block to you.” Eventually her five companions were killed by the beasts, but Perpetua was still alive. The animals were tired, the crowd’s bloodlust was sated, yet she was still alive. A soldier with a sword was sent to finish her off, but he was inept and unsure and his first blow merely pierced her throat between the bones, leaving her alive. She shrieked with pain, and then took the blade with her hands and guided the sword into her heart. The report of her martyrdom ends: “Perhaps so great a woman, feared by the unclean spirit, could not have been killed unless she so willed it.”

The memory of Perpetua was very important to the Christians in Carthage, and to all the Christians in Africa. The story of her martyrdom infused the African Church with much vigor and it was one of the strongest and most enthusiastic of all the churches in the first five centuries.

In the reading we heard from Matthew’s gospel this morning, Jesus warned the Twleve of the trials to come, but these trials were also experienced, not just by the Twelve, but by regular people like you and I. Jesus said, “They will deliver you up to the tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.” The martyrs of the first three centuries and in the centuries to come all experienced these things. Jesus also warned: “Many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.” This was the experience of the Early Church and it is also the experience of Christians today. We need to be aware fo false teachings like the Prosperity Gospel and we need to be aware of those who create dissent and schism instead of unity and love. Jesus also said, “Those who endure to the end will be saved. And this gospel will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations.” Perpetua and Felicitas and their companions endured to the end, and in just over one hundred years after their deaths, the Emperor Constantine declared tolerance for Christianity and the persecutions in the empire ended. With the backing of the Roman Empire, the Gospel of the Christ spread throughout what they considered the world, and then continued to spread, day after day, year after year, century after century, until it spread even to the Americas, to this isthmus, a world of which Perpetua, Constantine, and the Apostles had no idea even existed. And now, some eighteen hundred years later, we sit here in a church in Parque Lefevre in the Republic of Panamá, hearing the story of the bravery of Perpetua and her companions, sharing the bread and wine as the Christians of her time did, coming together to pray and sing and heal, just as they did. The faithful witness of the martyrs, of people like Perpetua and the others, have made it possible for us to hear the Good News, have made it possible for us to learn of salvation, have made it possible for us to have eternal life. May we all share the bravery and faithfulness of Perpetua, Felicitas, Revocatus, Secundulus, Saturninus, Saturas, and all the martyrs.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Friday, March 04, 2011

Carnaval Weekend, Everbuddy!

While those in the Northern Climes look forward to pancakes next Tuesday, all the fun people are celebrating Carnaval, including the version Grandmère Mimi celebrates.

Friday Random Top Ten

Ya pushes "shuffle" and ya takes your chances. . .

1. Neighborhood Threat Iggy Pop
2. Love's Sweet Sensation William Bell & Mavis Staples
3. St. Elmo's Fire Brian Eno
4. The Lighthouse David Byrne and Brian Eno
5. Responsory: Spiritui Sancto (Hidegard von Bingen) Anonymous 4
6. (Living A) Daydream Madder Rose
7. Click Your Fingers Applauding The Play Roky Erickson
8. Mary Provost Nick Lowe
9. Jump XTC
10. Fools In Love Joe Jackson

More old guy stuff. Well, ONE song is from the Twenty-first Century, but it's by old guys, so, I don't know. . . Lot's a cool stuff, though, 'specially Mavis Staples and William Bell. Yeah, all the songs are great, just old.

Watchoo listenin' to?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Domingo Pasado en Parroquia San Cristóbal

Hangin' out before the service

Since Monday was the first day of school for the new school year, all the students and teachers came forward for a special blessing. I think there were only about five of us who weren't students or teachers in the congregation Sunday.

I See You!

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