Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Feast of Andrew, the First Called


Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give us, who are called by your holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

As is usually the case with first century saints and especially with the Apostles, we don’t know much about Andrew. There are twelve passages in the New Testament which mention Andrew’s name. The passages from the synoptic gospels are two about Jesus calling Andrew and his brother Simon Peter, three which are what we may call the List of the Twelve, one which mentions Jesus entering Andrew and Peter’s home (to heal Peter’s mother-in-law so that she could make lunch), and one passage in which Andrew is with a few members of the Twelve who ask Jesus about the eschaton. But the Gospel of John contains four references to Andrew, and he plays a different role than that in the synoptics. He is the first person Jesus called to follow him; there is a reference to the city of Bethsaida being the city of Andrew and Peter; Andrew brings the little boy with the loaves and fishes to Jesus at that famous lunch, and Andrew also serves as an intermediary between Jesus and some Greeks who asked Philip to let them see Jesus to ask him some questions. The final biblical reference to Andrew is in the Acts of the Apostles where he is listed as one of those in the Upper Room. Eusebius’ only refers to Andrew as being assigned the area of Scythia for his missionary work. I read the Acts of Andrew, which is a book which was denounced by the Church Fathers (and by Eusebius), but tells some wild stories about Andrew. I’ve used some stories from the Acts of Andrew for this post, especially the description of Andrew’s martyrdom.

As I stated in the paragraph above, the Gospel of John claims that Andrew was at first a disciple of John the Baptizer. When John the Baptizer pointed out Jesus as the Christ, Andrew and another of John’s followers both became His disciples. Andrew took his brother, Simon, later to be called Peter, to meet Jesus. He is called the Protokletos (the First Called) in the Orthodox Church because he was the first Apostle to be summoned by Jesus into His service. In the accounts in the synoptic gospels, Andrew and his brother Peter made their living as fishermen on the Sea of Galilee and both dropped their nets and followed Jesus when he called them. Both men became Apostles, and while Peter, who was martyred in Rome, symbolically came to represent the Church of the West, Andrew, whose relics were transferred to Constantinople, likewise came to represent the Church of the East.

According to the traditions of the Church of the East, Andrew began his missionary activity in the Provinces of Bithynia and Pontus on the southern shores of the Black Sea. He then to the city of Byzantium and founded a church there, ordaining the first Bishop of Byzantium, Stachys, who was one of the 70 disciples Jesus sent out to heal the sick and proclaim the Good News. The Apostles began their missionary work after Pentecost. Andrew went to several cities and countries to teach, including Byzantium, Thrace, Russia, Epiros, and Peloponnese. In Amisos, he converted the Jews in the temple, baptized them, healed their sick, built a church, and left a priest for them (I don’t know if he was a priest who had been traveling with Andrew or a local person. Historically, there weren’t any priests in the Church yet). In Bithynia, he taught, healed their sick, and drove away the wild beasts that bothered the people. His prayers destroyed the pagan temples, and those who resisted his words became possessed and gnawed at their bodies until Andrew healed them. Many of the stories about Andrew seem to deal with demon possession. According to the Acts of Andrew, he visited the City of Patras during one of his several missionary journeys to Greece. Through his preaching and the miracles of healing he performed in the name of Jesus, many persons were converted to Christianity. Among those healed was Maximilla, the wife of the Roman Proconsul, Aegeates. Seeing this miracle of healing, Stratoklis, the highly intellectual brother of the Proconsul, also became a Christian, and Andrew consecrated and enthroned him as the first Bishop of Patras. As a prophet, he foretold of the greatness of Kiev as a city and a stronghold of Christianity. In Sinope, he prayed for the imprisoned Apostle Matthias, and his chains fell from him and the cell door opened. This angered the people and they beat Andrew, breaking his teeth, cutting his fingers, and left him for dead in a dung heap. While Andrew was lying in the dung heap Jesus appeared to him and healed him, telling him to be of good cheer. When the people saw him up and around with all his teeth and fingers the next day, they were amazed and they converted. Another time, he raised a woman's only son from the dead. All this activity made the people of Patras and Sinope and Kiev love him, but it did not endear him to those in power, of course. According to the Acts of Andrew, the conversions to the Christian Faith by members of his own family infuriated the Proconsul Aegeates, and he decided, with the urging of his pagan advisors, to crucify Andrew. The crucifixion was carried out on an X-shaped cross with the body of the Apostle upside down so that he saw neither the earth nor his executioners, but only the sky, which he “glorified as the heaven in which he would meet his Lord.” Aegeates had him tied to the cross in this manner so that he would live longer and suffer more. According to the account in the Acts of Andrew, the Apostle went to the cross “and spake unto it as unto a living creature, with a loud voice (and in Elizabethan english!): Hail, O cross, yea be glad indeed! Well know I that thou shalt henceforth be at rest, thou that hast for a long time been wearied, being set up and awaiting me. I come unto thee whom I know to belong to me. I come unto thee that hast yearned after me. I know thy mystery, for the which thou art set up: for thou art planted in the world to establish the things that are unstable: and the one part of thee stretcheth up toward heaven that thou mayest signify the heavenly word: and another part of thee is spread out to the right hand and the left that it may put to flight the envious and adverse power of the evil one, and gather into one the things that are scattered abroad: And another part of thee is planted in the earth, and securely set in the depth, that thou mayest join the things that are in the earth and that are under the earth unto the heavenly things. O cross, device of the salvation of the Most High! O cross, trophy of the victory of Christ over the enemies! O cross, planted upon the earth and having thy fruit in the heavens! O name of the cross, filled with all things. Well done, O cross, that hast bound down the circumference of the world! Well done, O shape of understanding that hast shaped the shapeless! Well done, O unseen chastisement that sorely chastisest the substance of the knowledge that hath many gods, and drivest out from among mankind him that devised it! Well done, thou that didst clothe thyself with the Lord, and didst bear the thief as a fruit, and didst call the apostle to repentance, and didst not refuse to accept us! But how long delay I, speaking thus, and embrace not the cross, that by the cross I may be made alive, and by the cross win the common death of all and depart out of life? Come hither ye ministers of joy unto me, ye servants of Aegeates: accomplish the desire of us both, and bind the lamb unto the wood of suffering, the man unto the maker, the soul unto the Saviour.

Twenty thousand of the faithful stood by and mourned. Even then, Andrew taught them and exhorted them to endure temporary sufferings for the kingdom of heaven. Out of fear of the people, Aegeates came to remove Andrew from the cross. Andrew, however, told Aegeates that there was still a chance for Aegeates to become a Christian, but that he (Andrew) had already seen Jesus waiting for him and he would not allow himself to be removed from the cross. Many tried to undo the knots, but their hands all became numb. Suddenly, a heavenly light illumined Andrew for about a half hour. When it left, Andrew had given up his spirit. His body was tenderly removed from the cross by Bishop Stratoklis and Maximilla, and buried with all of the honor befitting the Apostle. Soon countless numbers of Christians made their way to Patras to pay reverence to the grave of Andrew, and when Aegeates realized that the man he had put to death was truly a holy man of God a demon fell upon him and tormented him so powerfully that he committed suicide (In many of these non-canonical books, the one who had someone martyred would commit suicide or explode or fall dead for no reason, as a way of avenging the death of the martyr).

The actual historical record tells us that in the month of March in the year 357 the Emperor Constantine (son of Constantine The Great) ordered that the body of Saint Andrew be removed from Patras and be reinterred in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople. This was a church built by Constantine the Great, and he had wanted to have the relics or remains of all twelve apostles interred in this church along with his own body. This is because the Christians of that era believed that there was great spiritual power contained in the bones of the Apostles and other martyrs, and to have the relic of an apostle or martyr in the altar made the church a center of great spiritual power. St. Andrew’s bones were returned to the very city which had first heard the Good News from Andrew’s own lips, and with all the pomp and honor and liturgical magnificence of the Byzantine Empire, they were laid in the Great Church of Christ at Constantinople. There is a tradition that some of his relics were taken to Scotland. The skull of Andrew was kept in Patras until the year 1460 when Thomas Paleologos, the last ruler of the Morea, brought the skull to Rome. In 1967, under the orders of Pope Paul, the skull was returned to Patras. He is the Patron Saint of Fishermen and the Patron Saint of Russia, Scotland, and Romania. So, today let us remember and celebrate the ministry and example of Saint Andrew, who continues to call on all Christians to tell others just what he told his brother Simon Peter: “We have found the Messiah!”

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Padre Mickey's Dance Party's Traditional Thanksgiving Message

And now, the traditional and offical Dance Party Favorite Thanksgiving Day Message:

"You have taken the land which is rightfully ours. Years from now, my people will be forced to live in mobile homes on reservations. Your people will wear cardigans and drink highballs. We will sell our bracelets by the roadsides. You will play golf and enjoy hot hors d'oeuvres. My people will have pain and degradation. Your people will have stick shifts. The gods of my tribe have spoken. They have said, "Do not trust the pilgrims, especially Sarah Miller. And for all these reasons, I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground."
Wednesday Addams in Addams' Family Values

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

It's Red Mr. Peanut Bank and Gallito Mescalito's Annual Thanksgiving Special! The commercial interruptions may not play, so give thanks for that!

It is the Holiday Season! While the Patriotic Holidays start the season in Panamá, we are now in los Estados Unidos, where the season starts with Thanksgiving, so we're following the local traditions. And what goes with the Holiday Season, besides lots of good food and drink and stuff? That's right: re-runs Holiday Season Classics! And here at Padre Mickey's Dance Party we have our Holiday Season Classics, just like your favorite television station, the only difference being ours aren't thirty to forty years old, and none of the characters appear as balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. So just sit back and enjoy It's A Red Mr. Peanut Bank And Gallito Mescalito Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown!And, since you haven't seen our crew in ages, I'm sure you're gonna enjoy it!

Red Mr. Peanut Bank Well, Gallito Mescalito, it's that time of year again!
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek! ¿Shriek? ¡Shriek!
Red Mr. Peanut BankYes, I can understand that, the smell of roasting turkey makes you nervous, but it's only once or twice a year.
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Well, I don't like it that much either; all that cooking really heats up the house, and with Summer almost here it's hot enough around here!


Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love Hi boys! Up to no good, I suppose!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Good evening, Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love. You look marvelous, as always!
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek!
Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love Thank you, boys; you're so sweet! Well, it's that time of year, isn't it? The days are shorter, the nights longer, the smell of burning leaves in the air, and in some places it's snowing like all get out!
Gallito Mescalito ¿Shriek?
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Yes, I agree with my loving partner; what on EARTH are you talking about?
Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love Well, not HERE, of course, but back in the ol' U.S.A. I kinda miss all that.
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank He's right again; when we lived in the U.S. we lived in the S.F. Bay Area, where it rarely snows! But I guess the other stuff did happen. But you're from Egypt originally; I doubt you had snowy winters there!
Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love I just miss seasons! All we have here is "rainy season" and "not-quite-as-rainy season" or verano. I miss the cold.


Mr. Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Hey dere, fellas! An' a very good evenin' ta you, Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love!
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek!
Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love Hello, Mr. Squeaky Cat!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Hello, Mr. Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy!
Mr. Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy 'sup wit eveybuddy?
Red Mr. Peanut Bank We're discussing the season and the holidays.
Mr. Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Yeah! I luvs dis tima yeah! In fact, we gots a nudder nashunal holiday on Sunday, which means we gits Mundy off! Independence from Spain Day! ¡Viva Panamá! ¡Viva Libertad!
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek!
Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love Well, I'm thinking of a different holiday.


Mighty Moose of Vermont, Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose, and ¡El Penguino! Hello everybody!
The others Hello, Mighty Moose of Vermont, Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose, and ¡El Penguino!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose, you don't look very happy? What's wrong?
Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose Wayul, Ahm jus' feelin' a bit homesick.
¡El Penguino! She's worried about Thanksgiving. I told her it's the only estadoünidense holiday Padre and the Lovely Mona still celebrate, but she's worried it won't happen.
Mighty Moose of Vermont Come on, ¡El Penguino! You were just as worried last year. We told her it would happen but she's still worried.
Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose Wayul, Ah've nevah been away foh such impohtant holidaze befoh.
Mr. Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Why is dis holiday so importint' ta you guys? 'Sup wid dis?


Diablito Sucio y Wooden Kuna Doll Si. ¿Es este fiesta más importante qué la Día de Independencia de España? ¿Por qué?
Mr. Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Yeah, I'm wunderin' 'bout dis, too. Is dis anuver one of yer Gringo "weah betteah dan you" tings?
Gallito Mescalito ¡Shriek!
Los Juegetes de los estados unidos No! It's just different!!!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank No, no, no! It's not more important than Panamanian holidays; it's just different. It is an important holiday to the Lovely Mona and Padre and their extended family and the estadoünidense toys and knick-knacks because they like the idea of taking one specific day to thank God for their many blessings, and because it is an important part of the mythology of the U.S.A., not that Padre and the Lovely Mona buy the myth (although they both have family members who are participants in the story!).
Las Jugetes Panamañas What is the myth? Tell us, TELL US!!!


Red Mr. Peanut Bank Well, it all started with the Puritans Pilgrims and their search for a land in which they could oppress others find religious freedom. . .

Announcer We'll return to It's A Red Mr. Peanut Bank and Gallito Mescalto Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown! right after this Important Message.


Before the break which was guaranteed to offend EVERYONE!, Red Mr. Peanut Bank promised to tell Padre Mickey's twisted, totally warped enlightened version of the Myth of the First Thanksgiving. As we would never want a toy bank to go back on Padre's its word, we now present Padre Mickey's Dance Party's Friday Red Mr. Peanut Bank and Gallito Mescalito Blogging Players in The First Thanksgiving

Narrator Once upon a time, several centuries ago, there was a group living in England, who, having been driven insane by the more fringe elements of the Protestant Reformation, decided that everyone in England must believe as did they, be as pure as were they, and be just as grumpy. They were known as Puritans The majority of Believers in England disagreed, and made life even more miserable for these folks, until they finally left England for the Netherlands, where, soon tiring of a diet of chocolate, edam, and tulips, they made their way to The New World to make life miserable for Padre Mickey's relatives. Europe's favorite population decimator, small pox, had already cleared the way for the Pilgrims (as they were now called) so that there was plenty of room! Landing in an area they named Plymouth, after the place from which they had been evicted, their leader gave thanks to God. . .
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Now thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices, that we have arrived safely in this heathen, yet almost empty land, where we are free to worship God in our own manner, and may make sure that everyone else worships God in our own manner, too!
Other Pilgrims Amen!


Narrator The Pilgrims soon met the indigenous inhabitants of the land. . .
Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Hey dere, peoples wut don' look nuffin' like us! Watcha up to?
Red Mr. Peanut Bank We are the Pilgrims, and we have come to this nearly empty land to live in peace and worship our God in our own manner. We are trying to plant our crops. And what is your name, almost naked guy? And why are you wearing that feather?
Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy My name is Tisquantum, but you kin' call me Squanto. An' I weahs a feddah cuz it looks much coolah dan dat ting on toppa yer head! Uhm, ya know, dem seeds won't grow in dis climate.


Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love And how did you learn our tongue? Hast the Holy Spirit descended upon you to give you this gift? I doubt it, you being such a heathen savage!
Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy No, no Espíritu Santo. Sum sumbich white guy captured me and my friends Manida, Skidwarres, Nahanada and Assacumet a while back n' dragged us kickin' an screamin' in a big nasty boat to your pitiful island and taught us yer funny langige. But, like I sed, dem seeds won't grow in dis climate. . .
Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love Sir, these are the seeds our God commanded us to bring and plant!
Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Well, dat's too bad 'cuz dey ain't gunna woik heah. Hey! Massasoit! Go grab some maize and some fish. Let's show dese rubes howta do it, or dey gonna starve and be botherin' us all wintah for food!


Narrator And so Squanto and Massasoit and their people taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn and squash and pole beans and which nuts were safe to eat. . .
Mighty Moose of Vermont See, you dig a little hole,put a dead fishy in it, place a kernel of maize on top of the dead fishy, then cover it all up; make a little hill. Then move over about eight inches and do it again.
¡El Penguino! 'sup with the dead fishy?
Mighty Moose of Vermont It fertilizes the maize so you get a nice, big, healthy plant. And it's not as nasty as that manure your people use!
¡El Penguino! Heh! You savage! Poop is great!
Mighty Moose of Vermont Yeah. Sure. So, why aren't you wearing a hat with a buckle on it?
¡El Penguino! I AM wearing one. It's just so tiny you can't see it with your heathen eyes.
Mighty Moose of Vermont Oh-kay. So, dig another hole, take a dead fishy. . .


Narrator Eventually, the song of Harvest Home was raised, all was safely gathered in, ere the winter storms began, and the Pilgrims decided to thank the Lord of the Harvest with a feast. . .
Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose An weyul invaht Squanto an' hiyus friens', too, as theyah wuah SUCH a biyguh haylp!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank That's a great idea. What will be the main course? We don't have any cattle for roast beef, and they eat venison all the time.
Gallito Mescalito Shrie--cough, cough--er, gobble gobble!
Fuzzy Southern Mountain Moose Hmm, thayut maht be reyul good!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Er, how about pumpkin soup in the pumpkin? That could be Very Elegant!

Announcer: We interrupt this program for this important Breaking News!


Announcer And now, we return to It's A Red Mr. Peanut Bank and Gallito Mescalito Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown! already in progress. . .
¡El Toro! Yoohoo! Mr. Pavo!
Crocagator Heh Heh Heh Thanksgiving dinner.
Gallito Mescalito Gobble gobb--¡¡¡SSSSHHHHHRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEKKKKKK!!!



Red Mr. Peanut Bank Well, we're gathered together to ask the Lord's blessing, you at your table and we at ours, as we really can't be mixing with the likes of you. You know, He, the Lord, hastens and chastens, His will to make known!
Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Really! Well, ya know, we gots a little diff'rint teolugie an' understandin' of da Great Spirit! Ya see, WE believes dat. . .
Red Mr. Peanut Bank No one wants to hear your heathen ideas! We came here to worship God in OUR OWN MANNER, and we expect everyone else to worship God in our own manner, too! Now eat your pumpkin soup!


Narrator' And everyone gave thanks to God, with heart and hands and voices, and ate and had a wonderful time.
Chompy's Chewed-up Squeaky Kitty Toy Well, dat was great! burp See ya next yeah!
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Don't count on it!



Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love What hath the Lord in store next for the Pilgrims in His Divine Plan?
Red Mr. Peanut Bank Well, we survived our first year and survived dinner with the Heathen Savages. Now it's time to get to work! Time to start taking their land and pushing their sorry heathen bottoms West until they can go West no further!



Gallito Mescalito Gobble Gobble!, er, ¡¡Shrrriiieeekk!!

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Separation from Colombia, or Panamanian Independence Day

Today we celebrate independence from Colombia. La República de Panamá tiene 118 años hoy.



The Panamanian National Anthem:

Alcanzamos por fin la victoria en el campo feliz de la unión;
con ardientes fulgores de gloria se ilumina la nueva nacion.

Es preciso cubrir con un velo del pasado el calvario y la cruz ;
y que adorne el azul de tu cielo de concordia la esplendida luz.

El progreso acaricia tus lares al compás de sublime canción ;
ves rugir a tus pies ambos mares que dan rumbo a tu noble misión.

Alcanzamos por fin la victoria en el campo feliz de la unión;
con ardientes fulgores de gloria se ilumina la nueva nacion.

En tu suelo cubierto de flores, a los besos del tibio terral,
terminaron guerreros fragores; solo reina el amor fraternal.

Adelante la pica y la pala, al trabajo sin mas dilación ;
y seremos asi prez y gala, de este mundo feraz de Colón.

Nice, eh? Nothing about "bombs bursting in air" or descriptions of the flag, just a song about hope for the nation.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Feast of All Souls, or All the Faithful Departed, o Día de los Muertos


Día de los Difuntos

This is my bog-standard All Souls' Day sermon

Today we are celebrating All Souls Day the day in which we commemorate those who have passed on. It is really an extension of All Saints Day which we celebrated yesterday. It's an extension of All Saints Day because all Christians are considered saints but some people consider some saint to be more holy than others, and they had trouble with the idea of commemorating holy martyrs such as Perpetua and Felicitas on the same day as they remembered their Uncle Fred, so now we have All Souls Day as the day to commemorate "lesser" saints like Uncle Fred. It is important to remember the saints like our Aunts and Uncles just as much as it is to remember James of Jerusalem, Polycarp of Smyrna, Thecla and Blandina, because the saints we know and have seen everyday can be even better examples for us of how God wants us to live. The saints who are members of our families and neighborhoods can be the examples which brought us to the point where we decided to follow Christ and God's way instead of our own way. We sang "I Sing A Song Of The Saints Of God" because of that third verse:
They lived not only in ages past,
There are hundreds of thousands still,
The world is bright with the joyous saints
Who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,
In church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea,
For the saints of God are just folk like me,
And I mean to be one too!


I can think of several saints, departed and living, who influenced me. My grandfather was a minister in the Assemblies of God church and he was a missionary in China and the Philippine Islands. He and his family were captured by the Japanese during WWII and although he was tortured he never lost his faith. He was well educated, which was unusual for pastors in his church, and his example was a great model for me. I studied both Hebrew and Greek in seminary because he had done so (I was terrible in Hebrew). When I was an acolyte at Sukiran Chapel in Okinawa and was first introduced to the Episcopal Church, Chaplain Bennett was a great influence on me. He showed me that one could approach God and religion from an intellectual standpoint and he gave me a love for beautiful liturgy. My mentor, the Rev. Eckford deKay, former Rector of St. Francis' Church in San José, California, took me under his wing when I began to consider ordination, and he told me to join the Vestry and become a delegate to Diocesan Convention. He said that if I still wanted to be a priest after Vestry and Convention he'd take me to see the bishop, and as a result of his advice I was much less naïve and idealistic about Church politics than my classmates in seminary. All my professors in seminary were great influences on me, but the Rev. Dr. Jon Kater was quite instrumental in my coming to Panamá, and it was Bishop Hayes who convinced me that this was where I should be. My friend Elizabeth Leigh helped me understand the importance of the environment and our duty to be good stewards of this earth, and Janet Levi taught me patience and the importance of being true to one's art. So that's two living saints and five who have joined the Great Cloud of Witnesses who have influenced me and brought me to where I am now.

I'll bet everyone in this room can name several people, family members and friends and teachers and even clergy, who have influenced them and encouraged them in their spiritual journey, and all these people are saints, because a saint is someone whose life is an example and model. We don't pray to the saints; we know that they were human beings just like us, but they are people who are examples of what is possible when we let God control our lives. Saints are not without sin; many saints, both great and lesser, lived less than perfect lives at one time, but all of them came to the point where they were able to surrender themselves to God's will and live the life that God wanted of them, and that is why their lives were beacons to us all. They were able to be vulnerable enough so that God could work through them; they were able to be transparent enough so that God's light would shine through them, and that we would be attracted to their examples. And just as these people were examples to us, we, everyone in this room, is an example to someone else! Whether you like it or not, as a Christian, you, too, are a saint, and the way you are living your life is an example to someone. Those moments when you are vulnerable enough to let God work through you, those moments when you are transparent enough to let God shine through you, you become an example of the Christian life to someone else.

You are a Christian, you are a saint, those moments when you can surrender yourself to God's will are the moments when you are a beacon to those who are lost. Those who have passed on, those who have departed this world, have been great influences on our lives, and it is important to remember them. I grew up on Okinawa, and the local religion there is much like the Shinto religion of Japan. In Japan, China, and Okinawa, the Cult of the Ancestors is very important. Some believe that one's ancestors keep looking out for those in this world, and that it is important to honor one's ancestors. One way the ancestors are honored is by remembering them, and most homes in Okinawa have a family altar, and on that altar is a lacquerware plaque with the names of all the departed family members, going all the way back to the first member of the family. On the festival of Obon, it is believed that the ancestors return to this world to visit, and the names of all the ancestors are read as a means of remembering them. We will be doing something similar in a few minutes, when I read the necrology, or list of the Faithful Departed. And when you hear the name of a family member read aloud, you will remember them, and they will come alive again in your memory, if only for a few seconds. This is one type of immortality.

So, I am going to read the names of the Faithful Departed, a list of over 700 names. We've just gone though a tough month, losing five members in just two weeks, and their names are included on this list. While the names are being read, I ask you to sit quietly in contemplation, in reflection. Think of those who have gone on before. Think of those whose names you recognize, and think of how thy influenced your life. Think about those everyday saints who helped bring you to where you are now, and I want you to think of how wonderful it will be on the Last Day when we are all reunited and we join them around the Banquet Table at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

Monday, November 01, 2021

Feast of All Saints

All Saints Day is the day on which we remember the martyrs, those who died for their faith, those who refused to sacrifice to the emperor and were thrown to the beasts and gladiators in the arena. Others were tied to stakes and burned while others died deaths too terrible to mention here in God's house. In the earliest days of the Church, martyrs were remembered on the day of their martyrdom; the faithful would gather at the grave of the martyr and would pray and sing hymns. But by the time of the final persecutions towards the end of the fourth century, there were too many martyrs to commemorate on the day of their deaths plus many that had died and whose names had not been recorded. The Christians in Rome were remembering the martyrs, known and unknown, on a special day by the year 373. All Saints Day was celebrated on May 13 for many centuries, but Pope Greogory III ded icated a new church on November 1 and declared that day All Saints Day. In the year 836 Pope Gregory IV declared a universal observance of All Saints on that day and that has been the date ever since.

We remember the martyrs because their example of bravery and standing for their faith helped the church to grow and also helped defeat those who persecuted the Church. The very first Christian martyr was the Deacon Stephen. James of Jerusalem, the brother of Jesus, was martyred by an angry mob. Later persecutions were committed by the Roman authorities and they were much more cruel than the stonings by the Jews. When we read the accounts of the martyrdoms of Perpetua and Felicitatus, of the martyrs of Lyon, of Bishop Polycarp, and the hundreds of martyrs in the “History of the Church” by Bishop Eusebius, we learn that their brave example changed the opinion of people against the persecutors and in favor of the Christians. When the people of the Roman empire saw the martyrs face death willingly and refusing to give in to their torturers, they began to wonder what gave them such courage and many people were converted to Christ. Even though the martyrs were brave, that was not the case for all Christians. Imagine how frightened you would be if you knew that because you are a member of San Cristóbal, you could be arrested and torn apart by lions and bears in an arena where everyone in Parque Lefevre and Rio Abajo would watch you die. Some people are brave, but many of us are not always so full of courage! The Apostle John discussed this in his vision of the Final Days. John had been exiled to Patmos, a small island, because he had been preaching in Edessa. John wanted to warn Christians of the persecution to come and he wanted to help them face it bravely. He warned the Christians that fierce persecutions would take place, but if they remained faithful, they would be rewarded with eternal life in the City of Light, the City of God. They would all stand before the throne of the Lamb where they would serve him day and night within his temple. The image of the Temple was important because the book of the Apocalypse was probably written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. To serve God in the Temple was an image which gave people hope. John saw 144,000 people from every tribe of Israel standing before the throne, but then he saw “a great multitude that no man could number, from every nation and tribe and people and tongue, standing before the throne, clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands, crying out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” John was told that these people were the ones who had come through the great tribulation. They had washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb. As their reward they serve God in the Temple, but also, they have been rewarded because “the One who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” They were also promised that their deaths would be avenged by God. This vision gave people hope, it reminded them that God loved them and that they would not suffer in vain or die in vain. Because they knew God loved them and that they would have every tear wiped away, they were able to face their trials with courage and this courage inspired others to turn to Christ and receive eternal life. John was fortunate enough to leave Patmos, and he returned to Edessa and later died an old man, in Ephesus.

Most of us are very fortunate; Christianity is not illegal where we live and we probably won't have to face persecution. We probably won't be threatened with death for gathering at our churches every Sunday to share the bread and wine, but people are being martyred for the faith in parts of Africa and in Pakistan and in Iraq. Christians have been killed in the past fifty years in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and even Panama by governments hostile to their dedication to the teachings of Jesus. We need to continue to pray for the Christians around the world who are living under persecution.

The lectionary designates a reading of the Beatitudes on All Saints Day, either the version from Matthew’s or Luke’s gospels. The Beatitudes bestow a blessing for who one is or for what one does. Many of us have been poor at some time in our lives. Jesus said that the poor or poor in spirit have the kingdom of heaven. We a have mourned at some time, and there are people mourning right now, but you are blessed because you shall be comforted. You who are meek are blessed and will inherit the earth. You who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those of you who love God with your whole mind, you are blessed and will be satisfied. You who are merciful are blessed for you shall obtain mercy. You who are pure in heart are blessed and shall see God. Those of you who are peacemakers, who work to end strife at home, at work, in your community and in the world are blessed and will be called the children of God. There are special blessings for the martyrs, for the persecuted. You who are persecuted for righteousness sake, you will have the kingdom of heaven, just as will the poor. And all of us are blessed when people revile us and persecute us and utter all kinds of evil against us falsely on account of Christ. Those who are martyrs, those who are persecuted, rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven. All of us here are either poor, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, or peacemakers. Some of you may fall under several blessings, and some may even be suffering persecution. Know that you are blessed, that you are loved by God. Know that your reward is great in heaven. Know that you are saints, and that, one day, you, too, will stand before the throne of the Lamb and will shout with the other heroes of the faith, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Feast of James, Brother of our Lord and Bishop of Jerusalem

 Grant, O God, that, following the example of your servant James the Just, brother of our Lord, your Church may give itself continually to prayer and to the reconciliation of all who are at variance and enmity; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Icon written by Tobias Stanislas Haller, BSG, friend of Padre Mickey's Dance Party
Let’s talk about siblings; not everyone has brothers and sisters, but if you do, I have a question: Did you always get along with your brothers and sisters? If your family is like most families, I would say 'probably not.' Usually there is some sibling rivalry in a family and there can be some competition between the children; competition for the attention of the parents, competition in the area of school work, competition in sports and winning awards. I am the eldest of four children, and the birth order is boy-girl-boy-girl, and there is eighteen months between my sister Melanie and I and eighteen months between Melanie and Jim and then four years between Jim and Marcella. Melanie and I are close in age and close in interests and close in abilities. We are both musicians, we both work in churches, and we have similar tastes in art, literature, music and politics. We are both rather competitive and always have been so. When I was trying to learn my multiplication tables, Melanie was right there paying attention and actually learning them. That's just normal sibling rivalry. Maybe your relationship with your siblings is similar, and maybe they think that you overshadow them or you thing that they overshadow you. I think that this is pretty normal in sibling relationships. But imagine having a brother who calls himself "the Son of Man," who wanders around the country, attracting crowds, healing the sick, bringing sight to the blind, preaching forgiveness of sins and proclaiming the coming of the Reign of God. Talk about overshadowing! How do you compete with someone like that?

Today is the Feast of St. James of Jerusalem, the brother of our Lord, Jesus Christ. James was one of Jesus' four brothers, but we don't know about birth order; some traditions each that the brothers and sisters mentioned in the gospels were Joseph's children from a previous marriage or that they were actually Jesus' cousins. These are good explanations for those who believe that Mary was "ever virgin." Personally, it seems more probable to me that Joseph and Mary had a normal marriage and produced several children. From what we read in the gospels, it seems that Jesus and his family didn't really get along that well; do your remember the story of Mary sending his brothers after him because the family was worried that he was crazy? Did Jesus say to his brothers, "Tell Mom I'll be there once I'm finished talking with these folks"? No, he said, "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? Everyone who works for the Reign of God is my mother and sister and brother." That answer wouldn't have gone over well with my mother! We don't know what James told his mother back home about what Jesus was doing; we don't know if he told her that Jesus was alright and that he was only doing the will of God. We know that Jesus wasn't well received back home because everyone knew him, but we don't know if his brothers and sisters were part of the unreceptive group. We do know that James was an important leader in the Early Church along with Peter, and we know from Paul's writings and from the Acts of the Apostles that James was the head of the Church in Jerusalem. It was James whom Paul visited when in Jerusalem, and it was James who, after hearing of Paul's mission to the Gentiles decided that the Gentiles would not have to adhere to the Mosiac covenant and be circumcised but adhere to the Noachian covenant, avoiding sexual promiscuity, not eating food sacrificed to idols, and not eating meat from animals which had been strangled, or meat which still had blood in it. We also know that James was one of those to whom Jesus appeared after the Resurrection.
According to Clement of Alexandria, as quoted by Bishop Eusebius, the first historian of the Church, James was the first bishop of Jerusalem. James was a very important figure to the Jewish Christians and his importance is reflected in chapter 12 of the Gospel of Thomas, an early gospel which was not accepted by the Church. It is a collection of sayings of Jesus, and chapter 12 reads: The disciples said to Jesus, "We know that you are going to leave us. Who will be our leader?" Jesus said to them, "No matter where you are, you are to go to James the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being."

According to the Jewish party in the Early Church, James represented Israel, and this is reflected in that passage. James was called the Just or Righteous because of his strict adherence to the Torah. According to Clement of Alexandria, James was: Holy from birth; he drank no wine or intoxicating liquor and ate no animal food; no razor came near his head; he did not smear himself with oil and took no baths. He alone was permitted to enter the Holy Place (Holy of Holies in the Temple), for his garments were not of wool but of linen. He used to enter the Sanctuary alone, and was often found on his knees beseeching forgiveness for the people, so that his knees grew hard like a camel's from his continually bending them in worship of God and beseeching forgiveness for the people. Because of his unsurpassable righteousness he was called the Righteous and bulwark of the People. If it is true that he entered the Holy of Holies, then James was a High Priest of the Temple, which was an important position within the community, both Jewish and Christian (It would also mean that he did take baths, as a ritual bath on the part of the priest is an aspect of the Yom Kippur liturgy). According to Josephus, the Jewish historian of the first century, James was well respected by Jews and Christians because of his righteousness. Some traditions, especially those of the Ebionites, a first-century Jewish-Christian sect, taught that James performed miracles just like Jesus.
I mentioned earlier that the family of Jesus wasn't always supportive of his ministry; we know from scripture that they worried that he might have been a bit crazy, and his brothers were sent by their mother to bring him home. Was James one of the brothers sent to fetch Jesus? Did he think that his brother was behaving strangely by wandering all over Galilee healing and preaching? We don't know what James thought at the time but we do know that he came to accept his brother as Lord. According ot St. Paul, Jesus appeared to James after the Resurrection, and if James had harbored any doubts about his brother's ministry, rest assured that they were swept away by this appearance! The experience was so life-changing that, although James remained a strict follower of the Torah, he also became the leader of the Church in Jerusalem, the first Church. James, just like his brother, was a strong defender and supporter of the poor, as was the Jerusalem Church. The name Ebionites, can be translated to mean "the poor." Paul collected donations for the poor, and these funds were sent back to James and the Church in Jerusalem.

Jesus was executed with the support of the religious authorities of Jerusalem, and according to both Josephus and Clement, as quoted by Eusebius in Historia Ecclesiastica, James, the brother of Jesus, was also murdered as a result of pressure from the religious authorities. According to Eusebius, James' example and his righteous life had convinced others, even members of the ruling class, that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, and the Scribes and Pharisees were afraid that all the people would accept Jesus as Lord. So, at the Feast of the Passover during the year 62, the Scribes and Pharisees asked James to stand on the Temple parapet so that everyone could see and hear him tell the facts about Jesus, since, as the Scribes and Pharisees said, "the people have gone astray after Jesus." James stood on the parapet, and the Scribes and Pharisees shouted to him: "Righteous One, whose word we are all obliged to accept, the people are going astray after Jesus who was crucified; so tell us, what is meant by 'the door of Jesus?'" And James answered in a loud voice, "Why do you question me about the Son of Man? I tell you, He is sitting in heaven at the right hand of the Great Power, and He will come on the clouds of heaven." And many people believed, and began to shout, "Hosannah to the Son of David!" So now the Scribes and Pharisees were worried and thought, "we really made a mistake putting him up there. We better throw him down so that they will be frightened and not believe him." So they began to shout, "Oh no! Even the Righteous One has gone astray!" and someone pushed James off the parapet and he fell down to the ground. Then they said, "Let us stone James the Righteous" because he was still alive after his fall. While the stones rained upon him, James got to his knees and prayed aloud: "I beseech thee, Lord God and Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing." While the stones were falling like rain upon James, the descendants of Rechab, a priestly family, shouted, "Stop! What are you doing? The Righteous One is praying for you!" Then one of the mob took a fuller's club, which was used to beat out the clothes, and brought it down on James' head, and James died a martyr's death. According to Eusebius’ version of the story, James was buried on the spot, by the Sanctuary, until the destruction of the Temple. According to this account, some believed that the siege of Vespasian and the Jewish War, which culminated in the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, were the vengeance of God for the murder of James.

Icon written by Tobias Stanislas Haller, BSG, friend of Padre Mickey's Dance Party
Back in 2002 there was quite a stir caused by an announcement by Hershel Shanks of the Biblical Archeological Review that an ossory, or bone box, had been discovered which was dated to the first century and bore the inscription Ya'akov bar Yosef akhui diYeshua which translates as James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus, in Aramaic. After years of accusations that the inscription is not authentic opinion has changed and, according to the July/August 2012 issue of BAR, it is now considered authentic. This is quite a find!

The word 'martyr' means 'witness,' and James was a witness. He witnessed his brother's ministry, and he was a witness of an appearance of the Resurrected Jesus. His life was a witness to the people of Jerusalem; his strict adherence to the Torah was proof of his righteousness, but he was also able to understand that the Law was not for all, and he realized that the Law would be a burden for the Gentile converts. He understood that to work for the Reign of God meant to speak for, defend, and support the poor, and he did this as Bishop of Jerusalem. He was the brother of Jesus, and as family, probably knew Jesus better than most; even though, at one time, he may have shared the doubts of his family about his brother's sanity, he did believe, and was blessed with a post-Resurrection appearance. He believed his brother's message about the coming of the Reign of God, and he was faithful to this message unto death. The lives of the saints are examples to us all, and the deaths of the martyrs made the church grow. Tertullian, an African leader of the Church in the second century said, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." James was a bishop, an Apostle, and a Martyr, and he is an example to all of us. Today we celebrate his life and his death. May we keep the memory of James and of all the saints and martyrs as important examples always.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

A Poem in Honor of St. Michael, Archangel

An ancient Celtic poem in praise of Michael the Archangel

Thou Michael the victorious,
I make my circuit under thy shield,
Thou Michael of the white steed,
And of the bright brilliant blades,
Conqueror of the dragon,
Be thou at my back,
Thou ranger of the heavens,
Thou warrior of the King of all,
O Michael the victorious,
My pride and my guide
O Michael the victorious,
The glory of mine eye.


I make my circuit
In the fellowship of my saint,
On the machair, on the meadow,
On the cold heathery hill;
Though I should travel oceans
And the hard globe of the world
No harm can e’er befall me
‘Neath the shelter of thy shield;
O Michael the victorious,
Jewel of my heart,
O Michael the victorious,
God’s shepherd thou art.

Be the sacred Three of Glory
Aye at peace with me,
With my horses, with my cattle,
With my woolly sheep in flocks.
With the crops growing in the field
Or ripening in the sheaf,
On the machiar, on the moor,
In cole, in heap, or stack,.
Every thing on high or low,
Every furnishing and flock,
Belong to the holy Triune of glory,
And to Michael the victorious

Feast of Michael, Archangel, and all angels

Hey,everbuddy!It's Padre Mickey's annual Michaelmas post!
Today is the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel and all Angels, or Michaelmas.
The feast is popular again, probably due to the rise of angelology in New Age circles over the past twenty years or so. An entire industry has sprung up over for a while  around the subject of angels, producing music and books odd websites. Some people's interest and devotion to angels has replaced any interest and devotion to God, which is, of course, idolatrous, but this is not the first time in history that angel worship has been popular. It was also common during the first two centuries of Christianity, especially in Phrygia, Greece, and Palestine, and St. Paul mentions angel worship in his letter to the Christians in Colossus. The introductory lecture by the Rev. Dr. L. William Countryman in New Testament when I was at C.D.S.P. left an impression on my entire class. Professor Countryman shocked us all with the idea that the Epistle to Jude was about sex with angels! So, let’s talk about angels.
The English word 'angel' comes from the Greek word 'angelous' which means 'messenger.'
Angels are God's messengers, and that is the purpose they serve throughout most of the Old Testament. However, Zoroastrian influence during the time of the Babylonian exile changed the concept of angels from messengers of God to powerful supernatural beings who were either on the side of God or on the side of Satan; it introduced a dualistic element to the understanding of angels. By the year 160 B.C., the Essenes, who lived in the desert of Qumran, had created an entire Host or Army of angels who served God, wile the Demons, or Angels of Darkness served Satan. With this idea of an angelic army came the idea of different choirs of angels, different divisions who served different purposes. These groups originally were divided as Archangels, Cherubim, Seraphim, Watchers, and Angels. By the sixth century of the Christian Era, the mystical theologian Psuedo-Dionysius developed an hierarchy of "Heavenly Beings" which he received from his “sacred-initiator.” According to Psuedo-Dionysius, there are three three-fold hierarchies of Heavenly Beings: the first hierarchy, which are the beings which surround God the Father, are the "Holy Thrones and Orders said to possess many eyes and wings, also called Seraphim and Cherubim." The word "Seraphim" means "Fire-makers" in Hebrew, and Psuedo-Dionysius says that this means they are "Carriers of Warmth." The word "Cherubim" means "Out-pourers of Wisdom" in Hebrew, and Psuedo-Dionysius writes that the Seraphim and Cherubim are most like God in these ways. The second hierarchy consists of Authorities, Dominions, and Powers. This group works between the first hierarchy and the third hierarchy. The third and final hierarchy, according to Psuedo-Dionysius, consists of Principalities, Archangels, and Angels, with only Archangels and Angles dealing with human beings.

Human interaction with angels is described throughout the Old Testament, beginning with a Cherub with a flaming sword guarding the gate to Paradise. Abraham's angel visitations, and Jacob's vision of angels ascending and descending from a ladder between heaven and earth is another example. Moses dealt with angels such as Michael in the Wilderness, and the Day of Atonement liturgy described in the book of Leviticus describes the action of the High Priest placing the sins of the community on a goat and releasing the goat to Azazel, a fallen angel of the desert. By the time of the Book of Daniel and the prophet Isaiah's vision of heaven, angels were no longer simply God's messengers, they became supernatural beings with much power, who praised God in front of the throne or fought in God's army. Angels were also terrifying creatures; their presence was so frightening  that the first words they usually say to humans are "Fear not!" This also may be because they tend to simply appear out of nowhere; I don’t know of any stories where one was watching angels wing their way towards them with a message; they just appear and say “Fear not!” Artists over the centuries, especially during the Renaissance, tended to portray angels as androgynous blonds with wings, and they tend to portray Cherubim as fat little baby angels. But Cherubim are not fat baby angels, they are terrifying creatures; they are described as having the head of a man, the body of a lion, and wings! And Seraphim are huge, fiery, snake-like creatures, not blond guys with wings. Isaiah's description of heaven tells of Seraphim flying above God's throne, and the Seraphim are described as having six wings: two to cover their face, two to cover their feet, (which is a euphemism for genitals), and two with which to fly. They fly above God's throne chanting "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts." A Seraph picked up a hot coal from the altar of incense and put it on Isaiah's lips to purify them. In the New Testament, the Archangel Gabriel gave Mary  the message that she would become Theotokos, the God bearer. An angel also brought a message to Zechariah and silenced him. In fact, angels tend to appear throughout Luke's gospel  and its sequel, the Acts of the Apostles. Angels appear in Mark's gospel, but only to minister to Jesus while he iwas in the wilderness, after his encounter with Satan, and they appear in Matthew's gospel in dreams to warn of trouble to the baby Jesus.

As mentioned earlier, during the first and second centuries and during the time of Jesus, angels were very popular, as popular as they are in our day, and there were those who worshipped them and wanted to enlist them in giving them power over others. these beliefs were poplar among some Gnostic groups, and they developed amazing cosmologies in which angels were featured. The Essenes'  teachings also added to these ideas. Remember the fourth verse of Genesis, Chapter 6, about the Nephilim, (which means 'fallen ones' in Hebrew) who were the children of human women and angel fathers and were "the giants and heroes of old?" Well, some Gnostic groups took that passage and decided that it meant that they could attain certain mystic knowledge through sexual relations with angels! St. Paul seems to think that angels are attracted to a woman's long hair, and suggested that they keep their heads covered in church. But St. Paul also believed that humans were more important to God than were the angels and he said that humans would judge angels. Some people believe that Satan is a Fallen Angel,  and they tell the story of Lucifer, the Morning Star, trying to put his throne higher than God's and starting a war in heaven. Have you read that story in the Bible? No, you haven't because it is not in the Bible.
When John Milton wrote the book Paradise Lost, he used some verses from Isaiah chapter 14:

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, Son of Dawn! How you are cut
down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart,
"I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God . . .
I will make myself like the Most High.

Bu these verses are about a Babylonian king who was called the Day Star. It is interesting how something written by Milton became theological truth to many. When we read the book of Job, Satan is a part of God's Court,so perhaps he is some kind of angel.

Today's feast is named after St. Michael the Archangel. Michael is the head of the Heavenly Host, the Five-star General of God's Angelic Army. Michael is also the protector of Israel, Protector of the Chosen People. Psuedo-Dionysius claimed that every nation is actually directed and protected by one of the archangels, and that Michael is the leader of the Jewish nation; he did not name the other Archangels and their respective nations. According to tradition, Michael is supposed to protect Christians from the devil at the time of death. This probably comes from the mention of Michael arguing with Satan for the soul of Moses, which is mentioned in the Epistle of Jude and comes from the Book of the Secrets of Enoch, an apocalyptic book written in 160 B.C. There was a cult which venerated Michael the Archangel in Phrygia (a regular hot-bed of heresey!), and they believed he had the power to heal, so many hot springs in Greece and Turkey are dedicated to him. Michael's place in the heavenly court is next to the altar of incense, and when incense is blessed for use in our liturgy, the priest usually says the following prayer:

By the intercession of Blessed Michael the Archangel, who stands 
at the right hand of the altar of incense, and of all the Saints, may 
the Lord bless this incense, and accept it as a pure oblation, through
Jesus Christ our Lord.

The name Mikael, or Michael in English, means "who is like God?" in Hebrew, and this has led to some weird ideas about Michael the Archangel. Charles Taze Russel, the man who started the Jehovah's Witnesses taught that Jesus was actual Michael come to earth, and there are New Agers who "channel" Michael. These beliefs and teachings, as well as much of the angelology going on nowadays is actually idolatrous. Angels are God's messengers, and they are God's servants. Their only purpose, the only reason they were created, is to do God's will. They have no say in the matter, and they just do what they are told. Humans, however, are created in God's image, and we have been given free will, and that puts us in a different place than the angels. When you die, you won't get some wings and a harp and sit on a cloud as a new angel, no matter what image popular movies leave you. Angels probably don't spend their time fighting demons and keeping you out of trouble. Angels are God's messengers and they deliver God's messages. We are not to worship angels, we are not to try to control angels, and we are not to try to 'channel' angels or anything else. Since we have free will, it’s best if we choose to do God's will, it’s best if we choose to help bring about God's reign, it’s best if we choose to love one another as Christ loves us, and it’s best if we choose to serve God. We don't need to worry about Guardian Angels, or whether angels are real or not; what we need to worry about is how we treat each other, about how we treat those who are the least among us. We need to worry about helping others learn of the Good News of forgiveness of sins and that God loves everyone  and want relationship with everyone. We need to tend to the sick, to pray for each other, and to love each other.  Then we can join with the angels in heaven and sing God's praises, because we will be doing God's will, just as the angels do.

Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos (The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

¡Feliz Día de Madres a todos mis amigas en Costa Rica!
I don't believe in a three-tiered universe, and I don't believe in the literal interpretations of the Ascension. I don't believe in the Assumption; I prefer the term "the dormition." However, I have no problem at all with honoring the Theotokus (my Nestorian tendencies aside). Instead of writing a hagiography today, I'll share some poems and paintings I've found in the intertubes.

O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The Dormition of the Theotokus

Mary's Assumption
There was silence in heaven, as if for half an hour-

Isaiah's coals of wonder sealed the lips

Of Seraph, Principality and Power,

Of all the nine angelic fellowships.

The archangels, those sheer intelligences,

Were silent, with their eyes on heaven's door.

So must our fancy dower them with senses, 

Make them incarnate in a metaphor.

There was silence in heaven as Mary entered in, 

For even Gabriel had not foreseen

The glory of a soul immune from sin

Throned in the body of the angels' Queen.

Blessed be God and Mary in whose womb

Was woven God's incredible disguise. 

She gave Our Lord His Body.
In the tomb 
He gave her hers again and bade her rise.

Bright from death's slumber she arose, the flush 

Of a chaste joy illumining her cheeks;

Among the motherless in heaven there was a hush

To hear the way a mother laughs and speaks.

Eye had not seen, nor ear of angel heard, 

Nor heart conceived - until Our Lady's death - 

What God for those that love Him had prepared

When heaven's synonym was Nazareth!

Her beauty opened slowly like a flower, 

Beauty to them eternally bequeathed.

There was silence in heaven; as if for half an hour

No angel breathed.
Alfred Barrett (1906-1985) 
Lentfoehr, Therese, editor. I Sing of a Maiden. New York: Macmillan Company, 1947.


Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) The Assumption of the Virgin

Memories of the Assumption
They bore her in a reverent group

To a holy place,

Left her body in the earth -

Her body, "full of grace".

But Thomas, tardy, slow of foot,

Absent when she died, 

Spent with sorrow, craved to see 

Her of the Crucified.

There was a swift intake of breath,

A hurried silent prayer:

Startled they opened the new-made tomb

To find but lilies there.
Sr. M. Angeline 
Robert, Cyril. Our Lady's Praise in Poetry. Poughkeepsie, NY: Marist Press, 1944.


Bartolome Murillo (1618-1682). Assumption of the Virgin.

The Assumption  

No painter ever caught the magic other going--

This was a matter of an inward growing,

Simple and imperceptible as thought.

It was no pageant wrought

Of sounding splendor, welter of gold bars

Of molten day, mad stars,

Flurry of quick angels' winging,

Bursts of their laughter ringing
In wild bliss.

The simple fact is this:

Love conquered at long last.

Her eager soul fled fast

With a great gladness like a song

Unto to her Spouse above,

And her pure flesh would not be parted long

For sheer love.
by Joachim Smet O.Carm


Raffaello. The Coronation of the Virgin

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Feast of Laurence of Rome, Deacon, Martyr, and Patron Saint of Smart Alecs.


Almighty God, you called your deacon Laurence to serve you with deeds of love, and gave him the crown of martyrdom: Grant that we, following his example, may fulfill your commandments by defending and supporting the poor, and by loving you with all our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Laurence was one of the most popular saints of the Early Church and his popularity has lasted even to the present day. His tomb was a place of pilgrimage for the fourth century on, and the Emperor Constantine erected a chapel over the grave of Laurence; it is now the site of the church of St. Laurence-outside-the-Walls in Rome. What I like about St. Laurence was that he was a bit of a smart-aleck; when you read his story you will learn that he was not one to be overwhelmed with respect for the authority of the Roman Empire.

Laurence was one of seven Deacons in the Church in Rome; their Bishop was Pope Sixtus II, who was also martyred and is considered a saint. Deacon Laurence was in charge of the material goods of the Church, and he was also a kind of Church Archivist; he had a list of all the members of the church in Rome. In the year 258, during the reign of the Emperor Valerian, a persecution broke out in Rome. This persecution was directed primarily towards the clergy and the laity of the upper classes. All properties used by the Church were confiscated, and Christian assemblies were forbidden. On August 4, 258, Pope Sixtus and six of his deacons were apprehended in the catacombs. The catacombs were underground burial places, very much like caves, all connected by tunnels which extended for hundreds of miles, where the Christians buried their dead. They would also hold prayers for the dead in the catacombs and would celebrate the Eucharist in the catacombs on the anniversary of the death of a martyr. Pope Sixtus and six deacons were arrested and taken off to be executed. According to an account by St. Ambrose, the fourth century Bishop of Milan, when Laurence saw his bishop being taken away by the police, he followed him and called out to him, saying, "Father, where are you going without your son? Holy Priest, where are you hurrying to without your Deacon? You have never offered sacrifice without an attendant. Are you displeased with me, my Father? Have you found me unworthy? Prove, then, whether you have chosen a fitting servant. To him to whom you have trusted the distribution of the Savior's blood, to him whom you have granted fellowship in the partaking of the Sacraments, why do you refuse this person a part in your death?" Pope Sixtus replied, "I am not leaving you or forsaking you. Greater struggles yet await you. We old men have to undergo an easier fight; a more glorious triumph over the Tyrant awaits you, young man. Don't cry; after three days you will follow me." Pope Sixtus II and four deacons were martyred in the catacombs.

The Prefect of Rome had heard that the Church in Rome had a huge treasure hidden away and he wanted it to pay his soldiers. He ordered Laurence to bring the treasure of the Church to him. Laurence told him that it would take three days to gather the treasure together, and the Prefect gave him that much time. Laurence went throughout the city, gathering up the poor, the crippled, the blind, the widows and orphans that the Church supported. Three days later Laurence assembled them all in front of the palace of the Prefect, and then called him out "to see the wondrous riches of our God." When the Prefect saw the poor and ill before him, he was not amused. He ordered that Laurence be executed. A huge grill was prepared over a slow coal fire so that the execution would be slow and painful. Laurence was tied to the grill and put over the fire. As is often the case with the martyrs, his love for Christ filled him with strength and he lasted a long time; in fact, at one point he said, "Turn me over; I'm done on this side!" Just before he died, he said, "It's cooked enough now." He then prayed that the city of Rome would be converted and that the message of Christ would spread throughout the world. He perfected his martyrdom on August 10, 258.

One of the earliest documents commemorating the martyrdom of St. Laurence is the Hymn in Honor of the Passion of the Blessed Martyr Laurence composed in the year 405 by Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, a Christian from Spain. However, the account by St. Ambrose of Milan is earlier and is part of a treatise he wrote in the year 391 entitled On the Duties of the Clergy. but Prudentius' account is more complete. Let me share some of it with you:
First of the seven ministers, who nearest to the altar stand,
Levite in holy orders high and eminent above the rest.
He guarded well the sacred rites and kept in trust with faithful keys
The precious treasure of the Church, dispensing riches vowed to God.

The comes the section on Sixtus:
The Pontiff Sixtus, from the cross, on which he hung saw at its foot
His deacon Laurence weeping sore, and these prophetic words he spoke:
"Let tears of sorrow cease to flow at my departure from this life;
My brother, I but lead the way, and you will follow in three days."

Here are the stanzas about Laurence and the Prefect:
"Our church is very rich," he said, "I must confess that it has wealth;
Our treasuries are filled with gold not found elsewhere in all the world."
He hastens through the city streets, and in three days he gathers up
The poor and sick, a mighty throng of all in need of kindly alms.
He sought in every public square the needy who were wont to be
Fed from the stores of Mother Church and he as steward knew them well.

The Prefect deigns to follow him; the sacred portal soon they reach,
Where stands a ghastly multitude of poor drawn up in grim array.
The air is rent with cries for alms; the Prefect shudders in dismay,
And turns on Laurence glaring eyes, with threats of dreadful punishment.
"These poor of ours are sick and lame, but beautiful and whole within.
They bare with them a spirit fair and free from taint and misery.

These humble paupers you despise and look upon as vile outcasts,
Their ulcerous limbs will lay aside and put on bodies incorrupt.
When freed at last from tainted flesh their souls, from chains of earth released,
Will shine resplendent with new life in their celestial fatherland.
Not foul and shabby or infirm as now they seem to scornful eyes,
But fair, in radiant vesture clad, with crowns of gold upon their heads."


As I said earlier, the Prefect was not amused by Laurence's little joke and ordered that Laurence be executed:
Thus spoke the Prefect, at his nod forthwith the executioner
Stripped off the holy martyr's robes and laid him bound upon the pyre.


Prudentius says that the martyr's face was luminous and that it shone a glorious light that was only noticed by the baptized.
The poet then presents the final moments of the life of St. Laurence:
When slow, consuming heat had seared the flesh of Laurence for a space,
He calmly from his gridiron made this terse proposal to the judge:
"Pray turn my body, on one side already broiled sufficiently,
And see how well your Vulcan's fire has wrought its cruel punishment."


The Prefect bade him to be turned. Then Laurence spoke: "I am well baked,
And whether better cooked or raw, make trial by a taste of me."
He said these words in way of jest; Then rising shining eyes to heaven
And sighing deeply, thus he prayed with pity for unholy Rome.

Thus ended Laurence's fervent prayer, thus ended, too, his earthly life:
With these last words his eager soul escaped with joy from carnal chains.
Some noble Romans, who were led by his amazing fortitude
To faith in Christ, then bore away the hero's body from the scene.


In his second letter to the Christians in Corinth, St. Paul said, "The point is this: those who sow sparingly will also reap sparingly, and those who sow bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as they have made up their minds to do..." Laurence made up his mind to serve Christ, to care for the sick, the poor, the hungry, and the naked, and he saw them not as the needy, but as the treasure of the Church. He did sow bountifully, and his witness unto death made a profound impression on many in Rome. His prayer for the conversion of Rome was answered when, in a mere seventy or so years after his martyrdom, the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Toleration and began to show favor upon the Church and the persecutions, at least in Rome, ended. May we all have the eyes of St. Laurence and see the poor as the "wondrous treasure of our God."

St. Laurence, Super Hero!

I See You!

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