On the "eve" of Lent (2017), the Church invites us to consider the Transfiguration of Jesus, the awesome happening atop a high mountain-perhaps Mount Tabor, as claimed by different Church Fathers. The Transfiguration is a momentary glimpse, in Christ's body, of glory. "Peter and his companions...saw his glory" (Luke 9:32).
But, what is this "glory", one may ask? Glory is the radiance of divine love, the overflow of divine love. "God is love" (I John 4:8). And the love that God is radiates; the love that God is cannot be contained. Jesus, for a moment, allows the glory that indwells his soul, to radiate in his body, glory that is otherwise withheld during his earthly pilgrimage so that, amongst other things, he might know what it is to feel pain.
Why is this important and helpful as we embark on our Lenten journey? Well, perhaps, so that we know, as we seek the Lord, in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, what is happening deep inside our persons. God's love overflows for us. We are in the process of being transfigured-deep within ourselves. We do not always realize it for our entanglement in the "stuff" of daily life. But, it is true and real, and, when our faith is stronger, we are more certain of it. And, the more we desire it, the more deeply God's love can transfigure us.
Something glorious is indeed happening deep in our persons. Let us dare to believe and to hope...
Yours in our Lord,
I recently came across a letter, which professes hopes that I find theologically rich, such that it potentially speak to people of all backgrounds. It is the a-political work of a small anonymous group of collaborators between the ages of 30 and 45, both lay and ordained. A “manifesto” is simply a declaration of views. To be clear, in it, “Anglican” means “of the Anglican Communion”, and thus, in our case, the Episcopal Church. The work of this group can be found at https://tract91.wordpress.com. The name ‘Tract 91’ is ‘riffing’ off of the idea of the 19th-century ‘Tracts For The Times’ – 90 of which were published and most of which were anonymous or under pseudonyms.
As its authors state, “Manifestos are designed to rile us up”. This can be good. I trust that those of different generations with whom some of the cultural references do not resonate will be able, nonetheless, to uncover pearls that encourage. Thought-provoking and, hopefully, heart-lifting, I share this with all of you, seekers of Christ, Who is the Truth, and always more than we fathom.
Blessings in Him,
We are a generation of Anglican Christians.
We have surveyed the wreckage that is the spiritual landscape of North America, and despite numerous urges to get in touch with ourselves we have chosen to go to church. In fact we long to be recognized as the Church.
We have been to the raves (or ‘parties’ as they were later called). As Gen Xers or Millennials we have grieved Kurt Cobain & Amy Winehouse. We owned an Optimus Prime, a Cabbage Patch Kid, or Pokémon Cards. We had an Atari 2600, Nintendo, PlayStation 1 – 2 – 3.
We, seeing the poverty of our times, want little or nothing to do with the times. We wish genuine escape that is not escapism. We know too much about isms. We desire to experience genuine eternity and transcendence, and, having glimpsed these in the liturgies of the Church, we cringe at attempts to make them accessible to us, or imbue this beauty with pyrotechnics, or even more screen-time.
We are grateful to the generation of our forebears for its righteous rebellion against their forebears; for drawing the circle wide, for fighting against the tides that encouraged bigotry, hatred and fear. We know that there is more of this work ahead. We are also grateful for the call to care for God’s creation. We get that God isn’t a bearded white male in the sky. We love the call to love the ‘other’ and live with open hands and hearts. Yes, we get inclusivity and pluralism – but we also want to continue to learn and grow into who we are in Christ Jesus.
We long to be washed and rooted in the Scriptures, the Sacraments, the historic Creeds and the ancient ways of shaping and submitting to the leaders of the church. We are not afraid of duty, or obligation – but we are weary of placation. We are weary of movements that attempt to stand for all things but end up representing the banality of the times. We do not want a safe, lukewarm faith.
We hold that the practice of the Daily Office, and a fully incarnated faith lived in community, can offer a level of spiritual depth that we, who wheedled away hours on Super Mario Brothers, are in sore need of.
We have sat through sermons unexplaining the existence of miracles, angels, demons, the Incarnation, the Resurrection. We have watched the Holy mysteries of our faith lay waste by the logic of the times as the Church seeks to become “relevant.” We ask: “If the times are unholy why should we be relevant to them?”
We have a sense that N.T. Wright trumps Marcus Borg.
We want nothing to do with post-theism.
We went through our angry activist, new age, and/or liberal phases – and took some good from them. These can be fine correctives to the sins of the tradition – but they are not the whole of the Tradition. We’re over them as fundamentalisms. We have tried just about everything and are now willing to give Jesus a chance.
We are tired of committees, visions & website mission statements that are not lived out. We do not want to be asked about how to make the Church relevant, up to date, or accessible. We have enough companies vying for our attention. We wish for good, sustaining, sustainable work and we wish to be told why it’s meaningful – and see it lived.
We have asked to collaborate or participate, but have often been told to wait. In frustration, many of us have left. Those of us still clinging wish for the Church to preach and live with the authority and power that Jesus Christ gave it. We believe it can do this without repeating the genocidal legacy of residential schools, and other historical sins of which our Church rightly repents. We believe this to be possible through the grace that comes of following the Servant King.
We’ve watched the petty schisms (left and right), polarizations (left and right), institutional politicking (left and right) and postulating pundits and bloggers (left and right) and have been tempted to run to Buddhism or take Sunday morning hikes. Many of our friends have. But we’re still here. We believe that to love Christ is to love His Church in all its breadth and brokenness – and we are going nowhere.
We believe that the Church is wealthy: in history and theology –We desire to share in this wealth and share this wealth with others and creatively build upon / re-imagine / re-enliven the stored faithfulness of the past generations – not to deconstruct it.
We are postmodern natives. We can deconstruct standing on our heads; we have grown gluttonous in the unpacking of assumptions to the point where we hardly believe in anything at all. This has made for an environment of extreme cynicism, reflected in that fact that most of our favourite TV characters are sociopaths. It’s scary.
We are counter-culturists; revelling in the unpopularity of the creeds, doctrines, scriptures, dogmas, solid liturgies and traditions; if for no other reason than for something to bump against in the darkness. By removing, watering down or downplaying these, we feel that we are left with little except the Transformers movies or Marvel Universe and the vast expanse of the internet with which to reference our lives. It’s no wonder that so many of our friends head to technology or sports or yoga instead of the Church for ‘transcendence’.
We who remain in the Church believe that the imitation will never do. We’ve lived in an age of virtual reality, instant social media, readily accessible pornography and unending, unfiltered information. We have the answers at our fingertips. We have and know more wiki-knowledge than ever before, but less holy wisdom. Having drunk of too many Coca Cola’s we are not filled, we long to experience the real thing, to come into the real presence of the Lord and experience the justice, peace and joy of the Holy Spirit.
We are in need of good and holy mentors. Even more so we are in desperate need of Saints. We would like to know this is still an ideal of the Church, to form and house Saints who love the Lord.
And how do we get there? Sainthood that is – how do we become saints?
Is this a question the Church still asks? We need to know.
Sincerely, in Christ.
The ‘Lost’ Generations
Boy, can Jesus be demanding! And, boy, can Jesus seem angry as he is demanding. He even seems to engage in hair-splitting, and leave us with the impression that, in the end, there is little mercy when it comes to meeting the demands of the Christian life. Become angry and one is "liable to judgment". Say "you fool" and one is "liable to the hell of fire". "Come to terms quickly with your accuser"...or "you will never get out until you have paid the last penny."Look at someone with lust and one "has already committed adultery in his heart".Need I go on?
Is Jesus angrily splitting hairs, or he is (strong) lovingly revealing the following?
Thankfully, Jesus makes love and loving possible. Jesus speaks so strongly because He lays His heart on the line for this. And, so we pray, in the words of the German mystic, St. Gertude (+1302)
Hail, Sacred Heart of Jesus, living and strengthening source of eternal life, infinite treasury of the divinity, burning furnace of divine love! You are my refuge and my sanctuary. My loving Savior, consume my heart in that burning fire with which Your own is inflamed. Pour into my soul those graces which flow from Your love. Let my heart be so united with Yours that our wills may be one, and my will in all things conformed with Yours. May Your Will be the guide and rule of my desires and of my actions. Amen.
Yours in Christ,
Let us celebrate the feast of the Presentation of our Lord in a solemn way, illuminating the mystery of the day with lights. St. Cyril of Alexandria (+444)
The Presentation of Our Lord: the feast of Christ "a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel" (Luke 2:32).The oldest written account of this feast dates to the fourth century: "The fortieth day after Epiphany (Christmas) is indeed celebrated here (in Jerusalem) with the greatest solemnity." (Egeria, Diary of a Pilgrimage, Ch. 26).
This is indeed a celebration of Jesus as our light, which the Church, since her early days, has symbolized using material light. Indeed, the same St. Cyril of Alexandria makes mention of processions of light for this feast.
The use of material light, of fire, continues today in the Church. In our own parish, we do not hesitate to make use (generously!) of candles: the sanctuary lamp, votive candles, processional candles, altar candles... The suspended "sanctuary lamp" indicates the Real (Eucharistic) Presence of Jesus in the tabernacle (to which, by the way, we traditionally express reverence-upon entering and leaving the church-by a genuflection, i.e. a gesture of lowering the right knee to the ground). We continue the ancient custom of two lighted candles, on either side of the Gospel, when read at Sunday Mass. St. Jerome (+420) attested that "whenever the Gospel is to be read, candles are lighted although the sun is already shining. Of course, it is not done to dispel the darkness but to express our joy" and because "under the material light that Light is represented of which the Psalmist speaks: 'Your Word, 0 Lord, is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path'." (Psalm 119:105) We offer the option of votive candles before the statues of Christ the King, Mary, and/or St. Agnes, following the tradition since the early 300s of candles or oil lamps being burned before sacred images. Of course, candles are placed upon the altar. And, finally, like the processions witnessed by St. Cyril, today there will be a procession of lights.
Burning candles create a prayerful atmosphere because, in their capacity to make manifest, to reveal, they remind us of Christ, "the True Light which enlightens everyone" (John 1:9) and "that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all." (I John 1:5) Let us celebrate the feast of the Presentation of our Lord in a solemn way, illuminating the mystery of the day with lights!
Yours in the Light of the World,
From the desk of the Rector