One of the pearls of wisdom that has stayed with me most from seminary was an oft-repeated phrase from our primary professor, a most holy priest, Fr. Philippe (+2006):
"Giving thanks keeps the heart youthful". Unlike the body, the heart per se does not age. But the heart can be encumbered, and thus grow tired. We can allow circumstance, inner and/or outer, to keep us from engaging persons and the world around us, openly, with love. Our hearts can shrink.
Giving thanks opens the heart. And the wonderful thing is that we can always give thanks if we want. Giving thanks is always within reach. No circumstance, inner and/or outer, can keep us from doing so. Giving thanks is not due to a welling up of emotion. Giving thanks is a deliberate act, in which I recognize goodness that does not originate in me, that is not of my doing. Giving thanks may, at times, feel forced. Worry not. Our sometime erratic emotions do not always cooperate with what we intend. Oh well! We give thanks nonetheless. Indeed, there is a little loving pressure to do so from our friend St. Paul. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, he exhorts us: "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus". If he is speaking of God's will, then he is speaking of a pathway to intimacy with God.
Our annual national invitation to give thanks is upon us. At Thanksgiving, we often have high expectations for great times with family and/or friends. The gatherings (or lack thereof) can sometimes be bittersweet, however. Perhaps, more deliberately giving thanks will change the experience. If anything, it shifts one's focus away from what seems to be missing, to goodness which is a gift.
"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever." 1 Chronicles 16:34
With thanks to the Lord for you,
“By your endurance you will gain your souls.” This is the closing statement by Jesus in this Sunday’s gospel (Luke 21:5-19). In the midst of the cosmic, social and interpersonal turmoil that Jesus describes, it may sound like Jesus is simply channeling the Roman poet Virgil (70 BC-19 BC): “Come what may, all bad fortune is to be conquered by endurance.” But, is Jesus simply advising that we “tough it up”?
As disciples of Christ, we are to be strong. We are to be strong, however, as disciples of Christ. In other words, our strength is not simply that of virtue. Virtue is a good thing! It ought to be acquired (by repeatedly striving to be strong; in the case of virtue, you fake it until you make it). We do want the inner strength that enables us to stand our ground and think clearly when we are tempted or overwhelmed.
But we have available to us another strength. The psalmist tells us (28:7) that “The Lord is my strength”. The Lord, whose disciple I am, is my strength. If I open myself to Him, a mysterious strength is given. As the psalmist says in this Sunday’s psalm 98, “With his right hand and his holy arm, has he won for himself the victory”. We are called and invited to share in God’s victory. Let us welcome it in our daily lives. Nothing and no one ought to keep us from loving and thus living with a sense of freedom in our hearts.
Yours in the Lord our strength,
All Saints Day 2016
“The holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever—for ever and ever.” Daniel 7:18 (1st reading)
“For ever—for ever and ever” indeed! This Sunday we celebrate All Saints Day (moved from its traditional date of November 1). Actually, we do not celebrate All Saints Days, we celebrate all the saints—our true BFFs, our “for ever and ever friends”, those officially recognized by the Church and those who remain hidden even to the eyes of the Church and are known only to God.
Not all parishes celebrate in such deliberate fashion. We do because, well, the heavenly host are a big deal! One need but look into the clerestory of our church. Represented are seventy-seven saints (the number of perfection, by the way, which Jesus mentions when asked how many times one must forgive) as well as the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and love), and the four cardinal virtues (temperance, fortitude, justice, and prudence).
We are richly blessed to be preceded and accompanied on our journey by these sisters and brothers in Christ. How much richer the journey. We will discover, when we see them face-to-face in the light of God, how strong and merciful an invisible hand they lent along the way. Thus, with St. Paul, “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inher-itance among the saints.” Ephesians 1:17-18 (2nd reading).
Yours with the saints,
From the desk of the Rector