Tomorrow, February 2, is the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple—as we call it in the Episcopal Church, an event that the Church, early in her pilgrimage (the early 400s, to be exact) realized it was important to celebrate. We are transferring this feast to Sunday, February 7, so to celebrate it together as community.
What is the importance of this event? It is another epiphany and thus God sharing again and more. Indeed, as Simeon, the “righteous and devout man” who comes to the temple, says as takes the child Jesus in his arms and praises God, “Master…my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:30-32)
This revelation, of course, extends to us. We Christians never simply recall past events. We celebrate God present, Jesus, Light of the world, in our midst, the Risen Lord alive, sharing Himself. We celebrate Jesus, as our second reading (Hebrews 2:14-18) says, who “because he himself was tested by what he suffered, is able to help those who are being tested.”
Jesus is more present than you realize, especially in your struggles. Jesus is with you in any and all suffering: in your aching body, in your frightened heart, in your lonely space, in the family tension, in the job search, in your struggles to pray. We indeed have every reason to hope.
Yours in the light of Christ,
The Rev. Dominique Peridans
THE WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has been an ecumenical tradition since
1908 and is now coordinated by the World Council of Churches. The theme for
2021 “Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit” (John 15), was chosen by
the monastic community of Grandchamp, located near Lake Neuchatel in
Switzerland. The community, founded in the 1930s, brings together sisters from
different churches and various countries, whose ecumenical vocation commits
them on the path of reconciliation among Christians and within the human family.
The second promise of their life commitment asks, “Will you, from now on, with
your sisters, celebrate the newness of life that Jesus Christ gives through the Holy
Spirit and let it grow in you and among us, in the Church and in the world, in the
whole of creation, thus fulfilling your service in this Community?”
The metaphor that Jesus uses in John’s gospel, chapter 15, is that of a tree and
branches. The image helps us believers to understand that, although diverse
individuals, our oneness is deeper than any diversity or individuality. Christ,
Whose life we share, joins us to one another in everlasting fashion.
During this week, we pray the Jesus, Source of our unity, by His gracious love,
make this oneness a reality for us. May we love one another victoriously. And
may we unconditionally share such love with whomever comes across our path,
so to transform the world…
we pray for all the member of your holy Church,
that all may abide in you and you in them,
that they may be one in your love and bear much fruit.
We also pray for the world,
that all may come to believe in your love for them
by the fruit of our witness.
We know that our divisions
are a source of scandal to your world,
and we know that in love
we are called to unite as one in the vine and branches.
The vine is our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son.
We are meant to be his branches.
Help us we pray,
to seek justice
and to be your prophetic voice in the world.
May your grace effect growth of good fruit among us,
that our world may realize peace.
We ask all this in the name of Jesus,
your Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever.
I have found these past days profoundly unsettling. I imagine that, no matter where you stand politically, the same is true for you. After months of struggle and unrest, more chaos and lawlessness, and they have shaken us deeply as a nation. Even if born of desperation, violence is never the answer. It cancels good-will and sabotages hopes of dialogue. It divides. The divisions in our country have further been laid bare and deepened. Such divisions tear painfully at our hearts.
In the light of these events and prompted by the love that gathers us, I ask that we, at ASA, recommit to being peacemakers, to being and respecting seekers of truth, to judging no hearts but holding all accountable for actions, to promoting justice, to praying for healing and unity, to listening and to dialogue, to daring to hope, to loving our neighbor as our Lord loves us, because our Lord loves us. This is our mission. Will you join me in renewing this?
Let us pray:
God of ages, in your sight nations rise and fall and pass through times of peril. Now when our land is troubled, be near to judge and to save. May leaders be led by your wisdom; may they search for your will and see it clearly. In any ways we have turned from your way, help us to reverse them. Give us your light and your truth to guide us; through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of this world, and our Savior. Amen
At Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes, “we value the church as a community that welcomes all people, where viewpoint diversity is considered a blessing” (from our Statement of Particular Values).
What is the theological foundation that undergirds this value?
To begin, we understand that “Jesus’ ‘kingdom is not of this world’ (John 18:36). And is consequently deepened in our understanding that,
“the course of action for Christians in the political sphere is not always obvious and may lead to different political perspectives among parishioners. We are certainly not removed from the world, as we are called to love ‘in truth and in action’ (I John 3:18).
We may have different understandings of how to ‘act justly’ (Micah 6:8), however, and thus, as a church, we choose to minister primarily in our immediate community and we pray that each parishioner go forth,
formed by our common faith and according to the dictates of individual conscience, to make the world a better place.”
(Statement of Particular Values)
Over the next two days, we will see fellow Americans gathered in our city to attend the “March to Save America”. I've been asked, "So how are we, as members and friends of ASA, to respond to this expression of free speech?"
First and foremost, we are to PRAY— Pray for peace. Pray to be peacemakers. And let us avoid making sweeping generalizations. As disciples of Christ, in conscience, let us resist the temptation to view those who think differently than us to be "the enemy".
As Congressman John Lewis (+2020) said, “Not one of us can rest, be happy, be at home, be at peace with ourselves, until we end hatred and division.”
We must bear in mind that, as members of the American family, we are all fellow citizens that share the same right to expression, that is no different than any other secular organizations we may endorse. And we must bear in mind that, divinely speaking, these individuals may be fellow Christians, and perhaps even fellow parishioners; who, if they have a different political perspective, are no less our Sister(or Brother)-in-Christ than those who share our political perspectives.
I Remain Yours in Christ, the Prince of Peace,
The Rev. Dominique Peridans
Glad to be your Rector
To this coming Sunday, January 3, so that we may celebrate together, we have
transferred the Feast of the Epiphany, normally celebrated on January 6, the 12 th
day of Christmas.
As many of you know, “epiphany” means manifestation. We celebrate God
incarnate, the Word made flesh, made manifest to the Gentiles (i.e. to the rest of
the world, beyond the Jewish community), in the persons of the mysterious Magi
(wise men). The Magi come reading a star, indicating the birth of a king. Beyond
their astrology, however, we can perhaps say that they come because they have
been given a gift from Christ, before even seeing him: faith. They are given faith,
not because of privilege, but because they are seekers. God likes seekers. God
extends Himself to those who seek.
Faith enables us to discern mystery from above. With the eyes of the body, they
see a fragile infant. With the eyes of faith, they “see” God. Only faith can bridge
the apparent abyss between child and God. It is very much like our situation
regarding the Eucharist, or Communion. Only faith can bridge the apparent abyss
between bread and God. Thanks to faith, to the Magi Christ is made known.
Thanks to faith, to us—as with the disciples on the road to Emmaus who initially
do not recognize the risen Lord, Christ is “made known…in the breaking of the
bread” (Luke 24:35).
If this is true, then we ought, as the prophet Isaiah tells us (first reading: Isaiah
60:1-6), to “Arise, shine; for our light has come, and the glory of
the LORD has risen upon us.” Let us arise.
Yours in the Holy Child,
What does one do when things don’t go as planned, or don’t seem to make sense? Ask
Joseph, the husband of Mary! In the narrative regarding the birth of Jesus in Matthew’s
gospel (1:18-25), we read that Mary is pregnant before her time. “Mary had been
engaged to Joseph” which means, according to Jewish custom, considered husband-
wife. But, “before they lived together”, i.e., before they consummated their marriage,
Mary “was found to be with child.” Houston, we have a problem! Not the thing to have
happen in first-century Judea: such unchasteness was punishable by stoning (cf.
Deuteronomy 22:22 and Leviticus 20:10). Oh, dear Joseph, what you had to go through for the
sake of the Incarnation...
What was going through Joseph’s mind? Embarrassment? Anger? Shame? Is
Joseph thinking, “I thought I had married church lady!” I like to presume that Joseph
opted to go beyond what he may have initially felt, to gaze upon Mary with eyes of faith,
and to act accordingly. Faith leads to trust. Joseph trusted and wanted to give Mary to
the One to Whom she belongs. Contrary to what the cultural tendency may have been
at the time, Joseph knows in his heart that his love for Mary does not give him
ownership rights over her. Oh, dear Joseph, what you had to go through for the sake of
the Incarnation. Because of your faithfulness, however, you re-received Mary as a new,
Are we not invited, when things don’t go as planned, or don’t seem to make sense, to
trust with the same intensity as Joseph, and, as a result, to experience unexpected
blessings? Let us ask the Holy Spirit for such grace this Christmas.
Yours in Emmanuel,
Christmas is rapidly approaching. There are surely at least a few more preparations,
and it may be easy to get swept into agitation. Let us bear in mind, in the midst if
everything, that the preparation that matters most is that of the heart. And, whose
Christmas preparation better to imitate than that of Mary? Whose assistance better to
seek than that of Mary? If there is someone who knows how to prepare the coming of
Christ, it is Mary.
How did Mary prepare? Aside from the expected material preparations, we see Mary
“treasure all these things in her heart”. Twice in the gospel of Luke this is explicitly
mentioned about Mary: at the visit of the shepherds and at the finding of the 12-year-old
boy Jesus in the Temple. Mary practiced gratitude and let herself be in awe. If we take
time to be quiet, just a few moments, I am certain gratitude and awe will surface in us.
We have every reason to be grateful and in awe.
As Christmas rapidly approaches, may the words of St. Bede (+735), the English monk
and only native of Great Britain to be declared a Doctor of the Church, carry us through
any complexity or challenges associated with the holidays, especially this year:
Christ is the Morning Star,
who, when the night of this world is past,
gives to his saints the promise of the light of life,
and opens everlasting day.
Looking forward with you,
How many of us feel that, in our lives, we have wasted precious time? I know that I do, sometimes with painful regret. There can be a lot of “shoulda coulda”. With more time nowadays to look back over my life, I cannot help but think of missed opportunities, conversations, hands that I could have held and helped. The cause of the time wasted? If I am honest, and take ownership: mostly me—my fatigue, my lack of boldness, my selfishness.
St Peter, in this Sunday’s second reading (2 Peter 3:8-15), very mysteriously tells us that “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day”. In the midst of the guilt and discouragement felt over time wasted, there is a ray of hope. With our Lord, in fact, perhaps the time can be “caught up”. If I offer the time to Him, He Whose love is powerful enough to “compensate”, what should have and could have been is somehow not lost. This is rather difficult to articulate (and it certainly does not let me off the hook forstriving to be more awake, more courageous, and more selfless regarding my time!).
St. Peter continues his letter: giving us hope, “The Lord is patient with you”; putting everything into liberating context, “we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home”; and encouraging us to live in this light: “Beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation”.
Advent includes an invitation to honest evaluation of our use of time, as we rejoice in the Lord’s salvific patience and we look forward to time to being lovingly seized by eternity.
Yours in our Lord,
The Rev. Dominique Peridans