Monthly Archives: May 2013

Silence is so accurate

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A Boston Globe article on the value of paying close, sustained attention to art as a way to combat digital distraction really struck me today, so I have decided to try a project during the month of June.

For 30 minutes each day, after I say Morning Prayer, I will look closely at a painting by Mark Rothko, whose abstract color paintings have always intrigued me.

According to the National Gallery of Art, Rothko largely abandoned conventional titles in 1947, sometimes resorting to numbers or colors in order to distinguish one work from another. The artist also … resisted explaining the meaning of his work. “Silence is so accurate,” he said, fearing that words would only paralyze the viewer’s mind and imagination.

I’m looking forward to both the seeing and the silence.

Photo by coco of cococozy.

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Golden with fruit of a man’s body

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On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious. (Isaiah 11:10)

In a Country Church

To one kneeling down no word came,
Only the wind’s song, saddening the lips
Of the grave saints, rigid in glass;
Or the dry whisper of unseen wings,
Bats not angels, in the high roof.

Was he balked by silence? He kneeled long,
And saw love in a dark crown
Of thorns blazing, and a winter tree
Golden with fruit of a man’s body.

R S Thomas

Sharing the everyday, ordinary ‘Yes’

As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been “Yes and No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not “Yes and No”; but in him it is always “Yes.” For in him every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” (2 Cor. 1:18-20)

Ecstasy of St. Teresa by Bernini

“God, deliver me from frowning saints.” (St. Teresa of Avila)

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Do you live your ordinary life as though God, in Jesus, has said “Yes” to you?

We are meant for intimate union with God; that is what the Holy Eucharist and the Daily Offices and our private devotions are for.

Intimacy with God is the “mystic, sweet communion” we sing about in church. We are meant to know, in “our selves, our souls and bodies,” that God loves us and desires every blessing for us.

Jesus’ Incarnation serves to make that fact — God’s “Yes” — not only concrete, but historical and lasting. Jesus lived and taught and died and rose at a specific time and place, sharing our everyday human life. His Ascension means that humanity is already and forever united with God in the ongoing, ordinary life of the Trinity.

Can people tell when they see you that God, in Jesus, has said “Yes” not only to you but also to them?

If you’re a “frowning saint,” why not make it your practice during the next several months of Ordinary Time to share God’s everyday, ordinary “Yes” in your smile and words, in your devotion and hard work, in your resting and your playing?

Trinity Sunday

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St. Augustine’s Chapel in the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Fond du Lac

First Sunday after Pentecost: Trinity Sunday

O God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 228)

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I want to reflect not so much on the doctrine of the Trinity but on the method of Trinitarian faith.

It took more than 400 years of sustained practice and reflection before the Christian church articulated the doctrine of the Trinity. The Apostles’ Creed is first mentioned by Ambrose around 390; the Nicene Creed came after the Council of Nicaea in 325 and was revised by the Council of Constantinople in 381; Augustine wrote On the Trinity in 415; and the Athanasian Creed dates to sometime after the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

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From the beginning Christians gathered to pray daily (just as they had been doing as observant Jews), celebrated the Lord’s Supper, and ministered to those around them, making disciples through the power of the Spirit.

“No one has ever seen God,” writes the author of the Gospel of John. “It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1:18).

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

“Jesus is Lord” rings the cry of faith; “We are one in the Spirit” say the apostles to Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female; “How good it is to sing praises to our God” we pray every morning and every evening, joining our voices to the Psalmist’s (Ps. 147:1).

The doctrine of the Trinity is the attempt, however mathematical and philosophical it may be, to account for the lived experience of the Church, following the Lord Jesus in the power of God’s Spirit and in praise to the eternal Father — acknowledging the Trinity and worshiping the Unity.

Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you:
Father, of majesty unbounded,
your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.

(Te Deum laudamus, BCP 95)

Commentary by Bede, the Venerable

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Matthew 7:7 (Commentary)

Asking is not enough,
says Bede
the venerable

We must diligently seek

Read the blueprint
heart’s desire

Lay the first stone

On stone and stone
the house
reveals itself

Plan becomes a home

I must lay my heart
(rejected stone)
firmly in place

Daily build the home I seek

Rodger Patience
Mepkin Abbey + July 1998

Always faithful to our mission

Icon of Jackson Kemper created for the Sesquicentennial of the Diocese of Milwaukee

Icon of Jackson Kemper created for the Sesquicentennial of the Diocese of Milwaukee

Prayer for Mission

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen. (BCP 101)

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Today, in addition to the Feast of Jackson Kemper, First Missionary Bishop of the Episcopal Church, we also observe the Ember Days, traditional days of prayer for all ministry, and especially for the ordained leaders of the church.

It’s a very appropriate serendipity, since Jackson Kemper was particularly concerned to ensure that there were clergy trained and suited for ministry in “the scattered settlements of the West.”

With James Lloyd Breck and others, he founded Nashotah House near Delafield, Wisconsin as a Benedictine community from which clergy would go out and minister to the surrounding area. With James DeKoven, he established Racine College, now the DeKoven Center, as a school emphasizing both education and worship in the “Ritualist” (Anglo-Catholic) style.

Jackson Kemper served as the first Bishop of Wisconsin from 1859 until his death, so all three dioceses in the state — Milwaukee, Fond du Lac, and Eau Claire — trace their beginnings to him.

The Episcopal Church in Wisconsin properly honors these “local saints” and their mission to “bring those who do not know Jesus to the knowledge and love of him.” That is the mission we all share to this day.

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For the Ministry (Ember Days)

O God, you led your holy apostles to ordain ministers in every place: Grant that your Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may choose suitable persons for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the extension of your kingdom; through him who is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 256)

Our common life

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I had a Twitter exchange with a fellow Episcopalian, Brendan (@indybrendan), last night about the Daily Office.

He said he couldn’t get into Morning Prayer because he’s not a morning person, but he’d be glad to pray for me during Compline before he went to bed.

Megan (@revlucymeg) piped up and said, “that’s why we have a daily cycle — everyone takes an office,” and I promised I’d have Brendan’s back at Morning Prayer. This is how the Church fulfill’s St. Paul’s admonition to “pray without ceasing.”

On Thursdays there’s a baptismal slant in Morning Prayer. Canticle 8 (BCP 85), appointed to follow the Old Testament lesson, recounts the Exodus — linked in Christian imagination to the Easter Vigil and baptism. The Collect for Guidance, customarily read on Thursdays, places our identity and our work in God, in whom “we live and move and have our being” (BCP 100). In the first Prayer for Mission on that same page we pray to our heavenly Father for “all members of your holy church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you.”

I added this morning, in honor of Brendan, a favorite prayer from Compline that underscores our mutual dependence, not only as members of the Church united by Baptism, but also as creatures united by life on God’s round Earth.

O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 134)