Christos Anesti: St Alban’s

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Happy Monday, Jim+

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Deserted Places

“But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.”

Luke 5:16

This weekend the Rite 13 group will go away to what I am almost positive will be a “deserted place,” Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  The weather is supposed to hover right around 45-50 degrees and be generally overcast with some rain.  I’m guessing we’ll be some of the only people on the beach.  We are making our biennial retreat away, the last big adventure that this group will undertake as Rite 13-ers, having worked, played, learned and fundraised for the past two years together.

 

 

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I suspect that we, while also “withdrawing,” will pray, eat, laugh, be quiet, read Holy Scripture, study, do homework, and worship together (at least three times a day we will gather for worship).  But we will also look for and hopefully find God and the risen Christ while we are away this weekend.

 

Where do you go when you need to recharge, when you need to find God, or just be in your own deserted place to pray?  If you haven’t found one of those places, take a walk down the hill from the church to the Bishop’s Garden, or find a quiet spot in church to stop, be still, withdraw and pray.  God knows where you are and God will show up.

Pray for us this weekend as we will be praying for you.

Matthewfirst

 

Posted in The Rev. Matthew R. Hanisian | 3 Comments

Greater Love – Yoga to Cromwell

I don’t watch a lot of television, but I did get pulled into Oliver Cromwell’s orbit recently with the PBS airing of “Wolf Hall”. Complexities abound in the Tudor court, no surprise, and nothing is more complex than the character of Cromwell himself it seems. Which might explain why this quote jumped out at me as I was searching for some background information on this Sunday’s anthem by 20th century British composer John Ireland, Greater Love Hath No Man. Though I couldn’t have imagined ever making this connection, following my post last week on yoga’s corpse pose and the idea of dying to live, I find myself now quoting Cromwell:

It’s a blessed thing to die daily. For what is there in this world to be accounted of! The best men according to the flesh, and things, are lighter than vanity. I find this only good, to love the Lord and his poor despised people, to do for them and to be ready to suffer with them….and he that is found worthy of this hath obtained great favour from the Lord; and he that is established in this shall (being conformed to Christ and the rest of the Body) participate in the glory of a resurrection which will answer all.    Letter to Sir Thomas Fairfax (7 March 1646).

Sacrificing for those we love.  We might call it being a parent, or a good citizen, or a neighbor, or a friend.  But it is that part of dying to ourselves that makes our lives meaningful and rich and worthy of God’s love for us.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3dt56w2kx8

Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can the floods drown it. Love is strong as death.
Greater love hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree,
That we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness.
Ye are washed, ye are sanctified,
ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation;
That ye should show forth the praises of him
who hath call’d you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
I beseech you brethren, by the mercies of God,
that you present your bodies, a living sacrifice, holy,
acceptable unto to God, which is your reasonable service.

SonyaFirst004

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A Tale of Two Cities

Over the last several months, our nation has been compelled to undertake a serious Unknown-1examination of the ways we treat our African-American brothers and sisters, and particularly of the ways that they interact with many police forces. For people of good will, this has been a sobering and painful time of truth-telling, when stories that seem more likely to come from America in the 1870’s or from South Africa during the time of Apartheid keep appearing on the front pages of our newspapers from our country at this time.

This week, the news has been from Parma, Missouri, where five of the town’s six police officers and the city attorney resigned when the town swore in Tyrus Byrd as its first African-American mayor. When I first saw the story, I reeled. It was inconceivable to me. And yet, justice compels me to note that the issue is clearly not with the town itself; its residents were happy to elect a mayor based on what they thought she could bring to the office, rather than judging her by her appearance. Whether the issue is  racism or corruption or something yet to be discovered, it’s clearly a problem with those officers and that attorney, not with everyone. And yet, it is still a sign of a deeply broken town, in which it appears that not everyone is truly welcomed as a human being.

I had a very different experience Tuesday morning, when I began my day by attending a breakfast sponsored by the L’Arche communities. L’Arche is a set of homes, Unknowninitially established by Jean Vanier, in which people with mental disabilities and people without mental disabilities live together as companions, caretakers, and friends. The key is mutuality: everyone comes there to be loved, supported, and made whole. When I entered the hotel ballroom, we were seated a tables with Core Residents (people with disabilities), Assistants (the others in their community), and guests like me.

A priest told us how he had been changed when members of L’Arche began to attend Mary-Hurley-and-Jean-Robert-fndg-CR-Carrefour-e1303304507470his parish. At first, when a Core Resident asked to be confirmed, the priest was deeply skeptical. At Mass that Sunday, however, he was passing out the consecrated bread when he found the man at the rail, weeping because he knew he was about to experience the love of Jesus. The priest broke down, recognizing that the man’s love of Christ was deeper than his own. The Core Resident is now not only confirmed, but on a number of leadership teams in the parish.

Others spoke, both Core Residents and Assistants, and the stories they told were the same: of being loved into wholeness, into accepting themselves as they were, and realizing that that was more than enough.

Two communities, two very different visions.

Many years ago, St. Augustine described them like this: “Two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self…In the one, the princes and the nations it subdues are ruled by the love of ruling; in the other, the princes and the subjects serve one another in love.” (The City of God) Augustine writes that now these two metaphorical “cities” are intertwined, the city of self and the city of love, and I think they are so closely bound together in this world that most of us can find both of them even in our own hearts. But still, we can choose: we can choose to feed the forces of division and disdain, or we can choose to way of acceptance and radical love.

Which path are you on this morning? Which path would you consciously follow?

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“Valid” Eucharist

The reading for yesterday, Monday in the Third Week of Easter, in one of my most instructive resources, “Readings for the Daily Office from the Early Church,” by J. Robert Wright, Professor of Ecclesiastical History at General Theological Seminary in New York, is one that has most influenced my understanding of the Eucharist.  (On Amazon, this book is now going for $150 in “Used-Good” condition and for $450 New.  If you have a copy, treasure it. It’s really gone up in the past two years.)

The reading, from the First Apology of Justin, Martyr at Rome c.167, is where he explains that “the food that our flesh and blood assimilate for their nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of his own words contained in the prayer of consecration.”

I’ve quoted this writing before, in 2013 on February 26, and promised then to touch on it again.  It is for me like a “unifying field theory” in physics.  My focus this time is on something that I was taught in my years in the Roman Catholic Church.  I didn’t understand it at the time, but didn’t really try to; I just followed the admonition not to be late.  It was this, that it isn’t a “valid Eucharist” if you come in to the service just in time to receive the sacrament and miss the readings and the prayers. While I understood the lack of reverence in doing so, I didn’t get the “valid” part until reading Justin.  What I take from it is that “the food…that we assimilate,,, becomes the flesh and blood of … Jesus… by the power of the words … in the prayer of consecration” to the extent that we, in our minds and spirits, are shaped into the mind and spirit of Christ by the lessons and the prayers.  To miss this transformation of ourselves wrought by the lessons and the prayers, is to treat the Eucharist like some magical thing, like being touched by a magic wand.

I’m recalling that sometime in the medieval period such magical thinking was so pronounced that people in large cities with several churches would discern the various times at which the sacrament was distributed in each, devise the most efficient route from each to each, and run through the town from church to church just in time to get to the communion rail to receive the host and dash off to the next one.  I don’t think this practice went on very long. It was so unseemly and smacking of superstition that the church stopped it by pronouncing that the Sacrament should be received only once a day. You might have heard that and wondered where it came from.

“God our Father, whose Son our Lord Jesus Christ in a wonderful Sacrament has left us a memorial of his passion; Grant us so to venerate the sacred mysteries of his Body and Blood, that we may ever perceive within ourselves the fruit of his redemption …  Amen.  [The collect written by Thomas Aquinas for the Feast of Corpus Christi.] Book of Common Prayer, page 252.

Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 21-April-2015.

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Can’t Be Silenced

“Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go….And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.”

Acts 5:40b, 42

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When was the last time you publicly proclaimed something?  I’ll bet it wasn’t about your faith.  The disciples cannot help themselves.  They cannot stay quiet, even when ordered to do so by the authorities.  They are so energized and enthusiastic about their faith that they must proclaim the life and love they have received from God in the person of Jesus.   What in your life has you as energized and enthusiastic as the disciples?   What do you proclaim…with your life, your actions, your words…and how does that point to the love of God?

 

In Christ’s Name,

Matthewfirst

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Dying to Live

There are yoga classes offered here at St. Alban’s several times a week, and I had occasion a few days ago, coming down a set of steps after putting something away, to look through a clear glass window on a class just finishing their practice with shavasana. Corpse Pose. Though I’ve gratefully done this pose at the end of a yoga session many times myself, I had never had an aerial view before. A large room, filled with people who were completely still. Lying flat on the floor, arms spread away from their bodies, palms facing up, heads perhaps leaning gently to one side, they looked for all the world like they were on a cross from where I stood. Corpse Pose indeed, since the cross is not a place where one thinks of relaxing.

Am I the first to invent a term for a branch of the Episcopal Church known as Hindupalian? It is closely related to that other well-known branch some call Buddhapalian. In either case, a bringing together of the inner and outer parts of ourselves. In my own yoga practice we heard the following read a few days after Easter as the class lay in shavasana, and its relationship to the Easter message I had just heard in the music and words of the previous Sunday couldn’t have been clearer:

By taking a few moments to “die on purpose” to the rush of time while you are still living, you free yourself to have time for the present. By “dying” now in this way, you actually become more alive now. This is what stopping can do. There is nothing passive about it. And when you decide to go, it’s a different kind of going because you stopped. The stopping actually makes the going more vivid, richer, more textured. It helps keep all the things we worry about and feel inadequate about in perspective. It gives us guidance.                                                                                                                       Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are

That idea of dying in order to live is a message we hear on Easter, and one that we are seeing everyday in the greening of our gardens after their winter deaths. Take it to heart and find time for shavasana in some form in your own life.  You might call it centering prayer, or meditation, or a walk in the park, but whatever the name, it is a place where you will receive guidance.

SonyaFirst004

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