THE SAINTS – 29 April: Saint Catherine of Siena

THE SAINTS – 29 April – Catherine of Siena

In the Calendar of the Church year tomorrow April 29 is the Feast of Saint Catherine of Sienna. On the morrow  we will venerate and remember her life and work.  On this eve of her day I present here a precis of her biography as it appears in Holy Women, Holy Men a book that has been in trial use (but is longer authorized as a liturgical resource starting in 2015) in the Episcopal Church USA which celebrates the Saints and provides biographies along with appropriate readings and prayers to offer in commemoration of their lives and ministries.1  I urge my fellow Christians to bear in mind that God has not stopped making Saints.  One does not have to have lived five hundred or a thousand years ago to be a Saint.  Catherine died in 1380 but there are Saints in this day and time as well.   Many times they lead seemingly ordinary and mundane lives but by putting their faith into action they bring God’s love into the world.  So for all you know you may be “one too” and we must always strive to be open to God’s call to us.

A word about Catherine.  Catherine was one of those unique persons to whom God spoke directly.  Her life resembles that of another Saint we celebrate on 8 May and that is Dame Julian of Norwich.  Dame Julian wrote of her “revelations” in her work entitled Revelations of Divine Love.  In the introduction to one translation it is noted that “The Chruch has always tended to react negatively to “revelations” and sensible men everywhere will applaud such hesitance.”  and that in today’s world “Withdrawal from the world in order to give oneself to prayer is thought to be selfish and cowardly…”2  But, in the Middle Ages it is noted “the solitary life was almost popular” and “It took various forms” 3

Both Catherine and Julian lived a largely solitary and prayer driven life.  They did relate to the world on a limited basis but truly represented those rare persons to whom God chose to reveal himself “directly”.  They both suffered grave illness at a very young age and following those illnesses they experienced visions or revelations which the Chruch has come to recognize as true communications from God. From these most pious of women we can learn to appreciate that the God we worship is most capable of talking directly to his people if he chooses.  And, when we sense a voice, or a pull, we should be willing to listen and be receptive to his message.  We should head the lesson of the story of Eli and Samuel as told in 1 Samuel 3:1-14.  Like Eli we should train ourselves to “perceive… that the Lord  …is …calling …us ” and invite him to “Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears.”

Catherine of Siena

“Catherine Benincasa was the youngest of twenty-five children of a wealthy dyer of Siena.”  Her life took a decided turn when she had a “remarkable vision” in which she beheld Jesus seated in glory with Saints Peter, Paul and John.  She once remarked that Jesus “smiled on her and blessed her”.

Catherine spent most of her time in prayer and meditation from that time on.  Like most parents her mother attempted mightily to “force her” to be like other girls. As a “force majeure” Catherine cut off her hair.  The family finally “let her do as she would” that being to close herself away in a darkened room, fast, and sleep on boards.   She eventually was accepted as a Dominican postulant.

“Catherine had numerous visions, and was also tried most severely by loathsome temptations and degrading images.  Frequently, she felt totally abandoned by the Lord.  At last, in 1366, the Savior appeared with Mary and the Heavenly Host, and espoused her to himself, so ending her years of lonely prayer and struggle.  She became a nurse, as Dominicans regularly did, caring for patients with leprosy and cancer whom other nurses disliked to treat.”

Some were not sure as to whether Catherine was a saint or a fanatic. Fortunately a bishop, the Bishop of Capua, who had been appointed her confessor, helped her to win full support from the Dominican Mother House.  Catherine was a courageous worker in time of severe plaque; she visited prisoners condemned to death; she constantly was called upon to arbitrate feuds and to prepare troubled sinners for confession.

Besides her many letters to all manner of people, Catherine wrote a Dialogue, a mystical work dictated in ecstasy.   Exhausted and paralyzed, she died at the age of thirty three.

To supplement the biography I offer an excerpt form the Dialogue: 

An excerpt from the Dialogue of Saint Catherine of Siena (From that section of the Dialogue titled A Treatise of Divine Providence):

How finite works are not sufficient for punishment or recompense without the perpetual affection of love.

Then, the Eternal Truth seized and drew more strongly to Himself her desire, doing as He did in the Old Testament, for when the sacrifice was offered to God, a fire descended and drew to Him the sacrifice that was acceptable to Him; so did the sweet Truth to that soul, in sending down the fire of the clemency of the Holy Spirit, seizing the sacrifice of desire that she made of herself, saying: “Do you not know, dear daughter, that all the sufferings, which the soul endures, or can endure, in this life, are insufficient to punish one smallest fault, because the offense, being done to Me, who am the Infinite Good, calls for an infinite satisfaction? However, I wish that you should know, that not all the pains that are given to men in this life are given as punishments, but as corrections, in order to chastise a son when he offends; though it is true that both the guilt and the penalty can be expiated by the desire of the soul, that is, by true contrition, not through the finite pain endured, but through the infinite desire; because God, who is infinite, wishes for infinite love and infinite grief. Infinite grief I wish from My creature in two ways: in one way, through her sorrow for her own sins, which she has committed against Me her Creator; in the other way, through her sorrow for the sins which she sees her neighbors commit against Me. Of such as these, inasmuch as they have infinite desire, that is, are joined to Me by an affection of love, and therefore grieve when they offend Me, or see Me offended, their every pain, whether spiritual or corporeal, from wherever it may come, receives infinite merit, and satisfies for a guilt which deserved an infinite penalty, although their works are finite and done in finite time; but, inasmuch as they possess the virtue of desire, and sustain their suffering with desire, and contrition, and infinite displeasure against their guilt, their pain is held worthy. Paul explained this when he said: If I had the tongues of angels, and if I knew the things of the future and gave my body to be burned, and have not love, it would be worth nothing to me. The glorious Apostle thus shows that finite works are not valid, either as punishment or recompense, without the condiment of the affection of love.”

Notes:

  1. The Triennial (General Convention) of the Episcopal Chruch did not extend the authorization for the use of this book as an official liturgical resource beyond the year 2014.  However, the biography of Catherine used here is substantially the same as that set out in Lesser Feasts and Fasts which is still officially authorized.
  2. Wolters Introduction to Revelations of Divine Love, Penguin Books, London 1966 at page 21.
  3.  Ibid, page 21.

The Evening Office with Poetry

 

 

benedict (1)
Saint Benedict

 

THE EVENING OFFICE with Poetry.  “Lighten our darkness we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night: for the love of thine only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen

Another poem by Christina Rossetti whose life and work we commemorate tonight.

A BETTER RESURRECTION

HAVE no wit, no words, no tears;

My heart within me like a stone
Is numb’d too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm’d with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.
 
My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall–the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.
 
My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish’d thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.
“A Better Resurrection” is reprinted from Goblin Market and other Poems. Christina Rossetti. Cambridge: Macmillan, 1862.

Read more at http://www.poetry-archive.com/r/a_better_resurrection.html#mmlyLAfrGSlY81Ye.99

27 April Christina Rossetti, Poet, 1894

 

In the trial use book Holy Women, Holy Men today is the feast day (day of remembrance) of  Christina Rossetti.  To venerate her life, work and ministry I present a précis of her biography along with a poem (where Holy Women, Holy Men is quoted directly quotes are used) :

Christina Rossetti was ” among the more important poets of the nineteenth century”.  Her father was a professor and her mother was a devout evangelical Christian. Her eldest sister, Maria, entered an Anglican convent and her poet-painter brother, Dante, was a leading figure in the Pre-Raphaelite movement of the nineteenth century.  She suffered from poor health most of her life, being diagnosed variously with tuberculosis or angina, and led a retiring and somewhat cloistered life.  In spite of this she produced an enormous quantity of verse and was lively and ongoing (in) conversation with the members of Dante’s “Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.”* She died of cancer in 1894.

Rossetti practiced her art during mid-nineteenth century England’s Industrial Revolution.  During this period the effects of industrialization “caused enormous political and cultural change and social displacement.”  Many people in England, even those benefitting from the changes, were revolted by the ugliness and misery that attended urban slums and the abandoned rural areas as well.  In response there was a nostalgic attempt to restore England’s mythic and legendary past.  There was an interest in reviving the “Medieval”, including Gothic architecture.  “Gothic” was originally a derogatory term used to describe architecture that was rude or barbaric.

Playing into this desire to return to the legendary past was the Tractarian or Oxford Movements.  One of the prime movers in this movement was the Reverend John Henry Newman an Anglican priest who eventually converted to Roman Catholicism and was created a Cardinal by the Pope.  The poem I present today was written to honor him.

” Unlike some of the Pre-Raphaelites with whom she was in relationship, Rossetti embraced Christian faith and practice. Over five hundred of her poems were devotional .  They were related to the liturgy, the feasts an fasts of the liturgical year, and to biblical “dialogues” with Christ.”

“In the grave, whither thou goest.”
O weary Champion of the Cross, lie still:
Sleep thou at length the all-embracing sleep:
Long was thy sowing day, rest now and reap:
Thy fast was long, feast now thy spirit’s fill.
Yea, take thy fill of love, because thy will
Chose love not in the shallows but the deep:
Thy tides were springtides, set against the neap
Of calmer souls: thy flood rebuked their rill.
Now night has come to thee–please God, of rest:
So some time must it come to every man;
To first and last, where many last are first.
Now fixed and finished thine eternal plan,
Thy best has done its best, thy worst its worst:
Thy best its best, please God, thy best its best.

Book: The Complete Poems by Christina Rossetti

 

Notes:

  1. The group’s intention was to reform art by rejecting what it considered the mechanistic approach first adopted by Mannerist artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo. Its members believed the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art, hence the name “Pre-Raphaelite”.  see Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Wikipedia .

 

 

Hell Hole Sloan
“Hell Hole” by John Sloan
Thanks to the good offices of the Living Chruch Foundation and today’s edition of The Daily Devotion edited by the Reverend Emily R. Hyden I am publishing a description of the etching shown above which was chosen to illustrate the devotion which talked about verses from 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (the end of all things – eschatological theology ).  To me I found the piece by Jim Forest describing the etching to be fascinating as it linked two people who I would never have thought had much in  common :  Eugene O’Neill, the playwright, and Dorothy Day, a  Catholic social worker.  What they had in common is described as “an itchy, hesitantly confessed awareness of the presence of God”.
I published this information  this morning but due to my lack of knowledge about the mysteries of WordPress the type came out gothic and hard to read. Therefore, I am republishing this tonight in the hopes it will be more legible.
Please read the Daily Devotion for Today and think about subscribing.  You can find today’s edition at Daily Devotion 26 April 2016.
Jim Forest

By lucky chance, a few days ago I came upon an etching — “The Hell Hole” by John Sloan — of the back room of a pub at 6th Avenue and 4th Street in Greenwich Village. One of its patrons in the period the etching was made — it is dated 1917 — was a very young Dorothy Day (she turned 20 on November 17). Another was the playwright, Eugene O’Neill. According to Sloan’s notes, O’Neill is the figure in the upper right. (I wonder who the woman is at the same table? It doesn’t look at all like Dorothy.)

 The pub was officially named Wallace’s, after its owner, a one-time prize fighter, but its patrons had given it several nick-names: the Hell Hole, the Bucket of Blood and the Golden Swan. The last name, the one Dorothy used in writing The Long Loneliness, was due to a gilded swan that was hung over saloon’s front door. For quite a number of writers and radicals of the day, it was a place of refuge. It must have been one of the principal watering holes for the left-wing journalists Dorothy was working with in those day.

 Today the southeast corner of the intersection of 4th Street and 6th Avenue, where the pub was located, has become a small park known affectionately in the neighborhood as the Golden Swan Park. The pub received another sort of immortality by O’Neill using it as the setting for his play, The Iceman Cometh.

 Despite the burst of recognition that had come in 1916 with the opening of his first play, Bound East for Cardiff, O’Neill was depressed and drinking heavily in the winter of 1917. His affair with Louise Bryant had recently ended with her departure for Moscow, where she joined John Reed and wrote about the Russian Revolution. (The O’Neill-Bryant-Reed story is well told cinematically in a film, The Reds.)

 When Dorothy returned to New York from her arrest and imprisonment in Washington (she was one of the suffragettes who picketed the White House November 10th; the group was released by presidential pardon 18 days later), she met O’Neill at the Golden Swan. Friendship struck up between the two so readily that it seemed to his friends that Dorothy might fill the space left by Louise Bryant. Though O’Neill was nine years older, the two had made some similar choices: both had dropped out of college; both had become reporters; both were attempting to make their living as writers; both were drawn to outcasts.

 They also had in common an itchy, hesitantly confessed awareness of the presence of God. Agnes Boulton, who was then sharing a Village apartment with Dorothy and who later married O’Neill, quickly realized that Dorothy was subject to “sudden and unexplainable impulses” which drew her “into any nearby Catholic church” — a religious longing similar to O’Neill’s.

 Agnes Boulton recalled Dorothy joining O’Neill at a Village restaurant one night, accompanied by her two seedy, tough, middle-aged men whom she had found on the icy steps of St. Joseph’s Church and brought along to thaw out. Dorothy ordered three rye whiskeys and proceeded to sing the tragic ballad of “Frankie and Johnny.”

 Dorothy also occasionally sang at the Golden Swan. Agnes recalled how fascinated O’Neill was at such moments, “moving slowly around, his dark eyes alive and pleased, admiring Dorothy’s strange almost staccato singing.” Agnes also found Dorothy impressive. “I saw at once that this girl was a personality, an unusual one.” Dorothy’s face, she said, was especially attractive in candlelight, which “brought out the long classic line of her jaw and the ends of her tousled hair.”

 O’Neill enjoyed reciting poetry, and the poem Dorothy best loved him to repeat was Francis Thompson’s “The Hound of Heaven” which described God’s tireless pursuit of each person’s soul:

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days,

I fled Him down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mind…

O’Neill would recite the whole of the poem, sitting across from Dorothy, “looking dour and black,” Dorothy remembered, “his head sunk on his chest,” sighing out the words:

And now my heart is as a broken fount,

Wherein tear-drippings stagnate…

Her own loneliness for God often drew Dorothy into St. Joseph’s Church on Sixth Avenue where she experienced a kind of at-homeness and consolation. While she knew very little about Catholic belief, she felt some comfort being in a place set aside for prayer. It was reassuring to be among people who came in for some quiet minutes, their heads bowed toward the consecrated bread hidden beyond the altar that in some mysterious way had been made one with Christ.

It’s a story I told when I wrote my biography of Dorothy, Love is the Measure, but at that time I knew very little about the Golden Swan (or Wallace’s, the Hell Hole, the Bucket of Blood). I’m delighted that the Sloan etching makes that time in Dorothy’s life a little easier to visualize and hope it can be used in the revised edition of Love is the Measure that I expect to start work on later this year.

A Pub, A Catholic Social Worker, and a Playwright

2701282058_a77f4e8ea0_m
Hell Hole by John Sloan

What does a pub in Greenwich Village, Dorothy Day, and Eugene O’Neil have in common?  Well the story below by Jim Forest explains those connections. The commonality shared by O’Neil and Day is interesting as both felt like outcasts.  However what is notable is as Forest notes: “They also had in common an itchy, hesitantly confessed awareness of the presence of God.”

As the article notes O,Neal loved reciting poetry and one of Days favorite poems was Francis Thompson’s “The Hound of Heaven” .  I once heard a Bishop talk about the  “hound of heaven”  and the tenacity with which God seeks us with his love.  Sometimes in life it is so hard to realize that or even be comforted by it.

This etching was used today as an illustration for the Daily Devotion published by the Living Chruch Foundation which can be found at  Daily Devotion 26 April 2016.  Being that it is poetry month I am publishing the whole of “The Hound of Heaven”  along with Jim Forest piece about the “Hell Hole” .

First, Forest:

Jim Forest:

“Hell Hole” by John Sloan

By lucky chance, a few days ago I came upon an etching — “The Hell Hole” by John Sloan — of the back room of a pub at 6th Avenue and 4th Street in Greenwich Village. One of its patrons in the period the etching was made — it is dated 1917 — was a very young Dorothy Day (she turned 20 on November 17). Another was the playwright, Eugene O’Neill. According to Sloan’s notes, O’Neill is the figure in the upper right. (I wonder who the woman is at the same table? It doesn’t look at all like Dorothy.)

 The pub was officially named Wallace’s, after its owner, a one-time prize fighter, but its patrons had given it several nick-names: the Hell Hole, the Bucket of Blood and the Golden Swan. The last name, the one Dorothy used in writing The Long Loneliness, was due to a gilded swan that was hung over saloon’s front door. For quite a number of writers and radicals of the day, it was a place of refuge. It must have been one of the principal watering holes for the left-wing journalists Dorothy was working with in those day.

 Today the southeast corner of the intersection of 4th Street and 6th Avenue, where the pub was located, has become a small park known affectionately in the neighborhood as the Golden Swan Park. The pub received another sort of immortality by O’Neill using it as the setting for his play, The Iceman Cometh.

 Despite the burst of recognition that had come in 1916 with the opening of his first play, Bound East for Cardiff, O’Neill was depressed and drinking heavily in the winter of 1917. His affair with Louise Bryant had recently ended with her departure for Moscow, where she joined John Reed and wrote about the Russian Revolution. (The O’Neill-Bryant-Reed story is well told cinematically in a film, The Reds.)

 When Dorothy returned to New York from her arrest and imprisonment in Washington (she was one of the suffragettes who picketed the White House November 10th; the group was released by presidential pardon 18 days later), she met O’Neill at the Golden Swan. Friendship struck up between the two so readily that it seemed to his friends that Dorothy might fill the space left by Louise Bryant. Though O’Neill was nine years older, the two had made some similar choices: both had dropped out of college; both had become reporters; both were attempting to make their living as writers; both were drawn to outcasts.

 They also had in common an itchy, hesitantly confessed awareness of the presence of God. Agnes Boulton, who was then sharing a Village apartment with Dorothy and who later married O’Neill, quickly realized that Dorothy was subject to “sudden and unexplainable impulses” which drew her “into any nearby Catholic church” — a religious longing similar to O’Neill’s.

 Agnes Boulton recalled Dorothy joining O’Neill at a Village restaurant one night, accompanied by her two seedy, tough, middle-aged men whom she had found on the icy steps of St. Joseph’s Church and brought along to thaw out. Dorothy ordered three rye whiskeys and proceeded to sing the tragic ballad of “Frankie and Johnny.”

 Dorothy also occasionally sang at the Golden Swan. Agnes recalled how fascinated O’Neill was at such moments, “moving slowly around, his dark eyes alive and pleased, admiring Dorothy’s strange almost staccato singing.” Agnes also found Dorothy impressive. “I saw at once that this girl was a personality, an unusual one.” Dorothy’s face, she said, was especially attractive in candlelight, which “brought out the long classic line of her jaw and the ends of her tousled hair.”

 O’Neill enjoyed reciting poetry, and the poem Dorothy best loved him to repeat was Francis Thompson’s “The Hound of Heaven” which described God’s tireless pursuit of each person’s soul:

 I fled Him, down the nights and down the days,

I fled Him down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mind…

 O’Neill would recite the whole of the poem, sitting across from Dorothy, “looking dour and black,” Dorothy remembered, “his head sunk on his chest,” sighing out the words:

 And now my heart is as a broken fount,

Wherein tear-drippings stagnate…

 Her own loneliness for God often drew Dorothy into St. Joseph’s Church on Sixth Avenue where she experienced a kind of at-homeness and consolation. While she knew very little about Catholic belief, she felt some comfort being in a place set aside for prayer. It was reassuring to be among people who came in for some quiet minutes, their heads bowed toward the consecrated bread hidden beyond the altar that in some mysterious way had been made one with Christ.

 It’s a story I told when I wrote my biography of Dorothy, Love is the Measure, but at that time I knew very little about the Golden Swan (or Wallace’s, the Hell Hole, the Bucket of Blood). I’m delighted that the Sloan etching makes that time in Dorothy’s life a little easier to visualize and hope it can be used in the revised edition of Love is the Measure that I expect to start work on later this year.

And, “The Hound of Heaven” from the Nicholson & Lee, eds.  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.

239. The Hound of Heaven
By Francis Thompson  (1859–1907)
I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;
  I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
    Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.         5
      Up vistaed hopes I sped;
      And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
  From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
      But with unhurrying chase,        10
      And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
      They beat—and a Voice beat
      More instant than the Feet—
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’        15
          I pleaded, outlaw-wise,
By many a hearted casement, curtained red,
  Trellised with intertwining charities;
(For, though I knew His love Who followèd,
        Yet was I sore adread        20
Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside).
But, if one little casement parted wide,
  The gust of His approach would clash it to.
  Fear wist not to evade, as Love wist to pursue.
Across the margent of the world I fled,        25
  And troubled the gold gateways of the stars,
  Smiting for shelter on their clangèd bars;
        Fretted to dulcet jars
And silvern chatter the pale ports o’ the moon.
I said to Dawn: Be sudden—to Eve: Be soon;        30
  With thy young skiey blossoms heap me over
        From this tremendous Lover—
Float thy vague veil about me, lest He see!
  I tempted all His servitors, but to find
My own betrayal in their constancy,        35
In faith to Him their fickleness to me,
  Their traitorous trueness, and their loyal deceit.
To all swift things for swiftness did I sue;
  Clung to the whistling mane of every wind.
      But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,        40
    The long savannahs of the blue;
        Or whether, Thunder-driven,
    They clanged his chariot ’thwart a heaven,
Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn o’ their feet:—
  Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.        45
      Still with unhurrying chase,
      And unperturbèd pace,
    Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
      Came on the following Feet,
      And a Voice above their beat—        50
    ‘Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me.’
I sought no more that after which I strayed
  In face of man or maid;
But still within the little children’s eyes
  Seems something, something that replies,        55
They at least are for me, surely for me!
I turned me to them very wistfully;
But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair
  With dawning answers there,
Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.        60
‘Come then, ye other children, Nature’s—share
With me’ (said I) ‘your delicate fellowship;
  Let me greet you lip to lip,
  Let me twine with you caresses,
    Wantoning        65
  With our Lady-Mother’s vagrant tresses,
    Banqueting
  With her in her wind-walled palace,
  Underneath her azured daïs,
  Quaffing, as your taintless way is,        70
    From a chalice
Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring.’
    So it was done:
I in their delicate fellowship was one—
Drew the bolt of Nature’s secrecies.        75
  I knew all the swift importings
  On the wilful face of skies;
  I knew how the clouds arise
  Spumèd of the wild sea-snortings;
    All that’s born or dies        80
  Rose and drooped with; made them shapers
Of mine own moods, or wailful or divine;
  With them joyed and was bereaven.
  I was heavy with the even,
  When she lit her glimmering tapers        85
  Round the day’s dead sanctities.
  I laughed in the morning’s eyes.
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
  Heaven and I wept together,
And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine;        90
Against the red throb of its sunset-heart
    I laid my own to beat,
    And share commingling heat;
But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart.
In vain my tears were wet on Heaven’s grey cheek.        95
For ah! we know not what each other says,
  These things and I; in sound I speak—
Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake my drouth;
  Let her, if she would owe me,       100
Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me
  The breasts o’ her tenderness:
Never did any milk of hers once bless
    My thirsting mouth.
    Nigh and nigh draws the chase,       105
    With unperturbèd pace,
  Deliberate speed, majestic instancy;
    And past those noisèd Feet
    A voice comes yet more fleet—
  ‘Lo! naught contents thee, who content’st not Me!’       110
Naked I wait Thy love’s uplifted stroke!
My harness piece by piece Thou hast hewn from me,
    And smitten me to my knee;
  I am defenceless utterly.
  I slept, methinks, and woke,       115
And, slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
  I shook the pillaring hours
And pulled my life upon me; grimed with smears,
I stand amid the dust o’ the mounded years—       120
My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.
  Yea, faileth now even dream
The dreamer, and the lute the lutanist;       125
Even the linked fantasies, in whose blossomy twist
I swung the earth a trinket at my wrist,
Are yielding; cords of all too weak account
For earth with heavy griefs so overplussed.
  Ah! is Thy love indeed       130
A weed, albeit an amaranthine weed,
Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?
  Ah! must—
  Designer infinite!—
Ah! must Thou char the wood ere Thou canst limn with it?       135
My freshness spent its wavering shower i’ the dust;
And now my heart is as a broken fount,
Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
  From the dank thoughts that shiver
Upon the sighful branches of my mind.       140
  Such is; what is to be?
The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind?
I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds;
Yet ever and anon a trumpet sounds
From the hid battlements of Eternity;       145
Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then
Round the half-glimpsèd turrets slowly wash again.
  But not ere him who summoneth
  I first have seen, enwound
With glooming robes purpureal, cypress-crowned;       150
His name I know, and what his trumpet saith.
Whether man’s heart or life it be which yields
  Thee harvest, must Thy harvest-fields
  Be dunged with rotten death?
      Now of that long pursuit       155
    Comes on at hand the bruit;
  That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
    ‘And is thy earth so marred,
    Shattered in shard on shard?
  Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me!       160
  Strange, piteous, futile thing!
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught’ (He said),
‘And human love needs human meriting:
  How hast thou merited—       165
Of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot?
  Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
  Save Me, save only Me?       170
All which I took from thee I did but take,
  Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.
  All which thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:       175
  Rise, clasp My hand, and come!’
  Halts by me that footfall:
  Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
  ‘Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,       180
  I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.’

The Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist – 25 April

 

Tomorrow, April 24th, the Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist will be commemorated in Seibels Chapel of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral  with prayers and incense.  Morning prayer will begin at eight a.m. and Evening Prayer will begin at 5:30 p.m. All are invited and welcome.

Following is a brief biography of the blessed saint from Holy Women, Holy Men appears below:

A disciple of Jesus, named Mark, appears in several places in the New Testament. If all references to Mark can be accepted as referring to the same person, we learn that he was the son of a woman who owned a house in Jerusalem, perhaps the same house in which Jesus ate the Last Supper with his disciples. Mark may have been the young man who fled naked when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul refers to “Mark the cousin of Barnabas,” who was with him in his imprisonment. Mark set out with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, but he turned back for reasons which failed to satisfy Paul (Acts 15:36–40). When another journey was planned, Paul refused to have Mark with him. Instead, Mark went with Barnabas to Cyprus. The breach between Paul and Mark was later healed, and Mark became one of Paul’s companions in Rome, as well as a close friend of Peter’s. An early tradition recorded by Papias, Bishop of Hieropolis in Asia Minor at the beginning of the second century, names Mark as the author of the Gospel bearing his name. This tradition, which holds that Mark drew his information from the teaching of Peter, is generally accepted. In his First Letter, Peter refers to “my son Mark,” which shows a close relationship between the two men (1Peter 5:13). The Church of Alexandria in Egypt claimed Mark as its first bishop and most illustrious martyr, and the great Church of St. Mark in Venice commemorates the disciple who progressed from turning back while on a missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas to proclaiming in his Gospel Jesus of Nazareth as Son of God, and bearing witness to that faith in his later life as friend and companion to the apostles Peter and Paul. April 25 Copyright © 2010

 

Enduring the Discipline of the Lord

I am re-publishing the Daily Devotion for today, 24 April 2016, from the Living Church Foundation’s Daily Devotion series whose editor is the Reverend Emily R. Hylden.  The Daily Devotion  and which provides a meditation on the scripture appointed for the day in the Episcopal Lectionary.  Today’s devotion is written by Leigh E. Miller and examines the “discipline of the Lord”  as discussed in Hebrews 12:1-14.  

Daily Devotional is a ministry of the Living Church Foundation.
Image licensed via Creative Commons.
RV1864/Flickr

A Cloud of Witnesses
Daily Devotional • April 24
By Leigh E. Miller

“Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

“Amen, Brother,” I say. This chapter in Hebrews on discipline and facing hardship has much to be commended. However, this line says what is my reality in suffering most of the time. That is, I know that enduring the suffering that this world brings is central to the faithful Christian life, but I rarely have the demeanor to see past whatever pain that I am enduring. Applying the Scriptures to daily life, I’ve experienced childbirth as a prime example of this.

I had ideas going into labor with my first child of how I would handle the pain: nobly, with the relaxation techniques I had been taught. However, I left it all behind the first time a real wave of pain hit and instead relied upon a doula and a husband to hold me up and to remind me with each contraction that it was with intentional relaxation, not through tense fighting, that the pain and labor would pass most quickly.

As a neophyte in the Christian life, this seems to me how I often endure suffering. Someone stronger than me holds me up while another stands beside me and reminds me without tiring — not that the pain is not real — but what I can do to best endure what I undergo. Though I cannot see an end, those around me may know it’s there, and in knowing this can have the strength to hold me up and help me endure the very real moments of pain with the conviction of hope that the Lord brings goodness out of suffering.

Hebrews 12:1-14

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.

4In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children— “My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; 6for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts.” 7Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? 8If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children. 9Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live?10For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. 11Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. 14Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

 

A Poem for THE PASSOVER

The three images shown here, the “Angel of Death” drawing from Bible Pictures and What They Teach Us1, the illustration by William Henry Margetson,2 and the engraving by Gerard Jollain,3 all depict the rites of the Passover sacrifice in Shemot 12. Each focuses on a different part of the process, either the sacrifice itself, the smearing of the blood, or the passing by of the destroying angel. The artists’ varying renditions raise questions regarding the purpose of the blood, the nature of the offering, and the identity of “the destroyer” (הַמַּשְׁחִית). (Licensed for use under Creative Commons)

THE SECOND NIGHT

It is the second night of the SEDER in which the release from bitter bondage is celebrated with a special meal, the Seder Supper. In appreciation for all that Judaism has brought to the world I offer this poem:

This poem is from the books, Womanpriest: A Personal Odyssey by
Alla Renée Bozarth, revised edition 1988, distributed by the poet;
Stars in Your Bones: Emerging Signposts on Our Spiritual Journeys
by Alla Bozarth, Julia Barkley and Terri Hawthorne, North Star Press
of St. Cloud 1990; Accidental Wisdom by Alla Renée Bozarth,
iUniverse 2003; This is My Body: Praying for Earth,
Prayers from the Heart, by Alla Renée Bozarth, iUniverse 2004 and
the audio cassette Water Women by Alla Renée Bozarth, Wisdom House
1990. All rights reserved.

 

Pack Nothing.
Bring only your determination to serve
and your willingness to be free.

Don’t wait for the bread to rise.
Take nourishment for the journey,
but eat standing, be ready
to move at a moment’s notice.

Do not hesitate to leave
your old ways behind—
fear, silence, submission.

Only surrender to the need
of the time— to love
justice and walk humbly
with your God.

Do not take time to explain to the neighbors.
Tell only a few trusted friends and family members.

Then begin quickly,
before you have time to sink back
into the old slavery.

Set out in the dark.
I will send fire to warm and encourage you.
I will be with you in the fire
and I will be with you in the cloud.

You will learn to eat new food
and find refuge in new places.
I will give you dreams in the desert
to guide you safely home to that place
you have not yet seen.

The stories you tell one another around your fires
in the dark will make you strong and wise.

Outsiders will attack you,
and some who follow you,
and at times you will weary
and turn on each other
from fear and fatigue and
blind forgetfulness.

You have been preparing for this for hundreds of years.
I am sending you into the wilderness to make a way
and to learn my ways more deeply.

Those who fight you will teach you.
Those who fear you will strengthen you.
Those who follow you may forget you.
Only be faithful. This alone matters.

Some of you will die in the desert,
for the way is longer than anyone imagined.
Some of you will give birth.

Some will join other tribes along the way,
and some will simply stop and create
new families in a welcoming oasis.

Some of you will be so changed
by weathers and wanderings
that even your closest friends
will have to learn your features
as though for the first time.
Some of you will not change at all.

Some will be abandoned
by your dearest loves
and misunderstood by those
who have known you since birth
and feel abandoned by you.

Some will find new friendship
in unlikely faces, and old friends
as faithful and true as the pillar of God’s flame.

Wear protection.
Your flesh will be torn
as you make a path
with your bodies
through sharp tangles.
Wear protection.

Others who follow may deride
or forget the fools who first bled
where thorns once were, carrying them
away in their own flesh.

Such urgency as you now bear
may embarrass your children
who will know little of these times.

Sing songs as you go,
and hold close together.
You may at times grow
confused and lose your way.

Continue to call each other
by the names I’ve given you,
to help remember who you are.
You will get where you are going
by remembering who you are.

Touch each other
and keep telling the stories
of old bondage and of how
I delivered you.

Tell you children lest they forget
and fall into danger— remind them
even they were not born in freedom
but under a bondage they no longer
remember, which is still with them, if unseen.

Or they were born in the open desert
where no signposts are.

Make maps as you go,
remembering the way back
from before you were born.

So long ago you fell
into slavery, slipped
into it unawares,
out of hunger and need.

You left your famished country
for freedom and food in a new land,
but you fell unconscious and passive,
and slavery overtook you as you fell
asleep in the ease of your life.

You no longer told stories of home
to remember who you were.

Do not let your children sleep
through the journey’s hardship.
Keep them awake and walking
on their own feet so that you both
remain strong and on course.

So you will be only
the first of many waves
of deliverance on these
desert seas.

It is the first of many
beginnings— your Paschaltide.
Remain true to this mystery.

Pass on the whole story.
I spared you all
by calling you forth
from your chains.

Do not go back.
I am with you now
and I am waiting for you.

NATIONAL POETRY MONTH

Nikki_Giovanni_speaking_at_Emory_University_2008.jpg
Nikki Giovanni Speaking at Emory University

(Sharing a poem by Nikki Giovanni shared on Facebook by friend Jonathan Mitchican)

Revolutionary Dreams

I used to dream militant dreams
of taking over america to show
these white folks
how it should be done

I used to dream radical dreams
of blowing everyone away
with my perceptive powers
of correct analysis

I even used to think I’d be the one
to stop the riot and
negotiate the peace

then I awoke and dug
that if I dreamed natural
dreams of being a natural
woman doing what a woman

does when she’s natural

I would have a revolution.

Nikki Giovanni

 

For more detail about the poet see Nikki Giovanni Wikipedia

The Struggle of Our Callings – The Daily Devotion

Today I am re-republishing the Daily Devotional from the Living Chruch Foundation whose publication is supervised by the Reverend Emily R. Hylden .  Today’s devotion was written by the Reverend David Baumann and discusses the entry of the Hebrews into the “promised  land” Even after their rebellion against him God fulfills his promise and tells the Hebrews they are to enter the land but that he would not go among them but would send an angel to guard them.  To me this is a metaphor for what we often face in our daily life and work.   We sense a call from God but we must find the strength to fulfill that call.  We cannot simply sit back and expect God to do it for us.  Action must be taken and far too often we either fail to heed the call or simply give up trying to fulfill it.

Also, the devotion is illustrated with a detail of stained glass windows in Lincoln College Chapel depicting a  leader of Israel dressed in mitre and cope, rather like a Christian bishop. This may be because the pontifical vestments, particularly the mitre were believed to have come from Jewish Temple worship. The windows of Lincoln College chapel c.1629 are the only complete set of windows remaining by Abraham van Linge, the finest glass-painter of his generation. The title indicates that the leader is looking at the bronze serpent which Moses was commanded to create as indicated in the Book of Numbers, Chapter 21 verse 9.  The Israelites had rebelled against God and he had sent fiery serpents to bite them. When they expressed repentance and sought forgiveness God commanded Moses to make a “bronze” serpent  so that if one looked upon it and was “bitten” ( a metaphor for remorsefulness)  then he would live.

Daily Devotional is a ministry of the Living Church Foundation.
Image licensed via Creative Commons.
Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP/Flickr

Change for the Better
Daily Devotional • April 20
By the Rev. David Baumann

The awfulness of the rebellion and its aftermath is now behind us. It is noteworthy that even in the outworking of these startling events, the people — both the rebels and the faithful — remained freed from slavery and were on the “other” side of the Red Sea. They lived in the place of grace and their destination was still “the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying ‘To your descendants I will give it.’” God keeps his promise, but in this passage he refers to them once again as a “stiff-necked people” and decides not to accompany them as they continue their journey for fear that he would consume them utterly because of their habitual rebellion.

At last, the people respond properly: “They mourned.” Moses now meets with the LORD in a tent “outside the camp.” The place of encounter is hidden from observing eyes, and it is apart from the people — yet not as far away as the mountaintop. For the business here, divine as it is, is not as weighty as the giving of the Law. The sign of the LORD’s presence is a pillar of cloud, not a mountaintop tempest with fire and trumpets. And when Moses is in the tent, the people “rise and bow down.” These necks are not quite so stiff — at least not always. There has been a turn in their lives. At the prayer of Moses, the LORD decides that he will accompany the people after all. Moses’ prayer is the ideal prayer of a pastor, or a parent, or any kind of leader among the faithful. It concludes: “Show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”

Exodus 33:1-2

The Lord said to Moses, “Go, leave this place, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, and go to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ 2I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 3Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, or I would consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” 4When the people heard these harsh words, they mourned, and no one put on ornaments. 5For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, and I will decide what to do to you.’” 6Therefore the Israelites stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.

7Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. 8Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise and stand, each of them, at the entrance of their tents and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. 9When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. 10When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise and bow down, all of them, at the entrance of their tent. 11Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then he would return to the camp; but his young assistant, Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the tent.

12Moses said to the Lord, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15And he said to him, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. 16For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.” 17The Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” 19And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” 21And the Lord continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; 22and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; 23then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”