Saturday, June 20, 2015

THIRD SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY: Rejoice, for the lost sheep is found!

Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

Epistle: 1 Peter 5:6-11

Gospel: Luke 15:1-10


O Lord, we beseech that you mercifully hear us; and grant that we, to whom you have given a hearty desire to pray, may by your mighty aid be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

With an everlasting love has God loved us, and from the day that he was lifted up over the earth, He has drawn us with loving-kindness unto his heart.

Exposition of the Gospel Luke 15:1-10
St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor
Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D.
In the teaching of our Lord which preceded this Gospel reading you learned that we are to put away all carelessness, to avoid conceit, to begin to be earnest in religion, not to be held fast to the things of this world, not to place fleeting things before those that endure for ever. But though human frailty finds it hard to maintain a firm foothold in this so uncertain world, the Merciful Judge does not withhold the hope of His forgiveness, and has as a Good Physician made known to you the remedies even against going astray. 
And so it was not without design that the holy Luke places in order before us three parables: that of the sheep that strayed and was found, that of the silver piece that was lost and also was found, that of the son who was dead (through sin) and who returned to life; so that sustained by this threefold cure we may seek to cure our own wounds: for a triple rope does not break.  
Who are these three persons: the shepherd, the woman, the father? Is not Christ the Shepherd, the Church the woman, and God the Father? Christ Who took upon Himself your sins bears you upon His own Body; the Church searches for you; the Father receives you back. As a shepherd He brings us back, as a mother He looks for us, as a father He clothes us. First, mercy, second, intercession, third, reconciliation; each to each; the Redeemer comes to our aid, the Church intercedes for us, the Creator restores us to Himself. It is the same divine mercy in each operation; but grace varies according to our merits.  
The sheep that strayed is brought back by the Shepherd. The silver piece that was lost is found. The son turns back fully repentant from his sinful wanderings, and retraces his footsteps to his father. Because of this was it fittingly said: Men and beasts thou wilt preserve, O Lord (Ps. xxxv. 7). Who are those beasts? The prophet tells us: I will sow the house of Israel and the house ofJuda with the seed of men, and with the seed of beasts (Jer. xxxi. 27). And so Isracl is saved as a man; Juda is gathered in as though it were a sheep. I would prefer to be a son than a sheep; for a sheep is brought back by a shepherd, the son is honoured by the Father.  
Let us therefore rejoice because that sheep which had fallen by the way in Adam is uplifted in Christ. The shoulders of Christ are the arms of His Cross. There have I laid down my sins; upon the neck of that sublime yoke of torment have I found rest. This sheep is one in kind, but not one in outward appearance. For we are all one body, but many members; and so it was written: Now you are the body of Christ and members of member (I Cor. xii. 27). So therefore the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost (Lk. xix. io); that is, all men: for as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive (I Cor. xv. 22). 
Rich then is that Shepherd of whose portion all we are but a hundredth part. For He has besides the innumerable flocks of the Archangels, of the Dominations, of the Powers, of the Thrones and all the rest whom He left upon the mountains. And since they are rational flocks, they not unfittingly rejoice because of the redemption of men. Let this also incite us to a just and upright life, that each one shall believe that his own conversion to God is pleasing to the angelic choirs, whose protection he should seek, and whose good will he should fear to lose. Be ye therefore a joy to the angels; let them have cause for rejoicing in your own return.  
Neither is it without significance that the woman rejoices because of the silver piece that was found. For this is no ordinary piece of silver, upon which is the figure of the Prince. And because of this, the Image of the King is the wealth of the Church. We are His sheep; let us pray that He will place us amid the waters of His refreshment (Ps. xxii.2). We are, I say, His sheep; let us seek of Him a place of pasture.  We are pieces of silver; let us jealously cherish our value. We are children; let us hasten to our Father, Who with the Son and Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth world without end.  Amen.
Image Source and Explanation
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? Alleluia!

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY: Second Sunday After Easter

I am the Shepherd of the sheep: I am the way and the truth and the life: I am the Good Shepherd; and I know my sheep, and am known of mine, alleluia, alleluia.

O God, who by the humility of thy Son hast lifted up a fallen world, grant that to those whom thou hast delivered from the misfortunes of eternal death, thou mayest insure everlasting happiness.  Through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord.  Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, unto the ages of ages.  Amen.

Christ the Good Shepherd. Basilica di Sant'Apollinare Nuovo

From the Homilies of St. Gregory the Great
Homily 14,3-6
an excerpt From the Fathers to the Churches: Daily Spiritual Readings, 
Edited by Brother Kenneth CGA, Collins Liturgical Publications, Sidney, 1983

Christ the Good Shepherd
'I am the good shepherd.  And I know my sheep' (that is, I love them) 'and my sheep know me.'  It is as if he said plainly: 'Those who love me, obey me.'  For those who do not love the truth do not yet know it.
My dear brethren, now that you have heard of the test I must undergo, consider how these words of the Lord imply a test of your own.  Ask yourselves if you are his sheep, if you know him, if you recognize the light of truth.  What I mean is that you recognize it not simply by faith but by love, I mean, you recognize it not just by belief but by action.  For John the apostle, whose words we have been discussing, also said: 'He who says he know God but disobeys his commandments is a liar.'
Consequently, in the passage we were originally considering, the Lord at once adds: ' the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.'  It is as if he said straight out: 'The proof that I know the Father and the Father knows me is the fact that I lay down my life for my sheep; that is to say, the love which leads me to die for my sheep shows how much I love the Father.'
He goes on to add the following words concerning the sheep: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give them eternal life.'  A little earlier he said also:If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.'  That is to say, he will go in to faith, and go out from faith to vision, from belief to contemplation, and he will find pasture at the everlasting feast.
So the sheep find the Lord's pastures; for anyone who follows him with an undivided heart is nourished in a pasture which is forever green.  What are the pastures of these sheep if they are not the deepest joys of the everlasting fresh pastures of paradise?  For the pasture of the saints is to see God face to face; when the vision of God never fails, the soul receives its fill of the food of life for ever.
And so, dear brethren, let us seek these pastures and there join in the joy and the celebrations of so many citizens of heaven.  Let their happiness and rejoicing be an invitation to us.  Let our hearts grow warm, brethren, let our faith be rekindled, let our desires for heavenly things grow warm; for to love like this is to be on the way.
No misforture should distract us from this happiness and deep joy; for if anyone is anxious to reach a destination, the roughness of the road will not make him change his mind.  The charms of prosperity must not lead us astray; for only a foolish traveller, when he sees pleasant fields on his way, forgets to go on towards his destination.

Homily by Bishop Basil of Seleucia
The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.  ~John 10:11-18

"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep." For the sake of his flock the shepherd was sacrificed as though he were a sheep. He did not refuse death; he did not destroy his executioners as he had the power to do, for his passion was not forced upon him. He laid down his life for his sheep of his own free will.

"I have the power to lay it down," he said, "and I have the power to take it up again."

By his passion he made atonement for our evil passions, by his death he cured our death, by his tomb he robbed the tomb, by the nails that pierced his flesh he destroyed the foundations of hell.
Death held sway until Christ died. The grave was bitter, our prison was indestructible, until the shepherd went down and brought to his sheep confined there the good news of their release.
His appearance among them gave them a pledge of their resurrection and called them to a new life beyond the grave. "The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep and so seeks to win their love."

Now to love Christ means to obey his commands. The shepherd knows how to separate goats from sheep. The gospel says that "all nations will be assembled before him and he will separate people from one another, as the Good Shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand, and the goats on his left, and he will say to those on his right hand, 'Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'"

What had they done to earn this invitation? "I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me." What you give to those who are mine, you will receive back from me. Because they are naked, strangers, homeless, and poor, so am I, and in supplying their needs you show kindness to me. It is I who am afflicted when they cry out.

Win the judge over by gifts before you come to trial. Provide him with grounds for showing clemency, give him some reason to acquit you. Otherwise you will be among those on his left hand who hear the terrible sentence: "Depart from me with your curse upon you to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."

What are the sins for which we would be condemned with the devil? I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not welcome me; naked and you did not clothe me.

Who could turn away from his own shepherd when he was hungry, or fail to notice when his future judge lacked necessary clothing? Who could condemn the judge of the whole world to suffer thirst?
Christ will accept even the gift of the poor and for a small gift grant remission of long punishment.
Let us put out the fire with mercy and avert the sentence that hangs over us by showing love for one another. Let us be compassionate toward one another and forgiving, as God has forgiven us in Christ.

To him be glory and power for ever. Amen.

~Basil of Seleucia, c. 459 (Homily 26, 2: PG 85, 306-07).  Basil of Seleucia became archbishop of Seleucia about the year 440.

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Saturday, April 04, 2015


Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!

Christus resurrexit! Resurrexit vere!

Χριστός ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!

Christ is risen from the dead trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

I am risen and am still with you, alleluia: You have laid your hand upon me, alleluia; your knowledge is become wonderful, alleluia, alleluia. V  Lord, you have searched me, and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up. V. Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning is now and unto the ages of ages. Amen.  I am risen and am still with you, alleluia: You have laid your hand upon me, alleluia; your knowledge is become wonderful, alleluia, alleluia (Introit)

Portion of the Sequence for Easter Day 
From the Sarum Missal

This day the dawn glows bright above the sun.
Telling how Christ hath fought and glorious victory won.
Jesus hath triumphed o’er the haughty foe,
And his foul cam majestic hath laid low.

Unhappy sin of Eve
Of which all death do reap;
O happy Mary’s Child
With whom now feast we keep.

Blessed be the Queen exalted high
Bearing the King puissantly
Despoiled hell and reigneth in the sky.

O King for ever, graciously
Accept our heralding of Thee,
To Thee at God’s Right Hand on high,
Crying aloud incessantly.

Death’s power in all lands o’erthrown,
Thou in triumph high art gone
To joys of Heaven which are Thine own.
O vast, O lovely clemency,
Light-giving boon of Christ on high.

Almighty God, who on this day thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life: We humbly beseech Thee, that as by Thy special grace preventing us Thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by Thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

St John Chrysostom Easter Sermon
Patriarch of Constantinople (~400 AD)
Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Is there anyone who is a grateful servant?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord! 
Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay. 

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends. 

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day! 

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness! 

Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it. 

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below." 

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory? 

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

Rendered in stanza format by Dn. Mark Baker 

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Friday, April 03, 2015

GOOD FRIDAY: Passion and Crucifixion

They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

All my friends have forsaken me, and mine enemies have prevailed against me; he whom I loved hath betrayed me:  Mine enemy sharpeneth his eyes upon me in fury; he breaketh me with breach upon breach: and in my thirst doth give me vinegar to drink.They numbered me with the transgressors, and spared not my soul from death.

The veil of the temple was rent in twain, And the whole earth did quake, and the thief from the cross cried out, saying: Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
The rocks rent, and the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints which slept arose.

Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously behold this thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed, and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the Cross.  Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end: Amen.

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified; Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before thee for all estates of men in thy holy Church, that every member of the same, in his vocation and ministry may truly and godly serve thee; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

O merciful God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, nor wouldest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live; Have mercy upon the Jews, thine ancient people, and upon all who reject and deny thy Son; take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy fold, that they may be made one flock under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen

Fragment From A Homily on the Cross and Passion of Christ
by Bishop Methodius 
METHODIUS, Bishop, to those who say: What doth it profit us that the Son of God was crucified upon earth, and made man?  And wherefore did He endure to suffer in the manner of the cross, and not by some other punishment? And what was the advantage of the cross?
Christ, the Son of God, by the command of the Father, became conversant with the visible creature, in order that, by overturning the dominion of the tyrants, the demons, that is, He might deliver our souls from their dreadful bondage, by reason of which our whole nature, intoxicated by the draughts of iniquity, had become full of tumult and disorder, and could by no means return to the remembrance of good and useful things. Wherefore, also, it was the more easily carried away to idols, inasmuch as evil had overwhelmed it entirely, and had spread over all generations, on account of the change which had come over our fleshy tabernacles in consequence of disobedience; until Christ, the Lord, by the flesh in which He lived and appeared, weakened the force of Pleasure's onslaughts, by means of which the infernal powers that were in arms against us reduced our minds to slavery, and freed mankind from all their evils. For with this end the Lord Jesus both wore our flesh, and became man, and by the divine dispensation was nailed to the cross; in order that by the flesh in which the demons had proudly and falsely feigned themselves gods, having carried our souls captive unto death by deceitful wiles, even by this they might be overturned, and discovered to be no gods. For he prevented their arrogance from raising itself higher, by becoming man; in order that by the body in which the race possessed of reason had become estranged from the worship of the true God, and had suffered injury, even by the same receiving into itself in an ineffable manner the Word of Wisdom, the enemy might be discovered to be the destroyers and not the benefactors of our souls. For it had not been wonderful if Christ, by the terror of His divinity, and the greatness of His invincible power, had reduced to weakness the adverse nature of the demons. But since this was to cause them greater grief and torment, for they would have preferred to be overcome by one stronger than themselves, therefore it was that by a man He procured the safety of the rac; in order that men, after that very Life and Truth had entered into them in bodily form, might be able to return to the form and light of the Word, overcoming the power of the enticements of sin; and that the demons, being conquered by one weaker than they, and thus brought into contempt, might desist from their over-bold confidence, their hellish wrath being repressed. It was for this mainly that the cross was brought in, being erected as a trophy against iniquity, and a deterrent from it, that henceforth man might be no longer subject to wrath, after that he had made up for the defeat which, by his disobedience, be had received, and had lawfully conquered the infernal powers, and by the gift of God had been set free from every debt. Since, therefore, the first-born Word of God thus fortified the manhood in which He tabernacled with the armour of righteousness, He overcame, as has been said, the powers that enslaved us by the figure of the cross, and showed forth man, who had been oppressed by corruption, as by a tyrant power, to be free, with unfettered hands. For the cross, if you wish to define it, is the confirmation of the victory, the way by which God to man descended, the trophy against material spirits, the repulsion of death, the foundation of the ascent to the true day; and the ladder for those who are hastening to enjoy the light that is there, the engine by which those who are fitted for the edifice of the Church are raised up from below, like a stone four square, to be compacted on to the divine Word. Hence it is that our kings, perceiving that the figure of the cross is used for the dissipating of every evil, have made vexillas, as they are called in the Latin language. Hence the sea, yielding to this figure, makes itself navigable to men. For every creature, so to speak, has, for the sake of liberty, been marked with this sign; for the birds which fly aloft, form the figure of the cross by the expansion of their wings; and man himself, also, with his hands outstretched, represents the same. Hence when the Lord had fashioned him in this form, in which He had from the beginning flamed him, He joined on his body to the Deity, in order that it might be henceforth an instrument consecrated to God, freed from all discord and want of harmony. For man cannot, after that he has been formed for the worship of God, and hath sung, as it were, the incorruptible song of truth, and by this hath been made capable of holding the Deity, being fitted to the lyre of life as the chords and strings, he cannot, I say, return to discord and corruption.  (Source)

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

MEMORY ETERNAL: Valentin Rasputin 1937-2015

Memory eternal
Вечная память
Vechnaya Pamyat'

A day short of his  seventy-eighth birthday on the Fourteenth of March, Valentin Rasputin passed from this life into the next.  A leading writer in the Village Prose movement of the 60's and 70's he gave a voice to the poorest of the poor in Soviet Russia.
Having read works by Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Gogol early on,  Money for Maria was one of the first contemporary Russian works of fiction that I read and opened the door to Solzhenitsyn, Akunen as well as other more recent (Post Soviet) Russian writers.

Though I disagree with Rasputin's seemingly unquestioning political loyalty to  Vladimir Putin his early works were captivating and inspiring to me in my younger days.

May he rest in peace and may his memory be eternal.

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Saint Gregory the Great

Saint Gregory the Great, Pope of Old Rome, Confessor.

The Hymn
This the Confessor of the Lord, whose triumph

Now through the wide world celebrate the faithful,
At his departure entered with rejoicing
Heavenly mansions.

Fervent and holy, prudent in his converse,

Humbly and chastely here on earth he sojourned,
Curbing all passions, and in peace and meekness,
Constant abiding.

What though the grave now hold his hallowed relicks?

He, ever living, ever interceding,
Reigns with the Blessed, nor from us his brethren
Is he divided.

Whence we in chorus gladly do him honour, 

Chanting his praises with devout affection,
That in his merits we may have our portion,
Ever and ever.

Glory and virtue, honour and salvation,

Be unto him that, sitting in the highest,
Governeth all things, Lord and God Almighty,
Trinity blessed.  Amen.

Gregory the Great was a Roman, the son of Gordian the Senator.  As a young man he studied philosophy, and afterwards discharged the office of Praetor.  After his father's death he built six monasteries in Sicily, and a seventh in honour of St. Andrew, in his own house at Rome, hard by the Church of Saints John and Paul at the ascent of the hill Scaurus.  In this monastery of St. Andrew, he and his masters, Hilarion and Maximian, professed themselves monks, and Gregory was afterwards Abbot.  Later on, he was created a Cardinal Deacon, and sent to Constantinople as legate from Pope Pelagius to the Emperor Tiberius Constantine.  Before the Emperor he so successfully disputed against the Patriarch Eutychius, who had denied that our bodies shall verily and indeed rise again, that the Prince threw the book of the said Patriarch into the fire.  Eutychius himself also soon after fell sick, and when he felt death coming on him, he took hold of the skin of his own hand said in in the hearing of many that stood by: I acknowledge that we shall all rise again in the flesh.

Gregory returned to Rome, and, Pelagius being dead of a plague, he was unanimously chosen Pope.  This honour he refused as long as he could.  He disguised himself and took refuge in a cave, but was betrayed by a fiery pillar.  Being discovered and overruled, he was consecrated at the grave of St. Peter.  He left behind him many ensamples of doctrine and holiness to them that have followed him in the Popedom.  Every day he brought pilgrims to his table, and among them he entertained not an Angel only, but the very Lord of Angels in the guise of a pilgrim.  He tenderly cared for the poor, of whom he kept a list, as well without as within the city.  He restored the Catholic faith in many places where it had been overthrown.  He fought successfully against the Donatists in Africa and the Arians in Spain.  He cleansed Alexandria of the Agnoites.  He refused to give the Pall to Syagrius, Bishop of Autun, unless he would expel the Neophyte heretics from Gaul.  He caused the Goths to abandon the Arian heresy.  He sent into Britain Augustine and divers other learned and holy monks, who brought the inhabitants of that island to believe in Jesus Christ.  Hence Gregory is justly called by Bede, the Priest of Jarrow, the Apostle of England.  He rebuked the presumption of John, Patriarch of Constantinople, who had taken to himself the title of Bishop of the Universal Church, and he dissuaded the Emperor Maurice from forbidding soldiers to become monks.

Gregory adorned the Church with holy customs and laws.  He called together a Synod in the Church of St. Peter, and therein ordained many things; among others, the ninefold repetition of the words Kyrie eleison in the Mass, the saying of the word Alleluia in the Church service except between Septuagesima inclusive and Easter exclusive, and the addition to the Canon of the Mass of the words: Do thou order all our days in thy peace.  He increased the Litanies, the number of the Churches where is held the observance called a Station, and the length of the Church Service.  He would that the four Councils of Nice, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon should be honoured like four Gospels.  He released the Sicilian Bishop from visiting Rome every three years, willing them to come instead once every five years.  He was the author of many books, and Peter the Deacon declareth that he often saw the Holy Ghost on his head in the form of a dove when he was dictating them.  It is a marvel how much he spake, did, wrote, and legislated, suffering all the while from a weak and sickly body.  He worked many miracles.  At last God called him away to be blessed for ever in heaven, in the thirteenth year, sixth month, and tenth day of his Pontificate, being the 12th day of March.  This day is observed by the Greeks, as well as by the Western Church, as a festival, on account of the eminent wisdom and holiness of this Pope.  His body was buried in the Church of St. Peter, hard by the Private Chapel.

R.  This is he who wrought mighty deeds and valiant in the sight of God, and all the earth is filled with his doctrine: * May his intercession avail for the sins of all the people.
V.  He was a man who despised the life of the world and attained unto the kingdom of heaven.
R.  May his intercession avail for the sins of all the people.
V.  Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
R.  May his intercession avail for the sins of all the people.

O God, who on the soul of thy servant Gregory didst bestow the rewards of everlasting felicity: mercifully grant; that we, which are sore oppressed by the burden of our sins, may by the succour of his intercession be relieved. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord.  Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God unto the ages of ages.  Amen.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

LENTEN THOUGHTS: Beginning The Journey of Renewal

Nothing overly deep as Lent begins. I have been reflecting on two pieces in particular.  Not from Orthodox sources, but certainly seeds for reflection in the light of the ancient faith.

The first, and more positive of the two pieces is the "conversion poem" Ash-Wednesday written by T.S. Elliot shortly after he converted to Anglican Christianity in 1927 and later published in 1930.  Very clearly relates the struggle of conversion of one who previously lacked faith.  I think we all wrestle with our faith from time to time.  I know that my own journey is occasionally an argument of faith verses reason. 


by T S Eliot

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.


Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
In the cool of the day, having fed to satiety
On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been contained
In the hollow round of my skull. And God said
Shall these bones live? shall these
Bones live? And that which had been contained
In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:
Because of the goodness of this Lady
And because of her loveliness, and because
She honours the Virgin in meditation,
We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled
Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love
To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.
It is this which recovers
My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions
Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn
In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping
With the burden of the grasshopper, saying

Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
Worried reposeful
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Is inconclusible
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.

Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining
We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each other,
Under a tree in the cool of the day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.


At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jagged, like an old man's mouth drivelling, beyond repair,
Or the toothed gullet of an aged shark.

At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs's fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.

Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy
but speak the word only.


Who walked between the violet and the violet
Who walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary's colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary's colour,
Sovegna vos

Here are the years that walk between, bearing
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing

White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.
The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem
The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.

The silent sister veiled in white and blue
Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke no word

But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down
Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken

Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew
And after this our exile


If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice

Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose

O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

O my people.


Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth This is the time of tension between dying and birth The place of solitude where three dreams cross Between blue rocks But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.   (source)

The second piece is a quote from Dorothy Day, a convert to Roman Catholicism, addressing the issue of clergy, faith and spiritual life.  I "know how she feels.."  sometimes and best leave it at that. 

“As a convert, I never expected much of the bishops. In all history popes and bishops and father abbots seem to have been blind and power-loving and greedy. I never expected leadership from them. It is the saints that keep appearing all through history who keep things going. What I do expect is the bread of life [the eucharist] and down through the ages there is that continuity.”

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