Thursday, May 14, 2015

FEAST OF THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST

THEOPHANES the Cretan - The Ascension - 1546
Stavronikita Monastery, Mount Athos

 Matthew 28:16-20
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’
Collect for Ascension Day
Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
The icon is exquisite. The colors are gorgeous; the figures are graceful and beautifully highlighted; the balance of the arrangement of Jesus, Mary, the Apostles, and the angels is wonderful. I don't know how to read icons, but I see inspiration and soul food in the image above.

About the artist:
Theophanis Strelitzas (Θεοφάνης Στρελίτζας), also known as Theophanes the Cretan (Θεοφάνης ο Κρης) or "of Crete" or "Theophanes Bathas", was a leading icon painter of the Cretan school in the first half of the sixteenth century, and in particular the most important figure in Greek wall-painting of the period.
Image from The Web Gallery of Art.

Biographical information from Wikipedia.

Reposted from 2011.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

PSALM 27

    The Lord is my light and my salvation;
       whom shall I fear?
    The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
       of whom shall I be afraid?

    When evildoers assail me
       to devour my flesh—
    my adversaries and foes—
       they shall stumble and fall.

    Though an army encamp against me,
       my heart shall not fear;
    though war rise up against me,
       yet I will be confident.

    One thing I asked of the Lord,
       that will I seek after:
    to live in the house of the Lord
       all the days of my life,
    to behold the beauty of the Lord,
       and to inquire in his temple.

    For he will hide me in his shelter
       in the day of trouble;
    he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
       he will set me high on a rock.

    Now my head is lifted up
       above my enemies all around me,
    and I will offer in his tent
       sacrifices with shouts of joy;
    I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

    Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
       be gracious to me and answer me!
    ‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!’
       Your face, Lord, do I seek.
       Do not hide your face from me.

    Do not turn your servant away in anger,
       you who have been my help.
    Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,
       O God of my salvation!
    If my father and mother forsake me,
       the Lord will take me up.

    Teach me your way, O Lord,
       and lead me on a level path
       because of my enemies.
    Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
       for false witnesses have risen against me,
       and they are breathing out violence.

    I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
       in the land of the living.
    Wait for the Lord;
       be strong, and let your heart take courage;
       wait for the Lord!
    Surely one of the most beautiful of the Psalms and one which has long been a favorite of mine.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

IT IS MY SINCERE BELIEF...



...that Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson (R) belongs on the hot seat for introducing his bill that will allow businesses to refuse service to people who offend their sincere religious beliefs. It's not discrimination, says Johnson. Watch the video of the interview by a reporter from the Times-Picayune which you will understand only if you know the language of BS.

About the pushback, Johnson says, "In some sense, we're victims of the times", and his amendment makes it clear that businesses will be able to discriminate only against same sex couples and will not "open a Pandora's box" and allow businesses to discriminate, say, against interracial couples. Curb your discrimination!

Poor persecuted Christian victims. Give it up, Mike. The equality train left the station some time ago. We can but hope the bill will take its place in the graveyard of died-in-committee bills. Louisiana is in deep financial difficulty already without pernicious legislation that will drive away businesses, conventions, and tourists, but with the Louisiana Legislature, one can never be certain they will do the right thing for the citizens of the state.

STUDENTS AND ALUMNI OF GENERAL THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY WRITE TO NY ATTORNEY GENERAL

Thus far, the powers-that-be in the Episcopal Church have refused to intervene in the controversy at General Theological Seminary, though the future of the oldest seminary in the church looks bleak, indeed.
After worldwide publicity and further protests, several students left at midyear, and the board provisionally reinstated the faculty only for the rest of the academic year, while canceling their academic tenure. No new hires have been announced and several top librarians have left. Only one entering student has paid a deposit for admission next fall. The seminary’s accreditation by the Association of Theological Schools is under review; if there’s no faculty, no library, no accreditation and no students, there’s no seminary.
How can the church speak out on justice for workers when one of its own institutions treats employees with such disrespect? For church leaders to wash their hands of a controversy that has been destructive to the church's oldest and own seminary is nearly beyond belief.

Perhaps NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will take up the cause. The refusal of the seminary Board of Trustees and President and Dean Kurt Dunkle to address the concerns of the faculty and the subsequent acceptance of resignations that were never offered were and are the business of the leadership of the church. How sad that no statement of concern or compassion was forthcoming from the leaders, and an appeal for justice had to be made outside the church.  Just today, I learned that another GTS faculty member has resigned.  Of the GTS8 faculty, only five remain at the seminary now.

From President and Dean Dunkle's latest communication on the website of the seminary:
Let me open with a transparent recognition: the past six months at General have been challenging for everyone. Our recent upheaval has been painful and revealing. General faces many challenges–financial, missional and cultural–and all of them have been highlighted over this past year.
...to say the least.  But do not despair:
Despite the snapshot of conflict, the portrait of General’s fundamental goal of “educating and forming future leaders for a changing church in a changing world” remains unaltered. Our work to create financial, missional, and cultural sustainability in order to maintain relevance to the 21st century church is now more important than ever.
Good luck with that.  The positioning of the three major challenges facing the seminary caught my attention, with finances in first place, which may or may not represent the priorities of the dean and the trustees.  Dean Dunkle goes on to say:
We are also proactively addressing our financial challenges. Last year, General suffered a $3.0 million cash deficit; this year, we anticipate it to be half that. Next year, we are working hard to cut it in half again. 
The seminary will save money with the departures of the faculty, but the question remains, is it possible for the seminary to carry out it's mission of educating and forming future leaders for a changing church in a changing worldwith the remaining faculty, or are new hires waiting in the wings who will accept lower wages without tenure?  Perhaps adjuncts?  Also, as is stated in the letter to the NY attorney general:
The seminary’s accreditation by the Association of Theological Schools is under review; if there’s no faculty, no library, no accreditation and no students, there’s no seminary.
If there is no seminary, the trustees will save a bundle of money, and then what?  Who will answer the question posed in the letter?
Was this alleged egregious conduct by the administration calculated to force the seminary to close? It appears to have been groomed for failure. The High Line is one of the hottest places in the city right now, and General Seminary sits right on it.
Only deafening silence from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the central office of the Episcopal Church.  If the intention was to close the seminary, then it most certainly should and could have been done with more compassion and dignity.

Since GTS is the one Episcopal seminary under the authority of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, I wonder if GC15 will address the dire situation at its meeting later this year.

UPDATE: There are now four entering students who have paid deposits.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A CIRCUMSCRIBED LIFE

Yesterday morning, far too early and before I was fully functional, a cousin whom I haven't heard from in a long time called. I don't much care for talking on the phone at the best of times, but never when I'm just waking up. My cousin said she was giving a presentation and wanted to know which of the men in a copy of a photo of two Confederate soldier brothers in uniform was our common ancestor.

She then asked how we were, and I asked how she was, and she said that she had a pacemaker but was otherwise fine and always on the go, with club meetings, her garden club and the Catholic Daughters and such. She is two years older than I am, but she must have a great deal more energy than I do.

She asked me what I was up to, and I said I was a bit of a hermit, that my socializing was confined mainly to my immediate family, children and grandchildren, an occasional lunch with a friend, going to church, and that I enjoyed the internet. She said, "I never use a computer." All right, then.

When the phone call was over, I told Tom I felt sort of sad, because my life seemed so circumscribed compared to hers. And then, I said, "Wait! I never participated in any of that sort of activity when I was young!" I am not a joiner; the only club I've ever belonged to was a literary club, but, when the quality of the books we read deteriorated, I withdrew.

I never asked my cousin where she was giving her presentation, because, as I've said, I was not yet fully functional, but I wondered afterward if the Daughters of the Confederacy was another one of her clubs.

Maybe I need a pacemaker.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN!

Fra Angelico - Convento di San Marco, Florence

The Lord is risen, indeed. Alleluia!
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’ (Matthew 28: 1-10)
Collect for the Great Vigil of Easter
Dear friends in Christ: On this most holy night, in which our Lord Jesus passed over from death to life, the Church invites
her members, dispersed throughout the world, to gather in
vigil and prayer. For this is the Passover of the Lord, in which,
by hearing his Word and celebrating his Sacraments, we share
in his victory over death.

Let us pray.


O God, through your Son you have bestowed upon your
people the brightness of your light: Sanctify this new fire, and
grant that in this Paschal feast we may so burn with heavenly
desires, that with pure minds we may attain to the festival of
everlasting light; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



Image from the Web Gallery of Art.

UPDATE: Our Easter Vigil celebration at St John's Episcopal Church, according to the liturgy in "The Book of Common Prayer", was joyful and lovely last evening.  First a fire was lit outside in the churchyard, then a member of the clergy lit the large Paschal candle from the fire, followed by the lighting of smaller candles for the congregation. The cantor sang prayers, and then the congregation processed into the darkened church with their candles.  Once we were inside, we heard several lessons from the Hebrew Testament, the seven days creation story, the story of the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus, and readings from the prophets Isaiah and Zephaniah.  The lights came on and the Eucharistic liturgy followed.  The congregation, choir, and clergy made a joyful noise unto the Lord in prayer and song.

BARBARA PYM AND HER EXCELLENT WOMEN

Credit: Andrew Whittuck
Lovely essay by Hannah Rosefield on attending a meeting of the Barbara Pym Society in Boston and a peek into Pym's novels.  I have them all, and I've read them more than once, always with delight in her fine prose style and smiles at her wit, which sometimes bites and at other times is tinged with rue.

As Rosefield says, 'Mildred is one of the “excellent women” of her novel’s title: efficient, virtuous and uncomplaining, expecting little and receiving little. Her clergyman father has died, and she lives in reduced circumstances in London, where she works part time for the Society for the Care of Distressed Gentlewomen (“a cause very near to my own heart, as I felt that I was just the kind of person who might one day become one”).'

Pym is quite often not generous to her male characters, as Rosefield says, "The very names of Pym’s male characters (Rockingham Napier, Alaric Lydgate) make it clear that they are better as romantic fantasies than as husbands." My favorite name is Everard Bone, the anthropologist, a character in "Excellent Women".

Rosefield's description of the few of Pym's excellent women who marry, as opposed to the many who remain spinsters, as "married spinsters" resonates, because I believe I may be one of them.

Friday, April 3, 2015

GOOD FRIDAY - "ECCE HOMO"


CARAVAGGIO - "Ecce Homo" - Palazzo Rosso, Genoa

John 19:5
So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’
Isaiah 53:1-5
Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account.

Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
Caravaggio is one of my many favorite painters. When I walk into a museum gallery with one or more of his paintings on the walls, my eyes are immediately drawn to them, and I catch my breath. The dramatic contrast of light and shade is stunning.

In the comments to my blog friend Counterlight's excellent post on the artist, I said to him, "All through looking at the paintings and reading your commentary, I thought, 'Incarnation. Incarnation.' That's one of Caravaggio's great gifts to us in religious painting."

However true that may be, it's not surprising that the obvious eroticism in certain of the artist's paintings on religious subjects drew rather heavy criticism his way. Caravaggio died at the young age of 38. Considering his short life as a painter, his legacy is extraordinary.

Collect of the Day: Good Friday
Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Image from the Web Gallery of Art.

Reposted from an earlier Good Friday.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

THE AFTERMATH OF ILLNESS

Tom's diagnosis of colon cancer rocked us both.  The weeks while we waited for the processes leading up to surgery to be completed were difficult, but we tried to keep busy and distracted, and we mostly succeeded.   The news after the surgery was surely as good as could be expected: the tumor was small, and the nearby lymph nodes were cancer free, and there was joy in Butlerland when Tom came home. 

Then, within a few days, came Tom's loss of appetite and vomiting.  I knew something was very wrong when I saw the greenish-black bile, but x-rays in the doctor's office were inconclusive as to whether there was an obstruction.  The vomiting continued, and Tom was readmitted to the hospital, and it was determined that there was an obstruction, a complication that never happens, but leave it to Tom... 

Tom is recovering nicely now, probably doing a bit too much too soon, but, so far, he appears to have done no harm to himself.  I told him if he has to go back in the hospital, I will not visit, but that's not true.

All of the above took a toll on both of us, and, though Tom seems the same, I'm sure the experience changed him, but in a way I can't yet see.  What I do know is that I have not yet regained my emotional equilibrium, such as it was, since the surgery.  I've thought about why I'm not yet my old self, and, indeed, somewhat accepted the fact that I may never be my old self, because life is change.

My one conclusion thus far is that when I was diagnosed with breast cancer 29 years ago, I looked my own death in the face, and I was changed.  The word "cancer" has a way of concentrating the mind wonderfully on the reality that humans, including me, are mortal.  I've been blessed with 29 years of life after the dread diagnosis, and I'm most grateful for the years, every one of which seems a gift.

But (and it's a huge "but") I had not faced Tom's mortality in any real way until now.  The good news is that I've come to realize in a way that I didn't before how much he means to me, but the not-so-good news is that the reality is scary, and my emotions, which are almost always near the surface, are out of kilter and somewhat flattened and kept at bay.  What to do? 

When two people live together for 53-plus years, the rather minor annoying habits of the other can come to loom rather large in daily life, so I've determined not to call Tom's attention to every little annoyance and to make a general attempt to be kinder and less of a scold.  In other words, don't sweat the small stuff.  And be kind.

In time, I hope to recover emotional equilibrium, and I believe I will, but, in the meantime, I'm thankful for each day Tom and I have together, and I will try to be kind, and not just to Tom.  I will often fail, but I hope I don't give up trying.

When certain Christians ask, "Are you saved?" I answer, "Yes, every day."  And that's true, and some few days I need to be saved from just lying in bed all day.  A strength that seemed to come from beyond me carried me through the stressful period, and I trust that same source, God in Jesus, will carry me the rest of the way.  You see, I believe salvation is about here and now, for today, and not so much for the sweet bye-and-bye, because I have no idea what happens in the sweet bye-and-bye.  But I have today, for which I'm grateful, and I believe God is with me, with us, to give us healing, strength, and courage.

Monday, March 30, 2015

MOONRISE KINGDOM

Earlier in the week, I watched the delightful, poignant, funny, sweet movie, "Moonrise Kingdom". The cast includes Jared Gilman, as Sam, and Kara Hayward, as Suzy, the 12 year old pair who run away together and cause concern and mayhem in the lives of the adults who are responsible for them. The two young actors shine in their roles. The stellar actors in the other roles are fantastic - Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, and Tilda Swinton, an embarrassment of riches, yes? Suspend disbelief (which is easy to do), and enjoy a very good time.