Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Desert Fathers, Sunday, July 29, 2012, Abba Agathon

Saint Macarius of Egypt and the Cherub. Venera...
Saint Macarius of Egypt and the Cherub. Venerable Saint Macarius (ca. 300- d. 391, Scetes, Egypt) is one of the most prominent desert Fathers of the Church, known also as Macarius the Great. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It was said concerning Abba Agathon that some monks came to find him having heard tell of his great discernment. Wanting to see if he would lose his temper they said to him 'Aren't you that Agathon who is said to be a fornicator and a proud man?' 'Yes, it is very true,' he answered. They resumed, 'Aren't you that Agothon who is always talking nonsense?' 'I am." Again they said 'Aren't you Agothon the heretic?' But at that he replied 'I am not a heretic.' So they asked him, 'Tell us why you accepted everything we cast you, but repudiated this last insult.' He replied 'The first accusations I take to myself for that is good for my soul. But heresy is separation from God. Now I have no wish to be separated from God.' At this saying they were astonished at his discernment and returned, edified.

 Abba Agathon
Desert Fathers

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Light of the World

New York City

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 mNor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so nthat2 they may see your good works and ogive glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Mt 5:14-16, ESV)

A couple of days ago I read an interesting post by Bruce Charlton, a British professor and prolific writer and blogger.  He always has some interesting point to make on his blog. The post I refer to was titled, Should Christians Self-Identify in the West?  His conclusion was in the affirmative, and he gave two or three or more reasons for saying so. There was one I thought was one easily over looked by most people today.

And partly because most non-Christians self-identify... that devout adherents of most other religions are usually immediately identifiable - and so are anti-Christians by their style of dress (youth cult allegiance, immodesty), bodily self-mutilations, badges, consumption and conspicuous life styles.

It isn't fashionable, or politically correct, to be Christian these days. It's actually positively frowned upon. We are to keep our religion to ourselves if we are Christian, especially if we are Catholic Christians. Yet, as Mr. Charleton pointed out, for members of other religious groups, for instance, Muslims, these rules don't apply.  Why shouldn’t Christians be more visible in the world?

The question is, how do we do this?  Professor Charlton doesn't tell us, but one way could be to make ourselves more conspicuous by wearing a crucifix around our neck or as a lapel pin.  We could wear gaudy t-shirts that proclaim some Christian message.  I guess we could even wear sackcloth and ashes on occasion.  After all, Jesus did say, “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden,” we shouldn’t just be invisible. 

Yet this isn’t the way Christians have “self-identified” in the past.  For instance, since the days of the early Church, Christians have self-identified by the way they live their lives.  The Letter to Diognetus tells us:

Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.

It seems it was the distinguishing marks of the early Christians not to be distinguished; they blended in, as far as the casual observer was concerned.  Yet, there was “something extraordinary” about them – they lived their lives in a different way, with different goals, than their non-Christian neighbors.  They self-identified by living truly Christian lives.

I agree with Professor Charlton that Christians should self-identify, but that doesn't mean we have to wear different clothes, or Christian symbols around our necks.  We should self-identify by living Christian lives.  Christians today are indistinguishable from those around them, but sadly, for the most part, neither is there much extraordinary about them.  Too often, they’re willing to share both their meals and their wives; they’ve surrendered to the culture.  We should be noticed as Christians, not because we don't dress like those we live and work with, but because we don't act like those around us; we act like someone seeking to be holy.

How do we do that?  St Josemaria Escriva had a specific, and simple, method for Christians to follow, described by Scott Hahn in his book Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace:
St Josemaria Escrva sketched out a simple apostolic program: ‘First, prayer; then, atonement; in the third place, very much “in the third place,” action.”  Most of our apostolate, then, will be invisible.  Our friends might someday glimpse the tip of the iceberg – maybe.  In heaven, however, they’ll know our love in its very depths.”

Prayer, atonement, action – these are the steps necessary if Christians are to have any hope of self-identifying, maybe also the only hope of the West itself.  It's a call to Christians, and our neighbors, to true conversion.  Little else has worked to change our steadily declining culture; this surely can.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Florilegia, Friday, July 27, 2012

This is the first reading from those for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

I’m going to also post this on An Oblate Journal, since it seems appropriate to focus readings for lectio on an oblate blog.  I should also say, I’m doing these posts to encourage anyone who might stop by here to begin the practice of sacred reading if they are not already doing it.  Give it a try.

Reading 1 Ex 16:2-4, 12-15

The whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.
The Israelites said to them,
"Would that we had died at the LORD's hand in the land of Egypt,
as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!
But you had to lead us into this desert
to make the whole community die of famine!"

Then the LORD said to Moses,
"I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.
Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion;
thus will I test them,
to see whether they follow my instructions or not.

"I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites.
Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh,
and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread,
so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God."

In the evening quail came up and covered the camp.
In the morning a dew lay all about the camp,
and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert
were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground.
On seeing it, the Israelites asked one another, "What is this?"
for they did not know what it was.
But Moses told them,
"This is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat."

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

An Oblate Journal

A New Chapter, An Oblate Journal

 (I posted this on a new blog, An Oblate Journal, which will begin on Monday.  I'd be grateful for your thoughts and suggestions on a new chapter in my blogging adventures.)
I know of one or two bloggers who have more than one blog, sometimes three or four.  I don’t know how they do it; I can barely keep up with one.  Sometimes I really can’t keep up.  Yet, I  feel I’ve started a new chapter in life and I’d like to try to keep some sort of record of the little more than year long process that’s begun with this new turn of events.  To do that seems to call for a new blog.  I’m starting this with misgivings related to doing two blogs, but starting nonetheless.

The new chapter began when my wife and I formally submitted our applications to New Camaldoli Hermitage to join the Postulancy for Oblature there.  We’ve dithered with this decision for some time, having investigated numerous Oblate programs at monasteries near and far, hoping to find just the perfect fit.  We couldn’t find any that seemed ideal.  The tipping point came during the time I was off recovering from my shoulder replacement, when I began reading and re-reading St Romuald’s Brief Rule, posted on the New Camaldoli web site.  St. Romuald’s words began to take hold in me, “Sit in your cell as in paradise . . .” I realized that the life of simple faith he was describing struck a chord deep within.  My wife felt the same way.  I knew I wanted to become part of the Camaldolese family.  I also realized that this decision represents a moment of note for me and, since the period one is a postulant is a year, I wanted the next year to be noted in some way. 

I don’t know that I’ll have the patience and perseverance to document my reactions, experiences, during the time I spend in the postulant program – or the perseverance.  I hope I will.

For a while, if not indefinitely, I hope to keep Colorado Musing open along with this blog; I won’t be posting here daily, perhaps once or twice a week, but much more of what appears here will be original, if that’s a good thing.  One thing I wish to accomplish is to provide anyone who happens to stop by here with an idea of how the largely unknown Camaldolese spirituality, an 11th century reform of the Benedictine order, can be lived out by a layman in the 21st century.  Also, I’d just like to have a journal for my own benefit of what this year has been like and what difference it made. 

I hope it’s of interest to others also.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Word on Wednesday, Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Icon of Basil of Caesarea. Василий Великий, икона
Icon of Basil of Caesarea. Василий Великий, икона (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A woman who deliberately destroys a fetus is answerable for murder. And any fine distinction between its being completely formed or unformed is not admissible among us.
St. Basil the Great

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Early Church Fathers, Sunday, July 15, 2012 St Cyprian

Saint Cyprian
Saint Cyprian (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Peter speaks there, on whom the Church was to be built, teaching and showing in the name of the Church, that although a rebellious and arrogant multitude of those who will not hear or obey may depart, yet the Church does not depart from Christ; and they are the Church who are a people united to the priest, and the flock which adheres to its pastor. Whence you ought to know that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church in the bishop; and if any one be not with the bishop, that he is not in the Church, and that those flatter themselves in vain who creep in, not having peace with God’s priests, and think that they communicate secretly with some; while the Church which is Catholic and one, is not cut nor divided, but is indeed connected and bound together by the cement of priests who cohere with one another (Letters 66 [A.D. 253]).

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Friday Florilegia, Friday, July 13, 2012

A little late in posting, thought I’d already prepared this.  The reading is from next Sunday’s Gospel (16th Sunday in Ordinary Time).

Gospel Mk 6:30-34

The apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them,
"Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while."
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.
They hastened there on foot from all the towns
and arrived at the place before them.

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Early Church Fathers, Sunday, July 8, 2012, St Ignatius of Antioch

St Ignatius of Antioch
St Ignatius of Antioch (Photo credit: jimforest)

Follow your bishop, every one of you, as obediently as Jesus Christ followed the Father. Obey your clergy too as you would the apostles; give your deacons the same reverence that you would to a command of God. Make sure that no step affecting the Church is ever taken by anyone without the bishop’s sanction. The sole Eucharist you should consider valid is one that is celebrated by the bishop himself, or by some person authorized by him. Where the bishop is to be seen, there let all his people be; just as, wherever Jesus Christ is present, there is the Catholic Church. Letter to the Smyrneans
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Friday, July 6, 2012

Friday Florilegia, Friday, July 6, 2012

After surgery to replace my right shoulder in early June, and evacuation from the Waldo Canyon fire last week, perhaps I can get begin to get back to a regular schedule for posting here.  It will be nice to have things settle down a bit, I don't like to leave my "cell.".  Here is next Sunday’s Gospel.

Gospel Mk 6:7-13

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two
and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey
but a walking stick--
no food, no sack, no money in their belts.
They were, however, to wear sandals
but not a second tunic.
He said to them,
"Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.
Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet
in testimony against them."
So they went off and preached repentance.
The Twelve drove out many demons,
and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.