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Thursday, December 25, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Over the course of a turbulent year the Archbishop of Canterbury had a series of meetings with James Macintyre during which he spoke about sharia law, capitalism, the disestablishment of the Church, and his love of The West Wing.
On a bleak afternoon in November, a delegation of senior religious leaders from Britain filed out of an exhibit room at Ausch witz in Poland. One man stopped, and stayed staring intently through the glass. Before him was a mass of human hair from those killed in the gas chambers. This man was Dr Rowan Williams and he was praying, silently.
Asked to write an inscription at the memorial, he chose words from Psalm 130: "Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!" Dr Williams walked around the former Nazi extermination camp, a remote figure, keeping a ring of space around him. After the first round of exhibits, one of the party tried to speak to him. He merely shrugged and shook his head; there was nothing adequate to say.
Williams was on a trip to the site, organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust, with nine other faith leaders, including the Chief Rabbi, Jona than Sacks, with whom he talked intensely on the plane on the journey out from London while almost every other passenger slept. The two men have become good friends, and the Chief Rabbi compares their relationship to that of their predecessors, William Temple and Joseph H Hertz, who co-founded the Council of Christians and Jews in 1942. "I have the greatest respect for the Chief Rabbi - a public intellectual," the Archbishop said. "And because he has sometimes found his own community hard work . . . we do occasionally compare notes, dot dot dot."
That "dot dot dot" is something of a characteristic understatement. Several weeks later, we are in a private room at Lambeth Palace reflecting on what has been not just the most testing year in his term at Canterbury, but arguably one of the most difficult for Anglicanism since the Reformation.
Read the rest here.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The following is a sermon I preached at a friend of mines parish about three years ago. Since the Annunciation story is this Sunday's Gospel reading according to the RCL, I thought I would dust this off again and share it. A not quite so clear version of the painting I refer to is here.
When Tim asked me if I would like to preach this afternoon I agreed readily. I then, with out really thinking, asked what the texts are. When I got home and looked them up in the Prayer Book I was under whelmed. These are texts that have been handled so much that they have become slippery from their use. They’ve become so familiar that they’re like an ice cube: squeeze to hard and they shoot right out of our hand. Unable to get any in on the Gospel, I turned to look at art depicting the event. For the most part I was left cold. In general, the pictures were of a sheepish Angel Gabriel, often holding flowers standing at a distance from Mary who is sitting at a window reading an improbably illuminated Librium, often in Latin. I even saw one that depicts Our Lady holding a Rosary. Eastern Icons are often of the same idea: Gabriel paying homage to a pure Madonna. The emphasis is on the holy and transcendent. Then I stumbled upon the work of a Venetian artist named Jacopo Robusti, called Tintoretto. His depiction is very, very different.
First the setting is different. Far from a little room or a walled garden, we are presented with a room that can only be described as messy. The plaster has cracked, with the bricks behind showing through. There is a motley collection of broken furniture and there are signs of half completed carpentry. Instead of a window out of which Mary has been looking, or a prayer book Mary has been spinning. Out of the portal we see a man busily at work with a saw, presumably Joseph. You see “betrothed,” meant at this time that they may have been living together in a, presumably chaste, arrangement to see if she was acceptable to him. They are both hard at work in a decaying house as the sun slides down into night. We see a couple laboring until they are unable to see any more. They are like Adam and Eve after the fall, laboring in a world of decay and death. Then something altogether unexpected happens. An angel of the Lord comes in.
Rather than a sheepishly coy angel, we have a Gabriel who swoops in, with an entourage of Cherubs. He’s looking a little apologetic. Mary is far from a passive presence. Her body is twisted to face the onrushing Angels and her face is a mixture of fear and marvel. The Holy Spirit is depicted in the traditional form of a Dove, but it’s far from some innocuous pidgin with a halo. The Holy Spirit manifests as a being of pure light. It illumines the air above the Virgin and the light casts the world in which she has lived in stark relief and rivals the dying light of the Sun. This very human Mary is confronted with God in the most direct way imaginable.
I emphasize that this is a human Mary because it is Tintoretto’s very Realist depiction of Mary and her condition that drew me to it. She is no plaster saint in this painting. She is an ordinary woman, a girl by today’s standards, confronted by the disconcerting God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And it is her humanity that is key in our celebration today. As the poet says:
“Of Her Flesh, he took flesh.”
It is from Mary that Jesus gains his humanity. It is through Mary that he enters the world. Our humanity is what we have in common with Mary. It is in our common human condition, shared by both, that we come to have Mary as our sister and Jesus as our brother. To put it differently, when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us it is from Mary that the Logos receives flesh, and the Incarnate Word first dwells in her. It is a long while until the child is born, and we are confronted with the idea of being with Mary as we contemplate the child growing with in her. There is no room here for a porcelain figure or alabaster statue. All through out the rest of her life she must live with and meditate upon the words of the Angel, even when they make no since. Life would not be easy for the Mother of God. She must live with a son given to terrific acts of power and who dies the death of a thief or bandit. She is one of the models of contemplation, not because we know that she is given to it, but because she is caught up in the Mysteries in a way that no one else is. She is an active participant in them. When she looks down at the child in the feeding trough she comes into the realization that “This is my body, this is my blood.” We do her, and ourselves, a disservice when we make her into a semi-divine Queen at the expense of her history and reality as a human being.
My Carmelite bias may be showing. For us Mary is our sister. After all she appeared to St. Simon Stock in Aylesford wearing our Habit. It is her Humanity in which we first find our devotion to her. If our King reigns from a manger and cross, his Mother is just that, a mother. As the legend under the image of Our Lady of Mt Carmel at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception says, “Mary is more Mother than Queen.” In may ways several of the later Marian devotions and doctrines run counter to the Carmelite Spirit of her as our Mother and Sister. I would go so far as to say that dogmatic proclamations aimed at cleaning up our discomfort at Mary being a normal person with a body like ours, and the implications that holds for Jesus plays runs counter not only to the Spirit of Carmel, but of Anglicanism. She is our friend, and she prays for us. She is our Mother, and loves us. She is our Sister and supports us.
What I would leave us with today is a call to join with Mary in her pondering and meditation. As she felt the child grow within her womb, let us feel the risen Christ in our selves. Let us contemplate with her the words of the Angel and what they mean for us. Let us enter into the mysteries with her as a signpost and guide. Finally, let us commend ourselves to her in prayer, so that at the last she may show us the blessed fruit of her womb, Jesus.
Pray for us, Oh Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Yes, ladies and gentlemen (and the rest of my readers), we in the West are now locked into a struggle with that well known axis of international evil that is the HRC and Al Qaeda. The evidence for this is a few incidents of violence or, more often, vandalism against a frew Churches in California. The threats and actual violence perpetrated against opponents during the campaign and after just slide right on by. Vandalism against MCC and other GLBT friendly churches is just to be expected.
Lat's face the facts here. The Right was unprepared for GLBT people and our friends to fight back. They were unprepared to deal with actual anger. The acts of violence and vandalism are deplorable, stupid and shortsighted. What they are not, however, is a systematic attempt at persecution. They are a backlash, but there is no organization doing it. Opposition is not oppression. That is particularly the case when you are the empowered, privileged and protected majority. It is not oppression to have to pay for crimes, even though you think the victim "deserves it." There is a legitimate Constitutional argument being made in California right now. The Right is terrified that it will be defeated. this specious argument has been developed to be a part of the spin and lies they will tell one another to help build up tot he next election. It is sort of like the rhetoric of the closing days of the presidential election: it was tossed out less to win and more to start the lies to be repeated. The task is for us to respond now and not let them in inch in the door with their mendacities.
How we treat Holy Communion reflects our theology of Christ
By Douglas LeBlanc, December 09, 2008
News Item, October 21: The Diocese of Sydney's General Synod has voted again to allow laity to preside at celebrations of Holy Communion and to allow deacons (both men and women) to preside as well.
My reaction, once news of the synod's decision began circulating in U.S.--based weblogs: Wake me when the argument is over.
I have exaggerated my lack of outrage, but not outrageously. My longtime friend and colleague Terry Mattingly grew up Southern Baptist, spent more than 10 years as an Episcopalian and then became Eastern Orthodox.
He enjoys telling the story of attending Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, where robed choir members processed with reverence down the center aisle and some bowed before sitting in their pews.
Terry asked about the significance of the bowing, and the answer he heard was remarkable: That's what you're supposed to do. Despite its stained-glass windows and the liturgical calendar it observed, this church had no concept of a Communion host being the body of Christ, in some form, and therefore worthy of brief reverence by choir members.
From that experience, Terry concluded that if a Southern Baptist congregation had a higher-than-average interest in liturgical symbols, its members likely had little understanding of the doctrine behind the symbols.
I wonder if, for many Episcopalians, this could be an accurate summary of what we understand about Holy Communion.
Consider how many priests now announce, week after week, that because the Holy Table belongs to God and not to anyone else, all people -- regardless of whether they are baptized -- are welcome to partake. I note only in passing the chutzpah of presuming that God's will for the Holy Table was thwarted, rather than honored, as far back as the Didache.
Read the rest here
Lay presidency is a non-starter for me. I think it shows a lack of understanding of what the Church is and what ministry is as well, but I don’t think it’s anything but an aberration born less of theology and more of a deeply born anti-intellectualism and resentment towards clergy.
Communicating the unbaptized, on the other hand, drives me nuts. I think that the writer is spot on that it is a misunderstanding of what the Eucharist is, and isn’t. It is the feast of the Church, and membership in the Church is achieved in Baptism. The normative text here is, I think, the story of Peter when he unilaterally baptized gentiles. He didn’t say “Well now the Spirit has come on you, so you’re now Christians.” Rather he baptized them (Acts 10:48). That would indicate to me a normative practice. We also place such an emphasis upon the Rite of Baptism in the Prayer Book, to then say that it isn’t all that important because you can be a member of the Eucharistic assembly with out it is a tad backwards.
And no, I don’t see the typical Evangelical slippery slope argument in here. What I do see is a legitimate criticism of two things that the author sees as connected. We have no real theology of the Church left to us if we now toss out Baptism in favor of some vague “come one come all” argument. There is a difference between saying “this is a bad idea and has implications of though and practice which are unacceptable” and the full on fallacy form of reductio ad absurdum that is the “slippery slope.” If he had gone onto say that this could lead to everybody might as well stay home on Sunday and become atheists I’d be rolling my eyes and trying to separate the issues he presents from one another. I’d say he’s being quite on target as it where for his points, with out going to far afield.
Tip of the hat to the Rev. Mthr. Kaeton.
Monday, December 08, 2008
It is the prerogative of every generation of graybeards to look down the age ladder and accuse today's young of sloth, greed, selfishness -- and stupidity. We hear daily jeremiads from baby boomers who wonder how kids who'd rather listen to Linkin Park and play "Grand Theft Auto III" than solve equations or read books can possibly grow up to become leaders of the world's superpower. The recent publication of "The Dumbest Generation" by Mark Bauerlein of Emory University epitomizes the genre. His subtitle -- "How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future" -- says it all.
Generational putdowns, Bauerlein's included, are typically long on attitude and short on facts. But the underlying question is worth pursuing: If the data are objectively assessed, which age-slice of today's working-age adults really does deserve to be called the dumbest generation?
The answer may surprise you. No, it's not today's college-age kids, nor even today's family-starting 30-somethings. And no, it's not the 60-year-olds who once grooved at Woodstock. Instead, it's Americans in their 40s, especially their late 40s -- those born from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s. They straddle the boundary line between last-wave boomers and first-wave Generation Xers. The political consultant Jonathan Pontell labels them "Generation Jones.
Read the rest here.
I note that the writer, who is I think a Boomer, places these guys as "early Xers" so as to distance his own generation from his and cast a shadow on mine.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Middle East Online reports the wine is made by the Salesians of Don Bosco, at the Cremisan winery in Beit Jala, a suburb of Bethlehem.
The Salesians have been producing the wine for the past 125 years as a direct means of support for their pastoral and educational work among the poor of Bethlehem and to provide a livelihood for many local Palestinian families.
Now, for the first time in more than 100 years, the churches and religious establishments in Jerusalem, Nazareth and other parts of Israel are being deprived of Cremisan wine, Middle East Online says.
Christian hotels and pilgrim houses in Israel are now being forced to buy Israeli wine. Because wines for export are shipped through the Israeli port of Haifa, no export to the UK and Europe has been possible for several months. Read the rest here.