May 21, 2020

The Love and Praise of the Church in Easter During Pandemic

Easter is the season of true love - a love that conquers death. It is a season of unvanquished hope and those who know this hope do not live by fear and can never be shamed into silence. Yet my heart is heavy.  I have heard too many reports of priests burying those who died, not of the virus that we are told is so dangerous, but of despair.  I have heard the grief of those who long to gather in worship and express their devotion to the Living God. Yet they feel confused, opposed and blamed. How to offer the praise eternal is owed puzzles many who will not be able to gather for worship - either because of their own health forbids it or because local laws and ordinances do not allow it.

Praise for eternal love rings throughout the world with the wonders that God has done for us nonetheless. There is no other reason that can account for this than the fact that He does love us.  In response to this love, through the centuries, Christians have always boldly proclaimed this mystery - even when it cost them dearly. Many a martyr would not have it any other way. And so it is today.

My heroes include those members of women's religious communities who will not have it any other way either. So they love recklessly those who the world recklessly abandons or neglects.  Several, as did the Missionaries of Charity in New York, in recent weeks, have lost their lives serving the poorest of the poor - but they would rather die by love than forsake the love of Christ disguised in sickness, poverty and loneliness. The world sees them as foolish. Yet, their foolishness speaks to me.

These fearless women who put their lives on the line show us what love-filled praise of Christ actually is -- by boldly going forward to those who are most forsaken, they reveal to us to very heart of the Church. The Church is the Bride of Christ and she lives for Her Bridegroom. He, for His part, considers her and all her members friends.  True love for a friend does not turn back in the face of risk but instead sacrifices its own safety for the sake of another. Consecrated men and women show this love in the Church.  When most of us were gripped with fear, they boldly went out to reveal the love of the Risen Lord -- this is Christian worship par excellence.

Real love cannot be contained in merely convenient exchanges but aches to give all until nothing is held back. Such love is never satisfied with what is merely appeasing before those who stand in its way. It will not allow itself to be defined by the desire to fit in or be accepted - but goes past this to implicate itself in the plight of another, undeterred by the awareness that most will not understand.  Such love is never indifferent to loneliness but finds ways to throw a bridge to the neighbor and lift them to God. It pushes beyond the limits of fear. Christian worship is animated by this very same love -- and that is why the faithful feel the need to gather for prayer again, even though there are risks.

The Easter Season is about this love in the Church, a love that she has received from Christ, the Bridegroom.  He Himself won it for her at great price.  This love has the power to purify her and make her immaculate - and each of her members is meant to share in this virginal purity, this fruitful intensity of life. Those who are consecrated in religious life remind us of this truth.

The Easter Season is a time when the Bride offers highest praise of her Divine Friend with all of her might, declaring what God has done for humanity to the very ends of the earth.  So loud should be her "alleluias" that the world ought to shake under heaven's shadow.

As I write this, however, I am aware that there are political leaders and experts who argue that we Christians should dare not gather or sing together lest we spread contagion. They perceive believers as a threat to stability and safety. Indeed, we are frightened into believing that if we gather to worship God, we will not only die a horrible death ourselves, but we might well be culpable for the death of others. Instead of praise, most of us hide in fear, bullied by the supposed science and shamed by what seems such a compelling argument. But not those beautiful women who serve those for whom no one else will care - these women may prudent measures take, but their prudence is measured by love and refuses to be contained by fear.

Though it has never been the Christian way, some leader tell us that we should only worship when there is no risk. If anyone dares risk to pray, quick are the betrayers and the deniers. To heed such voices is to allow the One who suffered death for us not to be proclaimed for fear of death. Yes, there is prudence to be observed. There are legitimate precautions discerned by the Church. We should protect the most vulnerable. At the same time, is it possible to be too careful?

Even though our lives are not our own, we have permitted fear to stifle praise in even very healthy communities at a time when the reason for our hope should be shouted from the rooftops. The results are not good. Despair is gripping the hearts of men and women. Humanity has always needed the word of hope Christians have to share. If even we might offer only muted praise, in the smallest gatherings, if we are healthy enough, we must nonetheless gather for their sakes and our own - for despair is a far worse killer than a virus can ever be. Above all, we must not be manipulated to the point that we fail, even if healthy, to approach the Bread of Life and Medicine of Immortality.

Some, even in the Church, have said that such speech is irresponsible. These same voices charge that only bad citizens or those with ulterior motives would ever make such declarations.  Or else, sneer that such an attitude is fideistic -- some sort of magical thinking. Yet, these very charges are what are always leveled against Christians when they are suppressed and persecuted - and we live at a time when more believers have been put to death than at any other point of the history of humanity. So I say it is irresponsible not to question -- that it is a dereliction of our duty as human beings to subordinate the worship of God to the myth of a completely risk-free therapeutic existence.

Concern for human life and safety are very important, and this dangerous virus does require pre-caution and great prudence.  There are however some facts we must face. We allowed governments to take away the religious safety net when it was needed most. Have we kept track of the mortality rate of those suffering for their faith and being put to death in present persecutions as much as we have this virus? Do we track how many of the most vulnerable have died, not from the virus, but from despair? If preserving human life is really the driving concern of those who forbid religious worship in even healthy communities among the healthy -- why is it that we should be so anxious about a virus that has killed only hundreds of thousands when abortion, over the same period of time, has killed tens of millions?  Still, our leaders are not ashamed to fund the efforts to murder and commercialize the body parts of the most vulnerable. Too many experts have proven utterly indifferent to the effects of loneliness, poverty and despair in our communities, and their anti-religious policy recommendations caused these things, not the virus.

When we begin to consider such difficult truths, we begin to find a true vocabulary and a courage to offer praise boldly - for praise issues from hearts that have submitted themselves to the truth and who refuse to believe the myths of fear that the politically powerful use to oppress and control.  Voices of oppression wrap themselves in science - but limit themselves to scientific truths about the number of infected, how the disease is transmitted and its death rate - and this is a very narrow slice of the truth, one they are manipulating because they too are afraid. Indeed, everyone knows that the prejudice that one brings to the facts colors the way the facts are seen. A fearful prejudice is killing millions more than the infection ever has -- killing, not only bodily life, but spiritual life as well.

Religious leaders, not government officials, are the most qualified to apply the advice of experts on best practices around the worship of God. The government is able to advise and martial resources, but not able to dictate the worship of God's people. The failure of our society to heed the voices of religious leaders has left the suffering vulnerable to despair.
Sometimes there are circumstances when sheltering-in-place is not really the most loving thing that we owe our neighbor or God. No cultural or political power ought to stand in the way of what is the most human and good thing to do. Shamelessly, among some who are in places of power and trust, there is even a conscious effort to make people of faith the scapegoats of failed policy. Studies focussing on worship but not commercial behavior sometimes are offered as justification for a very insidious form of prejudice.

There seems to be something driving this conversation, but to say it is only public health and safety is not compelling. Religious leaders sometimes feel pressure to take politically correct precautions around public worship that go beyond safety even at the expense of the piety. This kind of manipulation is not new - governments have always attempted to make absolute claims over people. Piety needs to be protected from this tendency - for it is not a private, but a public good.

The convictions shared in this post are considered by many well meaning people, including those in the Church, to be reckless. Perhaps they are. Indeed, the great women religious who have suffered death rather than neglect the poor during this pandemic also have been considered reckless. Christians who are faithful though they suffer the loss of all things are also considered reckless. Experts tell us that people who gather to sing and pray recklessly endanger their whole community. Holy Communion is also considered a risk.

Receiving the Antidote for Death is indeed a great risk - and hygienic concerns should be the least of our worries. Perhaps, the praise that Christians offer is indeed dangerous, but the danger it poses goes beyond  disease control. Faith in the Risen Lord is a threat to those who otherwise want to have absolute control over the things of the heart. Yet, our God has loved us to the point of folly and so must we praise at great risk, even to the point of folly.

Our faith never has been satisfied with appeasing political powers or staying within the comfortable limits that experts dictate are appropriate. Today, no less than in any other age, we live at a time when cultural and social powers have dared to dictate to the Church where, when and how she should love Christ.  They have not merely offered prudent guidelines to be followed in the face of grave danger. No. These governmental leaders, news outlets and experts have frightened, belittled, and shamed the Church into silence. We cower under threatening punishments, lawsuits and derision. Yet such earthly powers only extend to fear of death, and the Bride of Christ, beholding the Risen Lord as do so many consecrated women, does not know this fear.

May 11, 2020

Woman of Courage - Mother of the Savior

Today, when so many are afraid of death, we need the courage of the Mother of the Savior. If she did not fear death, she was not rash in the face of danger. If she did not rush along with the crowd, she did not cower unsure of herself. She was firm and resolute ... confident in the love of God.

This woman's courage drew God and God drew forth the courage of His Mother. The Lord did not fail to trust in this woman's courage when He was most vulnerable - a child in her womb, fed by her breasts, held in her own arms, pondered in her heart. Even as the hostility of every evil power hunted Him down and unleashed itself on Him, He knew that she would have the strength to receive His dead body after He had given His all. He chose to rely on her courage, and her courage found its source in His choice.

With undaunted fortitude, she journeyed in obedience to God. Because of her love for her God, she was not timid when she traveled by foot through dangerous countryside. Because of her devotion to God's saving plan, she was not fearful when she bore pregnancy in the face of capital punishment. Because of her trust in God, she was not discouraged when she was turned away hungry and without shelter. Because of her confidence in God's goodness, she was undeterred when she gave birth in poverty. Because she believed in Divine Power, she was not afraid to nurse her child under the shadow of murderous tyranny.

She patiently followed her Son throughout his ministry, even when He seemed to deny her. With uncommon audacity, she stood strong under the Cross, even as the full vitriol of humanity was unleashed. She did not swoon when His last wordless cry rang out in the darkness. Faced with the antithesis of everything that was promised to her, she dared to believe. With a determination that the world had never known before, she prayed in the Upper Room for the plan of her Son to be fully realized.

Every mother knows something of this same courage and even those who do not know the Lord witness to a greatness that He has sewn into human existence. Yet, faith in the Word of the Father avails humble humanity of a certain and new fullness of this grace.  This hidden power is easily discounted and often the subject of ridicule. Yet in the face of death, the human mind can not explain the resolve that flows from the substance of its hope.

Behold, Christ Crucified has given us His Mother to take into our homes and hearts so that she might be our own Mother. If one welcomes this grace-filled Woman into his home, she teaches truths about Her Son that no one else can teach.  Her solemn faithfulness imparts what she herself received under the power of the Most High. Her gentle company nurtures with this hidden wisdom until a man can finally take his stand in life.

The strength of the Mother of God does not budge when any form of tyranny makes an absolute claim over human existence. No psychology can contain it. No ideology manipulate it. No agenda exhaust it. Materialism cannot dissipate it. It casts diversions aside. It crushes sin under foot. Addictions loosen their grip. Laziness is dispelled. Dark moods do not overthrow the freedom it offers.

The hidden strength this Mother strives to impart renews the effort to forgive. It frees from bitterness. It inclines to humility. It seeks forgiveness. In the face of failure and weakness, it humbly rises again and turns back homeward. As it journeys through empty voids and overwhelming circumstance, it perdures. It is the very interior firmness that overcomes all principalities and powers - for nothing can overthrow the love in which it is rooted. It is the courage of the truly free -- the same courage that lives in the heart of the Church, the beloved Bride of Christ, from whose womb Christians are born.

May 6, 2020

The Mystery of Christian Death and the New Birth of Christian Faith

May 6, 2020 This particular post will be a little self-revealing - but its intended for my family, long time friends and, of course, my students through the years. Today is the anniversary of a great grace in my life and in the life of my mother and brothers. 49 years ago John Cyprien Lilles died in the Lord. We may have been but children and my mother a very young widow, and indeed, our world was shattered, yet we were not without hope.

For those who are dealing with death, I can witness that in the midst of all the sorrow and difficult aloneness of those days, the Risen One was present to us. I believe that He is present to you too - even as you read these words.  He came to us through friends and family but also in the quiet times when we were alone. He spoke to us in prayer. Indeed, though sun and moon had fallen out of the sky, His Word for us has ever remained. The Lord walked with us just as He walked with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. We did not recognize Him, but our hearts burned with all the tender ways that He spoke to us.  It is in the midst of such trials that faith is born and a new life given to us.

I suppose that I share this with those of you who have lost loved ones during this time of pandemic.  The power of death seems so overwhelming and definitive on a natural level. We feel so cut off and even crushed. Yet the mystery that our faith knows is ever greater. There is a love that is more powerful than death and there is no destructive force in the world that can overcome it. This love is definitively revealed to us by Jesus Christ - who rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, and at the same time, is accomplishing the most beautiful works, not only in our communities, but also presently in our hearts. This is why we worship Him - why men and women through the ages have risked everything to find Him.

As John's terminal cancer progressed, his friend Marshall McKinney was at his side. Marshall was a farmer as was my father and his family background was with cattle - so you could say that he was a real cowboy. Together with his wife Judy and my mom, he took eight hour shifts to feed, bath, cloth and accompany John through all that difficult time.  At one point, my father said that he saw Jesus. Marshall was in the room and, though he did not believe in God, fell down on his knees. He asked my father what Jesus was saying and my father described a reassuring message.  Jesus was inviting him to come home and assured him that his wife and children would be okay.  It was not long after this vision that my father passed away.

There was a context. John was not always a good Catholic. Bit by Jansenism, he believed his faith but did not believe that frequent communion was a good practice. To his mind, and in the minds of many Franco-Americans, only saints and hypocrites went to daily mass. On his death bed, however, a Holy Ghost Father, Fr. Donal, convinced him to go to confession and communion. He began to wear the scapular of Mt. Carmel. He began to pray. It must have been difficult for him to enter into such a conversion and not be able to share it with his friend Marshall. But that day of the vision, something was indeed shared that stayed with Marshall for the rest of his life.

I remembered all of this just after Marshall himself died - some forty years later.  I was troubled because he was a good man. It was difficult for me to accept that he might not be saved because he did not believe in God.  What a great mystery - where we truly stand before the Lord! We never know whether someone is culpable or not for their rejection of faith. We never know what doubts they had about their own unbelief - their own, "What if's". We never know what happens just at the moment of death - that sacred moment that the soul shares alone with God. I had written a final letter inviting him to consider the faith, and never heard a response. So, after his death, I kept praying for him.

I do not have visions or dreams, but sometimes the Lord uses my very active imagination. Once in prayer, in my imagination, I saw the throne of God and a crowd of witnesses surrounding Christ. I could not see Christ -- though in my prayer I often search for His holy Face.  Instead, though, I noticed two things. One was I saw Marshall approaching this place of judgment.  The second, was in the crowd of witnesses, one especially close to the Lord was my father. I realized that to receive the mercy of God, Marshall needed to present himself to the Judge of heaven and earth.  Then, I heard the Lord's voice call to him, "Come thou, O Blessed of my Father, when I was hungry, you fed me. When I was thirsty, you gave me to drink. When I was naked, you clothed me. When I was lonely, you visited me."

I realized that if Marshall would look up to the voice that called to him, he would see the face of the Lord, the Face of Mercy itself and then also see that crowd of witnesses urging him forward. And if in that crowd, he saw my father, he might find courage to go forward.  In their exchange of glances, he would realize that the Lord was personally addressing Himself to him. For what Marshall did for a dying man, he did unto the Lord.

Such is the greatness of Christian death. In it, not only is the man and woman of faith being saved as they die in faith, but also those around them are also given a word of hope. I think of all the healthcare workers and ministers of the Gospel who are with the dying even right in this moment, today. As they selflessly put their own lives at risk, they are ministering to Christ Himself through this person that the Lord has entrusted to their care.  Such great and mysterious blessings are theirs for their sacrifices and love.

It was because of such selflessness that I found an example of what it meant to be Christian from a man who did not know the Lord. I hope before my own death I might at last learn to love like that. As for Marshall, I will not know in this life what he chose when the Lord called Him into His presence, but I know because of his sacrifices, the voice of Mercy called to him and invited him home.

May 5, 2020

Christian Hope: A Great Calling and Difficult Project

Walking through the neighborhood, a new friendliness is peeking out. This is a sign of the Risen Lord at work in the world. The springtime flowers and new life seem to augment a certain newness in the eyes of my neighbors. They may not know Him or what He is accomplishing, yet His presence has begun its victory in them already.  Young people in particular express a certain jubilance - signs that a certain fear and anxiety is passing, that whatever it is we need to live with, we will have to accept and move on.  This is not to diminish the real threat of the pandemic that is still unfolding. It is just that the Lord of Life and Victor over sin and death has authority over every pandemic - and nothing can stop His power. The fear and suspicion, the anxiety and gloom that threatened Easter just a short time ago are clearing and the friendliness that we ought to share cannot be held back. 

We cannot say that this is due to the media. Most every source has been irresponsible and reckless. Why should we think it would ever be any different?  Everything was super hyped up before the pandemic and so it continues now. A responsible consumer of such media products will ask from time to time, all this hype that I am being fed, is it lifting up my dignity or crushing it? 

The culturally powerful know that we love to make villains out of those with whom we disagree.  We have learned that the media is ever ready to indulge this desire in every way it possibly can.  We love to sensationalize tragedy and loss, especially when doing so commands attention, and they have not failed to capitalize on this particular inclination either. Yet, besides indulging our less noble appetites, the culturally powerful have also used these outlets to control our behavior. For them it is about an orderly society - and while societal order is a good thing, they have set it up as an absolute because, throughout history, the powerful have always sought an absolute control. Without fear of God, one is afraid of everything and so needs to control it. As Augustine observed about the Roman Empire, "the only joy that they attained as the fragile brilliance of crystal, a joy far outweighed by the fear that it would be shattered in an instant." 

This is not to say that reasonable stories and opinions do not also get expressed. On occasion we hear an opinion that rises above the vilifying and fear mongering we are fed. As if starved prisoners, we hold out our hands for more. Quickly come the guards. Such opinions we are told are unscientific and dangerous and so forth and so on. Whoever proffers them is instantly impugned by organizations and experts - no reprieve from our diet of despair. No, we are told, we need balance. Any sign of hope is dangerous point out (as if frightening people out of their livelihoods and into abject poverty was balanced and thoughtful). 

Then there is the issue of the suppression of our religious freedom. Here in California, we are told that it will be months or longer before we will be able to gather for worship again. Commercial exchanges are okay and necessary, so we are told. Yet spiritual exchanges, these are too risky and, we are told, not really essential. This belies a vision of humanity that only sees consumers and producers, and does not see end points in eternity who do not admit of being used as a means to an end, and to whom the only proper value response is love.

Nothing offers the hope that God offers humanity, yet our culturally powerful fearfully limit this "dangerous" activity. The bold preaching of Peter and the Apostles is silenced in the public square and limited to virtual formats. Our priests and bishops cry out of virtual prisons, unable to be physically present to their sheep at a time when shepherds are most needed.  Helpful as a live-streamed mass may be during a time of crisis, such worship do not fully speak into the anxiety or loneliness that threatens human dignity today.  So, as happened during other times of persecution (yes, when Caesar tells you not to worship in public, no matter how well intentioned, that is persecution!), those who do gather, gather in secret - even if around a flickering screen somewhere in their own homes.  

Yet, even among Christians, there are those who are afraid of the Good News.  There are even voices that angrily denounce their brothers and sisters - shame on you for daring to think beyond this cage of fear in which we are shut. They shun their own fellow disciples and admonish them not to dare to dream or speak of hope for oneself or for the poor. Instead, we need to fit in and be good citizens who render unto Caesar what is Caesars, and if Caesars commands that you do not render to God what is his, then be obedient - for the politicians, experts and media experts are now our high priests, our malls, airports and universities our cathedrals, and the rich, powerful and famous our gods. Yet, we are made for more than producing and consuming things. It is not worthy of our dignity to be manipulated into some grand social scheme. It is a myth to believe that anyone can long be happy in a society that withdraws in fear and contents itself on meeting merely material needs. It is precisely against this tyranny that Christ, the Son of the Living God suffered and died for us - and only He, the Risen Lord, can free us from death and fear of death.

Created in the image and likeness of God, we have a great calling and with this calling, a difficult project.  Made to reflect what is beyond ourselves, no one is an ordinary person but each one of us is capable of self-controadiction.  Magnificence can suddenly unveil itself in the most surprising ways.  So can mediocrity. A pandemic and shelter-in-place orders do not change this fundamental human reality. Each day, a new battle begins for our integrity.  What we disclose or fail to disclose, what we hand over or what we hold back, the judgments we entertain in our hearts and our ability to attend to the heart of another, to allow their judgments to help us question our own - in each situation, we either betray the truth about ourselves or else confirm it. This truth is no easy matter. It involves our weaknesses, voids, inadequacies and failures - all of this for sure. And this, we would be foolish not to take stock of.  Yet, if we stop here, we are only at the surface of a great mystery. For an even deeper truth - indeed, the deepest truth of all - is that we are loved by God who has chosen to implicate Himself in our plight. Whatever it is that we must face, we do not face it alone. For He is with us to the end. 

May 3, 2020

The Voice of the Good Shepherd as we Shelter in Place

A difficult grace during pandemic is confronting the brokenness in our families as we shelter-in-place. God is hidden in that brokenness looking for His lost sheep: you and me. The Good Shepherd calls to us when our love for one another falls into the thicket to help us find our way out.  The One who brings Life to the Full also searches in those painful places where the briars of life cut deep.  This Shepherd has even climbed into the broken ravines that are impossible to escape.  He has gone there searching for us and it is in that pain that He will find us, if we let Him.  He searches there with love and patience, gently calling and listening for our bleats. But to be found by Him takes great courage and faith on our part. Most of all, to bleat out to the Good Shepherd takes a love that is confident in His goodness.

Shelter-in-place can become an opportunity for listening for the voice of the Good Shepherd.  Prayer is listening to the call of the Lord in our brokenness. When we are driven by the exigencies of the marketplace and entertainment industry, we often are distracted from the interior pain that members of our own household carry around. Even more, when under the dominance of external circumstances, we can be oblivious to the burdens that we carry or force others to carry for us. Quarantine can provide a moment of relief from driving exigencies and dominating circumstances so that we begin to face the real challenges until now avoided.

Un-faced guilt, un-forgiveness, bitter resentment, a burden of shame, in all of this the voice of the Shepherd calls out in search of us. His voice can lead us home if we will listen to it.  We do not face any burden or interior pain alone. Shame does not need to drive us further away from life and love. The Lord of Life, Risen from the Dead, has gone before us in power and authority over all that might threaten our dignity and weigh down our hearts, and as Divine Physician, He is already at work with his healing remedy.

Of course, shelter-in-place can also be an exercise in self-torment or narcissistic escapism - forms of imprisonment that even a superficial but productive life might avoid.  To avoid these dangers and take advantage of the difficult grace shelter-in-place affords, we must not be afraid of the truth. We must not be afraid to do the kind thing a thousand and one times, even if each of the thousand times we have done it is met with indifference. The voice of the Shepherd is a voice that calls for conversion and our humble efforts to smile or say a kind word are a sign that we are listening to Him.

Listening to the Good Shepherd is a matter of life and death. We have gone the wrong way and He calls us to turn around. It is a humbling thing to suddenly realize we have been on the wrong path and have followed, not the Shepherd who loves us, but a marauder who wants to steal us away. Yet if we deal with the truth about our own self and the truth about those with whom we live - no matter how painful - we are already on our way to verdant pastures.

When we first begin to see the brokenness in which we are lost, our initial reaction is to fix it. And this is not bad ... because there is a lot of unnecessary suffering that is easy to fix if we just use a little common sense. In the midst of much of life's disorder, the Shepherd's voice speaks to us through common sense and our own conscience.  Living a more orderly and disciplined life, for example, makes it easier to respect the space of those we live with. A harsh word stirs up anger, but a soft answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1). It would be a mistake to presume that we could even address these more peripheral forms of disorder without His help -- but it pleases the Good Shepherd when He sees us take the initiative and He comes to our aid in a thousand hidden ways without our realizing just how much He has done.

There are other perilous situations, however, that go beyond our delusions of self-sufficiency.  As we listen to the voice of the Shepherd and try to follow His voice, we also come to realize, very quickly, that there are forms of brokenness that no matter how hard we try, we cannot fix them. Instead, our own efforts can sometimes make a situation even worse. Sometimes, we are so lost that the harder we try to find our way, the greater the danger we face. Common sense and following our conscience will only get us so far ... we need a Savior to rescue us and those we love from the thieves and wolves.

So our prayer bleats ... even as, without our realizing it, we are picked up and carried through the Sheep Gate. Hidden in the brokenness, the Good Shepherd finds us. He is not afraid to go there and we should never fear allowing Him to find us there.  He has abandoned everything to bring back one of His own and gladly suffers the misery we have entered to find us. To find Him in the broken wilderness of our hearts is not to have the misery magically go away, but to be carried by Him through it.  When our prayer allows Him to pick us up in the midst of what seems unfixable, our bleating has entered into the very Heart of God.

May 2, 2020

Father Conrad and Brother Isaiah - the Hidden Presence of God

PASCHA: Hymn of the Resurrection - Fr. Alexander Schmemann

On Easter we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection as something
that happened and still happens to us.
For each one of us received the gift of that new life 
and the power to accept it and live by it.
It is a gift which radically alters our attitude toward everything in this world,
including death.
It makes it possible for us joyfully to affirm:
“Death is no more!”
Oh, death is still there to be sure
and we still face it and someday it will come to take us.
But it is our whole faith that by His own death Christ changed the very nature of death,
made it a passage – a ‘passover’, a ‘Pascha’ - into the Kingdom of God,
transforming the tragedy of tragedies into the ultimate victory.
“Trampling down death by death”, He made us
partakers of His Resurrection.
This is why we say:”Christ is Risen and life reigneth!
Christ is Risen and not one dead remains in the grave!”
Such is the faith of the Church,
affirmed and made evident by her countless Saints.

In the center of the Church’s liturgical life, as its heart and climax,
as the sun whose rays penetrate everywhere, stands Pascha.
It is the door opened every year into the splendor of Christ’s Kingdom.
The foretaste of the eternal joy that awaits us, the glory of
the victory which already, although invisibly, fills the whole creation;
“death is no more!”
The entire worship of the Church is organized around Easter
and therefore the liturgical year becomes a journey, a pilgrimage 
towards Pascha, the End, which at the same time is the Beginning:
the end of all that which is ‘old’; the beginning of the new life,
a constant ‘passage’ from ‘this world’ into the 
Kingdom already revealed in Christ.

from Great Lent: Journey to Pascha by Fr. Alexander Schmemann

May 1, 2020

Prayer for Wisdom: In the Face of Danger by Scott Eagan

Come Holy Spirit – Come with Tongues of Fire
Come Great Sanctifier – Come, our Hearts Desire

Come Bestow Your Gifts – Holy Wisdom and Love
Show us Thy Ways – Wise Paths from Above

Help Us To Discern – To Choose and to See
Through this Present Darkness – Granting Great Mercy

Give us Children’s Hearts – As from the Manger
Guide with Thy Hand – Save us From All Danger

Bring us to the Empty Tomb 
 Where Our Lord Rose from Death’s Dark Womb

Dispel in Us All Sin and Fear
Draw Us Close Now - Bring Us Near

Fire our Hearts – and Live Within
Let Thy Love Heal Noise and Din

Jesus Christ Our Risen Lord
Arm our Minds with Gospel Sword

To Our Father Lead us On
Bring us to Your Forever Dawn

Give Us Thy Wisdom for this Day
With St. Joseph and Our Lady - Let Us Pray