Thursday, May 31, 2012

MAY 31 IS The Festival of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I wonder if any other world religion makes a holy-day out of two pregnant women taking a coffee-break? Decaff, of course.
It is all laid out for us in Luke 1:39-49.

BVM- Hey Cousin Liz, I hope you don't mind my dropping in unannounced.
Liz- Unannounced? I thought the angel of the Lord announced unto you.
BVM- That's not what I meant. I was just referring to my needing some quality sisterhood time to make up for all that nasty gossip the folks in Nazareth have been passing around about me.
Liz: That's happening around here too. They think Zechariah is too old. O my goodness! My baby just kicked!
BVM- I think all this that has been happening to us a sign from God.
Liz: Girl, you have the soul of a prophet.
BVM- Magnificat. 
Liz: And you know a lot of big words! 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Angel Band

“O Come, angel band,
Come and around me stand;
Bear me away on your snow white wings,
To my eternal home;
Bear me away on your snow white wings,
To my eternal home.”

By Pearl D. Jones, sung by Stanley Bros. & others

This is a bluegrass tune that sings itself. The harmony is right there, waiting to be called upon, inviting us to throw our heads back and sing, trusting the notes because they are built into the structure of the multiverse, built into our histories, like our tonsils and our teeth. This harmony emerges from Nothing to draw us, free-floating space junk with no origin and no end in mind, draw us into the harmony-for-which-we-were-made, draw us from wherever our ashes have been scattered, from whatever mountainside they rest upon, untended to by all but the Angel Band who’s song this is- angels who are harmonizing even now, unnoticed and unheard, like frogs and insects lying dormant under January ground.
It is the same harmony that waits for us in St. Paul’s Chapel every morning before Morning Prayer, waits for us in the stones from which this church is constructed, in the weather outside, in our densely warming planet, and, obscurely,  in the deliberations of political parties.

“O come, angel band,
Come and around me stand…”

Such harmony is physical, like a grandmother’s embrace. We do not invent it… we inhabit it, and are borne away by it, as portable as air.
“Bear me away, on your snow white wings.”

Bear us away, bear them all away, the ancestors and friends and mentors and adversaries. Bear them away, bereft of breath, bereft of flesh, bereft of all but the harmony and the love.   

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pony Eggs and Other Stories

UNTIL A FEW DAYS AGO I did not know there was a saint named John the Dwarf, who was born around 339C.E. in Egypt and, at the age of eighteen, withdrew into the desert to live as a solitary monk. He discipled himself to a monk named Pambo who gave him a hunk of dry wood and told him to plant it and cultivate it until it became a living tree. This story reminds me of my Uncle Horace, whose father gave him an egg and told him it was a “pony egg.” “Take care of it and maybe it will hatch into a pony,” his father told him. It didn’t, but John the Dwarf fared better, because, after years of watering and cultivating his chunk of wood, it sprouted and became a flourishing tree. Pambo named it the “Tree of Obedience” and people used to make pilgrimages John the Dwarf’s hermitage to see it and seek his advice on spiritual matters.
Quite a few of John the Dwarf’s sayings have been preserved. Some are commonplace aphorisms, while others are enigmatic to the point where one wonders if John the Dwarf was amusing himself by messing with people’s heads. It is as if I became a solitary monk, and my “sayings” were recorded for posterity, and you were to read how “Abba Jonathan was sitting on the floor of his cell talking with some other monks, and one of them scratched his forehead. ‘Stop doing that,’ said Abba Jonathan.”
As I read these ancient anecdotes, it seems there is something vaguely familiar about them…
I know! Yoda! “If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are ... a different game you should play.” Now that is some potent spiritual advice! Come to think of it, Pambo’s instruction to the novice John the Dwarf also reminds me of the “wax on…wax off” scene in Karate Kid. These guru masters all seem to have gone to the same guru school.
Except for Uncle Horace’s father: he was just plain mean. Uncle Horace, after months of caring for the pony egg, dropped it and it broke. “Now you’ll never get a pony,” his father said.
Despite such harsh treatment, Uncle Horace grew up to be a kind, jolly, bald man who never did a mean thing, at least to my knowledge. I guess you could say the “chunk of dry wood” became a flourishing tree in his case, just as it did for John the Dwarf.

Examples of John the Dwarf Messing with our Heads
Abba John the Dwarf said, 'a house is not built by beginning at the top and working down. You must begin with the foundations in order to reach the top. They said to him, 'What does this saying mean?'
One day when Abba John was going up to Scetis with some other brothers, their guide lost his way for it was night time.  So the brothers said to Abba John, "What shall we do, Abba, in order not to die wandering about, for the brother has lost the way?"  The old man said to them, "If we speak to him, he will be filled with grief and shame.  But look here, I will pretend to be ill and say I cannot walk any more; then we can stay here till the dawn."  This he did.  The others said, "We will not go on either, but we will stay with you."  They sat there until the dawn, and in this way they did not upset the brother.  
And from Yoda the Jedi

Good relations with the Wookies, I have.
Concentrate all your fire on the nearest starship.
Mudhole? Slimy? My home this is!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Listening for God: The Daily Office of Morning Prayer

"Seek not the voice of God, but hear
It in cracking ice, blowing reeds
And brethren's laughter.
Seek not the gifts of God, but
Find them in new bread, the
Darkness of dawn and brethren's love.
Seek not the vision of God, but spy His print on bee's wing,
Fish's fin and brother's heart.

 Abbot Nicholas and John the Dwarf, cited by Derek Webster

Friday, May 4, 2012

Big Old Skeleton: "Proof" of the Bible?

A friend from St. Stephen’s wondered what I thought of a web report regarding the supposed discovery, in Greece, of an oversized human skeleton that was being acclaimed as “proof” of passages in the Old Testament which refer to “people of great size” called nephalim. In Genesis these people are said to be the offspring of unions between the “sons of God” and fairest among the “daughters of humans.” (Genesis 4:1-6).

Interesting… first I had heard of it. Like you, I am skeptical of “huge discoveries” that the mainstream scientific community has not heard about, or that “a conspiracy exists to suppress the information,” along the lines of the Da Vinci Code,etc.
I am embarrassed, not impressed, by claims to have “proven the truth of the Bible” by discovering “the true remains of Noah’s ark” or things of that sort. My faith is not affected one way or another by such things, or by statues of the Virgin Mary that cry, or the “holy fire of Jerusalem” that spontaneously combusts every year on the Saturday before Easter. If anything, the willful credulousity of many  believers is a deterrent to authentic faith.
     But then, I suppose my own willingness to “suspend disbelief” with regard to the resurrection of Christ seems like gullibility to those who see no graceful pattern to their lives, do not think of trout and bass as gifts from an ingenious (if evasive) creator, and do not see anything divinely comical about passing out little pieces of bread and calling it “the body of Christ.”

Those fundamentalists and atheists are so deadly serious about everything!