Monthly Archives: January 2017

Morning Thoughts: Don’t Look At Me

 

caravaggio-the-denial-of-saint-peter-ca-1610-the-met

“The Denial of Saint Peter”, ca 1610, Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi) (Italian, Milan or Caravaggio 1571-1610 Porto Ercole) (The Met)

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Never look to a man for answers.

Look to Christ who is the answer.

If you insist on looking to a man, then choose one who points to Christ.

For the best teacher is Christ Himself…and His best assistants are those who clearly say: “Don’t look at me.”


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—Howard Hain

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http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437986

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Friday Thoughts: Stop and Go

“1010 WINS”

If you grew up in the Tri-State Region, commonly known as the greater New York City area, you know the sound of “1010 WINS”, the radio station that reaches millions living in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, especially those sitting in traffic.

“Traffic and Transit on the Ones”

Every ten minutes, “on the ones” as they say, comes the coveted traffic report, including mass transit (train and subway) updates, and of course all the action one needs to know about the “bridges and tunnels”.

What a nightmare commuting can be.

Stop and Go.

“YOU GIVE US 22 MINUTES, WE’LL GIVE YOU THE WORLD”

That’s what we hear, while sitting in our cars, or as we get prepared to sit in our cars—or perhaps board buses, trains and/or subway cars.

Twenty-two minutes, that’s all they need, and we’ve got it all: breaking international news, politics, weather, sports, culture, and of course, traffic and transit “on the ones”.

Of course those twenty-two minutes give us everything we need, except relief. Thanks to them we are now very well-informed people sitting in traffic, as opposed to complete and utter ignoramuses actively stuck behind Greyhounds.

“Top and Bottom of the Hour. The Beginning and the End.”

There’s another great news agency constancy at work in the Tri-State Area. Its broadcast begins at the top and the bottom of the hour. But there’s only one message. The news is always good. And it always leaves one relieved.

New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are filled with parishes. Most established by the immigrants of their time. And today they march on:

The Liturgy—The Great Prayer of God’s Church—won’t be stopped.

Day in, day out.

It is always the hour.

“YOU GIVE IT 22 MINUTES, IT’LL GIVE YOU MORE THAN THE WORLD”


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—Howard Hain

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Morning Thoughts: The Prayer of Milk and Honey


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Then the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying power, with signs and wonders, and brought us to this place, and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

—Deuteronomy 26:8-9


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Last fall we went apple picking. We were a small party, composed of immediate family. It was a beautiful crisp day, just the kind you would order for such an excursion.

On our rounds we passed an old wood wagon, behind it and off a bit in the distance lay the remains of an abandoned stone farmhouse—roofless, hollowed out, its fireplaces and chimneys still the main draw. But is was a tiny hand-painted sign on the wagon right before me that most caught my attention:

“Honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water.”

I don’t know if it’s true or not, and I’m not going to spend much time investigating. I like the thought. That’s what matters. So I’m going to keep it, well not keep it, but steward it. Yes, ‘steward’ is a much better word:

Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

(1 Corinthians 4:1)

So often an internet search can do quite the opposite. It can make us into investigators, examiners, maybe even mean-spirited inquisitors. It can turn us into lots of things, other than stewards.

Such an investigative approach also often opens the door to outright skepticism. It may even lead us into intellectual scrupulosity. And all scrupulosity, no matter its form or make up, steals joy. And that we just cannot allow.

On the other hand, we also have to be responsible. We can’t just “believe everything we hear and read”, right?

So what is one to do with such a pickle?

Well, a good steward should look to his master for advice, after all it’s his property we are called to steward on his behalf:

Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.

(1 Corinthians 4:2)

So there we have it. We must be stewards of God’s mysteries, and as stewards we must be found trustworthy.

Sounds straight forward enough. Tough to do though.

Perhaps this can help.

Let’s go step by step, at our Savior’s command:

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First, let us become more aware of the very mystery that is put into our care:

Our Father, who art in heaven…

Let us next adore what we do not understand:

hallowed be thy name;

Let us then accept the great gift of responsibility, handed over to each one of us daily:

thy kingdom come,

thy will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

What happens next seems logical enough, we have to ask for help:

Give us this day our daily bread,

And with that, we address the inevitable—for even if we possess only a morsel of humility—we all know that disobedience on our part is bound to occur:

and forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us;

Now, having about all we need to proceed, it’s a very good idea to remind ourselves of an eternal reality: That the master is ultimately in control and oversees us closely—rooting us on to accomplish what he wills for us to achieve, all in his very name:

and lead us not into temptation,

But just in case we fail to avoid the snares and traps hidden in plain and disordered sight—especially from falling into the false belief that the “possessions” placed into our care are actually our own—we plead with great desperation, like Saint Peter and all true disciples who think they’ve become lost, that we don’t completely sink into the waters of darkness when our faith begins to falter:

but deliver us from evil.

And together we say:

Yes. I accept. I believe. I agree.

So be it.

(or in other words:)

AMEN.

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Now, if I can only find some raw milk for breakfast…


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Look down, then, from heaven, your holy abode, and bless your people Israel and the fields you have given us, as you promised on oath to our ancestors, a land flowing with milk and honey.

—Deuteronomy 26:15


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—Howard Hain

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St. Agnes, January 21st.

Church of St. Agnes, Rome

Church of St. Agnes, Rome

Agnes, a popular Roman woman martyr of the 3rd century, ranks high among the seven women mentioned in the First Eucharistic Prayer. “Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia…” Details of her story, from 5th century sources, may be questioned, but the essential facts about her are true.

A young Roman girl of 13 or so, she was a martyr put to death for her faith, because she rejected the offer of a highly placed Roman man to become his bride. Incensed, he tried to force Agnes to change her mind; eventually she met death for continuing to refuse him.

The Golden Legend, a favorite saint book  from the Middle Ages, says that Agnes was true to her name. She was a lamb (Agnus) who followed the Good Shepherd. Though young, she followed the way to truth, never turning away from it. God gave her strength beyond what we expect for her years.

Women were expected to marry young in those days, to marry men chosen for them, and to have two or three children. They were to produce children for Rome, especially soldiers needed for the empire’s many wars.

Agnes’ refusal to marry one of Rome’s elite was a dangerous decision for that time and place. With no support from family or friends, alone in a society of men, at a time suspicious of Christians and their beliefs, the little girl sought strength in Jesus Christ.

The 5th century legends say they put her among prostitutes to break and punish her, but God warded off those who tried to rape her. Besides the church where she is buried, a church in her honor stands today in the busy Piazza Navona in Rome. where abused women often pray  and draw courage from the young girl who had a similar experience.

They finally killed her with a knife to her throat. Still, the legends say that heavenly signs constantly surrounded Agnes assuring her that her faith was not in vain. The One she loved was with her as she struggled.

Agnes, the prayer for her feast says, is an example of how God chooses “what is weak in this world to confound the strong.” A young girl was stronger than the strong. “May we follow her constancy in the faith, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.”

Friday Thoughts: The Best Coinage The World Has Ever Known

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You can run but you can’t hide. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

What a world it would be if we only spoke in clichés.

Is it the kind of world you and I live in?

Do we retreat into beaten-down meadows, like deer who lay where others have already flattened the grass?

There’s less work I suppose. And the grass may still be warm.

But it’s also kind of like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

You can enter a home that isn’t yours, you can search for a bed that fits just right, but at the end of the day your cover will be blown.

You can run but you can’t hide.

After all, you’ve made your bed, now lie in it.

Perhaps it is such lying that is really the apple.

For picking fruit from someone else’s tree has never been a good idea.

Those kind of apples certainly keep the good doctor away.

But I guess we also have to be careful to not overcorrect.

We must not out of pride be unwilling to enter where others have already been.

No, that is wisdom. We should go where others have gone before. It just depends on who they were and where they went.

And no matter what, we shouldn’t hide within those spaces, pretend that they are our own, and perhaps worst of all, act as if we are the first to ever have entered—delusion of this kind leads us to the belief that we create anything at all.

We don’t.

Think of Adam in the Garden. God is busy whipping up the entire universe from out of nothing. Creating and sculpting, adding and adapting, breathing life into His new world. And Adam, well, he’s one of the building blocks. Yes, certainly a favorite. A favorite that God does not want to be alone.

And something spectacular takes place:

The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him. So the LORD God formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each living creature was then its name. The man gave names to all the tame animals, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals… (Genesis 18-20)

God created, Adam named.

It is simply amazing. And humbling.

What an honor. And what a clear indicator of who is truly in charge.

We create nothing. That’s the bad news for those who want to be God.

We do though participate in the ongoing unfolding of God’s perfect and eternal world. We even seem to share the leading role. That’s the Good News for those who believe.

For our work is not to create. We simply cant. Only God can. And even if we “build” with what is already in existence, if we seemingly “create” something “new” with the building blocks we find already laying around, that “pseudo-creation” still isn’t our primary job.

Then what is?

Well, the original disciples of Jesus had a similar wonder:

So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” (John 6:28-29)

And there’s the crux of it, if you will.

Adam, we must remember, when in the supremely honorable position of naming God’s creatures was still naked, and he felt “no shame.” He hadn’t yet eaten what wasn’t his. He was not yet hiding “among the trees of the garden.” He still believed in the One Who Sends.

Adam was faithful. Adam was original. Adam knew he was God’s creation. And Adam was free to roam.

But Adam used his freedom to choose to become a slave.

Adam’s fall was a fall into self. A fall into creation, the creation of a great lie, that man creates on the same level as God.

It was a great fall. So steep was the cliff off which he went that no other story could ever bring more meaning to the most hackneyed line: “Once upon a time…”

Adam’s fall is a fall into denomination.

A fall into the church of self.

A fall into complete and utter cliché.

And it brought death to the great privilege of cooperating with God, of naming and stewarding on His behalf His created world.

But thanks be to God.

For someone truly original, and creative, finally came round.

He put the apple back up upon the tree and told the snake to take a hike.

His name is Jesus.

He is also called The Son of Man.

But of course we are free to just call Him God.

For about Jesus, nothing is cliché.

It is very clear, there’s absolutely no running or hiding when it comes to the Cross.

And when it comes to His love for us, there’s no apple that can keep the Divine Physician away.


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—Howard Hain

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