Tag Archives: creation

Saint Irenaeus

Tagbha carol roth

“We are all called to be holy. ‘Each in his or her own way,’” Pope Francis says in his exhortation “ Gaudete et exultate”.  We’re all different; saints are different too.

Today, the church remembers St. Irenaeus,  yesterday was the memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria. You can’t find two people, two saints, so different. Cyril was a the forceful, confrontative bishop of Alexandria; Irenaeus, as his name suggests, was a fair man who worked tirelessly for peace.

Many years ago I took a course on Gnosticism in Rome under Fr. Antonio Orbe, SJ, an expert on the subject. Gnosticism was an early heresy that threatened Christianity in the 2nd century and afterwards most of its writings were destroyed. In the last century a large cache of those writings buried in the sands of Egypt was discovered and Father Orbe was just back after studying them. Until then, the Gnostic teachings  were known mostly through the writings of St. Irenaeus, whom we honor today in our liturgy,

I remember an observation Fr. Orbe made about St.Irenaeus. He said that, as he compared the writings, he was struck how accurately and fairly Irenaeus reported what the gnostics taught, not distorting anything they said or omitting their ideas. He was very fair and respectful. From what we know of Irenaeus, that’s what he was, fair minded and respectful to friend and foe alike. He was a peace-maker. Cyril of Alexandria had a different kind of personality. He would have left those writings buried in the sands of Egypt.

Irenaeus is not a bad example for today when hot words and smear attacks, distortions and lies dominate so much communication. Irenaeus was a peace-maker. Peace makers don’t destroy, they heal and unite. That’s why they’re called blessed.

Irenaeus also had a deep respect for creation. Some scholars today say the ancient gnostics were broadminded, creative people–rather like themselves–  more progressive than the plodding, conservative people of the “great church”– a term Irenaeus used to call it.

In fact, the gnostics made the world smaller than it is, because they made much of the world evil, only some of it meant anything at all. Forget about the rest of it.

All creation is God’s, Irenaeus replied. “With God, there is nothing without purpose, nothing without its meaning or reason.” All creation is charged with the glory of God.

Irenaeus pointed to the Eucharist as a sign of this. Bread and wine represent all creation. God comes to us through these earthly signs. We go to God through them.

“God keeps calling us to what is primary by what is secondary, that is, through things of time to things of eternity, through things of the flesh to things of the spirit, through earthly things to heavenly things.”

Moses struck the rock and water comes out. People drank and were refreshed, but something more happened–they knew through the water, though dimly, the generous God who slaked their thirst.

We should not demean creation, Ireneaus taught. That’s also the message of Pope Francis in “Laudato si.”

Tenebrae: Holy Saturday


Tenebrae for Holy Saturday ends with an ancient homily that begins:

“Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.”

“The earth trembled and is still…” The Passion of Jesus is not only a human story; creation too takes part in it. At his death “the earth quaked, rocks were split” Matthew’s gospel says. (Matthew 27,51) “From noon onwards darkness came over the whole land till three in the afternoon’ Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us. The sun that rules the day, the moon that rules the night respond as Jesus cries out in a loud voice and gives up his spirit. Artists through the centuries place them at the cross of Jesus.

Remember too those great elemental realities blood and water, which John’s gospel says flowed from the side of Christ when a soldier pierced him with a lance. Water refreshed with its contact with the Word of God; blood source of life for living creatures come from the side of Jesus. They also share in the mystery of redemption.

The homily for today says that Jesus at his death goes “to search for our first parent…to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve…I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.”

Today’s Tenebrae readings speak of Jesus’ burial in the earth; the seed falls to the ground. Jesus will brings life.
“My heart rejoices, my soul is glad,
Even my body shall rest in safety,
For you will not leave my soul among the dead
Or let your beloved know decay.” Psalm 16

His promise extends not only to humanity, but to creation itself. “Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness.”

Morning Thoughts: The Sound of Life


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Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

—Genesis 2:7


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What is it this moment holds? Not last night, not later today. This moment. What does it hold?

Friendship.

Hello my friend. Good morning.

It is cold. Outside. In here though, it’s quite comfortable.

Just you and me.

Just me and you.

Shall we talk or just sit a while?

Ha, that reminds me of being in the chapel, early in the morning.

No one speaking but such a beautiful sound.

An old man, a holy priest, breathing quite loud.

But it wasn’t just air passing to and fro.

It was the sound of “spirit and truth.

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Community is the beautiful sound of other people breathing.

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May God truly bless your day. May we both appreciate what He has given. And may we forgive each other our petty crimes. For you, my friend, in many ways, here and now, in earthen clay, are all I got. For without you—my neighbor, my brother, my wife, my boss, my employee, my business partner, my competitor, my foe—I won’t glimpse the face of Christ. And that I so badly need to do. He is after all, all we truly got. My face and yours will dry up and wrinkle, His remains the same. His love never gets old. May we hear each other breathe, with compassion and mercy, knowing that so much we take in causes mold. But it’s also in that very sound—the mysterious sound of breath—that can seemingly annoy us to death—that we witness daily the Word become flesh, again and again, to and fro, the entire universe, expand and contract.

We hear the One who sits on the throne.

We hear Him reconciling the world to Himself.


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Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit…

—John 20:21-22


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—Howard Hain

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Learning from Water

 

In the encyclical letter, Laudato Si, Pope Francis tells Christians to let the sacraments teach them respect and reverence for creation. Water, bread, wine, oil–sacramental signs– bring us into the divine mysteries, but they also call us to care for the created world, our common homes.

Water, for example, is the sign of the sacrament of baptism. It’s more than what we drink. In the bible it’s a sign of life and chaos. In the beginning, God moves over the chaotic, formless waters to form a world that good. (Genesis 1, 1-2)

Because it symbolizes the life and chaos found in the world, it’s no wonder that Jesus begins his ministry by going down into the waters of Jordan River. I doubt the Jordan was sparkling clean then. Judging by the river we see today, it was likely always muddied. It was muddied then as now, muddied as human life is muddied then as now.

jordan-396When Jesus entered the waters of the Jordan, he entered human experience and brought new life to it by the power of God. The liturgies of the eastern churches, especially, see the waters of the Jordan, changed and blessed by the Word made flesh, flowing all over the world. Wherever human life is, wherever life of any kind is found, there is water. It’s a sign of God’s blessing.

Water is holy. We baptize in clean water because, by the power of Jesus, we are given new life and the promise of eternal life. We become a new creation. Water is holy, but it also has its chaotic nature. In the gospels it threatened the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. “Did you not know that when you were baptized, you were baptized into his death.”

The scriptures say Jesus is revealed as he goes into the water at his baptism. “This is my beloved Son,” a voice from heaven proclaims. Jesus continually reveals his power over water. He quieted the storm on the Sea of Galilee, he turned water into wine at Cana. “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink,” he said. Blood and water flowed from his side on Calvary.

Let’s not forget either, that water today plays a major role in climate change. In the last century the sea level globally has risen almost 7 inches and in the last 10 years it has risen more rapidly than ever. The rise in sea level is caused primarily by two factors related to global warming: the added water from melting land ice and the expansion of sea water as it warms.

This affects us especially in the New York/New Jersey area where I’m writing from. More than 20 million people live along our coastlines, near the water. Flooding and drought from changing patterns of rainfall can affect the homes we live in, our water supply for food and drink. The poor and the vulnerable will be affected most deeply as sea levels push salt water onto our coasts and further upstream in our rivers.

Water, in which Jesus was revealed, now calls us to live responsibly and care for the earth.

Friday Thoughts: Just Up At Dawn

 

utagawa-hiroshige-titmouse-and-camellias-right-sparrow-and-wild-roses-center-and-black-naped-oriole-and-cherry-blossoms-left-ca-1833

Utagawa Hiroshige, “Titmouse and Camellias (right), Sparrow and Wild Roses (center), and Black-naped Oriole and Cherry Blossoms (left)”, ca. 1833

 

Lord, You are good.

Truly Good.

You are a great promise.

You are as good as Your Word.

You set free and You restore.

You truly make all things new.

I have seen great deeds.

Only Your hand can accomplish.

Within spaces.

So big and so small.

I have seen you in the sky and in the bird.

I have heard You cry and felt You shake.

I feel Your smile.

This very moment.

Good morning, Father.

You are so very good.

You are God.

And You alone.

Thank You for teaching me.

For showing me how to be free.

By asking only one thing.

Each and every moment.

What is Your will?

I need know nothing more.

I need not see, nor hear, nor feel, nor sense anything else.

I need not understand, nor remember, nor plan.

I need not desire nor will more than Your will itself.

I am.

Here.

To know.

To love.

To serve.

You.

And You alone.

That is Your will.

Your will is You.

One and the same.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

Holy Mother Church.

Holy Angels.

Holy Saints.

Cloud of Witnesses.

Help me, Lord God.

Maker of Heaven and Earth.

To love You more and more each day.

In all Your creation.

Every bit of Your handiwork.

All for Your sake.

Simple. Clear. Honest. Pure.

A sparrow just up at dawn.

Tweet…tweet…tweet…

I hear Your will knocking at my door.


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—Howard Hain

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http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/56918

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Trinity Sunday

 

 

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A story’s told that St. Augustine, the great philosopher and intellectual, was walking along the seashore one day when he saw a little boy playing in the sand, taking water from the sea in a small bucket and pouring it into a hole he had dug. Back the forth the boy went.

“What are you doing?” Augustine asked, “Do you think you can put the whole sea into that little hole?”

“No,” the little boy answered, “And neither can you put God into that small mind of yours no matter how smart you think you are.”

The story reminds us that our minds are limited before the mystery of God, even the smartest, most brilliant mind. God is beyond us. The Feast of the Holy Trinity is, first of all, a reminder of our limits before the mystery of God.

And yet, this feast also says that God invites us to know him, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As Father, God is the creator of heaven and earth. All creation ultimately comes from God’s hand. Creation itself is God’s gift;  through the created world we come to know God.

God has also invited us to known him in Jesus Christ, who was born of Mary over two thousand years ago, who walked this earth and died on a cross, who rose from the dead and remains with us.  We have his words, his actions, his promises. He’s our Savior and Redeemer, a sign of God’s love;  he’s promised us life eternal..

The Holy Spirit also is God with us, within us, guiding us and our world to our common destiny.

Yet, though God reveals himself, we’re still like the little boy on the seashore. We’re looking at an unmeasured sea that we approach with the little buckets of our minds. We can’t grasp it all. Even the most accessible person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, remains a mystery to us.

Remember the story of the conversion of Paul the Apostle. Saui, the unbeliever, was on his way to the City of Damascus to persecute the followers of Jesus, when suddenly a blinding light throws him from his horse. “Who are you, Lord?” Paul cries out. “I am Jesus whom you persecute, “ the voice from the blinding light says.

Jesus Christ is like the blinding light of the sun. Yes, he is human like us, but he shares in the nature of God, who is brighter than sunlight. He blinds us when we try to see him. God dwells in light inaccessible, the scriptures say, and so even though we know much about Jesus, even though the scriptures and great saints and scholars describe him, he’s still beyond anything we can know.

Like the sun, Jesus is a blinding light, and yet, paradoxically, his light shines into the darkness of creation to give life and light.  St. John says: “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.” (John 1,18)

As people of faith we’re not like those who say you can’t know God at all or like those who say God doesn’t exist because my mind cannot grasp him. Yes, we have to admit that we are children of the Enlightenment, that movement in our western world that says there’s no need to pay much attention to God. Pay attention to the world at hand. Pay attention to yourself. That’s what’s important.

As people of faith we know God is important. God reveals himself to us little by little. God is the most important reality we can know and love.

The Feast of the Holy Trinity is a reminder of God’s invitation to know him, to serve him in this life, to pray to him and to be with him one day where we will know him much more. It’s an invitation God extends every day, all our lives. Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
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