Exercising with Augustine

By Open Eyes

Recently we had a reading at Lauds from a Commentary of Augustine. His words: “The entire life of a good Christian is in fact an exercise of holy desire. You do not yet see what you long for, but the very act of desiring prepares you, so that when he comes, you may see and be utterly satisfied…. Simply by making us wait, he increases our desire, which in turn enlarges the capacity of our soul, making it able to receive what is to be given to us.”

I found the word “desire” running around in my head for a while after hearing this reading. What is it I desire in my life, and how can I increase my desire for a deep relationship with my God? Returning to Augustine’s words I heard the word “exercise” in a different light. Learning to desire God in every part of my life requires training, repeated exercise, gaining strength with each choice I make to put him first in my life, in the things I pay most attention to.

Physical training and exercise require stretching. Augustine talks about the spiritual stretching of “the sack” or “wineskin” to increase our capacity. Life often feels like a “stretching” that I don’t always appreciate. Perhaps though the stretching is what increases my desire for more of God.

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The tiny door into the New Jerusalem

By Sunset Septuagint

One of my favorite things to contemplate in the Church of the Transfiguration’s mosaic apse is the New Jerusalem above Christ in Glory. The tesserae sparkle in brilliant shades of red, blue and gold. Buildings of different sizes line the path, and lead to a tiny door (almost like Alice in Wonderland) in the top center of the apse.

I look at all the buildings and wonder: will my whole Community family be in one big building, or will I be in one of the tiniest ones that look so welcoming? I do know one thing. God will be with me, and will wipe away every tear from my eyes, and there will be no more mourning or crying or pain. (Revelation 21:3, 4)

But how to get there? One of the clergy gave a little sermon about giving up everything to follow Jesus. He described a man who went to heaven carrying only a small suitcase of his most treasured possessions. He was welcomed at the door and given a new robe to put on. But the suitcase would not pass through the sleeve of his robe, so he had to leave it at the door.

Fortunately, most of us are not called to give up all our worldly possessions all at once, but we are a long way from one small suitcase. The more I unpack here, the less I’ll have to leave at the threshold of that tiny door to the New Jerusalem — and the more room I’ll make for Jesus.

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A Need to Stretch

By Melodious Monk

I’m too small to understand much about God.  Perhaps this is why I’m drawn to ponder over a sermon from the 14th century.  Father John Tauler was a Dominican priest who taught that the way to union or friendship with God was through detachment from earthly matters. He said, “To be guided by one’s own light and not by God’s is the chief cause of our not attaining to union with God. There is an overmastering joy in self-guidance, even in spiritual matters; nature is intoxicated by this pleasure more than by any other; and withal, it is deceitful, and its hurtfulness too often remains hidden.”

I certainly strive to guide myself! I like to do things, to accomplish things, and to have things somewhat organized — not without change and variety mind you, for without could be boring and uninteresting! But I’d still rather have some foreknowledge of what’s coming so as to be prepared. And I do find joy in guiding myself through things…but at what cost?  Did my drive to accomplish a job today, even a job that may have been God’s will, cause me to miss being with Christ today?  And in the process of organizing and making the job happen, did I run over blessings God had intended for me or someone else, all in the name of finishing a “worthy” task?

“God’s friends are afflicted to the marrow of their bones as they see and hear the injury done to God and the harm to immortal souls by people’s affection for creatures, which is all too prevalent around them.”  I find this thought somewhat humorous when juxtaposed to the goal of loving ones neighbor, but nonetheless true. Our “affection for creatures” is very high, and takes a number of subtle forms, working hard, working for the joy of accomplishment, of self-worth, or looking for praise.  In getting this temporary joy and praise from other creatures, I find myself continually striving for more of this unrequited goal, pushing aside people and events that seem like interruptions.  I don’t stretch to think or pray about the hidden hurtfulness that this selfishness can cause.  I’m much too small to realize that God is in anything that comes into my day, yes, truly everything. He may be asking me to do more, or He may be sitting on the side of the road wishing I’d stop and sit with him a while.

The Community of Jesus

Perspective

By Renaissance Girl

This past Sunday was the 14th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Church of the Transfiguration. I can hardly believe 14 years have gone by since that incredibly hot day in June of 2000 when we filled the church with family and friends to celebrate the event that only a few short years earlier had seemed both thrilling and daunting!

The homilist on Sunday had us stand up with a series of questions – “If you were baptized in this church, please stand. . . If you were married here, please stand. . . had the funeral of a loved one. . . have come in for private prayer, . . . etc.” until everyone in the church was on their feet. It was a meaningful moment as we reflected on how we have filled the church with worship over the past 14 years and the church, in turn, has inspired in us a desire to raise our worship to meet the God who made this building possible.

What made me pause and think on this day, though, was when I looked around and realized there is a generation under 14 years old who have never known anything different. This has always been their church, the only one they have known. They were in strollers while their parents were having their faith stretched believing for this building and the art that fills it. They were learning to walk as the newly vowed walked the mosaic processional path to make their profession. Their generation will see other change and growth but they will never stand in the concrete shell of this new church celebrating the Easter Vigil.

I felt suddenly small in the face of how quickly time goes and how, to each generation, God brings the challenges and blessings that are perfect for them. And I felt a wave of gratitude and found myself whispering a prayer of thanks to have been part of the generation to build this house.

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Another Year of Grace


So hard to believe another year has drawn to a close. On Sunday, the sermon encouraged us to look back and record God’s blessings from the year as we turn to face a new one. I find it easy to get too introspective about it — reviewing events and what I could have done differently, and what will I face this year — so the suggestion to focus on the blessings was needed.  This hymn came to mind and it seems to capture the right attitude in passing from one year to the next.  “What need we fear…?” 
 

“Now greet the swiftly changing year with joy and penitence sincere;
     rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace another year of grace.
For Jesus came to wage sin’s war; this Name of names for us he bore;
     rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace another year of grace.
His love abundant far exceeds the volume of a whole year’s needs;
     rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace another year of grace.
With such a Lord to lead our way in hazard and prosperity,
      what need we fear in earth or space in this new year of grace?
“All glory be to God on high and peace on earth” the angels cry;
     rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace another year of grace.”


 
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Wanderings

Yesterday’s sermon talked about obedience.  There was more to it, but that’s what stuck with me.  Of all the Israelites to be led out of Egypt, only one actually entered the Promised Land. That was mind boggling — and alarming.  So much had to do with obedience.  God gave them directives and they said, “Thanks for the suggestion,” and did their own thing.  Even after he specifically said they would not enter the Promised Land, they tried to anyway.  I could feel myself wanting to slide down in my seat.  How often do I grumble when I don’t understand what God is doing, or why I don’t have what I want.  And sadly, I could relate to their complaints even after God opened the waters of the sea, struck down firstborns, and all other manner of miracles to get them out of captivity.  I could probably make a list of the times I felt God told me to do something, and I said “Thanks for the suggestion,” and did my own thing anyway.  

 
I struggle with the idea that obedience, far from being a restrictive thing, is actually freedom when we live within the context of what God has for us. Perhaps I can take a lesson from the story of Israel before I spend 40 years wandering in the wilderness.
 
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Late Have I Loved You

by Artist Eye  

Saint Augustine talks a lot about how God created everything out of nothing by just speaking, by having a conversation. He writes: “unto the Word co-eternal with you, you at once and forever say all that you say, and whatever you say shall be made, is made…”

On Sunday we celebrated the Feast of The Transfiguration. In summing up the plot of the story in his sermon, the Minister said that the disciples went up the mountain and talked with God. It sounded so simple: they showed up and they heard from God.

Me, I work hard at trying to listen; nose to the grindstone, ear to the ground, straining at the bit to catch a snatch of the song on the wind…. But those fishermen were just in the right place at the right time, they were just keeping the right company and wham! They heard directly from the Creator who speaks and it is so…