Our copier has had a recent string of break downs. Nearly every week over the past few months, the machine prints about ½ of the weekend’s bulletins before lines once again start streaking the pages. We call the repairman, and he returns. This past week, as Dan fixed the machine, I was given a layman’s explanation about it works:
Some time ago, an inventor noticed that as his curtains where being drawn open and the room filling with sunlight, the dust in the room started heading towards the light. On the copy machine, the light which scans the page creates a charge which attracts the toner to the drum in all the places where light is absent. The light is instantly attracted to all the “black” or negative spaces, and in essence, the areas on the page to be copied that are without light, tell the machine where to print the ink.
Light attracting things, like dust or ink in our physical world, is true in our spiritual lives as well. Jesus’ light is always charged toward our negative spaces. If I were to run myself through the copy machine, undoubtedly there would be a lot of toner rushing to fill the places in my life with a shortfall of light! Light is always searching out our darkness so we can be healed. I find it extremely hopeful to learn yet another example of how the created laws of nature are so in tune with the nature of God. His foundational love for us is always streaming forth, especially and dare I say even more abundantly, even most emphatically, towards our darkest places most in need of healing.
Sunset overlooking Cape Cod Bay
On August 15th., we commemorate the death of Mary the Theotokos (Mother of God or God-bearer.) The Latin root word of Dormition is dormire, meaning “to sleep.” Mary is our example of a trusted and faithful servant of God sharing intimately in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Although scripture does not record the time or manner of her death, history (or tradition) informs us that Mary remained in the care of the Apostle John. She lived eleven years after the death of her Son. During John’s missionary journeys, she lived in the home of his parents, near the Mount of Olives. A source of consolation to all believers, Mary nurtured the fledgling Church with her prayers, conversation, and presence.
There are many traditions regarding the end of Mary’s life, but much remains a mystery. There are three common themes recorded in the Transitus Narratives, written at the turn of the 5th and 6th centuries. The Narratives maintain that Mary was informed of her approaching death by the Angel Gabriel. They also state that the Apostles miraculously appeared at her bedside and that Christ, Himself, came as a Child to receive and transport her soul to heaven. Sometime after the funeral and burial, the Apostles witnessed her body taken up to heaven, and reunited with her soul.
The following is a quote from a General Audience given by Pope John Paul II on June 25, 1997:
“It is more important to look for the Blessed Virgin’s spiritual attitude at the moment of her departure from this world. In this regard, St. Francis de Sales maintains that Mary’s death was due to a transport of love. He speaks of a dying ‘in love, from love, and through love.’
Saint Lawrence (also spelled Laurence) is a highly venerated Roman martyr, revered and respected for his Christian valor. His death occurred in 258 AD, executed at the decree of the Roman Emperor Valerian. Historians differ as to his manner of death. Some say he was beheaded, while others record that he roasted to death on a gridiron. He was one of seven deacons of the Roman church serving Pope Sixtus II, all of whom were executed. Before his arrest, Saint Lawrence distributed the church’s treasures to the poor and the sick.
A martyr is one who voluntarily suffers torture and death rather than denies or betrays his religious beliefs. It is a person for whom principle is worth the sacrifice. Following Lawrence’s death, many throughout Rome converted to Christianity, their hearts emboldened by his bravery and steadfast obedience. For his generosity in the face of great adversity, Saint Lawrence is the patron saint of the poor. To this humble man, perhaps his highest honor.
Last week, one of our beloved Community members went to be with the Lord. His wake and funeral honored him and his faith so well! We shared many stories of how his prayers of great faith pushed the limits and boundaries that we sometimes put on what God can do. There were many times in his life when he could have chosen to be afraid or overwhelmed, but he was a man of prayer and action, and God’s will first and foremost.
He struggled with Alzheimer’s and one of the nurses’ aides that cared for him, shared a secret of how he dealt with difficulties. He said, “You can look at hardships and complain or you can ‘flip it.’ God is good, and you always need to flip it and see the other side.”
Our loved one chose scriptures, read at his funeral, that reflected this positive attitude:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7
Interestingly, Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always” two times. I think it’s because we need to be reminded to rejoice at all times, to trust and rejoice (to flip it) and not just in good times. We need to choose to pray with faith, and remember that, as Oswald Chambers wrote, “When you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”
A Prayer for Hospitality and Service
Generous God, whose Son Jesus Christ enjoyed the friendship and hospitality of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany: Open our hearts to love you, our ears to hear you, and our hands to welcome and serve you in others, through Jesus Christ our risen Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. – From “The Daily office of the Mission of St. Clare”
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. – Romans 12: 9-13
We honor today Saint Mary Magdalene, one of the most beloved women in the Bible. In the canonical gospels, she’s mentioned by name twelve times, more than most of the other apostles. Yet factually, she remains a mysterious figure. We can conclude that her surname “Magdalene” indicates she was Mary from Magdala in Galilee. Multiple legends surround Mary. Some believe she is Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazarus and Martha. Others identify her as the prostitute from whom Jesus cast seven demons. And still others, the penitent sinner who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears. Whether all suppositions are true, partly true, or truly false, they portray a woman who knew herself and her need for Jesus. They point to a generous person of means, who used her wealth to further the ministry of the Son of God. She is the woman recognized as a witness to the crucifixion of Jesus, present at His burial, the first witness of the empty tomb, and the first to whom our risen Lord identified himself. Mary, without hesitation or doubt, immediately testified to the appearance of the resurrected Christ. For these reasons, she earned the epitaph Apostola Apostolorum, the apostle to the apostles. Mary Magdalene was an unwavering witness of the name of Jesus Christ, sent to teach the principles of salvation to others.
Today’s hymn to begin the liturgy for our feast of St. Benedict begins with a prayer to our monastic forefather: “O precious jewel of the heavenly king, standard of the righteous, way of monastics, Benedict, withdraw us from the mire of the unclean world.” Peter Damian, 11th C
The word “mire” can be used to describe a situation or state of difficulty, distress, or embarrassment from which it is hard to extricate oneself. Is it truly possible to withdraw from a situation of difficulty or distress? I’m not sure, and it seems some suffering will always exist in our personal lives this side of heaven. It is possible, however, to experience freedom from “mire-full” thinking. You know, those anxious thoughts that continuously make me feel inadequate, or that want to judge others and put them down. I experience feelings of panic and fear when I’m embarrassed, or when I don’t know how to finish a job by a deadline I agreed to. We can be freed of these or any other thoughts, or “mire,” with a dose of St Benedict’s medicine.
Freedom from daily mire is part of what St Benedict’s way of life is meant to help us accomplish — to be free to cherish Christ above all, to be free of our burdens so that we are available to listen to the Holy Spirit with the “ear” of our hearts. Then, free to forgive ourselves, and genuinely desire union with Christ. In a relationship with Him, we are given the choice of freedom and with that an opportunity to become whole. Let us follow Saint Benedict’s path of prayer, obedience, and inward detachment from worldly cares which we cannot solve.
A first century married couple, Priscilla and Aquila are counted among the original Seventy Disciples. Described by the Apostle Paul as “fellow workers in Christ Jesus,” they’re mentioned six times in four different books of the New Testament. They’re never referred to individually, but because of their depth of oneness in faith and love for Christ, are always mentioned as a couple. Here are the six Biblical references and significant facts gleaned from them:
- Acts 18: 2-3 They shared the occupation of tentmakers with the Apostle Paul
- Acts 18:8 Priscilla and Aquila set sail from Corinth, Greece, with Paul
- Acts 18:26 In Ephesus, they encountered Apollos, an eloquent preacher, who received and accepted accurate counsel from them regarding the tenets of Baptism
- Romans 16:3 Paul sent greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, calling them his “co-workers in Christ who risked their lives for me.”
- 1 Cor 16:19 Paul sent warm greetings in their name to the Church in Corinth
- 2 Tim 4:19 Paul, under persecution and in fear, sent greetings to his
kind and loyal friends, Priscilla and Aquila
- The missionary journey of Priscilla and Aquila began in Rome from which they were expelled by Emperor Claudius. They traveled to Corinth in Greece and established a tent-making shop and employed the Apostle Paul. They opened their home to gatherings of Christians and Paul himself baptized them there. Eventually, Paul took the couple with him to the Greek city of Ephesus, where they settled, while he traveled on to Antioch in Turkey. Their home in Ephesus was used as a place of worship, and the couple evangelized and taught many about the love of Christ. Upon the death of Emperor Claudius in 54 AD, Emperor Nero reversed the Jewish expulsion decree, and Aquila and Priscilla returned to Rome, where they were warmly welcomed by the Christian church. When “The Great Fire” occurred in Rome on July 19, 63AD, and destroyed 70% of the city, the Christians were ultimately blamed and Aquila and Priscilla were among those martyred.
Ruins of Ancient Corinth where Priscilla and Aquila made tents and employed the Apostle Paul
From the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 2, Verse 3
Many people shall say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that He may teach us His ways
and that we may walk in His paths.
For out of Zion shall go forth instructions
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”