Are you a “cracked pot”? Does a cracked pot have value? If we have a valuable item that gets broken, do we try to mend it so that the crack shows as little as possible? Most of us would answer yes to these questions BUT some of us learned a whole different appreciation of “cracked pots” from Gabrielle Wilpers who gave an art retreat here in April. We were introduced to the Japanese Kintsugi technique which illuminates “cracks” often with brilliant gold highlights. This is similar to the philosophy of wabi-sabi which values rather than hides the marks of broken-ness.
Most of us would say we want the light of Jesus to shine through us, but we have difficulty accepting that light can only come through the “cracks”, and we do our best to hide the cracks from others and mostly from ourselves.
The value of being willing to appreciate our cracks really hit home with me the other day in a daily reading from Oswald Chambers which says, “The saint is hilarious when he is crushed with difficulties because the thing is so ludicrously impossible to anyone but God.”
Let us welcome being “cracked pots”. We have the assurance that Jesus will mend our cracks with the balm of Gilead and that they will shine as bright as the noon day sun.
I have the pleasure of writing about the exciting and wonderfully executed art program on the main doors of the Church of the Transfiguration. The doors were designed in a different art style from the interior program. This is a deliberate choice, pointing toward the Fall of humankind from Grace and underscoring the iconographic program within the church as God’s saving answer.
On the doors are the parents of the human race, our parents Adam and Eve. They are pictured enjoying the great loveliness of God’s garden, peaceful in it’s order. Eve holds a simple rose and is breathing in its beauty and aroma. All of this peace is contained in a simple frame. They are both partially covered with vegetation from the garden. The artist designed them in such a manner that when the doors are opened (into the church), Adam is looking up at God; and Eve, our mother, is looking down lovingly at us as we enter.
But we know that all is not well in this garden paradise. Our parents are about to reject God’s fatherhood. They choose to become their own gods, to know good and evil, to make their own decisions; the loss of all peace and fellowship with God is the result. Chaos now reigns. We see the prophetic coming of chaos in the wild dune grass at the bottom of the doors and the beginning of disorder in the vegetation covering Adam and Eve. This choice cast us all on the mercy, love and saving grace of God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We must enter through the doors now, driven by our need to learn to love again.
We began Advent with the “A” of Ad te levavi, in the introit for the first Sunday, and Aspiciens from the Night Office. Now in this time of Great Advent we look to the “Great Antiphons” or the “O Antiphons,” as they are called. Our beloved friend and mentor, Dr. Mary Berry of Cambridge, England, once told us that even in these wonderful chants of the season, we have “the Alpha and Omega.”
There is a greater sense of expectation and hope as Great Advent reaches its climax, in both the Mass and Divine Office chants. We often see the word veni (come). It appears in every one of the O Antiphons, which are sung with the Magnificat at Vespers each night. These contain both an invocation, using names for the long awaited Messiah from the Old Testament, and a petition for his coming as Savior. Scriptures are woven together with such imagery and poetry, making these Antiphons one of the great treasures of the early church. We know these antiphons have been sung from the 8th century! They all have basically the same tune, with slight variations according to textural differences, using Mode 2.
Starting on December 17th, the names of the promised Savior are: O Sapientia (O Wisdom) O Adonai (O Lord, Master) O radix Jesse (O root of Jesse) O clavis David (O key of David) O Oriens (O Day Star) O Rex gentium (O King of the nations) O Emmanuel (O God with us)
The first letters of these titles, read backwards from the order in which they appear, form the sentence in Latin, ERO CRAS, which means, “I will be (with you) tomorrow“.
Below is a copy of the final O Antiphon, O Emmanuel. Notice the FA clef, always used with Mode 2 chants.The chant peaks on the phrase, “expectation of the peoples”, then approaches the invocation, “come and save us, O Lord our God”.
This week a word came to mind, a word I’d never spoken. Unfortunately, I kept forgetting what it was. Hours passed, then it would reappear, only to disappear before I could write it down. I did, however, know it was similar to “restoration”. So hoping to spark the proper synapse, I tossed that word around for awhile. In the end, I consulted a list of synonyms and there it was: reclamation. Because of its unfamiliarity (and persistence), I carefully considered its significance. Reclamation is the conversion of wasteland into ground suitable for cultivation. Generally, the return to a former, better state, where more is received than has been lost, and the final product greater than the original.
This is much the same as God works with us. In several Psalms of deliverance, the writer unabashedly admits his own shortcomings and ensuing results. He calls on God, who sorts through the debris with great precision to build and restore, not just equal to, but better than. One such Psalm affirms: I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:1-3
Easter 6 marks a significant transitional time in our Paschal journey. Up until now, we’ve been in a wonderful “cocoon” of intimacy with the Risen Christ, and all the ways he’s made himself known to us — in the breaking of bread, in him as the good shepherd, and true vine.
But now, all the texts for both the Divine Office and Eucharist point to his imminent departure and the promise of the Holy Spirit’s coming. He is preparing us for the future, and what we are truly called to.
The text chosen for this year’s liturgical cycle in both the Alleluia and the Communion is: I myself have chosen you out of the world, that you should go and bear fruit, and your fruit should remain.
The connection is so clear. We cannot do this without abiding in him for sustenance, comfort and life itself.
A few years ago, I tried writing a folk song recounting the story of Jonah. While my song had several (now forgotten) verses, I do remember the first one:
Old Jonah looking for a ship to sail,
Ended up in the belly of a whale.
When the wind blew, he drew a lot,
And a hungry fish was the best he got!
Jonah’s testimony is a fascinating one. His four brief chapters of fame are a case study in vacillation between faithlessness and faithfulness. The cowardly man who “fled from the presence of the Lord,” is the same who later insists that the sailors, to save themselves, throw him into the midst of the sea. Swallowed by a whale and incarcerated in an unknown environment, his earnest prayer is one of thanksgiving to God. His gratitude quickly turns to indignation when Ninevah is spared, and he’s inconsolable when a worm eats his shade tree. Perhaps the greatest thing about this story is God’s love for and infinite patience with His wayward child. He uses everything at His disposal — from a whale to a worm — to accomplish His will in both Jonah and 120,000 Ninevites.
I tend to sift, categorize, and make reasonable things I don’t understand. But, I must confess, the infinite holiness of Easter and its many mysteries are beyond my grasp. Jesus’s arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection – those four words alone – represent a highly complex series of events that forged a new symmetry between God and humankind. The sinister, the dark, and the reprehensible now stand in shadow, and we follow in His footsteps of light.
“Back to Heaven” I’ll go back to heaven again. Hand in hand with the dew That melts at a touch of the dawning day, I’ll go back to heaven again. With the dusk, together, just we two, at a sign from a cloud after playing on the slopes I’ll go back to heaven again. At the end of my outing to this beautiful world I’ll go back and say: It was beautiful… By Ch’ôn Sang Pyong
I wonder what I will say when I arrive at heaven’s door — will it be words of thanks? Ch’ôn was a Korean poet who suffered greatly in his life from brutal torture as a prisoner, and from alcoholism. But Ch’ôn was said to be a very happy man despite all of his hardships. There’s a reassuring simplicity to his words and his poetry reflects a hope that grew out of him through his struggles.
This Easter season, through the power and miracle of the resurrection, God has given us a perpetual chance to live, repent, and keep living, with-in and as His creation. As the weather warms, and the earth starts to grow again, we should take time to notice and appreciate what he has given us—for all creation is beautiful!
We have just experienced the most amazing of weeks in the liturgical year — Holy Week leading to Easter.
The chants composed for this week audibly take us through each of the various parts of the week. Christ’s entry into Jerusalem was heralded by one of the most famous of all chants, Hosanna, Filio David (Hail, Son of David!). Maundy Thursday, on which Christ gives “a new commandment,” was characterized by the chanting of Ubi Caritas (Where true love is, God himself is there.) > On Good Friday we had the ancient Gospel Passion chanted for the Veneration of the Cross. Holy Saturday opened with the well-known response Lumen Christi (Christ, Light of the World), followed by the Exultet in which the history of our salvation was chanted. Ultimately, we heard chanted the most famous Gregorian Hymn — Victimae Paschali Laudes (Christ, the Paschal Victim) to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection!
This is the richest time in the entire church year for which Gregorian chant does her most beautiful work of illuminating Christ’s life.
I wonder. I wonder what Jesus thought as he walked the way of the cross. Did he say to himself, “One step at a time, one foot before the other?” Did he see beyond the cross, the glory to come? Or was it sinners in need of a savior and love for the undeserving that compelled him? He unleashed from the confines of the cross immeasurable treasures: mercy, forgiveness, and triumph of life over death. Jesus reached out from suffering to suffering for the sake of love.