Feast of the Dedication of the Church of the Transfiguration – June 17

Each year in June, we set aside a Sunday to commemorate the Dedication of the Church of the Transfiguration. The planning and vision for the church began in the early 1990’s.  Our desire was to build a church to the “glory of God.” We wanted the building itself to speak through design, art, and music. The design committees sought artists who would be willing to train some of our membership in fresco and mosaic work, so that we could participate in those installations. Many of our young people helped lay the floor of the church and the atrium. Some of the column capitals were designed by Community members. And many of us helped with the building and finishing of wood for such things as organ pipes and choir stalls.

I remember our prioress telling us that through the process of building the church, God would do a work of building in us as well. It didn’t take long to see what she meant.  It required sacrificial giving far beyond what we could understand at the outset. We had to throw ourselves on the mercy and goodness of God to accomplish such a task, and there were so many miracles along the way. We worked days, weekends, and late into the evenings. We worked in teams, which drew us closer together and kept our spirit strong. It was indeed true that we were under construction just as much as the church!

On the day of dedication, the building was basically a shell of mortar and limestone.  The art installations of fresco, mosaic, and glass would happen during the ten years that followed. But the plan was well underway. We could look into the future and know God would bring it to completion.

Sometimes I sit in the church and just enjoy the beauty of the art, especially the image of Jesus in the apse. We wanted the church to be a beautiful work for God, and in the process, we came to experience the immensity of God: His Generosity, His Mercy for each of us, and the largeness of what He wants for the world beyond our walls. There are, in fact, no walls that could contain the Love He has for us. And so here we are in Orleans, Massachusetts. Just one group of people in the body of Christ, trying to do as God asks, trying to become His hands and feet in this place.  Dedication Day is a remembrance of the past and a commitment to the future.

Church of the Transfiguration, Community of Jesus

Church of the Transfiguration, Community of Jesus

The Paradox of Age

I was a Girl Scout once, and a pretty good one. I especially took to heart the Scouts’ long-standing motto, Be Prepared. You see, I was – am – an introvert with a busy inner life (code for obsessive worrier) and being prepared for everything seemed like great advice. Be Prepared worked well for me until I approached seventy. Nothing could prepare me for seventy and a straight-up calculation of remaining years, creaking knees, and escaping memories. I function much better when I grab pen and paper to categorize my musings. Here are my loosely poetic thoughts on growing older:

Creation. God’s intention.
Every leaf, every star.
Everything was made to be
With purpose and effect.
No accident, me, as I am
As I shall become,
When age reconfigures
My original composition.
Lower energy,
Increased wisdom.
Eyes that see less clearly,
And yet more clearly
At the same time.
Accept what I must.
Change what I can.
Make a strong finish,
With love and joy.

Feast of St. Barnabas, Companion of Paul — June 11

Barnabas, named Joseph at birth, was an early and prominent disciple.  His new name, Barnabas, means “son of encouragement” and was given to him by the apostles.  They recognized his kindness, compassion, and ability to offer consolation in times of affliction.

Barnabas, a native of Cyprus and a Levite, is identified in the Acts of the Apostles.  His first recorded action is one of generosity toward Jerusalem’s Christian community.  He sold a parcel of land that he owned, and gave the much needed proceeds to the community.  He showed an equal generosity of Spirit by welcoming Saul after his conversion. Himself highly respected by the Christian disciples in Jerusalem, Barnabas convinced them of Saul’s courage and sincerity. The two men subsequently led several successful missions, converting many to the Christian faith.

Barnabas is thought to be the cousin of Mark the Evangelist based on Colossians 4:10, which directly refers to them as cousins. It was a dispute over John Mark that led Barnabas and Paul to separate.  Consequently, Barnabas returned to Cyprus with John Mark, while Paul and Silas evangelized Galatia.

According to fifth century writings, Barnabas was martyred for his faith in 61 AD. Tradition and legend describe his martyrdom as follows:  certain Jews, jealous of his extraordinary success, fell upon him as he was disputing in the synagogue, dragged him out, and after the most inhumane tortures, stoned him to death.  It’s also said that his kinsman, John Mark was present at his death, and privately interred his body.

Barnabas, prophet, teacher, apostle, and missionary is often depicted with a pilgrim’s staff and olive branch. A humble man, he was servant to all and understood the importance of prayer in daily life.  He was a courageous and kindhearted man whose life of love and sacrifice made a difference.

Community of Jesus St. Barnabas, Cloister Saint, Church of the Transfiguration

St. Barnabas, Cloister Saint, Church of the Transfiguration

Feast of St. Columba

Saint Columba ( Irish Colmcille, meaning Church Dove) was born to influential, aristocratic parents in the year 520 in Gartan, County Donegal, Ireland. He was monk, priest, scholar, poet, historian, missionary, prophet and peacemaker.  Although an inheritor of pagan Irish culture, Columba was raised a Christian. His first teacher was an Irish priest, and his later education included the studies of Divine Wisdom and Sacred Scripture.

Columba is considered one of three Patron Saints of Ireland, following in importance to Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid of Kildare. He’s the patron-saint of the city of Derry, and founded a monastic settlement there c. 540.  Literacy in Ireland is largely attributed to the work of Columba. Early Irish monasteries, such as Derry, gathered both practitioners and teachers of reading and writing. They provided the first schools, scriptoriums, libraries, and archives.

In 562, Columba travelled to Scotland as a ‘Pilgrim for Christ.’  He hoped to find a secluded place in which to pursue a contemplative life.  As mentioned, Columba belonged to a powerful, aristocratic family. A Scottish kinsman, Conall mac Comgaill King of Dál Riata, granted him the Island of Iona to use as he wished. On this tiny Hebridean island, Columba founded a leading cultural and religious monastery, unrivaled in medieval Britain.  Iona expanded from a small, enclosed monastery to one with significant public responsibility.

Saint Columba is credited with varied miracles, from healing the sick to subduing wild beasts, including the Loch Ness monster! He performed agricultural miracles that endeared him to Britain’s common people. One such miracle was making bitter apples sweet and another, returning spilt milk to its over-turned bucket.

The following prayer is attributed to Columba, dedicated missionary, and expresses his sincere longing that all should know Christ:

Kindle in our hearts, O God,
The flame of love that never ceases,
That it may burn in us,
Giving light to others.
May we shine forever in your temple,
Set on fire with your eternal light,
Even your Son Jesus Christ,
Our Saviour and redeemer.  Amen.  


To Move a Mountain

Fear can be a destructive force if we don’t confront it and take authority over it.
I’ve learned some basic things about fear that have helped me (if I remember to
use them!)

When I engage in fear, I’m thinking about the future, and not living in the present
moment. When I’m in fear, I’m thinking about myself, and usually convinced the
outcome of a situation will be different than the way I would like. I’m not loving Jesus
enough to trust Him with my future. If I’m being obedient to what God wants for me, I
can stand firm in His provision.

If I’ve decided to let fear in, then I can decide to “kick it out!” Satan is the author of fear,
and I can pray and ask the Holy Spirit to usher fear out.
And lastly, a question that comes to me – if faith the size of a mustard seed can move
mountains, what mountains remain unmoved because of my lack of faith and my fear?

Feast of St. Boniface — Missionary and Martyr, June 5

Feast Day of Saint Boniface — Eighth Century Bishop

The feast of Saint Boniface, celebrated  June 5th, honors a man credited for three major life time accomplishments: missionary to and apostle of Germania, reformer of the Frankish church (and its ensuing influence on Western Christianity), and zealous pursuit of an alliance between the papacy and Frankish aristocrats.

Born c. AD 675, in Devon, England, Boniface was martyred for his missionary work on June 5, AD 754, in Frisia (now part of the Netherlands.)  It is said that he was attacked and martyred as he read Scripture to new Christian converts on Pentecost Sunday. During his life, many honors were given him, including selection as archbishop and metropolitan of all German territory east of the Rhine.

Boniface, in his whole-hearted desire to convert the German people, destroyed the sacred oak of their pagan God, Thor.  Witnesses claimed at the first stroke of the axe, a mighty wind came down and felled the ancient oak. Many were converted to Christianity through the  brave action of Bonaface.  A popular legend in Germany is that the traditional Christmas Tree  began with this event. It is said that Bonaface urged all who were present to take home a fir tree in celebration.  The evergreen symbolized peace, immortality, and praise to the Christian God.

Feast of St. Justin, Martyr — June 1

Justin Martyr was born to pagan parents c. 100 AD, in Samaria (modern-day Nablus, West Bank.)  He had an active and searching mind that sought the true meaning of life.  The philosophies of his day brought great disappointment.  He pursued many teachers: a Stoic who “knew nothing of God and did not even think knowledge of Him to be necessary”; a Peripatetic (itinerant philosopher), whose primary interest was collecting fees;  a Pythagorean, requiring courses in geometry, astronomy and music, none of which interested Justin; and a teacher of Platonism, intellectually demanding but no food for Justin’s empty heart.

Justin the Martyr Community of Jesus icon

 

Around the age of thirty, Justin happened upon an old man, reportedly a Syrian Christian. They talked about God, and the elder praised the reliability of the  prophets and their testimony.  Justin records that, “A fire was suddenly kindled in my soul. I fell in love with the prophets and these men who loved Christ; I reflected on all their words and found this philosophy alone was true and profitable. That is how and why I became a philosopher. And I wish that everyone felt the same way that I do.”

 

He was so moved by this aged man, he renounced his former religion and philosophical background.  Dressed in a philosopher’s cloak, he traveled the land teaching, interpreting Scripture, and spreading the love of Christ as the one and only “true philosophy.”


165, in Rome, Italy, Justin and his disciples were arrested and ordered to sacrifice to the Roman Gods. Justin replied with the words, “No one in his right mind gives up piety for impiety.” When the prefect threated torture without mercy, Justin gave this reply, “If we are punished for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, we hope to be saved.” All were taken out and beheaded, giving their lives for the true philosophy.

Feast Day of St. Bede the Venerable – May 25

Saint Bede’s story is one of a call within a call, a man who carried in his heart this mission: to break the word to the poor and unlearned. Born the year 673 in Jarrow, Northumbria (England), he was sent to the monastery of St. Peter and St. Paul at the age of three. There he received scholarly instruction from saintly monks and became one of the outstanding scholars of his day. His areas of expertise included philosophy, astronomy, arithmetic, grammar, ecclesiastical history and Holy Scripture. He eventually became a monk there, was ordained at thirty, and except for one brief teaching sojourn in York, devoted his life to the study of Scripture, teaching, and writing at the monastery.

Known as the “Father of English History”, he was the first to date events anno Domini (A.D.) His best-known work is Historia Ecclesiastica gentis anglorum , a history of the English Church and its people, completed in 729. His manuscript remains a primary source of early English history.

Another title awarded St. Bede is “Patron Saint of English Writers and Historians.”  Known as a meticulous scholar and respected stylist, in addition to his great work of history, he composed forty-five other books, including thirty commentaries on books of the Bible. Bede spent his final Lent working on a translation of the Gospel of Saint John into English. He completed the translation on the day of his death.

Perhaps his most cherished title is that of “The Venerable Bede.” Venerable:  worthy of respect or reverence by reason of dignity, character, and exceptional wisdom.  It is said he died in 735 while praying his favorite prayer, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As in the beginning, so now, and forever.” Amen.

St. Bede Feast Day at the Community of Jesus

Saint Bede

Ringing Down

“Beauty turns the heart towards God” the preacher proclaimed this weekend, and I thought of a phrase I’d heard before…, “like a flower to the sun”. For this young bell ringer, well struck, ordered ringing is a sound which has this beautiful character and the capacity to turn the ears to His voice. On Sunday following Pentecost service, we rang haltingly, bumping into each other rhythmically, I missed my spot more than a few times. The service beforehand had advocated for the Holy Spirit to burn away all the nonsense in our hearts. This is really great news! Consequently a small bonfire was lighting up my heart as we rang, each untimely stroke giving the Holy Spirit a bit more fuel. Meanwhile, a coffee hour reception was being held on the common… with cake!

Interestingly, it wasn’t the well struck, ordered ringing, or lack thereof, which brought a smile between the ringers in the tower Sunday. Instead, we spontaneously rung down (were we hungry for cake?). Ringing down means the bells swing lower and lower, faster and faster until each bell hangs, and eventually rests, downward. Typically the bells rest upside down so that a ringer can use the momentum and weight of the bell to control the clapper striking and sounding of the bell.  And at the moment, what’s wonderful about the way we ring down is that; we’re not skilled enough yet to keep everything in time, which means the bells begin to overlap and wash over each other as they get faster and faster. It’s one of my favorite sounds, and it sounds as if the tower is glowing.

Here’s an animation of well struck, ordered ringing with the bells pausing in the upwards position.

 

 

 

 

 

Animation Credit: https://sites.google.com/site/weltondunholmescothernchurches/bell-ringing-welton-st-mary-s

 

The Paraclete

Before Jesus left his disciples, he told them he would not leave them comfortless, but would send a Comforter, the Holy Spirit (John 14:18, 26). The Greek word that’s translated “Comforter” in the King James Version  is also translated as Counselor,  Helper, Companion, Friend, Advocate, Helper in Court. The Amplified Bible adds Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby.  The word is “Paraclete” and means literally “one who comes alongside to help.” Amazingly, Jesus said to his disciples that it was better for their sakes that he himself leave them, so he could send the Holy Spirit.

So here’s my confession.  This verse is telling me I have a constant companion who is looking out for me, who “has my back” in all situations.  With such a great Comforter and Advocate (and I am reminded of this every year in the Scriptures before Pentecost), you would think that the Paraclete would be the first place I turn when I’m in distress.  I don’t. I try to figure everything out on my own. If that doesn’t work, I go to friends.   I might ask them to pray for me, but then try to Google the answer. All the while, the Source of Comfort is right in front of me, waiting for me to ask.   I’m a slow learner, but this year, Jesus, help me to learn!