Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Happy Candlemas!

Here's a re-post of the podcast I did a couple of years ago at Candlemas. It's the second anniversary of our parochial vicar's passing from this life.



~A reflection on when a priest dies on the Feast of Candlemas.


Click here to listen


A Song for Simeon

~by T.S. Eliot

Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and
The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;
The stubborn season has made stand.
My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
Like a feather on the back of my hand.
Dust in sunlight and memory in corners
Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.

Grant us thy peace.
I have walked many years in this city,
Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,
Have taken and given honour and ease.
There went never any rejected from my door.

Who shall remember my house, where shall live my children’s children
When the time of sorrow is come ?
They will take to the goat’s path, and the fox’s home,
Fleeing from the foreign faces and the foreign swords.

Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation
Grant us thy peace.
Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,
Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,
Now at this birth season of decease,
Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,
Grant Israel’s consolation
To one who has eighty years and no to-morrow.

According to thy word,
They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation
With glory and derision,
Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.
Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,
Not for me the ultimate vision.
Grant me thy peace.

(And a sword shall pierce thy heart,
Thine also).

I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,
I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.
Let thy servant depart,
Having seen thy salvation.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Good Confession

The chains that have bound me are flung to the wind,
By the mercy of God the poor slave is set free;
And the strong grace of heaven breathes fresh o’er the mind,
Like the bright winds of summer that gladden the sea.

There was nought in God’s world half so dark or so vile
As the sin and bondage that fettered my soul;
There was nought half so base as the malice and guile
Of my own sordid passions, or Satan’s control.

For years I have borne about hell in my breast;
When I thought of my God it was nothing but gloom;
Day brought me no pleasure, night gave me no rest,
There was still the grim shadow of horrible doom.

It seemed as if nothing less likely could be
Than that light should break in on a dungeon so deep;
To create a new world were less hard than to free
The slave from his bondage, the soul from its sleep.

But the Word had gone forth, and said, Let there be light,
And it flashed through my soul like a sharp passing smart;
One look to my Savior, and all the dark night,
Like a dream scarce remembered, was gone from my heart.

I cried out for mercy, and fell on my knees,
And confessed, while my heart with keen sorrow was wrung;
‘Twas the labor of minutes, and years of disease
Fell as fast from my soul as the words from my tongue.

And now, blest be God and the sweet Lord who died!
No deer on the mountain, no bird in the sky,
No bright wave that leaps on the dark bounding tide,
Is a creature so free or so happy as I.

All hail, then, all hail, to the dear Precious Blood,
That hath worked these sweet wonders of mercy in me;
May each day countless numbers throng down to its flood,
And God have His glory, and sinners go free.

~Frederick W. Faber

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Grandeur of Death

The row of windshields coruscated in the spent afternoon light, shadows lengthening at the summer day's end. A long line of flashing taillights warned that I was imminent upon a funeral procession. Cars in the opposite direction were stopped along the side of the road, a final salutation to the soul whose body was about to be laid in its final resting place. Other cars rushed past almost in protest at the languorous pace of traffic, as if the precious moments of courtesy would cheat them out of their urgent destination.

It was a jarring sight, those cars failing to stop at this moment of solemn passing: a human being whose earthly course had run was now returning to his Creator. A soul loved by God as no others could have loved, pursued and wooed to the end by the God whose very thought created this being. How could anyone fail to stop and acknowledge this moment of grandeur? But perhaps in the failure is an element of denial, a frenzy that keeps at bay the overarching fact that each of us, too, must meet this fate.

I wondered if this person had died in the friendship of God, if he had responded to the impulses of grace freely given, if he learned to speak with God with a quality of intimacy and ease that he had with his loved ones. Or did he die in rejection of the untiring call of God? At least, judging by the number of cars in the procession, he was held in esteem by a good number of people. Enough of them understood this auspicious moment of passing.

The procession snaked its way in the country lane, passing through towering spires of cornstalks rustling in the warm, gentle breeze. How many times did this person pass through these roads? Did his eyes behold these sights of rural beauty? And did he breathe in the joys of the life of simplicity so steadfastly lived in these bucolic parts? Or were the cares of the farming life so burdensome that death, in a way, was a welcome rest from the unrelenting pace?

I will never know the answer to the questions. But that did not stop my wondering as I slowed my car to match the mourners’ pace. Behind me, more cars added to the length of the line. Lord, have mercy upon him, this sinner whom you have called back to yourself, I prayed. May angels greet him at his coming.

The procession turned off at a major branch in the road. Soon, I was released from my brief role as mourner in this drama of death, returned to my own exigencies to arrive at my own temporary destination. Yet for the brief moment, time was suspended in the contemplation of the story of this soul, his pilgrimage ended. How easy it is to overlook the import of moments like these, wrapped up as we are in our own rituals and personal dramas. It is the genius of civilization that we have funeral customs of acknowledging the significance of the life just ended.

I have often contemplated what it means to be in the friendship of God. St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote about being a friend of God, the end of all intelligent creatures is the restoration of the original condition. Friendship expresses the absence of hostility or animosity. There is a likeness in thoughts and desires, and even more than likeness, a sharing of sympathies and compassions. The words "sympathy" and "compassion" imply a deep awareness of another's feelings and passions. To be friends with God then, is to long for the things he longs for, to care deeply for the things that he cares for. Both Abraham and Moses are described in Scipture as being friends of God.

Friendship involves an abiding in each other's lives. And this abiding calls to mind what Christ said about the True Vine. In this rich imagery, Christ gives us a picture of clinging, of growing, of being nourished upon the True Vine. This clinging quality is borne out in the virtue of faithfulness to God. So in the end, friendship with God is faithfulness and loyalty to God in all things. We must constantly ask ourselves if we as branches show forth the fruit of God's constant and meticulous care. Do we see and find God in all circumstances? And do we live the deep joy that comes in knowing him as he is, all adorable and all true, God in his all-surpassing greatness?

Or are we like the vines that bore bitter fruit or no fruit at all whom the Vinedresser mourned over as he pruned them off the Vine? Do our words and actions bespeak of the faithfulness of God in our lives? I often think that we rather like to dwell in the perversity of our anger and bitterness because that is all we are familiar with. In clinging to our anger, we cut off the grace that God desires to pour into our lives so that we may grow. What is reflected back to us is full of anger and anxiety that is far from the reality of life in Christ. And yet God constantly calls us to fruitfulness that reflects the hope of glory even in the most adverse of conditions. The holiness to which we are all called to live as Christians must show forth fruit if we truly believe in the Resurrection power of the Cross. Indeed, the daily dying to ourselves and our passions is an abandonment to the Holy Spirit who roots out the bitter passions of our former life as slaves to sin and death and refashions us into the image of the Son who bore the bitterest of passions for our sake. It is a cosmic paradox, this dying to take up eternal life hidden in the life of Christ.

In death, we are confronted with the only question that matters. Did we live the life of grace that bore fruit in

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Confirmed

In honor of our Confirmation Class who is receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation this evening from our Bishop, here is Rainer Maria Rilke's poem which was composed in Paris in May 1903. The photo is from the Liturgia website of Schola St. Cecile on the occasion of Confirmations at Saint-Eugène in France.



In white veils the confirmed enter
deeply into the new green of the garden
They have survived their childhood,
and what comes now will be something changed.

So let it come! Does not now the interim begin,
the wait for the next striking of the hour?
The festival is gone, and noises fill the house,
and more slowly the afternoon drags by...

That was an arising to the white gown
and then through the streets an adorned walking
and a church, cool inside like silk,
and the long candles were like avenues,
and all lights glittered like jewelry
gazed at by festive eyes.

And it was silent when the chant began:
like clouds it rose inside the dome
and grew bright in its descent; and softer
than rain fell into the white children.
And their white fluttered as in the breeze,
and grew lightly colored in its folds
and seemed to hold hidden flowers--:
flowers and birds, stars and strange figures
from an old ring of stories, far away.

And outside was a day of blue and green
with a shout of red at bright places.
The pond kept retreating in small waves,
and with the wind came a distant flowering
and sang of gardens outside at the city's edge.

It was as if things wreathed themselves,
they stood brightly--infinitely light and calm;
a feeling was in every housefront,
and many window opened up and shone.

~from The Book of Images, Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

In Hora Mortis Nostræ Podcast





Click to listen

A deviation from our normal poetry podcast, here is a reflection on my experience at a prayer vigil for life.

It is late on the night of the tenth day of the 40 days for life prayer vigil. The half-lidded moon shines down upon us, thin clouds veiling its cold white light...but the pale yellow light from the street lamps dimly illuminates our faces. The bare branches of the oak tree eeriely silhouetted against the darkened inky blue sky, the branch tips splayed like gnarly fingers.. We are praying the rosary, eight souls standing at the bottom of the hill facing the darkened menace of the tower beneath which was housed a killing place. Our prayers fall softly from our lips, the night air muting our voices. We finish the Sorrowful Mysteries and after a short parting conversation, we disperse, our relief crew walking up the hill. We know that tomorrow, we will return.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Summer's Day Podcast

For Valentine's Day, I'm reposting the podcast that started it all....



Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

~William Shakespeare

If you want to listen to me read the sonnet:


Stopping by the side of the road whilst traveling through Tuscany one brilliant morning in May

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Nunc Dimittis Podcast



~A reflection on when a priest dies on the Feast of Candlemas.


Click here to listen


A Song for Simeon

~by T.S. Eliot

Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and
The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;
The stubborn season has made stand.
My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
Like a feather on the back of my hand.
Dust in sunlight and memory in corners
Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.

Grant us thy peace.
I have walked many years in this city,
Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,
Have taken and given honour and ease.
There went never any rejected from my door.

Who shall remember my house, where shall live my children’s children
When the time of sorrow is come ?
They will take to the goat’s path, and the fox’s home,
Fleeing from the foreign faces and the foreign swords.

Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation
Grant us thy peace.
Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,
Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,
Now at this birth season of decease,
Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,
Grant Israel’s consolation
To one who has eighty years and no to-morrow.

According to thy word,
They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation
With glory and derision,
Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.
Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,
Not for me the ultimate vision.
Grant me thy peace.

(And a sword shall pierce thy heart,
Thine also).

I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,
I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.
Let thy servant depart,
Having seen thy salvation.