Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mary of Egypt Penitent

Mary of Egypt /Penitent

There is also another wonderful story that I know better and relate to and that is the story of Mary of Egypt. Now I love the Desert Fathers. I love there pithy sayings , there wise words and their simple approach to essential Christianity. Yes I know they were a bit radical and I may not personally be able to go live in a cave /cell in the desert for eighty years or just eat a few figs and some bread to keep alive. But they left us really good stories and if you are weary of complicated thinkers and theological discussion or just want some straight up wisdom go sit with a Desert Father for awhile and you will find a wealth of wisdom you can actually apply to real life. Just Google Desert Fathers...I strongly suggest the reading on the Christ in the Desert Monastery site put out by monks living in New Mexico. They have nice short well selected stories and user friendly pictures. The fact that these guys are actually currently living in a desert increases the credibility of the story. Now some of the hermit guys lived in a community and had Sunday worship where they got to see real people but some of them lived way way out in a cave and didn't see another human face for many, many years . So there is this appreciation in the Desert Fathers for the desire for communion that is not yet received. The aspects of the value of time alone with God are balanced out by work and tender care for visitors. Benedicta Scholastica has some lovely books out on Sayings of the Desert Fathers. I am trying to remember is she wrote Harlots of the Desert but is it a not to be missed read for women especially. I think there are some good stories also in Laura Swans Forgotten Desert Mothers

Anyways..Mary of Egypt as the story goes was a woman who wanted to travel. Times being as they were she decided to sell her "wares" or just give them away for free to get around. She was a very active and beautiful woman and managed to get around , a lot. She was not apparently really big on church. However after one of her sea voyages she followed the crowds up to one of the local churches and thought she might check out the group for some local recreation. She tried to enter the church but could not get past the door. She tried three times and what she heard changed her life. You have to again go to the original story on some Google site that will get you into some nifty icons of her on her special day in the Orthodox church and it is such a good read it is well worth the search. So there is Mary who is now heavily convicted of her naughty activity and goes out into the desert to live half naked wondering the wilds of the Desert a recluse and a penitent. Traveling through the same Desert is a monk called Zomar and he not quite believing his eyes sees Mary in her bits of rags naked for all practical purposes and has a bit of a monk dilemma . Do I notice the naked lady or do I get curious and find out if she is real or a mirage. Mary is quite real and he tosses her his cloak and they have a little chat about how she managed to be in such a wild and barren place. Mary now a Penitent for years desire to receive communion and Zomar goes off to bring her some. She waits again and finally receives.
Zomar goes his way with her much on his mind having been deeply touched by her life and in a year goes back to bring her the Eucharist for Easter. Her finds her dead near the spot he left her with an indication that she had died only a few days after his last visit. Its really better then a movie and has this kind of wonderful eternal story aspect to it. Again best read is in Harlots of the Desert or look her up on an Orthodox site Mary of the Desert. She is remembered in the Lenten reading of the Orthodox church so she has something to say to us Desert Wanderers.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Outside the Sacraments

Having sat outside the Sacraments of the Church first as a divorced and remarried evangelical Protestant and then as I gradually came along a curious follower I became aware there were a lot of people invisible almost people out here with me. Being married to someone who thinks Catholics are in serious error, and that would be the polite phrase I find myself on the outside looking in. There are a lot of outside the Sacrament people sitting out here with me. Perhaps they are not sitting in the pews. Perhaps they feel so alienated they no longer darken the door of a church or they are on the opposite end of the scale and deeply want to be in full communion but some barrier is keeping them from what they so desire. Maybe they are Catholic and divorced or remarried outside the church, or a coming into the church but have some paperwork to clear up...or you are in RCIA and a year seems like a long time. There are a list of reasons that could hold you back. Maybe you were just really , really naughty and you can't face telling anyone your secret and so just sit out and sitting out just lasts longer and longer and the joy and light which once burned so bright now seems to be full of condemnation. It isn;t but it does feel that way. There is nothing like sitting in the pew while people go up for communion and having to climb over you on their way back to reinstate you in the flock of spiritual lepers. Its easy to forget the main Guy hanging on the cross spent His primary time on this planet rescuing lost sheep just like us but we forget that and think He is just attainable to the Holy Few. There is a whole host of voices out there to help us with dig our hole deeper. Those nagging interior voices that tell us we are unloved, uncared for undeserving and wholeness is a fantasy. The same voices and interior whispers that got us all kicked out of the Garden in the first place still haunt the souls of the uncommunioned. Again lift up your eyes to the crucifix ask yourself "who is he there for. " Maybe he understands something about pain and suffering and alienation. Maybe that is the whole point. Prove it ,,,okay Bible story time..Hopefully you got some along the way as a my hunch is you wouldn't have hung into this chat that long without some reference points.... One of the most ancient liturgical formulas in the church is the saying" Is Lord Have Mercy Christ Have Mercy." ..or Lord Jesus Christ have Mercy on Me a sinner. It brings us to the foot of the cross . It also brings us in the position of a long list of people Christ brought healing to..The leper, the blindman, the woman at the well, the prostitute, the foreign woman who begged for just the crumbs of bread of Mercy from Christ table, the Centurion, the woman with the issue of Blood, the lost sheep, the Prodigal Son, the woman caught in adultery.There are so many examples you could just about close your eyes and point in the first four chapters of the New Testament and someone on the outside looking in comes face to face with Christ. You might have to read a couple of chapters but your won;t have to go far. Jesus main job is Love. Love that does not condemn, judge or point fingers. The message is like a lantern burning in the window of a home on a dark night. Come Home. Welcome Home. You may think the barriers are impossible or the walls are too high or the ceiling will fall in or you might just self combust but there is a place called Home to come to. The journey feels too long. That is my purpose for being here. My journey has been to long. It has been so long as to be ludicrious and ridiculous. So I had a choice I either wallow or I walk. I pilgrimage or I die in the mire. What could I do on my journey to keep myself occupied in the Long life of Lentenlike Advent that never seems to find either Christmas or Easter.Kind of that piece in Narnia where they say ...always Winter never summer. The following are a list of ideas: Subjects actually I would like to discuss as ways to keep busy while coming home to the church. I am not a theologian,I am really just a Blogger but I will try to stay as close to the truth as I understand it and things that have worked for me..

Spending Time in a chapel
Spiritual Communion
Making friends with the Saints
Small group others
Spiritual Reading
Lay Groups
Getting involved in service
Taking mini-courses or retreats
Abbeys and monastics
Spiritual Directors
Creating Sacred Space
Being Present
Searching for Silence
Showing Up
Penance and Honesty
Scripture Speaks
Keeping Short accounts
Hope springs eternal

Should keep me busy and out of trouble for awhile...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

This year my New Years resolution for both intellectual and spiritual growth is to learn some Biblical Greek. I thought I would find a nice online Interlinear reading and start there. I found a Greek interlinear online and started in the book of John. The first chapter of John in Greek is breath taking. You feel like you have never really read the Bible before. Now this is the Greek for Dummies version where you have the words in in the best amplified for meaning version without the sentence order. The section that has had me off on a Lectio tangent all week is the verse that goes....And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us .....the Greek word there for dwelt is booths or tabernacles . Now I wondered whether that was both the old tabernacle and the festival of booths...sure enough Peloubet's Bible Dictionary ties them together...but what the real eye opener is the study on the Feast....If you are going to read John with any amount of enthusiasm it really helps to get a picture of the feast....Now we know that Jesus liked to use object lessons when he spoke to people. In fact he used everything around him as a lesson. My Holy Land visiting friends tell me it is one of the peak moments in their experience to stand in the spots where Jesus told his parables and be surrounded by for instance ...fields where people are sowing seed for the sower went out to sow, or let the little children come to me..all of them have some missing piece we don't get unless we probe deeper and look for the pictorial , situational context of the story...So apparently the Feast of Tabernacles has a lot to do with joy, camping out with your family and friends for a week, welcoming visitors and water and light....During the peak of the festival the priests and those thousands watching take golden pitchers of water and pour them out with great rejoicing over the altar of sacrifice...and the place is lit with these great burning lights. The pilgrims wave palm branches actually specially prepared wave offerings of four parts,,,as an anticipation of the coming of the Messiah....the symbols alone in this section you could spend a couple of lifetimes on....and here in the middle of this ceremony is the raised voice of Jesus saying" Let anyone who is thirsty come to me..and let the one who believes in me drink..."
Well it makes the whole water and light themes woven throughout John come to life when you see Jesus there at the feast....becoming the fulfillment for the reason for the Feast and the continuing Christ with us who booths with us and in us...and from whom we come to thirsty and drink of his life and light.....For you really brilliant shining ones you might want to back this up by the wonderful coincidence of then opening a book called Jesus by someone called Ratzinger or better known to us now as Pope Benedict, who has some wonderful insights on the Feast and the themes of water , light , wine and vines and lots more. but I haven;t finished the book yet and my wondeful visit into these golden flashing pitchers full of water light , joy and music has me off with the Pilgrims on the Feast...