Month: January 2014

The times they are a-changin’

Something I didn’t expect to see in this lifetime.. a papal iconoclast


Pope on Roling Stone


Feast of St Agnes

The Feast of St Agnes coming around again. Keats’ The Eve of St Agnes:


 “St. Agnes! Ah! it is St. Agnes’ Eve —
    Yet men will murder upon holy days:
    Thou must hold water in a witch’s sieve,
    And be liege-lord of all the Elves and Fays,
    To venture so: it fills me with amaze
    To see thee, Porphyro! — St. Agnes’ Eve!
    God’s help! my lady fair the conjuror plays
    This very night: good angels her deceive!
  But let me laugh awhile, I’ve mickle time to grieve.”


Sparks, fragments and oneness.


Can’t access the video lectures of The  Letters of Paul. Reading up on the  Lurianic  Kabbalah instead, thinking of a little Meister Eckhart in the evenings. From Bracha Sack:

It is required to know the teaching of kabbalists that states: every one of the sefirot contains all of the ten (other sefirot) within it. Do not think that each part exists in and of itself with characteristics (qualities) separate from the others [there is always overlap in terms of the qualities (my insertion)]. One quality (sefirah) does not exist alone (in isolation) as something abstract and removed that negates the other qualities (sefirot). Rather, they are mutually interdependent with each part containing within itself all of the others, and in this manner [of interinclusion] they can reach limitless number [in terms of their subcategories].

Praying the Daily Office

I’m always  pleased to see a new post up from Amy Welborn and here she touches on  something  very close to my heart, the simplicity and fullness there for us in the Morning and Evening Prayers as we join our prayers to those of the universal Church:


We can offer up our relatives, friends and enemies, we can pray for the suffering throughout the world, we can offer God our own personal gratitude, hopes and sorrows, and then, stepping into the liturgy, join them to the prayers of the whole Body of Christ.  When we do this, we who “do not know how to pray as we ought” learn how to pray and are shaped by the Spirit in that prayer.

When we reflect on how the Holy Spirit acts in our lives, I think we should be wary of an overly individualistic take.  The way I have come to understand it is that the Spirit was poured out on the Church – the Church as a whole  – and that the primary way that I, as an individual, encounter the Holy Spirit is through the prayer, works of mercy and big T Tradition of that Church.

So in that light, it just seems to me that praying the amazing and rich liturgical prayers of the Church – from the Mass to the Liturgy of the Hours and other forms – is an encounter with the Holy Spirit that shapes me, if I am open, at my deepest level.

I Waited For the Lord

Week One in Ordinary Time, the Feast of St Ita, 475-570CE. She was born in County Waterford, Ireland, and founded a community of women in County Limerick, at a place now called Killeedy after her. She was known for her sanctity and for her gift of prophecy and was held in veneration by a large number of saints, both men and women.

The psalm at Matins reminding me of the Mendelssohn I Waited for the Lord we used to sing at my Anglican girls high school. Standing up in the gallery for the descant, our voices so high and pure, so strong. Music I loved.


Psalm 39:2,5,7-10 ©

Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.
I waited, I waited for the Lord
  and he stooped down to me;
  he heard my cry.
Happy the man who has placed
  his trust in the Lord
and has not gone over to the rebels
  who follow false gods.
Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.
You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings,
  but an open ear.
You do not ask for holocaust and victim.
  Instead, here am I.
Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.
In the scroll of the book it stands written
  that I should do your will.
My God, I delight in your law
  in the depth of my heart.
Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.
Your justice I have proclaimed
  in the great assembly.
My lips I have not sealed;
  you know it, O Lord.
Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.




Staying green in arid heat

Meditating and chewing on the Word in a  stifling dusty heat. Staying with the tedium and restlessness and inward aridity.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord, with the Lord for his hope. He is like a tree by the waterside that thrusts its roots to the stream: when the heat comes it feels no alarm, its foliage stays green; it has no worries in a year of drought, and never ceases to bear fruit.
Reading up on Paul’s use of rhetoric in his letters. The  ancient skills of persuasion and exhortation  following Aristotle’s  ethos, pathos and logos. Ways of  communicating we can scarcely understand these days.
Looking at  Gerschom Scholem and  his  understanding of the  Jewish mystical  tradition, such depth and illumination in the commentaries on disputed, beloved texts. I wish  many Christian readers had anywhere near the same patient erudition and respect for each word, each syllable, each margin note

Anniversary of adult baptism

Feast of St Hilary of  Poitiers


St Hilary of Poitiers (- 367) He was born at the beginning of the fourth century. He was elected Bishop of Poitiers in 350. He fought strongly against Arianism and was exiled by the Emperor Constantius. His works are full of wisdom and learning, directed to the strengthening of the Catholic faith and the right interpretation of Scripture. He died in 367. He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1851.


A special anniversary — thirty-two years ago I was baptised as an adult Roman Catholic convert in St Michael’s Church, Rondebosch by Fr Guy Ruffell and Dominican Sr Fabian there as a witness. Inward amused by the phrase ‘Renounce Satan and all  his pomp’. Both Fr Ruffell and Sr Fabian long dead, RIP


I didn’t choose the Feast of St Hilary, it was just a convenient date for Fr Ruffell. I did attend adult query classes a few times. I  did and didn’t believe. And because of  certain people who cared deeply for me, I persisted. Loving literature, in love with an idealised vision of the Church, wanting to belong, wanting structure and meaning. Doubting, secular, political, feminist,  my life at odds with so much the Church taught. But in I came anyhow.


Pleased I could now receive communion, disappointed not to feel more, confused and uncertain as ever. Wanting to do all the right things and baffled by contradictions and  nebulous doubts, but persisting, going  forward with some hope mixed with dread.


From a sermon on the Trinity by Saint Hilary Bishop
(Lib 1, 37-38: PL 10, 48-49)

May I serve you by making you known

I am well aware, almighty God and Father, that in my life I owe you a most particular duty. It is to make my every thought and word speak of you.

In fact, you have conferred on me this gift of speech, and it can yield no greater return than to be at your service. It is for making you known as Father, the Father of the only-begotten God, and preaching this to the world that knows you not and to the heretics who refuse to believe in you.

In this matter the declaration of my intention is only of limited value. For the rest, I need to pray for the gift of your help and your mercy. As we spread our sails of trusting faith and public avowal before you, fill them with the breath of your Spirit, to drive us on as we begin this course of proclaiming your truth. We have been promised, and he who made the promise is trustworthy: Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

Yes, in our poverty we will pray for our needs. We will study the sayings of your prophets and apostles with unflagging attention, and knock for admittance wherever the gift of understanding is safely kept. But yours it is, Lord, to grant our petitions, to be present when we seek you and to open when we knock.

There is an inertia in our nature that makes us dull; and in our attempt to penetrate your truth we are held within the bounds of ignorance by the weakness of our minds. Yet we do comprehend divine ideas by earnest attention to your teaching and by obedience to the faith which carries us beyond mere human apprehension.

So we trust in you to inspire the beginnings of this ambitious venture, to strengthen its progress, and to call us into a partnership in the spirit with the prophets and the apostles. To that end, may we grasp precisely what they meant to say, taking each word in its real and authentic sense. For we are about to say what they already have declared as part of the mystery of revelation: that you are the eternal God, the Father of the eternal, only-begotten God; that you are one and not born from another; and that the Lord Jesus is also one, born of you from all eternity. We must not proclaim a change in truth regarding the number of gods. We must not deny that he is begotten of you who are the one God; nor must we assert that he is other than the true God, born of you who are truly God the Father.

Impart to us, then, the meaning of the words of Scripture and the light to understand it, with reverence for the doctrine and confidence in its truth. Grant that we may express what we believe. Through the prophets and apostles we know about you, the one God the Father, and the one Lord Jesus Christ. May we have the grace, in the face of heretics who deny you, to honor you as God, who is not alone, and to proclaim this as truth.

Baptism of the Lord

Peaceful Sunday, slight wind in the catalpa trees, mountains blue encircling the village. Thinking back to my own January 13 baptism into the Roman Catholic Church in 1982, Feast of St Hilary of Poitiers. Tomorrow.

A long and  restless 32 years.


Reflecting on this from NT Wright:
In particular, we may remind ourselves of the towering significance, in Paul’s thought, of Romans 6.1-11. Having just expounded the gospel of grace, God’s rich, welcoming and forgiving love meeting us where we are, helpless sinners (5.6-10), he faces the question: if God’s grace meets while we are sinners, must we therefore stay as sinners so that God’s grace can go on meeting us there? He knows the answer as soon as he has asked the question, but a great many people in today’s church do not know it and cheerfully answer, ‘Yes!’ instead. It is one of the most important principles of biblical ethics, and one trampled in the mud again and again in contemporary debate: that God’s grace meets us where we are, but God’s grace, thank God, does not leave us where we are; that God accepts us as we are, but that God’s grace, thank God, is always a transforming acceptance, so that in God’s very act of loving us and wooing our answering love we are being changed; and, more dramatically, in baptism and all that it means we are actually dying and rising, leaving one whole way of life and entering upon a wholly different one.


First reading
Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7 ©
Thus says the Lord:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom my soul delights.
I have endowed him with my spirit
that he may bring true justice to the nations.
He does not cry out or shout aloud,
or make his voice heard in the streets.
He does not break the crushed reed,
nor quench the wavering flame.
Faithfully he brings true justice;
he will neither waver, nor be crushed
until true justice is established on earth,
for the islands are awaiting his law.



I, the Lord, have called you to serve the cause of right;
I have taken you by the hand and formed you;
I have appointed you as covenant of the people and light of the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to free captives from prison,
and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.