Archive - Feb 2018


February 28th

A Great Cloud of Witnesses

During my recent retreat at Holy Cross Monastery, I would arrive for the services early and sit all the way in, so I could lean against the wall. These walls have absorbed decades of prayers and I could almost feel others who have worshiped there and leaned against the wall leaning against me. I was leaning on them for support, just as they may have leaned against the wall and others in this great crowd for support as well. Whom am I leaning against? Who is leaning against me?

I have similar feelings at the Orthodox Church. Who has looked at this icon with me? Whom am I looking at? Whose prayers are mingled with mine, as we offer up praise and thanksgiving and as we pray for forgiveness, mercy, and justice?

In the Eucharist, it is the same, no matter how and where I participate. I know different people have different approaches to the Eucharist. With some people, I remember Christ’s death and resurrection as I have a small piece of bread and sip some grape juice. With others, I sense the holy presence in the mysterious gifts. I don’t have to be exclusive with one of another, just as I can enjoy New Haven pizza as well as Chicago pizza.

Yet most of my interactions with others in this great cloud of witnesses seems to be with people brought up as European Protestants, Roman Catholics, or Eastern Orthodox. I hope, through my studies, to get a better sense of people brought up in indigenous variants of Christianity.

What does this great cloud of witnesses look like where you stand?

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February 27th

Retreat Reflections: Powdered Trees

I remember a week and a half ago, the trees covered by ice after an ice storm. Last night it snowed. I went out early during the snow to watch the woods fill up with snow. I noticed that at certain times, a snowflake would land at just the right angle so that it reflected the light from the guest house, like a sparkling diamond, a firefly, or a star. Sooner or later, another snowflake would land, covering that snowflake and extinguishing the fire but other snowflakes would land at similar angles and the ground was a slowly shifting constellation of snowflake starts.

This morning, as I ate breakfast, I noticed the snow falling from trees like confectionary sugar off of a pastry.

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February 26th

Retreat Reflections: Further thoughts on Elizabeth and Mary

I prayed for a while in the afternoon in front of the statue of Mary beneath the window of what was most likely the annunciation, but seemed at the moment to be of the visitation of Elizabeth and Mary. I spent more time thinking about what I am carrying, what I am to give birth to. I thought of my uncertainty and fear. I thought of the pain on delivery and the joy afterwards. I wondered more about who the Elizabeths are in my life. Who the other Marys are. Really, we are all Mary, we are all Elizabeth.

How do we celebrate these times of expectation in the twenty-first century? It struck me that perhaps, as a church gathering we need to have a baby shower. What are we, as a community, carrying and hoping to give birth to? Perhaps on the feast of the visitation, we could have a baby shower. We could all bring gifts reflecting the ministries we want to see grow in the community. Perhaps we could have it in a park, and people could hike. People from dinner ministries could supply the food. People for liturgical ministries could supply music. It could be a grand old time, with people coming and going like how they come and go to a baby shower.

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February 25th

Additional Retreat Reflections

Here are a few other segments of my retreat reflections, pulled together and edited in the context of the long week that has just ended.

There was once a pilgrim who greatly enjoyed going on retreat at a local monastery. One day, he was told the story of a king who dreamt he was a butterfly and woke up wondering if he were truly a king who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly who dreamt he was a king.

The pilgrim pondered in his heart, “When and where am I am king and when and where am I a butterfly?”

How might the Episcopal Church better live out the rule of Benedict? How might it listen better? How might it live out the rule about welcoming guests? Here, I’m thinking particularly about aspects beyond the parish level. The book we are reading is Holy Solitude: Lenten Reflections with Saints, Hermits, Prophets, and Rebels. How willing are we to embrace prophetic and rebellious actions today?

What would it be like to come up to Holy Cross Monastery for the day one Saturday a month, perhaps becoming some sort of companion or associate? Perhaps, being at least partly, involved in the Diocese of New York? How might that fit with my journey?

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February 24th

The Purpose of Ecclesiastical Institutions

As I struggle through my own formation, thinking back to the retreat last weekend, my interaction with various people in positions of power in certain ecclesiastical institutions, my readings about the Orthodox faith and my readings for seminary, one quote from Frederica Matthewes-Green in her book Welcome to the Orthodox Church particularly jumps out at me.

But to learn Orthodoxy itself is a different matter. Because once you’re on the inside, you find that Orthodoxy is not primarily a religious institution, but a spiritual path. The institution exists for the sake of the path.

It sometimes feels that both Protestants and Roman Catholics miss this important idea. To paraphrase Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, “The Sabbath [and ecclesiastical institutions] were made for man, not man for the Sabbath [and ecclesiastical institutions]”.

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