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A Tale of Two Birth Announcements

Look over Luke 1:5-25; 57-66.

cappella_tornabuoni2c_102c_annuncio_dell27angelo_a_zaccaria

Annunciation of the Angel to Zechariah by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1490, fresco in the Tornabuoni Chapel, Florence) Public Domain

We all know the story, don’t we? Zacharias (an “official” “ordained-type” priest) goes in his proper time to offer incense within the Temple. The Angel Gabriel appears to him there, announcing the upcoming birth of John the Baptist, along with his role as forerunner and preparer of the way of the Lord.

Zacharias responds, objecting, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” [v. 18] Gabriel then identifies himself by name, and declares that Zacharias will be mute until his words were fulfilled.

Time passes and so things come about. Zacharias regains his voice finally upon naming his son “John” at his circumcision, in response to community objections because this is not family name of their line.

We all know the story.

Now, please look over Luke 1:26-56.

pinturicchio2c_cappella_baglioni_02

The Annunciation by Pinturicchio (1501, fresco in the Cappella Baglioni, Collegiata di Santa Maria Maggiore, Spello) Public Domain

We all know this story, too, don’t we? We see this played out in Christmas pageants almost annually, no? The Angel Gabriel appears to Mary, declares her favored, calms her confusion, and announces that she will conceive the Son of the Most High and name Him Jesus.

Mary seems to respond much as did Zacharias, pointing out a physical incongruity as she says, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” [v. 34]

But far from punishing her, as it could seem Gabriel did to Zacharias, the angel answers graciously with not only the answer to her question (that the power of the Most High would overshadow her), but he gives her an additional sign declaring that Elizabeth (her kinswoman) is six months along expecting the birth of John. Their exchange ends with “’nothing will be impossible with God.’ And Mary said, ‘Behold the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her” [vv. 37-38]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, like, am I the only one who ever wondered, “what’s the difference here?”

Zacharias clearly ticked Gabriel off, while Mary didn’t. It’s one thing to point to the “rank order” difference between them. There’s certainly a difference of “graciousness” between them. Lots of flavorful differences, but I always sensed there was more here than that.

And… why should we care? What difference does, or should, it make to us… to you and me… here and now… why these two encounters went the way they did?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I think the answer to both questions is the same one… “Faith”.

The difference between the two encounters is “Faith”. And the reason we should care, is also “Faith”.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It never dawned on me, until very recently, that Zacharias… even faced as he was with the terrifying countenance of an Angel of God Almighty… doubted the truth of his words. Even INSIDE the Temple, standing next to the Altar of Incense as he offered up incense to God!

Seriously?

All of Gabriel’s words spoke to FUTURE events, not present events. Zacharias was going to have to go from that place, be with his wife in the proper time, conceive John, and watch nature take its course for the next nine months.

But that wasn’t good enough for Zacharias.  He says, “how will I know this for certain?” (We know italicized words are inserted by editors.) So he wants to know, right here, right now, why he should believe Gabriel. Waiting apparently isn’t good enough. (We know for certain that the issue is doubt, because Gabriel tells us that.) Zacharias is rendered mute until all was fulfilled “because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.” [v. 20]

Zacharias needed to know these things were true before he was willing to do his part. Clearly, his part in this miracle would be of crucial importance. It was he and Elizabeth who needed to conceive this child. But before he would go to that trouble, before he would dare go communicate this to Elizabeth, before he would risk Elizabeth’s heartbreak, disappointment, or disgrace… he had to have a sign. He had to KNOW this was true, before he could obey.

Gabriel gives him an unmistakable sign of his authority and power, using his words alone to stop all words for Zacharias until the truth was borne out.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So what is different about Mary? She, too, asks a “how” question.

The difference is that her question is one of “means”, not “verification”. She was perplexed at the appearance of Gabriel, not terrified. Gabriel declares the upcoming conception, birth, and kingship of Jesus, and Mary does not express doubt at the announcement. Rather, she asks how this is to come about, what is she to do? She knows she is virgin. Is that to change for this miracle? How should she obey the will of God?

Gabriel responds to the “how” of the question… that “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” [v. 34-35] (By the way, that word “overshadow” only appears 5 times in the New Testament. Once here; then three times referring to the Cloud around Jesus, Moses, and Elijah in the time of the Transfiguration that came upon (and terrified) Peter, James and John, from which came the Voice saying “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!”[Luke 9:34-35]; and third when Peter’s shadow heals the sick [Acts 5:15].)

Unsolicited, Gabriel offers Mary the sign of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Mary yields unconditionally to God’s will and embraces Gabriel’s words, the hurries off to aid Elizabeth in her first pregnancy. Isn’t it interesting that Elizabeth had only “come out”, publicly acknowledging her pregnancy in the month before Mary’s arrival? No way was Elizabeth going to endure the risk of disappointment had she miscarried, or been merely deluded into thinking she was pregnant. She would not face either the jibes or the condescending looks of other village women as her face began to round and her figure became more full. She was an elder of her town, disgraced by the curse of barrenness perhaps, but nonetheless righteous and dignified of demeanor. She would not be mocked.

But by the time Mary arrives, Elizabeth KNOWS. She knows for sure that she carries life within her. The baby has quickened, and for the first time she has the glorious sensation of life moving inside her as he responds to her motions or sounds around them. No words describe the joy of hugging new life with your very self, as a woman can in this time.

Mary comes, calls out in greeting, and the Holy Spirit already filling John [v. 15] now fills Elizabeth as well, and her joyful encounter with Mary as they attend to one another’s needs for the next three months (Elizabeth’s third trimester, Mary’s first), offers blessing to them both. Even as I type those words, I can only pause and wonder in awe at what those months must have been like. What would evenings have been like in such a home? Zacharias silent (no choice there), Elizabeth growing ever more excited even as getting around gets more difficult and stilted, and Mary finding her appetite less predictable, perhaps napping now and again, and sensing the changes in her body as the Christ waxes in form…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What does all this mean to us, Gentle Reader?

Well, God does the impossible all the time. For those who are ready and seek Him, miracles are all around.

When they come, sometimes they are hard to believe in. That’s just the truth. But! When one is willing to yield to them, God grants. When one is willing if and only if there is a sign attesting to the truth… well, God accommodates and a sign will be given. We see this over and over again throughout the Scriptures (Gideon, etc.) However, as we see from this text, while faith that may be, it is a flawed sort of faith. (I, for one, have engaged in such flawed faith countless times, so no judgment here!)

But there’s another kind of faith. There’s a faith that takes a truth on the authority of the speaker, and simply says “Yes!” before it asks “How?”

There, I think is both the difference between the two Gabriel missions, and the significance to us today.

Zacharias wanted proof before he would act. Mary was willing to act before any proof was offered.

Both were engaged in astonishing blessing and miracle. Zacharias just had to go about it with a bit more inconvenience. That and, frankly, their lingering doubts certainly would have robbed him and Elizabeth of months of joy and consolation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Holy Spirit, the overshadowing Power of the Lord Most High, certainly wins out in every miracle. Let us simply say “Yes!” first, ask “How?” afterwards, and watch events unfold!

Grace to you, Gentle Reader!

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Posted by on July 16, 2017 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Angel’s Journal, Entry Six: “Who Could Believe This?!!”

Journal Entry:

I still can scarcely believe this day myself, but I have to get something down about all this. It all began so bleakly…

The vulgarity… the violence… the contempt… I cannot even write down my thoughts or feelings about what happened between The Master’s betrayal by Judas, and His final breath on the Cross. Perhaps later, but not now, not yet.

And then… He died.

He really, totally, died. Just like most every other man born of woman. He died. The groan throughout heaven was nearly palpable. The higher ups looked grave, but unsurprised. Even *I* realize that He had spoken clearly that He was going to die, but still… I mean… how could this be? So often, He spoke “figuratively”. I guess I had hoped this was one of those kinds of thing. But it wasn’t. He died.

His Body was taken down, laid in a borrowed tomb, and he was hurriedly washed and anointed, as even His friends had to get home before the sun fully set.

But then… then… the strangest thing(s) happened! (For one thing, “time” got really muddled between the celestial and the material. Because He remained fully Him, and yet His natures… Well, I don’t really understand HOW this all happened, but I’ll just note down what DID happen!)

Anyway, He was washed, anointed, wrapped, and left in that tomb. The Temple officials (not caring about their OWN people getting home for the Passover night), posted guards and rolled this megalith in front of the entrance so that no one could get to Him. (Ha! Little did THEY know. But I get ahead of myself…)

Anyway, no sooner had the tomb been sealed, than a little messenger sprite pops in front of me with a sealed scroll with gilt edges. I open it, and find I am summoned to the commissioning desk… I have an assignment. I shook my head… “REALLY?” I thought… “in the midst of all THIS, now it’s ‘business as usual’, and I have an assignment?” But it was better than doing nothing, I figured, so I zipped to the desk to serve as I was called.

Never did I imagine!

Twelve of us had been summoned, and the task director was just beaming all over as he congratulated us, and said if he were capable of envy he would envy us. He seemed to take delight in our puzzled expressions, and said very little as reverently he handed each of us various garments of exquisite crafting. Sandals, undergarments, finest linen tunic, sash… it wasn’t until he got to the final garments, a magnificent Robe and covering cloak that we realized Whose these were. This clothing was woven of spirit and truth, had indefinable texture as fine as spidersilk, and shone with colors no human eye has ever seen.

These… were The Master’s robes… His Kingly Robes… His Priestly Robes. These were the garments He would wear upon His return to Earth at the end of man time… and they were here… HERE… in OUR HANDS!

Our assignment was simple. We were to proceed, the dozen of us, to and into the tomb, and await The Master’s need for His clothing.

We were stunned… but delighted.

With the speed of thought, we entered the Tomb. It was large enough, with a stone niche in which The Master’s body, wound with His gravesclothes, lay. We arrived, each bearing our items, and waited.

It was not but moments before we… er… “felt”, more than “heard”, the melodious voice of The Father, His Majesty, entone with the greatest love…

“Awaken now, My Son. Well, well done, My good and faithful Beloved. Come, now, as We complete Our tasks!”

The Master arose, in the fullness of His Glorious Body, as His flesh remained within the winding sheet. Confused though we were, we knelt and sang in joy and wonder at His return. Our presence had already brought light into the space, but His arising prompted a golden glowing brilliance never seen since the Shekinah.

Always knowing the thoughts of those about Him, He smiled as He donned each garment in order, answering the confusions in myself.

I have already said, the whole “time” thing got a bit muddled in this space between sundown Friday and sunrise of Sunday (as men name these days).

“You wonder why my flesh remains here for the moment… Well, I have said My body must remain in the earth for these three days, as Jonah was in the whale. I will not appear to any on earth, until that flesh arises and the stone is rolled away. But, in this meantime, I have things to accomplish… and a dinner date at home this night with a thief.” And He smiled at us, touched us all, and allowed us to serve Him as we fitted His garments to Him.

“You may remain with Me for this time, if you wish…” He said.

We wished.

Together, He and we twelve singing praises to Him, His Majesty, and The Radiance… sped towards heaven. We thought He would return to His Throne first and foremost, to see The Father. But we were wrong…

Instead, He headed first to the Temple Not Made With Hands… the one foreshadowed and copied by the Tabernacle and Temple of Jerusalem. We stood, six to a side, as He made the Once For All Offering of His own Life, His Own Blood, in total and utter satisfaction of all debt owed by the sin of Creation. It was amazing.

Having thus completed Reconciliation, He THEN went to The Father’s Throne, to bring “closure” to His offering. They only spoke a few moments, as His Majesty raised His hands and blessed both The Master and all of Creation, in the completion of this Sacrifice of and by The Lamb of God. They embraced, The Master bowed (as did we all), and strode from the Great Hall.

Each of us were very silent, wondering how long we could tag along before being dismissed, as we fanned out from Him something like an Honor Guard. All around us cheered and bowed, as The Master passed… and He seemed vibrant with joy and celebration as He touched as many as reached out to Him.

We got to the boundary of paradise, the threshold between our dimension and others, as He said, “I have one more task to complete for the moment. Would you care to come along?” We all eagerly assented. “Very well,” He continued. “You’re about to go somewhere you have never been, and may well never go again. We depart.”

Following Him, we were shocked to find ourselves at… the Gates of Hell. More precisely, we were at the veil of the underworld, the land of shades of those passed on. Great symbolic chains, locks, bars, and barriers kept the living, the ever living, and the dead apart and separated. With no more than a mighty sweep of His arm, and a cry of, “People of faith! Walk free into the Light! Welcome to My Kingdom, ye Saints!”… all the obstructions vanished, and those whose hopes had ever been in the Lord, were now able to come to Him, touch Him, kiss Him, hug Him.

Being Who, and what, and how, He is… He could (and did) greet and embrace them each by name. Together, we all made our way home to Paradise.

When we had returned, all tasks done, The Master passed through His quarters and emerged dressed once again in His typical simple style.

He called ten of us to be privileged to care for His things for a time, and serve at a banquet being held for Him, the Father, the Radiance, the returning saints, and one recently deceased thief. Two of us (myself, disappointedly) were not among the chosen. I tried not to show my disappointment… but you can’t “hide thoughts” around Him.

“Don’t be dejected,” He said as He smiled. “I have a different task for you and Heracles, if you don’t mind.” (We smiled broadly, nodding our assent.) “I would like you to return to My Tomb, and stand vigil over My Body. In ‘our time’ here, it will only be a few moments from now. But in ‘man time’ it will be about 36 hours, and I will return. You will then break open the Tomb as I exit, and remain behind to explain what has happened. Will you deliver these messages for Me?”

We could scarcely contain our glee!

And so it came to pass. On the Third Day, Heracles and I participated in a great earthquake and rolled away the stone, watched The Master rise in His Resurrected Body of Flesh, saw Him disappear, folded His graveclothes, and awaited the women who came to anoint His corpse properly.

Should I live forever (which of course, I shall… but still…)… Should I live forever, I shall NEVER forget the privilege…

I got to sit atop a great heavy sealing stone and say to some of The Master’s very Best Friends…

“Why do you seek the Living among the Dead? He is Risen, just as He said He would…”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Who could ever believe such a thing?

No… wait… apparently THAT is now a very important question. One of those “choice” things I spoke of before…

Oh well. Enough for now. A bit more, later. Allelujah! He is Risen!

Journal Entry by — Makarion Nous, Angel 3rd Class, General Duties

P.S. I know this entry is a little longer than normal… But… well… the day was a bit unusual, too! MN

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2016 in Lenten Journey, Uncategorized

 

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Angel’s Journal, Entry Five: “A Drama of Choices!”

Journal Entry:

All is quiet now, all the tumult having died away and The Master laid into His borrowed Tomb. Now… there is… TIME!

“TIME”… that principle difference between human and angelic consciousness and thought. “TIME”… that “tick/tock” thing that people experience between one event and the next, one encounter and the next, one element of a sequence and the next. We don’t have that, we don’t know “delay”. For us, all is “sequence”… one thought follows another, like pages in a book. There is no “space” or “distance”, or “process” or “ponder”. We do not “consider” between “choices”. We CHOSE, we MADE our CHOICE, and now… for us… there is simply “discern-and-do” as to His Majesty’s will.

The other difference, a critical difference, between human and angelic consciousness is “illusion-deceit-falsehood”. We SEE, we truly see. We cannot be deceived or fooled or lied to or misled. Dark Ones cannot paint a false picture before us of specious choices, and tempt us to lean away from His Majesty’s will.

Somehow, all that… both “time” and “falsehood”… are bound up with physical matter. Since we are utterly “spirit”, those subordinate orders of being, those things that depend on material substance and comparison to have meaning, simply don’t. They have no meaning or hold over us.

It was in Eden, in the Garden of Eden, at the beginning of material Creation, when His Majesty and The Master began to weave together the spiritual and the material, the substantive, when both “time” and “falsehood” were realized from the potential to the actual. We angels can “observe” such a state of existence, and we can even “participate in” it from time to time (at His Majesty’s bidding), but we do not… we CANNOT… fully experience or comprehend it.

Facility in both spirit and matter are Divine attributes. His Majesty, The Master, The Radiance… they can all create in both spirit and matter. We cannot. But Man… Man, now… Man is fashioned in His image, can enter fully into Him, and in Him can create in both matter and spirit.

What has all this got to do with the horrendous events that have just passed? Well… EVERYTHING! They have EVERYTHING to do with it!

Because we angels are truly “sons of God” created at His hands… yes. But we are purely spirit, we made ONE and only one “choice” (to embrace Him or to repel Him), and we live apart from material time or illusion, in the Eternal. We are, therefore and fully, “servants” to Him and His will.

Man, on the other hand, lives in the material (though with fully spiritual faculties), is subject to material time (the tick-tock kind), and can be deluded and misled. Therefore, MAN lives in a state of moment-by-moment CHOICE regarding His Majesty and His will. Every moment, man gets to choose to embrace His Majesty and His will, or to repel Him.

And THAT… is EVERYTHING… about these momentous and horrendous events these days…

I wrote last of the exit from the Passover Supper into the Garden of Gethsemane on “Thursday night”. From that exit, and the separation of Judas from the group, The Master knew and tried to prepare His (now) “friends” for what the next 18 hours would bring.

So many things occurred in such a “brief” (humanly speaking) span of time… a person could spend years tracking all the threads of all the drama there. The fears, the ambitions, the delusions, the agendas… The Romans, the Politicians, the Religious Leaders, the Pious, the Exploiters, the Voyeurs, those seeking “Entertainment” (as at a train wreck, a public hanging, or a bloodsport), the confusion.

But we angels saw it all a bit differently. We don’t see all the “bells and whistles”, the “flash and sparkle”. I cannot speak to what others saw, but what *I* saw, with intense clarity, was an astonishing sequence of “choices” made by just a handful of “principal actors”, whose decision sequence summarized what happened throughout the region in those hours.

The Actors?

  • The Master
  • Judas
  • Peter
  • The Disciples/Friends
  • Pontius Pilate
  • The Crowds

I will not go through all of that here right now. The “feelings” are yet too fresh and even (odd to say) “painful”. I’ll get more detail down in entries to follow. But all these entered into a series of “Choice Chains”, sequences of decisions where they could follow their conscience (embrace His Majesty and His will), or they could yield to temptation of fear, pride, or avarice (repel Him).

Judas… his “choice chain” is so short and clear. He is likely to be vilified and condemned for millennia as the iconic “betrayer”. And yes, indeed he was… but look at him, his concerns, his decisions and choices, up alongside Peter… and there are just a couple critical places where they are distinguished.

Anyway, enough for now. More entries later. We yet wait and see what will unfold. At this moment, nearly all are consumed with despair and disappointment. The story seems ended… ended behind a huge stone in a hole in a cliff… and the great Kingdom Story wasn’t supposed to end like this!

More to come…

 

Journal Entry by — Makarion Nous, Angel 3rd Class, General Duties

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2016 in Lenten Journey, Uncategorized

 

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Angel’s Journal, Entry Four: “Utter Shock!”

Journal Entry:

Finally, bleakly, a bit tremulously, I take up quill to install another episode in this journal. I hope one day, someone puts these events together into some sort of document for the humans. It’s all just so extraordinary, it would be a shame to lose it all with one generation.

Anyway…

“Yesterday”, so to speak, I could not even attempt to get my thoughts down. Even now, they will just come in patches as I sort this all out.

But after settling down in The Temple to teach after His entry, The Master and His disciples did some preparation for the Passover Supper they would celebrate together. Again, a couple of the messenger angels here got to forewarn some of what The Master would need… a room, utensils, food and such. (There was much excitement and just the teeniest bit of jostling, as angelloi crowded the assignment desk pointing out excellent reasons that THEY were the perfect one to deliver a given instruction. Nothing discordant, mind… just a bit… er… enthusiastic. Yeah, that’s the right word… “enthusiastic”.)

So, most of us settled back a bit relaxed, thinking all was well. After all, we’ve watched for years as The Master gathers friends for dinner and parties. He heals, He teaches, He relaxes, He enjoys. It was so strange. Some of the higher ups just became ever more tense as the time approached, where most of us (myself, certainly) thought things were going well.

The meal certainly went well… as John (the youngest) entoned the traditional words, “What makes this night different from all other nights?” and His Majesty was praised for His unflagging faithfulness and love for His children. But then The Master got up, stripped down as if to fish, and washed His disciples’ feet. He spoke so incredibly of being servant to one another, and servanthood. Brought tears to the eyes of many of us angels, as we are PURELY servants, and we love our role. But never have we heard it so exalted, nor realized how fully The Master is the Ultimate Servant. We did not know we could love Him more than we always have, but indeed we do. He taught all of the disciples to become servants, and so to teach others. And then… He renamed them “friends”, no longer “disciples”. It was quite beautiful.

Then, when supper was ended, all became still and quiet when The Master took the bread and named it His flesh, and the cup of wine and named it His blood, saying they were to consume these as He was giving these over for them. That they ever were to do this in remembrance of Him.

The Host began to hum as He spoke, and ended with a choral “Amen” as He exited for the Garden.

We all saw His tragic exchange with Judas Iscariot, and poor Jemireh (Iscariot’s guardian angel) broke down in tears as The Master gave his charge the sop, and Judas dashed out to the echoes of “what you must do, do quickly.” We all tried to comfort him, knowing Judas’ choices were his own and this had ever been foreseen. But poor Jemireh yet grieved the choices his charge had made, and questioned if he could have done more to bring Judas into the light rather than the darkness. None of this was helped by the taunts of the Dark One who had captured Judas’ heart with his ambitions and fears.

But when the party moved to the Garden of Gethsemane, everything felt faster and tighter.

Oh, one odd thing at the supper… just before they went out to walk, The Master asked if they had a sword. Michael’s head shot up as if dashed with water. All his cohort began to ready their armor and weapons, thinking they’d be mobilized within moments. When they found a sword there, The Master said to take it. Never before had He commanded them to be armed. It was very odd, but He explained nothing, so we just waited.

It wasn’t very long before we saw His need… but I cannot write more of this now. It’s all yet too fresh, and all this has seemingly drained me.

More in a little bit…

Journal Entry by — Makarion Nous, Angel 3rd Class, General Duties

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2016 in Lenten Journey, Uncategorized

 

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Angel’s Journal, Second Entry: “Maybe they’re getting it?”

Journal Entry:

I want to get this down, now, while things are still so up in the air.

Clearly, His Majesty’s warning informs us that bad things are yet to happen, and there’s a whole lot of plotting and planning going on behind closed doors. (Of course, no doors are really “closed” to us, so we just have to bear with all the deceit, motionless.)

But a couple “days” ago, The Master entered Jerusalem, earth’s Holy City, where once He resided with them at the Ark of the Covenant and where He instructed (in great detail) how His temple was to be built. (Of course, that has seen better days, since that whole Babylonian debacle… still, the Temple is quite a monument to Him… and The Master always pays a great deal of attention to its goings on… But I get ahead of myself.)

Anyway, like I was saying, The Master rode into Jerusalem. Darius and Erich, on the message delivery rota for that day, were THRILLED when tasked to go to a nondescript farmer in a village near Bethpage outside the city (not the Bethpage on Long Island, but the other one outside Jerusalem), and visit his dreams with the message that The Master would need his small white colt that day, and would send a disciple to pick it up. We angels have been bound to watch these events unfold in something very close to man-time, rather than our own eternal time. But still, at least we sometimes get to participate in LITTLE ways, even if not in the “big stuff”.

Anyhow, The Master mounted the cute little colt and entered Jerusalem, packed with people, visitors there from all over the known world. As he entered, his vehicle striding relaxedly down the main road, a current seemed to move from the outskirts into the metro centre. At first just a few, the young and the quick, dashed off to inform the crowds…

“He is COMING! He’s HERE! Jesus! Jesus! He’s riding into town! He’s Here!”

It reminded me of so long before, the message some of us got to deliver… shepherds, kings, a blind man, an old woman, a priest… of course, Gabriel got to do THE Message. But still, lots and lots of us got to sing with that heavenly host as the Star shone above the Stable. It was magnificent!

And here now, these kids got to do the same. They dashed into the City, telling everyone who would listen… He’s HERE!

Ah… yes… my point. Sorry, I keep forgetting. Anyway… it was just so AMAZING! Makes me wonder if maybe this week stuff won’t be so bad. I mean, you’d swear they GET IT! The people, and I mean just about EVERYBODY, cheered Him! They cried out “Hosanna”, just as we do! They proclaimed Him “Blessed!”, just as we do! They called Him “Son of David”, and “He who comes in the name of the Lord!”, just as we do!

Could it be? Is it possible? Do they really see?

They cheered, bowed, and threw their cloaks and fronds down in front of Him. They greeted Him as the King He truly is!

Those who track the Dark Ones and monitor the conspirators against Him did not seem terribly encouraged, but *I* certainly was. Who knows, maybe this will all work out after all! I can live in hope, no?

Maybe… just maybe… they really ARE getting it?

More later, as things unfold!

Journal Entry by — Makarion Nous, Angel 3rd Class, General Duties

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2016 in Lenten Journey, Uncategorized

 

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Spiritual Warfare: Non-Linear Authority

jesusSpiritual warfare: Angels, demons, possession, oppression, cleansing, healing, casting out, darkness and light.

These sound like medieval issues, and yet we live surrounded by the reality that outcomes of such dramatic battles fill our lives and our media.

So, we look at the encounters Jesus had with unclean spirits, we look at history and texts and journals of our spiritual forefathers, we hear sermons, lectures, conferences and attend services dedicated to healing and wholeness, and we seek to grow. We see and hear words of “command” uttered by those who heal and restore, to banish and exile suffering and torment.

We are struck with a sense of awe and wonder, at the confidence with which words of healing, wholeness, or spiritual cleansing are uttered. “Faith!” we say, and recognize. “Power!” we see and recognize. “Authority!” we realize… and ponder the implications to ourselves, our lives, our prayer, our intercession.


Being so very human, so very normal in our social structures, culture and relationships, we tend to think of “Authority” in terms of “hierarchy”, like the military, or the law… in a line, descending from top to bottom from the Lord on High, downwards through Jesus, through Spirit, through “saints”, through “Christians”, and on downwards from there. Divine Authority seems, to us, a great “Trickle Down Theory” of godly economy, with each tier subject to the next.

Such a view seems affirmed in Jesus’ praise of the faith of the Roman Centurion in the Gospel of Matthew (the event is also reported in Luke 7):

And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus *said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” 10 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. 11 I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment. [Matthew 8]

I mean, that certainly SOUNDS like “military”, “straight-line”, authority, right? But look… Jesus didn’t have to speak TO the illness to heal the servant. The servant was healed in the moment of interaction between the faith of the Centurion, and the presence and willingness of Jesus. Would the servant have been healed without the interest, petition, and conversation of the Centurion? Who, then, “did” the healing? Who then, exercised “authority”?


Well, we know that all True Authority rightly vest in and from God. But… but… then what? What “path” does it follow in its “downward trickle”?

Slowly, looking at scripture, watching and listening to Jesus, I’ve realized a rather strange thing. It would seem that “God’s ways are not our ways”, and that He doesn’t wire things quite the way we do.

The Pharisees also struggled with the nature of Jesus’ authority, and one day they asked Him about it, point blank. The answer He gave, I had always thought of as “rhetorically clever”. But in recent years I’ve come to realize that He wasn’t being “mysterious, clever, and obfuscating”… He was, in fact, giving the only correct answer to the question that can be given.

23 When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?” 24 Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the people; for they all regard John as a prophet.” 27 And answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” He also said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” [Matthew 21]

Now, was Jesus simply being coy and clever there? Or perchance did He actually answer them with not only a truthful, but an accurate answer? Were they asking a question that did not HAVE an answer of the type they were looking for?


I want to leave you here with some passages to look at, and a “thought”. This is not so much an “answer” to all this, as simply a “response” from my own spirit, heart, mind… to/for your spirit, heart, mind. If it leads to your own “answer”, great. If not, the mysteries play on.

Have a Look at:

  • John 10:16-18
  • Matthew 28:16-20
  • John 14:8-10
  • Philippians 2:5-11

Go ahead and “run the word ‘Authority'” through your tools or concordances, and ponder all that as I did when I “paused” in my posts on Spiritual Warfare…

Ask yourself the question Jesus asked of me after all that study, saying…

“OK, now that you’ve seen all that…. Who currently holds the ‘Authority of Kingdom’? God the Father? Me? The Holy Spirit? The Bride? You individually? You collectively? The Father had all authority, gave it all to Me, I submitted utterly to Him, the Spirit judges… So… like ‘Button, button, who’s got the button?’… or the other child’s game of ‘Hot Potato’… Who NOW holds the Authority? Where did it come to rest?”

Now, that was the question… I STILL do not have what I would call “An Answer”, but I think I may have gotten the Point.

I have come to rest in the belief that this is a Trick Question. This is a question with no answer. The Point rests in “Oneness”. God, utterly and entirely, IS His own Authority. Christ is in the Father, Father in the Son, Spirit in Both, Spirit in Us, Christ in me, I in Him, together we in the Father, All of the Body, All of the Bride, All in Him, Him in All…

The Authority resides in Him, and in all the Oneness with Him in which we engage. This is “Non-Linear” Authority. It vests in the Oneness into which He draws each of us, and when we (individually or corporately) rest in His grace, His will, His words, His works…. His authority is present and effective. When we do not, it isn’t.

This there is no one at whom we can point and say, “HE has/speaks with God’s authority”…. or “SHE does”… by virtue simply of who they are, what they do, what office they hold, or what claims they make.

That authority vests in moments, in persons and events, where God’s will in love, grace, wholeness, healing, truth… is clearly expressed. No more, no less.


That is how I have come to “see things”. I may be right. You may see things differently and you may be right. And perhaps we both are. Far more important than whether I (or anyone else) is “right”, is my prayer that laying this out this way, looking at scripture and pondering the love and nature of God, opening to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, brings all of us greater love, light, and truth in our own walks and lives.

Joy, blessings, and grace to all!

The Little Monk

 
4 Comments

Posted by on August 12, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Spiritual Warfare

 

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A Not-So-Random Act of Kindness…

angel glowThe past few days I’ve been thinking of “seeing God in all things”, and my early training in things spiritual. This afternoon, this embarrassing recollection came to me of a “mundane miracle” (the kind folks don’t think much about or speak to others of)… and I had the impulse to write it up. That impulse was instantly smothered by my own pride and sense of dignity, as I thought, “Oh no! I can’t put THAT episode out there. I look so foolish!”

Well, as prayers go, we all know how THAT was going to end up, so please feel free to laugh at the foolishness of my callow youth. I hasten to add that I was deep in the throes of my 19 year old omniscience at the time. I had recently been baptized after a year of catechumenate, thought I had a thorough grip on both religion and spirituality, and… basically… considered myself God’s gift to Christendom. (I shake my head and blush to admit all of that… but there it is… the truth is just the truth.)

Anyway, my Jesuit Dad was out of town on a business trip, I was a college student, and typically I attended noonday Mass at the campus chapel if Dad were not at home to celebrate Mass in the late afternoon. Morning classes finished up, and as I was reaching the brick staircase down to the subterranean Chapel that occupied our subgrade complex of Fountain, Bookstore, Chapel, and Cafeteria, an old tatty hunched over woman asked for my aid. (Insert my instant label “bag lady” right here, as she dragged along a little pull-behind grocery cart thingy, was covered in a disheveled gray wool overcoat, and had a bit of a “mothball” air about her).

She hobbled up to me slowly, said I looked like a nice young student, and did we celebrate the Mass here on campus? “Yes! Yes we do…” I responded, as in my mind I thought, “Poor thing. She just wants to beg a lunch from the Cafeteria, and is using the Mass as an excuse to get downstairs. *I*… I [puff out chest in my mind’s eye here] shall be wondrously charitable and do the ‘Christian thing’, and buy her lunch!”

I helped her down the 20 or so brick steps with her cart and pointed out the Chapel doors.

However… quite sure of myself, and brimming over with smug righteous charity, I said, “Are you sure it is the Chapel you want, ma’am? The Cafeteria is right here, and I’ll be glad to buy you lunch if you’d like!” [I could see the glow of my halo now, as heaven itself would pause to watch the Little Monk executing this act of corporal mercy! I was so proud…]

But she said, No, it wasn’t necessary. She would like to attend Mass if I wouldn’t mind opening the door.

“Of course, ma’am,” I responded, not at all discouraged. This humble beggar woman needed to preserve her pride, of course. Dignity above all. And so she would attend Mass as the appropriate reason for being down here, and THEN ask for lunch afterwards. Ah, I understood. I would be ready… to be kind, humble, and charitable! Yes!

She sat a bit apart, as the dozen or so in attendance were scattered about the comfortable, but quite portable chairs. Weekday Mass was a half hour or so affair, and, while I know I prayed at least PART of the time, and most likely paid SOME attention during the celebration of the Eucharist, my mind was mostly occupied with whether I would offer her a soup and sandwich lunch, or go whole hog with a dinner type entree? After all, “feeding the hungry” was a biggie to Christ, so maybe the dinner menu?

OK, so Mass is ended “go in peace, to love and serve the Lord…” “Thanks be to God”… Right, I’m on my way, Lord. And I rejoin my charge, waiting for the inevitable request for lunch. Which… which… doesn’t come. As we walk out the doors of the Chapel. So, I think I may need to “grease the way” a bit, and I point out the lovely Cafeteria entrance to our right, asking if she’d ever been here before.

No, no she’d never been here. This seemed a very nice place. Nice Mass. Nice people… and I think, “Ah… ‘nice people’… here it comes. She’s going to ask me for lunch. I’m SO ready…” and… her request never comes as we walk past the Cafeteria to the brick stairs up and out.

Now, I’m downright confused. I KNOW I had this sussed. What’s going on?

She simply asks if I will help her get her cart up the steps and walk her to the sidewalk. I say of course I will, but I am so unspeakably confused.

We get to the sidewalk, she thanks me, and begins to toddle away. I keep walking alongside her, and tell her I’m about to go have lunch.

She says, “Oh, how nice, dear. You enjoy that.” and keeps toddling.

Then, nearly with a tone of irritation in my voice, I ask, “Ma’am? Wouldn’t you care to have lunch with me? My treat?”

She stopped, turned to me beaming the world’s most gracious smile, and says, “Oh, no dear. I’m fine. I just wanted to attend Mass, and you are just SO kind to have shown me around and helped me. Thank you. And God bless you.” And off she toddled to the corner, waiting for the light to cross the street.

Um… Gentle Reader… I was “poleaxed”. I turned away, stunned. My grandmother would have told me to close my mouth, as I’d catch flies, my jaw had dropped so far. I’d gotten to the stairs down to the cafeteria again (truly intending to have lunch), and it was only a few seconds later and out of sight of her, when I thought, “I never asked her name, or if she would be coming again.” And I turned back around to rejoin her.

When I got to the corner (no more than 10 seconds later), she was gone. I mean, completely gone. Nowhere in sight in any direction. She shouldn’t have been able even to cross the street in that length of time, and the buildings around that corner were not “pedestrian friendly” (college admin offices and such). There was nowhere a casual visitor could have GONE, not to mention that the main building across the street was the Jesuit Residence, with entrance on the other corner.

This was utterly impossible. That was disturbing. But… I… *I*… had been WRONG! Dead wrong! So incredibly, unbelievably, wrong! I had thought I was being “hustled” in the Name of God. And, to show off my incredible Christian largesse I was perfectly willing to be “hustled in the Name of God by this scheming Bag Lady”. And instead, instead, I had helped an elderly, pious, arthritic… come attend Noonday Mass with no other plan or agenda but to honor God.

O… No…

Ever been there? Ever find yourself blushing and stammering with embarrassment before the entire heavenly court? I just stood there, on that street corner looking around stupidly, as waves of conviction and remorse crashed over me. Pride… pride and vanity… and I’d blown an entire Mass where I could have worshiped, and judged this woman the whole time, and utterly failed to receive the blessing and grace she otherwise had for me, listening to my own “interior narration” of this imaginary drama. Aw… maaaan!

Now, without getting into anything deep of denominational differences, at that point in my upbringing particularly, I was being trained to “dump guilt” as rapidly as possible. Having a Jesuit Dad makes this very convenient in general, as access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation is ready to hand almost any time. But Dad was out of town, and this had been SO out of order.

I headed to the office of a friend, who happened to be the Director of Campus Ministry, but he knew my family situation well and knew me pretty well. Fr. Kelly, with this terrific cultured Dublin Irish accent. It was lunchtime and I found him alone in the offices, as I asked if he had a minute. He was happy to see me, directed me to a chair, and asked how things were going. I said I was hoping he would hear my confession.

He was a bit surprised, asked if I didn’t prefer to wait for my Dad to get back, I said no, so graciously he reached for his stole (a purple ribbon-thingy you may see priests use now and again), and we began simply with his words, “OK, tell me about it…”

I told him the story about as honestly as I have just told you, and step-by-step I saw him smile and gently shake his head. He knew me well, he knew my pride and faults, and he could see this whole thing unrolling in front of him. He was not ridiculing me, as he knew I was in real spiritual discomfort here, but at the end he could not help but laugh out loud. (Not the last time I’ve had a priest laugh at my confessions.)

Then we got to the “counseling” part of the Rite, and he nearly glowed with joy.

“Little Monk, I don’t need to say anything about what was out of order there. You’ve seen that quite clearly. But you are NOT seeing the great blessing you’ve had. To be frank, I think it’s entirely possible that this visitor may not have been human at all. I think you’ve just been taught a lesson by an angel. Now, I could tell you ‘don’t judge’ or ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ from now til the cows come home, but this… this lesson God has graced you with… you’ll never forget this as long as you live.

“Have you ever seen her before?” I shook my head. “Well, neither have I, and I know almost all the ‘casual visitors’ to our Masses. I have a very strong feeling we will never see her again, either. But if you ever do, please let me know.

“In the meantime, for your penance just return to the Chapel for a few minutes and pray for that lady, and pray thanking God for this incredible lesson and teaching. I know it has changed you and taught you, in ways that you will always carry with you. Thank you so much for sharing this with me.” And we completed the Rite.

Of course, this woman was never seen again. Now, for any Catholic, an “apparition” of any sort (a physical manifestation of a spiritual entity) is sort of a “big deal”. But, especially at that time, God was doing so many “unlikely things”, and I was yet so “new” as a Catholic, that I didn’t know that or make any big deal of it. The story was so humbling I didn’t really share it outside my family. And, honestly, I’ve seldom thought about it between then and now.

There is no possible way that hobbly woman got away from that corner. So… over time I’ve concluded that was either an angel, as Fr. Kelly speculated, or it may have been the Lord Himself, which my Dad later mentioned as a possible. I hoped it wasn’t Him, as I’d feel all the more embarrassed about the whole episode.

But the bottom line is: Whether this elderly lady was altogether human, or angel, or otherwise… the Event… the Lesson… was totally and thorougly “miracle” in my book. Of all the people she could have approached that day, or of all the people who could have approached ME that day… what are the odds of such a “perfect fit”?

Mundane Miracles… who can fathom the height, the width, the depth of God’s love, grace, and willingness to nurture and grow His children?

Grace to thee… *still blushing a bit*…

The Little Monk

 
6 Comments

Posted by on April 14, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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