A View from the Sacristy: Thebes and Padua

April 5, 2017 Comments Off on A View from the Sacristy: Thebes and Padua

We have been looking at St. Luke, our patron, on Wednesdays this Lent. This week I want us to look outside the walls of the parish and travel to Italy and Greece to see what happened to Luke in his later years.

In the city of Thebes (the same city as the city of Oedipus) there is the Church of St. Luke. Tradition says that Luke died in Thebes, after having spent his life preaching the Gospel in Libya, Egypt and Greece, when he was 84 in the early years of the 2nd century. As we have seen in past posts, Christian traditions vary, so some believe that Luke was martyred by being crucified to an olive tree while others believe he died peacefully at home. (An olive tree still grows next to that very church.) Luke stayed in his tomb in Thebes, made in the traditional style of the first century in Greece, for many years where to this day a myrrh appears on the lid that is said to have healing powers especially for those with eye trouble.

In religion, a relic usually consists of the physical remains of a saint or the personal effects of the saint or venerated person preserved for purposes of veneration as a tangible memorial. In 357AD the Emperor Conatantius had the relics moved to the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople. There they rested in Constantinople until either (i) the reign of Julian the Apostate in the 4th century, when the relics were moved for fear of being desecrated in the pagan revival of Julian’s reign, or (ii) during the 8th century when a Greek monk Urio is said to have fled to Italy with the relics to prevent them from being destroyed during the iconoclastic controversy, or (iii) by the Latins on the IV Crusade who stole the relics from Constantinople and brought them back to Padua in 1204. Either way the relics were in Padua by the 12th century. In the 14th century, a marble tomb was built for Luke and it still stands in a side chapel in the church of Santa Juistina in Padua.

There they rested until 2001 when the Orthodox Metropolitan of Thebes asked the Roman Bishop of Padua to return Luke’s body to its original resting place. DNA test were done and the results made international news.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/1360095/DNA-test-pinpoints-St-Luke-the-apostles-remains-to-Padua.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/16/world/body-of-st-luke-gains-credibility.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share

The tests reveal that the remains are of a man who is from Asia Minor, of Syrian decent, and who died between the first and third centuries. It is the body of a man between 75 and 80 years old, of stocky build, who suffered from osteoporosis and arthritis.

Now, there is always a twist because God has a sense of humor, so we have two skulls for Luke, one in Rome and one in Prague. The Prague skull fits onto the neck of the Padua body and a tooth found in the coffin fit into the jaw. Another interesting point is that the coffin in Padua fits into the tomb in Thebes perfectly. To our 21st century minds this all makes perfect sense, so the remains could really be those of the man we know as Luke since DNA and other scientific evidence say it could be so. The Bishop of Padua sent the Metropolitan of Thebes one of St Luke’s ribs (the one nearest his heart) to place back in Luke’s tomb in Thebes.

 

Hanging over the tomb in St. Luke’s Chapel in Padua, one finds the image of Our Lady Hodighitria (which we met last week), supported by two monumental angels. In keeping with tradition, this image is reported to have been painted St Luke and was brought to Padua at the same time as Luke’s remains.

Next week some not so well know traditions about our Luke.

 

– Sean Scheller

Parishioner Interview: Kyle Henderson

April 4, 2017 Comments Off on Parishioner Interview: Kyle Henderson

St. Luke in the Fields Blog: What has your experience of Lent been this year in formation? How has St. Luke’s helped you this Lent?
Kyle Henderson: This is my first Lent as a member of the Episcopal Church. I have observed Lent in the past, but this time feels different. Going through Formation, it feels as though the season of Lent this years represents more than a spiritual fast in preparation for a Holy Day. It represents, for me, a time to reflect on my deeper life within the Episcopal Church and what that means for me in my life of service in Jesus. I know that each year from here on out, I will look back on my first season of Lent and remember how blessed I have been to have been a member at St. Luke in the Fields.

It is my understanding that St. Luke’s Formation program is much more immersive than what is common in other Parishes. Given the world we live in today, I find that to be so very important in helping people to understand the rituals and customs of the Episcopal Church and to understanding the history. Formation at St. Luke’s, specifically, has planted the seed of curiosity, not just for the Church, but also for the Bible, that has become part of the identity of my spiritual life. Coming to St. Luke’s and being a part of the Formation Program feels a little like trying archery for the first time and hitting the bullseye on my first shot.

St. Luke in the Fields Blog: What are you looking forward to most at the Vigil?

Kyle Henderson: I started coming to St. Luke’s last summer when the choir was on hiatus. I was so moved by the service and the warm feeling that seemed to envelope me every Sunday. Everyone told me, “If you are moved now, just wait until the choir returns.” I heard this over and over and I thought, “These people are really building up this choir. I am afraid they are setting my expectations far too high.” It turns out, they didn’t give the choir enough credit. I was moved to tears for at least a month after the choir returned. As Easter is approaching, the people of St. Luke’s are talking again. They keep saying, “The Easter Vigil is the most beautiful I have ever experienced.” This time around, however, I know not to assume for one second that my fellow Christians at St. Luke’s are exaggerating. My heart is bubbling over with excitement in anticipation for the Easter Vigil; not simply for the inspiring beauty, but also for the deep connection to Jesus that I know I will feel that day. I really don’t know what to expect for the Easter Vigil, but I know that my first Easter at St. Luke in the Fields is going to be a day that I will never forget.

The Tenth Station: Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments

April 3, 2017 Comments Off on The Tenth Station: Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments

Artist: Simon Carr

Matthew Chapter 27 Verse 28: They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him,

There was little dignity in Jesus’s death.  He was at the mercy (or lack) of others.  The agents of his death were cruel.  He had no control.  His very clothes were taken from him.  He was made to wear a strange garment.

This was like almost all deaths I have seen.  As a person dies they lose the various outer layers of their lives, self-reliance, deciding when to eat, deciding what to eat, deciding what to wear, control of bodily functions and cognition.  It is not pretty.  It is not dignified.

But there also can be grace in dying.  That grace does not emanate solely from the dying person but in large part from those around her.  The gathering of love around the dying is a breath of the eternal, because it echoes back the love that the person shared with others in their life, and the love around the dying also echoes into the future as a bright coal of memory of those who were there.

While Jesus had cruelty in his death, he also had loved ones there.  He also expressed the ultimate love in his very act of dying and his resurrection.

So, don’t expect much dignity in death.  But there can be love, grace and hope.

– Bruce Goerlich

Composer Spotlight Lent V: Arvo Pärt

March 31, 2017 Comments Off on Composer Spotlight Lent V: Arvo Pärt

The choral music scheduled at St. Luke’s for the Fifth Sunday in Lent (April 2nd) will be:

  • Thomas Stoltzer – Judica me, Deus (Introit)
  • Arvo Pärt – De profundis
  • Iain Quinn – O esca viatorum
  • Richard Proulx – We adore you, O Christ
  • Arvo Pärt – Pari intervallo

– Blog Editor


The music of Estonian-born composer Arvo Pärt is unique in the contemporary music world and has attracted a substantial following in recent years.  Pärt’s early music was solidly in the atonal serial idiom.  By the early 1970’s he had reached a dead end compositionally.  At about this time, he converted to Orthodoxy, and also discovered the power of Gregorian chant and early Renaissance polyphony.  His response was to develop a tonal idiom based on a mixture of scales and triads, a style that he calls “tintinnabuli”.  Listening to this music is similar to viewing an icon: the music does not “go” anywhere but rather “exists”, emerging out of silence and receding back into silence.

Pärt left his native Estonia in 1980 and subsequently settled in Berlin.  De profundis was composed in the same year.  A setting of Psalm 130, it is one of his most impassioned vocal works.  The relatively simple material unfolds in an unwavering manner, adding voices in a single dynamic arch.

Pari intervallo was originally composed for four wind instruments, though the organ version is the more familiar.  The title describes the musical material: a pair of voices moves in strict parallel, with a second pair of voices filling in the music.  The piece was composed in 1976 ‘in memoriam’ for a friend who had died.

Iain Quinn was born in Cardiff, and began his training as a chorister at Llandaff Cathedral. He subsequently studied at The Juilliard School, Larry Allen at The Hartt School, the University of Hartford and at the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University.  In 2013 Mr. Quinn was appointed Assistant Professor of Organ at Florida State University. The recipient of several awards Mr. Quinn was awarded a Fellowship by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, an award from The Prince’s Trust and is the recipient of an ASCAPlus award from The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.  His motet O esca viatorum was commissioned by the Concert Choir of the University of New Mexico.  The text is an anonymous hymn first published in Mainz in 1661.

Richard Proulx was a prolific composer with more than 300 published works, including congregational music in every form, sacred and secular choral works, song cycles, two operas, and instrumental and organ music. A Roman Catholic church musician, he served on the core committee for such hymnals as The Hymnal 1982, New Yale Hymnal, the Methodist Hymnal, Worship-Second and Third Editions. Proulx was a member of The Standing Commission on Church Music of the Episcopal Church and was a founding member of The Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians. He may be best known to Episcopal congregations for his setting of the Sanctus & Benedictus, S125 in the Hymnal 1982.

Spotlight on Arvo Pärt:

Missa Syllabica

Magnificat

Cantate Domino

Cantus in memory of Benjamin Britten (orchestral)

– David Shuler, Director of Music

The Ninth Station: Jesus Falls for the Third Time

March 30, 2017 Comments Off on The Ninth Station: Jesus Falls for the Third Time

Artist: Gus Moody

How are we measuring our Lent so far? How are we measuring ourselves and others and by what measure?  The lyrics of Seasons of Love haunt me when I think of this question.

How do you measure – measure a year?
In daylights – in sunsets
In midnights – in cups of coffee
In inches – in miles
In laughter – in strife


At times we have a tendency to record days and years in just the strife. We live in a culture of scarcity that tells us there isn’t enough riches, resources, love, and all that’s good to go around. It tells us to take what we can grab by the fist and pocket it away before someone else does. Every failure or disappointment is just more of the pie slipping away from us. Shame is what keeps the machine running by whispering in our ear that we aren’t worthy of love and belonging anyway, that we were never going to be as good as everyone else, and that there is little point to taking risks or even bothering to try when it will all just suck anyway. We will get nothing and we are nothing.

Jesus falling for the third time epitomizes how this kind of shame can manifest and how we can respond to others, too. Sometimes we don’t know quite what to say when someone is struggling so we are quick to say something like this to a Jesus falling again moment: “Wow, Jesus, you fell again huh? It’s no biggie. But let me tell you what happened to ME the other day! Way worse!” Or we think, “I’m so much stronger as a fisherman so I’d only fall twice max.” Or better yet, “Poor Jesus, bless his heart.” We tend to focus on the falling with ourselves and others as if that’s the point.

What if the point was more about the resilience to get back up? Or the bravery to carry an impossible weight and keep going anyway? Or the very love that keeps us showing up not in spite of the cost and falls and shame but because of it? One of my Lenten practices this year was to try meditation as a new way of praying. I thought I was just particularly bad at it because I had a million thoughts racing and it seemed as though the whole point was not to have thoughts. It really isn’t actually about not having thoughts, as many of you are aware. The point is to touch the thought. let it go, and come back to the present moment. I think this is instructive as we think about the ways we think about falling down in a year, in a lifetime even. The point isn’t that we try to eliminate falling, because falling will happen. The point is to touch our wounds, failures, and hurts, let them go, and come back to our authentic, true selves.

So indeed how will we measure this Lent, this year, ourselves? Will it be how many times we’ve fallen or failed? Seasons of Love gives us a clue in how we might measure  — “measure in love”. When we do find ourselves falling again like Jesus, we might remember to touch it, let it go, and come back to ourselves knowing we are worthy of love and belonging. When we see others fall, we might just stand with them in solidarity. These are our seasons of love.

– Nicole Hanley

A View from the Sacristy: Icon of St. Luke

March 29, 2017 Comments Off on A View from the Sacristy: Icon of St. Luke

In our Lady Chapel there is an icon of St Luke. It is the only image of our patron saint that we have. It is a traditional style icon that replicates an actual 16th century Greek icon and was gifted to the parish by the Formation Class of Easter 2013. This icon shows Luke sitting on a bench, surrounded with tools of the painter’s trade (brushes, mixing bowls, and a storage box), and holding a small palette and paintbrush. He is in the process of painting a panel with the image of the Virgin and Child. This image is called Hodighitria (“She who points the way”) where both the Virgin and Child face the viewer and the Virgin points or gestures towards the Christ. The panel rests on an elaborate easel that features notches that allow the artist to adjust the easel to hold larger and smaller panels. Luke also seems to use the notches to hold brushes.

Paul calls Luke “the beloved physician” in his letter to the Colossians, so Luke has always been identified as a physician.  The tradition of Luke as a painter began in the Byzantine East during the iconoclastic controversy in the 8th century. In the ancient world and right into the Renaissance, a medical doctor was often also an artist. One of the reasons for this connection is that both the physician and the painter would rely on minerals and plants to create medical treatments and pigments as well. Whether doctor or painter, must time was spent searching nature or the local markets for these minerals and plants, and then even more time grinding and mixing them to concoct their own treatments or their own paints.

The icons that St Luke originally painted are always agreed to be three in number; in some traditions the three icons are all of the Virgin. The first is called Hodighitria as in our icon; the second is Umilenie (“Our Lady of Tenderness”) where the Virgin and Child are cheek to cheek, often reaching out for each other; and the third is of the Virgin without the Christ but by herself and similar to the Virgin from a traditional iconic representation Christ in Majesty flanked by the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist called Deësis or Deisis meaning “prayer” or “supplication.” Exhausted yet? There’s more! Another tradition holds that the three icons are said to be of the Virgin and Child (Hodighitria), the second is of the Christ, and third is of Saints Peter and Paul.

 

The Virgin of Vladimir

Modern Deisis, detail of Virgin

 

                                     

Regardless of what’s on the panels, there are also differing legends of the panels on which they were painted. One tradition tells that after Christ’s Ascension, when the Virgin went to Ephesus to live with Saint John, she took all of her household furniture with her from Nazareth that included a table made by her Son, the Carpenter. When Luke came for a visit, he offered to paint her portrait. Mary suggested that the tabletop be made into three panels so that Luke could paint three paintings. The tabletop was cut into three 5×3 panels. Still another tradition says that the Angel Gabriel appeared to Saint Luke, offering three heavenly panels to use to paint the three paintings.

Some people say Luke sent the three icons to Theophilus, the person to whom Luke dedicates his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Another tradition say that Luke kept the icons, the icons were lost, and then discovered by Saint Helen of Constantinople, title for Helena (empress) (c. 250 – c. 330), mother of Constantine the Great. In Constantinople there was a church and monastery built in the 5th century to house the Virgin Hodighitria that survived until the fall of the city to the Turks in 1453.

Wherever the panels come from or whatever they’re painting on, most traditions tell that, as Luke paints the Virgin’s portrait, they talk and she tells him the story of her life and, most importantly, the stories that we find only in the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel which do not appear in the synoptic gospels. Luke not only paints a portrait of the Virgin in paint, but also with words in his Gospel. When Luke has finished his work and presented the icon to the Virgin, it is reported that she said, “Let the grace of Him Who was born of me, and my mercy, be with these Icons.”

St Luke Presenting the icon of the Hodighitria to the Virgin Mary, St. Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai

– Sean Scheller

 

 

Lenten Reflection: Musings on Lent

March 28, 2017 Comments Off on Lenten Reflection: Musings on Lent

I was brought up as a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers) and became an Episcopalian in college.   The season of Lent was therefore not something that was ingrained in me from childhood.  I hope the reader can forgive any theological mistakes I make in this note.

It appears to me that there are traditionally two ways to approach Lent, penitence and atonement.    Penitence is feeling sorry for what one has done.  Atonement is taking actions to repair for what one has done.  Penitence as manifested in action is usually expressed as giving up something:  ice cream!  Atonement is usually expressed in action as doing something more, attending more services, doing more charity work, etc.

I find I’m not very good at or interested in penitence.  As it is, I question my actions too much already!  And in my Quaker background I saw a lot of people who were so involved in a “simple” life, that they appeared to be the most “prideful” folks I knew.  Giving up so they were purer than others.   I just am not constitutionally fit to be penitential.

I’m a better fit for acts of atonement.  I am now carrying around boxes of raisins (when I remember) to give when asked for a handout.  If I don’t have a box I will give a dollar.  In short, I’m trying to recognize the humanity in others.   I am also trying to live more in the moment.  I have a lot of changes in my life and my natural instinct is to worry about the future.  I think we can look at the temptations of Jesus as a way the Devil offered Jesus control: over death and over others.  I am trying through prayer amongst other things to give up that need for control.  I can’t control the future.  I can try in this moment to do the best I can.

I asked Doug Blanchard to paint three paintings for me to try and capture this.  It is of a quote from Micah:

What does the Lord God require of you but to do Justice, to love Mercy and to walk humbly with your God?”

Maybe that means Lent is every day of the year.

– Bruce Goerlich

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