Lenten Reflection: Letter and Spirit

March 14, 2017 Comments Off on Lenten Reflection: Letter and Spirit

Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others and to your honor and glory.

Bless all those whose lives are closely linked with ours, and grant that we may serve Christ in them, and love one another as he loves us.

The above are two of prayers of the people on the last Sunday after the Epiphany. These are two petitions I find not only to be dear but linked. I have a short story to tell that points toward the linkage. Roughly twenty years ago, I spent Thanksgiving with my friends, Jay and Warren, in Massachusetts. At the dinner table I sat next to Warren’s cousins. They were a lovely young couple who owned a dairy farm. Since cows never take a holiday, they needed to leave the festivities early. I was thrilled when they invited my hosts and me to visit the farm on the next day. I had another friend, Harry, who always said that if he was ever reincarnated he wanted to come back as a cow. He loved their sweetness and their calm demeanor. Touring the farm, I understood what Harry meant. I had never been so up close and personal with cows; it was a treat.

My friends led me to a part of the farm that looked like a quaint miniature village. A series of individual plastic huts housed the calves. Talk about up close and personal, the calves came right up to me and began to chew my knees. Because it didn’t hurt, I found It sweet and a little bit icky. In my naivety I took their approach to be a friendly, puppy dog kind of greeting.

In the sermon on the last Sunday after the Epiphany, Fr. William told his own story about living in a charming cottage with one major drawback: a dark, dank cellar. He confessed to going down to the cellar as infrequently as possible. But, since the Christmas decorations were stored there, come December it was necessary to take the plunge. He prefaced the next part of the story by telling us how much he hates spiders. When he turned on the light to the cellar, he caught sight of an unwelcome, very spidery guest.

Fr. William connected his experience to Lent. When the light shines on our own dark cellars, we often see the things we need to work on, things we would rather not see. Lent is the season we set aside for letting in God’s light and praying for understanding of what we see.

It took many years before the light shone on what I thought was my playful introduction to the calves. The truth is, on a dairy farm calves are separated from their mothers at birth. They are deprived of their mother’s milk and given a substitute (most likely corn based and grown in a monoculture). The calves were not greeting me, they were trying to use my knobby knees as a pacifier. It didn’t work out well on either side.

In Genesis 1:26, God says that humans are made in her image, and that we have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, cattle and wild animals, and everything that creeps upon the earth. Dominion implies stewardship. As Mother Stacey said in her sermon on Ash Wednesday, humans have proven to be very bad at reverencing the earth and using its resources rightly. In fact, we are so bad at it that we make continued human existence on the planet look like a very short term affair.

Part of the problem, I believe, is the notion established in Genesis, and continued throughout the Bible, that we are at the pinnacle of life’s hierarchy. It causes us to ignore animal life when we are blessing lives connected to our own and serving Christ in them. I don’t think I need to tell you that the cruelty I witnessed when I met the calves is mild compared to what else happens on factory farms (chicks ground up live, animals raised in their own waste, animals kept in spaces that prohibit movement, etc.).

I love the parts of the New Testament where Jesus goes against what is proscribed to establish what is compassionate. He flouted the Sabbath laws in order to heal and feed the hungry. Maybe it is time to rethink the hierarchy to arrive at a model that incorporates compassion. Since all creatures are created by God, maybe we can view ourselves as part of a connected community, part of an ecosystem instead of lords of the pyramid.

 Animal production is the largest human made cause of greenhouse gases, and takes up roughly a third of the planet’s land. It is a major cause of deforestation, and therefore a major factor in pollution and climate change. A larger amount of land is needed to produce a meat-based diet. Therefore, population growth renders a meat-based diet unsustainable.

 So, I’m wondering if in this time of the gift of Lent, we might let a little of God’s illuminating light fall onto our plate?

– Suzanne Pyrch

Lenten Quote of the Week: Desiderius Erasmus

March 11, 2017 Comments Off on Lenten Quote of the Week: Desiderius Erasmus

“Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself.”

– Desiderius Erasmus

A View from the Sacristy: St. Luke the Evangelist Through the Symbol of the Ox

March 8, 2017 § 1 Comment

This week I want to explore Luke the evangelist through the symbol of the ox.

In the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of Paul it seems that an “evangelist” was, in the early days of the Church, a traveling missionary who went about preaching the Gospel, the account describing the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.  They often had a certain talent in preaching, and so would bring people to the faith and, once in the Christian community, the teachers and pastors would take on the work of explaining the mysteries of the faith. By the 2nd century, an “evangelist” came to mean what it means today – one of the writers of the four canonical Gospels.

In the first chapter of the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, and the fourth chapter of the Revelation to John, we can find the description of a vision of the Holy One. In the vision from Ezekiel, there are four living creatures who draw the chariot of God and have fantastic form: human, but with four wings and four faces: a human face, a lion’s face, the face of an ox, and the face of an eagle. In the vision from Revelation, the four living creatures have one face, and six wings with eyes all around, even under the wings. The Christian community took these four living creatures as symbols of the four evangelists and their associated Gospels. In the Christian West, these symbols for the Evangelists were well established by the 4th century since St Jerome speaks of them in his Commentary on Matthew; although not everyone agrees with Jerome’s symbols, they are the most accepted interpretation.

 The four living creatures are also symbolic of the message of the specific Gospels for which they have become the symbol: The human as a symbol for the Gospel of Matthew suggests that this Gospel stresses Christ’s humanity with its genealogy and its Jesus who reacts in very human ways. The lion associated with the Gospel of Mark is appropriate since this Gospel begins with a “voice crying in the wilderness,” just a a lion would roar, and it also speaks to resurrection. There was an ancient belief that lions were born dead and brought to life by the growling and caresses of their mothers, and the Gospel of Mark concludes with the resurrection of Jesus. The ox associated with the Gospel of Luke fits well since it speaks to the great sacrifice of Jesus, and the ox was an important animal for sacrifice as required in the Torah. The eagle associated with the Gospel of John speaks to the heavenly Jesus that has come from the Father to dwell on earth and who will one day return to the Father

There is another traditional way to look at the four symbols of the evangelists, where the symbols are the height of creation in their different species: human beings are made in the image and likeness of God and so are the height of creation; the lion is the best of the wild animals and often called the King of Beasts; the ox is the beast of sacrifice and the most revered of the domestic animals; and the eagle is the best of the bird kingdom.

At St Luke’s we have St Luke’s ox on many of our sacred objects. Many of the oxen are very small and might never be noticed with a casual glance. Some are big and bold – the St Luke’s banner is the image of a gold-winged ox and is very large; we use this banner on St Luke’s Day.

The processional cross used during Lent has the symbols of the evangelists on the ends of the bars of the cross. We never really see these, as it is always covered by the Lenten Array when used at services. The large silver salver that we use to bring the offerings to the altar during the 11:15 Rite II Choral Eucharist on Sundays and on major feast days has the evangelists symbols on the rim (ask one of the ushers, but you’ll have to wait until Eastertide as we do not use this plate during Lent).

The festive Gospel Book cover (it shines like gold!) also has the four evangelists’ symbols on it, and we use this on feast days and the Great 50 Days of Easter (something else to look forward to seeing!).

The symbols of the evangelists also appear on the John Walsted icon processional cross we use during most of the year, Luke’s ox is right below Christ’s left hand (and again, you will have to wait until the Sunday after Ascension Day to see this ox).

Stay tuned and WATCH THIS SPACE for more tales of our patron Saint! We’re going to have a walk around the chapel next time! For Luke, actually, is all around.

– Sean Scheller

The Second Station: Jesus Takes Up His Cross

March 6, 2017 Comments Off on The Second Station: Jesus Takes Up His Cross

Jesus takes up his Cross

Artist: Amanda Durant

Second Station

Nobody meets the man’s eyes as he labors with faltering steps.
It’s hot as the morning wears on; most of the people are gone,
Fleeing the stench of the carcasses hanging in butchers stalls.

Each step is worse than the last, as the soldiers with swords force him on,
Bloodied and bruised and breaking, hardly recognizable,
Just another Jew the Romans have sentenced to die.

Blood and dust and sweat mixing with the smell of the meat
Give a sickening odor to the gut-wrenching spectacle.
All the bystanders hold their noses and try to look away;

Brutal execution is nothing they haven’t seen before.
But what a perverse spectacle as he collapses in front of them, and the
Maker of heaven and earth is unable to bear the weight of a tree!

© 2017 Kyle Rader.  All rights reserved.

– Kyle Rader

The First Station: Jesus Is Condemned to Death

March 2, 2017 Comments Off on The First Station: Jesus Is Condemned to Death

 

Jesus is condemed to death (1)

Artist: Joan Goodman

Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”

 

-Matthew 27: 22-24

Condemnation is a choice, an action. Yet Pilate washed his hands of his political action. Pilate had the power of his Roman position, prophecy from his wife having been warned in a dream of Jesus’ innocence, and truth in knowing the motives of the chief priests who brought Jesus to trial. However, Pilate chose political expediency over truth. Furthermore, he relieved himself of the consequences in condemning an innocent person by shifting blame to those over whom he had power.  We do not need to look far to see political parallels in our own time.

In this Lent, what will we choose? We might look to Jesus as an example of how we choose to radically love.  Jesus rejected the violence of the Roman state by becoming love in action event to the point of death.  How might we imitate that radical love this Lent?  Perhaps when it seems as though injustice, oppression, and death are winning, we might choose to speak truth to power, courage over comfort, love rather than fear so that, as Lutheran pastor Tuhina Verma Rasche writes, “in this true abiding with God, death can go to hell.” We shall overcome.

– Nicole Hanley

A View from the Sacristy: Lent, 2017

March 1, 2017 § 3 Comments

Luke, actually, is all around

During this Lenten season, I’d like us to take a look at some of the images of our patron saint and his symbol on different sacred objects from the parish.

Who is Saint Luke?

The children’s prayer goes, “Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Bless the bed that I lie on,” which leads some people to think that Luke is one of the Apostles, but he’s not; he was a companion of Paul. We also know him as the author of one of the Gospels (an account of the life of Jesus, the Christ), and of the Acts of the Apostles, which tells the story of the founding of the Christian church and the spread of its message to the Roman Empire. We hear Luke’s lesson of Christ’s birth every Christmas Eve, and The Revised Common Lectionary of the Church uses The Gospel of Luke throughout “Year C” for the Sunday Gospel lessons; look for it in 2019!

So, Luke’s Gospel is well known to us.  During the Great 50 Days of Eastertide, we often listen to lessons from the Acts of the Apostles during the First Lesson on Sundays in Easter.  Luke is a wonderful storyteller. He knows how to weave a narrative, he is able to develop interesting characters, and he creates places and settings which work together to draw the reader into the story.  Jesus, as described by Luke, has a special concern for women, children, the sick, even tax collectors, and only Luke has the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Lost Sheep, and the Prodigal Son, as well as the narratives of the Annunciation, Visitation, the birth of John the Baptist, even the road to Emmaus. Some traditions say that Luke is one of the unnamed disciples from that very story.

Luke is known as a doctor. This tradition comes from Paul writing to the Colossians (4:14) that Luke, the beloved physician, is with him and sends greetings along with Demas. Luke’s Gospel is the only Gospel that recorded Jesus’ statements about physicians: “Physician, heal yourself!” (Luke 4:23); and “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Luke 5:31).  Our parish was founded by devout Episcopalians who wanted to escape the unhealthy conditions of 19th century New York City and spend time in what was then the country, all the way out at St Luke in the Fields. You can find hospitals and medical centers today are named for him.

Luke is also the patron saint of artists. According to tradition, Luke was able to visit with the Virgin Mary and, during that time, she told him the infancy stories we find in Luke’s Gospel. Luke was also rumored to have painted her portrait as they met. This tradition began in the Byzantine era in the east, spread to the west, and by the tie of the Renaissance there were many icons of the Virgin and Child attributed to St. Luke throughout Christendom. I  have seen two, one in Rome at Santa Maria Maggiore and the other at the Kykkos Monastery in Cyprus. These icons are considered so holy that you never can really see them because of the elaborate frames and the veils that cover them. It is only at certain great festivals that the icon is shown completely unadorned to the faithful.

More about St Luke next Wednesday.

– Sean Scheller

Lenten Quote of the Week: Ephrem of Edessa

February 20, 2016 Comments Off on Lenten Quote of the Week: Ephrem of Edessa

Mor_Ephrem_icon

“We give glory to You, Lord, who raised up Your cross to span the jaws of death.”

– St. Ephrem of Edessa

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