Wednesday, July 29, 2009

little pilgrimages

i have come to black bass "lake," a park all improved since i was last here nearly two years ago. despite all the new fences and signs, of improvement, the creek still falls over a rough ledge abut forty yards below the damn, and i sit to listen to its psalm, in an area marked "pedestrians prohibited." it's one of the worst examples of officialese i've yet encountered. the whole world cries out for more pedestrians, more people willing to walk in love as christ loved us, and here, in this place beautiful despite its damnation by our greed, greed erects its signs.

but that is the nature of the whole groaning creation, isn't it? so this seems like a very good place for a little pilgrimage.

i slowly make the circuit of the impoundment, stopping to say the psalms of ascent, wondering whether the good people of eureka springs could see what they have done to this gulch as "the scorn of the proud."

and i am blessed in many ways. one is particularly remarkable. two years ago, before the place became a city park, i spent the night, something now forbidden under the homeland security act. then i woke to watch four does dancing in the early mornings mists at the shallow end of the impoundment. this year, walking along the perepheral trail, i met the stag who is probably their father. he has the largest rack of antlers i've ever seen around here. we nod to one another, and each continues on his pilgrimage.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

old school education: let it begin

some of you have been privy to my struggle with what to do and how to do it. with so much of the church in what seems to be, in r. r. reno's wording, ruins, it has sometimes been difficult for me to see how to proceed. i profoundly believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic church, and if that church is not visible, if it remains some sort of nebulous body to be revealed at some future time or only in eternity, then it's mission becomes rather hard to see.

as has so often been true in the past, my archbishop, richard gundrey, helped me again to see both the mission of the church and my own mission. talking last month about difficulties of jurisdictions and divisions, paraphrasing st. paul a bit, he reminded me that there were no laws against doing what i felt called to do, and that my consecration and commissioning were all the authority i needed. sometimes occam's razor rules.

so, dismayed by the puttering professionalism of what most often passes for theological education these days, my old and dear friend j. michael matkin and i are letting our nets down into the deep and starting a new effort to promote the sort of old school christian formation that happened at lindesfarne under st. aidan.

the official start-up date will be st. aidan's feast, 31 august a. d. 2009. it will be a place for mystagogia not only for those seeking ordination in the church, but "for all who seek god or a deeper knowledge of him." we plan to organize it around the ember days, with most prayer and study done in homes, connected by internet and mail and telephone, with quarterly intensive residence sessions. the first "course," a sort of mystagogy 101, will explore the readings and prayers of the great paschal vigil, leading up to our death in christ that is our baptism.

as our plans become firmer, we will have other posts here. if this sounds like something in which you would be interested, or if you have suggestions for what you would hope st. aidan's might provide, leave your e-mail address as a comment on this post. and pray for our success, please.

Monday, July 13, 2009

of the making (and gathering) of books

it is a mild monday morning, before the sun climbs the hazed blue sky of summer, piebald with small high clouds, and i am sitting on my friends the matkins' porch in mcalester, oklahoma. there are fewer or at least quieter birds here than in eureka springs. the wind hums softly in the maple and the sycamore. once again i am enjoying elaborate hospitality completely un-deserved on my part. i find this amazing, and a bit scary. in the morning office i was reminded that the son of man has no place to lay his head.

the 8:00 o'clock priest yesterday at all saints compared himself to john the baptist, but, even after 47 years of service, he was in no danger of being jailed. have i looked back too often to be a follower of jesus? have the pillars of the church become pillars of salt?

my path is littered with false starts. the road behind me, traces of which are here in mcalester, is marked not so much by the way of my daily cross, as by book plates of the holy cross library. as i ponder these thoughts the wind words speak, cry out, loudly in maple and sycamore.

one of michael's books, one about bibliomania, is called a gentle madness. this madness is not one that obviously casts me to the ground, although there is some foaming at the mouth.

but i justify my madness to myself this morning by naming it the communion of the saints: my way of conversation with gregory of nyssa and ephrem of syria. as i think these thoughts the wind words return to a gentle hum. i pray they are not a ground bass to my own prelest.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

4 july: the holy royal martyrs of russia

and what has moscow to do with northumbria? or why might i commemorate the murders of the russian royal family on the day most of the united states is setting off explosives to commemorate the american colonial rebellion against england?

some who know me might dismiss me as a recusant tory. they might be right in so classifying me, but i think not in dismissing me. we tend to think of revolutions as an acceptable way of achieving short-term political purposes; we tend not to remember the horrors that most often follow them. the french terror might have been a clue. no one can truly number the millions who were slaughtered following the communist revolution in russia, most of whom were christians, killed for being christians. (to be fair to the leninists and stalinists and their followers, they did not limit themselves to christians, but they did particularly single out christians, both orthodox and protestant.)

they started with the czar and his family, not only murdering them but dismembering the bodies and scattering the remains.

there were of course many jews at the time of jesus' life on earth who wanted a revolution. but our lord insisted his kingdom was not of this earth. and i think it can be demonstrated that the celtic church also recognized the futility of violence as an evangelical tool.

but beyond the question of the politics of "the celtic church," there is also the gift that all christians have of being first citizens of the kingdom of god, in which all our brothers and sisters in christ, whether they be russian or welsh or american, are "very members incorporate in the mystical body of [god the] son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs through hope of [the] everlasting kingdom," and that this hope is not the result of any political actions which we may make, but it is "by the merits of [our lord's] most precious death and passion."