29 February 2020

Coming to Grips with St Paul

I have always found it difficult to deal with St Paul.  I have read him in the Bible.  I have heard umpteen sermons on him and his theology.  I have studied him in school.  I have fought with him.  I have tried to ignore him.  I have called him a misogynist.  I have thrown up my hands at him and walked away.  Truth.

I've decided:  it's now or never.  I have GOT to come to grips with St Paul.  After searching and discussing where would be the best place to start, I determined to start here:



This book!  Oh my goodness.  Well, I am about one quarter of the way in.  There is a LOT.  I am spellbound by it.  My gut tells me that I am on the way to becoming friends with St Paul.  At last!

More on this when I have finished the book...

28 February 2020

Church Fathers



I love the Church Fathers -- and Mothers.  They are the pillars upon which the Church stands (notwithstanding of course, CHRIST who IS the Church and its head).  And their lives and writings are fascinating, inspiring, and motivating.  They were the great Instructors and Defenders of the Faith, and remain widely acknowledged in the Church today, both East and West.  They are the important writers of the New Testament era.

 So said St Gregory Nazianzen

So said St Gregory of Nyssa

There were basically four historical periods of the Early Church Fathers.

The Ante-Nicene Fathers (writing before the Edict of Milan and the First Ecumenical Council)

  1. The Apostolic Fathers (roughly 95 - 150 AD)
  2. The Apologists and Anti-heretical Writers (roughly 150 - 325 AD)
The Apostolic Fathers were thought to have contact with the Apostles.  The writers in this period provide a witness to the early Church.

The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 

  1. The Golden Age Patristic Writers (4th and 5th Centuries AD)
  2. The Later Fathers (6th through 8th Centuries AD)


These are the people who helped form the Church -- they defined dogmas, determined the Biblical canon, shaped the liturgy, formalized the Creed, and pointed out the implications of doctrine and dogma for our Christian life.  St John Chrysostom is the shaper of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy.


One of the things I am hoping to do during Lent, and long after, is learn more about the Church Fathers and read as much as I can.  There is a treasure trove here, this I know.  There are wonderful videos available via various platforms like YouTube which provide great overviews of the Church Fathers, as well, both from a Catholic and an Orthodox point of view (which is very similar, in my humble opinion).  Patristic Nectar films is one example.


As I learn more about these wonderful people, I will share little snippets with you.  I suspect we can all read and watch to our hearts' content, but the real experience will be in the reading of the actual writings.

27 February 2020

Lent vs Prosperity: True Christianity

I am currently considering the Church Fathers and the Apostles, and prompted by my Consecration studies, really meditating on how different their lives were from ours. 


The Apsotles and Church Fathers (Athanasius, Chrysostom, Anthony the Great, Basil, the Gregorys, etc.) were truly on fire for our Faith, and lived completely differently from the world.  They were humble and willing to put up with endless mockery, privation, and in many cases, martyrdom. 


I am not sure why we think this is something only the ancients did, and we don't need to concern ourselves with it.  The devil is always, constantly trying to thwart the faith, destroy the Church, and ruin the lives of everyone.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. -- 1 Peter 5:8
We can learn a lot from the Fathers, not just in terms of theology and worhip practice, but for our daily living.  We MUST turn away from the distracting things of this world, and keep our eyes fixed on things of the Faith.

It is Day Two of Lent.  I have abstained from social media, for one thing.  Also, although we do not have a television, and have not for our entire marriage, we do use YouTube to watch various things (mostly old movies -- or when I went through my Hallmark Christmas movie phase!), so I have abstained from any frivolous watching and time-wasting.  It is so quiet in the house.  And it is so good!  My focus is on the Faith, and I am reading more (an absolutely spell-binding book on the Apostle Paul), and having much more time for prayer. 

What if we lived like this ALL the time, and not just through Lent?  What if we lived even a fraction as faithfully as the Church Fathers? 

I think this is a good time to look at contempory leaders in various denominations.  Are they worldly?  Are they promoting truth, or aberrations like "prosperity theology"?  Do they regularly pray, fast, and give alms, or are they jetting around in their private planes and expensive cars.  Are the women heavily made up, with expensive hair-dos and painted nails, or are they modestly and femininely dressed?  Are the preachers telling you how you can have heaven on earth, or are they pointing you to Christ and eternity?

These people are NOT preachers of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.  They are charlatans, snake oil salesmen, and money-changers.  Earthly financial prosperity is NOT part of the Gospel, and Lent is a good time to remember this.  These are false teachers:



 Jocye Meyer's compound of five houses.
She owns other homes elsewhere.

It bears mentioning that Paula White is
part of President Trump's entourage.

The Christian Faith is NOT about the aquisition of money, property, or other material goods.  It is about accepting suffering, loving God, loving your neighbours, loving enemies, maintaining hope, and following Christ by taking up our cross.  It is about the person of Jesus Christ, NOT the person of some self-appointed prosperity preacher encouraging you to "claim your blessing." 


Yes, we can learn a lot from the Fathers and Mothers of the Faith.  Think about it!

26 February 2020

Ash Wednesday

It is here. Lent has arrived. I am excited, calm, fearful, and joyful. Lent is actually a favourite season of the year for me. I love that the Church has built in a special and prolonged time to prepare ourselves for both the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.


In the past, I never really understood the necessity for a whole season of penitence.  Now I do.  I feel like I should be on my knees for 40 full days, and that still wouldn't be enough to even begin to comprehend what Christ has done, and the magnificence of Our Lord.


I am looking forward to this time of increased prayer, fasting, and alms-giving.  The Faith is SO rich and wonderful, and what a gift it is to be encouraged to set aside even more time to go deeper.  Simultaneously, I am in the 33-day period of Consecration to Jesus through Mary, so there is an added dimension to this year's Lent.

May you all have a truly blessed and holy Lent!

25 February 2020

On the Eve of Lent


I love the season of Lent.  It never goes as I hope or expect, but it usually turns out to be much better, if I at least make the effort. 


Lent is not a time of punishment or deprivation.  It is a beautiful time of peace, prayer, sometimes solitude and silence, and always walking with Christ.  That hard walk.  The Way.  The Way of the Cross.


Lent is challenging, sometimes fatiguing, sometimes scary, always beautiful, and always worth it.

I pray you all have a truly blessed and beautiful Lent this year!

Candles and Prayers



I met someone shortly after I moved to Scotland who actually believed there was something clandestine, subversive, and, worst of all (!) popish about lighting candles while praying, or even HAVING candles anywhere in the house.  Can you even imagine?


I LOVE candles in a religious Christian context.  There is something so very special and sacred when I see a votive stand glowing brightly in a dim and subdued church setting.  Or when I light a candle or candles myself, as an offering and an accompaniment to prayer -- or even as a prayer itself.


There is every reason to light candles as or with prayer:
  • It symbolizes Christ who said, "I am the Light of the world; the one who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have light and life." (John 8:12)
  • The light and fire represents the presence and power of God
  • It is an act of faith
  • It is an act of offering
  • It is an act of reverence
  • It is a symbol of Christ's Paschal Mystery (the Baptism candle)
  • It is a symbol of devotion before a shrine, icon, altar, or statue
  • Lighting a candle in church represents our desire to remain with God, as the candle stays lit even if we must go on about our day
  • Votive and candle stands represent collective prayer and unity of Believers
  • Candles are lit for remembrance of those who have reposed

The Bible refers constantly to the importance of light:
  • And you shall command the children to Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually. (Exodus 27:20)
  • And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations. (Exodus 30:8)
  • For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. (Psalm 36:9)
  • The light of the righteous rejoices, but the lamp of the wicked will be put out.  (Proverbs 13:9)
  • So the Light of Israel will be for a fire, And his Holy One for a flame; it will burn and devour His thorns and his briers in one day.  (Isaiah 10:7 -- and may I say, the faithful also light a candle and ask for God to burn away their iniquities.)
  • Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  (Matthew 5:15)
That is just a wee sampling.  The point is, light is representative of THE Light.  We light our candles for all kinds of good, symbolic reasons.  We light our candles to prove that the darkness will not overcome us.


Don't be like the woman I knew who was frightened of candles and fearful that they somehow took away from God.  I'm sure I don't have to say that she was a Protestant walking in trepidation.  Listen, only a very small God would be offended by a candle lit in prayer.  My God is the God of the ever-expanding universe, and I choose to bring my little offering of a candle to Him whenever I can.  I want to remain close to Him. 


Light a candle today -- a real one, not a virtual one -- and contemplate the Light of the world!

24 February 2020

A Prize!

Today I received a little package of printed material that I won in a Facebook contest!  I answered a question on the CTS page, and won some wonderful books / booklets just in time for Lent:


I absolutely love this little gift, and I know my husband and I will both make good use of this reading material during Lent.

CTS (Catholic Truth Society) has some great stuff, and it's not very expensive at all.  I highly recommend you have a browse and add to your pile of spiritual reading.  Lent is coming!

Prague, Part Five ~ And the Last



Although our travelling this trip took a full five days, we were actually only in Prague for one evening followed by two full days.  Most of that time was spent walking -- as evidenced by our aches and pains at the end of each day!



I had taken photos of something that I found very distressing in the city of Prague:  graffiti everywhere.  But I decided I didn't want to uglify my blog with it.  I will always maintain that graffiti is NOT art and merely vandalism and disrespect.  The graffiti we saw -- on the ground floor of probably 75% of the buildings -- was very definitely NOT art, but merely belligerence and destruction.

 Prague Opera House


Another disappointment was how many of the big, beautiful churches were closed, except for during Mass times.  It seems such a waste.  We were especially sad not to be able to enter the Orthodox Church of Sts Cyril and Methodius, as well as Our Lady of Tyne Church.







The ground floors of most of the buildings were also heavily populated with tacky and expensive tourist shops and over-priced restaurants.

Vltava River, looking towards the Lesser City and Castle

In spite of all that, though, we both truly enjoyed seeing the ornamental architecture, the art nouveau influences everywhere, and the church spires.  Our walk along the Vltava River was delightful, and we even saw muskrats waddling along the banks!  The swans were beautiful and some groups did some breathtaking fly-bys. 

 Our Lady of Tyne Church, behind the Old Town Square



The clash of cultures, namely the Church and the previous communist era, both overlayed by a very liberal pop culture, was disturbing.  Prague felt discordant and uncomfortable to me.  I could never totally relax there like I have been able to in other countries.



We doubt we will go back...but who knows?  At any rate, we are glad we were able to have our little short experience (going and coming travel notwithstanding).


A final wave to Our Lady Victorious Church, where the Infant Jesus of Prague lives

Happy Travels!

23 February 2020

Supersubstantial


I was not always a liturgical, Orthodox-Catholic Christian.  As such, I have gone through / participated in / endured / learned from / taught a great deal of Bible studies influenced by or wholly Protestant in their theology. 

I'm thinking about this today because of the reading for Day Two of the Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary that I am doing.  It is from Matthew 5:48 through 6:15 -- in which we receive the Our Father, or Lord's Prayer (one of the places, that is).  And in the translation in St Louis de Montfort's book, the fourth petition of the Lord's Prayer is translated as "supersubstantial bread." The first time I heard this explained was several years ago by Fr Thomas Hopko, an Orthodox priest and theologian. 

Supersubstantial = supernatural, superessential, spiritual, above comprehension

YES!



This is what this means.  As Pope Benedict has said, "the fact is that the Fathers of the Church were practically unanimous in understanding the fourth petition of the Our Father (Lord's Prayer) as a Eucharistic petition."  Of course it is!

The idea that the original Greek word here -- epiousios -- simply meant "daily" bread now seems utterly absurd to me.  As in physical sustenance and needs.  And yet, that is the only explanation I have ever heard from a Protestant theologian or Bible teacher. 


The question is:  why would anyone want to limit himself when Christ is offering THE Bread, the Bread of Life, the Body and the Blood, the Mystical Supper, the absolute pinnacle and zenith of all that is or was or ever will be?  The Kingdom of God!  The complete union with the Lord of the Universe!


We must never, ever limit God and put Him in a box of our own making.

Give me this day, Lord, I pray, my SUPERSUBSTANTIAL BREAD!  Amen.

22 February 2020

Consecration to Jesus Through Mary

We live in an area that is almost completely faithless:  the UK is NOT a Christian country, and the Northern Highlands of Scotland even less so.  Not only are the churches empty or closing or barely hanging on, but the general population here is aggressively anti-Christian (and if you do not see this while living here, you have your head in the sand), and openly mocks the faith and the faithful.


This is one of the reasons I have decided to undertake total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary.  I need all the help and support I can get.  For example:  there is only the tiniest of Orthodox communities here, with Liturgies only once or twice per month, and only on Saturdays, and at least an hour away from where we live.  The wee Catholic church that is local to us, and where we have chosen to worship now, has a very small congregation, and pretty much is only open for the ubiquitous hour on Sunday.  On the one hand, we are grateful for being able to attend a weekly Mass.  On the other hand, it is nowhere near enough to sustain us in our Faith in this very dark, secular Scottish culture.


Consecration means to "set aside for a sacred purpose", and this devotion is one road to help one be more devoted to Christ through the example of His Mother Mary.  I am aiming for a more devoted life, and am grateful for the help this devotion is meant to provide.

I have read St Louis de Montfort's premise (book), and am journeying on this 33-day path, hoping to make my consecration vows on the Feast of the Annunciation.  This is the version I read, and recommend:

[Disclaimer: By clicking this link, you will be taken to Amazon.  If you purchase this book, I receive a tiny commission.]

If you would like more information on consecration and what it means, read THIS.  Meanwhile, I will keep you updated on my consecration journey.

I would LOVE to meet someone else who has done this or is doing this.

21 February 2020

Prague, Part Four -- Night Views

 One of the lovely shrines (there is a picture of Jesus in the window, but the reflection from the glass makes it hard to see) attached to the walls of houses throughout Prague -- this is at one end of Charles Bridge.  I love this about many European cities.

Charles Bridge, looking toward the Old Town, Prague

For all my talk about Prague being a place we probably won't go back to (unless we strike it rich!), I do still want to share how lovely some of the architecture and ornamentation of Prague is.  It was really pretty, both in the day and at night.

 Looking toward the Old Town at twilight.

 The Old Town end of Charles Bridge

Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor
1316-1378

The evening of our first full day, we wandered from the Church of Our Lady Victorious towards the river, stopped for one of these lovely treats:  a Trdlo (made from a trdelnik), and walked across the Charles Bridge and through the maze of tiny streets into the Old Town Square.



The Old Town and the Castle complex area were the most crowded areas of Prague, by far.  It's worth seeing these places -- but, I would definitely avoid the restaurants and food vendors here if you are looking to save money -- and do be prepared for all the ridiculous posing-for-photos tourists and high prices.

 View of Our Lady of Tyne Church

This was one of many churches which proved to be a huge disappointment by not being open to the public.  We are not sure if this is due to fear of vandalism and/or people just generally disrespecting holy ground, or why this was.

 Old Town Square at night in February

 An absolutely gorgeous building with an absolutely appalling business on the ground floor (something the secular party tourist would be interested in) -- so sad.

The famous astrological clock.

The astrological clock in Prague's Old Town Square is worth viewing, especially if you know who the Apostles are and enjoy the symbolism of the clock.  Judging by the crowds we saw (both day and night) most people are just checking this off the list and didn't seem to understand what they were looking at.  

Editorial comment:  The whole "bucket list" thing has created a generation of people who seem to be interested only in checking off as many things as they can, whether or not they truly experience or understand what they are seeing and checking off.  We are absolutely NOT bucket list people, and believe it is the sign of a sound-byte world that moves way too fast for its own good.

Stay tuned for more about Prague, as well as various and sundry thoughts about life, the Faith, and culture.