Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Intercessions ~ Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We pray for Christians who earnestly struggle for Christ today/ and for others,/ who wearing the thin veneer of religion,/ conceal un-repented hatred./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the people and lands of Namibia,/ Nauru,/ Nepal,/ Netherlands,/ Netherlands Antilles,/ New Caledonia and New Zealand./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for all our relatives and friends,/ especially any who suffer from depression,/ worry or despair./ We pray to the Lord.

We intercede for parents,/ aware of those who fail their children./ For children who are awaiting adoption/ and for others whose lives are at risk./ We pray to the Lord.

On Christmas night, the angels sang, announcing peace./ We boldly pray for the cessation of wars and deadly violence./ For dulled and hardened hearts to be sensitized to the dignity of the children of God./ We pray to the Lord.

Grant healing to the sick,/ the alcoholic and addict,/ as we hold in our prayer the many thousands who are damaged,/ exiled,/ and wounded by wars./ We pray to the Lord.

Grant healing and comfort to families around the world who suffer the pain of mourning,/ and salvation and life to those who have died./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mother of God ~ Joy of All Who Sorrow ~ July23

HERE IS THE WONDER-WORKING ICON of the Mother of God ~ Joy of all Who Sorrow. Some icons have more than one day of remembrance. This July feast remembers a church which housed the icon being struck by lighting and burning to the ground ~ the icon remaining safe and sound. 

We all have moments of rescue or safe-keeping and we turn around, even stunned, looking for a place to put our surprised gratitude.  We might keep the image of the icon on file in our minds ~ Mary in a super-abundant garden. Is she doing a little dance-for-joy on her red platform? Even the sun and moon and all the plant world have gotten in on the celebration of thanks. 

We see angels with little shout-outs, expressions of gratitude offered up by the faithful ~ happy recipients of favors. We might take up our own place before the icon and call to mind some time of joy restored ~ when we were pulled up out of sorrow and restored to a happier place.

But what about the others - the families of those who lost loved ones on the downed Malaysian flight, or the displaced residents of Gaza and those who mourn the loss of their children to rocket fire? This is impossible to answer. Wherever there are human beings, there is sin. And sin gets in the way of God's purposes.

A nun who lived through the Nazi occupation of France told me, "Then, we had each other, you can't count on that today." But there still are places on the earth where people find their joy and gratitude in the presence of each other, however great the losses. And there are still people whose believing holds them up in a tempest-tossed world.

Here's the Troparion-prayer for the icon's feast.

For those in great sorrow, you are joy,
for the oppressed, a protector,
for the hungry, their food
and comfort for the estranged.

You are a staff for the blind,
visitation for all the sick, 
to those held by pain,
shelter and comforting
and to the orphan, an aid.

Mother of God in the highest,
You who are the spotless one, 
hasten, save your servants from their fears.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Kostroma ~ The Fyodoroskaya and Summer Phlox

IN 1996 - just a few years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, I took a seventeen day trip up the Volga River from Moscow to St. Petersburg. The journey was called, A Tour of Old Russia, the German built ship stopping along the way at Medieval villages, towns and cities - all of which featured some famous shrine, church, palace or monastery. 

Stopping for an afternoon at Kostroma, we visited this restored convent which was established in the 1400's. The centerpiece of the monastic complex is the Epiphany Cathedral built between 1559 and 1565. It houses the Wonder-working icon of the Mother of God under the title Fyodoroskaya. I remember the yellow cupola got my attention.

Upon entering through the monastery gate we were escorted to the chapel where the icon is venerated. But even before seeing the icon we were greeted with the most amazing scent of summer phlox which was coming in from the adjacent garden and filling the church. The scent was more powerful than incense, and I immediately responded, feeling, I so want to be here. I so want to be in the presence of God. Thank you for this sensory welcome!

Here is a photograph I took of the bright shrine which houses the Miraculous Icon of the Fyodoroskaya Mother of God. The icon is approached through the opening on the right and the entire front of the shrine is covered with phlox and other garden flowers. 

Russia is replete with miracle or wonder-working icons. The veil between heaven and earth is very thin over them. We might offer our own heart-felt prayer as the Fyodoroskaya Icon is revealed to us here ~ asking not only for the safety and health of loved ones, but for the re-creation of a world that would be welcoming and safe for all children.

Friday, July 18, 2014

"He spread it far and wide..."

Once Jesus was approached by a leper who knelt before him begging his help. "If only you will," said the man, you can cleanse me." In warm indignation Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, "Indeed I will; be clean again." The leprosy left him immediately, and he was clean. Then he dismissed him with the stern warning: "Be sure you say nothing to anybody. Go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering laid down by Moses for your cleaning; that will certify the cure." But the man went out and made the whole story public; he spread it far and wide, until Jesus could no longer show himself in any town, but stayed outside in the open country. Even so, people kept coming to him from all quarters.  (Mark 1: 410-45)

The are thousands of beautiful and moving paintings depicting this scene, but they all show the man as having something more akin to chickenpox, measles or acne than leprosy. This photograph is more illustrative. We can imagine at once that as horrible as the disease was in itself, the even more dreadful aspect was the loneliness that came with being marginalized, detested, feared. 

The leper is brave then in approaching Jesus. And Jesus at once overcomes the distance the disease and the religious law imposed, by stretching out his hand and touching him. It is God's mercy bridging distance and restoring relationships and community!

But then there is this curious requirement Jesus places on the man: Don't tell. Scholars will debate why Jesus forbade people to tell about their cures: maybe he was concerned about becoming a sideshow, or being misunderstood, or arousing the jealous and pious suspicions of the religious authorities. The more important thing is that the man doesn't keep his end of the bargain. He is overwhelmed with gratitude, can't help himself, and goes off spreading everywhere the story of his restoration. This makes things so difficult for Jesus that he has to stay out of town for awhile.

Can I name that kind of gratitude? A gratitude that consumes me, that can't be kept quiet, that becomes a significant piece of my lifestyle. 

I've suffered from terrible allergies all of my life - debilitating, seasonal allergies that would put me down for days. No medication gave me real relief. Then these allergies became year-round and increasingly tiresome. So this April I went to see a sinus doctor who told me that if a person hasn't outgrown the childhood allergies by age 50, they are here to stay and if by age 60, one could say, "Everything can be a source of allergic reaction." Not good news.

"But you have sinusitis and a deviated septum, and if you have sinus surgery, the increased air flow may help." By then my left nostril had effectively shut down and so hoping for some relief, I opted for the surgery. Just before I was wheeled in for the operation, the doctor (who happens to be Buddhist) came over to me and said, "I just want to remind you that no surgery resolves allergy problems." I answered, "I remember you said that," and they rolled me away.

The recovery and the post surgery visits were more difficult than I could have imagined,  but I was happy to be able to breathe again. At the second post-op office visit I told the doctor  that not only could I breathe but that going into May I had absolutely no allergy symptoms. Sharing my joy he said, "Father Morris, allergy is the original sin, not resolved with surgery; Jesus is your immunologist." 

I believe it, and now it is mid July and I have since not so much as sneezed.  Even the allergic reactions which afflicted my eyes is gone! I don't like the word miracle because religious officials think it's for them to decide the authenticity - I prefer the word wonderIt's a wonder! A Jesus-wonder that I want to spread far and wide - and a gratitude that is on my mind often every day, and I expect will be for the rest of my life. 

Can you name your own!? It may not have anything to do with medical things. But how have I been wondrously restored, lifted up, put back together, turned around, made whole?