Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Miracle at Akona

The Virgin Mary appearing in a dream at Akona

The Miracles of Our Lady Mary is a 12th century series of Mary-miracle accounts from the Egyptian Church. The story here tells of a Greek monastery and church dedicated to Our Holy Lady, the Virgin Mary built some distance from a stream. A certain priest encountered Mary every night in his dreams during which she instructed him to build a church in her honor near the edge of the stream. This dream continued nightly for years, and while the priest dutifully made Our Lady's instruction known to the monastic community, they stubbornly refused to comply.

One night then, while the monks slept in their cells, the monastic church and cells were pulled apart and the whole building moved down to the edge of the stream, the walls being made stable and strong as they had been on the original site. Apparently sound sleepers, the monks knew nothing until the next morning when they went from their beds to the chapel and found the stream running through their courtyard. 

Filled with astonishment (and maybe some guilt over their stubborn disbelief) they sang hymns of praise to Our Lady and spread the news to the folks all around. And of course, they established a feast day in remembrance of the great event. Here is the Theotokian hymn for the feast day.

Your power was mighty and you made manifest 
   your wonderful act,
As you removed the Monastery of Akona
   from its wretched condition and decay,
   O Mary, the daughter of Mati.
Even so remove the glory of my adversary
   by the might of your hand,
For are you not the object of my boasting
   and the object of my commemoration?

Now someone might say, "Oh, Mary did a marvelous miracle!" and leave it at that. The hymn suggests that the movement has to do with the humbling of enemies, (remove the glory of my adversary) but I think that misses the point.

The word monastery can refer to buildings or it can mean the community of monks who live in those buildings. The hymn says the monastery was in a condition of wretchedness and decay. So what was it about these monks: Were they obtuse to God's movement and presence? Were they stubborn and hardened of heart? Had they sunk into indifference, laziness, loss of zeal and the brightness of faith?

But get this ~ Mary lifted them up in their inner sleepiness and dropped them off at the stream, which means a new place of surprise, refreshment, life and delight.  The miracle really isn't about buildings then, is it? If Mary can move monastic buildings, how much more might she move an inner life! 

So I've written here a new Theotokian born of new insights and our condition today.

Having heard of the wonder you performed at Akona:
a monastery moved to a nearby stream
We call upon you, O Lady,
move us now to that inner spring
where life is renewed and 
Christ is glorified in joy.

Move us O Lady,
    to a new personality, healed of old wounds.
Move us O Lady,
    from bitterness to compassion and loving kindness.
Move us O Lady,
    from externalized religion to an inner Christianity.
Move us O Lady,
    to the consciousness of an alive soul.
Move us O Lady,
    to a personal understanding of Jesus' teachings.
Move us O Lady,
    to a creativity un-imagined and waiting to be born.
Move us O Lady,
    to encounter Christ, who invites human wholeness.
Move us O Lady,
    to docility and humility before something that is new.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Intercessions ~ Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

As the nation celebrates its birthday/ we pray for healing in our often fractious country./ And for each of us and all of us to become agents of  justice,/ kindness,/ reconciliation and welcome./ We pray to the Lord. 

Jesus returns to his home town in the Gospel today/ where he is amazed at the lack of faith he encounters./ We pray not to disappoint Jesus/ but that our own lives of discipleship would be marked by an alive faith/ and love in action./ We pray to the Lord.

As Pope Francis will be coming to the United States in September,/ we ask blessings for his visit./ And as the pope will also visit Cuba/ we pray for our own nation to be attentive/ and awake in prayer and hope./ We pray to the Lord.

In the month of July we pray for those who celebrate birthdays,/ anniversaries and other days of remembrance:/ asking gifts of good health,/ safety,/ and growth in Christ./ We pray to the Lord.

Election Day is not until November of next year/ yet already there is a flood of candidates./ We pray for those who seek public office to be honest and good,/ freed of whatever interior thing makes us ugly and useless before God./ We pray to the Lord.

All around the world there is sadness and trouble./ We pray for those who are helpers in every place/ and that we would do our part in alleviating suffering as we are able./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask a spiritual remedy for those who are sick with sorrow,/ bitterness,/ hatred,/ worry,/ addictions and pain./ We pray for those who have died this week - and for those who mourn loved ones/ or the loss of peace and security in their lands./ We pray to the Lord. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

In a profoundly troubled world, we can pray.

This is an image of Our Lady of Good Remedy. The title comes to us from the 12th century when the Trinitarian Fathers needed money to ransom Christians from slavery. A remedy for that problem was swiftly and generously forthcoming. This is wonderful, and I have my own stories to tell of Mary's remedies over the years and in the work of the retreat house here.

But I would suggest that remedy here means so much more than Mary as fund-raiser, however good the cause, as the most needed remedy today is the remedy-ing of human hearts. Someone wrote with appreciation for the Thursday intercessions found here, as they help him/her to pray beyond the little and most immediate concerns of everyday. Now, Saint Paul writes::

The Lord is near; have no anxiety, but in everything make your requests known to God in prayer and petition with thanksgiving. Then the peace of God, which is beyond our utmost understanding, will keep guard over your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus. (Philipians 4:6,7)

But the verse says to make needs known in everything. And if we have global hearts, and open, aware, informed minds, then we will want to entrust so much more to the Mother called Remedy

A priest told me once that intercession is the lowest form of prayer. I was only a seminarian then and didn't now how to respond ~ but I don't believe that. The synagogue official in last Sunday's Gospel said, "Jesus, my daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live." He was interceding for his daughter, and Jesus responded at once and with great generosity. 

Here are some prayer-verses of my own. But each of us will think and feel beyond the prayer when it seems to end. 

For deniers and deceivers
For the lazy and indifferent
For the hopeless and embittered
A remedy, O Lady!

For racists and anti-semites
For resenters and bullies
For the militarized and dangerous
A remedy, O Lady!

For the priesthood and the candidates
For prisoners and killers
For haters and the hated
A remedy, O Lady!

For the dealers and death-purveyors
For terrorists and the obstruct-ors of good
For dividers and exploiters
A remedy, O Lady!

For the un-evolved and wounded
For planet-looters and the greedy
For the baby considered a problem
A remedy, O Lady!

For the addict and the fear-ridden
For the self-righteous and the soul-sick
For the fearful and the unhappy
A remedy, O Lady!

For beheaders and suicide bombers
For the master-minds and the broken-hearted
For the wanderers and the war-torn
A remedy, O Lady!

For the mourners and the dis-placed
For the children and the left behind
For wall-builders and false promise-rs
A remedy, O Lady!

For hearts that look the other way
For excuse-rs and rationalize-rs
For the person on the planet who most needs this prayer right now
A remedy, O Lady!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Hemerocallis fulva is blooming ~ and talking to us!

Hemerocallis fulva - commonly called Orange Daylily or Ditch Lily is blooming now. And while each flower lasts only one day, the blooms are staggered over a period of two to three weeks, which makes for a lovely summer presence. 

News to me: this rather invasive plant (we all have our detractors) is enjoyed seemingly everywhere. On a Ditch Lily website people have chimed in to share their  Ditch Lily experiences from almost all of the fifty states. Some folks have shared observations about Ditch Lilies from The United Kingdom, Canada and China!

Once planted, if even carelessly, daylilies will spread by underground roots. And since they don't propagate by seeds, if you see them growing somewhere, know that someone (even a long time ago) planted them there. More often than not, zooming by,  we notice them as a large or long patch of bright roadside orange. Many people have no idea what the one-day flowers look like close up. 

But for all the ordinary, there's a lot of message in the daylily: Much of life is loss, so let's pay attention. Remember Joni Mitchell's 1970's song: They Paved Paradise. "Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got till it's gone..."

Sometimes the loss starts before we even get started. As a brand-new priest I walked in the door of my first-assignment-rectory and the pastor was standing there, who clearly was alcoholic. That night at dinner I realized he was a nasty, broken, bruising alcoholic. Talk about the loss of an ideal. A joy stealer. A dream smasher. A month later the church was broken into and my antique, sterling silver ordination chalice was stolen. The detective said the next morning: "Don't bother, it's already melted down." 

Jesus understood how loss-permeating life is: his security was taken away as an infant and his family had to flee to Egypt for safety, he was separated from Mary and Joseph for three days at age twelve, he taught about God through parables of loss: lost boy, lost coin, lost sheep (Luke 15).

We can lose: a pregnancy, a parent or child, a friend, a job or income, our faith, our self-confidence, our sense of meaning or purpose, our life-direction. We can lose our way even with a GPS. We can lose our keys, the remote, our wallet, our glasses, the book we were reading, the password, we can lose love in a marriage. We lose patience. Sometimes we say in exasperation: I'm losing my mind.

Loss can cause us to become depressed, anxious, frustrated, cursing-angry, cynical, or conversely, persevering, enduring, grateful, hopeful. We all make our choices. 

The bright Orange Daylily summons: pay attention in the losses.

Pay attention to how I respond. 
Pay attention to what might be learned.
Pay attention to gratitude. 
Pay attention to how I might change or evolve. 
Pay attention to how I might serve in love. 
Pay attention to what needs to be healed within.
Pay attention to how close God is.

In color symbology/psychology, the color orange signifies emotional strength in difficult times. Orange assists people in grief recovery. It is the color of optimism, rejuvenation and spirit. As it is the color of a golden fruit it is celestial, symbolizing perfection and eternity. Didn't the nation get a big dose of lived-orange this past week?

Nine members of the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina were murdered by a racist gunman at a Wednesday night bible study. Among them, an elder parish matriarch, the parish pastor, a young man just graduated form college, a town librarian, a track coach and a woman who had just started her retirement - all killed. Out of their loss, relatives publicly spoke words of forgiveness to the young man who had murdered their loved ones and assaulted their community. The following Wednesday, the bible study group, usually no more than twenty people, gathered in the same room where the murders had taken place. But now over a hundred people gathered, too many for the room where the prayer normally takes place. 

In their brightness orange daylilies call us to attentiveness. In their short, seems-like-loss, sunrise to sunset existence they invite us to discover what matters: gratitude, hope, care, the heavenly, delight, healing and each other. 

I sure hope you see some Orange Daylilies soon!