Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wednesday of Bright Week ~ The Legend of the Dogwood

THE DOGWOOD GROWS in many parts of Europe, China and East Asia and throughout North America. Virginia and South Carolina claim it as their state flower. There is a legend about the dogwood perhaps originating in the Middle Ages when just about everything somehow pointed symbolically to the Mysteries of the Christian Faith. 

At the time of Jesus' Crucifixion the dogwood had been the size of the oak and other forest trees. So firm and strong was the tree that it was chosen as the timber for the cross. To be used this way for such a cruel purpose greatly distressed the tree.
In His gentle pity for all sorrow and suffering Jesus said to the tree: "Because of your regret and pity for my suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a cross. From now on it shall be slender and bent and twisted and its blossom shall be in the form of a cross - two long and two short petals. And in the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints, brown with rust and stained with red, and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns, and all who see it will remember."

I like that line, "...and all who see it will remember" especially in view of the mental clutter most of us suffer and the daily temptations to distraction and forgetfulness. 

It's noteworthy too that the dogwood has served medicinally as well over time. It has been used to curb the spread of malaria. Confederate soldiers made bark tea from the dogwood to cure colds and fevers and a leaf-paste to cover battle wounds. Of course, the remedy or medicine we need is a spiritual one. Praise Christ Risen in the Springtime!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday of Bright Week ~ Having Heard From The Angel

IN THIS FRESCO from a monastery wall, there are a couple of scenes conflated into one: One Easter angel points to the binding cloth or shroud of Jesus. Another angel points to the empty tomb, announcing to the confounded women that Jesus is risen and gone ahead to Galilee. The soldiers, symbolizing power and empire, are fallen. The walking stick held by each angel indicates that these are messengers in motion - alive with news. 

Having heard from the angel
the glad tidings of the Resurrection,
and that the ancient curse was done away,
the women disciples of the Lord
cried exultingly unto the apostles,
"Death is no more and Christ our God is risen,
granting to the world great mercy.

(Eastern Christian Resurrection Hymn)

This is a wonderful verse to memorize and repeat many times each day - even out loud - during the Easter time. I believe it has the power to dispel sadness, self-pity and harmful anxieties.

Monday, April 21, 2014

An Easter Sermon ~ Bright Monday ~ The Myrrh-Bearing Women

DIANE CAMERON IS A FREELANCE WRITER who had an article published a few years ago in the "Forum" section of U.S.A. Today. She recalled a time in her life described as the lowest point, a time of crushing depression when everything seemed to be loss.

I don't imagine there is anyone reading this post who can't recall his or her own lowest life-point. Maybe someone is feeling, "I'm in it right now!" Diane went on to share that she had gotten out of the habit of regular church worship and of surprisingly finding herself at an Easter morning service in the midst of all this daily confusion and inner darkness. She remembered nothing of the sermon except these words, "We live in a Good Friday world."

On Palm Sunday many Christians heard the Passion account of Saint Mark, and then on Friday, as told by Saint John. If we were attentive we'd see all the themes of the Good Friday World, which is life on the planet today (likely it is the world's story in every place and time) but also themes detected in our own personal lived experience.

The themes of the Good Friday World are these: loss, grief, mistakes, false accusation, suffering, burdens, pain, betrayal, hatred, curses, abandonment, torture, loneliness, false imprisonment, false religion, fears, tears, nakedness, shame, insults, violence, prison abuse, treachery, brutality, bribery, libel, scheming, indifference, cold calculation, the dark world of politics,  death. It's often very difficult to live in this world.

We live in a Good Friday World, - we all know a Good Friday World. And on Saturday night, if your church service started in darkness - that's what the darkness symbolized. And much of the world seems to be fine with that. "Jesus came into the world as light, but people preferred darkness to light." And when we can't stand the darkness anymore, the culture goes shopping, or gets high, or we get something else to eat, or we look for another screen in which to lose ourselves.

But Saint Augustine says, "We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song." This means we're not celebrating a past event so much as we're celebrating the thing that defines us - resurrection defines us. Resurrection was Jesus' experience surely, but it is as much OUR experience. Or it's supposed to be.
The new fire of Saturday night, and the lifting up high of the great candle, and singing to the candle as if it were personal and even alive, and our taking the light off of the candle and holding it to ourselves and feeling its glow: We're an Easter people. And this isn't just wishful thinking or trying to "buck up" in the darkness - but the light pushed back the darkness. The candles dispelled the darkness - sent it away!

The women at the tomb, called the myrrh-bearers, have something to tell us about this. These women are images of us. They are not poor women or stupid women (as misogynists like to say) but they are not able to move beyond the Good Friday World. They expect only to encounter what they knew on Good Friday. They wonder, 'Who will roll the stone away for us?" They can't or don't think of a personal world of new and other possibilities. All they expect to see again is the brutalized and dead body they had started to embalm on Friday.

They love Jesus very much and are intent on doing for him what they can, but they have yet  to comprehend what Jesus can do for them which is to call them - this time not down the dirt roads of Galilee, but to follow him into a new world of faith - into a new world which is to become a new kind of human person - transfigured and born of light.

Some years ago I was chaplain to a residential school for young people who had lost their way. And every Easter there was at least one who asked to be baptized. And so on Easter night theses young men and women would step up to the watery sepulcher with Jesus to be ritually drown - to move beyond the Good Friday World to their own personal Easter. They had started to change and they wanted to change even more - for a lifetime - all the way to heaven. And I want to change. I want to be different from last Easter.

We might print a copy of the little icon of the Myrrh-Bearers speaking with the Easter Angel of  Happy News and put it where we'll see it for Easter's Forty Days. Maybe with a simple prayer at hand like this one:

Risen Jesus, 
as I walk in this Good Friday world,
grace me, and all of the others, 
with something of your
Resurrection mind,
Resurrection life and energy,
Resurrection heart and spirit,
hope and joy.
Amen! Alleluia!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Morning ~ Before the Empty Tomb of Jesus

IT IS THE DAY OF RESURRECTION and the story begins with the women of Sunday morning who have returned to the tomb to complete the embalming of Jesus. Those burial rituals were interrupted because the sun was setting on Friday, signaling the start of the work-forbidden Sabbath. But while everyone else ran away, these women friends of Jesus continued doing the things of love in preparing for their Sunday return. 

And on that Easter morning they met angels who told them Jesus was alive. The stone which was intended to seal in death had been rolled back - not to let Jesus escape but to show that he was not there.

Let's pay attention to that rolled back stone which the angel sat upon, as if to say, "There, it's done, the great victory." But we must not just admire Jesus in his rising, but name the rolled back stone, sharing Christ's championship. 

Roll away the stone of self pity that counts all the losses.
Roll away the stone of self-defeat.
Roll away the stone of our deadly choices.
Roll away the stone of negativity and pessimism.
Roll away the stone of aggression and self-glory.

Roll away the stone of all I claim to be impossible.
Roll away the stone of rebellion and inner resistance.
Roll away the stone of indifference and laziness.
Roll away the stone of regrets and the nursing of old wounds.
Roll away the stone of alienation and entitlement.

Roll away the stone of skepticism and the  doubting of your divine
Roll away the stone of suspicion and defensiveness.
Roll away the stone of hard-heartedness, ignorance and
Roll away the stone of addiction.
Roll away the stone of blaming and lies.

Roll away the stone of lukewarmness in prayer.
Roll away the stone of anxiety and procrastination.
Roll away the stone of posturing and empty argument.
Roll away the stone of our well-armed hearts.
Roll away the stone of cold suspicion and compulsion.

Christ is Risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tomb,
Bestowing life!