Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Upon the Annunciation and Passion Falling upon One Day. 2016

Serving in a parish called St. Mary's, the Feast of the Annunciation is a particularly Holy Day.  Except this year, rather than being celebrated on March 25 ( nine months to the day before Christmas), this year, because of Holy Week and Easter, Mary has to wait until April 4 to hear from the angel Gabriel. 

It is a rare congruence of chronological time when Annunciation and Good Friday share the same calendar day. Only two times does it occur in the twenty-first century, and this week is the final occasion until the next century.  The juxtaposition of the uncertain, unexpected possibility of divine incarnation held beside and with crucifixion and death is a place of pondering for me this Holy Week. 

When this occurred in 1608, the Caroline Divine (priest and poet during the time of King Charles), John Donne, was inspired to write the following poem. It was introduced to me the last coinciding of these two dates in 2005 by a dear woman in my parish, Julia Rich.  I return the gift and share it this Tuesday in Holy Week. 

Upon the Annunciation and Passion Falling upon One Day. 1608

Tamely, frail body, abstain today; today
My soul eats twice, Christ hither and away.
She sees Him man, so like God made in this,
That of them both a circle emblem is,
Whose first and last concur; this doubtful day
Of feast or fast, Christ came and went away;
She sees Him nothing twice at once, who's all;
She sees a Cedar plant itself and fall
Her Maker put to making, and the head
Of life at once not yet alive yet dead;
She sees at once the virgin mother stay
Reclused at home, public at Golgotha;
Sad and rejoiced she's seen at once, and seen
At almost fifty and at scarce fifteen;
At once a Son is promised her, and gone;
Gabriel gives Christ to her, He her to John;
Not fully a mother, she's in orbity,
At once receiver and the legacy;
All this, and all between, this day hath shown,
The abridgment of Christ's story, which makes one
(As in plain maps, the furthest west is east)
Of the Angels' Ave and Consummatum est.
How well the Church, God's court of faculties,
Deals in some times and seldom joining these! 
As by the self-fixed Pole we never do
Direct our course, but the next star thereto,
Which shows where the other is and which we say
(Because it strays not far) doth never stray,
So God by His Church, nearest to Him, we know
And stand firm, if we by her motion go;
His Spirit, as His fiery pillar doth
Lead, and His Church, as cloud, to one end both.
This Church, by letting these days join, hath shown
Death and conception in mankind is one:
Or 'twas in Him the same humility
That He would be a man and leave to be:
Or as creation He had made, as God,
With the last judgment but one period,
His imitating Spouse would join in one
Manhood's extremes: He shall come, He is gone:
Or as though one blood drop, which thence did fall,
Accepted, would have served, He yet shed all;
So though the least of His pains, deeds, or words,
Would busy a life, she all this day affords;
This treasure then, in gross, my soul uplay,
And in my life retail it every day.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Back at work, almost

This work day starts in Atlanta where my friend and I drove from Savannah yesterday. 

Stopping to walk a labyrinth in Macon. 

Then on to Atlanta for a late lunch and movie.   A Sabbath ended with good food and laughter. 

Today is Saturday and I'm flying home to work. But first morning prayers walking the Labyrinth at the Cathedral. 

Breakfast with a friend. 

As I wait for the plane, I'll check my email and make a list of things to do. The list of those I want to offer care began as I walked the labyrinth. I'll also pray for each member of St. Mary's, as is my traveling custom. 

Refreshed, what has God in store?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Laudete, omnes gentes, laudate Dominum

As part of this quiet Lenten rhythm, I learned that listening for the moment in the early hours when the birds begin to sing was the best way to time my getting up to walk to see the fullness of the sunrise.  And so they did. 

Approaching the ocean, the two doves were once again perched on the boardwalk to offer morning peace.

On this last morning at the beach, I share part of my morning devotional with you, prayed while sitting on the beach as the sun came up. 

Morning prayers for all I hold dear. 

Praise Lauds 
Traditional hour: at dawn/waking up 

Laudate, omnes gentes, laudate Dominum! [Sing praises, all people, sing praises to the Lord!] 

We greet the new day by praising the Creator (the ancient name for this hour, Lauds, means “praise”). 

Bless the Lord, O my soul. 

O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you. Psalm 63:1

God has given to the earth the breath that feeds it. God’s breath vibrates in yours, in your voice. It is the breath of God that you breathe. 
Theophilus of Antioch 

From Daily Prayer for All Seasons by Church Publishing 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Thresholds of the day

Thresholds are places we cross as we travel from one space to another. Wise ones write about intentionally considering thresholds as a spiritual practice.

One of my practices on this Lenten retreat on Tybee Island is being mindful of sunrises and sunsets as thresholds of the day. I've been up at 6 each morning to walk to the beach to watch the sunrise. On the other hinge of the day, I've been intentional about being present on the marsh to see the sunset.  

These pauses have been spectacular not only because of their beauty, each unique to the conditions of that particular morning or evening.  The experiences before, or even at that very moment, have also been part of what is being received. 

This morning two doves, sitting in stillness, waited on the boardwalk I cross as if to give a blessing of peace to the day. 

Soldiers from a nearby base ran along the beach as the sun rose, with heavy backpacks weighing them down, each young man leaving deep impressions of his boot prints in the sand. I offered a silent blessing, one by one, as they jogged past. 

Since before Jesus' time, holy men and women have stopped at thresholds throughout the day and offered prayers to God. I join them. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A Lenten Wednesday

A scrap of sunrise in a Lenten sky. 

Cross in a coffee shop. 

Liturgically correct art in a museum. 

Purple toes. 

Searching for Christ. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Receiving Photography

Several years ago when I was traveling in Turkey, my new digital  camera was stolen. A sister pilgrim had brought a back up film camera that she leant me. Rather than taking endless photos, I had to be very intentional about which moment to photograph. I found myself being a much more careful observer without a camera to "capture" the places I went.   

As I walked to the beach this morning for the sunrise on Tybee Island beach, I remembered the words of Christine Valters Paintner who invites us not to take photographs but to receive them. 

Here I was with my brand new iPhone in hand, bought particularly for my upcoming trip to Iceland with it's reportedly improved camera.  Swirling in my head were other words from my friend, Meredith+, a gifted Episcopal priest, who invites those in her parish to refrain from taking photographs during worship because it's difficult to worship through a camera. 

As the sun rose in the sky, a handful of early risers gathered on the beach, all of us with our phones raised. 

And then God stepped in. Our phones were lowered, and we began to chat. In the shared receiving of the spectacular rising sun, we began to share our lives. 

Three young women from China, attending college in North Carolina, studying to be teachers. A couple from Virginia on a road trip.  So many smiles. Photos exchanged and given. So much joy. So very much received.