Blog Template Theology of the Body: December 2005

Saturday, December 31, 2005

...And a Glorious New Year!

Two of my personal themes for 2006:

"When you are immensely loved, you cannot take part in the mystery of self- giving love by looking at it from far away. You must let yourself be consumed by fire, which burns the sacrifice to become love." (Pope John Paul II)

Isaiah 55

10) As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11) so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me void, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. 12) You shall go out with joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

May we all come to embrace with full hearts that Love which gives Himself for us; may our hearts truly burn with that Love in all that we do, until our offering of ourselves is consumed.

For Auld Lange Syne:
Some of my highlights from 2005...

1. Ringing in the new year on Campo de Fiori in Rome with dear friends...
2. Teaching two of my first courses in Ethics and Law at UNH and Boston University...
3. Travelling to southern Uganda to keep company with the little ones of the New Hope Children's Center...
4. Lecturing on the dignity of the human person in Kigali, Rwanda on behalf of The World Youth Alliance...
4. Meeting the Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda's NW volcanoes, and engaging in a game of tag with the babies...
5. Snorkelling in the FL Keys, with just enough courage lent by my mirauding little brothers...
6. Reading and meeting Stanley Hauerwas...
7. Studying Christology under dear Joe Jones...
8. Fr. WB's enchanted ordination at St. George's in Griffin, GA...
9. My sisters in the faith-crusade: Whitney, Meaghan, Jane, and Mary Katherine; Fr. WB complains that I only make friends with gorgeous women, but I am dazzled by your souls...
9. My brothers who ensure that my car runs, that I have my gloves on, that I need never sit alone at ECY, and that all my idiosyncracies are cherished: Mark Davidson, Matthew Harrison, Wallace Marsh, Adam Rutledge, Chris Bishop, Clark, the Renniers, and Tim Andrus; you all bring more warmth and comraderie to my universe than you will ever know.
10. My spiritual guides who provide the kindest and steadiest of care: Fr. WB, whom I love and follow around devotedly, and Fr. Jonathan, for whom I am so grateful.

Happy New Year-

Friday, December 23, 2005

At Last! The Incarnation of God

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Not in that poor lowly stable, with the oxen standing round, But in Heaven, where His saints His throne surround; Christ, revealed to faithful eye, set at God's right hand on high.

And our eyes at last shall see Him, through His own redeeming love; for that child who seemed to helpless is our Lord in heaven above. And He leads His children on to the place where He has gone.

"Once in Royal David's City "
Cecil Alexander.

(This blog is now on its Christmas break through Epiphany; in the meantime, I commend to you to Fr. WB's coverage of the Holy Father's Christmas homily...)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Last-Minute Advent

I just love my friends. Garland at Eye and Mind has just completed this painting for me for a Christmas present. I am thrilled about it and moved, as I am by all of his profoundly sensitive and worshipful work.

This image reminds me that Advent is not yet over; that Christmas comes in truth to those who have waited and watched for the Master's arrival, having cleaned and kept His house, having tended first to the poor, having restored their relationships.

Thanks, T :)

Apologize: St. Thomas the Apostle

... Because sometimes people have just got to see and touch the Savior before they proclaim Him their Lord and their God; but He can, in fact, be touched and seen.

(this reluctant apostle eventually undertook the majority of evangalization in the Middle East, before his martyrdom in AD 72 in India.)

O Glorious Savior, may we grieve for our sins which were the cause of your sufferings. Help us to spend ourselves in your service, and so earn the title of "blessed" which you apply to those who would believe in you, though without seeing you. Amen.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A New Blog!

All of you must scurry on over to the exciting good time of reflection at Esto Perpetua. The Rev. Grubbs, sophisticated and ardent lover of our Lord, has re-instated his blog, which will surely be as great as its author. All his blogging friends were thrilled to hear the news of this re-emergence, and I heartily commend it to you all.

Beato at the Met

“Fra Angelico often commented that…the man who occupies himself with the things of Christ should live with Christ.” -- Georgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists

Fr. WB and I went to see the Beato Angelicos at the Met over the weekend with one of our favorite seminarians and our dear friend Anna, who founded one of the greatest NGO's in the world (thanks to Garland at Eye and Mind for the tip-)

One of the most profound exhibits ever. Fra Angelico is most naturally viewed in Florence, whether at the convent of S. Marco or in S. Croce; but the Met's exhibit afforded the dearest and rarest of a proper compendium, and so very up close. It is a moving thing to stare at the tiniest pen strokes of a master whose every work was produced as an act of prayer. Fra Angelico knew adoration, and knew how to depict it. The exhibit and the placards which explained the works in the most unembarrassed tone are a triumph of an adoring eye turned towards Heaven and then humbly approaching the canvas; commendable and remarkable that the Met put this on.

I was particularly struck by the visage of St. Joseph and the sketch of Pietro de la Cruz presenting his case to the Muslim caliph; in the latter, the little monk is situated before the infidel in a posture of prayer, as though to say, "please just allow me to tell you what I have seen, because I must." Anna and I also loved the free-standing angels from a S. Lucia alterpiece. Fr. WB preferred a sketch of the Crucifix (on the flip side of the display is a classical depiction of Justice- how cool) and WM loved the sorrowful King Jesus. Amen.

The Skinny on St. Nick

The original "Santa Claus" and "Father Christmas" was St. Nicholas, a Turkish bishop of the third century who was present at Nicea and who loved the poor; his characteristic gesture was the anonymous provision of the all-important dowry for three impoverished young women, which enabled their subsequent marriages. Hooray for presents and family! Now everyone stop complaining about Santa Claus and use his image as a vehicle for instruction, especially for kiddos this Christmas. (Thanks to Rev. Grubbs for the friendly reminder about dear St. Nick.)

Luke: For Nothing Shall Be Impossible

Luke 1:26-38
(New Living Translation)

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28Gabriel appeared to her and said, "Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!

29Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30"Don't be frightened, Mary," the angel told her, "for God has decided to bless you! 31You will become pregnant and have a son, and you are to name him Jesus. 32He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!"

34Mary asked the angel, "But how can I have a baby? I am a virgin."

35The angel replied, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby born to you will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.

36What's more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she's already in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God."

38Mary responded, "I am the Lord's servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true." And then the angel left.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


...I am banking on the sympathy of all fellow grad students when I say that the Fall semester is just over and Out With a Bang. Hallelujah. Now the countdown till Christmas rejoicing can begin properly.

Lest my work never gets any closer to future publication and Kingdom service than this humble post, below are the topics of interest which Almost Killed Me this semester. I really hope that some of you will send on a brief abstract on your own completed work to me for upcoming blog conversation... please do.

1. The Politics of the Little Child: Kierkegaard and Yoder on Model Discipleship.
2. To Them Belong the Covenants: A Theological Reflection on Paul's Use of Diaetheke in Romans.
3. But Faith Also Prays: Augustine's Useful Signs for Ecumenical Dialogue on Justification.
4. Sola Bonitas: Origen's Soteriology of Unification.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Chains: Northern Uganda

Remember them that are in chains, as bound with them;
and them which suffer adversity,
as being yourselves also in that body.

Hebrews 13:3

Pray for the kidnapped children forced to serve in Joseph Kony's Army; pray for the protection of young women, for the release of the captives, for the restoration of the souls and lives of the child soldiers.

Pray for much-needed reconciliation between the Anglican and Catholic churches of Uganda, and for their united political effectiveness, while youre it at.

Then look up the good work which some of my friends are tirelessly doing for these little ones...

And the oh so cool initiative of the Invisible Children's Project...

Thursday, December 15, 2005


By Him all things were made, and without Him was not anything made that was made...

(John 1)

- baby porcupines from my sister, for cheer through the Last Paper.

John R.

True religion which God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to care for orphans and widows in their distress
and to keep one's self unspotted from the world.
James 1:27

First Presbyterian Churchof San Antonio Texas, is absolutely one of my favorite congregations in the whole world. This conservative Protestant community recently announced, with all solemnity, that they'd had a saint in their midst; in his devotion to the poor and heroic courage in showing the love of Christ so deliberately, this man was to become a model in holiness for us all. So the Presbyterians have a saint now.

He was my grandfather, John R. Shaw, Esq. and today the San Antonio Bar Association commemorates his life and sixty years of pro bono legal service in his community. If you all will permit me, this is my tribute to my own personal patron saint... these heroes of Christ's Kingdom really do walk among us from time to time.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Apologize, Polly

'Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion'

A very dear blogreader sent Polly Toynbee's rather sneering review of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to me, and just in time, because I have been so out of the loop on anti-Narnia buzz. I thinks its hysterical, almost as much so as those of the Very Very camp who are Shooting the Cause in the Foot with their critique of Lewis as "Anti-Christian!" because he loves centaurs- pooh. Anyhoo, my own thoughts on Toynbee's unattractive critique are as follows:

1. First of all. Oh brother.

2. Second of all. Its just so COLONIALIST and elitist and patronizing In The Worst Way to look down on the Narnians for their belief in redemptive sacrifice and power and kingship. Its so violently hegemonic and supremacist. Its CULTURALLY INSENSITIVE. I suppose we ought to colonize them properly, educate them, indenture them till they have been acculturated with what the industrialized West has to say about pacifism, social justice, democracy and identification with the lowly Other? (Please, Toynbee. Don't dialogically oppress and exclude the Narnians as barbarians just because they have King Aslan rather than Martin Luther King Jr. The latter would be so disappointed. Youre sounding a little Apartheid, and you need to Hear the Other.)

3. Thirdly. This poor woman is begging for therapy or a bedtime story. She just didnt read the series as a child, which is entirely the problem. She's so mad about this. If she had... well...what's there to say? ...We DID feel that thing about Aslan. We DID.

Mooch off of the prior conversation at Whitehall here-

(please forgive uncharitable image, the devil made me do it)...

Adventine Praying II: The Perfect Gift

It seems that we ought to conform our gift-giving to the proclamation of Christ too. Thus, as Scripture insists that "we give to each his due," here are some helpful guidelines from the Chatechism regarding the appropriate Distribution of Holiday Cheer.

The Church's Christmas List

To God- total self-abandonement, trust, worship, adoration, praise, thanksgiving, and love.

To Spouses- the total surrender and gift of self, aiming at a deeply personal unity, indissolubility, and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving.

To Children- education, provision, spiritual formation, respect as human persons and children of God, the provision of a tender, forgiving, respectful, serving home.

To the Elderly- honor, affection, gratitude, compansionship in lonliness.

To Parents-honor, gratitude, docility, generosity, forgiveness, affection, charity, support in distress.

To Siblings and Friends- filial respect for the dignity of the other self, gratitude for encouragement in the faith, chastity, grace, solidarity, self-mastery for the other, spiritual communion.

To the Poor- active assistance as unto Christ, denial of immoderate love of wealth, justice and charity, instruction, advice, consolation, comfort, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned.

Adventine Praying I.

Amelie Shaw's Christmas Prailine Recipe:


2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
Sprinkle of salt
2 tablespoons white Karo corn syrup
2/3 cup whole milk
1 stick butter
1/3 teaspoon baking soda

1 pound whole pecan halves
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients EXCEPT pecans and vanilla in a heavy saucepan; bring to a soft boil.
Stir in pecans and vanilla; return to a soft boil.
Remove from heat and beat mixture till creamy.
Drop by whole teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper (should be small, fat dollops for best results).
Let cool and harden.

Wrap individually in saran wrap for gifting.

Yeild: around 3 dozen prailines.

... Because these amazing things, from my grandmother's recipe box, can do more for unity and charity in the Body of Christ than you could ever imagine... perhaps give them to anyone who persecutes you or despitefully uses you... or put them to good use for Christmas time evangelism...

(NB that you need TEXAN pecans for best results)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

"Merry Christmas," qua "All Hail King Jesus"

I have just about had it with Jaded Evangelical Disilusion with Christmas on the one hand, and Flippant Disregard on the other. I heard a bright young person wish his friend "Happy Holidays," in Church, on Sunday; very, very Annoying.

The Town Square outside my apartment has this gorgeous enormous lit Christmas tree in its center; at dusk each night for the last month, it illumines its snowy environs along with the glittering snowflake which hangs on the Charming Intersection of Chapel and College. Starbucks has everything in red, and Hark the Herald Angels playing; The Nation's First of most lovely little boutiques across the Green are bedecked in green. Christians, of all people, should be hilarious with delight at the way our world resounds with the Gospel at this time of the year.... and all without much effort on our part.

These Christmas symbols Mean Something, and they emerge on a ready world each December, to be unveiled along with with the Gospel which they signify- twinkling lights for the Light which shines in darkness; evergreens because God's creation is renewed with the Incarnation, being returned to the One for whom it was made, death is undone, life WILL flourish; red for the precious Life-Blood which accomplished it all. We exchange gifts to commemorate the unqualified grace of the Cross, the proper Christmas Tree. There is even, a poignant story behind Candy Canes, for Pete's Sake. And what are many Christians doing? They sulk about "commercialism," "pagan solstice origins," "seasonal stress," "holiday blues," and "Market Economy Exploitation of the Season." Oh COME ON. In a world where one's children may be slowly put to death for one's mere confession of Christ, we get to rollick in His fame, and our very storefronts do it with us. This is a Winter Wonderland for Jesus' followers. Its amazing.

The Psalmist simply loses it when he describes his vision of his Lord: "My heart is overflowing with a good matter; I speak of the things which I have made for the King. Thou art fairer than all the children of men; grace is poured from thy lips; therefore God has blessed thee forever; in thy majesty ride prosperously... and thy right hand shall accomplish awe-inspiring things. .. I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations; therefore shall the people praise thee forever and ever." (Ps 45) This is the Spirit of Christmas.

Jesus is a Rock Star in the world at this time of year. I say blow it all and celebrate Him extravagantly; feast too much, drink and be merry, stay up way too late, get stressed if you have to, have a ton of fun. Far be it from good Christians to dilute this kind of evangelism. The whole world around us WANTS to celebrate The Savior to this extent, as we can tell by the lights and tinsle and trees and gift giving madness. But we knew that all along.

(All of this provoked by a much more erudite treatment at NPR on a commercial push to keep the particularity of Christmas...)

Monday, December 12, 2005


John 1:6-26
(New International Version)

6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world....

15John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' " 16From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known...

22 and finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?"

23John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.' "...

26"I baptize with water," John replied, "but among you stands one you do not know. 27He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie."


This passage has always reminded me of a Rather Intriguing Operation in Kansas City- run by Charismatic Personality Mike Bickle, his "Friend of the Bridegroom" concept has developed into a ministry called International House of Prayer. Yes, this group has been flagged by their fair share of cult watchdogs, whose critiques are always appreciated. But I tend to like this operation, simply because they embody a cross of cultures in the contemporary Church; Bickle is a converted Roman Catholic and a self-proclaimed "prophet," who has done two amazing things in the Evangelical Charismatic World as part of his mission to "prepare the way of the Lord" as the "friend of the Bridegroom."

1) He actually promotes an amazing ecclesiology of the Church as the ontological and eschatological Bride of Christ, and to this end he has...

2) ...Directed his (unabashedly so-called "IHOP") ministry in the direction of a sort of Monastic Community. There is to be prayer every hour on the hour, twenty-four-seven, in an enclosed community of simplicity, punctuated with outreaches to the poor. Sounds vaguely familiar. These are practices around which the Church truly may unite as one nuptial Body- which is what Bickle is praying for.

An Adventine sort of project...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Saint Lucy, Patroness of the Blind

The martyr Lucy (AD 283-304) is one of hundreds of Christian young women who consecrated their lives to Christ in the third century of the early Church in Rome. Her protests against being forced to marry a pagan man led to her betrayal to the Roman authorities by her betrothed husband; Lucy was tortured to death, as tradition holds, by the gouging of her eyes.

(Her feast day is celebrated especially in Sweden, where elements of light and sight, as well as the martyr's crown, are combined in a beautiful family custom appropriate for Advent celebration; the eldest daughter of the household, wearing a white dress with a sash of crimson and a crown of branches set with lighted candles, rises early to serve breakfast to her family...)

Relying on your goodness, O God, we humbly ask You, to give perfect vision to our eyes, and to enlighten the souls of your children, that we may serve for Your greater honour and glory. Increase and preserve this light in our souls so that I may avoid evil, be zealous in the performance of good works, and abhor nothing so much as the blindness and the darkness of evil and of sin. St. Lucy, hear our prayers, and obtain our petitions through your own.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Culture Pop: Christ the Lord

I was not kidding- this book is wonderful. Anne Rice marked her spiritual renewal from darker days with this seeming act of literary consecration, and it is superb Advent reading. It does in the realm of popular reading what conservative Biblical scholars only dream of... get it and read it and then pass it around, or drop me a line and I will send you mine- maybe.

Queen Susan's Bow

In the spirit of the past week's gleeful engagement with the Inclusive Worshipper, I am going to Broach an Issue.

I have heard various feminists cooing over one moment in particular in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe: Susan Pevensie fires a well-aimed shot from her bow and mortally wounds the wicked little dwarf who is about to kill her brother in the Great Battle. This theme is Notably Absent from The Book, wherein Lewis points out that he would rather not have his women fighting in battles, for the mere fact that they are women.

Now, I am a joyful gender essentialist. I think that there are intrinsic gifts, responsibilities, and vocations inherently connected with being Male or Female, and I love being the latter, because it means being a mother and a sister and a daughter to the rest of the world, in a variety of ways. I think that a good solid patriarchy can be wonderfully advantageous to ambitious young women. I trust my father and almost always defer to his wishes; I intend to obey my husband someday, with God's help. I don't think that women have a "right" to engage in combat; the just defense of one's polis is a duty wherein rights and personal privilege must defer to efficiency, and women in active combat can be detrimentally ineffecient. I think that men are naturally inclined to lead and protect women, and I think that women should let them do so. But I am not one to shrink from battles.

Queen Susan, the Gentle and Accurate, takes up her weapon and defeats a demon, and with that she joins the generals Deborah and St. Joan of Arc as women who I, submissive and non-feminist and gender essentialist, long to imitate. Why? Because we all know that Susan has fired her shot in a spiritual battle between the enslaving, death-dealing, demonic power of the White Witch (= "Satan" in the story), and it is on this sort of battlefield, truly we are all one, neither male nor female, in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3). Having delivered another traditonal household code, wherein women obey and men sacrifice in Ephesians 5, Paul turns immediately in Ephesians 6 to the weapons which all take up in order to deal out death blows to the Enemy of Souls. This warfare is the prerogative of every Christian Person. And the offensive is not optional. It is on the battlefield where the Church is attacked by a ruthless Enemy that gender is truly relativized in light of Christ's Kingdom, such that women too MUST take up arms to deal death blows to demons.

Now, I worry. The camps wherein I find much sympathy for my traditionalist leanings as a woman have introduced so much of civic virtue into the Church that they have transferred Pauline household codes to the structures for lay ministry in their churches. And I worry when education programs for Christian children, like one located recently, categorize the virtues of "vision, adventure and evangelism" for young men, and provide training in such for young men only, while young women are reserved for "contentment, home and friendship." Where was there ever a besieged army that cut its ranks in two at the height of a conflict? Why would the Church do such a thing? Why would the Church not promote her daughters in the gender-neutral Christian mandates to evangelize, to chatechize, to do systematic theology... in short, to do warfare?

Granted, Pauline household codes make a lot of sense when they serve the purposes for which they were delivered- to accomodate conventional morality because in contributing to the Pax Romana Christians will be good witnesses for Christ- and really, market economies do really well when every working man has a wife making a home, preparing food, and producing well-mannered children. This kind of structure makes a lot of sense for a civic community, and Paul knew it and urged Christians to accomodate it. But the Church is no civic community. The Church is, in many ways, an Army that needs every capable Person to bear arms in the context of its critical, eschataological Battle.

No, I dont think that the Church has the option of counting women in that apostolic succession which adminsters the Sacraments and formulates doctrine. But neither do I think that the Church has the option of preventing women from passing on the Faith once delivered through preaching, or from engaging in pastoral ministry, or from prophecying, or from leading and initiating in the Church, in as much as the Church needs. We are an Army under attack, and we need all hands on deck.

And if a woman finds herself submitting in love to a tradition which requires her to remain silent or speak softly in the Church, let her do so wholeheartedly; but let her carry a very big stick.

... "Women will be the most fruitful element in the Apostolate..."
Pope John Paul II

Onward, Christian Soldier-Persons.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Chains: Iraq and Iran

Remember them that are in chains, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in that body.
Hebrews 13:3


Apparently Churches in Iraq are slowly but surely going underground; Sister Olga Yacob, foundress of The Missionaries of the Virgin Mary, and staff at The Newman Center at Boston University, reports that in her home near Kirkuk, faithful Christians must never drive their cars to church in order to avoid identification, and that Mass schedules must be alternated to occur at different times each week, in order to avoid becoming targets. This may be a somber Christmas under the radar for our brother and sisters living under new Islamic restrictions.


MMBX also sends this message of recent episodes of Christians tortured by Iranian police from The Intercessors Network.

An Iranian convert to Christianity was kidnapped last week from his home in northeastern Iran and stabbed to death, his bleeding body thrown in front of his home a few hours later. Ghorban Tori, 50, was pastoring an independent house church of convert Christians in Gonbad-e-Kavus, a town just east of the Caspian Sea along the Turkmenistan border. Within hours of the November 22 murder, local secret police arrived at the martyred pastor’s home, searching for Bibles and other banned Christian books in the Farsi language. By the end of the following day, the secret police had also raided the houses of all other known Christian believers in the city.
According to one informed Iranian source, during the past eight days representatives of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) have arrested and severely tortured 10 other Christians in several cities, including Tehran...

Lord Jesus Christ, who stretched our your arms on the hard wood of the Cross, so that the whole world might come within the reach of your saving embrace, so clothe us with your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may draw those who do not know you into your knowledge and love. Amen.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Apologize: Immaculata, the Mother of the Bride

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

Adulation of Mary from Protestant Divines:

Martin Luther

"In this work whereby she was made the Mother of God, so many and such great good things were given her that no one can grasp them. ... Not only was Mary the mother of him who is born [in Bethlehem], but of him who, before the world, was eternally born of the Father, from a Mother in time and at the same time man and God." (Weimer's The Works of Luther, English translation by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, v. 7, p. 572.)

"It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin."(Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," December [?] 1527; from Hartmann Grisar, S.J., Luther, authorised translation from the German by E.M. Lamond; edited by Luigi Cappadelta, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, first edition, 1915, Vol. IV [of 6], p. 238; taken from the German Werke, Erlangen, 1826-1868, edited by J.G. Plochmann and J.A. Irmischer, 2nd ed. edited by L. Enders, Frankfurt, 1862 ff., 67 volumes; citation from 152, p. 58)

"She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin- something exceedingly great. For God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil...The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart." (Personal "Little" Prayer Book, 1522)

"It is the consolation and the superabundant goodness of God, that man is able to exult in such a treasure. Mary is his true Mother, Christ is his brother, God is his father."(Sermon, Christmas, 1522)..."Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees . . . If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother." (Sermon, Christmas, 1529)

John Calvin

"It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honor. ... Elizabeth called Mary Mother of the Lord, because the unity of the person in the two natures of Christ was such that she could have said that the mortal man engendered in the womb of Mary as at the same time the eternal God." (Calvini Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Braunschweig-Berlin, 1863-1900, v. 45, p. 348, 35.)

Huldreich Zwingli

"It is right and profitable to repeat the angelic greeting - not prayer - 'Hail Mary' . . . God esteemed Mary above all creatures, including the saints and angels - it was her purity, innocence and invincible faith that mankind must follow."

Heinrich Bullinger

'The Virgin Mary . . . completely sanctified by the grace and blood of her only Son and abundantly endowed by the gift of the Holy Spirit and preferred to all . . . now lives happily with Christ in heaven and is called and remains ever-Virgin and Mother of God."

Now, given that it is essentially different from the adoration that is properly due only to God, I believe in Marian devotion for a few other reasons. Here's Why-

1. Hail Mary. Our Savior, being a good Son, honors His Mother. We are to imitate Christ, thus...

2. Full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. These Scriptural words are a composite of the utterances of the angel Gabriel and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. Enough Said.

3. Mother of God: Get your Christology straight, people. The Second Person of the Trinity became clothed in the flesh of His virgin Mother like any other infant, while being and remaining fully God. The two natures, human and divine, distinct and whole, were perfectly united, once and for all, in Jesus of Nazareth, who is God. Mary is the mother of Jesus Christ, who is fully God. Think about that. Our Lord Christ, who is God, is in the resurrected flesh of this woman now. They probably look alike.

3. Pray for us sinners: The first miracle which Jesus performs ever is at her behest, according to John's Gospel: "Son, they have no wine;" (John 2:3-how beautiful is that?) And then turning to the servants, "Do whatever He tells you." (John 3:5) These are the only words which are recorded of her in Scripture, except for that inquisitive and realistic "How can this be?" and then "Be it unto me!" at the Annunciation. In short, a wonderful person to pray with. A wonderful person to pray for you. And John indicates that our Lord from time to time does as His Mother suggests.

3. ... Now, and at the hour of our death: For and in the Church, Mary is the model disciple; she is the absolute FIRST to identify Jesus of Nazareth as the Savior, her Savior; she is one of the last with Him at the Cross; she is carefully identified as being present at Pentecost. In short, a good example. Always there with Jesus, who addresses the beloved disciple with the words, "behold, your mother."

I understand just how jarring the whole thing is- that this woman is the mother of God; that Jesus was indeed HER little child; that He learned about God from her as a toddler; that the prayers which He prayed, He would have heard from her. My angle is that Mary and the doctrines which surround her, are simply the best guardians of authentic Christianity. Look closely at Mary and get the whole thing straight about who she is, and you are one step closer to an accurate understanding of that Incarnation on which our salvation hangs.

St. Augustine of Hippo

For your mercies' sake, O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me. Say to my soul: "I am your salvation." So speak that I may hear, O Lord; my heart is listening; open it that it may hear you, and say to my soul: "I am your salvation." After hearing this word, may I come in haste to take hold of you. Hide not your face from me. Let me see your face even if I die, lest I die with longing to see it. The house of my soul is too small to receive you; let it be enlarged by uou. It is all in ruins; do you repair it. There are thing in it - I confess and I know - that must offend your sight. But who shall cleanse it? Or to what others besides you shall I cry out? From my secret sins cleanse me, O Lord, and from those of others spare your servant. Amen.

Saint Augustine of Hippo
(AD 354-430)

Lest we take ourselves too seriously

All bets are on for determining the identity of The Inclusive Worshipper blog author... I am perfectly willing to play bookie. 2-1 this person is neither female nor serious-it simply cannot be serious- but the suspense is KILLING us here at YDS-

Check It Out

Who is the Inclusive Worshipper....????

Adventine Praying

He came down to earth from heaven, who is God and Lord of all.
And His shelter was a stable, and His cradle was a stall.

With the poor, the scorned and lowly

Lived on earth our Savior holy.

- From Once in Royal David's City
Cecil Alexander

In case you might be searching for opportunities to do unto the least as unto our Lord through your gift giving this Christmas, three of my recent favorites-

- A great site and initiative, Alternative Gift Giving...

- The Salvation Army for Local Aid...

- And an amazing outreach to Orphans in Rwanda ...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Arent you consternated too?

Two irritable reflections on the Church's mission and proclamation of Christ precipitating here (and do keep in mind all the caffeine and read accordingly- I really do mean to be edifying)

1. The Emerging, Fledgling, Believing Church.

I am so tired of the various, well-meaning, incoherent diatribes against the Emerging Church which have been crossing my screen lately...:

"I would only add that the Emergent Church is also in a really bad place right now; that many spiritual laws are also being violated; and they would do well to heed the Word of God and repent before their artsy-craftsy plans for the future are unexpectedly altered..."

In the first place, this Emerging group, marked loosly by concern for authentic relationships and worship, great aesthetics, and Yuppie home groups does not have enough consistency either in practice or belief for one even to begin pointing a finger at "them" - who are they, anyway? (the good people at Jesus Creed were Rather Helpful here-)

Secondly, those of the rather hysterical-conservative-evangelical crowd who are critiquing them are hardly in a position to point fingers at a lack lack of coherent doctrinal statements or centralized authority structures; the well-intentioned critics dont really have those nice things either.

And finally, I just dont understand why well-intentioned critics dont spend their critiquing time going out to find young emergents in need of pastoral guidance, and then offer the services of the Older, Wiser, and Self-Consciously More Orthodox and Concerned About It to these communities of precious young souls. As far as I'm concerned, no one has the right to critique the Emerging Church until they have personally sought them out at Starbucks behind their Macs, complimented the Christian icon on their screen AND their great bag and shoes, and then attempted to build a relationship with them. Get real, critics. Shepherd, dont stymie.

2. Secondly. The Litigious Church.

There is a lot of legalese being tossed around in Episcopalian circles these days.

"What are our property rights???? What's our RECOURSE? Didnt someone say we HAVE recorse? What? Somebody find a contract or a tort or something we can sue on!!! Did someone say TORT? Please God, let there be a TORT!!! Someone quick find A Good Anglican Attorney and for heaven's sake Get Them on Board!!!!"

I am perplexed. Even the New York Times is aware of this passage-

1 Corinthians 6- Lawsuits Among Believers Forbidden

1Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? 2Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? 3Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? 4So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? 5I say this to your shame Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, 6but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? 7Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? 8On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren....

Monday, December 05, 2005

What are you working on?

Fellow grad students. This Is It. The End is Near. Now is the time for Solidarity. If we suffer and become overly caffeinated and grumpy and morose, let us by all means do it together.

I just finished a 22 page paper on Paul's use of diatheke in Romans. Then a presentation on Johannes Cocceius (dont even ask). Today, reams of thought on Augustine's theory of signs to clean up ecumenical squabbles over justification.

Fr. WB spends a lot of time urging me to Get Off The Blog (!)

What are you working on??? (my favorite question these days)

Lessons and Carols

... the season is upon us. We enjoyed a gorgeous service at The Episcopal Church at Yale yesterday, rather in contravention of The Sunday Obligation, but gorgeous.

The theme brings up the recent homily of the Rev. Canon Michael Green, senior research fellow at the wonderful Wycliffe Hall of Oxford, at a recent Eucharist of Missionary Commitment - Fr. Green called unabashadly for new initiatives in evangelism and outreach in the Church, and especially asked for an evangelistic orientation at Advent and Christmas services, when the unchurched are so likely to be present. He actually suggested that the clergy please "preach for decisions for Christ at Christmas services." I say Amen.

(additional suggestions for evangelism from Fr. Green-)

1. Conduct open-air Eucharists in town centers 2. Conduct weekly ministries to the poor, (such as open suppers) including clear presentations of the Gospel 3. Host debates at local universities between Christian and Atheist academics 4. Encourage laity to bring friends to services 5. Provide an "Agnostics Anonymous" group within the parish 6. Plan for an enormous springtime baptism in a local river... with a picnic 7. Clergy address practical, lively topics such as life purpose, marriage, relationships in homilies.

Amen again.

Preparing the Way of the Lord

Mark 1:1-8
(New American Standard Bible)

Preaching of John the Baptist

1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:


4John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

5And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.

6John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey.

7And he was preaching, and saying, "After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals.

8"I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

This thrice-preached and tear jerking sermon just in from A Very Good Preacher,
slightly abridged-

There is no fancy birth narrative,
no angels,
no dreams,
no Joseph and Mary,
and no stable.

All we have is a voice in the wilderness…
Prepare a way for the Lord.

This is how Mark begins his Gospel.

The day after Thanksgiving,
I found myself traveling into the wilderness
I went to the Appalachians to meet a close old friend for a day of hiking.

Our intentions were good,
but neither of us arrived at the park when we expected.

The reason for our delay…the traffic.

Both of us,
oblivious as we are,
didn’t take into account that in every city,
including small town America,
there was bumper to bumper traffic
because of Christmas shopping.

Suddenly I began to have visions about how the month will unfold.

I will finish up exams, and by the time I get home
Will have a few days to spontaneously
make last minute purchases
and get them under the tree.

Then and only then will I be reminded that once again
I have failed to “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

There seems to be a void.

Contemporary Culture proclaims Christmas
as a season to camp out in parking lots
for the latest and best buys,
and the gospel proclaims
a radically different message.

In the Church, the reason for the season
is the celebration of a birth of a child,
a child who ultimately gives his life
for the sake of our sins.

It is in the spirit of his gift,
the gospel,
that we should give.

I am not sure that an impulsive purchase,
or wrongly chosen sweater conveys the
gravity of Christ’s gift.

Throughout my day in the wilderness,
and on the long return trip home,
I wondered what Christmas would
look like if our (own) gifts were truly gifts.

And then it came to me…
A story I heard many years ago
preached from the pulpit by a former colleage.

The story is titled: A Christmas Story, and is written by the mother of this family. Here is what she writes…

It is just a small white envelope, stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so. And it all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas.
Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties, and so forth, and reach for something special just for Mike.
The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Mike loved kids… all kids… and he knew them well And that’s when the idea for his Christmas gift came.

That afternoon, I (made a gift) anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I place an envelope on the tree, with a note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me.

His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year, and in all the years to come. Each Christmas thereafter, I followed the tradition: One year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game. And another year giving a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground a week before Christmas, and on and on. The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas.

It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their father lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

The envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn’t end there though. You see…we lost Mike to cancer last year. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree. And in the morning….it was joined by THREE MORE!!! Each of our boys, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their Dad.

The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further, with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers’ take down the envelope. My Friend’s, the spirit of Christmas is about the “good news” of Jesus Christ, our greatest gift. It is about Christ coming to us, saving us, and equipping us with the power to make his kingdom a reality here and now. During this season of Advent (a time of waiting), let us Prepare a way for the Lord, so that we may both receive and give in the spirit of Christ. AMEN.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Blessed Virgin Mary, Theotokos

May we seek to imitate her most profound bearing of Christ into the world, in her yielding her body as the instrument of Righteousness.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
For the Mighty One has done great things through me
His mercy will reach from age to age
And Holy is His name.

(Luke 1:46-55)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Culture Pops: Pick your Fav

Recent developments which the Church should appropriate for the proclamation of Christ...

...Special on John Paul II featured on ABC this week....

... Redemption themes happily reported by all dear friends who took in Walk The Line, on a school night too, but reported lack of explicit references to the Savior. Too bad. Fill in the gaps for your friends...

...Some of the good people at YDS have decided that Flannery O' Connor is an "almost saint" - Im not sure what this means, but Im assuming it has something to do with Being a Huge Blessing, or something non-canonical- which is cool. At any rate, I am totally inspired to read this "almost saint" over Christmas break. And have you read her, gentle reader?...

...on that note, about vampires: I recently attended Ann Rice's book signing of the work which marks her literary conversion and personal re-commitment to Christianity in her new title, Christ the Lord. Do Not Hesitate, dear reader, to purchase it promptly for readers on your Christmas list; it is orthodox, well-researched, and made me weep. It will probably help people to love Jesus.

... and finally, what did your church do for World Aids Day?...

Friday, December 02, 2005

Pray Today

... for the soul and family of Shawn Humphries, the 1000th person to be killed by our government since the re-instatement of the death penalty in the US thirty years ago. Shawn will die today.

The taking of sacred human life, which is invested with God by inviolable dignity from conception to natural death, in a society where capital punishment is neither necessary nor expedient, is intolerable. Christians everywhere should continue their well founded protest against the death penalty in our society.

Bishops' Statement Against the Death Penalty here.

Origen of Alexandria

"Good Cheer is the essential characteristic of the the signs of the Son of God."

The Commentary on John, Book 10.
AD 185-232

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Apologize II: In Defense of Christmas

... and with that, I have run into several Ardent Christians in the past month who swear that they are going to forego Christmas! They claim Christmas is "unChristian" and "unBiblical." WHAT!?!?!? (sounds suspiciously like the regime of the White Witch to me...)

Seemingly great article on point, with a helpful index of further material at the conclusion, from Presbyterian minister Jeff Meyers here..

... and a good discussion on point at The Thinklings here...
... and at Buried Treasure here...

Apologize I: Narni-ize

As you all should know, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe will appear in theatres on Dec 9, at which time Fr. WB and I will attend it with J-Tron. This is sure to be a Blessed Occasion. I for one, remember attaining a certain final and beautiful comprehension of Christ when reading the book as a child. (The story was inspired, they say, by a trip Lewis took to the small village of Narni, Italy, famous for its St. Lucia altarpiece)

Now, its (ought-to- be- beatified) popular author urged that he never meant to make the work "explicitly Christian;" I think this is hogwash. Professor Swancutt here at Yale thinks, for instance, that the story is a world-class and exact exposition of the Pauline doctrines contained in Romans.

The books and movie and all of the buzz promise great opportunities for Sharing the Gospel.

We need ideas, suggestions, links to evangelization proposals based on Lewis' story of redemption... (one cursory Google look brought up this one)