Archive for the ‘Medititions’ Category


We all know them.  These are the blokes who have a miter, ring, pectoral cross and crozier carefully stashed in the closet on the first day of seminary.  They yearn for the episcopal state, and can be very inventive with reasons they believe that they are entitled to the office.  Some claim with dewy eyes that the Holy Spirit has revealed their elevation to them.  Others view it as a deserved “promotion”-a sort of key to the ecclesiastical executive washroom, if you will.  Indeed, one of these “bishops-in-waiting” solemnly shared to all in the zip code that day that God viewed his military service and subsequent executive positions as qualifying for the office.

Today’s bit of unsolicited advice is, “Fear the man that wants to be a bishop.  Look for the one who tries to flee at the thought of it.”  That latter bit, and, of course, an holy life are the “gold standard” of qualifications.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the life of St. Lawrence Justinian whose festival w mark today.

St. Lawrence was born 1380, of very pious parents. When still quite young, he lost his father, Bernard, and his mother took up care and education of the family. One day, she expressed he concern to the boy that he harbored ambition or pride. Lawrence answered: “fear not, mother; I have only one ambition, and that is to become a great servant of the Lord, and to be more pious than my brothers.” Although he lived at a period when the morals of Venice were very corrupt, his life was regarded by everyone with surprise and admiration.

To escape the danger which threatened him, he prayed most fervently to God to give him the grace to know the vocation to which he was called. One day, kneeling before a crucifix and an image of the Blessed Virgin, he prayed this intention and then felt deep an intense desire to leave the world, and to serve God in the religious state. He obeyed, renounced the world and all its pomp, and went to the Regular Canons of St. George on Alga, an island near Venice. There, the young man requested to enter the order, and he began his novitiate cheerfully. Soon, he showed that he was no beginner in the science of holiness, but a proficient. His superiors had much more difficulty in moderating his zeal than in animating it.

Among other austerities which he practiced to mortify himself, he never warmed himself by the fire even on the coldest days. In summer, he took nothing to allay his thirst except with his meals at noon and evening. At night, he slept on a pallet of bare boards.
After Lawrence had been ordained priest, he daily said Mass with great devotion and seldom without tears. During the Mass on Christmas-night, he received the grace to behold his Saviour in the form of a lovely child.

He constantly fought to remain free from all offices of honor, especially the episcopate. Nevertheless, he was chosen general of his order, and sometime later was named bishop of Venice, by Pope Eugenius IV. However, this humble servant of Christ tried in every possible manner to escape this dignity. At last obliged by obedience, he accepted it. As bishop, however, he altered nothing of the austerities he had practiced in the monastery. He visited his whole diocese, and with apostolic zeal, animated his flock to observe the Commandments of God and the Church.

He used the income from his family for the benefit of the Church and the relief of the poor. Besides several collegiate Churches, he founded fifteen religious houses, and daily fed a great number of poor.

Pope Nicholas declared St. Lawrence the first Patriarch of Venice, an office that eventually caused his strength gradually to give way. On the feast of the Nativity, he felt, during Holy Mass, an intense desire to be admitted into the presence of his God. A fever, which seized him soon after the Mass, ended with his death in a very few days. He lay on the bare floor, and, not even in his last days, could he be persuaded to make use of a softer bed.

“Jesus Christ,” said Lawrence, “died upon the hard wood of the Cross, and you desire that a sinner, like me, should lie soft and comfortable!” After receiving the holy Sacraments, he gave his last instructions to those around him. “Keep the Commandments of the Lord,” said he; “nothing is more noble or excellent than to serve God.” He then raised his eyes to Heaven and said: “I am coming, O my Jesus!” and his soul went to God. Thus, he began his life in heaven in the seventy-third year of his age. the intercession of the Saint, miracles took place at his tomb, in favor of the infirm and the possessed.

Humble, pious, charitable to a fault, austere in life, prayerful and not desiring any higher office than that of a priest.  Now, that’s a bishop.

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Finally, there are the Fourth and Fifth Marks of St. John Baptist. St. John was a bold rebuke vice and a prophetic call to righteousness. His was an imperfect baptism, but the summons to holiness was clarion. In the end, unjustly condemned and murdered as would be the master, St. John would patiently suffer for the truth’s sake.

So, this month let us meditate on these Marks of St. John Baptist, and lead lives that will allow us to constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord. That is authentic Christian witness.

ALMIGHTY God, by whose providence thy servant John Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour by preaching repentance; Make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through† Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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St John the Baptist 011The third Mark of St. John Baptist is simply humility. It is inexorably tied to a life that points toward Christ. The first chapter of St. John’s Gospel affords us a succinct picture.

19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?
20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.
22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?
23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.
25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?
26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;
27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.

St. Augustine offers this brilliant exposition of the Mark of Humility in St. John Baptist as described in these passages. He notes:

And yet, just notice how this forerunner of his Lord, of one who is God and man, how much he humbles himself. No one has arisen greater among those born of women than this man, and here he is, questioned about whether he is himself the Christ. He was so great that people could make this mistake. They wondered whether he was himself the Christ, and they wondered about it seriously enough to question him. Now if he had been a son of pride, not a teacher of humility, he would not have taken steps to make them think that, but he would simply have accepted what they were already thinking. It would possibly have been overreaching himself to wish to persuade people that he was the Christ. If he had tried to do so and had not been believed, he would have been left high and dry, both rejected and dejected, both despised among people and condemned in God’s eyes. But there was no need for him to persuade people. He could already see they were thinking this about him. He could simply accept their mistake and boost his own prestige.…

Consider how inferior to him he would have been, even if he had been worthy. Consider how much he would have been debasing himself if this is what he had said: “He is greater than I am, and I am only worthy to undo the strap of his sandal.” He would have been calling himself worthy at least to stoop down to his feet. But now, as it is, see how exalted he proclaimed him to be when he declared himself unworthy even to touch his feet, or rather his sandals! So John came to teach the proud humility, to proclaim the way of repentance. St. Augustine of Hippo-SERMON 293A.4.

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“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”-John 1:6-9

The second mark of St, John Baptist is “pointing”.  His entire life pointed toward Christ even from the womb:  Nowhere is this more apparent than in the first chapter of the Gospel according to St. John.

“He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.”-John 1:27

“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”-John 1:29

St. Cyril of Alexandria noted that St. John Baptist was essentially a sign post pointing away from himself and toward Christ, He says nothing else than other than that “the one you are looking for is finally at the doors. Indeed, the Lord is within the doors. Be ready to go [with Christ] whatever way he asks you.” COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 1.10.

This is the essence of witness-a point that escapes too many in modern ministry.  To evangelize aright, our words and our lives must point toward Jesus Christ.  So, for today’s meditation on the second “mark of St. John Baptist, let us consider how our we my better point to Christ especially through lives that have been wholly directed to Christ Jesus.

ALMIGHTY God, by whose providence thy servant John Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour by preaching repentance;* Make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through† Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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Before leaving for Synod last week, I prepared an homily so as to be ready on Sunday morning.  On returning and re-reading the , I discovered that the wise words I had left to age were…well….so much rubbish.  As these things go, I was prompted to preach on the Five Marks of the Life of St. John Baptist and how to live them.

First, there is joy at the presence of the Incarnate Christ.  Indeed, St. John, himself in utero, leapt when the Blessed Virgin, with child, entered into his house. As we hear,

And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:…-St. Luke 1:41.

How this prefigures the words of the Apostle, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

Here, we find joy in recognition.  These pose today’s meditation questions.  Do we react in joy in the presence of Christ?  Do at least our hearts leap in joy, if not our whole selves?  Or, do we even recognize Him and that we are always in His presence?

Think on recognition and joy as we pray this week noting particularly toe portions of the Collect in boldface,

ALMIGHTY God, by whose providence thy servant John Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour by preaching repentance;* Make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through† Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Priest2Chapter 4 of What Is the Priesthood?

Among the many vocations needed in Christ’s Body, the Church, there is one of peculiar significance: that to the sacred priesthood. There must be men who will give their whole time to a representation, in an intense degree, of that priesthood which inheres in the whole Body. Here is a vocation of the priestly Body, and for the priestly Body: of the priestly Body because those called to the sacred priesthood are from baptism members of the Body; and for the priestly Body because such men are commissioned by Christ to exercise priestly functions within and on behalf of the priestly fellowship. The authority for the office is derived from God through the Holy Spirit who gives grace to the ordinand to act as God’s representative. The authority of the sacred office derives not from beneath but from above.

The first question which the Bishop is directed to ask of the ordinand, in the service for the Ordering of Priests, runs as follows: “Do you think in your heart, that you are truly called, according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, and according to the Canons of this Church, to the Order and Ministry of Priesthood?” Book of Common Prayer at 541. To the question the ordinand is to reply, “I think it.”

A keen sense of vocation is an essential element in the life of the priest. There must be a very real sense of God’s prior action calling forth the response that the ordinand makes. As the Epistle to the Hebrews phrases it, “No man taketh this honor to himself but he who is called of God.”

The young man facing this vocation must be able to affirm that he is conscious of an inward call. There must be a true realization that God “has searched him out and laid His hand upon him.” In brief, there must be a sense of the priority of God’s choice and a belief that this is what God wills.

Once again, though, a question raised in the previous chapter requires answer. What is meant by such an inward call? Must there be some dramatic, perhaps immense spiritual experience? Certainly not. A vocation normally is a growing conviction, and it may have very tentative beginnings. God does not always, or even often, work in violently catastrophic ways. He works, so to say, naturally and with the “still, small voice”. An old teacher once remarked, out of his deep experience of the spiritual life, “It is most natural for the Supernatural to work naturally.” There is a profound truth in that. Those who believe that the heart of the Christian faith lies in God’s incarnate action in redeeming the world will hardly find it difficult to believe. that He loves “the lowly spot,” and often chooses the quiet way.

This is true in His calling of men to the priesthood. God calls in quite natural and undramatic ways most of the time. To be sure, we do not always hear His accents clearly. Yet He calls all the same and gradually our ears become attuned to His voice.
He may call through our childhood interest in the Church and its ways, through the experiences we have as choristers or as acolytes, through the prayers of our parents and friends, through affection and admiration for some priest we have known. We may be called through the confusion and heartbreak in the world about us, through personal sorrow met with, through delight in the Church’s worship and orderly life, through sermons and books. In and through any and all of these and through countless other interests and concerns, God calls to the priesthood.

At first ordained ministry may seem to be but one possibility among many. It should be considered seriously and thoughtfully for it just may be that God is calling. Particularly for students, they should be relaxed about the matter, test their growing vocation, and try to live by a rule of life that may lead to its healthy development. Do not talk about it with all and sundry, but a man would be well advised to discuss his concern with those who know him best and with some experienced priest trained to recognize valid signs of developing vocation. To the faithful Christian man any indication at all that God may be calling him to the priesthood should be treated with the greatest care and conscientiousness. If this should be the divine will for a member of the Body of Christ, it is not a will to be treated lightly or dismissed selfishly.

The question to be faced at the outset and thereafter is not, “Is the priesthood suited for me?” As well, it is not merely: “Am I suited for the priesthood?” Both of these questions are irrelevant at the end of the day. The question to be faced is “What does God mean me to be-a priest, or something else?” If God means a man to be a priest, He will give him the aptitude necessary. He will fit a man and give him grace sufficient for his calling.
Ultimately, a man will not think much of the honor and dignity of this particular vocation. He will not be too greatly swayed by its perils and losses. He will not be drawn to the priesthood simply because he may deem it to be easy and safe (how very wrong he would be to suppose it either of these things!). He will not be “put off” from the priesthood because it is a poorly paid profession with few prizes paid in the currency of the market place. He will not elect to follow this vocation because it presents a chance to escape from the world into some sort of ivory tower.

A man will heed the divine voice because of his faith in the Redeemer of us all and because he believes that here, in the priesthood of the priestly Body of Christ, there is opportunity to make an offering of his heart and mind and will that Jesus Christ Himself wants made. He will have a growing conviction that his Lord’s words apply to him, “Ye have not chosen me; but I have chosen you.”

In many Protestant denominations the “call” of God seems to be the only determinative matter in the ministry. The more extreme of these sects seem to have few other criteria by which to judge whether a man is to become a minister. If an individual feels himself unmistakably “called,” that very fact is his sole warrant. This is something akin to the prophetic vocation in the Old Testament. It is just at this point that a difference emerges in the concept of the ministry between many Protestant denominations and Anglicanism of a truly catholic sort.

Clearly, Protestant denominations have no intention of conveying a ministry of “holy order.” For them, the ministerial vocation is wholly constituted by a call directly from God. There is no conception of “order” on the horizontal level from man to man, in the Holy Spirit, for Christ and His Priestly Body. Anglicanism insists upon a realization of God’s prior calling, but this is not the sole qualification for ordination. The candidate for holy orders must be made a priest by the action of Christ’s Body through the laying on of hands by the Bishop. The ministry of the individual must be thus authenticated by proper commissioning. Otherwise, a man is not a priest of the priestly Body no matter how strong may be his sense of vocation. The authority of the office of priest requires this act of certification and ordination.

In all honesty, it should be noted that men in the priesthood frequently wonder even after ordination whether they possess a rightful vocation to this office. In the life of the Spirit there are ups and downs, times of discouragement and doubt. There may be periods, perhaps extended periods, of “spiritual dryness.” The greatest saints have known these dread experiences.

A man’s office as priest does not grant him any immunity from such spiritual sickness. At such times the ordained man is indeed thankful that there are these two criteria of vocation- internal and external. The internal criterion is, of course, a man’s own strong sense of call, that he is doing what God wills. The external criterion is the belief of those with whom one works, to whom one ministers, on whom one relies for counsel and guidance, that one is indeed a person who ought to study for, or remain in, the ministry. Very often those most closely associated with us understand our motives, intentions, and possibilities much more accurately than we ourselves. It is hard for us to see ourselves objectively.

The most common objection to the priesthood heard by those who counsel youth in our colleges is the simple, blunt, “I’m not worthy.” Surely no one is worthy of this holy estate. The fact is that God chooses very unworthy and sinful men to be His witnesses. Essential to the priestly life is humility, and this perhaps above all. A man who felt himself fitted for the priesthood would have a very faulty knowledge both of himself and of the profession. Frequently those who at the outset are least sure of their calling, least ready to claim worthiness of this high calling, are those who turn out later to be the most consecrated and effective priests of the Church. Archbishop Temple has written: “It is a man’s business to surrender as much of himself as he knows, to as much of God as he knows.” Vocations are never full-blown in their initial stages. There is of necessity much groping about and doubt, much questioning and many uncertainties. The man who is humble about himself may very well have a call for that precise reason.

The psychology of the postulant for holy orders and of the priest himself is no different from that of anyone else. The grace of orders does not convey any new psychological equipment. Study in a theological seminary does not dramatically alter a man’s personality at least as far as psychological processes are concerned. The priesthood is a vocation that comes to men in very different, and usually quite simple ways. It will have varying intensity from man to man and in any one person from time to time, but it is not just another profession. It is the special functioning for Christ in His Body the Church, the means whereby all the members of the Body are enabled to make their full contribution to the witness of the whole Body.

The priesthood involves a character of a special sort, for it is authorized to exercise priestly functions within and on behalf of the priestly fellowship. It ought always to be held in the highest respect and esteem, but so far as this attaches to the man, such respect must be merited. It should be merited by fidelity to the demands of the office, through consecration of character and growing holiness of life, through love of the brethren, through a sincere devotion to God and His will.

This, then, is something of the vocation to the priesthood. In its inception it may have almost imperceptible signs. There may be no blinding light from heaven, no voices heard, no rending of the veil. The disciple may not be given a pillar of cloud by day nor a pillar of fire by night. However, God will be speaking and the soul must make its answer however slowly or tentatively. Then if in the divine economy the disciple makes affirmative response and the fellowship of the priestly Body ratifies the call with appropriate commissioning, the die is cast. There will be times in the future, as in the past, of uncertainty and doubt. Yet, there will be the conviction beneath it all that He who has called will not desert his messengers and stewards. For still His word is given, “Lo, I am with you alway.”

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Chapter 3-What Is the Priesthood? (Revised Edition)

© Fr. Charles H Nalls

Frequently, the parts that men and women play in life’s drama are decided for them, or even imposed upon them. Life itself may supply the cues for the human actors. The lines we read are frequently not of our own authorship. Often we make our entrances and exits without rehearsal. We are committed without choice and with little preparation in our varied roles. Many considerations lie behind this. The fact that one’s father or mother followed a certain trade. There are accidents of birth and environment, and similar conditions may be determinative.

This certainly is less frequently the case today, however, than in earlier and more static times. The recent technological revolution has made it possible for youth to exercise a variety of choicse in the matter of one’s vocation. Education through the college level, at least, is now a possibility for almost all. As a result, there is opportunity now to understand our human society somewhat more completely and to consider the individual’s place within the whole.

For the Christian, where does a sense of “vocation enter”? An individual must choose. He decides “on his own” with the best judgment at his command to follow this or that profession or way of life. He personally chooses the course for which he feels he is best equipped. He chooses is a “vocation”, a calling, when and if he senses that his choice is in answer to a word from God. This is Christian vocation. The decision may seem to be entirely the work of the individual, but the individual knows that his decision was really a response to a prior demand made upon him.

Young men are inclined to be confused about God’s prior calling, particularly in these times. One assumes that he must have some very definite, perhaps shattering, religious experience such as that known to Isaiah, or Saul of Tarsus are but two classic examples. The average Christian, however, will not find the walls of the Temple parting for him as they did for Isaiah, nor is there any blinding light of the noonday sun. He may not hear voices speaking infallibly to his listening ear.

Is the modern man, particularly young man, entirely without guidance? Does God have nothing to say to him? Is God uninterested since there is no dramatic and unmistakable intervention? Can only the very few who hear voices and see visions be assured that their places are certain in His purpose? We need to face this honestly.
From a Christian perspective and with Christian presuppositions, we see that we must start with ends. There is, we believe, purpose in human life and in our human striving. It is a divine purpose. It is the establishment of a realm of God, the bringing of many sons into the “glorious liberty of the children of God.” It is the purpose of God to win mankind to His mind and will. This human scene is intended for the discipline of souls, for making men responsive to the divine will so that we may be ready for closer union with Him. The end of all human striving is that blessed union. Here on earth we are prepared by experiences of choice for that end.

The Jewish people sensed this and believed it. A primary article of faith for them was that God had a plan for individuals and for the nation. So the psalmist wrote: “O God, thou bast searched me out and known me; Thou hast laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.” The Hebrew prophets proclaimed God’s will for the nation and for individuals and contrasted this with the godless schemes and designs governing men who relied on self rather than on the divine leading.

The central teachings of the Old testament were never peripheral to Christ’s gospel. Rather, He gave new point and emphasis to the older beliefs. It was His understanding that God had a plan or calling for every created soul. Examples of this spring quickly to mind, but nowhere as emphatically as in Christ’s own ministry with its opening words, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” Again, almost its closing scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but Thine, be done.” Jesus knew that God had a plan for the destinies of individual souls. So it was that St. Augustine, centuries later, provided piercing insight into this truth with his oft-quoted words: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”

Christians believe that God’s purpose is to win for Himself sons able to share His life. He does not draft nor conscript. Rather He wants our voluntary enlistment in His service. That means conscious choices, made over and over again in the course of our lives.
God does not coerce His children; we still may decide whether or not we will do His Will, follow His guidance. We are free to “miss our calling,” though we are sure to be restless until we have found our rest in Him who is our peace. We may be sure that though God does not coerce, He does bring to bear upon us His prompting love.

God still calls and we are to listen, and then respond with obedience. He calls in a thousand ways. Usually, they are in quite natural and undramatic ways. We are to answer and give Him the loyalty of our hearts and minds and wills. It is not for us to say that He must speak in unusual and dramatic fashion. He may speak to us through life experiences, through the reading of good books, through our relatives and friends, through chance encounters with strangers, through discussion or sermons. Through any of these media and many another the voice of God calls.

There are many lines of communication and God uses an infinite number to bid for our allegiance in the glorious liberty of sonship to Him. In all of them there is His very voice and the call of His holy Will. Life between birth and death is one constant adventure of offering one’s self to God, of making the response of glad obedience to the divine will.

It has been frequently said that if two archangels were sent to this earth by Almighty God to do a piece of work for Him, one to be a metropolitan bishop and another to be a metropolitan traffic officer, neither would care which of the two tasks was allotted to him. Each would be glad to do the will of the Father. Brother Lawrence scoured the pots and pans of a monastery kitchen with as much joy in the confidence of vocation as his abbot perhaps knew.

So it is that we must contemplate the importance of ends. If the purpose of God is to bring the life of his children into union with his Eternal Life, then servants and sons are needed to carry out His will in every aspect of our human life. God must have vocations in commerce and art and letters as well as in the ministry. At the turn of the last century, a young man went to Oxford intent upon reading for holy orders. Instead, he became an artist. He later explained this change in his life work by saying that had he become a priest he would have been an atheist, that is one who does this when God says “do that.”

Every human life is to be an answer, and countless answers must be given to make complete the response of our world to our loving God. This means a willingness to listen to God’s calling, and to expect it in myriad forms and under manifold guises. The sensitive student, concerned about the state of our world and of human society may discern the voice of God in the very affliction, want, and misery all about him. He may not know it at the time but he is being called to help in the healing of the sorrowful, the dispossessed, and the fearful. In the parable, the men on the right of the king exclaimed, “Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, thirsty, a stranger, or naked, sick, or in prison . . .”

It is clear that a sense of vocation, to whatever station in life, is dependent upon one condition. The individual must cultivate a listening ear and be ready to obey when he hears the call. The individual must be prepared to make his appropriate response, and not try to limit the nature of his obedience nor restrict it in any way.

If the way of discipleship insists that human life is at God’s disposal, then the individual must be prepared to accept and follow the divine calling. We are not to be selfish about the disposition of our lives, for God’s will cannot be realized when we rebel or are petulant. When He calls, we are to do his bidding. We are not to set the terms of our acceptance. We must give Him instant compliance, knowing that only thus can we achieve our destiny as those who are to enjoy union with Him forever. We are not to be concerned about the vocations of others. We must be very much aware of the intimacy of God’s dealings with each of us in our own right. “Lord, and what shall this man do?” “What is that to thee? Follow thou me.”

A man’s vocation may be in art. It may be in jurisprudence. It may be in medicine or law. It will for some be in the home or in the Trades. It may be in commerce or in the classroom. It may be in industry.

It takes multitudes of obedient sons glad to follow God’s prompting, eager to hear His voice and act upon it, to redeem the times. The divine purpose includes all created souls and all of us should pray that our pride and self-love may not cause us to miss our calling. We should pray for increased sensitivity to His voice, for obedience to the heavenly vision, however that voice may be heard and that vision seen.

Be sure of this simple truth. Life will possess meaning and purpose only as the individual learns to align himself with God’s will. Men and women in every age and in every estate of life testify to this truth. There must be just such an insight into reality, such a harkening to God’s call, such a response of obedience.

The fruits of spiritual awareness witness to their source. So the Christian saints and heroes lived lives that have testified to the gracious leading of a loving God. It was their insight, their intuition, their perception of purposeful divine leading that gave them spiritual victory and freedom in vocation. They knew themselves to be in touch with that “something whose possession is the final good.”

Be assured. God still calls. The Christian who listens for his voice and answers with glad obedience wins thus a spiritual victory and so enters into the joy of his Lord.

One other important matter bears mentioning What is the relevance to the life of the Church of all that has been written in this chapter on vocation? We saw in the preceding chapters that the Church is a priestly Body. The baptized Christian, through membership in the mystical Body of Christ, shares in the priesthood which is the Church’s since it is Christ’s Himself. All the members of the Body share in the priest-hood of the Head of the Body. We will develop this truth and its consequences later, but it should be pointed out here that every vocation of every member of the Church should be a priestly vocation carried out in priestly fashion.

Our manifold and diverse vocations are not merely to be ways of “making a living,” but means whereby we live out our priesthood within the Body of Christ. The Christian religion when true to itself makes profound and searching demands upon its entire membership. “Every member of the same in his vocation and ministry” is to serve God freely and fully.

All must be in readiness to render any needful service. There are no gradations of obligation. All of us are claimed for God in our varied vocations. All of us are to glorify Him in those callings. Our vocations differ, but there is no higher and lower, no important and unimportant. All is His and all that we are or hope to be is to be given gladly to Him through whom we have access to the Father.

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Snarks and Low Sunday



Fourth of Henry Holiday’s original illustrations to “The Hunting of the Snark” by Lewis Carroll. From Fit the Second: The Bellman’s Speech.


For reasons unknown, in preparing the homily for tomorrow, I found myself rereading Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark. The plot follows a crew of ten trying to hunt the Snark, an animal which may turn out to be a highly dangerous Boojum. The poem is dedicated to young Gertrude Chataway, whom Carroll met at the English seaside town Sandown in the Isle of Wight in 1875. Included with many copies of the first edition of the poem was Carroll’s religious tract, An Easter Greeting to Every Child Who Loves “Alice”. 

The ocean map used by the Bellman to lead the snark-hunting expedition seems an apt metaphor for the state of the disciples. Despite all of the teaching and all of their witness, the events of the Crucifixion seem to have erased entirely the map of salvation the Lord had given them. It is, perhaps, equally as apt for our modern world which seems to be bent on likewise forgetting or even erasing the “map” to our own salvation.

After all, the Bellman’s map (above), which, being blank, is equally useful everywhere, unlike normal maps. “Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes! But we’ve got our brave Captain to thank” (So the crew would protest) “that he’s brought us the best– A perfect and absolute blank!”  We can, after all, populate our own map, with our own landmarks and fancies, never mind the actual shoals, reefs and deeps!  Could that be a recipe for a shipwreck?

Well, to see how this somewhat nautical tale ends up, stop in to St. Alban’s, Richmond, Virginia, at 8:30 (Morning Prayer this week) or 11:00 a.m. (Holy Eucharist with music).

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secret faults

“And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.”-St. Mark 9:38-39

Today I wish to share a note about claims of membership in “the one true church” and the incredibly angry people who make them.  As some of the readers are aware, yesterday a layman backed up by several priests of the East asserted that I shall not be saved because I am not a member of the “Holy Orthodox Church”.  Apparently, one can be wholly “orthodox” and suffer condemnation and consignment to…well…you know.

My accusers, members of the Russian Church Outside of Russia, insisted that no one save the big “O” Orthodox may enter into the gates of Heaven.  There was even a list of other Christians who would, in the vision of the zealot and his clerical backers, be best served to take a pop-up thermometer with them into the next life given where they were headed.

Any attempt to challenge this position was met with vitriol by the lay person and smug condescension on the part of the clergy.  None of these folks appeared to be cradle Orthodox.  In fairness, I have received the same treatment at the hands of some Roman Catholic “trads”, albeit not with the force and anger I was treated to by their Eastern counterparts.

To those who wish to wave the bloody standard of “one true church”, particularly those who can’t seem to get past the events of 1054, I offer the above quote from St. Mark.  Even the disciples themselves did not appear to have the “exclusive franchise”.  Maybe, just maybe there might be other folks who can comfortably claim to be Christian and even (shudder) believe in accordance with the Vincentian canon.  What the hey?  Given the our Lord’s admonition to St. John and the boys, one just might be cautious in claiming who is “in” and who is “out”.

The Fathers had some pointed remarks on all of this.  In response to, “We Forbade Him, Because He Was Not Following Us”,  St. Augustine noted that, “[t]here may be something catholic outside the Church catholic. The name of Christ could exist outside the congregation of Christ, as in the case of the man casting out devils in Christ’s name. There may by contrast exist pretenses within the church catholic, as is unquestionably the case of those “who renounce the world in words and not in deeds,” and yet the pretense is not catholic. So as there may be found in the church catholic something which is not catholic, so there may be found something which is catholic outside the church catholic.”  St. Augustine, ON BAPTISM, AGAINST THE DONATISTS 7.39 (76).

Again, from St. Augustine who appears far more charitable than some moderns, “We ought not be disturbed because some who do not belong or do not yet belong to this temple, that is, among whom God does not or does not yet dwell, perform some works of power, as happened to the one who cast out devils in the name of Christ. Although he was not a follower of Christ, Christ ordered that he be allowed to continue because it gave a valuable testimony of his name to many.…”   LETTER 187, TO DARDANUS 36.

The words of the saint seem to fit yesterday’s electronic stone casting.  It involves some who are intent on severe disciplinary principles that they disturb the peace of the church that they try to separate the wheat from the chaff before the proper time. Blinded by this error, they are themselves separated instead from the unity of Christ. St. Augustine, FAITH AND WORKS 4.6.

So, it would seem the more profitable course to stop picking up stones to cast them at other Christians.  In the end, Our Lord will let us know who “got it right”.

I’ll bet it’s a short list.

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Easter Sunday


I hope that you have enjoyed the serialized version of my revision of Lent for Busy People.  It has been a joy to share it with you, and my hope is that it will be out in paperback well in time for Lent 2019.

For this Easter Sunday, I am reprinting a 1901 sermon by the late Bishop of New York,  the Right Reverend Henry Potter.

Blessings of this Feast of the Resurrection to you and yours!

Canon Charles Nalls

“Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the Sepulchre?” St. Mark xvi:3.

What an unlooked for and triumphant answer did they get who uttered that perplexed demand! They come, three sorrow-stricken women, to anoint their Master for His burial with hope quite dead in their bosoms, yet their love longs to pour itself out even upon their Lord’s insensible remains, and with tenderest ministries to make His dead body ready for the grave. And so, very early in the morning, “at the rising of the sun” they turn their footsteps toward His Sepulchre. Their hands bear aloes and myrrh, and every costliest antiseptic that their deep devotion can command, and in their woman’s weakness, their only thought now is, who shall be strong enough to roll away the stone?

That sealed and close shut Tomb; who would unlock it for their entrance? Their hearts never lift themselves above that poor dilemma. If they ever understood their Master’s promised victory over the grave, events have quenched their confidence in it now. To their eyes, the world’s forces seem to have been too Strong even for the powers that were His. Their hopes have been baffled, their glad anticipations quenched in tears–their Lord is dead, and now as they bend their steps to that new tomb in which His pulseless form was yesterday laid to rest, neither their expectations nor their fears can reach beyond the plaintive question–” Who shall roll us away the stone?”

They come to find that tomb an empty casket–they come to find its door wide open, and its tenant gone. Nay, they come to learn that He who yesterday was sleeping there, has wakened out of his sleep, and waiting for no earthly hands to give Him liberty, has passed the guarded portal, and scorning every poor material impediment, has gone forth alive again and free! An angelic hand has indeed rolled away the stone, and one clad in white raiment bids them see the place where only a little while before, their Master lay. But we must not overlook the fact which the Gospels make so plain, that when the angel comes to roll away the stone, Christ is already gone. He has needed no outward interposition to set Him free. When angels come to lift away the granite door, the rocky tomb is empty, and they are sent only the more unequivocally to show forth that emptiness to others. Within that grave had lain a force which no stone, however huge, could prison, nor any seal, however princely, bind. That life which Christ brought with Him out of heaven was mightier than any grave, and strong enough to brush aside the most huge and massive rock which could be rolled before it.

Is not this, now, the especial emphasis of what we call our Easter-fact? That fact finds fittest utterance in our Easter legend “now is Christ risen.” Our Easter joy is not the outgrowth of a speculation. Our anthem peals are not the purified prettiness of empty sentiment. Today we stand upon a fact, a fact against which unbelief has hurled its hostile waves in vain. The Lord is risen indeed. If that be not a fact; if every soundest rule of evidence does not authenticate it to us as a fact, then there is nothing under heaven susceptible of proof. If anything in all the past is true, then this is true–that out of that tomb into which Christ was day before yesterday borne a corpse, He went forth on that first Easter day a living man. On that fact we rest–take it away, and I own, freely, that the superincumbent structure crumbles to nothingness. On this ground the Apostle plants himself without equivocation. “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” “But now is Christ risen from the dead.” That fact is our sheet anchor! But in what, I ask, resides its chiefest emphasis? What is it that Christ’s rising certifies to us? How is it that His victory intimates a victory for us? What is the law of which it is the high and bright disclosure?

It is because, by force of contrast, they throw out into such strong relief the heart-broken question of these tearful women for my text. For that question leads directly to radiant truth on which our Easter joy must rest. They thought Christ cold and stark and impotent. To approach Him and release His lifeless body, some power external to that body in its utter helplessness must be invoked to roll away the stone. But what a complete and radical mistake theirs was! Was Christ a prisoner there dependent on the chance ministries of some external hands to set Him free?

Ah, no! He waited for no angel, for, into that grave, when He descended to it, He carried a seed of life which of itself was strong enough to burst the seal and roll away the stone and give Him triumphant freedom!

The law of our life in Him is simply that His life passes over into us to be a quickening within us stronger than any grave. Does death steal suddenly on our households, taking away the forms our love has clung to? No matter! The life that has apprehended Him has in it that which is stronger than any grave. Or, do we feel in ourselves the growing sense of physical infirmities, and are we forced to own that the frail shrine through which our soul looks out on life is tottering to its fall? Still, what does it matter? Is it not true of every life that has fixed its grasp on Christ that just as with a beautiful and prophetic imagery the ancients buried their dead with seeds clasped in their hands, so our own hands have hold upon a principle of life potent enough to break through every bondage of the grave? We lay our dead to rest with no such dreary emblems as the pagan past discloses. Study the symbolism of the grave before Christ entered the world and see how hopeless it was. The broken column, the torch inverted in the chiseled stone, what did such signs as these proclaim but that in the eyes of those who used them, death had shattered the half-complete career, and left only ruin and darkness behind it?

Nay, we turn back to see the same hopelessness in those, whose rare endowments ought, we think, to have lifted their thought above the common gloom. Alas, they did not. We read the dialogues of Plato, and in them oftener than otherwise, there moans the sad undertone of blank uncertainty, we go to Cicero sitting grief-stricken in his Tuscan villa beside the dead body of his daughter, and as his eager thoughts run onward to her grave, what is his outcry, thinking of the gloom so soon to shut him out from her forever, but the dim echo of that question Who is there that can roll away the stone?   Ah, yes, through tear-dimmed centuries the question rang, and waited for an answer! In homes into whose glad serenity the shadow of the death-angel had forced its unsparing way, –from quivering lips left alone beside the graves that hid away out of their sight their loved and lost, wrung out of grief-burdened hearts that could not let their dear ones go, there came that cry, “Who is there brave enough and strong enough to roll away the stone?” And now we have their answer. Not as they looked for it, did it come, but by the clear disclosure of a truth how much more grand and gracious. Our sainted dead are not dependent on the help even of the angels, for they have taken the key that unlocks their prison door into the grave itself. The seeming victory of death is only seeming. Our Leader spoiled it when He died Himself. His burial was only one more step towards a fuller, freer life. And what was true of Him became thenceforward true of that humanity for which He died!

We may go back to nature now, and see how crowded full with these analogies it is. For nature is life. Anything in it that looks like death is but a token and certificate of life about to commence anew. Every end there is only a beginning–some lower form letting go its life and casting away its coarser self that it may re-appear again in forms more beautiful and pure. The mere leaves that seem to fade and rot, pass downward into the root life of some rarer plant more lovely than themselves, and when the sun and rains summon them anew come forth in forms more wonderful and hues rarer than ever they had known before. The creeping worm dies out of its meaner life into a winged form beauty which Egyptian art and Christian symbolism have alike borrowed to utter, the one its struggling hope–the other its clear undoubting faith. And this is at once the fitness and suggestiveness of our Easter blossoms. We miss the lessons of yonder flowers if we look on them as forms of mere adornment, or see in them only the hues and fragrance of a fleeting life. Beautiful as they are, like us, they will fade and fail. But their supreme appropriateness lies in this, that in all plant life under Heaven, death is the stepping stone to life more fair and rich, the law of which is held within themselves. The autumn winds strip the plant’s branches bare, and wither its blossoms and to outward semblance, quench the life of it wholly. But when the spring rains come again and the sun’s kindlier rays kiss the greenness back into the shriveled branches, there has been at work all the time an answering law of life within those branches, more powerful than all other powers besides. And thus, our vernal buds best symbolize our Easter fact.

How can our hearts then refuse to echo those notes of triumphant gladness with which this morning the Church’s services are ringing? How are our griefs transmuted, and our tears turned backward in their channels, as looking down into the empty sepulcher of Christ we find it a grave no longer, but transformed into the most glorious fabric and most solemn temple ever hewn by mortal hands–its open portal the firmest basis of the imperishable hopes of humanity and its ascended occupant the Everlasting pledge of what even death may be made to minister to us.

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