Contrast the affluence of most of us with the radical life of John the Baptist. Contrast Micky D’s and locusts. Tommy Hilfiger, Armani and Camel hair. Wouldn’t you like to meet the old chap aka ‘the Forerunner?’ What do you think he would say to us? If the fire-breathing old Baptist were to get a hold of today’s American congregation, what would he say?

Mater Dei

Advent is also a time to reclaim the Mother of God for all Christians. Not a goddess, nor a mere vessel, she is the one who bore the Word. She is like the holy of holies in the Temple–container of the uncontainable God. As the Hymn says:

O higher than the cherubim,
more glorious than the seraphim,
lead their praises,
Thou bearer of the eternal Word,
most gracious, magnify the Lord, Alleluia, Alleluia…

Thanks be to God that her ‘yes’ made possible our redemption!!

Blue Like Advent

We are coming up on the new year in the Church, the Advent season. It seems somehwere in the 20th century, Montgomery Ward got St. Nick and in the process Advent was taken to the mall as well.

So, instead of self-examination and meditation on the Incarnation and the triumphant second return of Christ, which was Advent’s original purpose (Advent is known as Nativity Lent in some traditions), Advent is not even on the radar screen. Now we go shopping.

Wouldn’t it be something if Christians returned to Advent and brought out, say, Matthew 25 for perusing and contemplation. Perhaps we’d get back to our roots and maybe save our souls in the process.

The Dark Night

St. John of the Cross wrote about spiritual depression in his famed Dark Night of the Soul. He mentions that ‘consolations’ (warm spiritual experiences) are common among followers of Christ, but that God often removes them to train his followers to look for him and not for the consolations. In other words, spiritual experiences are a gift, but that it is the ability to follow God through doubt and suffering that a disciple is made. The fathers of the desert even warned that certain experiences came from the Evil One to keep the monk off track.

I am not experiencing a ‘dark night’ per se, but I find myself in the desert or dark when parish life becomes downright sad. Right now it is a bit sad because more than one of our beloved members are suffering. With Constantine, I am troubled. ‘Would that you would rend the heavens and come down, O Lord,’ so said the prophet Isaiah. So says I.

Worlds Collide

My Mexico trip brought the past and current worlds of Fr. Neo together. It was surreal. As I said below, I grew up in a billingual Pentecostal Church. In Guadalajara I met Anglican believers who were lively and mildly Charismatic in their worship. So, there I was, faced with the Spanish language and Pentecostalesque worship in an Anglican liturgy.

I’ll admit that part of me has turned my back on my peeps over the last several years. I was moved to repent for abandoning my people and my heritage. Indeed God knows where he will take me from here.

This Present Darkness

While in Gudalajara, I noticed the great interest (maybe even obsession) with the supernatural. The hunger for Jesus was quite intense. However, in places (and faces) the spiritual darkness was palpable.

It is fascinating to me that the darkness here in the US is a different kind of darkness. Spiritual hunger is not as present and spiritual darkness is masked, yet I know both exist. It is notable that material goods and spiritual emptyness go together and that poverty and spiritual hunger do as well. And I do not think it has anything to do with education or class. What thinkest ye?

I sing a song of the saints of God

My kids love this hymn:

I sing a song of the saints of God,
patient and brave and true,
who toiled and fought and lived and died
for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
and one was a shepherdess on the green;
they were all of them saints of God, and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.

They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,
and his love made them strong;
and they followed the right for Jesus’ sake
the whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
and one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
and there’s not any reason, no, not the least,
why I shouldn’t be one too.

They lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus’ will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes or at sea,
in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea;
For the saints of God are just folk like me
and I mean to be one too.

Happy All Saints from Father Neo!!