Purification and Illumination

I am learning SO much this lent, thanks to a coterie of very good friends who are my God chosen companions in the gospel pilgrimage of salvation. Most local, but two more distant.

Lent is a microcosm of our entire life of discipleship. The season in which that which is always true, our struggle for salvation, is emphasized. We choose it in these days in these circumstances so we may be able to choose it in all times and in all places. It is not intended to be a breathless race of moral athleticism but a realization and loving embrace of our authentic personhood.

The “what” question will always lead us to “now what?” and “what’s next?” The “who” question seeks to live in the “there is ‘now’ and ‘this’ and no ‘next.’” The “who” question is one eternal delight. The “what” question is an endless series of disappointing “not enough’s.”

The Prayer of St. Ephrem

O Lord and Master of my life,
give me not a spirit of sloth, despondency,
lust for power, and idle talk.
But give to me Thy servant
a spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love.
Yea, O Lord and King,
grant me to see my own transgressions
and not to judge my brother;
for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen. St. Ephrem (306-373)

Prayer of St. Botheius

Grant then, O Father that this mind of ours may rise to Your throne of majesty; grant us to reach that fount of good. Grant that we may so find light that we may set on You unblinded eyes; cast You from there the heavy clouds of this material world. Shine forth upon us in Your own true glory. You are the bright and peaceful rest of all Your children that worship You. To see You clearly is the limit of our aim. You are our beginning, our progress our guide, our way, our end.

“O Holy One, give the spirit power to climb to the fountain of all light, and be purified.  Break through the mists of the earth, the weight of the clod, shine forth in splendor, thou that art calm weather, and quiet resting place for faithful souls.  To see thee is the end and the beginning, thou carriest us, and thou dost go before, thou art the journey, and the journey’s end.” St. Boethius (c. 480-525)



The Kingdom Road Trip or “Lets Go Riding in the Car Car”

When the Lord invites us to follow Him, he gives us the grace to put aside everything that might keep us from doing His will. That provision sets us free. And yet, there are dangers that go along with being “free in Christ.” The celebration and love of our own life as an outrageous gift from God is one of those areas of danger.  But, how odd. The gift of our own life can become that which robs us of the very same life. So, we must be discerning, lest the very gifts of God become the means for our relationship with him going awry as a result of our freedom in the Lord.


Galatians 5.1, 13-15

[1] For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
[13] For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another.
[14] For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
[15] But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another.

John 12.23-28

[23] And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.
[24] Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
[25] He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
[26] If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him.
[27] “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? `Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.
[28] Father, glorify thy name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”


“The Death of the Saints is New Birth”

The body of man is a very frail thing. Sickness may consume it, wild beasts may devour it, the fire may burn it, the water may drown it, the air may infect it, a snare may choke it, the pricking of a pin may destroy it. Therefore when our temporal life shall end, we cannot tell.

The principal cause why we know not the time of death, is even the grace of God; to the intent that we by no occasion should linger the amendment of our lives until age, miles coverdalebut alway fear God, as though we should die tomorrow.

If an old silver goblet be melted, and be new fashioned after a beautiful manner, then is it better than afore, and neither split nor destroyed. Even so have we no just cause to complain of death, whereby the body being delivered from all filthiness, shall in his due time be perfectly renewed.

The egg shell, though it be goodly and fair-fashioned, must be opened and broken, that the young chick may slip out of it. None otherwise doth death dissolve and break up our body, but to the intent that we may attain the life of heaven.

The mother’s womb carrieth the child seven or nine months, and prepareth it, not for itself, but for the world wherein we are born. Even so this present time over all upon earth serveth not to this end, that we must ever be here, but that we should be brought forth and born out of the body of the world into another and everlasting life. Hereunto behold the words of Christ: ‘A woman when she travaileth, hath sorrow because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.’ Namely, like as a child out of the small habitation of his mother’s womb, with danger and anguish is born into this wide world; even so goeth a man through the narrow gate of death with distress and trouble out of the earth into the heavenly life.

For this cause did the old Christians call the death of the saints a new birth. Therefore ought we to note well this comfort, that to die is not to perish, but to be first of all born aright. Robert Atwell, Celebrating the Seasons. Excerpt from “A Treatise on Death,” by Miles Coverdale, (1488 – 1569).


“I will follow you wherever you go”

“’Give me more light as evening falls.’ O Lord, we are now in the evening of our life. I am in my seventy-sixth year. Life is a great gift from our heavenly Father. Three-quarters of my contemporaries have passed over to the far shore. So I too must always be ready for the great moment. The thought of death does not alarm me… My health is excellent and still robust, but I cannot count on it. I want to hold myself ready to reply “adsum” at any, even the most unexpected moment. Old age, likewise a great gift John XXIIIof the Lord’s, must be for me a source of tranquil inner joy, and a reason for trusting day by day in the Lord himself, to whom I am now turned as a child turns to his father’s open arms.

My poor life, now such a long one, has unwound itself as easily as a ball of string, under the sign of simplicity and purity. It costs me nothing to acknowledge and repeat that I am nothing and worth precisely nothing. The Lord caused me to be born of poor folk, and he has seen to all my needs. I have left it to him… Truly, “the will of God is my peace” (Dante Alighieri). And my hope is all in Jesus’ mercy…

I think the Lord Jesus has in store for me, before I die, for my complete mortification and purification and in order to admit me to his everlasting joy, some great suffering and affliction of body and spirit. Well, I accept everything and with all my heart, if it is for his glory and the good of my soul and for the souls of my dear spiritual children. I fear my weakness in bearing pain; I implore him to help me, for I have little faith in myself, but complete faith in the Lord Jesus.

There are two gates to paradise: innocence and penance. Which of us, poor frail creatures, can expect to find the first of these wide open? But we may be sure of the other: Jesus passed through it, bearing his Cross in atonement for our sins, and he invites us to follow him.” Blessed John XXIII (1881-1963), pope, “Journal of a Soul,” June 1957.


“O Holy One, give the spirit power to climb to the fountain of all light, and be purified.  Break through the mists of the earth, the weight of the clod, shine forth in splendor, thou that art calm weather, and quiet resting place for faithful souls.  To see thee is the end and the beginning, thou carriest us, and thou dost go before, thou art the journey, and the journey’s end.” Boethius (c. 480-525)


When I was a child, my parents and godparents used to pile into the car, during the summer, and go for a Sunday drive. We would spend the afternoon picking blackberries and walking in the piney woods. There is a song I learned in elementary school that seems appropriate to add at this point. Here is a portion of it.

Brrrm brm brm brm brm brm brm, brrrm b’ brrrm,
Brrrm brm brm brm brm brm brrrm b’ brrrm,
Brrrm brm brm brm brm brm brrrm b’ brrrm.
Brrrm brm brm brm brm brm brrrm.

Take me riding in the car, car;
Take me riding in the car, car;
Take you riding in the car, car;
I’ll take you riding in my car.

I’m a gonna send you home again;
I’m a gonna send you home again;
Boom, boom, buhbuh boom, rolling home,
Take you riding in my car.

I’m a gonna let You blow the horn;
I’m a gonna let you blow the horn;
A oorah, a oorah, a oogah, oogah,
I’ll take you riding in my car.
“Riding in My Car, by Woody Guthrie

It was during those Sunday afternoon rides along the roads of East Texas that I learned the practical meaning of the Scriptural readings I had heard that morning during Holy Communion. I heard what it meant to faithfully struggle in the midst of everyday life to “go the distance” and “keep the faith” and “finish the race” from men and women who had lived the Great Depression and World War II. We have our struggles too. They are just as significant and provide the opportunity to fashion us into what it means to be an everyday saint.

We human beings are a pretty dynamic bunch. We have the capacity to exhibit incredible “durability and flexibility.” We can adjust and maintain our emotional balance in the midst ofokies seemingly impossible circumstances. I have seen stories of stamina, perseverance, resourcefulness, and hope. People who have lost their whole family in a heartbeat are, mysteriously, able to reach out to others who have lost less providing strength and hope for those who have none.

And yet, at the same time, we are incredibly “fragile and delicate.” In the midst of the fairly mundane and ordinary events of everyday life, let alone the major disasters, we find ourselves on the ragged edge in each and every moment, unable to take another step.

We cannot successfully “go it alone”. We need to let God and others care for us and we need to be one of those whom God chooses to enlist to care for another who also needs someone.

We are strong. We are weak. Not one or the other, but both. We have the ability to be both strong and weak at the same time! That is our blessing and it is, potentially, our curse. Human life is, therefore, a risky business. Of course, we are not sand dunes. We have the added dynamic character of being able to choose to be strong when it is called for in the face of our own weakness and weak in appropriate ways so that, by the grace of God, we might finish the race that is set before us.

Lets answer the invitation Jesus offers to go for a ride in His car car…