Thursday, November 29, 2012

Let the Clouds Rain forth the Just One

Rorate caeli, the great anthem of the Advent season speaks of the hope of redemption and the desire for the coming of the Savior.  Rather than speaking only of a state of mind, it conjures images longing as being the desert, falling leaves, and the wind and the coming redemption of the daughter of Zion as the rock and the lamb, ending with the reassurance " I will save thee; fear not: for I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Redeemer."

The Advent season, which opens on Sunday, unites the coming of the child in the incarnation with the second coming of a king with power, one who is both lamb and cornerstone.  It calls us back to the moment when the word was made flesh and forward to the end of time.  As in Lent, we assess where we have been, but, perhaps especially, the seasonal texts call us to look at where we are going.

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One.

Be not angry, O Lord, and remember no longer our iniquity : behold the city of thy sanctuary is become a desert, Sion is made a desert. Jerusalem is desolate, the house of our holiness and of thy glory, where our fathers praised thee.

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One.

We have sinned, and we are become as one unclean, and we have all fallen as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast crushed us by the hand of our iniquity.

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One.

See, O Lord, the affliction of thy people, and send him whom thou hast promised to send. Send forth the Lamb, the ruler of the earth, from the rock of the desert to the mount of the daughter of Sion, that he himself may take off the yoke of our captivity.

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One.

Be comforted, be comforted, my people; thy salvation shall speedily come. Why wilt thou waste away in sadness? why hath sorrow seized thee? I will save thee; fear not: for I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Redeemer.

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Introit for this Sunday's Mass - Join us!

To You I lift up my soul: in You, O my God, I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. No one who waits for You shall be put to shame.

This Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent, which is both the beginning of the season of preparation for Christmas and the traditional first day of the Church's liturgical year.  Join us!

The First Sunday of Advent
7:00 p.m., Sunday, December 2
St. Martin's Chapel

814 W. Maple Street
Fayetteville, AR

Get directions from Google Maps.
Learn more at 

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Few Quotes from C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis, 1898-1963 (source).
Thanksgiving Day this year was also the anniversary of the death of C. S. Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia and a man who never feared to have an opinion.  His thoughts on faith and life were far from systematic, but they were almost always memorable.  I thought it was a good day to share a couplefew:

No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.

Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness.

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.

I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

These quotes and more here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

So You're Worried about the War on Christmas...

If all four candles aren't lit on the advent wreath, it's not Christmas.
I wrote this piece a few years ago.  As the rhetoric of the “War on Christmas” heats up again for the season this year, it seemed worth dusting off and updating a bit as we move toward the beginning of the season of Advent on December 2.

*  *  *

I’ve never liked the whole War-on-Christmas hysteria. I’m afraid history shows us that Christmas was always a time of popular revelry, as this time of year had been well before there was a Christmas. Somehow, I’m betting that few of the folks out there who are thumping their chests about the War on Christmas spend the weeks of Advent preparing for the big day in fasting, almsgiving, and penitence. (And, if you do, bully for you.)

If you like your holidays pure, I suggest you make the most of Epiphany, the Twelfth Day of Christmas on January 6.  It’s an uncontested day for the miracle of the Incarnation.  Go to church, throw a Twelfth Night party, and feel as pious as you want.

In the meantime, if you’re worried about the War on Christmas, does your own Christmas tree stay up until at least Epiphany? If you throw your tree out on New Year’s Day or any time before the Epiphany, you are cutting the season short and supporting the War on Christmas.  If you are truly concerned about the loss of the season, you might leave it up until Candlemas on February 2, but do keep the fire extinguisher handy.

I suppose I need not say that if your tree was up and decorated while it was still Advent, you are part of the War on Christmas.  Christmas starts on the evening of December 24.  No cheating!

You know it’s time to decorate the tree when you’ve opened the last door on your Advent Calendar. No Advent Calendar you say? Then you are supporting the War on Christmas.

How do you greet people after December 25? If you’re not still saying, “Merry Christmas!” for all 12 days, you are part of the War on Christmas.  Yes, people will look at you like you’re crazy, but it’s not easy being a real Christmas warrior, so have the courage of your convictions.

Is the Baby Jesus already in his crib in your nativity set? If you said yes, get some toothpicks and Saran Wrap to make a little incubator because you’ve got a preemie on your hands—he’s not here yet and you are promoting the War on Christmas.

Finally, you might be saying, "I'm a Protestant, we don't do this Advent and Epiphany business."  Well, truth is, you're not supposed to be keeping Christmas either.  Back in the 1600s when the Puritans were serious about running one nation under God in Boston, Christmas was banned as a pagan holiday and a superstitious, Catholic custom with no Biblical basis.  To use the old language for it down here in the South, having a Christmas tree may be a sign that you're backsliding and you probably need to be repenting of your worldliness and idolatry. (You can read more about that here.  Hat tip to a more mellow Bostonian.)

In short, if you’re worried about the War on Christmas, instead of signing petitions and filling comboxes with righteous indignation, keep the four weeks of Advent and all Twelve Days of Christmas with the customs and devotions that go with them.  If you’re not interested in any of that, but you still want to complain about the War on Christmas, you might really just be a cheapskate or a Grinch.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Next Mass: 7:00 P.M., Sunday, December 2

Next Mass:

The First Sunday of Advent

7:00 p.m., Sunday, December 2
St. Martin's Chapel

814 W. Maple Street
Fayetteville, AR

Get directions from Google Maps.
Learn more at

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

-Luke 21:25-7 from the gospel for Advent I 

Friday, November 16, 2012

St. Gertrude the Great in Her Own Words

St. Gertrude the Great.
A quotation and a prayer from St. Gertrude on her feast day: 
My God, you who are all truth, clearer than all light, yet hidden deeper in our heart than any secret, when you yourself resolved to disperse the darkness of my night, you began gently and tenderly by first calming my mind, which had been troubled for more than a month past. This trouble it seems to me served your purpose. You were striving to destroy the tower of vanity and worldiness which I had set up in my pride, although, alas, I was - in vain - bearing the name and wearing the habit of a religious. ... From that hour, in a new spirit of joyful serenity I began to follow the way of the sweet odor of your perfumes and I found your yoke sweet and your burden light which a short time before I had thought to be unbearable.
*  *  *

Through Thy Wounded Heart, dearest Lord, pierce my heart so deeply with the dart of Thy love that it may no longer be able to contain earthly things but may be governed by the action of Thy Divinity alone.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Two Recent Pieces on Society, Liturgy, and the ISM

St. Athanasius of Alexandria (source).
I have meant to share two pieces I read recently for a few days.

At Theology, Schmeology, a reflection using the article from the Athanasian Creed"Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance" as a guide to icon painting leads to larger thoughts on church and society:

Healthy society requires individuals in relationship with each other. (And it's almost as though our two political parties have each selected a half to goof up! Liberals confound the person: "We're all the same! Everything's equal! Whatever I like is true - and so is whatever you like!" while conservatives divide the substance: "I've got mine, I don't owe you anything! Take the country back from the 'other' in our midst!" )

I think this is also a part of what annoys me about a certain tendency among what I will term the "liberal" (for want of a better term) side of liturgical Christianity - they seem to have a particular weakness for getting stuck in the ideas of their heads, rather than inhabiting their physical space (even, and perhaps especially, while talking about "use of space!") And so you end up with altars placed in odd places, weird unforeseen emphases, awkward movements, bizarre proportions implying importance and lack thereof of all manner of furniture and ornament, to cater to a particular idea - but at the cost of "dividing the substance."

At As the Sun in Its Orb, a piece titled What Justifies Our Existence includes the following passage:

At one time, humanitarian work and the combat for human rights were the work of the Church. Not any longer. The Welfare State, public health services and social security have taken over. The system is highly bureaucratised and wasteful of resources, but it works better than the Church ever did. The churches no longer have the respectability they once had. They are starved of justification on the humanitarian and social front. Speeches about these matters by churchmen sound so hollow and devoid of meaning!

I think that independent sacramental churches have the relevance of being “pre-Constantinian”, relying solely on spirituality and the liturgical / sacramental life. No politics, no support from the secular authority, no way to force people to do or believe anything. One can try offering entertainment, but the TV does it better, and in the comfort of people’s own homes! The only way truth can be believed is by being credible. If this aspiration to the transcendental is not met, then people will not be interested.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Photos and Sermon from Our First Mass

After Mass.
 Last night's first Mass went off quite well and we are very grateful to the folks at St. Martin's for their hospitality. 

There are more photos on our Facebook page

The audio of the sermon is below.  The tracking got a little off in the upload, so it starts about 12 seconds in.  Stay tuned for news of out next Mass.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Worship as Prayer and Instruction

Today is a good day for the first Mass of a group stressing worship and prayer.  The texts assigned in the Missal speak beautifully of calling on God from the depths of our being, of praising God, and of instructing one another in worship.

 (Jer 29:11; 29:12; 29:14; ) The Lord says: I think thoughts of peace, and not of affliction. You shall call upon Me, and I will hear you; and I will bring back your captivity from all places. (Ps 84:2) You have favored, O Lord, Your land; You have restored the well-being of Jacob. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen

(Colossians 3:12-17) Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

(Ps 43:8-9) You saved us, O Lord, from our foes: and those who hated us, you put to shame. In God we gloried day by day; Your name we praised always.

(Ps 129:1-2) Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord: Lord, hear my prayer! Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord.

Communion Verse
(Mark 11:24) Amen I say to you, all things, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you shall receive, and it shall be done to you.

Mass for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
7:00 p.m., Sunday November 11

St. Martin's Chapel
814 W. Maple Street
Fayetteville, AR

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Leo the Great: Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Leo the Great meets Attila. (Source.)
In the new calendar, today is the memorial of Leo the Great, who guided the Church during the theological and political upheavals of the Fifth Century. Catholic Online gives a good summary of his life:

St. Leo the Great was born in Tuscany. As deacon, he was dispatched to Gaul as a mediator by Emperor Valentinian III. He reigned as Pope between 440 and 461. He persuaded Emperor Valentinian to recognize the primacy of the Bishop of Rome in an edict in 445. The doctrine of the Incarnation was formed by him in a letter to the Patriarch of Constantinople, who had already condemned Eutyches. At the Council of Chalcedon this same letter was confirmed as the expression of Catholic Faith concerning the Person of Christ.
All secular historical treatises eulogize his efforts during the upheaval of the fifth century barbarian invasion. His encounter with Attila the Hun, at the very gates of Rome persuading him to turn back, remains a historical memorial to his great eloquence. When the Vandals under Genseric occupied the city of Rome, he persuaded the invaders to desist from pillaging the city and harming its inhabitants. He died in 461, leaving many letters and writings of great historical value. His feast day is November 10th.
In secular history, he is most famous as the man who faced off Attila the Hun and saved Rome. It seems fitting to remember his words on the spiritual basis of peace from strife from a homily on the beatitudes:
The blessedness of seeing God is justly promised to the pure of heart. For the eye that is unclean would not be able to see the brightness of the true light, and what would be happiness to clear minds would be a torment to those that are defiled. Therefore, let the mists of worldly vanities be dispelled, and the inner eye be cleansed of all the filth of wickedness, so that the soul’s gaze may feast serenely upon the great vision of God.

It is to the attainment of this goal that the next words refer: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. This blessedness, dearly beloved, does not derive from any casual agreement or from any and every kind of harmony, but it pertains to what the Apostle says: Be at peace before the Lord, and to the words of the prophet: Those who love your law shall enjoy abundant peace; for them it is no stumbling block. Even the most intimate bonds of friendship and the closest affinity of minds cannot truly lay claim to this peace if they are not in agreement with the will of God. Alliances based on evil desires, covenants of crime and pacts of vice – all lie outside the scope of this peace. Love of the world cannot be reconciled with love of God, and the man who does not separate himself from the children of this generation cannot join the company of the sons of God. But those who keep God ever in their hearts, and are anxious to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, never dissent from the eternal law as they speak the prayer of faith. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

These then are the peacemakers; they are bound together in holy harmony and are rightly given the heavenly title of sons of God, co-heirs with Christ. And this is the reward they will receive for their love of God and neighbour: when their struggle with all temptation is finally over, there will be no further adversities to suffer or scandal to fear; but they will rest in the peace of God undisturbed, through our Lord who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen. (Source.)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Materials for Sunday Evening's Mass

The draft Mass booklet, service sheet, and music leaflet for Sunday’s Mass are available online at the  

This week will be a sung Mass in traditional English with Gregorian chant in Latin.

During the course of the Mass, there are portions when the people and the celebrant engage in a dialogue of versicles and responses, portions when the cantor sings alone, portions when we all sing together, portions when we pray in silence, and portions when our various postures of standing and kneeling call our bodies to worship.  Far more important than wondering whether you’re on the right page or what to do next is to simply let the service wash over you—to be caught up in the moment so that mind and soul are free to worship, to respond to God’s love made known to us in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  The forms are traditional, but the secret is to let yourself go.

Join us!

Mass for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
7:00 p.m., Sunday November 11

St. Martin's Chapel
814 W. Maple Street
Fayetteville, AR 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Place for Worship That’s as Spiritual as It Is Religious

As we get ready for St. Rafe’s first Mass on Sunday, I thought it might be a good idea to say a bit about why we have chosen the form of worship we will be using. A reasonable person might well ask what purpose Latin chant, spoken thees and thous, and medieval vestments serve on the edge of a university campus. It’s an eminently reasonable question. 

Those of us who have been involved in getting this experiment off the ground would say that we are trying to do something so contemporary that it is positively post-modern.  We embrace these forms because we feel that they offer something valuable in the present, that they help recover a sensibility that is too often lacking in contemporary religion.

People increasingly describe themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.”  We would say that, rather than being a sign of a decline in faith, people are often expressing a hunger for a different sort of religious experience, that they have a sense that something is missing. We believe that being spiritual is at the heart of the religious enterprise and that we are trying to make a space for the spiritual life built on the wisdom of preceding centuries even as we are mindful of contemporary needs and conditions.

Traditional worship engaged the senses, whether in beauty for the eye, music for the ear, or even the smell of incense.  These elements worked together to take the worshipper outside of space and time to encounter the Eternal.  Rather than focusing most of our effort on sermons and didactic learning, St. Rafe’s is trying to create a space where the worshipper meets God through the words of scripture, the music of the psalms, and prayers that have stood the test of time for their ability to speak to the human condition.  We focus on worship and contemplation as the place where we encounter a personal God.  We believe these forms of worship open a space where Jesus Christ reveals himself in love and asks us to walk with him.

Each week, the changing readings and chants of the Mass focus on some aspect of our journey into relationship with the One who is, was, and will be while the set texts recapitulate the story of God’s relationship with humanity, culminating in the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We are offered new opportunities for encounter and at the same time given familiar images to contemplate more deeply.  The set texts and ritual action of the service give continuity from week to week that allow us to move more easily from our everyday lives into worship and contemplation, but the varying texts and readings continually offer new opportunities to encounter the Holy Trinity and gain insight into our own struggles and growth.

Is all of this something that might speak to you?  My advice is the same that Philip gave to Nathaniel when he invited him to meet Jesus:  “Come and see.”  At first our worship may seem a bit exotic, but, once you get used to the forms, you may find that it speaks to you in ways that other forms of worship have not.  Our focus is on worship, mystery, and joy—on helping people see that maybe spiritual and religious aren’t so different after all.

Read more about what we're trying to do at the St. Rafe's web site.