Quotes: The Sorrowful Mysteries

by Bill Rodgers "Mourning the Loss of a Thing that was Loved"
by Bill Rodgers “Mourning the Loss of a Thing that was Loved”

“One heart is not connected to another through harmony alone. They are, instead, linked deeply through their wounds. Pain linked to pain, fragility to fragility. There is no silence without a cry of grief, no forgiveness without bloodshed, no acceptance without a passage through acute loss. That is what lies at the root of true harmony.”
-Haruki Murakami
in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (pg. 322)

I live in a city sorrow built
It’s in my honey, it’s in my milk
-The National

“Basically what it means is that there’s no way out of sorrow, Christ is sorrow. To be desired by him is a sorrowful thing. It’s a sorrowful thing that we are the way we are, and that God had to send Christ, his only son, to provide redemption for us, because of what we are. That’s a sad thing. But it’s a sadder thing still to reject that and to not accept it and to alienate yourself from God. Either way, it’s a sorrow.”
-David Eugene Edwards (Wovenhand)
in a recent interview with PopMatters

“There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins.”
-William Cowper

“Believe me, religions are on the wrong track the moment they moralize and fulminate commandments. God is not needed to create guilt or to punish. Our fellow men will suffice, aided by ourselves. You were speaking of the Last Judgment. Allow me to laugh respectfully. I shall wait for it resolutely, for I have know what is worse, the judgment of men. For them, no extenuating circumstances; even the good intention is ascribed to crime. Have you at least heard of the spitting-cell, which a nation recently thought up to prove itself the greatest on earth? A walled-in box in which the prisoner can stand without moving. The solid door that locks him in his shell stops at chin level. Hence only his face is visible, and every passing jailer spits copiously on it. The prisoner, wedged into his cell, cannot wipe his face, though he is allowed, it is true, to close his eyes. Well, that, mon cher, is a human invention. They didn’t need God for that little masterpiece.

What of it? Well, God’s sole usefulness would be to guarantee innocence, and I am inclined to see religion rather as a huge laundering venture – as it was once but briefly, for exactly three years, and it wasn’t called religion. Since then, soap has been lacking, our faces are dirty, and we wipe one another’s noses. All dunces, all punished, let’s all spit on one another and – hurry! to the little ease! Each tries to spit first, that’s all. I’ll tell you a big secret, mon cher. Don’t wait for the Last Judgment. It takes place every day.”
-Albert Camus in The Fall

“Sorrow is knowledge, those that know the most must mourn the deepest, the tree of knowledge is not the tree of life.”
-Lord Byron

“A man ought not to have a God who is just a product of his thought, nor should he be satisfied with that, because if the thought vanished, God too would vanish.”
-Meister Eckhart

“The light of the Creator is not something which can be controlled either objectively or subjectively by the creature. In face of all the attempted interpretations by optimists, pessimists and sceptics, it shines out in its own manner and strength.”
– Karl Barth, CD III.1, 369.

“Teach me, O God, not to torture myself, not to make a martyr out of myself through stifling reflection, but rather teach me to breathe deeply in faith.”
-Soren Kierkegaard

Loss and a Woman’s Voice

…the best instrument for the music of loss, which is the best of all music, is a woman’s voice.
-Rick Moody (in On Celestial Music pg. 71)

An Armenian woman (Nelly Gasparyan) singing “Lord have mercy” in an abandoned cathedral in eastern Turkey.

John Tavener setting of “The Jesus Prayer” written for Bjork

Christ Church Prayer Book (3rd Edition)

Christ Church Davis Prayer Book 2015 (May 17 – July 30)

Christ Church Prayer Book (3rd Edition)
A third edition of the prayer book I have been compiling for our congregation has been published. This edition spans each week between Ascension Sunday on May 17th and the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost on July 30th. You can purchase a hard copy for yourself here or download a PDF copy for your tablet, phone, or computer here. Just click on the file that says Prayer Book: May-July 2015.

The book contains weekly Scripture readings, Psalms, and a prayer litany for each week up until July 30th, as well as brief introductions to Ascension Day, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday. The readings follow the reading cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary that include the sermon passage for each week. Every Sunday our local congregation will be rallying around the Psalm of the week and the themes present in these readings. It is my prayer that this book is a easy way to access formative Christian practices and encourage formative common worship that engages Holy Scripture and the historic language of the Church. You will find artwork to match the themes of each week’s readings.

At Jesus' baptism, the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove. (Matthew 3:16)
At Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove. (Matthew 3:16)

Christus resurrexit! Resurrexit vere!

Resurrection

The Lord, having put on human nature, and having suffered for him who suffered, having been bound for him who was bound, and having been buried for him who was buried, is risen from the dead, and loudly proclaims this message:

Who will contend against me? Let him stand before me. It is I who delivered the condemned. It is I who gave life to the dead. It is I who raised up the buried. Who will argue with me? It is I, says Christ, who destroyed death. It is I who triumphed over the enemy, and having trod down Hades, and bound the Strong Man, and have snatched mankind up to the heights of heaven. It is I, says Christ. So then, come here all you families of men, weighed down by your sins and recieve pardon for your misdeeds. For I am your pardon. I am the Passover which brings salvation. I am the Lamb slain for you. I am your life. I am your resurrection. I am your light, I am your salvation, I am your King. It is I who brings you up to the heights of heaven. It is I who will give you the resurrection there. I will show you the Eternal Father. I will raise you up with my own right hand.

– Melito, Bishop of Sardis (d. 180 A.D.)

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Podcast: Reflections on T.S. Eliot and Lent

A podcast conversation about Lent and T.S. Eliot with my friend, Greg Richards. Greg is the Director of Vital University Ministries and the Elisha Leadership Initiative in San Antonio, Texas. He is currently overseeing ministries at five university campuses in San Antonio and surrounding areas. Subscribe to his podcast in ITunes.

Click here for a direct stream of our conversation

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Putting Pain in Perspective: Reading T.S. Eliot During Lent

The season of Lent provides an opportunity to be honest about pain…and to put it in perspective. At its best Lent is a communal and individual return to the waters of baptism, not a “self-help” fashioning of a better “me” or another chance to reinstate a list of failed New Year’s resolutions.

It is less about giving things up and more about self-denial. It is a refusal to turn a blind eye in favor of confronting the devastation around us. Convinced of our inability to fix things we kneel before the grace of God and are (in time) lifted up to participate in the healing.

I was recently reminded of the ways in which these Lenten themes are reflected in the poetry of T.S. Eliot. This year marks fifty years since his death. As a response, I have recently returned to his seminal collection that are together called “The Four Quartets.” These poems were written in the context of WWII and provide a jarring reflection on life during times of violence: mortality, prayer, the grace of God, and the nature of time.

My favorite poem contained in the collection is “Little Gidding.” I am particularly taken by the way in which Eliot understands prayer as a collapse of time and as a remedy to the limited nature of human perspective; common themes in many of Eliot’s writings. Fitting themes to ponder during this Lenten season.

To enter the space which prayer inhabits is to enter “God time.” A space where intellect and understanding yield to the mystery of it all and the wonder that all could be well, and the thought that all will be well when time and space collapse.

littlegidding

Eliot projects a keen sense that past, present, and future are somehow all present. One is invited to participate in this space through prayer, a foretaste of the “timelessness” that is to come, a ‘timelessness” this is already present in the form and presence of the ascended Christ. In some sense, to pray, is to step outside of time and space. This is one of the reasons that prayer is such an important part of Lent. Reflecting on “God time” helps us step outside of “our time” and its violence, hopelessness, and lack of cosmic perspective. For the Christian, it is a reminder that the cross swallows up time, “…trampling down death by death.”

All shall be well, and
All manner of thing shall be well.

As a reminder of this perspective, Eliot repeatedly references this phrase that is originally attributed to Julian of Norwich. Knowledge of this kind can only be known through death and love. It cannot be “attained” or summoned, but is known through, “…the purification of the motive, In the ground of our beseeching.” Ultimately, it is the, “…drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling…,” that will lead us through our own experiences of Cross and Resurrection, and back to the Garden. A thought worthy of reflection during this season.

Little Gidding Quote

A Few Resources Related to T.S.Eliot and “The Four Quartets”

T.S. Eliot Reads his Four Quartets

Jeremy Irons Reads “The Four Quartets”

QU4RTETS – A Recent Visual and Musical Art Project Reflecting on “The Four Quartets”

QU4RTETS from Pilar Timpane on Vimeo.

Engaging Eliot: Four Quartets in Word, Color and Sound
A Discussion and Presentation of QU4RTETS Art Project at Duke University Chapel
*Skip to 1:03:10 to hear the Jeremy Begbie musical piece interspersed with readings from “The Four Quartets”

Quote: Thomas A Kempis Meditation for Ash Wednesday

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Ash Wednesday

I will speak to my Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. If I consider myself anything more than this, behold You stand against me, and my sins bear witness to the truth which I cannot contradict. If I abase myself, however, if I humble myself to nothingness, if I shrink from all self-esteem and account myself as the dust which I am, Your grace will favor me, Your light will enshroud my heart, and all self-esteem, no matter how little, will sink in the depths of my nothingness to perish forever.

It is there You show me to myself — what I am, what I have been, and what I am coming to; for I am nothing and I did not know it. Left to myself, I am nothing but total weakness. But if You look upon me for an instant, I am at once made strong and filled with new joy. Great wonder it is that I, who of my own weight always sink to the depths, am so suddenly lifted up, and so graciously embraced by You.

It is Your love that does this, graciously upholding me, supporting me in so many necessities, guarding me from so many grave dangers, and snatching me, as I may truly say, from evils without number. Indeed, by loving myself badly I lost myself; by seeking only You and by truly loving You I have found both myself and You, and by that love I have reduced myself more profoundly to nothing. For You, O sweetest Lord, deal with me above all my merits and above all that I dare to hope or ask.

May You be blessed, my God, for although I am unworthy of any benefits, yet Your nobility and infinite goodness never cease to do good even for those who are ungrateful and far from You. Convert us to You, that we may be thankful, humble, and devout, for You are our salvation, our courage, and our strength.

-Thomas A Kempis (from Chapter 8 in The Imitation of Christ)