Wednesday, December 28, 2011

St Alcuin: An Act of Penitence and Preparation

Draw near to me, O Lord and Saviour, that I may seek you with my whole heart; then I can ask for what I ought, and finally may adhere to the result of my prayers.  Liberate me from my past sins, protect me from the present ones that threaten me, and guard me against future sins.  Give me food and drink appropriate to the spirit of abstinence, the girdle of chastity, purity of heart, kindness and modesty; grant me spiritual joy and a perfect disdain of this world.

Enable me to guard against any occasion of scandal; grant me to love simplicity and purity, and always to seek after those things that make for peace.  Keep far from me hypocrisy: give me instead true humility, that I may make a full confession and a perfect amendment of my life.  Keep my tongue from the habit of swearing, from the clouds of deceit, and from the disease of detraction of others; also from addiction to gambling, and from the vanity of gossip and foolish talk.

Set a guard upon my mouth, and protect the doorway of my lips.  I beg you to permit me to obey the commands of those above me, and without delay to concur whole-heartedly with all that makes for obedience, compassion and peace.  Give me discretion in all things that I may distinguish between good and evil.  May I value what is good, and encourage others so that things may be better yet, recalling to the standards of your righteousness any who are moving away from you.

Stir up my torpor and prod my laziness; make me persevere strenuously in your commandments and praises.  Give me prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.  Bestow upon me a true faith, unquenchable hope, and perfect love.  Fill my heart with the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and devotion, and of your holy fear.  Grant me, O Lord, the blessing of the dew of heaven, and the richness of earth; grant me the abundant water that flows from above and from below.

Give to my wretched soul the melting fire of your love, and make me extinguish utterly all desire for this world instead of you.  Enable my heart to be always humble and contrite before you.  May I become a living sacrifice in your presence through the fire of compunction.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Chesterton on the Epiphany

‎"It is still a strange story, though an old one, how they came out of orient lands, crowned with the majesty of kings and clothed with something of the mystery of magicians. That truth that is tradition has wisely remembered them almost as unknown quantities, as mysterious as their mysterious and melodious names; Melchior, Caspar, Balthazar. But there came with them all that world of wisdom that had watched the stars in Chaldea and the sun in Persia; and we shall not be wrong if we see in them the same curiosity that moves all the sages. They would stand for the same human ideal if their names had really been Confucius or Pythagoras or Plato. They were those who sought not tales but the truth of things, and since their thirst for truth was itself a thirst for God, they also have had their reward. But even in order to understand that reward, we must understand that for philosophy as much as mythology, that reward was the completion of the incomplete." ~G.K. Chesterton: 'The Everlasting Man,' Part II: The God in the Cave.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Second Song of Isaiah

Seek out Yahweh while he is still to be found, 
call to him while he is still near.  
Let the wicked abandon his way 
and the evil one his thoughts. 
Let him turn back to Yahweh who will take pity on him, 
to our God, for he is rich in forgiveness;  
for my thoughts are not your thoughts 
and your ways are not my ways, declares Yahweh.  
For the heavens are as high above earth 
as my ways are above your ways, 
my thoughts above your thoughts.  
For, as the rain and the snow come down from the sky 
and do not return before having watered the earth, 
fertilising it and making it germinate 
to provide seed for the sower and food to eat,  
so it is with the word that goes from my mouth: 
it will not return to me unfulfilled 
or before having carried out my good pleasure 
and having achieved what it was sent to do. - Isaiah 55:6-11 
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

C.S. Lewis on Christianity

“I have sometimes told my audience that the only two things really worth considering are Christianity and Hinduism. (Islam is only the greatest of the Christian heresies, Buddhism only the greatest of the Hindu heresies. Real Paganism is dead. All that was best in Judaism and Platonism survives in Christianity.) There isn’t really, for an adult mind, this infinite variety of religions to consider. We may [reverently] divide religions, as we do soups, into ‘thick’ and ‘clear’. By Thick I mean those which have orgies and ecstasies and mysteries and local attachments: Africa is full of Thick religions. By Clear I mean those which are philosophical, ethical and universalizing: Stoicism, Buddhism, and the Ethical Church are Clear religions. Now if there is a true religion it must be both Thick and Clear: for the true God must have made both the child and the man, both the savage and the citizen, both the head and the belly. And the only two religions that fulfil this condition are Hinduism and Christianity. But Hinduism fulfils it imperfectly. The Clear religion of the Brahmin hermit in the jungle and the Thick religion of the neighbouring temple go on side by side. The Brahmin hermit doesn’t bother about the temple prostitution nor the worshipper in the temple about the hermit’s metaphysics. But Christianity really breaks down the middle wall of the partition. It takes a convert from central Africa and tells him to obey an enlightened universalist ethic: it takes a twentieth-century academic prig like me and tells me to go fasting to a Mystery, to drink the blood of the Lord. The savage convert has to be Clear: I have to be Thick. That is how one knows one has come to the real religion.”

—from “Christian Apologetics,” by C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


"This is he that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood.  And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.  For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.  And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one." - 1 John 5:6-8

"And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him." - Matthew 3:16

"Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." - John 3:5

"Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." - John 4:14

"He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow streams of living water." - John 7:38

"Just as a man cannot live in the flesh unless he is born in the flesh, even so a man cannot have the spiritual life of grace unless he is born again spiritually.  This regeneration is effected by Baptism: 'Unless a man is born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." - St Thomas Aquinas

“There is no water in oxygen, no water in hydrogen: it comes bubbling fresh from the imagination of the living God, rushing from under the great white throne of the glacier. The very thought of it makes one gasp with an elemental joy no metaphysician can analyse. The water itself, that dances, and sings, and slakes the wonderful thirst--symbol and picture of that draught for which the woman of Samaria made her prayer to Jesus--this lovely thing itself, whose very wetness is a delight to every inch of the human body in its embrace--this live thing which, if I might, I would have running through my room, yea, babbling along my table--this water is its own self its own truth, and is therein a truth of God.”  - George MacDonald

"I know by frequent experience that there is nothing which puts the devil to flight like holy water." - St. Teresa of Avila

Friday, October 7, 2011

GK Chesterton on Education

'We come back to the parent as the person in charge of education. If you exalt the education, you must exalt the parental power with it. If you exaggerate the education, you must exaggerate the parental power with it. If you depreciate the parental power, you must depreciate education with it. … Private education really is universal. … Public education can be comparatively narrow. 
'It would really be an exaggeration to say that the school-master who takes his pupils in freehand drawing is training them in all the uses of freedom. It really would be fantastic to say that the harmless foreigner who instructs a class in French or German is talking with all the tongues of men and angels. 
'But the mother dealing with her own daughters in her own home does literally have to deal with all forms of freedom, because she has to deal with all sides of a single human soul. She is obliged, if not to talk with the tongues of men and angels, at least to decide how much she shall talk about angels and how much about men.' 

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Unseen Presence

The world we used to live in was very different.  Words bore great weight.  Blessings and curses, invocations and incantations all possessed powerful and terrifying consequences.  Actions carried great unseen meaning.  The things we did with our bodies held startling and forceful spiritual purport.  The trees and stars, animals and ætherial beings, the natural powers that God breathed into the earth in the wind, the fire, the water, the air, all carried dæmonic significance.  The Sacraments of the Church were the awful and terrific and utterly beautiful Means to Christ, and were treated with the reverence and awe they were worthy of.  The Church was full of Liturgy.  The clothes, the scents, the architecture, the words said, the songs sung, the Sacraments partaken of, all were mysterious and magical means through which we experienced the Most Holy One.  The culture of the Christian world was rich and full of significance, full of feasts, fasts, festivals, celebration and mourning, remembrances, customs.  One's life was measured out in the holy-days that echoed the powerful symbolism and culture that Yahweh Himself commanded His Chosen people to live by in the earliest days.

Yet we now live in the wake of the ideas that the Enlightenment, the Victorian Era, and the Post-Modern Age has preached.  The gnostic world-view has won.  Individualism is our god.  Our culture is the culture of the secular world.  Our holy-days are not holy-days but holidays that are swallowed up by secular traditions and corruptions of the early rituals.  The government dictates how we live, how we structure our homes and families, not the Bible or the earliest truths of the Creation.  Our actions and our words have very little significance except for the immediate ramifications we see in the here and now, and therefore the majority of our churches no longer believe in the holiness of the Sacraments, the power of the ancient liturgy, or the power of the Means to God inherent in Holy Communion.

The world has taught us its own view of the ancient days, defamiliarizing the old to such an extent that what was once powerful in words and deeds and spirit and body are treated with flippancy and complete misunderstanding.  And yet the Bible foregrounds the Truth of these ancient customs in a most startling and blatant way.  Yahweh, in the chronicles of the Pentateuch, held great significance in the material.  He appeared to the patriarchs, the judges, and the prophets in bodily form multiple times.  He ordained the holy and magical works of childbirth and marriage and burial.  His Temple was full of holy relics, of wonders.  Holy bread and holy fire, the prayers of the people present in the burning of incense, blood sacrifice that render the people clean, the God-given authority symbolized in the vestments of the priests, and His real and awful presence in the Mercy-Seat of the Holy of Holies.º  Yahweh breathed into the vessels of His Temple the power of His Name.  Thus all who touch the Ark of the Covenant die.  Thus Zechariah beholds a vision of seven lamps on a golden lampstand that are the Eyes of Yahweh, which 'range over the whole world' and two olive trees which are the 'two anointed ones in attendance on the Lord of the whole world.'  

His prophets, too, were given the Means to Himself.  Yahweh placed great power in the staffs of Moses and Elijah†  He commanded His prophets to speak events into existence.  Their words were powerful in the strongholds they built in the Unseen Realm, echoing the fact that He Himself built the worlds through His Words.  He commanded the prophets to not only speak, but to act out what was being worked out in the Unseen Realm.  The most powerful representation of this is, perhaps, the life of Hosea, whom Yahweh commanded to marry a hoar and bear children by her, as a physical declaration of the spiritual state of His relationship with Israel.  He commanded Hosea to name His sons  'Not-My-People' and his daughter 'Unloved' in order to show forth the strongholds of Israel's betrayal in the Unseen Realm.*

This amalgamation of the Unseen Realm and the Seen is not only a manifestation of the Old Covenant.  It is also present in the New Covenant that Jesus gave to us.  We see this truth in His own life, and in the miracles that He performed.  His Power was manifested in His words and commands and deeds, but also in His own Person.  Thus He healed the blind man's eyes with a poultice made of His spittle.  Thus the woman suffering of hemorrhage was healed by merely touching His robe.  He commanded His disciples to be baptized that they may physically be buried with Him and rise a new creation in Him.  He gave His disciples His own Body and Blood to eat, in order that His Presence would truly and literally live inside of them.  He bodily died, He bodily descended into Hell and took the keys from Satan, He bodily raised from the dead, He bodily flew into the Heavens, He bodily sits at the right hand of the Father.  He commanded us to work out our salvation in fear and trembling, to obey Him so that, through His grace, we might live a life truly saved from sin and the fruits of sin.  

We see only as through a looking glass darkly, and yet we are given the promise in the Revelation to St John that we will live in a world in which the Unseen and the Seen become one, where the opening of scrolls ushers in new eras of the Earth and riders on horses bring forth judgment, where Yahweh builds a city in which we will experience His glorious Light.  Let us remember that the world around us is not weightless and empty of meaning, but the very Creation of the Imagination of the God who bears and breathes into His creation the weight of His glory.

†See 'The Staff of Adonai'
*To see other examples of this mystery read Isaiah 6, Jeremiah 13, Jeremiah 16, Jeremiah 24, Ezekiel 3, Ezekiel 4, Ezekiel 12, Zechariah 3, Zechariah 4

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Hymn for the Church Militant

Great God, that bowest sky and star,

Bow down our towering thoughts to thee,

And grant us in a faltering war

The firm feet of humility.

Lord, we that snatch the swords of flame,

Lord, we that cry about Thy car.

We too are weak with pride and shame,

We too are as our foemen are.

Yea, we are mad as they are mad,

Yea, we are blind as they are blind,

Yea, we are very sick and sad

Who bring good news to all mankind.

The dreadful joy Thy Son has sent

Is heavier than any care;

We find, as Cain his punishment,

Our pardon more than we can bear.

Lord, when we cry Thee far and near

And thunder through all lands unknown

The gospel into every ear,

Lord, let us not forget our own.

Cleanse us from ire of creed or class,

The anger of the idle tings;

Sow in our souls, like living grass,

The laughter of all lowly things.

by GK Chesterton

Saturday, August 13, 2011


The eyes of the Lord rove to and fro over the earth, searching for the people whose heart is turned towards Him.

He sees the souls of His creation. He sees the fire of His Word kindled inside His chosen. He sees the Light of the Holy Spirit and He sees the Darkness of the lack thereof.

The shadows populate the earth, the shadows of the blind and the deaf, the shadows who do not know the Way, or the Truth, or the Light.

The blanket of darkness cloaks the Earth, but here and there sparks of Light are struck. The Light beams forth in the Darkness, and the Darkness cannot overcome it.

The Light bears forth strength in its very heart, for it is the Temple of the Spirit of the Tetragrammaton. It sends out the Truth of the Light that dwells within. Its Temple holds the Body and Blood of that God which gives the Temple Life.

The Dark sees the Brilliance of the Love of Yahweh, indwelling the Light and the Life and the Spirit. The Dark understands it not, but some hearts ask for understanding, and where Darkness was, Light spreads forth, vanquishing the Shadow. New Lights spark and kindle over the shadows of the Earth, and the Eye of the Lord rejoices as the Lights appear and grow stronger in the Consuming Fire of His Love. His Love burns away all Darkness.

O Lord, may we be Lights in the Dark.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Staff of Adonai

The lore that speaks of the magician's staff or wand is well-known in our society. We are familiar with the fairy godmother, the White Witch, Professor Dumbledore, Gandalf the Grey, Merlin, and countless others. But where did the legendary Type of the magic staff come from? In the tradition of freemasonry staves were used during rituals of the Craft. Medieval tales of Faërie used them as instrumental tools in their magery. Circe of the Odyssey used a wand to transform Odysseus's men into animals. In Pharaonic Egypt magic wands were placed in tombs along with amulets and other toilette articles for the souls of the dead to use.

Thus we see the magic staff spoken of through history. And yet there is no where that it is spoken of so powerfully as in the Bible.

It was first to be spoken of in regard to one of the Three Patriarchs. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. He prophesied to Judah, 'The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from his loins, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the expectation of the nations.' This was fulfilled in David, who defeated Goliath with his sling and his staff, and whose staff of rulership will never be broken.

Moses, however, was the master of the staff. He was, perhaps, the first archetype of the 'wizard', with his robe and beard and staff. The staff was made the primary tool with each of the miracles that Adonai empowered Aaron and Moses to perform in rescuing the Hebrews. Adonai empowered the rod of Aaron to turn into a serpent, to eat the magic staves of the Egyptian magicians, to turn the water of the Nile into blood, to invoke thunder and hail and fire out of the heavens, to bring up gnats from the dust, to call Darkness over Egypt, and finally, to divide the Red Sea. God commanded Moses to take the staff with him on his journey, as an important tool of His power. It was with this that he struck the Rock of Horeb and brought forth water. He was commanded to throw a branch into the waters of Marah in order to cleanse the waters of bitterness.

In Exodus 17, when Moses sent Joshua to fight the Amalekites, Moses said to Joshua, 'Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.' And it was so that when Moses held up the staff Israel prevailed, but when he let down his hands, Amalek prevailed. When Moses' hands grew heavy, Aaron and Hur supported his hands, so that his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And so Israel prevailed over Amalek.

In Numbers 17, Adonai commands Moses to make a staff for each of the tribes of Israel, write their names upon them, and then put them before the Ark of the Testimony in the Tabernacle of Testimony. Adonai said, 'So it shall be the man I choose, his staff will blossom; thus will I remove the murmurings of the children of Israel which they murmur against you.' It was the staff of Aaron and the House of Levi that blossomed out and produced ripe almonds, thus choosing that Tribe as the priesthood of Adonai. Adonai then commanded that Aaron's staff be kept as a permanent sign before the Ark of the Covenant.

Shortly thereafter, when the Israelites were perishing for thirst, Adonai commanded Moses to 'Take the staff; and you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before them, and it will give its waters.' When Moses strikes the rock with the staff instead of speaking to it, Adonai punishes him for not following His commandment to hold the staff and speak to the rock as an animate spirit.

The Prophets also carried staves of power. In the Book of Kings, when a child lies dead, Elisha tells his servant Gehazi, 'Prepare yourself, take my staff in your hand and be on your way. If you meet anyone, you will not greet him. And if anyone greets you, you will not answer him. You shall lay my staff on the face of the child.' Elisha expects that the power of his staff will be sufficient to bring the child back to life. When Gehazi proves incapable of performing the miracle, Elisha prays, lays on the child seven times, and thus breathes life into the child.

Even the Angel of Yahweh carried a staff of power. In the story of Gideon (Judges 6-7), Yahweh commands Gideon to 'Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.' Gideon does so. "Then the Angel of Yahweh stretched out the end of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. And the Angel of Yahweh departed out of his sight."

Our God is a God of wonders.

Even though I walk through the valley

of the shadow of death,

I shall fear no evil, for thou art with me.

Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

As a footnote, the 'Rod of Aaron' is a subject of much interest in Rabbinical and Christian legends. The Jewish Encyclopedia states:

'[The] legend of the rod as given by the Syrian Solomon in his "Book of the Bee" has Christian characteristics. According to it the staff is a fragment of the Tree of Knowledge, and was successively in the possession of Shem, of the three Patriarchs, and of Judah, just as in the Jewish legend. From Judah it descended to Pharez, ancestor of David and of the Messiah. After Pharez's death an angel carried it to the mountains of Moab and buried it there, where the pious Jethro found it. When Moses, at Jethro's request, went in search of it, the rod was brought to him by an angel. With this staff Aaron and Moses performed all the miracles related in Scripture, noteworthy among which was the swallowing up of the wonder-working rods of the Egyptian Posdi. Joshua received it from Moses and made use of it in his wars (Josh. viii. 18); and Joshua, in turn, delivered it to Phinehas, who buried it in Jerusalem. There it remained hidden until the birth of Jesus, when the place of its concealment was revealed to Joseph, who took it with him on the journey to Egypt. Judas Iscariot stole it from James, brother of Jesus, who had received it from Joseph. At Jesus' crucifixion the Jews had no wood for the transverse beam of the cross, so Judas produced the staff for that purpose. This typological explanation of Moses' rod as the cross is not a novel one. Origen on Exodus (chap. vii.) says: "This rod of Moses, with which he subdued the Egyptians, is the symbol of the cross of Jesus, who conquered the world." Christian legend has preserved the Jewish accounts of the rod of the Messiah and made concrete fact of the idea.'

You can visit this link for more information on the legends of the Staff of God.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

‎Heartily He loves you,
heartily He hates the evil in you--
so heartily that He will even cast you
into the fire
to burn you clean.
By making you clean
He will give you rest.

-George MacDonald

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Children and the Church

Birth control has been popular from of old. It is documented as far back as 1900 BC and even up to the Roman empire of the apostolic age. There were many different methods, such as wool that absorbed sperm and animal skins used as condoms, as well as poisons and potions that made the uterus hostile. Abortion was common. Witches and witch-doctors performed abortion, and this action was one of the main proponents of the witch-hunts of the 1600s. Women often-times bound their bodies in order to expel fetuses. Infanticide was also rampant. Documentations of practices such as leaving unwanted babies on street corners and sacrificing babies to pagan gods were wide-spread.

In the secular world of this age, birth control is more widely used than ever before. The 2002 Census by the CDC says that the percentage of women who used a form of contraception at their first sexual intercourse has risen from 43% before 1980 to 79% in 2002, and that 98% of sexually active women have used contraceptives. The same study states that more than 50% of women receiving family planning services were younger than 25 years of age.

Contraception has taken on an ever more serious progression. The versions of contraceptive use have multiplied. We see women losing their true femininity and becoming instead asexual sex symbols with birth control options that cause a woman to only have an ovulation from four times a year to never in five years. These hormonal methods of contraception work by injecting hormones into the uterus that also morph the lining of the uterus into a hostile environment that kills a joined sperm and egg when the fetus enters through the fallopian tube. This, in effect, is an abortifacient. Oral contraceptives have also been found by the National Cancer Institute to increase the risks of breast cancer, cervical cancer and liver cancer, especially for women who began to use oral contraceptives in their teens. With the constant use of contraceptives that alter the woman's hormones and uteran function, the rise of barrenness and conceptional dysfunction also increases.

This is the world's way, and yet the Church of God has accepted these things as 'socially acceptable', and do not even question what God would have us do. We find, meanwhile, that in the Bible children are called by David a 'treasure in the womb', a 'heritage from the Lord'. He says, 'Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!' - Psalm 127.

Jesus most strongly praises children and childlikeness. 'In truth I tell you, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter into the kingdom of Heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.…Anyone who welcomes one little child like this in my name welcomes me. But anyone who is the downfall of one of these little ones who have faith in me would be better drowned in the depths of the sea with a great millstone round his neck.' - Matthew 18

In the book of Genesis, the sin of Onan, who spilled his semen on the ground rather than bring forth children by Tamar for his brother's lineage, was killed by Yahweh-God. The early Christian church continued this view against contraception in the tradition of the Pentateuch. Here are some quotes from the early church fathers.

'We Christians marry only to produce children.' - Justin Martyr, 100 AD

'Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted.' - Clement of Alexandria, 101 AD

'Some complain of the scantiness of their means, and allege that they have not enough for bringing up more children, as though, in truth, their means were in [their] power . . . or God did not daily make the rich poor and the poor rich. Wherefore, if any one on any account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from relations with his wife.' Again he says, 'God gave us eyes not to see and desire pleasure, but to see acts to be performed for the needs of life; so too, the genital (generating) part of our body, as the name itself teaches, has been received by us for no other purpose than the generation of offspring.' - Lactantius, 307 AD

'Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit, where there are medicines of sterility, where there is murder before birth? …Indeed, it is something worse than murder, and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. What then? Do you condemn the gift of God and fight with his laws?…The matter still seems indifferent to many men––even to many men having wives. In this indifference of the married men there is greater evil filth; for then poisons are prepared, not against the womb of a prostitute, but against your injured wife. Against her are these innumerable tricks…' - John Chrysostom, 391 AD

'You may see a number of women who are widows before they are wives. Others, indeed, will drink sterility and murder a man not yet born.' - Jerome, 396 AD

'When [procreation] is taken away, husbands are shameful lovers, wives are harlots, bridal chambers are brothels.' Again, in 419 AD, 'I am supposing, then, although you are not lying [with your wife] for the sake of procreating offspring, you are not for the sake of lust obstructing their procreation by an evil prayer or an evil deed. Those who do this, although they are called husband and wife, are not; nor do they retain any reality of marriage, but with a respectable name cover a shame. Sometimes this lustful cruelty, or cruel lust, comes to this, that they even procure poisons of sterility.' - St Augustine, 400 AD

'If a woman does not wish to have children, let her enter into a religious agreement with her husband; for chastity is the sole sterility of a Christian woman.' - Caesarius of Arles, 522 AD,

'[Contraception] does injury to God.' - St Thomas Aquinas

'[T]he exceedingly foul deed of Onan, the basest of wretches . . . is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed. Accordingly, it was a most disgraceful crime. . . . Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed. Therefore, God punished him.' - Martin Luther

'[Birth control is] the murder of a future person.' - John Calvin

'[Contraception is] unnatural and destroys the soul of those who practice it.' - John Wesley

Even after the Reformation, the Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, and Dissenters were against birth control. It was not until 1930 that the Anglican Lambeth Conference of bishops accepted the use of birth control, and even then it was only accepted in certain medical circumstances. As the secularized culture grew with the hardship experienced in the Great Depression, the beliefs of Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood), the rise of Darwinism, the propagation of a two-child family promoted by Rockefeller and the government, the restructured family ideal that arose during the '50s, and the Green movement influenced most Protestants to embrace birth control. Instead of viewing contraception as a deliberate violation of God's natural design, the church of God accepted a sexuality of death.

The Catholic and Orthodox churches, however, continued to hold the early church view. In 1997 the Catholic leadership said that, 'The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity, it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative aspect of matrimony), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life.'

So how ought the Church of God live?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Emancipation of Domesticity

by G.K. Chesterton

There is only one way to preserve in the world that high levity and that more leisurely outlook which fulfils the old vision of universalism. That is, to permit the existence of a partly protected half of humanity; a half which the harassing industrial demand troubles indeed, but only troubles indirectly. In other words, there must be in every center of humanity one human being upon a larger plan; one who does not "give her best," but gives her all.

Our old analogy of the fire remains the most workable one. The fire need not blaze like electricity nor boil like boiling water; its point is that it blazes more than water and warms more than light. The wife is like the fire, or to put things in their proper proportion, the fire is like the wife. Like the fire, the woman is expected to cook: not to excel in cooking, but to cook; to cook better than her husband who is earning the coke by lecturing on botany or breaking stones. Like the fire, the woman is expected to tell tales to the children, not original and artistic tales, but tales--better tales than would probably be told by a first-class cook. Like the fire, the woman is expected to illuminate and ventilate, not by the most startling revelations or the wildest winds of thought, but better than a man can do it after breaking stones or lecturing. But she cannot be expected to endure anything like this universal duty if she is also to endure the direct cruelty of competitive or bureaucratic toil. Woman must be a cook, but not a competitive cook; a school mistress, but not a competitive schoolmistress; a house-decorator but not a competitive house-decorator; a dressmaker, but not a competitive dressmaker. She should have not one trade but twenty hobbies; she, unlike the man, may develop all her second bests. This is what has been really aimed at from the first in what is called the seclusion, or even the oppression, of women.

Women were not kept at home in order to keep them narrow; on the contrary, they were kept at home in order to keep them broad. The world outside the home was one mass of narrowness, a maze of cramped paths, a madhouse of monomaniacs. It was only by partly limiting and protecting the woman that she was enabled to play at five or six professions and so come almost as near to God as the child when he plays at a hundred trades. But the woman's professions, unlike the child's, were all truly and almost terribly fruitful; so tragically real that nothing but her universality and balance prevented them being merely morbid. This is the substance of the contention I offer about the historic female position. I do not deny that women have been wronged and even tortured; but I doubt if they were ever tortured so much as they are tortured now by the absurd modern attempt to make them domestic empresses and competitive clerks at the same time. I do not deny that even under the old tradition women had a harder time than men; that is why we take off our hats. I do not deny that all these various female functions were exasperating; but I say that there was some aim and meaning in keeping them various. I do not pause even to deny that woman was a servant; but at least she was a general servant.…

The final fact which fixes this is a sufficiently plain one. Supposing it to be conceded that humanity has acted at least not unnaturally in dividing itself into two halves, respectively typifying the ideals of special talent and of general sanity (since they are genuinely difficult to combine completely in one mind), it is not difficult to see why the line of cleavage has followed the line of sex, or why the female became the emblem of the universal and the male of the special and superior. Two gigantic facts of nature fixed it thus: first, that the woman who frequently fulfilled her functions literally could not be specially prominent in experiment and adventure; and second, that the same natural operation surrounded her with very young children, who require to be taught not so much anything as everything. Babies need not to be taught a trade, but to be introduced to a world. To put the matter shortly, woman is generally shut up in a house with a human being at the time when he asks all the questions that there are, and some that there aren't. It would be odd if she retained any of the narrowness of a specialist. Now if anyone says that this duty of general enlightenment (even when freed from modern rules and hours, and exercised more spontaneously by a more protected person) is in itself too exacting and oppressive, I can understand the view. I can only answer that our race has thought it worth while to cast this burden on women in order to keep common-sense in the world.

But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination conceive what they mean. When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean. To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets cakes. and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.…

I would observe here in parenthesis that much of the recent official trouble about women has arisen from the fact that they transfer to things of doubt and reason that sacred stubbornness only proper to the primary things which a woman was set to guard. One's own children, one's own altar, ought to be a matter of principle-- or if you like, a matter of prejudice. On the other hand, who wrote Junius's Letters ought not to be a principle or a prejudice, it ought to be a matter of free and almost indifferent inquiry. But take an energetic modern girl secretary to a league to show that George III wrote Junius, and in three months she will believe it, too, out of mere loyalty to her employers. Modern women defend their office with all the fierceness of domesticity. They fight for desk and typewriter as for hearth and home, and develop a sort of wolfish wifehood on behalf of the invisible head of the firm. That is why they do office work so well; and that is why they ought not to do it.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Spring Meditations

Sunday afternoon. Mild, cloudy, with a temperate breeze and a silver grey wetness in the atmosphere. The beauty of the ushering in of the Spring beckons me to walk outside.

The trees are in bud. Tiny green clusters grace the ends of the elegant, drooping boughs of our plum tree. I meditate on the miracle that God makes the roots of this age-old tree soak up the nutrients and water in the soil, causes that life-juice to flow through the gnarled, brown trunk, up through the branches, and overflow in green buds that will soon become leaves, and then pure white blossoms, and then good, life-giving fruit.

I walk round the tree and down the hill, the grass and dirt cool and wet to my bare feet, the wind ruffling my hair, the sky sending forth silver rays of dusk. I lay down in the grass, and stare up at the sky. The clouds race and frolic across the heavens, grey, pearl, lavender, blue. The sun is still so bright through the fog that my eyes can hardly withstand the glorious light. The beautiful canopy stretches in every direction, magnanimous, great, brilliant, cascading forth as far as the eye can see. My mind hearkens back to Jesus, the Imaginer, Creator and Maker of the mighty beauty of the sky, the graceful strength of the trees, the tender loveliness of the green buds.

He cares about the great things as well as the small things. He who encompasses the greatness of the world came to earth in the form of the smallest of the small. He is Yahweh the Wonderworker.

I feel as if I could see into the Heavens. As if I could fly into the sky, following the path of Jesus's ascension, through the clouds, into the atmosphere, beyond the blue air, into the glorious realm of the sun, moon, and stars, past the fiery explosions of the celestial beings of the Aether, and finally to the very mercy seat of Him who made us.

I rise, my mind overwhelmed with the magnitude of His mercy, His beauty, His goodness, His truth, His imagination, His love. The Resurrection and the Life. The Light of the World. The Lover of our souls.

Join with all nature in manifold witness

to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Shepherd of Souls

Shepherd of souls, refresh and bless

Thy chosen pilgrim flock

With manna in the wilderness,

With water from the rock.

Hungry and thirsty, faint and weak,

As Thou when here below,

Our souls the joys celestial seek

Which from Thy sorrows flow.

We would not live by bread alone,

But by Thy Word of grace,

In strength of which we travel on

To our abiding place.

Be known to us in breaking bread,

But do not then depart;

Savior, abide with us, and spread

Thy table in our heart.

Lord, sup with us in love divine;

Thy body and Thy blood,

That living bread, that heav’nly wine,

Be our immortal food.

James Montgomery, to the tune of 'Dives and Lazarus'

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Mountain of Yhwh

Mountains. Bulwarks of strength. Towers of majesty. Heights where the wind frolics freely, where the air is thin, fresh, cold. Where the lightning zig-zags down to electrify, where the sky may be touched by the reaching of a hand, where the clouds descend to fog the senses.

Mountains. The towers of myths. The ever-present home of the Olympians. The home of the altars of pagans throughout the ages. The treasure-store of Atlantis. The earth reaching to Heaven. The eye of the horizon. The observer of the worlds, the galaxies.

Mountains. Mentions of mountains are replete throughout the Biblical documents. From the very first chapters of Genesis, we are told of the mountain of God in the midst of the Garden of Eden, from whence Yahweh descends to speak to Adam and Eve. It is the mountain 'where God lived'.

When Moses was looking after the flock of Jethro, he came to 'Horeb, the mountain of God.' (Exodus 3:1) There God encountered him in the form of the burning bush. Years later, Moses and the Israelites returned to God again on Mount Sinai, or Horeb. The pillar of Cloud covered the mountain. It shook. God's voice pealed from the heights, commanding that no one could approach the foot of its base except Moses, lest they die. For the mountain was holy. Moses said, 'You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain which is your heritage, the place which you, Yahweh, have made your dwelling, the sanctuary, Yahweh, prepared by your own hands.' (Exodus 15:17)

The chosen city of God, Jerusalem, was set in the midst of seven mountains. God chose out of those seven mountains the Mount Moriah to establish His Temple, His Holy of Holies on. This was the same mountain on which Abraham was called to sacrifice a ram in lieu of his son Isaac as a burnt offering to Yahweh.

David took refuge from the persecution of his son Absalom by fleeing to the Mount of Olives. Ezekiel says that 'the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city [the mount of Olives].' David sang of Yahweh's mountain repeatedly in his Psalms. I myself have anointed my king on Zion my holy mountain.…I cry out to Yahweh; he answers from his holy mountain.…Send out your light and your truth; they shall be my guide, to lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.…Why be envious, haughty mountains, of the mountain God has chosen for his dwelling? There God will dwell forever.…Exalt Yahweh our God, bow down at his holy mountain; holy is Yahweh our God!

Elijah walked for forty days and forty nights to take shelter from persecution on Mount Horeb, God's mountain. (1 Kings 19). When he reached there 'he was told, "Go out and stand on the mountain before Yahweh." For at that moment Yahweh was going by. A mighty hurricane split the mountains and shattered the rocks before Yahweh. But Yahweh was not in the hurricane. And after the hurricane, an earthquake. But Yahweh was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake, fire. But Yahweh was not in the fire. And after the fire, a light murmuring sound. And when Elijah heard this, he covered his face.…'

Isaiah prophesied about God's mountain, Horeb or Sinai. He spoke that Yahweh would prepare a banquet for His chosen on this mountain, that on this mountain He would tear the veil 'which used to veil all peoples'. (Isaiah 25:6) That when the Day comes, the Chosen will pilgrimage to the mountain, where they will worship Him and be joyful in His 'house of prayer'. (Isaiah 27, 56)

Jesus, when He came to the earth, loved the mountains. He was born underneath a mountain. He would rise early in the morning and go 'on the mountain to pray'. He wept for Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives. He preached from the Mount of Olives. The Transfiguration took place on the Mount of Olives. Jesus was betrayed on the Mount of Olives. He was crucified on a mountain. He was buried in a mountain. He flew away from the Mount of Olives, which is the highest mountain out of the seven hills of Zion.

And, when Jesus returns to Earth, 'his feet will rest on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives will be split in half from east to west.'


Monday, January 3, 2011

From the Heart of Samuel Johnson

A Prayer

Almighty and most merciful Father, who hast created and preserved me, have pity on my weakness and corruption. Let me not be created to misery, nor preserved only to multiply sin. Deliver me from habitual wickedness, and idleness, enable me to purify my thoughts, to use the faculties which thou has given me with honest diligence, and to regulate my life by thy holy word.

Grant me, O Lord, good purposes and steady resolution, that I may repent my sins, and amend my life. Deliver me from the distresses of vain terror and enable me by thy Grace to will and to do what may please thee, that when I shall be called away from this present state I may obtain everlasting happiness through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.