Christmas Schedule

picAMT35005As many of you know, traditionally, I go east to be with my family at Christmas. This year is no exception, I’m leaving this evening, so posting will continue to be sparse until the first of the year.

I think (perhaps hope is the word) I may be ready to resume normal service at that point, we’ll find out together, I suppose. :-)

In any case, I hope you are also with those you love and have a very Merry Christmas!!! See you soon. (Yes, I’ll be around sporadically, so feel free to comment.)

Merry Christmas

Catholic Scot: Mary & the Birthdays of Jesus

Yes, dear reader, I’m coasting a bit, calling your attention to some great work being done by others. Like this post, which I love.

Part of what I like here is that the author talks some about St. Joseph, Jesus’ foster father, and I think the most shortchanged of the saints. it takes quite a man, especially in their culture to go ahead and marry a pregnant girl, on the word of an angel, no less, and knowing that he would never be with his betrothed. But he did, and then proceeded to carry on, and care for and protect his little family, as long as he lived.

A model many of us guys would be well advised to emulate.

Christ Appearing to the Virgin by Follower of Rogier van der Weyden 1475

[…]

It is easy for Christians and sometimes even the Church to overlook St Joseph and his part in the Nativity seeing him as some kind of bit part player, an extra in the scene. We can be sure that this is a fault of which our Lady was never guilty. To her Joseph was a tower of strength, a friend, a faithful loving companion, the first man to hold her Jesus in his arms, to look tenderly at Him, to love Him wholeheartedly. To recall the first Christmas for Mary would also be to recall Joseph’s steadfastness in marrying her despite her pregnancy, his support and care for her and the unborn child on the journey to Bethlehem and for mother and newborn during the flight into Egypt. They shared the agony of the hunt for the lost boy Jesus through the streets and Temple courts of Jerusalem. Most of all, perhaps, they shared year after year the hidden life of working, living in a community, raising a child to manhood being lovers of God and lovers of neighbour in that greatest of all trials the seeming triviality and mediocrity of the everyday. No doubt also his presence at this intense moment of life would bring to mind the time when this just man departed from it going to his eternal rest enfolded in the love of the Virgin and the Saviour the two most important people in his life. And this points us to an essential truth about Christmas. It is a family celebration, Mary would not recall the child without recalling too the foster-father. We who are adults seldom pass a Christmas season without revisiting our childhood feasts, the parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, uncles, aunts and others who welcome or not trailed through our seasonal rejoicing and accompany us still in our fondest memories. Welcoming a child into the world is a time for bringing families together and in Jesus we welcome the universal child, our destinies and the destinies of all who are dear to us are bound up in His. If our adult selves have dispensed with the large family gatherings of the not-so-distant past we should at least bring together in our prayers those we will not or cannot bring together in the flesh.

If St Joseph is backgrounded in our Nativity scenes and cribs the shepherds and Magi are not. Whilst our Lady may have held these things in reverse order in her heart her Christmas memories would certainly not have neglected them. Most of all, I think, it would have been the shepherds whose memory she treasured. Partly because they were present on that wonderful world transforming night as the Magi were not. Partly also because the Mary who sang-
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.

Read more at: Catholic Scot: Mary & the Birthdays of Jesus.

The Man Comes Around

A friend of mine tweeted this yesterday, it is incredibly powerful.

Thanks, Siobhan

Remembrance Sunday

poppy2_3001030b

Tower of London

[Many of you who read here, have become friends of ours, and so we like to tell you a bit when things happen our lives. This is one of those notes, Neo.]

This is my partner Jessica’s birthday, although we will unable to wish it to her today, let us remember the good times we have shared with her, and wish her a happy one and many more, better ones.

I have heard from her. She is recovering although it is a slow process, and she is both weak and weary. We will not see her here until at least Eastertide, I think, and perhaps not then. If you missed the story she went to the doctor for what she thought was sinusitis on 8 September and emailed me from the hospital parking lot that the doctor thought he saw another problem. Her last words to me were, “wish me luck-I need it.” Let that be a lesson to you, don’t ask me for luck. That problem turned out to be cancer, and very aggressive one at that. After two surgeries, on the first Friday in October, she received the received the last rites of her church. Those of us who love her were very close to despair, although we all put our trust in God. Nor were we disappointed, that Sunday she awoke from her coma without pain and without cancer.

But one doesn’t go through such an ordeal without re-evaluating your life, and that is part of what she is doing now. And I freely admit that I am praying (perhaps selfishly) that she will choose to return to us. That is in her hands, and God’s. Judging by how many of you are still reading her articles here, every day, many of you join with me in that prayer.

One doesn’t go through watching a dear friend, whom one loves, go though such an ordeal without effect either. I have spent most of the last two months worrying about and praying for her, and have rather shamefully neglected you. I won’t say I’m sorry, because I’m not. Jessica is the most wonderful and caring friend I’ve ever had, and the thought of losing her devastated me, and more than a few times 2 Samuel 18:33 was in my heart and prayers.

I’m going to begin trying to post again, although I’ll make no promises, it will be a day-to-day thing. And I’m going to do something that 3 months ago, I would never had considered. I am going to ask you to pray for Jessica, and for those who love her as well.

MERCIFUL God, and heavenly Father, who hast taught us in thy holy Word that thou dost not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men; Look with pity, we beseech thee, upon the sorrows of thy servant for whom our prayers are offered. Remember her, O Lord, in mercy; endue her soul with patience; comfort her with a sense of thy goodness; lift up thy countenance upon her, and give her peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

ALMIGHTY God, who hast promised to hear the petitions of those who ask in thy Son’s Name; We beseech thee mercifully to incline thine ears to us who have now made our prayers and supplications unto thee; and grant that those things which we have faithfully asked according to thy will, may effectually be obtained, to the relief of our necessity, and to the setting forth of thy glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer


In all the English speaking world, except the United States, today is Remembrance Sunday, which is more connected than you might think to the first part of this post. Jessica’s ex-husband was a serving army officer, in fact, he was in Afghanistan when I met her. And while we will celebrate those of ours on Tuesday who survived to return to us, they will commemorate those who did not.

In her post The Thin Red Line she reminded us of the other victim’s of war, saying this:

But there’s bound to be a divide between civilians and the military in times of peace when you have a professional army. Although the analogy with Monks might raise an eyebrow or two, there is a parallel (no, not that one).  Soldiers live a life apart. They are trained to do things which ordinary people don’t do, and probably don’t want to do. There has to be a high level of commitment, and at times the dedication to duty means that a soldier puts everything else to one side. Although no soldier’s wife worth her salt would dream of saying so, we all wait in terror for the knock on the door or the telephone call from the CO. Every time we kiss and wave good-bye, we know that for at least one of us, it is the final good-bye. And if your marriage doesn’t come to that honorable end, well the stress and strains on your man and marriage may make it come to another sort of end. The price soldiers pay to serve us all is huge.  But they also serve, who only stand and wait – and love.

Like Memorial Day it was instituted to remember those brave men who died in the service of their country, and like Veteran’s Day it is on 11 November, because it was instituted to commemorate the end of the Great War, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. It’s also Feast day of St. Martin of Tours, the patron saint of soldiers. Like a distinguished British historian told me once, “It’s always the war to end all wars, until the next one.” I’m very afraid he was right.

But it is very proper for us as Americans to remember our cousins who died in the wars of the twentieth century, they fought at our side for the same ideals. Please join me in remembering their sacrifice.

It should also be remembered that on 17 October 1921, General Pershing presented, pursuant to a special act of Congress, the US Medal of Honor, in the name of the people of the United States, to the Unknown British Warrior in Westminster Abbey, the only time it has been awarded to a non-American in a foreign service.

Remember them

Julian of Norwich ~ Mystic, Theologian and Anchoress

statue_of_dame_julianDo you remember that we talked some about Julian of Norwich’s theology last week?  I said in that article that we didn’t know much about her life. Well we still don’t but, I did run across an article that tells us a lot  more than I knew. To me, the people are what makes history fun. Here is Susan Abernethy

Julian of Norwich was a mystic, theologian and anchoress in late fourteenth-early fifteenth century England. Very little is known of her actual life, not even her real name. We do know she wrote two texts in English on her visions and their meaning. English was rarely used for literary purposes during Julian’s time which makes her books remarkable. But the books were also written by a woman making them even more extraordinary. And her compositions were works of theology by a woman which may explain why her books were not well known or publicized during her lifetime and for hundreds of years after she died.

From her writings, we know that Julian was most likely born in 1342. She lived in Norwich or nearby and may have been from a privileged family. Her real name is not given in her texts. She may have taken her name from the parish church of St. Julian at Conisford in Norwich where she had a cell and lived as an anchoress or perhaps her real name was Julian or Juliana which was a common name at the time. We don’t know if she married or if she had children or even if she was a nun. We don’t know how she got the education that allowed her to write her books. Julian may have learned reading and writing from her mother or from the priests in her parish. Throughout her writing it is evident she sought teachings and preaching from her local priests. Everyday medieval life was inextricably linked to the church.

Norwich at the time of Julian’s life was a vibrant town whose wealth came from sheep breeding and wool production. There was trade with the Low Countries, Zeeland and France. At the time of Julian’s birth, Norwich had a population of about ten thousand and it was the second largest city in England. She and her family would have spoken English. Latin was spoken in the churches and the merchants and upper classes spoke French. A decade after her birth, the King made English the official language of his court.

When Julian was six years old, Norwich was visited by the pestilence known as the Black Death for the first time. Julian herself survived but within a year, three quarters of the population of the city was dead. It persisted for three years. The city itself came to a standstill. There were no workers to repair roads or shepherd the sheep. The wool trade ceased. Slowly, slowly life came back to the city.

Continue reading Julian of Norwich ~ Mystic, Theologian and Anchoress « The Freelance History Writer.

All in all a fascinating woman, an interesting story, a wonderful book, and what seems to us as a romantic time as well.

Westward look, the land is bright?

This is a post of Jessica’s first published on 31 December 2013. It was sort of a retrospective of what has gone wrong in our countries. She also makes the point, with which I strongly agree, that we need to be choosing by the person, not by the party label. In this election, most of the people I would vote for are Republicans but, I look for the character, not the label. Neo


 

4021828787As we come to the end of 2013, conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic could be forgiven for not wishing each other a happy New Year. On my blog, my co-author, Chalcedon has penned a philippic [I am sorry, very sorry in fact, but it is no longer available because that blog is now private.] about the shortcomings of conservative politicians which amounts to saying they aren’t worth voting for.

I’m not a politician or an analyst, but I am instinctively conservative on social norms, at least by modern standards. My instincts are those of a Christian: I loathe abortion; I am not a fan of contraception (although see where it can be useful); I dislike the ways in which easy divorce is leading to generations of children without fathers; and I am in favour of the traditional family and see it as the bed rock of social unity. So I tend to vote for any politician who also seems to favour these things. Were I fortunate enough to be an American, I should have noted Republican last time; and I would have done so without great enthusiasm, as I know many of you did. I would have been downcast at President Obama’s victory, as I would have been at the disorganised nature of the Republican opposition to him.

Over here we have a Coalition Government in which the Conservatives have a large majority of seats, but which is hell-bent on pushing through an act to legalise gay marriage. It is content to allow Courts to rule that Christians have no protection against being made to work on a Sunday, or to abstain from having to perform civil partnerships in Registry Offices.  I am sure it differs in some significant way from the other parties, but perhaps it needs to enlighten me as to how.

But perhaps we need to remember that, at least for the Christians amongst us, politics are not the most important thing. Jesus and the Apostles were not, whatever some of our church leaders think, involved in social activism and political reform. For us, nothing is more important that witnessing to the Gospel message of love and repentance. Jesus knew what our politicians of all types don’t  – that the only change that actually effects the world’s problems is a change of heart.  Real change, unlike President Obama’s mantra, only comes from a supernatural rebirth of the corrupted human heart. From that personal transformation comes other tranformations – of the family, the community and the nation. America’s Founding Fathers understood that – ‘One Nation – under God’.

So, call me Pollyanna, and I’ll put my blue dress on and put my hair in plaits, but I cannot get myself worked up about conservatism and its plight. The politicos will continue to play their games, and what we really need are more like dear Rebecca Hamilton. If I lived in her District, I’d be voting Democrat, because of her, not because of anything that party does. And perhaps that is where the real fight back begins? Not with labels, but with people. Get the right people willing to do what Rebecca does, and we can say, as Churchill (http://youtu.be/mdImjJzAAIs) did:

 

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

 

And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
ln front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look, the land is bright.


 

But you know, this week we again get to choose who represents us in Washington. I like you, am often disappointed with the quality of the candidates. While I’ve written little about it this year, I have been paying attention, and I will vote for those I think best. I ask you to as well.

This ad, I think lays it out almost perfectly.

And so the main thing to remember is this:

If we don’t demand the best, we will get the rest.

Neo

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