There must justice for all or there is justice for no one.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


It may be my iconoclastic, eternally questioning little soul but it’s been years since I bought into the “gentle Mary, the meek and mild” interpretation of Jesus’ mother. I guess this is my not very traditional take on the advent season.

A few years ago I found myself asking “what if Mary had said no?” In theory she could have. We do have free will within our relationship with God. I assume she was a well brought up, faithful Jewish girl. She’d probably been to the synagogue; was familiar with the Law and the commandments. She was betrothed; she was as good a married. Customarily it was all over except for the blessing as soon as the marriage contract was signed and here was an angel announcing that if she said yes Someone Else was going to be the Father of her first born. Even if all this was God’s idea, if Mary said yes she was technically committing adultery. If you look at it one way God was breaking His own commandment.

Her first thoughts just may have been “Joseph is not going to believe this” followed by “and neither will anyone else.” Then I can see her straighten up, lift her head and step right off the path of the known of the Law and into the unknown of the Promise.

This was no empty vessel. When God said “walk with me” she reached out and took His hand. Then they both reached out to Joseph and said “trust, it will work out.” Then to add a little extra adventure to the story and get mom to Bethlehem where the prophecy was to be fulfilled the Romans decided that this year would be a really good time for a census. And to accomplish this exercise in imperial bookkeeping for tax purposes everybody had to be counted SOMEPLACE ELSE. Imagine nearing your due date and traveling from Galilee to Bethlehem either one….step….at…..a……time, or perched on the back of a donkey. Makes me sea sick just imagining it and I’m not nine months pregnant.

Then because everyone else in Judea had to be someplace else at the same time as everybody else in Judea, she found herself giving birth in less than shall we say desirable conditions. In a stable for crying out loud. At least it wasn’t by the side of the road. I guess you have to count your blessings. Many Mediterranean buildings do have the living quarters over the barn; even if the stable was in the ground floor of the inn, it was still a stable. Most western mothers to be would probably faint at the idea. The heck with the Father, I’d want my mother, now.

So Mary’s managed to give birth to her promised first born. The family has been counted, the baby has probably had his bris and they learn that life just keeps getting better and better. Somehow the new parents discover that Herod the Great AKA Herod the Paranoid and Extremely Ruthless believes that while prophecies of promised Messiahs are all very well in theory, he prefers theory to fulfillment. It would be better to return home, eventually, by another road. Via Egypt. Joseph’s house and workshop probably weren’t all that much, but it was home. I mean, here we are stuck in a stable and now we’re homeless and on the run. Just keep repeating “we did say yes, we did say yes…..”

Traveling overland through country that’s just this side of being a desert on donkey back toting a newborn? If that isn’t trusting in the promise I don’t know what is. I can only imagine what was running through their minds every step of the way; “we did say yes, we did say yes, we did say yes…………”

Cross posted in Women On.


It's finally sinking in. I have to stop seeking and start listening. What I've been endlessly running to find has always been there if I'd just had the good sense to stop and listen.

Friday, November 27, 2009


A funny thing happend on my way out the church door. I found that hallway wasn't a straight line and I seem to have spiraled right back into the sanctuary. And , like William Wilberforce sitting on the wet grass in Amazing Grace contemplating spider webs, I'm trying to figure out if I found God or if God found me. And, like Mr. Wilberforce, I find the whole situation.......inconvenient for the lack of a better word. I keep telling God to go away and like the relative who knows that home is the one place where they have to let you in.......God keeps saying "let me in" and the knocking on the door is getting louder.

So, here I am..... again. With Thomas Merton at my elbow, Carmichael's Carmina Gadelica teetering on top of the book pile, a volume of advent readings that pairs Bonhoffer and Dorothy Day among others, a reading list that keeps getting longer, taller........and there do seem to be some appalling gaps in my education. One philosophy book in my library goes straight from Plato to Francis Bacon. That's over a thousand year gap. Roman writers get barely a nod and the church fathers early and late get no mention at all.

We're talking a thousand years of cutural amnesia here. Thanks to the Viking raids there are more Irish manuscripts in Europe than there are in Ireland. The Irish planted monastaries from Iona, Lindesfarne and Skellig Michael to Bobbio in Italy. Bobbio just happens to be north of Assissi and Saint Francis wasn't the first holy man to have and audience with fur and feathers in place of wool and linen. And he wasn't the last. So maybe I can have my cake of Celtic Spiritualy with the icing after all.

Excuse me, I guess I'd better go answer the door. Maybe my visitor can explain how three sister goddesses all named Brigid ended up as an Irish saint with a talent for giving away darn near anything to anyone who asked.


It might be a good thing to open our eyes and see.

It is essential to experience all the times and moods of one good place. It is God’s love that warms me in the sun and God’s love that sends the cold rain. It is God’s love that feeds me in the bread I eat and God’s love that feeds me in hunger and fasting…It is God who breathes on me with light winds off the river and in the breezes out of the woods.

As we go about the world everything we meet and everything we see and hear and touch…plants in us…something of heaven.

It is good and praiseworthy to look at some real created thing and feel and appreciate its reality. Just let the reality of what is real sink into you…for through real things we can reach Him who is infinitely real.

A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying Him…The more a tree is like itself the more it is like Him. This particular tree will give glory to God by spreading out its roots in the earth and raising its branches into the air and the light in a way that no other tree before it or after it ever did or will do.

There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fount of action and joy. It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being, welcoming me tenderly, saluting me with indescribable humility.

If I am supposed to hoe a garden or make a table, then I will be obeying God if I am true to the task I am performing. To do the work carefully and well, with love and respect for the nature of my task and with due attention to its purpose, is to unite myself in God’s work. In this way I become his instrument. He works through me.

The sun on the grass was beautiful. Even the ground seemed alive.

By Thomas Merton.

Of course if a tree can give glory to the uniqueness of its creation by simply being a tree it follows that when we use that tree for our use we will use the wood carefully and with some respect. That’s what we should do. Whether our respect for the uniqueness of creation will survive our desire to possess that uniqueness is another story. As if having flooring or a piece of furniture made of wood from a rare and hard to find tree will make us rare and unique as well. That is another story, isn’t it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Advent it coming on in a couple of weeks; I discovered this lying around. I printed off a shorter version a few years ago.

While John Paul II was enduring his last illness, there were a great many posts about his beliefs (or perceived beliefs). John Paul did have a special devotion to Mary; something he shared with his fellow Poles. There were a great many posts in J land or the message boards arguing back and forth whether Mary was actually Jesus's mother-in the physical sense.

The sense of a lot of the posts made Mary at best a surrogate mother and at worst, an incubator. This has been percolating since then, so here goes.
Many of my fellow J landers are parents. I don't have kids, but I have five nephews, I've changed a lot of diapers over the years. Actually getting the child into the world is just the beginning.

I suspect that many of the posters didn't really think through what they were saying. Think of all the foster parents, friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents, step-parents, and adoptive parents. They become parents for reasons that transcend physical birth. Other family members die leaving small children behind. They adopt a child someone else can’t raise. The man I called grandpa promised his best friend that he’d look after his family. And he did it very well, thank you very much.

When a child comes into the world it’s just the beginning. Imagine God as a totally helpless baby. It has to be fed, changed, and bathed. Parents walk miles when that little one has the colic or starts cutting teeth. I suspect that little ones came down with colds and needed their noses wiped as often two thousand years ago as they do now.

When a toddler discovers what those little hands and feet are for, it has to be watched over to make sure that curiosity doesn’t lead those little hands and feet into danger. It had to be almost impossible to baby proof a house with an open hearth, bake oven, looms and carpentry tools. Someone's hands have to be there for those little hands to hang onto when the baby learns to walk. Someone’s voice helps the baby to learn to talk. The parents have to be there to teach the baby to love and be loved. That little boy, all little boys need loving parents to teach them how to love and how to be a man.

God couldn't be there to do these things for that baby. So he sent Mary and Joseph. They were His mother and father in every way that counts.
Imagine things from the Creators' point of view. Think about God watching someone else cuddle that baby. Watch someone else hold out their hands for those first faltering steps. Watch someone else encourage those first lisping sounds. Someone else offer comfort in the dark hours of the night when the child was sick. Watch someone else offer comfort when knees get skinned. Listen while that child calls someone else mother or father.
It's hard to imagine God as sacrificing, but I can't imagine a greater sacrifice than allowing someone else to raise your child.

Cross posted in Walking With Hope.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Several years ago I was sifting through the religion section of the local used book store and came across a couple of "offices" (prayer manuals) from a small religious community in Northumbria in England. They are a loosely affiliated group that emphasizes the Celtic strain of Christian practice. Perhaps we need to be reminded to slow down sometimes.

This is the profession of faith from the set of prayers for the evening.

Lord, You have always given
Bread for the coming day,
And though I am poor,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
Strength for the coming day,
And though I am weak,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
Peace for the coming day.
And though of anxious heart,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always kept
Me safe in trials,
And now, tried as I am,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always marked
The road for the coming day,
And though it may be hidden,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always lightened
This darkness of mine,
And though the night is here,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always spoken
When time was ripe,
And though You be silent now,
Today I believe.

Yes, it's only wise to plan for tomorrow and the day after and the day after that. But, we should remember that the past is behind us. There is no promise of the future. All we can really count on is today.

So, good luck for the morrow. May you get through the day in peace and be blessed with a little joy.