Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Musings on malfunctions

Unfortunately, all of the videos we recorded during November have been lost.  I have a Kodak camera, which is terrific.  However, the Kodak computer program for uploading no longer recognizes the videos on said camera.  After thinking they uploaded I received the message, "Do you want to erase all photos on your camera?" and I did.  Darn.  No way to retrieve them.  I'll be working on this problem ASAP.  My apologies to all!   Mag

Friday, November 16, 2012

December Advent Musings 2012

Our liturgical year will begin anew on December 2, the first Sunday of Advent.  With the change of year we will experience lots of changes in our worship.  Our Scripture readings for the Eucharist will follow Year C and for those who follow the daily lectionary for Morning and Evening Prayer, we will be in Year 1 (Charts for both sets of readings are at the back of our Book of Common Prayer.)  The readings and our hymnody will reflect our custom of anticipating Christ’s return to us at the end of time.  The term “advent” means “coming”, which we tend to assume means the coming of Christmas.  But the intent of Advent is to awaken our desire for the Risen One to come again, to bring everlasting justice and peace. 

Of course, as we center ourselves on our desire for a parousia (the Greek word for the second coming of Christ) we cannot escape the momentum of the days preceding Christmas.  We overlap our need for all things to be made well with our anticipation of the birth of Christ.  Again, as we get closer to Christmas Day, our readings and hymns will reflect the stories of our ancestors’ cries for a Prince of Peace to come and rule over them with justice and equity; a time when the Lord God “will swallow up death forever and will wipe away the tears from all faces.” (Isa 25: 8a)

Each Advent we acknowledge our shaky understanding of time and eternity.  We echo the cries of the ancients while we yearn for an end to humanity’s sufferings.  Mary sings out, in words reminiscent of Hannah’s Song in the first book of Samuel: “God has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.” (Luke 1:51-52)  All of Mary’s praise for God’s miraculous mercy foreshadows our desires for Christ to come again.

O come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.  Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” (9th century)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Magdalene's Musings for November 2012

Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name...

These words from our Eucharistic Prayer invite all of the saints who have gone before us to join with us in our celebration of the Eucharist.  As I read the New Testament, I understand these words to mean all who have followed Jesus on “the Way.”  That includes all of us, now, and all of our Christian ancestors, all the great and famous personalities of Christianity.  We are all the saints of God, and we stand in good company.

Paul begins his famous letter to the Phillipians, “ all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”  As far as Paul is concerned, if you are “in Christ Jesus”, if you have been baptized and marked as “Christ’s own forever”, then you are a saint. 

It is true that our Episcopal tradition recognizes some of the faithful departed as “extraordinary servants of God and of God’s people for the sake, and after the example, of their Savior Jesus Christ.” (From “Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating  the Saints.”)  In1964 the General Convention of the Episcopal Church approved the inclusion of over a hundred saints days with collects and readings from scripture for inclusion in our worship.  Today we have hundreds more.

It was not until I joined the Order of St Helena, in 2001, that I began to honor the saints who had gone before me with prayer, hymns, and homilies.  It was  learning to preach in this setting that gave me a new vocabulary and provided me with fantastic stories of some very unusual people to follow as role models.  I didn’t care if they were “approved” by our church or not. 

I read about St Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa of Avila, Anthony the Great, and of course, all of Jesus’ apostles, including the Apostle to the Apostles, Mary Magdalene.  What depth of character and heart-rending stories accompany these diverse people!  Even the word to describe the stories, hagiographies, fascinated me.

This All Saints Day we will combine the services for All Souls Day into our liturgy so that we won’t leave anyone out.  We want to remember the heroic along with the  ordinary.  Our prayers will unite us with the “great company of heaven”, where our  ancestors hold hands with the saints of old.  They stand with the angels as they pray us along our own pilgrimage of sainthood in the making.

Magdaglene's Musings for October 2012

My first view of Zion’s sanctuary was through the little door behind the chancel.  It was during my visit with the vestry and search committee on January 31 of this year.  I instinctively went to the altar and gazed at the alcove behind. As the lights slowly warmed up, the image of Christ Enthroned, sparkling in thousands of golden mosaic pieces, materialized before my eyes.  It mesmerized me and took me back to my visits to the Holy Land and Turkey.  Some of the mosaics I saw there were dated from as early as the Sixth Century, expressing the faith of a people now long gone and the artistry of an anonymous iconographer.   

I am a newcomer to Zion, building my own memories and impressions from the stories you all share with me and the histories I piece together.  This icon, in Zion’s apse, represents the Byzantine figure of Christ enthroned in glory.  Although faded by the dirt and soot of incense and age, Christ has the expression of wise omnipotence and piercing compassion.  This is the same image that has centered me in prayer for over ten years now.

Zion Church is only one of New York’s hundreds of aging and antiquated Episcopal structures, sapping the resources of congregations struggling with low membership and reduced income.  A significant portion of the funds raised over Zion’s lifetime have gone to the repairs, upkeep and remodeling of Zion’s worship space and buildings.  It is easy to diminish the value of our worship space in the face of financial hardship.

Zion’s history is embedded in its holy space.  It stands as an invitation to the community to come and rest for a moment in this liminal place between heaven and earth.  The space, adornments and structure create a numinous territory where God invites us to be still and know that God abides - in this space, in our history, and in our hearts.  Our Church home is alive in its heritage and full of hope for its future.