Saturday, October 31, 2009
The Vigil of All Saints, also known as All Hallows Eve or Hallowe'en, has been celebrated since 835 A.D. when All Saints Day was moved to its present date, November 1. All Saints' Day is the celebration of all who have walked the pilgrim pathway on the straight path, entering by the narrow gate. We can admire these saints and emulate their lives as we, too, journey this pilgrim pathway trod hard and fast by the footsteps of those who have traveled it before us.
However, Hallowe'en, the Vigil of All Saints, has been transformed from a night of fun and "well-mannered frivolity" to an evening that is dark, even dangerous. In my childhood, I remember Hallowe'en being a night of fun and neighborliness, and in our small mountain village, it remains so with several families providing small parties in their front yard for the parents to sit down and chat while the kids visit the houses on the street. After TRick-or-Treating, it's a wonderful night to curl up with the kids, a bowl of popcorn in our laps and a "scary" movie on TV, watching Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi. But Hallowe'en seems to have been co-opted by older teens and adults, and a distinctly sinister tone exists that didn't when I was a child (or perhaps I was merely oblivious to it).
As AmericanCatholic.org states:
While this autumn feast can be used for evil purposes, our culture celebrates it as an innocent night of begging and fun. We who believe in the light of the world can use it to celebrate the Light. "Hallow" means holy and the word Halloween refers to the night before the feast of all holies, or All Saints Day. Emphasize all things good, joyful and pure. Let your children know that they are "children of the light" called to walk in the light.
Remember, though, that All Hallows Eve is a distinctly Christian feast, and Fr. Bosco Peters posted the actual Hallowe'en liturgy on his website Liturgy New Zealand which I reproduce for our use below:
All Saints' Vigil (Halloween)
Liturgical Colour: White
The church is dark, or partially so, when the service is to begin. The Easter/paschal candle is alight, or brought into the darkness.
The people are greeted.
Alleluia! Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Let us pray.
one of the following or another appropriate prayer may be used
God of glory,
as daylight fades,
we give you thanks for surrounding us with the brightness of the evening light;
as you enfold us with the radiance of this light, so shine into our hearts the brightness of your Holy Spirit; through Jesus Christ the light of the world. Amen.
Grant us, compassionate God, the lamp of love which never fails, that it
may burn in us and shed its light on those around us, and
that by its brightness we may have a vision of that holy City,
where the true and never-failing Light lives:
Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.
God of the universe,
you are the source of life and light:
dispel the darkness of our hearts,
that by your brightness we may know you to be
the true God and the eternal light,
loving and living
now and for ever. Amen.
Be our light in the darkness, God we pray,
and in your great mercy
defend us from all perils and dangers of this night;
for the love of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Eternal God, who led your ancient people into freedom by a
pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night: Grant that
we who walk in the light of your presence may rejoice in the
liberty of the children of God; through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
The candles are now lit. The lights are turned on. During this an anthem, psalm, or Phos hilaron (Hail Gladdening Light) or another hymn may be sung, or silence may be kept.
Any of the following may follow: Evening Prayer, Night Prayer, readings, a sermon, baptism, the eucharist. A Renewal of Baptism may be used at an appropriate point.
A Renewal of Baptism
I invite you (to stand) to affirm your commitment to Christ and your rejection of all that is evil.
Do you believe in God the Father?
I believe in God the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Those who are baptised are called to worship and serve God. From the beginning, believers have continued in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers.
Will you commit yourself to this life?
I will, with God's help.
Will you forgive others as you are forgiven?
I will, with God's help.
Will you seek to love your neighbour as yourself, and strive for peace and justice?
I will, with God's help.
Will you accept the cost of following Jesus Christ in your daily life and work?
I will, with God's help.
With the whole Church will you proclaim by word and action the Good News of God in Christ?
I will, with God's help. (NZPB p. 390)
If water is to be used, the following thanksgiving for water is said. The water may be in the font or in a special vessel.
The section between brackets may be omitted.
Let us give thanks to God.
It is right to offer thanks and praise.
We thank you God for your love in all creation,
especially for your gift of water
to sustain, refresh and cleanse all life.
[We thank you for your covenant
with your people Israel;
through the Red Sea waters
you led them to freedom in the promised land.
In the waters of the Jordan
your Son was baptised by John
and anointed with the Holy Spirit.
Through the deep waters of death
Jesus fulfilled his baptism.
He died to set us free
and was raised to be exalted Lord of all.]
We thank you that through the waters of baptism
you cleanse us,
renew us by your Spirit
and raise us to new life.
In the new covenant
we are made members of your Church
and share in your eternal kingdom.
We pray that all who have passed through the waters of baptism
may continue for ever in the risen life of Christ.
Through Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all praise and thanks be yours, Redeemer God,
now and for ever. Amen. (cf. NZPB pages 385-386)
The congregation may be sprinkled.
The renewal of baptism is concluded with the following prayer.
God our creator,
the rock of our salvation,
we thank you for our new birth
by water and the Holy Spirit,
for the forgiveness of our sins,
and for our fellowship in the household of faith
with all those who have been baptised in your name;
keep us faithful to the calling of our baptism,
now and for ever. Amen.
A Blessed All-Hallows Eve to you and yours, my blogging friends.
In God's Holy keeping,
Anyway, back to Lectio. Lectio Divina (Latin for "divine reading") is simply an ancient way to read and meditate on Scripture. Based on third century practice and honed through the centuries, Lectio is a tried-and-true method for owning God's Word, hiding it in our heart, and applying it to our lives.
Father Bosco Peters, an Anglican priest in New Zealand, has an incredible Web site and blog, Liturgy, and this week he posted a short video by a New York priest who explains Lectio Divina in a somewhat humorous but very easy-to-understand way. This link will take you to Fr. Bosco's site where you may watch this five-minute video: Lectio Divina.
One of my favorite sites about the practice of Lectio can also be seen here: Accepting the Embrace of God: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina. Obviously, entire books have been written about Lectio, especially with its popularity rising among Catholics and Protestants alike. Lectio formed the heart of the retreat I led for the women of Lake Murray Community Church five years ago, and, in a way, it also became the heart of The Pilgrim Pathway, my NaNoWriMo novel I hope to finish (rough draft form only) by the end of November.
The beauty of Lectio is that it forces us to slow down. In our busy, tyranny-of-the-urgent lifestyle, slowing down is a grace. A gift. And Lectio makes us do just that. We can't use Lectio without coming to a screeching halt and stopping to savor God's Word, ingesting it, and letting it fill us up. It creates its own energy as we digest more and more of God's Holy Word -- as we Eat This Book, as Eugene Peterson admonishes us in his book of the same title.
Try Lectio Divina. As with any method, as with any art, it will take time to develop the skill of Lectio, but I encourage you to persevere. To slow down and savor the Word of the Lord for which the Anglicans thank God each time they read it aloud in service: a wonderful and helpful practice, in my not-so-humble opinion. There is so much that is good and right, that points us directly to Jesus, in liturgical worship and methods, and Lectio Divina is only one, albeit a fundamental one, as it teaches us to slow down and prayerfully meditate and chew on the Holy Word of our Holy God.
Friday, October 30, 2009
My new writing on Sunday (November 1st and therefore the first day of NaNoWriMo) will pick up at the beginning of Chapter Thirteen and go onward. My character has been spinning her wheels for the last eleven months when I left her stranded between two very different modes of worship, her world slowly rolling upside-down, and she doesn't like change in the least. I wouldn't be suprised to find out that she's spent the 11 months since NaNoWriMo 2008 with her head under her pillow -- both literally and figuratively.
Yes, my character has a lot of ME in her, but she also has the qualities of some other women I know. She is stubborn, reluctant to change, intelligent, set in her ways, opinionated, yet she is gentle, creative, kind, shy. Her journey along The Pilgrim Pathway (yes, that's my tentative title, a definite change from the title I used a year ago, A Scholarly Life) will change her dramatically in some ways yet will leave her virtually unchanged in others.
I need to add conflict. I think that I have portrayed her inner conflicts fairly well, but I need to add more conflict -- conflict between people. As a person who runs from conflict myself, it will be interesting to see how Rebecca handles interpersonal conflict as well, especially since she flees from it even more often and more speedily than I do (if that is even possible). But as we writers know, conflict is what keeps a novel going -- that magical, dramatic tension. And I am not sure that I am going to completely resolve Rebecca's inner conflicts by the end of the book so much as push them forward and pull others back in some intriguing ways.
When I wrote about Rebecca Phillips last year, I kind of followed her around blindly, jotting down what I watched her doing. For a novel that I planned so very little (not at all, to be precise), it kept moving forward with a definite motion that seemed to be working. I pray that God will give me that same insight, that same perseverance, that same attention to detail, that same leading onward of a story that is partially mine but mostly hers. Once I finish with this year's NaNoWriMo, I sincerely hope that I will have a complete first draft. I know that much will have to be moved about, restructured, revised, and rewritten, but if I at least have a couple of hundred pages to work with, I think I might be able to make something out of it.
One of my Intermediate Writing students brought up NaNoWriMo in class yesterday plus another student seem really, really interested in doing it as well. I hope that both of them decide to go forward with it -- the numbers today according to NaNoWriMo on Twitter is over 35,000 13-18 year olds and over 100,000 adults around the world who are signed up and ready to start writing their novels. That's cool.
I need to e-mail our writing group here in Pine Valley and remind them of the challenge. I gave them the information and website earlier this month at our monthly meeting, but a reminder would not be amiss, I think. I would love to have a couple of "Write-Ins" at the town library or at the local coffee place or even in the diner. So I'll send out e-mails and post to the blog for our Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council Writers' Workshop.
So tonight and tomorrow I plan to complete The Arrow and The Boomerang for Julie at Brave Writer so she can post them before midnight tomorrow. And I plan to read through what I wrote for last year's NaNoWriMo so I can pick up the story where I left off, ready to write about this middle-aged woman's journey on The Pilgrim Pathway.
Good luck and best blessings to all NaNoWriMo participants this year: Write bravely. Write well. And write 50,000 words, no matter how utterly crappy they seem to you at any stage in the process ... 'cuz' it's gonna happen. Trust me.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Michael Spencer, aka The InternetMonk, just posted on Silence in evangelical liturgy, a great follow-up to my post on silence below. You may read it here: Evangelical Liturgy: Silence.
I wrote in Michael's comments about silence in our church services at Lake Murray Community Church. As much as I enjoy worshiping at Lake Murray, the lack of silence is difficult at times. During weekly Communion when I crave silence most, praise music is played while people get up to take the elements back to their seats so that we can partake together, led by one of our pastors. On occasion, Pastor Stephen allows a time of silent prayer, but he usually spends most of time directing us what to pray for so that we get 15-30 seconds of actual prayer time.
It's rather like evangelicals don't know what to do with silence; on the other hand, silence is an integral component of Anglican worship, especially at the Friday morning services with Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity in Victoria Chapel. In these services we have no music, just prayer, Scripture, Communion, and a short meditation in place of a sermon. My preference is for Communion to be the centerpiece of a worship service, as it is in Anglican worship, rather than having the sermon be central as the quality of the pastor's preaching is the determining factor in the quality of the service. I value the silence as the elements are prepared and again as they are tidied after Communion -- time to pray, time to meditate on Scripture or on the short homily.
Silence is golden. Especially in a worship service.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Since reading Kathleen Norris' excellent book The Cloister Walk, I have longed to spend several days (preferably a week) in a monastery or an abbey. Why?
I crave silence.
When I lead Lake Murray Community Church's women's retreat several years ago, my main sources for my talks on spending a whole day with God were Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline and Intimacy with the Almighty by Charles Swindoll. The latter book is a small, slender volume that I received at a silent retreat at Oceanside's Mission San Luis Rey with College Avenue Baptist Church, a birthday gift from my dear friend Johanna. The day was lovely, and the mission's retreat grounds are gorgeous, spotted with beds of roses, the surrounding hills a green not often seen in Southern California excepting a few weeks in spring. I sat under the drooping branches of an ancient pepper tree, writing in my journal to God and enjoying the sunshine warming my back. We were directed to spend several hours in the morning and even more time in the afternoon in silence, listening to God and basking in His Presence. And it was this kind of retreat I sought to provide for our Lake Murray women as well.
Swindoll's book focuses on four words: simplicity, silence, solitude, and surrender. Swindoll writes,
"Yet, I am more convinced than ever that there is no way you and I can move toward a deeper, intimate relationship with our God without protracted times of stillness, which includes one of the rarest of all experiences: absolute silence" (35).He later adds,
"Silence is indispensible if we hope to add depth to our spiritual life.... It sharpens the keen edge of our souls, sensitizing us to those ever-so-slight nudgings from our heavenly Father. Noise and words and frenzied, hectic schedules dull our senses, closing our ears to His still, small voice and making us numb to His touch" (37-38).Silence is not just a luxury; it is a necessity in our spiritual lives.
And I crave it. This fall has been one of the busiest times in my life, with a new six-week Brave Writer MLA research class I designed, wrote, taught, and for which I still need to grade the final papers. In addition, I'm also writing both monthly subscriptions at Brave Writer: The Arrow (5th-8th grades)and The Boomerang (7th-9th grades) which involves quite a bit of time and some rather hairy deadlines at each month's end. In addition, I am designing, writing, and teaching a new course at our co-op Class Days: a 4th-6th grade poetry class that meets 18 times (every other week) through June, plus I still teach my usual high school writing course which involves much grading of essays. Fortunately, I am tutoring only one student right now rather than the three I had last year. And, of course, I am home schooling our four young people in grades 4, 7, 9, and 12. It's been crazy-busy, and right now, more than ever before, I crave silence and solitude, time to rest mind and body and to spend time seeking and dwelling in God's Presence.
I imagine myself writing in my journal, feeling the sun on my face as I sit in a lovely garden, praying throughout my day, sitting at His feet in a chapel. I see myself having time to concentrate on writing, to pray His Word through the Book of Common Prayer, to live the Divine Hours each day as an extension of my own personal prayer and meditation.
Especially as both an introvert and a writer, I probably need silence, crave silence, more than most people do. Yet it simply is not that time of life for me. This is the final year that all four of our children will be home for school as Elizabeth prepares college applications and takes the SAT. I want to be with my kids, to drink in their presence, their noise, their jokes, their affectionate hugs and cuddles ... I love having teenagers who still want to cuddle with their mom.
In less than ten years, this house will be empty of children. No more home schooling. No more arguments to break up and judge. No more hushing them when they get too noisy inside. I will have more than enough silence then, and I'll probably look back to an ordinary, busy, noisy day like today with poignant longing.
So I pray for a short refueling break, a day or two or three to refuel my engines with His Presence and then return to the daily grind which may seem inordinately noisy and crazy, but will be wonderful.
And now it's time to study German vocabulary with my 4th grader....
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I missed last week's prompt due to being sick, plus nothing came to me. I mean nothing. Not even a smidgen of a glimmer of an idea. So with an ill body and a dizzy brain, I didn't ... couldn't ... attempt it.
But this week's Carry On Tuesday prompt brought an image to me immediately, and I wrote two drafts on Sunday. This is only a third draft, so I obviously have a way to go in revising, polishing, etc., but I like the idea. It's nothing terribly original; few of my ideas are. I don't have a hauntingly refreshing imagination like my blogging/poet friend Sarah or ideas bubbling into my brain every other minute like my blogging/novelist friend Katharine. But I liked the image, and I twined the words in and through and around it, tugging a little here and adjusting a little there. Let me know what you think.
Carry On Tuesday Prompt #24: From the 1998 film Aliens:
"We'd better get back, 'cause it'll be dark soon, and they mostly come at night ... mostly."
mostly at night
they mostly come at night ...
these dreams of her.
her pale face bending down to mine,
her dark hair brushing my cheek,
her icy hand caressing my face,
her cold lips pressing against mine
for the briefest of moments ...
then she's gone --
only her faint freesia scent,
sepia memories of a too-young love --
a too-young life.
then she was gone.
these dreams --
they mostly come at night ...
copyright 2009 Susanne Barrett
Yes, it's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The idea: write a 50,000-word novel in a single month. You "win" simply by attaining that magical 50,000 word count. I managed to reach that magical number last November with my first novel -- and first fictional work since college creative writing class. The Pilgrim Pathway was a lot of work but it was somehow enjoyable, inspiring work. I allowed left-brained, linear-thinking me freewrite the first half of a novel -- with no planning, no outlining, little forethought, and no research. Since I am the Research Queen, writing 50,000 words with no research and only one page of character notes is a minor miracle. And a major challenge.
So I am planning to write again next month ... next week, in fact. During the 2009 NaNoWriMo, I am hoping to complete The Pilgrim Pathway. I desperately need to make time to reread it though -- since I haven't read much beyond the first ten pages since last November 28 when I reached 50,000 words. I have deadlines galore for Class Day and Brave Writer this week, so I may find myself reading what I wrote last year on Sunday, the first day of the challenge. But I hope to "win" this year as well, even if what I write is complete and utter crapola. I'm clinging to Anne Lamott's wisdom in her wonderful writing book Bird by Bird in which she devotes an entire chapter to writing crappy (she uses a stronger word) first drafts. I'm just gonna push myself to write those 2000 words per day and not worry about quality; I'll edit later. It's a hard thing to force myself to do asI am quite the perfectionista, but I think the process is good for me as a writer, even if I never do anything with The Pilgrim Pathway.
So in the spirit of the 2009 NaNoWriMo challenge, I chose this quotation for the Quote of the Week:
"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."So I go forward, trying not to doubt my "outgoing guts" and "imagination to improvise," preparing myself mentally to start writing on November 1. Best of luck to all the rest of you NaNo-ites. (You know who you are.)
-- Sylvia Plath
Monday, October 26, 2009
So I'm posting a link to another excellent post by Jennifer at Conversion Diary. While the kids and I were sick last week, I regaled them with Jennifer's hilarious scorpion and Yaya stories, and they literally rolled on the floor, laughing uproariously. But Jennifer's serious side is wonderfully inspirational, and this post is among the best I've read at her site in the 18 months I've been following her.
She writes about Balance in Life ... something I desperately need and pray for, and something she finds (and I am finding) takes the "S" word: sacrifice. It's a hard word to take, and an even more diffcult one to put into practice, but I pray I can do so.
I let it go while being sick these past ten days, but I have my cell phone alarm programmed with church bells ringing at 12:30 for Midday Prayer and at 6:00 PM for Vespers. I do okay with Morning Prayer when I get up and Compline when I go to bed, but stopping in my tracks twice a day and hauling myself upstairs to pray hasn't been easy. But it's been good. Very good.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Okay, it's been a week now, and I'm still sick. Some of it is exhaustion, I'm sure, as I've been pushing my rather non-pushable body far past what it can handle. And some of it is just plain illness: dizziness, nausea, lack of appetite, runny nose, sore throat, cough, and just general unwellness. The three older kids have had it, too -- everyone but our youngest and Keith. So this week has been spent indoors, doing some home schooling, watching a lot of daytime television ... and far too many Jon & Kate Plus Eight reruns. And Say Yes to the Dress. And Criminal Minds. We've watched a few movies, too. Or more like rewatched a lot of movies. Twilight (which I also read this week in preparation for our Logos meeting on Sunday). Singing in the Rain. Mamma Mia!. I'm kind of in the mood for Dead Again, my favorite film-noir-wanna-be.
I also met a bunch of deadlines for my Brave Writer MLA course, including spending almost 18 hours reading and commenting on the students' rough drafts; their final drafts are due on Monday although today was technically the last day of the six-week class. This is my first six-week Brave Writer class since 2003, and it has thoroughly exhausted me, especially since I was writing the class posts as we went. The next time I teach this class it will be MUCH easier as the class posts will be already written for me, and I will only have to respond to the students' work. For running through this class for the first time, there were very few snags -- a lot fewer than I had anticipated. The only major change I'll definitely do is post the assignments on Fridays so that students can work over the weekends if they would like to, something I couldn't do this time because I was composing the posts on Saturdays and finishing them on Sundays over the entire six weeks.
This weekend I don't have to do anything with the MLA class except answer questions, but I do need to write up The Arrow and The Boomerang monthly subscriptions for Julie. Each subscription takes hours to write, and the first is more complicated than the latter. For ages 8-12, The Arrow this month will feature the book Pippi Longstocking while this month's The Boomerang for 7th through 9th grades will revolve around The Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I need to get these both to Julie by next Saturday at the latest -- together they will involve 10-12 hours of work.
Due to our illness, we missed Class Day, our twice-monthly co-op classes, something I have not done in years. The co-teacher, Mindy, covered the 4th-6th grade Poetry Class which I regretted as this week my favorite poet, e.e. cummings, was scheduled. An in-class prompt was given to my high school class, and they will turn in their papers this Thursday as we have three meetings this month to make up for having only one each in November and December.
I also had to miss our usual Friday Morning Prayer and Holy Communion with Father Acker at Victoria Chapel, plus J's weekly guitar lessons that usually follow the services. And I didn't drive down the hill to my weekly chiropractic appointment either; I only drove Elizabeth to work at the camp and picked her up. I even missed tonight's MECAC presentation of artist Moki Martin at the Community Clubhouse. Two of the boys walked over to the clubhouse to help set up chairs and such, but I'm still lightheaded enough that sitting up for dinner is difficult enough, much less showering, dressing, and sitting through an hour's presentation, no matter how wonderful.
So anyway, I hope to finish mending over the weekend and be back to normal ... or as close to "normal" as I get, very soon as we have quite a bit of school to make up next week.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
The first few times I handed poems to a poet-friend from church, I was a crying-jag mess. My oh-so-sensitive soul was devastated -- I was sure that everything I had asked my friend to review and thus everything I had written in my entire lifetime was utter crapola -- no exceptions. My friend, an accomplished poet who just completed her thesis for her MFA in Writing in Poetry, is an oh-so-senstive soul too, and she empathized and sympathized and gave me over-the-phone hugs 'n' love that slowly made me see that beneath all the crapola might be a glimmer of the salvageable. (She gave me much more than that, but I only saw glimmers myself.) She encouraged and challenged, pushed and prodded when each was needed -- with just the right mix of self-deprecating humor that made me smile through my tears. Reviewing her thesis this week was a joy -- she is truly a brilliant star.
So on Tuesday night when I read my poem "Again" to our monthly gathering of writers, Judith (a well-published poet, well-known far outside our local confines) asked me if I wanted "real" criticism, and I honestly did. I was able to take her ideas as well as the suggestions of others without a tear ... and even with a smile.
I've slowly learned to allow my little poem-children to creep out into the world, come back a little battered 'n' bruised with torn clothing and missing socks, and then after I patch them up, they venture out again with more confidence.
The original "Again" may be seen by clicking on the hyperlinked title in the next sentence. So here is my revised version of "Again."
Again.So what do you think? Judith said I should cut it down by 1/4 to 1/3, and my cut is over 40%. Perhaps I took out too much, condensed it too far and lost some emotional impact. Or perhaps that emotional "blow to the gut" is a bit stronger.
she shook her head,
negating the swirling images --
the insistent questions:
Still shaking her sickening head --
He had promised.
She dared not imagine
who this one was --
what she looked like --
where they had met --
for how long?
Her face raised to his,
in her eyes,
apology in his --
Copyright 2009 Susanne Barrett
I'd love input, especially from my poetry-writing and poetry-loving followers. Again....
Thursday, October 15, 2009
She was all of these things and more: she suffered from ill health and bodily pain through most of her life, a condition I relate to in my own physical challenges stemming from rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and the other diagnoses I have received.
I could write so much about Saint Teresa of Avila, but this daily e-mail Saint of the Day from AmericanCatholic.org is simply and beautifully written:
Saint Teresa of Avila
Teresa lived in an age of exploration as well as political, social and religious upheaval. It was the 16th century, a time of turmoil and reform. Her life began with the culmination of the Protestant Reformation, and ended shortly after the Council of Trent.
The gift of God to Teresa in and through which she became holy and left
her mark on the Church and the world is threefold: She was a woman; she was a
contemplative; she was an active reformer.
As a woman, Teresa stood on her own two feet, even in the man's world of her time. She was "her own woman," entering the Carmelites despite strong opposition from her father. She is a person wrapped not so much in silence as in mystery. Beautiful, talented, outgoing, adaptable, affectionate, courageous, enthusiastic, she was totally human. Like Jesus, she was a mystery of paradoxes: wise, yet practical; intelligent, yet much in tune with her experience; a mystic, yet an energetic reformer. A holy woman, a womanly woman.
Teresa was a woman "for God," a woman of prayer, discipline and compassion. Her heart belonged to God. Her own conversion was no overnight affair; it was an arduous lifelong struggle, involving ongoing purification and suffering. She was misunderstood, misjudged, opposed in her efforts at reform. Yet she struggled on, courageous and faithful; she struggled with her own mediocrity, her illness, her opposition. And in the midst of all this she clung to God in life and in prayer. Her writings on prayer and contemplation are drawn from her experience: powerful, practical and graceful. A woman of prayer; a woman for God.
Teresa was a woman "for others." Though a contemplative, she spent much of her time and energy seeking to reform herself and the Carmelites, to lead them back to the full observance of the primitive Rule. She founded over a half-dozen new monasteries. She traveled, wrote, fought—always to renew, to reform. In her self, in her prayer,in her life, in her efforts to reform, in all the people she touched, she was a woman for others, a woman who inspired and gave life.
In 1970 the Church gave her the title she had long held in the popular mind: Doctor of the Church. She and St. Catherine of Siena were the first women so honored.
Today we live in a time of turmoil, a time of reform and a time of liberation. Modern women have in Teresa a challenging example. Promoters of renewal, promoters of prayer, all have in Teresa a woman to reckon with, one whom they can admire and imitate.
Teresa knew well the continued presence and value of suffering (physical illness, opposition to reform, difficulties in prayer), but she grew to be able to embrace suffering, even desire it: "Lord, either to suffer or to die." Toward the end of her life she exclaimed: "Oh, my Lord! How true it is that whoever works for you is paid in troubles! And what a precious price to those who love you if we understand its value."
May we all understand the value of suffering, as much as our souls cringe away from pain of any sort. I have always felt an affinity toward Saint Teresa in that she also received the gift of illness, of bodily weakness, of physical pain, and I look to women life her who have suffered as I do for comfort, for inspiration. In the bodily pain I suffer daily, I am slowly accepting the gift for what it is and am starting the process of offering it back to Christ, one ache, one shoot, one twinge, at a time.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
"Icons are a window to heaven," teaches Frederica Mathewes-Green, one of my favorite Christian writers. A former Anglican priest turned Eastern Orthodox, Frederica writes about her conversion and experience in the Orthodox Church. I first met her years ago at Point Loma Nazarene University's Writers Symposium by the Sea when she gave a wonderful talk about worship through icons, my first real introduction to these sometimes odd-looking pictures that somehow hold me spellbound. Their painted eyes speak to me, beckoning me into their world of otherliness and mystery.
I now own two: The Tree of Life (including the twelve disciples) and Resurrection of Christ. They hang on the wall above my bed table which serves as my prayer corner. They bring me into worship, these windows to heaven. I kneel before them, in no way worshiping wood and paint and human talent, but bowing before Jesus Christ. These icons help me to recall His gentle and not-so gentle) teaching of The Twelve and the power of His glorious Resurrection. I fall to my knees in awe of Him who is Creator, King, Savior -- and pray to Him who gave Himself for me, for us.
But many Christians, evangelicals especially, look somewhat (or very much) askance at the use of icons in worship. I did, too, at first, but learning about icons from Frederica and reading her subsequent book on icons shifted my thinking.
As a child, I remember the Russian icon room at the Timken Gallery, next to the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park. As an adult, I still return to that room in awe, marveling at the ancient Byzantine art that reaches out to me, inviting me to worship even in a crowded art museum. First in strollers, then held tightly by the hand, my kids have often walked the room with me under the careful, ramrod-straight, watchful eyes of the elderly guards -- as if they expected my children to run off at any moment to touch the artwork -- sacrilege! But these childhood memories remain in the back of my mind and the center of my heart, tugging on me.
I found a great source on icons from "Icons and Their History" from Saint Ignatius of Antioch Orthodox Christian Church:
Holy Icons -- Theology in Color
One of the first things that strikes a non-Orthodox visitor to an Orthodox church is the prominent place assigned to Holy Icons. The Iconostasis is covered with them, while others are placed in prominent places throughout the church building. The walls and ceiling are covered with iconic murals. The Orthodox faithful prostrate themselves before Icons, kiss them, and burn candles before them. The are censed by the clergy and carried in processions. Considering the obvious importance of the Holy Icons, then, questions may certainly be raised concerning them: What do these gestures and actions mean? What is the significance of Icons? Are they not idols or the like, prohibited by the Old Testament?
Icons have been used for prayer from the first centuries of Christianity. Sacred Tradition tells us, for example, of the existence of an Icon of the Savior during His lifetime (the "Icon-Made-Without-Hands") and of Icons of the Most Holy Theotokos immediately after Him. Sacred Tradition witnesses that the Orthodox Church had a clear understanding of the importance of Icons right from the beginning; and this understanding never changed, for it is derived from the teachings concerning the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity -- Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The use of Icons is grounded in the very essence of Christianity, since Christianity is the revelation by God-Man not only of the Word of God, but also of the Image of God; for, as St. John the Evangelist tells us, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14).
"No one has ever seen God; only the Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known" (John 1:18), the Evangelist proclaims. That is, He has revealed the Image or Icon of God. For being the brightness of [God's] glory, and the express image of [God's] person (Hebrews 1:3), the Word of God in the Incarnation revealed to the world, in His own Divinity, the Image of the Father. When St. Philip asks Jesus, Lord, show us the Father, He answered him: Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father (John 14:8-9).
Thus as the Son is in the bosom of the Father, likewise after the Incarnation He is constubstantial with the Father, according to His divinity being the Father's Image, equal in honor to Him. The truth expressed above, which is revealed in Christianity, thus forms the foundations of Christian pictorial art. The Image (or Icon) not only does not contradict the essence of Christianity, but is unfailingly connected with it; and this is the foundation of the tradition that from the very beginning the Good News was brought to the world by the Church both in word and image.
St. John of Damascus, an eighth century Father of the Church, who wrote at the height of the iconoclastic (anti-icon) controversies in the Church, explains, that because the Word of God became flesh (John 1:14), we are no longer in our infancy; we have grown up, we have been given by God the power of discrimination and we know what can be depicted and what is indescribable. Since the Second Person of the Holy Trinity appeared to us in the flesh, we can portray Him and reproduce for contemplation Him Who has condescended to be seen. We can confidently represent God the Invisible -- not as an invisible being, but as one Who has made Himself visible for our sake by sharing in our flesh and blood.
Holy Icons developed side by side with the Divine Services and, like the Services, expressed the teaching of the Church in conformity with the word of Holy Scripture. Following the teaching of the 7th Ecumenical Council, the Icon is seen not as simple art, but that there is a complete correspondence of the Icon to Holy Scripture, "for if the Icon is shown by Holy Scripture, Holy Scripture is made incontestably clear by the Icon" (Acts of the 7th Ecumenical Council, 6).
As the word of Holy Scripture is an image, so the image is also a word, for, according to St. Basil the Great (379 AD):
By depicting the divine, we are not making ourselves similar to idolaters; for it is not the material symbol that we are worshipping, but the Creator, Who became corporeal for our sake and assumed our body in order that through it He might save mankind. We also venerate the material objects through which our salvation is effected -- the blessed wood of the Cross, the Holy Gospel, Holy Relics of Saints, and, above all, the Most-Pure Body and Blood of Christ, which have grace-bestowing properties and Divine Power. Orthodox Christians do not venerate an Icon of Christ because of the nature of the wood or the paint, but rather we venerate the inanimate image of Christ with the intention of worshipping Christ Himself as God Incarnate through it.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
It's time for another Carry on Tuesday writing prompt. Prompt #22 was definitely a challenge:
"Life is a flower of which love is the honey." -- Victor Hugo.
I toyed with this idea for a while, but the quotation just seemed TOO sweet. Then I allowed my "too sweet" response to loop back to the idea of love. Can love be "too sweet"? Who would feel that way?
I pondered a little more and thought that perhaps the man might feel trapped in a "too sweet" relationship. I wrote a second stanza with the idea of being tied in knots, and about how trying to untie the knotted relationship only made the bonds tighter, choking him. After working with the second stanza for quite a while, I decided to drop it and "stick" (pun intended) with the honey/glue image only.
Dealing with prompts like this is the main value I see in writing from prompts: sometimes what I come up with is complete and utter crap, but prompts make me think in new ways, considering different viewpoints and topics. I have struggled more with this prompt than I have with previous ones, and I'm still not happy with the results, but I'll put it out here anyway. Let me know what you think.
her love cloying,
too sweet to be savored,
leaving a tainted aftertaste
more than unpleasant,
less than toxic.
now glue-ish --
clinging to him --
in time drying clear,
a second skin --
taking a layer with it
when he peels it away,
no matter how carefully.
Copyright 2009 Susanne Barrett
Monday, October 12, 2009
I read Elizabeth Gaskell's last and unfinished novel Wives and Daughters several years ago, not realizing that the nearly 800-page book was left incomplete at the time of Gaskell's death. The work, though, is truly masterful, but the unfinished status was frustrating beyond expression as the very best part, Molly's long-suffering love about to be requited, was on the cusp of occurring when the book came to a screeching halt. Coming across an Editor's Note explaining Gaskell's untimely death when one is so very excited to see the two honorable and lovable characters about to discover their common love for one another was deflating, to say the least. Still, despite being incomplete, Wives and Daughters remains Mrs. Gaskell's masterwork, and should be high on the list of the best 19th century British literature.
Oh yes, I've read other books by Mrs. Gaskell: North and South and Mary Barton, to be precise, and Cranford is high on my list of books I have wanted to read, even though it is extremely difficult to procure it unless I purchase it. No library in San Diego County, public or university, seems to possess it. But its mention in Little Women, along with the Masterpiece Theatre production starring Judi Dench, whetted my appetite. I did get my hands on a copy through The Circuit (interlinked California libraries) a year ago or so, but it arrived at a very busy time for me, and I only had time to read the first few chapters before having to return it. But what I did read I liked very much indeed.
In addition to short stories, Mrs. Gaskell penned thirteen novels in her 55 years (1810-1865), plus a biography of her friend, Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre, The Professor, etc. You may read more about Mrs. Gaskell and her works at this link: Elizabeth Gaskell.
My quotation for this week is taken from page 134 of Wives and Daughters and is describing the main character, the sweet, selfless, intelligent, and long-suffering Molly:
"Thinking more of others' happiness than her own was very fine; but did it not mean giving up her own individuality, quenching all the warm love, the true desires, that made her herself? Yet in this deadness lay her only comfort; or so it seemed."
Selflessness is a quality I have always admired, probably because I am such a selfish person myself. Can we truly take comfort in living for others rather than for self? Can we live a fulfilling life doing so? It seems to take a very special kind of saint to attain selflessness, and then only as a result of one's faith -- of God working in and through His willing child.
Molly is one of my favorite heroines in literature, equal in my opinion to Elizabeth Bennet, though not as fire-tongued, and Jane Eyre, though not as passionate. Molly lives a quiet life, a selfless life, complicated by the self-absorbed people who surround her, even in her own home, namely her father's new wife and her daughter, Cynthia. The wife is ridiculous in her self-absorption, Cynthia merely thoughtless, but they engage the thoughtful and shy Molly in situations that try her patience and even her reputation. It's an intriguing book, and Molly is the model "daughter" -- too shy and retiring to be perfect, too human to be a "real" heroine. Her literary sisters in more well-known English novels are Anne in Persuasion or Fanny in Mansfield Park.
If you don't mind reading an unfinished book and Victorian novels are a genre you enjoy, then I can't more highly recommend Gaskell's Wives and Daughters -- or at least the excellent Masterpiece Theater mini-series.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Worship this morning featured the singing of several hymns. Even if accompanied by electric guitars and very loud drums, hymns are a beautiful thing. I love the beauty of the music, the depth of the theology, and, most of all, the focus on worshiping God rather than navel-gazing on how we feel about Him (like the vast majority of praise songs we usually sing). We sang a couple of hymns today which was lovely -- I feel as though I can truly worship God far more easily through the singing of hymns.
So here is one of my favorite hymns. Irish and from the 8th century, this hymn is one of the oldest surviving hymns we sing regularly at Lake Murray. I love just praying the words, and singing them is even better. It's so beautiful, so worshipful:
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
The third verse above is one I don't know, but the other four I am quite familiar with. My favorite version of this hymn is performed by the group 4Him on their Hymns album, which I had just about worn out before adding it to my iTunes. The Irish flute and bagpipes add so much to the crescendo of the last verse. That's worship!!!
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I have many friends in the blogosphere whom I admire greatly. I draw inspiration and creativity from them on a consistent basis. Whenever I feel empty, truly blank, I click on my Google Reader list and start reading my favorite blogs. Sometimes their writing appeals to my intellect, but more often their posts affect me spiritually and emotionally. And that is exactly what I found tonight when visiting my friend Anne's blog, Imprisoned in My Bones: Releasing My Inner Jeremiah. Today she wrote about the connection between Christ and marriage. She starts the post with this amazing quotation:
"I love to think of the cross as Jesus' marriage bed where he laid himself down, body, soul, mind and heart, thus giving himself completely to his spouse, which is all of us, reborn in baptism. Just as Eve comes forth from the side of Adam as he sleeps, so, too, the church is born from the wounded side of the crucified Christ.I don't like thinking about my marriage being as pain-inducing as Christ's crucifixion, but the point here is the sacrificial love of marriage, the willingness to live for the other person. Keith and I have always discussed how the key word in marriage is unselfishness. So go read Anne's complete post here: The Cross of Marriage -- I'm sure that you will enjoy it and be inspired by it as much as I was tonight.
Every wife and husband that marry in Christ are committed to loving each other sacrificially, unselfishly, completely, exclusively, permanently, because that is how God loves all of us through Jesus."
Fr. Don Hying, Rector
St. Francis de Sales Seminary, Milwaukee
Friday, October 9, 2009
It's been a very busy week with Class Day and my online MLA research class working on their outlines, plus my mom's and Keith's birthdays, so I haven't has much time to respond to Carry On Tuesday's prompt. I did write one -- I started it Tuesday, wrote a second draft Wednesday, but am just getting around to posting it today.
Writing poetry from prompts stretches me into writing about topics I never would have otherwise. I let the quotation(s) soak into me, waiting for an image to come. With this prompt, I started with the image of a woman shaking her head "no" and followed the image from there. Obviously this topic has NOTHING to do with my life -- it's just an imagined couple. When I watch them interact in my head, she is pale and dark-haired, a woman of quiet beauty and dignity, and he is blond and devastatingly handsome, with a cleft chin and piercing green eyes. Both are in their late thirties. So let me know what you think:
Carry on Tuesday Prompt #21: This week our prompt is the opening few words from Samuel Beckets' book The Unnameable: "Where now? Who now? When now?" Use all or part of it within your poem or prose.
she shook her head,
negating the swirling images --
the insistently circling questions:
That word revealed all:
Still shaking her sickened head --
He had promised.
The last time he had dried
her tears so tenderly --
embraced her so consolingly --
his soothing voice promising
over and over
in an imploring litany.
She dared not imagine
who this one was --
what she looked like --
where they had met --
for how long?
With a groan she pushed aside
and raised her face to his,
betrayal and accusation
brimming in her eyes --
hopeful apology in his:
Thursday, October 8, 2009
(Adema stained glass window, completed Fall 2008)
Keith's job of designing and drafting plans for custom homes disappeared almost overnight last year with the economy, but he has been working industriously on handiwork of all kinds: tiling bathrooms, repairing or replacing windows and doors, laying a brick patio at my parents' cabin, repairing and retiling fireplaces, painting interiors of condos and homes, and whatever else comes his way. He will be repairing the broken panes in our church's stained glass windows soon, and he just completed and delivered a gorgeous stained glass sliding door for our doctor's and his wife's bedroom; they were the ones who ordered and purchased Keith's huge masterwork of stained glass (above) last fall.
(Brick deck at my parents' mountain cabin)
He is amazingly talented, practically a perfectionist in art and work, and spends time building online relationships with people from foreign countries, especially in East Asia, so he can share his faith with others. He takes an active part in our home school, driving the three older kids down the hill with him so they can meet with their math tutor so that I can have an afternoon free of home schooling once per week. Keith is also learning Japanese with Jonathan at LiveMocha. Such an ambitious pair!
(Keith tiling a bathroom in black and cream marble for a client)
And besides doing all of this work to provide for our family, Keith is also Head Chef in our household. I can make dinners, but Keith creates meals that often rival some of the better restaurants. His English Toffee has become the addiction of many of our friends and family, and he bakes the holiday pies every year for both sides of the family. His soups are amazing; I've stopped ordering Tortilla Soup at restaurants because his recipe is incredible. On Monday he made a Cream of Roma Tomato Soup with roasted tomatoes from his brother's garden, plus roasted garlic cloves and onions -- delicious! In the past, I cooked for the family because I had to, but since I became ill and fairly useless after 4 PM, Keith has taken over most of the meals, and he also involves the kids in preparation and cooking as well. My favorite meal of his is Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Chicken with White Wine Sauce, served with Dilled Red Potatoes, Green Beans Almondine, and either Dark Chocolate Mousse or Boston Cream Pie. Pure decadence!
(Keith's Boston Cream Pie)
So I wish Keith the very happiest of birthdays today: the Big 5-0! I love you and think you're the best!!! I wish I could make you a Boston Cream Pie, but at least the brownies are out of the oven and cooling just for you!
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Meditative prayer is different, very different, from the mostly intercessory prayer I knew in the evangelical church. When I first learned to pray, I prayed almost exclusively for requests -- that's what I was taught. I prayed for others' sometimes desperate needs. I prayed for friends and family. I even prayed for myself, even though such prayer seemed rather selfish at the time. But after a while, I felt as if I prayed only when needs arose -- hardly ever as an act of love or worship. Prayer seemed more like a grocery list of requests. It took me years -- decades even -- to get past praying for needs versus worshiping God in prayer.
Years later I learned the A.C.T.S. model of prayer: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. This mode of prayer was a vast improvement over the grocery list prayers I had been praying for years. But I still struggled with truly worshiping God ... until I started praying with the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and other prayer books like The Diary of Private Prayer which both taught me how to pray Scripture and to glorify Him beautifully.
It has never been difficult for me to pray these same prayers repeatedly, mostly because the prayers are fashioned from arrangements of God's Word, and we are assured that "His Word never returns void." I quickly found that I could pray the same Scriptures every morning and mean it just as much the first day as I did three, five, even seven years later. It's a matter of concentration, and also a matter of listening for the "still, small voice" of the Spirit. I could hear Him while my mind concentrated on the familiar prayers.
Another way of praying for me has been through the use of Anglican Prayer Beads. I ordered mine from Full Circle Beads when I couldn't find beads I liked to make one myself. My prayer beads came with a little pamphlet that explained the symbolism of the beads and also contained eight different prayers, again mostly Scripture, that could be prayed with the beads.
From the pamphlet:
"Symbolism of the Beads:There is also a wonderful explanation of Why Use Prayer Beads on the Full Circle site. The prayers in the pamphlet are far from the only prayers prayed with Anglican Prayer Beads, but the ones included are: "Bless the Lord," "Julian of Norwich," "A Celtic Prayer," "Trisagion and Jesus," "Come Lord Jesus," "An Evening Prayer," "Agnus Dei," and "Saint Patrick's Breastplate." An explanation of how to pray with the beads can be found here: Praying with Beads.
Anglican prayer beads are made up of 33 beads divided into four groups of seven, called weeks, four cruciform beads, and an invitatory bead. In the Judeo-Christian tradition the number seven represents spiritual perfection. Between each week, the single cruciform beads form a cross. The invitatory bead between the cross and the wheel of beads brings the total number of beads to 33, the number of years is Jesus' earthly life."
One of my favorites is the "Agnus Dei." I fill in the blank with the name of a person for whom I wish to pray -- and with the four weeks to pray for people, I can pray for 28 people among family, friends, and other needs.
Agnus DeiI find praying with the beads soothing, quieting, peaceful. The feel of the stone beads between my fingers allow me to close my eyes as I pray for certain people, and the larger cruciform beads alert me to change to the prayer of praise. I leave my prayer corner with a serene heart, knowing I have lifted up my loved ones to God this day and always.
The Cross: The Lord's Prayer
The Invitatory: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. -- Psalm 19:14
The Cruciforms: O Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us, O Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us, O Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world, grant us Thy Peace.
The Weeks: Almighty and merciful Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Bless and keep _________. Amen.
The Invitatory: Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name.
The Cross: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. -- The Gloria Patri
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
A year ago, Keith finished the above masterwork of stained glass -- four feet by five feet, 1500+ pieces, Tiffany-inspired. Gorgeous. Last September Keith installed it in the Ademas' home to great admiration. And this month Keith completed a companion piece -- a pocket door for their bedroom -- that picks up elements from the original window and also from their front door. So..... here it is, the newest Keith Barrett stained glass window -- and he made the wooden door, too:
Keith putting the finishing touches on the window and door.