Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hallowe'en and the Vigil of All Hallows Eve

(re-post from 2009 with some additions)

"If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” -- Luke 11:36, ESV

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 yards for the parents to sit down around small fire pits and chat while the kids visit the houses on the street.

In our village, there's only one area with street lights and concrete curbs (nope, we have no sidewalks in our town--concrete curbing is the best we have, and even that's rare), and that's where most of the Hallowe'en activity is concentrated. In the middle of this area, the local church hosts a "Gospel Barn" in a large front yard with stories and treats for the kids while parents mill around, chatting and drinking hot cider.

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 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:

The Paschal/Easter candle, with the five nails for the five wounds of Christ 

All Saints' Vigil (Halloween)
(congregational responses are in bold)

Liturgical Colour: White

Alleluia! Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia! 

Let us pray.

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. Amen.

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. Amen.

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)

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)

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 and Safe All-Hallows Eve to you and yours, my blogging friends!!

In God's Holy keeping,

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Notion to NaNo (WriMo)....

With my horrendously busy schedule, taking on a time-consuming challenge such as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) seems utterly foolish. With homeschooling two teen boys, teaching two concurrent year-long expository essay courses at our homeschool group's twice-monthly co-op Class Days, plus teaching an online literary analysis class at Brave Writer on F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby--all of these activities will definitely keep me on my toes this month.

So why add writing a 50,000 word novel in a mere 30 days?

Because I need to.

Currently I publish my novels online, and up until January, I had posted a new chapter each week on a fairly regular basis. But my newest novel is coming along much more slowly, partially because these chapters are averaging 4,000-5,000 words while my other two novels averaged 2500-3000 words per chapter, and partially because I just haven't had much free time. (I'm still flattered that my novels and stories have garnered 3 million+ reads/hits on the two websites!!)

I just posted the tenth chapter (not counting the prologue) of my third novel this week; thus, I've only posted ten chapters over seven months. Not a great record.  

So although my ultimate goal is to finish NaNoWriMo with a fifth "win" to my name when I complete 50,000 words in 30 days, my more realistic goal is to just get some chapters roughed out so that I can post chapters twice monthly.When I polled my readers, I received nearly unanimous encouragement to post the longer chapters every two weeks rather than shorter but weekly chapters.

In addition, in the midst of teaching and grading essays and assignments, I just really need to take a step back from the busy-ness that is my life and give myself permission to express myself creatively. Although I only started writing fiction with NaNoWriMo 2008, I have come to love the freedom of writing fiction, of following my characters in my mind and watching them in action, then jotting down what they say and do. Writing is relaxing for me, providing an excellent break from being teacher and editor/grader as I am on a daily basis.

Plus, I also offer my expository essay students extra credit for participating in NaNoWriMo: they receive one extra credit point for every 1,000 words they log on the site. So I would feel like a heel for not participating alongside them.

And my novel is entering a very intriguing stage, and I can't wait to see what happens next!! :D 

If you are joining the NaNoWriMo Adventure, please add me to your buddy list; my user name is SusanneB --no period following. :)

So we'll see how far I can get in NaNoWriMo 2013!!

Happy Writing!!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Saint Luke: Physician, Apostle, and Evangelist

This morning at Morning Prayer and Holy Communion at Victoria House, the rectory for Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity, Father Acker and I celebrated the Feast Day of Saint Luke which fell exactly on today, October 18. I love how the Anglican Church celebrates the feast days of the Biblical Saints--the Saints of the New Testament--while still seeing every follower of Christ as a saint as well.

Here is the Collect, the prayer prayed collectively by the Anglican Communion today (well, yesterday as I'm writing this at 1:00 AM):

ALMIGHTY God, you inspired your holy servant Luke the Physician to write an orderly accountof the Gospel and of the healing power of your Son; As he delivered your restoring words of wholeness, deliver us now from all sickness of body and soul; Through the sacrifice of your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. (Scriptural references for this prayer: Luke 1.1-2; Colossians 4.14; Proverbs 22.1-2; 1Timothy 6.3-4)

As we do each Friday morning during Morning Prayer and Holy Communion, we prayed this portion of The Liturgy for Healing (Book of Common Prayer 2011 page 145):

Bless physicians, nurses, all all others who minister to the suffering; grant them wisdom and skill, sympathy and patience.

[Response:]Lord, have mercy upon us.

And as we also do each Friday, we prayed this portion of the Holy Communion service called The Prayer for the Church (Book of Common Prayer 2011 page 110):

And we humbly ask you in your goodness, O Lord, to comfort, visit, and relieve all those who [are in need of your healing touch, remembering especially (and we pray for God's healing to be upon those we mention by name and affliction) and] all those who in this transitory life are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, danger, distress, or any other difficulty; Relieve and strengthen, help and deliver them by your mighty hand. Lord, in your mercy;

[Response:] Hear our prayer.

But today we also took time to thank God for doctors and nurses, many of which we prayed for by name, asking God's blessing upon them for strength and wisdom in their service to their patients. It was lovely to pray for my own doctors, both of whom are amazing men of God who invest prayer as well as research into their treatment of the whole person: body, mind, and soul.

I am so grateful for Dr. Adema, our family practictioner/osteopath and Dr. Burns, our chiropractor. Although the latter is retired, he has had the best insights into my autoimmune issues of any of the fourteen doctors I saw before finally getting a diagnosis for my chronic pain and fatigue. Dr. Adema continues to treat us, and with our daughter and son dealing with chronic fatigue and chronic pain issues as well, we've determined a genetic mutation that seems to be at the root of our issues. My daughter is using essential oils for herself and for me, and we're seeing some excellent results.

So as we thank God today for the example He gave us of a wonderful human physician, apostle, and evangelist in Saint Luke, we also thank Him for His healing His timing. Some Christians (and even some pastors and elders) have been suspicious of my twelve-year illness, claiming that either I didn't have enough faith for God to heal me or that I had such sin in my life that He was refusing to heal me--the usual evangelical arguments about illness.

It is in the stories of the Catholic Saints that I've found value in physical suffering--as well as in the Psalms which we read through each month in The Book of Common Prayer 2011. The Psalter breaks down the 150 Psalms into 60 readings, 30 for Morning Prayer and 30 for Evening Prayer. So the first few psalms are arranged under Day 1 Morning and Day 1 Evening, each numbered day corresponding to the day of the month. And it is in the saints such as Saint Teresa of Avila who endured illness for most of her life that I have found consolation and inspiration:

"Let nothing trouble you, let nothing make you afraid. All things pass away. God never changes. Patience obtains everything. God alone is enough."
-- Saint Teresa of Avila

"God calls to us in countless little ways all the time. Through illnesses and suffering and through sorrow he calls to us. Through a truth glimpsed fleetingly in a state of prayer he calls to us. No matter how halfhearted such insights may be, God rejoices whenever we learn what he is trying to teach us.”  
--Saint Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle

"One must not think that a person who is suffering is not praying. He is offering up his sufferings to God, and many a time he is praying much more truly than one who goes away by himself and meditates his head off, and, if he has squeezed out a few tears, thinks that is prayer." --St. Teresa of Avila

And thus we return to Saint Luke the Physician who allowed The Great Physician to work through him in traveling with Saint Paul and in writing the Gospel According to Saint Luke and The Acts of the Apostles. The Saint of the Day e-mail from teaches us more about Saint Luke and leads us to pray for those who suffer through illness:

Friday, October 18, 2013
St. Luke

Luke wrote one of the major portions of the New Testament, a two-volume work comprising the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. In the two books he shows the parallel between the life of Christ and that of the Church. He is the only Gentile Christian among the Gospel writers. Tradition holds him to be a native of Antioch, and Paul calls him "our beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14). His Gospel was probably written between A.D. 70 and 85.

Luke appears in Acts during Paul’s second journey, remains at Philippi for several years until Paul returns from his third journey, accompanies Paul to Jerusalem and remains near him when he is imprisoned in Caesarea. During these two years, Luke had time to seek information and interview persons who had known Jesus. He accompanied Paul on the dangerous journey to Rome where he was a faithful companion. "Only Luke is with me," Paul writes (2 Timothy 4:11).

Luke wrote as a Gentile for Gentile Christians. This Gospel reveals Luke's expertise in classic Greek style as well as his knowledge of Jewish sources.

The character of Luke may best be seen by the emphases of his Gospel, which has been given a number of subtitles: (1) The Gospel of Mercy: Luke emphasizes Jesus' compassion and patience with the sinners and the suffering. He has a broadminded openness to all, showing concern for Samaritans, lepers, publicans, soldiers, public sinners, unlettered shepherds, the poor. Luke alone records the stories of the sinful woman, the lost sheep and coin, the prodigal son, the good thief. (2) The Gospel of Universal Salvation: Jesus died for all. He is the son of Adam, not just of David, and Gentiles are his friends too. (3) The Gospel of the Poor: "Little people" are prominent—Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, shepherds, Simeon and the elderly widow, Anna. He is also concerned with what we now call "evangelical poverty." (4) The Gospel of Absolute Renunciation: He stresses the need for total dedication to Christ. (5) The Gospel of Prayer and the Holy Spirit: He shows Jesus at prayer before every important step of his ministry. The Spirit is bringing the Church to its final perfection. (6) The Gospel of Joy: Luke succeeds in portraying the joy of salvation that permeated the primitive Church.

"Then [Jesus] led them [out] as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God" (Luke 24:50-53).
Today I took especial joy in praying for my family, my church families, and for friends who suffer physically. Whether it was rejoicing in a case of pre-eclampsia in a missionary friend which led to the slightly premature but healthy birth of a little girl, to praying for the wife of our former bishop who has Stage 4 lung cancer, to praying healing upon young girls I've met through writing web sites and struggle with brain tumors, with tumor-growing diseases, with blood platelet disorders, with leukemia, but who continue to write joyfully because writing is their calling--these are the ones we lifted up together as we asked for God's healing...and continue to do so each Friday morning in the rectory dining room.

Praying with you,

P.S. The Book of Common Prayer 2011 is going into its second printing!! This smaller order is being printed and should ship very soon. This edition will be in red leather with slightly larger print and will have a few corrections from the first printing. I amso thrilled to have been one of the editors for this project; it truly was a labor of love to use a modern Bible translation such as the English Standard Version (ESV) to bring the beauty and depth of ancient worship into the 21st century. We'll be taking pre-orders soon, so watch our website and Facebook page. :)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Saint Teresa of Avila

(Image: Saint Teresa of Avila, courtesy

Although I'm not a Roman Catholic, I consider myself a high-church Anglican, or an Anglo-Catholic. In the Anglican tradition, our Book of Common Prayer recognizes only Biblical saints from the New Testament such as Saint Paul, Saint Peter, Saint James, Saint Andrew, Saint Elizabeth, etc.

But today's Saint of the Day e-mail from touched my mind and my soul. I've read a little about Saint Teresa of Avila in the past, and I definitely have a great interest in the women saints of the century preceding her time period, namely in the British friends Saint Julian of Norwich and Saint Margery of Kempe. But I ask you to read Teresa's tale as distributed in the Saint of the Day e-mail and ponder the three-fold gifts that the Holy Spirit, working through a willing Saint Teresa, provided to the Church and to us, especially to us women as we seek to follow Christ with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013
St. 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. She was born before the Protestant Reformation and died almost 20 years after the closing of 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 ongoing conversion 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.

Her writings, especially the Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle, have helped generations of believers.

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 (April 29) were the first women so honored.

Ours is 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."

Saint Teresa is indeed a woman we can model our lives on. In her approach to prayer, her philosophy of suffering, her service of others, we find a life balanced in service to God and others while remaining deeply in tune spiritually and actively committed to much-needed reforms. As one of the first female Doctors of the Church, Saint Teresa is formally recognized as a Christian philosopher, theologian, and teacher, one from whom we can learn much.

Quotation for the Week:

"Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul."

~Saint Teresa of Avila

May God grant us all a blessed remembrance of Saint Teresa of Avila, and may He bless us this week as we seek to love Him and all others He places in our path.

Soli Deo Gloria,


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