Thursday, July 25, 2019

Saint James the Apostle

St. James the Apostle by Peter Paul Rubens
One of the elements of Anglican worship that continues to appeal to me is the focus on Biblical saints. While we may enjoy and gain inspiration and insight from the stories of saints through the ages, both those recognized by the Church and those who are not, Anglicans celebrate the saints of the Holy Scriptures. Today, July 25, is the day we celebrate Saint James the Apostle.

The following is the e-mail from on Saint James the Apostle, also known as Saint James the Greater.

Saint James the Apostle’s Story

This James is the brother of John the Evangelist. The two were called by Jesus as they worked with their father in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had already called another pair of brothers from a similar occupation: Peter and Andrew. “He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:19-20).
James was one of the favored three who had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus, and the agony in Gethsemani.
Two incidents in the Gospels describe the temperament of this man and his brother. Saint Matthew tells that their mother came—Mark says it was the brothers themselves—to ask that they have the seats of honor in the kingdom. “Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We can’” (Matthew 20:22). Jesus then told them they would indeed drink the cup and share his baptism of pain and death, but that sitting at his right hand or left was not his to give—it “is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23b). It remained to be seen how long it would take to realize the implications of their confident “We can!”
The other disciples became indignant at the ambition of James and John. Then Jesus taught them all the lesson of humble service: The purpose of authority is to serve. They are not to impose their will on others, or lord it over them. This is the position of Jesus himself. He was the servant of all; the service imposed on him was the supreme sacrifice of his own life.
On another occasion, James and John gave evidence that the nickname Jesus gave them—“sons of thunder”—was an apt one. The Samaritans would not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to hated Jerusalem. “When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them…” (Luke 9:54-55).
James was apparently the first of the apostles to be martyred. “About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:1-3a).
This James, sometimes called James the Greater, is not to be confused with James the Lesser or with the author of the Letter of James and the leader of the Jerusalem community.
An icon of Saint James the Apostle, also known as Saint James the Greater


The way the Gospels treat the apostles is a good reminder of what holiness is all about. There is very little about their virtues as static possessions, entitling them to heavenly reward. Rather, the great emphasis is on the Kingdom, on God’s giving them the power to proclaim the Good News. As far as their personal lives are concerned, there is much about Jesus’ purifying them of narrowness, pettiness, fickleness.
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In the 2011 Book of Common Prayer, we celebrate Saint James with a collective prayer called a Collect:
Saint James (July 25)
MERCIFUL God, as your holy apostle James left his father and worldly goods without delay to follow the call of your Son Jesus Christ; Grant that, leaving behind all earthly goods and desires, we may always be ready to follow your commands; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. (References: Matthew 4.21-22; 19.27-29; Acts 12.1-2; Revelation 22.14)
Acts 11.27-12.3a; Matthew 20.20-28; Psalm 15; Psalm 149.1-6; Jeremiah 45.1-5
Father Acker and I will be celebrating Saint James the Apostle at tomorrow morning's weekly Morning Prayer and Holy Communion with Healing. We will be reading the Epistle and Gospel readings above (the first two listed) in the Communion service. 
Wishing you all a blessed week in the love of our Lord!
Soli Deo Gloria,

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Second Set of Maisie Dobbs Reviews

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I have fallen absolutely IN LOVE with Jacqueline Winspear's brilliant Maisie Dobbs mystery series. Set in Britain between the World Wars, intrepid Maisie Dobbs, "Investigator and Psychologist" (as her business card reads) takes on various cases that range from the suspicious death of a mentally-disabled man with whom she grew up in Lambeth, a poor section of London where her father was a costermonger to uncovering the truth behind the death of a WWI flying "ace" who may have been doubling as a spy.

While the mysteries are varied and absorbing, it's the psychological slant of this series that beckons me to continue. Each character is developed deeply, foibles and all, and each character struggles with the after-effects of the Great War, including Maisie who had been a nurse on the front lines in France. Watching these characters stumble, learn from their mistakes (or not), and struggle to rise above the "shellshock" (PTSD) of their war experiences, both at home and abroad, is a major theme that is woven through every book in the series.

I just downloaded the tenth book in the series of fifteen (so far) from the library, and I am itching to set aside my work for the day and just dive in, but I am working hard to resist the temptation. As I mentioned in my review of the first three books of the Maisie Dobbs series, the first book provides the necessary backstory, showing us how Maisie rose from the daughter of a London costermonger to a university graduate, a nurse during the War, a student and later the assistant of Dr. Maurice Blanche, and eventually to the owner of her own business.

I hope you will enjoy the reviews of the fourth, fifth, and sixth books of the Maisie Dobbs series!  (Reminder: I save the "5" rating in Goodreads for the classics and for books that truly blow my mind. A "4" indicates a truly excellent book, but not necessarily a classic-in-the-making.) 

Messenger of Truth Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This fourth novel provides another insightful mystery in the Maisie Dobbs series! Maisie takes on a new client sent to her by Inspector Stratton: a woman whose artist brother died accidentally while preparing to hang the secret piece d' resistance of his much-anticipated art show. The painting--or likely, series of paintings--are nowhere to be found, and Stratton, who has declared the death an accident, sends the grieving yet still-questioning twin sister of the deceased to Maisie.

Maisie isn't certain that the death was a murder, but she quickly works her way into the family of the deceased, finding much pain from the Great War (as Maisie also experienced) in this very bohemian and artistic family. She quickly tracks down clues through her superior training and keen insight while also dealing with her personal life as well as the health of her assistant's family during these hard years of the early '30s when so many are without work and thus without the necessities of life-or even basic medical care. This is not an easy book to read as Billy's family deals with life-and-death issues, and Maisie suffers alongside them, helping as much as she can.

Maisie follows the path to discover much amiss and several possible motives, unearthing some of her own motivations in her private life herself, motivations which cause her to set aside a burgeoning romance as she is unsure of her own desire to marry; her work is just too important to her at this point. And obviously, the men of the thirties, no matter how wonderful they may be, want a wife who will create a home for them rather than spending her days sleuthing into often dangerous territory. Maisie will have to face this issue more than once in her career.

I am addicted to this series and will be ordering the next book in the series from the library as soon as possible!

An Incomplete Revenge An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This fifth book in the series is not as quick as read as the previous Maisie Dobbs novel. Rather, it is a deliberate unfolding of truth, heartache, fear, and forgiveness in a small Kentish village. Maisie continues to entice me; she's such a deep character, so real that I think I'd know her if I walked past her on the street (and not only because she'd be dressed for 1931 rather than 2019!). She is a secular mystic, yet a believer in a removed way; I'd love for her to switch those up, but I don't think that's where this author is taking her.

There is much heartache in this book, yet also freedom once death has come and the truth is told. It's a truth that is hinted at and slowly deepened and developed until the reader knows what happened--the overall scope, not the nitty-gritty details--well before the final reveal. And Maisie is not only facing a dangerous pyromaniac, but also the fallout of tragedy in the Beale family, plus her own personal tragedy--one that started in 1918 and is finally resolved in the autumn of 1931.

I am looking forward to Maisie's future now that she is released from Simon. I have hopes for her and Stratton, but we shall see. I also feel a great need to reread the first book now that I actually own it so that I can revisit the tempestuous first book that created the Maisie Dobbs I have come to admire so greatly.

Among the Mad Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just love the Maisie Dobbs series, and this one was no exception. Shorter than many of the others, this novel puts Maisie in the middle of threatened terrorist attacks in London between Christmas and New Year's Eve of 1931. London is enmeshed in the Depression, and many of its brave veterans, often injured and/or shellshocked (what they called those suffering from PTSD after WWI), are often denied pensions by a government that can't afford to give every service person who sacrificed his/her health for King and Country enough to live on. Even the able-bodied are often unemployed.

After a letter threatening a terrorist act if demands for pensions for all who served, especially for all who were injured and/or shellshocked are not provided immediately--a letter that mentions Maisie by name--Maisie finds herself roped into working with Inspector Stratton and a few others with the Special Branch (which I am quite familiar with, given Anne Perry's wonderful Thomas and Charlotte Pitt mystery series) to discover who the anonymous would-be assassin is before he kills. When no announcement from 10 Downing comes, a second threatening letter is sent to the Prime Minister and others high in the British government and military.

Maisie pulls on all of her own and Maurice's friends in mental hospitals and military R&D to discover who the terrorist is before he strikes. Having to deal with police in-fighting and political grandstanding makes Maisie sympathetic to the terrorist, for she, too, has had to deal with a recent breakdown due to PTSD. Can her sympathy help unearth the terrorist before he attacks the innocent New Year's Eve partygoers where the hardboiled Special Branch and police detectives have thus far failed?

I could not put this book down; I read it over just three days in every spare moment when I wasn't working on my online Shakespeare class or helping with my elderly parents. I am ordering the next book in the series from the library today!! Such a smart, thoughtful series, one with heart as well as intellect, and one that deals with the psychological fallout of the Great War in all levels of society with sensitivity and realism. Brava, Jacqueline Winspear!!

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I will be working on my reviews of the next three books, which I have finished, but probably not until I've managed to savor the tenth book in the Maisie Dobbs series. I hope that you mystery lovers will enjoy these mysteries as much as I have! 

Reading with you,


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