Easter 7 – Tuesday
Feast Day of St. John the Evangelist (Australian Anglican Calendar)
Third Day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
We’re past Ascension Day now in the calendar. That means that we’re coming close to a birthday. Which this year, falls very close to another birthday (namely, my own). And it happens to coincide with Mother’s Day this year, which in a sense is also somewhat appropriate given that something of great importance to all Christians was in a sense “birthed” (though Eastern Orthodox Christians might disagree there with me on a theological nicety).
I’m talking about the Day of Pentecost (or Whitsunday if you prefer to call it that). Though if you’re Eastern Orthodox and you’re reading this, you probably realize that your date for Pentecost will be in another 5-6 weeks away given that Orthodox Pascha (i.e. Easter) happened this year on 27 April 2008, a week after Pesach (Jewish Passover) and pretty much a month after the Western Church celebrated Pascha.
But this year, the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” is on between May 4 to May 11. So it was somewhat appropriate that today, at today’s Eucharist @ St. John’s Cathedral, we remembered and gave thanks for the life of Saint John the Evangelist, Apostle, and patron of the Cathedral. And in the Gospel reading for today, we heard the words of Christ from John’s Gospel, beginning at chapter 17, verses 1 to 11.
Rev. Rupert Jeffcoat give a short homily on this prayer of Christ for all who call him Master and Lord that they would be one. And that how we as followers of Christ are called to be light and be in the light instead of darkness, as Christ himself and His Father is light and in whom there is no darkness at all (cf. 1 John 1:6-7).
Fr. Rupert also explained to us that the primary symbol of St. John based on the Old Testament prophecies was an eagle. And in a play on words, but which was rather appropriate and allegorical in a sense, just as God is light in the sense of being contrasted to darkness, God is also as “light” as the feathers on an eagle. In that as we are like lesser birds which flap our heavy-feathered wings trying to reach ever higher only to get tired and worn out, God is like that eagle who flaps his wings almost effortlessly (as if they were light-feathered) and who can reach higher than we ever can.
And as Fr. Rupert gave his homily, a thought occurred in this peanut-sized brain of mine. We are like the imprisoned Gandalf at the top of Isengard’s Tower of Orthanc in Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings who are rescued from our prison by God who is our Gwaihir. The One who rescues us from the fowler’s snare, hides us with his feathers, gives us refuge under his wings (cf. Psalm 90:3-4) and renews our youth like that of the eagle (cf. Psalm 102:5b).
Given that it is the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity”, just a bit of an advertisement that there is an ecumenical worship service at St. Stephen’s Cathedral (my “other” worship home in the Brisbane CBD) on Friday, May 9 2008 starting at 5:30pm. Archbishop John Bathersby of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane will be leading the service and there’s be a few other heads of the churches in Brisbane there as well (including Archbishop Phillip Aspinall of the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane and Rev. David Pitman, moderator of the Queensland Synod of the Uniting Church).
I have a feeling that I may be one of a few laypersons at the service in amongst the prelates, clergy and ministers who’ll be there (better get there early to grab a seat in the pews!). But any of you who are from Brisbane, manage to stumble across this blog entry, have nothing else to do on Friday evening and are in the CBD, I think that this is a great way to join together with others in the church catholic in worship of Almighty God and to show (however imperfectly) that although we are divided across ecclesiastical lines, it is Christ himself that draws us together as one family. No matter how dysfunctional we may be.
Youth Bible Study (MNBS) last night was a doozy. Loved every minute of it. My prayers for the youth of EMP to start wrestling around with Holy Scripture are coming to pass this year (Thanks be to God!). Some rather spirited debate on one of the fundamental building blocks of the Western Church’s soteriology (i.e. original sin) and then on how we “know God” happened last night. Which of course meant that we got through the first three verses of chapter two from St. John’s first epistle. LoL.
In a strange coincidence (or not?), 1 John has been featured in the daily readings for Vigils in The Divine Office during this week leading up to Pentecost (you could call it Whitsuntide). Plus some terrific readings from the homilies of the early church fathers.
Yesterday, the second reading came from St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s 16th Catechetical Lecture to catechumens on the Holy Spirit. Here’s a taste of it:
His approach is gentle, his presence fragrant, his yoke very light; rays of light and knowledge shine forth before him as he comes. He comes with the heart of a true protector; he comes to save, to heal, to teach, to admonish, to strengthen, to console, to enlighten the mind, first of the man who receives him, then through him the minds of others also.
Today’s second reading came from St. Basil the Great’s treatise, On The Holy Spirit. The Eastern Church’s concept of “deification” was very strong in this and reminded me of that ancient maxim “God became man, so that man could become god.” I think it might have been Athanasius who said this first though I am known to be wrong. Like Adam and Eve eating a tree.
That was an in joke for anyone who was at MNBS last night who’s gotten down to reading this far. Anyway, onto the selection from St. Basil’s treatise:
He is the source of holiness, the light of our understanding, for to every mind he offers his own light for the discovery of truth.
Though by nature he is inaccessible, yet through his generosity men can receive him in themselves. He fills all creatures with his power, but only those who are worthy can participate in him. But all do not share him in the same measure; he distributes his power in proportion to men’s faith.
He is simple in essence, but manifold in power. He is present to each in his fulness, and in his fulness is present everywhere. He is divided, but does not suffer by the division; all share in him, but he remains whole, like a sunbeam whose kindly influence benefits each creature as though it were present to that creature alone, and shines over land and sea and dissolves in the air. …
Even as bright and shining bodies, once touched by a ray of light falling on them, become even more glorious and themselves cast another light, so too souls that carry the Spirit, and are enlightened by the Spirit, become spiritual themselves and send forth grace upon others.
This grace enables them to foresee the future, to understand mysteries, to grasp hidden things, to receive spiritual blessings, to have their thoughts fixed on heavenly things, and to dance with the angels. So is their joy unending, so is their perseverance in God unfailing, so do they acquire likeness to God, so—most sublime of all—do they themselves become divine.