Thursday, July 31, 2008

"When I am in the world, I am the light of the world"

C 12th Icon from St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai

and he was transfigured before them:
and his face did shine as the sun,
and his garments became white as the light.
Matthew 17:2 RV

Light is often used throughout the Bible to show God's presence.

When Moses was in communion with God on Mt Sinai,
the skin of his face shone by reason of his speaking with him.
Exodus 34:29 RV

And as Moses' radiant face gave a legitimacy to his experience, and his message. His face shone due to his communion with God, a reflection.

One can also read in the lives of the mystics, that when in communion with God, similar experiences occur: When St Teresa was writing The Interior Castle 'her face... shone with an unearthly splendour.'

On the other hand, Jesus face shone like the sun; it is the cause of the light, not a reflection. Jesus' radiance at the Transfiguration authenticates him as the new, and greater Moses.
God is light,
and in him is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5 RV
He is revealed as he truly is, not being transformed into something new, or receiving some divine power; more it is a revealing of the heights of spirituality. As Bishop Westcott stated:
"The Transfiguration is the revelation of the potential spirituality of the earthly life in the highest outward form"
He goes on to state that Jesus in the Transfiguration:
"gives the measure of the capacity of humanity, and shews that to which He leads those who are united with him" The Historic Faith, p 256.
One can only wonder why the Transfiguration is so neglected in western Christianity.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Just more evidence for the brilliance of the 1928 Prayer Book

Last week at Priestly Formation, we were talking about the Prayer Book and its many revisions. I voiced my opinion for the brilliance of the 1928 version, and stated that I intend to use it (with a few lectionary changes) once I am in my own parish.

In the last week I have also been reading many bits and bobs about the Transfiguration. It seems that there was no special celebration within the Prayer Book until 1928, when it was given a collect and epistle reading, along with the relevant verses from the Gospel (Mark 9).

I was fully expecting to find the epistle to be from 2 Peter:
For we did not follow cunningly devised fables,
when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
For he received from God the Father honour and glory,
when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory,
This is my beloved Son,
in whom I am well pleased:
and this voice we ourselves heard come out of heaven,
when we were with him in the holy mount.
And we have the word of prophecy made more sure;
whereunto ye do well that ye take heed,
as unto a lamp shining in a dark place,
until the day dawn,
and the day–star arise in your hearts:
2 Peter 1:16-19 RV

This is the epistle in the lectionary we use at church, the Revised Common Lectionary. It makes sense: a very clear reference to the actual event. The event, and Peter's eyewitness, is used as proof of Jesus' divine Sonship.

However, the BCP 1928 has the following:
Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us,
that we should be called children of God:
and such we are.
For this cause the world knoweth us not,
because it knew him not.
Beloved, now are we children of God,
and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be.
We know that,
if he shall be manifested,
we shall be like him;
for we shall see him even as he is.
And every one that hath this hope set on him purifieth himself,
even as he is pure.
1 John 3:1-3 RV

On the outset, the former choice may be more appropriate. However, closer investigation reveals a greater
we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is.
1 John 3:2 RV

At the Transfiguration, it wasn't Jesus changing into something, or becoming God; it is more like a veil was lifted, and he was revealed as he truly is: the Son of God.
As William Blake said:
If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.
(The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, xxii)

Why are you all light, and why now?

Johan Christoph Weigel

and he was transfigured before them:
and his face did shine as the sun,
and his garments became white as the light.
Matthew 17:2 RV


Six days earlier, Jesus had asked the disciples:

Who do men say that the Son of man is?
And they said,
Some say John the Baptist;
some, Elijah:
and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.
Matthew 16:13-14 RV

For all he had shown of his true nature, the people who had witnessed his miracles, heard his teaching, or been his presence could only think of him as less than he was: The Son of God. This must have been a bit disheartening. He then puts the same question directly to the disciples:

But who say ye that I am?
Matthew 16:15 RV

This is huge moment. One can imagine the silence, the uncomfortable shuffling around. Do these men that he has chosen really understand who he is? And even if they do, will they be able to accept what needs to occur?

And Simon Peter answered and said,
Thou art the Christ,
the Son of the living God.
Matthew 16:16 RV

So, they get it. They understand that Jesus is the Messiah, the future implications of which may be a bit trickier.

Then charged he the disciples that they should tell no man that he was the Christ.
From that time began Jesus to shew unto his disciples,
how that he must go unto Jerusalem,
and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes,
and be killed,
and the third day be raised up.
Matthew 16:20-21 RV

The Messiah they had found will be killed by their religious leaders. What kind of a Messiah would allow that to happen? Maybe he is not the Messiah. If their were doubts about this, they weren't voiced as such, rather, Peter flat out denies that this will happen:

Be it far from thee, Lord:
this shall never be unto thee.
Matthew 16:22 RV

This leads us to a reason for the Transfiguration. Maybe Jesus had picked up on the disciples doubts, or Peter's disbelief about Jesus' forthcoming death, or the fact that many viewed him as a "prophet" made him realise that maybe he needed to reveal a little bit more of his true nature.

Of course there are other reasons, but I believe this may be just why the Transfiguration occurs exactly when it did: at the end of his local ministry (Galilee) and before he goes to "the big smoke" (Jerusalem) and to his Passion.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mysticism on the Mount

Cornelius Monsma
Two of Jesus' more important events in his earthly ministry occur on a mountain: The Sermon on the Mount and The Transfiguration.

The two events seem quite different: the Sermon is essentially a reconfiguring of the 10 Commandments. It is the way of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Transfiguration is a revealing of the divine nature of Jesus.

In many ways, Western Christianity has embraced the Sermon more so than The Transfiguration. While the Sermon isn't given a "day" on the Calendar, it's teachings so woven into the fabric of the faith, that it would seem to be unnecessary to "celebrate" it as such. The Transfiguration does have a date on the Calendar (August 6). So while the event is celebrated, I wonder if the implications of the event aren't as fully absorbed as those of the Sermon.

I was drawn very quickly to The Transfiguration. It was so fantastic; and I do mean that in all it's meanings. I had never heard of this happening, while I had heard of many of the phrases from the Sermon (the "Blessed are..." ones, or as I now know, The Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-9).

I am currently writing my first sermon, and the Transfiguration is the topic. I have decided to take the actual transformation as the main point. The three synoptics describe the event slightly differently:

and he was transfigured before them:
and his face did shine as the sun,
and his garments became white as the light.
Matthew 17:2 RV

and he was transfigured before them:
and his garments became glistering, exceeding white;
so as no fuller on earth can whiten them.
Mark 9:2-3 RV

And as he was praying,
the fashion of his countenance was altered,
and his raiment became white and dazzling.
Luke 9:29 RV

Each brings a unique element to the story. Luke informs us that is was during prayer that Jesus' transformation occurs. I believe this is key to a correct understanding of the event.

As I continue in my research and thinking, I will continue to post points of interest.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Book of Common Prayer

I had two instances today concerning The Book of Common Prayer. One was about a BCP Day being held here in Sydney, and if I could put up a poster advertising the event in our church. The answer to this was "no," as the whole thing was likely to be too protestant for us.

The second encounter was of more interest. A woman came in with a copy of BCP which she was given at her Confirmation in the 1960's. the book had been on her shelf for years, and she had kept it just in case. Until today. She had decided that it should go to someone "who would use it; one of the clergy or someone." I told her we don't use the BCP, but I would find a home for it, either with parishioner or our library.

The whole incident was sad. It wasn't about making room on her shelf, it was almost a statement. This woman obviously doesn't need the book anymore. I found the whole thing quite sad. I wished there was something I could do; talk to her about our church, or let her know that we are here if ever she decides she does need us.

When I travel, I take at least two books with me: my Bible (RV) and The Book of Common Prayer (1928). When I have my own parish, I will use the BCP (1928). I will also use Merbecke's music for Communion. I think I may even put the Gloria at the end of the service.

Edit: 01.05.09: I will not be putting the Gloria at the end, and I more than likely will be using the 1549 with modern English.

Edit: 15.03.13: I would now use the 1662 Holy Communion service as is. I think I would also use the Morning and Evening Prayer.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Christ Mystical

A book that I repeatedly return to is Christ Mystical by Joseph Hall (1647).

I found a very rough copy last year, and it has been a constant companion, particularly on trips up to Newcastle.

The little I know of Joseph Hall comes from wikipedia.

The main point of the book is union with Christ: The kind, the resemblance, the certainty, the privilege and benefits of this union.

Here are my favourite bits:

Ye are wide O ye great wits while you spend yourselves in curious questions and learned extravagancies Ye shall find one touch of Christ more worth to your souls than all your deep and laboursome disquisitions one dram of faith more precious than a pound of knowledge In vain shall ye seek for this in your books if you miss it in your bosoms If you know all things and cannot truly say I know whom I have believed 2 Tim i 12 you have but knowledge enough to know yourselves truly miserable
It is our faith that must raise our thoughts to a due estimation of our greatness and must shew us how highly we are descended how royally we are allied how gloriously cstated That only U it that must advance us to heaven and heaven down to us
No Text

This last section is of particular beauty and relevance for me. On the days when I feel distant from Christ, I remind myself that He is always present. I remind myself of the wonder of His presence in the Holy Eucharist.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Love Supreme

I have had two things occupy my mind in the past week or so:

Jazz and Mysticism.

The jazz in question is of the Blue Note mid 1960's variety. the likes of Wayner Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Andrew Hill etc. This has been something of a rediscovery. In my early 20s (in fact a week before my 21st birthday) I started a huge jazz learning curve that started from going backwards from my great love; "Bitches Brew" to Thelonious Monk. It has been nice going back.


I remember the feeling of excitement of hearing "A Love Supreme" for the first time. This time of course, I understand the spiritual nature of the work.

Although the liner notes are overtly religious (not necessarily
Christian. Jesus is not mentioned.), the music is certainly more abstract. It is completely possible to enjoy the album without thinking about religion. However, I think it would be hard to not feel some sort of spiritual nature to the music. There are moments when Coltrane's playing is out of his control; an ecstatic spirit (the Holy Spirit?) binds the group together. Remarkable stuff indeed.

I attempted to explain all this to a pentecostal woman this week. She was talking about speaking in tongues, and I told her about Coltrane. She didn't seem that impressed by my analogy.

This of course ties in with my feelings about mysticism. The way jazz like Coltrane can express something that is non verbal, free, ecstatic, strikes me as analogous to that of the mystic experience.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Is 2008 the year of 1 John?

The following are my favourite parts of 1 John, if not the whole NT. These lines play in my mind, sink into my daily thoughts and actions, generally wander into my day.
God is light,
and in him is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5 RV

We know that,
if he shall be manifested,
we shall be like him;
for we shall see him even as he is.
1 John 3:2 RV

He that loveth not knoweth not God;
for God is love.
1 John 4:8 RV

God is love;
and he that
remains in love
remains in God,
and God remains in him.
1 John 4:16 RV

And we know that the Son of God is come,
and hath given us an understanding,
that we know him that is true,
and we are in him that is true,
even in his Son Jesus Christ.
This is the true God,
and eternal life.
1 John 5:20 RV

The following is a pile of books that I have by my bed, then take back to my library, only to bring them back to my bedside. This has happened many times this year.

Westcott, Brooke Foss. The Epistles of St. John: The Greek Text, with Notes and Essays. London: Macmillan, 1883.
Law, Robert. The Test of Life: A Study of the First Epistle of John. Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, 1909.
Findlay, George Gillanders. Fellowship in the Life Eternal: An Exposition of the Epistles of St. John. London & New York: Hodder & Stoughton, 1909.
Brooke, Alan England. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Johannine Epistles. International Critical Commentary. New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1912.
Gore, Charles. The Epistles of St. John. London: J. Murray, 1920.
Howard, Wilbert Francis. Christianity according to St. John. London: Duckworth, 1943.
Dodd, C. H. The Johannine Epistles. Moffat NT Commentary, 19. London, Hodder & Stoughton; New York:1946.
Lee, Edwin Kenneth. The Religious Thought of St. John. London: SPCK, 1962.
Brown, Raymond E. The Epistles of John. Anchor Bible, 30. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1982.

If last year was the year I (think) I really got the Christian idea, and further, the Gospel of John; this year is 1 John in waves and shimmers.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Jesus the Socialist

Johan Christoph Weigel

sell whatsoever thou hast,
and give to the poor,
and thou shalt have treasure in heaven:
and come,
follow me.
Mark 10:21 RV

One of the things that I found so attractive about Chrtistianity initially was Jesus inherent Socialism.

It was even more attractive when I found that the tradition I had been drawn to, also has a strong sense of this true meaning of Jesus' teachings: Anglo Catholic Socialism

I believe this to be one of the keys of the future for Christianity. Many people in Western society are tired of materialism. Capitalism has failed more people than it has succeeded for. This ratio of have and have not is implicit within it's laws. Many of these same people feel betrayed by consumerism's false hope. Our society steamrolls ahead, advertising screaming at us to buy such and such, more colours, volume, disposable useless rubbish. It makes me physically sick. Like eating too much.

While those of us who have had the chance to partake in this spend and credit fest may regeret our actions, like a drunk with a hangover, there are many who have been exploited so we could experience it. There are many who can not conceive that we live like this, while their society struggles for basics.

I thought about this as I scraped much rice from several plates this evening.

I have never been that consumer driven. I like second hand clothes, books etc. I can't imagine spending $50 on a shirt. I would feel terrible. Yet, I still don't really do enough.

Could I give away all my stuff?