02 November 2017

all souls’ day

Today is All Souls’ Day, which has acquired various meanings.  For a large part of the church, it is the finale of the commemoration and remembrance of the faithful departed—from All Hallows Eve and All Saints’ Day.  Traditionally in the Roman Catholic Church, it was the day of prayer for those in purgatory, so that their stay and release from there would be expedited!  In Mexico, today is the consummation of el Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead).  It is a joyful, festive celebration honoring those who have passed on.

For many centuries, the beginning of November has been associated with death, as the leaves fall and the earth prepares for its slumber.  But it is also a time of “thin places,” where our realm and the realms beyond draw near.  It is a time for visitation between the earthly and the celestial.  Thin places are not restricted to this time, however.  They can appear anywhere and anytime.

I am reminded of Dag Hammarskjöld’s meditation in Markings:

“Tomorrow we shall meet,
Death and I—
And he shall thrust his sword
Into one who is wide awake.

But in the meantime how grievous the memory
Of hours frittered away.”

The passing is not without its sadness, but all will be changed in the new creation in the limitless love of God.

24 October 2017

of dogs and animals of all kinds

Today is our dog Aidan’s birthday.  He is six years old, a fact of which I’m sure he is keenly aware!  He seems to be so cognizant of it that he decided to take a nap to celebrate.  (I appear to have awoken him.)

The feast of St. Francis of Assisi was earlier this month, but we have a service we’ve used in the past for the Blessing of the Animals.  Here’s a prayer that appears in it:

Prayer of thanksgiving and confession
Creator God,
you have made a beautiful world filled with wonder and surprises!
We give you thanks.
Creator God, who has gifted us with the blessing of animals,
those in the wild, those on farms,
those in our own homes.
We give you thanks.
We thank you for abundant life;
for the birds we hear in the morning,
for the drone of the bees when we are outside,
for the vast tapestry of life which is interwoven,
We give you thanks.
We thank you for the gift of our own animal
companions, for the joy they bring us,
For the unconditional love and forgiveness which teaches us about you;
For the confidant, the listener, the stress-releaser,
For the benefits they are to health and to spirit.
We give you thanks.
And yet, we know that we have not always been
faithful caretakers of your animals.
Forgive us when we dirty their environment,
erase places of shelter, pollute the waters, kill off their food supplies,
or neglect animals in our own communities.
Forgive us.
Forgive us when we do not consider the wider picture:
when we neglect the animals in the wild,
and inflict cruelty in the name of sport or of food production.
Forgive us.
Each year more animals are becoming extinct,
or are added to the endangered species list.
Forgive us, for allowing beauty to be forever destroyed.
God is love. Through Christ your sins are forgiven.
Take hold of this forgiveness, and live your life,
knowing that you are forgiven, and deeply loved.

02 October 2017

blessing of the critters

The feast of St. Francis of Assisi will be in a couple of days.

When I was an undergraduate, I took a class called the Medieval Experience.  This was during a time when my faith eyes were being opened.  A prompting of the Spirit can be blamed!  Also playing a small role were my experiences with the “sweet leaf.”  I realized what it felt to have one’s mind opened.  But I’m in danger of digressing.

Our professor spoke about Francis and how he preached to the birds.  My reaction was “what a waste of time.”  Why preach the gospel to animals who don’t understand what you’re saying?  Safe to say, I didn’t get the point of the sermon.

But in time, I became aware of creation spirituality and Francis’ role in it.  His love of animals—and all of creation, including his enemies—made me recognize my previous misunderstanding.

One of my favorite hymns is “All Creatures of Our God and King,” which he wrote shortly before his death.  Of course, there are the familiar verses.  (The wording is slightly different, depending on the hymnal.)  “All creatures of our God and King…”  “Thou rushing wind that art so strong…”  “Thou flowing water, pure and clear…”

Banu and I spent a year in Tennessee, staying with my mother who had some health issues.  During that year, we mainly worshiped with Episcopalians.  I discovered verse 6 in their hymnal:

“And even you, most gentle death, waiting to hush our final breath / O praise him, Alleluia! / You lead back home the child of God, for Christ our Lord that way has trod: / O praise him, O praise him, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”

It seems Francis was both prescient and definitely embracing his mortality!  He knew he was about to go the way of all creation, loving the path the Lord has trod.

We will be blessing the animals, who have no qualms about their own mortality.