Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!




This morning, as I rolled over, put on my glasses, and checked my smart phone, I was reminded of something I told our diocesan communicator Beth Felice:  "The smart phone is the new cigarette."

One of the things I do during Advent is to make room to be playful...because sometimes in play, our realities are revealed.  So, with great apologies to Merle Travis and Tex Williams and "Smoke that Cigarette" I present "Check, Check that smart phone..."

Now I'm a person with a heart of gold
And a most generous person I've been told
Wouldn't kick a dog or even harm a flea

But I believe I could break every bone

Of the inventor of the digital phone

Oh, I'd murder that son-of-a-gun in the first degree


It ain't cuz I don't have one too

And I reckon that goes for both me n' you

It's a part of the modern world that we must own


But cell phone slaves are all the same

At a pettin' party or a poker game

Everything's gotta stop while they check their dang smartphone


Check that smart phone one more time

Check that smart phone 'till you make yourself go blind

Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate

That you hate to make him wait

But you just gotta check your smart phone one more time


Now in a game of chance the other night

Old Dame Fortune was a-doin' me right

The kings and the queens just kept on comin' round

And I got a full and I bet 'em high

But my bluff didn't work on a certain guy

He just kept on raisin' and layin' that money down

Now he'd raise me and I'd raise him

I sweated blood, gotta sink or swim

He finally called and didn't even twitch or moan

So I said "aces full Pops how 'bout you?"

He said "I'll tell you in a minute or two

But right now, I gotta check this picture on my phone"


Check that smart phone one more time

Check that smart phone 'till you make yourself go blind

Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate

That you hate to make him wait

But you just gotta check your smart phone one more time


The other night I had a date

With the awesomest person in the United States

All high-bred, uptown, mannered as could be

The night went on and seemed to me

That things were 'bout like they oughta be

Progressin' well, as far as I could see

It was clear we both had broken the ice

And our smoochin' party was goin' nice

So help me y'all, I believe I'ze almost home

But then after a kiss and a little squeeze

And I heard, "uh, hang on, excuse me please

I just got a Facebook message on my phone"

Check that smart phone one more time

Check that smart phone 'till you make yourself go blind

Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate

That you hate to make him wait

But you just gotta check your smart phone one more time



(Images of 227 star trails taken during the night of the Perseids meteor shower, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Hebrews 11:1-3, 11:8-16:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old-- and Sarah herself was barren-- because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, "as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore." All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. 


Ever had the experience of hearing something new in a familiar piece of Scripture?  Today, both in church, and later, when I read this text at two nursing home visits with elderly parishioners,  I heard Verse 13-16 of this for what seemed like the first time: "All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them."


This week is also one of my favorite times of summer--the Perseids meteor shower.  I have an interesting relationship with this natural phenomenon--some of the best displays I've seen of the Perseids have happened at some of the worst times of my life--times I was nowhere near the promises and the best I could do was stand in the dark and catch a glimmer of their existence, as fleet and temporary as a meteor trail, and greet them.

I am a person who is very intimately attuned to this country home I've lived in for 13 years.  I take my evening walks down the dirt road past my house and I literally notice day by day the tiny, seemingly insignificant changes.  I feel my way through the seasons.  Just today on my walk, I thought about those subtle evening things that remind me summer is waning.  Only a rare lightening bug flickers, compared to June, when they seem more like the twinkling lights of the big city.  Prairie roses and multiflora roses have given way to ironweed and butterfly weed, and the first of the sunflowers--mostly tickseed sunflowers--have just started to flower.  The indigo bunting I sometimes see on my walks has started to have a little darker, more neon plumage.  I need to get my walk finished before 8:30 p.m. as the days of walking as late as 9something p.m. are over.

The world of my little country home is an interesting balance between sameness and anti-sameness.  Yes, I've come to rely on the sameness of these tiny more or less repeatable changes, but no two years here have been the same.  Some of these changes wax and wane in their vividness and their obscurity.  Each year, I'm a year older.  Something in my life has changed.  I never really get to go back to the year before.  I think about how every major change in my life, I've placated myself by saying, "Oh, well, if it doesn't work, I'll just go back to the way it was before."  But that is a lie I think I tell myself to prod myself forward.  The truth is, even when things don't work out, even when my hopes are shattered, the door is barred to that place--perhaps not physically or geographically, but the fact of the matter is, I've changed.  The experience--even the failed ones--have changed me.  Yet that elusive heavenly country is still there before me.

The Perseids, if nothing else, remind me to, above all else, remain awake.  The heavenly country is out there somewhere, even if the sky is overcast, and even if the way home seems elusive.

 
(The first crocuses of Spring 2013 make their appearance at my house)

On this glorious Easter Day of 2013, I thought I'd rework my favorite canticle for Morning Prayer, "A Song of Creation."  Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  Looks like my home in the country is also having a bit of a resurrection, too!

A Song of Creation (for early spring in northeast Missouri)
(Modeled after Canticle 12, p. 88, BCP)

Invocation 

Glorify the Lord, all you works of the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
In the firmament of his power, glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever. 

I    The Cosmic Order
 
Glorify the Lord, you blustery winds of spring, *
    O skies and lakes and ponds and rivers.
Constellations and planets, glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever. 

Glorify the Lord, sparkling dew and thick frost, *
    O fog and snow and rain.
Robins and goldfinches, glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, you flowers and green grass, *
    Who peek out from winter’s brown death.
Crocuses and daffodils, glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
 

Glorify the Lord, O inclement weather, *
    O sticky mud and late March snowstorm.
Thunderheads and north winds, glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever. 

II    The Earth and its Creatures 

Let the earth glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O pastures and hills,
and all that awakens to grow upon the earth, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O creek banks and gullies, *
    O frogs and crawdads and tadpoles.
Mosquito and wood tick, glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O raccoons and possums *
    and all you cattle and sheep.
O country folk and city folk, glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever. 

III    The People of God 

Let the people of God glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O lay people and ordained, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever. 

Glorify the Lord, O spirits and souls of God’s people, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Poor folk and rich folk, glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever. 

 Doxology 

Let us glorify the Lord: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
In the firmament of his power, glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

 
("The Thankful Poor," by Henry Ossawa Tanner.)

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Maundy Thursday C—March 28, 2013—Trinity Episcopal Church
Exodus 12:1-4(5-10)11-14; Psalm 116:1-2, 10-17; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Maria L. Evans

“For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”
Something that was said at our weekly Eucharist and Text Study over at Twin Pines really caught my attention Tuesday.  I heard someone describe our Gospel reading we just heard tonight as a parable of action.  Usually Jesus’ parables are stories; but in this one, it is his actions, not his words, that create the paradox.  One of the commonest forms of hospitality in those days was to see that a guest had clean feet after a long day on the road—but it was usually a servant, a slave, or the woman of the house who performed that task.  Certainly not the Lord and Master! Yet it is exactly the Lord and Master who is the one kneeling with the water and the towel at the feet of the disciples, in the hopes that they learn by example and do likewise.

On our bulletin cover tonight, Henry Ossawa Tanner illustrates this in a different way.  Even though the house in this painting is rather bare, and the meal a meager one, the grandfather is setting an example by giving prayerful thanks for it.  Certainly his hope is that his grandson will follow this example.  It’s a safe bet that the grandfather learned this from someone in his life with a similar hope.

Many of us can look at the stories of our lives and think fondly of the people and situations where we learned by example.  We can probably also think of the times when we were a little slow on the uptake with those examples.  This slowness is captured in our Gospel reading through the interchange between Jesus and Peter.  (Poor Peter, he’s always the fall guy in these stories!)  We, of course, have the benefit of knowing the plot spoiler in advance—we can see that Jesus is trying to teach that serving in love—even serving at the most mundane or ordinary task—sends an extraordinary message about where God’s power actually lies.  Peter can only see his own discomfort in being the recipient of this gift.  “Dude!  You are not going to clean off my gnarly, toe jam-ridden feet!  That’s a job for underlings, not a great teacher and prophet like you!  Let the help do it!”  He totally misses the message until Jesus points out that Peter’s refusal is a refusal of Jesus, rather than just a refusal of a foot bath.

When I look at our picture on tonight’s bulletin cover, the posture of the grandson makes me wonder if he may not yet totally understand his grandfather’s message.  The grandfather’s prayer posture seems to reflect a slightly deeper sense of gratitude.  The grandson is obediently following his lead, but his left hand seems to be pushing against the table a little.  Perhaps the grandson simply is hungry and wants to eat—or perhaps he hasn’t yet learned the lesson about gratitude that is best expressed by an old saying of the Hausa tribe in Nigeria—“Give thanks for a little, and you will find a lot.”

Lessons about gratitude aren’t always the easiest lessons to learn.  Maybe it’s because poverty and abundance are so hard to define in a way that is consistent in our lives and at the same time unclouded by judgments and assumptions.  Take the title of the painting on our bulletin—“The Thankful Poor.”  Would we think the title appropriate if the grandfather had a smart phone sitting on the table?  Would the title fit if the man and his grandson were a little on the portly side?  What if they were giving thanks over a McRib, a Happy Meal, and a pair of giant sugary Cokes?  It’s not always easy to sort out, is it?

Even the kinds of images the Bible uses for “abundance” are a little problematic.  At first glance, they seem great--lands flowing with milk and honey; cups overflowing; vats of wine bursting at the seams.  That said, God’s abundance is not particularly neat and tidy.  There’s probably a sticky residue with all that milk and honey.  Overflowing cups stain the tablecloth.  Bursting wine vats most certainly leak all over everything.

In a world where we are told that we can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many electrical outlets, it’s almost impossible to believe that the simplest and commonest acts of humble service can amount to much.  Yet it’s equally impossible to predict their delayed reaction.  Jesus points that out when he tells Peter, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”  Even if the grandson in our painting doesn’t totally understand his grandfather’s gratitude, he might get it later.  All of us know lessons we didn’t get the first time, but the example stayed with us somehow.

Acts of humble service, when performed in love, also create a window for others to be opened to even more opportunities to express their own callings and to respond to their own nudgings from the Holy Spirit.  Many of us who volunteered at the food drive Saturday heard several donors relate times when they had to be the recipients of assistance and the difficulties of having to accept help.  Our food drive gave others the chance to reflect on their own stories and respond by being participants in even more acts of humble service.  You can bet that others were watching their example, too.  This was especially evident when donors were either letting their children pick out a food item to donate, or allowed their small children—some as young as toddlers—place the food in the truck.  No, they really didn’t understand it now—but the hope, of course, was that someday they would.

I imagine God hopes for the best in us every day—even in the midst of humanity at its most evil—wars and hate and greed—and in those times God truly grieves and hopes that someday, we’ll understand.  I like to imagine God smiles at us when we manage to get something—anything—right, much how we smile when toddlers are imitating our good examples.  Sometimes, it’s hard for us to see the good examples in this torn and hurting world.  We are reminded in our Epistle, though, that Jesus still teaches us by example, because we always have an opportunity to receive, reflect, and repeat his example by sharing in the Eucharistic feast.  Tonight is an opportunity to reflect upon this in a way that we only get one time a year.

Many of you know that one of our traditions on Maundy Thursday is the stripping of the altar—the removal of all things related to Christianity and the liturgical traditions that evolved from it. I’ve often sat here on Maundy Thursday and wondered, “What if Jesus had simply never happened?  What would be missing from my life if this never existed?  What stories from my life would be stripped from my memory?  Would I have ever bothered to know any of the people sitting here with me?  What would sit on this piece of ground instead of this building?  How would the absence of all this change who I understand myself to be?”

In short, this night invites us to temporarily experience an extreme poverty that we never have to fear in real life, because the truth is that we can strip the church of all its trappings, but God can’t be stripped from us. It calls us to a deeper understanding that when we are asked to “lift up our hearts” in the Eucharistic Prayer, we are already lifting up something stripped of all of our pretenses, and stripped of the judgments everyone else has put upon them.  We are holding up our hearts to God as only God sees them.  On this night—Maundy Thursday—we are invited to become one of the thankful poor.  AMEN

 

The Seven Sorrows of Mary
(A seven station devotion by Maria L. Evans)

Also known as the Seven Dolors, the Seven Sorrows incorporate four of the Stations of the Cross and three other episodes in the lives of Jesus and Mary, namely:

The Prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:34-35)
The Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13)
The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:43-45)
Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary
Jesus Dies on the Cross (John 19:25)
Mary Receives the Body of Jesus in Her Arms (Matthew 27:57-59)
The Body of Jesus Is Placed in the Tomb (John 19:40-42)

In particular, this devotion is written to call attention to issues related to women's empowerment and the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, particularly the ones involving women and children.

Each station opens with a stanza from a version of the Stabat Mater ( the tune is #159 in The Hymnal, 1982;) Stanzas in each of the stations come from various sources of Anglican hymnody (The Hymnal 1982The Hymnal 1940, and The 1906 English Hymnal;) so that the opening lines of each station can be either spoken or sung.  Times for silent meditation are provided at each station.  Intercessory prayers and petitions may be added as part of the Concluding Prayers.

The First Sorrow--Simeon's Prophecy to Mary

At the cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful mother weeping,
close to Jesus at the last,
Through her soul, of joy bereavèd,
bowed with anguish, deeply grievèd,
now at length the sword had passed.


Simeon told Mary, "“This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.""

Each day during school terms, mothers all over the world send their children off to school--some on buses or in cars, some on foot.  Some wearing crisply ironed colorful uniforms, others toting the ubiquitous oversized backpack.  On each of those days, a mother's hope is that her child learns not just the things that will make them happy and successful as adults, but will also make the world a better place.  In the photos of first grade classes, we see dreams of future firefighters and doctors, farmers and merchants, teachers, nurses, veterinarians, merchants.  None of those children at age six are dreaming of being a sex worker, a drug dealer, a petty thief, or a gun-runner.  Yet, that is exactly who some of these sweet children will be when they grow up.

Each school day, mothers let their children leave the safety of home to be entrusted in the safety of school--but school is not always as safe as our hopes would like it to be.  Every day, all over the world, the safety of school is violated somewhere--school shooters, bombings, wars, coups.  Children are killed on the way to and from school by vehicles, land mines, drive-by shooters, and car bombings.  Children are abducted.  Children are molested.  These crimes against children remind us daily that the world is far from being a safe place.

The Mother of Jesus knew the sorrow of Simeon's prophesy.  Mothers throughout the world know the sorrows of the statistical probabilities in a dangerous and deadly world.  Some mothers know this more deeply than others, in the places of the world with shortened life expectancy, high infant mortality, and high maternal childbirth-related deaths.

Let us pray.  (silence)

Comforter God, the Blessed Mother of Jesus suffered the piercing sword of Simeon's prophecy; you know the swords that pierce our hearts also.  You know our fears for our children, and the fears of mothers all over the world for their children.  Hold our children and our fears in your loving embrace.  When we want so badly to draw ourselves inward and pull our children closer, aid us in letting them go forth in the world to learn and grow, despite the risks.  Help us to remember the mothers in the places where danger is more imminent.  Especially be present with the families whose child does not come home; the families whose children are lost or abducted, missing, or killed.  Help them to find hope and grace in the places that seem too full of hatred and grief.  We pray all these things in the name of your son, Jesus. Amen.

The Second Sorrow--The Flight into Egypt

O, that blessed one, grief-laden,
blessed Mother, blessed Maiden,
Mother of the all-holy One;
O that silent, ceaseless mourning,
O those dim eyes, never turning
from that wondrous, suffering Son.


It must have been a tense time for the Holy Family as they prepared to leave Nazareth in light of the angel's instructions to abandon their home.  How does one prepare to escape without attracting much attention?  Knowing they had to leave the security of home and possessions carried its own stress and fear.  As they fled, each person they represented on the road represented a potential hidden danger.  It must have felt quite troublesome to seek refuge in the land where their ancestors found only bondage.

Each day, mothers and their children flee danger.  Some flee to escape flooding, storms, hurricanes, typhoons.  Some flee because of war and oppression.  Some flee abusers within their own households--people they love.  Others flee from economic bondage in the form of sweatshops and exploitative work arrangements.  Just as Mary, Joseph, and Jesus fled to avoid a certain death for their son in the Slaughter of the Innocents, families all over the world pack their bags and seek a new home, a new country, for shelter and sanctuary.  Some hope for a new life and new prosperity.  Many only have the clothes on their backs and a few treasured possessions.  Many risk being "illegal."  Sometimes they suddenly find themselves in exile because governments dissolve or the ruling powers are overthrown, and situations dictate that they can no longer return home.

In times of natural disaster and war, families sometimes return home to find they no longer have one.  Sometimes they return to find a physical shell of what they called home, but the rest of their family dead. Towns and villages can be wiped from a map, but the memory of those who once lived there can only be wiped off the map if we choose to forget them.  Painful as it might be, may we remember.

Let us pray. (silence)

God of sanctuary, just as Mary and Joseph chose to flee in order to spare the life of young Jesus, families flee every day to save the lives of their children.  They risk new and present dangers to escape the dangers of the world they already know.  They choose to accept the ambiguities of the unknown rather than be swallowed up by the dangers in their immediate present moments.  Illumine their path as they seek new homes, permanent and temporary.  Comfort them when they mourn those who die in the whirlwind of violence; assuage them from the sense of guilt that sometimes comes with the mercy of survival.  Give them the courage to start over.  We ask these things in the name of your Son, Jesus.  Amen.

The Third Sorrow--The loss of the child Jesus in the Temple

With what pain and desolation,
With what grief and resignation,
Mary watched her dying son.
Deep the woe of her affliction,
when she saw the crucifixion
of the sole begotten one.


Imagine Mary's fear and apprehension when young Jesus was nowhere to be found. Even though no one can watch her child every minute of every day, Mary certainly must have blamed herself.  Perhaps she had cross words with him just prior to his slipping away unnoticed, or she had disciplined him, and she regretted it.  Perhaps she and Joseph blamed each other, or they were caught in the uneasy web of wanting to console each other, yet there was no time, because they needed to keep searching for their son.

Each day, thousands of sons and daughters go missing.  Some have left home of their own accord.  Others have been abducted.  Families of missing children find each day, each hour, a torment.  They have searched in vain for their children, trying the same avenues over and over, until they are so weary, they simply want to stop.  Yet they cannot--to stop searching feels like resigning to their child's death.  Their lives are hung in a state of suspended animation--is their child alive?  Or dead?   Some mothers will go to their grave never knowing.  When the phone rings, does it bring relief?  Or will it bring grief?

Let us pray.  (silence)

Omniscient and omnipresent God, you call the stars by name and can count the number of raindrops in a thundercloud.  No one is absent from your sight.  Attend to the fears and grief of the families who mourn their separation from their missing children. Incline the ears of the runaway to hear your small still voice.  Lend your aid and protection to the missing children who are in danger and cannot defend themselves. When the lost are found, when the absent become present, help us to ponder these things in our hearts in the same way the Blessed Virgin Mary did, upon discovering Jesus in the temple. In the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, finder of lost sheep, we pray.  Amen.

The Fourth Sorrow--Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary

Who, on Christ's dear mother gazing,
in her trouble so amazing,
born of woman, would not weep?
Who, on Christ's dear Mother thinking,
such a cup of sorrow drinking,
would not share her sorrows deep?


Nothing could have consoled Mary when she saw her son on the way to Calvary--whipped and scourged, the crowds mocking, taunting and jeering.  Perhaps they also scorned her for approaching him, mocking her cries and moans as she beheld the horror of what had been done to Jesus.  But perhaps also in that crowd there were silent mothers whose stomach churned at the thought, "This could be my child.  I could be that woman."

Each day, mothers travel long distances to see their children in prison and in police stations.  Some behold the horror of their children beaten by authorities.  In some countries, brutality at the hands of police and soldiers is typical and expected, rather than unusual and deplorable.  Some of these mothers will discover that their daughters will have been raped by those who swore to uphold and protect the laws.  Some mothers will see their children's limbs blown off by land mines and IED's, or visit them in the hospital following such events.  Some mothers will weep at the side of their children dying on the battlefield.

Let us pray. (silence)

Liberator God, when we view the carnage of the world news through media sources, remind us that these could be our children, our parents, our siblings.  Help us to see the pain of the Blessed Virgin Mary beholding her son at Calvary, rather than to pass judgment on the situation or the politics.  Fill our eyes with her tears, our hearts with her sorrow, our stomachs with her aching love for her Son.  Place your words in our mouths so we can find the voice to speak out on behalf of the oppressed; animate our hands and feet to work for justice and peace.  We ask this in the name of your Son, the Prince of Peace.  Amen.

The Fifth Sorrow--Jesus Dies on the Cross


In the passion of my Maker,
be my sinful soul partaker,
may I bear with her my part;
of his passion bear the token,
in a spirit bowed and broken
bear his death within my heart.


Certainly the biggest heartbreak of all for Mary was the prolonged agony she had to witness as Jesus died.  Crucifixion is a long, slow, painful form of death.  It can take hours or days before hypovolemic shock, sepsis, or dehydration sets in.  It was a death so horrible that it was usually not used in executing Roman citizens.  To see her son humiliated in this way must have been emotional torture.

Each day, mothers all over the world watch their children die slowly of diseases such as malaria, malnutrition, and HIV.  They see their children die from war, genocide, and land mines.  They see their children tortured in front of their very eyes during interrogations and imprisonment. They watch the slow spiral of their children falling victim to addictions.  Mary's grief at Jesus' death is repeated every day worldwide because of disease, famine, addiction, and political unrest. 

Let us pray. (silence)

Faithful God, just as the Blessed Virgin Mary steadfastly remained at the feet of Jesus till the end, you abide with us through our tribulations and sorrows.  Some of the greatest sorrows in our lives are not our own afflictions, but the wounds that are borne by those we love, and all we can do is watch helplessly.  Reveal your presence to us to the dying as well as to us, as we keep vigil.  Open our eyes to the plight of those dying from conditions or situations we cannot even imagine.  We pray these things in the name of the One who had to suffer and die before he could be raised again in glory. Amen.

The Sixth Sorrow--Mary Receives the Body of Jesus in Her Arms

Jesus, may thy cross defend me,
and thy saving death befriend me,
cherished by thy deathless grace:
when to dust my dust returneth,
grant a soul that to thee yearneth
in thy paradise a place.


Although it might not seem like a gift for Mary to have received the lifeless Jesus in her arms, in reality it was a tremendous gift.  Normally, victims of crucifixion were not taken down from the cross--they were left on it to rot after the vultures had picked around on the soft parts.  They could remain there weeks, months--even so long as a year.  They remained, scarecrow-like, in the hopes that the local population saw it as a potential deterrent.  Families were generally not allowed to take their loved ones down from the cross.  Mary was given one last sacred moment with her son when most families would still have to endure the sight of their loved ones on a cross.

Each day, all over the world, families face moments of closure, even though the news is bad.  Mothers with missing children are notified that, although their child is dead, their child has been found.  They accept the reality that their loved one will never return.  Although closure so often follows bad news, it is a necessary component of the grieving process.

Let us pray. (silence)

God of all truth, you reveal all things in your time, not ours.  Not all of your revelations give us the answer we desire. Just as Mary accepted her dead son in her arms, help us to accept the answers we are given, and to willingly embrace them, even if they are not the answer of our heart's desire. Lead us into the path of simply taking one step in front of another, as opposed to wallowing in the past.  Imbue us with the courage to accept our heartbreaks as they are, not as we would have them to be.  We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ, who triumphed over death and the grave.  Amen.

The Seventh Sorrow--The Body of Jesus Is Placed in the Tomb

Jesus, may her deep devotion
stir in me the same emotion,
Fount of love, Redeemer kind;
that my heart fresh ardor gaining,
and a purer love attaining,
may with thee acceptance find.


Any of us who have buried a loved one--particularly a young person who never had the chance to live what we'd consider a full lifespan--knows what certainly must have been Mary's lament--"Why him, God? Why could you have not spared him and taken me instead?"

Each day, all over the world, mothers weep for the lives that will never be lived fully because they were snuffed out prematurely by the gangster's stray bullet, the indifferent car bomb, and the drunk driver. Lives that ended because of a mosquito's sting, the swing of an executioner's hand, or the calculated, executive decision of a general halfway across the world. Whether one is wicked or noble, in death they are all the same, and a mother's tears flow with equal force. We too often forget that someone's hopes and dreams for the future often go in that tomb, as well.  But tomorrow will come, and each of us, in our own way, and in our own spaces, will be faced with the task of walking away from the tomb and leaving those old hopes buried, to see new hopes in tomorrows yet to come, in the presence of each other.

Let us pray. (silence)

God of all the tomorrows not yet lived, we do not always understand why we are left to live on while those we love die prematurely.  We can fathom no purpose for why these things happen in our sometimes torn and desolate world.  We are grieved over what we would have done, had we known better.  We lament what we should have done and didn't.  Forgive us for our blindness to what we could have done.  Grant us strength to hold our arms out wide enough to accept your embrace, and the embrace of those around us acting in your stead.  Rouse us in our inertia, to be able to walk away from the tomb despite our desire to crawl inside it ourselves.  In the name of He Who Rolled Away The Stone, something no one could dare ask or imagine, we pray.  Amen.


Concluding Prayers:

God of all mercies, we thank you for the witness of Mary, the mother of Jesus, God-bearer for us all;
who witnessed not by acts of mighty power, but by tears of deepest sorrow.

We thank you for her witness of trust in God despite Simeon's prophesy that her own soul would be pierced;
help us to trust in God's mercy even when our lives look uncertain.

We thank you for her witness despite fear during the Holy Family's flight into Egypt;
keep us ever mindful that you are present even in our own deepest fears.

We thank you for her witness of perseverance as she searched for the lost child Jesus and found him in the temple;
uphold us in our own times of searching.

We thank you for her witness of presence as her son traveled the Via Dolorosa;
grant us serenity and grace in those times we are impotent to help those we love.

We thank you for her witness of faithfulness unto death as her son died on the cross;
strengthen us in the times we feel unable to bear any more sorrow.

We thank you for her witness of acceptance as she received the body of Jesus;
steady our hands as we accept the things we cannot change.

We thank you for her witness of grief as the stone rolled over the tomb;
empower us to put away what is dead, and await the Resurrection, though we cannot yet imagine it.

Hear our petitions, Lord, as we reflect on these seven sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
(the people add their petitions as desired.)

We fly, O God, to the witness of Mary, the God-Bearer;
in your mercy hear the petitions and sorrows of our heart,
and deliver us from all danger.
In the name of the Father who loves us, the Son who redeems us,
and the Holy Spirit who comforts us,
we humbly pray.  Amen.

 
("Jesus is Buried," by Doug Blanchard)


The Seventh Sorrow--The Body of Jesus Is Placed in the Tomb

Jesus, may her deep devotion
stir in me the same emotion,
Fount of love, Redeemer kind;
that my heart fresh ardor gaining,
and a purer love attaining,
may with thee acceptance find.


Any of us who have buried a loved one--particularly a young person who never had the chance to live what we'd consider a full lifespan--knows what certainly must have been Mary's lament--"Why him, God? Why could you have not spared him and taken me instead?"

Each day, all over the world, mothers weep for the lives that will never be lived fully because they were snuffed out prematurely by the gangster's stray bullet, the indifferent car bomb, and the drunk driver. Lives that ended because of a mosquito's sting, the swing of an executioner's hand, or the calculated, executive decision of a general halfway across the world. Whether one is wicked or noble, in death they are all the same, and a mother's tears flow with equal force. We too often forget that someone's hopes and dreams for the future often go in that tomb, as well.  But tomorrow will come, and each of us, in our own way, and in our own spaces, will be faced with the task of walking away from the tomb and leaving those old hopes buried, to see new hopes in tomorrows yet to come, in the presence of each other.

Let us pray. (silence)

God of all the tomorrows not yet lived, we do not always understand why we are left to live on while those we love die prematurely.  We can fathom no purpose for why these things happen in our sometimes torn and desolate world.  We are grieved over what we would have done, had we known better.  We lament what we should have done and didn't.  Forgive us for our blindness to what we could have done.  Grant us strength to hold our arms out wide enough to accept your embrace, and the embrace of those around us acting in your stead.  Rouse us in our inertia, to be able to walk away from the tomb despite our desire to crawl inside it ourselves.  In the name of He Who Rolled Away The Stone, something no one could dare ask or imagine, we pray.  Amen.


Concluding Prayers:

God of all mercies, we thank you for the witness of Mary, the mother of Jesus, God-bearer for us all;
who witnessed not by acts of mighty power, but by tears of deepest sorrow.

We thank you for her witness of trust in God despite Simeon's prophesy that her own soul would be pierced;
help us to trust in God's mercy even when our lives look uncertain.

We thank you for her witness despite fear during the Holy Family's flight into Egypt;
keep us ever mindful that you are present even in our own deepest fears.

We thank you for her witness of perseverance as she searched for the lost child Jesus and found him in the temple;
uphold us in our own times of searching.

We thank you for her witness of presence as her son traveled the Via Dolorosa;
grant us serenity and grace in those times we are impotent to help those we love.

We thank you for her witness of faithfulness unto death as her son died on the cross;
strengthen us in the times we feel unable to bear any more sorrow.

We thank you for her witness of acceptance as she received the body of Jesus;
steady our hands as we accept the things we cannot change.

We thank you for her witness of grief as the stone rolled over the tomb;
empower us to put away what is dead, and await the Resurrection, though we cannot yet imagine it.

Hear our petitions, Lord, as we reflect on these seven sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
(the people add their petitions as desired.)

We fly, O God, to the witness of Mary, the God-Bearer;
in your mercy hear the petitions and sorrows of our heart,
and deliver us from all danger.
In the name of the Father who loves us, the Son who redeems us,
and the Holy Spirit who comforts us,
we humbly pray.  Amen.



 
("Pieta" by Guerro de la Paz)


The Sixth Sorrow--Mary Receives the Body of Jesus in Her Arms

Jesus, may thy cross defend me,
and thy saving death befriend me,
cherished by thy deathless grace:
when to dust my dust returneth,
grant a soul that to thee yearneth
in thy paradise a place.


Although it might not seem like a gift for Mary to have received the lifeless Jesus in her arms, in reality it was a tremendous gift.  Normally, victims of crucifixion were not taken down from the cross--they were left on it to rot after the vultures had picked around on the soft parts.  They could remain there weeks, months--even so long as a year.  They remained, scarecrow-like, in the hopes that the local population saw it as a potential deterrent.  Families were generally not allowed to take their loved ones down from the cross.  Mary was given one last sacred moment with her son when most families would still have to endure the sight of their loved ones on a cross.

Each day, all over the world, families face moments of closure, even though the news is bad.  Mothers with missing children are notified that, although their child is dead, their child has been found.  They accept the reality that their loved one will never return.  Although closure so often follows bad news, it is a necessary component of the grieving process.

Let us pray. (silence)

God of all truth, you reveal all things in your time, not ours.  Not all of your revelations give us the answer we desire. Just as Mary accepted her dead son in her arms, help us to accept the answers we are given, and to willingly embrace them, even if they are not the answer of our heart's desire. Lead us into the path of simply taking one step in front of another, as opposed to wallowing in the past.  Imbue us with the courage to accept our heartbreaks as they are, not as we would have them to be.  We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ, who triumphed over death and the grave.  Amen.


 
("Jesus Dies on the Cross," from a set of Stations of the Cross painted by David O'Connell)


The Fifth Sorrow--Jesus Dies on the Cross

In the passion of my Maker,
be my sinful soul partaker,
may I bear with her my part;
of his passion bear the token,
in a spirit bowed and broken
bear his death within my heart.


Certainly the biggest heartbreak of all for Mary was the prolonged agony she had to witness as Jesus died.  Crucifixion is a long, slow, painful form of death.  It can take hours or days before hypovolemic shock, sepsis, or dehydration sets in.  It was a death so horrible that it was usually not used in executing Roman citizens.  To see her son humiliated in this way must have been emotional torture.

Each day, mothers all over the world watch their children die slowly of diseases such as malaria, malnutrition, and HIV.  They see their children die from war, genocide, and land mines.  They see their children tortured in front of their very eyes during interrogations and imprisonment. They watch the slow spiral of their children falling victim to addictions.  Mary's grief at Jesus' death is repeated every day worldwide because of disease, famine, addiction, and political unrest. 

Let us pray. (silence)

Faithful God, just as the Blessed Virgin Mary steadfastly remained at the feet of Jesus till the end, you abide with us through our tribulations and sorrows.  Some of the greatest sorrows in our lives are not our own afflictions, but the wounds that are borne by those we love, and all we can do is watch helplessly.  Reveal your presence to us to the dying as well as to us, as we keep vigil.  Open our eyes to the plight of those dying from conditions or situations we cannot even imagine.  We pray these things in the name of the One who had to suffer and die before he could be raised again in glory. Amen.

 
(Carving of 4th Station in Stations of the Cross, at Almondbury with Farnley Tyas Church, near West Yorkshire, UK)

The Fourth Sorrow--Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary

Who, on Christ's dear mother gazing,
in her trouble so amazing,
born of woman, would not weep?
Who, on Christ's dear Mother thinking,
such a cup of sorrow drinking,
would not share her sorrows deep?


Nothing could have consoled Mary when she saw her son on the way to Calvary--whipped and scourged, the crowds mocking, taunting and jeering.  Perhaps they also scorned her for approaching him, mocking her cries and moans as she beheld the horror of what had been done to Jesus.  But perhaps also in that crowd there were silent mothers whose stomach churned at the thought, "This could be my child.  I could be that woman."

Each day, mothers travel long distances to see their children in prison and in police stations.  Some behold the horror of their children beaten by authorities.  In some countries, brutality at the hands of police and soldiers is typical and expected, rather than unusual and deplorable.  Some of these mothers will discover that their daughters will have been raped by those who swore to uphold and protect the laws.  Some mothers will see their children's limbs blown off by land mines and IED's, or visit them in the hospital following such events.  Some mothers will weep at the side of their children dying on the battlefield.

Let us pray. (silence)

Liberator God, when we view the carnage of the world news through media sources, remind us that these could be our children, our parents, our siblings.  Help us to see the pain of the Blessed Virgin Mary beholding her son at Calvary, rather than to pass judgment on the situation or the politics.  Fill our eyes with her tears, our hearts with her sorrow, our stomachs with her aching love for her Son.  Place your words in our mouths so we can find the voice to speak out on behalf of the oppressed; animate our hands and feet to work for justice and peace.  We ask this in the name of your Son, the Prince of Peace.  Amen.

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I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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