Daily Archives: January 4, 2018
The difference between Simeon and Herod lies not in understanding but in response: where Simeon replies to the news by joyously affirming, “we are bold to say that we have seen our salvation,” Herod replies with blunt opposition: “I refuse to be taken in.” With a sigh of deep regret, he orders the slaughter of the Israelite children.
Simeon the theologian may have found it difficult to accept the idea of God Incarnate, but for Herod it is impossible, because acceptance would require him to relinquish his position as the chief local instrument, in Judaea, of Romanitas and the Caesarist project. And this he lacks the strength of will to do.
It first dawned on Erin Burk that her town had become a haven for drug treatment soon after she noticed the fleet of white vans zooming through her neighborhood. The vans, she learned after tailing one, were ferrying addicts all over town to what amounted to halfway houses for those in recovery: sober living homes.
Nobody she asked seemed to know how many sober living homes were located in Prescott, so she decided to conduct an improvised census.
“I followed those vans around for three months,” said Ms. Burk, a young mother of five whose sleuthing identified dozens of sober living homes in her city — including 15 within a block of her house. “Then I cried for a long time.”
That was in 2010, the beginning of a boom here in the addiction treatment business that turned this city of just 42,500 people into one of the rehab capitals of the country. Today there are some 33 sober living homes in operation, down from a peak last year of 170. At the time, by some estimates, one in 30 people living in Prescott was in recovery.
The searing abdominal pain came on suddenly while Dr. Rana Awdish was having dinner with a friend. Soon she was lying in the back seat of the car racing to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, where Awdish was completing a fellowship in critical care.
On that night nearly a decade ago, a benign tumor in Awdish’s liver burst, causing a cascade of medical catastrophes that almost killed her. She nearly bled to death. She was seven months pregnant at the time, and the baby did not survive. She had a stroke and, over the days and weeks to come, suffered multiple organ failures. She required several surgeries and months of rehabilitation to learn to walk and speak again.
Helpless, lying on a gurney in the hospital’s labor and delivery area that first night, Awdish willed the medical staff to see her as a person rather than an interesting case of what she termed “Abdominal Pain and Fetal Demise.” But their medical training to remain clinically detached worked against her. Later, in the intensive care unit, she overheard her case being discussed by the surgical resident during morning rounds.
“She’s been trying to die on us,” he said. It made her angry, she says, because she was trying desperately not to die. “I felt he was positing me as an adversary. If my care team didn’t believe in me, what possible hope did I have?”
…by faith we know that God wants to share the communion of his trinitarian life with us. In other words, he wants to make us his sons and daughters—in short, as the Christian tradition has not hesitated to say, his intimate friends. How better to accomplish this than by becoming one of us. While a shared human nature is fundamental to our relationships with others, it is only with particular human beings that we can have such relationships. Even a generous love for mankind as a whole is no substitute for knowing and loving particular people whom we can see, hear, address, touch, hold, and kiss. These people have names, they live somewhere, they have ethnic and social backgrounds, and so on. To bring us into the communion of trinitarian life, God first enters into the round of human existence and thus, as Aquinas loved to say, he adapts his action to our nature. He even has a mother whose “hand leaves his light / Sifted to suit our sight” (G. M. Hopkins). At the same time, God adapts our nature to his. “A Boy is born in Bethlehem,” we sing, “Wherefore rejoice Jerusalem / The Father’s Word on high doth take / A mortal form for mortals’ sake / … He took our flesh, to man akin / In all things like us, save in sin / That he might make our mortal race, Alleluia / Like God and like himself by grace, Alleluia, alleluia” (“Puer Natus Est in Bethlehem”). How could we share in the communion of trinitarian life if we were not made sharers—“partakers”—of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4)? Listen to St. Athanasius: “the Son of God became man so that we might become God”.
Too often we read Scripture expecting nice, neat packages. I suspect this is why some Christians struggle with the Old Testament, where it’s harder to grasp the “whys” behind the tough stories. But Scripture mirrors the complexity of the human situation it is meant to address. And Scripture often whispers, even when we would prefer that it shout.
This Advent and Christmas, I am challenging myself to pay attention to the silences of Scripture””the places where Scripture invites us to ask questions, to wrestle with the text, to wrestle with God, as Jacob did. In the shades of gray, I can listen for the Spirit to whisper in the details I might otherwise overlook.
John Calvin spoke of Scripture as “spectacles” that teach us to see God and the world rightly. As we allow Scripture to shape our vision, we may find that we no longer need the easy answers, the clichéd responses, the knee-jerk reactions. We may find ourselves able to sit and be silent.
If you work for the Church of England in any capacity, from Archbishop of Canterbury to parish flower-arranger, how do you deal with the distressing statistics that in the past 20 years, average Sunday attendance has plummeted to 780,000 and is going down by a rate of about 20,000 a year?
Do you pretend it’s not happening and just tell everyone about the spike in your numbers at Christmas, or accept that it might be happening but believe that God’s grace will deal with the problem in its own good time? Or do you throw your weight behind a vast national marketing initiative, hurling millions of pounds at the problem?
Are you, in short, a denier or a panicker? We must thank Bishop Humphrey Southern, principal of Ripon College Cuddesdon, for coming up with those two words to describe the people on opposite sides of the debate, which isn’t really a debate because the people on opposite sides are hardly speaking to each other. In the nicest, most prayerful Christian way, they can’t stand each other and will do their best to avoid each other at synodical events. The panickers think the deniers are steering the Church towards oblivion; and the deniers think the panickers are eroding and cheapening the Church’s whole character.
Is Anybody Listening Dept–the NYT music critic gives a window into too much young adult American Life in the current climate
The tone of that song — mournful, dazed, sullen, traumatized, self-absorbed, defensive, remote, morbid — was pervasive in the pop of 2017. Hit radio and popularity-driven algorithmic playlists lingered on bleak, bummed-out sounds and scenarios, stringing together music that shares the feeling of being alienated, unprotected and besieged.
And why not? Consider the pressures on the millennial and younger listeners who are clicking to choose a song. They’re making their way into an era of accelerating income inequality. They’re awash in social media that nationalizes peer pressure, that expects intricately maintained self-branding and that shows — with photos — how just about everyone else is having a better life.
They are on college-education tracks that could leave them with a staggering debt burden, or they face the prospect of working in a dead-end retail or service-sector job under the ruthless exploitation of a gig economy. Social safety nets are being shredded, environmental protections are being reversed. For young listeners, there’s no guarantee of a fulfilling career or even of nontoxic food, air and water.
O Almighty God, who by the birth of thy holy Child Jesus hast given us a great light to dawn upon our darkness: Grant, we pray thee, that in his light we may see light to the end of our days; and bestow upon us, we beseech thee, that most excellent Christmas gift of charity to all men, that so the likeness of thy Son may be formed in us, and that we may have the ever brightening hope of everlasting life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
But fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints. Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
Therefore do not associate with them, for once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it is said,
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,
and Christ shall give you light.”
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.