Friday, February 23, 2007


So John arrived, without incident. What a relief. Now it looks like this whole thing can go ahead.

For more info on any of his Melbourne (or Australia-wide) events, click here.


One of my favourite memories of summer as a kid was the sound of the icecream van in our neighbourhood. You could hear it several streets away and always strain to hear which direction it was coming from, and whether it was headed your way. It doesn't seem to happen nearly so much anymore; maybe it's something about being in the suburbs versus the inner city, or maybe it's just that getting icecream from a van isn't quite so lucrative anymore. But a couple of nights ago, we heard the sound of an icecream van here. It wasn't playing Greensleeves, but it was playing Music Box Dancer, which is an acceptable substitute. And we discovered it had stopped right beside our house.

I should say too that one of Chelsea's favourite tv shows is the Koala Brothers (or as she calls them, the Wahlah Bwudduhs). We have three of the books too, and one of them is about Lolly, the emu character who drives around the outback in an icecream van. In one episode, Lolly's van speakers break down - a tragedy because no-one knows she's coming. So Chelsea's been well aware of the concept of icecream vans for a while now, but we'd never really seen one.

So there we were in the front yard on a warm and humid evening, watering the plants (with our grey water, I assure you) and as the sound began to fill our ears, we raced around the corner. Chelsea's eyes were filled with excitement, and mine with a bit of tears of happiness. There's something about sharing a childhood joy with your own kids that is just...sacred. Precious. This is the stuff of life. She excitedly pointed to the crude painting of Mickey Mouse on the front, and we danced together to the music.

Then we went and bought an icecream. Nothing exciting really, just a plain single cone. But there was nothing plain about the moment. It was this beautiful shared experience of excitement and joy; a real treat, all the more special for its being rare. We shared the icecream like we shared the joy; one lick at a time each, and when it was done and we wiped the icecream off, the smile was still there.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

St Polycarp

From Wikipedia:
Saint Polycarp of Smyrna (martyred in his 87th year, ca. 155–167) was a Christian bishop of Smyrna (now ─░zmir in Turkey) in the second century. He died a martyr when he was stabbed after an attempt to burn him at the stake failed. Polycarp is recognized as a saint in both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. It is recorded that "He had been a disciple of John." Traditional advocates follow Eusebius in insisting that the apostolic connection of Papius was with John the Evangelist, and that the author of the Gospel of John was the Apostle.

His sole surviving work is his Letter to the Philippians, a mosaic of references to the New Testament. It, and an account of The Martyrdom of Polycarp that takes the form of a circular letter from the church of Smyrna to the churches of Pontus, form part of the collection of writings Roman Catholics term "The Apostolic Fathers" to emphasize their particular closeness to the apostles in Church traditions. The Martyrdom is considered the earliest genuine account of a Christian martyrdom, and one of the very few genuine accounts from the actual age of the persecutions.

Polycarp was not a philosopher or theologian. He appears, from surviving accounts, to have been a practical leader and gifted teacher, "a man who was of much greater weight, and a more steadfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics," said Irenaeus, who remembered him from his youth. (Adversus Haereses III.3.4). He lived in an age after the deaths of the apostles, when a variety of interpretations of the sayings of Jesus were being preached. His role was to authenticate orthodox teachings through his reputed connection with the apostle John. Surviving accounts of the bravery of this very old man in the face of death by burning at the stake added credence to his words.

The date of Polycarp's death is disputed. Eusebius dates it to the reign of Marcus Aurelius, circa 166 – 167. However, a post-Eusebian addition to the Martyrdom of Polycarp dates his death to Saturday, February 23 in the proconsulship of Statius Quadratus—which works out to be 155 or 156. These earlier dates better fit the tradition of his association with Ignatius and John the Evangelist.

The Feast of St Peter's Chair

This is essentially a celebration of the Pope (St Peter = the first Bishop of Rome = Pope; so those who sit in his chair are his successors) - so what does a Baptist minister do with the Feast of St Peter's Chair? Isn't the celebrating the Pope kind of wrong or something? ;) The story goes that Peter established the Antiochan church (celebrated today) and the Roman church (with Paul, celebrated January 18th).

I don't really know what to do with the whole Pope thing...I suppose then, the best way to celebrate today is celebrating church planters, as Peter was...that which, in all of us, finds and creates communities that embody Jesus Christ. That which is faithful to not just proclaiming but living out the good news of Jesus, that which brings all people together, that which offers hospitality to the stranger and healing to the broken. For church planters past and present, I am thankful; from St Peter and his mobs to Peter from Caroline Springs.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

The first I knew of Ash Wednesday was the bushfires when I was a kid. I still remember the day, sitting in school and not doing much with the lights on low because it was like 40 degrees outside. This is still one of the worst recorded bushfires in Victoria. Anyway, for the longest time I thought it referred to that particular day, because of the ash that was created from the bushfires...apparently not. From Wikipedia:

In the Western Christian calendar, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. It occurs forty-six days before Easter, but Lent is nevertheless considered forty days long, because Sundays in this period are not counted as days of penance.

At Masses and services of worship on this day, worshippers are blessed with ashes by the celebrating priest or minister. The priest or minister marks the forehead of each participant with black ashes, in the shape of a cross, which the worshipper traditionally retains until washing it off after sundown. In many Christian churches, the minister of ashes may also be a layperson or non-clergyman. The symbolism echoes the ancient Near Eastern tradition of throwing ash over one's head signifying repentance before God (as related in the Bible). The priest or minister offers the worshipper an instruction while applying the ashes. These are three examples:

"Remember, man, that you are dust
And unto dust you shall return."

This wording comes from Genesis 3:19.


"Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel."


"Repent, and hear the good news."

The ashes are prepared by burning palm leaves from the previous year's Palm Sunday celebrations and mixing them with olive oil as a fixative. In the Roman Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is observed by fasting, abstinence (from meat), and repentance—a day of contemplating one's transgressions. The ashes are sacramentals, not a sacrament. The Penitential psalms are read.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season, which lasts until the Easter Vigil. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are permitted to consume only one full meal, which may be supplemented by two smaller meals, which together should not equal the full meal. Many Catholics will go beyond the minimum obligations demanded by the Church and undertake a complete fast or a bread and water fast. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are also days of abstinence from meat, as are all Fridays in Lent. Many Catholics continue fasting during the whole of lent, as was the Church's traditional requirement, concluding only after the celebration of the Easter Vigil.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Shrove Tuesday

From Wikipedia:
The word shrove is a past tense of the English verb "shrive," which means to obtain absolution (forgiveness) for one's sins by confessing and doing penance. Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the shriving (confession) that Anglo-Saxon Christians were expected to receive immediately before Lent.

The reason that pancakes are associated with the day preceding Lent is that the 40 days of Lent form a period of liturgical fasting, during which only the plainest foodstuffs can be eaten. Therefore, rich ingredients such as eggs, milk, sugar and flour are disposed of immediately prior to the commencement of the fast. Pancakes were therefore the perfect way of using up these perishable goods, besides providing a minor celebratory feast prior to the fast itself.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Seven Founders of the Servite Order

Today celebrates not just one saint, not even two, three, four, five or six saints, but SEVEN saints, for what they did together. From here:
Can you imagine seven prominent men of Boston or Denver banding together, leaving their homes and professions, and going into solitude for a life directly given to God? That is what happened in the cultured and prosperous city of Florence in the middle of the thirteenth century. The city was torn with political strife as well as the heresy of the Cathari. Morals were low and religion seemed meaningless.

In 1240 seven noblemen of Florence mutually decided to withdraw from the city to a solitary place for prayer and direct service of God. Their initial difficulty was providing for their dependents, since two were still married and two were widowers.

Their aim was to lead a life of penance and prayer, but they soon found themselves disturbed by constant visitors from Florence. They next withdrew to the deserted slopes of Monte Senario.

In 1244, under the direction of St. Peter of Verona, O.P., this small group adopted a religious habit similar to the Dominican habit, choosing to live under the Rule of St. Augustine and adopting the name of the Servants of Mary. The new Order took a form more like that of the mendicant friars than that of the older monastic Orders.

Members of the community came to the United States from Austria in 1852 and settled in New York and later in Philadelphia. The two American provinces developed from the foundation made by Father Austin Morini in 1870 in Wisconsin.

Community members combined monastic life and active ministry. In the monastery, they led a life of prayer, work and silence while in the active apostolate they engaged in parochial work, teaching, preaching and other ministerial activities.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

St Cyril and St Methodius

From here:
These two brothers were from Thessalonica, Greece. Methodius was born in 815 and Cyril in 827. Both became priests and shared the same holy desires to spread the faith. They became missionaries to the Slav nations of Moravia, Bohemia and Bulgaria. This is how it happened: In 862, just seven years before Cyril's death, the prince of Moravia asked for missionaries. They would bring the Good News of Jesus and the Church to his country. The prince added one more request: that the missionaries speak the language of his people. The two brothers, Cyril and Methodius, volunteered and were accepted.

They realized that they were being asked to leave their own country, language and culture behind out of love for Jesus. They did this willingly. Cyril and Methodius invented a Slaw alphabet. They translated the Bible and the Church's liturgy into the Slav language. Because of them, the people were able to receive Christianity in words they could understand. Some in the Church at that time did not approve of the use of a native language in the Church's liturgy. The two brothers faced criticism. They were called to Rome to have a meeting with the pope. Some people may have been surprised at the way the meeting went. Pope Adrian II showed his gratitude and admiration for the two missionaries. He approved their methods of spreading the faith and named them bishops. It seems that Cyril, a monk, died before he could actually be consecrated a bishop but Methodius was. Cyril died on February 14, 869. He is buried in the Church of St. Clement in Rome. Methodius returned to the Slav countries and continued his labors for fifteen more years. He died on April 6, 885.

On December 31, 1980, Pope John Paul II declared St. Cyril and St. Methodius co-patrons of Europe along with St. Benedict. Let us admire the generosity of these two holy brothers. We can ask them to inspire us with courage and kindness. They will help us be respectful of all people even if their religion, customs, language and culture may be different from our own.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

St Scholastica

This day falls in the middle of our inspiral weekend away. St Scholastica was the twin sister of St Benedict, founder of the Benedictine order (which encompasses most of Western monasticism). Much less is known of Scholastica than Benedict, but the following story (from here, recounted in St Gregory of Nyssa's Dialogues) gives some idea of what she was like:
His sister, named Scholastica, was dedicated from her infancy to our Lord. Once a year she came to visit her brother. The man of God went to her not far from the gate of his monastery, at a place that belonged to the Abbey. It was there he would entertain her. Once upon a time she came to visit according to her custom, and her venerable brother with his monks went there to meet her.

They spent the whole day in the praises of God and spiritual talk, and when it was almost night, they dined together. As they were yet sitting at the table, talking of devout matters, it began to get dark. The holy Nun, his sister, entreated him to stay there all night that they might spend it in discoursing of the joys of heaven. By no persuasion, however, would he agree to that, saying that he might not by any means stay all night outside of his Abbey.

At that time, the sky was so clear that no cloud was to be seen. The Nun, hearing this denial of her brother, joined her hands together, laid them on the table, bowed her head on her hands, and prayed to almighty God.

Lifting her head from the table, there fell suddenly such a tempest of lightning and thundering, and such abundance of rain, that neither venerable Benedict, nor his monks that were with him, could put their heads out of doors. The holy Nun, having rested her head on her hands, poured forth such a flood of tears on the table, that she transformed the clear air to a watery sky.

After the end of her devotions, that storm of rain followed; her prayer and the rain so met together, that as she lifted up her head from the table, the thunder began. So it was that in one and the very same instant that she lifted up her head, she brought down the rain.

The man of God, seeing that he could not, in the midst of such thunder and lightning and great abundance of rain return to his Abbey, began to be heavy and to complain to his sister, saying: "God forgive you, what have you done?" She answered him, "I desired you to stay, and you would not hear me; I have desired it of our good Lord, and he has granted my petition. Therefore if you can now depart, in God's name return to your monastery, and leave me here alone."

But the good father, not being able to leave, tarried there against his will where before he would not have stayed willingly. By that means, they watched all night and with spiritual and heavenly talk mutually comforted one another.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

St Jerome Emiliani and St Josephine Bakhita

St Jerome Emiliani. From here:

Saint Jerome Emiliani, born in 1481, was a member of one of the Christian patrician families of Venice, and in early life a soldier. Showing in his youth much inclination to virtue, he studied the humanities with success until the age of fifteen, when the clash of arms interrupted his peaceful pursuits and his practice of virtue. And then, only his ambition for honors placed limits to his disorders; it was necessary to live honorably in order to receive promotions. He was appointed governor of a fortress in the mountains of Treviso, and while defending his post with outstanding bravery, was made prisoner by the enemy. In the misery of his dungeon he invoked amid tears the great Mother of God, recognizing that his chastisement was just. He promised, nonetheless, if She would set him free, to lead a new and better life, more worthy of his Christian heritage, and to make known Her benefits in every possible way. Our Lady appeared to him at once, gave him the keys he needed, and commanded him to fulfill faithfully what he had promised. She led him out through the ranks of his enemies to the gate of the city. He went to Her church at Treviso and dedicated himself to the service of the One who had delivered him, proclaiming Her mercies to all listeners. He consigned to writing, and had notarized, an account of his deliverance.

On reaching his home in Venice he undertook a life of active charity, causing admiration in all who had known him as a worldling. His special love was for the deserted orphan children whom he found wandering in the streets during a famine and an epidemic in 1528. Already he had converted his house into a hospital, selling even its furnishings to clothe and feed the poor folk who came in great numbers to him, when they heard he had procured wheat from other regions. He acquired a house for the children, and after recovering miraculously from the illness which he had contracted during the epidemic, he himself taught them the Christian truths. Soon the accounts of his pious orphanage brought visitors, and financial aid sufficient to sustain the enterprise. He was then entrusted with the Venitian Hospital for the Incurables. When he needed some particular grace, he had four orphans under eight years of age pray with him, and the grace never failed to arrive. In Venice he was aided in his Hospital by his friends, Saint Cajetan of Thienna and Saint Peter Caraffa of Naples.

He founded a hospital in Verona and an orphanage in Padua. At Bergamo, which had been struck by a pestilence and famine, he went out with the reapers he could assemble, and cut wheat in the hottest season of the Italian summer. At their head, he sang Christian hymns in his rich voice, engaging the others to follow his example. There he founded two orphanages and succeeded in closing a number of houses of ill repute; he gave their inhabitants whom he converted a rule of life and procured a residence for them. The bishop was aiding him constantly; and he sent him out to other villages and hamlets to teach the children Christian doctrine. Multiple conversions resulted in all directions. Two holy priests joined him in Bergamo, soon followed by other noble gentlemen. This was the origin of the Congregation of Regular Clerics, called the Somascans because of their residence at Somasca, situated between Milan and Bergamo. The Congregation was approved in 1540 by Pope Paul III, and the Order spread in Italy. Saint Jerome died in 1537 at the age of 56, from the illness he contracted while caring for the sick during an epidemic in the region of Bergamo.

St Josephine Bakhita. From here:

For many years, Josephine Bakhita was a slave but her spirit was always free and eventually that spirit prevailed.

Born in Olgossa in the Darfur region of southern Sudan, Josephine was kidnapped at the age of seven, sold into slavery and given the name Bakhita, which means fortunate. She was re-sold several times, finally in 1883 to Callisto Legnani, Italian consul in Khartoum, Sudan.

Two years later he took Josephine to Italy and gave her to his friend Augusto Michieli. Bakhita became babysitter to Mimmina Michieli, whom she accompanied to Venice's Institute of the Catechumens, run by the Canossian Sisters. While Mimmina was being instructed, Josephine felt drawn to the Catholic Church. She was baptized and confirmed in 1890, taking the name Josephine.

When the Michielis returned from Africa and wanted to take Mimmina and Josephine back with them, the future saint refused to go. During the ensuing court case, the Canossian sisters and the patriarch of Venice intervened on Josephine's behalf. The judge concluded that since slavery was illegal in Italy, she had actually been free since 1885.

Josephine entered the Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa in 1893 and made her profession three years later. In 1902, she was transferred to the city of Schio (northeast of Verona), where she assisted her religious community through cooking, sewing, embroidery and welcoming visitors at the door. She soon became well loved by the children attending the sisters' school and the local citizens. She once said, "Be good, love the Lord, pray for those who do not know Him. What a great grace it is to know God!"

The first steps toward her beatification began in 1959. She was beatified in 1992 and canonized eight years later.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

St Paul Miki and his companions

From here:
Nagasaki, Japan, is familiar to Americans as the city on which the second atomic bomb was dropped, killing hundreds of thousands. Three and a half centuries before, 26 martyrs of Japan were crucified on a hill, now known as the Holy Mountain, overlooking Nagasaki. Among them were priests, brothers and laymen, Franciscans, Jesuits and members of the Secular Franciscan Order; there were catechists, doctors, simple artisans and servants, old men and innocent children—all united in a common faith and love for Jesus and his Church.

Brother Paul Miki, a Jesuit and a native of Japan, has become the best known among the martyrs of Japan. While hanging upon a cross Paul Miki preached to the people gathered for the execution: “The sentence of judgment says these men came to Japan from the Philippines, but I did not come from any other country. I am a true Japanese. The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I certainly did teach the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason I die. I believe that I am telling only the truth before I die. I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you to become happy. I obey Christ. After Christ’s example I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.”

When missionaries returned to Japan in the 1860s, at first they found no trace of Christianity. But after establishing themselves they found that thousands of Christians lived around Nagasaki and that they had secretly preserved the faith. Beatified in 1627, the martyrs of Japan were finally canonized in 1862.

Monday, February 05, 2007

St Agatha

Today, in St Agatha, we honour that in us which is broken; which has been broken by others, and by ourselves. In this little-known saint, I am confronted by the violence of her story; but lest I gloss too quickly over that violence, let me sit with it. Lest I externalise and project that violence onto others, I must first deal with my own violence, my own brokenness. Do we have the strength (I accidentally wrote "sense" first instead of strength...hmm...try that too) to sit with it, without judging it, but rather consecrating it, redeeming it, instead of destroying it?

From here: We have little reliable information about this martyr, who has been honored since ancient times, and whose name is included in the canon of the Mass. Young, beautiful and rich, Agatha lived a life consecrated to God. When Decius announced the edicts against Christians, the magistrate Quinctianus tried to profit by Agatha's sanctity; he planned to blackmail her into sex in exchange for not charging her. Handed over to a brothel, she refused to accept customers. After rejecting Quinctianus' advances, she was beaten, imprisoned, tortured, her breasts were crushed and cut off. She told the judge, "Cruel man, have you forgotten your mother and the breast that nourished you, that you dare to mutilate me this way?" One version has it that Saint Peter healed her. Imprisoned further, then rolled on live coals, she was near death when an earthquake stuck. In the destruction, the magistrate's friend was crushed, and the magistrate fled. Agatha thanked God for an end to her pain, and died.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


It is time to plant tomatoes. Dear God, we praise this fruit and give thanks for its life and evolution. We salute the tomato, cheery, fragrant morsel, beloved provider, survivor and thriver and giver of life. Giving and giving and giving. Plump with summer's joy. The scent of its stem is summer's joy, its promise and rapture. Its branches breathe perfumes of promise and rapture. Giving and giving and giving.

Dear God, give strength to the wings and knees of pollinating bees, give protection from hailstorms, gales and frosts, give warm days and quenching rains. Refresh and adorn our gardens and our tables. Refresh us with tomatoes.

Rejoice and rejoice! Celebrate the scarlet soul of winter sauces. Behold the delicious flavour! Behold the oiled vermilion moons that ride and dive in olive-bobbing seas of vinegared lettuce. Let us rejoice! Let this rejoicing be our thanks for tomatoes.
AMEN. (Michael Leunig)
Ok, so clearly we haven't been pumping our fruit and vegetables full of steroids or artificial fertilizers, but these are the first of our crop. Mostly it's been fun sharing the gardening with Chelsea.

While we're at it, here are some carrots from a few weeks ago:

Chelsea was so excited when we picked them she skipped around the backyard for a few minutes yelling, "They growed! They growed! They growed!" at the top of her voice.

We're also growing strawberries, and have had some success there.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

St Ansgar and St Blaise

These guys remind you that sometimes being a Christian isn't all bumper stickers and rock music...

Saint Ansgar: (from here)
The “apostle of the north” (Scandinavia) had enough frustrations to become a saint—and he did. He became a Benedictine at Corbie, France, where he had been educated. Three years later, when the king of Denmark became a convert, Ansgar went to that country for three years of missionary work, without noticeable success. Sweden asked for Christian missionaries, and he went there, suffering capture by pirates and other hardships on the way. Less than two years later he was recalled, to become abbot of New Corbie (Corvey) and bishop of Hamburg. The pope made him legate for the Scandinavian missions. Funds for the northern apostolate stopped with Emperor Louis’s death. After 13 years’ work in Hamburg, Ansgar saw it burned to the ground by invading Northmen; Sweden and Denmark returned to paganism.

He directed new apostolic activities in the North, traveling to Denmark and being instrumental in the conversion of another king. By the strange device of casting lots, the king of Sweden allowed the Christian missionaries to return.

Ansgar’s biographers remark that he was an extraordinary preacher, a humble and ascetical priest. He was devoted to the poor and the sick, imitating the Lord in washing their feet and waiting on them at table. He died peacefully at Bremen, Germany, without achieving his wish to be a martyr.

Sweden became pagan again after his death, and remained so until the coming of missionaries two centuries later.
Saint Blaise: from here:
St. Blaise was a fourth century bishop who lived in Armenia and devotion to him has been popular throughout the ages. Much of what is known about the life of St. Blaise comes from the legends about his life. Historical proof exists that Blaise was martyred for the Faith in his diocese of Sebastea in Armenia in the year 316. The legends surrounding Blaise state that during the persecution of Licinius Blaise was forced into exile into the hills in the backcountry of his diocese. There he lived as a hermit, spending his days in prayer and penance.
Icon of St. Blaise

The legends say that one of the products of Blaise's holiness was that even the most wild of animals became his companions without any harm to him. One day hunters discovered Blaise while seeking wild animals for the amphitheater and arrested him as a Christian. Blaise was taken to prison, but on the way there he interceded to God on the behalf of a child who was choking to death on a fish bone. The child was cured, but Blaise was forced to continue on his way to prison. While in prison, Blaise confirmed that he was a Christian and was given the chance to recant his profession of Faith if he offered worship to the pagan idols. Blaise refused even after being tortured by having his flesh torn with iron combs and rakes. Finally, Blaise was beheaded and granted entrance to heaven.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord

First, the text:
Luke 2:22When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

25Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 33And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 36There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. 39When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
"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", says Simeon.

Gil Bailie says this of the passage:
People walk away from the crucifixion suddenly aware of something about themselves; they beat their breasts. Conscience and consciousness are closely related. The real evolution of consciousness has to do with the workings of conscience. When the myth that justifies our sinfulness is shattered, our sinfulness becomes a problem. This is the beginning of interiority because we can begin to see our self from outside the mythological veil. "Forgive them for they know not what they do." Girard calls this the first definition of the unconscious. Only several verses later, however, the spectators of the cross see (Gr. theoreo) what has happened, and they go home beating their breasts. The epistemological handicap has been removed, and immediately there is a pang of conscience and the beginning of a new consciousness.
What Jesus' death confronts us with is precisely the fact that 1. This is what we do - we try to oppose, kill or destroy love and 2. That this is how love (God) responds - with self-giving sacrifice that is nonetheless confronting and consciousness raising. Even here at his presentation, an old man and an old woman can see this happening.

May we have the patience to wait for Jesus as did Simeon and Anna, and the consciousness to recognise him.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Lyrical Spotlight: Clare Bowditch

The search for the 2007 compilation contenders begins...with Melbourne singer/songwriter Clare Bowditch's On This Side (from her 2005 album What Was Left):

We are living in a treehouse
In the middle of the 'burbs.
We've got two kids now - he says he wants a third.
Well I would give this man most anything he asks
'Cause I never did imagine
How green grows the grass.

On this side, things they work differently.
Me oh my, we're all that we hoped we'd be
'Cause this time, we dared to believe.

Well it wasn't always this way,
I can tell you that for sure.
Once the only colour I knew was grey.
My heart was low, it was poor.
Felt that nobody could love me
The way that I loved them.
That was before him.

On this side, things they work differently.
Me oh my, we're all that we hoped we'd be
'Cause this time, we dared to believe.

Why do we forget how to be loved?
Why do we bother doing it was simply getting off?
I'm not talking making babies,
Though that is also true
It's whatever you call that thing
I'm in when I'm in with you

On this side, things they work differently.
Me oh my, we're all that we hoped we'd be
'Cause this time, we dared to believe.

It's a quiet night at home now,
Little miracles in bed
And a birdy on my windowsill,
That makes happy happen in my head.
It's funny all the little things,
So boring to describe,
They taught my joy her roots,
And they brought my life alive.

On this side, things they work differently.
Me oh my, we're all that we hoped we'd be
'Cause this time, we dared to believe.