Everlasting Life Here and Now

May 19, 2019

This Sunday’s (Easter 5) collect (opening prayer) is beautiful:

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life:
Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be
the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow
his steps in the way that leads to eternal life…

To know God is everlasting life. How simple, yet how mysterious. Relationship. Truly to know is to be in relationship. If I simply let myself be drawn into relationship with the One who is love, Source of all goodness, I live “happily ever after.” Everlasting life, however, is not the “afterlife”—as we may sometimes think. Everlasting life begins here and now, hidden deeply in our souls, and it is made manifest when we love one another, as Christ loves us.  

In this Sunday’s gospel, John 13, the Last Supper, Jesus gives the new commandment:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

He gives the new commandment after speaking of glory and of “leaving” the disciples. In a sense, glory is everlasting life. In commanding divine love (the only love that can be commanded!), Jesus teaches us the secret to participating already in everlasting life and manifesting it in our lives. When we love one another with this mysterious love, heaven begins.

The tough question, however, is: how willing are we to love in this way? It is a gift, but it must be met with willingness, with a “yes.” Sometimes, we would rather not. It seems too demanding, like unappealing new territory, and we do like our familiar ways. Let us, at least, acknowledge any hesitation or indifference, those times when we simply would rather not. Such an acknowledgment opens the door to our hearts to grace. Let us take a simple step in reaching out to another person in service and the Hoy Spirit will do the rest.

Yours in the Source,
Fr. Dominique

O Deep Ocean

On the calendar of saints for the Episcopal Church, on April 29, you will find Saint Catherine of Siena. Catherine was an Italian laywoman associated with the Dominican order. She died in 1380, was officially recognized for her holiness (declared a saint) in 1461, and was named a “Doctor of the Church/Teacher of the Faith” (one whose teaching has particular depth, richness and theological accuracy and is of universal import) in 1970. She spoke truth to power at a time when there was great division in the Church. She was a woman in love with the Risen Lord, with our Triune God. 
 
As we continue our Easter journey, I share with you an incredible prayer composed by Catherine. Perhaps, you can incorporate it into your prayer life?
 
O eternal Trinity, You are a deep sea in which the more I seek the more I find, and the more I find, the more I seek to know You. You fill us insatiably, because the soul, before the abyss which You are, is always famished; and hungering for You, O eternal Trinity, it desires to behold truth in Your light. As the thirsty hart pants after the fount of living water, so does my soul long to leave this gloomy body and see You as You are, in truth.

O unfathomable depth! O Deity eternal! O deep ocean! What more could You give me than to give me Yourself? You are an ever-burning Fire; You consume and are not consumed. By Your fire, You consume every trace of self-love in the soul. You are a Fire which drives away all coldness and illumines minds with its light, and with this light You have made known Your truth. Truly this light is a sea which feeds the soul until it is all immersed in You, O peaceful Sea, eternal Trinity! The water of this sea is never turbid; it never causes fear, but gives knowledge of the truth. This water is transparent and discloses hidden things; and a living faith gives such abundance of light that the soul almost attains to certitude in what it believes.

You are the supreme and infinite Good, good above all good; good which is joyful, incomprehensible, inestimable; beauty exceeding all other beauty; wisdom surpassing all wisdom, because You are Wisdom itself. Food of angels, giving Yourself with fire of love to men! You are the garment which covers our nakedness; You feed us, hungry as we are, with Your sweetness, because You are all sweetness, with no bitterness. Clothe me, O eternal Trinity, clothe me with Yourself, so that I may pass this mortal life in true obedience and in the light of the most holy faith with which You have inebriated my soul.

Yours in the Deep Ocean,
 
Fr. Dominique
brother-in-Christ

May 5, 2019

Hoping Against Hope

Surpassing Value

“Light and Peace” – Contemplative Evening Prayer Returns on October 8

Join us for a time of intimate and awesome quiet prayer of the heart on Sunday, October 8 at 6 pm.

Our Evening Prayer, flooded with candlelight, wrapped in ancient chant by an amazing choir of four and by electronic music, marked by words of wisdom, at the heart of which there will be sacred silence, will be a safe and uplifting space for all. Immediately following prayer, we will gather in the Parish House for Wine and Cheese.

Blessing of Animals 2017

Saturday, October 7 at 11 am

Spiff up your beloved furry, feathered, or finny friends, and bring them along with you Saturday for the Blessing of the Animals in the yard of the church. If you are unable to bring your pet in person, a photo or other representation will suffice!

In addition to the Blessing, we will have homemade treats for our four-pawed participants, and perhaps something for hardworking human companions as well.

Think about friends, family, and neighbors who have pets, and invite them to join you on the Saturday. It’s a wonderful way to spread the word about what we have at Ascension and St. Agnes.

If there is inclement weather, the blessing will be held in the St. Francis Chapel.


Contact Mimi Guerin 202-423-7189 with any questions.

A Paycheck from Heaven?

Many of us are familiar with this Sunday’s gospel, Matthew 20:1-16, about the laborers of the “eleventh hour”(the hours here are measured starting at about 6:00 am, dawn), the laborers who are paid the same wage for one hour of work as the laborers who worked a full day. Clearly, this is not a lesson in business! If I had been the first employee, I would have been (rightly) upset! The fact that the employer has the right, in the end, to pay as he wills (it being his money) does not make it fair. It simply means that he is free to do as he wills.

Bear in mind that this is a parable, which does not mean direct logic. Somehow, Jesus makes use of this parable about labor and “usual” wages to reveal something of the kingdom of heaven, and thus, of our relationship with God, which, strictly speaking, is not about labor and wages!

Now, we are, in a sense, laborers in the Lord’s vineyard. Through us, the Lord works to harvest, to grow his reign. But we are all late; and we are all, in one way or another, ill-equipped.

And what is our wage for such unique labor? God Himself! Our wage is not really a wage, but a gratuitous gift that cannot be measured. We are all thus over-“paid”! In fact, we labor in the Lord’s vineyard because we have been loved. And so, we have been pre-paid! And, as we labor in the Lord’s vineyard, we are loved. And when we labor poorly-i.e. often-we are still paid, God still loves us. Think about it: each one of us who comes forward to receive Communion receives the Lord, the same “wage”, no matter where we may be in life, no matter how “late” we may be. The effects in our life, of course, depend on our cooperation, but, initially, the same gift. Talk about “job” security! Talk about relationship security.

Yours in the Lord of the harvest,
Fr. Dominique
Rector

Love Does No Wrong

“How do I know what is right?!?” In a world of conflicting messages, this question is very real.  We are often told in response, “follow your heart”.  This is a legitimate response, in which there is wisdom.  It is helpful, however, to articulate what this means in the fullest and deepest sense.

The “heart center”, an expression often used in Yogic circles, is what?  Is it my inner world of feelings?  Is it my ability to imagine?  What exactly is it?  I will dare to say that it is neither of these.  As human beings, we are, of course, an organic whole, and so everything in us is connected: feelings to imagination to body to mind…  But, distinctions do help, so to see more clearly.

St. Thomas Aquinas, +1274 (whom I have been known to quote!), defines love in the following way, and therein articulates what the “heart center” is: “To love someone is nothing else than to will good to that person” (Summa Theologica Ia Q. 20 art. 2 corpus).
 Our “heart center” is our will, the incredible capacity that we have interiorly to move ourselves, by choice, towards another person, beyond what we feel or imagine.  This means, of course, that we can always love.  With certain individuals, we may emotionally experience an aversion (an intense movement away—which we traditionally call “hatred”), but we still retain some measure of freedom to “will good to that person”.  If we do this, we are on the right track.

Add to this, the work of the Holy Spirit in us, who respectfully and mysteriously inserts Him/Herself at this level (“that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God”—Romans 8:16).  The Holy Spirit sustains our “heart center” in ways we know not, enabling us to respond whole-heartedly to St. Paul’s exhortation (today’s second reading: Romans 13): “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law”.

With you, beseeching the Holy Spirit,

Fr. Dominique
Rector-elect

Intercession

We sometimes forget or even struggle to believe in the power of intercessory prayer, of the privilege we have of offering one another, of offering our world to God.  God is always moved by our hope for others and God always responds. The response may not be what we envision for it is always one of divine love.  The ways of divine love, however, surpass us: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways.” (Isaiah 55:9)

Speaking of divine love, allow me to appeal to one of our forbears in the Faith: Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (modern-day Algeria) from 396 to 430, when he died from a fever.  He is a preeminent Doctor of the Church. And he is, by the way, the patron saint of brewers, printers, and theologians. this simple affirmation, whose expression is attributed to him says it all.  St. Augustine journeys with us, that we might discover this truth more and more: To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances.

We just be careful, of course, how we understand “romance.” It is not the emotional “in-burst” of infatuation or of a passionate love affair. This love rises from the quiet depth of the heart.

When we intercede, we can be sure that those for whom we pray “fall in love” with God. We nudge them, without their knowledge, into the Embrace for which they and we all long. Let us pray for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, for the victims of terrorism and famine in our world, for restraint in North Korea, for continued healing after the incidents in Charlottesville, for our prarish, and for all our loved ones.

Yours in divine love,

Fr. Dominique
Rector-elect

In the Lord, we are light

How wonderful (and how timely!) a call from St. Paul in this Sunday’s second reading (Romans 12:1-8):

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect.

As Christians, as friends of Jesus, as sharers in the divine life, we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This means that the gift of faith and the movement of the Holy Spirit in us enable us to see differently. If we seek it and receive it, we are granted to discern “what is good and acceptable and perfect.” “What is good and acceptable and perfect?” we may ask. Everything that is truely loving, and thus leads to the mystery of God.

We indeed need to seek and receive divine transformation-especially in today’s increasingly complex society. Let us not settle for half-measures or for easy, sound-bite-sized half-truths (bearing in mind that the truth does not fit into 140 characters). Let us ask the Holy Spirit to take hold of us more and more, knowing that “in the Lord we are light” and are called to “live as children of light”. (Ephesians 5:8)

Yours in the Light of the World,

Fr. Dominique
Rector