Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lessons & Carols Text Notes

We're doing Lessons & Carols tonight at St Anne's. My lovely and talented Dragonfly is the director. The texts and music are sublime, of course, but Brenda's program notes on the choral selections are themselves works of literary art.

Notes on Carol Texts                        Brenda Martins

Adam Lay Y’bounden:  This famous and much-set medieval text not only describes the key points of the ‘fall’ in the garden of Eden, but goes on to revel in that disaster as a catalyst for wondrous grace: “Blessed be the time that apple take was!” Matthew Larkin’s setting for treble voices evokes swirling winds in a primal cosmos…and the moment in which God spoke and brought order out of both nothingness and chaos. And the Word spoken? Redemption. Such a Redemption…that even pre-exists the need.

Ralph Vaughan-Williams is credited with rediscovering and preserving the text of The Truth From Above, whose ten verses chronicling the fall from grace to redemption in Jesus had been passed down through oral tradition. He set it twice. Tonight’s version of this carol—which he transcribed from a Herefordshire folksinger—includes verses 1, 2, 5 & 6 of the oringinal ten. So it seems there is good reason that the phrase ‘endless woe’ seems a non sequitur to the prior ‘woman was made with man to dwell’.

Ave Maria is arguably one of—if not the—most blessed and revered sacred texts. And if that is so, then we are doubly fortunate tonight to hear what is perhaps the most heart-stirring and mystically beautiful setting ever, by Franz Biebl. There is no inkilin of the messiness of the angel’s proclamation or any of its scandalous ramifications, but simply the awe-filled harmonies of heavenly bodies at the most holy moment—to which the response was to be the most cosmos-rending ‘yes’ ever.  

Herself a Rose: Mystical poet Christina Rosetti’s sublime poem (1877) speaks to the precious interconnectivity between Mary and Jesus… Mother and Child . From the first few phrases we are both playfully and profoundly drawn into that poetic and mysterious relationship where One is mirrored in the Other.  May we be inspired on our journey to be transformed into His likeness. 

The Christ Child: British composer Will Todd weaves a lovely, rocking setting around G. K. Chesterton’s marvelous poem.  In and through that collaboration, we are given three glimpses of the Christ Child as He grows—first on Mary’s lap, then on her heart, then standing at her knee. Yet through  prophetic vision, we see more—The weary, weary world is promised all is aright; the world’s desire is in her arms. And, in a foreshadowing triumph, heaven and earth are joined in adoration of their King.

Sure on this Shining Night: James Agee’s poem has captured for decades the hearts of those seeking wholeness.  Morton Lauridsen, who primarily sets religious texts, gives it a lush, expansive setting that emphasizes the reality…the surety of this Shining Night. Tonight, we are there. We claim the mystical vision of the health and healing we know are ours. All is health. All is healed. Bring on the high summer of God’s presence in those worshiping the Babe, then…in our hearts, now…and in presence of the crowned Christ Child in the world to come.

God So Loved the World truly speaks for itself. John 3:16? Certainly a most wholly and holy  rejoinder to John 1

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Feedback (or...An Evangelical Walks into a Nave)

Not long ago I preached a Sunday sermon about one of the techniques I have found useful for keeping my own liturgical spirituality fresh, which is to put myself intentionally in the place of a visitor, experiencing for the first time (or close to the first time) that which I and others now find routine and commonplace.

I don't often actually get feedback from such a person--any feedback at all, let alone articulate and penetrating feedback. Over the past couple of years at St Anne's, we've been getting a small stream of visitors from the local evangelical liberal arts college. In the milieu of that community, St Anne's is kind of para-normal; clearly we "know the Lord," but we do strange stuff. Some of them have a taste of our liturgical worship rooted in Catholic tradition, quietly roll their eyes, and move on. Others have an epiphany.

Connor Park is one of the latter, apparently. This morning he posted the following (longish) poem on his Facebook page, and I share it here with his permission. I love it when somebody "gets it" even without the benefit of months of careful catechesis. It's almost enough to make on believe in the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit.

(Connor Park's poetry blog is here.)

On the Eucharist #1

So it's mid-autumn, right
Smack dab in the middle of the season of change
Where everything green turns to gold
Like God's up there playing Midas or something
“You thought that green was gorgeous? - Just wait till you see what colours I have left.”
And everything's falling down
or falling apart.
The trees are out in the cold with no coats.
Crazy trees.

But anyhow,
An evangelical walked into the nave -
Great set up for a joke, right?
That's sort of how I always thought too,
Like God's up there throwing feelings my way or something -
“You thought THAT theology was mindblowing? - Just wait till you hear my really good stuff.”
And everything's rising up
or raring up.
The kid is out on the road with no coat.
Crazy kid.

So there's this guy right?
And he's the type of nutcase who'll wear sandals in sub-zero
And maybe doesn't quite have it all together
And maybe he's got a twinge of that postmodern, question-the-world, Jacques Derrida, Jack Kerouac, Jack Daniels différance,
Drunk on uncertainty and linguistic ambiguity
Incapable of settling, living life with abandon
Or at least as wild as his upbringing will allow.

So all his life he's had the answers,
And a bunch of questions too -
Why am I here?
Whose language am I speaking?
Why am I here again? Where's my home, my hope?
And everything's bursting forth
or busting doors.
The guy's out in the world without a clue.
Crazy guy.

All right.
Leave him on his corner for a while.
He could go on for hours.

Let's talk about bread.
About how yeast -
when harbored in a warm and welcoming envelope of water
and nurtured on the sweet monosaccharides of life
expands and ferments and sweetens and enriches
and turns the sticky glutens of grain
into something well worth eating and savoring.
What was potentially, but only just potentially edible
Is nourishing, life-giving, delicious.

And how about wine?
You've got these little vine berries
Some people think they're ambrosia but
Most will acknowledge that grapes are not actually all that.
But you take this purple fruit
and walk all over it
and throw in - what else? - yeast
and bury that for a while
And raise it up again
As an invigorating force.

These are the things that we can understand.
Simple facts. Not a lot to question there.
But the kid, he's out for more
In this mid autumn time when everything is changing
During the season when green is passing out
During the question-raising time.
It's like God is out there somewhere, right here –
“You thought the first two decades were interesting? Just wait a little while longer.”
The kid's out for enough love to drown in.
Crazy kid.

This kid is a walking paradox, all right?
A homebody to the core
A wearer of floured aprons and a dough-puncher
An eater of warm stew and wearer of slippers
But at the same time
A road-lusty wanderer
A wearer of flannel shirts and the same jeans for ten days
A devourer of life and a barefoot nomad
At least, metaphorically.

Yes, a complete oxymoron:
Contending peacenik.
Studious poet.
Egalitarian medievalist.
A musician with no rhythm
A believer with questions.
Confound it all, but he is also a man helplessly in love.
Crazy kid.

So that joke from earlier?
An evangelical walked into the nave?
True story.
Searching for God knows what.

He's always supposed
Kid has
That the readiness is all.
If he waited restless long enough
His colours would change without intent or action
And the undiscovered country would remain so –
Found but not discovered
And he'd gain entry with enough forethought
and examination
and above all, reading
An armchair theologian of a God in the wild.
Now that's absurd.
To set out on a voyage without ever casting off.
Remember, this kid is a very oxymoron
Definitely like God decided to tell a joke –
“There’s this kid, you see, drunk on questions, dizzy for answers.”

But things do change,
in mid-autumn
In the falling of the leaves
Other types of falling happen slow
There’s that love thing
“Gotta kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight…”
And there’s the discovery of home in a concrete crate –
And what’s more the embrace of people with as much paradox
as the kid could ever dream.
and yes, the girl.
She warrants two mentions at least.
So many more though, definitely.
Everything budding, brewing, rising

“An evangelical walked into the nave.”
Searching for God knows what
And he did.
Miracle of miracles –
The forensic formulae for bread and wine
Come up short, which confirms his poetic leaning
But also so much more.

The wind blows
and the light in the window catches his eye,
illuminating, knowing, forgiving
“…by what we have done, and by what we have left undone…”
and a centuries-old rhythm calms his heart
beating, walking, steady pacing
“…joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven…”
and the smell of incense hallows him a temple
ringing, singing, loud echoing still
“Hosanna in the highest.”
The wind blows
“…to be for your people the Body and Blood of your Son...”

And he kneels.
And he rises.


You’d think that God was crazy or something.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A Welcome Word

I received the following this morning. Most of the members of CLSD probably differ from my position on some the core theological and ethical controversies that currently beset the Episcopal Church, so I am especially grateful to Chuck Evans and the leadership of that organization for putting out this message.

An Open Letter to Standing Committee Members and Bishops with Jurisdiction by The Concerned Laity of the Springfield Diocese (“CLSD”)

The Concerned Laity of the Springfield Diocese was initially organized in 2003 (in association with the Via Media USA) to provide a voice for the disenfranchised moderate majority (primarily lay, but also including a few brave clergy) by calling for full participation of all points of view and all sorts of persons in the governance and ministry life of the diocese, and for Springfield's return to an active and cooperative role within the Episcopal Church.
CLSD congregations represent approximately two-thirds of ASA and Pledge and Plate income within the Diocese of Springfield and many CLSD members were actively involved in the election process that resulted in the election of Father Dan Martins.  

CLSD wants all in the church, especially members of Standing Committees and Bishops with jurisdiction, to know that while Father Martins may not have been the first choice of all of our members, he was very near the top of everyone’s list of preferred candidates, and we strongly urge you to provide Father Martins with the necessary consents.  CLSD has been assured in writing by Bishop-elect Martins that he will not take the Diocese out of The Episcopal Church  --  “I cannot imagine circumstances in which I would seek to lead the Diocese of Springfield out of the Episcopal Church.  Period.   Full stop. Take that to the bank.  Should I ever come to believe that my own soul is fatally compromised by my association with the Episcopal Church, I would leave it simply as an individual  …….  I am clearer than ever that this is where I am called to be. What would cause me to individually leave would be a conviction that my own soul's health was in clear and present danger. I don't foresee that happening.)”  Thus, Father Martin’s stated commitment, and the very makeup of the Diocese of Springfield (see the election Process Survey results should assure the broader church that the Diocese of Springfield is not leaving the Episcopal Church  ..… the most favorable environment for that eventuality has passed without ever having the necessary votes to succeed. 

CLSD believes our bishop-elect to be a person of integrity and honesty, with evident gifts for gracious listening, inclusive leadership and pastoral care – three of the most urgent needs within the Diocese.  We believe he will be faithful to his vows to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church. We encourage anyone with questions or concerns to contact Fr Martins directly [].

The hope and prayer of the CLSD is for a speedy affirmative conclusion of the consent process. We look forward to the consecration of our new bishop on March 19, 2011, with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as chief consecrator. 
Charles T Evans – Convener / Moderator CLSD

Monday, November 01, 2010


Almost since the day of my election as Eleventh Bishop of Springfield, there have been rumors that some folks in my former diocese (San Joaquin) would mount an organized campaign of opposition to my consecration (scheduled for 19 March 2011). I had hoped that they were the sort of rumors that turn out not to be true. Sadly, this was not the case. Last Thursday I received a phone call from Bishop Jerry Lamb, provisional bishop of the (reconstituted) Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. Bishop Lamb informed me that, within a matter of a couple of hours, a set of documents would be sent to all the Standing Committees and Bishops-with-jurisdiction asking that they withhold consent from my election. (The package may be found here.)

Since I am aware that Standing Committees across the Episcopal Church meet at various times of the month according to local custom, and that several will indeed be meeting within the next week, and since I don’t have access to the email addresses of all the members of these committees, a platform like my own blog is the only one available to me in which I might effectively respond to charges made by the Bishop and Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin. I do so acutely aware of the fine line between “presenting a defense” and “being defensive.” I hope to competently do the former while avoiding the latter.

One of the things I have become aware of in all this is that what a person knows to be true about his words and actions doesn’t always correspond with what others perceive about those words and actions. As I have considered my words and actions as a priest active in the affairs of the Diocese of San Joaquin during my thirteen years there (1994-2007), I am aware of how plausible it is for others to surmise that I was at all times an “insider,” that I had Bishop Schofield’s ear and was part of a relatively small group of advisors whom he took into his confidence. I was, after all, a Rural Dean from 2000 until my departure, and a member of the Standing Committee for one term and part of another one, separated by a year of hiatus. I was also an Examining Chaplain and put in charge of organizing many diocesan liturgies.

For much of this time, particularly the first five years of the last decade, this perception can probably be said to be largely true. I shared the concerns of Bishop Schofield, and the majority of clergy and laity within the diocese, over the steady movement of the Episcopal Church’s leadership away from classical Anglican and Christian moral teaching. I was alarmed by the actions of General Convention in 2003. In January 2004 I, along with one other priest and two lay persons, accompanied Bishop Schofield to the organizational meeting for what became the Anglican Communion Network. I signed the charter of that network. Yet, at that very meeting, after some animated discussion, the majority of those voting clarified the intention of the group that the ACN was to operate within the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church. I voted with the majority on that question, and would not have signed the charter had the matter not prevailed. Also at that same meeting, we explicitly repudiated the so-called “Chapman Memo,” which laid out a strategy for “replacing” the Episcopal Church with another Anglican province.

As we know in retrospect, of course, the Anglican Communion Network did not long retain a commitment to operating within its original framework. In August 2006, I once again represented the diocese at an ACN council meeting and was dismayed by how the tone had changed. Clearly the impetus toward separation on the part of some key leadership was a “done deal.” Even before that time, I had begun to distance myself from participation in such activities, and to voice my reservations at meetings of the Standing Committee and Rural Deans. As a result, I, along with other leaders of similar persuasion, began to perceive that we were being frozen out of the decision-making process, that Bishop Schofield’s true inner circle consisted only of three or four diocesan staff members.

I found myself, then, in an exceedingly awkward place. I revered—indeed, loved—my Bishop, and wanted to be loyal to him to the extent of my conscience. I did not wish to number myself among his detractors, or even to aid them in any way. Moreover, I realized that, even had I been inclined to do so, directly opposing him would have been an utterly fruitless effort. He commanded a strong following among both clergy and laity—and even among the majority of my own parishioners. And as I have mentioned, I was in basic sympathy with the concerns driving the high level of frustration and anger within the diocese.

Yet, at the same time, I knew I could not go where he was going. The sexuality conflict is serious and troubling, but it is my sense now, and was my sense then, that having what I perceive to be the “wrong” view on conflicted issues does not make someone my enemy, only my opponent. I can “share a church” with people who disagree with me on these things; indeed, I believe it a gospel mandate that I do so.

So the path I ended up following was one of loyal and oblique opposition. Ironically, the documents posted by the current San Joaquin Standing Committee, if one takes the time to examine them closely, quite clearly illustrate this. When the Committee on Constitution and Canons proposed an amendment to Article II of the diocesan constitution that said, in effect, “We’re going to be Anglican, and affiliate with a province to be named later,” I cooperated with two clergy colleagues in crafting a substitute that would have been compatible with remaining within the Episcopal Church. (True, it omitted any mention of TEC, but it is worth noting that the “unqualified accession” language had already been removed some years earlier, so that concern was not at issue in 2006.) This was supplemented by a resolution that we drafted that appointed a committee to study various options for ensuring continued affiliation with the Anglican Communion, one of which would have been continued affiliation with the Episcopal Church. I did everything within my power, given the political realities in the diocese, to retard and subvert progress toward separation from the Episcopal Church. I even proposed an amendment to the constitutional change on the floor of convention that would have restored mention of the Episcopal Church to Article II, but my amendment was roundly defeated. So I failed in my efforts, but it was not for lack of trying.

Of course, from late 2006—actually, about the time of the diocesan convention that year—and on into the following year, I was involved with the search process at St Anne’s in Warsaw, Indiana, where I now serve as rector. I accepted that call in May 2007. In my experience, God’s timing usually turns out to be pretty good (!), and in this case it got me out of a situation where my opposition would have needed to turn from oblique to direct, not only with my bishop, but with my own parish, where the vestry was overwhelmingly committed to Bishop Schofield’s leadership. As the saying goes, it would not have been pretty.

Let me conclude by reiterating my intention to make my vows when I am consecrated a bishop without crossing my fingers, either physically or mentally. I will neither attempt to lead, nor cooperate with anyone else’s effort, in taking the Diocese of Springfield out of the Episcopal Church. In fact, I will oppose any such effort. I have tasted the fruit of that sort of activity, and it’s not sweet. I am committed to the Episcopal Church, and believe my specific vocation is to exercise my ministry within the Episcopal Church. My voice has been and will continue to be a minority voice on many important questions. I accept what comes with that territory. It is my call.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Life is Changed, Not Ended

OK, that's a quote from the funeral liturgy, so it's kind of ripped out of context. I have not died. But, metaphorically, there has been a kind of death, and simultaneously a rebirth to new life. It began with definitive suddenness when I received a phone call from the President of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Springfield yesterday afternoon informing me that their electing synod had chosen me to become the 11th bishop of their diocese. But this death-leading-to-rebirth will take some months to fully play out; the canonical processes must be satisfied, and they take time.

Some hours after the event, someone told me the bells of St Paul's Cathedral in Springfield were rung, announcing my election. It was at that moment that I nearly broke down and wept. I am quite certain I have never felt so humbled in my life.

So begins a time of transition--a rather long one, actually. I will probably end up being a bishop-elect for as long as I was a deacon in 1989. But there will be an immense amount to do on both ends of the transition, so I'm not particularly worried that time will drag. At my age, time never really drags much, anyway.

One of the questions that I had to answer during the "walkabout" events in the diocese three weeks ago was, "If you have a blog, will you continue it after you are a bishop?" I answered then that I'm not entirely sure, but I hope so. I realize that being a bishop is a rather different kind of job (that is, not merely different as a matter of degree) than being a parish priest. It comes with its own peculiar constraints, constraints that I am at this time only conceptually familiar with. So that may have an effect on the character of my blogging. I don't know. It's something we'll just have to live into.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Prayer For Today

Marcel Dupre improvising on Veni Creator Spiritus on the organ of St Sulpice, Paris. The Dragonfly and I visited this place in 2005, and we have remembered it with great affection ever since.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Friday Afternoon Sentiment

"Since from his bounty I receive
such proofs of love divine,
Had I a thousand tongues to give,
Lord, they should all be thine."
--Samuel Stennett, 1787
(Hymnal 1940, #353)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes...

One of my parishioners posted this as her Facebook status this afternoon:
So, M...'s been sick for a couple weeks, and I haven't let her drink from the chalice at church. This morning at the altar rail she asks, "Mom, can I have salvation this morning?"
M. is her daughter, who turns seven this Friday. Reading this was, for me, one of those luminous moments when the veil that divides Heaven and Earth is exquisitely thin.

If you know the Episcopal Church's Book of Common Prayer, it's not difficult to see where she got the language of her petition. For longer than this child can remember, she has drunk from the chalice while hearing the words, "The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation." Hence ... can I have salvation this morning?

Of course, M. was saying more than she knows. I suspect that she also knows more than she can say. (Shameless plug: This little girl has been formed for the past two years in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.) And I thank her mother for sharing this precious moment. We all stand in need of being reminded just what it is we're doing every time we stretch our hands across a communion rail. We are, implicitly, asking, "Can I have salvation this morning?" And the answer, unfailingly, is ... Yes.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Thy Will Be Done

My parents-in-law, for as long as I can remember them inhabiting a home together, had a wall plaque that quoted (paraphrased, actually) I Timothy 6:15 in the King James Version: “God is the blessed controller of all things.” Much to my relief, the Revised Standard Version chooses to render that text “blessed and only Sovereign,” thus sparing all Christian apologists one more iteration of the theodicy question, the “problem” of Evil. If God is the blessed controller of all things, why did the earth quake in New Zealand yesterday? And why hasn’t my wife’s friend’s house sold yet, as a large swath of the Facebook world has been summoned repeatedly to pray it would?

The will of God and the sovereignty of God, those things that come under the doctrinal category of Providence, are mysteries eminently worth pondering—and yes, I’ve been pondering them a little bit more intensely than usual of late, given what’s going on in my life. Christians pray “thy will be done” virtually every time we pray publicly at all. Jesus himself taught us that petition. What do we mean by it? If it is indeed a petition at all, then there is an implied element of uncertainty; that is, it’s possible that God’s will may be thwarted. That points to a trajectory with an unsettling conclusion, one in which God is manifestly weak. But perhaps it’s not so much a petition as an statement of expectation, an affirmation of faith. Of course God’s will will be done. He’s God! If so, however, the trajectory is equally unsettling. It leads to simplistic fatalism—“whatever will be will be”—and silly nostrums like the one that attributes the death of a child to “God needing another little angel in Heaven.”

There are two essential theological rudders, I think, that enable us to navigate the narrow territory between the rock and the hard place. One is the Doctrine of the Fall. This is a bit of dogma that I’m finding lots of people don’t like to take seriously these days, which is a pity, because it really is quite essential. The biblical underpinning, of course, lies in Genesis 3, with the narrative of our primordial ancestors yielding to the Serpent’s temptation in the Garden of Eden, and the Lord’s subsequent pronouncement of consequences that affect all their progeny, which is to say, us. In his epistle to the Romans, St Paul takes this story and teases out its universal implications, not only for humankind, but for the entire created order, with “all creation groaning” (Rom. 8:22) under its weight. St Augustine took up the same baton in the fifth century and left it lying around for John Calvin to find and gild even further in the sixteenth.

But even if one is averse (as I certainly am) to embracing the whole Calvinist project (total depravity and double predestination, etc.), or even the Augustinian one (as the Eastern Orthodox are), there is broad agreement in Christian thought that human beings are congenitally predisposed toward egocentrism, enthroning ourselves where God alone should be, which is the very root of all Sin. We are, then, both victims of Sin—we didn’t ask to be born this way, after all—and perpetrators of Sin; “the Devil made me do it” may be true at some level, but that doesn’t let us off the hook of personal responsibility for the nasty things we do and say and the good things we fail to do or say. A great deal of human suffering—arguably the majority of it—is attributable to the fact that we are not sinners simply because we commit sins; we commit sins because we are sinners. We were born that way. Ultimately, 20 million people perished under the Third Reich because Adolf Hitler was born a sinner. He was a major perpetrator, but he was also a victim. Each of us is both of those things as well, though probably in differing proportions.

This is all what we refer to as our “fallenness.” It both infects and affects us at a personal level. This is why some act of confession or contrition is a regular part of our public worship. In the parlance of the ‘79 BCP baptismal liturgy, we’re talking about the “sinful desires that draw us from the love of God.” It also infects and affects us at a social (one might dare to say, political) level. Poverty, for example, is a social evil. Except in the rarest cases, however, it is not attributable to the malevolent actions of any individual, or even any single group of individuals. It is a systemic feature of the way we organize ourselves economically, particularly if we participate in an economy that relies on market forces. On one level, I’m not personally responsible for making anyone else poor. On another level, I am, simply because I benefit from our (relatively) free market economy. In our baptismal renunciations, these are the “evil forces of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.” (Please note: I am not an enemy of free market capitalism; I believe firmly that it’s the worst possible economic system, except for all the others.) But, as St Paul is at pains to point out, the Fall affects not only humankind, but all of creation. It’s not just people that are fallen; the world is fallen. When the earth shook under Port au Prince last year, when Katrina blew into the gulf coast five years ago, we witnessed the tragic consequences of the Fall of creation. (Not human wickedness, mind you--I carry no brief for Pat Robertson!--but the brokenness of creation at a "meta-structural" level.) Those things did not happen only as a result of tectonic plate shifting or a low pressure system feeding off itself in exponential fury. There was a deeper cause, one that is beyond the ken of geologists or meteorologists. We’re talking here about “the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God.” These, too, we renounce when we stand at the font.

Clearly, it is not God’s will that death entered the world “through one man’s sin” (per Paul to the Romans). There may be a host of reasons behind a tornado forming and wiping out a trailer park, or cancer cells metastasizing inside a human body, but “because it was God’s will” is not one of them. Poverty and war and racism and gang violence and bad hair days are not God’s will. God’s will can never be righteously invoked as a justification for lying, cheating, stealing, or breaking any of the other Ten Commandments. By endowing us with the ability to not obey him, God took an audacious calculated risk. It can be plausibly argued that he lost his bet in the Garden of Eden, and has been losing it over and over again ever since. Not everything that happens is God’s will. “Que sera sera” may be a great song for Doris Day to sing, but it’s lousy theology. Human sinfulness, fueled by the “elementary principles of the world” (per Paul in Galatians and Colossians), can and does sometimes thwart the will of God.

The problem, of course, is that this leaves God in what looks like an indefinitely weakened and vulnerable position. So what do we do? I would suggest that this is where the second of my two essential theological rudders gets put into the water, which is the doctrine of Ubiquitous Grace. OK, there isn’t, so far as I know, actually a formal doctrine by that name—I made it up (the name, that is; the idea is hardly original)—but I’m fairly certain it’s consistent with both scripture and tradition. To say that God’s grace is “ubiquitous” is to say that it’s everywhere—places we expect to find it (like sacraments) and places we would never think to look for it, sometimes even smuggled in with the very sinful behavior that is trying to separate us from God’s love. God is the consummate opportunist, and is not above using even our sinful acts as “mules” for his redeeming grace. Should we then sin the more so that grace may abound the more? Well, Paul has already answered that question in the negative. But grace abounds nonetheless. It abounds everywhere, in the unlikeliest of places, whether we’re looking for it or not.

Sometimes what we experience in the wake of our prayers looks obviously like our petitions have been granted, and for that we give great thanks. It is an occasion of praise. At other times, not so much, and we have that "prayers hitting the ceiling" feeling. So, from our time-bound human perspective, then, we might say that God is indeed the “blessed controller of all things,” but that his “control” is exercised retrospectively, not prospectively. God is the master of Plan B. God is never above acting tactically when human sinfulness, to say nothing of the “elementary principles of the world,” frustrates his acting strategically. God comes in right behind the messes we make, or the messes made by tectonic plates or low pressure systems or cell growth run amok, and begins gathering the debris and weaving it back together in the grand tapestry of what theologians call Redemption. And redemptive weaving is an improvisatory art. It morphs constantly as Ubiquitous Grace responds to the attempts of the Evil One to blind us to our identity and destiny. Most of the time, we’re too close to the tapestry to get a sense of the evolving picture. But once in a while, we actually get to see a glimpse of suffering redeemed, of vessels made stronger precisely where they had been broken. I have seen broken hearts and I have seen mended hearts, and it’s joy to behold.

“Thy will be done.” It will, in the end. But getting there is, for God, a matter of art, not architecture. It’s not anything that looks all that “controlling” while it’s in process. But it is, indeed, blessed.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Eucharist: An Anniversary Love Poem

Sometime tomorrow afternoon, Brenda and I will have been married 38 years. "Growing old together" is no longer an abstraction, but a present experience. I've never been happier in my life than I am now, and I've never been happier with Brenda than I am now, and I don't mind saying so publicly. Since I didn't make it to the store for a card, here's my little gift.


good gift

we give ourselves to each other
one coincidence at a time,
in the peripheral vision of dailiness
catalyzed on occasion
     with a burst of intentionality

we are given to one another
as hands and clay
as chisel and granite
as river and limestone
the result revealed only over time
     and after no small irritation

and in all our becoming
we are the gift of us
a semiotic herald
of wholeness trumping brokenness
of Hope snarling to Despair,

good gift

Singing Hopefully

What follows is cross-posted from my parish’s website and newsletter, where I maintain a monthly reflection on one of the hymns we will be singing in our worship.

Hope is one of the traditional "cardinal" Christian virtues (along with Faith and Love). It is something to which we are invited to aspire, to cultivate. Hope is a habit of the heart that is perhaps well illustrated by Yogi Berra's famous quote, "It ain't over till it's over." Hope is the fruit of a deep inner conviction, that, in the end, God wins. Creation is redeemed, and all is well for those who are reconciled with God. Our Prayer Book catechism puts it this way: "The Christian hope is to live with confidence in newness and fullness of life, and to await the coming of Christ in glory, and the completion of God's purposes for the world." 

The Scriptures give us several images of the fulfillment of our hope in Christ, especially in the Revelation to St John. It would probably be inadvisable to take them with exact literalness; they are, rather, compelling poetic symbols that point to a reality much grander than anything human language could describe. One of these images is "Jerusalem," which is, of course, literally a city on this earth that has been intimately bound up in the sacred story of God's dealings with humankind, but which is also a sign of something greater, something yet to come.

Peter Abelard was a 12th century theologian and poet who lived in a place and time in which it was arguably much more difficult to cultivate the virtue of Hope than it is for us here and now, much more difficult to see "Jerusalem" descending from the clouds as a bride adorned for her bridegroom. It was a time of widespread violence, epidemic disease, and corruption at all levels of church and state in Europe. It was in such an environment that Peter Abelard penned the lines of this Latin hymn, drawing on the biblical imagery of Jerusalem, and painting a vivid picture of the realization of the Christian hope.

O what their joy and their glory must be, those endless Sabbaths the blessèd ones see; crown for the valiant, to weary ones rest: God shall be all, and in all ever blest.

The notion of Sabbath denotes rest, and rest is part of the symbolic vocabulary of our hope (as when we pray for the departed that they may "rest in peace"). When we come to our eternal Sabbath rest, we know God to "be all, and in all."

Truly “Jerusalem” name we that shore, city of peace that brings joy evermore; wish and fulfillment are not severed there, nor do things prayed for come short of the prayer.

Indeed, "Jerusalem" literally (and, it would seem, somewhat ironically much of the time) means "city of peace." The second half of this stanza is perhaps the most poetically and spiritually profound part of the entire hymn. In the realization of our hope in Christ, there is no longer a gap between wish and fulfillment, between what we pray for and what we receive from God.

There, where no troubles distraction can bring,we the sweet anthems of Zion shall sing; while for thy grace, Lord, their voices of praise thy blessed people eternally raise.

Of all the poetic images of what goes on in the heavenly Jerusalem, "singing" is the most prolific. Perhaps this is what lies behind St Augustine's aphorism to the effect that "those who sing pray twice." The importance of singing in our earthly worship can probably not be overstated; it is evidently in some way a preparation for what will become a consuming occupation when our hope comes to fruition.

Now, in the meanwhile, with hearts raised on high, we for that country must yearn and must sigh, seeking Jerusalem, dear native land, through our long exile on Babylon’s strand.

Of course, while our hope is assured (because it is founded on God's victory manifested in Jesus rising from the dead), it is something we yet wait for. We live in a time "in between." We are in the ironic position of citizens of a country they have never seen, who live in exile, awaiting their arrival in their "dear native land."

Low before him with our praises we fall, of whom, and in whom, and through whom are all; of whom, the Father; and in whom, the Son; through whom, the Spirit, with them ever One.

Latin hymns from the Middle Ages invariably close with a trinitarian doxology, a final outburst of praise and adoration toward the Triune God.

This text was rendered into English by the great John Mason Neale, a Church of England priest from the 19th century who is singularly responsible for brining innumerable treasures of Greek and Latin hymnody into the experience of English-speaking Christians. It has been married to the tune O Quanta Qualia (the opening words of the Latin text) since its first appearance in the 1868 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern. The tune is somewhat older, however; it appears in several 17th century French sources.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lost in Translation

I've been doing a good bit of reading and reflecting lately on poverty, particularly poverty that is not situational (i.e. middle class folks who suffer job loss, divorce, or disability and end up broke), but generational (I’m poor, my parents were poor, and my children will be poor). I’ve been very impressed by the work of Dr Ruby Payne on this subject, particularly the book she co-authored, What Every Church Member Should Know About Poverty. The drum she keeps beating is that generational poverty is not so much a circumstance as it is a culture, a system of assumptions and thought and behavior that conspire together to keep people in poverty from one generation to the next. I’ve been paying attention to these things because of some people that the Lord seems to have “sent” to my parish—not only, I’m convinced, for their benefit, but for the benefit of the good-hearted middle-class majority, to enable us to learn to bridge the cultural—indeed, veritably linguistic—gap between between the middle-class mainstream and generational poverty.

So I’m sitting in the tire store yesterday, on my day off, waiting for a new set of tires to be mounted on the vehicle I drive, feeling depressed about what I’m having to pay, and reading a book while I wait. A family walks in and sits down in the waiting area with me—apparently a husband, wife, their grown daughter, and their grown daughter’s daughter, who is about three. I don’t know whether they’re actually “poor”—certainly not if they’re paying what I’m paying for tires—but they give off all the signals. They are a walking bundle of stereotypes that one associates with that nasty label, “poor white trash.” I begin to feel subliminally uncomfortable, and subliminally guilty for feeling subliminally uncomfortable.

Then the older female in the group asks me, out of the blue, “What are you reading.” Well, what I’m reading is a volume entitled If You Meet George Herbert on the Road, Kill Him: Radically Rethinking Priestly Ministry, by a Church of England priest named Justin Lewis-Anthony.

OK. Talk about a deer-in-the-headlights moment. My mind raced over possible responses. I could simply show her the book title and let her draw her own conclusions. But somehow that didn’t seem charitable. I could try to paraphrase the subject of the book, but it made my brain hurt to think of just how to do that. So, after a few seconds, what came out of my mouth was, “It’s not a story. It’s non-fiction.”

Oh, really? I sometimes like to read books like that.”

What are some of your favorite books like that?” I’m an introvert, and wouldn’t choose to ask a stranger an open-ended question, all else being equal, but my subliminal guilt over the way I had “profiled” this family was asserting itself.

She proceeded to not be able to remember either an author or a title, but from her description I surmised that she was talking about The Shack, which is, of course, fiction, but I didn’t go there.

I’m still pondering the meaning of this encounter. But the fact remains that I was reading a book that makes eminent sense to me and to most of my first-world middle class colleagues in Anglican parish ministry, but may as well be written in Klingon as far as many of the people I drive and walk and look past in my daily life are concerned—people whom I would like to find ways to reach with the gospel of Christ in the tradition that has formed me.

As they say, “food for thought.”

Friday, August 13, 2010

Another Nugget from the Hymnal 1940

If you stop by here from time to time, you know that I like to dig around once in awhile in the detritus of the Hymnal 1940—items that were passed over when the “new” hymnal for the Episcopal Church was compiled … thirty years ago (!).

Today’s treasure is #348, a text penned by Frederick William Faber in 1854, nine years after his conversion from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism.

Jesus, gentlest Savior, God of might and power, Thou thyself art dwelling With us at this hour.

Nature cannot hold thee, Heav’n is all too strait For thine endless glory And thy royal state.

Out beyond the shining of the farthest star, Thou art ever stretching Infinitely far.

Yet the hearts of children Hold what worlds cannot, And the God of wonders Loves the lowly spot.

No, it’s not on the level of the ineffable early 17th century metaphysical poets (Herbert, Donne, Herrick, et al), or even Wordsworth (to choose a contemporary of Faber’s whom he admired). But there’s something quite affecting about how he lays out the paradox of the Incarnation, with subtle gestures toward New Testament imagery (say, Colossians 1): The universe itself is too small to “hold” Christ, yet that same Christ can dwell in the heart of a child.

I guess what I like about it is that it’s not only Victorian schmaltz (which it indeed is), but has both literary and theological integrity as well.

The tune, Eudoxia, by Sabine Baring-Gould (who wrote the text, but not the music, to Onward, Christian Soldiers), is one that I find quite charming, but I fear my tastes are so rarified as to be eccentric. Most would find it … well … stodgy.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

An Alternative Collect for the Feast of St Laurence

To appreciate this, you have to a) know something about how St Laurence left this world, and b) have a secure sense of humor, slightly twisted.
O GOD, unto whom the martyrdom of thy blessed deacon Laurence amid the raging flames and upon the searing  iron of the grill was received as a sweet smelling savor in thy nostrils, mercifully grant that we, by the yearly keeping of this feast, may be so nourished in our faith that we pass from the spiritual hunger  of this world, where we do but recieve rare portions of thy grace, unto the fullness of thy heavenly table, where we shall hear those blessed words, "Well done, good and faithful servant"; through  . . . 

Monday, August 09, 2010

Guaranteed Agony

The Diocese of Springfield (Illinois) will be electing its eleventh bishop on September 18. Two days ago, I learned that my name will be among the three that appear on the ballot at that election. This is a great honor, and I am still taking it in.

It is also a place of some risk and vulnerability. Whatever transpires over the next six weeks, I am aware that one of the results--not the only result, of course, but one of them--will be agony, agony for me and agony for others. No, not life-shattering or even gut-wrenching agony; it will hardly be the torment of the damned. But it will be more than just the prick of a needle to draw blood; it will be a wound, a wound that leaves a scar. The scar will fade into nothingness rather quickly, I expect, but it will be there.

The election of a bishop is a dynamic process. It is a simultaneously holy and unholy alliance between faithful spiritual discernment, raw power politics, unintended consequences, deep and worthy aspirations, hedging of bets, the operation of the collective unconscious on a scale that would impress even Dr Jung, and, one hopes, a generous dollop of the sovereign action of the Holy Spirit. I'm not entirely persuaded that the Church would be any less well-served if we just threw dice, or had each candidate pull the lever of a consecrated slot machine. Nonetheless, the process we have is the process we have.

The process in Springfield began with some 24 priests, I am given to understand, having had their names submitted to the Election Committee. Fifteen then opted to fulfill the rather demanding requests that the diocese asked them to comply with. These included reading and digesting a lengthy profile of the diocese, a large number of statistical data compiled from a survey of clergy and communicants there, and writing nine 500-word essays in response to specific questions, each of which had to then be rendered as a video presentation. This required a considerable investment of time, initiative, intellectual energy, and prayer. One of the fifteen subsequently dropped out along the way.

Then the poor clergy and lay delegates in the Diocese of Springfield had to deal with dossiers that I have not seen but could only have made War and Peace seem like the Sunday comics! They all got together last Saturday at their cathedral church with the intention of winnowing the list of fourteen down to four. Three "selections"--your humble blogger among them--were made relatively quickly. But they then ran into a snag, with one of the remaining nominees showing strong support among the clergy and the other showing strong support among the laity, but clearly there was not going to be any significant movement. It was getting late, and some the delegates had long drives ahead of them, so they opted to stick with the three birds they had in hand rather than continue to pursue one more of the two in the bush.

A process of this sort is one of discernment. For me, at least, discernment requires imaginatively "trying on" the role under consideration. This is psychically and spiritually costly--worth it, one hopes, but costly. I have found no other way to faithfully do the job. I have to make myself totally available, in an interior way, to the possibility that is being discerned. I can only assume that my two colleagues who are in the same place in the process also have to do the same. Sometime on September 18, two of us are going to be invited to suddenly close the book on that work (as eleven others had to do last Saturday). I imagine they (or should I say "we"?) will wince, at least, as we do that. A moment of agony. It isn't that my self-esteem is tied up with becoming Bishop of Springfield (or bishop of anything else, for that matter). The pain will be in the sheer suddenness of the conclusion.

If I am elected, there will be the joy and excitement of taking up new work, but the challenges of being a bishop are legion. It will not be a walk in the park. I have served as a Rural Dean and a member of Standing Committees long enough to be familiar with the sorts of very un-fun issues bishops have to deal with. There is agony in that. But the greater agony, I think, flowing from my election, should it occur, will be that of taking leave once again of a congregation and a community that Brenda and I have come to love a great deal. We like our life in Warsaw. We have been at St Anne's only three years, but it's long enough to have put down some roots and form relationships that are quite precious to us. We have dreamed big dreams together at St Anne's, and I remain energized and joyful in my ministry. It would be not only agonizing, but wrenching indeed, to leave it all.

The point, of course, is that agony, of whatever scale, is not something to be avoided, but embraced. It is the way of the cross, and only by taking up the cross do we find it to be "the way of life and peace." Of your charity, do pray for me--as well as for Father Gunter and Canon Stevenson, and for the clergy and delegates of the Diocese of Springfield--that we will be courageously faithful in taking up the cross of guaranteed agony in the time between now and the election, and that the wind of the Holy Spirit will permeate St Paul's Cathedral on that day.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Quotable and Ponderable...

... though I can't precisely say why. It's just an intuition.

I'm about to make the turn from the "at home" portion of my vacation (this is the eleventh day thereof) to the "on the road" portion (the next twelve days, in eastern and northern Michigan and Door County, Wisconsin). The summer reading that I'm in the middle of, and which I'll be taking with me, is Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent, one of the (many) classics I missed when reading was forced on me and which I'm getting around to only in my dotage.

It's Easter morning, and the story's narrator, Ethan Allen Hawley, is conversing with his wife in their kitchen after getting home from church.
"Do you know whether you believe in the church or not, Ethan? Why do you call me silly names? You hardly ever use my name."
"To avoid being repetitious and tiresome, but in my heart your name rings like a bell. Do I believe? What a question! Do I lift each shining phrase out of the Nicene creed, loaded like a shotgun shell, and inspect it? No. It isn't necessary. It's a singular thing, Mary. If my mind and soul and body were as dry of faith as a navy bean, the words, 'The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures,' would still make my stomach turn over and put a flutter in my chest and light a fire in my brain."
"I don't understand."
"Good girl. Neither do I. Let's just say that when I was a little baby, and all my bones soft and malleable, I was put in a small Episcopal cruciform box and so took my shape. Then, when I broke out of the box, the way a baby chick escapes an egg, is it strange that I had the shape of a cross? Have you ever noticed that chickens are roughly egg-shaped?"
There is perhaps more truth here than can be spoken, more than was intended--more than Ethan intended, doubtless more than Steinbeck intended. It invites reflection.

Unless something quite unforeseeable happens, my mind will be other places than on blogging until well into the first week of August, and probably for a few days beyond that, as there will be a pile of demands waiting for me when I get back into harness. I intend to focus on the natural beauty of the Great Lakes and the northwoods, and to enjoy the mostly undivided attention of the one whose name rings like a bell in my heart.

Summer is, for me, the icon of "things as they were meant to be." I intend to drink it in with abandon, and store up such spiritual reserves as will help see me through the darkness and gloom that will descend inexorably all too quickly.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Christian or Christ Follower?

You are probably familiar with Apple's ad campaign wherein one character declares, "I'm a PC", and the others says, "I'm a Mac." The guy who says he's a Mac, of course, is young, hip, transparently self-assured, and comfortable with himself, while the man who represents the world of Windows is slightly older, a bit stodgy in his dress and demeanor, generally defensive and on edge. 

Imitation still being the sincerest form of flattery, there eventually appeared a video that is technically, I suppose, a spoof, but the intent behind the obvious humor was quite serious. Instead of a PC and a Mac, it featured a "Christian" and a "Christ follower, respectively. Just as the original was set up to make a Macintosh computer much more attractive than a PC, so the imitative spoof was set up to make being a "Christ follower" decidedly superior to being a "Christian." 

The implication is clearly that to be a Christ follower is to be accountable solely and directly to ... Christ. Simple. Transparent. Unaffected. Weighed down by nothing more substantive than the question mark at the end of "WWJD?". To be a Christian, by contrast, is to carry 2,000 years worth of baggage--controversies, councils, creeds, sacraments, orders, doctrines, dogmas, and institutional infrastructures. Why bother with all that? Why not just cut through it all and and just get on with following Jesus?

There are two angles (at least) from which to approach such a conclusion. One is the evangelical, ultra-low church, hyper-individualistic strain of piety and devotion that is fairly ubiquitous in the history of American Christianity. But another route to the same spot is the ultra-modern liberal deconstructionist school of thought represented by, inter alia, the Jesus Seminar. These two camps are pretty much mortal enemies, so I realize the irony of painting them with the same brush. But they both uphold, in differing ways, the notion that what we are accountable to is what the actual Jesus who got Palestinian dirt between his toes would want us to think an do. The fundamentalist would claim that such knowledge is unambiguously accessible on the pages of the New Testament. The modernist takes a more complex and sophisticated approach in proposing that the "historical Jesus" (a term coined about a century ago) is accessible by carefully combing through historical and literary artifacts with the disciplined and detached eye of a scholar. Importantly, however, both would contend that most, if not all, of what the generations succeeding Jesus' own said about him (for the modernist, this would include the way Paul theologized Jesus) ought to be taken with several grains of salt, if not tossed out completely. The two might come up with very different descriptions of what it looks like to be a "Christ follower," but they would both maintain a suspicious attitude toward the theological and institutional apparatus associated with being "Christian."

This is a pluralistic world and a free society, and I don't find myself particularly scandalized by these views. They are certainly nothing new. What utterly baffles me, however, is when someone who is personally implicated, by free choice, with institutional structures and commitments that are decidedly "Christian" takes the position of the cheeky "Christ follower." Yesterday, on the HoB/D listserv, there was a thread inspired by tomorrow's Epistle reading from Colossians that speaks of Christ being "pre-eminent." At one point, an Episcopal priest from Tennessee (his name is Peter Keese, which I share at his request), wrote this:
My thinking (still evolving, I hope) is that we misunderstand and misuse the notion - the reality, if you will - of incarnation. I'm suggesting that incarnation is a universal reality - Jesus being a symbol and example of what God is doing everywhere and all the time. It is not that I object to the notion of God incarnating in Jesus; what I object to is your (and my) reluctance to claim that God inhabits you (and me) no less fully.
I have heard such suggestions before--from Unitarians, other non-Christians, and from Episcopalian lay people who are poorly-catechized. But Peter (whom I know personally and with whom I have had a quite cordial relationship over the years) is a presbyter--an elder--who helps form candidates for ordained ministry and whose diocese has elected him to represent them at the last two General Conventions. So we're not talking about some crackpot on the margins of the institution.

In another part of the thread, another priest (again, someone I know personally, and who is in charge of a parish), gave voice to the modernist "Christ follower" position that traditional christology--from the language of "pre-eminence" in the New Testament to that of the creeds--represents the successful attempt to certain forces within the movement begun by the historical Jesus to exert political control over others. It's the shopworn "history is written by the winners" mantra.

I am grateful for occasional stark reminders of the very great theological divergence in our midst, not only on conclusions we draw on how to live faithfully and responsibly as Christians in our contemporary culture, not only on how best to apply the insights of our tradition, but on underlying core principles. Does it not seem that much of our talking past one another on issues du jour is a vain exercise when we're starting from such radically different places?

It all comes down to what we consider ourselves, both individually and as a "community of communities", accountable to. Is it the "Jesus of history" (per "Christ followers" of both the fundamentalist and modernist varieties)? Or is it the "Christ of faith" (per the catholic tradition, to which all the churches of the Anglican Communion are at least formally committed)? 

I am probably neither willing nor able to argue my case. All I can do is offer the observation that the underlying narrative of the "Christ follower" does not represent the "doctrine, discipline, and worship" of the Episcopal  Church. Rightly or wrongly, for better or for worse, we are Christians. I would contend that this does not prevent us from also being Christ-followers, but it does mean that we are committed to the notion that we see the path of discipleship through and with the community of all other Christ-followers, which is another way of speaking about the Church--with all of her scriptures, councils, creeds, orders, liturgies, and institutional infrastructure. There is no relationship with the (pre-eminent) Head without going through the Body (which is by nature something that can be seen and touched and has a "voice"). So, it is precisely in order to be followers of Christ that we are accountable to the Church--both as individuals and as local churches in respect to the Larger Whole.

I believe myself to be a Christ-follower. But the only way I know how to do that is by being a Christian.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Theology Exam Questions

OK, you have to be a bit of a geek in the area of academic theology to even get why some of these are funny, but if you are ...  most of them will be funny. Found them cleaning out an old file yesterday.

You may answer all or some of the following questions. Please turn in your answers before picking up your diploma.

1. Is there such a thing as a theologically indefensible proposition? If so, where did you last see one? Under what conditions?

2. How many different ways can you spell Schillebeeckx?

3. Has the Church always taught anything? Explain. And be specific.

4. Reflect on the Seven Deadly Sins. Describe how you have integrated these into your life. Be specific.

5. Who wrote the Summa Theologica, and why? What did they get out of it?

6. Why is Simon Stylites important in the history of Eccentric Spirituality?

7. Compare the discernment process of Ignatius with that of Sherlock Holmes.

8. Does Karl Rahner believe in verbs?

9. Which does not belong to the group?
      a. Rahner, Kung, Howdy Doody, Dulles, Schillebeexkz
      b. Ecclesiology, Christology, Mariology, Phrenology, Eschatology
      c. Esther, Dolly Parton, Ruth, Judith, Sarah
      d. bishop, cardinal, priest, deacon, cowboy
      e. John XXIII, Malcolm X, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II

10. Construct on a single legal-size sheet of paper a mock-up of the Trinity. Your construct should take into account the writing of John of St Thomas, Thomas of Aquin, Thomas the Apostle, an/or the Neo-Thomists.

11. Chart the progress of a mystic climbing of Dante's Mount of Purgation from the inside.

12. Discuss recent continental developments in astrology, Christology, and the linchpin theory of the universe.

13. Make an ethical critique of a hypothetical proposal to establish a papal sperm bank.

14. The great powers have loosed a nuclear war. Discuss the following propositions:
     a. Use of hard tack for a shelter liturgy is, for the duration, valid but illicit.
     b. A rack of shot guns at the shelter door will enlarge the chance of Christian survival.

15. If the headquarters of the Western Church are a Rome and Geneva, where are the hindquarters?

16. Taking into account the view of Norman Vincent Peale that Christ had everything going for him and blew it, refute the Servant Songs of Isaiah.