Celebrating Sankta Lucia!

While the celebration of St. Lucia’s Day may be waning in Sweden itself – sadly – it appears to remain popular among the Swedish expatriate community in London! These pictures were taken at St. Paul’s Cathedral, in 2015. Beautiful!

The night goes with weighty step
round yard and hearth,
round earth, the sun departs,
leave the woods brooding.
There in our dark house,
appears with lighted candles
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.

The night goes great and mute
now hear it swings
in every silent room
murmurs as if from wings.
Look at our threshold stands
white-clad with lights in her hair
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.

The darkness shall soon depart
from the earth’s valleys
thus she speaks
a wonderful word to us
The day shall rise anew
from the rosy sky.
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.

~ traditional Swedish carol for St. Lucia’s Day, December 13th

Note that while “Sankta Lucia” is generally translated “Saint Lucia,” it can also be translated as “Holy Light”! An appropriate image and archetype for this darkest time of year, as we await the “rebirth” of the Sun at the Winter Solstice.

The Christmas Story in Old English – Luke Ch. 2 in Anglo-Saxon

St. Luke’s account of the Incarnation of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, in the words of our ancient ancestors.

“Spoiled goodness”: a reflection for Advent II

Found this quote on a friend’s Facebook page, and it sparked some thoughts:

“You can be good for the mere sake of goodness: you cannot be bad for the mere sake of badness. You can do a kind action when you are not feeling kind and when it gives you no pleasure, simply because kindness is right; but no one ever did a cruel action simply because cruelty is wrong – only because cruelty was pleasant or useful to him. In other words badness cannot succeed even in being bad in the same way in which goodness is good. Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled.”

~ CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

Lewis (as is generally the case) makes a good point. I am reminded of the premise that evil is not a thing in itself, but rather the absence (or lack) of good, just as darkness is not really a thing in itself, but the absence (or lack) of light. And as the above points out, we can never really be completely evil, because even our most evil actions are predicated on the pleasure or satisfaction they on some level bring to us – and causing enjoyment is itself a good, even if in that case it is fundamentally misdirected (disordered).

So even our worst actions contain a seed of good! Not that that makes them good in and of themselves (they are “spoiled goodness,” as Lewis points out), but it does mean that they – and we – are not utterly and irredeemably evil, contra some radical Protestants (“utter depravity”). That makes sense, if we are indeed created in the image of God, for how could creatures created in the image of Absolute Goodness ever descend to irredeemable badness? That would be, in effect, un-creating us!

As the Eastern Orthodox phrase it, evil effaces, or “paints over,” the image of God within us, but it cannot destroy or remove it. Repentance, such as we should be practicing in the “Little Lent” which is Advent, cleans and restores the image of God within us, which sin has effaced. But just as “there must be something good before it can be spoiled,” so there must be something good before it can be restored. Otherwise would would need to be totally re-created ex nihilo, and thus be something other than we are.

All of which reminds me of one of Ma’s old sayings: “There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill-behooves any of us to talk about the rest of us!”

Where did Advent Go? – Maria Von Trapp | Finer Femininity

The events that come to mind when we say “Christmas,” “Easter,” “Pentecost,” are so tremendous that their commemoration cannot be celebrated in a single day each…

Source: Where did Advent Go? – Maria Von Trapp | Finer Femininity

Tomorrow being the First Sunday of Advent, this seemed appropriate!

“The events that come to mind when we say “Christmas,” “Easter,” “Pentecost,” are so tremendous that their commemoration cannot be celebrated in a single day each. Weeks are needed.

First, weeks of preparation, of becoming attuned in body and soul, and then weeks of celebration. This goes back to an age when people still had time–time to live, time to enjoy.

In our own day, we face the puzzling fact that the more time-saving gadgets we invent, the more new buttons to push in order to “save hours of work” – the less time we actually have… 

This atmosphere of “hurry up, let’s go” does not provide the necessary leisure in which to anticipate and celebrate a feast.

But as soon as people stop celebrating they really do not live any more – they are being lived, as it were.”

Worthwhile and challenging words from the matriarch of the real-life Von Trapp Family Singers!

That said, one must also strive to avoid excessive rigorism and rigidity. As one commenter pointed out,

“It’s really difficult to take care of Christmas shopping before Advent. Also, my H thinks it is unnecessarily gloomy to wait to decorate until Christmas Eve, and be associated with non-believers with their dark houses.”

The response was also worthwhile, I think:

“I do understand that. I think each family has to figure out what is best for them while trying to incorporate as many Advent customs as possible. We will listen to Christmas music through Advent but only the classical ones with no words, until closer to Christmas. That’s something we’ve figured out through the years. Only in the past 5 years have I been able to get my gifts before Advent. I think we have to be careful of rigidity….. though pulling back and making it a more spiritual time is always a good thing, if done with charity.”

Indeed so!

I, too, endeavor to listen primarily to instrumental classic Christmas music, and Gregorian chant, along with what Advent music I can find, during that period of preparation and watchful anticipation. But it can be challenging to try to keep Advent — and then to keep Christmas! — in today’s secular and “multi-cultural” world. But then, when has being Christian not been challenging…?

All About Trinity Sunday | Prayers, History, Customs, Traditions, Images

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Today is Trinity Sunday, celebrating one of the key doctrines (the other being the Incarnation) of the Christian faith! This page discusses the matter in some detail:

Source: All About Trinity Sunday | Prayers, History, Customs, Traditions, Images

May God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit bless and keep each and every person who visits here!

On Whitsunday, or Pentecost: from the Archbishop of the United Episcopal Church

The Pentecost (Whitsunday) welcome message of Archbishop Peter Robinson, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the United Episcopal Church of North America. Includes an excellent short introduction to the meaning and significance of Whitsunday, as Pentecost is often known in the Anglican tradition.

Source: Welcome to the United Episcopal Church of North America

Feast of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ

ascension

“Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” ~ Acts 1:11, KJV

A classical Western depiction of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, celebrated this day:

Propers for The Ascension-day.

The Book of Common Prayer, 1928

The Collect.

GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

¶ This Collect is to be said daily throughout the Octave.

For the Epistle. Acts i. 1.

THE former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom be had chosen: to whom also he shewed him self alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: and, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld. he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

The Gospel. St. Luke xxiv. 49.

JESUS said, Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.

¶ The same Collect, Epistle, and Gospel shall serve for every day after unto the next Sunday, except upon the Feast of St. Philip and St. James.