Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Holy Spirit Parishioners' Newsletter 01/06/08

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
January 6, 2008

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly. …
from Journey of the Magi, by T. S. Eliot, 1927

Epiphany, meaning “appearance” or “manifestation,” is a feast intended to celebrate the “shining forth” or revelation of God in human form, to the Gentiles, in the person of Jesus. Originally it was the only celebration of the Incarnation and it consisted of a combined commemoration of the Nativity, the visit of the Magi, the Baptism of Christ, and even the marriage at Cana—all manifestations to the world of God in human form. It wasn’t until the year 534 that the celebration of Christmas was seperated from the other commemorations, and that was only in the Western Church. To this day, in the Eastern Church, Epiphany is the third most important feast (after Easter and Pentecost) and far outshines Christmas.

In reflecting on the readings for the Epiphany, it is clear that the focus is on the universality of the manifestation of Christ—He became a human being, not for a select few, but for all of humanity, even for the most strange and foreign people we could imagine. Those Magi were as different from pious Jews as any individuals could possibly be—secular men given over to studying the occult, etc. As St. Paul says, the Incarnation, and thus salvation, is also for the Gentiles, not just the Jews—meaning it is for everyone.

In today’s world and in today’s Church it is important to remember those words. Just as no one is required to become a Jew in order to be Christian, no one is required to conform to superficial details of appearance, pious practice, or taste to be a “real” Catholic. Our Church is meant to be diverse, universal, not narrow.

In Praise of the Parish
“If you are not a child and still get a stomachache on Sunday mornings when you think about going to church, or if you have thought how nice it would be to spend the same hour at Starbucks reading The New York Times, this message is for you.

“Parishes are important. In any larger discussion about the role and direction of the church, we can’t forget that the structure and mystery of the church are actually experienced in the local faith community. The parish is the place where church happens, not as an abstract ideal or as an administrative structure but as an expression of real human lives, a rich but frustrating work in progress, diverse lives united by common hungers and hopes. …

“Baptized people are meant to be in community. It is a loss to all of us when some feel so discouraged that they leave their local church. We know those (or have been those) who, for varying reasons, have needed to “go away for a while” or who have found safe haven and nourishment in other communions. We know all about the sometimes depressing realities of many parishes—the coldness of some Catholics; the lethargy or heavy-handedness of some pastors; the sometimes deadening homilies. Yet, like the anonymous Christian, the anonymous church exists everywhere. People get together over coffee to talk about life. They tell stories, rediscover the scriptures, break bread, drink to common purposes and to making a difference in the world. And like the formal church they have left, they become two or three gathered together, disciples on the road to Emmaus, coming full circle.

“Here are some challenges. Parishes need such pilgrims. The most important evangelization effort needed in the church is to welcome home her own. But this will happen only if we also welcome the de facto diversity of the church as a mystery that defies homogenization, head-counting, personalized envelopes or even regular attendance. Because change will happen only from within, self-exiled Catholics of all stripes ought to belong to a parish—a challenging one, not a comfort zone. It is a good way to stay in the game, at the family table where all the arguments about the future, good and bad, are taking place. But this will be possible only if we accept the mess, the imperfect, painful process of being human together.

“Because the essential work of the church is reconciliation in the world, this starts with us, at the altar, where forgiveness is the miracle we witness in the death of the Lord. Parishes are centers where this grace waits to become flesh in us.
“See you in church.”
National Catholic Reporter, September 28, 2007

One of my many quirks is that I enjoy reading cookbooks – not just flipping through and looking for a recipe, but reading a cookbook like a novel. Cookbooks are more than just ingredient lists and instructions, many share stories, family memories, musings and observations, and how food connects us. I am currently reading one on southern cooking and came across this little piece about washing dishes, something that naturally goes along with cooking.

“Maybe you are lucky enough to have a window over your kitchen sink. You can watch the world go by. Put up a bird feeder. Plant a bulb, an herb, a perennial, a tree and watch it grow … contemplate life. Washing dishes is a chance to be alone with yourself, let your mind wander – or reel it in, whichever needs to be done. Washing the dishes is the Universe giving you a chance to wash up and regroup, to wet down and shake off like a dog, to rinse away your troubles and clean up your mind, to take a Brillo pad to the grimy nooks and crannies of your heart. To wash your troubles down the drain.” (Ann Jackson)

As we start 2008 make a resolution to find a daily, ordinary moment and look for the sacred. God came to us as a most vulnerable human baby – frail and yet divine. And Jesus becomes manifest with us in the most simple of foods and drink, common bread and wine. May we all find something more than ordinary dishpan hands, may we find the miraculous. from Michelle Peña

An Observation for the Political Season
“Liberals feel unworthy of their possessions. Conservatives feel they deserve everything they've stolen.” Mort Sahl

Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. Copy this, and pass it on to fellow parishioners, either by e-mail or paper. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues about the parish or have any other comments, please contact us at gbrazier@rgv.rr.com.

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