…mystery of faith…

Although we don’t hear it very often, those of my generation and older will be familiar with the phrase, ‘a mystery of faith’.  Often times, that phrase was a response to questions we posed as children to our parents…’how does the Holy Trinity work?’ …’how does transubstantiation happen?’…’how does God become a little baby?’ – and the reply that might come was, ‘well, that’s a mystery of faith’.  Somehow that answer seemed sufficient as small children, but as we grew into adolescents (and at that stage we ‘knew’ everything anyway) that answer didn’t really satisfy us.  We equated ‘mystery’ with ‘I don’t know’ or ‘there is no answer’ or even ‘go ask your mother/father’.

But mystery, particularly a mystery of faith, is a concept that seems all too lost on a culture that demands instant gratification and brief, direct answers to complex questions.  In its truest sense, mystery can be understood and resolved to a certain point, but never completely. 

Mystery doesn’t mean we don’t understand anything.  It means we don’t understand everything, and there is a world of difference between the two.

I highly doubt any scientist or researcher would claim to know everything about the workings of the universe, physics, the human body, etc.  Yet the word ‘mystery’ seems never to be associated to our still limited advances in scientific discovery.  Because a scientist admits he or she doesn’t know everything about the universe, we don’t discount the entire universe as a myth. Without using the same words, we accept that there is always more to discover.

I’ve often thought of a mystery of faith as being akin to visiting a place like a large metropolitan art museum.  A visitor can see many and varied pieces of artwork just in the lobby alone.  But if one enters into that museum, they soon realize that the building has halls; and off of these halls other halls; and off of these halls many rooms; and in each room paintings and sculptures and other various media to view, appreciate, and study.  To completely ‘soak in’ each piece of art in a day or brief period of time would be nearly impossible.  The deeper one goes into the museum, one realizes how much more there is beyond the lobby.

If the visitor were a serious student of art, and made the study of one painting their entire life’s work – let’s say Leonardo’s ‘Mona Lisa’ – they might set out to attempt to make a complete and true copy. They may use the same techniques as they have studied, even down to mixing their own pigments, and choosing the construction of their brushes as Leonardo did – duplicating every little stage in exact detail.  They may be such an accomplished artist in their own right, that to anyone who didn’t know, their copy might be completely indistinguishable from the original.

But they will never know the complete experience: they will never truly know what went through Leonardo’s mind and heart as he touched brush to canvas because they are not Leonardo. The experience and language spoken to his soul at that moment would be as unique to him as it would be to each individual human being.

There will always remain some mystery there – the student can’t know ‘everything’ – but it doesn’t mean they don’t know anything.

We are just entering into the season of Advent. This is a time of joyful waiting, of hopeful expectation as we prepare to celebrate the great Mystery of the Incarnation – of God entering into our humanity in the person of Jesus.  This is a perfect time to reacquaint ourselves with that sense, in humility, of child-like wonder at that which is beyond our own understanding.

It’s a perfect time to admit that we don’t know ‘everything’ about God’s love and mercy – and to be ‘okay’ with that.  That unlike small children, or resistant adolescents, we can maturely accept that we are ready to have that sense of  mystery return to our lives; that we don’t need to know or control ‘everything’ – that God will respond to us in the measure we are open to that response.

That we will be open to delving more deeply into the mystery of that relationship.

candle

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

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Podcasts, website, etc…

There is a new All for Jesus  podcast posted, as we enter into the season of Advent!  Many thanks to Mark Van Nostrand, Susan Bailey, Sean Clive, Karl Kohlhase, and the group Apostolica for their music to get us in ‘the mood’ to begin this period of joyful expectation!

The podcast, along with archived earlier programs from this year, are all available through my website www.smalltalentmusic.com .  The site contains links as well to a number of other sites concerned with everything from church teaching on social justice to resources for teachers and homeschoolers, sites on prayer and music.

God bless and thanks for visiting.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

…light a candle…

I was sitting in a small church (part of the parish cluster I serve in) reflecting on a number of things, when my attention was drawn to a small bank of vigil lights beneath a statute of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  I watched as the flames danced and flickered in the coloured glass holders -reds, greens, blues, and amber; I thought of how soft and comforting those coloured flames looked.  That image stayed with me throughout the rest of that day. Late that afternoon, as I was driving from the city out in the country, I thought about those candles and what they represented.  I thought of all the people who, in their devotion and with prayer, lit each one of those little vigil lights.  Was God pleased with those candles?  Did lighting them really do any good?

Roman Catholic worship and devotion is so filled with signs and symbols; the liturgy is replete with things that each of our humans senses respond to; colours and light to sight, music and bells to sound; even incense for smell.  There are tactile things – the embrace or handshake at the ‘sign of peace’; even physical taste at reception of Holy Communion (particularly under both species). 

Candles are one of those visual symbols that our eyes respond to (and subsequently, hopefully, our hearts).  The large paschal candle obviously symbolizes the light of Christ, which we are reminded of during the Easter vigil when the chant ‘Christ our Light’ is intoned as the lit candle is processed into the church – or during a baptism, when the baptismal candle is lit from the paschal candle and given with the words, ‘Receive the light of Christ’.  The connection to Christ in these actions is very apparent.

But the small vigil lights.  I thought how each person who lit one of these, offered a prayer when lighting them.  Prayers were offered for themselves, for loved ones; perhaps for the gift of healing for one, or a return to the faith for another. Maybe someone offered a prayer of thanksgiving for blessings received from God and then left the small candle glowing as a reminder of the favour they had been granted by God. It didn’t matter whether in praise, supplication, intercession or thanksgiving, each candle had been lit and served as a symbol of a prayer – of communication – to God.  This is a God who loves and cherishes each human being.  This is a God who wants nothing more than to be reunited with each and every child He created.  This is a God who is constantly calling and speaking to His children  everywhere and in everything, if only they would listen.  This is a God who entered into our very humanity in the person of Jesus; He entered into our world and became one like us – into our world full of sensory experience and symbolism. 

Each of those candles left burning represents, at least on some level I would hope, the intention of a brief dialogue with God; do I believe that the candles themselves somehow mysteriously have some magical, miraculous power? No, I don’t.  Do I believe that what they represent, the gesture of children reaching out to a loving Father in trust, is somehow pleasing to God? 

Absolutely I do. 

If our God entered into our human experience, and is the author of all things – physical or spiritual; actual or symbolic – then He alone would be able to judge the heart and the intent of the one lighting those simple little wicks.

What a world it would be if, instead of shouting at and insulting each other, denigrating or belittling each other, hurting or manipulating each other – we simply went into a  church, and lit a candle, and offered a prayer or thought for each other?

Light one for me, and I’ll light one for you.

Christ the King

We somehow look upon the notion of surrendering to a greater authority and greater power as something to be avoided. The idea of being subordinate to anything other than our own will and desire is looked upon as weakness or folly.  Whether we consider ourselves in relation to institutions or the laws of nature, we somehow consider it okay to ‘play along’ as long as the rules don’t get in our way, and restrictions don’t apply to us.  We are in control, and as such, we shouldn’t surrender our will or desire to anything. 

So another liturgical year draws to a close and we celebrate with the feast of Christ the King! The time flies, and with it, the illusion that somehow, in some way, we are the masters of our own destiny!  As a society and people, we somehow delude ourselves into thinking that we control our lives and everything around them; time is the great equalizer in that regard.  We can’t slow it down or roll it back; we can’t speed it up or make it stand still. Everything in our mortal, physical existence , for good or ill, begins, grows, decays, and withers – that is the nature of the physical world.  That is not ‘a’ truth – that is ‘the’ truth. 

No less than in mathematics, when children are learning their basic tables (if in fact they still do that in a school district near you without the aid of computers and calculators), the principles that govern something as simple as addition; one plus one equals two.  This is what students are taught by the teacher – there is not a debate or discussion – the teacher doesn’t conduct a survey to determine if this principle is acceptable or palatable to the students or not.  It is a simple fact – and when it comes to the adding of one and one, the truth is, the answer is two.

During the celebration of Mass this feast day, the gospel writer tells us of Pilate’s question to Jesus – “truth? What is that?’  In reading this gospel, I have never been struck with the impression that Pilate was in the least interested in what Jesus’ answer would be – he wasn’t seeking to know or come closer to understanding Jesus.  I’ve often thought of it as a sad question; a question from one who, despite the trappings of power and position and privilege, is still frightened and lost and alone.  I’ve thought of it as a sarcastic, bitter response from someone who has actually closed themselves off to the wondrous possibilities that exist when we allow God to move in our own lives.

Jesus had already answered this question even before it was posed.  He tells Pilate in the beginning of this exchange, that, “…everyone who belongs to the truth hears my voice.” Those who hear His voice belong to the Truth.  They know His voice (as we heard in an earlier passage in St. John, Jesus relates He is the Good Shepherd, and His sheep know His voice).  They know His voice and belong to the Truth because, as he also shared earlier (again as related by St. John) , He is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life.’

For those who refuse to listen to His voice, to listen to the Truth, how sad it must be.  I reflect back on my own early adulthood when there was a time that I wasn’t that interested in moving more closely into that relationship that I was being invited into; and when I honestly look at that period, those were the saddest times of my life. There was no real sense of hope, of a future, or of a love greater than my own.

His voice is always out there, calling each person.  We can refuse to listen or we can be open to the wondrous possibilities inherent in that invitation to relationship.

He leaves that choice to each of us, for good or ill. That’s real love. 

That’s the sort of King that I don’t mind surrendering to. 

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and for ever!

All for Jesus

As my American friends are ‘recovering’ from their Thanksgiving holiday, and many are plunging headlong into the ‘Black Friday’ frenzy (with cross-border help from some of their Canadian counterparts), I thought I might take this opportunity to offer something for those who are completely weary of the constant blaring of advertisements and demands to ‘buy, Buy, BUY’ and actually get something that won’t cost them anything….seriously.

The All for Jesus podcast (with a link at the top of this page) is a project that I have been graced to be involved with for several years now; when we started it, there seemed to be a dwindling number of venues open to Catholic composers and musicians in terms of broadcast and internet radio ‘stations’. I had loads more space than I needed for my music ministry website, and thought ,’since I’m paying for the space anyway, might as well put it to good use!’

I contacted several Catholic musicians with whom I had the privilege of counting among my contacts and friends through the ‘web’ and explained what I wanted to do – have a venue for their music; but there was a catch – I didn’t have resources for royalty payments, and as I was going to put my music in the mix for free, I wondered if they would be willing to do the same. The response from those ‘faithful few’ was an immediate, and resounding,”YES”. From the first few, we have slowly but surely grown to 15 artists, and our little community, I pray and hope, will continue to grow.

This is where I have to again publicly thank those first and constant friends who were involved right from the beginning; Karl Kohlhase, Margo B. Smith, Susan Bailey, and Mike Beloud of the band Rise; their faithfulness to this little endeavour has been a tremendous blessing and gift.

So, the All for Jesus Podcast is music freely offered and shared by artists who do what they do for the love of Christ and love of the Gospel. It’s a half-hour of music and (sometimes) reflections, and is freely available online for anyone to download and listen to. If you’ve had enough of the ‘buy me, get me’ mantra, then take some time to sit, listen to music that will inspire you, and hopefully prepare your heart and mind for the most important relationship in your life – your relationship with God. These artists have been blessed with a gift – and as we all know – a gift is meant to be shared. Let them share it with you…for the love of God.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever! 

…although he believes he can’t quite understand…

A few years ago I made the foray into actually recording and performing my own music; there was a flurry of activity, mostly taken up in the very early hours with tune after tune, and theme after theme pouring out: that this occurred immediately after a very powerful retreat was certainly not coincidental.
Among the songs, though, and one of my favourites (which I tend not to have concerning my own music) is a song about the birth of Jesus from the perspective of St. Joseph. There are loads of songs about the infant Jesus (which is of course proper, because it is, after all His birth we celebrate), and lots of songs about the Blessed Virgin Mary (which is also proper – and reflective of the natural desire to want to visit with a newborn babe and their mom; dads sometimes get lost in the shuffle), but not so many about St. Joseph.

I was present at the births of all of my children, and I have to say, I have never felt so useless in all my life; it’s the guy thing to want to fix and heal, to repair and guide and ‘make everything all right’; but during those moments, all I could do was hold hands, speak words of encouragement, and watch and wait. It was at the same time the most wondrous and the most humbling experience of my life.
I cannot completely imagine how those two spiritual gifts – wonder and humility – would have combined for St. Joseph so long ago…but this song gives my limited thoughts on that. (the images are a combination of classical and more modern art)

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever!

Hello world!

So here I am, taking the proverbial plunge into the world of blogging! ‘Why another blog,’ you might ask.  The philosophically correct answer might be, ‘why not’?

There is no shortage of blogs providing opinions on political, economical, social, or cultural issues.  There are blogs on home decor and gardening; automotive repair and the culinary arts.  Blogs are a means through which personal tips, hints and insights reach a broader audience; a way to connect and speak to a larger collection of like-minded (or at least sympathetic) people.

I have found, in my limited circle, that there is an increasing intolerance for the presence of God in any dialogue in the public forum; this ranges from apathy  to outright hostility ; often accompanied by a either a collective amnesia concerning the development of many of our modern institutions that we depend on, or a revisionist rewriting of this development, based more on half-truths than historical fact.

I hope to write only as a friend of God; as one who accepts that God is indeed the Author of all life, and who moves and lives throughout our workaday world. I plan to write of a God who so loved the world that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ; and the place that God has in this world.  I desire to write of a God whose Holy Spirit continually breathes throughout our daily lives and our relationships.

If this is not the type of blog that interests you, fair enough.  There is no shortage of blogs out there that might pique your particular tastes.  And if you head off to read somewhere else, and set this blog aside, that’s okay – this little blog will still be here, whether you acknowledge it or not, reflecting and musing and speaking in the public forum…

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.