Theology and commerce

Daily Reading for April 1 • Frederick Denison Maurice, Priest, 1872

I acknowledge as fully as any one can that commerce is an instrument in the Divine education and that if there is, lying at the root of Society, the recognition of the unity of men in Christ, the actual intercourse of men in different countries will bring out that belief into clearness and fulness, and remove the limitation and narrowness which arise from the confusion between Christ Himself and our notions about Him. But that commerce is in itself apart from this principle any bond of brotherhood whatever—that it does not rather lead to the denial of all brotherhood, to murderous conflicts between labour and capital, to slavery and slave trade—I know not how in the face of the most patent and recent facts it is possible to maintain. In the sixth century there were mobs in Constantinople partly to uphold blue or green in the circus, partly to put down Monophysite or Nestorian opinions. In Boston, in the nineteenth century, there were mobs to put down Mr. Garrison and the supporters of the negroes. You may if you please say that Theodora and her mobs were working in the supposed interests of theology, you must say also that the New England mobs were working in the supposed interest of commerce. That both were mistaken on their own grounds we are agreed; but that admission does not prove commerce to be a more uniting principle than theology.

On the contrary, I am thoroughly convinced that all the scandals and falsehoods which are most reasonably complained of in modern theology result from its mixture with commerce and the adoption of commercial principles as the groundwork of it. Mr. Bright said most truly at the meeting on Saturday that from the time the slave states adopted the doctrine that slavery was a Divine institution the question became a religious one, and a religious war was inevitable. That [assertion that slavery is a divine institution] is the most conspicuous and flagrant instance of the adoption in a money-worshipping community of a religion based on the acknowledgment of a God who is the enemy of Mammon into its [Mammon’s] service. But it is only an instance.

Our English theology, popular as well as systematic, has been gradually reconstructing itself on the commercial or material bases; I find it the hardest thing possible not to adopt phrases in the pulpit and in writing which assume its habits and motives. The creeds have been the perpetual witnesses to me against this commercial theology, which is, I believe, helping to destroy our commercial as well as our personal morality. . . . The limitation of God’s favour to Christians arises, it seems to me, from the notion that a Christ who came into existence eighteen hundred years ago is the Head of a sect, not the Light of Light, the very God of very God. A simply humanitarian Christianity, whatever largeness it may affect in theory, will practically shut up humanity within the conceptions of the person who professes it. Humanitarians will therefore try to throw off Christianity as a restraint. But the vagueness and hollowness of a mere worship of abstract humanity will soon be palpable to them.

From a letter to a clergyman written by F. D. Maurice, dated July 1, 1863, quoted in The Life of Frederick Denison Maurice, Chiefly Told in his Own Letters, edited by his son Frederick Maurice, volume 2 (London: Macmillan, 1884).

Planting the church

Daily Reading for April 2 • James Lloyd Breck, Priest, 1876

During the twenty-six years of my border Missionary life, I have been to the East but three times, so that my personal intercourse with Eastern Churchmen is very limited. It was the Nashotah Mission which first inaugurated the primitive form of Associate Missionary work for America, and its glorious fruit speaks for it in terms such as require for it no commendation greater than itself. For nine years, I was Dean of that Mission. It was for this country an untried system, which three young men, just in Orders, attempted. To say they made no mistakes, or could not have done better, had they had older heads upon their shoulders, none of the three pretends to assert. To say they ought to have had a Bishop at their head, is nothing more than to say that the first planting of the Church in America ought to have had a Bishop for it so it ought. But in default of this, which was simply an impossibility in those times, the next best thing was for England’s Church to send over Presbyters. And, in like manner, the next best thing for us to do was to work and to wait—not, as some would have it, wait to work, and never do anything.

In the year 1835, the General Convention of the Church sent forth its first Missionary Bishop, the present venerable Prelate of Wisconsin [Bishop Kemper]; but he was to go forth little different from any Presbyter Missionary, saving the vast amount of territory he must travel over, viz., Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, and unborn Territories adjacent. It was expected that members of the second Order of the Ministry would join him; but it was likewise understood that he would distribute and locate these at isolated points, where young cities were likely to spring up; and the Bishop, as a superintendent, would visit them, and encourage them in their isolation.

How different the present plan of operation, with our lately-appointed Missionary Bishops, may clearly be seen; and it will not be thought presuming if I allude somewhat to it, and to that which awakened it in the mind of the American Church. The first aim of the new Bishop now is centralization. He does not count his forces as formerly, and distribute them asunder as wide as the poles; but he looks over his field to find the proper fulcrum; and, establishing himself upon it, proceeds to rally his men at the centre, and here puts them to work, and from this they radiate along with him over the whole diocese.

Thus the Associate Mission is at last in its right place. Twenty-five years ago, it was necessarily a Presbyter Associate Mission, because there was not a Bishop in the Church who felt prepared to adopt its system. But now it has become rooted in the soil of the Church, is recommended by the General Convention, adopted by the Board of Missions, and every Bishop, who loves aggressive work, will have his Association of laborers for all manner of Churchly work.

This Associate plan for Evangelizing a country such as ours, or any heathen land, was inaugurated at Nashotah, because it was primitive and catholic. Under this system, Nashotah has sent forth one hundred Missionaries already, and caused the Church in Wisconsin to bud and blossom as the rose. This same system in Minnesota was an offshoot from Nashotah. . . . It has, as a Diocese, the foundation strongly laid; and, at this point in its history, it becomes me to leave it, to lay foundations anew in waste places.

From a missionary letter of James Lloyd Breck to his “Brethren of the Clergy and Laity” written in 1867; found at http://anglicanhistory.org/usa/jlbreck/letters/09.html.

See you more clearly

Daily Reading for April 3 • The Fourth Sunday in Lent and Richard, Bishop of Chichester, 1253

Day by day, dear Lord, of you three things I pray:
to see you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
follow you more nearly,
day by day.

Amid life’s changes and uncertainties we long for some clarity of vision. In the midst of perplexities we hope to see and to know what is to be prized above all—what is worth life’s service. Richard of Chichester and many others have aspired to see more clearly the longed-for goodness and beauty at the heart of existence. Circumscribed by mortality, we, too, pray to know some purpose in and for a creation. We ask why there is a world and life at all—what could it be for? As life goes on, buffeted by loss and tragedy, we yearn for coherence—a logos or reason and center that might hold things together, a story for life. Hearts hope for a beginning and goal, and at least a glimpse of the One who might sustain and inspire the human adventure. . . .

Yet no one has ever had a clear vision or knowledge of the Lord of all life. . . .“No one has ever seen God,” the evangelist reminds us. “It is God the only son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1:18). When Richard prayed to see and know God more clearly, it was this clue to human life—the Word, this parable of God’s Spirit—that was foremost in his heart and mind. . . .

How do we love God, whom we cannot see? By loving one another—honoring our sisters and brothers, caring for friends and strangers, feeding those who are hungry, and healing those who are sick. . . . Seeing like this will always be a challenge. Living with such vision, as was true for Jesus, means living as if loving really matters most.

From Day by Day: Loving God More Dearly by Frederick Borsch. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. www.morehousepublishing.com

There is freedom

Daily Reading for April 4 • Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights Leader and Martyr, 1968

To sink in the quicksands of fatalism is both intellectually and psychologically stifling. Because freedom is part of the essence of man, the fatalist, by denying freedom, becomes a puppet, not a person. He is, of course, right in his conviction that there is no absolute freedom and that freedom always operates within the context of predestined structure. Common experience teaches that a man is free to go north from Atlanta to Washington or south from Atlanta to Miami, but not north to Miami nor south to Washington. Freedom is always within the framework of destiny. But there is freedom. We are both free and destined. Freedom is the act of deliberating, deciding, and responding within our destined nature. . . . But fatalism stymies the individual, leaving him helplessly inadequate for life.

Fatalism, furthermore, is based on an appalling conception of God, for everything, whether good or evil, is considered to represent the will of God. A healthy religion rises above the idea that God wills evil. Although God permits evil in order to preserve the freedom of man, he does not cause evil. That which is willed is intended, and the thought that God intends for a child to be born blind or a man to suffer the ravages of insanity is sheer heresy that pictures God as a devil rather than as a loving Father. The embracing of fatalism is as tragic and dangerous a way to meet the problem of unfulfilled dreams as are bitterness and withdrawal.

From the sermon “Shattered Dreams” quoted in Strength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr. (Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg Fortress, 1963, 2010).

Having a voice

Daily Reading for April 5 • Pandita Mary Ramabai, Prophetic Witness and Evangelist in India, 1922

Most missionary accounts of Christian conversions among natives are written as celebrations of achievement—that is, the acquisition of one more soul for the proselytizing enterprise. Pandita Ramabai’s story was an exception to the principle of missionary biographies, for Sister Geraldine had a much more cautionary tale in mind when she decided to preserve Ramabai’s often volatile letters. She believed her subject, Pandita Ramabai, had historical importance as an imperfect, erring sinner whose quarrels with certain doctrinal aspects of Christianity constituted an allegorical tale of warning to true believers.

If Ramabai is relegated to the ranks of a heretic by the very people who seek her conversion, their refusal to accept her conversion as a final event condemns as heretical the spiritual questioning they would have otherwise welcomed as a definitive step towards conversion. Thus, as long as Ramabai continued to probe into the varieties of Christian belief found in English sects, her receiving of Christian grace was deferred indefinitely and she remained disqualified from being accepted as a true Christian convert. From the missionaries’ perspective, conversion is the affirmation of a given set of propositions. For Pandita Ramabai, on the other hand, conversion is a form of self-fashioning, the right to “have a voice in choosing my own religion.” Ramabai keeps drawing attention to her “own free will: by it we are to decide for ourselves what we are to do, and fulfill our intended work.” When Rambai claims the right of free will and choice, she conjoins a theological point with a political and cultural one. She is making the argument, contrary to the missionaries’ wish or liking, that Indians have to make their own country, and that the free will, independent conscience, and judgement demonstrated in their religious choices strengthen the kind of moral society Indians must make for themselves. Ramabai recognizes that the missionaries’ attempt to restrict her thinking about religious questions is also a form of colonial control, and it is a central feature of her own critique that she makes independent conscience a matter of national reconstruction.

From “Silencing Heresy” by Gauri Viswanathan, in Women and Social Reform in Modern India: A Reader, edited by Sumit Sarkar and Tanika Sarkar (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 2008).

True sunshine

Daily Reading for April 6 • Daniel G. C. Wu, Priest and Missionary among Chinese Americans, 1956

The Episcopal Church began evangelical work among the Chinese in the Diocese of California in the mid 1850’s. It began to bear fruit by the turn of the century when Deaconess Emma Drant came to San Francisco and organized a Chinese worshiping group in 1905 and established True Sunshine, the first Chinese Episcopal mission in San Francisco. The original location was at 966 Clay Street in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Deaconess Drant had worked in Hawaii. She knew that in order to become an effective worker among the Chinese, she had to learn Cantonese. For several years, while in Honolulu, before coming to San Francisco, she employed a young man, Wu Gee Ching, as her tutor, and she in return taught him English. Wu Gee Ching was anti-Christian when they first met. During their association, he was converted and was baptized, taking the Christian name, Daniel. He is now known as Daniel Gee Ching Wu. This faithful, inspired convert was to be the key to the success of Emma Drant’s work.

The 1906 earthquake and fire played a crucial role in the life of True Sunshine, San Francisco and Oakland. After the disaster, many San Francisco residents, including many Chinese, moved to Oakland. Consequently, the work of the church moved with them, and a mission was begun across the bay. At this time, Deaconess Drant needed help, and in 1907, Daniel G. C. Wu answered her call to come to San Francisco from Hawaii. Although still a layman, he took on the task of running the mission in San Francisco, firmly establishing the one in Oakland, and ministering to both congregations. Not long after Daniel Wu’s arrival, Deaconess Drant left to do work in the East, leaving him the burden of both missions. Aspiring to become an ordained priest, he studied at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific while attending to his lay ministry. After graduation in 1912, he was ordained and became the vicar of both missions, which were already thriving as a result of his work.

Adapted from “The Colors of Diversity” by Vincent Jang, published by the Episcopal Diocese of California, and found at http://www.truesunshine.org/historypast1.html.

Memories of a patriarch

Daily Reading for April 7 • Tikhon, Patriarch of Russia, Confessor and Ecumenist, 1925

Patriarch Tikhon’s nine years in America were important ones in the affairs of the Orthodox Church there. During this period the episcopal seat was removed from San Francisco to New York. During this period Bishop Tikhon became Archbishop Tikhon, the first American Orthodox hierarch to bear that title. These years made a deep impression upon the future Patriarch himself, and as will later be pointed out, the knowledge of the life and religious ideals of American people he acquired there have been very influential in later events in Russia. America has no better friend in Russia than Patriarch Tikhon and he seems especially pleased to maintain his connection with Americans and things American. In view of his unique position and significance for all the Orthodox Church, a brief sketch of the Patriarch as the author last saw him in November 1920, will possibly here be pertinent.

An erect, well-built man in a black robe: grey hair and beard which at first glance make him appear older than his fifty-six years: a firm handclasp and kindly eyes with a decided trace of humor and ever a hint of fire in the back of them: those are your first impressions. That, and his beaming smile. The next thing I thought of was how little he had changed in appearance in the two years since I last visited him. He does not look a day older, and his manner, in marked contrast to so many of my friends in Moscow, is just as calm, unhurried and fearless as though he had not passed through two years of terrible uncertainty and stress. . . .

All those who know Patriarch Tikhon enjoy his well-developed sense of humor. I believe it is this which has helped him retain his poise and cheerfulness through the past three years. I asked him how he had been treated. He told me he had been under “home arrest” for more than a year, had been permitted to go out to conduct service in other churches about once in three months, but aside from this had suffered no personal violence; this in marked contrast to many of the Church’s dignitaries who had been sent to jail or even condemned to execution. “They think,” the Patriarch smilingly remarked, as he patted my hand confidentially, “Oh, he’s an old chap: he’ll die soon. . . we won’t bother him.” “Wait and see,” he went on, shaking his finger, schoolmaster-fashion. “I’ll show them, yet.” And the roguish twinkle in his eyes, remarkably young in contrast to his grey hair, gave you confidence that when the present nightmare has cleared in Russia, her Church’s leader will be found ready to take a most active part in the affairs of the new day.

From The Light of Russia by Donald A. Lowrie, a rare book published by the YMCA in Prague in 1923, shortly before Patriarch Tikhon’s death. Found at http://www.alexanderpalace.org/palace/tikhoninterview.html.

Views on politics and war

Daily Reading for April 8 • William Augustus Muhlenberg, Priest, 1877

The election of Abraham Lincoln as president of the United States, was an event of great interest to Dr. Muhlenberg, and through some of its issues formed a rather remarkable episode, both in his own life and in that of the Hospital.

He never gave himself to politics, as such. But the cause of the slave had always been sacred with him, though not to taking part in the methods of the early abolitionists. The Dred-Scott decision, and the passing of the Fugitive Slave Law, moved him deeply. He had been used, from time to time, to help over the border one and another poor fugitive who found him out, and of late years had been assisted in this by a noble-minded Sister, who, having inherited a fortune from slave-holding ancestors, delighted in an opportunity of anything like restitution. So when this law passed, commanding all good citizens to aid in the arrest of all such fugitives, he, in company with many others, was disgusted and indignant.

From his youth he entertained a deep-seated abhorrence of slavery. In a sermon preached in Philadelphia in 1820, on the death of two missionaries from African fever, though only twenty-four years old, and long before slavery had become the subject of political agitation, or even of secular discussion, he condemns it on high moral grounds as “an immense national evil,” at the same time glancing at the danger of the element in the event of civil discord. . . .

His journal has the following minutes of the election:
“Tuesday, Nov. 6th, 1860. Went early to vote for Lincoln at Sixty-first Street and Second Avenue, but finding I should have to wait some hours before my turn would come, returned. In the afternoon W----- came for me, and I tried it again. By the favor of the police, I got in by the exit door, the crowd assenting to this in that I was an ‘old man.’ So I did my duty, as I felt and believed it was. I am no party politician, but I am much interested in the success of the Republicans as opposed to slavery. I have not voted for years before, and but seldom in my life.”

“Wednesday, Nov. 7th. Lincoln elected! huzza! I am glad I share in the victory. And why? I have no interest in the Republican success, save that I believe it a triumph of humanity--of principle--over mammon.” . . .

Later, he writes: “This war, this war! How do I feel about it? Alternately with horror, and then with a conviction that it is so righteous, I am glad to have my boys in it. It ought not to cost me nothing. . . . The whole city is wild with a military delirium. I have always been almost a Quaker; but I have fallen into the universal sentiment—that there must be fighting, at least in defence of the government, the Capital must be held. . . . But oh, the demoniacal passions which the war spirit engenders—I falter in the thought. But if ever there was a just war, this is one. For our country, and against the slave power—that curse which proclaims that it means to be perpetual! If the war relieves the country of that, I shall rejoice, should all my boys fall in battle.”

From The Life and Work of William Augustus Muhlenberg, Doctor in Divinity by Anne Ayres (New York: T. Whittaker, 1889). http://anglicanhistory.org/usa/muhlenberg/ayres/20.html

A faithful Yes

Daily Reading for April 9 • Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Theologian and Martyr, 1945

Those who wish even to focus on the problem of a Christian ethic are faced with an outrageous demand—from the outset they must give up, as inappropriate to the topic, the very two questions that led them to deal with the ethical problem: “How can I be good?” and “How can I do something good?” Instead they must ask the wholly other, completely different question: what is the will of God? This demand is radical precisely because it presupposes a decision about ultimate reality, that is, a decision of faith. When the ethical problem presents itself essentially as the question of my own being good and doing good, the decision has already been made that the self and the world are the ultimate realities. All ethical reflection then has the goal that I be good, and that the world—by my action—becomes good. If it turns out, however, that these realities, myself and the world, are themselves embedded in a wholly other ultimate reality, namely, the reality of God the Creator, Reconciler, and Redeemer, then the ethical problem takes on a whole new aspect.

Of ultimate importance, then, is not that I become good, or that the condition of the world be improved by my efforts, but that the reality of God show itself everywhere to be the ultimate reality. Where God is known by faith to be the ultimate reality, the source of my ethical concern will be that God be known as the good [das Gute], even at the risk that I and the world are revealed as not good, but as bad through and through. All things appear as in a distorted mirror if they are not seen and recognized in God.

All that is—so to speak—given, all laws and norms, are abstractions, as long as God is not known in faith to be the ultimate reality. That God alone is the ultimate reality, is, however, not an idea meant to sublimate the actual world, nor is it the religious perfecting of a profane worldview. It is rather a faithful Yes to God’s self-witness, God’s revelation. . . . Since God as ultimate reality is no other than the self-announcing, self-witnessing, self-revealing God in Jesus Christ, the question of good can only find its answer in Christ.

From “Christ, Reality, and Good” in Ethics by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, edited by Clifford J. Green, volume 6 in the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works series (Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg Fortress, 2005).

United in death

Daily Reading for April 10 • The Fifth Sunday in Lent

Uniting oneself means, in every case, migrating, and dying partially in what one loves. But if, as we are sure, this being reduced to nothing in the other must be all the more complete the more we give our attachment to one who is greater than ourselves, then we can set no limits to the tearing up of roots that is involved on our journey into God. . . . We have not yet crossed the critical point of our ex-centration, of our reversion to God. There is a further step to take: the one that makes us lose all foothold within ourselves. We are still not lost to ourselves. What will be the agent of that definitive transformation? Nothing else than death.

In itself, death is an incurable weakness of corporeal beings. . . . Now the great victory of the Creator and Redeemer, in the Christian vision, is to have transformed what is in itself a universal power of diminishment and extinction into an essentially life-giving factor. God must, in some way or other, make room for himself, hollowing us out and emptying us, if he is finally to penetrate into us. And in order to assimilate us in him, he must break the molecules of our being so as to re-cast and re-model us. The function of death is to provide the necessary entrance into our inmost selves. It will make us undergo the required dissociation. It will put us into the state organically needed if the divine fire is to descend upon us. And in that way its fatal power to decompose and dissolve will be harnessed to the most sublime operations of life. What was by nature empty and void, a return to bits and pieces, can, in any human existence, become fullness and unity in God.

From The Divine Milieu by Teilhard de Chardin (New York: Harper & Row, 1960).

Preaching peace

Daily Reading for April 11 • George Augustus Selwyn, Bishop of New Zealand, and of Lichfield, 1878

When the events at the Wairau, and the Land Question in general, had made a breach between the two races; then doors began to be shut in the faces of the natives, and language peculiarly offensive to them was in common use among the lower classes: and it became a frequent remark among them, which I have heard again and again, that, with the exception of the Government officers, and the Missionaries, and a few others, they were treated like slaves and pigs by the English settlers. The consequence of this growing feeling of contempt was a desire, widely spread through the English towns, to chastise the natives, who were then supposed to be incapable of resistance. It was then that “turbulent priests,” if there had been any in New Zealand, might have agitated the whole country by merely encouraging their countrymen to follow the impulse of their own inclination.

But, on the contrary, it will be found that the chief fault imputed to us in those days was an undue desire for peace. “Here comes that Bishop to prevent us from fighting the natives,” is a saying which I well remember, though it will scarcely be believed at the present time, when most men are agreed in the expediency of leaving the charge of their lives and property to military proxies. That I have counselled peace, is no more than saying that I am a minister of the Gospel; and this I freely confess to have done, at a time when a general gathering of the tribes could have destroyed the Colony, and when it needed no more than that we should be silent, to agitate the native people from one end of New Zealand to the other. Often has the question been asked of us, “What is the Queen going to do? Does she wish to take away our lands?” and we have steadily—and in places unvisited by Governors or officers of Government—avouched the good faith of England, and recited the authoritative declarations of successive Secretaries of State, affirming again and again the validity of the Treaty of Waitangi. If we had held our peace, without a word spoken we should have confirmed all the worst suspicions of the native people. We spoke the truth, and the result has been peace.

From Church in the Colonies, No. XX. New Zealand, Part V: A Journal of the Bishop’s Visitation Tour through His Diocese, Including a Visit to the Chatham Islands, in the Year 1848 by George Augustus Selwyn (London: The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, 1851). Found at http://anglicanhistory.org/nz/spg20.html

Conversion through understanding

Daily Reading for April 12 • Adoniram Judson, Missionary to Burma, 1850

Very early in Mr. Judson’s residence in Burmah, he became convinced that the press must be one of the chief instruments of its regeneration. He found its inhabitants a reading people, beyond any other in India; of a remarkably inquisitive, speculative turn of mind; not disposed to admit any new doctrine without a full apprehension of the why and wherefore; . . . and, as a general thing, the reception of Christianity was the result of deep conviction of the understanding. “It is,” says Mr. Judson at a subsequent period, “rather characteristic of Burman converts, that they are slow in making up their minds to embrace a new religion; but the point once settled, is settled for ever.”. . . In his earliest attempts to communicate Christian ideas, he was met with the inquiry: “Where are your sacred books?” He saw that, in Christianizing such a people, “the hearing of the ear” would not alone suffice. “I have found,” he writes in 1817, “that I could not preach publicly to any advantage, without being able, at the same time, to put something in the hands of the hearers. And in order to qualify myself to do this, I have found it absolutely necessary to keep at home, and to confine myself to close study for three or four years.”

A short time previous he had announced the printing of a couple of tracts: the one a View of the Christian Religion, 1,000 copies; the other a Catechism, 4000 copies. These . . . proved to be perfectly intelligible to the natives, and have remained standard works to this day. . . .

Above all, the knowledge of God’s own Word was, in his view, not only pre-eminently desirable as an adjunct to missionary labour, but is only true and permanent foundation. Mr. Judson was thoroughly imbued with the great Protestant doctrine—the right of every man to know for himself, without the intervention of any human medium, the will of God as revealed in his own inspired Scriptures. He would not even venture to commence preaching, without some portion of the sacred volume, to which he could refer as his ultimate authority, and by which his hearers could themselves test his teachings.

Accordingly, after trying his hand at Burman composition in the tracts first mentioned, he immediately applied himself to the translation of the Gospel of Matthew, of which he proposed to print a small edition, “by way of trial, and as introductory to a larger edition of the whole New Testament.” This was the commencement of that great work, whose completion, twenty-three years after, marks the most important epoch in the history of Burmah, when the Bible became the inalienable inheritance of her children.

From The Ernest Man: A Memoir of Adoniram Judson by Hannah C. Conant (London: J. Heaton & Son, 1861).

Come out!

Daily Reading for April 13

Lazarus, Come out!
It is the voice of the Lord, the proclamation of the king—an authoritative command.
Come out!
Leave corruption behind and receive the flesh of incorruption.

Lazarus, Come out!
Let them know that the time has come when those in the tombs will hear the voice of the Son of man. Once they have heard they will come alive.
Come out!
The stumbling block is taken away.
Come to me—I am calling you.
Come out!
As a friend, I am calling you; as Lord I am commanding you. . . .

Come out
Covered with the burial cloth so that they won’t think you were only pretending to be dead. Let them see your hands and feet bound and your face covered. Let them see if they still do not believe the miracle.
Come out!
Let the stench of your body prove the resurrection. Let the burial linen be undone so that they can recognize the one who was put in the tomb.

Come out!
Come alive and enliven! Come out of the tomb. Teach them how all creation will be enlivened in a moment when the trumpet’s voice proclaims the resurrection of the dead.
Come out!
Let breath appear in your nostrils, let blood pulse through your veins, let the voice sound in your larynx, let words fill your ears, let vision enlighten your eyes, let the sense of smell fill your senses, walk as nature intended as your earthly tent is enlivened by your soul.

Come out!
Leave behind the burial cloth and glorify the miracle. Leave the revolting stench of death and proclaim the strength of my power.
I’m calling you out!
Come out.
I, who said, “Let there be light, let there be firmament.”

From Homily 8 on Lazarus by Andrew of Crete, quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament IVb, John 11-21, edited by Joel C. Elowsky (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2007).

Institutionalized segregation

Daily Reading for April 14 • Edward Thomas Demby, 1957, and Henry Beard Delany, 1928, Bishops

Sitting at the back of the church, the Right Reverend Edward T. Demby, the only black Episcopal bishop with jurisdiction in the United States, looked up to see the Right Reverend Edwin Saphore, the acting bishop of Arkansas, extend the communion plate in the direction of the black clergy. Simultaneously, the Reverend William T. Holt, rector of the host church, stood to one side of Saphore and gesticulated with all the dignified urgency he could muster, a silent yet unmistakable “Would the colored clergy please come forward for communion!” Heads turned. The organist struck up another stanza of the communion hymn, prolonging the invitation and suppressing whispers. The situation Demby had tried desperately to avoid was upon him. He had been told that the black clergy were not welcome at this service. Yet the proposed alternative, a separate service for the black priests in the basement of the church, was out of the question. Resigned to sit out the festivities on the back pew, Demby looked up in amazement as those responsible for this humiliation exhibited a change of heart. The two white clergymen beckoned the erstwhile outcasts to come forward and receive the Body and Blood of Christ, after all. Demby sat stoically while his long-established habit of accommodation made war with the clear moral imperative rising up within him. He must not, at all costs, allow himself to be forced across that vacillating frontier separating discretion and Uncle Tom. According to Lily Billingsley, wife of the senior warden, or chief layman, of St. Paul’s, Demby turned to the four black priests beside him and whispered, “If they ask you to come, refuse.”

Racial integration means trouble. That is, whenever an organization incorporates a racial pariah into its membership, with all the rights and privileges pursuant thereto, conflict is a foregone conclusion. . . . For the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, the vortex of the struggle over race was the period from 1883 to 1953, when the church succumbed to the anti-African American spirit of the country and institutionalized segregation in the name of Christianity, which is to say, order. Bishop Demby’s ministry was the embodiment of this experience. He represented the many black Episcopalians of his era who believed that the keys to assimilation into the life of the church, and the country, for that matter, were education and moral rectitude. . . .

In this era of disillusionment and compromise, Demby lost respect and he won respect. Unlike many of his black Episcopal brethren, Demby never quite made the transition to collective action. For the most part, he practiced accommodation in the face of racist behavior, working with the system to achieve his ends rather than challenging it directly. . . . He was at heart a creature of calling, a man going about the business of being a Christian. Looking at it from his perspective, he aspired to orthodoxy, which, given his office, necessitated innumerable affirmations of certain biblical truths regarding the equality of men before God. He was being obedient. Eventually, however, doggedness and orthodoxy created an opportunity. In one of the keynote speeches in Episcopal history, Demby heralded the demise of the segregated church, converting the church’s leading experiment in segregation into an iconoclast of segregation. Demby’s ministry represents the zenith and the demise of Jim Crow in the Episcopal Church.

From Black Bishop: Edward T. Demby and the Struggle for Racial Equality in the Episcopal Church by Michael J. Beary (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 2001).

A visit to Molokai

Daily Reading for April 15 • Damien, Priest and Leper, 1889, and Marianne, Religious, 1918, of Molokai

Kalawao, Molokai, May 1889

Dear Fanny,

I had a lovely sail up. Captain Cameron and Mr. Gilfillan, both born in the States, yet the first still with a strong Highland, and the second still with a strong Lowland accent, were good company; the night was warm, the victuals plain but good. . . . Presently we came up with the leper promontory: lowland, quite bare and bleak and harsh, a little town of wooden houses, two churches, a landing-stair, all unsightly, sour, northerly, lying athwart the sunrise, with the great wall of the pali cutting the world out on the south. Our lepers were sent on the first boat, about a dozen, one poor child very horrid, one white man, leaving a large grown family behind him in Honolulu, and then into the second stepped the sisters and myself. I do not know how it would have been with me had the sisters not been there. My horror of the horrible is about my weakest point; but the moral loveliness at my elbow blotted all else out; and when I found that one of them was crying, poor soul, quietly under her veil, I cried a little myself; then I felt as right as a trivet, only a little crushed to be there so uselessly. . . .

There was a great crowd, hundreds of (God save us!) pantomime masks in poor human flesh, waiting to receive the sisters and the new patients. Every hand was offered: I had gloves, but I had made up my mind on the boat’s voyage NOT to give my hand; that seemed less offensive than the gloves. So the sisters and I went up among that crew, and presently I got aside (for I felt I had no business there) and set off on foot across the promontory, carrying my wrap and the camera. All horror was quite gone from me: to see these dread creatures smile and look happy was beautiful.

. . . .

Honolulu, June, 1889

My dear Colvin,

I am just home after twelve days journey to Molokai, seven of them at the leper settlement, where I can only say that the sight of so much courage, cheerfulness, and devotion strung me too high to mind the infinite pity and horror of the sights. I used to ride over from Kalawao to Kalaupapa, go to the Sisters’ home, which is a miracle of neatness, play a game of croquet with seven leper girls (90 degrees in the shade), got a little old-maid meal served me by the Sisters, and ride home again, tired enough, but not too tired. The girls have all dolls, and love dressing them. You who know so many ladies delicately clad, and they who know so many dressmakers, please make it known it would be an acceptable gift to send scraps for doll dressmaking to the Reverend Sister Maryanne, Bishop Home, Kalaupapa, Molokai, Hawaiian Islands.

I have seen sights that cannot be told, and heard stories that cannot be repeated: yet I never admired my poor race so much, nor (strange as it may seem) loved life more than in the settlement. A horror of moral beauty broods over the place: that’s like bad Victor Hugo, but it is the only way I can express the sense that lived with me all these days.

From The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, Volume 2; found at Project Gutenberg, http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/637.

To see the infinite pity of this place,
The mangled limb, the devastated face,
The innocent sufferers smiling at the rod—
A fool were tempted to deny his God.
He sees, and shrinks. But if he gaze again,
Lo, beauty springing from the breast of pain!
He marks the sisters on the mournful shores;
And even a fool is silent and adores.

A poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, dedicated to Mother Maryanne, Kalawao, Molokai, May 22, 1889; found in Songs of Travel and Other Verses, http://www.robert-louis-stevenson.org/poetry/37-songs-of-travel-1895

A woman of many dimensions

Daily Reading for April 16 • Mary (Molly) Brant (Konwatsijayenni), Witness to the Faith among the Mohawks, 1796

Very active in the Anglican community in Kingston, Molly Brant was the only woman listed in 1792 in the founding charter of the church. That same year, traveler John C. Ogden saw her there: “We saw an Indian woman, who sat in an honourable place among the English. She appeared very devout during the divine service, and very attentive to the sermon. . . . When Indian embassies arrived, she was sent for, dined at governor Simcoe’s and treated with respect by himself, his lady, and family. . . . She retains the habit of her country women, and is a Protestant.” . . .

Brant was described variously by her contemporaries as handsome, sensible, judicious, political, faithful, prudent, pretty likely (good-looking), well-bred, pleasant, delightful, uncommonly agreeable, understanding, artful, at ease in society, capable of scolding, influential, of great use, large-minded, zealous, possessed of a violent temper, capable of mischief, civil, devout, and respected. This variety of descriptions from the eighteenth century demonstrates that Molly Brant was a woman of many dimensions. As a woman, mother, and political force, she was a legend in her own century. For fifteen years, she was a vital link between her people and Sir William Johnson in the management of Indian affairs. For the next ten years, she acted as an intermediary and conduit between the Iroquois and the British government. At the same time, she had to provide for eight children, see to their educations, and try to regain some of the fortune they had lost. Her choice of political roles during this time is controversial; her success in her domestic role is admirable. Today she is seen by Canadians as a founder of their country. Yet in the United States, her loyalist activities have tended to overshadow her fascinating story. Unlike Pocahontas and Sacajawea, two Native American heroines familiar to the American public, Molly Brant is not yet a highly visible figure.

From “Molly Brant: Her Domestic and Political Roles in Eighteenth-Century New York” by Lois M. Feister and Bonnie Pulis, in Northeastern Indian Lives, 1632-1816, edited by Robert S. Grumet (Amherst, Mass.: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1996).

Hastening toward his passion

Daily Reading for April 17 • The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

Let us go together to meet Christ on the Mount of Olives. Today he returns from Bethany and proceeds of his own free will toward his holy and blessed passion, to consummate the mystery of our salvation. He who came down from heaven to raise us from the depths of sin, to raise us with himself, we are told in Scripture, above every sovereignty, authority and power, and every other name that can be named, now comes of his own free will to make his journey to Jerusalem. He comes without pomp or ostentation. As the psalmist says: He will not dispute or raise his voice to make it heard in the streets. He will be meek and humble, and he will make his entry in simplicity.

Let us run to accompany him as he hastens toward his passion, and imitate those who met him then, not by covering his path with garments, olive branches or palms, but by doing all we can to prostrate ourselves before him by being humble and by trying to live as he would wish. Then we shall be able to receive the Word at his coming, and God, whom no limits can contain, will be within us.

Andrew of Crete, quoted in The Week that Changed the World: The Complete Easter Story by Timothy Dean Roth. Copyright © 2009. Seabury Books, an imprint of Church Publishing. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY. www.churchpublishing.org

The fragrance of love

Daily Reading for April 18 • Monday in Holy Week

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

In loving this body, that is, the church, bring water for his feet and kiss his feet, not only pardoning those who have become enmeshed in sin but by your peace giving them harmony and putting them at peace. Pour ointment on his feet, that the whole house wherein Christ reclines at table may be filled with the odor of your ointment, that all at table with him may be pleased with your perfume. In other words, pay honor to the least.

From a letter of Ambrose to his sister, quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament IVb, John 11-21, edited by Joel C. Elowsky (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2007).

Giving of self

Daily Reading for April 19 • Tuesday in Holy Week

Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

There are two sides to every vocation: unconditional giving of self to the call of God—“Here I am, send me!”—and the gift of power which rewards the total gift of self to God. In Christ’s life we see these two movements in perfect balance. How humbly he submitted to the Will of the Father, totally absorbed in His business, and to the tests, pressure, suffering that came through circumstances; and yet how, though never in His own interest and never apart from His love and pity for man, there is always the Power to intervene, save, mould, defeat opposition, transform even the humble accidents of life. In all men and women of prayer deeply united to God that double state exists too. That handing of self over and the mysterious power that somehow acts through self in consequence—the right word said, the right prayer prayed. But only in proportion to the self-effacement. The power of course is God’s, not ours. One hears people say, “He (or she) is simply wonderful!” Not at all! He or she is the self-emptied channel of the only Wonderful—the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father. When we give ourselves to Him without reserve we become points of insertion for the rescuing spirit of Love. We are woven into the Redeeming Body so that we may provide more and more channels for God.

From The Light of Christ by Evelyn Underhill (London: Longmans, 1945).


Daily Reading for April 20 • Wednesday in Holy Week

At supper with his friends, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

I scanned the headlines early this morning. A familiar name caught my eye: Duluth doesn’t make the New York Times much. And certainly not for this reason: There was a mob lynching of three black men there in 1920. . . .

I remember asking my mother in the 1960s about racial prejudice in Minnesota when she was growing up. She didn’t remember any. We didn’t really have any Negroes there, she said. Well, I guess they had three. And then they had three fewer.

She was five when the lynching happened. Ten thousand people came out to see it. Men had broken into the city jail and hauled the three out. Men? My grandfather was a man and he lived in Duluth. Was he there? Did he go? Did my grandmother go, and did they watch? Did they take my mother? We didn’t really have any Negroes there.. . .

My kind forebears. My good family. That good city, full of good people. Ordinary people. Impossible. But anything is possible for ordinary people. Any goodness, and any evil. They can allow themselves to be led either way. They can visit the church and the killing fields on the same day. They tell themselves that it is their leaders who take them astray, but they are the ones who raise up the leaders, and they are the ones who follow them.

So who killed Christ? Ordinary people. Like you and me. It is not enough to bemoan this evil age. I do not control this age. But I do control myself. Start there.

From Let Us Bless the Lord, Year One: Meditations on the Daily Office, Vol. 1, Advent through Holy Week by Barbara Cawthorne Crafton. Copyright © 2004. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. www.morehousepublishing.com

Love one another

Daily Reading for April 21 • Maundy Thursday

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Through his lifting up on the cross Jesus is drawing all to himself, so this new household that he creates is meant to be seen as the symbolic nucleus of the church, the all-embracing family. By tracing the origin of the church to this relationship between Jesus’ mother and his beloved friend, the evangelist is asking us to remember two things about the church’s true identity.

First, the community that Jesus’ lifting up brings into existence is not an institution. It is not an organization. John does not even use the word “church.” It is a communion grounded in the common experience of intimacy with Christ. It is the household of those who abide in him. As Christ is heard to pray the night before his death, “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, so may they be also in us. . . . I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one” (17:21, 23).

Second, John is telling us that the new community is grounded in a commitment to reciprocal care and mutual love. Our meditation is meant to lead us back to the scene of the foot-washing the night before, when Jesus demonstrated the self-spending mutual service, the utter disregard for all human rank and status, that was to be the sign of the new community. By showing us how Jesus summons this community into existence from the cross, the evangelist invites us to realize again that this mutual service is nothing pleasant or easy. The new community is not an inward-looking mutual admiration society, but a force-field of costly self-giving. It is where friends lay down their lives for one another. It is a field where seeds have to die if they are to bear much fruit.

From Love Set Free: Meditations on the Passion According to St. John by Martin L. Smith, SSJE (Cambridge, Mass.: Cowley Publications, 1998).

O hidden strength

Daily Reading for April 22 • Good Friday

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Christian soul, brought to life again out of the heaviness of death, redeemed and set free from wretched servitude by the blood of God, rouse yourself and remember that you are risen, realize that you have been redeemed and set free. Consider again the strength of your salvation and where it is found. Meditate upon it, delight in the contemplation of it. Shake off your lethargy and set your mind to thinking over these things. Taste the goodness of your Redeemer, be on fire with love for your Saviour. Chew the honeycomb of his words, suck their flavor which is sweeter that sap, swallow their wholesome sweetness. Chew by thinking, suck by understanding, swallow by loving and rejoicing. Be glad to chew, be thankful to suck, rejoice to swallow.

What then is the strength and power of your salvation and where is it found? Christ has brought you back to life. He is the good Samaritan who healed you. He is the good friend who redeemed you and set you free by laying down his life for you. Christ did all this. So the strength of your salvation is the strength of Christ.

Where is the strength of Christ? . . . What is there to be venerated in such abjection? Surely something is hidden by this weakness, something is concealed by this humility. There is something mysterious in this abjection.

O hidden strength:
a man hangs on a cross and lifts the load of eternal death from the human race;
a man nailed to wood looses the bonds of everlasting death that hold fast the world.

O hidden power:
a man condemned with thieves saves men condemned with devils,
a man stretched out on the gibbet draws all men to himself.

O mysterious strength:
one soul coming forth from torment draws countless souls with him out of hell,
a man submits to the death of the body and destroys the death of souls.

From “Meditation on Human Redemption” in The Prayers and Meditations of Saint Anselm, translated by Sister Benedicta Ward, SLG (London: Penguin Classics, 1973).

Resting in death

Daily Reading for April 23 • Holy Saturday

So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away.

Consciousness seems to be like a book in which the leaves turned by life successively cover and hide each other in spite of their semi-transparency; but although the book may be open at the page of the present, the wind, for a few seconds, may blow back the first pages into view. And at death will these leaves cease to hide each other, and shall we see all our past at once? Is death the passage from the successive to the simultaneous—that is, from time to eternity? Shall we then understand, in its unity, the poem or mysterious episode of our existence, which till then we have spelled out phrase by phrase? And is this the secret of that glory which so often enwraps the brow and countenance of those who are newly dead? If so, death would be like the arrival of a traveler at the top of a great mountain, whence he sees spread out before him the whole configuration of the country, of which till then he had had but passing glimpses. To be able to overlook one’s own history, to divine its meaning in the general concert and in the divine plan, would be the beginning of eternal felicity. Till then we had sacrificed ourselves to the universal order, but then we should understand and appreciate the beauty of that order. We had toiled and labored under the conductor of the orchestra; and we should find ourselves become surprised and delighted hearers. We had seen nothing but our own little path in the mist; and suddenly a marvelous panorama and boundless distance would open before our dazzled eyes. Why not?

From the journals of Henri-Frédéric Amiel, quoted in A Diary of Readings by John Baillie (New York: Macmillan, 1955).

Rejoice and be glad

Daily Reading for April 24 • The Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter

Christ is risen! He has burst open the gates of hell and let the dead go free; he has renewed the earth through the members of his Church now born again in baptism, and has made it blossom afresh with men brought back to life. His Holy Spirit has unlocked the doors of heaven, which stand wide open to receive those who rise up from the earth. Because of Christ’s resurrection the thief ascends to paradise, the bodies of the blessed enter the holy city, and the dead are restored to the company of the living. There is an upward movement in the whole of creation, each element raising itself to something higher. We see hell restoring its victims to the upper regions, earth sending its buried dead to heaven, and heaven presenting the new arrivals to the Lord. In one and the same movement, our Savior’s passion raises men from the depths, lifts them up from the earth, and sets them in the heights.

Christ is risen. His rising brings to life the dead, forgiveness to sinners, and glory to the saints. And so David the prophet summons all creation to join in celebrating the Easter festival: Rejoice and be glad, he cries, on this day which the Lord has made.

From Maximus of Turin (c. 380-c. 465), quoted in The Week that Changed the World: The Complete Easter Story by Timothy Dean Roth. Copyright © 2009. Seabury Books, an imprint of Church Publishing. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY. www.churchpublishing.org

The resurrection

Daily Reading for April 25 • Monday in Easter Week

Alleluia! Praise the Lord. The Lord has done great things for us. I would like to make some very simple remarks about the Resurrection. This is at the centre of our faith: without resurrection, our faith is vain. If we have believed for this life only, we are the most wretched of men. But what is the Resurrection for me?

The Resurrection is repose after the painful tension of the Passion, it is the stone rolled away from the tomb, it is the joyful cry of Mary Magdalene, it is the other side of death, become luminous. It is the certainty that life is already triumphant and that it will triumph in the end: the fundamental force that sustains the world and history is love, and love is stronger than death. It is only in the light of the Resurrection that I understand what life is.

From “Alleluia!” in From Advent to Pentecost: Carthusian Novice Conferences by a Carthusian, translated by Carmel Brett (Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, 1999).

All was transformed

Daily Reading for April 26 • Tuesday in Easter Week

The Resurrection of Christ could not be seen by man, for it was a resurrection into a world which no human senses could follow it. There are many powers in nature to which we can have no immediate outer testimony. We know their existence by their results. So it is with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We experience its power because He went into a world beyond our natural gaze. He has entered upon the exercise of powers whose influence we acknowledge, and from whose control none can escape.

We are not to think merely that He lived before in the region of the natural world, and is now passed over into the spiritual world. . . . He has done much more than this. He has elevated His material nature to be for evermore the instrument of spiritual action. . . . That which lay in the sepulcher is transformed and glorified. It is not that it shines with the light of the Divine presence within it. So it shone once at the Transfiguration. Now it has passed into the world of spirit-life, and it manifests itself in this lower world, not by subjecting itself to our natural senses, but by communicating to those to whom its manifestation is made the supernatural power of the Spirit by which alone it can be perceived, as by that power alone it can draw near.

The whole human being of our Lord Jesus was glorified by the Resurrection. There was no part of it left in the grave. All was transformed. The unction of the Divine presence filled the whole manhood, body and soul, with the renewed spiritual life which Adam’s sin had forfeited, and the union with Godhead was a better, closer union than Adam could claim. Adam lost the companionship of the Holy Ghost which filled his soul with spiritual life. Jesus being consubstantially united with the Godhead can have no part of His Being withdrawn from that Divine life. Whatever belongs to Him as a Person is, and must be, under the quickening influence of His Divinity. The law of His human life could suffer no violation. His human organism could not be maimed. All that He had assumed into vital connection with Himself He glorified, for that vitality was imperishable. His material nature was thus completely taken up into the condition of the spiritual life, and exempted from those conditions which fetter the created world.

From The Life Beyond the Grave: A Series of Meditations upon the Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ by R. M. Benson SSJE (London, 1885).

Quicken me

Daily Reading for April 27 • Wednesday in Easter Week

I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numb’d too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm’d with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish’d thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.

“A Better Resurrection” by Christina Rossetti, in Goblin Market and Other Poems by Christina Rossetti (Cambridge: Macmillan, 1862).

Word and flesh

Daily Reading for April 28 • Thursday in Easter Week

The resurrection of the Lord was truly the resurrection of a real body, because no other person was raised than he who had been crucified and died. What else was accomplished during that interval of forty days than to make our faith entire and clear of all darkness? For a while, he spoke with his disciples and remained with them, ate with them and allowed himself to be felt with careful and inquisitive touch by those who were under the influence of doubt. This was his purpose in going in to them when the doors were shut. He gave them the Holy Ghost by his breath. After giving them the light of intelligence, he opened the secrets of holy Scripture. In his same person, he showed them the wound in the side, the prints of the nails and all the fresh tokens of the passion. He said, “See my hands and feet. It is I myself. Handle me and see. A spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see that I have.” He did all this so that we might acknowledge that the properties of the divine and the human nature remain in him without causing a division. We now may know that the Word is not what the flesh is. We may now confess that the one Son of God is Word and flesh.

From Tome 5 of Leo the Great, quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament III, Luke, edited by Arthur A. Just, Jr. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2003).

Crucified love

Daily Reading for April 29 • Friday in Easter Week

Then God the eternal One responded to her soul:

I want to describe the Bridge for you. It stretches from heaven to earth by reason of my having joined myself with your humanity which I formed in the earth’s clay. This bridge has three stairs. Two of them were built by my Son on the wood of the most holy cross, and the third even as he tasted the bitterness of the gall and vinegar they gave him to drink. You will recognize in these three stairs three spiritual stages. . . .

But though the bridge has been raised up so high, it still is joined to the earth. Do you know when it was raised up? When my Son was lifted up on the wood of the most holy cross he did not cut off his divinity from the lowly earth of your humanity. So though he was raised so high, he was not raised off the earth. In fact, his divinity is kneaded in the clay of your humanity like one bread. Nor could anyone walk on that bridge until my Son was raised up. This is why he said, “If I am lifted up high I will draw everything to myself” (John 12:32).

When my goodness saw that you could be drawn in no other way, I sent him to be lifted onto the wood of the cross. I made of that cross an anvil where this child of humankind could be hammered into an instrument to release humankind from death and restore it to the life of grace. In this way he drew everything to himself; for he proved his inspeakable love, and the human heart is always drawn by love. He could not have shown you greater love than by giving his life for you (John 15:13). . . .

The human heart is drawn by love, and with all its powers: memory, understanding, and will. If these three powers are harmoniously united in my name, everything else you do, in fact or intention, will be drawn to union with me in peace through the movement of love, because all will be lifted up in the pursuit of crucified love.

From The Dialogues of Catherine of Siena, quoted in Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups, edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith, revised and expanded edition (New York: HarperOne, 2005).

In the flesh

Daily Reading for April 30 • Saturday in Easter Week

I myself am convinced and believe that he was in the flesh even after the resurrection. When he came to Peter and his friends, he said to them, “Take hold of me. Touch me, and see that I am not a bodiless ghost.” They immediately touched him. They were convinced, clutching his body and his very breath. For this reason, they despised death itself and proved its victors. After the resurrection, he also ate and drank with them as a real human being, although in spirit he was united with the Father.

From the Letter to the Smyrnaeans by Ignatius of Antioch, quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament III, Luke, edited by Arthur A. Just, Jr. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2003).

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