Sunday, October 6, 2013

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Hab 1:2-3, 2:2-4
Ps 95: 1-2, 6-7, 8-9
2 Tim 1:6-8, 13-14
Lk  17:5-10

“How long O Lord? 
I cry for help
but you do not listen!”

The question and accusation that open the Book of Habakkuk are startling.  Habakkuk is one of the minor prophets.  He is considered a minor prophet not because his message is insignificant but because the Book of Habakkuk is so short that it was combined with eleven other short prophetic books so as to be able to fill one scroll.  Habakkuk is unique among the prophets because he openly questions the wisdom of God. 

The major theme of Habakkuk is trying to grow from perplexity, confusion and doubt toward faith and absolute trust in God.  It is only at the end of chapter three, the book's final chapter, in what is sometimes called the Psalm of Habakkuk, that he expresses his ultimate faith in God, even if he, like us, does not yet fully understand God's ways. In the final verses, verses that are recited during morning prayer on Friday of week II in the breviary, we hear the prophet reflecting on the potential--and real--loss of everything and then ending on an optimistic note of faith. He writes: 

“For though the fig tree blossom not
nor fruit be on the vines,
though the yield of the olive fail
and the terraces produce no nourishment, . . .
Yet will I rejoice in the Lord
and exult in my saving God.

God, my Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet swift as those of hinds
and enables me to go upon the heights.”

At the end of a book that opened with a hostile challenge we learn of the faith that redeems and sustains through everything.  Faith is freely given.  Faith sustains us through the ups and down of life.  It augments the joys and diminishes the sorrows.  Faith brings us eternal life.  But we must tend it and nurture it.   Many of Jesus’ parables, and much of His preaching, turn on the question of faith, how it is nurtured how it is increased.  Thus, the Gospel begins with the famous statement relating faith to the mustard seed.

Remember the popular necklace from days of yore that featured a small clear globe with a tiny yellow mustard seed suspended in the middle?  In my high school the mustard seed pendant was something of a shibboleth.  About half the Protestant girls wore them whereas the Catholics wore either a Crucifix or a Miraculous Medal and sometimes both.

As the mustard seed is only one or two millimeters, about 1/25th of an inch in size, one had to look very closely to see it. That tiny seed grows into a large bush that, while technically not a tree, is large enough for the birds to perch in as though it were a tree.

Just as it takes a long time for the mustard seed to grow from 1/25th of an inch into a large bush, so it is with faith.  As we live it, cultivate it, and attend to it through prayer, reflection, meditation on scripture, regular confession and frequent participation in the Eucharist, faith matures.  It becomes stronger.  It becomes more resilient.  It becomes more able to sustain us in good times and through bad times. Faith permits us, indeed it sometimes compels us, to ask the question that opens the Book of Habakkuk:  “How long O Lord?”  Faith allows us to pray with one single screamed word,  “WHY?” in times of grief and loss.  And, it allows us to endure the startling silence that may be the reply.  And faith allows us to sing the great Psalms of praise.  It is possible for all of us that, despite the losses, traumas, and crises of life, faith will change the angry question that begins the Book of Habakkuk,

“How long O Lord?”

to the affirmation that closes the same book,

“God my Lord
is my strength,
He enables me
to go upon the heights.”
More photos from Spencer both indoors and out.   Will begin with the outdoors.  

A rusted ring cemented into the retaining wall in front of the cottage is part of the kind of autumnal composition that drives my photography at this time of the year.  Shape, color and texture.  What more could one want?  There is an essence here that recalls much of the past.

The hinges are the Abbey Church door are not to be tampered with. 

The meadow along the north road.  One can see a hint of the road at the extreme left of the photo.  The fence delimits the enclosure from the area in front of the guest house open to the public and retreatants. 

Venturing down the north road I came across a small cluster of milkweed pods that were just bursting.  Given that I was focusing on the pod I never noticed the red and black bug until downloading the photos.  The sun was hitting just right at around 1:00 PM.

A few steps away I encountered a grasshopper resting on a red leaf. 

Stumbled across this delightful "composition" made by the wind while wandering down the south road. 

While sitting in front of the cottage reading a red dragonfly happened by.  

The infirmary chapel and rooms as illuminated just before the sun broke over the horizon. 

This is a view down the long aisle from the visitor's chapel at the Abbey.  There are two small gallery chapels to the left and right of the altar that separate the community and those attending Mass or stopping in for prayer.  

The perspective is from the visitors' chapel looking into what was the laybrothers' choir.  Retreatants are permitted in the laybrothers' choir for lauds/Mass and vespers.  I participated in all of the hours from here.  Nothing matches sitting in the semi-darkness of this choir while the monks are saying vigils.  

The Abbey Church proper from the back of the laybrothers' choir.  The blue cast is from the stained glass along the sides.  Will include photos in a later post.  Am playing with this photo in black and white as well.  

The rose window in the western wall.  The colors bathing the buff-colored brick just before vespers at 5:40 is glorious.  I did not try to capture it with the camera.  Am not certain it is possible to capture it adequately given that the experience is more than just the color and glow of the setting sun filtered through the window. 

At the end of compline the few lights in the church that are used for this office are extinguished and the window of the Blessed Mother holding Jesus, called the Salve window, is lit from outside.  This window and the altar are ad Oriens, facing east.  Once lighted the community chants the Salve Regina while facing the window after which the Angelus is rung.  This is the middle window from the photo of the Abbey Church.  

The stairs lead to the dormitory.  After the Salve each man approaches the abbott, bows and is blessed with holy water.  Many of them ascend these steps in silence.   

This still life was illuminated from the light coming through the round panels of   stained glass shown in the last post. 

I hope to have some photos of final vows in about a week or two.  
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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