Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's Eve

It's not New Year's Eve that we'll celebrate here. We'll celebrate it of course, but first we'll celebrate First Vespers of The Feast of the Holy Name. On the eighth day Jesus was taken to the temple to be presented, circumcised and officially named. Eight days from Christmas just happens to coincide with New Year's Day and the early church treated it as a fast day to offset the festivities celebrating Janus, god of beginnings.

For most Christians circumcision is a choice made for health or cultural reasons, not something we do to keep a covenant with God. Not so for the parents of Jesus. We now call the feast The Holy Name, shifting the emphasis from the cutting to the naming. Both of my sons were circumcised in the hospital, one immediately after his birth. (The doctor's reasoning was: he was already in shock from the birth trauma, one more little cut was not going to make much difference.) Not so for Jesus.

I've read that the name Jesus was not unusual in his time. Certain names were popular and used over and over. Case in point: Mary. We have the Virgin Mary, Mary of Magdala, Mary of Bethany… the list goes on. But after Jesus' naming we don't read about any other Jesuses in the Bible. He's the one. God Delivers.

My own given name was a source of embarrassment and irritation for me as a child. I was named after my grandfather, who apparently bemoaned the fact that he had four grandchildren (three of them boys) and my uncle had not thought to name a single one after him. His name was Claude, and I was named Claudia, because my mother, bless her heart, wanted to please him. But as a Navy child I was forced into new school situations every time I turned around. The inevitable question: "What's your name?" was the one I dreaded. I would answer "Claudia" and the disappointing responses would fly: "Never heard that name before… Did you say Gloria? Oh Cynthia, please sit over here… That's the dumbest name I ever heard…" And there was no way to shorten it, any nickname only made matters worse: "Clod, Clodhopper". It wasn't until college that the idea occurred to me to use my initials, CJ as a nickname. I have college friends who still call me that.

It wasn't so bad being Claudia as an adult, but I was still more than pleased to change my name when the time came to be clothed in the habit of the community. My name of choice, Claire Joy has its own story. But that's for another post.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Feast of the Holy Innocents

My literal heart, my chronological need for B to follow A always skips an irritable beat when we celebrate this feast before Epiphany. I want the wise men to come and leave and then celebrate. (Not that celebrate is the term I would use to describe the murder of children).

Some say that there's no historical proof that Herod slaughtered babies in Bethlehem… that it never happened. Okay then, why does such a story ring so true, feel so close to home?

That's a no brainer. The greedy and fearful have always killed the innocent to achieve their directives. They call it expedience, collateral damage, the ends justifying the means… and down through the ages atrocities have been covered up when the ends weren't met, and the means suddenly took on a different spin. Too close to home, this story. Even my personal chronological preferences give way to the awesome truth that evil still moves in a world where God exists.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Feast of St. John the Evangelist

This from today's Gospel reading: "And what about him?" Peter asks. And Jesus pretty much says "None of your business."
I need that stamped into my brain. My DNA needs to carry that message throughout every moment of my life. But it doesn't.
I am constantly asking "What about her? Why doesn't she have to…(fill in the blank)? Why does she get to skip Morning prayer whenever she feels like it? Why am I the only one cleaning up the bathroom? Why, why, why? (translate: whaaaa, whaaa, whaaa) And of course the answer is right there. My journey is not her journey. We are each called by God to do and be certain things for God. Call it our mission, destiny, purpose in this life… whatever. It's not about how fair it looks on the surface, or how differently we perceive our call. It's between me and God. What about her is none of my business.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

In the darkness

It's not quite first vespers of Christmas, but this is about the only time I'll have to post before the festivities overtake my already hectic schedule… the poem and image were done the Christmas of my first year in community. (The muse had other plans this year for some reason.) Wishing you all a blessed Christmastide…
Claire Joy

In the darkness of our times
the message was delivered… encoded, encrypted, undecipherable.

In the darkness of our hearts
the promise was fulfilled… imperceptible, disregarded, ignored.

In the darkness of our souls
The answer… failed to meet our expectations.

We failed to see your glory in a single twinkling star.
We failed to hear your voice in a newborn’s hungry cry.
We failed to see your love in innocence, humility… this birth against all odds.

This child’s destiny
Unimaginable, impossible… yet true.

Your light shines still.
And we, like deer, are blinded, frozen in our illusions.
So convinced that our goals are valid, we stand in the Presence
yearning for the truth and cannot comprehend that it is here already,
among us, within us, filling and surrounding us.

No glittering glory… only tender compassion
No mighty judgement… only merciful forgiveness
No shout of triumph… only silent, willing sacrifice.

This child’s destiny
Incomprehensible, impossible… yet true.

—Christmas 2003

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Let the good memes roll

As some of you know, my daughter-in-law blogs. In fact, she was the initial encouragement for me to write one too. She writes about her life: married to my son (hilarious), as a Dean of Students in a Las Vegas high school (scary, funny, outrageous) as an intermittent step-mom (their son lives with his biological mom most of the time), and she does these meme things. Here's her latest series of questions:

Given the choice between these pairs, and no other alternative, which would you choose?

1. Salt or Pepper? I only get one? (damn) okay… pepper! I get soy sauce too, right?
2. Oreos or Milk? Milk, lots more versatile, not as fattening.
3. Peanut Butter or Jelly? Peanut butter, homemade. You want my recipe?
4. Going blind or going deaf? Blind… (I'm already going deaf and hate it!)
5. Out of toilet paper** or out of soap? Soap. (that was really a hard one.)
6. Shoes or socks? Shoes, sandals in summer.
7. Saliva or tears? Tears, I got milk.
8. Telephone or computer? Computer, way more versatile, just like milk.
9. AC or hot water? Hot water (remember, I have no soap)
10. electricity or vaccination? Electricity (need it to recharge the laptop)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Bible Verses you love to hate

There are just some Bible passages that leave me fuming. Case in point: yesterday's parable of the wise and foolish virgins… or bridesmaids today, since virginity is no longer the be-all-end-all it once was. But on to the story… You've got these silly girls, so awhirl in their excitement over the wedding that they forget to bring extra fuel for their lamps, and you've got the anal retentives who always come on time, prepared for all contingencies (that would be me).

As fate would have it, the groom is late (inconsiderate of him, don't you think?) and the girls fall asleep with their lamps lit. Oops, here he comes… wake up, get ready! but wait… "We're out of juice, the silly girls cry… give us some of yours."
"No!", the self-righteous ones proclaim… "we won't have enough for ourselves. Go buy your own."

And you know the rest of the story. Groom arrives, those who are there go in, and the door is closed and locked. Tough luck you silly girls, the Lord doesn't even know you.

Now wait just a minute… This is not the same God of compassion and forgiveness I've come to know and love. This is not the same Word of God that comes from Luke that says "lend generously, without expectation of repayment." This God is somebody else.

As a #1 on the Enneagram, I've had to learn (quite painfully) over the last couple of years that not everybody views the world with the same eyes as I do. Not everybody has to learn the right way to do something, and subsequently does it that way. Not everybody even thinks there even is one right way. And neither do I anymore. I have sisters who make their travel plans at the last minute, often don't even know their flight numbers, let alone forget to bring extra batteries for their flashlights. My job is to be generous and forgiving and accepting of them, because they in turn have their own strengths to add to the diversity of our community.

So if I were to rewrite this parable I'd say something like this: The ones with the extra oil would say to the ones with just enough, "Hey!, You know the groom may not show up on time. Lets blow out your lamps for now to save on fuel and we'll share our light until he comes. That way, we'll all be here to go in when he arrives." And that's exactly what they did. Amen.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

See why I hate horoscopes?

Happy Birthday to me!

Your Birthdate: December 14

You work well with others. That is, you're good at getting them to do work for you.
It's true that you get by on your charm. But so what? You make people happy!
You're dynamic, clever, and funny. And people like to have you around.
But you're so restless, they better not expect you to stay around for long.

Your strength: Your superstar charisma
Your weakness: Commitment means nothing to you
Your power color: Fuchsia
Your power symbol: Diamond
Your power month: May

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Day 5: Rest & Retreat

Eden still weaves through my creative endeavors. So many ideas to explore, and as they take shape, it now makes perfect sense (to me) that I would be attached to the images from Genesis to reflect on my Universe readings.

As goals stack up, I've done maybe half of what I hoped: Harry Potter and Fra Angelico (sacriligious to put them in the same breath?) St. Bart's pantry, lunch with my best friend, two really decent naps, and study, study, study… plus a software bonus totally unexpected: Photoshop 7! New buttons, new filters, more memory…

I never got to the Cloisters, but it snowed those huge snowglobe flakes yesterday morning, so I spent quite a while just gazing out the window. Tomorrow I travel home to Brewster: rested, broke, and looking forward to home. That's actually what it's about for me anyway, a time apart to reevaluate and reaffirm just how special home is.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Day 3: Rest & Retreat

How can it be Day 3 already? Where is the time going?
Well… more than a few hours were spent in Photoshop with (as yet) no satisfactory Christmas image to speak of. The muses were inclined instead toward Eden, as images kept arising on that subject. The idea for an Eden series peaked a few years ago, but I never did much more than think about it. Why now? With all the studying I'm doing for my course: The Universe Story you'd think I'd be painting galaxies and microbes, not Adam and Eve in the forest primeval. A primary goal of the course is to create a "new" story for our time… one that sets the human being into/and as part of the unfolding of an organized and sacred Universe. The "old" story of course sets Humans as the pinnacle of God's creation, and the moon and stars and earth only serve as backdrops, things to subdue and conquer. I'm out of sync, somehow, because I'm called artistically to render that old story while I simultaneously study the new one. (Freud would have fun with this.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Day 1: Rest and Retreat

Our community offers two different kinds of vacation for its sisters, one is "family time" which, as everyone knows, may or may not be restful. The other is called Rest and Retreat. Last year (at just about this time) I stayed home, slept late, worked on a few projects, ate lunch with friends, restored the creche figures, read a good trash novel. It was perfect.

This year I have similar activities in mind, but I actually have goals for my rest time. Okay, that probably sounds like an oxymoron, I know. But I'm behind in a lot of things I really want to do, and a couple of things I really need to do: For one, an online course called "The Universe Story" which started smack dab in the middle of our garden harvest. I need to catch up on the readings and the postings, no small feat since I've dragged my derriƩre from the outset.

I want to design a Christmas card and as yet, have had no direct inspiration. I'd like to see the latest Harry Potter movie, visit the Metropolitan's Fra Angelico exhibit, and return to the Cloisters for an afternoon of meditation. I have a Friday lunch appointment with my best friend. I have six days… a room with a DSL connection, a city that looks like a fairyland, background sounds of sisters chanting the daily offices. It doesn't get much better than this. :)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Mission Statement

I have a whole new respect for the Council of Nicaea.

Here in Brewster, we're in the process of hammering out a vision statement for our house: a comprehensive (yet concise) set of words that reflects our ethos, understanding and vision… the New Story, the organic farm, all the programs we hope to create that will further awareness of the sacredness of not only our mother Earth, but the entire Universe.

And while we're not at all worried about naming heretics, we are having a devil of a time crafting in words what each of us believes in our hearts. At present we are seven women with varying degrees of understanding of who God is, what God's love looks like. Today we got caught up in the words "manifestation" vs. "revelation" of the Divine. (And we're still on point one.)

Yet the discussion itself, as unproductive in results at it seemed, was enormously helpful. To hear my sisters articulate the depths of their souls is not the standard fare of our regular discussions. Each had something to add that was important to her. And though we never agreed on a final final first point, but we did agree to sit with and pray about a tentative wording that was close.

I wonder if that's how they did it in Nicaea.