August Journal, Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

500px-Statue_of_Liberty_7As we watch the fall of the West, the twilight of civilization as we have known it, it is good to remember to breathe the name of Jesus.

I learned this one-word prayer, one-name prayer from my friends in Kentucky who know something about prayer. They pray without ceasing in a hermitage/retreat house called Nazareth House Apostolate. For we are told to pray without ceasing, and breathing the name of Jesus helps us live this joyful command, calling upon the Lord of Hosts to be present here and now.

We are also told to rejoice in the Lord always. For he is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the ancient of days. When Western Christendom fades with a whimper and not a bang (T.S. Eliot) we still have Christ ordering our days, our hours, our minutes. We still rejoice always. As some say, God is in charge. And others remind us to fear not. And my bishop of blessed memory often said, we know how the story ends, at least Christians know, and it is a good and glorious ending.

The bombing at the Kabul airport on Thursday, killing over 200 people, including children, trying to flee Afghanistan, was not unexpected, given the tensions in the radical Muslim world and their hatred for the West, and yet it sent shock waves through the West. The response from President Biden, when he finally addressed the American people late in the day, and by extension, addressed the world, was a weak attempt to placate, sidestepping the crisis he caused by the sudden exodus, preceded by the shameful closure of Bagram Air Force Base in the dark, without notice to our Afghan friends and NATO allies.

Holy_TrinityAnd so we prayed for them with The Litany (1928 Book of Common Prayer, 54+) this morning in our Berkeley chapel. We dedicated our prayer to those trapped in Afghanistan and those who lost their lives. As we chanted the responses to the many supplications I was thankful for the poetry of these ancient lines, said in unison as a chorus, many voices becoming one, creating a work of art of its own in our haunting barrel-vaulted chapel, unique to the moment and setting:

O GOD the Father, Creator of heaven and earth;
  Have mercy upon us.
O God the Son, Redeemer of the world;
    Have mercy upon us.
O God the Holy Ghost, Sanctifier of the faithful;
    Have mercy upon us.
O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, one God;
    Have mercy upon us.

We prayed for mercy for we prayed for the world. We prayed for the world because we love the world. We take on the suffering of others and ourselves and offer it all to Christ.

As I chanted, I thought how good it was to be a part of this stream of Christ’s body, this artful, beautiful, exquisite liturgy we sing together. There is another time and place for spontaneous prayer, always good. But praying and singing in unison the words of thousands of years with other Christians, uniting those who came before with those who come after us, and those along side us today, is a powerful and joyous cleansing and fortifying. Having the words embedded in heart and mind sculpt a finer heart and mind, a more holy heart and mind. Online services are not the same. How good it was to be there.

I also realized that we must seize every moment, hour, and day to live fully in the love of God. We do not know how long we will have the chance to meet this way. We cannot predict tomorrow. The recent events in Afghanistan brought home the realization that we live in an increasingly shrinking world, and all events effect our fragile existence, no matter who we are.

The smoke from the California wildfires smothers the hills and valleys in the Bay Area. We cannot breathe. It is like a cursed blanket of ash.

SAINTS2And so breathing the name of Jesus is healing. The Lord God Eternal enters me with each breath. I inspire and am inspired. And I received the Eucharist today, the Real Presence absorbed into my flesh.

I give thanks this afternoon for one more chance to gather together with other Christians, to pray and sing and celebrate together as one born of many: one voice uniting us in this moment in history, one body of believers in this place in this moment, never to be repeated, a moment now the past, never to be the present again.

How many Sundays and how many Eucharists and how many moments of such delight will come to me in my span on earth? I shall take advantage of all I can, remake my poor flesh and my weak soul with the love of God, the food of eternity and life everlasting.

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