The Swoop

On "O Adonai"

O Adonai – December 18th
Previous Meditations: 2008, 2006, 2005.

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appearedst in the Bush to Moses in a flame of fire,
and gavest him the law is Sinai:
Come to redeem us with an outstretched arm.”
(Taken from The Anglican Breviary, C26)

Before us, God was;
While us, God is;
After us, God will be.

Before He was in the manger,
He was in the Fire,
Speaking to the Prophet
and leading the people of Israel through the desert.
And etching his law on stone.

Before us, God was;
While us, God is;
After us, God will be.

After He was in the manger,
He is in the fire of our hearts,
Speaking peace to people,
both far and near
And leading us to greater charity.

Before us, God was;
While us, God is;
After us, God will be.
Come and deliver us,
O unending, ever-working God throughout eternity.

The Swoop

On "O Sapientia"

(Note: This is my fifth year of doing short meditations on the O Antiphons that precede Christmas. If you'd like to learn how to chant each Antiphon for use at the Magnificat at Evening Prayer, then go to this excellent page put out by the Chantblog. Remember, he who sings once, prays twice -- even if it isn't always on pitch!)

O Sapientia – December 17th
Previous Meditations: 2008, 2007, 2006, and 2005.

"O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the Most High,
And reachest from one end to another,
Mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence."

(Taken from
The Anglican Breviary, C26)

WE OFTEN ONLY think of Wisdom as an accumulated body of knowledge detailing how to life a good life with platitudes like God only helps those who help themselves or make hay while the sun shines quickly. These pithy statements may be a great help, but are these wisdom? The book of Proverbs treats wisdom not as a set of quips (even though it is full of them), but as a person for “Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets.” (1:20)

WISDOM IS A person and Our Lord Jesus Christ is wisdom incarnate. This Incarnate Wisdom of God is quite different than the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of those platitudes. For it is the Wisdom of God to take flesh from a woman and be born, wrapped in a manger, suffer and die; it is the Wisdom of God to be of no reputation and take on the form of a servant. (Phil. 2:7) This is the Wisdom that camest out of the mouth of the Most High.

AND THIS IS the Wisdom that mightily and sweetly orders all things in our life, when we submit ourselves to it. And we are called to follow that Wisdom from the Crib to Cross, incarnating that same Wisdom in our lives by our service and prudence. Let us pray that this Wisdom from God may come to us and set us free.


O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.
The Swoop

On the Dark Night of the Soul (7)

TODAY IS THE Feast of St. John of the Cross, the eminent Carmelite Mystic whose understanding of the Christian Life has greatly shaped my own spiritual landscape, along with Julian of Norwich and St. Teresa of Avila. Here is the collect for today:

Judge eternal, throned in splendor, who gavest Juan de la Cruz strength of purpose and mystical faith that sustained him even through the dark night of the soul: Shed thy light on all who love thee, in unity with Jesus Christ our Savior; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

AS MOST OF you know, I began a series of posts in July about my own Junior Version of The Dark Night of the Soul that I have been in for at least a few years now. Here are the posts:
  • The First Post gives most of the autobiographical information about my life since graduating from Milligan and "the perfect storm" that began to swirl around me. (You can also add my reposted "On Love" post to that maelstrom of discontent to further understand what is going on). I also talk about St. John of the Cross' three signs of The Dark Night.
  • In The Second Post, I write about the shame and the loneliness that I have experienced from all of this. It includes these sentences that were very liberating both to write and to share: "Right now, who I am in Christ is confused, in pain and feels a deep loneliness from God (and thus, other people). Who-I-am-in-Christ knows nothing but these terrible things. And as it came from God, so too, do I give it to you, this darkly-wrapped Night of pain, loneliness and suffering."
  • The Third has my answers to my most frequently asked questions.
  • I write about Evelyn Underhill's five signs of the Dark Night in the Fourth Post.
  • St. John of the Cross wrote about the three spirits that visit during the Night: Fornication, Blasphemy (focusing mainly on reverse ecstasies) and Vertiginis -- which I still have yet to write.
  • Finally, "On Sinking In the Mud" which may be one of the best things I have ever written and is the summation or natural conclusion of the rest of the posts.
I AM ASKED occasionally if I am still in the Dark Night. I am very much so. Right now, I am -- through the grace of God -- discovering a lot of hidden anger and bitterness I didn't even realize was in my life until very recently. I'm sure you'll be reading about it in the upcoming days and weeks. I'm not quite finished writing about all of this. As always, thanks for reading!
The Swoop

On Boredom, Open Prayer Books and Watchfulness (1)

ONE OF MY favorite representations of Our Lady is the Painting of the Annunciation of Fra Angelico. Our Lady looks very pale, very wealthy and very bored (the Anglo-Catholic look of holiness), being visited by an equally pale and very boyish Angel while a beam of light shines down on her. You can imagine that she looks down in humility and crosses her arms while saying to the God, Ecce ancilla Domini, fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum (Luke 1:36). And, of course, her response would have been in Latin! My favorite part, however, is what is sitting on her lap -- it's a prayer book!

“NOW WAIT ONE cotton-pickin' minute!” says some sola-scriptura ninny from the last century, “Mary was not white, nor would she be looking so bored! She would not have been wealthy! She could not afford a prayer book! They didn't even exist! This whole picture is wrong, wrong, WRONG!” Of course it is. I'm not writing that it is. I'm sure a painting of the actual Annunciation would not be attractive, what with the frightening visage of the Angel and the poverty-stricken squalor of Our Lady. But, whoever said art (or anything for that matter) needs to be accurate to portray the Truth?

TRADITION HOLDS THAT Our Lady was quite pious before she was pregnant with Our Lord and most artists of this period represent this by giving her a prayer book, a missal or a Bible. Tradition holds that Our Lady was attentive to her prayers and was probably praying when the Annunciation happened. Though Holy Writ doesn't tell us the specifics, she must have had a habit of prayer, of sacrifice and of good works to be greeted with the auspicious title of “full of grace.” When the message of the Lord came to her through an Angel, she was ready to receive the Gospel in humility and bear He whom the heavens cannot contain. She was ready to receive it because she lived a life of prayer.

I THINK THIS was the Faith that Christ referenced when he said, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) This, by the way, is told in the context of the old widow who nags and nags a judge into granting her justice in her unknown case. When Christ comes again to reign with His Saints, will he find the attentiveness to prayer that was exemplified by Our Lady (and symbolically by her open prayer book?); will he find the nagging old widow who cries out day-and-night for justice?

AT HIS FIRST coming, will He find us shuffling by his Manger, making dismissive remarks about the smell of the shepherds? Do we rush by, lamenting that that Young Girl apparently did not have access to good contraception? Or, do we curse under our breath the shocking rise of teen pregnancy and sex-outside-of-marriage? Or, perhaps even worse, do we rush by the manger-cave on our way to our family get-togethers, gatherings of friends and work parties, without any awareness of that poor family surrounded by oxes and asses and shepherds? Do we loose all sense of prayer in the busyness of this month?

OR, WILL WE follow the example of Fra Angelico's vision of Our Lady? Can we mark the days with our prayer books in hand and with a few minutes of silent contemplation? Can we be attentive to His birth and watch for His Second Coming? Will we be so used to watching and praying that when He comes to us, our prayer books will be open in our lap and we will be so accustomed to praying that we look slightly bored? Would we respond to His visitation with all of our bodies, souls and spirits: “Behold the servant of the Lord, be it done unto me just as you have said it to be.” I hope so. May God have mercy on me, a sinner and give us all the grace to live in Godly anticipation with watchfulness for His arrival.

The Swoop

On Advent and the Revealing of Secrets

(Note: I know I might lose some Anglo-Catholic credentials because I'm posting a Christmas Hymn during the first week of Advent, but I'll risk it. It is always a good time for a good hymn.)

THE SEASON OF Advent is – by far – my favorite Season of the Church Year. Yes, Holy Week is my favorite week. Yes, while trying not to set my BCP/Hymnal Combo on fire, singing “Silent Night” at Midnight Mass puts a lump in my throat. And yes, who doesn't remember with tender nostalgia the celebrations for the Feast of St. Sexburga of Ely (July 6th)? For an entire Season, though, it is all Advent for me, baby, because it is all there: the first coming, the second coming, the prophets and the end times all wrapped up in mixed metaphors and esoteric language of gathering darkness, keeping oil in your lamps to keep watch for a pregnant Palestinian and the eastern sky. The Past, the Present and the Future are all rolled together in four weeks of the best hymns (“Lo! He Comes” and Wachet Auf among them) as we wait deeply wailing for the God-Baby who is robed in dreadful majesty. In short, it is a rich goldmine for contemplation.

THE SECOND COMING is a huge part of Advent. We all know the Second Coming well: the splitting of the Eastern Sky, Christ returning with his Saints to reign on Earth and the devil being thrust into the Lake of Fire – you know, all the parts that The Left Behind series actually got correct! We will all go before “the great judgment seat of Christ” where Our Lord will “judge both the quick and the dead.” This is when the deeds of our life shall be recounted before us:

For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
(Luke 12:2-3)

I don't know about you, but I find these words of Christ to be utterly frightening! For there are those shameful, embarrassing things that we have done that we like to pretend never happened will be disclosed in the harsh light of the Lord and we must give an account of them. I imagine that there will be many red faces, shouted excuses and angered protests as this our lives are presented before us.

TO ME, IT seems that Our Lord gives us three options: 1) Shout our own secrets from the rooftops. 2) Others will shout those secrets for us (whether we want them to or not) or 3) Those secrets will be shouted before the great judgment seat of Christ. No matter what we do or no matter how hard we try and scheme, our whispers will be shouted and what we like to pretend never happened will be revealed. Nothing will stay a secret in this life or in the life to come. If it doesn't get out in this life, we will answer for it in the next.

I COULDN'T HELP but think about those two verses from Luke and the Second Coming as the Wikileaks controversy broke this week. Undoubtedly, you know that a website has made public thousands of correspondence between those in the various parts of the State Department throughout the world. Most commentators have said that there is little damage to foreign relations, except for the fact that most of the correspondence is deeply, deeply embarrassing. For example, several of the communications give demeaning little nicknames to foreign leaders. What we think is kept secret will be known and everything that has been hid will be revealed. And Wikileaks shouted some embarrassing secrets of the American government.

BUT, WHAT IF we shouted our own secrets, our own hidden sinfulness that we cloak underneath good speech and money? This is what happens in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as before God (and in the presence of a Priest), we recount our deeds and flay our hearts open before the Lord. We condemn ourselves, realizing in the sharing of those terrible, awful things that we are not what often think ourselves to be and we are not what others think we are. It is frightening thing to lay your life out in stark honesty without excuse or reason and it is deeply embarrassing. What is most distressing, is that your secrets are the same, week after week and that there is little change in your life, though you desire it. This always reminds me that I am not what others say that I am.

TO SHARE YOUR own secrets and reveal the hidden under your own volition is a deeply healing thing, even though it is rather painful. To open your long-shut eyes to the noonday Sun is painful, but after awhile, you can see clearly for the first time. Confessing our sins to God (with or without a Priest) is much the same way, but we know that it is healing, it is – as the old saying goes – “good for the soul” and those secrets will be stricken from the record, so to speak. Unfortunately, most of us (myself foremost) walk around willfully blind, stubbornly shutting our eyes to the Goodness of God that is continually offered to us. And our secrets will be shouted and our hidden will be revealed either in this life or in the life to come.

BUT WE ALL know that Advent is really about the First Coming of Our Lord; we know it is about patiently waiting by the crib for the Baby to arrive. We know it is about preparing ourselves to greet his arrival with the Shepherds, the Donkeys and the Magi. My favorite Christmas hymn by Christina Rossetti puts it this way (listen to it above):

What can I give him,

Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him —
Give my heart.

LET US DO exactly that this Advent. Let us offer our hearts, often prideful, “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” (Jer. 17:9) Let us give our hearts, burdened with shameful secrets and bruised with iniquity. Let us flay them open before Our Lord, trusting that He will bind us up and reform us in His image. Let us watch for His coming: either in Word or in Deed. Let us keep watch, for know neither the day nor the hour that He will return when our whisperings will be shouted from the rooftops and all secrets will be revealed. And in His all-goodness and all-mercy, we will be healed.

The Swoop

On Pilgrims and Thanksgiving


(Note: This is the view from my Back Yard about two weeks ago. Oh yeah.)

I REALIZED YESTERDAY morning that if I were living in England some centuries ago, I'd be an antidisestablishmentarian. As you well know, these are the folks who oppose the disestablishment of the Church of England as the Church of England. The irony was not lost on me, of course, that I realized this a few days before America's favorite Pilgrim Holiday. Those dastardly rogue Calvinists, the Pilgrims were not only disetablishmentarians, but were also separatists. Meaning that they felt the Church of England was the illegitimate child of a perfunctory Reformation and still had way too much Popery and heresy. They left England to seek “religious freedom” elsewhere. If you went to third grade in America and made a construction-paper Turkey traced from the shape of your hand, you know the rest of the story. Being the kind, good-hearted Christian folk they were, they went on to pass out Smallpox blankets as gifts to their Thanksgiving Dinner guests (Actually, the Pilgrims didn't do this. But, I think they would if they had the opportunity. In a heartbeat.).

FORTUNATELY, HOWEVER, NO one thinks of this on Thanksgiving Day. No, for we are too busy with thoughts of Turkeys and Stuffing. Our ovens are filled with shameful casseroles bound together with mayonnaise and sour cream; casseroles that we know are finished cooking when the Cream of Mushroom Soup starts to bubble and congeal. We think of football, parades and carbohydrate-induced coma's. This is just as well, I suppose, because the Pilgrims were entirely too grim for their own good; I find reformers and separatists very tiring and entirely too enthusiastic. I'd much rather listen to some good music, drink some good wine, eat a glutenous dinner with good friends and family, my heart brimming with thanksgiving the entire time. And – to think! – we can do all this without guilt! These, my friends, are the perks of not being a Pilgrim (but don't forget to balance it out with fasting during Advent and Lent)!

AND YES, MY heart is brimming with thanksgiving on this day. I am in relatively good health; I have a well-paying job that pays the bills, provides a gym membership and gives me good insurance; I have a Church family that thinks I'm worth something and engages my gifts in ministry; I have a family that cares deeply for me; I have numerous close friends who have become like a second family to me. I have a few, who not being fans of me (although not out-right enemies) have brought me closer to Christ than perhaps any friend ever has, so I am thankful for them, too. I could go on.

AND I THINK I will go on:

  • I remember one very dark day in January or February of last year when I was feeling so low, so lonely and so depressed that I decided to take a shower. Ironically enough, when I have bad days, I either take a shower, clean the apartment or do the dishes. While I was drying off, I thought that I should start naming off things I was thankful for. The first thing I saw was my Shower Curtain. So, I said, “God, thank you for Shower Curtains and how they keep the water in the Shower and not out of it.” I immediately laughed at my silly little prayer. But, silly little prayers are often just what our crushed spirits need at that moment. So, thank you, Lord, for Shower Curtains. And silly little prayers.
  • I am thankful for the service of Evening Prayer in The Book of Common Prayer. It is quite possibly one of the most beautiful and restful services in existence. Anglicanism's Choral Evensong is quite possibly our greatest gift to the rest of Christianity.

  • I am thankful for Constance, my '92 White Cutlass Cierra, who found new life this year when my Priest changed her spark plugs (only 3 of 6 were working at the time). She also got a second life when the shop realized the reason she wasn't starting in the rain was because of a loose connection at the bottom of the engine. A friend once told me that it sounds like I have to buy Connie a glass of wine and whisper some sweet nothings to get her to accelerate. She don't look like much, but I am thankful for her, nonetheless.

  • I am thankful for fried food: chicken, turkey and even Sushi. Whoever said one day, “Hm, let's roll this in egg and a bunch of stuff and drop it in hot oil to see how it turns out” needs to be canonized, as far as I am concerned. This is one of the singular joys of living in the South.

  • I am thankful for the Mountains of East Tennessee. I lift up my eyes to them daily (See above).

WHAT ARE YOU thankful for today?

The Swoop

On a Wee Bit of Poetry

(Note: I wrote these few lines after reading a bit of The Song of Solomon last evening. Apologies to that fine poet and the fine poet of this hymn.)

I have not loved thee as I ought,
My fair one,
who rides upon the horizons of dawn.
I have not loved thee as I ought,
Nor thought well of thee.
For I, in seldom offering
have caused thee to flee.

O! Cloak not thyself,
Nor hide thy comeliness,
for thou art truly the fountain
from which all beauty springs.
(Yea, truth and beauty are only
hidden and enfolded
in thee -- Open my eyes to see!)

For I have not loved thee as I ought,
you who are so beautiful,
and the desire of the desires,
and the longing of the longings,
and the peace of the peaceable.

Go away from me and leave me
to swallow my blood-soaked tears
in peace,
to drown in sorrows unknown,
for I have not loved thee as I ought
nor given myself completely
to such a cruel lover as you.

But, only let me say oft,
while standing afar off
in the valley of dank loneliness;
speaking amidst the willows weeping,
(for it is I who have left you!);
singing over and over,
“Thou art lovely and it is you that I love.
For thou art all loveliness and art Love
The Swoop

On Some Pictures!

I AM AN Anglo-Catholic Episcopalian and this blog has definite Anglo-Catholic leanings.

I KNOW THAT this is shocking to some of you. So, why don't you take a seat, get a glass of water and I'll let you catch your breath. Go ahead, I'll wait.

. . .

THERE. I HOPE that helped. Sorry for the heretofore subterfuge.

"BUT WAIT!" I can hear you protesting to your computer screen, "How can this blog be an Anglo-Catholic Blog? You don't have any good Church photos!" Now, this is quite true, as the one cloth-of-gold thread between the different blogs of the Anglo-Catholic Blogsphere are great photos. The Young Fogey over at A Conservative Blog for Peace calls it "Church P*rn."

OF COURSE, THE exemplar of Church P*rn is the ultra-conservative Roman Catholic blog, The New Liturgical Movement, and the YF humorously calls it, "The Big Blog of Church P*rn." This Anglo-Catholic Episcopalian advises you to check out TNLM for the lovely pictures -- just don't read the articles (or especially the comments)! You'll see why.

BUT TNLM DOES this very, very well. Usually, there will be a picture of some gilded Solemn High Mass in some Austrian Monastery with a some Mitered Abbott wearing some kind of jeweled Cope with slippers -- laced up to his eyeballs and looking extremely bored, of course! Sometimes, underneath each picture is a one-sentence caption that points out some niggling detail that's only an interest to Church Nerds (or even points out something that's even in the picture!). It might be something like, "Notice the Pontifical Dalmatic jutting out from underneath his Chasuble" or "The Abbott wraps his Crozier in the finest of silks in imitation of his favorite singer, Stevie Nicks and her Microphone Stand." You know, stuff like that.

WELL, FEAR NO more! Here are a few photo's that were taken Sunday after our All Saints' Solemn High Mass (all photos by Dr. Ellen Wallen):


This is the Rector Fr. Hal (far right), Fr. Philip (middle) and Yours Truly (left) greeting some Parishioners after Mass. Notice the Notice Board with information about our Candidates for next year's Vestry. The Lady Chorister in the Cassock and Surplice with her back to us is a good friend to me and a faithful reader of this blog! Hello there, Carol!


Fr. Philip and I greeting a few more people. The Alb that I'm wearing was hemmed in and up by a faithful Parishioner who did a fantastic job -- it fit like a glove! Notice the Hipster buttons on the purse and the lady with her head shamefully uncovered (just joking)!


A candid photo of Fr. Philip, Fr. Hal and I. The photographer commented about the Cross seems to be growing out of Fr. Hal's head. Notice the Cross growing out of the Rector's head.


A more serious pose for the three of us. Notice the sunlight coming through the haze-of-incense at the top of the Photograph. I like to imagine that's God's Countenance shining down on us. A beautiful day, all-around!
The Swoop

On a Little Talk I Gave Concerning Prayer

ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT, I was asked to speak to the our batch of soon-to-be Confirmands (around ten, one of whom I am sponsoring) about Prayer, Liturgy and Worship. Of course, this is entirely too broad a topic for fifty minutes, but I tried my best. Why exactly I was was asked, I'll never know. However, nobody fell asleep, so it must have been tolerable, at least.

JOKINGLY, I WROTE on The Book of Faces that I wanted to cover three things related to the topic: 1) Why Jesus is mad at you, but His Mother is not; 2) "When a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from Purgatory springs"; and 3) Why it is better that you don't know what is going on at Mass. These three topics are shockingly similar to the aims of the Frankly Unfriendly Catholics group. Of course, I could have just spent five minutes teaching them their Pater's and their Ave's, telling them to mind their beads during The Eucharist, only looking up when the bells ring. Then, we could have then gone out for a drink and called it a day. But, alas, twenty-first century Northeast Tennessee is not twelfth-century England -- no matter how hard I want it to be. (This whole paragraph is sarcasm, if you couldn't tell.)

ACTUALLY, I STARTED with a general discussion on the subject of "Why do we pray?" Prayer is such a common experience across all of humanity, that I think it is easy to forget that it has a purpose and a meaning. Using Scripture and the Mystics as my guide, I suggested that we pray because God desires a deep, abiding union with us and prayer was a powerful way to reach that union (this should sound familiar to long-time readers). I quoted this wonderful little paragraph from one of the devotions in St. Augustine's Prayer Book, that expresses it quite nicely:

[God] does not come as a stern Judge or a God outraged by my unfaithfulness. He comes as a Friend whose Heart longs for me and my companionship. His delights are to be with the sons of men. His joy is to have me come to him, to speak with him, to talk to him of my wants and troubles, my hopes and fears, my longings and desires, all that is in my heart.

We pray because God likes us -- God loves us! -- and we are His own. As one of the Collects puts it, " . . . you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve . . ."

BUT, WE MUST remember that God is not your dear Great-Aunt Mildred who -- bless her heart! -- is a little lonely and chats your leg off every time you go to her house. No, God is a consuming fire! If prayer is about unity with God, then it is also about transforming us to becoming more like Him. As the old Evangelical saying has it, "Prayer changes things" and, indeed, it does! Prayer changes you! We should be wary of anything "Christian" that does not do this nor seeks it as its aim.

THE REMAINDER of the class was talking about the nuts-and-bolts of the three-legged catholic approach to a balanced spiritual life: 1) Private Devotions (meditation/contemplation), 2) The Daily Office and 3) The Mass. A lot of this was just exploring the Prayer Book Rites for these things, especially the Daily Office. The three of these transform us into Christ when we engage them faithfully over a long time. But, the Holy Eucharist does this most especially, as it is the apex of the Christian life and the foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet. We finished by praying together the words of St. Thomas Aquinas in Hymn #314 in the '82, which sums it up all very nicely:

Humbly I adore thee, Verity unseen,
who thy glory hiddest 'neath these shadows mean;
low, to thee surrendered, my whole heart is bowed,
tranced as it beholds thee, shrined within the cloud.

Taste and touch and vision to discern thee fail;
faith, that comes by hearing, pierces through the veil.
I believe whate're the Son of God hath told;
what the Truth hath spoken, that for truth I hold.

O memorial wondrous of the Lord's own death;
living Bread that givest all thy creatures breath,
grant my spirit ever by thy life may live,
to my taste thy sweetness neverfailing give.

Jesus, whom now hidden, I by faith behold,
what my soul doth long for, that thy word foretold:
face to face thy splendor, I at last shall see,
in the glorious vision, blessed Lord, of thee.

If you'd like a copy of my outline that I used, let me know (It has copious amounts of scripture references that could only be gathered by a former Baptist)! Y'all have a great weekend.
The Swoop

On All Souls' Day

(Purgatory, like Hell, except -- you know -- not. Also known as the great group nap before that "Great Gettin' Up in the Morning.")

AS YOU KNOW, today is the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed or All Souls' Day. We'll be remembering it as a Church with a Requiem, where the list of those who have died will be read before God and the congregation. Essentially, this service will be a Funeral Mass without any bodies present and a contingent of the Choir will be singing (in English) the Missa Pro Defunctis. This is, of course, the Gregorian Chant setting of the Mass and is what Maurice Durufle used in his famous and beautiful setting of the Requiem. Privately, I'm praying the Office of the Dead from The Anglican Breviary and remembering those who have died in my life and those who have been recommended to me for prayer.

PRAYING FOR THE dead is something that is foreign to most of us, I'd imagine. We do not like to think about or contemplate our own mortality, let alone remember that this world we have constructed so diligently does come to end – an inescapable end for each and every one of us. It is the one part of our life that we have not fooled ourselves into thinking we are masters of, for none can escape its terrible grasp. Therefore, we just ignore it, I suppose, and the dead, too.

THEN, OF COURSE, there are the theological reasons of several Churches, like not believing in Purgatory and believing in assurance of your salvation. I think most of these arguments against praying for the dead boil down to whether it is efficacious or not. If there is no Purgatory and we all just immediately go to heaven or hell moments after death, then why pray that God would have mercy on them? Do my prayers help them at all? Or has God already got all this stuff sorted out before you even get to the gates?

I'LL BE HONEST, I don't know. I know what God has breathed into the words of scripture about life everlasting and I believe what the Church Catholic has taught about it. But beliefs and hopes do not make it necessarily so, as death is still that one great unanswerable question. I don't know what happens. Will He hear my cries of Kyrie Eleison, or the prayers of His Mother, the Saints and those who pray for me on this Earth? Will He give me that which I do no deserve nor merit, even though I am so ungrateful? I suppose we will all do exactly that, throw ourselves at His feet, trusting in His all-goodness and asking Him to despise not the work of thine own hands. When I pass, I trust that you will pray for me (and if the Lord lets me see those ineffable joys, I'll be praying for you, too).

THIS IS WHY I pray for the Dead, not because it cools the fires of Purgatory, but because it is entrusting those who have passed into the care of the God who loves, cares and sustains His creation in the most marvelous of ways. Why would I not mention those whom I love, yet have died, with He who is all-love? It just happens. I think this is what that great Anglo-Catholic CS Lewis was writing when he wrote in Letters to Malcom, "Of course I pray for the dead. The action is so spontaneous, so all inevitable, that only the most compulsive theological case against it would deter me."

WE PRAY FOR the Dead because that's what we do for those we love. And, lucky for us, God knows how to sort it all out in the end. I trust that He will. Until then,

From the gates of hell.
Deliver their souls, O Lord.

Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord.
And let Light Perpetual shine upon them.