"Heaven is filled with converted sinners of all kinds, and there is room for more."
— St. Joseph Cafasso
Living the Ascension Life based on Luke 24:50-52
“50And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53and were continually in the temple blessing God.” (Luke 24:50-52 ESV)
Did you ever notice we live in an upside down world? Musicians and bands want to be on the top of the charts. Elevators and escalators go up and down. People want to live in the penthouse on the uppermost floor. Students want to be at the top of their class. When the stock market rises we celebrate and when it goes down we worry and fret. I could go on and on with similar examples. The reality is that we want to live ascended lives. We want to break free from the things that hold us down, the things that bind us to the lowest level. We want to rise above it all, don’t we? There is something in us that knows that we are more than earthbound creatures. The Apostle Paul wrote about this in his letter to the Colossians. He said, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Col 3:1 ESV). Therefore, let us never settle for a mere earthbound self-ascension, but set our minds on a Christ centered ascension.
Jesus’ ascension reshapes our understanding of what we seek. Through Jesus we are raised to new life. Through His ascension we are able to reach new heights. An Irish prayer attributed to Saint Patrick puts it this way, “As I arise today, may the strength of God pilot me, the power of God uphold me, the wisdom of God guide me. May the eye of God look before me, the ear of God hear me, the word of God speak for me. May the hand of God protect me, the way of God lie before me, the shield of God defend me, the host of God save me. May Christ shield me today. Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit, Christ when I stand, Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. Amen”. When we live as this prayer describes, we live the ascended life. Living an ascended life means that we ascend every day to share in Jesus’ divinity as He humbled Himself to share in our humanity, He in us and we in Him.
The Ascension life is about letting go, releasing the ups and downs of our self made world. It’s about breaking the chains of fear and doubt. It’s about breaking the chains of uncertainty. It’s about breaking the chains of resentment. If we expect to ascend with Christ, then we must first break free of our earthbound chains. Jesus can break these chains and set us free. Our participation in Jesus’ ascension begins not by looking upward, but by looking inward. As the shadows of Easter give way to the brightness of Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, let us once more examine our lives and set our hearts above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
George, Martyr, Patron of England, April 23, 304
Remembered as a martyr, the details of the life of George have been lost in time, although fifth-century records attest his existence, and to the beginning of his commemoration. In all probability George was a soldier, and a victim of the Diocletian persecutions in Lydda, in Palestine. The known facts of his life state that George, an officer in the Roman Army, ‘gave his goods to the poor, and openly confessed Christianity before the court’.
Diocletian was responsible for the most devastating and sustained persecution of the Early Church, from 303 to 304. Only his abdication prevented more permanent damage being sustained to the Church, and many unknown Christians, like George, would have given their lives for the sake of the gospel, and would have been remembered with gratitude from that time onwards. The more popular stories of the life and death of George can be traced back to the eighth century. The slaying of the dragon is not connected with his name until the twelfth century, and it may be that the origin of this story is the Greek myth of Perseus slaying a sea monster. George’s story was included in the ‘Golden legend’ (1260), which became a popular source of ‘history’, and received widespread attention in the Middle Ages.
His popularity as a saint of national identity grew with the Crusades, and he became the patron saint of soldiers. Richard I called upon him for protection before the third Crusade in 1187 and a red cross on a white background, became the ‘uniform’ of his crusaders and, in time, England’s national flag. George was personified as the ideal knight. He was made patron of England in preference to Edward the Confessor by Edward III in 1347. Shakespeare added to the reputation of George, when he ‘re-created’ Henry V’s speech before the battle of Agincourt (1415) in which St George is invoked as a powerful ally of king and nation:
"Follow your spirit; and upon this charge,
Cry, ‘God for Harry, England and Saint George!’"
(Henry V, Act III, Scene i)
Unless otherwise stated, the source of this post is Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England,
Saints on Earth: A Biographical Companion to "Common Worship"
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pastor and Theologian, April 10, 1945
Bonhoeffer was born in 1906, son of a professor of psychiatry and neurology at the University of Berlin. He was an outstanding student, and at the age of 25 became a lecturer in systematic theology at the same University. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Bonhoeffer became a leading spokesman for the Confessing Church, the center of Protestant resistance to the Nazis. He organized and for a time led the underground seminary of the Confessing Church. His book Life Together describes the life of the Christian community in that seminary, and his book The Cost of Discipleship attacks what he calls "cheap grace," meaning grace used as an excuse for moral laxity. Bonhoeffer had been taught not to "resist the powers that be," but he came to believe that to do so was sometimes the right choice. In 1939 his brother-in-law introduced him to a group planning the overthrow of Hitler, and he made significant contributions to their work. (He was at this time an employee of the Military Intelligence Department.) He was arrested in April 1943 and imprisoned in Berlin. After the failure of the attempt on Hitler's life in April 1944, he was sent first to Buchenwald and then to Schoenberg Prison. His life was spared, because he had a relative who stood high in the government; but then this relative was himself implicated in anti-Nazi plots. On Sunday 8 April 1945, he had just finished conducting a service of worship at Schoenberg, when two soldiers came in, saying, "Prisoner Bonhoeffer, make ready and come with us," the standard summons to a condemned prisoner. As he left, he said to another prisoner, "This is the end -- but for me, the beginning -- of life." He was hanged the next day, less than a week before the Allies reached the camp.
Collect and Readings
O God our Father, the source of strength to all your saints, Who brought your servant Dietrich Bonhoeffer through imprisonment and death to the joys of life eternal: Grant that we, being encouraged by their examples, may hold fast the faith that we profess, and that we may seek to know, and according to our knowledge to do, your will, even unto death; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
The source of today’s post is “Biographical Sketches of Memorable Christians of the Past” by James Kiefer
Conforming Our Whole Live to the Mind of Christ based on Isaiah 40:12-14
12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? 13 Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel? 14 Whom did he consult, and who made him understand?
The answer to these questions is “No one”. God alone created the universe without counsel and without consulting vast volumes of science journals. God sends forth His Spirit in an active and life-giving force to do His work and achieve His divine purpose. God has His own mind and needs no direction, guidance, counsel or instruction. All understanding and enlightenment which creation reveals have their origin in Him alone.
God’s knowledge and teaching surpasses all teaching of any persons, including the most scholarly and holy among us. Within the teaching of His Spirit we find hidden the bread of life, though frequently we tend to have diminished longing for it due to our craving to follow our own mind and desires. We do not earnestly and exclusively seek the mind of Christ. During these remaining days of Lent, let us seek to become more deeply rooted in the words and actions of Christ that we might better conform our whole life to His mind. As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Thomas Cranmer Archbishop of Canterbury, Reformation Martyr
Born in Aslockton in Nottinghamshire, in1489, Cranmer was educated at Jesus College, Cambridge. He became a Fellow and was ordained in 1523, receiving his doctorate in divinity in 1526.
As a Cambridge don Cranmer came to the king’s notice in 1529 when he was investigating ways forward in the matter of the proposed royal divorce. His rise was rapid. He was appointed Archdeacon of Taunton, made a royal chaplain, and given a post in the household of Sir Thomas Boleyn, father of Anne. In 1530 Cranmer accompanied Boleyn on an embassy to Rome and in1532 he himself became ambassador to the court of the Emperor Charles V. His divergence from traditional orthodoxy was already apparent by his marriage to a niece of the Lutheran theologian Osiander despite the rule of clerical celibacy.
Returning to England to become Archbishop of Canterbury, he was in a dangerous position. Henry VIII was fickle and capricious and Cranmer was fortunate to survive where many did not. Yet Henry seemed to have a genuine affection for his honest but hesitant archbishop, even if he did (apparently in jest) describe him as the ‘greatest heretic in Kent’ in 1543. Four years later Henry died with Cranmer at his bedside and during the brief reign of Edward VI the archbishop now had an opportunity to put into practice his reform of the English Church.
He edited the Homilies (1547) and wrote those on salvation, good works, faith, and the reading of Scripture. He compiled the two Prayer Books of 1549 and 1552, and wrote the original 42 Articles of Religion (1552). But the young king’s death brought Cranmer’s phase of the English Reformation to a premature end. He was imprisoned first in the Tower then in the Bocardo prison in Oxford. Under great physical and mental pressure he several times recanted of his deviations from Roman doctrine. But at the last he re-found his courage and repudiated all his recantations before he was burned at the stake on 21 March 1556.
In later years it would become apparent that the seed Cranmer had sown had taken deep root and his 1552 Prayer Book (as amended in 1559 and 1662) clearly demonstrated his gift for both rhythmical fluency and memorable phrase. It was to become a lasting treasure of the English language and Cranmer’s principle of liturgical worship in contemporary English has become a defining element of the Anglican Church.
The source of this post is from Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England. Saints on Earth: A Biographical Companion to "Common Worship"
"For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you.'"
St. Matilda (895-968 A.D.)
The daughter of a Count, Matilda was raised and educated in a monastery by her grandmother, who was the abbess. A political marriage was arranged for her to Henry I, the future king of Germany. Henry and Matilda enjoyed a happy and blessed marriage. As the Queen of Germany, Matilda became the mother of five important historical figures: Holy Roman Emperor Otto I; Henry, Duke of Bavaria; St. Bruno, Archbishop of Cologne; Gerberga, wife of King Louis IV of France; and Hedwig, mother of Hugh Capet. Matilda was a holy and virtuous woman known for her generosity to the poor. The king adored his queen and attributed his success in battle to her prayers. They reigned seventeen years, and their eldest son succeeded the throne and became Emperor Otto I. After her husband's death, Matilda's two eldest sons chastised her for her generous almsgiving.
St. Matilda then took the possessions left to her by her husband and turned them over to her sons, and retired from court. Her sons immediately suffered misfortune, which was attributed to their poor treatment of their holy mother. In order to repair this injustice and regain God's favor, St. Matilda was begged to return to court, which she did, forgiving her sons for their ill will. She continued to help the poor, build churches, and support many monasteries. St. Matilda was a celebrated monarch and was venerated by the people immediately after her death. Her feast day is March 14th.
Source of this information is from “Butler's Lives of the Saints”
"Act as if everything depended on you; trust as if everything depended on God."
— St. Ignatius of Loyola
George Herbert 27 February Priest, Poet, 1633 Born at Montgomery in Wales in1593
George Herbert was educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge. His original intention was to enter the Anglican ministry but this was overwhelmed by academic achievement and easy entry into the world of politics. He was elected a Fellow of Trinity and in 1618 he was appointed Reader in Rhetoric at Cambridge. Then in 1620 he was elected Public Orator of the university. In 1624 Herbert was elected to Parliament as MP for Montgomery. This brought him to the attention of King James I, who granted him an annual allowance and seemed likely to make him an ambassador. However, in 1625 the king died and Herbert, resolving to ‘lose himself in an humble way’ turned back from worldly ambition to his long-delayed vocation to ministry. Ordained deacon in 1626, he was priested four years later when he was presented to the living of Bemerton near Salisbury.
Though Herbert was suffering from tuberculosis and only lived for a further three years, he threw himself with vigor into the life of his parish, where he became known as ‘Holy Mr. Herbert’ because of his spiritual, pastoral and liturgical diligence. His book, A Priest to the Temple, or the Country Parson, was an attempt to share his insights of rural ministry with others. But privately he was a prolific writer of poetry and left his poems to his friend Nicholas Ferrar, to publish if he thought them suitable.
They appeared as The Temple in 1633. Herbert’s poems, characterized by a precision of language and written as if to be read aloud, explore and celebrate the ways of God’s love as he had discovered them from personal experience. Herbert was an unambiguously Christian and, some would say, a quintessentially Anglican poet. He wrote no secular verse and his poems are personal and intimate without being sickly, often revealing his own spiritual struggles and the strength and solace he found in the practical work of ministry.
Several of his poems, such as Let all the world in every corner sing, Teach me, my God and King and King of glory, King of peace, were later set to music and remain popular as hymns today. One example of his use of biblical themes in his poetry is Redemption:
Having been tenant long to a rich Lord,
Not thriving, I resolved to be bold,
And make a suit unto him, to afford
A new small-rented lease, and cancell th’old.
In heaven at his manor I him sought
They told me there, that he was lately gone
About some land, which he had dearly bought
Long since on earth, to take possession.
I straight returned, and knowing his great birth
Sought him accordingly in great resorts;
In cities, theatres, gardens, parks, and courts:
At length I heard a ragged noise and mirth
Of thieves and murderers: there I him espied
Who straight, Your suit is granted said, & died.
Unless otherwise stated, the source of my narrative is from, “Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church. Saints on Earth: A Biographical Companion to "Common Worship" (Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England)”
St. George's Anglican Church
231 E. Carroll Street, Macomb, IL 61455
Morning Prayer Wednesday 8 a.m.
Healing and Holy Communion Wednesday 6:30 p.m.
Sunday Holy Communion10:30 a.m.
Prayer Walk Every 1st Sunday 9:30 a.m.
Christian Formation and Bible Study resumes in September.
Diocese of Quincy
Bishop J. Alberto Morales, OSB, DD