Lord, who throughout these forty days

Wind in the Chimes

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. … When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Luke 4:1-2, 13 NRSV

On the First Sunday in Lent, Year C, March 6, 2022, the Church read the account of the Temptation of Jesus according to Luke (Luke 4:1-13). Lord who throughout these forty days is a hymn for the season of Lent and, really, for every season of our lives as we walk with Jesus.

More

Lord who throughout these forty days on History of Hymns. Explore the hymn, the author, the tune, and other factors that create this favorite Lenten hymn.

Temptation (on Brother Give Us A Word a daily meditation offered by the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE) a religious order of the Episcopal Church.

Index Page of “words” offered by the SSJE Brothers

“Advent Birmingham is a diverse group of musicians who lead worship services in song on Sundays at Cathedral Church of The Advent in Birmingham, Alabama. They also write and record modern hymns of their own and set ancient Christian hymns and songs to modern settings.” (YouTube description) Here is their modern offering of this Lenten hymn:

About Wind in the Chimes

As war rages, some Ukrainians look to Mary for protection—continuing a long Christian tradition

Wind in the chimes

Ukrainian Marian Collection, The Marian Library, University of Dayton CC BY-ND

Ukrainian clergy demonstrating against the war in their country have appeared in media coverage carefully holding an image of the Virgin Mary, her outstretched hands lifting up the edges of a cloak. 

I am an archivist for the Marian Library at the University of Dayton, which includes a collection of Ukrainian artwork about Mary. For Ukrainian Christians, both Orthodox and Catholic, the “Pokrova” image held by protesters represents a long history of seeking Mary’s protection during difficult times.

These pictures depict a particular religious icon known as the “Pokrova” in which Mary’s veil – a “pokrova,” or “cover,” in Ukrainian – is a sign of protection.

Kayla Harris from her essay on The Conversation, March 9, 2022

I encourage you to read more about the “Queen of Ukraine” in Harris’ article. As she notes, “It is quite common for Christians, and even people of other faiths, to ask Mary to intercede on their behalf during hardship.” Let us pray.

About Wind in the Chimes

Transfiguration

Art for the Last Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C

Transfiguration, fresco, 1440-1442,
Fra Angelico, c. 1400-1455

Luke 9:28-36 [37-43a]
Gospel reading for the Last Sunday After The Epiphany

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

When Jesus and his disciples were in the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked them “Who do they say the Son of man is?”  Discussions and teachings followed “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart.  And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light.  And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking to him.”  (Matt. 17:1-3)

In Transfiguration, Christ is in a white robe with outstretched arms and, as appropriate, is the central figure .  In addition, Fra Angelico has placed him on a pedestal-like rock above everyone, and by design he is larger than the other figures.  Christ is surrounded by a mandorla (a body halo) and his head is surrounded by a traditional cruciform halo.

In this painting, Moses and Elijah are each presented in bust form, not as full figures; Moses, on the left with light emanating from his forehead represents the law and Elijah on the right represents the prophets.  [In some paintings of the Transfiguration, Moses is holding the Ten Commandments and a scroll is placed in the hands of Elijah.]

Below Moses, on the left, is the Virgin Mary with her hands crossed over her chest and to the right, below Elijah, is Saint Dominic.  [In 1435 the Monastery of San Marcos was turned over to the Dominican order.]  He is standing with hands together in a position of prayer.  Dominic’s mother reported that she saw a star on his chest when he was born and sometimes (as here within his halo) he can be identified by a star placed above his head.  Of course, Mary and Dominic were not present at the Transfiguration, but it is not unusual for artists to use creative license to include non-participating figures on the sidelines as observers of an important event.  In the foreground are Peter, James, and John.  They have just heard God’s voice say: “This is my son.  Hear him” and “…they fell on their faces and were filled with awe.” (Matt. 17:5-6)

In 1407, Guido di Pietro joined the Dominican order in Fiesole, Italy (near Florence) and at his vows took the name Giovanni.  Thus he became known as Friar Giovanni da Fiesole (Brother John of Fiesole).  Artist and historian, Giorgio Vasari, referred to him as Brother John the angelic one and today he is known simply as Fra Angelico.  His life as an artist was devoted to the Church and at the monastery of San Marcos in Florence; he painted the walls of the cells (prayer and meditation rooms) with scenes from the life of Christ.  Fra Angelico’s Transfiguration is in cell number six.

In Europe, during the early part of the fifteenth century, medieval art was still a presence, but the City of Florence was at the heart of the Renaissance.    Fra Angelico was fully aware of the trend toward humanism that was influencing the art of his time.  The changes that were taking place are reflected in his paintings.   

The actual site of the Transfiguration is not known; accounts in the Gospels do not name a specific mountain.  Mt. Tabor is the traditional site but Jesus and the disciples were in the district of Caesarea Philippi prior to the Transfiguration and the closest and highest mountain there is Mount Hermon.  It is the highest mountain in Israel and this may have been the mountain noted in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Hovak Najarian © 2014, edited in 2022

Be well. Do good. Pay attention. Keep learning.

Photini, The Samaritan Woman

Commemorated on Feb 26

Christ and the Samaritan Woman
Sculpture, metal, freestanding
Chester Cathedral, United Kingdom

When Jesus passed through Samaria (John 4.3-42) he stopped at Jacob’s Well in Sychar, a well that the patriarch Jacob had left to his son Joseph. Sitting by the well to rest, the Lord asked a Samaritan woman who came to the well to draw water to give him a drink. The request violated cultural taboos — a man speaking privately with a woman, and a Jew speaking to a Samaritan — anticipating the theological insight of Galatians 3:28. Their brief encounter is one of notable theological depth in which Jesus makes the first of several important “I am” statements in John’s Gospel. The Samaritan woman had been married five times and was living with a man to whom she was not married. Whether this was through her own fault or due to unfortunate circumstances beyond her control the text does not indicate. However, she has the distinct honor of being the first person to whom Jesus reveals his Messianic title and the first person to preach the gospel that Jesus is the Christ.

While unnamed in the Johannine text, Orthodox Christian tradition has it that the woman was baptized by the Apostles on the first Pentecost and given the name Photini, “the enlightened one” (Svetlana, in the Russian Church). Celebrated in the Orthodox Church as an Evangelist, “Equal to the Apostles,” a significant hagiography developed around her. She, her sisters, and her children are said to have been cruelly tortured and martyred at the command of the emperor Nero.

Over the centuries many churches have been built at the site of Jacob’s Well, where Jesus held discourse with the Samaritan woman; the present church building within Bir Ya’qub Monastery was built in 1893 by order of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem and consecrated to St. Photini.

Source: Lesser Feasts and Fasts Revision 2018

Collect for the Commemoration

O Almighty God, whose most blessed Son revealed to the Samaritan woman that He is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the World; grant us to drink of the well that springs up to everlasting life that we may worship you in spirit and in truth through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Be well. Do good. Pay attention. Keep learning.

Praying for peace in Ukraine—even when it feels useless

Wind in the chimes

What do you hear the Spirit saying to you?

As fighting and violence escalate in Ukraine Ashley McKinless and James Martin, SJ, explore our inclination to pray, or not, in this moment. What is the point to utter prayers in the face of such an event? The essay is a thoughtful and honest exploration of prayer as a response to current events and I commend it to you: Praying for peace in Ukraine (America Magazine website)

Collect: Saint Matthias

Apostle (Feb 24)

Most of the symbols of the 12 Apostles include a depiction of the instrument of their martyrdom.

Matthias is named only once in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:21-26). The rest of his story is obscure and sometimes fanciful in the Christian tradition. Nonetheless, it is important to note that he apparently fit Peter’s requirements that to become an apostle with the remaining 11 the man should “have accompanied us (the apostles) during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection” Acts 1:21-22A

After acknowledging the hand of God in selecting and blessing Matthias to be an apostle, we ask that we—the people of God—may always be guided and governed by faithful and true pastors.

What role do we play in supporting and encouraging and caring for the faithful and true pastors by whom we are guided and governed as God answers our prayer?

The Collect for the Commemoration

Almighty God, who in the place of Judas chose your faithful servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve: Grant that your Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be guided and governed by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Learn more

In the nine days of waiting between Jesus’ Ascension and the Day of Pentecost, the disciples remained together in prayer. During this time, Peter reminded them that the defection and death of Judas had left the fellowship of the Twelve with a vacancy. The Acts of the Apostles records Peter’s proposal that “one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1:21–22). Two men were nominated, Joseph called Barsabbas who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. After prayer, the disciples cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias, who was then enrolled with the eleven. (See Acts 1:21-26)

Scripture does not relate anything further about Matthias, but gives him as an example to Christians of one whose faithful companionship with Jesus qualifies him to be a suitable witness to the resurrection, and whose service is unheralded and unsung.

There are, however, several early Christian accounts of his mission and ministry, such as the second century text The Acts of Andrew and Matthias in Cannibal City. According to this account, immediately after the selection of Matthias, the apostles cast lots to determine which of them would take responsibility for which part of the world, and the unlucky Matthias was dispatched to a city of cannibals! Although an unabashedly fictionalized account, it is nevertheless an inspiring tale that shows Matthias being dealt the worst possible lot, and yet nevertheless responding to his call with equanimity, competence, and grace, which are the same qualities we see reflected in the canonical account that is given by Scripture.

Saint Matthias The Apostle in Lesser Feasts and Fasts, Revision 2018

Lots in the Ancient World

Ancient peoples used lot-casting as a form of cleromancy—a type of divination in which the random outcome was believed to reflect divine will. Ancients commonly used small stones labeled to reflect the possible outcomes of the decision (Lindblom, “Lot-casting,” 168). The Bible contains no description of the specific procedure for casting lots, undoubtedly due to the commonplace nature of the practice. Based on etymology, Kitz suggests the Israelites likely placed marked stones into a container, which was then shaken in such a way as to “cast” out a deciding stone (Kitz, “Terminology,” 207–14). Hittite and Akkadian texts also indicate that the casting of stones was used to determine an oracular answer to a series of questions (Kitz, “Urim and Thumim,” 401–10).

Usage in the New Testament

The New Testament contains few references to the use of lots. However, the attested uses reflect the Hebrew mindset regarding divine involvement with the decision:

  • Zechariah was chosen by lot for a rotation in the temple service (Luke 1:9)
  • Peter used lots and prayer to determine a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:15–26).
  • Soldiers cast lots to divide Jesus’ garments after His crucifixion (John 19:24). This is perhaps the most secular use of lots in the Bible.

Source: Rob Fleenor, “Lots,” in The Lexham Bible Dictionary, ed. John D. Barry et al. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

Be well. Do good. Pay attention. Keep learning.

Image used here, but original source unknown.

Collect: Polycarp

Bishop and Martyr of Smyrna, 156 (Feb 23)

Bishop Polycarp

In the Collect for this Commemoration, we praise God for giving us a servant who is described as holy and gentle. And we praise God for giving this holy and gentle servant “boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Savior, and steadfastness to die for his faith.”

We ask for the grace to follow the example of Polycarp which will include sharing the cup of Christ (sorrow and suffering) and rising to eternal life. The prayer invites us to examine our actions (do they reveal us as one who serves, one who is seeking holiness, one who is gentle in a not-so-gentle world) and our trust in God no matter the circumstances (for there are many ways to “share the cup of Christ” short of martyrdom). What do you hear the Spirit saying to you?

The Collect for the Commemoration

O God, the maker of heaven and earth, you gave your venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Savior, and steadfastness to die for his faith: Give us grace, following his example, to share the cup of Christ and rise to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Learn more

Polycarp was one of the leaders of the Church who carried on the tradition of the apostles through the troubled period of Gnostic heresies in the second century. According to Irenaeus, who had known him in his early youth, Polycarp was a pupil of John, “the disciple of the Lord,” and had been appointed a bishop by “apostles in Asia.”

[…] Polycarp was burned at the stake. Before his ordeal, he is reported to have looked up to heaven, and to have prayed: “Lord God Almighty, Father of your beloved and blessed child Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of you, God of angels and hosts and all creation, and of the whole race of the upright who live in your presence, I bless you that you have thought me worthy of this day and hour, to be numbered among the martyrs and share in the cup of Christ, for resurrection to eternal life, for soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. Among them may I be accepted before you today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice just as you, the faithful and true God, have prepared and foreshown and brought about. For this reason and for all things I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal heavenly high priest Jesus Christ, your beloved child, through whom be glory to you, with him and the Holy Spirit, now and for the ages to come. Amen.”

Polycarp on Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music website

Be well. Do good. Pay attention. Keep learning.

Joseph Recognized by Brothers

Art for Epiphany +7C

Joseph Recognized by Brothers, oil on canvas, c.1800,
Francois Gerard, 1770-1817.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Joseph was born at a time when his father, Jacob, was old and he became the favorite son. This favoritism caused resentment among his brothers. Negative feelings resulted also from a dream Joseph had that was interpreted to mean someday his brothers would bow down to him. Joseph was seventeen years old when he went to his brothers as they were tending sheep. When his brothers saw him coming they plotted to kill him but then instead, sold him as a slave to a passing merchant who was going to Egypt. In Egypt, Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream which revealed there would be seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine. With Joseph’s guidance, grain was stored during the time of abundance and Egypt was well prepared. When famine was experienced in Canaan, Joseph’s father sent his brothers to Egypt to purchase food. Unbeknownst to them, Joseph in the ensuing years had become a high Egyptian official and he was the one they would have to meet.

Francois Gerard’s painting, Joseph Recognized by Brothers, depicts the moment Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers. The brothers are shown displaying a range of emotions; some are kneeling and in body language seem to be exhibiting guilt and remorse for what they did. In contrast to this, two of the brothers and Joseph are reaching out to each other in joy. The brothers at the far right are staying back and holding each other. Perhaps they are fearful of what Joseph might do. The young boy reaching and looking up at Joseph is likely a nephew who came with his father. Joseph places his hand gently on the child’s shoulder.

In 1663, France initiated the Prix de Rome which gave artists (and later, musicians and architects) an opportunity to study in Italy. The purpose of this award was to put promising artists in contact with Roman culture and the masters of the Italian Renaissance. One outcome of this was a trend toward classicism in French art.

In the late 1700s after years of turmoil, the French Revolution overthrew King Louis XVI and Napoleon Bonaparte took charge ultimately as 1st Consul. Classicism in art suited Napoleon perfectly and he appointed Jacques Louis David, an avid classicist, to be the head of the French Academy of art. David’s art promoted what Napoleon favored; discipline, honor, sacrifice strength of character, and devotion of one’s efforts to the state.

Though classicism was sanctioned by the state, the concept of romanticism was always present in art and Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt (1798-1801) generated great interest in Egyptology. It set off fashion fads in both France and England and piqued the interest of painters as well. Francois Gerard’s Joseph Recognized by Brothers was painted during the time of Napoleon’s Egyptian military venture.

Gerard studied under David and elements of classicism in the painting of Joseph and his brothers are apparent in their robes. Gerard’s nod to this scene’s Egyptian location is brought in by Joseph’s headdress and the sphinxes on the arms of Joseph’s chair and the background building. Were it not for these details and its title, this painting might be taken for an illustration of a Greek tragedy.

Winning the Prize of Rome was coveted, difficult, and highly competitive. Gerard’s teacher Jacques Louis David was rejected three times and considered suicide before receiving the award on his fourth attempt. [In later years Eduard Degas and Maurice Ravel were rejected.] Gerard, too, was rejected but because of his mother’s death, he was unable to complete a painting to submit to the jury the following year. After that, he fell into poverty but recovered to gain success and acclaim through portraiture. Napoleon commissioned paintings from him and then after he fell from power, Gerard became the court painter of Louis XVIII.

Hovak Najarian © 2019

Be well. Do good. Pay attention. Keep learning.

Epiphany +7 Year C

Put your trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and feed on its riches. –Psalm 37:3

Welcome. Our handout features the readings for the Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany (Feb. 20 in 2022) in Year C of our Lectionary.

Forgiveness is a prominent theme of the Gospel passage this week. I invite you to explore The Work of Forgiveness a Lectionary Essay by Debie Thomas on the Journey with Jesus webzine.

If forgiveness isn’t denial or a detour, if forgiveness isn’t quick — then what is it?  What is Jesus asking of us when he invites us to love, bless, pray, give, lend, do good, withhold judgment, extend mercy, and turn the other cheek?

The Work of Forgiveness by Debie Thomas

Check out, too, what our Church remembers about Saint Matthias The Apostle and Photini, The Samaritan Woman (at the Well). She is widely honored in the Orthodox traditions and our Episcopal Church joins them in commemorating her. Through this week, read the stories of others who studied, prayed and worked for God’s glory. Let their stories invite you to do the same.

Pay attention. Keep learning.

View or download the Handout for Epiphany +7C including short biographies for Saint Matthias The Apostle and Photini, The Samaritan Woman (at the Well).

View or download an exploration of classicism and romanticism in art by Hovak Najarian.

View or download Art for Epiphany +7C. “Joseph recognized by brothers” by Francois Gerard with commentary by Hovak Najarian.

Please come back to this site throughout the week in order to keep learning.

The Work of Forgiveness

Lectionary Essay for Epiphany +7C (Feb 20, 2022)

 If forgiveness isn’t denial or a detour, if forgiveness isn’t quick — then what is it?  What is Jesus asking of us when he invites us to love, bless, pray, give, lend, do good, withhold judgment, extend mercy, and turn the other cheek?

Lectionary Essay for Epiphany +7C by Debie Thomas on Journey with Jesus

A timely meditation by Debie Thomas, one of my favorite teachers, on a favorite website, Journey with Jesus. Here, Debie examines Jesus’ teaching we will hear on Sunday, February 20, 2022, from Luke 6:27-38.

She pays particular attention to “the rising tide of rage and meanness in our Covid-weary culture” and confesses that the readings appointed for Sunday cause her some discomfort. Why? She answers: “Because the readings are about forgiveness.  They are about the work of forgiveness, and the challenges they pose to our ‘shove or be shoved’ culture are daunting.”

I encourage you to read her essay. I encourage you to take to heart her exploration of Jesus’ teaching and, as you follow Jesus, please engage in the work of forgiveness.

More

Forgiveness (on Brother Give Us A Word a daily meditation offered by the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE) a religious order of the Episcopal Church.

Index Page of “words” offered by the SSJE Brothers

About Wind in the Chimes

Wind Chimes: September 25 2012 (an introduction)

Wind in the Chimes (renaming and a reintroduction of Wind Chimes, 7/21/20)

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