But Grace Awaits – Bishop’s Blog

Bishop Prior is the Episcopal Bishop of Minnesota. I commend his Advent meditation to you.

The Advent season invites us, dare I say challenges us, to NOT fill our waiting space. I know that sounds incredibly inefficient at best and uncomfortable at worst. However, when we allow our waiting space to be an empty place, in my experience, God’s grace begins to seep into our souls.

Source: But Grace Awaits – Bishop’s Blog


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Cross Formed by Clouds | Art for Advent 1C

Luke 21:27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory.

Christ on the Cross Formed by Clouds
Christ on the Cross Formed by Clouds, 1734
Oil on canvas, 73 x 52 cm
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden
(b. 1675, Sceaux, d. 1760, Paris).
Click image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian


Christ on the Cross Formed by Clouds, 1734, Oil on Canvas, Louis de Silvestre, 1675-1760


In the motion picture based on Irving Stone’s novel, The Agony and the Ecstasy, Michelangelo was asked by Pope Julius II to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo resisted. He worked on the fresco for a short time and then left. He went into hiding and while the Pope was trying to locate him, movie goers were given “the inspiration scene.” Michelangelo was on a mountain when he saw clouds come together to form an image of “The Creation of Adam.” Being given a sign and a direction, he returned to paint the Chapel’s ceiling. The scene in the movie was the result of creative license but we all have had moments when we noticed images in rock formations, reflections, or even in mechanical objects. Leonardo da Vinci suggested artists use these images as points of departure when developing compositions for paintings. Louis de Silvestre did just that and his title, “Christ on the Cross Formed by Clouds” lets us in on the source of his inspiration.

Louis de Silvestre, a French artist of the Baroque Period, excelled in portrait painting. His patrons were primarily the wealthy noble class; among his patrons was Louis XV, King of France. He accepted a position of honor as painter at the court of Augustus II, King of Poland and worked there primarily as a portraitist for thirty years.

“Christ on the Cross Formed by Clouds” contrasts greatly from the rich color and baroque style found in de Silvestre’s portraits. The painting is simple in composition and subdued in its colors. There is no Roman soldier with a spear at the base of the cross or angels in the sky. Mary is not there nor are there people standing nearby in despair. None of the additions that artists have included typically in the crucifixion can be found in de Silvestre’s painting. Christ is alone. If we were not given the fact that it was painted in 1734 it would be difficult to place it in a time frame and it would be equally difficult to determine the artist. The style is neither characteristic of the baroque period nor of de Silvestre’s usual style. “Christ on the Cross Formed by Clouds” is related stylistically to some aspects of early nineteenth century Romanticism and would not seem out of place in an exhibit of early twentieth century Surrealism. There is a sense of mystery in its starkness. Louis de Silvestre was not interested in painting a series of cloud studies as did John Constable. It was this single unusual cloud formation that received his attention. Scientists could explain undoubtedly the cause of the phenomenon but for de Silvestre it was an inspiration. The cloud served as a catalyst to a spiritual moment that he painted to share with others.


“Pareidolia” is the psychological term used to describe the seeing of images such as animals in clouds, faces in rock formations, or the familiar man in the moon; such observations seem to be an innate human response and universal. In 1996, the face of Mother Teresa was discovered on a cinnamon bun (dubbed the “nun bun”). An image of Jesus discovered on a grilled cheese sandwich was placed on eBay in 2004 and sold for $28,000. There tends to be an increase in religious image discoveries during holidays.

On the Way | 11/29/15

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O Antiphons (Dec 17-23)

The exact origin of the “O Antiphons” is not known. Boethius (c. 480-524) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time. At the Benedictine abbey of Fleury (now Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire), these antiphons were recited by the abbot and other abbey leaders in descending rank, and then a gift was given to each member of the community. By the eighth century, they are in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome. The usage of the “O Antiphons” was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrases, “Keep your O” and “The Great O Antiphons” were common parlance. One may thereby conclude that in some fashion the “O Antiphons” have been part of our liturgical tradition since the very early Church. Read more: What are the O Antiphons from Catholic Education Resource Center

Sr. Joan Chittister has provided an entire page to help you pray the O Antiphons (from December 17th through December 23rd). Each meditation is accompanied by a women’s choir chanting the Antiphon in English. Use this online meditation to deepen your prayers as Advent comes to a close and the Nativity arrives.

The Flood | Art for A Advent 1

Matthew 24:39-40 …and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.

The Flood
(b. ca 1500, Cherbourg, d. 1564, Sotteville-lès-Rouen)
The Flood
Ceramic mural composition
Musée National de la Renaissance, Écouen
Click image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

The Flood, ceramic tile, 1550, Masséot Abaquesne, c.1500-1564

Clay often is regarded to be a lowly substance. It is formed by decomposed rock and organic matter and is used to make bricks and drainpipes. It is underfoot as pavers, and in art it is a material associated with pottery and the crafts. It is not used regularly by artists as a surface on which to paint. Masséot Abaquesne’s “The Flood,” depicting the landing of the ark, is an example of the problem with categories when art is shoe-horned into being either “fine arts” or “crafts.” Abaquesne used tiles, glaze, and metal oxides to create a painting on clay; not on wood panels or canvas.

Abaquesne had a successful ceramics business in Rouen, France. His studio specialized in majolica (muh-JAHL-i-kuh) and faience (pronounced fay-AHNS – French for Faenza, a major ceramic center in Italy), and he was influenced generally by Italian art. For “The Flood,” Abaquesne used a tiled surface instead of a large single piece because clay shrinks when it is fired and in the process, large pieces will tend to warp and not remain flat.

To make “The Flood,” a majolica technique was used. The earthenware tiles were fired at a low temperature then covered entirely with a white glaze but not fired again until after Abaquesne created his painting (on the unfired white surface) using coloring pastes made with oxides: cobalt for blue, iron for dark reddish brown and antimony for yellow. It was then fired in the kiln a second time. The work shown here is one of three created by Abaquesne on the subject of the flood. [Building the ark and boarding it are the subjects of the other two works.] This scene depicts the flood after the water has subsided and the ark has landed. In a dramatic depiction of the aftermath of the event, drowned figures are strewn about and a carrion-eating bird is dining on a dead horse. On the right side of the sky, a dove is returning to the ark with an olive branch and God is in a cloud on the left side observing everything below.


Majolica ware originated in Spain and during the Renaissance it became very popular throughout Europe. The name is believed to be derived from the Spanish island, Majorca.

In addition to a glazing technique,” faïence,” is a term given to a low fired non-clay material used in ancient Egypt for crafting objects such as small blue scarabs and hippopotami. When archeologists discovered these objects, the color reminded them of the blue glaze that was made famous in the town of Faenza, Italy. They referred to the material as “faience.” Although Egyptian faience is not glazed clay, the term has remained in use.

Hovak Najarian © 2013

Three Lauridsen Pieces

Morten Lauridsen’s O Nata Lux, Ave Maria, and O Magnum Mysterium are easy favorites among choral music nerds aficionados. They are relatively new pieces, so they might not be as widely known as more traditional Lessons and Carols standards. However, I feel that his compositional style perfectly captures the essence of the Advent season–a balance between exultant and somber.

In each piece, listen for dissonance. He often has different voice parts sustain intervals of a second. In many works, these close intervals are a challenge to listen to, but in his, they add richness, depth, a blend of bitterness and sweetness. (Yes, Advent is a glorious thing, but we know that it brings us closer to Lent and to remembering His sacrifice.)

Listen also for a melody. It’s there, of course, but it’s kind of hard to sing back, isn’t it? His pieces almost saunter through the text. It’s not just about arriving at a cadence; it’s about what happens along the way. These works invite the listener to sit and muse for a bit on what it’s all about–the mystery of the Incarnation, the devotion of Mary and Joseph, the humility that caused the King of Kings to take the form of a helpless baby–it’s almost as if Lauridsen wants us to hit the pause button and just sit for a minute. (And during this busy season, couldn’t we all afford to just sit for a while?)

So I hope these pieces bring you some joy–and a little stillness–as you go about your Christmas preparations. Enjoy!

O Nata Lux
O Light born of Light
Jesus, Redeemer of the World
with loving-kindness deign to receive
suppliant praise and prayer.

Thou who once deigned to be clothed in flesh
for the sake of the lost,
grant us to be members
of Thy blessed body.

O Magnum Mysterium
O great mystery
and wonderful sacrament
that animals should see the new-born Lord
lying in a manger!

Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.

Ave Maria
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and in the hour of our death. Amen.

Advent Calendar Day 28: World Vision

World Vision

In the next few days we will hear these thrilling words from Isaiah, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Our hearts and minds, of course, will “see” Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophet’s words. As citizens of the 21st century, however, we cannot escape “seeing” other children, “the least of Jesus’ family,” in their need for safety, for clean water, for food, for education, for love. World Vision is dedicated to serving those children and their families.

Catherine and Richard from our Forum have supported children worldwide through World Vision. Chances are that those you worship with on any given Sunday also support children worldwide through the efforts of World Vision.

Quote . . .World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.From the World Vision website

Who is served and why

We serve close to 100 million people in nearly 100 countries around the world. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender.  Motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, we serve alongside the poor and oppressed as a demonstration of God’s unconditional love for all people.

Learn more: Who we are – World Vision

Advent Calendar in one place
About the Online Advent Calendar

For further reflection

It is better to give than to receive

When USA Today asked me about my favorite Christmas gifts given and received, I couldn’t help but reflect on the gifts I have received through World Vision. As a donor to World Vision U.S. for 25 years — and as its president for 13 years — I’ve found that the best gifts I’ve received come as a result of generous giving.  Read the rest of the story

Another story revealing the joy that is a gift to the giver

Logo: World Vision Home Page

Advent Calendar Day 27: CareForTheTroops


With the war in Iraq officially ended and the troops coming home, the challenges faced by these returning troops demands our attention and response. In Georgia the Rev. Robert Certain (Fifth Rector of St. Margaret’s), men from the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, and a couple of parishioners  organized an effort to meet the needs of returning veterans and their families. CareForTheTroops is a catalyst for action in Georgia and provides care. Moreover, CareForTheTroops provides a model for other faith-based and community efforts to increase awareness of the challenges faced by returning veterans and their families and provides a model for reaching out to those who have served us well.  ~dan rondeau

Quote . . .Dedicated to the mental health care of our returning troops and their families, we provide information and training to families, clinicians, congregation and community leaders, so that they become more aware of the culture, unique symptoms and issues faced by military families. (CareForTheTroops Home Page)

Mission Statement

  • Work to improve the ability of the civilian mental health infrastructure in the State of Georgia, then nationally, to work with military family members
  • Facilitate connecting military families to providers of spiritual and psychological services familiar with the military culture and trauma
  • Focus on addressing combat stress recovery as well as other spiritual and mental health related problems impacting the marriages and families of military veterans
  • Educate and train clinicians, congregation and community leaders, extended family, and civilian groups about the military culture and trauma associated with military deployments in order to better assess and treat mental health symptoms, and provide more effective referrals and care Provide opportunities for additional trauma treatment training to clinicians
  • Operate in an interfaith, non-political manner, focusing on the humanitarian interest that benefits the veterans and their extended family members

Source: CareForTheTroops

Previous Advent “windows” about caring for our Veterans

Advent Calendar in one place
About the Online Advent Calendar

For further reflection

Wounded Marine Corp veteran Adam Lewis outside his home on Monday, Nov. 7, 2011 in Yulee, Fla

Wounded Veterans Struggle To Find Civilian Jobs Amid Downturn, Bureaucracy

Adam Lewis, a strapping Florida man, joined the Marines in 2004 when he was 19, and within a year he was fighting in Iraq’s Anbar Province with Golf Company, 2nd Marine Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. It was a bloody time in Anbar, with vicious and sometimes hand-to-hand combat with insurgents. Lewis kept busy.

He was first wounded in August 2005 by a bomb blast that perforated an eardrum and left him with ringing in his ears and other injuries. He wasn’t hurt badly enough to be sent home, so he went back on duty and was traveling in a Humvee when the road gave way and he tumbled down an embankment, suffering compression fractures in his back. The Marines put him on light duty until he felt better, and he went back out into the fight.

This time, during operations in Fallujah, Lewis was shot in the head by a sniper. Luckily he had just turned his head and the bullet struck his skull at an angle, but the wound was still severe. After surgery came more than two years of rehab, culminating with his retirement from the Marine Corps on medical grounds in 2007.

To help himself land a god job and a career, Lewis took remedial reading courses to help repair the damage from his head wound, and went on to college. It took him three years to earn his associate degree. He got married and has a two-year-old daughter. This past summer he began seriously looking for work.

So far, no luck.

Having given so much for his country, Adam Lewis, at 26, has been without meaningful employment for four years, and is frustrated and angry after four months of intense job hunting.

Read the rest of Adam’s story to see why organizations like CareForTheTroops will be needed for a long time to come

Other stories to raise awareness

Photo: Huffington Post article of 11/11/11

Advent Calendar Day 26: Create Good Foundation

Create Good Foundation

It’s about water. It’s about sustainability and justice. Episcopal Relief and Development sells a Fair Trade Coffee called Bishops Blend. The coffee is purchased from Pura Vida Create Good. The Create Good Foundation was formed by Pura Vida Create Good in 1998 and continues to be supported by Pura Vida Create Good. Between Create Good Foundation and Episcopal Relief and Development water and hope are brought to and shared with coffee growers in Central America. ~dan rondeau

Quote . . .At the same time Pura Vida Coffee (currently named Pura Vida Create Good) was formed in 1998, the Founders also established a public nonprofit called Pura Vida Partners (currently named Create Good Foundation) to accept donations from customers and others to fund projects that would improve the lives of coffee farmers and their families. Pura Vida Create Good has funded from inception a significant portion of the overhead costs associated with operating the Foundation, and has and continues to make monthly contributions to the Foundation.

When you purchase Pura Vida coffee for your office, church or food service establishment, we hope you experience the intrinsic satisfaction of knowing you are helping us provide clean water, health care, and economic opportunity fo coffee farmers and their families. (Create Good Foundation website)

Mission Statement

The Create Good Foundation is committed to helping the lives of poor people who live and work in coffee growing regions around the world through water and economic infrastructure projects.

Vision Statement

We will be the premier organization to empower coffee producers, their families, and their surrounding communities through water and economic infrastructure projects paving the way for the next generation.

Source: About Create Good

Home Page for Create Good

Advent Calendar in one place
About the Online Advent Calendar

For further reflection

A key factor in having a stable and thriving community is to have an economic infrastructure that supports jobs. Throughout the developing world, jobs and opportunities are seriously lacking. This leads to migration, lack of personal investment, poor health, and little hope.

Water is a major issue throughout the world, which is why we work to bring clean water to people. However, clean water alone is not enough. People need access to jobs and opportunity. We are working to bring new opportunities to communities that allow innovation and jobs.

Here is what we have been doing;

  • Coffee land renovation in Oaxaca
  • Coffee processing equipment in Guatemala
  • Roasting business in Oaxaca
  • Business opportunities and training for the disabled in Peru
  • School rebuilt in Guatemala
  • Computer training center in Guatemala
  • Education facility in Guatemala
  • Computer center in Costa Rica
  • Women’s health training in Oaxaca
  • Vegetable greenhouse business in Oaxaca
Text from the website for Create Good Foundation
Photo from the Facebook Page of the Create Good Foundation

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