Friday, April 28, 2006

The Mirror of Tears and Fire

So too in the way of tears and fire we are invited to mirror our God fully, to know that tears and fire are one. Caught by beauty and knowledge-without-mediation, we are in equipoise, in ever-moving repose: we are haunted by the knowledge and pain of sin and the knowledge of the flawed beauty of creation, while at once we see God in all God's terrible love and beauty, as we know and are known. So are we stretched cruciform by and with our Lord on the Tree of life.... In the density of holiness we are raised out of time to that first singularity, that first point of God's tear and God's spark, from which primordial silence all expansion, all possibility are held in potent stillness as our tears mingle and ignite with the single, certain drop from the abyss.

[The Fountain and the Furnace, p. 230]

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Salted with Fire

What lies beyond the "boundary" that Isaac [of Nineveh] is tongue-tied to describe? Many have tried to describe it and failed. Many have alluded to it knowingly, and even more writers unknowingly, especially those who in their disgust with popular religion have turned from it.

In the end we find that even the way of tears and fire is not a way except in that it is a commitment not to have one. Yet it is still the way of tears because it is a commitment to willing powerlessness, to a continual letting go of favorite images and security systems, to continual change, adaptation and transformation.

It is a commitment to let God determine the way, the means, what will be sought, and what will be left behind; to sow us with what we can receive, and, out of sight, to bring to fruition those gifts we have received and committed to God to do with what God will. By this means does God salt the earth with fire.

[The Fountain and the Furnace, p. 255]

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday: the Third Nocturn

Good Friday: the Third Nocturn
by Peter Abelard
Translated by Helen Waddell

Alone to sacrifice thou goest, Lord,
Giving thyself to death whom thou has slain.
For us thy wretched folk is any word,
Who know that for our sins this is thy pain?

For they are ours, O Lord, our deeds, our deeds,
Why must thou suffer torture for our sin?
Let our hearts suffer for thy passion, Lord,
That sheer compassion may thy mercy win.

This that night of tears, the three days' space,
Sorrow abiding of the eventide,
Until the day break with the risen Christ,
And hearts that sorrowed shall be satisfied.

So may our hearts have pity on thee, Lord,
That they may sharers of thy glory be:
Heavy with weeping may the three days pass,
To win the laughter of thine Easter Day.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Holy Week

'Libera me' by Wilfred Owen, from Britten's 'War Requiem'

It seemed that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.
yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
'Strange friend,' I said, 'here is no cause to mourn.'

'None,' said the other, 'save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something had been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with the swiftness of the tigress,
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Miss we the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even from the wells we sunk too deep for war,
Even the sweetest wells that ever were.

'I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark; for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.

'Let us sleep now...'

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Hope Is The Thing With Feathers

Yesterday the eagles screamed their lust.
There's no mistaking it. Their mating cry
is like none other. The small male trusts
his hulking feathered bride to balance his spry
motions on her back. Orgasmic joy
shatters the sullen chill. Afterwards
he sits a little taller, she looks coy,
shoulders touch, yellow eyes turn seawards
waiting for the fish. Starvation time.
Above the dirty snow, in endless rain
the eagles mate in hope. The winter's grime
wracked beach, rotten leaves, hunger's pain—
all forgotten in exploding light
and twisting talons of their wedding flight.

Trinity Fire Summary

Juneau's Historic Church, Meeting and Cultural Center
Destroyed in Fire
by Maggie Ross
It was bitterly cold early in the morning on March 12, 2006 in this small city built on a narrow strip of land between mountains capped by an ice field and the sea. A boat was parked in an alley between the historic Church of the Holy Trinity and the frame house next door. Suddenly the boat burst into flame, quickly involving both house and church, and McPhetres Hall next door to the church.
It was apparently a random act of destruction. A man has been arrested in connection with the fire and is being held in lieu of bail. He is charged with criminal mischief and arson, both in the first degree, both felonies. According to the Juneau Empire, he "allegedly started the blaze...after being enraged for being ejected from a party."
The fire department responded quickly. The neighborhood was evacuated and its residents found shelter in Centennial Hall, the small convention center, where the Red Cross provided beds and food. The power grid for the entire city was shut down. The miracle is that the whole of downtown with its closely packed turn-of-the-century wooden buildings did not go up in flames.
It is difficult to explain to those who have not lived here what a key role Church of the Holy Trinity and McPhetres Hall have played in the life of this small city, which is accessible only by air or water—there is no road to the outside. In a very real sense they have been the social and cultural glue that has held the town and its very fragile population together. The hall was a focal point for everything from AA to feeding the hungry, to welcoming tourists, to 101 different groups to use its space for concerts, scouts, opera, theatre, dance, wedding receptions—both hall and church are now ash. Nothing was recovered. Theatre in the Rough, our resident Shakespeare repertory company lost all its sets and costumes except those being used in a current production of Don Giovanni at the high school put on by Opera to Go, also based at McPhetres. Other groups suffered similar losses.
We Juneauites live on the edge of the abyss. Most of us are refugees to as much as from, but for a significant number of people Alaska is the end of the road. Legislators, the homeless, state workers, housewives and husbands, alcoholics, believers, atheists, singers, artists, writers, a large number of summer tourists, rich and poor— the broadest possible spectrum of people found a home at Trinity and McPhetres.
We are so isolated here that if we are to have a cultural life we must make it ourselves, and McPhetres was the focal point of that life. At the wake the McPhetres' groups held for the hall the Sunday after the fire, the rector jokingly referred to them as the 'second congregation,' and during the call-in show the following evening, 'McPhetres Memories,' on KTOO, our local Public Broadcasting station (with 65% of the listening audience), people phoned in, some of them weeping, from cities across the nation.
The beautiful old church was a National Historic Landmark, and some members of the congregation are the third and fourth generation of their families to attend it. Priceless artwork was lost along with records, vestments, altar vessels, newly installed and locally made Stations of the Cross—everything was incinerated. The rite of Stations of the Cross is now held every Friday outdoors at the charred remains and the heap of of twisted metal—the recently new roof—that is all that is left of the church.
While the nearby Roman Catholic church has given the parish use of its hall on Sundays, we must rebuild and soon, not only for the life of our congregation, but for the life of our city. Because a house and boat were involved, insurance money may be tied up in litigation for years. The three pianos, organ and communion vessels which were lost in the fire alone exceed the value of insurance for contents.
Insurance will cover less than half of the estimated two-and-a-half million dollars it will cost to replace the buildings. The cost of rebuilding is high because every piece of lumber and every nail must be barged in and then trucked to the site. A home builder in Alaska will pay more for shipping her lumber than for the lumber itself. Due to the price of oil our cost of living is comparable to that of New York and London, yet ordinary people are willing to live simply in order to be able to inhabit this visionary landscape. Holy Trinity's congregation is not well--to-do, and the diocese is one of the most financially challenged in ECUSA.
But Alaskans are survivors and more than survivors. Although our total state population is small, around half a million, we produce world class atheletes, scholars, writers and artists. In the last summer Olympics, Alaska had three Olympians on the US team. Juneau's population is only around 30,000 but our high school produced the NBA basketball star Carlos Boozer, and one of our skiiers won a silver medal at the Winter Olympics. Koko Urata, having won Athlete of the Year for the Western region in synchronized swimming is on her way to the Nationals.
Juneau has a symphony, a student symphony, a sinfonia, two opera companies, two repertory companies a student concerto competition and one of the biggest folk festivals in the Western United States (non-commercial). The list of gifted people who live here goes on and on. But dedication and talent tend to focus on doing something for its own sake, rather than producing income, and to rebuild our church and hall we need help.
Photos of the fire and historic photos of the church are at the parish website:, and the rector may be contacted at Ongoing updates can be found at We need money, yes, but we also need altar linens, vessels, vestments, pew books, reference books, record books, office machines, computers, office supplies—in short, everything that makes a church able to operate. If you can help us rebuild, please send gifts to the Holy Trinity Restoration Fund, 411 Gold Street, Juneau, Alaska, 99801.
Most of all, we need your prayers, and please know that we pray each day for you, and for reconciliation for the man who allegedly caused this grievous harm.