05 April 2008

"New" poem posts. . .

I've posted a few "new" poems on the revamped creative writing site: kNOt + homi(lies).

These are all poems I wrote many years ago for a workshop. . .they are very, very rough.

I am cycling through a three day cluster-headache right now, so there will be nothing Truly New for a while. . .

OH! And. . . you can help me celebrate National Poetry Month by shooting a volume of verse my way. Check out: National Poetry Month Wish List. :-)

02 April 2008

Listen, God so loved the world...

Second Week of Easter (W): Acts 5.17-26 and John 3.16-21
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP, PhD
St Albert the Great Priory

If I were a bit more technologically competent and we had the equipment here in the chapel for viewing audio-video, I might offer this homily this morning as a short film. The characters, scene, and action would be scripted using Luke’s account in Acts of the Sadducees arresting and confining the Apostles; their escape from prison with angelic help; the teaching and preaching in the temple area; the Sanhedrin’s discovery of their escape; and the eventual return of the apostles to trial. These scenes would be silent. The action of the priests and guards speaking loudly enough. The narration for the film would come from John 3.16, our gospel passage this morning.

Laid over the scene of the Sadducees’ expression of jealousy and the public arrest of the apostle’s is a gentle voice, saying “God so loved the world that he have his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.” Then we might think, watching and listening, why are they jealous? All they have to do is believe!

Then the whole scene brightens white and the angel releases the apostles from jail. The angel tells them to go to the temple area to teach. As they move silently into position outside the temple, that gentle narrator’s voice rises again and says, “…God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned…whoever does not believe has already been condemned.” We can see the lips of all the apostles moving as they teach, hands flying in emphasis, and we hear, as if each is speaking one Word together: “Listen, God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son. . .”

This scene fades and the lights come up on the Sanhedrin convening, readying itself for a trial of heresy. The high priest gestures for the jailed apostles to be brought forward. Over the action, we hear that gospel voice again, saying, “And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light. . .” The guards report that the prisoners were not in the cells—cells securely locked and guarded. The gospel voice rises again, “God did NOT send his Son into the world to condemn the world…”* And the chief priests and the guards become agitated, miming dismay among themselves, wondering what this might mean. The Chief Priest wants the apostles found. The guards, under orders but also in the darkness, begin their search—“because their works were evil”—the voice whispers just for us.

The little chaos of the court is stopped when someone comes in and indicates that the apostles are in the temple area teaching: “For God so loved the world”—they teach—“that he gave us his only Son for our redemption. . .” The captain and his guards run to the temple area and find the apostles there preaching: “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light…so that his works might not be exposed.” The guards collect the apostles without using any force because they were afraid that the people would stone them. And the gospel voice says, “…whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.” Walking back to the Sanhedrin with the bound apostles, the guards hide their eyes. The voice says, “people preferred the darkness, people preferred the darkness.”

Finally, the captain stands the apostles before the Sanhedrin, his eyes firmly shut. The Chief Priest opens his mouth to pronounce his verdict on the heretics and rebels…we see his mouth move but we hear another voice say these words, “And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred the darkness to light. . .” We see the guards look confused. The Chief Priest is panicked by his own words. The Apostles nod knowingly, lovingly, smiling. Then the Chief Priest, hesitantly, very reluctantly opens his mouth again, and we hear our gospel voice again say with his lips, “. . .they preferred the darkness to light because their works were evil.” Eyes wide open, the Chief Priest closes his mouth.

The Apostles turn. Their bound hands now unbounded rise in praise. There’s a long silence. No movement. As the guards and priests watch over the apostles’ shoulders, the gospel voice, again with a loud whisper, one not to be ignored, proclaims, “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” The Chief and his guards step back, out of scene.

Fade to black. Cue credits.


Cast: Fr. Philip and Br. Michael

*I left out this crucial "not" in the printed text and Br. Michael dutifully read my incorrect text for the Podcast...

Pic credit: Jacques Tissot

01 April 2008

PoMo essays & Mucho poems

Check the new student essays over at suppl(e)mental. . .

Since this is National Poetry Month, I couldn't help but beg for a few volumes of poetry!

Check out these fav poets of mine over at my National Poetry Month Wish List. . .

31 March 2008

Spoken to by God

Solemnity of the Annunciation: Isa 7.10-14, 8.10; Heb 10.4-10; Luke 1.26-38
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Priory

Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she will be the Mother of God is both a declaration of future fact and a revelation; that is, Gabriel tells Mary that she, a virgin, will conceive and bear a son and Gabriel reveals to Mary who her son will be: the Son of God, the promised Messiah. That this episode from Luke is an announcement from the mouth of an archangel that the Messiah is coming is special enough, but that it is also a revelation from God, a revealing of Himself to us, is extraordinary. Fr. Jean Danielou, in his characteristically subdued manner, writes: “The revelation given to Mary is of the same order as the other revelations recounted in both Testaments. With it we are evidently faced with one of the essential affirmations of Scripture, one of the essential objects of faith: that God speaks to man”(23). Surely, our celebration this morning marks our Blessed Mother’s acceptance of her messianic motherhood. But is it too bold to suggest that what we truly celebrate this morning is extra-ordinary gift of hearing the Father speak to His creation? After all, we do not celebrate the Solemnity of the Invitation this morning, or the Solemnity of the Pregnancy of Mary. We celebrate a divine annunciation, a Word spoken to a creature for the universal benefit of all creation.

And though we do not celebrate Mary this morning, we do honor her faith in the Word. Our Testaments testify to the fact that God has revealed Himself to prophets, priests, kings, and even children, pulling back the Creator/creature veil to allow us to glimpse through their witness the glory that reigns supreme. Mary encounters more than an archangel, more than a mere angelic invitation; she is confronted with the fulfillment of the Messianic promise; she is shown, head on, face up the culmination of her people’s historic anticipation of their salvation. In effect, she is shown the end and the beginning of the promise that our Father spoke to Ahaz: Emmanuel, “God is with us!” Mary’s faith in the divine achievement of the impossible moves this promise from the Word to the world.

Fr. Danielou writes, “Faith is the recognition of revelation, and of equal importance in going to make up saving history. Faith is the special mark of biblical man”(24). Mary’s trust in the truth of Gabriel’s announcement that she will bear the Word into World is exemplary; it is also prophetic and priestly: she brings us to our end in Christ and she stands between us and the divine, offering herself as sacrifice, giving herself to God as a bloodless holocaust to bring our final and true Mediator into the flesh. With her Son, Mary says, “Behold, I come to do your will, O God!” but it is Christ who alone who accomplishes his Father’s will for us on the Cross. Word made flesh, he dies for us so that we might live.

Our eucharist this morning, this early morning party of praise and thanksgiving, brings that same Word into the world, making us carriers of the hope of creation’s salvation. St Peter says that we are a “living hope.” Jesus himself sends us out to be that living hope for others. Mary says yes to the work of bearing the Word. And so do we. Every “amen” we exclaim this morning binds us to the annunciation, to the revelation that God not only speaks to us, but he also holds us to our baptismal promise to speak of Him, to be His revelation in the world to every heart and mind free to see and hear. So, when you pray “amen” this morning, you pray a promise along with Christ and his Mother: “Here I am, Lord; I come to your will.”

Danielou, Jean. The Infancy Narratives. Herder & Herder, 1968.

Pic credit: Henry Tanner

30 March 2008

WARNING: "Peace be with you!"

2nd Sunday of Easter: Acts 2.42-47; 1 Peter 1.3-9; John 20.19-31
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Paul
and Church of the Incarnation

In this you rejoice: “Peace be with you!”

On this second Sunday of Easter, celebrating the Divine Mercy of God, we are asked to brave a closer look at fear, an eyes-wide-open stare at what it means for a follower of Christ to live dreadfully, panicked. Just look at the disciples who lock themselves away, afraid of the Jewish leaders. Look at the Jewish leaders who chase and threaten, afraid of the disciples and their teacher. Look at Thomas, fearful of disappointment and despair, he denies the resurrected Christ, “I will not believe.” Look at us. . .are we afraid? Are you afraid? The Psalmist this morning-evening sings, “I was hard pressed and was falling. . .” Peter must remind his brothers and sisters, in the midst of their “various trials,” that their inheritance in Christ is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading…” Jesus appears among his friends, with them behind their locked door, and he must say to them, “Peace be with you.” He breathes the Holy Spirit on them, charging his friends to go out and preach. He shows them that security is not the Christian answer to fear. It is his peace that trumps our fear, and our commission from Jesus himself—“I send you as the Father has sent me”—this commission is the source of our peace.

So, what is peace for a Christian? We might have this idea that Christian peace is pacifist; that is, we might tend to conflate “peace” with “being passive” and call “pacifism” the only proper attitude for a Christian to take in the face of violence, persecution, or trial. And why not? Surely, it is the case that when faced with the ire of the Jewish leaders, the disciples run home and lock their doors. Surely, it is case that in the early church one soul after another drops out when the way gets to be too much to handle. Surely, it is better to live another day to preach than it is to die inopportunely? Surely, Thomas is right to deny the bizarre claims of his brothers that the dead and buried Jesus has appeared to them. With both the temple and the state chasing you for being a heretic and a traitor, surely, it is best to shut up, run away, hide, and wait. Surely, surely, this cannot be true for the peaceful Christian! Thanks be to God, it is not.

Our peace as a risen Church is not rooted in pacifism, a passive lounging about in the face of opposition. Our peace as a risen Church is rooted in what Peter calls our “new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. . .” Our peace is “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,” gifted to us by our Father, we “who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith…,” we who are ordered by the Spirit to rejoice “so that the genuineness of [our] faith, more precious than gold…even though tested by fire, may prove to be for the praise, glory, and honor” of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our peace as the risen Body of Christ is our “indescribable and glorious joy. . .” We do not live with hope. We do not live in hope. We are Hope—embodied, living, growing, spreading; we are attaining “the goal of [our] faith, the salvation of [our] souls.”

It is not enough that I achieve the goals of faith for myself. We, all of us, the whole Church, we are charged with “going out,” with “being sent” and with sending others out. To live as if the single end of our living hope is my personal salvation in is to live fearfully, dreadfully, passively; to live against the hard, bare witness of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. To believe that I alone am saved by the Cross and the Empty Tomb, to believe that my salvation is sufficient and that now all I need do is wait—this is another betrayal, another act of Judas, another discount on the ministry of Christ. Luke tells us in his Acts that “awe came upon everyone. . .All who believed were together and had all things in common. . .Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together. . .They ate their meals. . .praising God and enjoying favor with all the people.” We defeat fear together as Hope, or we live in dread. . .alone.

Look at Thomas. The disciples, locked behind their fearful door, witness the risen Christ—his wounds, his peace—they witness Christ as they have never seen him before. Thomas is not there. And when his brothers testify to Christ’s visit, he says, “Unless I see the marks. . .I will not believe.” One week passes and we can only imagine what happens in that single week. Do the disciples plead with Thomas to believe? Do they challenge his lack of faith? Do they argue with his skepticism, his need for physical evidence? Why do they need for Thomas to believe? Maybe Thomas regrets his willful rejection of his brothers’ witness. Or, maybe he becomes more and more obstinate in the face of their cajoling. Maybe Thomas, exhausted from the pressure, resolves to live alone, outside the witness of his friends. In just one week, maybe everything he learned from his Master sours, and he grows in fear. Who knows? We don’t. What we do know is that one week later, our Lord appears to them again and he gives Thomas what Thomas believes he needs to believe: physical proof. But lest Thomas or any of us begin to think that this faithless demand for evidence is ordinary, Jesus teaches them and us: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Let’s say here that Thomas’ sin is not unbelief per se, but a failure to be “a living hope” with his brothers. Rather than hope with his friends, Thomas demands a demonstration for his security; he needs to know before he believes. And so his peace, freely given through God’s hope, is ruined. Fortunately for him, our Lord decides to restore his peace and teach him a lesson.

In this you rejoice: “Peace be with you!” And what a peace it is! First, Jesus says to the frightened disciples: Peace be with you. Then he says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Let’s see. . .where did the Father send Jesus? A three year teaching and preaching trek across the home country with angry Jewish leaders and Romans soldiers on his heels with little more than twelve guys who sometimes got it but most of the time didn’t, one of whom will eventually sell him as a criminal to the authorities, and the others will run like whipped puppies into the night right before his trial and execution! Peace be with you. . .here’s your suffering and death, have fun with it. Obviously, Christian peace is not a form of pacifism but a radical means of being the living hope of God for others…despite the risks, despite the trials, despite the costs. And despite the risks, the trials and the costs, we have this truth from Peter: the Lord our God and Father in his great mercy has given us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. That living hope has been given to US not to you or to me but to US and nothing can stand against it, nothing, if we but take the peace of Christ, our living hope for eternal life, and spread it thick like spring seed. We have seen the Lord! Now, peace be with you. . .