Feel Good Sunday: The Advocate, the Guard and the Force of the Horse at Christmas

Straight from the Horse's Heart

Excerpt from the book “Straight from the Horse’s Heart” by R.T. Fitch

“An annual repeat but one of my favorites as there is a whole lot of my own blood, sweat and tears in this tale. 

Again, although written almost a decade ago the words speak to what we still do this day. 

One could call that pathetic but I prefer to call it tenacity as we have morphed and are working in ways and with tools we did not have ten years ago. 

In fact, as we continue to fight for the wild ones, neither the enemy nor advocates are aware that we are pumping information to news outlets from behind the scenes.  Yup, quietly and covertly Wild Horse Freedom Federation is filing FOIAs, writing columns, conducting covert investigations and selectively releasing information to those who will spread the word.  We have matured.

So if you don’t…

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The Christmas When Everybody Was There December 24, 2018 · Fr. Stephen Freeman

The soldiers were scattered across Europe with the loneliness of war. The world was caught up in a total struggle. Women had gone to the factories; children were collecting scrap metal. The “war effort” was universal. In many places, food was rationed. The madhouse of consumption belonged only to the war; everything else could wait. And there was Christmas. Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley were part of the effort as well, cranking out songs that have never gone away. The mood was one of deep sentimentality and hope. “I’ll be home for Christmas,” the radios played, and soldiers wept.

Being born in the early 50’s, I grew up in the cultural aftermath of the Second World War. The adults had not recovered from the experience and continued to remember it actively, even passionately. When rationing ended in Britain in 1954, there were those who felt that something important had been lost. At one point, the Labour Party had argued for indefinite rationing. The commonality of shared suffering, it seemed, was a stronger bond than the commonality of shared prosperity. Interesting that.

No one was nostalgic for the war itself. The fighting, bombing and the certainty of death and injury were gladly left behind. But the common bond of a common effort remained a lively part of a generation’s memory. The stories only ended when they were laid to rest. The nostalgia, I think, was for the commonality, an experience that banished loneliness and gave meaning to even the smallest actions. The prosperity that followed was hollow. For what purpose do we now shop?

Commonality is a fundamental part of life in a healthy world. It is akin to love itself and an extension of self-sacrifice. It is a world in which we receive far more than we give. It is also something that lies at the heart of the classical Christian account of salvation. We are saved within an act of inexhaustible and all-encompassing commonality in the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ. Unless those events are seen through the lens of commonality, they cannot be understood.

St. Paul describes Christ as the “Second Adam.” He does not mean by this that Christ is merely a “do-over,” a second start for humanity. Rather, as an Adam, He is a summary and “re-capitulation” of the whole of humanity. The name “Adam,” in Hebrew, also means “man.” It is the term for our collective humanity as well as the man, Adam. As Second Adam, Christ is the new Man, but also a collective new Man. It is this that is referenced by St. Paul when he says that we should put off the old man and put on the new (Col. 3:9-10).

The Virgin is more than the one who carries the Christ Child in her womb; she is also the source of His humanity. He “took flesh” of the Virgin Mary (σαρκωθέντα ἐκ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου καὶ Μαρίας τῆς παρθένου), the Creed tells us. That “flesh” should not be seen as an isolated reference to biological meat. It is everything that constitutes our humanity: “and was made man” (ἐνανθρωπήσαντα). The reality of our humanity, whether of the First Adam or the Second, is collective.

In the Orthodox tradition, the two Sundays before Christmas are set aside to commemorate the Holy Forefathers, and the Holy Ancestors. It is a recognition that in the flesh of Mary is the flesh of many generations, indeed, the gathering of all flesh. It is a recognition that in the faith of Mary is the faith of the generations that have gone before as well. Christ has come for us, in us, that with us in Him, He might live, die and live again and we as well. This is the true fullness of Christmas.

In this true story of Christmas, everyone comes home. We are all there. We are united together in Christ in the common struggle that is our salvation. This war in which we live is the only true World War, and perhaps greater than that. Its outcome has long ago been determined in Christ but it remains something to be lived and fulfilled in us.

We’ll be home for Christmas. Christ is born. Glorify Him.

St. Nicholas Is Too Old and Too Tired to Defeat the Selling Power of Santa Claus!

pastordawn

santa_as_satanToday: the Feast of St. Nicholas, the ancient precursor to the modern Santa Claus, will pass without much ado. Some will try to encourage us to resurrect St. Nicholas to save us all from Santa’s powers for we have gone astray.  To those well meaning souls who would rid Christmas of its flagrant consumerism, I can only offer up a feeble, “Baa Humbug!”

The very best traditions about St. Nicholas suggest that he was a protector of children while the worst tradition has him providing dowries so that young girls could be married off by their father rather than be sold into slavery. Meanwhile, the modern character Santa Claus grooms children to take up their role as consumers in the cult materialism. Some parents may bemoan the little gimmie-monsters that their children become, but most adults are rendered helpless by our own remembered indoctrinations and so we join in what we choose…

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Judicial Decision 1366 Reflections — A Potter’s View

The One Church Plan takes the method out of United Methodism. That method has been connectionalism and it has been grossly redefined by the OCP and the Judicial Council: “As a primary principle in any organizational structure of The United Methodist Church, connectionalism denotes a vital web of interactive relationships—multi-leveled, global in scope, and local […]

via Judicial Decision 1366 Reflections — A Potter’s View

Facing up to reality by Fr. Freeman

Imagine that you have never seen a mirror, much less had a picture taken of yourself or broadcast your image on social media. Imagine, as well, that you’ve never taken advantage of a still pool of water to admire yourself. How would you know what you look like? Lost within our modern culture is the fact that the face is not created for its owner. For eons, human beings had little idea of how they looked other than what they were told by others. That is the true normal.

Nothing is more truly “personal” than the face. In Greek, the word for person, “prosopon,” means “face.” What we mean by the word “person” is a metaphorical extension of the face. Within, or upon, the face is placed “who we are.” But this reality is distorted by the modern fascination with our own face. What is most important about the face is not how I look, but how we look to each other, face-to-face.

When theologians get technical about the notion of “personhood,” they quickly tell us that it is “relational.” My face is only revealed as my face when it is seen by another face. Or, more correctly, when it is seen looking at another face by the other face. We only know ourselves as we see ourselves in the faces of others.

In a culture that increasingly exists as a mirror (selfie’s and such), true self-knowledge is more difficult. In a manner of speaking, looking inward at the mirror is looking in the wrong direction. Our psychologized society tends to direct our attention towards the self. “I have been working on some issues,” we say. But, if the faith is true, and love is that which most truly heals us, then the answer is not within my own face (gazing in the mirror), but in the encounter with others.

I have been writing, from time to time, on the topic of shame. It is an emotion that can be entirely crippling. Ironically, it is something that cannot be healed alone. One psychologist defines shame as “how the self sees the self.” Shame fears being seen. But it is only in revealing shame in the context of love and safety that its wounds can be identified and healed. Of course, it is a very deep wound within our “person,” for shame creates a wall between ourselves and others. And, not so strange, the primary expression of shame is looking away, or looking down. Shame does not want to see face-to-face.

But, my thoughts in this article, are on personhood, what does it mean to exist “personally.” I will suggest that we think of it as “who-I-am-as-I-see-and-as-I-am-seen.” These are simultaneous and cannot be separated. We are told by Christ, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” God can only be seen face-to-face because He is personal. The Lutheran Theologian, Robert Jenson, once said, “The Father only knows Himself as He sees Himself in the Son.” This is true. The very names by which God has made Himself known show this. The term “Father” has no meaning in isolation. “Father of whom?” we have to ask. “Son,” is the same. And if we understood the word for “Spirit,” we would know that it is the word “breath.” “Who’s breath?” In every case within the Trinity, there is only being-in-and-towards-the-other.

For convenience sake, we have created a false consciousness in which things-in-relation are separated and discussed as though they stood alone without reference. We imagine our human existence in this manner, though it is never true. We have no such existence. Everything within the created order has this same characteristic. Nothing exists apart from everything else that exists. But this is a difficult way to think (much less speak). And so, we resort (for convenience sake) to a shorthand version of existence, soon forgetting that it is shorthand and mistaking it for what is real and true.

This leads to the nonsense of atheist speech. If I say, “I am,” (which must be said before I say anything about myself), I have already invoked God, who is our being. Nothing has existence in and of itself, except God. He is the “author of our being.” He is “That-Within-Which-We-Exist.” He is thus a part of every conversation whether acknowledged or not. We speak God. He is the Logos, That-Which-Is-The-Order-of-All-Things. We do not make random noises when we speak, but evoke an order and grammar, meaning and sense, none of which exists apart from the Logos.

The most revealing thing within human history is the appearing of Jesus Christ in our midst. In this coming-among-us, we see the face of God. That face alone can tell us who we truly are. I can only know myself as I see myself in Him. He is the face of God and the face of man. I do not exist apart from His face, nor does Christ, as man, exist apart from us. It is only when we turn our faces away from Him, or worse yet, become enthralled to the false mirrors we have created, that we cease to exist, or begin a movement in that direction. In that movement, and its distorted mirror, the fullness and the wholeness of all things are swallowed up in the madness of solipsism. Nothing makes sense by itself, in itself, for itself. Nothing can be seen truly in that manner.

We have a greater hope.

And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. (Rev. 22:3-4)