Author: Stephen Holmgren

I have been an Episcopal priest for thirty five years, having served in parishes and in academia. My interests include art and theology, liturgy and spirituality, and I love to go sailing whenever I can.

The Beauty Toward Which We Live

 

As Luke presents the first and great example of Jesus’ teaching, the Lord addresses his listeners after praying all night ~ the same night of prayer preceding his choice of the Twelve. Luke therefore puts Jesus’ Beatitudes in a significant context. In contrast to Matthew’s sermon on the mount, Luke portrays Jesus as speaking on a plain, with a further notable difference. In Luke, Jesus directs his words to his twelve newly designated apostles as well as to the wider community of disciples that he is gathering. In other words, in Luke, Jesus is forming and encouraging a community of disciples, who will follow him in how they live, as well as preserve his teaching.

This question can help us hear Luke’s Beatitudes: Toward what do we live? For we all live toward something! To one degree or another, we all start by living toward ourselves. All too easily, we arrive at a false conclusion ~ that the best way of living is to be rich, always having plenty to eat, with a life that is unburdened by cares and full of pleasurable entertainment. Having all these things, we also expect to have the positive regard of our neighbors and acquaintances. Whether consciously or not, these are the features of the life toward which most of us live. And that toward which we live, therefore, also shapes how we live.

Jesus’ beatitudes are the inverse of the woes he describes. Blessed are the poor, and those who are hungry. Blessed are those who weep, and those who are hated and excluded ~ all on account of the one who reveals what it means to be truly human. These indications of blessedness are about what it means to be human in the way that God intends for us to be. And they exemplify what it means to be made in the beauty of God’s image. This is because people who are poor, hungry and who weep tend to live toward God, and toward the beauty of God’s power, rather than toward themselves. They become like trees planted by streams of water.

This helps us appreciate something that Luke observes in the same context ~ that all in the crowd were trying to touch Jesus, “for power came out from him and healed all of them.” Aware of their needs, people had come out to hear him and be physically healed, and cured of their unclean spirits. The key was not simply their need, but more importantly their awareness of their need. In Jesus’ view, we are blessed when are aware of our need for transformation toward the beauty of wholeness and flourishing.

 

The painting above is James Tissot’s, Jesus Teaches By the Sea. This post is based on my homily for Sunday, February 3, 2019, which can be accessed by clicking here.  Other homilies of mine may be accessed by clicking here. The Revised Common Lectionary, which specifies the readings for Sundays and other Holy Days, can be accessed by clicking here.

Caught By the Beauty of the Word

 

James Tissot’s painting of the great draught of fish portrays an early miracle in Luke’s Gospel. Unlike Jesus’ prior acts of exorcism and physical healing, we may feel more able to relate to this story. Perhaps it’s less difficult to imagine, and more explainable in terms of timing and old-fashioned luck. But this is just the point. Luke’s story is not about fishing. Nor is it about how good fortune can change our attitude. Instead, Luke tells this story because of its powerful metaphorical significance, which we need to ‘unfold.’

Jesus encounters a crowd at the edge of the sea. Luke describes the people as eager to hear the word of God. Jesus begins teaching them and a group of fishermen by the shore. But though they listen, nothing seems to sink in until some of them actively participate in what he is teaching. The spiritual writer, John Shea, helps us appreciate the heart of this story ~ that listening to the Word is not enough in itself. And the power of the Word is not unleashed until we are caught by it. The Word that Jesus shares is not just a bunch of rules, or doctrine to be memorized. He teaches so as to bring light to darkness, and life to what has died. And he does this precisely to illumine darkened hearts and minds, and motivate faltering willfulness. All this, so that people might actually change how they live. John Shea’s special insight is this: that “when fish are caught, they move from the darkness beneath the sea, into” the light above. Shea’s observation becomes all the more meaningful when we recall that the ancient secret symbol for Christians and churches was a fish.

This is symbolism that we should want to recover. Particularly if we remember Israel’s historic ambivalence about the sea, and its depths. The story of Jonah comes to mind, and the beautiful poetry of the second chapter. There, Jonah gives voice to the experience of being trapped in the depths of the ocean among the kelp and the weeds. For a land-based people, who spent long periods as nomadic shepherds, the sea was the worst place where Israelites might end up. Remember the Exodus, and how God’s people marveled at the way the “fathomless deep” overwhelmed their enemies, who “sank into the depths like a stone.” This is also why the Gospel ‘calming of the storm’ episodes are so memorable. For Jesus exhibits the power of God to tame the most fearful aspects of nature, and bring order out of watery chaos.

Sensitive to the ‘depths’ of this symbolism, we are more likely to be ‘caught by the Word.’

 

I would like to acknowledge my dependence upon John Shea’s commentary for many of the insights I offer here (see his book, The Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels for Christian Preachers and Teachers: Luke, Year C).

This post is based on my homily for Sunday, February 3, 2019, which can be accessed by clicking here.  Other homilies of mine may be accessed by clicking here. The Revised Common Lectionary, which specifies the readings for Sundays and other Holy Days, can be accessed by clicking here.

The Paradoxical Beauty in Being Called

We might assume that, ‘in a perfect world,’ God’s call only leads to good things, like harmony, peace and goodwill. But Scripture and Christian history suggest otherwise! In our world, at least initially, God’s call sometimes leads to other things like confusion or anxiety, through which the Spirit’s true peace may emerge. God’s call can disrupt life as we know it now, allowing patterns of grace to replace what is familiar. And God’s call can also leave us feeling challenged rather than affirmed. Here is the point: in situations like these, God’s purpose is not to bring confusion or disruption, even if it brings challenge. God’s purpose is to further our growth and fulfillment. This is why we pay attention to how the community hears a call just as much as we attend to how individuals hear it. Since hearing a call can be challenging, we seek to do this kind of ‘Spirit-listening’ in community ~ and for the sake of community.

Early in Luke’s Gospel Jesus speaks in his hometown synagogue. As he does, he reveals something profound about his own call, which points to the way that God is calling his Nazareth community. At first, Jesus’ former neighbors praise him, expressing marvel at his words and deeds. But when they discern how his prophetic ministry has expansive implications, rather than being narrowly focused on benefits for them, everything changes. After praising him, they lead him to the brow of a hill so they can kill him! Just as the leaders of Jerusalem wanted to do to God’s prophet, Jeremiah, some 500 years earlier.

Paradox abounds in this story at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. His teaching and works of healing reveal that he is filled with the power of God’s Spirit. God’s Spirit can do anything. Except that God gives us the curious freedom to refuse the Spirit’s power. Sometimes we refuse this power overtly, especially when we feel like God is asking us to do something difficult or uncomfortable. And sometimes we refuse this power through subtle denial, by closing our hearts and minds to new possibilities toward which God is leading us. The folks in Nazareth want their hometown wonderworker to stay ‘local,’ and bring focused blessings upon them. They refuse to see how Jesus’ vocation exceeds the limited parameters they allow for him, as well as for themselves.

We may not share Jeremiah’s particular vocation to be a prophet. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t received a vocation, a calling. For we are all called! We are called to participate together in God’s Word, as the Spirit-led community. We are called to flourish together within our Lord’s Body. And, we are called to share his holy life with those who have not yet experienced it. These things can be hard to do. But God always give us the grace and strength to respond to the Spirit’s call. For, as a community, we have been called!

 

This post is based on my homily for Sunday, February 3, 2019, which can be accessed by clicking here.  Other homilies of mine may be accessed by clicking here. The Revised Common Lectionary, which specifies the readings for Sundays and other Holy Days, can be accessed by clicking here.

Beauty in the Fullness of Light

The Orthodox theologian, John Zizioulas, teaches us that we all have a natural biological aspect to our identity. And that each of us also has a supernatural, baptismal or church aspect to our identity. So, do we privilege one or the other of these two aspects of who we are?

On one hand, though we have the same biophysical human-nature, there are absolutely differentiating characteristics between us. We have unique fingerprints; our DNA profile marks us as different from every other person; and new facial recognition technology depends upon slight but importantly distinguishable features that set us apart from all others. These things characterize the natural biological aspect of our identity.

At the same time, though we all have unique and different gifts and ministries (as Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians), we have the same baptismal church identity. We are reminded of this every time we celebrate the rite of Baptism. Quoting Paul in Ephesians, we begin the liturgy by saying, “There is one Body and one Spirit; There is one hope in God’s call to us; One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism; One God and Father of all.”

These phrases tell us that the defining characteristic of the Church is our oneness in Christ, through the Holy Spirit. We can treasure all the unique ways we differ from one another, and the blessings these differences may bring. But with respect to our baptismal church identity, what we share in common has primacy. Individually, we have been given one or more of what Paul describes as lesser gifts, such as prophecy, teaching, healing, leadership and tongues. But he urges us to strive for what he calls the greater gifts, which turn out to be Faith, Hope and Charitable Love, each of which is given by the Holy Spirit for the common good.

And so, with respect to natural created goods, differences and diversity provide appreciable delight, and enrichment. But with respect to supernatural gifts opened to us by Baptism, unity and commonality best express our oneness in Christ.

Light is a frequent biblical metaphor for the gift of God’s presence, especially in John’s Gospel. And the science of light has something to teach us about the Church. Painters know that with pigments in paint, white represents the absence of color, or the absence of difference. But with light, a true white light represents the spectrum of all colors. This is not due to the quality of any single color, but precisely because of the unity of all colors. When it comes to light, if we see individual colors we are only seeing partial aspects of the whole! This gives us insight about the Church. In order to see the whole, we must respect the presence of the parts. And in attending to the parts, we must also respect the unity and oneness that God seeks to form and nurture between us. The ark had the whole spectrum of animals within it. And our ark, the Church, holds and carries all of us!

 

This post is based on my homily for Sunday, January 27, 2019, which can be accessed by clicking here.  Other homilies of mine may be accessed by clicking here. The Revised Common Lectionary, which specifies the readings for Sundays and other Holy Days, can be accessed by clicking here.

The Beauty of Cana’s Living Water

 

In so many paintings depicting the Wedding at Cana story, the astonishing lavishness of what Jesus provides is diminished ~ especially when set side-by-side with the portrayal of what the wedding hosts provide. We miss seeing the heart of this story ~ that through Jesus, the abundance of divine glory comes into a world colored by human scarcity. For he is the true ‘host’ even if, at first, his abundant gifts seem hidden. Peter Koenig’s larger painting, of which this is only a portion, captures all this beautifully. Here, we see another section of it, which obviously depicts the Cana theme.

As we have previously noticed, Koenig’s painting is profoundly biblical while not being literal. For he is faithful to John’s highly symbolic and mystical, rather than literal, approach. And so, though we see the stone water jars mentioned by John, we find Jesus and his mother portrayed in a more contemporary setting, complete with a modern-looking table and wine glasses. Once again, we need to ‘read’ the symbolic imagery to grasp the fuller significance of what both John’s Gospel and Peter Koenig’s painting offer to us.

The center of Koenig’s larger painting portrays a vision of the New Jerusalem, the city of God, coming down from heaven (for a more complete view, see the prior post, below). This image follows what we find described in the Book of Revelation. This New Jerusalem becomes God’s dwelling place among God’s people. And at its center is the enthroned Lamb, with his ‘bride’ the Church at his side. From the Lamb’s side comes the water of life, pouring into the fallen but being redeemed world. The cleansing and purifying water of life fills the jars, as well as provides the context for Baptism. And as Peter Koenig mystically portrays, this water then becomes the very good wine which is served at the wedding feast.

Revelation also speaks of the marriage supper of the Lamb, where saints and martyrs join him in the heavenly realm. Koenig portrays the company of these holy ones standing before and around the throne, apparently bearing gifts. If you look closely, you will see that they are carrying the instruments of their martyrdom, while one of them leads what surely represents a colosseum lion. In several places in the painting, we see what Revelation refers to as the tree of life standing near them and near the gushing living water. For those who have died to the powers of this world are alive to the power of the next.

Among so many paintings representing the Cana story, this may be among the most faithful to what John wants us to see, and to believe. And John’s Cana story, like the whole of his Gospel, is about the wedding of the human and the divine, in Jesus.

 

This detail of Peter Koenig’s larger painting is reproduced here with the artist’s kind permission. This and other examples of his religious artwork can be seen by visiting the website of his parish church, where much of it is displayed (click here).  This post is based on my homily for Sunday, January 20, 2019, which can be accessed by clicking here.  Other homilies of mine may be accessed by clicking here. The Revised Common Lectionary, which specifies the readings for Sundays and other Holy Days, can be accessed by clicking here.

The Further Beauty of the Epiphany

Everyday, people are tortured and killed because of their religious and political beliefs. Many of them are Christians, who are willing to die rather than renounce their faith.

This has been true throughout history, and it is a poignant aspect of the Christmas and Epiphany Gospels. Peter Koenig’s wonderful tryptic painting, Christmas—Epiphany, helps make this clear. The death of Jesus is intimately connected with the death and anticipated resurrection of others. The Lamb that was slain becomes the Temple at the center of the New Jerusalem, from which the rivers of the water of life flow. The wine at the wedding at Cana prefigures the same supernatural refreshment for which St. Stephen was willing to die. And the Twelve Days of Christmas also include Holy Innocents’ Day, the feast commemorating those killed by Herod in his search to eliminate the baby Jesus as a potential rival. Jesus’ Baptism declares his vocation, a vocation which involves each of these things and more.

An equally real but more subtle threat is increasingly evident in our society ~ radical secularism. When the culture around us no longer supports our religious faith, it becomes intolerant. People then begin to act with hostility against us. As a result, at least two things happen. We soften our religious commitments so we fit-in better with others. And, we lose confidence that the Gospel has world-wide significance, for all human beings. As a result, we draw back from practicing our faith, a faith that has public implications. We then retreat to private beliefs that now only have personal and spiritual meaning.

Think for a moment about John 3:16: “For God so loved the world…” The Greek behind these words has sweeping implications. For God so loved the cosmos (the whole creation), that he gave his only Son… in order that the cosmos might be saved through him. In other words, for John, the Gospel has universal implications, not just personal, spiritual significance. This is a gospel for which we might be willing to die, precisely because it is first of all a gospel for which we are willing to live.

It is imprecise and misleading therefore to say that ‘faith changes the world.’ Instead, we should say that God changes the world, in part through people of faith. We have faith in the God who created, and then inhabited, the whole cosmos. And, God has acted for the sake of the whole cosmos.

 

Peter Koenig’s painting is reproduced here with the artist’s kind permission. This and other examples of his religious artwork can be seen by visiting the website of his parish church, where much of it is displayed (click here).  This post is based on my homily for The Baptism of Christ, January 13, 2019, which can be accessed by clicking here.  Other homilies of mine may be accessed by clicking here. The Revised Common Lectionary, which specifies the readings for Sundays and other Holy Days, can be accessed by clicking here.

The Beauty of the Epiphany

 

Here we see Peter Koenig’s evocative depiction of The Magi offering gifts to the holy child. The artist is a contemporary Roman Catholic painter, many of whose religious paintings are displayed within a church located in Northamptonshire, England. It’s not far from the parish where Henry Moore’s Madonna and Child is situated, the sculpture we viewed in the prior post. Though Koenig often depicts biblical figures in contemporary settings, this painting of the Magi worshipping the Christ Child is both traditional and also Byzantine in style. As in much of his work, recognizable elements of the Gospel story are intertwined with highly symbolic biblical imagery. By ‘reading’ some of the imagery Peter Koenig shares with us, his painting enriches our celebration of the Epiphany, and our appreciation for its greater meaning in our lives.

Along with obvious features in the Gospel narratives, Peter Koenig’s painting employs other biblical imagery symbolizing the broader significance of the event that is portrayed. Right away we notice the large and rough wooden cross, draped with an abundantly grape-bearing vine. The cross as an instrument of death became the fruitful tree of life, and a source of what we receive in the cup of the New Covenant. As a result, the Holy One who is worshipped is the Vine, to whom we become connected as branches.

Employing this kind of symbolism, Nativity scenes often include passion flowers and lilies, associated with our Lord’s death and resurrection. Peter Koenig’s painting has other evident suggestions of Jesus’ destined saving work. The large and open stone square represents the door of our Lord’s tomb, along with its round stone cover, rolled aside by his resurrection. In fulfillment of the Genesis promise to Eve, her counterpoint, Mary, is shown treading upon the serpent whom we associate with the cause of our suffering and death. Mary’s tunic is turquoise, that lovely mix of blue and green. Here in the clothing of the mother of new life, ‘Marian blue’ is blended with the color we associate with life in the natural world, the greenery of trees and shrubs.

Another symbol regarding the vocation of the holy child is the way in which he is clothed. Notice that he is covered by strips of cloth, wrapped around his body, just as his body is later prepared for burial. And in each of his hands, we see him grasp a nail spike. The band of cloth wrapped around his shoulders suggests the mantle or yoke of which he later speaks, and which we find represented in the stoles that deacons and priests wear in the liturgy.

The three differing cupolas of the very Russian-looking church surely represent the Trinitarian being of God, and its significance for our redemption. Another recognizable image, the wine jar in the lower right corner, stems from how this picture is part of a much larger triptych. The complete work depicts several Christmas and Epiphany themes ~ not only the Magi’s visit, but also the wedding at Cana and the Baptism of Jesus, along with the martyrdom of St. Stephen.

In addition, the shells on the foreground suggest the seaside, and may symbolize the liminal shoreline between this realm and the greater life beyond. The scallop shell is associated with St. James, who along with his fisherman brother, John, was one of our Lord’s first disciples. The shell has an ancient pre-Christian association with death and rebirth, as well as our journey into the next life for which we hope. We often use a scallop shell to scoop the water at Baptism. And in the background of this painting, we find suggestions of the harsh and inhospitable aspects of the fallen world, represented both by inanimate stone as well as glacial mountains of ice and snow. The tree of life stands out all the more against this backdrop.

 

Peter Koenig’s painting is reproduced here with the artist’s kind permission. This and other examples of his religious artwork can be seen by visiting the website of his parish church, where much of it is displayed (click here).  This post is based on my homily for The Epiphany, January 6, 2019, which can be accessed by clicking here.  Other homilies of mine may be accessed by clicking here. The Revised Common Lectionary, which specifies the readings for Sundays and other Holy Days, can be accessed by clicking here.

The Beauty of Her Gaze

 

Henry Moore was perhaps the most well-known British sculptor of the 20th century. As happened with some American artists during WWII, Moore was engaged to use his artistic skills as part of his nation’s war effort. His drawings of people sheltering in the London Tube tunnels during the bombing were compelling. And they had a great effect on a certain priest who was considering commissioning a sculpture. In particular, Henry Moore’s way of depicting mothers holding their children struck this priest as indicating a great sensitivity. This led him to hire Moore to carve a large stone Madonna and Child for St. Matthew’s, Northampton.

Though Henry Moore was not a practicing Christian, he was rather thoughtful about the spiritual dimension of this important commission. He was already making sculptures in a modern manner tending toward abstraction (see his St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, Mother and Child). And yet, he knew that this piece had in some way to be different. At the time, he wrote that, unlike secular sculpture, this piece “could not be too abstract or it would have forgone the traditional deep meaning of the subject.” Here is how he described his thinking about the project:

I began thinking of the ‘Madonna and Child’ for St Matthew’s by considering in what ways a Madonna and Child differs from a carving of just a ‘Mother and Child’ – that is by considering how in my opinion religious art differs from secular art. It’s not easy to describe in words what this difference is, except by saying in general terms that the ‘Madonna and Child’ should have an austerity and a nobility and some touch of grandeur (even hieratic {or ‘priestly’} aloofness), which is missing in the ‘everyday’ Mother and Child idea.

Humanly accessible, and yet spiritually apart, might be another way of capturing Henry Moore’s thought here. Like some other artists, Moore achieves this human accessibility by building upon an important strand of Christian spirituality. Mary provides and becomes our human connection with the incarnate Holy One. In this sense, Mary is not only the mother of our Lord, but also the mother of our faith. Look at her posture, in this photo of Moore’s sculpture. As I understand it, a person walking forward seeking to view this work up close, advances along an aisle that is to the side of the sculpture. And so, Mary’s face and gaze engage the approaching viewer. This connection is therefore established before the visitor stands face to face with the representation of the Christ child. To extend this idea, the Church as our mother, engages and upholds us as we approach the mystery of Mary’s God-given child.

 

This post is based on my homily for the First Sunday After Christmas, December 30, 2018, which can be accessed by clicking here.  Other homilies of mine may be accessed by clicking here. The Revised Common Lectionary, which specifies the readings for Sundays and other Holy Days, can be accessed by clicking here.

The Beauty of the Nativity

 

Christmas celebrates how, through Jesus’ visitation and by his presence within us, our Lord joins us. With him we are changed from all that is merely human, toward being more than simply human. He transforms us beyond the limits of what we presently know. And he fulfills the potential that our loving God has placed within us. This is why we gather to celebrate the Nativity on what is often a day other than Sunday. Because we yearn for more.

St. Francis of Assisi figured this out long ago. In what some mistakenly call the ‘dark ages,’ he perceived a light-filled truth. Blessed Francis figured out that every one of us, educated or uneducated, rich like his father or poor like himself… that every one of us needs something. We need not only to hear The Great Story at some point in our lives. We need to hear The Story over and over again. And not only hear it, but also see it. And when we hear and see the story again and again, its truth has great power to overcome our spiritual deafness and blindness, and soak into our dry hearts and minds. It is to blessed Francis that we owe having nativity scenes in our churches and homes. And it is to Francis that we owe including nativity ‘plays’ in our liturgy at Christmas. Christmas is all about how the great thing that we seek has come near, into our midst, available to our experience.

In the painting above, James Tissot has beautifully captured St. Francis’ insight about the nativity scene. Notice how unearthly light radiates outward from the holy child. At the bidding of angels, lowly shepherds have come looking for him. What joy warms their hearts in this fulfillment of their search ~ the same fulfillment we can find for our own unceasing search. Their joy can be ours, as we reflect on what we hope for by our celebration of Jesus’ birth.

The Great One who was, and is, and is to come, is here! He is here in love because he will always be with us. As the Gospels promise, we find in the Nativity the fulfillment of our abiding human desire ~ our desire for true meaning and purpose, and lasting love. We discover it in God’s self-revealing, and in the manifestation of the Spirit’s presence. Paradoxically, we find God’s presence in the most vulnerable form of human presence ~ in a baby born in the filth of a stable, where animals are brought in from the harsh and inhospitable winter fields around us.

And so, our Christmas discovery begins when we acknowledge that we yearn for more than what we apprehend every day. In the face of Jesus, we meet the fulfillment of our yearning. For in him we find abiding love, true meaning and purpose.

 

This post is based on my homily for Christmas Eve, December 1624 2018, which can be accessed by clicking here.  Other homilies of mine may be accessed by clicking here. The Revised Common Lectionary, which specifies the readings for Sundays and other Holy Days, can be accessed by clicking here.

The Paradoxical Beauty of Hope

 

As all four Gospels attest, John the Baptizer’s ministry occurs in the wilderness around the Jordan River. This requires people to go out to him. James Tissot’s painting of the scene nicely captures the drama of their interaction. For as the artist depicts, people do not casually encounter John in the public square or marketplace, but out in a barren region to which they deliberately have to travel. Therefore, in addition to those who have come out with malice, many journey to John with a genuine curiosity and a sincere spirit of inquiry.

Luke reports how John greets these people in an apparently hostile way: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee the wrath to come?” As we see in the painting, among them are various officials and soldiers. Surprisingly, they don’t turn and leave when they perceive the prophet’s scorn. Instead, they respond with a question: “What then should we do?” To which John responds with concise, practical —but also unexpected— advice. He does not tell the tax collectors to stop serving the infidel foreign regime occupying their historic lands. Nor does John tell the soldiers to abandon their compromised relationship with the Roman-supported local authorities. Instead, he counsels them on how to behave ethically, while they remain in their present roles! Astonishing!

And John says all this in the context of predicting the Coming One, the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. This will be the true Messiah, who will manifest his vocation by wielding a “winnowing fork in his hand.” He will “clear the threshing floor and… gather the wheat into his granary; [while] the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Paradoxically, Luke refers to these dramatic and threatening predictions as the proclamation of good news.

The appointed Lectionary readings from Paul and Luke, for the third Sunday of Advent, complement a reading from Zephaniah. For the prophet speaks of “the king of Israel, the Lord” who is in our midst ~ “a warrior who gives victory,” and who renews us in his love. Zephaniah urges us to rejoice, and not to fear, while he points to the implications of God’s mission for the world. Prefiguring Paul’s later words in Philippians 4, which encourage us to rejoice and not fear anything, Zephaniah challenges us to practice the virtue of hope. Like faith and charitable love, hope is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Though it is a gift, we need to put it into practice. Hope, faith and charitable love are therefore more than feelings, more than passing sentiments. And we should expect to see these beautiful signs of the Spirit’s movement in our churches. We notice them as we are lifted up by a rising tide ~ the rising tide of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our midst.

 

This post is based on my homily for Advent 3, December 16, 2018, which can be accessed by clicking here.  Other homilies of mine may be accessed by clicking here. The Revised Common Lectionary, which specifies the readings for Sundays and other Holy Days, can be accessed by clicking here.