what are you looking for?

Posted By on Nov 30, 2015

(fr Cyprian, feast of Saint Andrew) I feel like I have a long friendship with St. Andrew. I grew up and went to grade school in St. Andrew’s parish (in Romeoville, Illinois); this feast was the birthday of my mother and of my best friend from high school; and my grandmother, who was Scottish, drilled it into my head that St. Andrew is the patron of Scotland due to a dubious legend about his bones being carried there; and therefore the Union Jack has the saltire or X-shaped cross of St. Andrew on it to represent Scotland. He’s also the patron of Russia, which he probably never visited, and Greece, which he might have. I visited the church of Sant’Andrea on the Amalfi coast, where his body was supposedly carried, but then again his body or pieces of it are supposedly also in Scotland, Constantinople, and Rome. For all that, Andrew never really took shape for me: I never thought of my grade school as being named after an apostle, or the patron of Scotland as being Peter’s brother, or that that X shape on the Union Jack was his cross. As I said, like many of the apostles it’s not clear at all exactly what Andrew did after the resurrection, or where he went to preach the Good News; ­­there are conflicting reports. What is clear is that he was a fisherman from Bethsaida, and it’s very clear that he was Simon Peter’s brother, and the synoptics tell of he and Peter being called always together as we hear in the gospel today (Mt 4:18-22). He seems to have been regarded as one of the most important apostles, a kind of leader in the Gospel community (he is always mentioned among the first four in the lists of the apostles), and he gets mentioned by name in a few incidents in association with Philip. In the story of the call of Andrew in the gospel of John we get a little better glimpse into Andrew’s personality and a little glimpse into the character of Jesus. From John we learn that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, and one day John was standing with Andrew and another of his disciples, and he saw Jesus walk by and called out, “Look, there’s the Lamb of God!” And Andrew and the other guy left John immediately and started following Jesus. So they’re walking along and suddenly Jesus turns around and sees them following him, and he said to them, “What are you looking for?” Jesus is direct here, right to the point, like delivering a koan. I imagine this...

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if not now, not then!

Posted By on Nov 29, 2015

(fr Cyprian, 1st Sunday of Advent) Way ahead of the secular world, we are already celebrating the new year––not the calendar year but the liturgical year, the Church year. I always like to note that the church gives us a weird sense of time during Advent. We start out talking about the second coming and the end of time as we did the past few weeks. In some way we should hardly notice the shift from the last weeks of the church year to the first, especially in Year C, which we begin now. We hear the same gospel reading on the last day (Saturday) as we hear on the first day (Sunday): Luke 21! Then we hear about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry; and only then do we start preparing for the narrative of Jesus’ birth. It’s like we’re swimming upstream in time. Someone mentioned to me the other day a saying of the Tibetan master Milarepa: “All time is now.” That made me think of a famous old hippie book about meditation called “Be Here Now.” I am not sure about the quality of the contents of that book, but I love that title. Most of us are always mentally somewhere else. So perhaps our first call for this season is to really be here––now, to listen and celebrate the Word of God which comes to us here and now––and makes its demands on us, here and now. I was visiting a friend of mine, who is a priest and wonderful Scripture scholar and teacher, and he was telling the story of browsing through the bookstore one day. And he came across the series of novels in the Left Behind series. At first he was disappointed to see them at all, because as a Catholic he didn’t really care for their theology, but on second glance he was consoled to see where they were placed in the bookstore. They weren’t in the religion section; they were in the fiction section As far as he was concerned, that’s where they belonged; books such as these ought not be considered prophecy. They are fiction, pure and simple. Why? Because of what Jesus himself said: But of that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.[1] It is pretty clear that among other things, Jesus saw himself as what we call an “eschatological prophet,” a prophet of the end times. (Actually I was taught that a better understanding of that phrase “the end of time” is “the fullness of time,” the completion of time.) So the sections in the gospels...

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do not be terrified!

Posted By on Nov 25, 2015

(fr Cyprian, November 24) The Vietnamese Martyrs, who we celebrate on November 24th, fall into several groupings: those from the Dominican and Jesuit missionary era of the 17th century, those killed in the politically inspired persecutions of the 19th century (including the priest Andrew Dung Lac whose was beheaded in 1839), and those martyred during the Communist purges of the 20th century. The tortures that they went through were considered to be among the worst in the history of Christian martyrdom, including Christians at one point having the words ta dao, which literally means “left (sinister) religion,” branded on their faces. The Vatican estimates the number of Vietnamese martyrs at between 130,000 and 300,000. A representative sample of 117 martyrs were beatified on four separate occasions early in the 20th century. Pope St. John Paul II decided to canonize them altogether, known and unknown, and gave them a single feast day. In these last days of the church’s year we are hurtling toward Advent with all kinds of apocalyptic readings, sobering and serious. I think we are in danger of either taking it all too literally on the one hand or of dismissing it completely on the other. It seems to me that there are a few salient features of a healthy attitude toward the end times. Two things seem to me to be particularly important. First of all, a prophet is not first and foremost someone who predicts the future; the prophet is someone who can predict the present. As Jesus says in Matthew 16:3, a prophet is one who able ‘to interpret the signs of the times.’ “If we stay on this road, this is where we are going to end up.” Prophets then call people back to the right road, to the covenant with God in the Hebrew Scriptures, to the new law of mercy written on our hearts in the gospels. But along with that comes this exhortation in the gospel passage today (Lk 21:5-11), ‘Do not be terrified!’ Between Jesus and the angels in the gospels we are told about a dozen times not to be afraid, but this is the only time when Jesus says, ‘Do not be terrified!’ That word ‘terrified’ normally only comes up in the gospels when there is some kind of manifestation of the divine taking place, as when the disciples see Jesus walking on the sea, the centurion watching Jesus’ grave when the earthquake takes place, or Zechariah and the shepherds in the infancy narratives of Luke and the apostles at the transfiguration, for example. But in this case Jesus is referring to violent uprisings and false prophets....

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The hermitage was recently featured in Monterey County Now. Read all about it! Here’s a wonderful excerpt from the article: When famed travel writer and longtime Time Magazine essayist Pico Iyer was given the chance to travel anywhere in the world for National Geographic Magazine, he chose Big Sur and the New Camaldoli Hermitage. “I have been traveling all over the world for 40 years now, from Tibet to Ethiopia and my home in Kyoto, to Easter Island and North Korea and Bolivia,” Iyer writes by email from the less exotic locale of Glendale. “But I can honestly say that I’ve never found anywhere that changes me to the core as the New Camaldoli Hermitage...

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martin of tours

Posted By on Nov 12, 2015

(fr Cyprian) The rest of the church recognizes and honors Saint Martin of Tours with a memorial on November 11th as a bishop, but the monastic tradition honors him with a full feast as a monk. And, as Robert would love to point out, he is also revered and celebrated in the Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran traditions. Of course we think of Saint Benedict as the patriarch of Western monasticism, but traditionally it is Martin who has been regarded as the first monk of the West (even though this is a bit of an exaggeration). In the history of monasticism in western Europe there are though to be two strains that became Benedictine monasticism, that of Lerins and that of Martin. So, while not the most well known of saints (at least in the US), he is very pivotal. There is an old tradition, which I believe started in Milan, where Saint Martin lived for a time, of the St. Martin’s Fast, which begins this day and goes all the way until Christmas! Of course there would be a big feast on this day to begin it (like Fat Tuesday) and then the days following were called “Martinmas.” Just to give some of the highlights of his life: Saint Martin was born in Sabaria, which is in modern day Hungary. (No one is absolutely sure what year; about a twenty year spread of discrepancy, between 316 and 336.) He spent part of his childhood in Italy and most of his adult life in France. He had attended Mass (against his parents’ wishes) at an early age and by this time he considered himself a catechumen, waiting for full communion with the church. This is just after the legalization of Christianity, but before Christianity became the dominant religion throughout the empire. There was still a lot of worship of the Roman gods as well as the cult of Mithra, and real authentic pagans (!) back when pagani simply meant the people who lived in the countryside having their own deities. Martin was the son of a Roman officer, and he himself was then impelled to join the army as a teenager. It was from those years as a soldier that the famous legend of his cloak arose, passed on to us by Sulpicius Severus––that he cut off half of his cloak and gave it to a beggar, and that same night Jesus appeared to him in a dream wearing it.  (see the famous El Greco painting of that event embedded here.) Shortly after that he was baptized, at the age of 18. At some point he decided that his Christianity...

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re-locating the temple

Posted By on Nov 9, 2015

(fr Cyprian, Nov 9, Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Cathedral) The Lateran Basilica is the cathedral of Rome, originally built during the reign of emperor Constantine and consecrated in 324 by Pope St. Sylvester. This feast eventually became a universal celebration, the liturgical books tell us, in honor of the basilica which is called Omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput––‘the mother and mistress of all churches of Rome and the world,’ and a “sign of love for and union with the See of Peter.” You would have thought the Scriptures would have been something about the primacy of Peter or the hierarchy of ministries in the church. But what the readings for this feast tell us is something different and changes the focus of this feast a lot. The Ezekiel passage that is read on this day––I saw water flowing from the right side of the Temple, it brought God’s life and his salvation––you may recall is the preferred text for the Sprinkling Rite during the season of Easter, the rite that reminds us of our Baptism, and indeed is also recommended to be sung immediately after the renewal of Baptismal promises at the Easter Vigil. In its original context, the prophet Ezekiel is having a vision of the life-giving power pouring from the new Temple, and of course here we mean the original Temple of Jerusalem. The prophet describes a river of fresh water that flows from out of the east side and slightly south through the Kidron Valley (which is incidentally where John in his Gospel tells us Jesus went with his disciples that fateful Thursday night before he was arrested and put to death). Ezekiel’s vision is of a miracle that attests to the life-giving power of God dwelling in the sanctuary. But under Jesus everything gets “relocated,” including the Temple. And so we hear from near the beginning of the Gospel of John (chapter 2), Jesus has come up to Jerusalem for the Passover and he finds people selling cattle, sheep and doves there; and the moneychangers were there seated at their tables. Recall that in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) this scene takes place later, just before Jesus is arrested and put to death, as if it is the proximate reason for his arrest. But John wants to begin his whole narrative of Jesus’ public ministry with this story of cleansing the Temple. And Jesus is not very nice here; he takes a whip of cords and drives everybody out. ‘Take these things out of here!’ he says. ‘Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!’ When the Jews...

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