As Iron Sharpens Iron

An ongoing and online discussion between: an Orthodox informed Ecumaniac without a denominational home, an ordained Baptist youth pastor with an open mind, a Calvinist worship leader/seminarian with a staggering vocabulary and ability to make a point, and a cradle Catholic with a love/hate relationship to Rome.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Maundy Thursday


If you live alone, whose feet will you wash?
- St. Basil

Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God,
accept me today as a communicant;
for I will not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies,
neither like Judas will I give Thee a kiss.
But like the Thief will I confess Thee:
Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom.

- Orthodox hymn for Holy Thursday

Earth cannot bar flame from ascending,
Hell cannot bind light from descending,
Death cannot finish life never ending.

- Christina Rossetti

O God of Love, O God of Love
You gave to us a new command
That even as you gave us Love
We give ourselves to all of man.

The Love you gave us was Your Son
The One Begotten of You, He
Our life and our salvation won.
May we give of ourselves as free.

Though sinful servants, we request
Through all the struggles of our days
A mind forgetful of the past
A heart to love all, and your ways.

- Hymn based on an ancient Coptic prayer (below)

O God of love, who gave us a commandment
that we should love one another,

even as you loved us and gave your beloved Son
for our life and salvation;

we pray you to give us, your servants,
in all times of our life on the earth,

a mind forgetful of past ill-will,
and a heart to love our brothers and sisters.

- From the liturgy of St. Gregory


Love is but a song to sing
Fear’s the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Though the bird is on the wing
And you may not know why

Some may come and some may go
We shall surely pass
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moment’s sunlight
Fading in the grass

If you hear the song I sing
You will understand
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It’s there at you command

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now


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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

An Altar for St. Joseph's Day

There is a tradition in New Orleans, with roots going back to medieval times, of the St. Joseph's Day Altar. So, for this St. Joseph's Day, I have constructed an online altar for the foster-father of Jesus.

An Orthodox hymn
Joseph, when He beheld the greatness of this wonder,
thought that he beheld a mortal wrapped as a babe in swaddling clothes;
but from all that come to pass he understood that He was the true God
Another Orthodox hymn by St. Ephrem the Syrian, from his Hymns on the Nativity
Joseph caressed the Son as a babe;
he ministered to Him as God.
He rejoiced in Him as the Good One,
yet he was greatly bewildered and awestruck at Him as the Just One

"Who hath given me the Son of the Most High to be a Son to me?
I was jealous of Thy Mother, and I thought to put her away,
and I knew not that in her womb was hidden a mighty treasure,
that should suddenly enrich my poor estate.
David the king sprang from my race, and wore the crown;
and I have come to a very low estate,
who instead of a king am a carpenter.
Yet a crown hath come to me,
for in my bosom is the Lord of crowns!"
A more recent Christmas song by 4 Him which captures the spirit of the previous two:
Why me, I'm just a simple man of trade
Why Him, with all the rulers in the world
Why here inside this stable filled with hay
Why her, she's just an ordinary girl
Now I'm not one to second guess what angels have to say
But this is such a strange way to save the world


The Fathers of the Church spent some time talking about the reasons why Mary and Jesus needed Joseph, what role he played in the Gospel story. This first excerpt is from the Venerable Bede:
Blessed Mary had then a husband
who would be the most reliable witness of her integrity

and most faithful custodian of our Lord and Saviour.
For the Child Jesus, Joseph would bring to the temple
the victims of sacrifice prescribed by the law;
in the hour of persecution he would take Him
and His Mother into Egypt and bring them back;
and finally he would provide many other services
called for by the fragility of the nature assumed.

The guarantee afforded by Joseph's genealogy,
the protection of Mary against stoning as an adulteress,
and the concealment of the virginal birth from the evil one.
Echoing this same idea is St. Jerome:
In His boundless wisdom, God employs the simplest of means.
What was the best way to effect the incarnation of the Son of God?
To reveal openly the all-holy Virgin's virginal state
would have meant to bring attention to the Lord Jesus prematurely,
without proper preparation.
A threefold purpose was accomplished by Joseph's betrothal to the Virgin:
quiet obscurity was assured for Christ until the appointed moment,
an impenetrable defense was provided for both her and the divine infant.
All this was accomplished by the sacred betrothal of St. Joseph to the Virgin-Mother.
One of the most interesting, and unknown, aspects of the life of Jesus is his relationship to his foster-father. We have no record of interaction between the two in Scripture, and Joseph was dead when Jesus was crucified. According to the most ancient tradition, dating from the time of the Apostles, Christ Himself heard his confession, an account of his entire life. Here is the end of an apocryphal account of that confession. Jesus says:
Hail, my father Joseph, thou righteous man.
Joseph answers,
Hail, my well-beloved Son.
Indeed the agaony and fear of death has encompassed me.
But as soon as I heard Thy voice, my soul was at rest.
O Jesus of Nazareth! Jesus, my Saviour!
Jesus, O sweetest name in my mouth, and in the mouth of all that love it!
O Eye that seest and Ear that hearest, hear me!
I am Thy servant; this day I most humbly reverence Thee
and before Thy face I pour out my tears.
Thou art altogether my God.
In this song by Michael Card, the devotion of St. Joseph to Jesus is represented as well:
How could it be this baby in my arms
Sleeping now, so peacefully

The Son of God, the angel said

How could it be
Lord I know He's not my own
Not of my flesh, not of my bone

Still Father let this baby be
The son of my love


Pope John Paul II summarized the silent witness of St. Joseph this way:
Sacred Scripture says little of him.
It does not record even one word spoken by Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth.
And yet, even without words, he shows the depth of his faith, his greatness.
Saint Joseph is a man of great spirit.
He is great in faith, not because he speaks his own words,
but above all because he listens to the words of the Living God.
He listens in silence.
And his heart ceaselessly perseveres in the readiness to accept the Truth
contained in the word of the Living God.
This sonnet praises the "silent saint," who nevertheless has been named patron of the Universal Church (and about a hundred other things):
Saints know thee best, oh, hidden, silent saint!
And would that I could feel a little part
Of that great love Theresa's kindred heart
Felt for thee, Foster-father! But the taint,
The chill, is on my soul; and few and faint
The prayers that from this earthly bosom dart
Up to that heavenly throne whereon thou art
ln glory, not too high to hear my plaint.
Patron of all who work in humble ways!
Pray that from pure and earnest motive I
May fill with patient toil the moments flying;
Patron of happy death-beds! when my days
Have reached their term, be thou, dear Joseph! nigh,
With Mary and with Jesus, while I'm dying.

The Joys and Sorrows
of St. Joseph

Mighty Joseph, son of David!
High and glorious is thy state—
Of our Lord the Foster-father,
Mary's spouse immaculate.

The Almighty's faithful servant,
Of the Holy Family
Head and father. Oh! I pray thee,
Be a father unto me.

Sorely was thy bosom troubled
Till the mystery was revealed
Which the Lord had wrought in Mary
Who in patience all concealed.

But an angel soon from heaven
Bids thy loving doubts to cease;
So may every care and trial
Turn for me to joy and peace.

With the Virgin young and tender,
In the winter-time forlorn,
Thou to Bethlehem didst journey
That our Lord might there be born.

As thy God thou didst adore Him,
While He in the manger lay;
Now is He in heaven exalted—
Turn to Him for us and pray!

Flying at the angel's -warning,
Far from Herod's fury wild,
Long in Egypt didst thou tarry
With the Virgin and the Child.

By thy toil, thy pain, thy sadness,
In that exile dark and drear,
Help me in the cares and sorrows
Which may be my portion here.

Home from Egypt's land returning,
Thou wouldst rest in Galilee,
But to Nazareth art bidden,
That the Child secure may be.

Souls retiring, sweet, and humble,
Thou dost still for Jesus seek:
That my heart may be his garden,
Make it humble, pure, and meek.

Thou didst search, with loving anguish,
For the little Jesus lost;
But, in finding Him, what rapture
Purchased at that sorrow's cost!

Thee, my light, my life, my Jesus,
May I never lose by sin!
May my heart be pure and simple,
So that thou may'st rest therein !

Jesus, Mary, hung above thee
On that sad yet happy day
When, with their fond arms around thee,
Passed thy gentle soul away.

Oh ! when death shall come to take me,
All its terrors I'll defy,
If, with Jesus and with Mary,
Thou, dear Joseph, wilt be nigh.

Thus, O glorious Saint, my homage
I thy grateful client pay.
Hear my prayer and smile upon me,
Guide and guard me on my way.

May I 'neath thy kind protection
Safely reach my journey's close,
And with thee, in heaven's bright palace,
Through eternity repose!


Finally, a Litany to St. Joseph. In these times where we are too loud to hear the Lord, too proud to do the humble (yet infinitely necessary) tasks he asks of us, and too selfish to put others first; may his prayers and his example lead us to be silent, humble and loving.
Litany to St. Joseph:
Renowned offspring of David,
Light of Patriarchs,
Spouse of the Mother of God,
Chaste guardian of the Virgin,
Care father of the Son of God,
Diligent protector of Christ,
Head of the Holy Family,
Joseph most just,
Joseph most chaste,
Joseph most prudent,
Joseph most strong,
Joseph most obedient,
Joseph most faithful,
Mirror of patience,
Lover of poverty,
Model of artisans,
Glory of home life,
Guardian of virgins,
Pillar of families,
Solace of the wretched,
Hope of the sick,
Patron of the dying,
Terror of demons,
Protector of Holy Church,
Holy Joseph, pray for us.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Father Brown on the Reasonableness of Reason

Reason and justice grip the remotest and the loneliest star. Look at those stars. Don't they look as if they were single diamonds and sapphires? Well, you can imagine any mad botany or geology you please. Think of forests of adamant with leaves of brilliants. Think the moon is a blue moon, a single elephantine sapphire.

But don't fancy that all that frantic astronomy would make the smallest difference to the reason and justice of conduct. On plains of opal, under cliffs cut out of pearl, you would still find a notice-board, "Thou shalt not steal."

- From "The Blue Cross" by G.K.Chesterton

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